Category Archives: Food

Giveaway & Review: Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs

AD/GIFTED The new range of Mini Eggs from Beech’s Fine Chocolates aren’t mini eggs as we know them, but small chocolate eggs which are excellent to scoff, or to decorate cakes with. With Easter rapidly approaching, I was sent some of their Mini Eggs to put to the test.

Review: Beech's Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs

The Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs are available in three different flavours; dark chocolate fondant mini eggs; dark chocolate mint crisp mini eggs and milk chocolate caramel crunch mini eggs. Each pack contains six egg halves and costs £2.99 each.

Regular readers will know that I’m a keen baker, and these Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs absolutely cry out to be used to decorate cakes and sweet treats with at Easter. They are a half egg, so have a flat side which makes them ideal for topping cakes and bakes with. I made a chocolate peppermint crunch and used the dark chocolate mint crisp mini eggs as decorations and my finished bake looked great. Plus the mint flavour really worked with my bake.

I tasted them all (for the sake of thoroughness) and my absolute favourite were the milk chocolate caramel crunch mini eggs. I’m not sure if it was the milk chocolate or the crunchy caramel pieces inside which did it for me. Either way the combination really hits the spot. My husband is a massive mint chocolate fan, so he liked the mint crisp eggs the best.

Review: Beech's Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs

Beech’s Fine Chocolates are made near Preston and many of their chocolates are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and are palm oil free too. The fondant and mint crisp eggs are vegan, and the caramel crunch are vegetarian.

They’re a lovely grown up alternative to the traditional chocolate Easter eggs; they would make a nice treat to have after dinner with coffee. They’re not sickly sweet like some Easter eggs can be and they’re nicely priced; so would make a nice gift for a discerning chocolate lover this Easter.

For more information about Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs, or to buy online, visit their website

WIN Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs

To be in with a chance to win a selection of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent three boxes of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Mini Eggs.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 3rd April 2019.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details be shared with Beech’s Fine Chocolates so they can send the prize to the winner.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Disclosure: We were sent a selection of Beech’s Fine Chocolates for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Kitchen Hacks: 10 tips for Slow Cooker Success

A few years ago Father Christmas kindly brought me a slow cooker. It sat unused for a few months because I didn’t think it would be that different to using my oven. How wrong was I? I’m now in love my slow cooker, I can throw a bunch of ingredients in, turn it on and then by teatime I’ve got a lovely meal to give my family.

My slow cooker is a very basic model, but that’s all I need. It turns cheap cuts of meat into fall-apart, tender meals my family love.  It costs much less to run than my oven and everything I put in there turns into a delicious cuddle of a meal.

Kitchen Hacks: 10 tips for Slow Cooker Success

Plus, and for me this is huge, I’m a vegetarian and I’ve discovered that cooking bland and boring quorn mince in the slow cooker makes it really delicious. I make all kinds of (quorn) mince meals in mine, from bolognaise to chilli and shepherd pie. Each and every time it’s delicious and I’ve served it to confirmed carnivores without complaint.

With a few years of slow cooking experience under my belt, today I’m sharing my tips for slow cooker success.

Pre-heat your slow cooker – like a pre-heated oven, a pre-heated slow cooker will speed up the cooking process. I like to switch it on so it’s warming while I’m preparing my meal to go in the cooker.

Prep the night before – if you’re planning on switching your slow cooker on in the morning before heading out to work, you can save time by doing all the prep you need the night before, then switch it on to cook as you’re leaving the house. I’ve seen lots of very organised people who prep a lot of slow cooker meals, put them in bags and freeze them, ready to be put in the slow cooker. I wish I was that organised!

Brown your meat – I often make stews in my slow cooker. It really lends itself to cooking cheaper cuts of meat, like shin of beef or oxtail. Before I put them in the pot, I usually brown my meat in a frying pan first. The second part of this tip is roll your meat in seasoned flour before you brown it; this will help to thicken the sauce while it’s cooking.

Cook some of your veg first – root vegetables are fine to go in raw, but I like to fry off onions, celery and mushrooms first. They can go in raw, but I think they give a better flavour if you have cooked them first.

Beware too much liquid – the slow cooker is not too great at thickening sauces on its own. Add just enough liquid when you’re cooking, you can always add more if it needs it.

Boil the kettle – Use hot liquids if you can to speed up cooking. If the recipe calls for stock, make sure it’s hot. This will save the slow cooker the effort of heating it up and hot liquids will speed up the cooking process.

Root veg at the bottom – if your recipe calls for root veg, it’s best to put it in the pot first, it’ll take some time to cook through until it’s tender, and the best way to do this is at the bottom of the cooker where the liquid is.

Leave it alone – it can be tempting when you’re cooking something which smells delicious to keep lifting the lid and taking a look. Every time you lift the lid the cooker will lose heat, this will add to your cooking time. It’s best to leave it and to check it and stir it only towards the end of the cooking time.

Best cooked low and slow – in my experience, slow cooker meals are best if they’ve been cooked on the low setting for longer. It’s tempting to whack things on high to get it to cook quicker, which is fine; but if you can, low and slow is best. One hour on high = two hours low.

Add fresh herbs right at the end – if your recipe calls for fresh herbs, add these at the very end. Dried herbs stand up remarkably well in the slow cooker, but fresh herbs will lose their vibrancy.

Those are my tips for slow cooker success. Have you got any tips you can add? Please comment below.

If you enjoyed this, you might like to try these slow cooker recipes:

Kitchen Hacks: 10 tips for Slow Cooker Success

Kitchen Hacks: 10 Savvy Ways to Cook Food Faster

During the week I find myself throwing meals together quite quickly. I like to cook as much as I can from scratch, but this can be time-consuming. In a push it can be tempting to pick up a ready meal or a takeaway, but if you’re savvy you can cook food faster. Over the years I’ve picked up a few habits to get meals to the table a bit quicker.

Kitchen Hacks: 10 Super Speedy Ways to Cook Food Faster

Today I’m sharing some of the ways I cook food faster.

1. Most frozen vegetables can be steamed in 3-4 minutes in the microwave, just throw it in a microwave proof dish, add a splash of water and put the lid loosely on top.

2. Likewise, fresh vegetables can be quickly cooked in the microwave. My son loves baby sweetcorn, so I add a splash of water and microwave them (and all kinds of other veg) until they’re cooked.

3. If you’re making a sausage sandwich, slice them length-ways first, flatten them out and they’ll cook in half the time.

4. If you’re using the oven, as soon as you start to prep your meal, put your oven on high, you can adjust the temperature later, you just need to get it preheated asap.

5. While I’m waiting for the oven to heat up, depending on what I’m cooking, I might defrost things in the microwave first. So things like oven chips I might defrost for 5 minutes to speed up the cooking process.

6. Same with pans. Boil the kettle and/or get a pan on asap. Don’t overdo the amount of water – it will boil faster and be less likely to boil over.

7. Prick potatoes with a fork, the heat will them penetrate better so they cook quicker.

8. Jacket potatoes are an easy, fairly healthy meal. They’re best done in the oven, but you can shave at least half an hour off the oven cooking time by cooking them in the microwave until they’re just cooked through, then put them in the oven so the skin crisps up and the potato goes fluffy on the inside.

9. Portion control – you’ll cook faster if you only cook just enough instead of too much. Learn to take things off the heat when they’re just done, especially if you’re holding them before serving, the internal heat will keep them cooking a little bit longer.

10. Slow cooking seems like the opposite of fast cooking, but if you’re organised you can throw a meal together in the morning, have it cook all day and it’s ready and waiting when you get home.

What are your super speedy cooking tips? I’d love you to share them in the comments.

If you found this helpful, you can find my 7 Time Saving Cheats for Busy Cooks here.

Kitchen Hacks: 10 Super Speedy Ways to Cook Food Faster

Review: Creamline Best of Local Box delivered to your door

Over the years we’ve tried all kinds of veg box schemes. We’ve tried those recipe boxes and we’ve had a milkman, then no milkman because the local diary closed, now we have another milkman because another dairy opened. Getting food delivered to the door isn’t just convenient, with the Creamline Best of Local Box scheme, you can get brilliant locally produced food from independent producers delivered to your door.

Review: Creamline Best of Local Box delivered to your door

I live in South Manchester and I was asked to give the Best of local Box a try. Where I can I do try to shop local, and I buy directly from a number of the Best of Local suppliers on a regular basis. I knew that the contents of the box would be of a really high standard, but would it be more expensive?

The Creamline website it really simple to use. Just browse and add to your basket the products you want delivered, choose your delivery day, pay and then wait for the knock on the door.

Review: Creamline Best of Local Box delivered to your door

I had a good look and what was on offer, then meal planned around that. I was excited that there was a baker, something we don’t really have locally anymore; so I did go a bit wild when ordering bakery products.

Here’s my order for my first box…

Review: Creamline Best of Local Box delivered to your door

The meat products are what I usually buy from the butchers who supply Creamline anyway. The meat were the most expensive part of my order; we ate some straight away and I put the rest in the freezer for another day. I always think it’s better to buy good quality meat and eat a little less of it, than cheap, low quality meat.

The bread, rolls and bakes were incredibly quality. I’m so used to bland supermarket bread that just some toast made with the bloomer was a real treat. If you order the Best of Local Box, them it’s well worth stocking up on this gorgeous bread. I can also highly (HIGHLY) recommend the millionaires flapjack, which was superb.

The fruit and veg come daily from Manchester’s Smithfield Market. It was as fresh as could be. The watermelon lasted for ages and made one boy very happy (watermelon is his favourite thing).

I really loved my Creamline Best of Local Box. I knew everything was made within a few miles of my home, by local people who really care about the quality of what they produce. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would order and will order in the future.

Review: Creamline Best of Local Box delivered to your door

I think that sometimes when you order a food box, you’re not really sure where the food has come from and what kind of quality it will be. I already shop with a number of the shops who supply the Creamline Best of Local boxes; so it’s just a more convenient way for me to shop, without the bother of carrying it home. It’s delivered to my door, well packed, free of charge and by a cheery person.

The box is no more expensive that going from local shop to local shop. It’s great quality and I feel like I’m still doing my “shop local” bit to help my high street.

They’ve even got a discount code on their website right now if you want to try it out for yourself!

For more information about the Best of Local Box, visit the Creamline website.

We reviewed the Creamline fruit and veg box a few years ago, you can read about that here.

Disclosure: I was given a Creamline Best of Local box for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Stocking Fillers: Vegetarian and Vegan Sweets

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1989, which is quite a long time. One of the questions I get asked the most is what do I miss? I miss my Nan’s beef chilli and her corned beef hash. I also miss my Nan but that’s a subject for another day perhaps. One of the things I did miss was sweets, because back then a lot of sweets contained gelatine.

Thankfully in the last 30 years things have moved on. Sure, pop to your local sweet shop and their shelves will be heaving with cheap jelly sweets, but Swizzels Matlow have produced a range of their trademark sweets which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Stocking Fillers: Vegetarian and Vegan Sweets

Their Drumstick Choos and lollies contain five double flavour combinations which include peaches and cream and strawberry and banana. Their Refreshers Choos (my favourite) include pineapple and apple and have that fizzy sherbet centre which I love. Both kinds of Choos are vegetarian and vegan and are available in Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.

Other vegan sweets made by Swizzels Matlow which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans include Love Hearts, Fizzers, Fruity Pops, Double Lollies, Parma Violets and Rainbow Drops.

Some of these are among my favourite sweets. I adore Parma Violets and have used them to make Parma Violet shortbread biscuits. I also really love Rainbow Drops, which is a slightly less well-known sweet, but one I really love. They’re something about them, maybe it’s because they’re like a naughty breakfast cereal, but I love them.

Stocking Fillers: Vegetarian and Vegan Sweets

My husband isn’t a fan of chewy sweets (he fears for his teeth) but he can’t resist a packet of love hearts. My son who is 8 just likes sweets. He’s very good at sharing them, so it’s better if we choose veggie or vegan sweets.

Whatever sweets are your favourite, it’s reassuring to know that vegetarians and vegans in 2018 have considerably more choice in the sweet-shop than they did 30 years ago! Thanks Swizzels.

I was sent a selection of sweets in exchange for this blog post.

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Christmas dinner is one of the foodie highlights of the year. For me, it’s not necessarily the food which makes it special, it’s sitting down with the family, sharing a meal and enjoying the occasion. Whilst the main course on Christmas Day is more or less fixed, the Christmas Day Starters are a movable feast.

It can be difficult to decide what to make for your Christmas Day starter, but ideally it should be something you can make ahead of time, or something you can quickly cook before serving.

Our family always has soup as a Christmas Day starter. This year I’ll be serving my luxurious cauliflower and chestnut soup which is a grand way to start off the festive feasting. Plus, it’s so easy to make ahead and freeze. All you need to do is warm it through and serve with some crusty bread. Happy families!

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Christmas Day Starters

Pâté, meat or veggie – served with melba toast. It’s a Christmas Day classic!

Goats cheese caramelised onion tarts

Mini Yorkshire puddings with creamy smoked trout and horseradish pâté

Crab and avocado tian with lovely thin Melba toast and good butter

Soup – make your own or jazz up a tub of shop bought. It’s a simple starter and a crowd pleaser!

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Stuffed mushrooms wrapped in Parma ham

Prawn cocktail – a 70’s classic which will never go out of fashion.

Scallops, pea puree and black pudding

Parma Ham and melon

Smoked salmon blinies with cream cheese

Pâté stuffed Mushrooms

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Pan fried mushrooms on ciabatta with a Stilton sauce

Antipasti – Olives, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella balls and cured meats

Oysters –  a simple classic

Pear and mozzarella wrapped in Parma ham

Mini baked Camemberts with bread and celery to dip – super quick and easy

Baked brie or Camembert to share

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Figs with mozzarella

Filo baked figs with goats cheese

Potted shrimp and crusty bread

What are your favourite Christmas Day starters? Let me know in the comments below.

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

On Tuesday we visited the Grill in the Park restaurant at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club for dinner. We’d been there last year for breakfast, so we were keen to see what dinner would be like. They’ve just undergone a complete refurb and unveiled their new menu, we were invited along to try the new menu for size.

We were looking forward to a nice quiet date night, some good food and a chance to relax without the demands of a small child. The Grill in the Park restaurant is really cosy, with booths and quiet, intimate corners to dine in. It’s just the place for a quiet dinner for two, a business dinner or for a group of friends.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

It’s a grill, so steak is high on the agenda. You can smell the steak cooking as you walk in and that is a very good thing. I’m a vegetarian, but the smell of cooking steak is possibly the only think that could turn me.

Executive chef, Tom Gardner has been with Worsley Park since 2014 and has created the new menu giving a twist on the grill menu. The menu looks really well balanced, with more than just a token veggie dish. They’ve invested £16,000 on a new grill, so most dishes have some grilled elements.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

To begin with I opted for the Baby Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Cress Salad (£8) and my companion had the an Seared Scallops with Celeriac Puree, roasted hazelnuts and apple and fennel salad (£14).

I can’t resist roasted beetroot and there were two different kinds on my plate. The salad was well dressed and the half log portion of goats cheese was very generous. The log had been grilled and it had a really delicious char on it, I did find the goats cheese quite hard and I was expecting a softer goats cheese, but I suspect this wouldn’t have grilled quite so well.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

The scallops were a real hit. Three really plump and juicy scallops, well seasoned and nestled on top of some autumnal celeriac puree and alongside a small heap of sweet, crisp salad. It was a highlight.

Onward to the main course, I plumped for the vegetable fajitas (£12) with a side of sweet potato fries (£4). Whilst my better half couldn’t resist a grilled sirloin steak (£27) which comes with tomatoes, watercress, a flat mushroom and a sauce of your choice, he went for port and shallot. He also had a portion of steak cut chips (£4).

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

My vegetable fajitas arrived hot and sizzling in their dish, I’d asked for no mushrooms as I can’t eat them, so my sizzling dish was onions and peppers in a sweet sticky sauce. This came with two toasted wraps and sour cream, guacamole and salsa. This dish had all the potential to be really hearty and lovely, but I was a bit disappointed by it. The wraps were too crispy to roll into fajitas (I think the wraps should be warmed but not crispy) so I ended up using them as crispbreads and scooping the fillings on top.

I loved the onions and peppers, but I think the sauce was just a bit too sweet and after a while that began to cloy. It was so nearly there, if I order them next time I’ll ask for the wraps not to be toasted.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

My husband’s grilled sirloin steak was a triumph. A thick, juicy steak with well cooked accompaniments. He always has his steak cooked medium-rare and it was perfectly pink with a lovely char. The sauce was rich and he cleaned his plate. The Grill in the Park do steaks very well.

We didn’t have room for pudding, but we forced ourselves. I went for Warm Pecan Pie with caramel ice cream (£5.50) and he had the Lemoncello & Raspberry Semifreddo with raspberry compote and summer berries (£5.50).

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

Pudding was most definitely a highlight. His semifreddo was creamy and light, the perfect end to a rich meal. My warm pecan pie was something I will think about often in the coming weeks. The pastry was so light, thin and crisp, it was a joy. The pecans were soft, sticky and flavoursome and it was just perfectly put together. Pecan pie is my new favourite thing.

We had a lovely meal in cosy, intimate surroundings. I found fault with a few things, but not enough for me not to return again. We tried some absolutely wonderful dishes that night; but it is worth visiting Grill in the Park for the pecan pie alone! Go on, try it.

The Grill in the Park is at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club, for more information visit their website

We were invited guests of the Grill in the Park at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club and our meal and drinks were complimentary. All images and opinions are our own.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Being a judge at the International Cheese Awards is my dream job and once again this year I got to live my dream for one day in Nantwich, Cheshire.

The International Cheese Awards is the largest dairy industry event in the UK. This year’s awards saw 300 judges and 158 stewards descend upon the cheese pavilion to judge 5183 different cheese and dairy products across hundreds of categories. That itself is a massive organisational feat, but throw in a lunch for 1350 and you can see why the International Cheese Awards is considered to be the best dairy event in the world.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

The International Cheese Awards draws judges from near and far. In my judging team were Lavinia Newell, a retired cheese-maker from the UK and Sue Arthur, director at Over the Moon Dairy Co and New Zealand Cheese School. Both Lavinia and Sue were incredibly knowledgeable and took their time to explain what characteristics we were looking for in the cheeses we were judging.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Together we judged two categories – DP2 “Farmhouse / Traditional Cheshire
Cheese – White. Any weight” and DP151 “Soft, Semi-soft or Cream Cheese without Additives – other than Blue Veined Cheese – With Rind. Open to non UK producers”.

The traditional Cheshire cheese category has just 9 cheeses to judge, which was a fairly straight forward task. Lavinia explained that we were looking for a white, crumbly texture. This mellow cheese should break down between your fingers like butter and it should have a slightly nutty flavour. Ultimately we chose the Wensleydale Creamery entry as our winner. Each winning cheese is then put forward to be judged against all the other category winners to find the supreme champion.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Our second category, the soft, semi soft or cream cheese category had 39 entries which was much harder to judge. There were so many different styles of cheese; from brie to Camembert, burrata to goats cheese and almost everything in between. The winner was an absolutely divine Italian burrata from Masseria Posticchia Sabelli. I suspect it will be hard to find in the UK, but it was an absolute joy to eat.

And just like that, my judging shift was over for another year. All of the winners had been taken away to be judged again with the supreme champion being announced after lunch.

The lunch at the International Cheese Awards is legendary. Lunch saw 1350 enjoying a champagne reception; followed by a lunch of cold meats and hearty salads, delicious puddings made by Mrs Harvey. I’m not sure who this pudding goddess is, but I’d like to get to know her better. Somewhere between the puddings and the epic cheeseboard, the winners were announced.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

The winner and Supreme Champion was Belton Cheese for their Cheshire, a well deserved win! You can find all the winners here on the International Cheese Awards website.

The International Cheese Awards runs alongside the Nantwich Agricultural Show in Cheshire. You can visit the International Cheese Awards and the cheese pavilion on 25th July 2018, but it’ll be back again next year if you’ve missed out!

If reading this has given you a sudden craving for cheese, you might enjoy these mini cheese and pickled walnut quiches.

 

Gourmade – home cooked meals straight from the freezer

We are slap bang in the middle of a heatwave and I’m trying my best not to complain about the weather, but it does mean the very last thing I want to do is stand in my kitchen and slave over a hot stove. This is the weather for effort free cooking, so when I opened up my delivery from new premium frozen food brand, Gourmade I was delighted.

I’m generally a cook from scratch girl. I enjoy cooking, but sometimes I just need a night off. We don’t often eat ready-made meals, but when we do I view them as a bit of a treat, so I usually try to choose something from the premium end of the ready meal aisle.

Gourmade - home cooked meals straight from the freezer

Gourmade have recently launched in the UK. They have a great range of crowd pleasing classics including Mac n’ Cheese with bacon, Lamb Tagine, Butternut Squash Lasagne and some amazing sounding desserts for those with a sweet tooth.

Gourmade’s motto is to ‘Live More, Cook Less’. All of their meals are hand finished and frozen from fresh to lock in the nutrients. They don’t add any preservative or anything which shouldn’t be in there, it’s just good, wholesome food.

Gourmade - home cooked meals straight from the freezer

We tried a selection of their meals. The butternut squash lasagne for two,  macaroni cheese with bacon for two, cauliflower cheese, posh peas, raspberry cheesecakes and rhubarb and strawberry crumbles.

The Gourmade meals are delivered frozen and well packed in insulated bags. They go straight in the freezer and can sit there for up to three months. The larger meals for two take around 40 minutes in the oven; but they can be microwaved if you’re in a hurry. The meals for two are generous, when you’re serving them with sides they can easily stretch to three portions, which suits our family of three.

Gourmade - home cooked meals straight from the freezer

The lasagne and macaroni cheese were delicious. The lasagne was packed with butternut squash and it had a really tasty sauce. The mac cheese came with bacon and tomato and it was a real hit with my son. My only criticism would be that it was made with rigatoni not macaroni, but I’m an irritating pasta purist. It would also be nice to have this available without bacon to make it veggie friendly.

The sides we tried were excellent. The cauliflower cheese was hands down the best I’ve ever had. It had a really good cheese sauce; the cauliflower pieces were perfectly sizes and I enjoyed the cheesy, breadcrumby crispy topping. The posh peas were a combination of garden peas and edamame beans; tossed in a light sauce of crème fraiche and garden mint, then topped with streaky bacon. Again the boys loved these, and it can be tricky to get them to eat their greens, but they gobbled these all up!

Gourmade - home cooked meals straight from the freezer

The puddings, oh the puddings were so good. The raspberry cheesecakes needed to be taken out of their foil cases and left to defrost for 40 minutes, but they were as good a cheesecake as I’ve ever had. I kind of wish they did bigger family sized ones.

I wasn’t sure as first glance about the rhubarb and strawberry crumbles. I’ve never had a crumble with a pastry base, a more accurate description would be a rhubarb and strawberry crumble pie. The pastry was short and crumbly and the filling was just the right balance of tart and sweet. Again this is crying out to be served as a family sized pie.

Gourmade - home cooked meals straight from the freezer

The other puddings in the range look really good too. Desserts are often a bit of an afterthought, but I think Gourmade have really pulled out all the stops with their puddings.

Price wise, the two portion main courses cost around £7.50. The smaller portions are £4.50 and the sides cost £3.50; with puddings for two at £4.50.

Whilst I probably couldn’t afford to eat Gourmade meals every day of the week; they are for us at least the kind of thing we would order as a treat. Maybe an alternative to the Friday night takeaway, or just to have in the freezer for those nights when you need to throw a good meal together with virtually no effort. We did really enjoy our meals and I’m going to order some more to have as emergency good family meals.

For more information about Gourmade and to see their full range, visit their website.

 

Disclosure: We were sent a selection of Gourmade meals to try in return for this write up. All of our opinions and images are our own.

Preview: International Cheese Awards 2018

If you love cheese as much as I do, then the idea of spending some time exploring and sampling some of the best cheeses from around the world would be your idea of heaven. I’m pleased to say that once again this year I’ll be a judge at the International Cheese Awards. But what else going on in the cheese marquee this year?

The International Cheese Awards is part of the Nantwich Show which takes place on Wednesday 25th July this year. The Nantwich Show is a huge agricultural show and a brilliant day out for families. Early bird tickets are available – adults £15, children’s £5, or just £35 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children). Although tickets will also be available at full price on the gate on the day.

ICA2016 Win tickets to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show

The price of your ticket not only gets you entry to the biggest cheese show in the world, but also to the Nantwich Show, the top one-day agricultural show in the UK. The Nantwich Show has over 450 trade stands, a Shopping and Craft Marquee, livestock displays, countryside pursuits and vintage cars, tractors and machinery. See, I told you it was a great family day out!

If the Nantwich Show and the International Cheese Awards isn’t enough to tempt you; celebrity chef James Martin will be cooking in the demo kitchen. He’ll be doing cookery demonstrations at 11am and 3pm, with tickets priced at £5. These tickets always sell out fast, so don’t leave it too long to book your place!

International Cheese Awards

Picture credit: International Cheese Awards

Other chefs in the demo kitchen this year include Will Holland and Jonathan Harrison; as well as artisan cheesemaker Sean Wilson. These shows are free of charge, but are first come, first served; so make sure you get there early to secure your seat.

Last year’s International Cheese Awards was the biggest yet, with 5685 entries across hundreds of different categories. The cheese marquee is huge, filled with exhibitors from all over the world. It’s a great opportunity to try some new cheeses, plus some of the exhibitors have special offers on, so you can go home laden with enough cheese to keep you going for the summer (that’s what I do).

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Win tickets to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show

To be in with a chance to win a family ticket to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show for two adults and two children, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a family ticket to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show for two adults and two children.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 8th July 2018.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide an email address and a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto International Cheese Awards to post the above mentioned prize out to the winner.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.