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We call my six year old granddaughter the Pasta Princess because she loves pasta more than anything else. Despite enjoying some of Italy's finest, she seems to prefer Heinz's version more than any other. She comes to tea after school one afternoon a week, so I always make sure I have a tin in stock - I'd hate to see the disappointment on her face if I wasn't able to give her some with her dinner.
Usually we have spaghetti on toast for a lunchtime snack, but I also find it goes really well with battered fish and some French fries. Heinz Spaghetti has a really unique but instantly recognisable taste. It is easy to heat and use - especially now that it has a ring pull to open the lid with, and I've learned to store the can upside down, which makes it easier to empty the contents into a saucepan without having to use a spoon to get every last bit out.
Unlike their beans, Heinz seems not to have filled the can with more juice than pasta, so you always get a good serving. A large 400g can will easily serve two as a snack, on toast. The sauce is rich, smooth and really 'tomatoey' and the pasta is always a good texture, al dente without being mushy.
The can is a distinctive yellow with 'Heinz Spahetti in tomato sauce' written on an orangey-red background on the front, alongside a picture of a tomato, with 'Heinz's usual '57 varieties' written underneath. The instructions tell you to simply 'empty the contents into a saucepan and stir gently while heating', warning you not to overcook as this will impair the taste. It can also be heated in the microwave. I find just putting it on the hob on 'simmer' allows it to reach the right temperature for serving in about four minutes. It's great on its own, on toast made with home-made bread, or as an accompaniment to other food, especially chips.
The pasta in Heinz Spaghetti is made from Durum wheat and the tomato flavour comes from concentrated tomato puree. As usual with all Heinz products, it contains no artificial additives, preservatives, colours or flavours so it can be served to children with no problems. It is a little too rich in salt, though; one serving contains 1g of salt (an adult's daily maximum for salt intake is 6g), so I would not serve it to children more than once or twice a week.
All in all, this is a quality product from the tried and trusted Heinz label, is reasonable value for money and a versatile item to have in the larder.
For British televion at its best, you can do no worse than watch Blackadder. To me, it's one of the funniest and most original shows that has ever been produced. This is not just down to the talent of Rowan Atkinson, but also to the other stars, the writing, the storylines, the sets - just about everything about it screams pure quality.
Each of the four series has been completely different from each other. It's hard for me to say which one I preferred but, if I was forced to choose, I think it would be the series with Hugh Laurie as the Prince of Wales, set in the Regency period. Hugh Laurie excels himself in stupidity and, although I have seen each episode more than once, he still has me in hysterics.
The writing of each series is superb, but then, how can it fail with the talents of Richard Curtis, Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson himself? Of course, some of Edmund Blackadder's lines could only be delivered by Rowan Atkinson. There's no-one else I could possibly imagine in the role. He has mastered the art of conveying his thoughts with just a tiny change of expression, and his dealings with the idiots that surround him, are what makes the series such a success.
The supporting cast in each of the programmes are some of our finest acting talents. Stephen Fry is superb in whatever role he undertakes, especially as the fawning Melchett; Tony Robinson as Baldrick, the most put-upon servant ever, treated with contempt that he barely recognises, Tim McInnerny, who always plays a complete twit - I especially liked him as Captain Darling in the last series, Blackadder goes Forth. His acting in the very last episode, when he is being sent to join the troops on the frontline, is excellent. It's the last thing he wants to do and he just cannot convince General Melchett (Stephen Fry) that he would really rather not go, thanks all the same. The atmosphere and the mood of the set for this scene is brilliant and really conveys the seriousness of the situation, but you have to keep laughing because Melchett has on this ridiculous net device which he wears over his huge moustache at night, and, of course, he has to keep referring to the Captain as 'Darling' - comedy and pathos both at the same time! Absolutely wonderful. The real sadness is that this episode is the very last one that was ever made. You know the tragic ending; there's no getting out of the situation, and it actually made me cry. There's not many comedies that do that.
Of course, you can't really think about Blackadder without remembering other characters. such as Miranda Richardson, excellent as Queenie, and others who make occasional appearances, such as Rik Mayall, Tom Baker, Robbie Coltrane, Nigel Planer, Ade Edmundson - the list goes on but contains Britain's finest talents.
I wish they had made further series but the last episode put paid to that and ensured that the whole saga ended in a never-to-be-forgotten way. At least we can see re-runs now and again. This is one of the few programmes which, like Only Fools and Horses, another British classic, I don't object to being shown as repeats.
Long live Rowan Atkinson because, without him, we would never have known the sadness and comedy that is Blackadder.
It seems every town and village has its fair share of charity shops these days. There is obviously a great need for them. I use them all the time and will always look in a charity shop for an item of clothing or a book orsomething, before I consider buying brand new. For the last couple of years, I have picked up several real bargains, including brand new items that I have given away as gifts.
Charity shops are great for all clothing, especially children's. Most of them charge 50p to £1 for something that would be a lot more expensive to buy brand new in a shop. Most clothing that is donated nowadays is clean and in good condition - a far cry from the old days when charity shops first came into existence.
There are many charities with shops now. My favourites are Barnado's, Scope, Vitalise, Crysis and Help the Aged, but we also have shops in the neighbourhood which raise funds for local charities and they seem to be some of the best around.
I used to love Oxfam but I don't often visit my local branch because I think they are very expensive. I know they are there to raise funds but most of their customers are not wealthy and, on more than one occasion, I have seen something, say a skirt that originally came from Next, priced at more than it would have been to buy brand new. As all the items are donated, and they rely on the less-wealthy for custom, it seems unfair to price items beyond their reach. We have a brand new Marie Curie shop opened just a few months ago and that is also too expensive for most people I have spoken. My local Vitalise just charges £1 for adult clothing and 50p for children's, so you can go in there with very little money and come away with a bargain. The simple charges attract a lot of customers and they are always busy.
Another thing that annoys me with some charity shops nowadays, is how much brand new specially bought in stuff they sell. I always thought the original idea for a charity shop was the recycling aspect - taking in donated items that other people would be happy to pay for, so making money for charity shops with very little outlay on stock. In some shops, the brand new items are taking up more and more space and they always seem to be the same unimaginative things. I would much rather rummage around in the donated items, looking for something and hoping to be surprised, than buy something brand new. I can go to other shops for new items.
I was told once that the shops are only allowed to sell a certain percentage of stock that is brand new, but I'm not sure that they all follow that guideline.
With the current credit crunch, I think more and more people will be turning to charity shops to keep themselves and their families clothed and kitted out with necessities, so I hope they continue to offer their great service. I love having a good turn out and donating a bagful of clothing and books - it all helps to keep the shop and the charity going and, as I have found myself, what one person doesn't want, another has been looking for for years. Long may they continue.
Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry has been around for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, it was always brought out of the drinks cabinet for special occasions and offered to visiting lady guests. I grew up thinking it was very posh.
Many other drinks are available nowadays and I don't see sherry in many people's houses but it is a nice drink and makes a change from heavy spirits and lager. I find that a bottle lasts for ages, though, because I forget about it until Christmas time. I always have a sherry to see in the New Year, mainly because, as children, we were allowed a tiny little glassful to see in the New Year and it has happy memories. It must always be Harvey's Bristol Cream, though, which I consider the best available for a reasonable price. I paid £5.99 for the last bottle I purchased. You can get cheaper sherries but some of them can be really unpleasant and not worth wasting good money on.
Harvey's Bristol Cream comes in a very dark blue glass bottle with a blue label telling you the name and explaining that it is 'rich and full bodied' (a very good description, as it happens), and it also informs you that the contents have been made since 1796, so it has definitely stood the test of time and has become a traditional part of Britain.
The makers describe the sherry as ' a complex blend of some of Jerez's finest wines'. Jerez is in the province of Cadiz in south-west Spain. The blend results in a smooth and velvety drink with a warming, fruity and full-bodied taste. It is meant to be sipped from little glasses - I wonder if anyone uses proper sherry glasses any more? I must admit, I put mine away years ago because they seemed so old-fashioned. I shall get one out and have a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream tonight - it might help to warm me up in this Arctic weather we are having right now! Although I must add that the makers suggest that it is 'best served chilled in a wine glass', so perhaps I can leave my sherry glasses in the loft.
As well as being a delicious drink, Harvey's Bristol Cream is lovely in a fruit trifle - just add a small glass to the hot water when making the jelly, or soak the fruit in it. It can also be added to the water when stewing fruit. This not only tastes lovely, especially with yoghurt or icecream, but also makes the kitchen smell lovely!
The information on the back of the label informs us of the UK Government's safe drinking limits, which are 3 to 4 units a day for men, 2 to 3 units per day for us 'weaker' women. There is a graphic of an average-sized wine glass which holds 0.9 of a UK unit to let you know how many glasses you can safely drink. A whole bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream contains just over 13 units so drinking it in one go would definitely be considered binge-drinking! It is a very rich drink so not many people could sink a whole bottle in one sitting.
All in all, I recommend this sherry - I just keep forgetting it's there! It has a unique taste and, as a plus, it keeps for ages in the bottle, unlike wine or beer.
Chips used to be just chips; either from the chippie as a real treat, even more so if you could have battered fish with it, or homemade, which meant peelling and slicing. This was how we all had our chips years ago. Then frozen chips made their appearance; they were sort of OK, except I didn't like the crinkle-cut variety because they all seemed to have nothing inside them. A bit later, McCain came on the scene and it seems we haven't looked back.
I used to cook the family's chips in a chip pan with a basket. We would fill the pan two-thirds full with oil, place the peeled, sliced chips in the basket and wait until they were cooked - the cooking time always seemed to vary, but the chips always came out perfect. They are still the best ever chips, to my mind. However, time moved on and deep-fat fryers were invented. These were a good idea if you managed to get a good one; the old-fashioned way of making chips was actually very dangerous. Several people would put the heat on under their chip pan, then forget about it until the house had caught fire. I purchased a deep-fat fryer and tried it for a while but no-one really liked the chips - they just weren't crisp or golden enough and the fryer was a devil to clean.
For years after that, we stopped having chips because I could not find a safe but effective way of making them, and I refused to buy those 'new-fangled' oven chips - until my youngest son bought some for me to try. I must admit I was quite impressed although I didn't (and still don't) find them as good as proper homemade ones.
Since then, I have tried other brands of oven chips but always come back to McCain's. We have them probably once a week and have got used to them now.
McCain's Oven Chips come in a very distinctive orange pack; it has a picture of a sunflower on the front so you know the chips have been cooked in good sunflower oil (which McCain's point it, is cholesterol free). There is a green banner across the bottom of the pack which proclaims 'only 5% fat...' so at least they are healthier than the homemade variety.
They are simplicity itself to cook; you just put them, in a single layer, in a baking tin and cook at the top of an oven pre-heated to GAs 7/220C/425F for around 15 - 20 minutes, turning every so often so that they turn an even golden brown. If you take them out too soon, they end up soft and limp, if too long, they brun at the edges, so the timing and temperature are crucial. They can also be grilled but, somehow, that seems to be an odd way to cook chips so I've never tried it.
The red tractor on a Union Flag background that is printed at the top-right of the front of the packet, tells you that McCain have used British potatoes that 'have been grown to meet high quality standards', so you can rest assured that these chips have not been on a world tour before they get into your freezer.
The taste is not really the same as homemade chips but it is definitely the next best thing. The chips go well with almost anything, from the most humble egg to the biggest steak and even taste great with curry or gravy, too. They also make almost perfect chip butties.
For their low fat content, I recommend them for children but, like all such food, not for every day. I find that once a week is fine for my family. After all, they are convenience food which should not be eaten daily.
The bag I am reviewing holds 2lbs (907g) of chips and I paid £1.69 for them; in my house the bag will last for around four meals for two. They may be deaer than similar products, and certainly dearer than peeling and slicing the potatoes themselves, but they are the only ones I buybecause they have the best taste.
I recommend these above all because they are safer than using a chip pan and tastier than those produced by an electric deep-fat- fryer.
Wow, can't believe that it's 2009 already - it seems like only yesterday, everyone was warning us about the millennium bug!
2008, besides whizzing by even faster than 2007, was a good year, the highlight of which was my youngest son's wedding to his beautiful bride. They married in August which, if anyone can remember, was just about the wettest month of the summer. It had poured with rain the whole week leading up to the wedding and, indeed, for the week after it but, on the day, after a grey and cloudy start, the sun came out just as we were all gathering at the church and stayed out for the rest of the day. We just couldn't believe it. It meant that, besides being perfect for the photos, the guests at the reception, held at an international cricket ground, weren't trapped inside. A match had just finished as we arrived, so we were able to take some stunning photos on the pitch. I'll never forget the delight on my nearly 9 year old, cricket-mad grandson's face when he was able to stand on the pitch. He said it was the best thing that had EVER happened to him!
The wedding and the reception were fantastic and we have many lovely memories of a very happy day.
Another success in 2008 came from a very little idea that was born on moneysavingexpert.com (my favourite website of all). On one of the threads, we had been discussing knitting and crocheting and I wondered if anyone would be interested in making things for charity. I ventured the idea one cold day in March and could not believe how enthusiastic people were. We started off knitting squares that were sent to a group who collect them and sew them together for blankets for the elderly, and then we came across some other online groups that collect and distribute knitted clothing and toys for premature babies and other charities, both here in the UK and overseas. We have just started our second year and people are just as keen as they were when it first started. It's something I am really proud of. Besides helping those a lot less fortunate than we are, I am keeping myself occupied in the dark evenings and using up a huge stash of wool and also, trying to teach my granddaughter how to knit.
Apart from those two things, the year has had its ups and downs but none of my immediate family has been ill - apart from the usual coughs and colds - and they are all very happy and healthy and for that I consider myself well and truly blessed. I hope everyone can look back on a good 2008 and that 2009 is even better.
I usually buy the supermarket's own-brand of vinegar but recently found Sarson's at a reduced price so decided to buy it. I buy the 568ml bottle, some of which I decant into a Sarson's flip-top bottle for use on the dining table.
I use white vinegar a lot for cleaning but the brown malt type for cooking. I always add a dash to any meat dish because it has great tenderising qualities.
Sarson's has been making their distinctive product for over 200 years and little seems to have changed. The manufacturers don't feel the need to keep changing the labelling, which makes it easy to find in the supermarkets. It comes in a clear glass bottle with a dark red top and dark red label. The label tells you that you have bought malt vinegar produced by Sarson's which has been established since 1794, and that 'it is traditionally brewed and matured'. The ingredients are simple - just Malt Vinegar, from Barley, and Roast Barley Malt Extract, and no fancy or scary preservatives or additives.
The word 'vinegar' derives from the French for 'soured wine', which is 'vinaigre', so it always seems strange to me when I am in France and have to ask for vinegar, because it is not automatically placed on the tables in a restaurant. In one restaurant, the waiter looked really puzzled when we asked for it and finally brought it out to us in a little dish with a spoon, and then watched to see what we did with it! My husband was so tempted to put some of it behind his ears to see their reaction, but I forbid him to do this! I'm sure they thought we were mad to want to sprinkle it on our food.
Vinegar is a staple in all British households, fortunately, and has so many uses in the kitchen, especially for making marinades and sauces, including mint sauce, and for sprinkling over chips - probably its most popular use. It is also useful after cooking because it is great at removing food odours. Just a little dish placed in a corner of the kitchen will absorb any strong food smells.
Vinegar is something I couldn't do without, and Sarson's really is the best one you can buy.
I bought Sainsbury's Basics Milk Chocolate this morning when I was shopping. I was going to save the whole bar to share with my husband but then I found that it was already on Dooyoo so, of course, I had to review it, and, to review it, I've had to have three pieces of it.
I must admit I wasn't expecting much for a bar that costs just 27p for 100g but I am really surprised by how good it is. Of course, it's not in the same league as Hotel Chocolat or Thornton's but it's still very good.
The whole bar provides 504 calories so it's not the type of thing to eat every day. The nutritional information - on the front so it's very easy to find and read - says that a quarter of the bar contains 15.3g sugar, trace salt, 4.1g saturated fat and 6.5g fat. It also says it is suitable for vegetarians. On the back it tells you that the chocolate contains Cocoa Solids, 27% minimum, and Milk Solids, 14% minimum.
The packaging itself, as can be seen from the picture, is in Sainsury's own Basics range colourway - cream and orange. It just says 'Sainsbury's Basics' at the top, with Milk Chocolate in larger letters, underneath which it says 'no fancy packaging, just a good bar of chocolate', which it certainly is.
We usually treat ourselves to a bar of chocolate over the weekend. Until now, it has generally been Cadbury's Turkish Delight or Caramel, which is now at least £1.40 per bar. Of course, the bars are bigger than the Sainsbury's bars and you'd need two, but that still works out a lot cheaper.
The taste itself reminds me of Swiss chocolate; a little creamier than Cadbury's, but it's very tasty and melts in the mouth in just the same way. It's actually quite moreish and I am having to resist finishing the bar off, now.
I'm not sure if they do a dark chocolate version because the milk chocolate one was the only one I saw, but I definitely recommend it, especially for those who like a chocolate fix but feel guilty at paying for the well-known brands.
I am editing this review because I have just read some reviews for Sainsbury's Basics dark chocolate - I shall buy that the next time I go shopping and review it.
This is a programme I really like. I was so pleased that there was a Christmas special this year because, apart from the re-runs on satellite TV, the family have not been on our screens for a long time.
The script, by stars of the show, Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, is wonderful, as are the characters, and the actual idea of the programme is very original. Whoever would have thought that centering an entire series around a sofa in sitting room would be so entertaining?
The Royle family consists of Jim Royle, played by Ricky Tomlinson, his wife, Barb, played by the wonderful Sue Johnson, their lazy daughter, Denise (Caroline Aherne), their much put-upon son, Anthony (Ralf Little), and Nana (the incomparable Liz Smith), who often comes to stay. She is Barb's mother and gets on Jim's nerves most of the time.
The scene is set around the sofa in the sitting room; the family can be seen smoking constantly with the overflowing ashtray taking pride of place on the coffee table. The television is always on. The family either sit totally glued to it or talking during the boring bits but they never think to turn it off. The scene is further enhanced by the debris of a family who never seem to do anything other than watch the television. Washing can be seen on the radiators, loads of used cups and plates are on the coffee table, Jim sits in his chair - in the same awful yellow t-shirt - never moving except to go to the loo, but issuing orders to the others all the time. He really is quite disgusting and makes no effort to hide his bodily functions, even in company.
Barb, Denise, and her boyfriend, Dave, played by Craig Cash, sit bunched up together on the sofa, smoking and talking about not very much at all. Anthony seems to be the only one who does anything, yet the rest of the family keep implying that he's lazy.
This series was really popular when it first started, although there isn't really a plot, as such. It's just an observation of the life of a particular family but the script is wonderful and the characters are brilliantly portrayed.
The series ran to 22 episodes from 1998 to 2006 and had, besides all the comical moments, some very moving ones, such as the episode when Denise went into labour and spent the entire episode sat on the bathroom floor with her dad. It was beautifully acted.
The title music is 'Half the World Away' by Oasis, a song that will be forever linked with this wonderful and clever series.
I go through phases of watching The Weakest Link. I wish it was on at a different time because I am usually chained to the cooker when it's on.
However, I do like the programme when I get the chance to watch it. I've always enjoyed general knowledge quizzes, although some of the questions on The Weakest Link really are too easy and some very very hard. I suppose it's what you know that counts!
Anne Robinson is a great presenter. Should anything happen to her or she decides she no longer whats to present the programme, she will be a hard act to follow. I think she is the main reason for its success. I'm not sure I'd want to be a contestant, though - I'd hate to be asked to sing or something equally horrifying!
The format of the show is quite simple. It starts off with nine contestants, who each have to answer questions, one after the other. There is money to be won in each round which gets totalled at the end and forms the prize pot which only one of them will be able to win. During each round, the contestants are supposed to bank the money won for successful answers. They should say 'bank' before the next question is asked but most of them seem to forget that. Sometimes, at the end of a round, Anne will tell them how much they would have banked if they had remembered to say the magic word.
At the end of each round, all the contestants have to choose one contestant to vote off. If this is done fairly, the person who has the most wrong answers (the weakest link in the 'chain') gets voted off, but, quite often this part of the game gets very political. People will vote someone off if they don't like them, regardless of how valuable they are to the team. Even more selfishly, the person who has the most right answers (the strongest link) will get voted off because the contestants who see themselves with a chance of getting to the final don't want the competition. I find this very frustrating and wish that the contestants were not allowed to do this, especially when it gets to the final round and you just know that the best contestants should be there.
A total of £10,000 can be won with the maximum of scoring and 'banking' but, more often than not, the total prize money ends up somewhere between £1,000 and £3,000.
The banked money in the penulitmate round is always trebled and added to the total prize money. The last two contestants then go head to head, answering five questions each. This usually decides the winner but, in the event of a tie, they go for sudden death, the first contestant to answer a question correctly becoming the winner. The loser, as with all the original contestants, win nothing.
Anne Robinson can be very tough on some contestants, even going as far as to make quite personal comments about them. She has also been known to flirt outrageously with some of them, too. She is the ultimate Queen of the Put-Down and is very rarely beaten at her own game.
Now and again, they have a celebrity version of the game, with the winnings going to charity. I usually turn the television off whenever the word 'celebrity' is mentioned but The Weakest Link is always entertaining, whether the contestants are celebrities or 'real' people and the questions are very good for testing your own general knowledge.
I have just bought Double Velvet Toilet Tissue for the first time, mainly because it has been on offer in my local Savers at £1.87 for four rolls, plus 2 free. Until now I have always used Andrex. I'm reasonably pleased with the Double Velvet but find the start of each roll is a real pain, resulting in wasting the first few sheets and finding bits of tissue all over the floor. Andrex rolls are so much easier to start off! I had the same problem with Charmin rolls and it stopped me buying them again.
The Double Velvet is a little harder than Andrex but this doesn't seem to be a problem.
The product is made in the EU which means anywhere in Europe so hopefully, it's made in the UK. Seems ludicrous to have to import toilet rolls!
Each roll has an average of 200 sheets of 3-ply tissue, according to the blurb on the wrapper; each sheet is 120mm x 109mm, giving a total area of 15.70sqm and a minimum length per roll of 24.0m, not that I am about to test the specifications!
The perforations always work, unlike Andrex, so it's easy to tear the roll without tearing the sheets themselves. The sheets are well-constructed and seem to be tougher than Andrex but not uncomfortable to use; they are thicker, too, so less needs to be used. (What a delicate subject this is!).
I buy the Pure White toilet rolls. For some reason, I don't like coloured toilet tissue and white goes well with any colour scheme. The wrapper is in shades of blue with the current offer shown in orange and white. In the small print on the back of the wrapper, it says 'This polythene wrap is recyclable where facilities exist'.
I shall probably continue to buy Double Velvet while it is on special offer but, if the usual price is similar to Andrex, the fact that the rolls are hard to start off will not induce me to keep buying it.
I have been working my way through the selection box I received for Christmas and have just treated myself to the Cadbury's Caramel bar which, of course, was delicious. It went down very well with a cuppa.
The wrapper is mainly yellow with Caramel blazoned across it in Cadbury's distinctive blue lettering. There is a graphic which shows the traditional glass-and-a-half of milk being poured into chocolate and, underneath that, the words 'Be treatwise. Get to know your GDA'. This is asterisked and you learn on reading further that GDA refers to your 'Guideline Daily Amount of whatever the ingredients are; in this case it tells you that this one bar of chocolate will provide 225 calories, most of which comes from the sugars (22.9g - 24.4% of GDA) and saturates (6.5g - 32.5% of GDA), so it's not the healthiest of snacks!
Each piece is a delicious combination of Cadbury's great-tasting milk chocolate wrapped around the lovely golden, gooey, almost sickly-sweet caramel interior. It's the sort of chocolate that deserves time to eat slowly and should not be rushed. For this reason, it can be quite filling.
All of Cadbury's products are, in my opinion, excellent. They really do know how to make good chocolate. This is a real treat of a bar and I could find nothing about it to complain about.
The bar is marked into six segments which break off easily
My Pyrex jug is one of the most useful things in my kitchen. I actually don't think I could manage without it because I use it every day.
Pyrex is one of the most durable materials on the planet; I still have, and use, the Pyrex casserole dishes I received as a wedding present over thirty years ago.
I bought my measuring jug about four years ago; my old Pyrex one had lost most of its markings over time and, when I saw them in Sainsbury's, still at such reasonable prices, I decided to treat myself.
The jug has every single quantity mark and measurement that you could possible want, all imprinted in red, which stands out on the glass and makes it very easy to read. The whole jug is made in one piece so it feels safe to handle, and you don't have to worry about whether the handle is about to fall off. The handle itself is is shaped to make it easy to use, the jug pours without spilling and splashing, and is very easy to clean, either in the dishwasher or by hand. It is heat-resistant to 300C degrees so you don't need to worry about it cracking, even when boiling liquid is poured into it.
This particular jug holds 1 pint or half a litre, both easily marked on it. The pint has graded measurements from 2fl. ozs. right up to the one pint mark, in 2fl. oz. stages, and the half litre is measured in 100mls. Unlike lots of other makes of measuring jugs, the Pyrex jug has the markings on both sides, ideal if you happen to be left-handed.
My Pyrex jug cost me around £1.70 from Sainsbury's - a steal at the price, and I thoroughly recommend it.
This is my recipe for a delicious stew, ideal for a freezing cold day like today. I prepared all the ingredients this morning before I went to work and the stew is now bubbling away on the hob, making me feel really hungry.
MIOLIERE'S BEEF STEW
To serve four
11b stewing steak, cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 large carrots, scrubbed and sliced
2 leeks, sliced
1 large courgette, sliced
1 stick celery, chopped
6 large mushrooms, sliced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
Quarter teaspoon sugar
Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs
Seasoning - in my case Natco's Indian Chicken Seasoning (49p for a large sachet which lasts ages and enhances the flavour of any meat dish)
4ozs self-raising flour
A large saucepan.
First of all, cook the onions with the garlic until slightly soft, add the beef and brown on all sides. Stir in an Oxo cube and cook for a further minute, then add the potatoes, followed by all the other prepared vegetables. Leave them all frying in the saucepan for five minutes, then add the hot stock, adding more hot water if required. Add to this the seasoning, herbs, bay leaf (torn to release the oils), sugar and half a teaspoon of Marmite (this adds a real 'bite' to the flavour).
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water when necessary, for around 3 - 4 hours. Around half an hour before serving, add the dumplings, made as follows:
Mix the flour and suet in a mixing bowl and, using a knife, gradually add small amounts of cold water; keep mixing with the knife and, eventually, it will all bind together into one large ball. (Using the knife method prevents you getting your hands messy; it works very well when making pastry, too). Using floured hands, take small pieces of the mixture and roll into balls. Add to the stew carefully and carry on cooking.
Served with crusty bread rolls, this makes the perfect meal to have at the end of a cold winter's day. It is a cheap and quick to make, if you prepare all the ingredients in one go. Doubling the quantities will make an extra meal to go in the freezer or, as I do, to serve a couple of days later. For some unknown reason, a home-made stew tastes even better the second time around.
Using vegetables in season and cheaper cuts of meat, like stewing steak or shin or beef (which are excellent for long slow cooking), keeps the price of the stew down.
Well, I have eaten three things from my Cadbury's selection box. I've reviewd the Fudge, eaten the Buttons but forgot to save the wrapper so will have to buy another packet to review them, but I have just eaten the Flake - as an excuse for a review, obviously.
Flake, in my opinion, is one of Cadbury's best inventions because it is so, well, chocolatey. Cadbury's have never changed the colour of the wrapper so it is easily hunted down in the sweet shop. The wrapper is bright yellow with the word 'Flake' written on it in blue lettering and the legend 'The Crumbliest Flakiest Milk Chocolate' written underneath. (I'm sure that on the TV adverts it expands this to include the words '...in the world'). There probably isn't another chocolate bar as flaky as this one.
The chocolate is typical of Cadbury's reliable quality and taste, and simply melts in the mouth in a way that can only be described as sensual.
Each Flake bar provides 170 calories - a little fattening, I suppose, but delicious all the same. The 17.7g sugar content is quite high as is the fat at 9.9g, of which 6.1g is saturates; the salt content is less alarming at .09g.
The only drawback to this chocolate bar is that it can be messy to eat because it really is flaky. Apart from enjoying it as soon as the pack is opened, one of the best bits about eating a Flake is finding out how much is left at the bottom of the pack, when you hold it up and tip the remaining contents down your throat, trying not to spill any.
As well as being an excellent chocolate treat, Cadbury's Flake is very versatile in the kitchen. It can be added to any suitable cake recipe, melted down as a coating for home-made sweets, crumbled over an iced sponge cake, added to yoghurt and, best of all, placed into the top of an icecream cone to make the original '99 - one Flake bar can turn three cones into '99s, so it is not that expensive for such a delicious treat.
All in all, Cadbury's Flake is one of my favourite bars of chocolate.
I just have the Caramel bar to eat now but I shall try and save that for another day.