A Strong Coffee

Thursday, 20 July 2017

10 Of The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Winchester

This week I was treated to a historical walk around Winchester followed by a tour of their bars and cafes. Living only an hour away by train, I am wondering why I haven't really uncovered the delights of Winchester before. It is a foodies dream with many locally produced foods. New Alresford is famous for it's watercress, but I hadn't even realised that it also distilled Twisted Nose Gin. If you fancy trying it in some handmade chocolate then Chococo is the place to visit.

My foodie tour guide for the afternoon was one half of Cabinet Rooms, Gary. Now may I recommend that this be one of your stops when you are next in Winchester. A few minutes walk from the station, this is a hidden gem. Infact there are a lot of hidden gems in Winchester. Whilst the big brands dominate the high street, if you take a side street, you will unearth some special treats. Cabinet Rooms is a cafe bar. I can highly recommend the sour dough tuna melt.

our dough tuna melt. at Cabinet Rooms Winchester

Gary told me of his love of Iceland (making me want to visit even more!) and the homemade Icelandic happy marriage cake he gave me to try was delicious. Sweet and sticky with rhubarb and vanilla. The cakes are all homemade by Gary's partner Marcus. In the evenings, cocktails are on the menu, but Gary is keen that that they aren't sickly sweet. The coffee liquer he gave me to try was similar to Tia Maria without all the sugar.

Cabinet Rooms Winchester


He then showed me some of his favourite places to visit. The Corner House has been recently refurbished and is often home to The Spitfire Sisters a 1940's harmony group.

If you are looking for a quirky pie shop then Piecaramba! fits the bill. The decor was fantastic and it's reviews on tripadvisor are outstanding.

Piecaramba Winchester

Unfortunately, Kyoto Kitchen was closed as I visited on a Monday. Here, Gary recommended trying the Winchester roll. The restaurant claims fame to the world’s first sushi roll to use wasabi leaf instead of seaweed. It uses locally sourced trout and locally grown wasabi. Who knew that Winchester grew Wasabi!?!

If you are looking for a good cooked breakfast then Forte Kitchen is worth a try. Then we moved onto coffee. I have no idea why people always assume I like coffee! Again there are all your big chains, but some amazing independents too. Flat Whites is one of these. When Pret opened up next to their plot, I can imagine their worry. However, I think it shows how good they are when the people of Winchester continue to chose them. I have to say the blend they gave me was delicious.

Flat Whites Winchester


Another independent coffee shop with seating that Gary recommends a visit (as did my tour guide) is Coffee Lab.

For juices and great vegetarian food then Rawberry on St Gerorges Street is a great place to visit. My husband, however, who is a Green King fan (coming from Bury St Edmunds) would feel right at home at The Royal Oak.

One thing that really struck me about my bars and cafes tour of Winchester was the community spirit. Independents were helping each other and collaborating to make themselves better known. It really was a lovely thing to see. So if you are planning on visiting Winchester soon, maybe check out some of these places. Let me know what you think.

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10 Of The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Winchester


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Taking A Step Back In Time With Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

After a focus week on Shakespeare that inspired our boys earlier in the year, we took them to the home of Shakespeare this weekend. If you are planning a trip to Stratford upon Avon this summer the then you are in for a Shakespearean treat. There are a variety of ticket options available, but the best value option is the town, cottage and farm pass purchased online. If like us, you live a reasonable drive away you would need to look at splitting the activities up over a couple of days.

We decided that we would visit the houses in town first as they are all close together (around a 5 min walk to each one.) Then to end the day we took the boys to Mary Arden's farm to let off some steam. Unfortunately we didn't have time to fit in Anne Hathaway's cottage, but purchasing a pass would enable you to visit again within a year.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Website is really useful with planning, giving you a guide to how long you would need in each property. I will be writing a more in depth review of each property we visited over on A Strong Coffee To Go.

Shakespeare's Birthplace


Shakespeare's Birthplace

We started our day at Shakespeare's Birthplace. Here there is a short exhibition followed by a look around his house. On hand are some Tudors to explain what you are seeing. It seems we wasted a lot of money moving house so the boys could have more space, as in Shakespeare's day they would have shared a bed!


Outside there were some actors who quite frankly amazed me by taking requests and acting out scenes from Shakespeare's plays.

Shakesperare aloud

Shakespeare's New Place


Here was a small garden filled with sculptures representing Shakespeare's work. I was shocked at how much the boys enjoyed this. However, activity books where they had to find each sculpture certainly helped.

Shakespeare's new place


Inside was a small exhibition.

exhibition Shakespeare's new place


Hall's Croft

This was the house of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall. The children's interest was held here by a mouse hunt! Little Ikea mice were hidden in each room and the boys had to match the mice to the rooms.

mouse hunt at halls croft


I personally enjoyed looking at old fashioned medicine.


medicine in the 1600's

It took us a couple of hours to visit these houses and we could have really done with an hour longer at the car park so that Hall's Croft was not such a rush (I really hate pay and displays as you never know how long you will be!) We decided that we would then spend the afternoon a short drive away at Mary Arden's Farm.


Mary Arden's Farm


This was the boys favourite part of the day, and could easily be a "whole" day with small children. Let's face it a whole day with kids is only 4 hours maybe 5 at a stretch. We arrived at just after 1. Unfortunately, we didn't realise that at 1-1.45 you can go down to the house and have dinner. When I say dinner, you can try some old fashioned dishes. We arrived just as they were washing up, but I am sure this would be really engaging for the children and worth remembering if you are visiting. The farm is small and has a number of actors dotted around the place, who stayed in character all the time.

We were able to get a feeling for what it was like to live on a farm in Tudor times.

Mary Arden's Farm

There were many games dotted around the place, and when in Shakespeare's mothers farm, one needs to play quills and ink splots rather than snakes and ladders.

quills and ink splots


Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and we were concerned that the falconry display might get cancelled. Luckily there is a barn, where we were treated to a talk about this gorgeous barn owl.

Owl at Mary Arden's Farm

We got to see her fly and learned lots about how she would have hunted. It really rounded off our day.

Our visit to Stratford Upon Avon was really enjoyable and it was lovely to see the boys so interested in one of our countries greatest playwrights. Middle man has decided that he will write a short version of A Midsummers Night's Dream with his newly purchased quill biro. And long may my husband be alerted by e mail of big mans you tube Googling of the works of Shakespeare.





Thank you to Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for providing us with entry in return for this review.

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A review of the town houses and Mary Arden's Farm which are part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Family Fever

Friday, 14 July 2017

Coconut And Lime Prawn Skewers - Perfect For BBQ's

These coconut and lime prawn skewers are light and refreshing and a perfect addition to your summer BBQ's.

Coconut And Lime Prawns - Perfect For BBQ's

BBQ season is here and it is time to eat our own weight in red meat. Or maybe not! Whilst I love the odd burger and hot dog, one of my favourite things to cook on the barbie is prawns. These coconut and lime prawn skewers are super simple to make and taste delicious. 

If you haven't invested in metal skewers yet, now is the time. They are so much easier than having to remember to soak wooden ones. If its just a small gathering they are perfect.

This recipe uses Vita Coco Coconut oil. I first used it in a walnut cake last year and have been hooked ever since. I always use it when I am cooking curries and I prefer it on my toast to margarine. It gives my dairy free pineapple pancake recipe a little lift too. It does make me laugh when I see it in the beauty aisle as well as cooking, but it really is that versatile!

ingredients to make coconut and lime prawn skewers

Coconut And Lime Prawn Skewers

  • 1 tbsp Vita Coco Coconut Oil
  • 2 limes
  • 165g prawns
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  1. Take the zest of 1 lime and add it to the bowl with coconut oil and sugar.
  2. Mix in the prawns making sure they are all coated.
  3. Place the prawns onto a skewer and BBQ for a couple of minutes on each side.
  4. squeeze the juice of the remaining limes over the prawns and garnish with fresh herbs.

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easy to make prawn skewers for a BBQ, using coconut oil and lime



This is my entry to the Foodies100/Vita #ReachforTheBeach competition


Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 10 July 2017

Smoked Paprika Chicken Traybake

This smoked paprika chicken traybake is sure to please even the fussiest members of your family.

Smoked Paprika Chicken Traybake

When British Poultry and Red Tractor challenged me to make a family friendly meal, I had to put my thinking cap on. Pleasing the whole family with one dish can be challenging, but I am pleased to say I cracked it with this dish. Empty plates and comments of  "you can make that again." put a smile on my face after a meal. There is little preparation, which is another bonus, as no-one wants to be spending hours preparing a meal with hungry kids biting at their ankles (or should I say raiding the cupboards looking for snacks!) The chicken can be left to marinate overnight making it even easier.

I have to admit that I often shop online. Whilst it is convenient for me, it really does mean that you don't engage with where your food is coming from. Taking a trip to the supermarket and browsing for the Red Tractor symbols made me realise how important it is to buy produce that is in season where possible to support our farmers. The Red Tractor products I chose for this dish were chicken thighs, red onions, baby potatoes and spinach.

red tractor produce

I find that chicken thighs are great for this type of meal and they have the added advantage of being cheaper than chicken breasts. My boys will tell you that they don't like onions, but if you chop them up small, they don't even know they are there.

This recipe works well as a family dish as it has flavour without being to spicy. It has more of a barbecue and all three of my children enjoyed it! (I would love to say this happens every meal, but that would be a lie.) I choose to serve it with corn on the cob, which is another crowd pleaser in this house.

Smoked Paprika Chicken Traybake

Smoked Paprika Chicken Traybake


For the marinade
  • 6 chicken thighs (skin removed)
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2tsp ground cumin
  • 2tsp onion salt
  • 1tbsp soft brown sugar

For the traybake
  • 1 red onion
  • 200g spinach
  • 400g baby potatoes
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp onion salt
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  1. Start my marinating the chicken. Mix the smoked paprika, garlic, cumin, onion salt and brown sugar together. Massage it into the chicken thighs. This can be left for a few hours or overnight. 
  2. Chop the baby potatoes in half and par boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 200C.
  4. Drain the potatoes and place them in a roasting dish along with the marinated chicken thighs and chopped red onion. 
  5. Cook for around 20 minutes and then discard any excess fat.
  6. Add the tin of tomatoes, paprika, onion salt and ground cumin. Cover with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  7. Check that the potatoes are cooked through, and stir though the spinach. Cook for a couple more minutes so that it is wilted and cooked through.




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For a simple and tasty family meal this smoked chicken traybake with baby potatoes, red onion and spinach will put a smile on everyone's faces.


This is my entry to the British Poultry and Red Tractor Recipe Challenge


Hijacked By Twins

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Cherry And Almond Flamingo Cupcakes

Spring was all about Unicorn cupcakes and summer is all about flamingo ones! Never one to miss out on a baking trend, I decided to make these cute cupcakes using some left over ingredients in my cupboards and fridge. The cupcakes are flavoured with almond and fresh cherries and topped with pink butter icing.

flamingo cupcakes

To make the necks on the flamingos, you will need to prepare your icing with CMC so that they will go hard and not bend. You can either use ready coloured icing or use white icing coloured with the gel that you use for the buttercream. Once the icing is prepared it can be rolled into the neck shape and eyes can be added using grey or black icing and using a skewer to make indentations. The beak can be added with water and bent to shape.

flamingo heads made out of icing

To make the wings and tail I used a lead plunger cutter. These could also be rolled/cut out if you don't have one of these.

overhead view of flamingo cupcake

Cherry And Almond Flamingo Cupcakes

  • 1 oz ground almonds
  • 1oz fresh cheries
  • 3oz self raising flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
For the Butter cream
  • 5oz butter
  • 10oz icing sugar
  • a couple of drops of pink gel
  • 1 tbsp water
For the flamingos
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. mix the flour, eggs, butter, ground almonds and sugar together.
  3. Destone the cherries and cut into small pieces. Add the the cake batter.
  4. Divide between the cake cases and bake until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Use prepared ready roll icing to make the flamingo head and necks. Use a leaf plunger to cut out wings and a tail. Allow to harden.
  6. Make the buttercream by mixing the icing sugar, butter, water and pink food gel together. Place in a piping bad with a rose nozzle and pipe onto the cupcakes. Add the icing pieces to finish your flamingo cupcakes.

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These easy to make cherry and almond cupcakes are topped with pink buttercream and decorated with readyroll icing to make flamingo cupcakes

Friday, 7 July 2017

MOKURU Fidget Stick - The Next Craze?

The MOKURU fidget stick is tipped to be the next big thing following the recent fidget spinner craze. My boys are still slightly obsessed with fidget spinners and I have been trying to stop them from spending their pocket money on bigger and better ones. When I heard that there was a new player in the fidget arena, I knew that they would be more than happy to test it out and review it with me.

Mokuru Fidget Stick


When it arrived through my door, I will be honest, I was a little disappointed. It was just a wooden stick thing. I wasn't even sure what to do with it. Luckily, as I do in many situations, I turned to you tube. Things became clearer. Let the boys explain exactly what you can do with it:


So after my initial disappointment it seems I was proved wrong. This fidget stick is actually pretty good fun and very addictive. I like that you can pass it between people, making it a bit more social.
I like that it isn't too expensive (£9.99.)  Lets face it these crazes come and go and noone wants to spend a fortune on something that isn't played with.

All of my boys like this fidget toy, but it is my 9 year old that is most keen. Probably as he has practiced with it more and is able to do bigger and better tricks. So in conclusion, I am pretty impressed. Is it as annoying as a fidget spinner though? When your 9 year old wakes you up at 6.45am practicing his tricks with it. Yes. Yes it is.

As with any popular toy, there are fakes out there. Don't be caught out and make sure it is  it’s a real. MOKURU You will be able to buy them from Smyths Toys and Amazon.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Pesto, Pine Nut And Goats Cheese Salad

Pesto, pine nut and goats cheese salad is an easy to make dish that is perfect for a summers evening. If you are anything like me, you will often have a jar of pesto kicking around in the fridge. Up until a few weeks ago, until I went out to lunch, I had only ever thought of putting pesto on pasta or in a chicken dish. It would never have occurred to me to use it as a salad dressing.

Pesto, Pine Nut And Goats Cheese Salad

A couple of weeks ago when Britain saw its mini heatwave, this dish would have been perfect. It was too hot to cook, and I was too hot and bothered to want to spend any time in the kitchen. The beauty of this dish is that it can be made in minutes. You don't even need to toast the pine nuts if you are short on time. I think it is worth the extra couple of minutes though. This dish is for two people and could also work well as a salad at a barbecue.

In an effort to lower the calories I used reduced fat pesto in this dish.

Pesto, Pine Nut And Goats Cheese Salad

  • 1 packet of beetroot salad
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 small cucumber
  • 60g goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  1. Take a large bowl and add a heaped teaspoon of reduced fat pesto.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks
  3. Add the beetroot salad, cucumber and tomatoes to the pesto and gently mix it around so that the salad becomes coated.
  4. Divide between two places.
  5. Slice/crumble the goats cheese and coat with any remaining pesto from the bowl. Place on top of the salad leaves. 
  6. Toast the pine nuts for a minute and add to the salad.
Pesto, Pine Nut And Goats Cheese Salad


If you are in need of more salad inspiration this summer check out my super salads Pinterest board Super Salads. I can highly recommend trying the butternut squash and halloumi salad.

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easy to make pesto, pine nut and goats cheese salad