Life Lately.

Visiting friends. Charlie’s next ninja belt. Lots of motorbike rides. Our fifth anniversary. A night away in an airstream. Sending out save the date cards. Going to our first (and probably only!) wedding fair. Going back to our venue and falling even more in love with it. Making plans for the summer.  Introducing Charlie to the motorbike. Plenty of Cassidy cuddles. Getting onto the healthy eating and exercise wagon. Bootcamp. An impromptu day-date. Lush baths. Smashing my work target. A heatwave. A care package from a sweet friend. Family time. Quiet times, busy times, just life really…

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Life is good.

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VJ x

Life lately.

I cannot believe that Christmas was six weeks ago.

How?!

Life here is as hectic as ever, and with a wedding to organise as well – we’re going to see a venue in three weeks! – it won’t be slowing down any time soon.

I have Charlie for half term this week and have lots of fun stuff planned, but for now, I thought I’d share some snaps of our life lately, because capturing the chaos is so important…

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VJ x

An Idiot’s Guide To Sunday Lunch

I cook roast lunch quite a bit, at least once a month.

It’s also traditional to have a roast on birthdays, or if we’re all getting together or if…well, any excuse really!

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably sick to death of my roast dinner pictures but a few people have asked me how I do it, and as I’d promised the boys  roast chicken today, I thought I’d write it down…

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(a good soundtrack is a must, I like to rock out whilst I’m cooking!)

The Menu

Now, the contents of a roast obviously depend on individual preference and taste but for us, a roast is made up of:

  • Meat – chicken on this occasion
  • Roast potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips with maple syrup and herbs
  • Carrots
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Sweetcorn
  • Stuffing
  • Yorkshire puddings (we have them with every roast, it doesn’t matter what the meat is!)
  • Gravy

Step One: Preparation

A roast dinner is all in the prep. Once you have that done, it’s really easy – I’m no chef (and I’m not a food blogger either, so you’ll have to excuse the quality of the photographs!) but I can pull off a pretty decent roast because I know the value of a good list!

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I have made dozens of roasts but I always start by writing out the timings. Then I don’t have to worry about remembering what I’m supposed to do next, because it’s all there!

Meat

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A few years ago, I was gifted a slow cooker by my then-employers and it’s honestly the most useful thing I’ve ever been given. It’s in constant use in our kitchen and it’s a total myth that you can only use it to make soups or stews – we use it for jacket potatoes, meatballs and roasted meat!

I’ve roasted meat a few different ways and using the slow cooker is the best, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s so easy and it frees up space in the oven – so it’s a double win.

All you need to do is place the meat into the cooker (these rules apply to chicken, lamb and beef, we don’t eat a lot of pork so I’m not sure how that would come out!), add whichever herbs and seasoning you want – I used a garlic and herb mix today – switch it onto low, put the lid on and leave it.

That’s it!

The longer it has in the cooker the better and I usually allow at least five hours for a large chicken – which is easy when you have a kid that gets you up at 7am anyway!

Veggies

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We’re really lucky with Charlie, as he will eat most veg, but I will still take every chance I get to sneak a few more into his diet and roast lunch is always a good way to do it.Even if it ends up covered in gravy, it still goes in!

White potatoes: peel them, chop them into large chunks (depending on the size of the spud, I usually cut them in half) and leave them to soak in some slightly salted water.

Sweet potatoes (these are my favourite, I actually prefer them to the white ones!): treat them the same as the white spuds but cut them into slightly smaller pieces.

Parsnips: peel them and cut them in half (don’t cut them too thin, they shrink in the oven) and put them in a shallow bowl with some water over the top. If you want to glaze them, mix three tablespoons of olive oil with three tablespoons of maple syrup. Chop some fresh herbs (rosemary or thyme work best, I’ve found. Although my garden has shrivelled up this week, so I used some dried Italian herbs instead today), add them to the mix and set aside.

Carrots: peel them (having a good peeler is essential for making this meal!), cut them into rounds and leave them to soak.

Brussel Sprouts: there are loads of fancy receipes for cooking these but we prefer to keep it simple, so I just peel them, cut an ‘x’ into the bottom (I think this helps cook them all the way through, but this could be an old wives tale?) and leave them to soak.

Sweetcorn: fill a bowl with the corn, add a little water and cover with clingfilm.

IMG_8471.JPGThe Extras

Not everyone will add these to this meal but we always do!

Stuffing: you don’t need to do much with this yet but you’ll need a big glass bowl, a measuring jug, a knife, a fork, a spoon and a little tray to cook it in – I use a cake tin.

Yorkshire puddings: I don’t make my own, which I realise could be controversial for some, but I don’t think you can get better than Aunt Bessies and quite frankly, this meal has enough going on without trying to make those as well! Again, there isn’t much to do at the prep stage but you will need a baking tray to put them on.

Gravy: Bisto. A jug. A teaspoon. Done.

IMG_8478.JPG(this is what the cat was up to whilst I was slaving in the kitchen; she knows how to Sunday!)

The Oven

We are lucky enough to have a double oven and it comes in handy when cooking a roast!

The following is the best way I’ve found to maximise space and make sure everything is cooked and hot at the same time:

TOP OVEN:

Top shelf: yorkshire puddings

Bottom shelf: stuffing

BOTTOM OVEN:

Top shelf: white potatoes

Middle shelf: sweet potatoes

Bottom shelf: parsnips

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You will also need…

A big roasting tin for the white potatoes, a smaller roasting tray for the sweet potatoes, a dish for the parsnips (this needs to have sides to it), a spatula, a sieve, oven gloves, coarse sea salt and plenty of olive oil!

(I love the sound of cooking roasties, please excuse the noise of the boys being super competive over their game of Ludo!)

Step Two: Cooking

These timings are based on us at eating at 12.30pm, but they can easily be adapted for whatever time you are sitting down:

  • 10.30am: turn the bottom oven onto 200 and boil a full kettle of water.
  • 10.45am: drain the potatoes, remove the sweet potatoes and set them to one side. Put the white spuds back into the pan and add the boiling water. Put them on the hob on a low setting and boil for fifteen minutes, or until they are just starting to soften. At the same time, put a good splash of oil and a sprinkle of salt into the larger of the two roasting pans and put it in the oven.
  • 11am: drain the potatoes and put them in the colander. Give them a good shake and rough them up; the rougher they are, the better the roastie will be! Get the pan out of the oven (use oven gloves!), put it on a heat mat and add the roughened potatoes to the oil. Be careful, the oil will be boiling and it will start spitting as soon as the spuds touch it. Put some more oil over the top, a bit more salt and make sure they are completely covered. Then put them back in the oven. Put some oil and salt into the smaller of the roasting tins and put that into the oven to warm.
  • 11.3oam: turn the top oven onto 220. Take the potatoes out of the oven and turn them over, making sure they are browned all over. Take the smaller pan out and add the sweet potatoes to it, again making sure they are covered in oil. Put both pans back into the oven. Drain the parsnips, drop them into their pan and add the oil, syrup and herb mixture. Mix well and add them to the oven. Following the packet instuctions, put the stuffing into the glass bowl and add a decent blob of butter and the boiling water.
  • 11.45am: turn the white potatoes, sweet potatoes and the parsnips, making sure they are cooking evenly. Move the stuffing from the bowl to the cake tin and put it in the top oven. Get the yorkshire puddings out of the freezer (if you’re using pre-made!), space them out on a baking tray and pop them in the top oven.
  • 12pm: Cook off the carrots and brussels on the hob and zap the sweetcorn in the microwave.
  • 12.20pm: make up the gravy, following the packet instructions, and put it on the table. Take the chicken out of the slow cooker and slice, it should fall apart from being cooked for hours and hours!
  • 12.30pm: SERVE and get ready for step three…

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Step Three: EAT!

I love settling down with my family to a roast dinner and I get a real kick out of having produced something that everyone loves so much.

We usually round off the afternoon by getting cosy on the sofa with duvets and a film, today we went for Kung Fu Panda.

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Enjoy!

VJ x

 

 

Dinner at The Pig

Two weeks ago, Gary’s mum, Christine, came home from America.

She has lived out there for over a decade and at the start of this year, she made the decision to move back to the UK for good.

We couldn’t be happier that she’s home and it was also an excellent excuse to go for dinner at our very favourite place, The Pig near Bath…

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The Pig is a small chain of beautiful resturants and hotels, all of which have a relaxed yet luxurious feel to them. All of their produce is from within a 25 mile radius and a lot of it comes direct from the gardens on site.

The menu’s change daily, depending on what they have fresh that day, and we always have the most wonderful time whenever we go. Gary treated me to a stay in one of their rooms for my 28th birthday and it’s easily the best place we’ve stayed in – and we’ve been lucky enough to stay in some nice places!

So we got dressed up and off we went!

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We arrived early for our table and went through into the bar for some drinks. The fire was roaring, we managed to grab a comfy sofa and had a lovely half an hour, drinking freshly made cocktails and catching up.

Our lovely waitress also came through and explained some of the items on the menu – the chef at the Bath site is currently Polish and he has incorporated some of his family receipes into the meals – and then we went into the dining room.

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The dining room stretches the length of the back of the beautiful Georgian villa and it really feels like you’re in someones luxurious and comfortable kitchen.

We had a round table at the back of the room, which was great because we could look out over the rest of the room but we felt cosy and private at the same time.

Before we knew it, the food started to arrive and boy! It didn’t disappoint!

The menu at The Pig has a couuple of different starter options; they have ‘Piggy Bits’ which are small plates and they have normal sized starter plates. We decided to choose a few Piggy Bits and a couple of starters and then share everything, as there were too many delicious options to choose from!

We ended up with; smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, halloumi cheese with fresh beetroot, pork cracking with apple sauce (I don’t even like pork cracking but I love the cracking at the Pig!), pancetta with turnip, bacon jam on toast and tiny Scotch eggs that were packed full of flavour.

Once we’d finished with the starters, the waitress whisked our plates away, refilled all our glasses and before we knew it, the main courses had arrived.

Christine had a beautifully dressed crab, Gary and his dad both went for lamb on a bed of delicious cabbage and bacon that was BURSTING with flavour and Dean and I both had the steak, which comes with triple cooked chips and is easily the best I’d ever had.

img_8404One of the reasons we love The Pig so much is the atmosphere.

It’s so relaxed and friendly and whilst we had chosen to dress up to celebrate Christine’s return, we could also have turned up in jeans and t-shirts and the staff wouldn’t have batted an eye lid.

We all had a wonderful time; catching up, laughing and exclaiming over how delicious our food was.

And of course, there was one final joy to come…dessert.

IMG_8409.JPGI only managed to snap a picture of my dessert – I blame the wine! – but everything that came out was beautiful and was a very fitting end to a lovely meal.

Christine had creme brulee, Terry went for a wild berry cheesecake, Gary had the most creamy rice pudding I’ve ever tasted and Dean decided to have a cup of their wonderfully fresh coffee.

Oh, and mine? It was a chocolate mousse with rosemary (which sounds awful but trust me, it was heavenly!), a chocolate crumble and butternut squash ice cream and I have to admit, I was sad when it was gone!

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We had a brilliant evening at the Pig and if you’re looking for somewhere special to have a relaxed but high quality meal, I can’t recommend it enough.

I can’t wait to go back soon!

VJ x