Friday, 31 May 2013

Chorizo, pea and broad bean risotto - Easy week-night supper, economical - Recipe

A few weeks ago, I won a hamper from Riso Gallo.
With so much rice to play with, I couldn't resist making my favourite risotto (Pea and bacon risotto)
This time with a twist … replacing the bacon with some spicy chorizo and adding some broad beans.

The hamper included : 4 boxes of risotto rice : Arborio, Carnaroli and Gran Gallo Arborio.
It also included a couple of aprons, a timer and some vegetable risotto pronto.
I will be sharing some of these goodies with you in my next competition.

But back to the recipe :
Preparation and cooking time : 30 minutes
Cost : Economical
Difficulty : Fairly easy

Ingredients for 2 big eaters or a family of 3 :

- 2 Knorr chicken stock cubes
- 1 onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 75 ml white wine or vermouth (optional)
- 150g Riso Gallo risotto rice
- 1 to 1/5 cooking chorizo sausage
- 150g garden peas or petit pois (Frozen is fine)
- 100g broad beans (Fresh or frozen)
- Salt
- Parmesan cheese (Pecorino or Gran
 Padano is fine too !) to your liking

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lavender & vanilla body scrub from Natural Heavenly Beauty - Review

Beauty on Trial's last month trial was the full range of Natural Heavenly Beauty's body scrubs and cream.
I signed up for the Lavender & vanilla body scrub.

What does Natural Heavenly Beauty promises ?


This Lavish Body Scrub helps smooth and refresh skin with a luxurious lather.
*This invigorating formula helps skin look radiant and feel silky smooth
*Made with Organic Castile Soap
- Comes in 9 aroma therapeutic scents (phthalate-free): Almond, Amber & Vanilla, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, French Vanilla, Lavender, Lavender Vanilla, Pink Grapefruit, Lemongrass, Unscented
- Natural Heavenly Beauty Products contain the finest 100% Natural Ingredients available:
100% pure, natural, organic bath & body products that are free of harmful parabens, petrochemicals, artificial colors and artificial fragrances.
- Natural Heavenly Beauty uses ONLY Natural Preservatives :
100% pure Vitamin E, tea tree oil and extra virgin Coconut oil that does not dry out the skin. Their products contain the abundance of nature: powerful essential oils, natural butters from Shea and Cocoa and more; to create healing body treatments.


Enriched with nourishing Vitamin E, Organic extra-virgin coconut oil, moisturizing Jojoba, Grapeseed, Avocado, Sweet Almond, Safflower and Lemon Oils.

What do I think ?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Traditional Beijing Part 2 - The Forbidden City - Stretch A Leg Guided tour

Beijing is not short of curiosities to see and visit by yourself.
You will always spot interesting new (and old) things to discover by yourself.
However, for more historical places, a guide-tour is highly recommended.

You will find plenty of English speaking guide-tours in Beijing.
I only used one of them for both the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.
His name is Tony and works for Stretch A Leg

The Forbidden City, even early in the morning can be a very crowded place.
Fortunately, Tony knew the place inside-out and avoided us queueing for hours to buy a ticket.
He was also able to take us off the beaten track and give us a more peaceful tour of the City.

Tony has lived in New Zealand and is fully bilingual. But more importantly, he is a mine full of information about Chinese History as well as Modern China.

Tony first took us to Jingsang Park to get an eagle-eye view of the Forbidden City (See my previous post on Traditional Beijing's  and picture above)

The tour was a year ago now, I will not bore you with the history if you have no intention on visiting the place, and let Tony give you these fascinating informations if you visit Beijing in the near future.
Here are my favourite pictures :

New competition ending 06/06 : Win a DVD of Thomas & Friends

The winner of the previous competition to win £15 Amazon voucher has been announced and advised.

This is your chance to win a Thomas & Friends - Blue Mountain Mystery - The movie

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Loquax - ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions

Monday, 27 May 2013

Save on fashion - The best Private Sales sites for Discounted designers

Back in 2007, I discovered a great site : Vente privée

They have regular sales on Wolford and Elle McPherson, Stella McCartney and La Perla for lingerie.
LK Bennett, D&G (all ranges), Alberta Ferretti, Cacharel, …. for fashion
All in all, they offer over 2000 brands in pret-a-porter, home wear, toys, sports equipment, electronics, fine food & wine and tickets.
All at a discount price of up to 70%

What is on sale in the UK this week-end ?

- Quicksilver menswear
- Adolpho Dominguez womenswear
- Gucci Sunglasses
- Platinium luggage
- Lacoste homewear
- Triumph underwear
- A few others

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Nescafe Azera Cappuccino - Comparison review

I recently reviewed the new Nescafe Azera, with which I was very impressed.
Azera also offers instant coffee such as latte and cappuccino.
Nescafe was hoping that the new Azera would make us wave goodbye to our local barrista.
Have they succeeded ?
Just like my last review of Azera, I will compare the Azera Cappuccino with my capsules and milk-frothing jug.

First, what does Nescafe Azera promise.

No, this isn’t a scene from your favourite rom-com movie. You truly can have delicious, barista style coffee in only an instant. NESCAFÉ® AZERA® from Nestlé is instant coffee and microground roast and ground coffee that only needs hot water to turn your kitchen into a personalised coffee shop.

Made from a blend of instant coffee and finely ground coffee beans, NESCAFÉ® AZERA® turns you into a barista without the training or a loft with 8 flatmates. Available in tins of AZERA® and AZERA ® Intenso and sachets of AZERA®, AZERA® Cappuccino and AZERA®Latte, NESCAFÉ® AZERA® has the coffee for any occasion, no matter when you need it.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Monkfish with herb puree, boiled potatoes and Dijonnaise (Quick dinner party or supper for 2 with Cheat's ingredient) - Recipe

Monkfish being such a meaty fish will appeal to both fish and meat lovers.
It is quite easy to find at supermarkets and fishmongers and easy to prepare.
And what's more, you do not have to worry about bones.

This dish is perfect if you are having a special supper à deux and will be great to impress at a dinner party.
The Dijonnaise from Maille will cut through to the sweetish herb purée and spare you having to prepare a sauce.

Preparation time : 10 to 30 mins
Cooking time : 20 mins
Cost: ££

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Balance Me - Pure Skin Face Wash - Review

Balance me are natural, high-performance, paraben and sulphate free, aromatherapy skincare products, made in the UK.
Being a sucker for Britsh products, I have tried a few of their products.
Some I didn't really like but the Pure Skin Face Wash is one I really love.

The company has won numerous awards and often offer some of their products to try free with magazine.

What does Balance Me promise ?

Cleanse your face of make-up and daily grime with our gentle yet effective, sulphate and petroleum free face wash to achieve a balanced, clean complexion without stripping away your skin’s natural moisture levels. 
We’ve blended soothing, balancing, deliciously fragrant grapefruit, petitgrain and frankincense essential oils with spruce knot extract to help improve and smooth the appearance of congested or problem complexions. 
Anti-oxidant rich moringa and rice bran oils help to brighten and polish the skin to leave it smooth and gently cleansed.

What do I think ?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Windsor Foodie and People Watcher

As you probably read in my previous post, I was accompanying a friend to the Royal Windsor Horse Show the week-end before last.

I know very little about horses, other than they are stunning creatures who can demonstrate exceptional strength and discipline,
However, events always give an opportunity for the obsessed foodie to discover new treasures.
Please rest assured, no links between the foodie and the horse lover here !!!
What's more, it was an interesting place for the dormant anthropologist in me for some people watching.

What did I didn't expect is to ever come so close the Her Majesty the Queen

Back to my passion for food, I met two fantastic ladies, Karen & Louise
who are passionate about spices and recently started their own business.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Hovis Breakfast Bakes (Biscuits) - Review

When I was commuting to work, I often found myself spending the little time I had a home in the morning to : 
1. Take ages trying to look half decent; never found easy to look respectable without looking too dolled up 
2. Realised that all my work dresses were either in the wash or ironing basket 

 By the time I finished with the ablution and housewife's duties, there was not time left for breakfast. And no, I wasn't willing to wake up any earlier. 
 I was lucky enough to commute by bus. So breakfast on the go was a must. 
But these delicious chocolate croissants from the local caff' were not only fattening, worked out bloody expensive and most importantly, didn't sustain me for long. 

 Breakfast biscuits were becoming all the rage and there were loads of special offers around.
Some tasted better than others and some would last me longer than other. 

Hovis has just come up with a new range of Breakfast Bakes. 
I was offered two flavours to try : Milk & Oat and Oat & Honey. 

What are Hovis promises ? 

Hovis Breakfast Brakes – Same Baker New breakfast.

Hovis Breakfast Bakes are a delicious new way to start your day. We have been baking delicious products for over 125 years, and we have built on this expertise to create the new Hovis Breakfast Bakes.

Delicious crunchy biscuits, specifically designed for breakfast and like all Hovis products, contain No artificial preservatives.

Available in three tasty varieties:
• Malted Crunch
• Oats & Honey
• Milk & Oats

All our Breakfast Bakes contain 5 handy packs of 4 biscuits ideal for your hand bag or your office drawer.

What do I think ?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Toad in the hole with a twist and cheat's with Bisto onion gravy - Recipe (Economical)

Toad in the Hole is something I discovered when I first visited the UK.
Never seen, never heard before. But is has been one of my favourite comfort food for nearly 20 years !
It contains two of my favourite British ingredients : Yorkshire pudding and gravy ;-)

Unfortunately, I couldn't make a decent gravy to save my life.
I don't often use cheat ingredients in my cooking but must admit that Bisto is a life-saver to me.
And a real cheat, many do not even notice the gravy wasn't home-made. (With the exception of anyone who has had the misfortune to taste my home-made gravy before LOL)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Redken Smooth Lock shampoo and conditionner - Review

This seems to be a highly controversial products.
Faithful users of Redken in the US trashed it on one of the largest site as they seem to prefer the older version of these shampoos.
Personally, I love it and so do UK reviewers.
Although I had tried a couple of Redken products in the past 15 years, I liked them and was happy to finish the bottle but never like this one I would buy again.

So what does Redken say ?

Redken Smooth Lock Shampoo gently cleanses, tames and replenishes hair to deliver nourishing shine and a long-lasting frizz-free finish. The lasting smoothness you could only dream about is now a reality.
The Thermo Active Polymer in Redken Smooth Lock Shampoo forms a humidity-resistant and heat activated barrier to retain internal moisture and strengthen hair. Fragrant almond oil conditions and coats the hairs surface to leave you with a silky finish and added shine.
Gently cleanses and tames hair to help provide a long-lasting, frizz-free finish:
- Ultra smoothing shampoo delivers nourishing shine
- Helps retain moisture
- Nourishes dry hair
- Eases detangling and improves manageability
- IPN helps defend against damage and reinforces strength

What do I think ?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Windsor Week-end

I know some of you enjoyed my pictures of Beijing . . . don't worry ! The last post wasn't the last on Beijing.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Save money, stop waisting, save your herbs

All too often we buy fresh herbs for a recipe, use a minute amount and leave it to rot in the fridge.
At around £0.80 a pop it really is a shameful waste. In particular after cooking a curry or other exotic fare with 3 or 4 different kinds of herbs.

Monday, 13 May 2013

PG Tips the Rich One - Comparison Review

As we all know, I am not the most faithful consumer when it comes to products and services.
I looove to try new things.
Nonetheless, I still have a few favourite brands I would never deviate from.
PG tips has been my staple for 15 years !

As most people raised on the Continent, I like my coffee.
However, my anglophile Grandmother converted me to tea at an early age.
I manage to drink 4 to 8 cups a day.

PG tips started diversifying their range in 2011 with the Fresh One, the Stong One and the Evening One.
A couple of months ago, they re-branded the Evening One into the Mellow one and launched the brand new Rich One.

I was looking forward to trying some of it and my wish was granted. I was recently sent a sample to try.

Rather than boasting about the benefits of the tea, let's have a comparison.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Tuscan beans in tomato sauce and braised lamb shank - Recipe

I used to be a real snob when it came to stock.
Making my own chicken, fish and vegetable stock whenever I could and only buying sous-vide packed  beef stock.
The reason for this is that I often reduce my sauces and stock cubes then become too salty.
However, I must admit that stock cubes do work, and work really well in many instances. Let alone the fact that I do not always have time to prepare my own stock, and sous-vide packed stock works out too expensive.

I was offered some Knorr stock-cubes to try. Quibble free.
I must admit that Knorr are my favourite in any case; I find them less salty than other brands.
Rather than write a review, I would put my test out to share in this recipe.
The taste speaks for itself !

This recipe is not only delicious, fairly economical to prepare and more importantly; can be prepared in larger batches for freezing.
This will give you enough for 2 adults and 2 small children or 2 adults and some extra beans to freeze.

Please note the beans will have to soak in cold water overnight or up to 24 hours before cooking.
You could cheat and use tinned cannellini beans. In which case you will simply cook the beans on the hob, at medium-high temperature until all liquid has evaporated.
However, it may not be as tasty and there is a risk the beans turn to a mush.

Both dishes will only take about 5 to 10 mins of preparation BUT 2 hours minimum of cooking. The longer you cook everything, the better it will taste. Here is the recipe :

Saturday, 11 May 2013

E45 - Dermatological Moisturising Lotion - Review

Recently I reviewed E45 Nourish and restore daily lotion.
As previously stated, this was part of a Bzz Campaign.
Bzz sent me a free box of a few samples and a 2 full sized bottles. One of them was the E45 Moisturising lotion.

E45, where have you been all my life ?!
This lotion is an absolute miracle for post winter-blues skin.

Let's have a look at what E45 tells us first :

E45 Moisturising LotionYour everyday dry skin moisturiser
E45 Moisturising Lotion is a light daily dry skin moisturiser that is perfect for everyday use all over the body and helps keep your skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated. This formula from the skin care experts at E45 is perfume-free, dermatologically-tested and allergy-screened, so it is even suitable as a sensitive skin moisturiser.It is a light, easily-absorbed lotion which can be used on the body, face and hands to improve skins healthy look by correcting and preventing dry skin and other skin problems.E45 Moisturising Lotion contains Medilan™, a purified, hypoallergenic form of lanolin with excellent moisturising properties. It soothes, protects and cares for your skin. E45 helps you to realise your best skin!

What do I think ?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Which supermarket shopping ? Slash your online (and offline) supermarket bills - How to photo guide

I have been using for a year now. It easily saves me £20 on a £60 to £80 pounds bill !

I never over-buy perishables. I establish a menu at the beginning of the week with seasonal, local produce and stick to it.
This shopping is done in-store at my local butcher, fishmonger and local supermarket.
However, I found that the area I was spending most money on is the wasn't the everyday grocery shopping but the stock/bulk items such as cleaning, laundry, tissues, pet food and drinks.

Supermarkets offer run promotions on such items and they are easy to stock.
But finding out which really offer the best values can be time-consuming and complicated. has been the greatest tool for savvy buys and helping me find the best  deals and offers.

Here is my method :

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nescafe Azera - Review

I am not a regular user of instant coffee as I use the famous Swiss capsules at home.
But as you know, I travel on a regular basis. Coffee in hotels can be really ghastly !
Instant often make it better.

Bzz Agent was running a campaign for the brand new micro-ground Azera.
I had tried Millicano before and didn't like it.
Could Azera convert me ? So I signed up for their campaign.

They sent me a free box containing 1 pack of 6 cappuccino, 2 packs of 5 single use Azera coffee and a couple of discount vouchers to give to my friends.

When the kit arrived, as it was early morning and I didn't feel like indulging ; I compared the Azera to my capsules.

What does Nestle say about the new Azera ?

Nescafe Azera, the new Instant Barrista Style Coffee 

We all love barista style coffee. The intense aroma. The enticing look. The roasted coffee taste. Now you can enjoy all of that pleasure in the ease of an instant. Genius. Just add hot water and enjoy with or without milk.

What do I think ?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Creme brûlée with Hansells NaturalVanilla extract with seeds - Recipe

I am a bull-headed despot when it comes to vanilla and loathe vanilla sugar, vanilla extract and crime of all crime … vanilla flavouring. Whole vanilla pods were the only vanilla products ever entering my kitchen until recently.

I had a dinner party to plan and pana cotta to make as I promised my friends I will bring the puds.
After searching the spice aisle, the pastry section and the "specialty" products at my local supermarket, I had to admit defeat and accept the fact they had run out of vanilla pods !
No time to shop elsewhere as the panna cotta had to set for the evening, I surrendered and bought a bottle of Hansells Natural vanilla extract with seeds.

It is made in New Zealand (I tend to buy British produce over anything else) BUT it looked natural enough and the seeds in there may not give my cheating, corner-cutting trick away.
Well well, it really was a nice surprise in the end !

Still preferring the pods; I will adopt this little saver in a money-saving, time-saving bid from time to time.
It really is as close as it gets to the real stuff and works out much cheaper. (£3.50/50ml from Tesco)

I will not share my secret recipe of Pana Cotta this time (maybe in a few weeks) but will give you a walk through the classic Creme Brûlée.
It is best made the night/day before but doesn't need much time to set ;-)

Monday, 6 May 2013

E45 Nourish & Restore daily lotion - Review

I had always thought E45 was for problem skin only.
Bzz Agent was running a campaign for the Every Day Lotion range.
After a particularly long winter of cold weather and over-heated home, my skin was in desperate need of TLC. I thought I would give it a try and sign up for one of their free campaign pack.

The pack contained, amongst many samples and discount vouchers, 2 full-sized bottles of lotion.
One was the plain, un-fragranced version I will review at a later date.
The other was the Nourish & Restore body lotion for mature skin.

I hope I do not yet qualify for mature skin, being 34 ;-) but here is my thoughts on the product.

Should you be interested in trying the product, you can still request a free sample here :

What does E45 promise ? 

E45 Nourish and Restore body lotion for mature skin has been specially enriched with natural oils and Vitamin B3. It nourishes and helps restore supple, softer and noticeably glowing skin in just 3 weeks.

Its unique Constant Moisture Build™ formula is enriched with natural derived lipid and glycerine that work with your skin to replenish lost hydration and then build and maintain it throughout the day. It is clinically proven to provide 24 hour moisturisation.
Light weight – Quickly absorbed – Non greasy – Hypoallergenic – Lightly fragranced. For normal to dry, and even sensitive skin.

How to Use
Apply liberally as required, for best results use daily.
E45® has been working with dermatologists for over 50 years to develop expert products which soothe & care for dry skin.

What do I think ?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Foodie Beijing (Part 1) - Street Food

One street food not to be missed is the Málàtāng (麻辣汤) or assorted skewers cooked in a chilli broth.
They originate from Sichuan but are a popular street-snack in Beijing.
You will find a crowd of people standing in front of the Malatang vendor at certain times of day.
Grab a plate and point at what you want. By the way, don't worry about the cost . . . last summer they were 1RMB (10 pence) each !

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Save money on meat and freeze efficiently - Tips

My job often involves travelling abroad. As I get home late I cannot be bothered to shop.
However, having lived on food prepared by others throughout the trip, I long for a home-made meal.
With the added factor of N. eating out or being a away for a couple of nights every week; keeping meat in the freezer is very handy.

In order to scrimp on food costs, I do not buy nice juicy and expensive steaks if they are to be frozen.
Once a month, I will buy a large joint : leg of lamb, beef roast, pork roast or a whole chicken.
The joint will yield so many pieces of meat once I cut it into steaks and work out way cheaper than buying pieces (rump-steak, lamb steak, pork cutlet or chicken pieces).

However, to freeze the pieces, they have to be wrapped individually, frozen in separate bags for each piece or defrosted all at once.
This seems like a waste of (expensive) cling-film or freezer bag. And let alone the fiddling with cling film !

A quick, easy way and cheap way is to wrap each individual portions is sandwich bags. Gather each into a batch in a medium-sized resealable or zip freezer bag. (The sandwich bag alone will not be ideal for freezer burns and such)
You can buy 500 sandwich bags for £1 in Poudland !

Friday, 3 May 2013

Lamb, tomato and spinach curry with Sharwood's mango Chutney (economical recipe)

Want a delicious lamb curry on a budget ?
Discover or re-discover lamb neck fillet.
It a really inexpensive part of the lamb and delicious when slow cooked. As marblings of fat run through the meat, this will melt and baste the meat as it cooks to give you a melt in the mouth, super-tasty lamb

Preparation : 15 minutes
Cooking time : 1hr or more

What will you need for a family of 4 ?

- 500 lamb neck fillets
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 onions
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves
- Inch long piece of fresh ginger
- 2 green chillies
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 12 tomatoes
- 300 ml lamb, chicken or beef stock
- 3 tbsp medium curry powder
- 250g young leaf spinach
- 4 tbsp Sharwood's mango chutney
- Basmati rice or naan bread

Method :

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Simple Kind to skin Facial wipes - Review

I have never been a regular user of facial wipes before.

BzzAgent was doing a campaign for the new improved formula.
I have used the simple deodorant for over 10 years and still my favourite on the market, so why not try the wipes ?
I registered for the campaign so that I could receive a free pack and give it a go.

What does Simple say :

Kind To Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes 

When your skin's happy and fresh faced, you feel healthier and happier too!

Our Kind To Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes are a perfect blend of ingredients to help to refresh and tone your skin. Our Face Wipes remove waterproof mascara. Perfect for even sensitive skin. 
Already a fan of our Face Wipes? Why not check out our range of Simple moisturisers
simple goodness
Our special blend of Simple cleansing goodness containing Pro-Vitamin B5, helps to gently cleanse your skin without leaving it dry.
Dermatologically Tested and Approved

What do I think ?
I love the convenience. 1 wipe versus 3 to 5 pads and lotions
How did I use it ? 
My usual make-up is : Estee Lauder Double Wear Concealer, Kanebo cream finish foundation, Bobbi Brown loose powder, Lancome Hypnose waterproof mascara and MAC Pro Longwear lipstick.

The pack promises that the wipes work even on waterproof mascara.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Traditional Beijing Part 1 : Jingshan Park, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square

One of the "compulsory spot in Beijing is Tienanmen Square.
Most of us will remember the 1989 protests and dramatic event.
I will spare you pictures of the square, museum of china and other landmarks we all know.
But here is a a small remain of the Beijing's City Wall near Qianmen Shopping district (South of the square) :

Tienanmen is the third largest square in the world. It includes Tienanmen Gate, one of the gate to the Forbidden City.
I will be writing more about the Forbidden City in an upcoming post.
Mao enlarged the square in the 50's by destroying the Gate of China (The Southern gate to the Imperial Palace). This will allow a square to hold 550 000 people !