The Joy of Juicing – A Product Review

When I was asked to review the L’Equip XL Juicer I was rather excited as I have spent silly money in the past buying bottled or commercially made ‘fresh’ juices (I get suckered in at places like Planet Organic or Wholefood Market) so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to have a go myself. My only concern was that the juicer in question might be really high tech because I’m a simple soul and like kitchen equipment to be straightforward and easy to use. (You have to remember that I started work back in the days when telex machines were all the rage, we had no computers and used carbon paper to make copies of typed letters!)

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With that in mind, I was pleased to find that when I took the juicer out of the box, it was already put together and I only had to remove some packing paper. I was also very happy to see that the only ‘control’ was the on-off switch – nothing complicated at all. The essential components are also dishwater friendly which is a bonus.

The L’Equip XL Juicer comes with quite a large container for the pulp which is extracted but you provide your own glass or jug to collect the juice from the small spout. It also comes with a ‘pusher’ with which you press down on the fruit and vegetables to facilitate their progression through the juicer. The juicer as a whole is rather compact which makes it suitable for kitchens where space is at a premium.

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Having rummaged in the fridge and my fruit bowl, I decided to make two juices: carrot, orange and ginger and then apple, courgette and spinach. While I do like freshly squeezed fruit juices, I find that adding greens and other vegetables makes them more robust and filling and of course, we are always being reminded that we should be consuming more vegetables. To give my juices a bit more ‘ooomph’, I also selected some other ingredients, namely turmeric powder and nutmeg. (I found a courgette after I’d taken the photo!)

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My next step was to wash, peel and cut the fruit and vegetables into big chunks. The L’Equip juicer has a wide feeding tube but it’s easier to push items through if they are even sizes. I didn’t bother about removing pips or cores from the fruit as I knew they would be removed during the juicing process and end up in the pulp container. I peeled the oranges though as the skin and pith can be quite bitter and could have potentially challenged the juicer a bit too much.

Then I was ready to go! With the fruit and vegetables on a chopping board next to the juicer, I switched it on and started feeding through the carrots, orange chunks and a 2cm piece of unpeeled ginger. I also added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder because I like the subtle taste and warmth it gives. I pressed down on the pusher to ensure everything went through smoothly and added more oranges and carrots and repeated the action. It only took a few seconds and the bright orange juice started coming out of the spout straight into the waiting glass. It’s worth mentioning that I felt the juicer wasn’t too noisy although obviously I’ve never had one before to compare it to.

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I then made a second juice with the apples, courgette (well it was sitting in the fridge with no other purpose in mind!) and spinach plus a dash of nutmeg powder. The instructions for the juicer advise that if you use leafy greens, you should roll them up into a more solid ball so I made the effort to squash the spinach up as tightly as I could. This juice was a beautiful vivid green and it’s sad that a lot of people won’t even try a green juice purely because of the colour. You really don’t taste the spinach – or the courgette for that matter – so I’d suggest trying it.

I had wanted to try a juice with kale – as it’s such an up and coming vegetable – but unfortunately my local supermarkets didn’t have any apart from the chopped curly variety but the chunks of stalk aren’t good for juicing – too bitter & really hard.

Once I’d made the juices, it was time to wash the juicer. Dismantling it was really simple and I easily washed the parts in the sink, dried them and quickly reassembled the machine ready for next time. I’m keen to try other juices with ingredients like beetroot (good quality ready-made beetroot juice is really expensive to buy in the shops), blueberries and mangoes which I’ve had in home-made smoothies before. Smoothies are very filling – especially if they are so thick you almost have to chew them – but over spring and summer it’ll be good to have the lighter option of juices.

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The pulp that resulted from the two juices that I made was pretty dry which indicates that the juicer does a very good job of extracting as much juice as possible. Rather than waste the pulp I’ll use it to make vegetable soup or vegetable patties, which is a benefit you don’t get from shop-bought juices.

Overall and bearing in mind I’m a juicing novice with nothing to compare this model to, I’d rate the L’Equip XL Juicer with pulp extraction as follows:

Easy to use:            5/5

Easy to clean:         5/5

Easy to assemble:   5/5

A note for any followers of ‘Slimming World’ (like me) – when you make fresh juice it does contain Syns. I’ve checked these on the Slimming World app and generally you have to calculate 1.5 – 2 Syns per 100mls of fresh fruit or vegetable juice which isn’t excessive in my opinion so you could treat yourselves to an occasional fresh fruit or green juice every once in a while without affecting weight loss. Making your own juice is so much better than buying it from a shop because there are no added preservatives or bulking ingredients.

One final point – I’d recommend drinking the juices within 15 minutes of making them as they can discolour if you leave them too long (green juices have a tendency to look a bit ‘muddy’ if left although the flavour is unaffected). If you decide to make a juice and keep it in the fridge overnight, it may separate but will be fine once you stir it.

 

Disclaimer: Steamer Trading provided me with the L’Equip Juicer in return for an honest and objective review. The above represents my genuine opinion of this product and I’d be happy to discuss my first juicing experience further with anyone who is considering buying one. I can be contacted via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com.

 

The juicer is available to purchase here:  https://www.steamer.co.uk/electricals/juicers-blenders/l-equip-215-xl-juicer.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posh Porridge? I don’t mind if I do…

On cold mornings there’s nothing like a hot, steaming bowl of porridge to set you up for the day. Except that porridge on its own can be a little dull. I’ve never been the type of person to make it with water as it makes it taste like wallpaper paste. Oh no, I like my porridge to be a little luxurious and so back in the days when I was over 6 stone heavier than I am now, my porridge often contained nuts, seeds, fruit and even a touch of cream. To think I thought the nuts and stewed fruit made it healthy. How deluded can you be?

When I started to lose weight, my porridge contained semi-skimmed milk, a grated apple and some cinnamon which tasted good but after a while became a little “samey”. That made me look at other additions that would also be good for me and fill me up. I’ve since tried “carrot cake porridge” using grated carrot in place of apple and adding nutmeg as well as cinnamon and also – somewhat surprisingly you may think – sweet potatoes and pumpkin. I highly recommend these if you want a really REALLY filling breakfast.

My latest porridge related recipe was inspired by Mullerlight yoghurts who have just introduced a “Cherry Bakewell” flavour in conjunction with Slimming World. The classic flavour combination of cherries and almonds is always a winner in my house but at the moment cherries are out of season and I tend not to eat nuts as I usually can’t stop until an entire packet has been emptied!

So I had to be creative for my next porridge extravaganza and turned to my baking supplies cupboard (not that I bake these days…. too much temptation) to get some ideas.

The result was a “Raspberry Bakewell” flavoured baked porridge breakfast that is *FREE* on the Slimming World plan (if you use some of your Healthy Extra milk allowance). A good quality brand of almond essence (I use Nielsen Massey) gives you the hint of “bakewell” without adding any fat, calories or Syns and adding the raspberries at the end gives a burst of flavour as you tuck in.

It’s porridge but definitely a bit posh.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

Ingredients

40g porridge oats

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sweetener

1 egg, beaten

175mls milk (I use 1% fat these days but semi skimmed or other is fine)

½ teaspoon good quality almond essence

Small handful of fresh raspberries

Method

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4, Fan 160 degrees C or 180 degrees C.

Mix the porridge oats, baking powder and sweetener together in a bowl.

In a jug, beat the egg and add the milk and almond essence. Mix well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and pour the mixture into a small ovenproof dish. The one in the photos is 5 inches (14cms) in diameter.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is golden and no longer ‘wobbles’ if you wiggle the dish. You want it to be slightly firm – not like cement – although if you leave it for a while before eating it will thicken up.

Serve topped with the fresh raspberries.

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Just out of the oven!

 

 

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Mmmm. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt Free ‘Cream’ Cheese

Having lost over 5 stone with Slimming World in less than a year, I’ve changed my eating habits drastically and feel so much better for it. It has been a challenge to overcome the cravings I frequently used to have for butter, cream, chocolate, cakes, anything with salted caramel in it and salt and vinegar crisps (to name but a few things) but I’ve done it. What helped me to lose weight was creating healthier versions of certain dishes that I used to love even though they weren’t always good for me. I now spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on new recipes and ensuring they taste as good as the ‘full fat’ versions but are much better for you.

One thing I used to like quite a lot was rich, creamy (and calorie laden) garlic and herb soft cheese. And I ate quite substantial portions of it as I didn’t seem to have a full button. So, in order to have an occasional indulgent cheese fest, I needed to come up with a recipe that would satisfy my cheese-y tooth while adhering to the Slimming World guidelines.

So, here is my recipe for a FAT FREE (yup, you read that correctly) creamy tasting garlic and herb cheese that is good spread on bread, bagels and buns or dolloped on a jacket potato or chilli dish. The possibilities are endless. I’ve used chives but you could use any herbs you like. I like the cheese made with fresh garlic but when I don’t have any I use garlic granules. The small amount of sweetener counters the slightly sour taste of the quark but you can leave it out if you wish.

While you can play around with the added ingredients, the key thing in this recipe is that you have to strain the cheese for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge. This is what changes the consistency and fools you into thinking that a thicker cheese must mean a creamy cheese. Yes, it’s thicker but you can eat copious amounts of it with a clear conscience because it’s FAT FREE!

Ingredients

250g fat free quark (usually at the end of a supermarket cheese aisle)

1 ½ tablespoons of fresh or dried chives. If fresh, snip them into small pieces

½ teaspoon granulated sweetener

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder or 1 small/medium fresh garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

You’ll need a nut milk bag (Amazon or health food shop purchase) or a jam straining bag.

 

Method

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon.

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You should end up with a fairly sloppy textured mixture, like this:

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Take a nut milk bag (pictured) or jam straining bag, and spoon the mixture into it.

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You then need to suspend the filled bag over a bowl to catch the liquid that comes out of the cheese. I have to improvise with a silicone spatula (see photo) but I think that’s a sign of a creative cook!

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Place the bowl and the suspended cheese filled bag in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

You can see how much liquid comes out of the cheese in this photo.

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Once strained, tip the now firm cheese into a small bowl. If not eating immediately, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.

Eat and enjoy!

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For any Slimming World members reading this, as this creamy cheese is actually fat free quark it is a FREE FOOD and not a Healthy Extra A choice like many other cheeses. How brilliant is that?

 

 

 

2016 -A Review

As we rapidly approach 2017, I thought I’d take some time to review my significant moments of the past year and consider what I learned from them.

As many of you know, we relocated to North Norfolk in December 2015 so for us, 2016 promised to be an exciting year. We bought a house in March and moved in just after Easter. After living in south London for almost 20 years and inhaling relentless diesel fumes, encountering the ‘angry brigade’ with alarming regularity – you know, the road ragers, the commuter ragers, the supermarket queue moaners – and being bombarded by constant noise, it has been a joy to live in a small, quiet village in the country.

We wake up to glorious silence, only broken by the occasional squawk of the pheasants or the singing of the gentler dawn chorus. What a change from our previous house which being on a rat run meant traffic noises started early, drowning out the sounds of any wildlife which dared to rear its head. Our Norfolk neighbours are friendly and always stop for a chat. Very different from say, Croydon, where if you caught anyone’s eye they’d look at you as if you were an axe murderer. Or maybe they were afraid you’d identified them as one. We support local shops and farm producers where possible and I’m sure things like potatoes taste more ‘potato-ey’ than if you buy them in a supermarket. I’ve attended various Farmers’ Markets in the area and have made contact with small, local food producers, deli owners, cafe and restaurant owners and others who are putting Norfolk on the foodie map of Great Britain. While we’re not quite leading the ‘Good Life’ (no goat called Geraldine in our garden), it’s certainly a vast improvement on our previous one.

We’re fortunate that following the move and the down-sizing involved, I’m able to work on a part-time basis while my husband stays at home as the ‘Domestic, Garden and Cocker Spaniel Manager’. In our early 50s, we’ve finally discovered the meaning of ‘work-life balance’ and it’s an excellent feeling. We bring home less money but we’re so much happier. So many well-known people have passed away in 2016 with some not that much older than us. Who really wants to work until they drop or drop before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy life? Hubby and I both had near death experiences in the last few years: he had an undiagnosed heart problem in 2012 that was almost fatal and in 2013 I was involved in a road traffic accident that nearly polished me off. As a result we decided that the time was right to take life by the horns and enjoy whatever time we have left. That’s why we’re now in Norfolk and loving it.

Once we’d settled in to our new house, I thought I’d better find a job which wasn’t as easy as it would have been in London given that my area of HR is a bit specialised, but I persevered. After a couple of false starts in jobs that weren’t right for me (memo to self – never take the first offer or the second if it’s worse than the first), I found my ideal position working as an HR Manager for a local animal sanctuary. It’s a big change from my previous HR roles in corporate type organisations: I’m based in a shed on a farm, there’s a lot of mud, and I have to walk 200 yards to a portacabin loo which can be a challenge when it’s minus 4 degrees outside or bucketing down with rain! As I write this during my lunch break, I’m wearing a woolly hat, fingerless gloves, a thermal vest, a thin fleece, a thicker fleece over the top, tights under my trousers, thick socks and walking boots. This is ‘office chic’ Norfolk country style. No more early morning decisions about what shirt to wear or whether I need to iron a suit for meetings. I may look like a bag lady – the grey hair probably doesn’t help – but I’m warm (mostly) and still getting the work done. And, even better, I have an outstanding view across the fields: I see happy cows; horses; sheep; pigs; goats and I get frequent cuddles and licks from puppies in the dog rescue centre. Unlike when I worked for a well-known telecommunications company or an equally prominent clothes, food and home goods retailer (not just any retailer, you know the one), I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and not just increasing share-holders’ profits.

The other significant change in my life is ending 2016 almost 5 ½ stone lighter than I was in January. After 30 years of yoyo dieting, the odd cranky eating regime (I don’t recommend the grapefruit and hardboiled egg diet) and even the very low calorie liquid diet that knocked off 7 stone in 6 months (regained within 18 months), I found Slimming World and it has completely changed my life.

People who have never been overweight, fat, morbidly obese, or even slightly porky will never be able to understand quite how it affects the lives of people who are. I’m generally seen as an outgoing, lively person but underneath the formerly fat, seemingly jolly exterior was a desperately unhappy individual with low self-esteem and a high level of self-loathing. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to? I was very fat, extremely miserable and a compulsive eater. All this psychobabble about ‘comfort eating’ is a load of tripe in my experience. I’d eat when I was happy (to ‘celebrate’), upset (to ‘compensate’) or stressed (to ‘calm down’). I’d eat when I was hungry and when I wasn’t. Eating didn’t cheer me up or comfort me – it made me feel even worse but I was caught in a never-ending cycle and genuinely believed it would never change. While I did lose weight on the ‘good’ diets I tried such as WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley, I was always hungry. Calculating ‘points’ was time-consuming and you had to buy all the WeightWatchers paraphernalia in order to do it. I lost a stone in 2015 having attended WW for about 8 weeks but lost the will to live at that point and gave up.

When I joined Slimming World in Norfolk on 5th January 2016, I didn’t expect to have the success I’ve achieved. I thought I’d probably last a couple of months and then it would go the way of other fruitless weight loss attempts. How wrong I was. Once I’d got to grips with the plan I was off – and so were the unwanted pounds. I attended the group every week and made lots of new friends, all fighting the same battle as me. With Slimming World, there is minimal weighing and measuring of food and you can eat satisfyingly large amounts and still lose weight. Of course, over 30 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight and I’ve had the occasional wobble when chocolate or cake has called to me very loudly but I’ve always got back on track very quickly and continued to lose weight. At the time of writing this, I’ve lost a total of 6 stone 4 ½ lbs since March 2015. By the end of March 2017, I’m certain I will have reached my target (1 and a half stone to go) and I know that I won’t ever be the fat, fiftyish, frumpy friend again because I have changed my eating habits for life thanks to Slimming World. If I can do it, anybody can. My only regret is that I wasted time and money on all those other diets over many years and ended up chunkier than ever.

One thing I’m disappointed about was not keeping up with my blog in 2016 as much as I’d planned. The house move, job hunting and the diet took up most of my time and the blog – which largely featured cakes and baking when I started it – took a back seat. I’m hoping to change that for 2017 as I enjoy writing and have quite a few ideas for new posts. I need to learn a few more technical things about WordPress and may need to upgrade so that I can do things with widgets and plug-ins (finding out what they are will be my first priority!). The focus will still be food – obviously – but geared towards healthier eating while not compromising on flavour. I plan to continue interviewing local Norfolk food producers for the blog and a Norfolk travel website, undertake product reviews and lots more.

So what did I learn in 2016? Firstly, that there is life after London and that moving to the country has benefitted my health, well-being and self-esteem enormously. Secondly, looking for a job can be challenging especially when one is over 50 (ahem!) but with some positive thinking and creative approaches, the right job is out there so never lose heart. Finally, you can change your life for the better, whether it’s a new house, a new job or a new body. In one short year, my life has improved beyond my expectations and I will be eternally grateful to every single person who has helped me along the way.

I wish you all an adventurous 2017 and hope that you achieve your dreams – they are within reach. They really are.

 

A Review of The Hoste, Burnham Market, Norfolk

FullSizeRender - Copy (13)Monday 21st December 2015 was a significant date in my diary: it was our 30th wedding anniversary and as such needed to be celebrated in some way. As we’d only moved to Norfolk from London two weeks earlier, we hadn’t had a chance to book anywhere but luckily when I contacted ‘The Hoste’ in Burnham Market, they said they could fit us in. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch there having heard some excellent reviews. Another attraction was the fact that The Hoste is dog friendly, so Millie our well-behaved cocker spaniel came along too.

Although we’d been visiting Norfolk for more than 20 years, I’d never been to Burnham Market before and I was looking forward to browsing the 30+ independent shops and wandering around the green. Unfortunately, as soon as we got out of the car it started to rain heavily and was very windy so we didn’t really have the opportunity to explore “Norfolk’s loveliest village”. This prompted me to reflect that perhaps it wasn’t a brilliant idea to get married in December!

On the positive side, when we entered ‘The Hoste’, it was warm and inviting and the bar was very lively. We walked through to the restaurant and discovered there were two seating areas: one for people with dogs and one for humans on their own. Our waiter led us to a table and Millie curled up and went to sleep under it.

The lunch menu looked very tempting and considering that many people refer to Burnham Market as “Chelsea-on-Sea”, I thought that the prices weren’t unreasonable for what was, after all, a celebration meal.

 

For our first course, I chose roasted woodland mushrooms cooked with garlic, presented on a brioche slice with parmesan and dressed with an aged balsamic vinegar. The mushrooms were chunky, juicy and full of flavour and the parmesan added a delightful savoury tang.

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My husband had a locally smoked cod fishcake made with leeks, potatoes and mustard, which was dressed with a light sauce. He said the fishcake had a firm texture and he could clearly taste all the individual ingredients.

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A very minor criticism of the starters was that they were both topped with rather a large amount of rocket which concealed the dishes underneath it, as you can see from the photographs. With rocket as a garnish, less is definitely more in my opinion as I find its peppery bitterness somewhat overpowering.

For his main course, my husband chose the roasted Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings and I had seared calf’s liver. I don’t usually eat offal but in a good restaurant, calf’s liver can be outstanding so I had my fingers crossed that The Hoste’s chef would do it justice.

The turkey ‘trimmings’ were very good: my husband said the fondant potato melted in his mouth and the chestnut, apple and ginger stuffing made a change from the ubiquitous ‘sage and onion’ that proliferates at this time of year. As for the turkey itself, he said the breast was well cooked but he was a little disappointed by the brown meat (which he’s not fond of anyway) as it was chewy. He left some on the side of his plate and I have to say, it did look rather gristly. I don’t know if restaurants actually cook whole turkeys – as you would expect – or whether breasts and legs come separately but it was a shame that one small element of the bird wasn’t as good as the rest of the dish.

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The calf’s liver was very good and was served with a generous amount of Great Ryburgh bacon (I have heard that the butcher in the village of Great Ryburgh is excellent and that people travel miles for his meat). The creamed potato was smooth and delicious and the accompanying onion gravy and the buttered spinach I’d requested rounded off my main course very nicely.

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Our plates were cleared and as we were debating whether to have a dessert, our waiter appeared with an unexpected plate of petits fours – see the photograph. I think I mentioned it was our wedding anniversary when I booked so it was a lovely gesture that we really appreciated.

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We finally decided we’d share a dessert and we ordered the chocolate fondant with honeycomb and a blood orange sorbet plus two spoons. The dark fondant had a perfectly melted centre which oozed onto the plate when I cut into it. The blood orange sorbet was divine with a sweet sharpness that cut through the richness of the chocolate. This dish elevated the classic chocolate and orange combination to a very high level indeed and served as an excellent finish to our meal.

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The service at The Hoste was excellent – attentive but not intrusive – and we were genuinely touched that someone thought of marking our anniversary in a small way with the presentation of the petits fours. The meal including service came to just under £75, which we felt was acceptable for a special (and filling) anniversary lunch without alcohol.

I’d recommend The Hoste at Burnham Market and would rate it 9/10 for food and ambience and 10/10 for service. It also gets plus points for being dog friendly.

 

www.thehoste.com

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This review reflects my honest opinion of the food my husband and I were served (and paid for) at The Hoste on 21st December 2015. I was not asked to write the review nor did I receive any incentives for doing so.

 

 

The Cake & Bake Show – London 2015

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I was lucky enough to be allocated a Press Pass for this year’s Cake & Bake Show in London and despite having a cold that was getting worse by the hour, I toddled off to Excel on the morning of Friday 2nd October 2015 full of excitement. My journey via bus, tube and two lots of the DLR (Docklands Light Railway for non-Londoners) took a fair while but it’s worth it when you end up at a marvellous event like the C&B Show. I have to say that I’m always amazed by the amount of work that goes into setting up these events. The venue is huge – it’s vast like an aircraft hangar when you walk into the main doors at Excel – and there are so many stands, cakes and people that it takes your breath away. The first photo in this post is of the official Cake and Bake Show cake – it really was a stunner.

I came prepared this time with a plan of what I’d do first and seeing the competition cakes was a must. Going earlyish on the first day of the Show means that the judging is still under way so you don’t know who the winners are until later on. I did catch sight of celebrity chefs Phil Vickery and Rosemary Schrader judging some of the ‘Children’s’ Story’ themed cakes, with their heads down, deep in judgely conversation.

There were lots of people desperate to get a good view of the competition cakes made by professional and amateur bakers alike and so I couldn’t always get a good photograph as I’m not the sort of person who elbows others out of the way! Here are some of the ‘ Childrens’ Story’ themed cakes that caught my eye:

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After escaping from the bustling crowds around the competition area, I headed for the stands to see what goodies were available to buy. It’s fortunate that visitors to the show are issued with a floor plan of the venue because it was very easy to get lost there! One of the first people I saw was Steven Dotsch from The Speculaas Spice Company – http://www.speculaasspice.co.uk. Steven’s spice mix contains a mixture of nine organic spices including cinnamon, cloves, ginger plus 6 other secret spices and can be used in sweet dishes as well as savoury. Steven kindly gave me a sample of his spice mix so I will be using it as soon as I can in a cake or biscuits. Here is Steven at his stand:

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I then spotted the very attractive stand – lots of pink! – of ‘Scrumptious Sprinkles’ which despite its name doesn’t just sell sprinkles. While there are indeed sprinkles for all occasions and a beautiful selection of some that can be classed as more sophisticated than the generally child-orientated hundreds and thousands, there were cake tins, cupcake cases, biscuit cutters and a lot more. I bought a set of Christmas biscuit cutters which represented my first purchase this year of a festive item. The stand was very busy and it clearly was proving hard for the shoppers to limit themselves to buying just one pot of sprinkles. You can buy online too at http://www.scrumptious.uk.net. Here is a photo of Niki one of the lovely ‘boss ladies’ who didn’t really want her photo taken!

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One of the things I really like about going to cake or food shows is that there are always tasters available. If you plan your circuit well, you could probably do without lunch and just go around the stands trying out various things. The Cake and Bake Show is good because there are non cakey food suppliers there too. I sampled quite a lot of cheese, some olives, biscuits, marshmallows, oils & vinegars, fudge so I definitely didn’t need any lunch!

One of the stands with samples available was “Arapina” – http://www.arapina.co.uk. At first, I thought it was simple jam but I was told that the ‘teaspoon desserts’ – a symbol of Greek hospitality – were created to preserve fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers. The name comes from the habit of serving them on a small plate. By using a few simple ingredients such as fruit, sugar, herbs and a touch of lemon, the raw material keeps its original shape, colour and flavour as well as its nutritional properties. I particularly like the sour cherry and the walnut varieties so I bought a large jar of each. I could see them being used as toppings for ice creams or other desserts, porridge and yoghurt as well as for making cakes. Arapina also makes gluten and dairy free cakes – have a look at their website for more information. Here is a photo of the Arapina ladies:

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I made sure I said hello to the people at one of my favourite suppliers ‘Sugar and Crumbs’ who sell a range of naturally flavoured icing sugars and cocoa powders. I’ve used their products previously and have written about them and created recipes for their blog. Again, their stand was very busy so I thought I’d better nab a couple of packets of the Christmas flavoured icing sugars as they clearly were in demand. I’m looking forward to trying them out, especially ‘Santa’s Snowball’ which has the flavour of white chocolate – one of my favourite things. (I’m a child of the 1960s and I still remember the television adverts with the Milky Bar Kid. I think that’s what set me off down that route…..). I recommend that you have a look at their website both to purchase some items but also to look at the recipes that are there – http://www.sugarandcrumbs.co.uk.

I can’t list all the stalls I visited but my some of my favourites included: Baker & Maker, Cake Craft World, Drury & Alldis oils and vinegars, It’s a Baking Thing, Purple Cupcakes, Simply Vintage Designs and Snowdonia Cheese Company.

Of course, the supplier stands are just part of the Cake and Bake Show. There were also demonstrations and classes going on over the three days and so you could have seen people like Eric Lanlard, John White, Lisa Faulkner, Jo Wheatley, Rosemary Schrager and lots more. I dipped in and out of a few demos which were all very well-attended although I was a little disappointed that on the day I was there, Eric Lanlard wasn’t!

However I did bump into Edd Kimber, who won the first Great British Bake Off back in 2010. He’s written three books to date and I mentioned that I’d recently made his lemon madeleines from ‘Patisserie Made Simple’ , to which he replied that was his favourite book of the three. He also added that he was working on book number four so that will be something to look forward to in 2016. I cheekily asked him to pose for a photo which he kindly did but I can’t help thinking that I look like his grandmother.. Note to self: consider dyeing the hair!image1 - Copy (23)

In summary, if you want a great day out surrounded by cake and foodie people, the Cake and Bake Show is an essential place to go. I’d suggest sturdy shoes as there’s lots of walking involved when the venue is as large as Excel, a couple of strong bags to carry home your goodies (a shopping trolley would be even better), and a credit card that can take a bashing because you will buy too much! If you can’t get to London, there are also shows in Manchester and Edinburgh so wherever you are in the UK, you should be able to experience one.

A Review of ‘Number 28’, Holt, Norfolk

Number 28 cafe

I had the good fortune to have lunch at the Number 28 café when I met some friends in Holt, Norfolk, earlier this year. There are quite a few eateries in Holt with a range of offerings and prices – some more reasonable than others although I have to say that Holt isn’t the sort of place you are likely to get a dodgy meal. Number 28 was appealing as it offered food made on the premises, the seating area was light and airy and the owners were very friendly.

The story behind the meet up is an interesting one. I belong to a Twitter based baking group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week, a baking theme is announced and anyone who wants to take part bakes something the following weekend and posts a photo on Twitter. The ten best, most impressive bakes are then put up for a public vote, with the weekly winner being awarded a (virtual) Golden Spoon. The people who take part in this each week are a very friendly bunch from all over the UK and beyond. Not everyone is an experienced baker while some people are extremely talented and could easily outdo the professionals. I’ve made a lot of online friends through The Sunday Baking Club and last year some of us met up at Cake Shows in London and elsewhere and I also attended a ‘celebration cake making day’ at Konditor & Cook next to Borough Market in London with some of these new friends.

The meet up in Holt was just for three of us. I was on holiday visiting my parents who live nearby, while Cathy – who I’d previously met in London – and Kevin both live in Norfolk. It’s strange to think that if it hadn’t been for the Internet, many friendships just would not have happened. I’m delighted to have made friends with a diverse group of people who all came together due to a love of baking.

So, we chose our lunch at Number 28: Cathy had a craving for smoked salmon (as you do) and chose a filled baguette which came with salad and tortilla crisps. Kevin opted for a chicken and vegetable pie and accompaniments and I had a delicious leek and gruyere tart, which was served with a fresh coleslaw salad and tortilla crisps. The portion sizes were very good: substantial but not overwhelmingly so. The main course dishes got the thumbs up from all of us with clean plates all around. We didn’t have room for dessert which was a shame, but there’s always next time.

What I must comment on – and highly recommend – is the hot chocolate drink I had. This wasn’t any old hot chocolate but white chocolate that was smooth, rich and not too sweet. It was clearly a good quality white chocolate (trust me, I know these things) which easily surpassed another one I’d had elsewhere a few days previously.

Chris and Kelly, who own Number 28, said they’d taken it over in September 2014 and revamped the café to their own style. I thought it was a very relaxing atmosphere with so much light and space – and there was more seating upstairs. Kelly said that they will be increasing their range of cakes in the coming weeks so I’m hoping that when I next visit the area, Number 28 will be doing the most amazing cream teas to go with the morning coffees, light lunches, and so on. The address is: 28, High Street, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6BH