Edinburgh Adventures pt.1 – Castle, Kismot & Countryside

I’ve been back over a month now and I still can’t stop thinking about this beautiful, magical place. And by magical I mean literally because Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter himself, something my other half was ridiculously excited about… But let’s start at the beginning.

Whilst our early morning flight might have at first seemed like a bit of an inconvenience, it did, however, mean that we were leaving Bristol airport as the sun began to rise. It was absolutely beautiful – talk about early morning views!

This also meant that we arrived in Edinburgh and got to the hotel around 8am, way earlier than the standard 3pm check-in, although once we arrived to drop off our bags the man working on reception was kind enough to check us into our room straight away hassle-free – if we hadn’t have been so tired, dazed and confused we’d have acted as delighted as we were! We chose to stay in The Village which was a convenient 15 minute drive into town, also hosting a spa and very well-equipped gym which suited us perfectly. After a last-minute room upgrade, we also had Sky TV and a king-size bed – perfect! A quick recovery-nap later, we set out to explore the city and headed straight for the top of our list: the castle.

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We were v big fans of the cute theme

Edinburgh Castle is situated right at the top of the Royal Mile, the buzzing main hub of Edinburgh city centre. The architecture of the whole city especially in this area is astounding; everything has original character and you can walk around and perfectlyFile_003 (3) imagine how it all was back in Victorian times, Edinburgh has managed the miracle of modernising and keeping up with the times whilst retaining and glorifying its originality, history and authenticity. On our approach to the castle we stopped by the Luxury Scottish Ice Cream van, this was a real treat.

As we got chatting the vendor proudly told us of how this was a family business for generations, 100% of the ingredients used are sourced locally within Scotland, many of them coming from Edinburgh itself and surrounding areas, even the flavouring used was naturally and locally produced and how this and the process itself was a best-kept family secret which created the rich, creamy texture that made this ice cream so special. And it was rich, creamy and special – we loved it! I’m a big fan of responsibly sourcing local ingredients (and ice cream, of course) and it makes me so happy to see it proudly advertised like this. It really does make a difference in terms of taste, in my opinion.

The castle itself was great fun to explore and has amazing views out over the city. Standing proudly is a huge cannon named ‘Mons Meg’ who has an incredible history having been capable in her hay-day of blasting a whopping 150kg gunstone two whole miles! There’s also all sorts of passages and look-outs as well as live demonstrations of historical practices, yet our visit wouldn’t have been complete without a quick tea & scone stop and a browse through the gins and whiskeys in the castle shop. I came away with small bottles of two types of Edinburgh Gin and a Stag’s Breath honeycomb whiskey, all of which were delicious, as well as a fridge magnet for my mother’s ever-growing collection.

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Next was our dinner stop which I’d chosen based on a recommendation from a friend and which I could not wait for: Kismot.

Despite being a little away from the main city centre, this family-run independent business is an absolute gem and deservingly highly rated on TripAdvisor. It hosts a wide variety of unique dishes such as the protein passanda, the deshi khani, the Kismot killer and the chocolate massallam as well as the exclusive haggis, marshmallow or chocolate naans. There are still plenty of regular Indian and Bangladeshi dishes to choose from but it’s always great to try something different and this was certainly a treat; I choseFile_004 (3) the marshmallow naan and a king prawn chocolate massallam (featured right) aka grated milk chocolate in a tandoori yoghurt and cream sauce. Although this sounds strange, like a bowl of chocolate sauce, it was actually deliciously creamy and rich and the chocolate added texture rather than overpowering with its sweetness. Genuinely an incredible dish, I would 100% recommend.

Also, the marshmallow naan I have been preaching to everyone about since my return as it was absolutely amazing! Again, sounds strange but I loved it, without a doubt File_005 (4)my favourite naan I’ve ever tasted despite its sugary stickyness. The other half chose the exclusive homemade deshi khani (featured left) which comes with its meat on the bone for extra added flavour. All in all, we both had brilliant plates of food and would definitely go back again – although maybe don’t order too much if you go because we struggled to finish and I was very upset that we couldn’t take it home and save for later (due to the obvious lack of microwaves in hotel rooms).

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Next day, full of fuel for the adventure, we decided to take on Arthur’s Seat in the (temporary) glorious sunshine. There are two different routes you can take and being the seasoned, bold adventurers we are we went for the more challenging route up, saving the leisurely stroll for the way back down. The views were incredible, looking out over the city with the castle standing proudly over it, this was a city we had instantly fallen in love with. A bit of a scramble and what felt like several thousand steep steps later, we made it to the top and almost fell back down again – the winds were whipping up a right old frenzy and I clung to the summit for dear life. But, views were totally worth it. 4 kilometers, 6036 steps and just over an hour very well spent and would certainly recommend to anyone visiting Edinburgh.

To be continued in part 2…

 

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Summer is coming and The Hashery’s got some brand new summer sizzlers!

The Hashery has been an independent foodie favourite of mine since its opening last December on High Street in the centre of Cardiff. Home to burgers, cubanos, mussels and cocktails this place hosts a friendly and relaxed atmosphere with some cool artsy decorations such as comic book style wallpaper and a confessions wall by the bar (dangerous, I’m sure). Recently, it’s seen a surge in popularity since the launch of its lunchtime deal; £7 will get you any main and side, including a classic mussel pot – which for the quality of their mussels is an absolute bargain!! Although the majority of the menu remains below the £10 mark, making it a city centre steal at any time of day.

Summer is now coming on fast (we hope, although the weather can’t seem to decide) and this means one thing – summer menus! This week myself and some other lucky bloggers got a first taster of the fresh new delights launching at The Hashery on 24th April. Here’s how it went…

File_001Firstly, prosecco on arrival. Big tick. What could possibly be better? The dimmed and fairy lights always make it feel cosy to me and with the impressive spread laid out in front of us, we were sure to be in for a great evening.

First tasters were the mezze board and mozzarella sticks: fresh bread, carrot and celery sticks and a homemade hummus dip made for a delicious mezze, much better than any of the times I’ve attempted homemade hummus! (Although I will keep trying…) As for the mozzarella sticks – these could very well have been the star of the show. Whilst presenting the food to us, co-founder Sean Hill explained that from their previous experiences in the restaurant industry food waste had been a recurring, shocking problem. Consequently, when opening The Hashery it has been a key focus to reduce the amount of food waste and to ensure locally and responsibly sourced File_008ingredients, making the freshest and best possible dining experience. Big kudos in my opinion; these are things I consider to be so important, for many reasons, and it makes me so happy when restaurants themselves feel the same way.

The menus have therefore been designed so that all ingredients are used in more than one dish – what does this mean for the mozzarella sticks? Nachos that don’t quite make the grade to be served as part of a nacho dish, having been chipped or damaged in some way, get ground up to form the breadcrumbs for the mozzarella sticks, giving them a unique and truly incredible crunch. I mean, seriously good. I don’t often order mozzarella sticks in a restaurant but I’ll find it hard to visit The Hashery again and not order a portion all to myself – and why not! Honestly, don’t knock ‘til you’ve tried.

Next newbie on the menu: due to the incredible success of the courgette fries on The Hashery’s original menu, they’ve introduced pickle fries in order to revamp (and reuse, reducing waste) the humble pickle so many of us overlook and/or carefully pick out of a burger. Some weren’t so keen on this idea, but having given them a go I can confirm they were actually pretty nice – although personally, the courgette fries still come up trumps.

File_000 (1)One of the key specialities of The Hashery (and my personal favourite) is the mussel pots; they’re so fresh you’d think you were in Cornwall or by the sea somewhere and so so tasty because of it! The new pot on this summer menu is The Orchard and as per usual it was super fresh and super tasty, I really can’t recommend the mussels enough. I still stand by the statement in my first post about these guys; these are the best mussels I’ve yet had the pleasure of devouring in my 22 years on this Earth. So good that tearing up the bread and absorbing every last possible mouthful of the glorious sauce these beauties come in isn’t even a question: it’s a must. I already want more just thinking about it…

The new summer menu also has some tantalisingly good-looking meat-eater options available: an absolutely huge beast of a burger called Dead Man and the only burger of theirs over the £10 price mark (modelled by co-founder Oscar GarciaFile_002 (3) in the photo). TWO homemade 6 oz patties, two lots of American cheese, pulled pork, crispy onions and your usual lettuce & tomato are crammed into this beast, however, and I’m sure I spotted an onion ring in there somewhere too. Although I couldn’t try this personally I heard no complaints from others around the room, so I imagine you get a good deal for your money’s worth. The other new meat option is a super fresh minute steak (and steak sandwich) which, as the name suggests, is cooked within minutes and served straight onto your lucky plate. These steaks are no exception to the local, responsible sourcing rule might I add, so definitely worth a try if steak is your thing.

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“The tart that’s bound to finish you off…”

Next, Sean introduced us to the “the tart that’s bound to finish you off”… to which he was referring to tiramisu, but needless to say that got some of us giggling away as a personal highlight of the evening. Desserts have made their debut on this new summer menu: Hashery brownie, salted caramel cheesecake, churros (brilliant! Who doesn’t love churros?!), market strawberries ice cream & cream (again, yay for local sourcing!), and our tarty friend the tiramisu. And boy, was she boozy! This was another dish like the mozzarella sticks that I normally wouldn’t order in a restaurant, yet have now been converted by The Hashery folks. Definitely worth a try, I fully intend on returning to try some of the other desserts as they all sound delicious!

Cocktails were the perfect end to the evening. And to any evening, in fact. The other main speciality of The Hashery besides their marvellous mussels is their 2-4-1 cocktails all day, every day for only £6.95; this is where co-founder Barnaby Bell comes into his element. Whilst some particular cocktail connoisseur friends of mine haven’t been so impressed as myself here before, I feel pretty confident that these new offerings will bring them around, especially sat outside in the summer sun looking out onto Cardiff Castle and people-watching all the passers by. The new and improved cocktail menu has now been colour-coded by main ingredient i.e. gin, vodka, tequila etc. making it easier than ever before to find something for everyone.

Summer Garden and Respect Your Elderflowers tasted smooth and refreshing whilst P.I.M.P My Pimms had a cheeky something extra on your usual summer sipper. Electric Tea is one I’d recommend having had it a few times now: rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec and blue curacao – sounds like a lot but it really does zing! Plus, 50p from every purchase of this cocktail goes towards charities supported by the lovely guys at The Hashery, what a great idea!

File_007 (1)Veering away from the 2-4-1 menu we have the Bulldog Margarita which was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before and something I would seriously recommend as a brilliant pre-drink; a frozen margarita, heavy on the tequila, with two coronas artfully resting against the sides of the funky skull fishbowl. It was buzzing and it was brilliant, in my opinion. If you love tequila you’ll LOVE this! Finally, I had the absolute pleasure of trying one of the dessert cocktails: lemon meringue cheesecake. I’ve never had this kind of cocktail before so didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Very sweet with a milky, creamy texture and some crumbled biscuit on top it was a lovely finisher to a great evening. (Top tip for extra fun: if you want a real palate cleansing kick just ask about the special shots…)

The Hashery continue to impress me every time I visit, both in terms of brilliant food and attentive customer service. Sean, Oscar and Barnaby are always more than happy to help in any way they can. This new menu definitely got me feeling the summer vibes and I for one can’t wait to be sat outside in the sunshine enjoying my brand new mozzarella dippers with a delicious mussel pot and some summer cocktails. I really hope you do the same!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

P.S. Shout-out to my new blogger friends Sheri & Charlotte, lovely to meet you both!

Charlie’s Crackin’ Curry

I love going out for a curry just as much as the next person, but when you’re trying to watch your portions and eat healthily, cooking them at home can be just as quick and easy to do – and saves on the pennies too!

It’s so quick and simple in fact, that I thought I’d share with you all my go-to homemade curry that you can chuck in the pan and job’s a good’un. It’s got great natural protein and can be tailored to your own individual preference by adding potato chunks, butternut squash and any vegetables you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely choppedFile_000 (53)
  • 1 large tin chickpeas
  • 2 packets king prawns/1 packet shrimp
  • red lentils, as many as you like
  • desiccated coconut (as much as you like)
  • 1 tin coconut milk*
  • 2-3tsp mild or medium curry powder
  • coriander (can be fresh or dried)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • grated or ground ginger, to taste
  • 2 sliced peppers
  • olive oil
  • chilli flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop/prepare all the ingredients. Then fry the onions & peppers in a pan with some olive oil until the onions start to brown
  2. Add the garlic and the curry powder, mix with the oil (adding a bit more if necessary) to form a sort of paste, let it all fry for another few mins
  3. Add the coconut milk*, chickpeas, lentils and any additional spices and stir in, reducing the heat and simmering – should be a light to medium brown colour
  4. Keep stirring and add in the coconut, coriander (a chopped handful if fresh, a large sprinkle if dried) and any salt and pepper and keep seasoning to taste
  5. In the last few minutes, add in the prawns (and the chilli flakes if you fancy) and mix altogether
  6. Serve with basmati or brown rice and enjoy!

*coconut milk can also be substituted with normal milk and some curry paste, just omit the curry powder if doing so [some may prefer this to avoid the xantham gum found in tinned coconut milk]

This is one of my favourite go-to recipes when cooking for friends as it’s so easily adaptable, however it’s also perfect if you fancy a treat meal without having to compromise your diet or break the bank! If you give this a try or make some variations for yourself I’d love for you to let me know by tagging the @charlieschapter instagram in your post or dropping me a message! Hope you enjoy 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Meat the new kid at 156

File_000 (50)Today marks the official opening of Meat at 156, City Road’s newest independent burger bar; I seriously recommend you get yourself down there. Great burgers and even better milkshakes, this is one to watch!

We arrived at the bloggers launch event on Saturday night not knowing what to expect (this was my first launch event, scary but exciting!) and boy were we impressed. Very welcoming and super friendly, the staff were great fetching us anything and everything we needed. First of all we tried the milkshakes: mine was a bubblegum and my flatmate went File_005 (9)for Oreo, both were incredible! Just the right amount of creamy thickness without feeling like a dairy overload, mine was wonderfully sweet and bubblegum-like without tasting sickly, it was brilliant! The only thing could’ve made it better was the addition of some bubblegum flavour millions sweets and that would be the dream… My flatmate went for the Oreo milkshake to begin and this, again, was amazing. Often you can find that Oreo milkshakes are too bitty with biscuit chunks and these can be too big to fit in the straw etc (all together a bit of a faff) but this wasn’t the case at Meat at 156. These were ones that Kelis was talking about… hands-down the best milkshakes we’ve ever had and would 100% go back again for these alone – honestly go give them a try!

Next was a burger and chips each: The Texan consisted of a beef patty with cheddar cheese, hickory BBQ sauce and fried onion rings – it was a beast! The meat was succulent and all the ingredients worked perfectly together I’m told, so top marks for this one. Mine was a Meat At Signature burger with two Quorn patties, American cheese and the Meat At signature sauce. Deeelish.
I’ve always wondered why restaurants don’t seem to serve Quorn, I’d rather that than some of the sad excuses of veggie burgers I’ve had before (you know, the ones that are literally just some potato and frozen veg shoved together in breadcrumbs), I think it’s brill! The signature sauce had little bits of coleslaw-type crunchiness in it and definitely made the burger, I can’t figure out what exactly it was and I don’t want to, just trust me it was lush. Will definitely be having again! The chips came along in cute little baskets and were just the right kind of skinny fries without the excessive saltiness that you can sometimes get from certain popular fast-food restaurants (not naming any names). Also, you can’t beat a cracking coleslaw on the side. Altogether, despite normally being a sweet potato fries fan all-the-way, this really hit the spot.

File_003 (11)Speaking of fries, the dirty fries next appeared on our table. A plate of them covered in a cottage-style cheese that I was a big fan of, BBQ sauce and some smoked paprika for a bit of spice. Following burgers and milkshakes, the other speciality of this brand new hotspot is steaks and I’m told they’re incredible. Perfectly tender with a great range of sauces available, they arrived on a platter with grilled tomatoes, a grilled mushroom, a corn on the cob and another basket of fries. My Quorn substitute was two Quorn patties and two spicy Quorn sausages and went really well the black pepper sauce, although corn on the cob is one of my all time favourites so this kinda stole the show for me for this course! Seriously though, if you’re a steak fan this is 100% worth a try!

And for the grand finale: dessert. Now this, was a dream. The chocolate brownies [photo above courtesy of the Meat at 156 twitter – I was too busy scoffing it down] had a crumbly outside and luxury gooey soft centre, making them perfect for everyone no matter your texture preference (mine was gooey, my flatmate’s was crumbly). Served with a side of smooth ice cream you’re onto a winner! Alternatively, if you’re not a chocoholic there was also a lovely warm sticky toffee pudding that contrasted perfectly with the ice cream to leave me very happy indeed and verrrry full! Would definitely recommend.

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Myself enjoying the food! (Excuse rabbit hands)

All in all, it was a great evening of great food, I definitely walked (waddled) away about four times the size! If you’re after somewhere new and a bit different then try City Road’s latest, it opens officially to the public tonight! Great burgers, great steak, the best milkshakes. What’s not to love?!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Wonderful Welsh Heritage at The Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon

Cultural heritage is something to be proud of wherever you come from. This weekend, we decided to tick one of my many Welsh adventures off the list and go explore The Big Pit National Coal Museum up in Blaenavon – and we had the best time!

The weather kept changing its mind between momentary glorious sunshine and overcast with outbursts of rain but nontheless, the scenery was beautiful – The Big Pit is actually located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My proud little Welshman stood gazing lovingly over his homeland and I can’t deny that I felt proud to be an honorary Welshie. My own family has mining history too back up in County Durham, so it filled me with questions to ask my mother and grandad when I next see them; it was so interesting learning about stuff that’s so relevant to your own life and background yet still so fresh in historical terms. Anyway, back to the museum & tour itself.


Rob and the other tour guys we can’t speak highly enough of; so friendly and chatty and so so knowledgeable about their subject being ex-miners themselves. They carefully strapped our harnesses & headlights on and locked away our valuables before we squished like sardines into the lift, ready to go below-ground (very authentic). Rob went on to tell us how fast this lift was descending and how much faster it would’ve been back in the day – and still is in other much deeper mines – as well as how many would fit into one of these lifts in a typical day, which alone was enough to make me glad not to have to do it everyday!

At the bottom lay one of the trucks the horses used to pull through the mines, 72 of which resided at The Big Pit, each truck carrying 1 tonne of coal which was sent up to the surface and away to peoples’ homes. These horses were allowed out ‘on holiday’ for 2 weeks of the year and the rest of their lives were spent underground working the mines. I’m not a big fan of horses but the extremity of the constantly damp conditions and fellow resident rodents down there gave me a huge respect for these animals, lugging tonnes and tonnes of coal miles through the mines day after day.
On top of that, children as young as 5 were sent down to work in the mines opening and closing the ventilation doors, until at about 9 years old they were old enough to work the mine face itself. Young girls weren’t exempt it turns out; their job was to crawl on hands and knees up and down the steep mine faces tugging along a trolley which men could dispatch their coal into, so I can only imagine how heavy it must’ve gotten and how realistically quite terrifying that must’ve been, crawling on your own through sweaty older men all day. (This is in fact why young girls were banned from working the mines some years later – it was deemed inappropriate for them to be around men who were often half or almost fully naked due to the heat of working at the deep coal faces at such a young age and I can’t say I disagree).

Rob said to us “hold your hand out in front of your faces and when I count to three, turn your headlamps off. 1, 2, 3.” Darkness. And I mean seriously: Pitch. Black.
When you think about it, when was the last time you truly couldn’t see anything? Not even the tiniest fleck of light or at least the outline of your hand in front of you? If it hadn’t have been attached to me I can honestly say I’d have had no idea where my hand was, and I can imagine after hours on end of this darkness which the children on the doors went through I definitely think I’d have been going mad and starting to lose it. We were told that the shift patterns were 12 hours long both for the men and the children, meaning that in the winter these miners never saw daylight; so much of their lives were spent underground that these horses became their children and these fellow men became their family. The camaraderie that stems from such close-knit communities in such extreme conditions is something that always remains truly admirable to me and something totally key to survival, I imagine. A problem shared is a problem halved an’ all that.

Further along the line came a small railway track which the carts were transported through the mines on once the demand became higher than the horses could physically take. This was incredible in itself because of the way it was operated: one child would be placed at the top of the track and the other would go along the track with the cart to the coal face – which could have been miles and miles away. Once full, the child with the cart would simply squeeze together two electrical wires running along the wall adjacent to the track, generating a bell ringing at the other end so the other child knew when to withdraw the cart. These electrical wires themselves were live, including those Rob showed us on the day, which if they sparked when methane gas was present (a by-product of coal extraction) led to potentially huge explosions within the mine itself. This was sadly the case with the Senghenydd colliery disaster of 1913 which killed 439 miners, men and children alike. As cliché as it sounds, this really brought it home for us as we stood in a mine… surrounded by people… underground… almost pitch black… nearest exit literally miles away…

File_000 (49)As I said, heritage is so important. When something really relates to your own now privileged life it not only makes it so so interesting but also so so real. Back at the surface there were several other reality checks such as the showers and lockers with personal stories and contents within them that really made everything so touching and inspiring. My boyfriend was beaming with excitement the entire time and even came out of there wanting to be a miner for crying out loud… but the sense of pride in their work was what was really touching; these men went to work day after day after day knowing that their suffering and intense hard work was fuelling a growing nation, heating homes and powering trains, driving the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom which we have relied upon to develop our lifestyle today. This pride shone through from Rob and the other ex-miner tour guides and really made the day for us, we had the utmost respect for these guys; they were there, they lived this.

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Sadly, I couldn’t buy these due to card machine problems but look how cute they are!

I’d really recommend a trip to The Big Pit National Coal Museum if you’re ever in South Wales, or perhaps you live here and you’ve just not had chance to go yet. It’s free entry just like the other National Museums in Wales, though there are donation boxes around the place and a lovely cute shop at the end filled with Welsh-ness; local beers, Welsh silver jewellery, cheese and chopping boards (above), that sort of thing. You also don’t need good weather for the underground bit, just make sure you’ve got a few layers on cos it can get pretty chilly down there. There’s just so much to see and learn about we were absolutely fascinated; I think it’s so important to understand and appreciate these things, history is a part of us after all.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*featured image courtesy of Visit Wales

A Palm oil free Pancake Day!

“Are you dying for a cookie? ‘Cos orangutans are…” 

If this was on your next cupcake or pack of cookies would you think again about your food choices? This was one of the little notes (although rather passive-aggressive) that some friends of mine and I had on home-baked goods at our recent palm oil free bake sale on Valentine’s Day – a Love Your Planet bake sale, as such. The simple idea was to make more people aware of the devastating impacts of palm oil and suggest some small changes to their food choices that can be good for you and for the planet. 

This is a huge debate in itself and one which I’m still muddling my own way through, but here are the simple facts:

  • 85% of all palm oil originates from Indonesian & Malaysian [primary] rainforest
  • The industry is linked to major deforestation, habitat degradation, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses as land and forests are cleared for plantation development
  • Plantations themselves are set up using a slash-and-burn technique, devastating anything left behind and releasing huge amounts of CO2 when underlying peat is burned, significantly contributing to climate change
  • 1/3 of all mammal species in Indonesia are now considered critically endangered as a result of unsustainable palm oil development and habitat destruction
  • An estimated 1000 – 5000 orangutans are killed each year for this development, despite their being “a conservation emergency” according to the UN due to their vital role in the germination of rainforest ecosystems
  • Palm oil is found in approx. 40-50% of household products such as baked goods, confectionary, shampoo, make up, cleaning products and toothpaste

With this in mind, I’ve been working to try and cut out some of my own palm oil consumption where possible; one of the most straight-forward ways to do this is through chocolate and biscuits. Or so I thought… Turns out it’s next to impossible to find palm oil free chocolate unless you want to pay a pretty penny! BUT there’s such thing as RSPO Certified Palm oil which despite heavy criticism over its true ‘sustainability’ and certification process, at least it shows that somebody somewhere is trying to do something about it and that companies are taking some environmental responsibility.

For now though, here are my recommendations for a palm-oil free pancake day:

  • CHECK YOUR CHOCOLATE. There are many conflicting sources online but best thing to do is check the company website to be sure. Else think about the death and destruction of tigers and orangutans whilst you’re indulging in gooey yumminess.
  • NO MARGERINE. Butter is usually fine but margarine contains palm oil as a preservative – some brands are RSPO certified but realistically, butter is better anyway!
  • Opt for toppings full of natural goodness!
  1. Banana slices & honey 
  2. Berries & natural yoghurt
  3. Strawberry slices & nut butter (100% natural) – Meridian’s almond butter is my favourite and totally palm oil free!
  4. Or the all-time classic: lemon juice & sugar. (Okay, it’s not as healthy as the other options but it is lush I think we’ll all agree – and even better, it’s palm oil free!)

Nutella. This has long been considered one of the worst offenders for palm oil content; however according to their website it now only uses RSPO certified palm oil… “Ferrero’s achievement of the RSPO certification has also been praised by Richard Holland, Director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative.” WWF has a whole world of criticism itself from many environmentalists around the globe due to its involvement with a lot of major corporates, but that’s a whole other kettle of political fish. Personally, I’d say avoid if you can. 

If you really can’t live without some chocolate in your pancake, then these brands are also RSPO certified: McVities, Cadbury’s, Oreo, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, Co-op. It’s hard to know who to believe and what to think with so many conflicting arguments, but my own guilty pleasure of RSPO cert. chocolate tonight will be a gooey melted Carb-killa in all its goodness.

For more information on palm oil, why it’s such an important environmental issue and what the debate over RSPO certification is all about then have a little look online – here are some links to get you started: the story of Palm Oil, Say No to Palm Oil, Orangutan Foundation International, Rainforest Foundation.

Happy Palm-oil free Pancake Day!!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

My favourite healthy, simple & satisfying lush work lunches

Although we hear a lot about meal prep these days, I do believe it’s key to maintaining a healthy diet whilst keeping your food waste to a minimum. However, it can be difficult to know where to start…

Ideally, you can plan your meals for the whole week and write your shopping list accordingly, for which I have this amazing fridge magnet (below) that I was way too happy to find online! (Available on Amazon). Sounds like a lot of effort but I would really recommend doing this as much as possible because it means you can shop for meals rather than just as and when, whilst keeping your costs and food waste down as well. All good stuff.

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In my opinion, lunch is the easiest meal to plan and prepare for as you don’t have all the naughty temptations that can come of an evening “shall we just go out for food? Fancy popping down the pub? Do you want anything from the convenience store over the road?” which can lead to extra money being spent, naughty extra calories being consumed (be it biscuits or an extra cheat meal) and unfortunately this can also lead to some of your food ending up in the food waste bin when it hasn’t been cooked or frozen on time. This is not what we want for ourselves or for the environment. Lunch, however, you’re either out and about or sat in the office and despite there being a perfectly adequate canteen or sandwich shop nearby, it doesn’t quite beat the cheaper and often more convenient alternative of a healthy, home-cooked meal.

So, without any further ado – here are my top healthy lunches for you to easily prepare at home:

  1. Fish, rice & veggies
    This one can often require next-to-no cooking if you’re crafty with your meal and file_000-27shopping choices. As I’ve mentioned before, my microwave hot pot is an absolute dream for cooking fresh fish and/or vegetables at work; you just lay them in the pot, top with butter, lemon juice, salt & pepper and whatever other flavourings you like and microwave for 1.30 – 2 mins, depending on whether you’re doing veg or fish and the wattage of the microwave. Job done. Grab ½ a packet of microwave rice to go with it (you can save the rest for later) and voila! A healthy, happy lunch that has everything you need in terms of protein, good carbs and veggies. [P.S. my favourite microwave rice is the Tilda brown rice, quinoa & sunflower seeds packet, tastes amazing! You can cook your own but be careful with reheating this later]

  2. DIY Quinoa salad
    The beauty of salads is that you can chuck anything and everything in, whatever you’ve got a hankering for. Personally, I love my salads to have quinoa, roasted sweet file_000-43potato or butternut squash chunks (for good carbs), sliced tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas (for protein), pomegranate seeds (gotta love those superfoods) and some avocado and/or cheese (for the good fats). Okay, so cheese may not always be a ‘good’ fat necessarily but I love finding small chunks of it in my salads as a cheeky little comfort food!
    You can also add things like falafel, sausage chunks, tuna, Quorn pieces or shredded chicken to this salad to bulk it up and add more proteins, so it’s really versatile and really simple to make! Quinoa only needs to boil for around 10 mins until its popped open and you can chop the rest whilst it’s cooking, just allow a little extra time for the sweet potato/butternut squash.
  3. Fajitas
    These are great if you want to use up any leftover veg but also if you want to have a bit of fun cooking! Chop up some onions and peppers and fry in a little oil with some crushed garlic and ½ a packet of fajita mix, the spices should mix in with the oil to create a sort of paste. Chuck in some chickpeas, mixed beans and whatever else you fancy; butternut squash or pumpkin chunks work really well, or you can bake and flake in some salmon (obviously you can also add in some chicken at the start if you’re a meat-eater). Wrap up in a wholemeal wrap with some guacamole and sour cream/mayo and job done! Perfect for a quick easy dinner with enough for lunch leftover – just wrap your wraps in foil and keep in the fridge until eating. (It’s a good idea to wrap these up as late as possible because the wrap itself will go a little soggy overnight, but this doesn’t take away from the taste!)

    Lastly, what to do if you’re caught short and have to dash to the shops…

  4. Fish & a funky salad
    Sounds simple, but if you’re lucky enough to have a supermarket nearby your work which I’m sure many of us do then you can still stay healthy even when you forget tofile_000-42 prepare or accidentally leave your lunch at home. Pick up a tin of tuna or mackerel and then head over to the chilled foods section and their selection of prepared salads (usually near the dips etc.) My personal favourite salads to grab on-the-go are ASDA’s edamame bean salad, minty bean salad (both full of natural protein), sweety drop pepper cous cous salad, or my favourite mixed grain salad. These are usually on offer 2 for £3, so pick a bean salad and a grain salad and have half and half along with your fish to create a good, balanced meal that still tastes yum! Alternatively, you could get a packet of microwave rice and have ½ of that along with just one of the salads, totally your choice.

And there you have it! A few simple, quick and easy lunch ideas to keep you entertained through the week. If you can cook enough of your dinner to give you some leftover for lunch the following day then that’s even better. I’ve got a bit of a reputation amongst my colleagues for my fancy work lunches and was even bought a lunchbox recipe book for Secret Santa, so when I get trying some of these I may well write about this again! [I’ll continue to upload ones I’m particularly proud of to the instagram as well so stay tuned] But I really believe it’s important to have a proper lunch to keep your brain well fuelled during the working day and to keep you ticking over until dinner time. Go on, get creative and get prepping!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx