Recommendations

Nutribullet mania

I went to San Francisco on a vegetarian tasting trip with Marks and Spencer in May (I wrote about it for the Daily Telegraph here) It was to look at the latest veggie trends coming out of the city that boasts more veggie restaurants than any other in the world. The whole weekend was one of those pinch-me-I-must be dreaming kind of times, as not only was I trying lots of amazing new foods and flavours, I was doing so in one of the coolest places in the world. It was there that I drunk my first vegetable juice. It felt like a milestone, like I had lost my juicing virginity and was about to become a nymphomaniac. I have never looked back – on the juice, not the sex – and now juice vegetables every day. I know. So new age! I did a talk at google earlier this year and one of the organisers told me about how obsessed they were with the Nutribullet – it is basically a mini blender that juices fruit and veg whilst leaving all the roughage and goodness in. I filed it away in the recesses of my brain and when I got back from San Fran, I rushed to Robert Dyas to buy one. On paper, it doesn’t sound particularly ground breaking, but I have gone from struggling to eat five a day to drinking five-a-day before breakfast. And yes I am smug. It is easy to use and even easier to wash (the blending is done in a cup with a handle = less washing up). Every day is now started with two handfuls of spinach, a handful...

Cherry, cherry baby

Cherry stoner. What a lovely phrase. Is it a) a medieval fruit-propelling catapult? b) someone who gets high on cherries? or c) a gadget that no kitchen should be with out? The answer is c, although b sounds like fun too!   Stay with me…. I am a gadget lover, but I am also a ruthless thrower outer, a decluttering Queen. No gizmo that doesn’t pass the muster lasts long in my kitchen drawers. But this stoner – which takes the stones out of your cherries quickly and perfectly is extremely handy if you have a lot of cherries to get through, for  baking a cherry pie or clafoutis, say, and don’t fancy cracking any teeth on errant stones.   I have a cherry tree and so bought my cherry stoner when I was fed up of massacring beautiful fresh cherries, when cutting them in half to de-stone them. It takes about 3 seconds per cherry and if you get the angle right, removes the cherry‘s stone with almost surgical precision.  I know you can only use it for about one week of the year, but Nigella swears by hers, they only cost abut £2 and take up no room at all. If you want to see one in action took a look here at this film we made for our YouTube channel. It is part of a new series, dubbed tired and tested – testing gadgets so you don’t have to. Night night. xx  ...

San Francisco dining

I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco over the weekend purely to eat and then write about it. It was a welcome change of cooking for a family and it was just as well that the children weren’t there, because all I ate was vegetables. And grains. And more vegetables. Kale-lover that I am, I was in heaven.

Top Bananas! The Mumsnet cook book is here!

We started writing the Mumsnet cookbook in summer 2012. Yes, that long ago and we have been marking down the days until the book came out. And now that day is here. Top bananas! That’s not only how we feel, but the book’s title too. Ottolenghi is a fan. Swoon. He says the book is “reliable, useful and most importantly completely delicious!”

The No Junk Challenge

I always thought we ate really well as a family. Most of our meals are prepared from scratch and I know – or thought I did – what is healthy and what isn’t. But when I sat down to analyse (get me!) what the four of us actually ate, compared to what I thought we ate, guess what? I wasn’t as Gwyneth Paltrow as I thought.

Review: Burford Garden Company, off the A40

You know you’ve crossed a rubicon when your idea of a great time is not an all-day drinking session at the pub, but a trip to the garden centre. The promise of all those hardy perennials, wooden bird houses and neat rows of homemade chutneys, is enough to make me do a u-turn on the A40.I discovered the Burford Garden Company when holidaying in the Cotswolds about four years ago and have been back many times since. It is half way between Oxford and Cheltenham on the A40 to London and, thus, the perfect pitstop. Children like garden centres. At least mine do. They like playing amongst the plants, decapitating the daisies and running like maniacs up and down the aisles dodging customers trying to have a quiet time.The Burford Garden Company is well above your common-or-garden. There is a kids shop that sells traditional wooden toys (although in keeping with this postcode, pocket-money won’t stretch far), an outdoor play area and a kitchen garden. It is not all smoke and mirrors though and serious gardeners will approve too. The nursery is four decades old and sells everything from tomato plants to rare Clematis.There is much for little eyes – Romany gypsy caravans filled with flowers, playhouses for hide and seek and an exciting array (yes, really!) of chicken coops and rabbit hutches. It keeps my two occupied for hours. Sod Alton Towers.Inside there is an award-winning café run by Diarmuid Rogan, from Daylesford Organic Café (just up the road) and he tries to use local produce when he can. It opens at nine (11 on a Sunday) and...

Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

by the brilliant blogger Hello, it’s Gemma Service stations in the UK don’t really cut it. As a stop on a long journey they present uninspiring overpriced food and almost no space for children to stretch their legs before being stuffed back into a full-to-bursting car for the next however-many miles. Veering off route towards unfamiliar cities presents a gamble, a confusion of one way systems and unfamiliar landscape. Where to start finding space and good food? Should your route take you via South Yorkshire on the M1.  Consider a stop in Sheffield. Leave the motorway behind and enjoy some time with the locals. There is a gem not far from the A61 ring road. Just off the A625, one of the main roads through the city. Endcliffe Park has plenty of local parking and is a great space to stop for an hour or more. Sheffield is very proud of it’s open spaces and parks, and this one has all the elements of a great park. Victorian in origin, it has ponds, streams and wooded areas to explore.  An excellent and recently designed children’s play area but particularly it has a quality cafe. Bang in the middle of the park it sells reliable cafe staples. Fair-trade coffees and teas.  Beans on toast (thick toast not weedy sliced bread). Locally sourced sausages.  Homemade burgers or pies. Big bowls of chips. Sandwiches made with fresh thick bread; reliable faves likes tuna mayo. Jacket potatoes. The sort of menu you can’t go wrong with with something to please everyone. I don’t eat meat and there are always good vegetarian alternatives.  The prices...

Steff’s Kitchen, Beaulieu, Hampshire

Mr McDonald writes: “Lunch in a garden centre near a motoring museum, anyone? Anyone?…Hello? No, sounds like one of the most soulless food experiences the country has to offer, doesn’t it? Perhaps dismal enough to drive you into the smiling, floury arms of Toby, the Toby Carvery front man whose ruddy face leers down at you with alarming regularity around the Dorset/ Hampshire borders. Consign any pre-conceptions to the compost heap though, if you happen to be passing through Beaulieu (pronounced “Bewley”) and are lucky enough to find Steff’s.Steff’s is at the Fairweather Garden Centre – “Beaulieu’s Hidden Gem”. It is indeed hidden – set back off the far end of Beaulieu’s main street and, at first glance, both miniscule and closed. Fortunately, it’s gem-like qualities become obvious as soon as you venture past the front door. The space opens out into an inviting kitchen and dining room spilling into a back garden with well-spaced tables, sweet little birds scavenging for scraps and – wait for it – a childrens’ play area. This last is a small but perfectly formed offering, our children disappeared into it and, uncharacteristically, played completely self-sufficiently until the food arrived. It’s also covered and therefore all-weather; these people know what they are doing.And that, thankfully, extends to the food. The poached duck egg salad (£6.95) delivered a perfectly cooked egg wobbling on a pile of crispy lardons and leaves from Patrick’s Patch. Some tremendous baked ham and homemade piccalilli were the highlight of a Ploughman’s lunch. The kids had a delicious cheese omelette (make sure you try it to “check it’s cooled down enough”)...

The UK’s best places to eat with kids

View The UKs best places to eat with kids in a larger map So school is over.  And so, for the moment, is the rain. Maybe it’s finally time to get a bit excited about summer? Whether it’s camping, renting a cottage with friends or days out in the countryside, the chances are you’re going to see a bit of Britain over the next few weeks. Shall we try and make sure it’s the nice bit? Not the bit that involves manky service stations, meltdowns, and £27.50 for a mediocre snack on the M25.That’s the aim of this listing. We’re going to try and come up with great places for you and your kids to hang out. Whether it’s a stop-off on the long drive to Cornwall, or somewhere to go if it’s raining and you’re at your wits end. The places on this map should do the trick. Click on the knife and fork icons to discover: Decent food for a decent price? Check. Something for the kids? Check. That doesn’t mean neon loos and grown ups dressed to look like animals? Check.But our recommendations are limited (although we’ll add to this map throughout the summer) and what we really need is a little help from our friends. That’s you, by the way. Where do you know that you’d like to recommend? It could be somewhere local, or somewhere you’ve been to while away. Then write a review on your blog and put a linky with the url below. We’ll then put your recommendation on this lovely Google map, and tweet about it to our friends. If you don’t...

The Mayflower, Lymington

By Helen McGinn, aka Knackered Mothers’ Wine ClubFor years we didn’t eat out. Years. Pre-children we practically lived in city gastro-pubs. The ones where a small bowl of olives, a plate of bread and some dipping oil costs more than an entire meal for five now that we live in the middle of bloody nowhere. Yes, we upped sticks and moved to the, er, sticks. More truthfully, we followed the free childcare and moved near the grandparents. And there are lots of very good things about having done this, not least the very reasonable prices that you can feed a family of five for around here. And that, going back to my point, was the reason we didn’t eat out for so long. Dining out with small children can be such a painful waste of money when so much of it ends up on the table/floor/in siblings’ ears. But now, with a few years on them, we’ve started venturing out again and have found we are surrounded with good child-friendly places in the New Forest. One of my favourites is The Mayflower in Lymington. There’s the cry of gulls, the clang of halyards (boat rigging to normal folk) and the unmistakable smell of salt in the air. Or perhaps that’s my plate of chips. Anyway, The Mayflower is geared up to keep families happy, with a huge outdoor (secured, very important) garden – and playground! – and a huge menu. The food is simple, but you feel you are getting value for money. There are sandwiches, salads, jackets, fish of the day, curries, pasta, nachos, local sausages and more....

Pythouse Kitchen Garden, Wiltshire

By Claire, CrumbsWas I dreaming? Or were my children frolicking? Was the sun really shining? Did I actually have a delectable lamb-burger in front of me AND the time/spare hand I needed to eat it? I did and it wasn’t a dream. How do I know? Well, many reasons, the main being that I’m not MAD and can work out the difference between wakefulness and sleep. But also because my dreams are never that good – normally my teeth fall out. If this had been a dream I would have discovered that in actual fact I was naked.Instead I was fully clothed and sitting in the bucolic setting of Pythouse Kitchen Garden, an outdoor cafe set in the Wiltshire countryside. It’s idyllic and perfect for a family lunch if you’re staying somewhere locally or even worth a detour if you’re not – it’s perfect if you’re heading west from London. The kitchen garden is walled and full of raspberries (pick-your-own), beetroot, potatoes and other beautiful British fare. This is then cooked and sold in the cafe.We’ve been a couple of times and each time have eaten most of what’s available.  Last time we went the sun was shining and all was well with the world. We set ourselves down in stylishly distressed garden furniture and ordered while the children ran off to frolic on the grass, in the shade of gnarly apple trees, alongside picturesquely growing chives and inside prettily painted wooden cabins filled with toys.The time we visited before that it was pelting it down, but a canopied area set against the building (an old potting shed) kept...

M Shed, Bristol

by Tara King, The Hanwell Nest If you were to judge a café by the quality of their flapjacks the M-Shed cafe would score full marks. These are flapjacks to be proud of. Not weedy Lego Duplo-sized snacks, but chunky, oaty, crumbly flapjacks that are neither too sweet or buttery. I shouldn’t skip straight to the treats though as the main courses are healthy, wholesome and delicious too. A generous plate of mixed salads including lentils and sundried tomatoes, couscous and fresh herbs, costs just £4.50. Also on the menu are homemade quiches with salad for £6.95 or a choice of hot paninis and sandwiches. My boys wolfed down a bowl of homemade tomato and basil pasta and a kids’ explorer box which contains a sandwich, fruit, crisps and drink, is great value at £3.90. The homemade salmon goujons for kids look great too.  Café décor is warm and contemporary with wooden floors, benches and chairs in a large airy space, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the docks. After the mains, as the boys happily watched all the action out on the docks, we sipped steamy strong lattes served in large mugs and stashed flapjacks for later. I haven’t had a flapjack as good since and it’s given me just one extra reason to pop back to M Shed next time I’m in Bristol. Like Bristol, the M Shed is an unpretentious, creative and eclectic place. Set on the dockside, this one year old museum tells the story of the history of the city. It’s an engaging and fun place to visit, packed with memorabilia, artefacts and oddities from the city. With 3,000...

The Crumbs Family Cook

Crumbs Screen Shot "The Crumbs Family Cook book has arrived and brings with it quick, unpretentious recipes and a relaxed, guilt-free message" - The Times

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