Saturday, 28 February 2015

RECIPE: Stilton and Bacon Muffins

There comes a time in everyone's life where you need to make something quick and epic for brunch. This was that time for me. Definitely worth the 20 minutes or so it took (including baking time).

Stilton and Bacon Muffins
Makes 9 small muffins

1 or 2 rashers of bacon
25g soft butter
1 egg
180ml milk
190g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g stilton

  • Preheat the oven to 190'C.
  • Chop up your bacon with scissors and fry off in a pan until crisp.
  • Meanwhile, mix the butter, egg and milk with a fork.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and lightly mix until just incorporated. Don't worry about getting all the flour mixed in.
  • Add the crumbled stilton and bacon and lightly fold until evenly incorporated. 
  • Pour into silicon cake cases.
  • Bake for about 13 minutes until the top is golden.
  • Maybe try not to eat them all before they've even cooled down!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ka-bloowie! New Walk Centre demolition, Leicester

It has been a momentous day for Leicester. New Walk Centre, the old Council offices, or 'The Tower of Doom' as I knew it, has been subjected to a 'controlled blowdown'. Evidently this is an attempt to make it sound not very exciting, but hundreds of locals turned out to watch the event nonetheless.

My final visit to A12 - summer 2014
I was never based in the Tower of Doom, but I did have a few months solidly working there during one project, a singularly depressing experience. It was a concrete blot on the landscape and the only good thing about A12 was the view, which I remembered to record during my last visit there in the summer of 2014 before Council staff were duly evacuated.

It was also fun that for the last year or so that the building was in use, vast swathes of the floor were allocated as 'no go' zones, with exciting gaffa tape delineating where you were (probably) safe to walk and where you (probably) weren't. I liked to cross over the tape sometimes, because I like living on the edge.

So now it is gone and the Leicester cityscape is forever changed for the better. And now we wait with baited breath to find out what will be replacing the towers on this prime bit of city centre real estate. Let's hope its something less gloomy, a bit more pretty and, most of all, not more than a couple of stories high. The news so far is just that it will be 'mixed use' - offices, I guess some flats and maybe some commercial use. I guess another oasis of green in the city centre would be out of the question?

Happily while I did not take the wind direction into account in the slightest whilst picking a prime viewing spot, we did completely escape being covered in dust, not like those individuals watching from Pocklington's Walk. Sadly The Tank, waiting patiently on Hotel Street, was not so fortunate... Oh the humanity!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival: There's still time!

You're telling me you haven't been to a single show in this year's Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival? What are you playing at, it's been on since 4th February!

Never fear, it's not too late! By my reckoning we've got a week left and there are still over 100 rib-tickling events that you can get stuck into. Even if you're not local to Leicester, it's definitely well worth the trip as the longest-running Comedy Festival in the land.

Here are a few of my picks for the final week of chortles and guffaws:

Big Names

Wednesday 18th February
Mark Thomas: Cuckooed
£12-£16, Curve
Mark Thomas is a friggin' genius. Nuff said.

Price of dinner

Saturday 21st February
Neil Innes
£12, Leicester Guildhall
Comedy singsmith, Neil, is best known for his work on Monty Python and quite frankly the 'Camelot Song' should be enough to make you want to go see him perform his latest material live. However, the Guardian also recently described a performance of Innes' quality comedy Beatles tribute act, The Rutles as 'a spoof crafted with rare affection.' High praise indeed.

Price of a lunch

Thursday 19th February
Keith Farnan - Anonymous (work in progress)
£6, The Belmont Hotel
Examining where we are with privacy. Now that's the sort of comedy I like - global conspiracy and humour. Time Out magazine calls him 'brilliant, thought-provoking and laugh out loud funny.' Check out this test show for a fraction of the price you'll pay to see him in That London later this year.

Footloose and free

Tuesday 17th February
Pesha Lily and Jared Shooter - 100 Bourbons Tall
FREE, Manhattan 34
Relative unknowns, but winners of Bradford's charity Comedy Hat event these two are surely worth a punt. Anyone that uses biscuits as a unit of measurement deserves my attention. Plus, if they're rubbish, you can spend the cash you would have spent on tickets and whatnot on some of Manhattan's delicious cocktails. In fact you should try the cocktails anyway, Comedy Festival or no.

Meet the Danique boys!

I have been introduced to another local Leicester gem this weekend. Danique Hairdressing invited me along to meet their new boys with 3 new male stylists joining the team to create a quartet of veritable scissor-wielding wonder. This is part of a great redevelopment of the salon which will also see a new website launch later this month at (link not yet active) which will introduce promotional offers, an online booking system, VIP membership and even a mobile app for even more convenient booking.

So it's all go at Danique and I was excited to go along and see how their service measured up. It's fair to say I was not disappointed. The salon was buzzing, all seats filled and the air full of chat and, well, the sound of hairdriers. I was greeted by the receptionist who was cheerful and warm.

The salon has a contemporary feel to it, with lots of black and white high contrast decor which works sympathetically with the original features such as the Victorian brick in the building. This is Leicester's Highcross Street to a tee and it is well done and comfortable. I was settled in with a drink and a magazine while my stylist made his way up to me.

Look everyone - volume!
I was introduced to Sean Garner, a friendly chap who has an eye for the personality and style of his clients and a real attention to detail and passion for getting the style right for each individual. He talked me through each step of the process, which was great because I really didn't know what style I wanted (probably should have done some research, but he knew what he was on about so I was happy to go with his recommendation).

Label m products
I had a leisurely consultation, talking about the current state of my hair and what I wanted from a style. We established that my hair is fine and overlong, which was pulling it down and making it look a bit flat and lifeless. This led to some product recommendations, including the Label m age defying shampoo and conditioner which help to add volume and shine to longer (and therefore older) hair. Happily he wasn't saying I was old. That would have sucked.

I had my hair washed, a treatment put in and my scalp massaged, all of which was perfect for me as I had just finished work for the week so it totally put me at my ease and really made the experience feel like a treat. Sean pointed out that having someone else wash your hair is the nicest part of getting your hair done, which didn't surprise me as I'd already heard literally every other stylist in the room say that to their client. It's nice to know everyone's on message though I guess!

Sean's cutting style was fluent and efficient. He quickly took off the bulk of unwanted length, checking throughout that I was happy with what he was doing. He speedily and professionally added in some layers and cut some shape in around the front which was flowing and natural looking. He added some Label m heat protection spray, which was light enough not to weigh my hair down but would protect it from blowdrying damage, and also some volumising mousse to give a little extra lift.

After drying my hair we both considered the result a success, a real increase in shape, texture and body. However since I was heading out to meet friends after the cut, we decided to go to the next level and style in some light curls at the bottom of my hair to give even more body and movement. He also added a spritz of nourishing oil and a light hairspray for hold which was not discernible to the touch. Despite it being considerably windier and more drizzly than of late, my new 'do' held all night and was the subject of much compliments from the friends I went to meet. The ultimate test - even The Boy noticed right away and told me how nice he thought it looked. I felt more confident as well as nice and relaxed from being treated so well.
Before and After - what do you think?

Thanks to Danique Hairdressing for inviting me along to road test their services. I will definitely be back, not least because in the lovely goodie bag they gave me I have lots of exciting money off vouchers to get myself lots of hairy treats in the future. That's hair related treats obviously, not like a free marshmallow that's been down the back of the sofa or anything.
They know how to do a top notch goodie bag at Danique.
Please note the Thorntons heart background was my Valentine's present to The Boy, but it sets off the Danique and Label m treats nicely I think! After all, they were all about the #DaniqueValentines!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Treat your Valentine

Are you feeling all soft and fluffy this Valentine's Day? The folks at Roberts Bakery certainly are! They've used their Soft and Fluffy white loaf to create a special sweet recipe for you to treat your loved one. With the king of the aphrodisiacs, the strawberry to the fore, I think you'll find there's an unusal twist to this recipe!


Well, I offered, in the true spirit of the season, to make this for The Boy as a special pre-Valo treat and I'm disappointed to say he didn't want it! I think that he just couldn't get to grips with the idea of a strawberry sandwich. I hope that your special one has more adventurous taste!

Since I didn't get to put the recipe to the test, I decided to put the Soft and Fluffy white loaf that Roberts had sent us to good use and surprise The Boy with breakfast in bed this morning, using the cute heart shaped cutter they had sent us just to show him how much I appreciate him.

I combined our favourite ingredients - bacon for him and avocado for me - to create a super delicious brekkie special. It worked so well with the crispy bacon, creamy avo all wrapped in the soft caress of Roberts white bread. The only downside was that I had to head off to work almost immediately, so I didn't get to enjoy any more of the soft caress of my bed with it! But he appreciated the effort, even the heart shape of the buttie (even if I couldn't cut the bacon with it!) I reckon I'll be well in his good books ready for Saturday now, even if my Roberts sandwich creation is nowhere near as healthy as the lovely recipe they have created!

Since I'm totally bored of only having my ipod to take photos, which are all fuzzy and rubbish, I decided to create a vine of the sandwich creation for your enjoyment. Vine is a media which suits that lack of definition. I hope you enjoy my Bacon Witch Project and wish you all a love-filled Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

REVIEW: Eisberg Alcohol-Free Wines

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a wine lover through and through. I adore the stuff. I love to try new varietals, visit new wineries and talk about wine at every opportunity. I love the fact that with wine, as with so much, the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing. So it's fair to say that I was intrigued but also a little apprehensive when Eisberg approached me to see if I would like to try one of their wines.

I couldn't help but think it's like a Katie Price biography. It looks like a book, it feels like a book. You could read it and you know somebody, somewhere is enjoying it, but what's the point? Well, I have vowed to leave no path untrodden on my wine journey, so I could not make an exception in this case.

And let's face it. Christmas has come and gone with all its festive cheer and socialising. For me, January has been the month of semi-hibernation, going out only when absolutely necessary and relishing nights in front of the fire enjoying a film with The Boy. And for me, all of these things often involve a cheeky glass of red. I cannot argue with taking some time off the booze and for this experiment I have already had a few days off, saving the wine until I really fancied a glass. The Boy has got a (boozy) beer on and so after dinner I cracked and poured myself a glass of Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon.

It has a great colour, deep and inviting, but of course no legs to speak of! I was happy to see on the bottle that it is only 26 calories per small glass - about 100 less, depending on strength, than a standard wine. That's definitely better on the waistline and so tonight I am feeling virtuous as well as adventurous. Interestingly, scientific studies seem to suggest that red wine with the alcohol removed may have the same, or slightly better, heart health benefits than alcoholic wine. It will be interesting to see the conclusions of further testing in this regard.

The first thing that surprised me about the wine was the aroma. It is extremely light on the nose, without the evaporation of alcohol from the surface acting as a carrier for subtle smell notes. However, once I'd really got my nose in I found that it was fruity and almost sweet smelling. A hint of sour cherry mixed with strawberry - all out in the sun to release the sugary scents. As a big, full-bodied, tannin heavy wine fan, this was not to my taste, but certainly not unpleasant. Straight away you could tell that this was not just another grape juice, it was more complex than that.

In the mouth, again the Eisberg was light on body, but despite this surprisingly big on flavour. It had that mix of soft red fruit again - this time a hint of a juicy plum in there, but for me it was overwhelmingly the strawberry sweetness that came through most strongly. I detected ever such a slight tang of grape skins, but no real tannins to speak of. I suspect it would be much better to drink on a summer's evening than wrapped up away from the minus degree grip of bleak midwinter.

It almost disappears on the palette as soon as you swallow, leaving just a hint of fruit flavour in the mouth, like the footsteps of a butterfly. No element of the experience is unpleasant, but it just isn't quite wine.

I don't think I drink wine to get the alcohol effect, but I do enjoy the complexity and interest that the vast swathes of different grapes, strengths and production methods bring. I feel that some of the enjoyment of this experience is lost with the Eisberg Alcohol Free wine. Does this taste like a regular Cabernet Sauvignon? A bit. Well, sort of. Is it pleasing to drink? Yes, it's fine.

Would I choose to drink it again?

Well, actually I think I might. Having drunk a glass as I type this, I do not have an overwhelming urge to ransack the kitchen for a glass of rioja. I'm enjoying trying something new and I think, weirdly, it gets better as you drink it (and not because you're getting too ratted to notice). I'm happily going to have another glass and be happy that I'll have ingested less calories than a custard cream.

I can see that if you weren't able to drink for medical reasons, were trying to cut alcohol calories out of your diet or were pregnant, Eisberg could definitely have a place in your life. It's not as complex as regular wine, but it's not a sickly sweet fruit juice either. It has flavour and enough interest that I think it is a genuine alternative if you have reason to take a break from the booze.

In my local supermarket, Eisberg is £3.49 a bottle, so it's easier on the pocket than your standard plonk too. Probably worth a punt and I have no doubt that for some people this will revolutionise the way you drink wine. But just not me. If it ever looks like I'm becoming a Mummy Blogger who knows, maybe we'll look at this one again.
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