I have to admit I don’t know too much about beer but I have noticed over the last few years the increased popularity in craft beers and micro breweries. I also have to confess to that a beer festival sounds great fun so I am quite excited at the prospect of the Great British Beer Festival being held at London Olympia next month (11th-15th August).
I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief guide to the festival so if you are thinking of going you’ll have an idea of travel, accommodation, what’s on and what to expect.
Travelling to the Great British Beer Festival
The location is great, there are plenty of transport options to Olympia including buses and tubes, unfortunately the District line is not stopping at Olympia between 11-14th August but other train services are. There are six other tube stations within walking distance and Olympia is clearly signposted, you shouldn’t miss it. For the latest news on travelling around London check on Transport for London.
Accommodation near to the Great British Beer Festival
The Holiday Inn London- Kensington Forum is the ideal hotel if you are looking for luxury and value for money, plus clean comfy rooms. In a great location it is just a short tube ride to Olympia. This is the perfect hotel if you want to add in some sight-sighting too; the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science museums are just a few minutes walk away.
If you are looking for a boutique hotel and spa then there is the K-West Hotel & Spa in Shepherds Bush, which is a short distance away from the beer festival. Ideal if you want to get some shopping done in Westfield London.
Sheer luxury can be found at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. The hotel has a health club and award winning restaurants including a Chinese restaurant on the tenth floor with amazing views.
If you are travelling to the beer festival on a really tight budget check out the Central Park Hotel in Bayswater which is about 1.5 miles from Olympia.
What to expect at the Great British Beer Festival
Entertainment is provided by various bands on the main stage throughout the festival. From string quartet to rock, pop, reggae, carnival and dance there is something for everyone. Check out the schedule for more information on particular days.
Tutored tastings give you the opportunity to try different beers and how to get the most out of them, there are also sessions on cider and real ale and I am especially intrigued by the beer and music session with Pete Brown who pairs the beers of the festival with music that complements, enhances and even changes their flavour .
Food and Gifts:
A festival isn’t a festival without a fab selection of foods on offer to complement the beers. Sausages, seafood, pasties, burgers, hot dogs, Thai, sweets and chocolate and many more will keep the festival visitors more than satisfied. Of course there are also souvenirs of the day available too.
There will be ten brewery bars at the Great British Beer Festival, many well known breweries and also smaller craft ones.
Of course a beer festival wouldn’t be without it’s beers and there will be over 900 real ales, international beers, ciders and perries to choose from!
Tickets for the Great British Beer Festival can be purchased here. And don’t forget to let me know if you are going.
A few weeks ago I went to a very lovely Putting on the Ritz event hosted by Radio One DJ Alice Levine, Mixologist Richard Woods and Ritz to celebrate the new ‘Ritz Crisp and Thin’ oven baked potato snack.
By making a few tasty dips, to accompany the Ritz crisp and thin and some tasty cocktails you can set the scene for different evenings either with friends, or a for a date night or even a posh party.
You can grab all the fab recipes for the dips and cocktails and entertaining tips in the guide below, and I will also share my favourite ones.
Serve this dip with sweet chilli flavour Ritz Crisp and Thin and a sweet and chilli Julep cocktail
500g Total yoghurt
1½ tbsp smoked paprika
1½ tbsp sumac
4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil plus extra for serving
1 garlic clove
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
seeds of half a pomegranate
Stir all the ingredients, apart from the pomegranate seeds together in a bowl.
Serve with seeds scattered on top and a drizzle of olive oil.
My mouth is literally watering at the thought of this a-m-a-zing Mates Mary cocktail, a modern twist on a Bloody Mary ideal to serve with Cream Cheese and Onion Ritz Crisp and Thin. This is the best cocktail I have ever had. Trust me, that infusing will make all the difference!
Serve this gorgeous cocktail with Cream Cheese Ritz Thin and Crisp
For one cocktail: 50ml vodka (infused with 15-20g basil for 24 hours)
50ml Bloody Mary consommé
Consommé- should be prepped the night before & removed from freezer a few hours before serving:
3g Ground black pepper
5g Crushed pink peppercorns
3g Sea salt
2g celery salt
10 Dashes tabasco
15 Dashes green tabasco
Juice of one lemon
15 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
500ml tomato juice
You will also need:
A non -reactive container with lid, suitable for mixing
1 Large funnel, sieve or colander
1 two fold muslin or coffee filter
1 bottle to store the mix after thawing
In to a non-reactive sealable container, pour the
Add the other ingredients and stir all - leave to
rest for 1hr, secure lid and place in freezer
The following morning, remove from the
freezer (your mix should now be a solid block)
Prepare your filter by adding two-fold muslin
or a coffee filter to a funnel or large sieve, over
a bottle or deep container
Remove the frozen tomato mix and place in
the funnel and allow the frozen tomato mix to
drip thaw naturally through your home-made
filter. Note, this takes several hours, so place it
back in the fridge and return to it to check its progress.
Bottle and preserve clarified juice.
Mix will keep for 7 days.
Pre-chill martini/Coupette glass.
Stir the vodka infusion and consummé with cube of ice until well
Strain into glass and garnish with a floating basil leaf
The Ritz Thin and Crisp also come in Sea salt and vinegar and sea salt and black pepper flavours. These are very crispy snacks with a great bite, my favourite flavour is sweet chilli. See Ritzbakery for more on ‘Putting on the Ritz’ tips!
I love the fact that after research by theBar.com it would appear that the nation is divided over it’s preferred cocktail. Apparently a Mojito is the Londoners’ favourite cocktail, the Welsh always go for G&T while the Midlanders are split between Pimm’s & Lemonade and G&T. I have to admit to being partial to a mojito myself!
I got sent a lovely kit from theBar.com to help me make their OMG&T at home, and with over a third of us making cocktails at home seemly cocktail drinking is on the rise.
TheBar.com says that Northerners (25%) and Midlanders (32%) say they’re inspired by holiday experiences when it comes to choosing drinks – but southerners (20%) are more likely to be influenced by recommendations from family and friends.
Using theBar.com’s videos for inspiration I had no trouble whipping up a ‘cocktail for one’…easy when you make it in a jar! The OMG&T was most certainly an OMG moment, loved the addition of berries to the drink, very refreshing, the perfect drink for a warm summer’s evening…highly recommended.
To help people shake-up their drinking habits and have a bit of fun with their drinks along the way, thebar.com has created a selection of easy to follow inspirational cocktail videos and recipes such as Super-Simple-Summer-Punch, The No-Problemo Mojito, The Pimm Daddy and so much more.
There are also some fab hints and tips to help you make the best cocktails ever.
To be in with the chance to win the daddy of all cocktail trollies and barloads of home cocktail kits, take a pic of your cocktail and share it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using #letscocktail (T&Cs apply).
I couldn’t resist buying a tub of apricots the other day after seeing them for about £1.50, and they used to be my mum’s favourite fruit.Not everyone loves them but you should give them a chance as they are a mixture of sweet and sharp, not as juicy as a nectarine or peach which makes them an easy mess free snack for on the go. They also stay fairly firm when cooked which is something I like.
Inspired by a recipe I saw in Sainsbury’s magazine, (love this magazine, so cheap and yet it’s always filled with recipes that I really want to try), I thought the apricots would be a perfect addition to a flapjacky type snack, thus, with some macadamia nuts kicking around in my cupboard and a little white chocolate I came up with these apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks. They are really good…chewy with a little bite around the edges and a delicious mix of sweet and sharp. I am really pleased how they turned out.
These flapjack-type snacks are great for picnics and also a grab and go breakfast, I have made them gluten free and they also work egg free too. Excuse my terrible squares cutting…but I like the rustic look •ahem•.
Apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks recipe
Apricot, Macadamia Nut & White Chocolate Flapjacks
The perfect picnic snack, or even as a cheeky 'on the go' breakfast bar. This recipe is easily adapted to be gluten free and egg free. For a dairy free alternative, omit the chocolate and replace the butter with a dairy free version, I like using Pure for any dairy free baking.
125g oats (gluten free if need be)
125g soft brown sugar
125g self raising flour (gluten free if need be)
75g soft butter broken into small pieces
75g golden syrup
1 egg yolk (this can be omitted if an egg free recipe is needed)
300g fresh apricots, 8 halved and stoned the rest chopped
100g macadamia nuts
100g white chocolate chopped, or white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4
Grease and line a 20cm square tin leaving a little baking parchment hanging over to help remove the baked flapjack
In a bowl mix the oats, flour, sugar, butter, syrup and egg together to get a slightly wet crumble like mixture
Put half the mixture into the tin and press down with your fingers to get an even base
Mix the chopped apricots, macadamia nuts & white chocolate together
Sprinkle the chopped apricots, nuts & chocolate mixture over the base spreading evenly
Top with the remaining oat mixture and press down
Top with the 16 apricot halves in an even pattern so it can be cut into sixteen squares when cooked
Bake for 45-55 mins until firm and golden, check after 45 minutes
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before using the baking parchment to help you carefully remove from the tin.
Slice into 16 squares and allow to cool on a wire rack
As you can imagine, I have planned a fair few parties in my time as a parent, not just parties for my children but also more ‘grown up’ parties, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my top party planning tips to help your party planning go as smoothly as possible.
Before you do anything else make a guest list, this will determine the budget you will want to set; the venue; whether you will be doing the food yourself; or make you realise that you need to either cull a few people, or go all out. If you are planning a child’s party, will you want them to invite the whole class/year in which case location of the party is very important, or are they just going to invite a few of their best friends?
Once you have decided how many people to invite you really need to set a budget, party costs can get scarily out of hand quickly the more you get sucked into the experience, trust me I know. If you are planning a child’s birthday party you really don’t need to spend a lot at all, one of the best parties I have had for my children was a football party in a field, they loved it! Cost involved was food and a ball each to take home. Another child wanted traditional party games…think pass the parcel, musical bumps, musical statues, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey etc. If however you are hosting an extra special ‘big’ birthday party you may want to push the boat out.
If your garden is big enough and it is summer then you’ve no need to look anywhere else to hold your child’s birthday party, the upsides are there are no hire costs involved and no carting plates and plates of party food to the village hall, sports centre or play area.
If you have a really huge garden and are planning an 18th, 21st, 40th, 50th, anything in-between or even a wedding anniversary celebration then you may want to consider hiring a marquee. However, the costs can escalate hugely so you may want to consider sourcing a suitable venue elsewhere instead. Venuefinder is a good place to start as knowing where to begin can be a minefield.
Once you’ve got the numbers, cost and location sorted think about whether you are going to have a theme. Even a grown up party works with a theme, do you want everyone to get really dressed up? Or perhaps you would like a fancy dress party? Even if you are having a party away from home the venue should help you get the decor right for the occasion. If you are having a child’s party then what is their favourite hobby/television character? In the past we have had a space party, even using black sacks to decorate the kitchen to create the right party atmosphere. For M’s 5th birthday he wanted a pirate party, so that’s what I gave him, including inflatable flamingos and palm trees! For one adult party we turned a marquee into a moody nightclub.
If you want caterers to do the food at your party don’t forget to check they can do that date, there is nothing more annoying than having everything else in place to then be hugely disappointed when the caterers you’ve set your heart on are already booked up. Personal recommendation is the best way to find them if you haven’t used caterers before. If you are going to be doing the food yourself plan early, if you are feeding a lot of people, a cold buffet is the simplest way to go as the food can be prepared in advance.
My tip for children’s party food is keep it simple, children love a good old cocktail sausage, sausage roll, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese sandwiches, cucumber sticks, crisps and fairy cakes. I tend to under cater slightly too, that or be prepared to live off of the leftovers for days. Actually we love that really.
Send out invitations in plenty of time, you will always get a certain percentage of people that can’t make it and this way you can either refer to your B list of guests or adjust the catering requirements. There are lots of online sites to make your invitations or you can even send them via email to save on postage.
To get ahead and avoid a stressful party day do as much of the preparation as possible days before, if you have party bags to fill don’t leave to the last minute, balloons to blow up; buy a small pump. However much advance preparation I do I always seem to end up staying up half the night before a birthday party thanks to …the cake! I think I am a glutton for punishment, buy one, don’t do what I do. Music…ask your friends and family what their favourites are to help get the party going…but, if you are having a DJ remember they do really know which tracks get people on the dance floor so try and trust their judgement.
If you are having your party at a venue other than home and it is being catered then you have no excuse but to enjoy the occasion, remember to pace yourself when it comes to the champagne. The other big bonus about using a party venue is waking up the next day and not having a single glass to wash up, or worse.
For children’s parties, go with the flow, sometimes they can be very unpredictable but chances are your child will be very happy at the end of it (even if there are a few inevitable tears at first “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…”).
I have to admit to being a bit out of sorts lately, who knew a house move could be so stressful? Well I should have known, it’s the third move we’ve done in three years but because we have downsized so drastically (again) I think it was extra hard, especially when I was doing it mainly on my own. Anyway we are in and I’m in recovery…we absolutely love where we have moved to, after ten years of rural and then semi rural living we are making the most of the cafes, train station (still pinch myself that I can walk there in 3 minutes) take-aways that deliver!!! That’s a thing? Oh and not forgetting the park that is 30 seconds from our house and M can whizz at about 30 mph around on his scooter. The house? Hmmm, it’s a challenge, only because there are soooo many of us but at least we have a roof over our head, so every cloud…
Anyway, I now have a teeny tiny oven…and it is gas, I haven’t cooked with a gas oven since a child and to be honest it still scares me a bit. And whilst it has passed briefly through my mind to try and bake something, to be frank I’ve literally not had the energy or inclination.
Cue four very black bananas that were staring at me… I kept ignoring them but they kept staring back, and then eventually they started wafting a smell my way too. But yesterday it was a case of use them to make something, anything…or *gasp* throw them away! Which just seemed evil…two of them made it into a smoothie, easy, apart from me falling up the stairs holding one smoothie for studying teen which resulted in smoothie up the wall, all up the stairs, the floor below, my hair, my clothes. The other two met their match in a hazelnut, chocolate chip banana bread, super moist, really tasty and very easy to make.
If you don’t know already I have been moving house, it has taken weeks and I can honestly say it has been mega stressful. Some bright spark (that will be me then) decided that it would be cheaper to get removal people to move just the big furniture and I would do the rest. Oh my goodness, it has taken so long, I can barely move, my back is kaput, but on the upside (always look for positives when the situation is dire) I can do my jeans up again! Yay!
I am soooo desperate for a break, to be pampered a little; lie in bed knowing that I don’t have to make breakfast; go for a leisurely swim; walks and just generally relax and spend some time with the children without all the usual hustle and bustle that everyday life entails…especially with a move in the mix!
A mini break in Hull – where to stay
I really like the idea of staying in Hull, and having seen the Holiday Inn Hull Marina it appears to tick all the boxes and more. It has an indoor pool, fitness centre, we can take our dog (huge bonus) plus the children can stay free. I love the idea of Hull Marina location where we can watch the boats coming in and out and yet the city centre is only a few minutes walk away.
What to do in Hull
There is plenty to do in Hull to keep us busy if we fancy it.
A visit to The Deep, the world’s only submarium, and home to 3500 fish including sharks, rays and Gentoo penguins. I would love to get to one of the daily dive shows. In the evening The Two Rivers restaurant which is located in the aquarium sounds amazing!
Some culture at Hull maritime museum. I have a slight obsession about whales so learning about the history of whaling in the area fascinates me and admission to the museum is free.
Or maybe some retail therapy at St Stephen’s shopping centre.The girls would like that, although my purse probably wouldn’t.
A little further away is Flamingo Land which I know the youngest two would love, a theme park and a zoo it will be an action packed day.
On energetic days we can visit the stunning Yorkshire Wolds for a walk or cycle. In my case that will be walk as I am a danger on a bike.
Honeysuckle farm is something that M would enjoy visiting, as well as farm animals to see, it has a play barn, cart rides, forts to climb and mazes to get lost in plus much more.
Do you have any more places you would add to visit?
Prawns and lemon always make me think of summer so I thought they would be the perfect combination to use with Lindemans’ Bin 85 Pinot Grigio white wine. Out of all the different types of pasta there is something special about spaghetti, it feels so decadent, which I know is silly but I tend to save it for those times when I feel like I need a little comforting or indulgence.
When I was asked to devise a recipe that captures the essence of sunshine using one of Lindemans’ wines I had no trouble coming up with this spaghetti with prawns & asparagus in a creamy white wine & lemon sauce. This is so so easy and yet tastes absolutely gorgeous. A creamy sauce made with coconut milk and a slightly tangy zing from lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice makes this one of those recipes that you will come back to again and again.
I’ve used butter in the recipe but you could easily use a dairy free spread to make this a completely dairy free recipe.
Spaghetti with prawns & asparagus in a creamy white wine & lemon sauce recipe
Spaghetti with prawns & asparagus in a creamy white wine and lemon sauce
Rating 5.0 from 1 reviews
150g cooked King Prawns
2 spring onions trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
knob of butter
200ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
6 tbsp coconut milk
150ml Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio
Zest of ½ lemon plus a squeeze of juice
A good handful of chopped parsley
Cook the spaghetti according to instructions
Cook the asparagus in boiling water for four minutes and drain, keep warm.
In the meantime melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the spring onions and garlic gently for two minutes.
Turn up the heat and add the white wine to the pan.
Cook rapidly on high for one minute.
Add the chicken stock and cook for another two minutes.
Add the prawns, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice and the coconut milk to the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes to heat the prawns through.
Add the parsley and the drained pasta to the pan and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Divide the pasta between two bowls, top with asparagus and pour the remaining sauce over.
Enjoy this Spaghetti with prawns & asparagus in a creamy white wine & lemon sauce pasta dish with a chilled glass of Lindemans’ Bin 85 Pinot Grigio for a totally feel good meal on these delightful sunny evenings! Love summer.
Whilst I continue to be deep in the chaotic throes of moving house, the lovely Sabina from Mummy Matters has kindly written a guest post on what she has learnt since becoming a parent.
Over to Sabina…
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a Mummy first and foremost. I didn’t have any huge career aspirations or dreams of travelling the world, I just knew that I wanted to be a Mummy. To have someone to pour my love into and hopefully who would love me in return. I am very proud to say that I have been lucky, not only to have three beautiful children of my own blood but I also have a handsome stepson who loves me unconditionally too. I have been a ‘Mum’ in one capacity or another for 11 years now (whoa that’s a scary thought!) and I wanted to share a few of the things I have learnt along the way about being a parent.
1. You don’t have to give birth to a child or be a blood relative to fall in love with them or for them to love you in return. A parent is someone who raises (or helps to raise) a child through the good times and the bad.
2. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally, it is a skill to be learnt by both Mother and Baby. I assumed (wrongly) that breastfeeding would be a breeze but as I found out when breastfeeding my babies, each child and each breastfeeding story would be completely different.
3. Weaning is NOT my forte! Again, like breastfeeding, I thought it was the natural next-step that would just happen and that all babies would want to eat. What I found out was that my weaning journey would not only be a difficult one with Little Bean but that I would carry the scars through to Beanie Boy and Jelly Bean to the point that mealtimes STILL fill me with dread.
4. It’s ok to ask for help. Parenting, despite being the most rewarding ‘job’ in the world is actually REALLY hard. Whether your baby is just a few days old, a few years or even a teenager there are going to be times where you think to yourself “I can’t do this” and you need to reach out. It’s ok because 99% of parents will have been there and you’d be surprised just how many people you can turn to who will not only be happy to help, they will feel special that you have turned to them in your time of need. It will also show your children that you aren’t a superhero, that we all have bad days and that in those times, there are people who you can turn to. In years’ to come that knowledge will help them too.
5. It’s ok to admit you were wrong. Ok, so this might be a difficult one BUT it’s an important one because we ALL make mistakes but the biggie is whether we can be gracious enough to hold our hands up and say “I was wrong, I’m sorry”. Again, this is a great life lesson for our children because they will see that by admitting we were wrong, things that be done to rectify the situation or at least go some way to making amends.
6. You will NEVER know just how deep you can love until you become a parent. Yes we love our partners, boyfriends/girlfriends, Husbands/Wives, our own parents and our best friends but the love between a parent and child is like no other. My love for my Beans makes me feel like my heart could explode it is so full of love for them.
Thank you very much Sabina, some great points there that I think we need to be reminded of sometimes.
Funnily enough I’ve not had Baileys for ages, and then I was given a glass when I was on the pre-inaugural Anthem of the Seas cruise the other week, it was delicious and there is something decadent about this creamy drink which has been around since 1974. A unique blend of Irish Whiskey, fresh diary cream, vanilla and chocolate essences Baileys was created specifically for women, with the belief that they deserved better than the traditional offering of beer or whiskey.
Baileys isn’t just a popular drink though (2300 glasses of Baileys Original Irish Cream are consumed every minute, every day) it is also used a lot in baking.
I had a lovely recipe I was going to make using Baileys Irish cream however half my kitchen is here and the other half at our new home which we move into this week. Cooking is somewhat interesting, and baking is a no go. Something I am not looking forward to is getting used to yet another oven in the new place either.
Moving means lots of kind people have been helping me with various jobs so what better way to say thank you than with devilishly wicked Baileys truffles made with fresh cream and lashings of Baileys Irish Cream.
Oh, and son number two turns eighteen tomorrow so we’ve been celebrating with the help of these truffles which are also gluten free!
For more ideas and baking inspiration with Baileys try Baileys’ Sweet Treats.