Thai Cookery Lessons with Thaikhun Guildford

January. Christmas is over and the weather is dull. And cold. So flipping cold. And what better way to warm up a cold, miserable day, than with some warm, soul comforting food. I’ve spoken on the blog before about the restaurant chain Thaikhun and when they asked me to come along and sample their new Thai cookery lesson at the Guildford branch I leapt at the chance. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to banish the winter blues.

We arrived to a delicious Mocktail and a bowl of spicy prawn crackers, while Map, our host, explained the structure of the evening. We would be watching the chef cook a two course menu, before having a go at preparing the same ourselves. All ingredients, equipment and aprons were provided and the chef was set up at a station away from the kitchen so we could all crowd round to watch.

This was fascinating, however I would mention that this course involved a lot of standing and watching. If you go, don’t do what I did and wear heels! Comfy shoes all the way!

Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls

The first course he, and then we, prepared was Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls and had no idea they were so simple to prepare! We shredded and cooked the filling, then wrapped the rolls and deep fried them. It was so obvious and the preparation so straightforward, but I would never have considered making them at home had someone not shown me how to do it!

Skills! Plus, I want a knife like this!

Watching the prep of the filling. Frenetic!

The cooking area was set up with four burners and prep stations. This was based on eight participants (the most the classes usually take), with two to a burner. This would make it a really fun activity for couples or a couple of friends to do. Unfortunately on the night I went I was the only lone participant in a group of nine. This was OK to begin with though as some other friendly bloggers let me muscle in on their rolls!

Then it was our turn!

Deep Fried!

Once the spring rolls were cooked, we sat to eat them, while the ingredients for the main course were prepared. It was lovely to sit and chat with the others in my group while we ate and it really broke the ice that we’d all just cooked the same thing for the first time!

I cooked those!!!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

The main course was Thai Green Chicken Curry, a real favourite of mine! The chef explained the preparation of a real curry paste. However, due to time constraints (making a real paste from scratch, with a pestle and mortar, can take hours apparently) he was choosing to use a bought one. I was a little disappointed at this. I mean the paste was wonderful and gave a fantastic flavour, but it would have been fabulous to see, and use, a real homemade paste. Even a ” here’s one I made earlier” one.

Chef explaining the process of producing green curry paste and prepping the vegetables.

When it came to cooking the curry, the head chef took over. It was so interesting and fun to watch him work!

Then it was our turn. However, I didn’t feel as comfortable muscling in on another couple’s curry so I just watched.

A green curry paste and coconut milk base

It was a shame I didn’t feel like I could get involved, However Thaikhun were most apologetic and have suggested I go back another time to get the full experience and I’d love that!

As I hadn’t helped cook anything I didn’t feel I could ask to eat it either. So, rather cleverly I thought, I asked if the bowl of curry the Head Chef’ had cooked was still around. And it was. I may not have got to cook it, but I did get to eat bowl of Head Chef prepared curry to make up for it. And boy did it! We all sat back down together and were given bowls of rice to go with our curry. Delicious!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

All gone!

At the end of the meal we were given the opportunity to ask any more questions and given, what I thought, was a really thoughtful gift bag, complete with a bottle of Fish Sauce, Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk, along with some vouchers for money off in the restaurant and printed recipes for the dishes we’d prepared. Lovely!

Thoughts

It really was a shame I wasn’t able to get involved in the cooking of the curry. Asking more than two to share a burner is never going to work, even if they were all friends. But as long as the numbers attending the course were kept low, this would be such a fun thing to do.

The restaurant have been these running cookery lessons for a while now. However, the Guildford branch is starting to host theirs from February 2017. They will be running them from 11am-1pm on the 2nd Sunday of every month. The cost is £50 per person and includes everything you could need, including ingredients, expertise and a full meal at the end of it. You can book the course on their website.

The course was so much fun and I learned a lot about Thai flavours. So much so in fact that I’ve been totally inspired and have cooked the spring rolls and curry at home already. The rolls were so good. I may have to knock some up tonight as it goes.

Anyone want to come to dinner?

 

 

Thank you to Mapp and everyone at Thaikhun for a lovely evening.

I was invited to the course as a guest, however I was not paid to write this review. As always opinions are my own.

 

 

 

SEN Family on Holiday at Moonfleet Manor

When we decided to go back to Moonfleet Manor this September, I was not only really looking forward to it (we had such a great time when we went two years ago) but I was super interested to see how the hotel would cope with us as an SEN family. Could they accommodate the needs Oscar, as an autistic child has, and give us as parents (and adults) a decent break too?

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Preparation

I started to get a feeling that they just might, even before we arrived. Weeks before our stay I phoned the hotel to book Oscar into the onsite creche, sessions of which are included in the room price. I spoke to the Ofsted registered creche manager and explained about Oscar’s Autism and asked whether they would be able to cope if he came to spend time with them. She couldn’t have been any clearer that he would be welcomed with open arms, and explained they regularly have guests with disabilities including those on the Spectrum. Without prompting she asked whether we would like them to assign a member of creche staff to be Oscar’s one to one during his sessions. I was blown away by this as it was exactly what he needed, but was something I’d never thought they’d be able to provide. They continued to outdo themselves when, several days later, they emailed me a picture of the staff member who would be his one to one, so I could prepare Oscar beforehand. Again, above and beyond and highly appreciated.

I tried to prepare Oscar as best I could for the upcoming holiday, by talking about the hotel, showing him videos from Moonfleet’s website and making him a visual board which we stuck to the lounge door for a week beforehand. He looked at it every time he went past and was soon telling me he needed to go swimming. By the time we left he was pretty excited I think.

Oscar's Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

Oscar’s Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

The journey to Weymouth, in Dorset was easy (and made all the easier by Thomas the Tank Engine films on the iPad!). We arrived too early to get access to our room, but the staff happily checked us in and gave us our room name so we could order lunch. Oscar had a little wander round the gorgeous hotel lounges, looking at the vintage pieces on the walls, before finding the garden. We thought he’d be drawn to the trampoline, having been sat in the car for two hours, and he might have been had he not seen the giant sandpit. He happily installed himself and his trains in the sand, leaving us to have a coffee and a biscuit, bought out to us in the garden. Aaaaaand relax. The fact that the sandpit was in a gated enclosure was a nice touch and the huge garden itself was fairly secure, although this did rely heavily on other guests closing the gate to the car park, which not all did.

boy in sandpit

Oscar adored the giant sand pit at Moonfleet Manor

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more secuirty

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more security. Plus, look at that view!

Coffee cup

When someone brings you coffee and a cookie almost as soon as you arrive, you know its going to be a good holiday!

Creche

At 3pm, we took him to his first creche session. We had booked him in for four sessions over the two days so were hopeful that would give us (and particularly me 😉 ) some time and space to be alone. We were introduced to his one to one, Tara, who we chatted to about Oscar’s likes and dislikes etc. She asked some really relevant questions that kind of took me aback a little, until she told me she was also the mother of a SEN child herself and spoke Makaton at home. As any SEN parent knows, our children take a special kind of patience and knowing Tara had real life experience of this gave me even more confidence in his time at the creche. As I expected he would, Oscar ran straight in, excited to play with all the new toys (including of course the trains and track) and we were free for two hours.

Room

We checked into our room without Oscar, which allowed us both to lay out his things ready for him (making the unfamiliar a bit more friendly) but also to look round our accommodation. I was thrilled with the room. We had a Deluxe Two Bed Family room and couldn’t get over the space this afforded the three of us. As well as our huge (ridiculously comfy) bed and the generously proportioned bathroom (with bath, shower and double sinks), the room also had two twin beds, which were cleverly separated from the main room, giving the feel of two rooms. And each room had its own window, meaning that although this was a large space it didn’t feel too dark. Plus, what a view!

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The lounge area of the room. Behind those doors was a real surprise!

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I'm sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I’m sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Moonfleet Fleet

View from our room at Moonfleet Manor. Across the gardens and down to the Fleet.

This was a wonderful and unexpected touch as we were worried how Oscar would cope with sleeping in the same room as us. As it happened he had a generously proportioned ‘room’ all to himself, with twin beds, it’s own storage and own TV. This room could have slept up to three, with a camping style bed being included at the foot of the twin beds. This had been made up despite us not needing it, and blow me, if Oscar didn’t insist on sleeping in it (very well I might add!) both nights! Funny child 😉

beds

Oscar’s room was separated from us, which gave him his own space and a choice of beds!

When we bought Oscar up to the room after his creche session (and our relaxed Cream Tea in the lounge in our favourite chairs in the bay window!) he ran around giggling, jumping on the beds and then proceeded to get his trains out and play with them on the coffee table in the living room area. It was so nice to have that extra room and it gave him the space to regulate himself in peace after busy sessions in the creche/pool/garden etc.

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way ;)

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way 😉

Food

One of the things we loved about Moonfleet last time was their ability to feed all age ranges so thoughtfully. Despite Oscar being a rather anxious eater, we knew there would probably be a few things he would eat on the menu and we were right. However, we hadn’t considered how difficult the dining room might be for him. The first night he managed it, just about. Although he didn’t get upset, there was just waaaaay too much going on for him to concentrate on eating. Or sitting. Add to that a new(ish) food and it just all got a bit much and we left before things spiralled. The next night, after a busy day in the creche and the pool, we just figured he’d be more comfortable and eat more if we ordered room service. It couldn’t have been easier and they bought up his naan bread pizza and fries with the requested squash in minutes. It was a genius plan and I was just so grateful that it’s a service the hotel are happy to provide. It made such a difference and he ate the whole meal. It was also another time we were so grateful for the extra space the room provided.

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled it arrived with a 'hat'. I told him not to get used to it ;)

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled when it arrived with a ‘hat’. I told him not to get used to it 😉

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

Breakfast was equally good with a menu to chose from or a running buffet of cooked breakfast items, along with the usual cereals, pastries etc. Again Oscar struggled a little with the dining room, although being tempted with Nutella on toast and the pastry basket was enough to get him to eat something and give us time to do the same. However, not before he insisted 8am was time for the sand pit! And who were we to argue? It was after all his holiday too!

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

There were healthyier options thank pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasnt going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

There were healthier options than pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasn’t going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

Baby Listening

The excellent food continued into the evening and due Moonfleet Manor’s wonderful baby listening service, we were able to thoroughly enjoy it! Each night we kept Oscar’s bedtime routine the same as home, meaning when he got into this new bed he was ready for sleep. We called down to the reception to turn the baby listening service on and left him, with fingers crossed. And bless him if he wasn’t out like a light both nights! It was just so nice to have that time, sans child, to eat a delicious meal together, all the while knowing he was safe and monitored. We did see the receptionist come and find several families over the course of the two evenings. The majority of our fellow guests had young toddlers and babies, so that didn’t surprise me, but it did comfort me to know someone was actually listening!

Evenings

Our evenings, just the two of us, were wonderful. So relaxed and so much fun. It really did feel like ‘going out’ for dinner both nights. We dressed up, although you totally didn’t need to. We started the evening with drinks and nibbles in the lounge, where we were bought the menu to order from. We were then called to our table when our food was imminent. And the food itself was delicious. We played a game of who won each course both nights and disagreed over the outcome of most, as everything was so good. Plus Ben had goats cheese and who can ever win with goats cheese!

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend a bottle of the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier!

My winning dinner

My winning dinner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner. He was wrong though!

Spa

Our opportunity to relax while Oscar was looked after in the creche continued in the onsite spa. Both Ben and I booked treatments for our second day. I had a body wrap and a pedicure and Ben a facial and massage. The fact that the hotel has a fully functioning spa onsite, would be a draw for any stressed out parent. We made our appointments at opposite ends of the day so neither one of us would be left to look after the boy alone.

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

I love a good pedi!

I love a good pedi!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap! A nap! Imagine that!

Pool

As it happened my nap was disturbed half way through as Oscar had managed to wet every pair of trousers I had taken down to the creche for him (toilet training is a new and ongoing process for us). I took some more down to him, however once he saw me it became apparent he didn’t want to stay. I didn’t mind and chose instead to take him to the pool next door.

Moonfleet Manor has a three small pools onsite, a baby pool, a small learning pool and a larger swimming pool. While it may not be as fancy looking as some other spa hotel pools I’ve seen, it certainly worked for us.

pool

I was unable to take my own photos in the pool and this is an old one taken before this year’s renovation. Those pillars are no longer there.

Having not been swimming for a long time I wasn’t sure how Oscar would react. I needn’t have worried. He was most interested in the swimming lessons taking place in the learning pool (all babies or young children) and happily snaffled a couple of pool noodles to play with from the teacher. I still don’t know where he found a pair of Peppa Pig armbands, but find them he did. Once he put them on there was literally no stopping him. We were in the pool for two hours and in the end I had to practically drag him out, he was having so much fun. So much in fact that we decided not to put him into the creche the morning of our departure and instead both took him to the pool. He just loved being in the water so much! I am definitely going to have to look into one to one swimming lessons for him.

As the pool wasn’t too large I could relax about him getting lost and it never got busy enough to be too much for him. The only thing that could have been better for me were the changing rooms. The facilities were unisex and yet there were very few cubicles. On days busy with guests or swimming students this would mean you could end up changing in front of the opposite sex. Not ideal to say the least. However, there were decent baby changing facilities, free lockers, towels and toilets within the changing rooms. I would recommend changing into your swimwear in your room, meaning you only have to use the facilities at one end of your swim. Unless, unlike me, you have no body image issues!

The Verandah

One of Moonfleet Manor’s other assets is it’s enormous, and I mean enormous, play barn The Verandah. As we were only there for two days, we barely had time to fit it in, but did pop in for a quick run around before departing the hotel. Anything to let him burn off a bit of energy before getting in the car! He LOVED it, just as much as last time, and we actually ended up having this giant space, filled with soft play, trampolines, climbing equipment, football pitch, piano, ride on toys and air hockey tables to ourselves!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days! Includes giant clambering beanbag bunny!

Oscar and daddy having a go at the highrope

Oscar and daddy having a go at the slackline

The boy's first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

The boy’s first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

Again the room was fairly secure and was a great place for Oscar to get some vestibular and propreoceptive sensory feedback! It also had a nice array of comfy seats for the adults, not that we got to use them!

Impressions

Moonfleet Manor remains a beautiful place to go. The amount of facilities available to all ages are more than you’d find at most other holiday resorts let alone other hotels and I’m so glad we went. Oscar’s issues with the dining room did make me realise how differently we manage food and it’s consumption at home. I came away feeling like self catering would have been much easier. For him and for us in terms of his behaviour. However, he’s since started school and is slowly learning to eat in a room with lots of others, which makes me think actually this wouldn’t be an issue again. But if it is for you I would highly recommend the room service option!

The staff couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. Not once were ever made to feel we were any different to any other family. When, during his first session in the creche, Oscar needed a change of clothes. The hotel manager came to find us and once we’d grabbed the clothes insisted he take them over himself so we could resume our sitting/schlomping in the chairs by the window! A gesture that was most appreciated. Those two hours sure do fly by!

All the facilities aside, my favourite thing about Moonfleet Manor is it’s location. The views from the hotel and gardens down to the Fleet and Chesil Beach were just what I needed after a very stressful summer. Peaceful and calming, they breathed new life into all of us as a family.

Evening explore

Evening explore

Boats on the Fleet

Boats on the Fleet

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

Just like when we visited with a toddler, we came to Moonfleet Manor with our autistic son, looking for a chance to rest. We did just that.

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A beautiful day begins at Moonfleet Manor.

 

 

 

We would like to thank Moonfleet Manor for supporting us on our visit to their hotel. We paid for our room and treatments ourselves, however were gifted a complimentary room upgrade for this review.

As always all opinions are honest and my own.

You can find out more about Moonfleet Manor and the Luxury Family Hotel chain on their websites.

 

 

 

Thaikhun Restaurant Children’s Menu – A Review

In May I was invited to the launch of a new restaurant in Guildford, specialising in Thai style street food. Thaikhun (pronounced Tycoon) are a small chain with 8 branches across the UK. I had a lovely evening at the launch, meeting the joint owner Kim Kaewkraikhot. We talked all about her life in Thailand, making award winning noodles. How when her now business partner, tasted them, he was inspired to invest in her and develop Thaikhun in the UK. Such an interesting story!

The Look

The decor of the restaurant is fantastic. Authentic and fun it’s designed especially to remind diners of the street markets of Kim’s home country. She even explained how she hand picks many of the items used for decoration on her trips back to Thailand. It was clear to see the time and thought that had gone into it.

A replica of the cart Kim sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to remind them of where the idea for Thaikhun came from. You can see the 'train tracks on the floor too. These run throughout the restaurant. Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

A replica of the cart Kim originally sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to represent Thaikhun’s humble beginnings. See the ‘train tracks’ on the floor? Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

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The decor is authentic down to the old sets playing Thai TV in the corner!

The Food

I love Thai food, but I don’t get out to eat it much since moving away from London. The food I tried at Thaikhun was hands down some of the best I’ve had. Noodles, of course, but also curries, salads, various stir fried dishes and options from the grill. The enthusiastic staff seemed keen to explain that Thai food doesn’t just begin and end with Pad Thai. And I’m so glad they did. It’s the thing I always order in Thai restaurants, partly because I love it and partly because it’s the dish I’m most familiar with I guess. However, when I was given the Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce (Moo Prik King), well, all that changed. Juicy pork, with a flavoursome heat and crunchy beans!  I could have eaten a bucket of just that. With some sticky rice perhaps. Delicious!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starters

A selection of starters. The Fishcakes were gorgeous little morsels!

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Take your pick. A selection of mains including the ever popular Pad Thai

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My new favourite Moo Prik King. Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce. Amazeballs!

While I was chatting to the management I asked whether they felt the restaurant was suitable for children (once a mummy blogger always a mummy blogger after all!) I could see there were plenty of high chairs and a changing facility, but wondered if the busy decor and bustling feeling might be too much for some children. They told me that they were actually working on their children’s offering and asked if I would be willing to come back when it was launched to let them know my thoughts. I said I’d love to.

High chairs

Plenty of (decent) high chairs!

Children’s Menu

I have to admit I was concerned whether Oscar would cope with the busy decor and the unusual food. His autism means we can never be sure how he’ll cope in new places, so to be sure I could offer a fair review I actually took him for lunch a few weeks beforehand. He did brilliantly and loved the busy decor, especially the Garfield Phone! We ordered the PopCorn Chicken from the old children’s menu and I gave him some of my rice. He tried it all, including the spicy prawn crackers. I actually thought the children’s options were pretty good (and tasted lovely!) The only niggle was that I had to ask three different people to bring him crayons to colour his menu mat and by the time they did he’d lost patience and wanted to leave.

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What else do you do with the cloche over the condiments?

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

Going back he was much calmer and knew where he wanted to sit. It was interesting to see the new menus. They had retained the Pad Thai and Pop corn style chicken and rice options, but had introduced a Mix n Match option. I loved this idea as it allows children to pick the elements they liked and mix with a choice of three sauces, making the dish as flavoursome or not as taste dictates. Brilliant!

The new Thaikhun Children's Menu

The new Thaikhun Children’s Menu

All children’s meals start with crudités (vegetable sticks), then I chose him the plain noodles, the char grilled chicken and a nut free satay sauce. My thinking was that he likes chicken, occasionally eats noodles and adores peanut butter! It came, not on a plate as before, but in a yellow version of the compartmentalised school dinner tray, with plastic cutlery. I couldn’t really work out why, although I know some children prefer the compartmentalised approach to food, so maybe it was that. I have to say it didn’t really add anything to the experience for us.  The chicken was lovely  and the noodles were, well, noodles. He wouldn’t add the sauce to them, which was a real shame, as I think it would have been much tastier if he had! Ahh well that’s my boy. Maybe next time. But all in all I loved this idea. Children love control over the food they eat and this hands it to them nicely.

Child's meal tray

Children’s meals come in these trays. Great if your child likes to keep their food separate, but plenty of room to mix it up if they would prefer.

As a bit of fun the restaurant also serve all children a small pot of ‘creepy crawlies’ or Buffalo Worms as they’re actually called, to try. Oaty in flavour they were perfectly inoffensive, but Oscar would not touch them, telling me “You don’t eat worms Mummy!” Far too sensible my chap 😂. The dessert for the set childrens menu was a Mini Milk Lolly. Which I have to say I wasn’t sure about. A branded lolly, very squarely aimed at young toddlers, in a culturally specific restaurant, after a meal aimed, I would say, at children of all ages. It felt a bit odd to me, but the boy didn’t seem to mind and it would have meant we could have taken it with us if we’d needed to leave in a hurry, something I’m always appreciative of!

Buffalo Worms to try.

“You don’t eat worms mummy!” Buffalo Worms to try.

Green tea ice cream

The Boy got a Mini Milk, I got Green Tea Ice Cream. Mummy wins this one kiddo!

Thoughts

I like Thaikhun child’s offering. The food is well pitched and can be adjusted to how adventurous the child is feeling! The only thing I was a little disappointed with was what came with the food. On the new Menu it talks about “Fun Facts and Activities with National Geographic”. I like this idea. Something more than just a colouring option would definitely raise it above other children’s dining options on the high street. However other than the worms, we saw nothing of these. Oscar was just bought an old menu to colour, albeit much quicker than before. It was perfectly nice and all and I don’t have anything against colouring as an activity. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting something a little bit different.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Would I recommend it as somewhere to take children?

I like that the children’s menu is flexible and the staff have always been unremittingly helpful and warm. If you have a child that is happy to veer away from the beige choices of potato based meals, then I would absolutely recommend it.

And if you’re taking them, it means you get to have Moo Prik King. You lucky thing 😉

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

 

 

Thank you so much to Thaikhun for their generous hospitality. I was not paid to write this review and as always all opinions are my own.

You can find your nearest Thaikhun here

Our Favourite Five – May 2016

The summer is well and truly under way in our part of the world. And this is what the Savage family have been enjoying this month.

1 Eurovision

Of course! What else could start a list of things my family has enjoyed in May? My husband put the televised song competition in our shared diaries as soon as the date was released! This year we found out our neighbours were as bonkers about the show as we are, so invited them to come down and watch it with us. It’s so much fun sharing the madness with someone else. Although to be honest, there was a lot less crazy in Eurovision this year. Much more slick and a little bit less fun for it unfortunately (I mean Justin Timberlake, while the votes were counted? Seriously? Sigh) Anywho, we had a lovely time just hanging out, drinking wine and commenting. Much as we all agreed we like Graham Norton as host, we were also in agreement that we miss Terry Wogan getting gently sloshed and more acerbic as the evening went on. And as a fitting tribute to the man, who died earlier this year, we were sure to raise a glass of his favourite tipple at song number 9 (his personal cue to start the evening’s drinking). It was an emotional moment. And yes, tears were shed!

To Terry

To Terry!

2 Ribs

Whenever I used to have friends over, pre Oscar, my go to choice of food was always ribs. They never failed to please, but I haven’t made them for years.  So, I decided to do them for our Eurovision shindig. In the past I have always marinated the ribs overnight (a Nigella recipe) and then baked them in the oven. What a faff! This time I decided to utilise my slow cooker and boy were they a massive hit! Tender and juicy and sticky and delicious. And so much easier to make. I bought the ribs from the butcher instead of the supermarket for a start and that made such a difference. They were so much bigger and had so much more meat on them! Then I just chucked them in the slow cooker with the following ingredients. Blooming gorgeous!

Spicy BBQ Ribs

  • 1 X 500g bottle of BBQ Sauce (I used a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray Barbecue Sauce)
  • 50g of brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp of cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1.3 lbs of pork ribs (I got a rack from our local butcher who cut them into individual ribs for me)
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Combine the bbq sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and chilli powder in a bowl.
  2. Salt and pepper the ribs. Place ribs in slow cooker, and cover in sauce. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours
  3. Devour.

I served them with coleslaw, roasted new potatoes and sweetcorn.

No, they weren’t Slimming World in any way, but saved for a special occasion, I’ll definitely be doing these beauties again. Only I may have to make double quantity next time! Yum!

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Delicious!

3 M&S Food Hall

A month or so ago Haslemere got it’s very own M&S Food Hall. Regardless of your opinion about whether our town needed a M&S Food Hall, you can’t deny that their food is good quality and often different to what’s on offer in the ubiquitous chain supermarkets (one of which is just over the road if you’re that bothered by it). I’ve found myself popping in throughout May. I bought some of the nicest and biggest (they were a ‘King’ variety) Strawberries I’ve ever had, to take to a friends house, a beautiful bouquet to say a big thank you to a neighbour, and on days when it’s all been a bit much and I need somewhere to take five, I am happy to admit I’ve been Found wandering their aisles. I’m not saying I’d get my weekly shop there, I wouldn’t. But for occasional nice ‘bits’, it’s been a boon.

The M&S Haslemere Coffee Shop has made a nice occasional change.

The M&S Haslemere Coffee Shop has made a nice occasional change.

4 Our deck

I’ve mentioned before that our garden is bigger than our house and as soon as the sun came out at the beginning of May, we were straight out there, tidying up the garden for the summer season. We have a long lawn, but a few years ago we also built (with the help of some very kind friends) a deck. Big enough to take a decent table and chair set, it’s becoming my favourite part of the garden. It’s definitely where I spend most of my time out there, so this month I’ve been adding a few sweet little touches. Cushions for the chairs, a parasol, a wall mounted planter and wild flowers in a jar have all made this corner of the garden a lovely little nook for eating, writing and just hanging out!

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Bright, comfy cushions from Sainsbury’s.

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Bluebells and rosemary, all picked from the garden.

Is this not the cutest planter you've ever seen? A perfect spot for my Thyme and Oregano

Is this not the cutest planter you’ve ever seen? A perfect spot for my Thyme and Oregano.

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I wanted a cream parasol, but picked up the wrong box in Homebase. Hey ho! Oscar doesn’t care and asks me to put the ‘umberella’ up as soon as the sun comes out!

5 Driving Lessons

I wrote about learning to drive a few weeks ago (you can read about why I don’t already have a licence here). It’s been a big part of May for me, although to be honest I’m not sure I’d call it a ‘favourite’ as such. It’s hard learning a new skill any time in your life, but the older you get the harder it is (not my words, words of clever science type people in white coats) and I am finding it hard. But every week I’m noticing little things improving and my anxiety (which behind the wheel has been at a spectacular all time high) slowly fall. Slowly. I’ve done four lessons and now I have a two week break. I only hope I don’t forget everything in that time!

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What have been your family favourites this month? I’d love to know!

 

 

Peanut Booster Bars for the sustenance of pregnant ladies

All my fellow bloggers appear to be pregnant at the moment, so pregnancy talk is everywhere on my social media! Swollen ankles, back ache, sciatica, the lot! And then the other day someone mentioned how hungry she is all the time and that took me right back! In my first two trimesters I ate much less than usual. I just wasn’t as hungry at all. But then in the third trimester I was ravenous constantly. Particularly in the mornings. At the time I worked an hour and a half away and to keep me going on the train I started taking a cereal bar with me. And then it was two. And by the end I was packing a picnic! And eventually shop bought cereal bars just weren’t doing it for me any more. So I found a recipe to make my own. Packed with much more goodness than commercially produced ones, they (along with the satsumas I was craving), kept me going until I got into work. Just!

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Me at 34 weeks pregnant. Already very swollen and very hungry!

And I hadn’t thought about them for aaaaaaaages, until talking to my hungry pregnant friend the other day. So I thought I’d share the recipe with you. They’re based on a River Cottage recipe, are utterly addictive and not just for pregnant ladies!

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Peanut Booster Bars for the sustenance of hungry pregnant ladies

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 125g no-sugar-added crunchy peanut butter (I use Meridian)
  • 75g honey, plus a little more to finish
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 200g porridge oats
  • 150g dried fruit. I used half raisins, half sultanas, but you could use whatever you like or have going spare
  • 150g mixed seeds. I used 1/3 pumpkin, 1/3 sunflower and 1/3 sesame, but again you can use whatever you fancy and in whatever ratio
  1. Line a square baking tin. Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey and grated citrus zests in a deep saucepan over a very low heat. Leave until melted, stirring from time to time.
  2. Stir the oats, dried fruit and three-quarters of the mixed seeds into the melted butter mixture until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking tin, smoothing the top as you go.
  4. Scatter the remaining seeds over the surface and trickle with a little more honey.
  5. Place in an oven preheated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden in the centre and golden brown at the edges.
  6. Leave to cool completely in the tin (be patient – it cuts much better when cold, in fact I used to keep mine in the fridge), then turn out and cut into squares (or in my case great big wodges) with a sharp knife.
  7. These bars will apparently keep for 5-7 days in an airtight tin. Or in our house, a couple of days. Ish.
    imageYes they have some sugar in them, but do you know what, these little beauties did me a real solid in what was a pretty difficult time in my life. So I can’t help but love them. Give them a go and let me know what you think!