The Beechwood Hotel, Norfolk – A Review

 

 

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The Beechwood Hotel is an attractive country house hotel located on the edge of the market town of North Walsham. The award-winning, fine-dining restaurant seats up to 60 people and offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to residents and non-residents alike. The hotel has an interesting history: from the 1930s to the mid 1960s it was a private house owned by two doctors who were close friends of the crime writer Agatha Christie. Indeed, she spent a lot of time there and used to disappear off to the summerhouse in the garden where she spent time writing. There is various memorabilia and photographs in the hotel available for guests to look at. The crime-writing connection has inspired the owners to put on successful “murder mystery” evenings which offer a delicious three course evening meal while the intrepid diners try to work out “whodunit”.

 

Chef Steven Norgate is passionate about local Norfolk produce and sources most ingredients for his innovative modern British menu from within ten miles of the hotel, such as Morston mussels, Cromer crabs, Sheringham lobsters and outstanding 21 day aged beef that melts in the mouth.

 

The dinner menu could include a starter such as Tavern Tasty ham hock terrine, pea puree, tomato chutney, sourdough crisps, capers, rocket and a mustard dressing followed by Bunwell Estate venison and local, seasonal vegetables. And to round off an excellent meal, I highly recommend the sticky toffee pudding when available or the “trio of Belgian chocolate” dessert.

 

There is always a vegetarian option on the menu too, for example a rosti potato pancake filled with goat’s curd, wild mushrooms, cauliflower puree and onion marmalade served with apple and rocket salad.

 

Whether you go to the Beechwood Hotel for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a “special occasion” meal, you won’t be disappointed. With polite and attentive staff, elegant surroundings and food by one of the best chefs in the area, the Beechwood Hotel is most definitely one of the gems in Norfolk’s crown!

 

 

www.beechwood-hotel.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Never Say Diet!

My foodie interests are quite wide-ranging and in my time I have tried all sorts of eating regimes including vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, high protein and everything in between. Over the last 30 years I’ve been slim (ish) and I’ve been overweight. In fact, I’m on the rather generous side of the “Rubenesque” scale at the moment with the genuine intention of doing something about it this year. As I do every year (oh dear). In 2015 I managed to lose just over 2 stone (30lbs) and to date only 1 of those (stones) has gone back on. So, somewhat unusually, I start a new year lighter than I was at this point 365 days ago. Which is a good thing. But I want to do better.

My downfall as far as diets go is that I absolutely love food and if I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it, reading about it or writing about it. I love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and baking makes me feel really good. Unfortunately, with cooking comes eating and that’s my downfall. As a result, I’ve joined various slimming groups over the years including WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley (RIP that company), and I’ve tried diets like Atkins (lost over 3 stone) and LighterLife (lost almost 7 stone). I’ve realised that all sorts of diets do work – when you stick to them. I get to the point when I feel I’ve done really well and decide I don’t need ‘the diet’ any more …… and I duly go back to my poor eating habits and pile the weight on again. Plus a little bit more for good measure.

In December 2015, I moved with my husband and our dog to North Norfolk to escape our busy, stressful, and traffic fume filled existence in south London and have a better quality of life in the country. We’re staying temporarily in my mum’s former holiday rental cottage on the coast – very “bijou” with a tiny kitchen – while we look for a house to buy. I’m also looking for a job. Lots of changes at one time so not ideal really.

I’ve decided to bite the diet bullet (here I go again) and join a local “Slimming World” group because their Jan/Feb 2016 magazine proudly claims that you can eat the food you love and therefore have decent meals. No sparrow sized portions. How great is that? Apparently, there are also “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities which I’m curious about, seeing as eating food in unlimited quantities is what has made me fat in the first place! I’ll be toddling along to my first meeting on Tuesday 5th January 2016 – watch this space and I’ll report back on how it goes.

So, bearing in mind that I’ll be able to eat proper food while I’m on the Slimming World programme, I’m going to treat myself to some new cookbooks and write reviews of each one I buy. This will be an interesting project seeing as I seem to buy quite a lot (ooops) but I hope it will be helpful for other people who may be struggling with their weight as well as for people who just wonder what the XX cook book may be like.

I want to be able to eat the same food as my husband. I don’t want to be eating celery and lettuce or cutting out any major food groups while he tucks into a hearty chicken or beef dish. I’ll be looking for recipes that are immediately “diet friendly” as well as those I can tweak to make more suitable e.g. by reducing the fat or portion sizes. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that diets are only short-term fixes. If I’m ever going to conquer my 30 year history of yoyo dieting, I have to change my lifestyle once and for all. As we moved to Norfolk to improve our lives, this seems the ideal time to do it. Carpe diem, and all that.

When I buy books, I like to read reviews first but I’m never sure how reliable the ones are that you see on Amazon: there has been the occasional scandal of dodgy reviews posted by an author’s competitors or times when a writer’s friends and family post excessively positive reviews. People that know me appreciate that I’ll be honest and unbiased and also that I won’t be malicious or unkind.

The things I look for in any cook book are:

  1. Are the recipes “do-able” for the average home cook? Too much faffing or fancy / obscure ingredients put me off right away;
  2. Are there decent photographs? We may all know what a lasagne or chocolate cake should look like, but I’d like to know how the dish I’m making at any one time is expected to turn out. I tend not to buy recipe books with a lack of pictures;
  3. Are the instructions clear? Cook books are usually aimed at domestic cooks or people who wish to improve their skills in the kitchen. Too much jargon or vague explanations are not helpful nor are authors who patronise their readers;
  4. Do I want to eat the food or am I buying the book for another reason? This may seem to be a silly question but if you think about it, do we buy the recipe book or do we “buy” the person who’s written it? At the time of writing this piece, I’ve seen a couple of Sunday newspaper supplements and Davina McCall has a recipe book coming out and Bear Grylls – not usually known for his culinary skills – is also publishing a cook book. The extract from the book by Davina frequently refers to her “team of nutritionists” which does make me wonder who created the recipes that she’s selling. Sorry Bear and Davina, your books aren’t going to make my list of purchases this year.
  5. Nutritional information. This could be calories per portion or how much fat, protein or carbohydrate is in a dish. While Slimming World doesn’t work on the basis of calories, I find it helpful to know how much fat a recipe contains as this is something I can change when I make it.

During this year I’ll be reviewing newly published cookbooks by a diverse group of writers, including Anna Jones, Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward, Jamie Oliver, Fiona Uyema, Hemsley & Hemsley, Anya Ladra, and Natasha Corrett. Please be aware that these aren’t “diet books” as such but ones I happen to be interested in anyway that I hope will help me to lose weight while eating rather well.

 

Happy New Year!