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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What is it we like about Yorkshire Puddings?

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I like the the mixture of crispy top and slightly soggy bottom.  How about you? Do you like a totally crisp Yorkshire?

Perhaps another reason, we love them so much is, it's the challenge of making them, and perhaps we see it as a measure of our baking prowess?

I find when I make the effort to make them, I like that magical moment when I look in the oven 10 mins after putting the mixture in, and they’ve started to rise, and even more magical is when I look back 10 minutes later, they’ve double in size again. And finally about 25 mins after I've have popped them in the oven – they are ready and I simply lift them out and pop them on top of your Sunday roast as the perfect finishing touch.

I must admit when I take them out of the oven,  I do like them to be still slightly soggy at the base, it’s the mix of textures I like.  How about you? I also like to hollow centre, so that I an fill it with Gravy.

Here are my Top Tips for Yorkie Success 

  • Place a small knob of lard, or a teaspoon of veg oil in each muffin tin, (or you could use the Judge Yorkshire pudding tin), and place in a hot oven.
  • Once the tin and oil is hot, take the tin out, and pour the mixture into the tin
  • Cook on a very high heat about (220 °c) for the first 10 mins and then reduce heat to about 190°c for the remainder of the time.

When I've read about making Yorkshire puddings, there’s lots of pro’s and cons for making the mixture early,  to let it stand, or use it freshly made.  There's no consistency,  so I’d make it when you have time to make it.

I often use Jame’s Martin’s recipe for making Yorkshire puddings, after all as a Yorkshire man, surely he must be qualified to know what's best?

My final thought is, when is it appropriate to serve Yorkshires puddings? Our household tends to serve them with Roast beef only, but I know there’s many of you that will serve them far more often – can you share when you do?

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Kitchen Knives - top tips, using, buying, caring and storing.

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You can't live without a knife, even the people in the stone age realised that. The problem is buying knives can be confusing as there's so much choice.  Judge offers you variety,  because we understand, everyone has a different way of doing things, people prefer different sizes and styles.  

Which is your go to knife? 

Buying knives

If you are just starting out in your first house then a set of knives may well be your best option, (as they include the most commonly used knives). We have designed these sets to cover all the usual cooking requirements. 

Once you have been cooking for a few years,  you will know the style, size, and weight of knife you prefer so adding to your collection should be simpler but it might not be. The materials used in Knife manufacture are evolving.  When deciding to purchase a new knife, we would recommend seeking advice in the store, or visit our website to see the stand out characteristics, look for guarantees too, all Judge knives have a 25 year guarantee as we are confident they will last a lifetime. 

Storing

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A popular choice is a knife block, but worktop space tends to be a premium area in all kitchens so, it may not always be best solution. You may consider hanging them on a metallic rack or if you do store them in a draw please buy a special insert as the worse thing for knives is to be thrown in a draw with all the other kitchen utensils. They will go blunt very quickly.

Sharpening

Some places say you should sharpen your knife before each use but we do not think this is realistic.  Our knife sharpeners are easy to use and we would suggest running the blades through 5-6 times to keep a good edge, every 2 weeks. Steels are excellent for sharpening but you will need to practice to make sure you get the correct angle - here's a good demo

Top tip - be aware of what surface you are chopping on,  ceramic, glass or marble will quickly blunt a blade. We recommend using wood or plastic boards. 

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Fish tips from "A wee pinch of sugar"

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Top tips

From Rachel at  "A wee pinch of sugar"

We are delighted Rachel from A Wee Pinch Of Sugar, she has joined us to share her tips on buying and cooking fish as part of Seafood week. Rachel's blog reflects her passion for local connections to food, particularly Scottish food which is fresh and seasonal, and she likes to support small independent food producers. With fish in abundance who could be better to share her knowledge for Seafood week?

Rachel writes ;- Seafood week is underway, and, for fish lovers it's an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic range of fish available in the U.K. The best and tastiest way to get involved is to cook and eat more fish.

Scottish Salmon is my favourite and features in family meals every week. Salmon is such a healthy fish; full of Omega 3 fatty acids and a great source of protein. Whether you’re buying a few fillets or a whole fish, here are some tips for buying and cooking.

Whole fish - look for nice clear bright eyes as that’s a good indicator of freshness. Gills should be bright red and the skin should be shiny and moist. Flesh should be firm to touch and the tail stiff.

Fillets should be firm, shiny and wet as well as neatly trimmed. Really fresh fish will be slippery and smell of the sea.

Storage -  remove the wrapping, rinse in cold water, pat dry and store near the bottom of the refrigerator.  Storage time for an oily fish like salmon is 1-2 days but do refer to the label on the packaging.

Fresh V Frozen Salmon - It's really a matter of preference but I prefer fresh salmon as it's so readily available; but, for convenience it may suit your lifestyle to keep a bag of frozen fillets in the freezer.  

Skin on or skin off. Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and the fat is concentrated just under the skin. It’s healthier to cook with the skin on and eat every last tasty morsel.

Top tips for cooking

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  1. Pan Frying - Oil the fish and season. I prefer to use a non stick pan such as the Judge Radiant as I’ve never quite achieved crispy skin in a stainless steel pan. Heat the pan, place the fish skin side down and cook for 4-5 mins. Turn and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Grilling - Oil the salmon and season. Place fillets on the grill pan, skin side up and cook for 4-5 minutes each side.
  3. Baking - Preheat the oven to 200C Fan 180C Gas 6. Oil and season the fish and place in an oven proof dish and cook for 10 -15 minutes.

Here are a couple of my recipes

Salmon with puy lentils and beetroot

This healthy and delicious salmon dish makes good use of seasonal British beetroot and the recipe easily doubles for a family meal. The marmalade and mustard add a real zing to the fish and the earthiness of the beetroot and puy lentils are perfect winter ingredients that make a great accompaniment for the salmon. For quickness I used a pack of ready to eat puy lentils but feel free to use dried if you have more time.

Fragrantly and mildly spiced Thai salmon

Salmon works really well with Thai flavours and this fragrant and mildly spiced salmon ticks the boxes for my quick and healthy midweek meals. I made a homemade paste for the recipe and although it will work equally well with shop bought Thai green curry paste,  you will find it much spicier than my homemade version.

Meat and 2 veg, oh how its changed, or has it?

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I know my granddad was obsessed with his meat and 2 veg dinner although I'm not sure why potatoes are always missing from this title because ALWAYS included potatoes too! My grandparents now in their late 80's do enjoy a variety of dinners but when they come over I always choose to cook a meat and 2 veg dinner for them.

 Homemade steak pies with their initials on top!

Homemade steak pies with their initials on top!

The funniest thing is that, my sons, aged 8 and 6 love curry, fajitas, pizza, jambalaya but they really LOVE the British traditions too; pie, toad in the hole, casserole and steak all served with (of course) a choice of 2 veg AND the potatoes.  I get a bit keen and like to add their letters on the top of homemade pies- see the photo (geeky I know).

Have the veg options changed much from my granddad's? We have fine trimmed green beans rather than runner beans. I occasionally roast the carrots (just to be exciting) and sweetcorn is a regular choice for my boys, but I don't think they would make Grandad's top 10 - it was what ever was in season.  My grandparents boiled veg and used a pressure cooker for potatoes, I use a hob top layered steamer. (I have heard pressure cookers are making a come back though!). 

Meat wise, I might be making huge assumptions as I'm not a food historian but I think my boys eat a lot more meat per dinner and I would like to think it's good quality. When I next see my grandparents I will have to find out more about their diets 70 years ago. 

Top tip- start a veg patch, and shop at a veg market to eat seasonal, fresh vegetables.

My grandparents have always had a veg patch and shopped local as it was the only option for them years ago so the Love British Food fortnight values will seem logical to them. We do have a small veg patch but I would say 90% of the time they have no idea where their food is produced or how far its travelled to get to their plate. My plan during this fortnight will be to chat about this during meal times and find out where they think their food comes from. I might have to break my no technology at the table rule as we may need google's help and even get an atlas out! 

 Seriously British- toad in the hole. 

Seriously British- toad in the hole. 

Cupcakes to make the day brighter

 Can you smell that freshly baked sponge? 

Can you smell that freshly baked sponge? 

Even as a grown up having a cupcake for lunch makes the day better. Is it because we all have memories of your mum adding a homemade bun to your lunchbox during your school days? It's not the done thing to call them 'buns'- now they are called cupcakes! 

 Which cupcake would you choose?

Which cupcake would you choose?

I have complete envy when I look at the beautiful icing designs on cupcakes- do you have the attention to detail and the skills needed to make them? Make sure you're not hungry before searching the #Nationalcupcakeweek on twitter because you will be afterwards.  This is as good as my designs get- which one out of these would you choose? 

 

I bake cupcakes weekly to give my boys a tasty treat in their lunchboxes. Some weeks I'm good and make a healthy apple recipe and other weeks it's a butter icing topped cake dipped in sprinkles. You have so much flexibility with ingredients, favours and design so you can make them to suit anyone.

Top tip- eat an extra serving of fruit by hiding it in a cupcake! Banana or beetroot in a chocolate mix is difficult to taste.

 What is in your lunchbox?

What is in your lunchbox?

Who knows someone who's off to Uni?

 Steph and her Uni Students

Steph and her Uni Students

We are delighted to have this blog  from Worcester's Steph Harrison from www.howtocook.org.uk. She provides educational cooking classes, for all age groups. They are taught in a fun and friendly way, with all equipment and ingredients provided. Today she talks from experience about her godson who'se just been awarded his university place.

"I've congratulated my godson on his A’level results! Now he’s off to Uni, living in shared accommodation! So what do I buy him that will get him through Uni and stand the test of time?

Well his all-time favourite supper is mac “n” cheese - cheap, tasty and filling! So a non-stick pan, which will stay intact if a metal spoon accidentally gets used instead of a wooden one, is Number 1 Gift (plus a grater for very useful cheese sauces).  I’m so going to show him the all-in-one method of making sauce in minutes...none of that using a jar malarkey.  Pasta will be another staple which can be cooked in the non-stick pan.

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Another favourite is Bolognese, perfect for making in bulk and freezing in portions or turning into chilli the day after.  A super-duper frying pan is a must for cooking large quantities for sharing with flatmates.   I will share my simple flat bread recipe (100g yogurt and 100g SR mixed and shaped) which can be dry fried in the pan. His flatmates will be so impressed and it’ll certainly make a change from pasta, pasta and pasta! 

He laughs when I say “Onions are your best friend in the kitchen!”   Onions can give the blandest recipes va va voom so he’ll definitely be having a vegetable knife, that’ll stop the tears and avoid cut fingers, together with a chopping board that will cope with a little neglect and accidental shoving in the dish washer"

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So its exciting times are ahead for so many - Why not look out for an Off to Uni Cookery course?  Steph runs a  Uni Survival Course!  You will learn how to plan, budget, shop and cook on a student’s income (pennies). The class will provide the essential survival kit needed to cope on your own! You will learn where and when to buy the best foods, how to plan a week’s menu, practise cooking quick simple tasty recipes and finally, learn the skill of cooking in bulk and freezing meals.  

You can catch with Steph on her website  and follow her on Facebook here and on Instagram  here

Ingredients guaranteed

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Burgers are a firm favourite in my house, whatever the time of year. The trouble is, you can never be quite sure what’s in shop-bought burgers so I like to make my own with nothing added that we don’t know about! 

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We all enjoy experimenting with different tastes and flavours and personalising our burgers by adding extras such as Red onions, fresh herbs and bacon. Sometimes we go one step further and mince our own mince – it’s easy with Judge’s Electric Meat Mincer and Sausage Maker which has fine, medium and coarse mincing discs for all cuts of meat.

Top Tip: for a delicious alternative to beef, Why not try pork, chicken, quorn and lamb burgers too!


With summers like ours, you can’t rely on being able to barbeque your burgers but Judge’s Non-Stick Table Grill is just as much fun and, because it’s non-stick, it’s far easier to clean! Even when you need tea on the table as quickly as possible, burgers are an ideal meal. They take minutes to make and are quick and easy to fry if you have a good quality frying pan - I use Judge’s Non-Stick Frying Pan as it’s easy to use, easy to clean and gives me excellent results every time.
So here’s my advice, forget the supermarkets and High Street burger chains and have a go at making the real thing – delicious, fat, juicy, homemade burgers with definitely no nasty hidden extras!
 

Taste of the Caribbean

 Which flavour most says Caribbean to you?

Which flavour most says Caribbean to you?

BBQ’s are a common choice when the weather hots up but why not mix it up a little with the taste of the Caribbean. There are some fabulous dishes inspired by many cultures and countries to cook for the family or share with friends.

The most common ingredients are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, coriander, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and coconut among others. 

 Recipe and image from BBC Good Food

Recipe and image from BBC Good Food

Along with these key ingredients, learning how to make your own ‘Jerk’ recipe is vital! Traditionally, it is a dry, very spicy rub used to flavour meats before flame grilling them. Have a look at this recipe.

Used for many dishes, ‘Mojo’ is another secret of Caribbean cuisine. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like coriander, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

There is a really simple recipe here which goes very well with meat or vegetables.

If you’d like to experiment for the whole family, you can still use spice for the flavour but reduce the heat (no Scotch Bonnets!). You could try the infamous Chicken and rice. Wildly popular where Spanish influences remain strong, this deceptively simple dish is a savoury mix of flavours that include tomatoes, garlic, peppers and more.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Caribbean theme if there were no cocktails! How about trying a Planter’s Punch Rum, a Jamaican inspired cocktail combining dark rum, lemon juice, grenadine syrup and Angostura bitters. To make it truly authentic, serve in a pineapple!

You could also opt for the classic Mojito which originates from Cuba. It is claimed that Sir Francis Drake and his comrades first discovered the combination of mint leaves, fresh lime and Rum over 400 years ago and it still remains a popular choice today.

So, what are you waiting for? Invite some friends over, put on some Caribbean music and spice up your Friday nights!

Don't let the weather stop you- BBQ inside

 Bring the outside in with our table grill

Bring the outside in with our table grill

How many times have you been stranded out in the rain under an umbrella doing the BBQ? Or just as bad, - it's a gorgeous summers day and you're left manning the BBQ whilst all your mates are drinking cold beers and chilling out. Even with all this the lure of BBQing is just too strong- the smell of char-grilled meat just has to be consumed! 

Are the days of just having a burgers and sausages  gone?  Recently there's been some serious chef skills on display at BBQs I've been such as delicious steak, racks of ribs, marinated chicken and the fish, it's just awesome. What would be your perfect cut of meat to cook over the flames?

Let's ignore the meat (I know its hard) for a second and look at the vegetables- every gourmet burger needs some char-grilled veg, maybe pepper, onion or aubergine to layer up in the bun. If your friends are happy to get messy then throw some corn on cobs on to. Do I mention the squeaky cheese- you know the joke. . .

What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror?  

If you don't know the answer, comment below, tweet me and I will tell you! 

Now we have your mouth watering and ready for a BBQ- don't let the rain stop you. Let's face it, we live in the UK,  it's bound to rain. Don't cancel, grab your table grill out, put down a table cloth (if you have sausages they will spit grease) and move all your plans inside. This really works and provides the BBQ feel to any gathering.

The grill heats up seriously fast so you can get cooking within minutes, the temperature dial is responsive enabling you to adjust the heat for the different foods. Another massive bonus is the food can be kept hot by turning down the heat, or if you have extra mates suddenly arrive, then turn up the dial back up and start a new round of cooking - no need to wait for the coals to turn white.

 

Top tip- if you are sitting round the table cooking together, give everyone a turner as they will want to join in. 

 

Obviously I think this product is amazing, and I think you will too, just order one and try it out. I know you will be making some memorable evening with great food, drinks and friends.