A North East Food, Men's Lifestyle and Entertainment Blog

Monday, 24 July 2017

Tapas at home Inspired by La Casa Delicatessen


Let me tell you abut a little place I have fallen in love with. La Casa Delicatessen in the Grainger Market in Newcastle is somewhere I didn't know existed until a couple of months ago. Already it is my favourite place to pick up any Spanish food I'm in the mood for. The guy who works there is great (I should really ask his name next time I'm there), he is so friendly and really passionate about the produce they sell and that sort of service really stands out for me. The first time we went we tried a selection of Manchego that had been cured in various ways. One with beer, one with chilli and one with brandy. All were delicious and we left with a little wedge of the brandy cured Manchego and a small pack of sliced chorizo. We promised ourselves the next time we have tapas night at home (which we do every few months) we would go back and stock up on supplies.

A couple of weeks ago it was time for our next Tapas night, I did make a couple of dishes from scratch just with store cupboard ingredients. I made some quick garlic bread, which is just toasted bread drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with garlic granules (so easy but really tasty). I also made Patatas Bravas by cutting a couple of potatoes into cubes and frying them in olive oil with some rosemary sprigs. The Bravas sauce I make uses passata heated with some chopped garlic, paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes into a bowl and spoon over the sauce and finish with a few teaspoonfuls of Garlic mayo dotted on top. Now onto the produce we got from La Casa.

Serrano Ham


Charcuterie is a big favourite in our house and for me cured ham is King. The Charcuterie selection at La Casa is vast and there is everything from Lomo Ham, Cecina Smoked Beef and Iberico Ham. We went for the Serrano Ham and weren't disappointed, the meaty slices were perfect, just enough fat to enhance the flavour and very moreish (why do we always buy too little?)

Chorizo


As I said Charcuterie is a big deal to us and Mrs. Cool's preference is Chorizo. There are numerous options available from slices of Chorizo to whole sausages. We went for these little links which I fried in olive oil. The Chorizo was to die for and the oil was great for dipping the garlic bread into.

Manchego Cured in Brandy


The Cheese, My God! The Cheese. Where do I begin with this cheese? This cheese is what brought us back to La Casa and it will be brining us back again. I can honestly say this is the best cheese I have EVER had. Not only is the flavour on the Manchego great but the subtle brandy taste really elevates it to something exquisite. This stuff is like crack, once you have a taste you want more and more and more. I really need to have some more right now. I'm having withdrawls.

Wine


You can't have Meat and Cheese without having Wine, It's the Law! The wine selection is huge and we went for this lovely Rioja. I'm not usually a fan of Rioja but as it was a Spanish tapas night we couldn't really have a Sancerre or a Merlot. It was outstanding and really went perfectly with all our dishes.

It amazes me that this little nook in the Grainger Market is so packed full of amazing produce, I can't sing the praises of La Casa highly enough, I really love this place and hope you will to. If you would like to find out more you can visit their website here and you can follow them on Twitter here.

Well, that's all for now

S

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

How one DIY job turned into a room makeover

I like to think I'm pretty good at DIY, nothing too adventurous but if there is a little job to be done I'm all over it. A while ago our toilet was damaged and we needed a new one, I decided replacing the toilet was too much for me so hired someone else to do it. However, after the new toilet was in it left a gap in the flooring around the toilet as the new one was a different shape to the old one. EASY! I thought, it's only lino. I can pick up a little bit of lino that matches and patch it up. But this one small job turned into a much bigger job, which then turned into several jobs, which then snowballed into a makeover of the whole room.


When I got to the local DIY Superstore there was a lino that matched ours, Huzzah! I thought this will be a doddle, however I had brought Mrs. Cool with me (that was my first mistake) and she noticed another lino with a wood design that she liked better than ours. If i'm honest I didn't like our old lino, it was already down when we moved in and had probably been there for years so I agreed that instead of patching up the old lino I would rip out a the old one and lay down the nice new one.


We also had a little damage to the bath panel so as we were looking around we decided to get a new bath panel. Oh! well, while I'm on I might as well re-do the sealant around the bath as it was a bit discoloured (what am I doing giving myself more work). On the way home Mrs Cool chirps up saying the towels, bath mat and shower curtain we have won't match the new floor. Great! more expenditure, We headed to another couple of shops to look at accessories. As well as the already agreed upon towels and bath mat etc we also ended up getting new storage baskets, a mirror, a candle, bin, toilet brush and a bath tidy! It was at this point that I realised Mrs. Cool was actually Carole Smillie and I had wandered into an episode of Changing Rooms.

Luckily (or unluckily however you want to look at it) our bathroom is quite small so the lino was surprisingly easy to change over, the old one came up really easily and I was able to use that as a rough template to cut the new one to size. I laid the new one down and used a stanley knife to cut it to fit around the fixtures. The bath panel was the hardest part, this as due to the shape of the bathroom I needed to cut a small section off the panel so that it would fit. But this was an excuse to get a new hack saw (all boys love using a saw right?).


Using white spirit I was able to remove the old sealant, I may have used too much white spirit as the fumes were a bit strong, I would suggest keeping the door and window open if you're planning on doing this to avoid getting lightheaded. Putting the new sealant down was a bit messy but I had the foresight to wear disposable rubber gloves so my hands didn't get covered.


That was all the big jobs done and all that was left was to put the accessories in place. The whole job only took a few hours (not including the time spent shopping for all the stuff, that took longer) and it only cost around £300 (including getting the new toilet fitted) which I think was bit of a bargain. I'm very happy with the finished room and more importantly Mrs. Cool was really pleased with how this project worked out.


Mrs. Cool did a little video tour of the new bathroom and you can see it here.



The problem I now have is that the bathroom is now putting the rest of our house to shame. We have plans to redesign our living room and we've already bought some a new coffee table and TV stand as well as some new art but we have more to do in the next few months.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Game of Thrones: Top 10* Episodes (*actually 11 episodes)


The TV Phenomenon of recent years has been Game of Thrones. The HBO series based on the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin has had viewers on the edge of their seats and critics running out of superlatives to describe how good it is. Even if you're not a fan of the fantasy genre you’ll still get drawn into the intrigue and betrayal that occurs in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. But, who am I kidding, everyone is a fan of Game of Thrones, right? I’ve been watching since it started and after a few seasons I managed to get Mrs Cool to watch too (which was a great excuse to watch the whole thing again). Here are my top 11 episodes (I couldn't narrow it down to just 10) from the 1st 6 seasons if you haven’t seen these yet do not continue as what follows contains a LOT of spoilers!

11 - Dance of Dragons - Season 5 Episode 9

There are two reasons why this makes it into the top 11, two unforgettable scenes. The 1st is a scene where Stannis Baratheon sacrifices his only child to the Lord of Light. This is one of the most shocking scenes in all of Game of Thrones and it gets uncomfortable to watch as the child Princess is dragged from her room and tied to a stake and then the Red Woman, Melisandre, lights the flames. The Princess Shireen’s screams as her father watches on are truly horrific. The 2nd scene is the final scene where Daenerys Targaryen has opened an arena to host bloody death matches when a revolution breaks out with masked assassins all over the arena killing as many people as they can and while Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm and even Tyrion Lannister try to save the Queen (Mrs. Cool mentioned that the thing she likes about Tyrion is that he is ready to fight when he has to). All looks doomed as they are trapped and surrounded on the arena floor when a screech echoes above the arena as, Drogon, one of Daenerys’ dragons returns to save the day and the Mother of Dragons leaves in impressive fashion on the back of Drogon.

10 - Two Sword - Season 4 Episode 1

This episode introduces one of my favourite characters, Oberyn Martell, he has come to Kings Landing for Joffrey’s wedding (but is really seeking revenge for the murder of his sister and niece and nephew). However the main reason why I like this episode is it’s when Arya Stark shows how much of a badass she is. Arya is with ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane and they find an Inn where some Lannister soldiers (one of which Arya recognises as Polliver the man who killed her friend and took her sword). They go into the inn and all starts well as they have a drink but then when The Hound insults the King all hell breaks loose. The Hound kills several of the soldiers but its is Arya who incapacitates Polliver before coldly reciting what he said when he killed her friend before taking her sword back and stabbing him through the throat. 

9 - Baelor - Season 1 Episode 9

Ned Stark is in jail accused of treachery and his son Robb Stark is heading south with an army of Northmen to depose the King. Robb needs to make a strategic crossing of the Trident River and in doing so sets in motion events that will eventually lead to the Red Wedding (see the Rains of Castamere below). Now before Game of Thrones started all the promotional hype and build up was around Sean Bean playing Ned Stark but here before the first season has even finished one of the main characters (and arguably the star of the show) is beheaded. This sets the tone for the entire series that no one is safe.

8 - The Laws of Gods and Men - Season 4 Episode 6

Tyrion Lannister is one of my favourite characters and this is a great Tyrion episode. He is on trial for the assassination of King Joffrey. Everyone is trying to stitch him up from his sister Cersei to Maester Pycell. Tyrions brother Jamie is the only one looking out for him and makes a deal with their father to spare Tyrions life but realises too late that this whole trial is a plot by Tywin to get Jamie to resume his role as Heir to the Lannister fortune. However when Tyrion is betrayed by the woman he loved, Shae, he gives a brilliant enraged speech to the court and demands a trial by combat, denying his father a victory in the process.

7 - The Mountain and the Viper - Season 4 Episode 8

A lot happens in this episode but the reason why it features on this list is down to the last 10 minutes. As the culmination of Tyrions trial ends with the trial by combat between ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clagane and ‘The Viper’ Oberyn Martell. This is probably the best one on one fight in all of Game of Thrones and it leads to without a doubt the most gruesome death in the whole series.

6 - The Lion and The Rose - Season 4 Episode 2

For the most part Game of Thrones seems to be series of horrific events where the worst people imaginable get their own way, but every now and then you get an episode like this. For all of seasons 1, 2 and 3 Joffrey Baratheon has been an evil,  sadistic, nasty piece of shit and at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell he finally gets his comeuppance. Drinking poisoned wine he suffers a slow agonising death.

5 - Blackwater - Season 2 Episode 9 

This is another great episode for Tyrion Lannister, Kings Landing is under siege, Stannis Baratheon’s fleet is approaching, but Tyrion has a plan. He sends a single ship loaded with Wildfire into the heart of Stannis’ fleet and sets off a spectacular explosion that decimates the fleet. Stannis' forces still attack the city and as Joffrey retreats to his chambers it is down to a rousing speech from Tyrion to motivate the soldiers. In the end his victory is stolen by his father who brings the Tyrell army to repel the last of Stannis’ troops.

4 - Hardhome - Season 5 Episode 8

There is a lot going on, Tyrion is trying to persuade Daenerys not to kill him, Arya is still training with Jaqen H’ghar and Cersei is in jail. But this episode is all about Jon Snow, north of the wall trying to form an alliance with the wildlings at Hardhome. Then they are attacked by the White Walkers and an army of the dead. The battle that ensues shows just how powerful the White Walkers are and especially their leader the Night King.

3 - The Watchers on the Wall - Season 4 Episode 9

This is just about the most epic piece of television ever made. Mance Rayder's Wildling army attack Castle Black from north and south of The Wall and the Nights Watch must defend it. Jon Snow steps up to lead the Nights Watch when no one else seems capable, He is reunited with his true love Ygritte only for her to die in his arms after being shot with an arrow. The scale of this episode easily rivals most blockbuster movies and the action is incredible. This is as close to TV perfection as you can get.

2 - The Winds of Winter - Season 6 Episode 10

The good guys seem to be getting what they want in the episode. Arya Stark gets revenge on Walder Frey, Tyrion Lannister is named hand of the Queen, Daenerys Targaryen and her army sets sail with her dragons headed for Westeros and Jon Snow's true lineage is revealed and he is named King in the North. But Cersei is the real winner, she arranges the murders of Grand Maester Pycell and Lancel Lanniser. She misses her trial and blows up the Great Sept of Baelor so she can get rid of Margaery Tyrell, The High Sparrow and anyone who wanted to see her fall. Her only remaining child (the King Tommen does kill himself however, but Cersei is unltimately named Queen. It plays out like the final act of The Godfather when Michael Corleone kills all of his enemies and becomes Godfather.

1 - The Rains of Castamere - Season 3 Episode 9


The Red Wedding - what more can I say. When you watch this episode for the first time it's like a punch to the gut. Robb Stark tries to make piece for breaking his oath to Walder Frey but is betrayed and slaughtered along with his men, his mother, his wife and unborn child during a bloodbath that seems to go on forever. When I first watched this episode I sat in silence for a few minutes after it finished so I could process what I had just seen. The most shocking episode in the entire series.

There's not long until the new season starts and I can hardly wait. Do you agree with my list? Are there any episodes you would've included in the top 11?

Valar Morghulis

S




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Monday, 3 July 2017

Little Turtle Smoothie


A few weeks ago we went to Turtle Bay, which is a Caribbean restaurant in Newcastle. We have been a few times and you can read Mrs. Cool's review here (including their new children's menu). The food here is incredible (I highly recommend the Bajan Beef Cheek Curry). When we went this time Harry noticed on the kid's menu there was a recipe for a smoothie that he wanted to try at home so I thought I'd share it with you.


Ingredients:

1 medium sized banana
2 pineapple rings
100ml of pineapple or apple juice
5 ice cubes
1 tsp honey

Method:

These ingredients will make 1 smoothie and it is so easy to make. Just chop the banana and pineapple rings into chunks. put all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz for around 45 seconds until smooth.


My kids loved making this themselves, although, if you have younger kids you should maybe chop the fruit yourselves. We made enough for everyone and everyone loved it.


If you're looking to make a more grown up drink all you need to do is add a likl tickle of Rum when you blitz it up.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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