Monday, 25 January 2016

Roasted Red Pepper, Red Onion and Garlic soup

On my quest for finding anything that I'm allowed to eat now that gluten is out of the question, I stumbled on a soup I thought you might like. Packed with vegetables and spice it's a healthy option too.

Adapted from a Nigella recipe (hers is roasted tomato and red pepper base, and as much as I love the tomato I just didn't fancy it this time), it takes about an hour and 10 to put together, but, whilst a lengthy process, it's worthwhile, trust me. This can work for those of you with soup makers and those of you making it the old-fashioned way.

Ingredients include:

  • 2-3 red peppers (capsicums), roughly chopped
  • 1-2 red onions, roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like it, with skins kept on
  • 500ml gluten-free vegetable stock (I used Knorr cubes, but if you don't have to be gluten-free, feel free to pop whichever ones you have to hand in there)
  • 1 tsp sriracha (suit to your taste, it can be very spicy)
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper 
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Firstly, heat your oven to 200c. Whilst you wait, chop up the red pepper, red onion, and separate your cloves of garlic, coat in olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.

Pop on a baking tray, spreading the vegetables out evenly and roast for 30 minutes, or until the peppers start charring.

If you have a soup maker (I use a Morphy Richards Soup & Saute), pop the vegetable stock, peppers and onion into the jug. Gently crush the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and squeeze out the flesh into the mix. Add the sriracha and cayenne pepper - adapt the amounts to suit your taste - add a little more salt and pepper if you would like. Put the lid on and select the 'smooth' setting.

If you don't have a soup maker, place all ingredients (remembering to remove the garlic skins) into a pan and blend with a hand blender until you have a smooth, thick consistency.

The beauty of this is that you can season it to your tastes, or add extra ingredients to suit you. It's a great base for a variety of recipes, or tastes wonderful on its own. It might not be the prettiest dish, but she's tasty and good for you, you can't ask for much more than that!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Wychwood Wonderings and no wine

Happy mid-week all! Most of us are now on that happy slip-slide towards the weekend, content that Monday can't hurt us for another few days. Unless, of course, you're one of the poor unfortunates working at the weekend. Like me.

Not that I have much to complain about. Weekend work is a rare occurrence for me these days, and the few that do get added onto the end of the working week incorporate a part of my job that I really enjoy. However, last Saturday was a real treat, so this one is bound to suffer in comparison.

Saturday afternoon/evening was spent wandering around the quite charming and very quaint Wychwood Brewery, home of some of my favourite tipples (I have a few). Tucked away in a quiet nook in Witney, Oxfordshire, Wychwood have become a serious competitor in the real ale market.
Even HRH is a fan!
Their staple, Hobgoblin, is the 2nd most popular bottled ale in the UK, 1st at Halloween, having adopted the title of unofficial Halloween beer.
Just a regular Sunday evening in...
I bought the tickets as a birthday gift, and they are a complete bargain. For £8.50 per person, you receive a tour, a drink (or two, or three), and a half pint glass, all of which made for one very happy boyfriend.
The motley crew behind the bar.
The brewery and shop are lovely. More compact than you would think, considering its output, they brew not only Wychwood and Brakspear ales, but the annual winter and summer Duchy ales for Prince Charles, the proceeds of which are donated to charity.

I'd decided, despite my official abstaining from alcohol, that I would allow myself a drink that day. It really would have been rude not to.

You start the tour in Wychwood's very own bar, where you can sit and sup a half pint of either Hobgoblin or Hobgoblin Gold. You then move onto the tour, experiencing the making progress, the ingredients, the atmosphere. Then it's back to the bar for the tasting session. Ale in shot glasses was a bit of a revelation! You get to try all of their standard drinks, and they aren't stingy. I was particularly enamored with the large ceramic Hobgoblin jug we were served from. Needless to say, if you find yourself in the Oxfordshire area, I'd recommend a visit! But be sure to book, tickets sell incredibly quickly.
Ale shot anyone?!
Apart from my mild deviation, I've managed to stay away from alcohol, and I am feeling all the better for it. Plus I have no morning-after paranoia, which is a definite plus!

Continuing on the healthier way of life, I've introduced bee pollen into my diet. Just half a teaspoon scattered on my morning yoghurt, with a handful of mixed nuts, or a plum sliced on top has really improved my energy levels as a result of the extra B vitamins. I'd recommend it to anyone struggling with fatigue, particularly in the cold, dark weather we're having right now. It's also beneficial to purchase locally sourced pollen, as it aids in immunising you from local allergens. 

As a side note, keep your eyes open over the next couple of weeks, as I'll be adding to my Independent Business series with a visit to Kels Belles Beauty in Bedford.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

What a Week

As is standard after the hubbub of Christmas and New Year, the inevitable lurgy found me at the weekend. Needless to say I found myself lacking the ability to write anything worth your time over those few days, hence my absenteeism. 

Being ill is always rubbish, being ill at the weekend is worse. The time that should be spent spending quality time with loved ones, or doing something you love (or just something you need to do. Hello housework), gets frittered away on tissues, medicine, and, in my case, turning into a bored, whiny mess. I am not a good sick person.

On top of that, the week started with the saddest of news. Most people who pop by here will know I am a music fan. My CD collection is a prized possession. So to wake up and learn of the great David Bowie's untimely death was not only a shock, but pretty devastating, I'm a huge fan. The world now feels somewhat disjointed, and out of focus. It's a strange concept to some that people can become so attached to a person who they do not personally know. Yet when a person's art, their words and their presence is a constant in your periphery, I believe that warrants attachment and admiration. As others around the world express their grief, I know I'm not alone in that sentiment. I'm hoping to pop down to a local restaurant of mine on Friday evening, Herd, where Black Star will be played in its entirety, and everyone has been invited to bring their favourite Bowie records with them to be played and appreciated. If you are local and like-minded, I encourage you to go and raise a glass to a true great. To paraphrase something someone wise said this week, I'm just grateful that I was lucky enough to have breathed at the same time as him. 

Enough of the maudlin train of thought or I'll be crying into my computer. After months of trying to reinvigorate my health, it's been brought to my attention that I may be gluten intolerant, which is bloody brilliant, it's not like my entire diet is chock full of gluten or anything! So for the next few weeks, I'll be trialling a gluten-free life, which I'll be sharing with you lovely lot. By sharing, I of course mean endlessly moaning about the lack of cake/wine/biscuits/anything remotely bad for me, in my life, but as I'm the one that's got to go through it I feel it's only fair that you should shoulder some of the burden! I'll be researching some recipes and alternative foodstuffs, if I find any gems I'll let you all know. The upside of this being that hopefully all the weight I acquired over Christmas will soon be a distant, wobbly memory! Every cloud!   

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Independent businesses - The Cavalier Club Barber Shop

I've been noticing them for a few months now. Every other week or so, another will pop up, sometimes with great fanfare, loudly announcing their arrival, others more subtly, gently easing their presence into the consciousness of the general public.

I'm talking about brand-sparkly new, independent businesses of all shapes and sizes. A conversation I had with a friend a few days ago highlighted just how many seem to have appeared in Bedford alone in the last few months. It appears there is an underground movement to turn this little town into a suave, wine-bar toting, cocktail shaking, trendy little coffee-house wielding hub. And so far, so good.

The new businesses aren't reserved purely for the restaurant/bar market (although there are plenty and I am having a whale of a time making my way around them all). Independent clothes shops, ice-cream parlours, art supplies are all cropping up. One of Bedford's latest additions is The Cavalier Club, the barber shop to end all others. Run by sisters Siobhan and Emma Richardson, and found in Bedford town centre, The Cavalier Club oozes style, from it's studded leather sofas, mounted (faux) deer head, to the brick-work designed back wall to the girls themselves. Offering a welcoming atmosphere, the sisters obviously know their stuff, making every chap who takes a seat in front of them feel relaxed and well looked after. I should know, I live with one of their new biggest fans!
They even threw a Christmas bash for customers, laying on food and a tipple for everyone that crossed their threshold. Furthering their rep for being good-hearted, they recently held a charity raffle in aid of raising money for the local homeless. 

Us girls are blessed with a wealth of pampering options, but it's a rarity to find somewhere offering our male counterparts quite the same experience. The Cavalier Club manages to do this with the right balance of pamper and masculinity. The boys I know who have visited have loved their new styles, which are always wearable but entirely fresh and stylish. I also hear that the hot towel shave is to die for. Having taken root on the sofa whilst my other half gets himself styled, I have been treated just as warmly as their patrons, always included in conversation and offered a drink. The girls are warm, friendly and hilarious, ensuring that all that enter enjoy their time in the shop. They offer a real, human touch, showing interest in their customers and wanting to share their time with you. And I cannot stress just how good the boys are looking when they leave!
No animals were harmed in the making of this (festive) wall mount.
Boys, if you are looking for a change, a new style, or a simple freshen up, visit the Cavalier Club. If you can't take my word for it, check out the reviews on their Facebook page - And to the lovely girls running it, you're doing an amazing job, well done!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year!

I know it's a tad late, but Happy New Year! I hope you all celebrated and saw in 2016 safe and well.

The Christmas period has been a whirlwind, and I'd like to apologise for my lack of communication over the past couple of weeks. But I'm back now and raring to go.

Christmas saw me massively spoiled, as usual, and I had a lovely time with family and friends, reminiscing about old memories, and enjoying making new ones. I have a gorgeous new camera (a very special gift from an equally special person), so I'm looking forward to sharing my new snaps with you! That's once I've mastered the art of moving said pics to my laptop... I'll get there! Other than wonderful gifts, I am full to the brim with food, drink and merriment (my jeans are definitely testament to the food and drink part!), my kitchen is still in recovery mode, having been packed to the rafters with homemade wine, biscuits, chocolate and all things indulgent. My house has just about returned to normality as a whole, the decorations safely packed away in the loft until they're required again (save one lonely mini-stocking that managed to avoid detection, the wily minx).

So, on to the present and the up-and-coming! I'm currently writing a piece for a very good friend of mine about my local music scene. I'm incredibly flattered that he has asked me to contribute to his blog, I'm excited about the collaboration and the opportunity to write about something slightly away from what I have offered on A Little Bit of Everything. I'll keep you all posted on when it is coming out and where to find it.

I'm also looking to start a series about independent businesses, local entrepreneurs and successful smaller businesses. I'll be starting with a post about 2 fantastic girls who have recently opened a barber's in Bedford and are doing an amazing job. That will be coming soon. I'm open to suggestion about where/who to write about, so please feel free to leave me your ideas!  

Other than all that, I am now in training for (potentially) completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge, so expect lots of pro-health posts (I apologise now!), and possibly a few whingy ones about how much I miss booze and carbs (again, I apologise!). With a busy few weeks ahead of me, I'm sure there will be fun stuff to share with you on the way!