Big Stevie Cool

A Men's Lifestyle and Family Blog | North East England


Monday, 16 July 2018

Stevie's Simple Soda Bread Recipe

Is there anything as nice a freshly baked bread? I don't bake bread as often as I would like as making a conventional loaf is a bit of a faff on (who has time to wait a few hours for the dough to rise?). However this is a really simple and quick bread that still has that great fresh bread smell and only takes about 40 minutes from start to finish.


250g Plain White Flour
250g Plain Wholewheat Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Salt
400ml Buttermilk


Put the Flour, Salt and Bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and mix together. make a well and add the buttermilk. You might not need all the buttermilk so start by adding half and mixing it in and keep adding more until all the ingredients have combined into a dough.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball, transfer the ball onto a pre-heated baking tray (covered with baking parchment). Cut a deep cross across the middle of the dough and then dust with flour.

Bake for 30 minutes at 200ÂșC, you can check the bread is cooked through by tapping the bottom and it should sound hollow. Let the cooked bread cool on a wire rack, I like to have it when it still warm with some butter or toasted with my favourite breakfast ingredients.

Well, that's all for now.


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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Sea & Soil | Amble | Brunch Review Menu

Last weekend Mrs. Cool was asked to try out a bus route from Newcastle to Berwick (It was more fun than it sounds) and one of the stops was Amble, one of our favourite coastal towns in Northumberland. I've written before about a restaurant in Amble (see here) and this was a chance to try somewhere new.

Sea & Soil is a restaurant on Queen Street, literally 2 minutes walk from the harbour. The decor is just the type I like, contemporary but with a rustic twist, they have the specials on slate tiles hanging on the wall and wooden tables for insanely instagrammable foodie pics. We managed to bag a table by the front window, gotta have natural light for that perfect shot.

We ordered our drinks first, Americano for me and Mrs. Cool, Blackcurrant Juice for Jack, Milk for Heidi and Coke for Harry. The coffee is really good, nice and strong and the biscuit was great too (you can buy the coffee beans for home from Amble harbour pods). The Brunch menu has a great selection and so many of the dishes tempted me. Next time we go I'll have to try the Eggs Bennie as this is one of my favourite Breakfasts. Mrs. Cool chose the Breakfast Roll and went with Sausage and brown sauce (the correct type of sauce for a sausage sarnie). Harry and Jack also went for this and they all loved it. The sausage was really good you tell they were good quality and it was a good sized portion.

Heidi has been going through a bit of a vegetarian phase at the minute (although she will still have chicken nuggets) so she went for the Pancakes and Syrup. Again the portion size was perfect and Heidi really loved the pancakes.

I was in the mood for Black Pudding so I went for the Sea & Soil Special which is described as "The Chef's Favourite Breakfast Ingredients" so I knew there would be Black Pudding (All Chefs love a bit of Black Pudding). I was really impressed with this, it was presented perfectly with all the items you would expect on a breakfast. Sausage, Bacon, Black Pudding, Hash Brown, Wilted Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom and Poached Egg all topped with Hollandaise Sauce. The Sausage was amazing, the Bacon really crispy and the egg was cooked to perfection. The Hollandaise was something I haven't had before on a full english but it worked great with all the meaty flavours and the Black Pudding was just what I was looking for crispy and black on the outside but still slightly red in the middle.

I'm sure we'll be back in Amble soon and the main menu at Sea & Soil looks really good too so I think we will be back to try something else.

Mrs. Cool has made a video of our day out in Northumberland, You can watch it here:

Well, that's all for now.


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Monday, 9 July 2018

Horton Grange | Alfresco Lunch

Summer's here, the sun is shining so that means outdoor dining is on the cards. This week was particularly glorious so me and Mrs. Cool headed out for lunch in the sun. We originally wanted to go to The Boathouse in Blyth and sit by the harbour but when we got to Blyth it was totally misty so we headed in land to find warmer climes.

Next we headed to The Parlour in Blagdon for lunch in the garden but when we got there we were told there were no tables available outside and when we asked if we could book one for later the said they did take reservations for the garden however when we questioned why there was a reserved sign on one of the tables outside we were given some BS response so decided against giving them our custom.

Finally we arrived at Horton Grange, a Country House Hotel and Restaurant in Ponteland. The garden is really pretty and it is a great sun trap on sunny days. Even though it was a weekday afternoon, the heatstroke must have got to us and we ordered a glass of wine each and had a read of the menu.

Mrs. Cool was after a light meal so she went for the Halloumi and Roasted Pear Salad. When the salad came Mrs. Cool was disappointed that the pear wasn't roasted and it was just thin slices of raw pear. The rest of the salad was really nice and the dressing was a sweet raspberry vinaigrette and made this a very fresh lunch.

Since Mrs. Cool was having a salad I decided to have a salad too. I went for the Caesar Salad and added the Roast Chicken Breast for an extra £2.00. I too was a little disappointed when my salad came as the menu said it had anchovies (which I love) but when it came my Caesar Salad was sans Anchovies. However the chicken more than made up for it, the breast was cooked perfectly and was so juicy and the skin was incredible with a little caramelisation. The Caesar dressing was really nice too and not too overpowering and there was a good helping out croutons.

Despite the issues with the salads we still enjoyed them and the wine was really good, out bill came to £25 which isn't bad for lunch. The garden is really great and there is loads of space and it would be great to take kids, there is a giant chess set too if you fancy teaching your kids the rules. There are some great nooks with flowers dotted around and a swing chair and all very Instagrammable.

Well, that's all for now.


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Thursday, 5 July 2018

5 Reasons Why I love Northumberland

Living in Northumberland is just the best. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But why do I love it so much? Well, there are many reasons but I've managed to condense it down so here are my five reasons (in no particular order) Why I love Northumberland.

The Coastline.

South Beach, Blyth
Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island

From Seaton Sluice in the south over 60 miles north to the Scottish border the Northumberland Coast is EPIC. A stunning 40 mile stretch of the coast from Berwick to the River Coquet has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Some of my favourite places are along the coast such as Craster, The Farne Islands, Seahouses and Holy Island. So many places to visit and some great days out. One of my favourite walks is the 2 mile walk along the coast from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle really worth the trip.

The Food.

North Sea Oysters, Blyth Boathouse
Northumberland Venison Haunch, St Mary's Inn

There is so much good food in Northumberland. Northumberland has some of it's own great foods like Craster Kippers, Ham and Pease Pudding Stotties and some of the best fish n chips you will ever have. There are also loads of farmers raising incredible produce, cheesemakers making award winning cheese, Artisan Bakeries making amazing bread, pies and cakes. But it's the abundance of great restaurants that make the food extra special, serving dishes from all over the world at such a high standard you are never far away from a good meal.

The Castles.
Warkworth Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle
Northumberland has over 70 Castles! It's like living in Game of freaking Thrones. Some of the castles are world famous being used in TV and Films with Alnwick Castle used the Harry Potter films and Bamburgh Castle used in the last Transformers movie. Visiting a castle is one of my favourite things to do as it totally transports you back in time. My favourite castle is Warkworth Castle (above) it's keep is mostly intact and you really get a sense of how imposing it would have been to see in it's hay-day.

The Countryside.
Ingram Valley
Kielder Forest
Northumberland is one of the largest counties in England but is one of the least densely populated with just 63 people per km². This is due to acres and acres of countryside, whether it's trekking through hills and valleys or having a ramble around ancient meadows there is seemingly no end to the Northumberland Countryside. Kielder Forest is the largest man made forest in Europe and along with Kielder Reservoir it is such a fascinating place. The Northumberland National Park is also well worth visit with miles of picturesque views taking in Hadrian's Wall and the Cheviot Hills as well as having Dark Skies status. If you've never experienced a night somewhere with Dark Skies status you need to try it, on a clear night the amount of stars you can see is insane.

The People.

Of all the things I love about Northumberland it's the people I love the most. Not just my own family (who are pretty amazing if I say so myself) but the people in general from Northumberland are so friendly and welcoming. People often say that the people from the North East are the friendliest in England and they ain't lying. Whether you're after advice at the local market or just looking for a friendly hello from a passing stranger the people of Northumberland are always happy to oblige. They will literally give you the clothes off their back, on one trip to the Farne Islands the kids were a bit chilly so the ship's captain let them use his gloves to keep their fingers warm.

Have you ever been to Northumberland, what was your experience like? Is there anything would would add to this list?

Well, that's all for now.


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5 Reasons Why I love Northumberland


Monday, 2 July 2018

Big Cool Five

Summer is here, the sun has been shining and the World Cup has started. There's is a feeling of optimism in England for the first time in a long time. We have have had lots of fun this month and had lots of days out. Here are my Big Cool Five from June.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

The latest film in Disney's Star Wars Anthology is all about Han Solo. I really enjoyed this film (a lot more that The Last Jedi) but it seems I'm in the minority. Poor box office returns and luke warm reviews have forced Disney to put their planned films in the anthology on hold. You can read my review here.

Fish Shack, Amble

Just up the Northumbrian coast from where I live is Amble and on the harbour is a great little seafood restaurant The Fish Shack. The setting is great, the food is even better. Next time we're in Amble we'll be heading back here. Here is my review of Lunch Menu.

Catch, Ponteland

Another Day, another Seafood restaurant. This time in Ponteland, Catch is something special. The Swordfish with Crayfish Linguine (above) is the best thing I've eaten this month. They do packages where you can stay over and eat at the restaurant and this might be a plan for me and Mrs. Cool in the next few months. You can read my full review here.

Cirque Berserk

I'm not usually a big fan of the circus but Cirque Berserk is a little different. Acrobats, Contortionist, Fire Jugglers were all here but it was the Motorcyclists in the Globe of Death that stole the show for me. You can read Mrs Cool's full review here.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

DINOSAURS! The Jurassic Park franchise rolls on with the latest entry Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Not very imaginative but still lots of fun, if you're a fan of Jurassic Park you'll probably enjoy this. You can read my full review here.

Next month is my Birthmonth and the World Cup Final and we're off on our holidays so lots to look forward to. Check back soon for my July Big Cool Five.

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday, 28 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

The fifth instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise is in cinemas and who doesn't love a raucous jaunt running away from terrible lizards. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Dinosaurs and going to the cinema as a 12 year old to see the original is one of my fondest memories from my childhood as it blew my tiny little mind. Now, my sons Harry (11) and Jack (7) have taken on my obsession so we dragged Heidi (9) along (Mrs. Cool was busy that night) and went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt reprise their roles as Claire and Owen. This time joined by Rafe Spall as Eli Mills, Ted Levine as Wheatley, Toby Jones as Gunnar Eversol and James Cromwell as Benjamin Lockwood. Jeff Goldblum also returns to the Jurassic Park Universe after a 21 year hiatus as Dr. Ian Malcom.

The plot is pretty predictable, Dinosaurs that were left on the Island after the park was abandoned in the last film are threatened as the Volcano that makes up the island has become active again. Some people think the dinos should be left and let nature take it course but other want to rescue them.

Funded by Benjamin Lockwood, an old friend of John Hammond, Claire convinces Owen to join the rescue mission with the hope of finding Blue, The Velociraptor he trained from a baby. Lockwoods fortune is being managed by Eli Mills and immediately he seems like a smarmy shit. 

Obviously the rescue turns out to be bullshit and Mills is really taking the dinosaurs off the island so they can be sold at auction to a bunch of shady bastards to fund the next phase of genetic engineering. The Indo-raptor is a new designer dino that uses the traits of the Indominus Rex from the last film and compacts it into the size of a Velociraptor. You can tell where the plot is going with this, right?

Chris Pratt is cool A.F. as Owen who acts like he doesn't care but really wants to save his fave dino, Blue. I think Claire is a pretty generic character and Bryce Dallas Howard is a better actor than the character she portrays allows (check out the 'Nosedive' Episode of Black Mirror). The character of Benjamin Lockwood, for me, seemed like he was just a replacement for John Hammond but I did think the side plot involving his granddaughter was and interesting one. Rafe Spall and Toby Jones were both great as the scheming bad guys trying to flog off all the dinosaurs. Ted Levine is also good as the archetypical mercenary hunter who leads the round up of the dinosaurs. I was however disappointed with the return of Jeff Goldblum, I love Jeff Goldblum and think he is brilliant in most things but with a lot of the hype and trailers involving him I felt his part in the film simply wasn't big enough.

The real stars of film though are the dinosaurs. The CGI effects that bring the dinosaurs to life are really spot on and some of the dinosaurs really steal the show. My personal favourite are Blue the Velociraptor and the Stygimoloch that helps Claire and Owen in one scene. Jack loves Rexy the T-Rex and this is Harry's favourite too. Heidi loved the baby dinos especially the Triceratops but said she was sad for the Brachiosaurus that was left behind on the Island.

The film is a lot more gory than previous films in the series and even though it is a 12A I felt some of the scenes were a bit much for younger kids. I could tell Heidi was little scared as she kept clinging onto me in some of the scenes. I also thought the soundtrack was little distracting, the musical score was big, epic and powerful to go with the dinosaurs but I think it was too much and couldn't been toned down in some scenes.

All in all we loved it, it was always going to be a winner for us and with another film scheduled for 2021 we can't wait to see what the future has in store for this franchise. 

Well, that's all for now.


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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review


Monday, 25 June 2018

Catch | Ponteland - Lunch Review

If you read my recent post about The Fish Shack you will know that I love seafood. This week me and Mrs. Cool headed out for lunch to try Catch, a seafood restaurant in Ponteland. We often go to Ponteland (it's where our nearest Waitrose is) and we've enjoyed several good meals in this town at places such as Haveli, the Badger, the Blackbird and the Postbox. Catch is all on it's own along the A696 but it has big enough car park that there should be no problem getting parked.

The interior is a mix of rustic and modern with an open kitchen, we were sat close to the pass and it was really interesting to watch the chefs working on their various dishes. Their menu (you can find it on their website here) is packed full of great dishes and even has a cool map showing where all of the produce comes from. There is also a Daily Catch menu served Monday to Friday 12pm-6pm and is a bit of a bargain at two courses for £15 or three courses for £19. We decided to order from the Daily Catch menu.

For starter Mrs. Cool had the Prawn Cocktail, it was served in all it's old school glory in a traditional tall sundae glass. Mrs. Cool said she could tell the prawns were good quality and there were plenty of them which is always a bonus and that the whole dish had been elevated above other prawn cocktails by something but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was that made it so good.

For her main Mrs. Cool had the Fish and Chips, this seemed to be the most popular dish when we were there as there were around 8-10 orders for Fish and Chips in the short time we were there. The chips were proper homemade chips and the fish was cod which was nice and flakey and the batter really crisp. The only negative was that any sides were £1.50 each which included mushy peas and bread and butter, being a proper Geordie Girl Mrs. Cool decided to have Curry Sauce with hers.

For my starter I chose the Ham Hock Terrine which, although not seafood, I just can't resist if I see it on a menu. It comes with Red onion chutney but that really doesn't do this justice. This was the nicest chutney I've ever had with a terrine (and I've had a lot of terrine). Also, I think was made to order as it was still warm when I got it. The terrine was really good and I got a few big wedges of bread to go with it.

For my main I went for the Swordfish Steak with Crayfish Linguine. I hadn't noticed this but Mrs. Cool mentioned that I get Swordfish quite regularly at seafood restaurants. I do love it, I think it's because it is a really meaty fish and reminds me of a pork steak and for me Pork is Bae. The Swordfish was perfect, pan fried with butter and garlic. The linguine was really good too with a creamy sauce and plenty of Crayfish as well. The portion was a bit big (even for me) and I had to leave a few mouthfuls.

There are also rooms available at Catch and the packages are quite reasonably priced with one deal being an overnight stay for two with a 3 course meal and breakfast included for £129. I think we'll add this to the list of potential places for me and Mrs. Cool to stay when we next have a child free night.
Well. that's all for now.


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