Sunday, 24 November 2013

Stir It Up Sunday Christmas Pudding Recipe from M&S

Edit!! This is a fast forward image on Christmas day of the finished pud. Looks so good, I was really chuffed and it tasted amazing, I may use less sugar next time as very sweet, but everybody else loved that!

Why buy when it is easy to make a Christmas pudding yourself.

I was googling for info and read that 90% of people buy Christmas pudding now.
I was one of them and having made it a few times not really sure why as it is one of the easiest things to make.
Its literally stir and cook.

Stir It Up Sunday is today the last Sunday before Advent, churchgoers will hear an unintentional reminder from the Book of Common Prayer that it’s time to make the Christmas pudding. “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” starts the Collect of the day.
The tradition of Stir-up Sunday, with the whole family gathering in the kitchen to stir the mixture and make a wish is a good start to the countdown to Christmas.

I have a slight intolerance to some nuts, so looking for nut free Christmas puddings is tricky, they all seem to be alcohol free too. To me a good Christmas pudding has to have the brandy. For some people its, ale, cider, rum, for many its alcohol free. The great thing about making this yourself is yo can add or takeaway ingredients.

Mine is a suet free Christmas pudding good for vegetarians.

I omitted the nuts in the recipe below and substituted with more flour.

 M and S have  all the ingredients to make a great pud. They gave me their recipe and sent me the goodies to help. 

They do have a range of great puddings to buy this year too, I have my eye on the Sugar Plum Pudding.

If you are reading this and thinking you missed the day, it can be eaten straight away, so its not too late to Stir It Up!


225g/8oz Caster sugar 
340g/12oz Sultanas 
340g/12oz Raisins 
225g/8oz Currants 
50g/2oz Glace cherries 
110g/4oz Plain flour 
1 lemon, zest only 
5 Free Range eggs, beaten 
1 level tsp Ground cinnamon 
1 level tsp Mixed spice 
5g/1 level tsp Ground nutmeg 
Pinch of salt 
150ml/5fl oz French Brandy (
55g/2oz Flaked almonds 

A step by step photo guide to Christmas pudding may help, hopefully to show how easy it is.


Soak fruit in brandy overnight.  The aroma is gorgeous.

In the morning you will have a lovely bowl of plumped up fruit and then its just a case of adding the Christmas pudding ingredients to the fruit and stir it up.

A big stir of the pudding, now is the time for the family to have a stir and make their wishes.

Nest spoon the mix into a pudding basin. 

This recipe was not given with size of bowl I used a  two pint basin which I filled to the inside lip,not the rim and not having a smaller bowl, I filled another with the remainder.

Put a circle of baking parchment  on your pudding or puddings.

Next place foil over the top  press it around the rim and trim of excess.

Make a string handle. Note my make shift garden string, I forgot to buy white string. 

Most recipes will as this one did say steam the Christmas pudding for 6-7 hours. There are pudding steamers and all manner of ways to steam, but if you just have large pans these will do. You just need a lidded pan to ensure the temperature of the water is kept boiling to create the steam that cooks the pudding.

To try to make it easier I will tell you how I did this, I got a large sheet of foil to make a bed for the basin.

Once the water is boiling in a pan I pop in the foil and lower the pudding into the pan, pressing down so the pudding has a comfy non movable base. Puddings should not come  into contact with the base of the pan and the water needs to be halfway up the pan at all times, so will need topping up.

You can use a heatproof plate upturned, it works as well, but I do not like the constant rattle of plate hitting the bottom of the pan.

Steam the pudding for 6-7 hours. 

Remove pudding from steamer completely cool, replace the parchment with another circle and cover with foil or a lid if buying a plastic pudding basin.

Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for 1-2 hours. Serve with brandy butter, rum sauce or custard.

I will post a picture of my pudding at Christmas and let you know what it tastes like, I can sort of tell it will be good as it smells divine!!

I am also adding the link to The Diary of A Jewellery Lover's

Christmas Recipe Linky

Some great recipes are being added over the coming weeks, check it out.

Disclosure:  I was given the ingredients to make the pudding. I was under no obligation to receive the sample or talk about this company. I get no additional benefits for talking about the product or company.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Cadbury Dairy Milk with Daim Giveaway

Yet another chocolatey hit from Cadbury.  The family all suddenly appeared as usual when my blogging gets sweet. The new Cadbury Dairy Milk and Daim bar is the latest bar, it was launched  in September.

Daim was the Swedish chocolate bar if you remember, known there as Dajm but I am sure if that does not ring a bell you may recall Dime bars in the UK. Harry Enfield and his 'Armadillo'

Cadburys Dairy Milk is well known already but together they have had a 'mashup'  and created a fabulous sweet experience.
The fab peel to open tab is here again and the wrapper has the easy resealable feature, not that it got a trial in our home.
This bar is one for nut loving people with a real sweet tooth, its got a crunch of almond, which is teamed with caramel. 

This was all that was left for my review, oops, no need for the reseal then!!
For lovers of Cadbury you get a huge sweet honey chocolate taste and for Daim lovers that almond caramel experience for combo's its better than Brangelina and KimYe!

The latest offering from the nation’s favourite chocolate brand* is possibly the greatest combination yet, following hot on the heels of Cadbury Dairy Milk with Oreo – which now sees 28 bars sold every minute in the UK alone*.
The delicious Cadbury Dairy Milk with Daim consists of crunchy almond caramel Daim pieces blended together with smooth Cadbury Dairy Milk to provide the ultimate chocolate sensation.  It will leave you bursting with joy.  Can you handle it? 
Cadbury Dairy Milk with Daim is available in all major retailers nationwide RRP £1.42 for a 120g bar.
Now for an even sweeter treat, 10 of my lovely readers can win a bar each! Cadbury are so good to Given To Distracting Others!!

Enter the easy peasy Rafflecopter.
Good luck. xx

Brabantia announces winner of 2013 ‘Pimp Our Print’ international design competition

You may remember my blog about the Pimp Our Print' Design competition, well they have announced the winner, I think you will agree Pauline's design was a worthy winner, I love the retro yet so modern crisp clean pattern of the 'Feathers' Its a nice story of how she came about the inspiration too.

Well done Pauline!!

Leading housewares brand Brabantia, famous for bringing style and function to kitchen and homeware, is pleased to announce the winner of its 2013 ‘Pimp Our Print’ (POP) design competition, Netherlands-based Pauline Bogaards.

This year’s POP competition invited contestants to submit designs suitable for Brabantia’s kitchen canister range. The design competition, now firmly established as an annual event in the international design calendar, attracted 2,800 entries from both established and aspiring designers.

The level of entries was nearly three times up on the previous year and Brabantia’s Communications Manager Anne Slaats commented: “We are delighted with the quality of entries this year. Working with an International Design Panel* who narrowed down the entries to a final shortlist, the Brabantia Jury** then chose the ultimate winner. The design that really stood out and impressed us was the handcrafted ‘Feathers’ design by Pauline Bogaards. We are really looking forward to putting her design into production early next year.”

But recognition doesn’t end there for Pauline. The competition was intended to find a replacement for Brabantia’s iconic ‘Patrice’ flower design and so delighted are Brabantia with the ‘Feathers’ design that they have decided to name it ‘Pauline’ after its creator.
As winner her design will appear on Brabantia’s canisters and potentially other products, she’ll also receive a three day all-inclusive trip to Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2014 in Milan.

Pauline Bogaards, Junior Communications and Art-Director, based in Vleuten, said of her win: “I am happy and surprised that I won this contest! It is really special to me that my design is chosen from so many entries. I was inspired by this year’s black and white trend and my idea was to make a monochrome print but I needed an inspiration for a design. While I was traveling on a train journey I saw a girl with a nice feather on her necklace and from that one moment of inspiration came the winning design!”
Pauline’s design will be in the stores from April 2014.
Runners Up’ will receive their design printed on a set of bespoke, one-off Brabantia canisters.
Five 'People's Choice' winners based upon the number of votes they received via the PoP website and 'Facebook Fans vote' will also get their design printed on a set of one-off Brabantia canisters.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bramley Apple Cake

This is another recipe from my old recipe collection, its actually from a special recipe collection from Peoples Friend and magazine given to me by my Granny and so old is it the coupon for 10p off Banquet margarine ran out in December 1985, a 30 year old magazine but still loved and useful. I could really go high tech and scan the recipe but I have a fondness for the old adverts.
Plus I love the pounds and ounces, I will convert those for you who are using metric.

The apple cake itself is just so tasty, the Bramley cooking apples in the sponge make for a moist cake, I have tried eating apples it is too sweet and they mush up too much, the apples, cookers as we call them are perfect. 

Its an easy apple cake recipe,  flour and margerine rubbing in method, then all the remaining ingredients added a good stir and that is it.

If you make the apple cake try serving warmed as a pudding with cream or ice cream. Its heavenly.

I like to make two as the moment I make it a whole cake disappears very quickly. The below recipe is for one cake.

The apples seem way too much for the batter but it works really well. I have made this a few times but not all year round and I always forget if the weight of Bramley apples is prepared weight after chopping or not. 

I have discovered it makes not much difference to taste, there is just a lot more apple if they are peeled and cored etc first.

You will need.

8oz (200 g) self raising flour
pinch of salt
4 oz (100g) margerine or butter (cold from the fridge)
1lb (500g) of Bramley apples peeled cored and roughly chopped
4oz (100g) caster sugar
2 large eggs

Pre-heat the oven Gas 6, 400f, 200c or fan  180c, as they did not exist when the recipe was devised this is after experimenting 

Grease a round cake tin with removable base is best, if the tin is not non stick, I advise lining, though I never have.

Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Chop  the marg or butter into small pieces and scatter into the flour, rub in with the tips of your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the apple chunks, sugar and eggs all in, you need a good wooden spoon and a good stir to get the batter together it will seem like it won't happen at the beginning but it easily and quickly does.

Add into your tin, level off the top if needed. I do not it sorts itself out!

Bake for 45-60 minutes sorry this is not very precise, its my guess as the original recipe states 20-30 and its never worked in 

I also check after about 25 minutes and add foil to the top of the tin if the cake is golden but a skewer tells you its still stick. 

When a skewer comes out clean its done.

Remove from the tin and cool or if you are like us warm for that first slice, apply sweet and spongy, delicious!!

Comfort Launches Vanilla & Gold Iris Review

Do you sniff fabric conditioners in the shops, I am hoping there are a few more sad people like me. 

If not please do not have me committed, I like to "smell before they sell" I like new fragrances and especially like to try the limited editions.

 I tend to get immune to a scent if I have used it for a while, so I do like to make a change so I can smell it on bedding and towels as they come out of the washing machine and when I open drawers.

Comfort have released a Christmas pack  the bottle is very festive,  it looks like a gift with red and gold wrapping. Its a big bottle with 34 washes, so will last a while.

I of course had to do my first sniff, its one I would have sniffed in store and and bought.  However Comfort kindly sent (or should that say 'scent'') me a bottle.

Its Vanilla and Gold Iris, it's a  lovely light fragrance, not sure I could tell you if it does smell like gold irises, I can say it has a  light floral scent, laced with the sweet vanilla. 

I got to decide very quickly whether I really liked the scent, Early in the morning and possibly still bleary eyed I decided to take a photo they always look so organised, but I will confess its chaos behind the scenes.

I managed to knock the cap over twice,  Granny calling me, phone ringing, son making a pack up for work. I moved too fast and caught my sleeve on the cap.  I mopped up and the fragrance was definitely given the full workout,  luckily I like it as it lingered all morning, may have to do this again!!!

This Limited-Edition fabric conditioner is designed by fragrance experts to give a 100% more fragrance in every drop and there is definitely a more noticeable smell in the airing cupboard, in the ironing pile and wherever I manage to spill it next!

You need to hurry to try this as its only available from mid-October until Christmas at supermarkets 

RRP £3.55

For more information on Comfort visit

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Stellar Touch Contol Induction Hob Review

What is an induction hob? 
How does an induction hob work?
Will I be able to cook successfully on an induction hob?
Does an induction hob make good meals?
Will I break it? (haha, this is the one I worry about)

When I was asked would I like to do a review of the Stellar Touch Control Induction Hob, 2000W, I needed to know the answers to these questions at least. 

I can say after using it, I perhaps did not need to get too scientific, but I like to know how things work.

 I knew roughly, being slightly obsessed with kitchen appliances and gadgets that it would be efficient cooking, but not how.
I decided before I started my review to gain a little info up front, so I could relax and also to share with readers.

 What is an induction hob?
How does it work?

Induction cooking  uses electromagnetism which creates a magnetic field between the pan and a coil beneath the glass top.  

Electricity is passed through the copper coil magnet inside and makes electromagnetic energy. 

The energy passes through pan, inducing  a current which in turn releases heat.

The pan has to be magnetic and an easy way to check is with a fridge magnet. 

Will I be able to cook successfully on an induction hob?

I had a quick read through the instructions and decided the best way to make a meal would be one I was used to cooking, so a simple Thai Pork Curry was first. I know how it cooks and the temperatures I needed more easily, nothing too tricky.

My ingredients in case you want to make this

Virgin oil a small amount.
500g Stir fry lean pork
1/4 jar of green curry paste
1 can of light coconut milk
2 red peppers sliced into strips
150g chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon fish sauce.

I really need not have gone to the trouble of researching induction hobs, within seconds I had it sussed.
The temperature I left at its 160C, this is the default setting. I played around with the power settings more.

The pork fried really fast and evenly, way faster than my gas hob. I found 1400W to be just right, higher and it was spitting too much.

I turned to 1000W to fry the paste, further reducing to 600W to add the milk, mushrooms and peppers and them simmer. I reduced to a further 300W when I felt it was cooked through, just to allow the sauce to reduce.

Does an induction hob make good meals?

I am thoroughly impressed with the speed of cooking and result.Casseroles are easily managed.

Bacon is cooked in seconds and steak is a much better result when cooked on the induction hob.

Its a breeze to use for my chicken, bacon and thyme creamy sauce for pasta. 

I have to mention the Stellar Sauté pan, this was provided to use as it is the right material, I am in love with this pan, it is perfect for distributing the heat around the food, ensures even cooking. It looks really attractive and good for a 'straight to the table' family meal.

Will I break it? 

So far so good, initially with all the electronic readings I was sure I would mess something up. But its simplistic, easy to work, its child's play! Talking of child's play, if you have any little ones it has a child lock in case they decide to try cooking without you there.

One more fabulous thing!

The real joy is the hob just wipes clean instantly, no detergents, just a warm soapy damp cloth and all mess is gone. On a Sunday morning this clever hob comes out for frying bacon, the speed to tuck into that traditional weekend breakfast and the speed to clean up, not a scourer in sight, its made for weekends at home.


I can see this travelling to cottage holidays with us. Its a lot easier than trying to work out the dials on a strange cooker, fast and efficient and that easy clean. It sits neatly on any worktop and will be a boon when the kitchen gets a long overdue refit. I will be able to use this with my slow cooker and still make family meals. 

I see this being great for single people living on their own, the elderly, students and definitely camper van users.

When I googled the hob, I found it at Harts of Stur a pretty good online retailer of kitchenware, if like me you have a fondness for cooking and gadgets you will be on there for some time! 

Stellar Touch Control Induction Hob £132.50
Stellar Induction 28cm Sauté Pan, Non-Stick £64.00

Friday, 15 November 2013

Patchwork Traditional Food Company Review

The Patchwork Traditional Food Company started making pâté in North Wales over 25 years ago.   With a start up cost of just £9.00, saved from the housekeeping, Margaret Carter began selling her home made pâtés to pubs,attracting more and more customers and the business successfully started to expand she moved the business from her house in 1987 to a purpose-equipped factory in the heart of Ruthin.

Since the start of the company the range has expanded to include chutneys, ice creams and ready meals. 

They now offer a gorgeous range of homemade fine food, making it the ideal, unique Christmas gift. 

I for one am gutted as I spent a luxury weekend at Ruthin Castle it was the coldest weekend of that year and we holed up and were pampered for the two days, never venturing beyond the castle walls.

If I'd known the taste of the paté alone, I would have braved the ice and stocked up.
Luckily for me Patchwork Traditional Food Co have sent me a small hamper to try out.

The presentation is just gorgeous and you can even request your own choice of products to be included so it will be a unique gift filled with a recipients favourite flavours. I for one would love this, so often a hamper has items that do not really appeal.

I love the paté in jars it keeps well if you are not like us and polish off the entire amount in one sitting. 

At Christmas the jar is important, my fridge is normally heaving and these sit nicely in the door.
Spelt  and Oat fingers  make a nice change to plain crackers and complement the pate well. The chutney is made for a cold salad of hams and salad. Chris loved these and they disappeared rapidly.

I am looking to buy some of these for Christmas, for family as they make a tasty and personal gift.

There is something for every budget take a look.

They also have a sumptuous range of gifts from the chutneys and pates to bespoke hand designed Patchwork Converse All Stars, which can be found here:

 Disclosure I was given a free product. I was under no obligation to receive the sample or talk about this company. I get no additional benefits for talking about the product or company.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

M&S Stunning cakes, to get you into the festive spirit...

M&S have some marvellous cakes this year, real arts of work. Chris and I were browsing them at our new large out of town store.

I instantly felt Christmassy and am also very excited as I am going to be making a Christmas pudding made with M+S ingredients for 'Stir It Up Sunday' on Sunday November 24th

A real Christmas showstopper, this Collection Enchanted Forest Cake (£20.00, 1.8kg) is made using our ultimate recipe- all butter fruit cake packed with plump jumbo Chilean flamed raisins, apricots, Vostizza currants, glacé cherries, Cognac, port, almonds, pecans and walnuts. This cake has been matured to perfection and fed twice with Cognac. Covered in marzipan and soft icing, and hand finished with soft and royal icing decorations.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Forest Cake (£20.00, 1.5kg). A triple layer chocolate cake filled with salted caramel sauce, covered in milk chocolate ganache and finished with sparkly chocolate pieces and handmade chocolate trees.