TGIF

Friday Favourites: Cookbooks

Regular readers of The Amazing Blog will know that when it comes to cooking, we’re almost a perfect split. Half of us are foodies, while the rest would rather exhaust a basic recipe, than slave away in the kitchen. That said, it is universally agreed that a good cookbook can make all the difference, encouraging even the most unenthusiastic amongst us to don an apron and wooden spoon. Luckily for you, we’ve taken one for the team, correlating four new recipe books worth a try. We’re sure you’ll find one just for you!

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Firstly, many of us are trying to introduce meat-free meals into our weekly diets, meaning a good cookbook can prevent the need to exist solely on a nut roast or vegetable curry. Our cookbook of choice is The Modern Vegetarian, designed to inspire even the most uninspired, encouraging delicious vegetable-based meals packed full of exotic flavours and textures.

Written by world-renowned chef, Maria Elia, this cookbook aims to prove that cutting meat out of a meal doesn’t cut out the flavour; instead, it is a gateway to try new flavour combinations and techniques. Elia’s experience is reputable; she has a Michelin recommendation and has earned 2 AA rosettes. Viewers of Sunday Brunch and Saturday Kitchen may also recognise her, having appeared as a guest chef on both. We don’t know about you, but we feel at ease knowing that recipes have been tried and tested by an expert – because whether an avid chef or not, few have the patience for a disastrous result! The book itself covers everything from ‘Sophisticated Starters’ to ‘Sofa Suppers’, but we were most pleased by the ‘Stylish Sides’ section. All too often, we’re faced with plain boiled rice or pasta to accompany dishes – something Elia has challenged and avoided. Instead, you can transport yourself to India with a Red Lentil Dhal (page 114) or try your hand at an Aubergine Houmous (page 113). Whichever recipe takes your fancy most, you’ll be sure to enjoy the conversational element of the book, with personal notes written by Elia, substantiating the authenticity of the dishes and making for an enjoyable evening read.

To explore innovative vegetable based dishes for yourself, then The Modern Vegetarian can be purchased here for £16.99.

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There's no doubt that the smell of food entices you into the kitchen, but what about our other senses? This is something we hadn't contemplated, so we were intrigued by Sybil Kapoor's Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound cookbook. This book recognises the combined importance of all five senses, dedicating a chapter to each, filled with delicious recipes, and reliable advice, from layering flavours, to using temperature and sound.

Kapoor has a wealth of knowledge in the realms of cooking; as the author of eight books, she is one of the most respected food writers in Britain and continues to propel her knowledge through a variety of publications. Each chapter is based around one of the five senses: Taste, Flavour (smell), Texture (touch and sound), Temperature (touch) and Appearance; however, our favourie part of the book, is the integrated feel. Each chapter is intertwined, with theory and advice allowing the reader to establish the links between senses. Kapoor aims to prove that by using a little theory and practical testing, you will be able to produce simple, yet delicious dishes. Now this all may sound a little complex to a less than enthusiastic chef, however, even ready meal lovers in the office were taken by the carefully designed recipes, especially the Stir-fried Squid with Chilli and Black Bean Sauce (page 144) and the Sticky Asian Beef Kebab with Cucumber Dip (page 92). For those with a sweet tooth, the Sticky Spiced Lemon Gin Cake (page 75) also proved to be a big hit - so whether you're interested in the links between the senses or not, you'll be sure to learn new tips and tricks to create delicious dinner party worthy meals.

To tempt your own senses, Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound is available here for £24.00.

If you're looking to be transported to more exotic lands this Friday, then Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea by Joudie Kalla is just the cookbook for you! Taking equal inspiration from her historical background and personal experience of Palestine, we were struck by how little we knew about this exotic and varying landscapes. These conditions create diverse and new flavours, all of which are included in Kalla's recipes. With twists on traditional dishes, this book has an authentic yet innovative feel to it. Better still, it is jam-packed with stunning photography, from food images to landscapes and the people of Palestine. We were sold before even trying the recipes - quite an accolade!

With over 250 pages, this visually interesting book is equally colourful in terms of culinary delights. Flicking through the pages, you're met with everything from spiced lamb, to filled speciality pastries and watermelon juice. One of our favourite elements of this book is the splitting of chapters, not merely by dish, but by the areas in which the ingredients are sourced. Varying from Markets and Village Life to The Bakery and The Farm, a quick flick through this cookbook tempts the senses, but equally gives a quick snapshot of the Palestine lifestyle. We recommend the chapter: From The River To The Sea, in particular, the Saffron Monkfish and Vegetable Skewers (page 177), delicious as the weather picks up.

To inject a little bit of culture into your cooking, you can purchase Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea here for £26.

Last but by no means least, we discovered The RAF 100 Cookbook. Created to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force, this cookbook contains 100 recipes from 100 countries, split by chapter, into monumental moments of RAF history. We love the concept behind this cookbook, drawing inspiration from the saying that "an army marches on its stomach" and taking the research from acting and former servicemen and servicewomen to create authentic and delicious recipes from around the world. Additionally, this cookbook contains the recipes of top household chefs such as James Martin, Tom Kerridge and Cyprus Todiwala, emerging a plethora of knowledge to inspire your weekly menu.

We often find that cookbooks are very niche in their flavour combinations, and while this is certainly no bad thing, we like the variety of this cookbook. Each of the 100 countries are covered in a sensitive and informative manner, with a detailed explanation of the RAF's involvement alongside each recipe. It is clear just how much time and effort has gone into this book, spreading as far as to include eye-catching photographs of the dishes, alongside black and white images of the RAF in past years. The way in which the chapters are segregated stays true to the inspiration behind the book, from The Early Years to The Modern Age, conflicts are addressed through the medium of cultural dishes. Additionally, a percentage of each sale is donated to one of five RAF charities, directly supporting the inspiration of the cookbook. It is very difficult to pinpoint certain dishes here; however, the likes of the Ascension Island's Saint Helenian Fishcakes (page 300) and Maldivian Fish Curry (page 288) stand out for their exotic nature. The point here though, is that this is a cookbook for all occasions - whether you're looking for a local dish or one from further afield, you need only flick through to the country of your choice for an authentic and delicious recipe.

To inject 100 new recipes into your repertoire, you can purchase The RAF 100 Cookbook here for £25.

Kill The Cat Tasting Sessions

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The first of March is here, and (thankfully), so is Friday! We're not crazy drinkers at The Amazing Blog, but we'd be lying if we didn't admit to enjoying a tipple or two at the weekend. We were therefore excited to be introduced to Kill The Cat...a craft beer bottle shop with a difference! Based on the famous Brick Lane, they have over 150 specially curated beers, not only providing standard beers but a vast array of unique and innovative flavours. Whether you're a connoisseur, or more amateur (we're certainly in the latter category), Kill The Cat are committed to providing their customers with a newfound favourite. Even better still, you can choose from three tasting tours - with expert advice to help you along your way to finding something a little different from your 'usual.'

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Having discovered this brand, we were keen to delve further into the way in which they operate. Those with a penchant for beer may recognise that many companies group their beers by brewery or geography, and while this may be no bad thing, we were intrigued by the unique categorisation of Kill The Cat's offerings. Taking inspiration directly from the brand name (and with a little pun inspiration), you'll find that Cat 1 beers cover the familiar, whereas Cat 2 will provide a slightly rarer and unusual range. For the adventurous, Cat 3 is ideal, acclaimed to include beers that will ‘blow your mind.’ Now if you're feeling a little lost, then never fret, the beers are also arranged by their colour (light to dark), and expert advice is on hand, with top picks each month to provide a ittle inspiration.

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If you’re still not sure where to start, then a beer tasting is the answer, with three different options: The Beer Curious, The One Track Mind (IPA's) and The Killers. As the name suggests, The Beer Curious is an introduction to the world of beer, with a guided tasting of six beers, ranging from easy drinkers to more full-on brews. If you're a more seasoned pro or prefer IPA's, then The One Track Mind will float your boat, again with six drinks to try. Finally, for those looking to find innovative beers above the rest, then The Killers tour will be for you! This includes the tasting of nine different beers, picked acutely because of their uniqueness and rarity. Whichever tour you choose, you'll be enticed by the contemporary and fresh interior. Each tour lasts for around an hour, and you'll be treated to complimentary snacks - what's not to love?

Price wise, these tastings are reasonable, ranging from £22.50-£45 per person. These rates depend on the number of people in your tasting group, and the tour you decide on. To see the full price list, then visit the Kill The Cat website here where you can view their availability and browse the online shop. We think this would make an excellent gift for a beer lover, or an equally nice way to whittle away an hour or so with friends. Be sure to let us know how you get on, and we hope you have a wonderful beer-curious weekend!

Live Well London

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February is here, and we are proud to say that we are keeping to our New Year’s Resolutions at The Amazing Blog (well, for the most part anyway). Many resolutions revolve around health and fitness, aiming to make 2019 our year of maintaining a healthy body and mind. We were therefore excited to discover the new event, Live Well London, taking place from the 1st-3rd March in Old Billingsgate.

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This event will encompass a full line-up of classes, workshops, inspirational talks, live kitchen demos and much more. From fitness to nutrition, beauty and well-being, Live Well London offers a number of contributors and influencers who will be giving well-founded advice, from both personal and professional experiences. This ensures that you will leave having gained wisdom from a range of experienced professionals. Understanding the need for a varied range of advice, organisers have secured speakers from all walks of the fitness and health industries. Matt Roberts, one of the UK’s leading personal trainers, and best-selling fitness authors, will be on hand to provide science-based advice, to help you live a more energised life. The founder of Mind and Meditation, Niraj Shah will imparting her knowledge for those looking for well being and inspiration. If that’s not enough, then skincare expert Liz Earle will be offering advice on how to really take care of your skin. These names are just the tip of the iceberg, with a vast amount of other speakers with equal amounts of wisdom to share. Click here to see what's on over the course of the three days.

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The event will also include sessions from More YOGA and Barre Studio, unique and popular classes that prove exercise isn’t limited to running on a treadmill (although this is of course allowed if it’s your thing). The event focuses on four key areas: Well Moved, Well Balanced, Well Nourished and Well Restored. Well Balanced will help you to find new ways of moving, from addressing fitness crazes, to explaining the benefits of HIIT or Pilates. Well Balanced is centred around mental health, an ever prevalent and important topic. You can expect advice on mindfulness and meditation, as well as life-coaching and therapy. Well Nourished will focus on getting the glow from within, with tips and tricks on upping your intake of vitamins, and nutritional food and drinks. Finally, Well Restored will allow you to discover retreats, spas, wellness holidays, courses and more - because we’re all in need of a little escape sometimes.

We predict tickets will sell fast for this event, and as they are limited, we urge you to order sooner, rather than later. If you’ve fallen off the New Year bandwagon, or are simply looking for ways to ramp up your healthy routines, then we’re sure there will be something for you. Click here to purchase a ticket from £35.

Friday Favourites: Hand Creams

Hand cream is an absolute must for us at The Amazing Blog and as we’re still in the throes of winter, we can’t help noticing our chapped hands and split nails. Today we’re going to introduce you to some TLC for your hard-working digits. Whether you’re looking for a quick light fix or a protective barrier cream, we have a selection of our #amazingfinds for you to try.

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As regular readers will know we are fans of Rosenserien products and you’ll find our most recent post on their Shampoo & Body Scrub here. Now we are testing out their rather rich and delicious smelling Hand Cream this has 100% naturally sourced ingredients with more than 75% being organic, it is also vegan friendly and not tested on animals. Key ingredients are Aloe vera, coconut wax, jojoba oil, shea butter, calendula, vitamin E, soybean and rose oil.

What we particularly like about this hand cream is that it feels thick, nourishing and it lasts. It also smells deliciously of roses; this comes in 100ml tube for £17 here and a little goes a long way.

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Yes, it’s yet another natural skincare brand that we have a bit of a crush for. We recently wrote about their Firming Body Milk here . This SOS Help Hand Balm they say is for ‘demanding hands that require special intensive care,’ and we couldn’t agree more. Perhaps not as thick as Rosenserien, but equally as effective. This is much lighter in texture and the cream absorbs quickly. Their organic actives include cacao butter, almond and macadamia nut oil (to relieve tautness) shea butter (for increased elasticity).

SOS Hand Balm certainly comes to the rescue leaving soft hand and hydrated; this is perfect in this current chilly weather. SOS Help Hand Balm is 50ml at a reasonable price of £6.95 available here.


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This is a very different kind of hand cream from the others that we’ve mentioned. Cuderm Hand is more science-based and offers an intense hydration that forms a protective barrier. It has been created specifically for dry and sensitive hands and is fragrance free, SLS freehypoallergenicparaben free and alcohol-free. What makes this particularly unique is the key ingredient of their clinically proven colloidal oatmeal, which is obtained as a natural extract from oats. This helps to support, protect and promote healthy skin.

We think this cream is ideal for anyone with itchy or sensitive skin or who is exposed on a daily basis to environmental irritants. To purchase the 75ml tube for £5.49 see here.

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When you talk about a Potato Hand Balm its doesn’t sound very sexy or enticing. However, I’m assured that potato juice is the thing and extremely rich in vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and potassium minerals. These all offer protection against dry and cracked skin and various skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Potato juice is also deemed safe for any sensitive skins.

Styx Naturacosmetic is one of our #amazingfinds; and with over 50 year standing, this family run Austrian skincare brand has a strong belief in sustainability. So much so, that they’ve scooped up many environmental awards along the way. They believe in using organically grown and locally sourced wild plant-based raw materials for their ingredients, and when we met with them, they were insistent that we had to try this Balm! In Austria potatoes have been used for centuries to help heal the skin. This Potato Balm is based on a traditional Austrian peasant farmers’ recipe used as a remedy for treating all skin blemishes, sunburn, rough and chapped skin. In the balm there are also cold pressed vegetable oils (jojoba and macadamia) with the addition of shea butter and of course the potatoes. We like the slight sweet nutty fragrance, and that there was no greasy residue and it absorbed quickly. Potato Balm is available in a 70ml tube at £14.26 from Amazon here.

Whether your hand cream is made from roses, nut oils, colloidal oatmeal or potatoes; we hope that we’ve given you a ‘helping hand’ to try something just a little bit different.

Friday Favourites: Beers and Ciders

There’s no doubt that as Christmas approaches, beers and ciders are some of our more pleasurable lighter tipples… One thing we don’t enjoy though, is in our rush to replenish our fridge, is only having a limited choice from supermarket. Supermarket buyers please take note: There are some fantastic indie brands there! With a little research we’ve found some new and interesting options, from fruity ciders to chocolately beers. Keep reading as we at The Amazing Blog introduce you to some of our new festive favourites!

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Let's start with something fresh. Sassy's Cider, created in Normandy, is made of 100% pure juice, is 100% naturallow in calories and no added sugars. We started with the L’inimitable, a bright and golden balance between a traditional-dry cider brut taste, and the fruitiness of a semi-dry cider. It works well as an aperitif, but is also delicious alongside any meat or cheese. The full bodied aroma reveals apple and leather, creating a subtle balance between acidity, bitterness and roundness. Our next treat was Le VertueuxClear and pure, this can be perfectly combined with fish or light chocolate desserts as it gives you a sharp and slightly tannic mouth feel at first, finishing off the soft and subtle flavour of pear. This taste is something we certainly hadn’t come across before and it’s delicious!

Our favourite however, is La Sulfureuse, a cider blended with apple spices, creating a soft and semi-dry cider. Ideal with desserts like sorbet or pastry. lt is lower in alcohol than other ciders and has an intense pink colour, as well as a delectable smell of apples and red fruits. If you want to try Sassy’s ciders for yourself, then you can purchase 12 mini bottles (330ml each) for €44 or 6 bottles of 750ml each for €43 here. Alternatively, you can purchase a set of three for £24 on the John Lewis website here.

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Another fresh and new cider experience is provided by Lilley's, this time from the UK. Their lightly sparkling Rhubarb Craft Cider is characteristically tart, packed full of rhubarb flavour, yet still has a delicous sweetness. The taste is fulfilling, perhaps going down a little too easily at times! Lilleys, a family run cider business, based in Frome, Somerset, offers a diverse range of traditional and experimental blends of cider. Always made with care and a lot of enthusiasm, this cider definitely helps you to get the best out of the day. The notes of rhubarb effectively take away the usual over-sweetness of fruit ciders, instead leaving a light and refreshing taste. This is one of our favourites from their extensive range. We particularly like this tart nature, and it was a hit even with those who are usually put off by flavoured ciders. This Rhubarb Craft Cider was a winner in The Great Taste Awards 2018 for being ‘very sweet with lively carbonation tart and beautifully blended’ and we couldn’t agree more. This is an excellent present for a cider lover, in it’s substantial carton 5L box of rustic goodness that is certain to pack a punch for a mere £19.80 here

Delivering to businesses all across the UK, you can purchase the 6 bottles (500ml each) for £15.18 here. Alternatively, you can mix and match this cider with other great options, buying a selection of 6 flavours, including Mango or Apple & Blackberry. Click here to personalise your own crate.

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Moving away from cider, and onto beer, we came across Lowlander. There is no doubt that Lowlander’s Beer shines amongst the competition, with a range of awards for their botanically brewed beers. With its snappy branding inspired by travel to far-away lands, and discovery of exotic herbs and spices, Lowlander beers are packed full of flavour and character. A whole new dimension of flavours is added thanks to the botanicals used, and their website provides advice on how to combine your favourite beer with either food or other alcoholic beverages.

We tested Lowlander’s Yuzu & Pink Grapefruit beer, and were surprised by the lightness and freshness of this beer, revealing a bright citrus flavour characteristic of having being brewed with earl grey tea and gose beer. We also tried their Ginger & Kaffir Lime beer, which is, in contrast, rather spicy and aromatic, delivering hints of zesty citrus. This beer is brewed with Darjeeling tea and wheat beer, and both beers are presented in colourful and flowery bottles, sure to brighten up any day. With this innovative combination of botanicals, tea and beer, Lowlander wanted to provide innovative lower alcohol options (2.5% vol.). Their beers are subsequently lower in alcohol content than other competitors, but we certainly don’t think this has dampened their flavour! Launched at the Speciality & Fine Food fair in London, these beers can now be purchased from €15 for 6 bottles (330ml each) on their web shop and you’ll find them stocked in many good bars and shops.

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Another innovative brand we came across is Pillars, founded by four guys who have created their own Lager Revolution in London. Finding its roots in a garden shed, the aim of the brand was to prove that a craft lager can be just as tasty as its ale counterparts. This is something that we think has turned out to be a great success. With a lot of creativity and quality, the tasteless reputation of Lager has been smashed!

Their first creation was the Untraditional Lager, which has since become the all-time favourite (and our favourite as well). This 4.5% Session IPL combines ingredients from all over the world, producing a never before seen combination of a pilsner and hoppy IPA. This creates the delicious flavour of local British malts, with softness and fruitiness which has a slightly citrusy, but definitely crisp, finish. We also tried their Rebell Helles (4.8% vol.) lager, which combines traditional Helles Lager with new world hops. It is most definitely waves two fingers to boring beers! It is a malty maverick, revealing a full bodied taste, yet is easy to drink. Based in Walthamstow, East London, the brewery pays homage to a brand that wants to change perceptions of lagers. The packaging is metallic orange, and black and white in design, offering a graphic look that looks great on any shelf. With a reasonable price of £2.65 for 330ml, this fresh taste is definitely worth a try. Visit their website here to see for yourself.

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Our last stop of this revealing beer and cider discovery tour is Big Cat Stout from Stroud Brewery, a British Craft Brewery founded in 2006. They create premium organic beers, offering a wide range of beers in cask, cake bottles and cans. Starting out as their pet project, this dark stout is organic, and vegan and delivers a silky complexity of dark roast malts.

We decided to give this 4.5%, easy drinking conditioned stout, a try. We were certainly more than satisfied. Encased in a stylish and simple bottle with a graphic red logo, we were impressed to find that this stout is organically brewed, without any artificial preservatives, flavourings or colourings. The taste is not highly bitter, and we think is best combined with rich spicy foods, mature cheddar, chocolate or coffee based pudding. The silky smooth texture is full bodied, delivering a fruity dark chocolate aroma, with a hint of liquorice. Winner of a 2 star Great Taste Award (2017), this beer is definitely not what you find in an everyday pub! Purchase 12 bottles of 500ml each for £33 here.

As Christmas draws nearer, we hope to have opened your eyes to a few new festive tipples, we think in particular that these are great for those who normally steer clear of beers, ciders and stouts. So go on, give it a go, why not try something new?