Saturday, 16 March 2019

FOOD | SFINX, SHEFFIELD RESTAURANT REVIEW

I was kindly invited to review Sfinx, this in no way affects the validity of my review.

Romanian food isn't something you'd necessarily come across up north, and it wouldn't be a cuisine that'd be at the forefront of my mind if I was going to pick somewhere to eat but when I was invited to try Sfinx, a Romanian restaurant in Sheffield, I was intrigued as to what it would be like and as you well know I love trying new places to eat in Yorkshire!

When I first asked Kev and we looked at the menu, his first reaction was 'hmm, but are we going to like it?' - there were things on the menu that we'd never heard of before and certainly had never actually tasted but I was determined to try it because I wanted to experience Romanian cuisine.


On arrival we were greeted by the restaurant manager who was one of the most friendly gentlemen I think I've ever met and he quickly explained that we were no different to most British people in that we've never come across Romanian food before and we were pretty much clueless as to what to order so we agreed that we'd try a few different items from the menu to get a full Romanian experience. The atmosphere itself in the restaurant was smart but relaxed; it's clearly a favourite with local families.

The host explained that Romanian food is a bit of a hybrid of different cuisines brought to Romania over the years from Bulgaria, Russia, Austria and Slovakia and most of it had been tweaked with their own blend of herbs and spices. All dishes are homemade in the restaurant so by the time everything had been explained, my initial reservations were gone and I was looking forward to trying some Romanian food. 


I started with a mason jar of their homemade lemonade which was delicious; not overly sweet or sour. They have an amazing selection of wine which we did sample a little bit of and despite the fact I'm not a wine drinker per se, their Moldovan Cabernet Sauvignon was really enjoyable; so smooth (all I could think when he mentioned Moldovan wine was how much Michael Whitehall went on about it on Travels with my Father...)

Then came the starters: homemade bread which was absolutely amazing especially because it was still warm served with a 'Sfinx Sharing Platter' which is devilled egg, aubergine & winter spread,  cabbage roll, salad, pickles and olives. It's my ideal starter because I like little 'picky' bits as starters, especially when it's served with bread. 

  


My particular favourite was the aubergine spread (the lighter coloured one) which is made from baked aubergines, chopped onions and mayonnaise. It sounds so simple to make and it probably is but it is absolutely beautiful with the homemade bread. 

Cabbage rolls are made with seasoned ground pork, pickled cabbage and bacon, again, they were something I'd never tried before and I did wonder whether they'd be my cup of tea but they were so tasty! I knew I'd like the devilled eggs because eggs are among my favourite food - they're filled with chicken liver pate and in all honesty I could have eaten lots of those! The only part of the sharing platter that we weren't keen on was the pickles on the side but I do think that's purely down to our own personal tastes. 

We spoke to the host and decided that we wanted to try a few different bits from the menu for our main course; we chose Hungarian goulash, Romanian stew and then a selection of Romanian speciality meats served with rosemary potatoes.


The Hungarian goulash is a mildly spiced beef stew, I double checked before we ordered that it wasn't going to be too spicy but the host explained that it was mild, served with a chilli so that customers could make it to their desired level of spice. The beef was so tender and was perfect with the potatoes, paprika and spices. It's one of those meals that just warms you up; a real comfort food. 


Romanian stew is a mixture of chopped pork, chicken breast, Romanian sausages, and mushrooms, blended with rich tomato sauce, served with polenta, fried egg and cheese on top. Polenta isn't something I've ever really tried before but it seems to be a bit of a Romanian alternative to chips and rice. It went really well with this stew in making it into another hearty meal. I preferred the Hungarian goulash whereas Kev preferred the Romanian stew but it was nice for us to be able to try both.

The amount of meat on the platter was quite daunting after we'd eaten so much already but I was determined to try the Mici and pork collar which are two traditional meats eaten in Romania. Mici are minced meat rolls made of a mixture of beef, lamb and pork meat with spices - they are extremely tasty and go really well with the Romanian mustard served on the side. The pork collar also surprised me because I associate pork with being a little bit dry but that's because as Brits we traditionally eat it as chops which is quite a dry meat but the collar was beautifully tender. The rosemary potatoes were something else; despite the fact that I was already full from all the beautiful food we'd eaten, I just kept picking at them because they were so nice!


After giving us 10 minutes for our food to settle, our conversation with the host turned to dessert and we decided that we'd share one because we really wanted to try something but we wouldn't manage one each. 

Papanash is the most traditional Romanian dessert on the menu so naturally we went for that. Don't be put off by the description of them being 'cheese doughnuts' because these are absolutely to die for. The way they're made makes them so light but equally indulgent at the same time; served with cream and wild berries you really have to try this when you visit Sfinx.


I'd recommend Sfinx to anyone in the Sheffield area looking for somewhere new to try; if you let the host know that you're new to the cuisine he'll definitely be able to point you in the right direction but based on my experience if you try nothing else during your visit you absolutely must have the Aubergine spread and papanash... when I visit again I fully plan to try something different from the main menu but they'll remain my choices for starter and dessert!

If you want to take a look at the menu before you go there's a copy on the Sfinx website along with lots of other useful information about location and opening times.

Have you ever tried Romanian cuisine?

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Friday, 15 March 2019

FOOD | YORK ROAST CO. CHOCCYPUD WRAP

The York Roast Co. were the original creators of the explosively popular Yorkshire Pudding Wrap, and it's been so successful that they've trademarked the name 'YorkyPud Wrap'. You might remember that a while ago I went to try the Yorkshire pudding wrap at the York Roast Co. in York so when I was asked to return to try their limited edition ChoccyPud wrap you can imagine what my immediate response was!

The ChoccyPud wrap is a limited edition sweet treat available at York Roast Co. locations in York, Shrewsbury, Salisbury and Chester until the end of April. Containing lashings of melted chocolate, chunks of gooey brownie, crushed Oreos and crumbly Flake, served with a dollop of cream, the ChoccyPud wrap is exactly how a dessert should be done with a Yorkshire pudding.

I'll be honest and say that I was initially skeptical. I really like pancakes and could eat them until the cows come up but despite the fact that the mix for pancakes and Yorkshires is very similar, I've just never seen the appeal of things like Yorkshire pud with jam and other sweet toppings. However, given how the Yorkshire pudding wrap blew me away as a taste sensation, I wanted to give the sweet version a fair chance to impress.

We obviously started with a main course of a 'no bread sandwich' which is beef with potatoes and veg in a cute little box but we were careful not to fill ourselves up and spoil the main event.

The most challenging part of this whole visit wasn't fitting the food in but taking a picture that does the ChoccyPud wrap justice! It's so packed full of chocolatey goodness that it's actually really hard to get a good picture of it. Obviously it all started off very well with the untouched squirty cream and pristine wrapping but the chocolatey goodness soon starts to spill out...







Ok, so I know that opened up picture isn't necessarily the prettiest but it was the only way I could show how truly covered in chocolate it was inside! It was a very indulgent, chocolatey dessert that I can imagine would be just as good as a breakfast food (call it Yorkshire's version of a big pain au chocolat!) as it was so filling or when you've got that sweet craving after a night out (the York locations don't close until 1/2am on a weekend).

It was absolutely full of melted chocolate as you can see from the pictures and despite my initial reservations about eating a Yorkshire pud with a sweet filling I really enjoyed it and left with my sweet tooth being suitably satisfied. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a little bit more cream (maybe served in a side cup).

If this is something that tickles your fancy you have until the end of April to try one at one of York Roast Co.'s 5 locations (York Stonegate and Low Petergate, Chester, Shrewsbury and Salisbury) please do tag me in on Instagram if you go and try one and let me know what you think!

Is it something you'll be trying for yourself?

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Friday, 8 March 2019

FOOD | HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN YOGHURT WITH EASIYO

The EasiYo maker and powders were kindly gifted to me, I have not been paid to post this review. 

To me, this is the 'gadget' that you didn't know you needed in your life and when I say gadget I don't mean some hi-tech piece of electronic equipment - I actually mean one of the simplest little inventions ever. The EasiYo makes the tastiest, creamiest yoghurt which is totally free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives and comes in so many different flavours from fat free natural yoghurt and low fat greek style yoghurt to everyday strawberry yoghurt there's so many different flavours and what's even more convenient is that Morrisons have started stocking the EasiYo makers as well as the powders.

Why should I make my own yoghurt?
The EasiYo yoghurt maker makes making your own yoghurt into a simple 3 step process... but why would you want to go to the 'hassle' of making your own yoghurt when there's hundreds of different types that you could just go and buy from the supermarket? Well because a lot of the yoghurts we buy from supermarkets are full of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives whereas yoghurt made with EasiYo is all natural. Also, yoghurt made with EasiYo is full of good bacteria, and yes shop bought yoghurt will contain some but because it's not totally fresh and has been made for some time (check the long dates on some yoghurts!) a lot of the good bacteria won't be anywhere near as effective at balancing your stomach as fresh homemade yoghurt.


 EasiYo Starter Kit (£21.99, also available in Morrisons)


How easy is it to make yoghurt with the EasiYo?
I'll be honest and say that I thought it would be such a faff because you assume that something like yoghurt will take hours and there'll be too many steps to even bother thinking about attempting it but actually this makes it so easy. You literally:

  • Pour tap water into the clear plastic container until half full
  • Pour in the sachet
  • Shake it 
  • Fill it with water nearly to the top
  • Pour boiling water into the big red container
  • Put the clear plastic container into the big red container
  • Pour in boiling water
  • Leave it for at least 8 hours
When I was asked if I wanted to try the EasiYo I genuinely thought I was going to receive some sort of machine but this is so simple. Once the 8 hours is up then you transfer it into the fridge and it should keep for 1-2 weeks; 1 jar is equivalent to 1kg of yoghurt and trust me, it's that nice, mine never lasts for 1 week never mind 2 and I'm on my own!

How does it work?
"In order to grow, lactic cultures require heat and a source of milk sugar (lactose) on which to feed. They also have an optimal heat at which to grow (between 40-50 degrees C).The unique EasiYo Yogurt Maker creates the controlled heat needed to activate all the LACTIC CULTURES present in the EasiYo Yogurt Mix Sachets. Our freeze dried cultures reactivate and divide in the perfect conditions in the EasiYo Yogurt Maker" (EasiYo Website)

Would I recommend it?
I would, especially if you're looking for a yoghurt which contains more good bacteria than what you find in the supermarket. EasiYo yoghurt mixes do not contain any gluten and they are suitable for vegetarians. I also think an EasiYo maker would be fab for anyone with young children as it'll be a bit like magic for them and they can be a part of the whole process. At £21.99 for a starter kit, it's very affordable and can be bought in store in Morrisons so you should be able to pick one up with your weekly shop.


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Thursday, 7 March 2019

HOME | CLEANING PRODUCTS THAT ARE ACTUALLY WORTH BUYING

As I said in my post about staying safe when cleaning, cleaning has absolutely exploded over the past year or so and although I love cleaning itself and all the new products that have come from this trend, I've also realised that in the past I've bought so much stuff that I really do not need at all. Don't get me wrong I understand the appeal of a 'Narnia' full of all different cleaning products for different things but the truth is that actually you really could do without spending money on a lot of it.

So I thought I'd put together a post of the products that I would consider to be essentials in my cleaning cupboard; the kinds of products that I love enough and see the use of enough to re-buy time and time again...


Wilko Red Fruits and Lemon Zest Thick Bleach (45p)
It's bleach. It's 45p. It does the job. I never buy Domestos anymore because although it's a household name in cleaning, I don't think it does a better job than this one for half the price. I don't actually use bleach for that much in the house but I do use it in my toilet. I don't see the point of pine disinfectant - yes it disinfects but I find bleach is a much, much more effective cleaner.

TOP TIP: I see lots of people using boiling water when using bleach. Don't. Use bleach with cold water because boiling water destroys the active ingredient in bleach which makes it ineffective.

Elbow Grease (90p)
This is one that I saw on Instagram and because it was only 90p I thought I'd give it a go. I use it mainly for my hob and my oven door and it is a really good degreaser considering that it's solvent free so you don't feel choked by it like you can do by some degreasing products.

Bar Keepers Friend Stain Remover (£2.50)
I had a stain on my sink for so long and had tried all sorts to get it off and nothing shifted it. This was the only thing that worked and although it did take a couple of applications and some scrubbing I was really pleased with the results. If you've got something stubborn on steel, brass, china, copper, chrome etc. then this is well worth a go.

Dr Beckmann's Carpet Stain Remover (£2.89 - link is for Aldi but it can usually be found for a similar price in places like Home Bargains)
First experience of this was when Kev spilt blackcurrant on the cream carpet - you can imagine my reaction and my next move was straight out to get some of this. It worked an absolute treat and I've since used it on a really annoying stain on my car seat - a few years ago (yes a stain had been there for that long) a manky orange left a really weird white mark on the black material bit of my car seat and nothing brought it up but a quick go with this and it's totally gone now!

Zoflora (£1.00 - link is for lavender as Tropical Twist was limited edition)
I do feel like Zoflora is overused a little bit by the cleaning community but I do see the appeal and I always have a couple of bottles in. I generally use it for a bit of disinfecting kitchen tops and in the bathroom and soaking dishcloths overnight - I do like the smell and I thoroughly enjoy a good limited edition. What I don't enjoy is how many places have increased the price to £1.25 - buy it at £1 where you can!

Viakal Limescale Remover (£2.00)
I live in an area where the water is really, really hard which means that limescale does build up on taps etc. quite quickly but this is amazing at making it easy to wipe away. Leave it for a couple of minutes, rinse off and it leaves everything so shiny! I have the Febreze version which smells really quite nice but it can be pricy in the supermarkets unless you have a coupon from somewhere like Super Savvy Me.

Microfibre Cloths (£1.99, B&M - I can't find the exact link but there's lots in store)
I'm sorry, I'm just going to come out and say that I do not see the point in all the different cloths and sponges. I'm all for having different cloths for different rooms but I honestly can't see why those Minky things are so vital to a cleaning cupboard. I am speaking as someone who has never owned a 'Minky' and maybe it's just me and my stubborn nature but I just refuse to buy into it at the moment. I just have bog standard dish cloths, a scouring sponge and these microfibre clothes for buffing surfaces to make them shine.

There are, of course other things in my cleaning cupboard such as 1001 carpet spray (at £1.99 a pop!) but that literally serves no other purpose than to make your carpet smell nice for a bit but these are just the things that I would suggest that you have in your cupboard if you're just looking for a no nonsense approach to cleaning. At just over £11.00 for the lot I don't think that's bad at all.

What are your favourite cleaning products that you'd consider 'essential'?

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

HOME | HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN CLEANING

Never thought I'd see the day when cleaning became such a thing. Every year we kind of have a bit of a push around spring time for a 'spring clean' but ever since Mrs Hinch came onto the scene it's all just gone a bit mental. And it's great, don't get me wrong I actually enjoy cleaning now whereas I never did before (ironing though, nah... I'll never love ironing no matter how much nice smelling ironing water I pour into it) but it's also made way for some quite dangerous practices to surface that we might not actually think about fully when we're doing them. Thankfully, there are instagrammers like The Secret Cleaner that seem to be quite savvy with their chemicals and things and have unearthed some of the dangerous things that we might be doing and not necessarily know about it.


1. Do not bleach with other chemicals
You might have heard about the woman from Sheffield who ended up with chlorine gas poisoning when she mixed bleach with disinfectants and hot water - she had no idea of the reactions that can occur when you mix certain chemicals. I don't profess to be a chemist but it does clearly say on the back of many cleaning product bottles not to mix them with other chemical cleaning products.  Combinations such as bleach and vinegar also create chlorine gas, rubbing alcohol and bleach creates chloroform (this is what's often 'used' in films when someone puts a cloth over someones face and they collapse unconscious on the floor)... there's so many dangerous cleaning product combinations that you need to be aware of.

2. Use cleaning products for their intended purpose.
The explosion in popularity of products like Zoflora has also made way for products being used in ways other than they were originally intended which can prove very dangerous when you're using chemicals. Double check with the brand via email if you're unsure. Brands like Zoflora have FAQ's as to how you can use Zoflora safely and there's often lots of info on the back of bottles. Don't get me wrong I love Zoflora and I do use it but overuse and misuse could cause problems

Another example that springs to mind is fabric conditioner, we are obsessive about having our houses smelling nice and I've seen so many people diluting fabric conditioner in a spray bottle and spraying it all over their curtains, bedding, sofas etc. Fabric conditioner can decrease flame resistance; especially when it is not used as directed. It does specifically say this on the back of the bottles aswell. So by using it in a trigger spray bottle, although diluted you are not rinsing it away which is what happens in a washing machine therefore, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk if the worst were to happen. Buy a bottle of Febreze or something else intended for eliminating odours on soft furnishings etc.

Similarly, don't put anything like Zoflora or those fabric conditioner balls into a wax burner... they were not made to be near naked flames and they most certainly should not be put in that situation!

3. Keep your home well ventilated
I love a nice smelling home as much as the next person and I've got candles and reed diffusers galore to help with that but I know that lots of people use products like Zoflora to help with odour elimination. If you are going to use Zoflora (in the correct way), or any other cleaning product, always make sure that you open some windows to ventilate the area because as much as you might enjoy the smell of these things, prolonged concentrated inhalation of chemicals can cause headaches and more serious problems such as lung complaints long term.

4. Keep your pets and children out of the way
Sounds totally obvious but make sure you read the label regarding what can and can't be used around animals and how it can be used safely and again, obvious tip but don't let your child near any freshly cleaned surfaces and floors. Lots of people are turning back to natural cleaning products which pose much less of a risk so that is also something to consider.

5. Store your cleaning products correctly
Possibly the most popular place is under the sink but somewhere higher or with a child lock on might be a safer bet if you have wandering little hands. I know storage can be a huge issue in new build houses, particularly smaller ones like my little 2 bedroomed and it can be tempting to make use of every available space. Lots of people use their boiler cupboard as storage for other things by putting racks on the inside of the door etc. but near a boiler is not a place to store cleaning products. It goes back to the old highly flammable chemicals thing. A boiler has a pilot light inside it which is a naked flame. Naked flames and flammable liquids don't mix well so keep your cleaning products at room temperature in a sensible location.

6. Wear rubber gloves
Chemicals and bare skin are not a good combination. When I first bought a bottle of Zoflora I was daft enough to use it a few times with a cloth and no gloves on, then I wondered why my hands were becoming more and more cracked and dry. It was the Zoflora. A good old pair of marigolds should protect you from that and any other chemical burns that could potentially occur!

Top and bottom of this advice is mainly: read the instructions and think sensibly and logically when you're cleaning. I'm not writing this to kill the 'joy of cleaning;' I just think that there are so many people who are unaware of the potential dangers that they're putting themselves in the way of by not using cleaning products properly.

Do you have any interesting tips for cleaning safely?

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Sunday, 3 March 2019

HOME | 7 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR HOUSE A HOME

collaborative post

Your home should be a place you enjoy spending time, whether you’re on your own relaxing, doing chores, working from home, or doing something completely different. It shouldn’t be something that looks like it came straight out of a magazine, because although it might look nice for a while, it likely won’t resonate with you and your unique personality. A home should always reflect the personality of the people living in it! If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my home isn't at all insta-perfect and it's a working progress but over the last year or so I've done little bits here and there to add a bit of me to the house and I genuinely love it more with every little addition. It doesn't have to cost a fortune; but there are some simple little tweaks you can make to make your house feel like a home...

Let In More Natural Light
Natural light makes us healthier and happier. If we’re surrounded by artificial light 24/7, our health is going to suffer. Opening up your curtains or blinds to let in more natural light, and even having bigger, better windows put in could help you to brighten up your home and feel happier there. In all honesty I've got vampire tendencies where light is concerned and I'll quite happily sit in the dark on my laptop but it does lift my mood so much when I open the patio curtains.


Curtains £34.99 (Home Bargains)

Add a little bit of colour
I know grey is the 'in' colour at the moment and I'll not lie, I've got quite a bit of grey in my living room but actually just by adding a bit of colour in the dusky pink curtains has transformed the room totally and made it so much lighter! There's nothing wrong with grey but I would say to inject a little bit of colour now and again just to break it up and make it look less 'clinical'

Quote sign £2.99 (The Range)
Accessorise when you can
Accessories have gradually been introduced into my house and I always make sure that whatever I do accessorise with actually means something to me. Make sure you take your time when you choose your accessories, and that they really speak to you. For instance, art on the walls is a very personal thing, so you need to choose pieces that will make you happy in the long term, and not just pieces that you think will impress guests or go with that particular temporary colour scheme. Remember, it’s better to have larger, fewer accessories that you really love rather than lots of smaller ones cluttering up your space. I particularly like prints as wall art because they don't necessarily rely on a certain colour scheme and I also love the wire initials that I have from Next because they're totally personal.

Don’t Scrimp On Your Furniture
Spending a little more on your furniture is a good idea, as you’re going to be using it an awful lot. It’s especially important to ensure it’s suitable if you have kids and pets. Will it stain easily? Will it last with lots of use? I had a bit of a dilemma when I bought my house in that I really loved a sofa from Next but obviously, being Next, the price tag was pretty hefty. However, I'd looked high and low and nothing came close in terms of how much I liked it and I just thought a sofa is something you sit on every single day and if I don't totally love it I'll regret it in the long run so I ended up splashing out on the Next Stamford.

Make Sure You Fix Issues ASAP
You shouldn’t let issues in your home go on for too long before fixing them. This can bring the overall energy of the home down and end up costing you far more in the long run. Electric Cooker Repairs should be taken care of ASAP (mine was making a really loud rattling noise when I moved in, which could have been anything but luckily it just needed readjusting and it's been fine ever since). As well as things like holes, cracks, draughts, and so on; just because they’re small doesn’t mean you should leave them... which reminds me, my settlement cracks are in desperate need of filling in!

Treat yourself to some plants/flowers
Plants and flowers look beautiful, and they have been proven to influence mood. Not only that, plants purify the air, making your home healthier. Aldi and Lidl often have some amazing deals on flowers and plants so it doesn't have to cost a fortune; a small bunch of tulips is usually only £2/3 and they do make all the difference.

Display Sentimental Items Around The Home
Although you might think this is clutter, sentimental items can actually make you happier. I actually encourage my niece to draw and make me things because I love displaying them but obviously there's no better source of sentiment than photos - I make sure I print them from my phone every so often so I've got hard copies to put into albums/frames. I also tend to buy magnets of some kind wherever I go so I've got a reminder on my fridge of where I've been and the amazing times I've had; I'm always looking for other quirky ways of displaying souvenirs though!

Do you have any other ways that you've made your house into a home?
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