Monday, 26 January 2015

Newcastle Restaurant Week and food with friends

Last week was Newcastle Restaurant Week (19 – 25 January 2015), where we decided to take advantage of offers and eat out. We went to three restaurants last year: Fat Buddha, Las Iguanas and  Juniper’s Pantry @ Nectar Bar.

Coop Chicken House

First stop this year was a mid-week (chicken) feed @ Coop Chicken House (21/1/15). I’d read positive things about this place and fancied trying it to see if it was any good.

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The Restaurant Week offer at Coop Chicken House was half a chicken, two sides and a shot of chilli sauce for £10. You save £6 with this offer. We ordered two of these so shared a whole chicken and the sides.

For the sides, we went for skin-on fries, homemade slaw, sweet potato fries and grilled corn on the cob. The sweet potato fries are amazing – best I have ever had! The skin-on-fries were really tasty too.

There’s an extensive list of chilli shots to choose from ranging from the mild to the extremely hot! I went for mild whilst Leigh had a hot one. I went for The Cambridge Sauce Company Sweet Chilli Sauce (mild & sweet, almost honey like in taste). Leigh had The Cambridge Sauce Company Smoked Scotch Bonnet & Red Pepper Sauce (Scotch bonnets smoked over maple with sweet red peppers). We both liked mine – it was a cross between Cantonese sweet & sour sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce. But Leigh didn’t rate his – it was super sour! He preferred the free hot sauce on the table and used that instead.

The grilled chicken was tasty and moist. You could eat this on its’ own but the variety of chilli sauces intrigue me. There are a few that caught my eye I would like to try. Bim’s Coconut Relish (A coconut & chilli relish with a lovely kick, unusual & moreish) being one of them. It could be a hit-or-miss game but it’d be a fun one to play!

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I assumed that my half chicken and sides would come on one plate (like at Nandos) and was pleasantly surprised when it came out all together ‘tapas’ sharing style. If you fancy a lighter meal (i.e. for lunch) then sharing half a chicken between two people would be enough. At a push, we managed to finish a whole chicken between the two of us. It was our evening meal and we were both pretty hungry. No room for dessert though! But we were both very satisfied with our lot.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. Even though it is a little pricey at full price, we would return again as the food is good quality as well as tasty!

Food with friends

We went round our friends’ Debs and Rob’s house on Saturday for dinner. We had Barbecue slow cooked pulled pork nachos with cheese and sour cream to start. These were so yum and moreish – it makes me want to get a slow cooker! Followed by a Chicken, ham & leek filo pie using Hairy Bikers recipe. This is one of their healthy recipes and it was delicious. I was surprised when I found out as it is full of flavour! I would definitely have a go at making this myself. I brought round a homemade dessert. Warm sticky figgy pudding and toffee sauce served with vanilla ice cream. We had a fabulous night filled with wonderful food and a lot of laughter!

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Las Iguanas

We have been to Las Iguanas a few times and it’s always a pleasure to eat here. It was so good last year during Restaurant Week that we were keen to go again. This time for Sunday Lunch. The offer was the same – a starter, main and drink for £10. Excellent value for money!

The staff and service was friendly and efficient, as we’ve come to expect. There was also a Happy Hour offer on all January for buy-one-get-one-free cocktails. We didn’t take advantage on this occasion as Leigh was happy with his two beers (included in Restaurant Week offer; he had his own and pilfered mine) and me with my iced tap water. If it had been the evening and not a school night, Leigh probably would have indulged a bit, as it’s such a good offer.

I had tried two of the three starters last time so went for the remaining option - Taco (corn & wheat tortilla loaded roasted coconut butternut squash with pink pickled onions, radish, spring onion and soured cream).


This was absolutely delicious. I didn’t expect the roasted butternut squash to come the way it did nor taste how it did. I was expecting big chunks of plain squash. I got a lovely spiced and fragrant curry. Divine. I could eat a plateful of this as a main course! It’s great when something surprises, delights and exceeds expectations. This dish did all these things.

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Leigh got the Quesadilla (tortilla, filled, folded, char-grilled & served with tomato salsa, spicy chicken, peppers, onion & cheese). Like last time, he enjoyed his starter.

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I chose the Albondigas (Patagonian style lamb meatballs with apple, mint, parmesan & a pinch of nutmeg and braised in a rich tomato, mint & mild chilli sauce) for my main. I wasn’t blown away with the way it looked but it did taste bloody gorgeous! The lamb meatballs were soft, succulent and melted in your mouth. The sauce was subtly spiced with a good balance of heat and sweetness. The rice was standard and served as a vehicle for mopping up all that unctuous sauce. I was very impressed. I couldn’t make this at home. Like I said in my last review of Las Iguanas, I love it when I eat out, try to figure out how the chef has cooked the food, and I can’t. I thoroughly enjoyed eating every mouthful of this dish and would return to eat this again!

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Leigh got the Chilli (braised in spiced tomatoes, with spring onion & garlic rice, warmed soft wheat tortillas, soured cream & pink pickled onion, slowly braised chunky beef steak, minced beef & black beans). He ordered this last time and enjoyed it again a second time. However, he did admit to a mild case of food envy upon tasty my dish.

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Las Iguanas is a very popular place to eat. We tried to book here originally for Wednesday evening but they were fully booked till after 9:30pm. That’s why we ended up going for Sunday Lunch instead. So, if you are wanting to go at a busier time, it’s best to get booked up early to avoid disappointment.

I am linking up for #LoveNorthEast for the first time. This is a place for people from the North East blogging about the North East. We can share our posts whilst discovering others. Click here to join in! Thanks to North East Family Fun for hosting :-)

Friday, 16 January 2015

My first Blogiversary

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Happy new year everyone and Happy first birthday to my blog! Chow At Home turns 1 year old!

Apologies, I have not been blogging recently. I fell ill with the cold for the past couple of weeks and haven’t been feeling like myself. Anyways, I'm better now, and just in time to celebrate and look over my first year writing this blog. I can also sneak in a recap of the Christmas period (that I was meant to have done by now) in here too!

I made a mini blueberry and lemon birthday cake for my blog. I used my Blueberry muffin recipe and made a Bero lemon buttercream to go with it. Not tried this combo before as I normally eat the muffin on its’ own but it worked beautifully together and was absolutely delicious!

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I started writing my blog ‘Chow At Home’ to share my love of making (and eating) food. It led on from Instagram users requesting recipes of things I had baked and shared on my Instagram (@zoetcm).

I also created a Facebook page to go along with my blog. If you haven’t already, you can ‘like’ and keep updated with ‘Chow At Home’ :-)

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I've really enjoyed sharing my baking Recipes with you. These take up the majority of my blog. I did blog some cooking recipes but it’s clear to see by the number of recipes that my interest in baking is greater! Really chuffed that some of these were tried and liked by readers. That’s what this blog is here for!

Alongside posting recipes, I have wrote some restaurant Reviews on this blog. I didn’t write as many reviews as I wanted too. Certainly not of all the places I did go and eat at this year!

I took part in What I Ate Wednesday a few times. However, I didn’t really get into this or keep it going.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite baking recipes over the year:

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I really enjoy attending food making workshops. They can be expensive so I make use of offers (like Groupon) when I can. I’ve learnt how to make bread (one of the best things I’ve ever done!) and chocolate in the past. I managed to do two workshops this year. Chocolate making with Kenspeckle and sausage making with Northumberland Sausage Company. Both were really good fun! I thoroughly recommend them.

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I went to a couple of food festivals: Tynemouth and Sunderland. We’ve been to the NE Chilli festival before but didn’t manage to go this year. The food stalls do get a bit samey after you’ve been to a few food festivals but the cooking demos are always new and interesting.

The best thing we got to do was at the Sunderland food festival. We took part in the ‘Frugal chicken’ class (which was free), where we were shown how to joint a chicken with minimum wastage, jointed one for ourselves, and got to take it all home!




It was a busy Summer with family visiting from India and America. Of course, I had to bake some of my signature bakes for them! ;-) We took my family round a number of places, including local sights in Newcastle and surrounding coastal area. We also made trips to Alnwick and Edinburgh, Scotland.

As well as lots of fun and food, it was so lovely to meet my cousins’ children and get to spend some quality time with family who I don’t get to see often.

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We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary with a mini road trip adventure to Wales. We camped in the South for a few days and then in the North east for a few days.

We did a lot of sightseeing (mainly castles) and some camp cooking, sampled Welsh cuisine and had a wonderful anniversary gourmet meal at Park House in Cardiff.

We were so lucky with the weather. It was red hot the whole time, whilst it had been awful in the run up to our trip. Wales is a beautiful country and we definitely would like to return. For me, this holiday beat the previous year when we went to Tenerife by a mile! It goes to show that you don’t have to travel abroad for the typical sunny beach holiday to have the best time.




Towards the end of the year, I started to turn my focus from baking great tasting cakes to decorating awesome looking cakes. I already had a repertoire of celebration cakes that I had tested and knew tasted good. So, I became more interested in making them look pretty!

It started with me wanting to do something special for my cousin’s 30th. I set myself the challenge of working with modelling sugar paste for the first time and created a unique and personalised veggie patch cake for her. My father-in-law’s duck hunting themed cake followed shortly afterwards, of which I was extremely proud of.

I then fancied decorating with buttercream and got into it using Wilton piping tips and techniques. Buttercream rosettes using a Wilton 1M/2D piping tip for the win! If you haven’t tried these yet, get yourself one and have a go. So easy yet so pretty and effective!

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At the end of the year, in November, I received my first ever cake order! This was very exciting for me! I had only ever made cakes for family/friends/work colleagues voluntarily. I love to bake and share what I bake with others. I also didn’t know whether my bakes were good enough to sell and how to start going about selling them.

It took me by surprise but I was really pleased when I was asked by my friend to make some Superhero themed cupcakes for her partner’s birthday party. Thanks Gemma! I then was pleasantly surprised again, when I got my second cake order from a work colleague for his cycling club fundraiser in December. I hopefully will get to do more cake decorating and sell my bakes in the year to come.


The end of the year was a busy one for us. We cooked Christmas dinner for my family on Christmas eve. December is always a busy time for us. As well as Christmas, it’s Leigh’s birthday and mine too. And this year, I turned 30!

For my 30th, I was treated to a lovely meal at Peace & Loaf in Jesmond. This was followed by a surprise birthday party the following day. My mother-in-law made my cute owls birthday cake.

I had a lovely night spent with family and friends. Especially as it was a few days after Christmas and before New year’s eve – thanks to everyone who made the effort – I really appreciate it. And thanks to my hubby and bestie Tor for organising the party!


I have had a great year of foodie adventures in 2014. What does Chow At Home’s second year hold?

I hope to:

- Blog more frequently. Including writing more restaurant reviews.
- Streamline and refine the blog. Make it look better and be more accessible.
- Read other foodie blogs. There are people I follow on Instagram who I’d like to start reading their blogs regularly.
- Improve my cake decorating skills.
- Get serious and try to sell my cakes and bakes!

Thank you for reading / liking / following / commenting. For your all-round support & inspiration that keeps me and this blog going! Love to you guys :-D

Let's make 2015 even better - Keep baking! x