Category Archives: Food

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).

All advance tickets are available to purchase here.

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.

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 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.

Win a selection of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs

Beech’s Fine Chocolates have recently launched a new range of chocolates. These new Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs are little sharing bags of really good quality gourmet chocolates. I tried the Cocoa Nib Cacao Truffle, Roasted Coffee Cacao Truffles and the Milk Chocolate Honeycomb chocolates.

Beech’s Fine Chocolates have been making quality traditional British chocolates in Preston, Lancashire since 1920. They use 100% natural ingredients, and all of their products are gluten-free and many are suitable for Vegans. I have a lot of love for Beech’s Fine Chocolates, they make great gifts and they are really good quality. These Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs are among the best chocolate I’ve tasted (and I’ve tried quite a lot of chocolate in my life).

Win a selection of Beech's Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs

The Milk Chocolate Honeycomb is handmade honeycomb chunks coated in milk chocolate. It’s what I remember as cinder toffee but covered in really silky chocolate. They’re more than a bite size and a couple is just enough of a sweet treat for elevenses. They’re really, really good, like a grown up crunchie but better.

The Cocoa Nib Cacao Truffles are really rich, smooth dark chocolate with crunchy cacao nibs speckled through and dusted in cocoa powder. They’re delicious and they taste so grown up. They’re so smooth and creamy – a real treat. Out of the three different Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs I tried, these cacao truffles were my favourites.

Win a selection of Beech's Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs

Lastly the Roasted Coffee Cacao Truffles, they look very similar to the cacao truffles, but they’re slightly darker and have a subtle coffee aroma. They’re made with real coffee and have little crunchy pieces of coffee beans throughout. They’re as smooth as anything and would be brilliant with a good cup of coffee, a real after dinner treat.

The Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet range includes –

  • Chocolate Cacao Truffles
  • Belgian Chocolate Fudge
  • Canadian Maple Fudge
  • Chocolate Cacao Truffles
  • Cocoa Dusted Almonds
  • Cocoa Nib Cacao Truffle
  • Crystallised Ginger Slivers
  • Dark Chocolate Brazils
  • Dark Chocolate Ginger
  • Hazelnut Cacao Truffles
  • Milk Chocolate Brazils
  • Milk Chocolate Honeycomb
  • Roasted Coffee Cacao Truffles

The Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs cost £3.99 each and they’re just the right size to share with a couple of friends over coffee. For more information about Beech’s Fine Chocolates or to place an order, visit their website.

WIN A SELECTION OF Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs

To be in with a chance to win a selection of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck! The winner will receive six packs of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs worth £23.94.

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 a six bags of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Gourmet Packs.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 11th 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 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 Beech’s Fine Chocolates 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.

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

Celebrate 90 years of Swizzels by inventing your own sweet!

This year Swizzels celebrate 90 years of making sweets and they’ve just launched an amazing competition where you can win a tour of their sweet factory. All you need to do to win is come up with an idea for a new sweet, submit it to their website and you could win a VIP tour of the factory and get to see your sweet in production.

To me, this sounds like the best prize ever. I’ve driven past the factory so many times and the thought of having a Willy Wonka style tour of it has always been exciting. The Swizzels factory was also featured in the BBC series – Inside the Factory, which was a really fascinating watch. Did you know that the factory produces over a hundred million individual sweets each day?

Celebrate 90 years of Swizzels by inventing your own sweet!

Swizzels make so many legendary sweets; Parma Violets, Drumstick Lollies, Refreshers, Double Dips, Rainbow Drops and Love Hearts. They’re sweets I ate as a little girl (I still eat them now) and now my son loves them too.

If you asked me to invent my own Swizzels sweet I’d have absolutely no hesitation in telling you what I’d like. It’s a combination of two of their greatest sweets – Parma Violets and Double Dips. Imagine this, a violet flavoured lolly you could dip into zingy violet flavoured sherbet. Sounds amazing doesn’t it? It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it.

So consider this my begging letter to Swizzels. You know a Parma Violet Double Dip is the future, please, please make it so!

Perhaps Parma Violets aren’t your thing; maybe you think you can come up with a better idea than mine. Get your thinking cap on and get entering. You do need to be aged 16+ plus to enter, but you can find all the information you need here.

Make sure you have a good think about it before you submit your idea. Do you lick it, chew it, suck it or savour it? Is it fizzy, fruity, sour or creamy; or it soft and squashy or hard and crunchy? Is it a lolly, a chew bar, a gum or a jelly? What does it look like? You can even draw a design and upload that to the website.

Good luck with your entry, I’m looking forward to seeing what the winner comes up with, though I’m certain my Parma Violet Double Dip cannot be beaten!

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Swizzels goodies in exchange for this post.

Easter Treats – Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

Making and baking is one of my most favourite things to do with my son. Over the half term we went away with some friends, and with three children to entertain I thought I’d take along some simple crafts and kitchen makes to do with them. This was a brilliant idea, the kids loved our daily craft sessions and I got bonus points from the other adults for keeping them entertained. One of the things I packed was a Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads kit from choconchoc.

Easter Treats - Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

This self-contained kit was brilliant to take away with us and had pretty much everything we needed. The Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads kit from choconchoc costs £12 and includes a large bag of milk chocolate buttons, a paper chef’s hat, a bag of sweets to decorate with and the moulds for the chocolate eggs. The kit is suitable for ages 6+ with adult supervision.

I have tried to make chocolate eggs before, with little success. I liked the simplicity of this kit and I had high hopes that it would be both easy and successful. Or at least more successful, which it was!

Easter Treats - Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

To make, you carefully melt the chocolate. I did this in a glass bowl over a pan of water. I stirred it and stirred it until it was melted, then called the children over. After liberally greasing the moulds as instructed, I got the children to dollop the chocolate in the moulds and spread the chocolate about a bit. So far, so good. I left the eggs to set for a few hours and then went back to them.

For the life of me I couldn’t remove the egg from the moulds, so I scraped the chocolate out, re-melted it and greased the moulds very thoroughly. Again the eggs wouldn’t come out. I must have been doing something wrong, I’m not sure what.

Easter Treats - Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

In the end I lined the moulds with cling film and tried again. This worked really well but didn’t produce a smooth egg. The egg was wrinkled which I actually quite liked. I stuck the two halves of the egg together with some melted chocolate and once that had set we stuck the sweets on with more melted chocolate.

The children were absolutely thrilled with the egg. It looked a bit rustic, but they’d made their very own chocolate egg and it tasted fantastic too. The quality of the Belgian chocolate in these kits is fantastic, it’s really creamy and rich and makes excellent eggs. Or should that be eggcellent eggs?

Easter Treats - Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

Despite my failings as a chocolatier, I would absolutely get this or similar choconchoc chocolate kits again. The kids had a brilliant time making and eating them and I really liked how easy it was to make.

This self-contained kit was brilliant to take away with us and had pretty much everything we needed. The Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Head kit would be a excellent thing to do with the kids over the Easter break.

For more information about the Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Head from choconchoc, visit their website. You can also find choconchoc in John Lewis, Booths and Waitrose.

Easter Treats - Make and Melt Chocolate Egg Heads

We were sent this chocolate egg kit from choconchoc for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Meal Planning Monday – Self Catering Special

By the time you read this I’ll be back home after a self catering holiday in Devon and Cornwall with another family. Hopefully it was a roaring success and hopefully the sun even joined us for a day or two. With two families (four adults, three children and one dog) to cater for, organisational me got into gear and set about meal planning.

With it being a holiday there will be some eating out, but to cut costs and so all of the adults could enjoy a drink or two with dinner, we’d planned four nights of dining at the cottage. I will cook for two nights and my friend Liz will cook on two other nights. Each couple will have a date night, where the other couple babysits, something I’m looking forward to!

To make life easier, I’ve ordered a big shop from Sainsbury’s which will be delivered when we arrive. The full list of what we ordered is below (I do love a nosey at other people’s shopping, don’t you). Here is our self catering menu for the week…

Meal Planning Monday - Self Catering Special

As you can see, there are some good, hearty family meals planned, some treats and some non-cooking nights for those of us who are kitchen slaves at home!

Here’s our self catering holiday shopping list. We are planning on taking a few things with us and buying a few more things once we’re there, but this should get us started! In the meantime, do you have any tips for self catering?

Self catering shopping list!

Diced Beef
Skinless & Boneless Haddock Fillets
Chicken Breast Fillets
Chocolate Mini Rolls
Quaker Oat So Simple Porridge, Sweet Cinnamon Flavour
British Mature Cheddar Cheese
Kenco Millicano Americano Instant Coffee
San Miguel Lager
Lurpak Unsalted Spreadable
Fairy Non-Bio Capsules
Yorkshire Everyday Tea Bags
Peperami Mini Original
Quorn Meat Free Mince
Full Flavour Cheddar Cheese
Paneer Cheese
Tender Green Veg Medley
Jacob’s Biscuits For Cheese Crackers
Sacla Organic Basil Pesto
Baby sweetcorn
Peanut Butter Smooth
Orange Squash, No Added Sugar
Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs x15
Magnum Mini Ice Cream, Classic, Almond & White
Wildlife Strawberry & Peach Fromage Frais
Geeta’s Mango Chutney
Frozen Summer Fruits
Garlic & Coriander Mini Naan
Plain Naan
Quorn Escalopes
Lemons & Limes
Low Fat Natural Yogurt
Sunflower Oil
Fresh Packed Coriander
Quaker Oat So Simple Porridge, Golden Syrup Flavour
Double Cream
Ice Cubes 2kg
Hovis Medium Sliced Best of Both Bread
Baked Beans
Baby Potatoes
Reduced Fat Mayonnaise
Cheddar & Spring Onion Crisps
Diet Indian Tonic Water
Vanilla Ice Cream
Pear Quarters, In Natural Juice
Santa Maria Latin American Kitchen Garlic & Herb Soft Tortillas
Popchips Barbeque Crisps
Fairtrade Bananas
Little Gem Lettuce
Large Onions
Wholemeal Muffins
Raspberry Jam, Seedless
Medium Sliced Wholemeal Bread
Crumpets
Batter Mix
Fromage Frais, Basics
Whole Cucumber
Marmalade Medium Cut
Sweetcorn, tinned
Red Kidney Beans
Gravy Granules
Winalot Complete With Beef
Rainbow Ice Lollies
West Country Semi-Skimmed Milk

Breakfast Ideas: American Style Blueberry Pancakes

Pancakes are for life, not just for Shrove Tuesday. I mean, it’s the law to have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but we also like to have them at other times of the year too. We’re big fans of a weekend pancake breakfast and I love them as a little treat. This week, using a Sweetpea Pantry Grainy Brainy Pancake Mix, I knocked up a quick and easy batch of seriously good American Style Blueberry Pancakes.

The best pancakes I’ve ever had were in America, blueberry pancakes covered in syrup and blueberry compote. I’ve tried several times to replicate that joyous plate of pancakes and I’ve cracked it. Thick, fluffy pancakes with my homemade fridge blueberry jam spooned over. They’re a thing of beauty!

Breakfast Ideas: American Style Blueberry Pancakes

The Grainy Brainy Pancake Mix from Sweetpea Pantry is made with protein-rich buckwheat, quinoa, Omega-3 loaded, heart-friendly flaxseed and teff grains for fibre, calcium, iron and vitamin C. It’s much healthier than any pancake mix I could make!

This pancake mix is a great base on which to build flavour. I mixed it up according the instructions on the box and added 100g of fresh or frozen blueberries and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I then melted some butter in my good pancake pan and cooked the blueberry pancakes in small batches. The mix made 8 American Style Blueberry Pancakes.

To serve them, I spooned my lovely homemade jam over the top, whipped cream or yogurt are optional but recommended. For extra sweetness if you need it, you could also drizzle over a bit of syrup; this is a treat after all!

Breakfast Ideas: American Style Blueberry Pancakes

The Grainy Brainy Pancake Mix from Sweetpea Pantry (and their other mixes) are available from Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Booths, Marks & Spencer and a range of other retailers. Each mix costs £2.75 and they’re delicious, family friendly mixes with a healthy and nutritious twist.

I was sent a Grainy Brainy Pancake Mix in return for this post. All images and opinions are my own.

Kitchen Hacks: 7 Time Saving Cheats for Busy Cooks

I’m one of those cook-from-scratch types who cheats and feels no shame about it at all. I will happily spend hours watching over a bubbling stew, just don’t ask me to make some mash to go with it. I’ve been thinking about the kind of time saving cheats I use in my kitchen

I have certain rules for cheating which I’ve imposed on myself. For example, I won’t use a jar of pasta sauce, but I will use a jar of pesto. I can knock up a decent tomato pasta sauce in a few minutes; but pesto requires a blender, a garden full of basil and a whole load of ingredients I generally can’t be bothered with.

Kitchen Hacks: 7 Time Saving Cheats for Busy Cooks

I also have my ability (or rather lack of ability) to stand in the kitchen for hours prepping meals. I have a spinal injury, chronic pain and neurological problems which can make hours of prep intolerable for me. Sometimes my hands and arms can go numb too. The idea of peeling spuds with numb hands sets off a number of health and safety alarm bells in my head. Sometimes it’s just better to choose convenience over cut fingers. In short, there are some time saving cheats I’m prepared to forgive myself for, here are some of my favourite ones.

7 Time Saving Cheats for Busy Cooks

One – Frozen mashed potato. I first discovered frozen mash on a trip to Ikea and I’ve been buying it from supermarkets ever since. It costs around £1 a bag and each bag is enough for two meals for our 3 person family. It’s just frozen mashed potato with milk and a bit of seasoning. I usually add more milk and butter, a few minutes in the microwave and you’ve got beautiful, smooth, lump-free mash. There’s no going back to mashing my own from scratch now, and I’m not even sorry.

Two – Ready to roll pastry. I can and do make pastry from scratch when I want to and have the time, but the ready rolled stuff costs about £1 and saves about half an hour of prepping and cleaning up afterwards. If I’m throwing a quick pie or tart together, this is such a time saving ingredient. There’s no shame in using shop bought pastry, no shame at all!

Three – Lazy garlic/chilli/ginger etc. There’s no doubt that fresh is probably better in this case, but unless I’m doing serious batch cooking, then buying a whole bulb of garlic for one or two cloves is a bit wasteful. My garlic tends to start sprouting before I get round to using it all. Tubes or jars of ready crushed garlic, chilli or ginger are a great store-cupboard staple I wouldn’t be without.

Four – Frozen, ready prepared vegetables. Frozen veg has always lived in my freezer, but in recent years it’s taken a bit of a step forward. You can get ready chopped onion which saves you tears and oniony smelling fingers, I like frozen sliced mushrooms and frozen sliced peppers. They’re so handy if I’m making a quick pasta dish and need to up the veg content. My freezer is also always home to a bag of frozen cauliflower. The cauliflower makes a quick and hearty soup or gets thrown into macaroni cheese to make it more of a balanced meal.

I can also recommend frozen butternut squash pieces. Trying to cut a butternut squash is like trying to finely dice a brick, save yourself time and a trip to A&E by just buying it ready diced and frozen. It tastes no different but it is hard to find, so buy a couple of bags, you won’t regret it.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Five – Microwavable rice pouches. My husband makes beautiful rice, I don’t. I have given up trying and usually use boil in the bag rice; although I do flavour the cooking water with stock or turmeric. These days I always have a couple of microwavable pouches in the cupboard. They’re quite expensive and not as healthy as rice you’d cook yourself, but they’re really handy if you’re rubbish at cooking rice or need a speedy supper.

Six – Grated cheese. I use grated cheese a lot at home. You can buy ready grated cheese, but I find that it behaves a little differently to normal blocks of cheese. This is because it’s usually coated in starch to stop it clumping together. I do sometimes still buy it; but often I’ll buy a big block and run it through the grater setting on my food processor, box it up and use it when I need it. Sometimes I just grate by hand until I get bored, and put it in a box in the fridge until I need it.

Seven – Breadcrumbs are part of so many meals I cook. If I know I’ll be getting the food processor out for some batch cooking chopping, then a few days before I’ll buy a crusty loaf to go stale, chunk it up and whizz it in the food processor until it’s crumbs. I put the crumbs in a tub in the freezer, if you give it a shake every so often the crumbs should separate beautifully. You’ll have enough fresh breadcrumbs for a few months for almost no effort.

And if all else fails, order a takeaway! What are your time saving kitchen cheats? Do you worship at the altar of frozen mash too?

Kitchen Hacks: 7 Time Saving Cheats for Busy Cooks

Giveaway & Review: Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps

I have a monthly get together and craft night with some friends, we each take turns to host it. Craft night means three things, prosecco, crafts and crisps. This week it was my turn to host. I chilled a couple of bottles of fizz, dug out some craft stuff and revealed, with something of a flourish, a large bag of Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps.

“They’re microwavable!” I announced. “They’re hot crisps!” I said with a bit of a fanfare. My friends were understandably quite curious and keen to try this new style of snack.

Review: Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps

I opened the bag, took out the dip and microwaved the crisps for 30 seconds. We tried the Fairfields Farm Cheese and Chive flavour Heat & Eat crisps. Inside the bag is a small tub of delicious caramelised onion dip.

The Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps are good crunchy, thick cut crisps, the kind I would buy anyway as they’re great for dipping. I like that they come with a little pot of dip included. The caramelised onion was so good, I’d quite like them to sell jars of the stuff.

Review: Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps

There are two flavours – Sea Salted with Tomato Salsa Dip and Cheese & Chive with Caramelised Onion Dip. Each bag contains 125g of hand-cooked crisps and a 50g dip. When the crisps are hot, they are what I imagine freshly cooked crisps taste like, fresh and crunchy. You do have to eat them fairly quickly because they do cool down; but they’re still excellent when they’ve cooled and the hot crisps are a real talking point. The girls were impressed and they all said they would buy them again.

Fairfields Farm which is in East Anglia have been making crisps from their potatoes since 2006. The Heat & Eat Crisps were launched just a few months ago and are hand cooked on the farm using renewable energy.

These new Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps cost around £1.85 a bag, which I think is a very good price for good quality crunchy crisps which come with a dip.

Review: Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps

Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps are currently available in a wide selection of Tesco Stores across the UK to find your nearest stockist visit http://fairfieldsfarmcrisps.co.uk/

Win a selection of Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps

To be in with a chance to win a selection of Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

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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.
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5. The winner will be sent a selection of Fairfields Farm Heat & Eat Crisps.
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