I’m a sucker for a good Christmas cake. I am usually a bit of a cheap skate and I tend to buy mine in the sales after Christmas. To be honest we wouldn’t get around to eating it till then anyway with all the Christmas goodies in the house. There’s something about a home made one and if my cake decorating skills were up to it I would make my own. Sadly though the only bit I feel I could succeed with is the underlying fruit cake. Maybe one day I’ll feel confident enough to try with the icing. This cake was made by my sister in law’s sister and I think it looks fantastic.
An everyday luxury for me is a good cup of tea. It has to be one made with a good quality tea. My current favourite is Clipper tea. I like my tea to be what I would term medium strength: not very weak, but not a ‘so strong the spoon stands up in it’ cuppa either. In fact, if I don’t buy Clipper Tea, I tend to buy a stronger tea because I find that gives me a better flavour. I’m also rather impatient so the idea of having my tea brewed a bit quickly is very appealing.
I like a good splash of milk, but again I don’t like my tea nearly black and I find overly milky tea even worse.
I need a cup of tea to get me going in the morning and sometimes that’s all I have or need all day. On a bad day (or an especially early morning) I need two cups to set me up for the day. I also love a proper cuppa after a long journey or a busy day out of the house. It’s a great drink to chat to friends over too. The rest of the (day) time I tend to drink either herbal or fruit teas, but there are times when nothing but a real cup of tea will do.
Are you a tea drinker too? How do you like your cup?
This week I went to visit the Redditch (Worcestershire) base of Baylis and Harding along with a number of other local bloggers. Baylis and Harding was founded in the 1960s by David Slater and Marcia Simmons, then known as Midlands Cosmetic Sales. We met the current generation (children of the founders): Adrian Slater and Tania Fossey. They took over the company; developed it; rebranded it to Baylis and Harding; and grew it into the successful gift and toiletry company it is today.
Baylis and Harding is named for Adrian and Tania’s grandmothers who were great homemakers and there are pictures of these ladies all around the headquarters building. Baylis and Harding’s offices are beautifully designed and rather a surprise to find on an industrial estate.
One of the key principles that the company works to is to provide affordable, but luxurious bath and body care products. They do this partly by simple economies of scale like using the same size and shape of bottles again and again. Challenging the cost of their ingredients is another way: in fact, they decide what something should cost to the customer and then work backwards to provide it at that price. This is reflected in the pricing structure because you can buy Baylis and Harding products for as little as £2 and nothing from their ranges will cost you more than £45 to buy. Some might say why is it so cheap to buy, but I have to say I agree with the directors of the company when they say ‘why should you have to pay more?’ It does make me wonder how much we are paying just for a brand name sometimes rather than for better ingredients or a more effective product.
It was great to hear about a British owned, family run company, based in the Midlands, that is doing well in a recession. I hadn’t realised until my visit that they were based in Midlands and whilst they had a British sounding name I hadn’t realised that they were independent and family owned.
At the end of the day, just before we went home, we got the chance to do a supermarket sweep. You know I’ve always wanted to do that. This was a less frenzed affair than when you see it all on television as we didn’t have a particular time limit and everyone was too polite in any case. We had a very large (and strong) carrier to fill each. There was a varied selection of products and gift packs available and I picked up one of everything to try. I hadn’t realised that they had a haircare range: Great Hair, nor did I realise that they were behind the children’s ranges of Mr Men bath goodies and Funky Farm products.
Popchips have recently launched a new flavour: thai sweet chili. I’ve previously reviewed Popchips, so I was interested to try out their new variety. Popchips aren’t fried or baked, but instead they are cooked with heat and pressure.
The thai sweet chili popchips flavour come in an 85g bag which is the perfect size for sharing. It’s as flavour with punch with good strong thai kick that isn’t overpowering. There’s a satisfying, crispy crunchiness as you bit in and they have a ‘clean’ chilli taste that isn’t dulled by excess grease. They’ve been a big success with my husband who has managed to snaffle almost the entire bag.
I’m also liking the virtuous feeling of eating a snack that’s lower in fat and doesn’t leave you with greasy fingers. The chips are quite large and 18 chips (23g) contain 95 calories. I did struggle with the american spelling of chilli as chili though.
This week’s theme for The Gallery is colour. Colour, especially in winter, is something I yearn for and of course then natural colour can be hard to find. One way to find natural colour in winter is to visit somewhere that cheats a little by giving nature a helping hand. This pictures were taken at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (a favourite place of mine to visit to the extent that I have an annual pass). These flowers will obviously have been raised in hot houses with extra heating and maybe extra light too. By providing extra heat and light these plants have been enabled to flower despite the conditions outside.
It’s lovely to see these exotic looking flowers blooming at any time of year. But, they are especially welcome as reminders of summer on a cold, dull wintry day, when there may be very little natural colour to be had.
This is the second part of my Turners Restaurant review. You can read part 1 here. Turners is a Michelin starred restaurant located on Harborne High Street and we attended on a Saturday night which is when only the tasting menu is available to order.
I’m going to let the food speak for itself, to a large extent, as I got some lovely pictures of the dishes and the cuisine does look stunning in its own right.
We loved this mackerel dish (pictured above). Mackerel is a favourite fish of both of us anyway and it was teamed with fresh, succulent fruits that provided just the right amount of acidity to balance the oily fish.
Not every dish pleased us. My companion didn’t care for a liver based starter dish and I wasn’t keen on the pickled vegetable accompaniment to one of the main courses. However, as he doesn’t like liver and I don’t like pickles, perhaps it’s not surprising that we weren’t wowed by these dishes.
There were no complaints when it came to dessert though. This lovely, light souffle certainly hit the spot. And there were more good things to come from the pastry section with this eyecatching finale taking pride of place.
Overall we really enjoyed our visit to Turners Restaurant. It’s a small restaurant though and I think better suited to parties with few people as the intimate size of the building lendes itself to smaller groups.
I would recommend choosing a bottle of wine rather than going for the wine flight. We did this and had no regrets. It helps keep the cost down and if you choose wisely, you can find a wine that we take you through the evening.