Who doesn’t love the indulgence of Afternoon Tea?

 Afternoon tea - picture credit to Chronical Live

Afternoon tea - picture credit to Chronical Live

Who doesn’t love the indulgence of one of our great British traditions – Afternoon Tea?

Did you know that afternoon tea dates from the 1840s when it was introduced to stave off hunger pangs between an early lunch and a late supper? Afternoon tea is now a treat and, in my house, we often celebrate a special day such as a birthday, an anniversary or Mother’s Day with a particularly luxurious one. But the best afternoon tea doesn’t have to cost a fortune because it’s just as easy to enjoy that extravagant experience in your own home.

For me, less is always more when it comes to afternoon tea. I like everything I serve to be as dainty and attractive as possible which is why I love Judge’s range of mini bakeware. I use the mini muffin tin (12 cup) and mini bun tin (24 cup) to achieve that elegant, high-end look.

 For a perfect bake  - try Judge Bakeware

For a perfect bake  - try Judge Bakeware

 Judge Pack of cards cutters

Judge Pack of cards cutters

If, like me, you enjoy savoury treats just as much as sweet then mini quiche are an afternoon tea must. Judge’s fluted round mini tart tins (set of 6) are the perfect size – I recommend Mary Berry’s leek and stilton quiche recipe! I even make my sandwiches look as if they come from a top hotel by using Judge’s cutters. Star and heart-shaped sandwiches are my favourite but I like the idea of using the Judge playing card cutters and putting on a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea party for my daughter’s 18th next week (she’s dancing the part of Alice soon so it will fit perfectly). Interestingly, the nation’s favourite afternoon tea sandwich is smoked salmon and cream cheese. Delicious, I agree, but I’m sure that lots of you have got much more exciting ideas than that!

There are so many places that offer afternoon tea nowadays that it’s difficult to know where to go. Can you remember where you had your best afternoon tea? Maybe, like me, you feel that the best is yet to come and you’re still ‘working’ your way through a list of top hotels and restaurants to find that ultimate experience. (Nice work if you can get it, and don’t forget to let us know about them in your comments below!)

Our Top Tip: enjoy the search and keep looking – although, of course, you may find that the answer was right there at home all the time!

 Afternoon tea - picture credit to Priory Bay Hotel

Afternoon tea - picture credit to Priory Bay Hotel

Afternoon Tea – a delicious quest, from luxury hotels right to your doorstep. 

Calling Star Bakers - The Great British Bake Off is back! #GBBO

 Building up the layers for our show stopper

Building up the layers for our show stopper

Bake Off is back and, once again, the country is on an emotional roller coaster as we ride the ups and downs of the signature, technical and showstopper challenges!

 Voila!

Voila!

The signature challenge is a great opportunity for the bakers to show off their tried and tested baking recipes - those bakes that always go down well with family and friends. To be honest, it’s the one and only time I can imagine myself in the tent! What’s your signature dish? For me, it’s got to be Pavlova. I love making it, I love eating it and I love the reaction it always gets. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different fruits and substituted cream for crème patisserie, yoghurt, custards and even crème fresh for a slightly tart flavour. I’ve also tried flavouring and colouring my meringue for very special occasions. But the one thing I don’t experiment with is my bakeware. I always use the best – like Stellar’s award winning Hard Anodised Bakeware range.

 The Stellar Hard Anodised Bakeware range. 

The Stellar Hard Anodised Bakeware range. 

I’m not sure that I’d cope with the pressure of the technical challenge, would you? Can you imagine the terror of being presented with only the barest suggestion of a recipe and a pile of ingredients hidden under a tea towel! And on TV! What temperature should the oven be? Should the ingredients be added gradually or all at once? How long should your bake be in the oven? And what’s an ‘arlette’ anyway? The list of questions is as endless as the list of things that could go wrong! The only certainty in the technical challenge is that having the right tools for the job can make the difference between a perfect result and an underbaked disaster! My go-to bakeware is always Judge’s well-established Bakeware Collection which is one of the most comprehensive bakeware ranges around and covers every baking eventuality.

 John Waites Show Stopper From GBBO

John Waites Show Stopper From GBBO

The highlight, of course, has to be the showstopper challenge. Again, quality bakeware is essential for perfect results. Remember John’s Heaven and Hell showstopper? He used 17 different cake tins to create his winning bake! For springforms, I don’t think you can beat the variety of shapes and sizes available in Judge’s Bakeware collection.

This year, we’ve got a challenge for you. We’d like you to share your showstoppers with us. You might not want to try something as complicated as John’s masterpiece but, let’s face it, a showstopper isn’t a showstopper if it doesn’t have the WOW factor! We look forward to seeing your pictures - it’s just a shame that we won’t be able to taste your delicious creations!

Top tip:

If you’re scaling up or down from an original recipe, it can be tricky to work out the right amount of each ingredient needed. I love these helpful little tables that do all the working out for you!

http://www.cakesbakesandcookies.com/2013/08/15/6-to-12-in-60-seconds-aka-madeira-cake-ingredients-for-different-size-cake-tins/

https://www.deliaonline.com/information-centre/scaling-up-cake-recipes

My kid is off to uni… what will they need in the kitchen?

 Ready for the off

Ready for the off

THE PERFECT KITCHEN KIT FOR STUDENTS

Judge Induction

If, like me, you’ve got a son or daughter about to head off to uni, you’ll be starting to think about kitting them out for the coming years. One of the most difficult decisions is weighing up how much money to spend versus how long you want things to last. Obviously, you don’t want to spend a small fortune but, equally, it’s false economy to buy equipment that’s not going the stay the course. Luckily, when it comes to cookware, Judge have got a great range of kitchen equipment that won’t break the bank but will withstand the rigorours of uni life!

This is the third time I’ve waved a child off to uni so I know the drill by now! There are a certain number of items that even the most reluctant cook just can’t do without. I’d suggest the following essentials:

A couple of pans of different sizes and a frypan - all non-stick for obvious reasons! Judge’s Induction range, suitable for all hob types, comes in stylish red, vanilla and black to suit all tastes and is definitely tough enough to cope with life in a shared kitchen. Also, they say having a colour helps when trying to find their pans!

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A roaster is always useful - hopefully, not just for oven chips, good for pasta bakes too!

More and more students already are or are thinking of becoming vegetarians/vegans, so a good chopping knife is a must. Judge’s collection of nine Sabatier IP knives offers a great choice of entry-level knives which are perfect for students – go for the Utility and the Cooks or Santuko knives which will easily handle both chopping up veg and carving. Also, they come with a 25-year stainless steel guarantee.

 Judge Sabatier IC Knives

Judge Sabatier IC Knives

 Judge Basics 3 piece set

Judge Basics 3 piece set

I would recommend including a few kitchen tools for serving, stirring and flipping – Judge have an ideal starter set containing three robust, stainless steel tools - a masher is my daughters favourite too.

This just leaves the all-important Pizza Rotella. Judge’s Rotella is simple, elegant and safe to use and comes in Italian red, green or white – just make sure you tell them that it’s only to be used for homemade pizzas!

 

 PIzza Rotella

PIzza Rotella

Top Tip

So, take my advice and send your child off to uni with a box of well-chosen, reasonably-priced, quality cookware and that’s one job that you won’t have to do again. Now, what’s next on the list?

 All boxed up and ready to go!

All boxed up and ready to go!

Wimbledon – who’s the winner?

 Afternoon tea or tennis?

Afternoon tea or tennis?

Pimm’s, strawberries, cream, scones…it’s Wimbledon time!

Well, it’s that time of year again! Yes, the sun is out (at last!) and Wimbledon fortnight is nearly here. It’s time to start thinking about how to create that Wimbledon experience in your own home!

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We’re aiming for something like this for the finals but, even when we’re just watching the highlights after work, we like to indulge in a glass of Pimm’s and some strawberries and cream – well it wouldn’t be Wimbledon otherwise, would it?

Top Tip: Judge’s double-walled glass is excellent for keeping iced drinks refreshingly cold for that perfect Pimm’s and ideal for keeping strawberries and cream at just the right temperature!

We always make sure we’ve made enough scones and cakes for the Wimbledon fortnight so that we can enjoy afternoon tea whatever the time of day.

Top tip: We recommend a 5cm cutter for scone perfection as it allows you to get plenty of jam and cream on! Judge’s set of six dishwasher-safe, crinkle or straight-edged cutters are just the job.

We tend to end up with quite a crowd so we just arrange everything on platters, add jugs of cream and Pimm’s and let people help themselves.

Top tip: With over 100 items in the collection, Judge’s stylish Table Essentials range is perfect for entertaining – the plates even have chip-proof edges to stop the excitement of the tennis spoiling your tableware (although, uniquely, one of the wonderful things about this collection is that every item is available to buy individually should the worst happen)!

And then the finals! Why not make it a weekend to remember, even if you’re not watching from prime seats on Centre Court? We’re going to celebrate in style with Judge’s sparkling wine glasses from their beautiful Stem Collection and a bottle of our favourite fizz. Whatever happens on Centre Court, the fact that Judge’s glassware and Table Essentials collection can be popped in the dishwasher at the end of the day makes Judge my winner every time – game, set and match!

 Judge Champagne Flutes, essential for celebrating

Judge Champagne Flutes, essential for celebrating

Never let your child google image search their birthday cake!

 Military themed birthday cake - the camouflage icing was easier than I thought

Military themed birthday cake - the camouflage icing was easier than I thought

This is something it’s taken me three years to learn, I wish someone had told me this was a bad idea years ago. I am not an excessive parent but I do love a kid's party and my problem is that I love going all out on the cake. I appreciate some people are into savory and I've seen caterpillar shapes made out of circular sandwiches and so many lovely things. This isn't me, I like simple buffet, hot dog or pizza party dinners BUT when it comes to the cake...

My boys’ birthdays have always had a vague theme - from pirates, super heroes to science - so obviously I google image search cakes on that theme. My son annoyingly caught me doing this, saw how amazing the cakes are and then requested a copy of a massive, extravagant, awesome, unachievable icing masterpiece. I am not a professional baker and my attention to detail is lacking. My cakes come out looking very home-made but filled with love. I can’t believe I'm actually putting them up here to show you guys but I'm sure there have been worse cakes?

Top Tip - leave plenty of time to decorate the cake. It always takes longer than first thought.

This first one is a pirate ship. My husband and I were up to midnight making this. The biggest mistake was using freshly baked sponge - I've since learnt if you’re trying to build with cake you need a stronger mix like a Madeira. There are about 8 kebab sticks inside this holding it all up and yes it took us days to finish.

 Pirate ship birthday cake

Pirate ship birthday cake

Pinata cakes were all the rage last year so I joined in: for Ethan's 6th birthday we had a science entertainer (which I would highly recommend) and Ethan saw on google images of a spherical Earth! I spent weeks learning how to do an icing transfer for this. All in all, I am secretly proud of this one.

 A piñata globe filled with skittles

A piñata globe filled with skittles

This cake is where is wish I had skills. It really pleased my 5 year old Zac, but it was a joint party with friends and loads of adults and I was slightly embarrassed taking this cake into the hall. The lesson I learnt here is - Do not drink wine when trying to ice a cake!

 A Minion in fancy dress as Batman

A Minion in fancy dress as Batman

So now I’ve shown my disasters to the world, please be brave and share too.

 

The answers to all your cupcake questions

Who can say no to a cupcake? Certainly not me! Today, I’m lucky enough to have chef Tony O’Reilly with me to unravel the ins and outs of making the perfect cupcake.

 Like cheese and wine - Cupcakes and parties

Like cheese and wine - Cupcakes and parties

When does a cupcake become a muffin?

A cupcake will never be a muffin! Cupcakes and muffins are usually around the same size and look similar but there are subtle differences:

  1. Unlike cupcakes, a muffin mix usually has something solid added to the base mix such as blueberries, raspberries or chocolate nibs.
  2. Cupcakes are usually topped with a piped frosting and decorated with a representation of their flavour (such as chocolate) whereas muffins are usually dusted with icing sugar or a thin coating of fondant.
  3. The basic mixture might be different too - some recipes suggest making muffins with oil.

My top tip: always use unsalted butter and a good cooking margarine.

Branded or own-label flour – does it make a difference?  

Yes, the flour does matter but because of the blend of flour rather than the brand - a good name usually means a superior blend (it could be a shop-branded quality product). Basically, you get what you pay for and, although I’m all for saving money, I want a balance between quality and price. A good-quality blend will be a finer-milled flour from selected wheat grains and is more likely give you a lighter finished product.

Does the age and quality of eggs make a difference?

The older the egg, the weaker the protein (helps to set the cake) so use the freshest eggs possible and as local to your area as you can. I use free-range eggs for everything because, for me, it’s about conscience and care for the environment. As for organic - some people believe it makes a difference to the flavour but I’m not so sure.

Stork v butter – which is best?

Ah, this old chestnut!! Stork is especially formulated for baking and it can make for a lighter finished product but I prefer the taste of butter, even though you have to beat the air into it to make it lighter.

Do you use baking powder as well as self-raising flour?

 Mixing made easy with the Judge Table Top Stand Mixer

Mixing made easy with the Judge Table Top Stand Mixer

I’m with Mary Berry on this one - I always add extra baking powder to give more lift to the finished product.

My top tip: sprinkle the baking powder evenly over the flour and sieve the additional baking powder and flour together twice to make sure it is dispersed as evenly as possible.

Mixing - all in one or one ingredient at a time?

I always cream my butter and sugar together before I add my eggs. Lastly, I add my self-raising flour and baking powder mix.

How long should I mix for? Can I over mix?

I always say get the mixture into the oven as quickly as possible! (I’ve never tried to over mix but it’s not a precise science so, if you leave the blender on too long, it won’t make much of a difference.)

Should you leave the mixture to stand before baking?

For cupcake mixture (or any product with self-raising flour), speed is of the essence - my advice is always to get it into the oven as quickly as possible! (I think you’ve probably got that message by now!)

My top tip: make sure you have pre-set the oven and have your tins ready because once you add the flour to the wet mixture, the chemical reaction begins. The longer you take to get it into the oven, the less of a chemical reaction you have left to give you a good ris

What’s the best temperature to bake cupcakes?

 Not getting the results you want? Check the oven temp with a Judge Oven Thermometer

Not getting the results you want? Check the oven temp with a Judge Oven Thermometer

Everyone’s oven is different but I say 180°C for most ovens and 170°C for a more modern, (If you want to check your oven temperature, Judge has a Oven Thermometer. efficient, fan-assisted oven. Older ovens might need an extra few degrees and a bit of extra time.

How do you know when they’re ready?

I check using a combination of recipe-suggested timing and eye. If you’re unsure, push a cocktail stick or a skewer into the middle of the mixture and if it comes out clean of raw mixture, it’s done. Remember, you still have ‘carry over cooking’ temperature when you take your cupcakes out of the oven which will cook them a little more on the cooling rack.

My top tip: once out of the oven, let the initial heat dissipate and then lightly cover your cupcakes so that they don’t dry out too much.

How much mixture do I need for 12 cup cakes?

My recipe allows for about 60-65g of raw mixture per cupcake which will give you a good-sized cupcake – don’t forget, you’re going to add 60g of frosting on top! If you’re not sure about the size you want, have a look at the results -  here we  used 50g and 65g. Really, it’s up to you – they both look tempting to me!

Good luck and good baking!

Ingredients

  • 200 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium free-range eggs, beaten together
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder

For the Frosting

  • 300g butter, room temperature
  • ½tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp Milk, cream or yoghurt
  • 600g icing sugar

Colouring, essences & Sprinkles

  • Orange colouring with Orange essence and Gold sprinkles
  • Lemon colouring, Sicilian Lemon essence with popping candy sprinkles
  • Red colouring, salted caramel essence and hearts and star sprinkles

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Line a 12-hole tin tray with paper cupcake cases. Have you 2 dessert spoons for portioning ready too.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix in well. Sift the flour and baking powder twice and add to the wet ingredients. Using two spoons, divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen, firm on top and a nice light brown colour. Once cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make to make the frosting. place the butter, two tablespoons of the milk, cream or yoghurt (I used Sheep's Yoghurt to be different) and half the icing sugar (300g) in a large bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining icing sugar. If the mixture is too dry add a little more milk, cream or yoghurt. Too wet to pipe, add some more icing sugar.

Once the cup cakes are cold. I divided the cream mixture into three, coloured and flavoured accordingly and decorated.

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For piping - if you don't have already, please check out the Judge piping kits kit handy to have and great for cooking projects like this. 

Summer Salads – an intriguing side dish or a glorious main?

  Red apple, celery, honey and walnut Salad, served with Manchego cheese

Red apple, celery, honey and walnut Salad, served with Manchego cheese

Are you like us? One sun ray (and quite frankly that sometimes is all we tend to get in the UK) and we’re off to the supermarket to fill our basket with colourful salad ingredients. We also find ourselves replacing red meats with fish, chicken and increasingly superfoods. Does this resonate with you?

Most of the year people talk about “hotting up in the kitchen” – meaning smoking frying pans, steaming veg, and the great British bubbling casserole. But then come the blue skies and it’s all about fresh, raw and speedy proteins to accompany the leaves. Do you agree, over recent years, the humble salad seems to have been given a new lease of life? No longer are we limited to the modest lettuce, tomato and cucumber – imports, food storage, glasshouses and a multicultural society have certainly fuelled our choice.

 Lettuce is no longer boring.

Lettuce is no longer boring.

The best part is, the green leaves no longer have to be green: the choice resembles a paint colour chart with anything from green to deep purple… and each offering a different flavour too. Yum!

When you think about preparing a salad, the first question is: salad as the main event or simply a side dish…or maybe as a topping? Here is a fun fact for you: recently we have come across salad topped pizzas! We shall have to ask the Italians if they think this is a good idea! And what about you? Do you prefer a salad as your main or as your side? And would you put it on pizza?

Once the basic ingredients are decided, the next decision to make is: do we toss, spiralise or julienne?! Check our our mandoline which makes light work of slicing and juliennes. After all, these techniques all add appeal to our salads. And we are then tempted to embellish with tasty dressings and amazing combinations, all topped off with fresh herbs, a zest of lemon or a squeeze of lime.

To round up this green rant, the foundation of a salad is surely the humble lettuce but if you ask if there’s any rules or guidelines to salad etiquette, the answer is simple:

Our Salad Guidelines: there's no rules, let your imagination run wild!

For those of you that are happier following a recipe, we have rustled up two lovely recipes with chef Tony O’Reilly with some taste tickling flavour combinations. Enjoy and let us know which one is your favourite!

Roasted Beetroot, Orange Segments and Hemp Seed Salad with Orange and Soya Dressing

Ingredients for 4

beetrootorangehemp004_41736835772_o sm .jpg
  • 4 medium beetroot, washed
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seed
  • 50 ml soya sauce
  • ½ fist of fresh coriander, washed and chopped

Method

  1. Cut the beetroot into wedges. Drop into boiling salted water for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove, peel off the skin, drain and set aside.
  3. Transfer the beets to a bowl, add the olive oil then lay on a large roasting tray.
  4. Season with salt and milled black pepper and roast for 30 minutes approximately (200°C/400ºF/gas 6), turn on the tray occasionally for a more even finish.
  5. While the beets are cooking, zest the oranges and place in a small saucepan.
  6. Remove the skin and pith of the oranges, cut into segments and place in clean bowl.
  7. Squeeze the juice from each orange and add to the zest.
  8. Add the soya sauce, bring to the boil and reduce by half, allow to cool.
  9. When the beets are cooked, remove and allow to go cool.
  10. Once cold, toss the beets in with the orange zest dressing and segments.
  11. Season with salt and milled pepper and place in a serving bowl.
  12. Sprinkle over the hemp seed.

Red apple, celery, honey and walnut Salad, served with Manchego cheese

Ingredients for 4

appleceleryalnut007_27893207058_o sm.jpg
  • 4 medium red apples
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • 50 g golden raisins
  • 2 celery stalk, trimmed, peeled and chopped
  • 100 g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50 ml good honey
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 fist of coriander, chopped
  • 175g Manchego cheese, cut into wedges

Method

  1. Peel, core and slice the apple into wedges (8 pieces from each), place in a bowl and pour over the lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
  2. Add the raisin, walnuts and celery.
  3. Slightly heat (only just!!) the honey and pour over the mix.
  4. Slice the red onion thinly and add to the apple mix.
  5. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander.
  6. Dress over some rocket leaves.
  7. Serve with the wedges of Manchego cheese.
  8. Dress with a few coriander leaves.

Life as an "English Wine Grower"

Here we show a snippet into the life as an English Wine Grower.

Lovels Wine (3).png

With the annual English Wine week running from May 26th to June 3rd 2018, we thought we would take the opportunity to visit a local English Wine producer to find out more.

We went to Lovells Vineyard nestled in Malvern Hills, a family run business owned by Cathie and John Rolinson since 2010. It’s a lovely story of how a hobby developed into a business grown out of the determination to prove to friends and family that they could produce the very best wine in Malvern. It hasn’t been plain sailing and there’s been a lot of trial and error but, determined to learn from mistakes, they mustered on and are now selling 12,000 to 15,000 bottles of wine a year.

Cathie says, “Its taken a lot of investment in the grounds in terms of drainage, as grapes simply don’t like too much water, and the installation of a complex trellising system to ensure the grapes receive maximum English sunshine."

Cathie adds "In 2013 we decided to launch the Elgar wine brand. We chose Elgar as he was born less than 15 miles away, he is known for writing Land of Hope and Glory – the song played at the Last night of the Proms (and that echoes our business) – and of course his name is one the UK population all know as he was on the £20 note until 2010."

 The Elgar Portfolio

The Elgar Portfolio

Cathie highlights, "Instrumental to our growth is our success in local good-quality restaurants, whose customers are as passionate about the wine they drink as they are about the food they consume with additional bottles often purchased. Once tasted, they take the opportunity to visit the vineyard where we offer wine tours and tastings from May to September 3 days a week and this invariably leads to sales. We’ve also gained distribution in local regional speciality food shops and we showcase  at local food festivals such as Worcester and The Malvern Three Counties. By far though our biggest customer is M&S, where you will find our wines within about a 40-mile radius. It’s all about 'local is best' with English Wines.”

When asked about what English Wine Week means for them, Cathie adds "By this time of the year the vines are beginning to grow rapidly and it’s a busy time  in the vineyard. There’s lots of events and news pieces with features on National and Regional TV and across the Internet too. We display promotional materials in our retail partners, all which goes to help highlight English wines and draws people into buying our products."

At Lovells they have perfected clean, crisp and fruity wines – typical of the English style – dry whites, subtle pinks, sparkling, dessert and an oaked red. When asked about the bottle choice, Cathie confirmed: for the sparkling it’s the popular shape; for the rose it’s a clear bottle to showcase the colour; for the whites a mix of clear and green – the wines that you may lay down would be in darker bottles so that light cannot have a detrimental effect, whereas the clear would be perfect for a fast moving white; finally, red is bottled in green or brown to give the wine a depth of colour and stored to allow time for the tannins to settle before selling.

And when it comes to tasting? We asked Cathie about the new Judge glasses. Traditionally the stems are for holding the glass so as not to affect the temperature of the wine or get marks on the glass and to swirl the wine to open up the flavour by getting some oxygen into it. But in all honesty, she adds "As long as the wine can be swirled to oxidise the wine, we are cool with it” – so she’s really enjoying the move to stemless glasses, which also fit in the dishwasher and don’t topple so easily!

 Judge Stemless Glasses

Judge Stemless Glasses

“The Judge glasses add elegance and finesse to the whole wine drinking experience – from the feel of the glass in your hand to the look of the wine in the glass. The earthiness and quirkiness of the stemless glasses add a real modern twist whilst the champagne glasses are a beautiful, traditional flute.  We have enjoyed sharing our wines with Judge glasses.” Cathie Rolinson.

So we encourage the wine novices and even the wine connoisseurs to shop local and support your farmers and your community. Take time to enjoy some of the very best wine which is on your doorstep.

How to reduce your carbon footprint in 3 easy steps

J181 & 2 Judge Sports bottles and Jo's boys  .jpg

Are you becoming more aware of the environmental implications of your purchases? We are constantly being told to use less single-use plastics, waste less and recycle more. But how?

Can small lifestyle changes make a significant impact? Read our 3 top lifestyle tips to start making an impact today.

Small changes at work…

Judge Thermal Drinkware Flasks 2 JDG32 J163 J182 J188-1600x1600.jpg

Grab your travel mug and take that to your favourite coffee shop for them to fill. You will often get a discount and also peace of mind knowing you aren’t adding to the 7 million disposable coffee cups used every day in the UK.

Take a water bottle from home. Did you know it takes 50-1000 years for a plastic water bottle to break down? Our sports bottles are made with robust stainless steel and will last for years. The best part is they are insulated, which means they will keep your drinks cold or hot for longer, what’s your preference?

Small changes at home…

 Judge Tote Basket (fold flat)

Judge Tote Basket (fold flat)

We’ve all made the change to buying and reusing carrier bags but you could take it a step further by using a basket or tote. These are especially useful if you support your local market or farm shop.

Leftovers? Don’t waste dinners, save for the next day or freeze them! Use serving bowls to allow the family to serve themselves.

Past its ‘best before’ date? Fruit and vegetables never stay fresh for long so when they’re a little on the wrinkly side, is it time for a soup or a smoothie?!

Small changes on a picnic or a BBQ…

Reach for a flask, thus negating the need for takeout coffee.

Ditch disposable cutlery. Who likes using it anyway? Table cutlery is so much nicer and quite simply lasts a lifetime – we sell great sets or individual forks, knives and spoons for you to take out!

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Here at Horwood we are committed to do our bit too. We believe that investing in quality kitchenware pays dividends in time as quality cookware lasts, meaning you may only need to buy it once. Did you know that most of our Judge products come with a 25-year guarantee, while most Stellar products are guaranteed for life? Also, over the next few years we plan to review our packaging, endeavoring to use less and ensuring it’s as recyclable as possible.

So, are you ready to reduce your carbon footprint?

For Fresh Start Success: Start in the Kitchen with our 6 tips

 Super foods to help Kick Start your Fresh Start

Super foods to help Kick Start your Fresh Start

Have the toils of the first few months, the dark, cold and damp mornings and evenings left you feeling worn out? Have you found it hard to find time to get your step count in and think up inspiring new recipes in the kitchen? You are not alone, winter can often leave us feeling sluggish with poor sleep quality.

This is where our Fresh Start Campaign can help: a few subtle changes to your diet and lifestyle will give you the enthusiasm to create the time to exploit the increasing daylight hours… and before you know it, you will have a spring in your toes and a renewed enthusiasm.

Here are our 6 steps to your Fresh Start Success:

1.       Simplify your cuppa – Our ability to create café style coffee in the comfort or our home is great but can lead us to pile on unnecessary calories and have too many caffeine highs & lows. So why not substitute one or two of these with a simple alternative such as herbal tea or hot water and lemon. Moreover a glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning is meant to be one of the best detox’s. Read more here. (link to old blog)

2.       Drink plenty – It’s not always the first thing you think of in terms of energy boosting but the humble H2O could hold the key to curbing lethargy and reducing forgetfulness – two things we certainly want to change. We are often trying to function in a state of dehydration – it’s too late when you are thirsty, this shows you are already dehydrated! The target should be 8 x 200 glasses of water a day. You can read more info here on the benefits of being hydrated here.

3.       Eat regularly Is this music to your stomach?! Whilst we may want to reduce our calorie intake due to the pounds added over the winter, the first thing you should not do is skip meals, but rather plan 3 regular healthy meals – yes that’s 3 a day! – as this stops us snacking. But let’s opt for sustaining, well-balanced meals that are cooked healthily: look to steam rather than boil and cut the carbs…

Did you know you can cook a complete meal in a steamer? Work out the cooking time of each ingredient and start with the ones that take the longest, then add the others and eventually everything should be ready at the same time. Judge offers a choice of steamers, both electrical and hob top. The hob top ones are available in various sizes so you can find the perfect one for your household – it’s sure to become a pure Kitchen delight and help your Fresh Start.

2 Top tips when steaming:

  • Increase flavours by adding plenty of herbs and spices;
  • Take a look at this post on steaming tips.

Let your kitchen shine
4.       Superfoods – We all know it’s good to have a balanced meal, to include our 5 a day, to move to whole grains and lean meats, etc. but adding superfoods is a great idea for those seeking to boost optimum health. Try seeking these out:

  • Goji Berries (contains protein in a very natural form);
  • Kefir (a cultured milk with probiotic);
  • Hemp seeds (with its ideal ratio of omega oils often found in  drinks);
  • Acai (a berry packed with antioxidants and Cocoa, known to reduce cholesterol).

Read more about them here here.

5.       Love your lymph – Simply add more green veg like rocket and kale to your diet to do this. If you keep this clean and healthy, sluggishness will decrease.

6.       And finally, ditch the junk – Actually by the time you have done all the above, you probably won’t even want the junk. Try to avoid reaching for cakes and biscuits and if you do decide to reach for a fry pan rather than a steamer, opt for one with great non-stick that doesn’t even need oil – such as Stellar Rocktanium. Watch how we fry and egg without oil here.

 Top Tip: dry fry and let your kitchen shine in your new Fresh Start.

The Secrets of Growing Asparagus Unveiled

The stunning surrounds of The Walled Gardens at Croome Court make an awesome setting for us to find out a few secrets of the art of growing asparagus.

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I recently had the privilege to be invited to The Walled Gardens at Croome (a privately owned house and garden in the grounds of the National Trust’s Croome Court) to speak to owners Karen and Chris Cronin about asparagus and the moment their lives changed when they spotted it was “For Sale”. It was just one of those moments: within 10 minutes of stepping inside the gardens, they’d fallen for it and bought it without looking any further around the dilapidated grounds and outbuildings.

“We didn’t really realise what we’d taken on, we just loved it”, Karen adds. So alongside their busy lives running another business (manufacturing stage sets for rock bands), they took on restoring the gardens and the gardener’s cottage (which would then become their home) to their former glory.

Karen clearly points out she had no real previous gardening experience before acquiring the 5 acres of gardens; she simply read books and “googled” to find out the typical produce that would have been grown in walled gardens and set out to grow it. She explained “Back in the day, the garden would have had the task of producing food and flowers for the owner of Croome Court, and I simply wanted to emulate that.”

Karen explained it had been quite a journey, which started with the renovation of the gardener’s cottage into a home, then the restoration of the wall around 5 acres of garden (7 acres in its entirety) and, finally, clearing the wilderness that has become today’s garden.

 Tomatoes on the South Wall at The  Walled Gardens at Croome

Tomatoes on the South Wall at The  Walled Gardens at Croome

Karen outlined that plants tend to flourish due to soil which is naturally nutrient rich which is intrinsic to the arable lands and micro climate of the Vale of Evesham alongside the additional shelter provided by the wall. She added “Some produce like asparagus stays in particular beds but others are rotated, or simply our curiosity and enthusiasm to try new crops means beds change”. She continued “Experience has shown that the south wall bed is particularly good for tomatoes and here we grow many varieties of traditional English tomatoes as well as some rarer heritage varieties.”

Back to asparagus. The Valley of Evesham is world famous for its asparagus, some say it's the sandy soil and mild climate, while others say that Evesham growers simply have what it takes to patiently coax those spears along... We will leave that decision to you, but it does take patience as Karen explained to me.

 Fresh Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus

Asparagus is one of many crops successfully grown in the walled gardens. The key main criteria with growing asparagus is you need patience and time, mainly because you can’t harvest it for the first 4 years as the plant needs to establish. When planting, you dig a trench about 30 cm deep, add a layer of sand and fan out the crowns, then cover with soil with the bud tips just visible and then you wait. When eventually cutting season arrives, it’s a labour of love for 8 weeks, and requires picking every day.

When Karen showed me the Asparagus bed, it’s hard to believe in a matter of weeks it will be picking season: it was a bed of dead looking twigs which, Karen highlighted, have to be pulled out very soon to avoid the asparagus beetle getting into it.

Karen adds “We tend to leave the first few as they tend to be a bit straggly and then they start producing nice big spears that need cutting every day”. She continues “It’s a bit like a grass: new shoots sprout up all the time”. As the season draws to an end, the asparagus is left to grow and produces big plumes of blossom which are chopped down to the stalks prior to winter.

 Asparagus Shoots growing in The  Walled Gardens at Croome

Asparagus Shoots growing in The  Walled Gardens at Croome

When asked if you need to fertilise, Karen said “We don’t, but I’m sure farmers would to maximise yields, but we are more about growing fruit and vegetable as it would have been when it was the food factory for the main house. Akin to times past, we live off the produce but, rather than feed the lord of the manor family, we sell the produce to visitors.”

 Squash Patch at The Croome Walled Gardens - Credit Peter Young

Squash Patch at The Croome Walled Gardens - Credit Peter Young

 Volunteers Jame and Kate Benstead at Croome Walled Gardens Photo - Credit Peter Young

Volunteers Jame and Kate Benstead at Croome Walled Gardens Photo - Credit Peter Young

Karen then explained how The Walled Gardens have become the attraction they are today.  “For the first 15 years we restored the house and garden ourselves; it was quite an undertaking. Then about 5 years ago, coinciding with the time National Trust took on the main house, conversations started around the gardens becoming a standalone visitor attraction at Croome. Together we created and embarked on a 5-year plan. Karen adds “We knew we couldn’t do it ourselves, but National Trust Croome’s General Manager, Michael Smith offered us access to their pool of volunteers. We now have 13 volunteers who come in Tuesday to Thursday to work in the gardens and others that come in at the weekend to help stewards and answer visitor questions. They also helped us lay the gravel paths, making it accessible to wheel chairs and buggies alike”. The result is now Croome benefits from an additional attraction, but if you are purely interested in the gardens you are welcome to visit us separately.

Karen adds “We believe we are the largest Georgian walled garden in Britain, and the attraction also includes a visitor centre art gallery and shop alongside standalone exhibitions. In the gardens we also offer complementary tea and coffee and cakes made by Karen (there’s no end to her talents), and welcome donations.”

 The Tunnels at The  Walled Gardens at Croome

The Tunnels at The  Walled Gardens at Croome

My tour is coming to an end and Karen and I head off to the visitor centre, which used to be the vinery and boiler house. Here she shows me a real gem that I really wasn’t expecting: hidden tunnels that used to house pipes which took heat to the glass houses. Quite an extraordinary engineering feet (and in amazing condition) for something that must have been more than 300 years old. She explains “The boiler house would heat water that pushed steam into the glass houses. The pipes were put in brick tunnels so that any problems could be resolved”.

So if you are in Worcestershire for asparagus season, please pop into Croome so you can see it growing, but also take time to enjoy the Outdoor Sculpture and the Art exhibitions and explore the tunnels. It’s worth every penny of your entrance fee (£5 for adults and children are free). If you arrive after asparagus season, let us know the crops you see… I’ve heard they have bananas, can you confirm that please?

I’d like to pass on huge thanks to Karen, Chris and Victoria Cronin for providing this opportunity – I look forward to returning.

If you want to know how to cook asparagus, check out our blog post here, and finally here are 4 health benefits that will encourage you to eat more asparagus:

 Judge 14cm Asparagus Steamer JA20

Judge 14cm Asparagus Steamer JA20

  • -Eating asparagus promotes healthy bacteria in the large intestine and can help reduce bloating.
  • -Asparagus contains vitamin K, essential for healthy blood clotting;
  • -Asparagus is a rich source of vitamin C, which boosts your immune system;
  •  -Asparagus is a mild diuretic and is believed to help detoxify the body.

 

 

Tried and Tested, Top Tips for Simnel cake success

Stellar Simnel Cake

Simnel cakes have become an Easter tradition, but originally this cake making ritual was associated with the fourth Sunday in Lent, which in medieval times was a day when people gathered at their ‘mother church’ to honour the local patron saint and receive a blessing. The occasion was known as ‘Mothering Sunday’ but the term ‘mother’ applied to the church. Times change and Mothering Sunday for many has become a celebration for Mothers – and maybe this is why Simnel cake has developed into one of many symbols of Easter.

 Caramelising / Toasting with the Stellar Cooks Torch (SA80)

Caramelising / Toasting with the Stellar Cooks Torch (SA80)

Typically, Simnel cakes are decorated with eleven toasted marzipan orbs around its perimeter representing the twelve apostles, excluding Judas, and if you like to place one in the centre that would denote Jesus.

There’s so many stories around how the name of this cake came about. About.com suggests that the name came from a sister (Nell) and brother (Simon) who wanted to make a cake for their mother. One wanted to bake the cake, the other to boil it. They decided to do both and bring them together in one… which became The Simnel Cake.

We wanted to know what makes a Simnel cake different from a typical Christmas or fruit cake.

Delia says – and who would argue with her when it comes to cakes? – Simnel cake is a rich fruit cake which includes knobs of marzipan stirred into the mixture that melt and combine with all the other flavours during cooking. Her recipe is here Its swan song is the marzipan decoration.

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Other common themes to this much loved recipe are:

  • Add plenty of lemon and orange;
  • Soak the fruit for 24 hours in Brandy and fruit juice.

If you are embarking on your first ever Simnel cake you may wonder if you need any special equipment. The answer is probably no. The obvious comes to mind: a mixing bowl, a spoon and it may be easier with a stand mixer. However – a good tin can make the difference. We would recommend either:

  • A Stellar Hard Anodised cake tin for its superior thermal properties and durability as these are built to last with their lifetime guarantee. The tins in this collection are round, so if your preference is for square cakes, then please check out the Judge Collection;
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  • A cake tin from the Judge bakeware range, which features over 50 items and includes a wide selection of round, square, spring form and loose based tins. Are we spoiling you with choice? This sturdy high-performance bakeware range is also supported by a 5 year non-stick guarantee and they are dishwasher safe.

Rest assured – choosing bakeware by Judge or Stellar means you can enjoy Simnel cake for years!

We would love for you to share a picture of your Simnel cake – please post it here or on our social media for your chance to win some baking gadgets.

In summary, our 5 top tips for Simnel cake success are:

  1. Line your tin;
  2. Don’t skimp on ingredients as they create the unique flavour;
  3. Allow time for fruit soak;
  4. Serve with your favourite beverage;
  5. Share with friends and family.
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And if Simnel cake isn’t for you – why not check out our blog on an Easter cake that’s more appealing to children? (Link)

Are you a breakfast skipper?

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Are your New Year resolutions a distant memory? Are you ready for a Fresh Start? In need of motivation? Let’s take the time on the first day of spring to plan some positive changes.

Small changes can have a significant impact – here’s 6 top tips that we think are easy to include into your diet and will help you make a Fresh Start.

  • Steam Veg +1 – Add one more veg to the plate each meal. By doing so your vitamin, mineral and fibre content will increase and most likely have the knock on effect of reducing carbohydrates and fats. Choosing to steam vegetables preserves vitamins, when compared to boiling, as immersion in water in the cooking process allows nutrients to leach while steaming preserves them.
  • Griddle meat – Griddling meat seals in flavours, looks good and stimulates taste buds. Moreover the high ridges in the pan allow fats to drain away from food, thereby reducing fat consumption.
  • Is one egg enough? – An egg or other high protein food will sustain you for longer and it will be less tempting to snack mid morning. It’s a well known fact that for people watching their weight those that have a hearty breakfast are more likely to be successful than the breakfast skippers.
  • Add hidden veg to cakes – It’s a simple way to add more of the good stuff into your diet. The joy of eating cake and thinking you are contributing to your five a day always add a smile. Follow this link to see some great suggestions.

We love this recipe form Veggie Desserts (https://veggiedesserts.co.uk/lemon-cucumber-cake-gin-icing/)

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  • Add veg to mash or swap to veg mash – These simple additions will reduce your carbohydrate intake, increase your veg and the subsequent nutrient. Instead of your usual potato, try mashing these: cauliflower, swede, butternut squash, sweet potato or carrot (or a mix of the two). Did you know that sweet potato releases its energy much slower than a standard potato, meaning it will keep you fuller for longer!
  • Alternative carbs – Experiment with swapping traditional pasta with buckwheat, quinoa and couscous – they add nutrients and many have a higher protein content. Which one is best is a big conundrum – but variety is the spice of life, is it not?! – and this article may help you decide.

Spring in to summer with a Fresh Start spring

A small change can go a long way. We’d love you to share how you get on with these simple tips. If you are in need of a steamer or griddle or even an egg poacher then please check out our Judge vista range  also highlighted below., It is one of the most comprehensive ranges of cookware on the market, and it is supported by a 25 year guarantee

We will keep sharing tips and run some competitions on our social media to support you during this Fresh Start – connect with us there and stay tuned!

Crust toppingly good – the art of making a great pie

 Yumm... Is there anything better than home made pies?

Yumm... Is there anything better than home made pies?

Can it be down to – keeping cool, kissing and hot tray? Read on to find out.

Faultless pastry could be the secret to creating a great pie. After all, the filling is more subjective as everyone has their favourite, but without a mighty crust you are onto a loser before you dig in.

Luckily, to make great pastry you don’t need much equipment: simply a large bowl, rolling pin, knife, spatula, ideally marble for rolling but not essential and cling film or a plastic bag should do it, and scales and measuring jug would be handy too.

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Cool ingredients and equipment are just as important as cool hands. A large bowl (link) allows lots of space and cool air to get “rubbed” into the pastry. And use the coolest surface for working – within Judge there’s a large marble board which may be worth considering (link).
Working quickly is meant to make lighter pastry as the lard or butter doesn't have time to get too warm, which makes the pastry greasy and heavy.

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Patience and time are key. Once you’ve made the pastry, let it rest – the longer the better, perhaps consider making it the night before. The rest allows the gluten in the pastry to relax which will reduce the chances of shrinkage. After all no one likes shrinkage.

 

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Eventually it’s time to cook – so heat the oven up (425 °F/ 220 °C/ Gas 7). If you have a heavy baking sheet, heat that up in the oven too. When it’s time to cook the pie, place it on the heated tray. This is one great way to reduce the chances of a soggy bottom. 

Obviously, before you place it in the oven you need a filling. The decision is yours. What’s your favourite?

We based ours on this recipe from delicious magazine.

Whichever you choose, you may want to consider using the Judge Pie Maker for perfect results time and time again.

How to keep a happy heart.

 Could  it be down to ingredients?

Could  it be down to ingredients?

Can you remember the first time when that special someone walked in to the room and your heart missed a beat? What was it? Their eyes, curves, smile, hair, that joke that kept you smiling or something you can’t quite put your finger on? Did they simply ooze that je ne sais qu'ait? That said, I’d like to find out more.

A heart missing a beat is an endearing moment and one we all would like to repeat time and time again. Valentine’s comes around but once a year and it has become a time to try and encourage such moments – or for those in longer term relationships, to rekindle heart felt moments.

Good food typically creates fond memories, forges friendships and makes the heart grow fonder. And of course, it makes for good dinner table conversations – why else has C4’s Dinner Date become so popular?

Moreover a few googles or bings will lead you to believe that both men and women are definitely more responsive to romance after food. Could it be down to the foods eaten? Could we increase our chances of love if we eat certain foods?

Enter the aphrodisiacs.

Some foods contain properties that increase testosterone or oestrogen levels and thereby increase sex drive; others are considered sexy purely because of their appearance. So to stack the chances for jumping heart beats in your favour, choose foods you and your partner find sensual! Our top tips for heart beat success are: hot chillis, figs, asparagus, avocado, banana, chocolate, oysters. All have different reasons – why not try?

 

For us – we are off to make a Banana and Chocolate cake? How about you?

What's so special about Toad in the hole?

 The perfect - the ultimate combination of crisp and soggy

The perfect - the ultimate combination of crisp and soggy

Anticipation is the word that springs to mind when embarking on any Yorkshire pudding recipe including Toad in the Hole. Precious time is spent making the batter; once made you pour it into your preheated dish, pop it in the oven and prey that it will go forth and rise.

It’s akin to when the princess kissed the toad – would the toad turn into a prince or she a toad?

Applying this to a Toad in the Hole experience – when you shut the oven door… what will happen? 20 mins later will there be baked sausage resting on something that looks more like an omelette or an explosion of crispy light batter nestled around golden brown sausage?

… So yes it’s fair to say it can go wrong, and this can be mainly attributed to not enough batter. If it’s too thin, it simply doesn’t rise so don’t be frugal. Following a good recipe from a chef that likes hearty suppers would be a good recommendation – such as Jamie Oliver.

Once mastered – let your imagination run wild and get creative:

  • Add some hidden vegetables;
  • Add a kick – chilli;
  • For a taste of the country, add some rosemary and sage.

4 top tips for Toad in the Hole ensuring you get a prince not a toad!

  1. Precook the sausages;

  2. Use a deep dish such as the Judge Bakers in our Judge Table Essentials Range. The handles on this make it easy to place in and out of the oven;

  3. Heat fat in the pan for a good 10 mins before adding the batter and sausages;

  4. Leave the oven door shut for at least the first 20 minutes as a rush of cold air could lead to a toad and not a prince.

What's your signature ingredient  to make it special?

Air-pop your popcorn

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The explosive fashion of eating popcorn has to be understood if you plan to include it in your diet as a healthy snack. It is only as healthy as the way you cook it and serve it – so if you cook it in butter and cover in sugar, it should be considered a treat.

If you have a popcorn maker like ours that uses hot air to cook it and then eat it plain, it is very healthy as a full cup only has 30 calories. If you are looking for a good source of fibre, antioxidants, Vitamin B, manganese and magnesium, then popcorn is the snack for you.

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Freshly popped popcorn can last days in an air tight container so you can be super organised, cook a big batch at the weekend ready for adding to the whole family’s lunch boxes throughout the week. Making popcorn is so much fun that this can easily be something you get the teenagers to do, make sure you show them a few times and then be nearby just in case.

If you don’t have a popcorn maker, you can simply pour kernels in a paper bag and fold top over a few times and microwave until popping stops. Saucepans also make great popcorn, but you will need oil or butter for this. Choose one with a glass lid so the children can see the explosions – this always gets some exciting screams and loads of laughing!

Movie Time

It’s a tradition that requires healthy ideals to be ignored just a little because everyone loves the classic buttered or sugar-covered warm popcorn in front of the TV. Or maybe you have a savoury tooth and use toppings like herbs, cheese, spices or garlic to flavour it. If you do love the sweet version here is a link to the most gourmet popcorn recipes we’ve found. Which flavour makes you want to head into the kitchen? Mint chocolate, marsh mellow peanut or gingerbread caramel crunch?

The last thing we need to share with you on the subject of popcorn is using it as an ingredient. A couple of interesting savoury ideas: adding to granola, whether for breakfast or in bars, or using as topping for soups as a healthier alternative to croutons! The sweet ideas are endless – rocky road, sprinkles on ice cream/doughnuts, a thick crunchy layer on top of a decadent chocolate brownie.

What is your preferred way to eat it? Popcorn is so versatile you won’t need much persuasion to cook up a batch.

 Rocky road topped with popcorn

Rocky road topped with popcorn

Veganuary

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After the excesses of the festive period, there’s never been a better time to try something new and healthy. So this January why not consider giving Veganuary a go – a new year and a new start.

It may not be too difficult to convince environmentally-conscious, animal-welfare-rights-promoting friends and family members about the benefits of veganism. The fact that it’s the easiest and most effective way to help our planet and stop the cruelty and suffering inflicted on animals is a good enough reason to give it a go.

For others, thinking about the excesses of the festive period could do the trick. Cutting out cholesterol will lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease – and these are only some of the benefits of a vegan diet.

It may be trickier to persuade our meat-loving, exercise and gym-obsessed friends… but did you know that the Williams sisters have been vegans since 2011?

So if you are going to give it a try, search out some new tasty recipes and get cooking! The dishes you can find on The Vegan Society website are a great place to start and, once you begin looking, you’ll find delicious vegan recipes everywhere.

https://www.vegansociety.com/

Inspired we tried this recipe (with a minor changes) https://veganuary.com/recipes/thai-vegetable-red-curry/ the main change was substituting the chick peas for berlotti beans

So come on – embrace your inner vegan and give Veganuary a go this January 2018. A very happy and healthy New Vegan Year to you all!

Do we pull out all the stops at Christmas Time?

 Christmas Etiquette

Christmas Etiquette

Is Christmas time the occasion to show off our hostessing skills and use all your  table etiquette or do you simply enjoy your favourite food in in front of the telly?

The big Christmas dinner comes but once a year and it’s fair to say we celebrate in many different ways, firstly with the foods we devour. Regardless of where we are and who we are with, we try to make it special – this may be as an intimate occasion for 2 or 3, but some may end up feeling they are setting up a temporary restaurant as family and friends pitch up to share this special day.

No matter how you celebrate, we think it’s quite possibly the one day that you go all out and set the table as festively as possible and as correctly as your equipment allows. Moreover, this may be the one day that everybody tries to install as much table decorum as we have table etiquette knowledge. 

Generally speaking – even in the most formal households – we think we’re all a bit more relaxed today than we were 50 years ago, but this is a time when you want to ‘do things properly’, so what are the do’s and don’ts at the Christmas table?

Top Tips

·         Equally space people around the table; (We have used our Judge Essential Tableware in these pictures and simply dressed them up to create them festive).

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·         Encourage cracker etiquette – with a group everyone crosses their arms to pull all the crackers at once, by holding their own cracker in their right hand and pull their neighbour’s cracker with their free left hand. We suggest to pull the crackers at the beginning of the meal – this way all have a hat, a corny joke to tell and a gift that we will probably never use (and a mountain of rubbish to clear away!);

·         Laying the cutlery – knives and spoons go on the right, forks on the left, and line up the cutlery in the order you will use it. If you have two sizes of forks and knives, then save the larger for the main course. The Judge Windsor Cutlery Collections offers a choice of pack sizes suitable for 4 to 8 people, some of which also include extended items such as dessert knives and soup spoons, with additional sets which you may like for Steak too, please take a look here. With a 25-year guarantee – you’ll be enjoying fine dining for lots and lots of Christmases;

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·         Napkins – there is a debate over fabric v paper, but for the best etiquette fabric probably wins. They should be placed on the lap as soon as you are seated and never tucked in the front of your shirt… even if soup is being served!

·         Sit up straight will aid the onslaught of food and position yourself  at a comfortable  distance from the table and allows for the best cracker pull – at the end of the day, it’s all about winning that cracker gift, isn’t it?

·         And remember what Grandma always says “Keep your elbows off the table!”

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Finally, making your Christmas table unique will certainly add to the occasion. We suggest: a gift tag to each place setting, lightly scented candles to add atmosphere, fresh flowers and holly or berries. Lastly, a table runner certainly adds a sense of festivity and can be easily created with foliage, paper or fabric. Are you already envisioning your beautifully decorated dining room with a noisy crowd having a great time?

Gloves on – we are entering the oven!

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You can find ranges of textiles for the kitchen in so many shops,  the choice is huge! But how often do you actually use the correct item for the job? Are you someone who reaches for the nearest t-towel to get something out of the oven rather than taking the 5 seconds it needs to put on an oven glove?

We all know using an oven glove or mitt is the most sensible thing as they are made of the correct fabrics to withstand high temperatures. Another feature we use is hybrid silicone which reduces slippage, providing you with even more grip on the tray and a barrier to any unwanted  hot fat.

Gloves, mitts, double ended mitts, which would you choose?  It is important that you choose a style that suits the way you handle cookware. If you often cook heavy items in heavy trays you should use both hands to make sure you have a firm grip, you need either the double ended mitt or two single mitts. 

We don't want to patronise as everyone is aware how hot an oven is, we just want to make sure you have suitable equipment to keep you and your family safe. (Stop grabbing those t-towels and use the proper oven gloves!).

Top tip- t-towels even when folded are not thick enough to with stand oven temperatures! Use an oven mitt!

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