While I’m trying really hard not to empty the contents of my fridge directly into my mouth every evening, there’s no avoiding the fact that I’m now eating for two with a supercharged appetite. Combine this with the amount of things that need done in the house before the baby arrives and my packed work schedule and I’m finding more excuses to eat out. Hurrah (except not so good for my clothes fitting).

Feeling rather hard done to that my weekend highlight was nailing two loads of washing before 10am on a Sunday, I was treated to a surprise Sunday night curry last night and took a trip to a place previously reviewed on the blog Haveli. You can find my previous post on the place here. I’m never too sure how often to post updates on places we’ve reviewed because if we like a place we inevitably head back fairly frequently. However with Haveli being a little out of our way over in Ponteland, we’ve not had the chance to head back since our last visit. My constant suggestion that we should pay the place a return visit seemed to make an impact on Sunday afternoon when exhausted from serious Sunday over-productivity, I put the other half in charge of sourcing the tea.

Since our last visit Haveli has bagged itself a recommendation in the Michelin guide, which didn’t surprise us considering how much we enjoyed the food on our last visit. It’s also added some Paleo menu choices, including cauliflower rice that fellow Slimming Worlders may be interested in but I was too hungry to consider carb cutting.

When we arrived around 5 minutes late for our booking we found quite a few tables were busy but not packed. Haveli is in a bit of a strange spot but the decor inside makes eating there seem more of an occasion. We were asked to wait in the bar area when we arrived and promptly took a seat. I must say we were a little disappointed to be waiting to be seated at our table for 25 minutes, particularly as we had to ask for the drinks menu. As I’d dressed up for the occasion and remembered having a rather lovely cocktail on our last visit I chose a Garden Fresh Virgin Mojito (£4.95) to get things started. This was a lovely accompaniment to my curry when we were seated – a refreshing mix of elderflower, cucumber, apple and lime. It looked lovely too.


IMG_2611I’ve not edited the photos from last night at all – the food really was as colourful and the lights as lovely as they look. As we waited so long to be seated, we were actually a little bit pushed for time when it came to ordering, so we skipped starters and went straight to the main courses. On a bit of a side note, we thought the menus were looking a little worn – probably because the place is so popular but with the classy restaurant vibe they are trying to promote it might be time to have them replaced.

I’m not eating as much meat these days so I chose the Shahi Palak Paneer (£7.50) and Mr Fables had the Railway Lamb Curry (£12.95). We added a side of keema naan and a basmati pilau, though I can’t seem to find the former on the online menu. After our surprise wait to be seated we were a little apprehensive about not ordering some nibbles but the food actually came out extraordinarily quickly, within 5 minutes I’d say.

It didn’t take long for the ‘mmm-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’ to begin. The lamb in the coconut curry sauce was melt in the mouth, a fairly mild sauce with the occasional surprise chilli. My spinach sauce was creamy and moreish but with a surprising spice level, this wasn’t the mild, bland curry that paneer and spinach can sometimes be. It’s the extra finishing touches that show that Haveli consider how flavours will work together – sweet fried onions topping the rice were a delight alongside my spinach sauce and the keema in the naan had its own distinct flavour too. Best of all, our choices complemented each other well and Mr Fables actually exclaimed he might be tempted to order more vegetarian sides from now on.

With a couple of extra soft drinks our bill came to around £44, which is certainly more than our local curry house but the food at Haveli was well worth making a trip for. The few little niggles on arrival didn’t impact too much on our evening, except to maybe stop us from eating even more and as we didn’t really have room for dessert that may not have been a bad thing. Thanks Haveli for not disappointing! Now, can you open somewhere a little closer to us please?

There are few things I like more than food but I freaking love my little Snuffle Chops. Last year I quit my job to go freelance so I could get a dog and I’m so glad I did because now I can’t imagine life without this little ball of fun and fur, Ruby.

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A conversation between myself and Emma over at Ohgoshem recently led to me trying out something different, which was a little off the topic of food and all about fun times for Ruby. We set up a parcel exchange for dogs with owners sending tailored packages through the post. You can read more about #poochpackage in my original post here and read about all the packages in Emma’s blog post.

I was matched with the lovely Anna and Beatrix from Tea with Miss Beatrix and quickly got looking for ideas and started a board of doggy treats over on Pinterest, which I’ve been adding lots of things to since. In the end I was a bit pushed for time as I was ill for a few days, so we made these banana, carob and peanut butter dog treats.I wanted to get something fun and fancy to send over too. Luckily I had a discount code for Dogandpupstore where I purchased a few edible treats, a toy and some snazzy shampoo, because all dogs, no matter how classy, seem to love to roll in things they shouldn’t during the summer months.

I had wanted to buy Bea some of her favourite dog treats but they were out of them in Waitrose when I visited, boo! Instead I bought some more practical fresh breath treats. And, what better buy for Beatrix than some actual tea? We chose this one from Woof and Brew, which is supposed to promote a healthy coat. We added some Scooby Snacks to the package too, which we bought in bulk off Amazon a while back, we call them Ruby Snacks in this house and have used them for training Ruby ever since she was a teeny tiny puppy.I popped a toy in the hamper too – a Pink Becothings Becoball in medium as Bea is a little bigger than Ruby and some Animology Fox Poo Shampoo, just in case Bea trudges through anything nasty when fetching her ball.

Because we were told Bea likes shredding paper, we wrapped everything in tissue paper and popped it into a little hamper before posting. We thought Beatrice would have fun sniffing the hamper before tucking in! Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the hamper (oops) but I was very pleased to get this lovely thank you from Anna a few days later by email:

“Just wanted to say a big thank you for Bea’s pooch package. I missed the post so collected it on Saturday and she loves it! She’s already enjoyed a bowl of tea (great idea!), decided to keep the ball in her bed, and shared some scooby snacks and the yummy homemade treats with her young collie cousin, Enzo.
We loved how you packaged it all up too, and she had a great time opening everything.”

Ruby absolutely loved opening her package from Anna and Bea, which had two toys in that quickly became favourites – a squeaky donut and a purple squeaky elephant. There were lots of doggy treats for her to snaffle too. Here she is opening the package and playing with one of her toys.

You can see some of the other parcels as they appeared on Instagram here. If you took part, please share links or photos to your efforts below and if you have any good recipes for homemade treats I should be pinning on my Pinterest board to make for Ruby, let me know. Her birthday is coming up soon, so she’s due some extra spoiling!

I’m prone to Mariah Carey outbreaks from early November onwards and though I never need much of an excuse to commence mulling, I start to take spicing my drinks rather too seriously once December arrives. Since I’ve been working seven-day weeks lately  I feel like I’ve not quite managed to get into the full festive swing of things just yet.

Thankfully, there have been one or two nights of Christmassy-ness including an evening spent sampling the Christmas menu at Sohe and sinking more of their delicious cocktails, the devouring of an Aldi festive feast prepared by Jean Cristophe Novelli, which took place at the extremely festively decorated Jesmond Dene House (up on the blog soon). Finally, there have also been a few hours spent experimenting with some fun ingredients from the M&S Christmas range and getting a little tipsy in the process.

When I do finally throw myself into a full Christmas bonanza, I’ll definitely be making more of the items developed during the course of that M&S evening. The night itself was fuelled by plenty of rum along with some samples donated by M&S for review. Rather than eating everything directly out of the jar with a spoon (which I must admit we’ve been doing a fair bit of since) we decided to explore additional Christmassy potential by turning the goods into some of the key components of the season: boozy drinks and desserts.

We started with this little lot of goodies:Festive goodies from M&S

As you can see, we were working with brandy butter, crystallised stem ginger curd, raisins in dark rum syrup, peaches in brandy syrup and mulled fruit tea. And here’s what we created…

Peach tarte tatin

Peach tarte tatin with brandy caramel and vanilla

Method:  drain syrup from peaches and reduce until golden(add lemon if you fancy) add 2 tbsp of brandy butter add peaches and vanilla cover with puff pastry, tuck in the edges and bake for 20mins. Turn out from tin and decorate with vanilla. Serves 4-6.

Hot buttered rum

Hot brandy buttered rum with raisins

Method: combine a tsp butter, tbsp of raisins, 25ml dark rum and 125ml hot water (small cup), serve immediately.

Mulled jelly

M&S Mulled fruit tea jelly with forest fruit

Method: add1 tea bag, 300ml hot water and tsp sugar or some sweetner to 2 sheets gelatine. soak gelatine in cold water for 5 mins first, make tea and add soaked gelatine to fridge to set. We also added a spoonful of frozen winter berries. Serves 2.

Ginger curd creme brulee

Creme brulee topped with M&S crystlised stem ginger curd

Method: follow vanilla brulee recipe before topping with ginger curd and a few raisins. Our torch was out of action so we ended up eating these as set custards, they were still pretty yummy. The curd is amazing on toast and has made it’s way into a cocktail or two since.

Buttered rum is fast rivalling mulled wine as my favourite festive drink – it’s incredibly simple to make but smells super Christmassy and you can make it as boozy as you like, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be downing around a dozen on Boxing Day!

As a restaurant-bar combining an Asian fusion menu with a serious cocktail selection, Sohe was always going to attract my attention and I was pretty darn delighted when I was invited along to the place a few weeks ago to sample their wares for myself. Unfortunately, on the cold, dark, evening in question I was reminded, as I am from time to time, that atmospherically-lit restaurants and iPhone photography are not the ideal match. Our table, lovely as it was in the middle of the room, was not well lit – or lit at all really and so I’ve taken the decision not to include or review the food at Sohe in this post. The food itself was good – the favourite of what we ate being the crispy beef salad starter – but what really shone on our first visit were the cocktails and these photographed slightly better, so I’ve decided to focus a little on those instead.

While I don’t pretend to be a cocktail aficionado, I am in the lucky position of having a boyfriend who happens to be a pretty good maker of cocktails (i’d say great but his head will explode), so I do think I can recognise a well-made beverage. As I’ve grown older I’ve also firmly moved away from my student days of drinking whatever happens to be on offer into the more mature (but often more drunkeness inducing) habit of selecting just a few good drinks to see out my evening. You’d think this would make it easy to tell you about the drinks we had on that first visit to Sohe and a good blogger would definitely have written down the name of the cocktails consumed, so on this occasion I must admit to having been a very bad blogger indeed. I do remember sipping quite a lot of a Wor Lassie, which incidentally was what my dining partner had ordered for himself but the pineapple+gin+mango combo made it the perfect dessert choice and jealousy led to me stealing more than my fair share. Here’s what we ordered first time round (the photographs of which are the best of our first Sohe visit by far).

Admittedly, these shots are not my finest photography moment but the cocktails themselves were impressive, so much so that we decided to pop back to Sohe the following week just for drinks, when we were lucky enough to catch the bar manager, Amy, in action. I should point out that on our second visit Amy had no idea that I was a blogger but she totally blew us away with her cocktails and her customer service. Just as a true mixologist should, she was able to recommend drinks based on the first drinks we chose and descriptions of flavours we like and she even went a little off menu to please our palates. We didn’t photograph many of the drinks we had that night because it soon became clear that Sohe is just not made for photography – the venue itself is beautiful but the dim lighting makes it impossible to take good photos with my below par smartphone, so until I upgrade to something a little more fancy schmancy I only have the following photos to serve up.

Now, I’m embarrassingly going to say I can’t remember the name of the dreamy selection on the left, which featured some lovely Japanese Choya, on the right was a special creation finished with a little dragonfruit. The star of the evening however was a non-photographed gin cocktail that featured a fizzy sherbet finish.

While I’m obviously not imparting much wisdom to you here by forgetting the names of the cocktails, I’m pretty confident that should you venture into Sohe they will be able to fix you up a drink that’s just what you wanted. In the meantime, check out the cocktail menu, I’m fairly confident you’ll find your new favourite on it!

 

Even before I openly admitted my food obsession I found supermarkets and other people’s food shops superbly interesting. I don’t tend to buy weekly women’s magazines but if I do I skip straight to the page where you get to look in someone else’s fridge and whenever I visit a new country I spend an unhealthy amount of time pacing around supermarkets, foraging in food sections of department stores and walking round local markets snooping on what other people are buying.

While this post doesn’t quite equate to a sneaky peek inside my fridge it does give a bit of insight into what happens when I’m allowed to run riot in a supermarket  – if you can count wandering round the superbly accomodating wide aisles of Waitrose under that particularly heading. Waitrose got in touch recently to ask if I fancied upgrading my usual weekly shop to an organic one in celebration of September being Organic September and if I’d share the results of the experiment with them. Here’s what I picked up:

  • 1 bar of Green & Blacks chocolate
  • 2 x 400g Duchy originals lean beef mince
  • 2 x Duchy originals salmon fillets
  • 1 bag of organic green lentils
  • 1 bag of organic red lentils
  • 2 x multipacks of organic peppers
  • 1 x organic beer
  • 4 x organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x Rachel’s organic greek yoghurt
  • organic tomato puree
  • 1 x bag of organic carrots
  • 1 x bag of organic onions
  • one dozen organic eggs
  • 2 x Duchy originals chipolata sausages
  • 1 x organic milk
  • 1 x block of organic mature cheese
  • 2 x packets of organic vine tomatoes

I’ll be honest and say I’ve not yet managed to munch my way through this massive mound of food and unfortunately the photographs of the meals I transformed it into are not among my best. Here’s what I’ve eaten so far:

I think I eat pretty healthily generally – my diet is largely made up of fruit, veg and fish and meat a few nights a week because I don’t like to buy cheap meat and I’m lucky enough to get a good whack of veggies from Pa Berg’s allotment. I also only buy free range eggs because I can’t bear to think of unhappy chickens. I’m no saint but I do love good rustic comfort food (which usually comes rustically prepared because I’m a lazy chopper). I wasn’t therefore expecting to notice too much of a difference in the taste of the organic food, despite recent research showing it has more antioxidants. Observations so far are that the mince and bread were among the best I’ve bought from a supermarket  – I was genuinely surprised at how good the mince tasted. It went far too – making a huge cottage pie bulked out with a potato and butter bean mash, alongside several delicious portions of bolognese.

So, will I be making the move to organic? I don’t think my budget would allow me to full time and I think Pa Berg would be personally affronted if I started sourcing my veg elsewhere full time but I’ll definitely be considering upgrading my meat from now on, even if it means padding things out with a few pulses.