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New Covent Garden Food Co. Tennessee Pulled Pork & Bean Soup 03/03/2015

American Soul food...from South London

New Covent Garden Food Co. Tennessee Pulled Pork & Bean Soup With soup, for me, there's two options: Make it myself or The New Covent Garden Food Co. In most instances making it yourself is the more economical of the two options, but with some of the more exotic soups with a lot of ingredients, I think NCG soups work out at excellent value. NCG have a 'Classic' line of soups, a 'Skinny' line for those watching the waistline, and the 'Soups of the World' in which the best ones live, including this Tennessee Pulled Pork & Bean. Pulled Pork seems to be one of the foods of the moment, from sandwiches to steakhouses, it seems to be one everyone's menu and it's delicious so I completely understand why. What I don't understand is why it took so long to get into my consciousness?! NCG team the pulled pork up with smoked paprika & chipotle chilli, Worcester sauce, tomatoes and red kidney beans to create this gorgeous soup inspired by American 'Soul Food.' The chunky nature of the soup means it really is a meal itself and unlike some soup is very satisfying both in flavour and fillupability. (yep it's a word, I think) Being largely tomato based a bowl contain 2 or your 5 a day and it's got quite a nice looking nutritional information chart too: calories per serving : 111 fat: 2.7g / 0.9 saturates salt: 1.1g Flavourwise, it's got heaps. It's very tomatoey so great if you're like me who despite having a varied taste in food keeps going back to tomato soup as a life long favourite. The pulled pork is quite fine so don't expect heaps of chunky ...

Paco Rabanne Black XS Pour Elle Eau de Toilette 01/03/2015

Want to smell like drug taking, vodka swilling teenager?

Paco Rabanne Black XS Pour Elle Eau de Toilette I was first given this perfume by a close friend of mine a long time ago and instantly it was clear why she picked this for me. A gorgeous dark pinky red bottle with a black top embossed with a rose and Black XS in a gothic scrawl. It very me. Aside from the look, I think buying a perfume as a gift is a bit risky as it's such a personal thing, but this time she'd got it right on looks and smell and it soon became 'my' fragrance. Black XS is a heady aroma. Described by the makers as having tamarind flower and cranberries, heartnotes of hellebore and black violet and a base note of black vanilla. I'm including this information for those of you that may be able to conjure up in idea of this whiff from that waffle, but to be honest it means nothing to me. When I smell perfumes it's quite simple: initially there's two categories: like it and don't like it. From the ones I like, I then split them into day and night. I prefer to wear, lighter fruitier smells in the day and headier richer smells at night. Notes, I thought were something you took at meetings or used to tell a pianist which key to hit. Black XS is my go to 'going out' perfume...or it least it has been but I'll get to that in a minute. Perfume adverts are generally over long, over cinematic and over sexy but one thing all of them seem to touch one is how a smell can so strongly evoke a memory more than any other sense. When I put on Black XS, I think of a specific group of friends and some great nights out. ...

South Devon Chilli Farm Drinking Chocolate 25/02/2015

HOT chocolate

South Devon Chilli Farm Drinking Chocolate The South Devon Chilli Farm are a company I've come to know through food fayres and farm shops but have never actually visited. Luckily you don't have to wait for the next food market to come to town or trek down to the South West as all their gorgeous hot products are available online including this rather tasty chilli hot chocolate. Unlike most 'instant' hot chocolate which come in powder form, this is simply a bag of the SDCF's chilli milk chocolate finely grated. The ingredients list is reassuringly short: 99% Dark Chocolate (of which is 50.7 cocoa solids), 1% Dried Chilli. The reservation I had from a company which specialise in chilli is that the quality of the chocolate might not be the priority here. For research purposes only I tried a bit of the chocolate alone. Thankfully it's delicious. At 50.7% cocoa solids it's not the purest of dark chocolates, however the higher milk content probably helps with the melting and given the chilli addition I think it helps that the chocolate is a little sweeter. The 1% of chilli is listed as 'dried Devon grown chilli.' Given that the SDCF grow a huge variety of chillis it would be nice to know which variety is in here. Making the drink couldn't be simpler. As the flakes are so fine, you simply stir the into hot milk and it melts in. Easy peasy. The quantity needed is really down to personal taste. Helpfully the back of the pack tells you to use 3 or 4 tablespoons and stir into hot milk. Not so helpfully, it doesn't tell you how ...

Garmin NÜVI 2595LMT 06/02/2015

Sidney can't pronounce anything, but he knows where he's going

Garmin NÜVI 2595LMT What's the point of a Sat Nav? There's a real difference of opinion in our family over sat navs. My mum is of the opinion that you shouldn't use one because you'll never truly learn any routes if you're told where to go all the time, and much of the time they take you a roundabout way anyway. My partner's parents put their sat nav on all the time – even locally to places they go all the time. Maybe they really do never learn the routes, or more that it's simply become habit. I was torn over the matter. Usually on an unfamiliar journey, I'd look it up and scribble some notes down before setting off, couple that with intuition and sign reading and I should get to where I was going. I then had an incident driving to Dorset where I found myself at a junction I was not expecting and subsequently went quite a long way in the wrong direction. This led to an 1 ½ hour detour, a mini breakdown and an overwhelming urge to be the proud owner of a sat nav. While I agree with my Mum's stance to a point, what a sat nav can do is put you back on the right path when you've gone wrong and that can save a great deal of time, petrol and sanity. Choosing the Garmin There are so many different models and brands of Sat Navs out there that it was hard to know where to start. I decided to jot down the things I wanted it to do and go from there. My Sat Nav wish list was as follows: Be clear to read : No point having lots of info if I can't pick it out at a quick glance. Have lifetime updates : ...

Nikon Coolpix S9600 25/01/2015

Snapping Happy

Nikon Coolpix S9600 Photography is a big love of mine and mostly I use my DSLR to take photos, however it's a pretty heavy old thing and I don't carry it around with me all the time. Sod's law dictates that those 'that would make a great photo' moments usually happen at time when my DSLR is sitting snugly at home. This is the reason I went looking for a good quality, small compact so that I could pop it in my bag and still get reasonable shots. I can't get my head around spending £300 upwards on a compact camera when your getting into DSLR price ranges so I was looking for something at the lower price range. Price and Canon equivalent After much deliberation, I decided on the Nikon S9600, which was in the post Christmas sales knocked down from £249 to £129 – hopefully then, some good quality pictures given the full price. Nikon and Canon seem to be leading the way in the camera market and often there's little to choose between them. The compact Canon I was contemplating was the Powershot SX600, also reduced to £129. While they both boasted 16 megapixels, pop up flash, HD video and built in wifi the Nikon was way ahead on the optical zoom, 22x compared to the Canon's 18x. Given that I knew I would miss my DSLR and would never be able to get in as close with a compact, I wanted to at least do the best I could. Also, though not so important, I think Nikon edge Canon on the style front and the cameras tend to be a bit sleeker and more expensive looking than Canon. The S9600 being no ...

Wilko Glass Latte Mug 21/01/2015

I like this a latte

Wilko Glass Latte Mug We recently purchased a new coffee maker and it's excellent at making some lovely bubbly drinks, though these luxurious beverages weren't really shown off to their full potential in our chipped easter egg mugs so I went on the lookout for some latte glasses like you get in coffee shops. I was amazed to find exactly what I was looking for in our local Wilkinson for just £1 each. They really are hard to tell the difference between these and more expensive examples. I purchased four (for around the same price as a large coffee in a cardboard cup from a coffee shop) Since purchase I've used these glasses every day and they have been excellent. The thick glass holds the heat well and the elegant shape and clear sides show off the coffee making the drink seem all the more special. The sturdy handles despite their slightly unpractical looking position, in fact are tough enough to support the whole glass of hot coffee even when full to the brim. The glasses wash up very well and are microwave and dishwasher safe. The only thing you might have to consider is investing in some long handled spoons to get down to the bottom. These glasses are great for coffee, hot chocolate or any hot beverage – mulled wine maybe and also great for desserts such as sundaes. Multifunctional, elegant and good quality, all for a quid. Bargain. As you'd expect these come as they are, no box or protective packaging, so perhaps you'd have to tart them up packaging wise if they are to be a present. The ...

Green and Black's Tasting Collection 14/01/2015

A good selection of quality chocolate... and a white one

Green and Black's Tasting Collection I love chocolate and whilst expert may be a tad bigheaded, I take my on going research very seriously. Of the most common brands, I don't think anything can touch Green and Blacks for quality and taste. It seems I had made my love of this brand quite clear as I received not one, but two Green and Black's miniature selections as Christmas gifts. The first was a selection of 12 of their Milk range and the the latter, this rather elegant tasting collection which contains 24 miniature bars – a mix of Milk, Dark and White and a slightly larger 70% bar, plus tasting notes. All of the bars featured in the smaller collection are also in this box, but it's only a fraction of the entire Green & Blacks range. The presentation of this box is really lovely. In the lid of the square box is a map of the world highlighting areas from which key ingredients of the bars are sourced. Some examples include: Wales: Angelsey Sea Salt sourced from the Menai Strait China: Crystallised ginger pieces from the Province of Fujin Dominican Republic: Trinitario Cocoa beans from Fairtrade small-hold farmers Each of these map locations is colour coded using the colours from the bars for which the ingredient is sourced. For example the light blue used on the Milk and Sea Salt bar corresponds with the Wales marker on the map. I love this attention to detail, and there was more to come. The 12 varieties of bar (2 of each) are set out from light to dark and under each is a fact about them. For example ...

The Imitation Game (DVD) 09/01/2015

A tale of Strategies and Struggles

The Imitation Game (DVD) I didn't know much about Alan Turing prior to seeing The Imitation Game, only that he is seen to be the inventor of the modern digital computer and helped cracked the encryption used by the Germans in the Second World War. I say only, not because that's nothing, but because there is so much more to his rather sad story, which would be gripping even with these great accomplishments exempted. The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, with Keira Knightley in the female lead as fellow code cracker Joan Clarke and Charles Dance and Matthew Goode in supporting roles. It's a great cast. Cumberbatch seems to be able to do no wrong at the moment and he is excellent in the lead and deserves all the awards and nominations he receives. Even Knightley is slightly less pouty and irritating than usual, and puts in a good performance. A mention is needed of Alex Lawther, who plays a young Alan Turing and his parallels with Cumberbatch's performance make him completely believable as the same person. I expected to like this film and I did immensely but not for quite the reasons I expected. I guess I expected a fairly straight telling of the story of the cracking of Enigma: the code the Germans used to encrypt the messages. I did not expect such a moving portrayal of the man behind the code cracking brain and had no idea of the struggles his life brought. Like many great minds, he struggled with some of the more day to day things and is played by Cumberbatch as a socially ...

Lush Copperhead Shampoo Bar 07/01/2015

Does not make your head conduct electricity

Lush Copperhead Shampoo Bar Lush shampoo bars aren't a new thing and seem to be consistently popular with their customers, and indeed with fellow Ciaoers it would seem. It doesn't appear to be a concept that's taken off in a mainstream way though, which is odd. I have used a Lush shampoo bar before and wasn't over impressed, though that may be down to the particular type, as I like the idea of the bar itself. Prepared to give it another go, this 'Copperhead' bar caught my eye when browsing a few weeks ago. The Copperhead looks like some Aztec cacao bar (maybe I just have a few brain cells permanently stuck on 'chocolate'), or an ancient artefact. I thought it should perhaps be behind glass in the British museum than in a toiletries shop. All the shampoo bars are the same 55g size, and a hockey puck shape. This one is brown, with an engraved pattern on the top and a colour only described as 'browns with bits in.' Now, while this bar would look appealing whilst in a Lush shop or perhaps even in a cake shop, it may give any fellow members of your household a fright when they see this brown dollop in their bath. I'm pretty sure Lush brought out the shampoo tin for keeping your shampoo bar in tip top condition and to prevent it melting in the steam of the bathroom than for the afore mentioned reason, but let's just say they solve a variety of potential problems. They do however cost £2.50 each which I think it a little steep so I just use one of those black plastic Lush pots that they sell the face masks ...

Cuisinart DLC1SSRU 04/01/2015

Top of the Chops

Cuisinart DLC1SSRU The need for speed (chopping) I make a lot of Asian dishes with their base often being a spice paste or rub. The dishes themselves are quick and simple, but it's making the paste that takes the time. I had been chopping the onions, garlic or whatever by hand, grinding the spices in a pestle and mortar and then putting all the bits in a jug and using a stick blender to get it all somewhere near (but never quite) smooth. Having a teeny tiny kitchen I'm loathed to get too many appliances and gadgets. Either they take up too much space on the worktop or they go in the cupboard out of sight and get forgotten about. I felt a mini processor, however, may be and exception to the rule and I'd get good use from it. I watched a cookery show yesterday in which there was a challenge to have one person chop two onions using a knife and chopping board, and one with a processor: the object being finding which was quicker. The processor won but it's was a close call. By the time all the bits had been put together on the processor, the opponent was one onion down and of course, the washing up wasn't taken into account. It was for these sort of reasons I wanted a simple machine: one which clicks together within seconds and is easy to clean afterwards. In short, it would save be time and effort rather than increase it. Price The other consideration to make of course it cost. My partner found this one was a good price and having scrutinised every one of the Amazon reviews to check it was a ... 01/01/2015

Compare your comparisons We've all seen the adorable 'Compare the Meerkat' TV ads, one of the most successful ad campaigns of recent years. Not only are the characters adorable, likeable well animated and memorable they also manage to get across the name of the company, what they do and continue the story of Aleksander and friends all in a matter of seconds. Not a simples thing to do. So we all know of 'Compare the Market', but are they as good as Aleksander claims?, for those unfamiliar is a website which compares quotes on financial products for a number of insurers in order for the customer to weight up what each offer and find the cheapest quote. It offers this service on a vast range of products including: Car/Van/Bike insurance Breakdown Cover Home/Contents insurance Pet insurance Landlord insurance Energy Suppliers Current Accounts Credit Cards Loans Mortgages Life insurance Business insurance Travel insurance When you visit the site, these products are grouped into categories along the top menu bar and drop down menus appear when you hover over them. The site is easy to navigate and well laid out. Clicking on the desired product will take you to a form where you fill in a number of details in order for the site to bring you your list of quotes. The information it asks for is generalised – the most common information insurers/banks require to provide a quote. Sometimes, further information will be needed for certain companies to provide a quote which will be noted on ...

Swan SM22010 31/12/2014

I call him Mike. He has no arms but still does tiny little waves.

Swan SM22010 I realised I was getting older when I started getting excited about shopping for items such as kettles, toasters and vacuum cleaners. My last flat was unfurnished and having moved a long distance and from a shared property I didn't have an awful lot with me so had to buy new a lot of kitchen items. It's not often you get the opportunity to do this, usually buying bits one at a time as they break or wear out. I had a dull, modern but grey kitchen so decided on a bold theme to liven it up: Red. At the time there wasn't much in the way of red appliances about, but since then they seem to be more common. I can only think I stated a craze. Price Of course, buying a lot of things at once is also an expensive business so I wasn't interested spending a fortune. I found this red Swan Microwave online for just £39 from Woolworths online, this was 4 years ago now. Since then it bizarrely appears to have increased in value with a quick Google search finding prices for between £50 and £59! I guess the trend for louder coloured appliances has kept it popular. That, and it being a great little machine. Look Aside from the functionality and price, the initial draw to this particular model was the overall look. Yes it's a gorgeous glossy pillar box red – quite easy to make such a colour plasticy and cheap looking. I don't think it does. The rest of the design is very simple and the use of silver detail on the handle and dials gives a real retro, American diner look. The silver bits are ...

Mr. Turner (DVD) 28/12/2014

An insight into the life of a brilliant but unlikeable man.

Mr. Turner (DVD) I wanted to see Mr Turner for two reasons: 1) I do enjoy leaning about the lives of great artists and the stories behind some of the paintings and 2) I rate Timothy Spall very highly as an actor. The film came out earlier this year and is directed by Mike Leigh. It won Timothy Spall the Best Actor award at Cannes Film Festival, amongst other awards and has generally received very positive critical acclaim. The film follows the life of Turner shortly before and after the death of his father, giving an insight into his working methods, relationships with fellow artists and members of the Royal Academy and his somewhat complicated home life. The film paints a detailed picture of William Turner and balances the story well between the artist and the man. Timothy Spall, as I expected is excellent and the rest of the cast adequate in their roles but very much in the shadow of Spall's performance. I read he learned to paint for this role, not just to look like he knew what he was doing on screen, but in order to actually paint the pieces used in the film. Pretty impressive. I confess I did not know a great deal about Turner's life prior to seeing this so how accurate is it I'm unsure, but it's certainly not a flattering portrayal. Spall plays Turner as an ill tempered, selfish man who treats the people around him poorly. Despite all this he remains respected by his peers and is a dedicated artist who goes to great lengths to capture his landscapes and though chooses not to speak ...

Paddington (DVD) 20/12/2014

Stellar cast - All upstaged by a little CGI bear in a duffel coat

Paddington (DVD) I have loved this gorgeous little bear with a red hat and duffel coat for a very long time. I had a little Paddington bear when I was a kid and a blue Paddington jumper. The books by Michael Bond are close to the hearts of millions and so I'm surprised really it took so long for Paddington to be cgi-ed and sent to the big screen. What didn't surprise me is that anyone who's anyone wanted a part in it, however small. I saw a poster for Paddington a few months ago, a very simple but iconic image of that battered red hat and I instantly knew what it was for. It also suggested to me that the makers of this new film weren't going to mess about with the Paddington we know and love, always a worry with a reworking of a classic. Yep, to me Paddington is as classic as Dickens. (If fact thinking about it a Mr Paddington could quite easily have been a name of a Dickens character) The most important part of the Paddington story: the bit that everyone knows, is that this little bear arrives at Paddington station from 'darkest Peru' with a sign around his neck saying 'Please look after this bear,' and a kind family called the Browns do just that. During his time with the Browns, Paddington has all sorts of adventures, so I guess as long as these initial crucial details were correct then the creators of Paddington the movie could really having him getting up to whatever they liked – as long as he remained a loveable polite bear with a kind heart and a constant hankering for a marmalade ...

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells 17/12/2014

We're all doomed - especially Woking.

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells In the season of Christmas cheer, goodwill to all men and all that malarky, we decided our festive treat would be to witness the theatrical end of the world. Cheery. Jeff Wayne's musical telling of War of the Worlds was on at the O2 and never has the destruction of all mankind been so uplifting – anyway, that's a story for another time. Prior to seeing the show, I felt I should familiarise myself with the book. It's a book I feel a little ashamed to have taken so long to read, having been set largely in my local area: HG Wells being one of the very few famous things (aside from Paul Weller) to come out of Woking. Woking is where the story begins, or Horsell Common to be more precise. A bizarre cylindrical object has landed here and is causing a great amount of interest with the locals, and as the 'driver' of this vessel starts to emerge, it becomes quite clear it is not an object from this world. The news is delivered to us by our narrator, and perhaps the only person talking any sense during this precarious time for humankind as the 'men' from Mars descend on Earth. He realises quickly the implications of this first cylinder and as more and more martians arrive with more elaborate weapons and means of destruction, the rest of the world a little slower at realising on that their planet is on the brink of being wiped of all it's living creatures. Who will win The War of the Worlds? I'll leave the synopsis there because even though this is a hugely famous book, adapted in ...
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