Sunday, 26 April 2015

Jealous Sweets - a review and giveaway

 Jealous Sweets
I must admit that I've been waiting for a review request from Jealous Sweets for quite a while. Not only is one of their founders a local lad, and went to the same school as my children, but their entire range of luxury sweets is also vegan, halal and gluten-free. 

Founded by old friends Imran Merza and Taz Basunia, Jealous Sweets were created as a luxury vegan/vegetarian/halal brand for adults, as an alternative to premium boxes of chocolates. They are stocked in the food halls of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols and in luxury hotels. They have also been endorsed by celeb. chefs including Tom Aiken and Jamie Oliver.

As a vegetarian, it's great to find a brand of sweets which tastes good, looks good and is free from gelatine, artificial colours and flavours.The range include Yummy Bears, Tangy Worms, Fizzy Friends, Wild Cherries, Grizzly Bears and Sour Beans...
"Naughty doesn't have to mean nasty - Jealous Sweets are full of natural fruit juices, free from artificial colours and flavours. With flavours like Grapefruit & Orange, Morello Cherry & Pineapple and Pomegranate, Jealous Sweets are a firm favourite of chefs such as Tom Aiken and Jamie Oliver, as well as the world’s most luxurious hotels as a mini bar staple. As they’re beautifully presented in gift boxes they also make a very interesting, alternative gift!"
Jealous Sweets
I loved the design of the of the individual 50g (RRP £2.49) boxes, and can see them fitting in very well as mini-bar snacks in boutique and luxury hotels, Eid gifts or even as wedding favours. The taste didn't disappoint either; all of the varieties I tried were delicious, with a real fruity kick. My favourites were the Fizzy Friends, which were an upmarket version of a certain tangy but gelatine filled popular sweet! In case a 50g box isn't enough, there are also 200g gift boxes retailing at £8.99. 

I must admit that these sweets aren't in my normal price range, but I would buy them (or would love to receive them) as a gift. If you can't find a local stockist, you can buy them online here.

You can win a gift bag of Jealous Sweets, by entering below and leaving me a comment. Competition closes at midnight Sunday 10th May 2015. UK Only


I received some complimentary Jealous Sweets products to review/give-away. All views expressed are genuine. 

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The best small(ish) music festivals in the Midlands 2015


festival guide
The sun is shining and the main UK festival season is looming; The Mirror has even predicted a heatwave (surely such a quality paper couldn't get it wrong?!), so I thought I'd post a round of some of the festivals Mr O and I have been pondering over visiting this year, plus some other local (to us) festivals. In case you don't know, we're seasoned festival goers, and having done the big festivals pre-kids, we now prefer a lower-key event where we can actually get some sleep at night and have a hot shower when needed!

Our teenage daughters, Miss O and Miss K, are undecided on whether or not to join in with our festivities this year, as they now have rather more refined musical tastes than us! However, I have picked these festivals for their family-friendly facilities and prices, even if they don't appeal to my kids any more. Although my daughters wouldn't appreciate them now, they used to love festivals with craft activities, circus skills workshops and a place to hang out away from the main stage. 

I have excluded some great-sounding festivals from my line up, as some of the festivals I liked the sound of do not offer family tickets, and/or charge adult prices for teens under 16. If a child under 16 must be accompanied by an adult over 18/21 to enter the festival, then surely they should be charged a child/youth or reduced price?!

If you have younger children, do take a look at my family friendly festival guide, with plenty of tips on how to make a festival fun for all the family.You can also find lots of quick and simple camping meal ideas here.

May 21-24
Bearded Theory, Catton Hall, Walton upon Trent, Derbyshire
We've been to a couple of BTs and enjoyed this friendly, chilled-out festival, the great range of bands and good facilities for families. See my review of Bearded Theory 2012 here (different venue).There are 5 stages hosting an eclectic range of acts, a children's village and teen zone.
Adult weekend ticket inc. camping £94, child weekend tickets age 0-5 free, 6-11 £22, 12-16 £45, family camping area available.
Headliners this year include The Mission, New Model Army, James and Eat Static.

May 22-24
Glastonbudget, Turnpost Farm, Leicestershire
This festival appeals to me, as it would mean that I could see tribute acts of artists who have either disbanded, died or were out of my price range when popular!
Adult weekend ticket inc. camping £76, children aged under 5 £4, 6-15 £39, 16-17 £65, family camping costs an extra £3 per person.
Headliners include a good range of rock, retro, pop and indie tribute bands such as Kazabian, Totally Tina (Turner) and (Freddie) Mercury plus some new and acoustic acts.

June 5-7
Lunar Festival, The Umberslade Estate, Warwickshire (5 miles south of Birmingham)
This one is a serious contender for us, as it's fairly local and offers some great workshops as well as great music; I'd also love to see Julian Cope play live. There are 2 stages, workshops for kids and adults and late night clubs.
Adult weekend ticket inc. camping £94, Family weekend ticket £199.
Headliners this year include Tinariwen, The Fall, Wilko Johnson, The Bootleg Beatles and Julian Cope, as well as a wide variety of other acts.

June 19-21 
Acoustic Festival of GB, Uttoxeter Race Course Staffordshire
Adult weekend ticket £85 + £20 camping, Children under 10 £1, ages 10-15 £15 +£5 camping.
The big plus for this festival is that you can park next to your tent. Believe you me, this is a perk worth paying for, especially when you have younger children with lots of stuff to cart around! Headliners include Big Country, Beautiful South and Show of Hands. 

July 3-5
Godiva Festival, War Memorial Park, Coventry
FREE
We're definitely going to the Godiva Festival, as it's free! There's no camping on site, so if you're willing to take a risk, book your hotel accommodation before the line up is finalised. We've booked a room at the local Premier Inn and are looking forward to the main acts being announced in the next few weeks - UPDATE: The Wombats, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Embrace are set to headline Coventry Godiva Festival 2015
Godiva is actually quite a big festival; in fact it claims to be the country’s biggest free family music festival, with with 3 stages and a family field for little ones. 

July 24-26
Nozstock The Farm, Rowden Paddocks, Bromyard, Herefordshire
Adult weekend £105, Teens £85, under 12s free.
I love the sound of Nizstock, but sadly won't be able to go as we'll be on holiday. There's a plethora of stages with music, comedy and theatre.Children will love the activities in the Enchanted Glade and there are also baby-friendly facilities. Headliners include The Wu Tang Clan, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Beardyman and DJ Hype. 

July 24-26
Barefoot FestivalPrestwold Hall, Loughborough, Leicestershire
Adult weekened ticket inc. camping £90, child weekend ticket £38, under 5s free
Barefoot Firewalk tickets for over 12s cost an additional £33
No line up has been announced yet, but last years headliners included some talented, but lesser-known artists such as Laurel Canyons and Josephine & The Artizans, plus a range of folk, blues, indie and cabaret acts. There is also a kids' zone and arts workshops running during the weekend.

Aug 14-16
Farmer Phil's, Ratlinghope, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Adult weekend ticket £76, family weekend ticket £239...inc. a full week's camping.
Farmer Phil's started off small and has grown each year. It offers great camping facilities, and children's workshops, craft activities and bouncy castles.
Headliners include Ferocious Dog, 3 Daft Monkeys and Talisman. 


Sept 4-6
Off the Tracks, Donington Park Farmhouse, Castle Donington Derbyshire
Adult weekend ticket inc. camping £80, children under 12s free, aged 12-15 £45. 
Off The Tracks has 4 stages, a proper campsite with well-maintained pitches, hook-ups, hard-standing, real showers and toilets. Children's activities, play areas and workshops. Headliners include Banco di Gaia and Dreadzone

Sept  11-13
Shrewsbury Fields Forever, Shropshire; Venue Not Yet Decided
(Tickets not yet on sale)
This is a bit of a wild card, as it might not go ahead. However, it's the one that my kids would probably be most interested in attending as it has hosted some very well known acts over the last few years.
SFF is Shropshire’s largest multi arena live indie, alternative, electronic, dance and popular music, comedy and arts festival, however due to a fall out over their previous venue (West Mids Showground), this year's festival may or may not be going ahead at an alternative venue. Last year's head liners included Tinie Tempah, The Cribs and Shed Seven. Keep a look out for more information!

If you know of any other similar festivals in the Midlands, do let me know and I'll add them to the list.


For details and reviews of more family-friendly festivals all over the UK, visit Festival Kidz.

I have NOT received any incentives to promote any of these festivals. All views expressed are genuine. However, if anyone want to offer me free tickets to a festival, I am always willing to review!!! Images featured are from various festivals we have been to and not necessarily of the festivals featured.
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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Halloumi Arancini with Roasted Vegetables

Halloumi Arancini with Roasted Vegetables
I've blogged an arancini recipe before, and cooked the traditional Italian stuffed rice balls many times, but this time, I thought I'd ring the changes a bit. Miss K inspired me to make an Greek-fusion version, as she fancied something made with halloumi for dinner. She helped make the arancini, whilst I prepared the tomato sauce and roasted vegetables.

You can make arancini with left over, cold risotto or cook from scratch. They're good fun, although rather messy, to make with children, but if you use halloumi rather than mozzarella, you don't have to worry about them being perfect, as the cheese won't melt and escape! I think this variation is just as good (if not better) than the original.

Makes 8-10 arancini, serve 1 or 2 per person as a starter, 2-4 for a main course

For the arancini:
  • 1 cup risotto rice (arborio)
  • 2 cups hot vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chilli, optional
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
  • 100g/4oz halloumi, cubed
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan.
Gently fry the garlic for a minute or so.
Add the rice, herbs and chilli and stir for a further minute.
Add 1 cup of vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add the second cup of stock. Stir again, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the rice is cooked, cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and then and refrigerate until cool enough to handle.

To make the arancini:
Take a good heaped desert-spoonful of the cool risotto and form into a firm ball using your hands to squeeze the mixture together.
Poke a hole into the middle of the ball using your thumb, then place a small cube of halloumi into the hole.
Squish the rice back over the hole to cover up the cheese completely. Repeat until all of the rice is used up.
Beat the egg in a bowl and place the breadcrumbs on a plate. First dip each rice ball into the beaten egg and then roll into the breadcrumbs until covered all over.

Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until needed.

Heat 2-3 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil in a large frying pan. 
Add the arancini and roll around in the pan gently to coat with oil. 
Cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and piping hot. 
Alternatively, deep-fry for 5-6 minutes.
Drain and keep warm in a low oven until needed.

Whilst cooking the risotto/arancini, make some Greek tomato sauce (you'll only need ½ a portion...so freeze the rest for another meal) and roast your choice of seasonal vegetables.

For the roasted vegetables:
  • 2 bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 100g/4oz button or chestnut mushrooms whole/halved/quartered, depending on size
  • 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, plus 2 tbsp oil from the jar
  • 50g/2oz Greek olives
  • 100g/4oz halloumi, cubed
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley, to serve
Drizzle the fresh vegetables with the sun-dried tomato oil and cook in a pre-heated oven at 160C/150C Fan/325F/Gas 3  for 15 minutes.
Turn the vegetables and add the halloumi, olives and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley, or any other fresh herbs, before serving.

Top tip: Cooked rice should be cooled quickly and refrigerated, then re-heated thoroughly to avoid food poisoning
 Cooking with Herbs
Vegan option: Omit the halloumi, or substitute for vegan cheese. Coat the arancini with No-Egg, or other egg substitute, mixed as directed with water, before rolling in breadcrumbs.

I'm linking this post to Karen's latest Cooking with Herbs linky at Lavender & Lovage. 
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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Spice Kitchen review, plus a recipe for Sri Lankan Cashew Nut & Green Bean Curry

If you're a regular reader of my blog, I'm sure you know that I love spicy food. I'm always on the lookout for new ingredients to try out, so I have really enjoyed testing out some new spice mixes from Spice Kitchen; Spice Kitchen was set up by mother and son team, Shashi & Sanjay Aggarwal in Birmingham, UK...
"Spice Kitchen is an online shop specialising in high quality hand-blended and home-ground Indian Spices. We also sell various cookware that can help you to create authentic Indian food. We specialise in selling authentic Spice Tins, which are known as 'Masala Dabbas' in India. These shiny stainless steel tins contain 7 separate containers for easy access to the myriad of spices that you will need to create perfectly blended Indian dishes and curries.
We source the freshest spices from around the world, hand-blend, roast and grind them and pack them carefully. We promise you that you will never have smelt spices like them (so much so that they smell outside the packaging!)."
 Spice Kitchen
I was lucky enough to get to try out  eight of their international spice mixes, which include Sri Lankan, Mexican and Baharat spice blends. I've tried out about half of the mixes so far, and I can tell you that they taste as good as they smell! Apart from my Sri Lankan recipe below, I've used the Mexican mix in my veggie chilli, the Baharat in my bean stew and the garam masala in my shami kebabs. All tasted really flavoursome and authentic.

I was going to mention that I haven't ever eaten authentic Sri Lankan food, but then I remembered that I have! One of my claims to fame is that I once worked with the lovely Karthi Gnanasegaram (now a presenter on BBC news and sports programmes), who's Sri Lankan mother used to send in some of her amazing vegetarian home cooked food for us all to sample.

I wasn't sure what to cook with my spice mix, so I researched various Sri Lankan curry recipes and found lots for cashew nut curry and green/snake bean curry. I thought I'd combine the 2 main ingredients and see what happened! The nuts gave the curry a really interesting taste and texture and the flavours were quite different from those you would expect in an Indian curry.

Cashew Nut & Green Bean Curry

Serves 4


  • 100g/4oz cashew nuts, soaked in water overnight
  • 200g/8oz green beans, cut into 2cm slices
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or vegetable ghee
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A spring of curry leaves (approx 10)
  • 2-3 tsp Sri Lankan spice mix
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 50g/2oz creamed coconut (block), chopped into chunks 
  • 1 cup boiling water
Soak the cashew nuts in a bowl of water overnight. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil/ghee in a pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic, curry leaves and stir.

Once the onions are soft and beginning to change colour, add the spice mix and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the green beans, coconut cream and water. Simmer, with the lid on, for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has thickened and the beans are almost tender.

Add the drained cashew nuts and stir to combine. Simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.

Serve with fragrant basmati rice and coconut sambol.

Nut-free alternatives: Use 200g diced paneer/Quorn/meat free pieces, or other vegetables instead of the nuts, if you prefer.

Fragrant basmati rice: Soak, rinse and drain 1 cup of basmati rice. Cover with 1¾ cups boiling water, a cinnamon stick, 1 whole chilli and 2 green cardamom pods. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered and then turn the heat off and leave to steam for a further 5 minutes (lid on).

Coconut Sambol
  • ½ cup fresh coconut, finely grated
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1 small red onion grated, or chopped in a food processor
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  •  a pinch of salt (to taste)
Mix all ingredients together, adding chilli to taste. Chill until needed.


I received some complimentary Spice Kitchen products for review/recipe development. All views expressed are genuine. 
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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mint Chocolate Easter Cupcakes (Vegan)

These cute mint chocolate Easter cupcakes are a variation on my easy vegan fairy cake recipe. I couldn't find any vegan mini-eggs locally, so I painted some mint imperials with dots of brown food colouring. Just be sure to warn guests that the eggs are hard sweets, in case they try and bite into them or give them to young children!

Makes 12

  • 150g/6oz dairy free spread/margarine
  • 150g/6oz sugar
  • 150g/5oz SR flour
  • 25g/1oz sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 heaped tsp Orgran No Egg mixed with 7 tbsp water (or use a similar egg-substitute)
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
Cream the spread and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix gently until combined.
Spoon the mixture between 12 paper cake cakes in a muffin tin, filling quite generously.
Bake at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas Mark 4 for around 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
Cool on a wire rack.

When cold, top with mint butter cream/frosting...

Vegan butter icing

  • 50g/2oz dairy free spread/margarine
  • 125g/5oz icing sugar
  • ½-1 tsp peppermint extract 
  • green food colouring
  • 1-2 tsp boiled water
Soften the spread.
Mix in the mint extract and colouring.
Beat in the icing sugar gradually, adding a little boiled water as needed to make a soft, spreadable mixture.

Pipe onto the top of each cupcake, once cold.

For the nests
100g/4oz dairy-free chocolate, melted
40g/1½oz rice crispies
12 vegan mint imperials (check ingredients for gelatine) or dairy-free chocolate mini eggs.
12 mini Easter chicks

Mix the cereal into the melted chocolate until coated. Spoon into a well greased mini muffin pan.
Press the crispies down with the back of a teaspoon and make a slight indent for the egg and chick to sit in. Chill until needed. 
Carefully remove the nests from the tin, using a palette knife, and place one on top of each iced cake.
Fill with a chick and an egg.

Top tip: Warning - do not open the oven to check until at least 15 minutes have passed (unless you can smell them burning!), as the egg-replacer takes longer to set than eggs would. I found this out whilst cooking my first batch and they sunk in the middle!
 tea time treats

Alternatives: Make a large chocolate sandwich cake by dividing the mixture between two greased and lined sandwich cake tins and baking for 25-30 minutes. 

I'm linking this post to April's chocolate-themed Tea Time Treats linky hosted by Lavender & Lovage and The Hedgecombers




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