Sunday, 30 October 2016

Meating friends and enjoy the delights at The Curing House, Middlesbrough

Eating out is always one of my favourite things to do. I do love cooking but the thought of some great food cooked by someone else will never fail to be appealing to me. When I was organising to go out with a friend for a few drinks, she suggested we get food too. Knowing there were still places in Middlesbrough I'd yet to try, I asked if she wanted to go to the Curing House. This was also a place she was really eager to visit so we booked ourself in!

Situated on Bedford Street, the new hub for foodies in Middlesbrough, the Curing House describes itself as a 'unique charcuterie bar and restaurant'. When we walked in I instantly fell in love with the decor. It's very retro with a modern twist featuring mustard yellow, greys and black in the design.

It was quite quiet for a Thursday night with only a few other tables filled but this made our experience more enjoyable as it was easy to chat without much other noise. We were quickly seen to and started looking over the menu. There were many delicious choices featured on the menu, and with this we decided we were going all out with three courses.

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

To start with the House Sausage Tortellini caught my eye whilst Jen wanted to try what they are famed for, their charcuterie meats. My starter was okay, but not something I'd choose again in a hurry, Jen seemed to like her meat plate with accompaniment of bread and little pickles.

For our main course we both went for the same thing. Far from the meaty meals they're known for, we went for the vegetarian butternut squash risotto. It was delicious, so creamy with the addition of breaded tofu balls and small blocks of blue cheese. I'm a real lover of risotto and this didn't disappoint. They even let us take away our leftovers which we ate for lunch the next day extending this delicious meal.

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

The Curing House Middlesbrough Bedford Street Restaurant Review

Although we were practically bursting at the seams with the two courses we'd already eaten, we decided dessert was a must. Since we'd arrived Jen has been going on about the caramel cheesecake so that is what she asked for. With not many items on the list I was interested in, I went for a brownie sundae. Jen fell in love with her cheesecake stating it was the best dessert she'd ever had in a restaurant, great praise indeed! My sundae was lovely, the ice cream was top quality and it went perfectly with the brownie. 

When we were ready to pay they brought over some little pieces of mint rock which I just had to take a photo of as they were super cute and featured their logo as you can see in the picture above.

Overall I was really pleased with our visit to The Curing House. Having worried initially that there wouldn't be much on the menu I'd like as I'm not overly fussed on meat most the time, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed all the food. The service was impeccable and I'd definitely recommend The Curing House to anyone for a meal in Middlesbrough!

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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Going behind the scenes at the Scream Factory

If you know me, you'll know that I'm not a fan of scary jumpy films, I don't do the dark and confined spaces are not for me. So what better to do on a Friday night then head down to Scream Factory, the culmination of all these things. Now before you go thinking I faced my fears and I was a brave little bunny, I'm very sorry but I have to disappoint. I didn't actually go through the proper Extreme Tour, I was taken on a special behind the scenes tour to see the scares from a distance.

Scream Factory, Redcar, Kirkleatham, North East Halloween Review

Katy from the Scream Factory, which is the North East's largest scare, kindly invited me down to experience the haunts. She did encourage the Extreme Tour quite a few times, but I was too much of a scardy cat to do it. I felt like a right let down, sorry Katy! What I did experience had me on edge throughout the time I was down on site.

The Scream Factory is a family-run business with each member using their special skills to bring together a great 10-day scarefest. Myself and my sister headed down to Kirkleatham on Friday night, parked up in the Museum car park and started to walk to our doom. At 8pm these days it is pitch black, so this definitely set the scene for us.

We found the entrance located opposite the front of the Museum and then were directed down alongside another building before coming out right at the start of the Scream Factory. People were being herded into marquees ready for the tour, and we almost got stuck in one of the groups! We quickly got out of there and found safety amongst the Scare Crew, although in the background all we could hear were screams and chainsaws.

Our calm demeanour didn't last for long as whilst waiting for our 'behind the scenes' tour we met a delightful clown. Okay when I say delightful, I don't mean delightful. He was sinister and creepy, not someone you'd want to meet on a dark night. We were taken along the tour dipping into backstage areas along the way to see the groups scream with fear as different gruesome characters popped out to frighten them. It was quite humorous to watch them but I know if that was me that I'd be screaming all the same.

Scream Factory, Redcar, Kirkleatham, North East Halloween Review

Scream Factory, Redcar, Kirkleatham, North East Halloween Review

All the actors at Scream Factory are brilliant, they all get so much into character and take great pleasure in scaring you. We encountered a few whilst we were there and although they were told we were there for a backstage tour, they still wanted to give us the full experience and continued in their character to creep us right out. At one point we thought we would be chased out by burly, bloody men with chainsaws.

What I didn't realise about Scream Factory is that there is so much to it. On the tour Katy told us about all the bits we would miss by not taking the Extreme Tour and it sounded vast, and extremely scary. There was mention of clowns, butchers, morticians, nurses, doctors and even crazy bee keepers! All a bit too much for me, but for the ticket price I think everyone who takes the tour is definitely getting value for money.

Although I haven't taken the tour, and you won't make me (unless it's the Twilight Tour), I thoroughly recommend that you get yourself down. If you fancy getting the wits scared out of you and then having a massive giggle about it afterwards, then this is for you. The team at Scream Factory are so passionate about putting on a great show each and every year, they give everything to ensure everyone has the best time!
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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Trying recipes I found on Pinterest | 2. Easy peasy Pumpkin Pie

Last week you will have seen the first post in my new series (Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers), trying recipes I find on Pinterest. After last week's spooky success, we're back today with another recipe!

Anyone who knows me will know that around this time of year I'm all about Pumpkins. It doesn't matter if it is decorative or edible, I have a certain yearning for anything pumpkin. I'm not sure why, maybe it is since I've become a blogger, I just feel the need to have pumpkins in my house. But either way I'm a little obsessed. I've already got my little munchkins from Aldi to adorn my coffee table and I'm ready to start decorating the house in all my Halloween/Pumpkin decorations brought down from the loft. 

Although I've maxed out on all things Pumpkin visually, I've not really had much experience of them in cooking/baking. There is of course the almighty Pumpkin Spice Latte, but as I don't like coffee, I've not had one. So in an effort to introduce more pumpkin into my life, I decided I must try the coveted Pumpkin Pie.

I found this super easy recipe on Pinterest, tracing back to American Heritage Cooking, and started on my mission to find all the ingredients. They were pretty easy to find once I stumbled upon canned pumpkin in Sainsbury's. I was going to do it the old fashioned way and cut up a pumpkin to roast (or steam) but this seemed a hell of a lot easier.


easy pumpkin pie recipe UK

easy pumpkin pie recipe UK

If you'd also like to make this pumpkin-spiced dream, then read on and get cooking!

You will need...

1 can of pureed pumpkin 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, slightly whisked
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 (9 inch) pie crust (shop bought or homemade, preferably quite deep!)

Before starting this recipe preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Don't worry, we start high but then drop the temperature down after some time in the oven.

Next whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl, excluding your pie crust (obviously), making sure everything is well combined.

Pour your mixture into your pie crust and bake at 220 degrees for 15 minutes. Make sure to keep a watch to ensure it doesn't burn! When it's had its 15 minutes turn the temperature to 180 degrees and leave for another 35-40 minutes, or until a sharp knife comes out clean from the centre of the pie). If you don't want to put a knife in your pie, you an jiggle your pie. It's done when only the centre 1 inch diameter jiggles.

When your pie has cooled at room temperature, put this in the fridge in a sealed container, or cover with foil to make it last longer. It will also keep for several days at room temperature if you prefer.


easy pumpkin pie recipe UK

easy pumpkin pie recipe UK

The cooking process of this was super easy, although my pie rose really high in the oven, which you can see from the lumpy skin, which I'm not sure if it was supposed to, it came out cooked and ready to eat. 

Now for the taste test! As I don't like cream, I didn't have any with my pie, but I think that's the done thing. It is AMAZING. So spiced and lovely, the perfect thing for a cosy night in. I think I'm going to have a piece with some ice cream. I would say it is quite sickly, so have in small portions!

What do you think, are you going to try your hand at making a pumpkin pie??
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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Trying another inner city food spot | Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester

When we visit big UK cities we are always on the lookout for good food joints. Not because we don’t have good food here in Middlesbrough but because in cities they seem to have so much more choice with eateries popping up all the time to cater for the thousands of people who mill through the city on a daily basis.

Before we headed off to Manchester on Friday we had a nosy online at places as well as asking friends for their recommendations. Solita was high on people’s list to recommend for a lunchtime bite. Located in an easy to find corner of the Northern Quarter, Solita is a small but spacious restaurant offering a selection of burgers, hot dogs and grilled meat options. There were so many creative items on the menu like deep fried pickles, sweet potato balls and pizza fries. All very interesting but also super calorific!

Unusually for myself and Matt, we didn't go for a beef burger. This was a real shocker for both of us. Instead Matt went for a loaded hot dog and I went for a deep fried chicken burger. Both just as tasty as I imagine their beef burgers to be!

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review Chicken Burger

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review Mac and Cheese

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review Hot Dog

Solita, Northern Quarter - Manchester Food Review

Our meals came in super quick time and were just as delicious as they sounded on the menu. My chicken burger was massive, there was no way I was getting through it all but I gave it a good go. The batter on the chicken was amazing, so crispy and seasoned brilliantly. With my burger and chips came a pot of gravy which is always welcome on my plate. It was such a yummy lunch but afterwards I was soo full and I hadn't even eaten it all! Matt really enjoyed his hot dog, although he did comment that there too much other gear, i.e the bread and toppings, in comparison to the hot dog itself. He did agree that Solita was somewhere we'd definitely recommend to friends.

Have you been to Solita in Manchester? What did you think?


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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Trying recipes I found on Pinterest | 1. Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers

Quite recently, as you'll have noticed, I haven't put up any blog posts. Life has been flying ahead and nothing has made me want to put fingers to the keys and tap out a post. In an effort to blog more and have more content to share, I've decided to start up a little post every week (hopefully) dedicated to trying recipes I track down from Pinterest. These posts are inspired by the lovely Kat Bouska from MamaKatTV with her weekly video trying drinks she spots on Pinterest. If you haven't already seen any of these videos, then get over there and have a watch. It's everything you wish you could be doing on a Friday night!

Anywho back to why we're here... As it's the month of October, I'm obviously obsessed with Halloween and all things pumpkin. This month I want to try out as many pumpkin themed recipes as I can, starting with today's! This doesn't actually contain pumpkin, but they look so darn cute, they might as well be pumpkins.

Today's recipe is shredded chicken and rice stuffed peppers, with a Halloween twist! I traced this recipe back to EverydayJenny.com. As with all things you see on Pinterest they usually look a lot better than how they turn out, and that is exactly what has happened with my little beauties. I didn't even get a picture before they went in the oven as I was so confident they look great when they came out. However I left the oven a little too high and didn't check them. Can we say it adds to their creepy Halloween vibes??

Trying recipes I found on Pinterest - Chicken and Rice Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers - Halloween themed

Trying recipes I found on Pinterest - Chicken and Rice Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers - Halloween themed

So if you still want to make these little cutie pies, read on...

For these stuffed peppers you'll need:
- 4 (preferably) orange peppers
- 2 chicken breasts (although I used chicken thighs)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I added a few spoons of salsa as well)

- 2 cups of rice, I used brown but you can use white (I added some sweetcorn and beans too)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


To make your spiced shredded chicken add it to the bottom of a slow cooker adding your spices and your tin of tomatoes. Give it all a mix and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. When it is cooked, shred the chicken and allow it to remain in sauce.
To make your peppers, bring a large pot of water to boil.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, wash your peppers, carve out the top, being careful not to break the pepper, and then empty out all the insides including all the white parts. 
Here is where you will carve out your little pumpkin face! Get creative! When you've created your pumpkin face and the water is boiling, put the peppers and tops in and allow to cook for about 5 minutes until peppers are tender. Putting the tops in is important as I found as the colours and size of the peppers change so you have to cook the tops too... even if you won't eat them!
Remove from water and set them on some kitchen roll.  Mix the cooked rice, shredded chicken and any other extras you want to add like beans or sweetcorn. Fill each pepper with the mixture and top with extra cheese. I did a sort of a layer effect, adding a few scoops of mixture, then cheese and repeating.
Replace the pepper top back on top. Bake at 180 degrees for around 10-20 minutes until cheese is melted and pepper is done to desired tenderness.  Make sure to watch the peppers to make sure they don't crisp up like mine! 
Jenny also suggests that if you want heat it later that once the peppers are stuffed you can wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate. When you're ready to cook, preheat oven to around 180, remove plastic wrap and bake for 40minutes-1hr.
Trying recipes I found on Pinterest - Chicken and Rice Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers - Halloween themed

Overall I though this was a lot of work for not much food but they were pretty tasty. Around this time of year they are perfect to make for kids or if you're having a Halloween-themed dinner party. My tips for this recipe are; make sure to season your chicken well and don't put too much rice in as it will dilute the flavour of your chicken.

Have you tried these before? What did you think??

Do you have any recommendations for recipes to try next?
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© gingerbread smiles.

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