Friday, 1 August 2014

A new home

I’ve moved!

Those of you who still come to this blog to read about local produce on Back To The Roots, I thank you for your continued support. But I also owe you a huge apology – I stopped writing a couple of years ago when the pressures of getting a career off the ground were too great.

But I’ve started up another blog, all about breakfast and brunch. Breakfast at Caroline’s is my new foodie adventure where I will strive to introduce you to delicious lazy morning weekend recipes, quick and easy mid-week breakfasts as well as brunch reviews from my travels.

Be prepared for a lot of French Toast.

I hope to see you soon.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Scone heaven during afternoon tea at The Manor Hotel, Datchet

On the last day of the extended Jubilee weekend, my friend and I visited The Manor Hotel near Datchet, Windsor for a spot of afternoon Tea.  This whole experience was courtesy of Groupon UK, who asked Back to the Roots to write a review into one of its foodie offers. Excited by the thoughts of finger sandwiches, warm scones and lashings of tea, I picked the afternoon tea for two with bubbly, which was available at the time for £19 for two people - a 52% discount

We turned up around 3pm on the very miserable Tuesday afternoon and unfortunately encountered problems before we even stepped foot in the hotel. The website said that there was plenty of parking, which there was not, but luckily we found a spot on the road and hurried into the building and out of the rain.

The Manor Hotel, outside Windsor
The Manor Hotel was very welcoming, clean and bright, with light oak floors which gave off a modern yet classic feel to the place. We were sat in a very quiet dining room with only one other table, but with many noisy people sat around a bar at the far end watching the Jubilee celebrations. The remnants of two afternoon teas sat either side of our table, which unfortunately took a good ten minutes to be cleared away even though the dining room was so quiet. Even so, we looked forward to the food which was soon to arrive.

The staff were really friendly, and we were brought a glass of bubbly with a strawberry sitting delicately at the bottom very promptly – to which I took a sip and then handed it to my lucky friend who wasn’t in possession of car keys!

Soon after, we were served tea and brought our selection of sandwiches and sweet treats. Scrumptious sandwiches of cheese and tomato, cream cheese and cucumber and tuna were arranged underneath scones with fresh cream and jam, as well as a selection of cakes.

We merrily ate our sandwiches and drank our tea while listening to Il Divo-esq mood music. However, we were both craving savoury food following a weekend of too much cake, so a couple more sandwiches wouldn’t have been wasted on us. 

Afternoon tea for two

Delicate finger sandwiches

Amazing scones - jam or cream first?

More yummy treats

Next were the scones, which must have been the best I have ever tasted! Gorgeously moist and warm with a good hint of vanilla, we layered ours heavily with jam and clotted cream, trying not to bring up the Devon or Cornwall debate, and enjoyed them immensely. 

The perfect afternoon tea

We ate every last speck of the scones and then moved our eyes onto the final desserts. At the top sat a tiny morsel of carrot cake, dwarfed by a lump of gooey cheesecake. If like us, you worked your way upwards, it was too much to face by that point! But I duly gave them both a taste test and they were indeed scrummy!

All gone!!
The food was all beautifully presented; however finding a chip on a tea cup was a little bit disappointing. Although it wasn’t The Ritz, the price reflected this, and it was still a really great taster of tea time treats. A couple more sandwiches instead of the piece of cheesecake might have balanced out the taste buds a little, but those scones were fantastic, and I could have eaten a few more (...maybe, my stomach was quite stretched at this point!)

Having a proper afternoon tea in a nice establishment has long been on my foodie to-do list. It seems so quintessentially British – a perfect end to the Jubilee celebrations. This is an experience everyone should have on a rainy afternoon and I would highly recommend it. Although it is something I really enjoyed, I am unsure whether I would do it again, as it still shocks me at how much it costs across the country - a mark up probably due to tourism. Afternoon tea anywhere I think is a heck of a price to pay, but it you find somewhere that serves beautifully warm scones as well as The Manor Hotel, I believe that makes a good enough afternoon tea in itself.

All dressed up for high tea

A big thanks to Groupon UK!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee - celebration of British food

Traditional Victoria Sponge

The Diamond Jubilee Weekend is now over and whether you braved the weather and battled it out to the Thames for the Jubilee Pageant or were lucky enough to celebrate in the sunshine with a street party, I hope you all had a wonderful bank holiday weekend.

Back to the Roots celebrated this historic British event in true foodie style, with a small gather, lots of bunting and even more food!

Gin and Pimms washed down some delicious home made treats including: Victoria Sponge, cupcakes, Eton Mess, lemon drizzle cake, honey roasted ham, minted Jersey Royal potatoes, and a sausage pin wheel that went a bit wrong! With a little help from my friends, including the wonderful guest blogger for Back to the Roots, Ruth Dawson, we threw a perfect celebration in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Jubilee buffet
Enough to feed about ten people!
My giant black pudding and sausage roll

Fresh summer salad with minted Jersey Royal potatoes

Pimms O'Clock

The buffet went down a treat, the star attractions were the honey roast ham and surprisingly my giant black pudding and sausage roll. The roll was supposed to turn out as pinwheels, but during the rolling process, the pastry broke and I felt it wasn't strong enough to hold the meat contents. So instead I just threw it into the oven as it was, and out came a rather ugly, but very tasty dish. 

The night before I boiled a piece of ham for a couple of hours, glazed it with a mix of honey, soy sauce and maple syrup, which then crisped up nicely in the oven. The best thing about cooking your own piece of ham is that it will make sandwiches for a good week or so afterwards - so much cheaper than shop-bought sliced ham.

Gorgeous cupcake on a Jubilee cake stand -
I couldn't contain my excitement!

Lemon Drizzle cake from my lovely friend Ruth Dawson
Happy Jubilee indeed!

I loved how brands like Cadbury's Dairy Milk got in on the celebrations -
Kingsmill also changed its bread to Queensmill for the occasion!

A cool and refreshing gin and tonic

For those with a sweet tooth, we had plenty of options to choose from. In fact I had so much cake that weekend, that I doubt I'll be able to go anywhere near sugar for a good couple of weeks!

Hendricks gin accompanied Pimms for liquid refreshments - a perfect summer mix, as I discovered during the Royal Wedding bank holiday last year

One of my favourite desserts (and by far the simplest!) was the individual Eton Messes. The recipe is perfect if you have some strawberries that are just about to turn a little too ripe...

Individual Eton Mess

Quick Eton Mess recipe: Chop up some British strawberries, mix with a good helping of icing sugar and layer in a bowl. Pour over enough Pimms to cover and leave in the fridge overnight. Drain off the sweetened alcohol into a glass to drink later ,and then pop the strawberries into the bottom of individual ramekins. Layer some crushed meringue and a dollop of whipped cream, finishing with a halved strawberry for decoration.

Rob Ryan designed bunting, courtesy of Stylist Magazine

My friend, Grace, sitting among the flat clad with bunting

G&T and a flag - can't go wrong!

I had a great weekend with my friends – two extra days off, great food, lots of pimms and a chance to wave a flag? Who wouldn’t get caught up in the spirit? I even got to whip cream in my new Jubilee inspired Mason Cash bowl! Here’s to the next 10 years Ma’am!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

God Save The Cream - Mason Cash Jubilee bowls

Get busy preparing for your Jubilee celebrations in style with these delightful pudding and mixing bowls from Mason Cash.

The traditional Mason Cash mixing bowl, that every country farmhouse kitchen is iconic for, has had a little redesign to mark the occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this summer.

Available in cream, red and blue these patriotic ceramics are a true dedication to the year of 2012, while also boasting a Housewares silver award for 'Food Prep Innovation'.

The beautifully crafted products have been long loved by us Brits, appearing back in the 1800s in Church Gresley, Derbyshire, England, where the area's local clay creates the natural colour of the traditional cream bowls. In fact, the company claims that the bowls are still used in the British Royal Household to this day to make puddings on Christmas Day.

In honour of this and the Queen's Jubilee this June, the special edition bowls also come with a very fitting "God Save The Cream" embossed on the side. Other very apt phrases to choose from include: "Let Them Eat Cake" and "Off With Her Bread" - enough to keep any history and foodie geek  like myself, very happy!

Prices do vary a little on the Internet, I actually bought my small pudding bowl in Adnams, on a trip up to Southwold, for £5. You can find the mixing bowl online between £15-£20, the jug for around £8, the small pudding bowl also for around £8, and the larger pudding bowl for around £10.

Grab one of these special pieces in time for your Jubilee baking - much more useful than the tacky souvenir mug you were intending on claiming after collecting 30 stamps from your newspaper!

God save the cream indeed !!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Bonny Mallows - flavoured gourmet marshmallows from Anglesey

I came across this lovely little brand while visiting my favourite sweet shop on Anglesey, Da Da Da. While rooting around the shop's traditional shelves bursting with goodies I saw a new addition - Bonny Mallows.

Produced by a local company, Bonny Confectionery, its tasty plan is to invent delicious confectionery, but with a difference. It claims that the handmade treats are made with only natural ingredients and are sourced locally wherever possible.

True to their word, Bonny Confectionery uses Anglesey vanilla sea salt in its products, which I was pleased to read on the packaging, being a huge fan of Halen Mon myself!

Marshmallows infused with Halen Mon's Vanilla Anglesey Sea Salt

Like many local producers a lot of effort goes into the presentation of products. You can buy a jar of Bonny Mallow Pops tied with a kitsch ribbon which is perfect for a gift. The branding features a very cute and simple logo of a little girl caricature with a blue bow in her hair, which compliments the product giving off a genuine and wholesome feel.

Who is Bonny?

Strawberry and Vanilla Marshmallow Pop
While feeling sorry for myself after catching a cold this week, I decided to try my Strawberry and Vanilla Marshmallow Pop to cheer myself up! I found it a little unusual to eat a marshmallow off a stick after dinner on a average Tuesday night, but the bright colours and sweet taste certainly did the trick in raising my spirits. It is clear that natural strawberry flavouring has been used, as the marshmallow coating gives off a lovely sharp bite - it even has tiny little strawberry pips which I think just add to its pretty appearance.

I saw this and thought of you...

The white marshmallow, which I'm assuming was the vanilla, wasn't the traditionally over powering  taste you get, when you order a Starbucks Vanilla Latte, but had almost a subtle, nutty taste.

I'm not the biggest fan of marshmallow and fruit anyhow, but it was still super yummy and something a little different - the Double Chocolate Marshmallow Dipper on the other hand I can't wait to try - read below for a review!

Although highly enjoyable, it isn't the type of sweet I would buy for myself, but it really works as a gift and if you're a big fan of marshmallows it's sure to hit the spot!

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Dipper

Perfect addition to your afternoon cappuccino
Resident Back to the Roots taste testers, The Humphreys Sisters gave this local product a dazzling four out of five stars:
"We thought the Double Chocolate Marshmallow Dippers were well good, although very rich - we could only manage two, but they went down really well with a brownie hot chocolate and melted nicely. I wasn't clear whether they were supposed to be melted into milk to create a hot chocolate or dip into a ready - either way they went down really well!"
Follow Bonny Confectionery on Twitter and Facebook for updates on their scrumptious treats.

So tempting...

Back to the Roots launches on Facebook

Hi all, quick update... Back to the Roots is finally on Facebook! You can 'like' the page here.

And don't forget to follow Back to the Roots on Twitter @Foodie_Roots and also check out my Pinterest boards here.

Happy social sharing everyone - feel free to comment or message me at any of the above, or in the more traditional method of email:

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Morrisons is first supermarket to launch iPad magazine

Tablets are fantastic pieces of technology for foodies, being an outlet for stunning food imagery, thousands of apps bursting with recipes, gadgets to help you in the kitchen, as well as your favourite blogs, websites and magazines at your fingertips - I'm the first to admit that my Apple iPad is jam-packed full of inspirational bites. And now my memory is going to be stretched even further with the introduction of a beautiful, free (yes, FREE!) digital magazine from Morrisons.

Morrisons Magazine - The first Pad edition

First supermarket iPad magazine
UK supermarket, Morrisons, has become the first to launch an iPad app of its consumer magazine. The grocers seems to be following in the footsteps of the online store, Ocado, which has an iPad app focusing on lifestyle along with a mobile commerce function enabling users to shop through the application, however Morrisons is the first supermarket to actually break into Apple's Newsstand.

The launch of the digital magazine last month, coincides with the redesign of the traditional Morrisons Magazine, both of which feature a vibrant and revamped front cover. "The magazine has been a tremendous success for Morrisons over the years and our new magazine looks stunning," says Richard Lancaster, corporate marketing and operations director at Morrisons.

"Interactive replicas" are rarely interactive!
Not all digital magazines have quite realised the potential of tablets and in particular, Apple's Newsstand. All too often I see simple, standard replications of print editions, without any thought of how to push the potential of these intelligent pieces of technology. Almost a year working in the mobile industry and I become really bored with the unimaginative digital editions of magazines dubbed "Interactive Replicas" which seem like scanned copies and have no multi-channel innovation whatsoever.

When BBC Good Food added to its already extensive digital portfolio with a magazine on the Newsstand, I can honestly say I was super impressed. This was a magazine which was actually interactive. It used all of the technical elements of the device to include buttons, some which swivelled pages into recipe cards, others that played videos or took you to online content, and pages that adjusted when rotating the device from portrait to landscape mode.

However, at £15.99 for a six month subscription, I expect this level of innovation... Enter Morrisons Magazine - a FREE digital edition which shows up most of the other titles sitting on the "replica" pine shelves of Apple's Newsstand.

A fantastic debut from Morrisons
Like Good Food, Morrisons Magazine jumps off the page, both visually through luscious photography and literally through animations as you swipe through the pages. It seamlessly flows from one page to the next, and rotates easily when changing the orientation of the tablet.

A 'How to' page highlights how to take full advantage of the digital magazine

The 38 pages, produced by Result Customer Communications, are delightfully interactive and I love how each page has lively entry points, and how it uses the device to take the reader to additional windows as if you were reading from a website. The magazine is also brimming with recipes, features and digital content which makes it feel like a magazine and less like a common recipe application.

The news page at the beginning of the magazine
is clean, bright and offers the reader the option of
discovering more by touching an expandable image

Additional content following a reader touching an
item on the news page

Even the adverts are interactive, featuring video content and social
media links to become as multi-channel as possible

Landscape mode...

Pages automatically resize and change layout when
changing orientation back and forth

Recipe pages are clean and vivid, while making use of
thoughtful gadgets such as a kitchen timer,
"cook mode" and "add to shopping list" feature

However, you can't expect all pilots to be perfect the first time around, and I did notice a few negatives. My biggest disappointment was the lack of a contents page, which makes the issue quite difficult to navigate, the edition also takes a while to download because of all the multimedia content, and can also come across as very "powerpointy" - with animated images zooming across the screen every time you turn a page, which started to make me feel a little dizzy after a while!

On the whole this is one of the best attempts at a digital magazine I have seen, and being available for free on iTunes, makes this a dream addition to any foodie's tablet - proof that innovation in mobile technology is doable at a (more than!) reasonable cost.  

Apologies to readers who are unable to get there hands on a digital edition, but my love of food and technology has taken over here. Well done Morrisons on a great job - I hope you can keep it going!
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