Home Cured Gravlax

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So - that's it - the hype, the presents, the panic shopping, queues and empty bank accounts. All done for another year! Every boxing day I vow I'll start earlier and do a better job of it next time. Whether I do or I don't, you have to agree when it finally arrives, Christmas with the family is pretty good. This year I spent the day with my mum and step dad, siblings and brothers girlfriend. Highlights included cracker handbells, an epic dinner and of course - the dog eating too much and being sick everywhere.  Boxing day was spent repeating the exercise with my dad, his other half, the siblings and my step siblings. We had the annual quiz, too much baileys and dancing in the snow. All in all, a fantastic Christmas and just what I needed this year after such a difficult few months.
Love and family.

Home cured dill gravlax
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The Bradgate, Newtown Linford

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to dine at The Bradgate, a recently refurbished Everard's pub in the pretty village of Newtown Linford. I was joined by local bloggers Emily and Tim for a very enjoyable evening trying out the new winter menu whilst catching up with one of the owners David to find out what they've been up to and what they have planned for the future. 

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Scott's Wine Bar, Quorn

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Slapped wrist for not posting this sooner - Scott's is a rather lovely new wine bar in the ever trendy Quorn. Well I say new - they've been open for several months now!

Scott's Wine Bar, Quorn
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A Festive Gingey Gift Guide

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*ARCHIVE POST FROM 2014*  This is a bit late this year and its not like me to be so behind. I know many of you are probably super organised and already have your Christmas shopping done and dusted but due to big changes in my life of late, I've not even started mine! EEEEK! 

So... for those of you who are as disorganised as me, here are my top picks for foodie festive gifts this year. If nothing here tickles your fancy, why not take a peek back at my top picks of years gone by too? 
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Review: The Mountsorrel .. in... Mountsorrel

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The Mountsorrel guesthouse in .. you guessed it.. Mountsorrel has always looked nice from the outside. Having lived in the village for the past 2 and 1/2 year, the place catches your eye especially in the summer when the front is alive with hundreds of hanging baskets full of colourful flowers. 

Recently they opened their restaurant to the public (previously it was only available for residents) and with head chef Nicola Albiniano in the kitchen, they should do very well. I've eaten Nicola's food at local places The Swan Inn and Pilings Lock and I knew the standard would be high. So last Tuesday with Mummy Bites in tow, I headed over there for dinner.

The Mountsorrel Guest house
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Gooey Baked Camembert

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I think sometimes bloggers assume they should be posting complicated recipes with lots of ingredients and many stages but actually, we all need inspiration and so, sometimes the quick & easy recipes are just as important.

This is an old favourite of mine and something I hadn't eaten for ages. Having scoffed it again recently and realising just how much I love it, I just had to recreate it at home. And now I'm sharing these gooey cheese porn pictures with you. Perfect timing as we head into the cold and dark nights and Christmas approaches.

Baked Camembert with garlic and thyme
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Win tickets to the BBC Good Food Show Winter in Birmingham!

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As many of you know, I've been part of the BBC Good Food Show blogging community for a couple of years now and I have to admit, the winter show is my favourite - it really kick starts that Christmassy feeling! Catch it this year at Birmingham's NEC between the 27-30 November.

I've got 3 pairs of tickets to give away and so, if you've never been (or even if you have) now's your chance to go for free!  
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Chicken & Asparagus Pie with Coconut Milk

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It's been a while since I've blogged and for one reason and another I've hardly been cooking of late. Cooking is is how I relax and so, having not been able to do it much recently, I've really missed it. This weekend my lovely friend Vicky came over for a night in front of the TV and I wanted to make something quick but interesting. Now that the weather is starting to turn, with the nights drawing in and some of us even starting to it the heating on, I felt like a pie was order.

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Review, Byron, Leicester

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Leicester's dining scene seems to be on an upward trajectory of late. We have some really cool places now especially with The Smokehouse (yeah I know.. I'm biased) and now Byron both bringing something on trend and exciting to the city.  It says something too that Byron skipped Nottingham and Birmingham to open their first Midlands site in little old Leicester. Well - maybe the rents cheap or they know something we don't - either way, I'm very pleased about it!

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Delice Deli & Cafe, Loughborough

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I have no idea why I've not blogged about Delice Deli in Loughborough before now. Its a firm favourite of mine and I'm a frequent visitor. Well time to put the world to rights - here we go! 

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Pumpkin & Chicken in Oyster Sauce with Chilli & Basil

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Its almost Halloween and this year is going to be scarier than most as I'm off to stay at St Briavels castle with some friends. I suggest you google it in order to feel my pain - it's reportedly the most haunted castle in the UK. EEEEK.. so, for now, lets stay off ghostly talk and focus on something still seasonal but much nicer - pumpkin! 



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Addicted to cookbooks

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My name is Alex and I am addicted to cookbook. 

But lets justify this for a second (as any addict will) - they provide insight, inspiration and oggle factor in equal measures. As an avid home cook and blogger its also clearly my job to have as many cookbooks and magazines as possible... right?  Anyway, here is a little round up on my books - what I love and what I do.. 

Labels 

I actually stole this idea off my good friend Hannah - her house is one of my favourites for cookbook perving. She takes things a little further than me by colour coding for ingredients but I'm happy just to tab anything I've cooked. I also add a score out of 10 and any notes about improvements/ changes... When you head back to that book at a later date, its super helpful! 


Recipe collecting

The best recipe books are the ones you make yourself - I have a recipe journal and a scrapbook and both have been with me for most of my adult life. The scrapbook I started when I was back at uni and it's been with me ever since. There are so many things stuck in there - from supermarket recipe cards to things cut out of magazines. The pages are all full now but I still use it as a valuable resource.

Display 

I always have a cookbook on the book stand on my counter-top. I like to change it around to keep myself inspired and often put something up before I'm going to cook it. Geek alert. At the moment I've got my brand spanking new copy of Cracking Yolks & Pig Tales - Glynn Purnell's rather fabulous book.  If you don't have a copy I really recommend it, there are a whole variety of recipes and his stories elevate this from the usual chef cookbook into something totally magical! 


I'm pretty lucky that I have space for book shelves in my kitchen but they just aren't enough and my books have now spilled down onto the counters. In fact, there are around 2 years worth of Good Food and Olive magazines plus even more books shoved in the sideboard in the lounge!



So... out of all those books - which are my favourites? It changes all the time but at the moment, these 4 have to be ranked at the top! 
  • Prashad Cookbook: Indian Vegetarian Cooking - as you know, I love a good curry and this book is excellent, every dish I've made from it has been a winner (and you'd never miss the meat!).
  • Cracking Yolks & Pig Tales I've already mentioned this above. Go and buy a copy! 
  • The Kitchen Diaries II - a true classic from Nigel Slater. Like Glynn Purnell's book, this one works on two levels - great recipes but also a brilliant read in its own right! 
  • Two Greedy Italians - I will never grow tired of this book. I absolutely love Italian food and this book has some crackers in it!  

What are your favourite cookbooks? I've had some great suggestions on twitter and facebook for new ones so come on guys - feed my addiction! 
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Japanese Teppanyaki Dining Experience

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Whilst we were away on holiday we went to a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. It was actually one of the a la carte options at the hotel and I know what you're thinking - Japanese in Mexico??? Exactly what went through my mind too but actually, we were able to squeeze onto the show table and it was brilliant!

I'm not writing this post as a review because I'm not sure any of my readers are going to jump online and book a flight to Mexico specifically to eat at The Mikado (incase you want to know - its at the Grand Bahia Principe Coba - a fantastic 5* hotel on the Riviera Maya) - BUT what I am saying is 'if you get chance, definitely give this type of dining experience a go' - its great fun!

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Chicken Miso Soup

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Its amazing how quickly the nights are drawing in now and I heard on the radio that we're at the end of the warm weather so salads are not an option - our healthy meals need to be warming and most importantly - filling! Cue the soup..

Chicken Miso Soup with noodles
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Review: Sunday Lunch at The Grey Lady, Newtown Linford

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I recently blogged about the Grey Lady Kitchen & Deli which opened earlier this year and at the same time, waxed lyrical about how as a child, the older Grey Lady restaurant (further up the hill and out of Newtown Linford) was the place we always used to go for Sunday dinner with my Nanna and Grandad on special occasions. In those days it was a carvery (albeit a very nice one) whereas now, under the leadership of the original owners son, its a much fancier a la carte affair.

The Grey Lady Newtown Linford
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Review: London St Brasserie, Reading

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Very occasionally, I leave the Midlands.. I know.. shock horror!! And frequent readers will know that there are a couple of restaurant reviews on my blog now for Reading and the Wokingham area. That's because some of my best friends live there and whenever I visit, we always end up eating somewhere fab. My most recent visit was a bit different, we left the boy at home and with another good friend, us girls headed into town for a posh lunch.

My friend chose the London St.Brasserie and we ate from their set lunch - priced at £16 for two courses. Excellent value and a really interesting menu.. Having googled the place, I saw that their Chef Patron Paul Clerehugh has won quite a few awards over the years so I was excited to try the food!
gingey bites review London St Brasserie in Reading
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Flava - It Marinades - Unleash your meat lust!

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I don't do product reviews that often but this one piqued my interest because the flavour range so when I was asked if I wanted to try some of the Flava-It marinades I said yes!

Flava-It marinades - gingey bites product review
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Pork tenderloin with Asian inspired slaw

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I just love this dish - its so colourful and packs a punch on the flavour front yet is still very healthy! 
The marinade is a mixture of various recipes I've seen online and in cookbooks but after a few tweaks, this is the one I want to share with you lucky people! 


pork tenderloin with asian slaw
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BBQ O'Clock

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So we've lived in our house for almost 2 years and we've never had a BBQ for our friends or family! I don't know if that's just because my Dad and our best friends do such a good job that we've never felt the need but after going to Grillstock in June (see my review here) we decided enough is enough!

When we were there we picked up some spice rub kits - a new 'Smokehouse Barbeque' range from Bart'. We used the New York and Mediterranean rubs for our BBQ and they were really good! Cue an impromptu review!

Chicken, pepper and onion kebabs
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Review: Efes Mangal, Braunstone Gate Leicester.

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As some of you probably know, I'm the marketing manager for a group of independent pubs in the East Midlands. One of the things we constantly monitor is Trip Advisor.

A colleague of mine recently showed me that Efes Mangal on Braunstone Gate in Leicester was ranked at #2 despite being a relatively new restaurant in the city. So, in true food blogger style, I decided to go and check this Turkish restaurant out with my good friend Vicky to see what all the fuss was about!

Efes Mangal in Braunstone Gate, Leicester
Image taken from Efes Mangal website. 
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Review: Cactus Cafe, Loughborough

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If you live in Loughborough or have spent any time there over the last 15 years or so, you've probably already heard of this place.  Cactus Cafe is kind of a institution here, situated on the corner of Leicester Road/ High Street opposite the equally synonymous Geoff's Toys. 

The outside of the Cactus Cafe in Loughborough
Cactus Cafe Menu
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Review: Cielo, Birmingham

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Situated in the ever popular and very trendy Brindley Place area in Birmingham, Cielo is a large Italian restaurant. I've heard mixed reviews about the place so was pleased when they invited me to come in a try what they have to offer.



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Spaddles and Sorbets - the history of ice-cream with NADFAS and Dr Annie Gray

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For my London and South followers, here's something which combines a few of my favourite things - history and food (well ice-cream!). Sadly I can't make this event but it sounds great and I felt the need to share! 

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Review: The Grey Lady Kitchen & Deli, Newtown Linford

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I’ve long been a fan of the Grey Lady just outside of Newtown Linford in Leicestershire – perched at the side of the road overlooking the beautiful countryside around that area. I remember going there for my 18th birthday with my Nanna and family and it being a real treat. Since then they’ve honed their offering to be something quite special and the food is excellent. 

With this in mind, I was excited to learn that they’ve opened a kitchen/deli in the heart of the village  (which even looks cute on a cloudy drizzly day!) and a few weeks back we headed over there for lunch. The first thing to say is just how friendly and wonderful the staff are – they were mostly young, probably uni students home for the holidays – but their knowledge and interaction were fantastic. The deli part is quite small but there is a nice cheese and cured meats selection plus some gorgeous looking home-made quiches, sausage rolls and other bakes.


Fishcake, salad and skinny fries at the Grey Lady Kitchen and Deli
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Sausage and Mushroom Penne Pasta

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This is a really simple and comforting dinner and something you can throw together without needing too many fresh ingredients so its a good one for end of the month or when you need to keep an eye on your budget. Anyone who reads my blog frequently will know I've posted a fair few sausage recipes over the last couple of years and although they are a bit fatty, they are a firm favourite favourite in our house!

Sausage and Mushroom penne
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Leicestershire's very own gin!

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You know I love my gin and I really love to support local brands and producers so I was super excited when I found out that 45 West Distillers were launching a brand new Leicestershire 'Burleigh's Gin'.

Burleighs Gin, Leicestershire, Gingey Bites
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Review: The Bluebell, Henley in Arden

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We've never been to Henley and until our recent visit, had no idea just how gorgeous it is - just outside Stratford, Henley has the charm of Tudor cottages and higgledy piggledy buildings running along its cobbled roads. If we hadn't been invited to try the new lunch menu at The Bluebell we'd never have known how lovely it all was! Nor would we know how wonderful The Bluebell is.
The Bluebell In Henley

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Review: The Bulls Head, Repton

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I've been promising this review for a couple of days and have finally got round to it. Its been really busy time at work with some exciting projects on the go but also a sad time as this week saw my fabulous partner in crime leave for a new job so I'm a lone soldier for the time being. Anyway, lets get on with it - this post is all about one thing. PIZZA.

Pizza heaven
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Prashad's Vegetable Handi

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We are big meat eaters but I do like to cook vegetarian dishes at least once a week to try and balance our diets. We love Indian food and the Prashad coobook is a firm favourite of mine! In fact, its already featured on the blog with their Aloo Gobi and Jeera Baath

Prashad Vegetable Handi Gingey Bites Food Blogger
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A night at The Thistle, East Midlands Airport

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When we told our family and friends that we were heading over to East Midlands airport for a night away they all thought we were mad but actually, after having been invited to spend the night at the Thistle hotel there, we were very pleasantly surprised. 

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A quick side dish with broad beans & spring onions

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Last week the wonderful folk at Woodlands Organic Farm sent me an organic veg box to try and I was thrilled to see some broad beans in there amongst carrots, potatoes, peppers, lollo rosso and gorgeous baby red onions. Broad beans are in season for such a short time so you have to get them whilst you can! These beauties were a cracking example - creamy pale green and  deliciously fresh as I popped them from their velvety beds. 

Woodlands Farm organic veg box
Organic broad beans
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Pecorino & Balsamic Risotto

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I loved Two Greedy Italians when it was on TV last year, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo are hilarious together and made us laugh every week. Of course I had to get their book and use it all the time! As you might know if you read my blog regularly, I am a big fan of Italian food, having visited Tuscany several times with my parents who stay with friends every year in this beautiful villa not far from Lucca. I love everything but most of all, the food, and love cooking Italian meals at home! 

Pecorino and Balsamic Risotto served in a Laura Ashley plate and bowl
Villa La Borracia in Tuscany, Italy
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