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Review: The Barista Express – Sage Appliances

I am a serious coffee lover. The first thing I do when I wake up is make myself a cup of coffee and I never ever miss it. If by any chance I do, you don’t want to be around me ūüėČ

However, I must have been a good girl all year as the lovely folks at Sage Appliances gifted me The Barista Express, to review, and in terms of timing it arrived just before Christmas. I was so excited to unbox it and set it up.

It was all smartly packed in and as we took each component out, I got even more impatient to try it out as it had all these fabulous accessories.

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Shock horror, this is my first ever coffee machine and it is a seriously sexy one. It looks so professional and has all the accessories you see Barista’s playing with in coffee shops and is super sturdy with its stainless steel exterior. Now I can be a Barista at home ūüôā

It is such a perfect size and now sits proudly on my kitchen counter and has made my kitchen look that much more snazzier.

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In anticipation for its arrival, we had bought some fair trade coffee beans. To set up the machine didn’t take long at all and the instruction manual was so easy to follow!

What impressed me straight away was how cleverly it is made so that it is such minimal effort to clean. It even has an inbuilt storage compartment to keep the cleaning kit, which comes with it.

We let it go through the first test run as advised, and then mugs at the ready, we were good to go to make our first coffee with it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is frickin’ awesome! In around 1 minute we had the perfectly brewed cup of coffee from bean to cup! It takes more time for me to make my cup of coffee with the kettle and a jar of instant coffee at times.

The even more amazing part is that the kitchen is filled with this wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee – the kind that hits you when you walk into a coffee shop. I have never fallen in love with an appliance so fast before!

So to take you through the process, we first filled the top of the machine (called the hopper) with coffee beans and then selected the grind amount. There is an inbuilt conical burr grinder with a customizable dose control. It  delivers exactly the amount you need per cup into the portafilter. You can vary the grind size, from fine to coarse, to suit your taste.

You instantly get that amazing aroma and it lingers on for longer than when you have opened your instant coffee ground a few times. Plus it is so much fresher and it is so easy to do – the machine does all the hard work in a matter of seconds.

One of the accessories is the¬†The Sage Razor‚ĄĘ dosing tool, which you use to trim the puck for a consistent dose and extraction. It is rather therapeutic to use too. You also get a tamper to push it all down, which attaches to the machine magnetically.

You then click the portafilter into place in the machine, select either a single or double espresso, place your coffee cup on to the tray and watch the machine work its magic.

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The next step is to add the hot water, if you want to make a regular coffee or Americano. The machine has hot water dispensing literally straight away so there is no waiting around waiting for it to heat up. This is all down to the digital temperature control (PID), which delivers the water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction.

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Now the most fun – frothing the milk! I love that sound when you are in a coffee shop waiting for your coffee and you can see the Barista frothing the milk and then layering your cup with that milky goodness. This is perfect for making Cappucinos or Lattes.


The Barista Express has a steam wand attached to it that allows you to skillfully hand-texture the micro-foam necessary with the accompanying stainless steel milk frothing jug, to enhance the flavour of the coffee and create latte art. I still have a long way to go with the latte art but the foam part is super fun.

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I couldn’t get over how quick the process was to make a cup of coffee. It has definitely been a crowd pleaser over Christmas and the taste of the coffee is just so unbelievably good. It is just like having a luxurious coffee shop style cup at home, in a minute! ¬†I don’t think I can revert back to instant coffees anytime soon as there is literally no excuse not to use the machine.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my morning coffees even more now and sometimes cheekily brew an afternoon mug when I am working from home too.

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I have been experimenting lots with my Barista Express so look out for some recipes to add some sparkle to your cups of coffee.

One delicious way to have a super special mug is to add some (naughty) After Eight sticks to it. SO DELICIOUS! Especially as an after dinner treat.

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Seriously if you are after a really good Coffee machine invest in the Barista Express Рit is so well built, has a solid structure, looks so elegant, is so easy to use and sounds just like a professional coffee machine as it is pretty much the same as a commercial one but in a much more compact and convenient size.

It is so much fun trying out the different grind sizes and different coffee types to find the ones we love best. What blew me away was how quick it is to make a cup of coffee from grinding the beans to adding the froth! It is so good if you take a coffee with you on your commute as it tastes so good and what better way to start your day?

The Barista Express currently retails at ¬£549.99 and is seriously worth it! I have slowly become a Sage Appliances convert, as my Kettle and Toaster are also by Sage Appliances. It is one of those things that you never knew you needed till you get it and then you can’t live without it and wondered what you did without it!

I can’t emphasise how easy it is to use the Barista Express and how delicious the coffee is. If you are a coffee lover, this is a must have! Not only will your home (or office as this is perfect for that too) smell amazing, you will absolutely love every single mug of coffee you have from it!

For more information about The Barista Express and Sage Appliances go here.

Disclaimer: I was gifted The Barista Express from Sage Appliances. All views and photos are my own. 

 

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The Captain’s Mince Pie Freakshake

This Christmas why not up your Mince Pie game and leave Santa a Captain’s Mince Pie Freakshake to indulge in whilst he is delivering presents? I am sure he would really appreciate it as rumours suggest that he is ¬†a rum fan and has a weakness for Freakshakes ūüėČ

Alternatively you could impress your guests and make it on Christmas Day for a fun twist whilst enjoying a fabulous feast. This would really up your mince pie and hosting game!

It is so easy to make and fun to assemble.

Makes 4 (2 units per serve)

Ingredients:

200ml Captain Morgan Original Spiced

200ml mince pie syrup

500ml milk

6 scoops vanilla ice cream

Mince pies (to serve)

Method:

1. In a pan mix 600g mincemeat, 200g sugar and 200ml water. Bring to the boil and chill for 30 minutes.

2. In a blender, whizz the milk, ice cream, mince pie syrup and Captain Morgan Original Spiced rum. Pour into a mason jar or tall glass.

3. Decorate glass with syrup and sprinkles. Place mince pies on top of the glass and stab a straw through to drink.

PS: You can make it more fun by adding marshmallows and other naughty treats as calories don’t count during Christmas!

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold.

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Impress your guests this Christmas with a Martell Cognac 4th Course Food Pairing

Christmas time is my favourite part of the year where you get to spend time with friends and family over good food and drinks and I am always looking for different ways to raise the bar and impress them with new dishes and fusions.

Sometimes after a great meal you still want to feast on delicious but light food while you may be drinking, and this year Martell, one of the oldest Cognac houses, has collaborated with Cordon Bleu trained chef Luiz Hara for a different take on Petits fours known as the 4th course.

I wanted to try out one of the recipes created by Luiz Hara pre-Christmas so I could recreate it on the day and had a go at making the Pears, Roquefort and Almonds with Martell Soaked Raisins, which sounded like a dreamy combination.

It was so simple to prepare and there was no cooking involved – all I had to do in advance was soak the raisins in the Cognac. It was a great excuse to crack open the bottle and have a few sips too!

This 4th course food pairing was so easy to assemble, and a dish you can definitely prepare in advance and impress your guests with and relax at the same time.


It was absolutely delicious and the Martell Cognac soaked raisins were a huge hit with my other half.

If you would like to have a go making this pairing, the recipe, courtesy of Martell and Luiz Hara is as follows:

Pears, Roquefort and Almonds with Martell Soaked Raisins

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 4 pears
  • 200 grams Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 50 grams whole or flaked almonds, lightly toasted and crumbled
  • 100 grams dark raisins soaked in 75ml Martell Cognac

Method:

  1. Soak the dried raisins in the Martell Cognac for a few hours (preferably overnight) until they are plump and juicy.
  2. Peel the pears with a vegetable peeler and cut them into quarters, making sure you remove the core.
  3. Top each slice of pear with the crumbled Roquefort cheese, toasted almonds and a few Martell soaked raisins on top.

The other pairings include Iberico Charcuterie and Cognac soaked prunes, as well as Christmas Pudding Ice cream.  Keep an eye out on my Instagram over the festive period for sneak peeks of more 4th course pairings with the hashtag #Martell4thCourse.

If you have a go recreating this dish over the festive period would love to know in the comments section below!

Martell VS is available from all major retailers in 35cl, 70cl and 100cl bottles.

For more information on Martell and The 4th course head over to http://www.martell.com/en-uk/ or search for #Martell4thCourse.

Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary bottle of Martell VS. I am a Cognac lover and all views are my own. Recipe is courtesy of Martell and Luiz Hara.

 

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Getting festive with a Mince Pie Masterclass hosted by Eric Lanlard and Meantime Brewing Company

There is no¬†better way to get into a festive mood than making Mince Pies! However, what does beat that is when it is none other than “Cake Boy” teaching you how to make them. Yes….the legendary Eric Lanlard.

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I was lucky enough to be part of a masterclass hosted by Eric Lanlard and Meantime Brewing Company to make festive mince pies with a secret ingredient Рa brand new ale.

What has been brewing behind the scenes (pardon the pun), has been a new flavour as part of the Pilot Series by Meantime Brewing Company¬†in collaboration with celebrity chef and Master P√Ętissier Eric Lanlard called ‘Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale’, a nutty dark ale that‚Äôs absolutely perfect for the festive season.

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The Pilot Series is a range of bespoke bespoke limited edition brews which have a variety of exciting flavours and beers that you wouldn’t normally expect.

Before we started our masterclass, we were all chatting while trying the new ale and I can confirm it is as delicious to drink as it is to use as an ingredient in mince pies! It would even work in cakes.

So to kick off the masterclass, we all positioned ourselves in Eric’s cookery class area and in front of us were already pre-weighed ingredients. Eric explained the importance of exact measurements and what a difference it makes in taste and output.

We all donned our aprons and started mixing the ingredients for the first part, before heating the mixture up on the hob.

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Next we mixed in the ingredients for the filling and tried to resist not eating it out of the bowl as it smelt sensational.

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Eric gave us each some pastry cups ready for filling and we had great fun filling them with our mince pie mixtures.

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Next we cut out some fancy stars to decorate our mince pies with to make them look extra festive and away they went in the oven for baking.

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In true “these were made in advance” style, out came some mince pies for us to feast on while ours were doing their magic in the oven. We got to take ours home and they were greatly appreciated by the other half when I got home, who was also equally excited that he could try a bottle of the Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale too!

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If you would like to try these Mince Pies, you can do at either the Meantime Brewery Tasting Rooms or at Cake Boy until 22nd December. Trust me they are divine!

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Alternatively, you can have a go at making them at home and here is the recipe courtsey of Eric Lanlard:

RECIPE: CAKE BOY HAZELNUT ALE MINCE PIES

Ingredients

For the mincemeat

250 g golden sultanas
250 g glacé cherries, halved
250 g raisins
100 g mixed peel
1 tsp vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey
orange zest, finely grated
lemon zest, finely grated
125g unsalted butter
250g dark muscovado sugar
250ml Meantime’s Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale
100gr ground roasted Hazelnut
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice

For the pies
250 g shortcrust pastry
250 g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Put all the dried fruit and spices into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Place the vanilla extract, grated orange and lemon zest, butter, sugar and Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved (ensure you do not let it boil). Pour over the mixed fruit and stir gently, without breaking up the fruit pieces. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to infuse for around 48 hours.

2. Once the fruit is infused, pack the mincemeat into sterilised jars and seal. Store in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks to allow the flavours to mature.

3. When you are ready to make the mince pies, preheat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4).

4. Grease 6 individual 10cm diameter loose-bottomed tartlet tins. Roll out the shortcrust pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface and then use the pastry to line the tins.

5. Once the tins are lined with shortcrust pastry, generously fill the pastry cases with the mincemeat. It is likely you will have some mixture left over for using again.

6. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. When it is around 4-5 mm thin, brush with a beaten egg. Next, cut out 6 shapes that will be used to top the tarts (this recipe uses a star shape for Christmas). Sprinkle the puff pastry shapes with muscovado sugar, place on top of the individual pies and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and slightly puffed.

Let me know if you do have a go making these and tweet me a picture!

For further information on Meantime and The Pilot Series, please visit meantimebrewing.com

I was a guest of Cake Boy and Meantime Brewing Company. All views and photos are my own. The recipe is courtesy of Eric Lanlard.

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Pumpkin Spice Mudslide

The only change of season I welcome is Autumn because I love the rustling of leaves as you walk on the road, as well as the red fringed trees and the fiery skies. My favourite part of Autumn though, is the onset of pumpkin spice season.

Baileys recently launched a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavour and it is absolutely delicious in coffee as a Pumkin Spice Chai or Latte, on its own, sipped with ice cubes to keep it chilled, or even drizzled over ice cream.

I, however, made a Pumpkin Spice Mudslide, because I fancied something naughty, indulgent and autumnal. Here is how to make this cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • I shot Baileys Pumpkin Spice
  • 1 glass of blended Vanilla Ice cream
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a little extra to line the rim of the glass
  • 1 teaspoon sugar to decorate the rim

Method:

  1. Wetten the rim of the glass with a little bit of blended ice cream.
  2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a plate and rotate the rim of the glass on the plate in order to decorate it with the cinnamon sugar.
  3. Mix the ice cream and Baileys and pour into the glass.
  4. Add whipped cream and top with chocolate sauce.
  5. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
  6. Drink straight away.

For more information on Baileys Pumpkin Spice go to http://www.baileys.com/en-row/home.html

This cocktail recipe was in collaboration with Baileys. I was sent a bottle to review.

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Spicy Mexican Vegetarian Tacos

The word Taco means the Mexican equivalent of the English word sandwich. The tortilla, which is made from corn or wheat, is wrapped or folded around fillings, of which you can be as creative as you wish.

Tacos are so much fun to eat and here is a quick and easy, yet delicious, spicy vegetarian version, perfect for a tasty and enjoyable lunch or dinner.

I have collaborated with Gran Luchito sauces for this recipe, who have a wonderful range of Mexican condiments, which go perfectly with Tacos, as well as other Mexican dishes Рespecially if you love spicy food.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable oil
  • 350 grams Quorn chicken pieces
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 spring onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Gran Luchito¬†Smoked Chilli Honey
  • 1 teaspoon Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Pickle
  • Store bought flour tortillas
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • Salad leaves
  • 1 mango
  • 1 lime
  • sliced tomatoes for garnish

Method:

  1. In a pan, heat the oil on medium heat.
  2. Add the quorn pieces, red and yellow peppers, spring onions, garlic, salt and pepper and stir fry for around 4 minutes.
  3. Now add the Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Honey and Smoked Chilli Pepper and around 3 tablespoons water.
  4. Mix well and stir fry for a further 4 minutes.
  5. In a blender, blitz the mango, juice of the lime and red chilli.img_0242
  6. Place the salad leaves in a bowl, and pour over the mango, lime and chilli mixture.
  7. Now assemble each taco, by first placing the salad at the base and topping with the tofu mixture.
  8. Add a few slices of tomato and feast away!img_0255

NB: You can use chicken for a non-vegetarian version if you wish but these taste just as good and can convert any non-vegetarian into loving them!

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For more information on the Gran Luchito range, go to: http://gran.luchito.com/products/