The Botanist - Reading, Berkshire {restaurant review}

If you live in Reading and haven't heard of The Botanist opening up soon you are probably away on holiday or something. They are every where on social media at the moment. I was invited to check it out before it opens.

It's been 7 odd years since I have been in the old Barclay's building. A time when on every Thursday morning if you were to walk in the floor was covered in boxes and boxes of books. Free books, needless to say I was a frequent visitor. So, I can say with all authority that they have transformed the building and it is beautiful inside! 

Before we were seated we went to the bar and had a look through extensive list of cocktails; some of them classics with a Botanist twist and some original concoctions. We decided to try their signature cocktail: The Botanist - Ketel One Vodka, rum, and elderflower liqueur. It was refreshing, perfect for the warm summer night, and a great way to start the evening! If you aren't a cocktail drinker do not fear for they had a lovely list of wines and an Anthology of Ales to choose from! 

Throughout the night we also tried their homemade lemonade, perfect combination of sweet and tart, the strawberry and elderflower bellini and the raspberry Amaretto sour all perfectly mixed and delicious! 

The atmosphere was relaxed with the hum of conversation and live music. We were seated and were given time to peruse the menu with a lot of amazing choices! We didn't know where to start, but finally decided to start with the basket of piri piri chicken wings and the homemade scotch egg which was amazing! For our mains we both went with their famous hanging kebabs, it was a lot of fun drizzling the sauce down them from the top and we finished the night with desserts toffee pudding and the baked chocolate chip cookie dough! 

Overall the atmosphere and decor were great, the cocktails were great, and the food was amazing. My friend and I had a great night catching up and had a great experience! The doors will be opening soon and I definitely will be visiting again! 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a three course meal for two at The Botanist in Reading here! T&C's apply!! 

Opening this June! 


*I was invited by the PR for The Botanist to visit and check it out, I was not compensated in a monetary way for my review, all opinions are my own, please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 

Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars {Curse Worker Trilogy: White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart by Holly Black}

"You're Only a Finger Tip Away from Another World." ~ The Curse Workers

My friend Missie and I have known each other some time and we've always liked the same things. We've always enjoyed the same TV shows, movies, and of course books. So, I was thrilled when she contacted me and asked me to be a part of her Bookies to Foodies week a couple years ago. I loved this recipe and I have been wanting to share it here with you now! 

I recently finished reading Holly Black’s Curse Worker Trilogy, having read White Cat a few years ago it was about time I read Red Glove and Black Heart. My only disappointment was not reading them sooner!

The Curse Worker Trilogy is about a young man named Cassel Sharpe. By-the-way I love Cassel!! He’s really an anti-hero, which is why I love him so much. He’s not the typical “good guy” even though he does try.

See he comes from a family of curse workers. People who can manipulate people’s emotions, change/steal memories, break people’s bones by just touching them and so on. There is a wide range of talent - some only being able to work little charms so to speak and those who have a talent that only comes along once in a generation like transformation. There are also those who do not have any talent at all. Cassel is one of those people. In a powerful family such as his he really is an odd one out.

With his mom in jail, his dad gone, and his brothers working for a big crime lord it only made sense for him to go away to a private school. It was the school food and more specifically school desserts that inspired these Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars!

In the Red Glove Cassel eats Cherry Crumble for dessert while dining in the school cafeteria. When I was at school and the rare occasions that I had a school dinner, I favored a packed lunch, I remember having dessert bars. So, a combination of the book and my experience so here is how I made them:

Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars

300g (2 cups) plain flour
100g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
228g (2 sticks) butter, softened
360g (12-ounces) packages cream cheese
120g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 425g can of black cherries, pitted – 213g/7oz of fresh cherries, chopped
crumble topping (recipe follows) 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x9in square pan or a 13x 9in baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and the sugar until combined. Then add the eggs 1 at a time and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust. Evenly spread out the chopped cherries before sprinkling the crumble mixture over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or 30 minutes if using a bigger pan. Leave to cool in the fridge and serve it up!

Crumble Topping:
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
150g (1 cup) flour
60g (1/2 cup) rolled or quick cooking oats
114g (1 stick) butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Yield: approximately 3 cups

If you use a can of cherries don’t waste the juice reduce it in a saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch, and a tsp of vanilla extract until thick and jelly like. Use it as a dip or drizzle on top!

I cannot recommend these Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars enough! The same goes for this series! I loved reading about Cassel and I wish I could read more about him! Thinking a re-read is in store sooner then later!

Win a Meal for 2 at The Botanist in Reading, Berkshire! {CLOSED}

The Botanist is opening up in Reading, Berkshire soon and I can't wait!! 

I have been invited to check it out next week and then to the official launch on the 1st of June and I am super excited to take a look and a taste! I love checking out new places and The Botanist has definitely piped my interest. 

The design of the logo itself has drawn me in, but after a visit to their website - - who could not be intrigued by this magical looking place! Opening soon in the old Barclay's building, that has been empty for too long now, here in Reading! 

A concept like no other, offering a soon to be world-famous selection of botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, Champagne and wine. Food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ. With live music every night, sublime social times are guaranteed!

Watch this space for my thoughts and first impressions!!

Be in with a chance to win a three course meal and a bottle of wine for two by following the details in the Rafflecopter below. Be sure to read the T&C's before entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

  1. You must be 18 years of age to enter and live in the United Kingdom. 
  2. Winner will have to visit The Botanist in Reading at the address above to claim the prize of a three course meal and a bottle of wine for two people, as prize is not valid at other locations.
  3. Winner will be picked at random via the Rafflecopter widget. 
  4. Prize is provided by The Botanist via Stellar Public Relations and is subject to change. No cash exchange/alternative. 

* All thoughts and opinions are my own. See the contact/policy page above for more information. I am not being compensated in any other way to promote this giveaway.

**Images are taken from The Botanist website, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Easy Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Fudge

A while back I wrote a post on how easy fudge recipes were popping up everywhere and I wanted to put a couple of them to the test and so I had started with one that used condensed milk and this one using nothing but peanut butter, icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips.

It doesn't get any easier then this. Peanut butter could be replaced with any nut butter or something like Nutella, if you happen to like Nutella, I don't.

There is something to be said by proper fudge that uses a thermometer and takes time and patience, but sometimes in a world that is busy and full of other complicated things why not let something be easy and delicious! Like this chocolate chip peanut butter fudge!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Fudge

250g creamy peanut butter
228g of salted butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
450g icing sugar
100-150g chocolate chips, milk or dark

Prepare an 8 inch or 20 cm square baking tin by lining it with tin foil leaving it to hang over the top. In a heavy bottom sauce pan melt the peanut butter and butter together over a low/medium heat mixing until it's melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extra. Sift in the icing sugar and fold into the peanut butter until fully combined, then fold in the chocolate chips before pressing the fudge into your prepared baking tin and using the spatula smooth it out, cover with the excess tin foil and leave to chill in the fridge for approximately 2-4 hours or until firm. Cut into whatever size squares that you'd like.

This easy fudge is great to eat, but it's also makes a great gift to anyone who loves peanut butter!!

*Check out other fudge recipes I have tried Caramel Biscuit Fudge (easy) and Rum & Sultana Fudge (proper fudge)
*recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction blog

Panasonic Slow Juicer: MJ-L500 Review

To start with I was given this juicer by Panasonic after visiting them at their headquarters and spending a day in their Idea's Kitchen! That was like ages ago now. However, I think sometimes with kitchen gadgets you have to give them time to see if they are actually something you use.

I'd be lying if I told you I use this juicer every day, but I do use it more often then other novelty appliances. My favorite thing to use it for is homemade squash.

It's nearly impossible to drink some fruit juices naturally, they are either too sweet or sour or bitter or whatever they have to be diluted. Which is basically squash without all the additives and extra sugar or sweetener.

It's also a great tool to make smoothies and juices! Recipes linked below! I have yet to test it using frozen fruit, but it is one of it's features. Basically when the fruit is frozen it doesn't separate the juice, but makes a sorbet. Might be something I try as the weather gets warmer.

It's called a slow juicer, but it's not literal, it's slow because it squeezes the juice out slowly, extracting more juice and preserving more vitamins. Which is what makes it different then other juicers.

Overall I find this juicer easy to assemble, use, and to clean. Which is something people moan about when I have read other reviews on juicers. If you are in the market for a juicer I would suggest this one!

Juice and Smoothie Recipes: 

Apple & Carrot Juice
Pineapple Fizz 
Super Detox Smoothie
Orange Major
Cold Buster Juice II

*Find out how I got on at the Panasonic Idea's Kitchen here! (November 2016)
*All opinions are my own, I was given the juicer after my visit to the ideas kitchen, but I was not asked to provide a review of the juicer nor was I compensated in any other way. Please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 

Lola's: A Cake Journey Around the World {book review}

Traveling around the world is a dream a lot of people have, but very few get to experience. I have been a few places here and there and I would love to go more places, but in the mean time I will live vicariously through this cook book! 

They take us to Northern and Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to the America's and the Caribbean, and to Australasia and Asia! Sharing with us classic recipes of cakes and bakes we all know and love like England's classic Victoria Sponge, Black Forest Cake from Germany, Nanaimo bars from Canada,  and Lamingtons from Australia! As well as new and adventurous recipes such as Sacher torte that comes from Austria and Paris brest from France! 

The authors have reassured us that all these recipes are capable of being made in the home kitchen, but not every recipe is created equal and they have given each recipe a number of whisks to let us know the level of difficulty or the amount of effort that will be needed for each recipe! I like it when cookbooks do this as it allows you to gage the amount of work and time you will have to commit too to recreate the recipe! 

Here are a few of the recipes I found interesting and calling my name to try out sometime! 
Banoffee cake - England
Stout cake - Ireland
Speculoos cake - Netherlands
Dobos torte - Hungary
Lemon olive oil cake - Greece
Mosaic cake - Turkey
Baklava cake - Saudi Arabia
Brazil nut cake - Bolivia 
Black cake - Trinidad
Jelly cake - New Zealand
Matcha cake - Japan
Sesame cake - India

That's only the tip of the iceberg, there are so many other recipes in this book that sound and look delicious. The photography is beautiful and some recipes even warrant an extra page or two of it's history! 

Food and culture go together hand in hand and if either of these things interest you this is definitely a book worth checking out! 

*I was given a copy of Lola's: A Cake Journey Around the World  to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small. Retails at £18.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Oange Major: orange, pineapple, banana, & yogurt smoothie

I made a smoothie! When one visits a juice and/or smoothie place they always have crazy names like Strawberry Dream or BananaRama or something. Generally I am not that creative when it comes to names.

As a kid I named all my stuffed animals what they were. Penguin (my favorite stuffed toy) was called Penguin and his best friend Walrus....yup was a walrus. They are still best friends. I also had a platypus (he was a beanie baby, before beanie babies were a thing) he came with a name, but I changed it to Platypus. Because he was the original color I had a lady offer me $500 for him back in the day and I said no. I was a kid, I didn't have bills to pay.

Anyhow, I was drinking this and googling cocktails and something was called Major something or another and I was like I should call this Major something or another and I did. But at the end of the day it's an orange, pineapple, banana, and yogurt smoothie and here is how I made it, it's super easy.

Orange Major

serves 2 
1-2 oranges
1/4 pineapple
1/2 banana
50g vanilla yogurt

Juice the orange and pineapple and then blend with the banana and yogurt. If you like it cold add a few ice cubes!

It's perfectly orangey with just the right amount of pineapple and banana! This would also make great ice lollies. Pour them in ice lolly moulds and freeze! Yum!