Category Archives: Food/Drink

Take 5 Ingredients – Linda’s Salmon Tagliatelle

When the weather is warm, it is hard to decide what to cook for the family main meal. A family favourite in our house is my version of Salmon Tagliatelle – it is a good budget meal, takes less than half an hour to cook, has only 5 ingredients, is relatively low calorie and, best of all, it is extremely tasty! Why don’t you try it?

Ingredients (SERVES 4)

4 BONELESS SALMON STEAKS. TAGLIATELLE (OR SPAGHETTI) TUB OF SOFT CHEESE (I USE PHILADELPHIA LIGHTEST). HANDFUL OF COOKED PETIT POIS (OR GARDEN PEAS). BLACK PEPPER

METHOD

  1. In a hot oven (180/200ºC ) bake the salmon steaks in an oiled roasting tin for 20 – 25 minutes.

2. Whilst the salmon is baking, put tagliatelle in a deep saucepan, cover with water and boil for 10 – 15 minutes.

3. Once cooked, drain the tagliatelle. Add the soft cheese, cooked peas and salmon into the saucepan with the cooked tagliatelle. Stir well to mix the ingredients. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Bon Appetite!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

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Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With The Vegan Society

Living the Vegan Lifestyle has been in the news a lot recently – January was “veganuary” and the spotlight was on all things Vegan. The reactions from various people have been mixed when the word “vegan” has been mentioned – most people I’ve spoken to hadn’t really got a clue what the Vegan lifestyle entailed; some guessed that it was a more extreme form of being a vegetarian; some have embraced the ethics of being a Vegan wholeheartedly; some were interested and some were not. Personally I am not a Vegan – I do eat meat but I do embrace vegetarian and vegan dishes too. There are a few Vegan restaurants springing up and with thousands of products being granted the coveted Vegan trademark on a daily basis, embracing a Vegan lifestyle is not as daunting as you may think. I caught up with the lovely Dominika of The Vegan Society to find out more about The Vegan Society and living the Vegan lifestyle. Hi Dominika….

Hello! My name is Dominika and I work as media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. We are the world’s oldest vegan society whose co-founder, Donald Watson, came up with the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. Everything we do is to help people go vegan and remain vegan! 

The Vegan Society has produced an app – Veguide App – that covers the basics of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle with 30 short daily videos. What inspired the creation of the app? 

We wanted to bring vegan pledges into the 21st century – we know that most new vegans are young people, and this demographic is also the one most likely to use mobile apps and social media. VeGuide features two mentors in the similar age group to our target audience which we thought would help its users to relate to them.

VeGuide is free to download on Android and iOS devices. Its users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help them ease into vegan living.


The Vegan Trademark – sunflower symbol – guarantees that products are free from animal ingredients and animal testing.  There are now over 30,000 products and services registered with the Vegan Trademark.  How does a brand go about registering their products? 

Brands can contact our Vegan Trademark team at trademark@vegansociety.com, which will be followed up by some questions that include the number of products a company wants to register, their turnover and size, so that my colleagues can provide them with a quote. After this, the Trademark team carefully checks all the ingredients in the products about to be Trademarked to make sure they’re animal-free. We can also help brands veganise products and suggest alternatives to any animal products their items contain. 

From curries to cakes, virtually any recipe could be made suitable for a vegan lifestyle, as long as they are made from plant-based ingredients. Have you got a personal favourite vegan dish or recipe?

I’m all for quick and easy recipes that don’t require tens of ingredients! I’m personally very much into Korean and East Asian cuisine, so I love dishes like kimchi jjigae, ddeokbokki, jjajangmyeon, Japanese curry, mapo tofu, bibimbap, and various side dishes, called muchim in Korean cuisine. For those with a less oriental preferences, I find that making vegan versions of easy classics like lasagne, chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie, enchiladas or roast dinner is best! 

I read on your website that honey was the product probably most frequently mistaken as vegan -friendly.  I must admit I thought it was! Why is honey excluded? What other foodstuffs are also mistaken as being vegan friendly?

Honey is a product made by animals, so for the sake of consistency is excluded from a vegan diet. Veganism opposes the use and killing of all animals. Other foods that sometimes may not be vegan are alcohol (beer and wine mainly).

What are the nutritional  and other benefits of becoming vegan?

You can get everything your body needs on a vegan diet – vegans actually tend to eat much more fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population which has amazing health benefits. The British Dietetic Association, an independent UK authority on nutrition, states that a vegan diet is suitable at any age or life stage, including infancy, childhood and pregnancy

Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. This is partly because animal products, unlike vegan food, contain a significant amount of cholesterol.


In the UK all medicines are required to be tested on animals before being deemed as safe for human use.  Obviously, if you are a vegan how are you able to get the medication needed without compromising your beliefs? What are The Vegan Society’s recommendations?

Vegans avoid using animals as far as is practicable and possible. When choosing cosmetics, vegans can pick products that have not been tested on animals but unfortunately we don’t currently have such a choice with medicines or vaccinations. The Vegan Society never advises anyone to stop taking prescribed medicines but we do encourage patients to speak to their doctors to see if a vegan-friendly alternative is available.

What is the hardest part, or the hardest thing to forgo, did you find, of transitioning to follow a vegan lifestyle?  

Many people find it difficult to avoid cheese. However, the human tastebuds have a wonderful ability to adapt, so if you resign from cheese for a month or two and then try vegan cheese, you’re very like to enjoy the flavour. Most vegans say the hardest part of going vegan was simply making the decision to do it.P

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

I shop online a lot, on websites like Asos, EMP and Yesstyle which features East Asian fashion. When I go to a shopping mall, I often wander around all the different stores in search of a thing I’m looking for at that moment. It’s amazing how easy it is to find vegan clothes and footwear on the high street!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve been looking at Luxe Derbys from Will’s Vegan Shoes for a while now. They’re beautiful but pricier because they’re made of eco-friendly, durable vegan leather. I’m just waiting for the right moment to get them!  

Boots Or Shoes? 

Boots – I get cold very easily so I like footwear that covers my ankles! However, I’m 6ft tall which is a lot for a girl, so I’m not at all interested in adding any more inches which makes it tricky with boots!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Vegan Society.

Website: www.vegansociety.com

FB: www.facebook.com/TheVeganSociety

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheVeganSociety

Instagram: www.instagram.com/theoriginalvegansociety 

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Thank you for the chat Dominika – those Japanese and Asian dishes really do sound interesting (and no doubt delicious!) I really hope, dear readers, that Dominika has helped to dispel any myths and if you do want to follow the Vegan route, then Dominika has given you some inspiration to go ahead and take that leap!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Pinned Photo by Linda Hobden. The other photos in the article have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society & Dominika Piasecka

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7 Vegan Valentines Gifts

Valentines Day is almost upon us and shelves in the supermarkets and shops are full of red heart shaped delights from chocolates to prosecco to perfumes. If you or your partner are vegan, there are a range of products that might just tickle your fancy as well as your tastebuds!

The Vegan Society is the world’s oldest vegan society and registered educational charity. In fact, in 1944, co-founder Donald Watson actually came up with the term “vegan”. There are now over 30,000 goods and services that bear the famous Vegan Trademark symbol.

There are many ways to embrace vegan living, but one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy, eggs, honey – as well as products leather and anything tested on animals. So, when it comes to choosing a Valentines gift – or a gift or treat for anytime – here are 7 ideas that might just fit the bill….

  1. Chocolate & Love’s Dark Chocolate Tin

A beautiful, colourful tin full of vegan dark chocolate Neapolitans. The vegan chocolate is a mix of Panama 80% single origin, Rich Dark 71% and 70% Madagascan single. A must for fans of dark chocolate! www.chocolateandlove.com

2. Broadland Wineries’ Proudly Vegan Wines

Before my friend became a vegan, her main worry was not being able to enjoy a glass of wine. That isn’t an issue nowadays as Proudly Vegan wines have a selection of palatable rose, merlot and Sauvignon Blanc to choose from. Even the ink and glue on the labels are 100% vegan! The wines are available from Ocado.

3. Eden Perfumes’ Gift Set

Eden Perfumes match your favourite designer or popular fragrances, perfume and aftershave, using vegan ingredients such as jasmine (my favourite), vanilla, passionfruit, musk, saffron, sandalwood amongst others. www.edenperfumes.co.uk

4. Honest Brew’s 12 Beer Mixed Case

Prefer beer to wine? This mixed case of vegan-friendly beers might be more up your street. www.honestbrew.co.uk

5. The Gin Guild’s Organic London Dry Gin

Gin is all the rage at the moment and this London Dry Gin is 100% organic and GM-free. All their grain is grown organically without the use of toxic pesticides, insecticides and industrial fertilisers. They also hand harvest and dry their botanicals on site. They have a FairWild Certificate which means that those harvesting are properly paid for their junipers. Introduced in 1999, The Juniper Green gin has so far won 25 international medals against all the world’s gins, including golds in both the UK and USA. Available from Ocado, Amazon and online www.theginguild.com

6. Booja Booja’s ChocolateTruffles

Handmade luxurious Chocolate truffles inebriated with organic fine de champagne. Just stylish & sophisticated. Find these in Waitrose.

7. LUSH’s All Yours Gift Set

Available at all LUSH stores, the All Yours Gift Set was designed by artist Kim Sielbeck. She was inspired by the colours of the sunset and verdant mountains that fill her with magical energy. Certainly vibrant – inside this box you’ll find a Peachy bath bomb, Avocado wash shower gel, American Pie body conditioner and a Bubblegum lip scrub. Just the job for a pampering session…..

With Love, Linda x

For pinning later. Photo by Linda Hobden

Apart from the last photo, all other photos have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society (and the featured brands)

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SPROUTS, STUFFING & SEASONAL SOMETHINGS

SEASONS GREETINGS to you all!

As it is the last post of 2018 I thought I’d reflect on the “S” words that summarise this SEASON.

In the UK, and in most other countries I can imagine, this coming weekend will be mad in the SHOPS and SUPERMARKETS as people try to STUFF their trolleys with last minute gifts, extra wrapping paper and tags and enough food to probably last months but we will all consume in the week to follow. And then there is the booze….

SNOWBALL (egg nog), SPUMANTE, SHERRY, SCOTCH WHISKY, SAUVIGNON BLANC, SPANISH RED WINE …. SHARE the corner of the cabinet alongside Baileys Irish Cream, prosecco, brandy, beer, gin, vodka,Guinness….. I actually discovered in my fridge an unopened bottle of Baileys Irish Cream from last Christmas as I was putting this year’s bottle away. It had a best before date of end November 2018 … it smelt alright and tasted ok… I had to test it! Irish Cream is one of those drinks that I tend to buy each year… and I do like it … but after Christmas it tends to be redundant. I’m sure I’m not the only one with spirit bottles that have been stored away & only retrieved on the odd occasion that someone might want a dry martini and lemonade instead of a glass of pinot grigio! This year I fancied trying these liqueur chocolates…

SANTA CLAUS …. who can forget ST NICK? Even though my children are teenagers and adults, they still get a little SOMETHING from “Father Christmas” that resembles a SATSUMA but isn’t as healthy! The SMILES from children when they SEE their STOCKINGS or SACKS filled with gifts on Christmas morning makes being STIRRED awake at some unearthly hour worth it.

Christmas Day breakfast – SAUSAGES, SCRAMBLED EGG, SMOKED SALMON, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, SAUCY BAKED BEANS, SMOKED BACON RASHERS, SQUASHED TOMATOES, SELECTION OF FRUIT JUICES ….. OR are you like me – I reach for my usual cereal as I just can’t face eating a full breakfast knowing that in a few hours time I will be indulging in the Christmas Dinner? My husband and sons disagree with me though!

SPROUTS, STUFFING, STUFFED TURKEY CROWN, SPUDS (crispy roast potatoes), SEASONAL VEGETABLES, SAUCES, SAUSAGES wrapped in bacon and SPECIAL TURKEY GRAVY made by Gran! Followed by STEAMED CHRISTMAS PUDDING (SIXPENCE no longer inside) with a SELECTION of creams, SUMPTIOUS brandy butter, STEAMING hot custard or SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM. SPROUTS. I don’t actually like SPROUTS. And yet every year I have to dish up one on my dinner plate, just because. My mother in law discovered a new recipe recently that mixed sprouts with bacon …. mmm… maybe, however, with “pigs in blankets” already on the menu, perhaps plain, steamed would be better. It is strange that a vegetable that is good for you – SPROUTS count for one of your “five a day” and contain antioxidants which are thought to prevent cancer – can lead, through overindulgence, to bloating with gas which can be uncomfortable for you and could be unpleasant for others…

STOMACH ACHES! SUDDEN change in diet can lead to uncomfortable consequences – the rich, creamy foods as well as overindulgence of sprouts, peppers, broccoli, eggs, baked beans…. The traditional post Christmas dinner STROLL could help – good for relieving STRESS & that STUFFED feeling, STRENGTHENING family bonds, STRETCHING those legs, and STAVING off that overwhelming SLEEPINESS feeling that will hit you once you SIT down on your SOFA to watch on the TV SCREEN those SOAPS and Christmas SPECIALS…

3pm. STANDING up as our National Anthem is played heralding the START of our Queen delivering her annual SPEECH on our TV SCREENS from her STATELY abode of SANDRINGHAM. I quite like this traditional of listening to the Queen’s SPEECH – it’s a bit like receiving a royal “Round Robin” updating the nation on her family events! SHE has quite a bit of news this year what with the Royal weddings and births!

SNOW. Let it snow! Despite what many people think, the UK rarely experiences snow at Christmas – The Met Office says snow has fallen somewhere in the UK on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 54 years. However, of all the winter months, December is when Britain is least likely to see snow. The last time it snowed in the UK on Christmas Day was on 25 December 2010! Will it snow on Christmas Day in 2018? Personally, I doubt it…. we shall see. If it does, I suppose we could dig out the SLEDS from our SHEDS, build SNOWMEN and make SNOWANGELS , throw SNOWBALLS, SCRAPE our car windscreens, SHOVEL our drives, and SKID our way to SING SONGS in the local church SERVICE ….

SONGS! Carols or Pop songs – nothing puts you in a good mood when the SEASONAL SOUNDS are heard over the airwaves! There was a game on one of the SOCIAL MEDIA SITES – I can’t remember which one – which from the 1st December, you had to try and last the month without hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham as you go about your daily life. Easy you might say ….but SUPERMARKETS seem to always have it on their playlists and if you hear it whilst SHOPPING, you’re out! As I’m a retail merchandiser working in SHOPS & SUPERMARKETS with their radio stations playing all day, I think I lasted a few SECONDS…

SMELLS…. SPICES around this time of year are delightful ….cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger….

SIX O’Clock. Time for SNACKS, SWEETS, and other SUGARY delights before SUPPER at 9pm…. cold meats, SALMON, French bread lavishly SPREAD with SALTED butter, pickles, STUFFED dates, STUFFED olives, SALT & VINEGAR crisps, SALTED peanuts, SAUSAGE rolls, cheese STRAWS….

In the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE it is SUMMER where the temperatures are SIZZLING and I can imagine that it is too hot to contemplate eating as much. I expect the order of the day is a barbecue on the SAND, grilled SALMON STEAKS, SHRIMP cocktail, SALADS, various SKEWERS of meat/veg …. followed by a frolic in SURF, under a glorious SUN and an ice cold SOMETHING to quench your thirst.

SHOW you care this SEASON and think of those whose home is on the STREETS, those who need SHELTER, those who need SOMEBODY to talk to, those who are STARVING, those who are SUICIDAL, those who are SAD, those who are SUFFERING….try and SPREAD a little SEASONAL SPIRIT where you can…

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SEE you all in 2019!

LINDA x

All photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Spark

This week I’m talking about kitchen gadgets, utensils and gizmos – those gadgets that  you think you don’t have a need for, then you get one and you realise it is an absolute godsend for making your life easier! I bet every household has got at least one  kitchen gadget that may not be a necessity but its versatility renders it one of your favourite kitchen items. If you haven’t got such a gadget, then perhaps my guest this week will tempt you with one of his creations. I’m talking with Billy Dulay, co founder of “Products By Spark” – a small company that has big ideas – its Splatter Catcher and Infinity Mat are just two items worth looking at. Hi Billy & welcome!

Hello & welcome to “Spark”, a small but growing company specializing in “The newest kitchen gadgets/utensils and beyond”. We believe passionately in innovation and first-rate service, which is why we commit ourselves to giving you the best of both. If you’re looking for something new, you’re in the right place. We strive to be industrious and inventive, offering our customers something they need but with an innovative twist, putting their desires at the top of our priority list.

What was the inspiration behind the introduction of the Splatter Catcher and the Infinity Mat?

The Splatter Catcher, this idea was made after cooking a rather splattery chicken thigh for dinner. Covered in grease, we wanted to develop a product that wouldn’t affect the food in any way but keeps stoves clean, behold the Splatter Catcher.

The Infinity Mat was a bi-product of our creative juices after creating the Splatter Catcher, “What multi-use tool can we create which will be a must in any kitchen?” thus sparking into life the Infinity Mat.

There are similar items on sale from other brands – so what are the main selling points of your products?

The Splatter Catcher is the first product of its kind to the hit the UK market, the main selling points are as follows:-

Fits 28cm pans (Diameter)
BPA free – Made from fully compliant 100% food grade silicone 
Heat resistant up to 230 Celsius
Dishwasher Safe – Place on to two racks of the dishwasher, leave out to dry.
Easy roll up storage
Seamless application – Tab system allows for the Splatter catcher to be applied with ease, ensuring it has been applied securely.
Allows all steam to escape the pan
Blocks fine oil from escaping – rest assured that your cooking surface and clothes will be free of any fine oil splatters.
Prevents Spills – freely overfill the pan without the fear of food contents dropping out of the pan. Perfect for large stirfries

The Infinity Mat not only has uses for indoor and outdoor application:-

Trivet
Food Cover
Placemat
Jar Opener
Oven Glove
Grip for your chopping board
And Many More!

It is also available in 4 different colours.

The Splatter Catcher and the Infinity Mat come in array of lovely bright colours – which colour seems to be the most popular amongst your customers?
Yellow and Red – These colours can brighten up the dullest of kitchens.
Are there any new additions to your range of products in the pipeline for 2019?

Yes! Yes! Yes! There’s definitely more in store for 2019 we haven’t even got started.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to customers abroad?

Yes, we ship all over the world.

Working in the field of kitchen products, as you do, do you enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking? If so, do you have a signature dish?

When I can get time I love cooking. I’m not the best chef in the world however I’d like to say I’d hold my own in the “Chicken Stir Fry Arena” which is my signature dish.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Jeans, open collar shirt and blazer – smart casual and definitely a nice pair of shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Definitely Asos.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Has to be a nice winter coat, I’m dreading winter.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – Look smarter.


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about the Splatter Catcher & The Infinity Mat.

Website (www.productsbyspark.com)

Instagram – (_sparkproducts)

Thank you Billy for chatting to us about your kitchen gadgets.  I can just imagine you cooking your stir fry and pondering over how you can make sure the oil doesn’t splatter everywhere…. 🙂 I didn’t realise just how many different ways you can use the Infinity Mat – definitely  a useful item to have in the kitchen.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Products By Spark (Billy Dulay).

 

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An Interview With The English Cream Tea Company

There’s nothing quite like an English Cream Tea – it’s an indulgence that is worth every penny and an experience that I recommend everybody to try at least once.   My guest today, Jane, epitomises the spirit of the traditional English Cream Tea – and through her company, she has extended the experience into people’s own homes, picnics and even overseas.  Grab a cup of tea and settle down whilst I introduce Jane to the blog… hi Jane!

Hello – I’m Jane Malyon. My husband Roger and I are the parents of 2 amazingly spirited lads, one of whom is an ‘advertising creative’ in Toronto, Canada and the other has the exciting job title of Cirquador. That means he travels the world as a team member of Cirque du Soleil. It also means we travel in his wake, trying to catch up for hugs, in between visits to Toronto. I’ll go a long way for my hugs you understand!

The English Cream Tea Company is a brilliant idea – what inspired you to concentrate on promoting the quintessential English afternoon cream tea and picnic hampers?

Roger and I have run an outside catering company for 35 years, with ancient (Tudor) Pledgdon Barn as our venue near the Essex/Herts border. I have also been an NLP coach helping people to get on better and communicate well…and a balloon artist, pianist, author of 2 books and public speaker (including a TEDx talk). However, in 2011, I had a chance meeting with an elderly lady who loved afternoon tea (like I do!) but could no longer travel to great hotels for her favourite treat. Suddenly the mental lightbulb went off and The English Cream Tea Company was born. My thinking was that if this lady could no longer travel to The Ritz or The Savoy, could the afternoon tea experience travel to her instead? I contacted the companies who move human organs around the UK for transplants and asked about their technology for keeping it all safe, in perfect condition and chilled – and then copied it! We now send indulgent and authentic fresh afternoon tea and English picnic hamper boxess UK wide – and have an ambient (shelf-stable) range of products, gifts, corporate gifts, teas and jams for retail, post and export. It’s been an absolute adventure bringing all this to life and every day the roller coaster continues (with downs as well as ups, of course).

do love an English Cream Tea.  I love clotted cream & strawberry jam on my scone. I did read about a man on Twitter who loved his scones with cream & lemon curd (I must try that out one day!) Do you have any personal favourites when it comes to a cream tea?

I must have had 100 interviews since starting the company, including the BBC a few times – and the two questions I am most asked are: is it pronounced ‘ scone ‘ or ‘scon’ …and is it cream or jam first. Only the TV crew from Russia surprised me by asking: “Jane, what is builder’s tea?” !!

Our best sellers are our Fresh Afternoon Tea for Two hamper delivered to your door (Best. Gift. Ever!) and our award winning Double Chocolate Brownie. However, out of our range of absolutely delicious preserves (truly lovely – I kid you not), our Lemon Curd with Passionfruit is actually the best seller – and lots of people enjoy it with clotted cream and scones – though Strawberry is the nation’s favourite with English Cream Tea. My own favourite is our Raspberry and Blackberry Jam (with clotted cream too) – and as I’m an Essex girl, I can apply the cream/jam in any order I like. It’s only in Devon/Cornwall where you might be escorted from the county for doing it the ‘wrong’ way round (hint, jam first for Cornwall, jam second for Devon!). We actually gained the Guinness World Record for the largest English Cream Tea party (featured in the 2013 album) – but Devon were not happy at all that the record went to Essex!

Sandwiches feature in an English afternoon tea & hampers – I do so love an interesting filling – but what fillings tend to be most popular amongst your customers?

When selecting our main range of sandwich fillings, we felt it was important to have Smoked Salmon with lemon (classic and delicious) and of course Cucumber (with cream cheese). The cucumber sandwich has represented wealth since Victorian times because only the rich could have the hothouses and teams of gardeners to produce them! They are quintessentially associated with an elegant teatime array and we couldn’t leave them out. After that, we chose a cheese and relish sandwich and an egg mayonnaise with cress – because they’re both vegetarian. Our range fits with many Indian and Jewish customers as well, whereas adding Ham sandwiches or other meat based options, changes that. However – we do get special requests which we try to meet and we also occasionally offer ‘special edition’ hampers with other cake and sandwich options (including Coronation Chicken). We’ll be offering a new Royal Wedding hamper soon with different treats inside! Keep an eye out on our site. We also run competitions on our Facebook page, one of which was to invent a new sandwich – and the winner’s was made and delivered to them. (In case you’re wondering it was Turkey, Goats Cheese, Watercress and Cranberry Sauce – yum!)

Your scones are delicious and I do love the idea of the xscone mixes so those who are not quite so clever at baking scones from scratch can have a go (especially the chocolate version)! What inspired you to produce the mixes? You also have a range of jams & chutneys – have you plans to introduce new flavours in the future? 

Creating new ideas and products is my favourite part of running the business BUT I have to keep myself in check. Developing any new line is actually very costly by the time the packaging, labelling, bar codes etc are added. Having said that, there will be new hampers for the corporate and gift market this year plus two new Tea Blender’s Kits…oh, and the Royal Wedding hamper….but I really must restrain from adding too many new lines. Sigh 😀

As you are based in the UK, are you able to ship products overseas? 


After launching in 2011 via that Facebook page initially, on the very first day we received enquiries from 5 other countries all asking if they could have Fresh Afternoon Tea hampers delivered too. We were shocked and er, no – we can’t quite get our freshly made scones, clotted cream, cakes, sandwiches, shortbread, brownies etc all the way down to Australia within 24 hours. So we developed gift tins embodying the treats of cream tea without the cream (but including our own Scone Mix) to be able to send out this beloved traditional treat in some form at least, world wide. English Heritage stocked our Festive Scone Bake Kit last Christmas (that came with marzipan holly and berries to go on top of your completed scones!).


We also include etiquette tips with most of our products, keeping the British traditional teatime manners going! I have videos on YouTube and Instagram etc about that aspect (and answering the Scone/Scon question) – and these seem to attract a worldwide audience (not to mention Trolls!). Indeed, every time there’s a Royal event here or Downton Abbey is aired, there’s more interest still. Apparently Nelson Mandela said that Afternoon Tea is Britain’s greatest export. Well said Sir!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

In terms of clothes, I wear trousers almost 100% of the time. Actually take out the ‘almost’. I like winter clothes best eg jackets with structure – and still mourn the waning of the padded shoulder (but perhaps it’s making a come-back!). Love a bit of colour too and am known for wearing red, which is our main corporate colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Location-wise, I do most of my shopping in Toronto. That sounds so much more jet-set/international than the reality. When I’m in the UK I almost never get the chance to do personal shopping – so it’s only when we’re visiting our son in Canada that I’ll get that chance. I head to the Hudson’s Bay Co (a little like John Lewis) and lose myself in the trying-on process. Bliss.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My next purchase (though really, I probably already have outfits that would quite suffice) could be an evening jacket as hubby and I celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary this year and plan on enjoying a very special dinner out. Yay. That 40 year anniversary bit obviously also demonstrates that I had my lightbulb idea about starting The English Cream Tea Company, somewhat late in the day. But never say never, ladies! I didn’t know anything at all about retail/export/packaging/distribution or trying to build an iconic brand. However, I was certain I’d be very, very cross with myself for not giving it my best shot, so it simply had to be! With the loveliest team of Scone Gnomes, designer, web guru and more, the adventure continues….except now you’ll know that inside my oversized boots, there are little wide feet trying to keep me grounded!

Boots or Shoes? 

I absolutely love boots but possibly not for the usual reasons. I have spectacularly wide and short feet and most shoes won’t stay on – but boots are the solution. This is because I often buy 2.5 whole sizes too big to accommodate what nature gave me foot-wise. My feet would come out of shoes that were way too big but boots are more forgiving. One of our darling sons has offered to have a ‘last’ made for me so I can have made-to-measure shoes…which sounds amazing! Bless.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The English Cream Tea Company.


Jane’s top ten tips on English Cream Tea etiquette!


(AND someone made a spoof of that last video – hilarious: Spoof videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVXVdPBxipk)

Mmmm..simply delicious! Thank you Jane for making our mouths water!  Your business is simply delightful …and as far as Scone or Scon goes….I say “Scone” ….

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jane Malyon & The English Cream Tea Company

 

 

 

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An Interview With Vitamin Coffee

Coffee. For a lot of us, we can’t seem to function without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Trying to go on a health kick, and struggling to forego that daily wake up routine?  What if I told you that there’s a coffee available that is tasty AND contains our daily vitamin intake?  Sounds good, doesn’t it? I thought so, so I caught up with Vitamin Coffee founder, Bryn Ray, to find out what is so special about his coffee….hi Bryn…

Hi! I’m Bryn Ray – fitness and coffee enthusiast, turned entrepreneur to blend those enthusiasms.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of Vitamin Coffee?

A software designer by trade, when I worked in the city I found myself coming in rather groggy after some of the nights before. The old solution used to be a mug of coffee and a glass of some horrible effervescent fizz, so I thought there must be a way to blend the effect of both things. That’s where the Complete and Defence version of Vitamin Coffee were born, the Energy blend then followed when I started reading ingredients list of pre-workout drinks.

You currently offer 2 coffees – medium & dark with a choice of 3 vitamin blends (Medium, Energy, Defence). The coffees all contain the full daily requirement of 14 essential  vitamins and minerals – so what is the difference between the blends on offer?

All three blends are based on the same set of vitamins. The Complete offers 100% of what you need of each per day. The defence is then hyper-dosed with extra vitamin C and D which has positive effect on the immune system. The energy is higher in B-vitamins which are particularly useful for people who are very active, it also has added caffeine (on top of the standard amount in the coffee).

Early days yet I know, but what coffee blends are proving most popular amongst your customers so far? Have you got a favourite blend?

Medium Defence seems to be the superstar, but it is winter. My personal favourite is the Dark Energy, I drink it before every workout.

Where do you source your coffee beans from?

The Medium blend sources from Asia and Africa – it’s a little unconventional, but it’s based on Monsoon Malabar beans that give it an incredibly smooth and creamy taste. The Dark blend is a brighter and fruiter pairing Central and South American single-origins with Ethiopian Mocha Djimmah beans for boldness.

Can the coffee be purchased as a one off or is the coffee available on a subscription basis only?

Coffee can be a one off or as a subscription at your chosen interval. The bags each contain 14 daily servings so with most customers being daily drinker a two week subscription is the standard.

As you are based in the UK, is your coffee available to customers abroad?

Currently we don’t ship abroad, but we’re actively looking into distributing around Europe.

Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Generally, i’m a monochromatic man. Black Levi 511, black leather Janoski and a long sleeve sweatshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Most of my tops come from Reiss, Cos or Arket. Recently started to use Farfetch online though which I like.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new coat is next on the shopping list – all suggestions welcome.

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – I think they give a cleaner line to a silhouette.

Links you would like to share:

www.vitamincoffee.co.uk
www.instagram.com/vitcoffee
www.facebook.com/vitcoffee
www.twitter.com/vitcoffee

New coat, eh Bryn?… I think a black leather coat would look good especially as the styles of the 70s & 80s are trending at the moment. For a more classic look, a black wool pea coat always looks stylish and you can wear a suit under it although it equally looks good with those black Levi’s you favour 🙂  Thank you for introducing us to your coffee and it’s great to know that we can still have our coffee with the health kick included.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Bryn Ray/ Vitamin Coffee

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Keeping Hydrated With ION8

If you feel inspired to participate in any sporting activity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, especially if you are:  sweating away in a poorly ventilated gym; lobbing a shuttlecock over the net in a sports hall; cycling up and down the hills and country lanes; hiking in the wilderness;  scoring goals on the football (soccer) pitch or netball/basketball hoops.  In fact, keeping well hydrated daily is a must, even if you are not particularly active.  Drinking water regularly as been shown to: increase energy, relieve tiredness, boost the body’s immune system, improves the skin, promotes weight loss (water has zero calories!), aids digestion, relieves cramps and headaches.  Schools in the UK encourage children to take in a water bottle to use and sip throughout the day to help them keep alert and use those brain cells.  Having 5 children and an active cycling mad husband, I have a drawer full of water bottles – not all are the same and when I was given by ION8 their water bottle to review, I was looking forward to seeing if the ION8 stands up to my family’s scrutiny!

My 12 year old son Jack was the perfect reviewer/critic. He has had  3 water bottles since the start of the school term. One was lost; one leaked badly due to the spout snapping off that he had to have a new rucksack; and one split.  He takes a water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day; the water bottle has to endure a bus journey there and back; and Jack doesn’t treat his bag with kid gloves either. So, the ION8 has a lot to live up to! This is what Jack expected:

1. NEEDS TO BE REUSABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

Jack drinks a lot of water during the day – it is important for him to be well hydrated as he does suffer from migraines and water helps to alleviate the headaches.  It is also cost effective according to Jack as it gives him more money  by refilling his water bottle to buy another chocolate muffin! Refilling bottled water bottles isn’t a good idea as tiny cracks often appear in the bottle after its initial use and these cracks can harbour germs such as the dreaded norovirus.  Reusable bottles have been designed for multiple usage.  The ION8 is reusable, is bpa free and is made of non toxic Tritan – a material that is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned & is dishwasher safe.                                                                                               10/10

2. NEEDS TO BE STYLISH.

The ION8 is definitely stylish.  The product was winner of the Reddot Design Award 2017. I wasn’t sure until the water bottle arrived, what colour I would receive.  There are 14 different colours to choose from – I was hoping it wasn’t going to be pink as I have 4 boys and a daughter who doesn’t go a-bundle on pink – but as luck would have it, I received the black glossy onyx colour. This was the preferred choice.  Jack approved. I think the colour was the main deciding factor for him.  From my point of view the range of colours was a fabulous idea especially in families where each person can have their own water bottle identified by a different colour.  Like packs of toothbrushes in assorted colours….. I’m sure you’ve got the drift 🙂  Only downside to the design that Jack mentioned was that opening and shutting the lid, the click was loud especially when he was taking a quick swig of water during his lesson and the classroom was relatively quiet.                                                                                           9.5/10

3. NO LEAKS.

Having been through various water bottles that have leaked despite being upright for the majority of the time, this was a major consideration. Soggy schoolbooks are a no no. Soggy gym kit – not amusing. ION8 claim to be 100% leakproof 100% of the time. They also offer a lifetime guarantee.  The lid lock offers that peace of mind  as well as the inner seal (which can be replaced).  Most water bottles have just the spout at the top which opens and closes – where most leakage occurs – so the lid is a pretty good idea.    The ION8 has lasted 10 days with no leaking so far….                                                10/10

ION8 comes with a tough carry strap, but I did not test the strap. Another difference is that the spout is at the side and not in the centre like most water bottles.  Drinking out of the water bottle is like drinking out of a cup – you need only to tilt the bottle slightly.

The aperture on the ION8 spout is wide to allow a uninterrupted flow of water. Water bottles, including the ION8, do not have thermal properties, such as keeping a hot drink hot or a cold drink cold – but the ION8 is capable of holding cold beverages as low as  -10C as well as hot beverages up to 96C.

The company mission is to produce the simplest and safest BPA free, spill free, leak proof water bottles, hydration products and drinking vessels.  My son and I are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far.  As far as water bottles go, the ION8 is the bees knees and we’ve been converted! 🙂

ION8 is available to buy via Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon DE (Germany); Amazon ES (Spain); Amazon IT (Italy); Amazon FR (France).

For further information: www.ion8.co.uk

Disclaimer:  ION8 sent me the ION8 water bottle to review.  All views are entirely my own (and Jack’s).

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

 

 

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6 Tasty Treat Discoveries

Food glorious food! I couldn’t not start the New Year off without sharing with you some tasty food treats that I discovered over the holiday period.  Trying new foods is always a pleasure – visiting my local Indian restaurant I usually order Lamb Rogan Josh but this winter they had revamped the menu and I actually tried a delicious squid curry… it made a lovely change and one that I hope is still on the menu when I next visit.  Here are 6 other tasty treats that I discovered recently … some healthy, some not so healthy .. but all are thoroughly delicious and worth tasting …

1. Wilkin & Son Tiptree – The Chocolate Collection.

People who know me know that I love chocolate spread – so I was really thrilled to receive this chocolate spread selection. Wilkin & Son Tiptree is well known internationally for their fruit jams, and over the years have expanded into fruit curds and spreads too.  The company uses 60% Belgian chocolate, real double cream and natural flavourings – the box selection contains plain chocolate spread, chocolate orange (yum), chocolate mint, chocolate cherry (reminiscent of Black Forest Gateau), chocolate coffee, and salted chocolate using Maldon sea salt (my favourite!).  The Chocolate Collection is completely nut free – as Tiptree’s factory is a completely nut free zone.  I love spreading the chocolate spread onto hot toast, or inside a warm croissant – but the chocolate can be melted to be used as an ice cream dessert topping or stirred into milk to make hot chocolate.

2. Galaxy Ultimate Frothy Hot Chocolate

My 12 year old son is a big fan of hot chocolate and this instant hot chocolate – I made it with hot water and 4 heaped teaspoons but milk can be used instead – was a big hit with him.  It is so frothy and chocolatey that it resembles the hot chocolate you can buy at the big coffee establishments but you can make it yourself at the touch of the kettle button!

3. Yeo Valley 0% Creme Fraiche

Creme Fraiche is cream with friendly bacteria added to it – the French version of soured cream.  Strict European regulations ensure that Creme Fraiche only contains cream and friendly bacteria.  I like the 0% fat version – it is still thick & creamy – but you can get half fat and full fat versions. A lovely alternative to milk when topping granola & fresh berries for breakfast.  Can be used instead of normal cream with desserts.  I add Creme Fraiche to my mushroom sauce when making my turkey & mushroom stroganoff. Or for a party dip idea, mix Creme Fraiche with a tub of hummus & a chopped bunch of coriander. Garnish with carrot and celery sticks.

4. Muller Light Rhubarb Crumble And Custard Yogurt

This season’s limited edition flavour, inspired by the traditional British dessert, rhubarb crumble and custard.  I was unsure of trying this yogurt.  Since I was a child my dad had always loved rhubarb yogurt and, that was the only flavour we had in our fridge – it was a thin yogurt and it was not my favourite flavour.  To be honest, rhubarb crumble nor custard were not on my list of favourites either. However, I think tastes change as you get older – I quite like rhubarb crumble and custard now ! My  impressions: it was a lovely creamy yogurt despite being fat free; it had bits of rhubarb in it – always a plus with me; and the flavour was surprisingly pleasant!

5. Castello Pineapple Cheese

Made in the land of the hygge, Denmark, this soft cheese made with pineapple, papaya and almonds, is unbelievably delicious.  It is for spreading onto crackers as part of a general cheeseboard ….. BUT, I love this cheese most of all spread on a slice of wholemeal, seeded or GI toast topped with mashed banana! It is my ultimate quick lunchtime snack!

6. Butterkist Salted Caramel Popcorn

If I eat popcorn, I tend to go for the sweet version rather than the salted version.  As I am a fan of all things salted caramel, I bought a packet of this popcorn for nibbles on Boxing Day.  I opened the packet in the kitchen, had a taste… had another handful … well, there wasn’t much left to put out for nibbles in the end! Basically this popcorn is coated with salted caramel flavour toffee  – so it would appeal to those who would prefer the sweet version.  It isn’t really that salty.  Although it is a sweet snack, the popcorn is made from natural wholegrains, is a source of fibre, is gluten free, vegetarian friendly and 125kcal per 30g serving.

What tasty treats did you enjoy over the holidays? Do share your tastebud discoveries…

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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