Fighting plastic pollution: The No Straw Stand

Following on from my current Saying Goodbye to Single-use plastic series, I return once again to the straw issue. The No Straw Stand has been setup by Cardiff uni students Nia and Douglas who are trying to make Cardiff a straw-free city. They’ve an ever-growing list of businesses taking the no straw stand and have recently received support from Keep Wales Tidy – which just goes to show that small changes can lead to progress! There’s still a way to go sadly, but I thought I’d compile some of my favourite businesses already happily associated with the No Straw Stand, which I recommend trying if you haven’t already:

Blanche Bakery

I finally took myself to try out their offerings recently and was very pleasantly impressed; their donuts are their major selling point and I can 100% see why. They taste incredible, you’d never even know that they’re vegan, full of flavour and very satisfying. Much like The Moos on nearby Whitchurch Road, Blanche Bakery are totally vegan; so whether you’re after something a bit different, want to mix up your diet or try something new, or simply go somewhere you can indulge without having to check the ingredients, this is certainly somewhere to visit.

It’s small and cosy, but this also means it was lovely and warm on an otherwise very cold day. I opted for the French toast donut (definitely stole the show), the ‘chick’n mayo’ sandwich and a hot chocolate. The sandwich was tasty and filling but I’m not sure the texture was the one for me, still felt kind of meaty which I’m sure is fab if you are or were at one point a meat-eater but just not quite right for me. The hot chocolate was very well presented and tasted good, but to be honest I did miss the milk – which is something I thought I’d never say because I’m not even a big fan of milk. I couldn’t tell you which kind of vegan milk was used, however, so maybe it’s different with different types? I can’t be sure, but they also have a good tea selection so next time I’ll go for that. Either way, definitely try the donuts and go for the chill atmosphere of the place, I loved it and will be back again soon to try more.

 

 

The Grazing Shed have also taken to supplying biodegradable straws according to the No Straw Stand. I’ve written about them before in my Glastonbury highlights; often regarded as the best burgers in Cardiff it was nice to have a sense of ‘home from home’ whilst away festival-ing. Not so long ago I found myself there again and was particularly impressed with their efforts to cater to my awkward requests, it really made my evening! [The awkwardness was that their chips are all skin-on and I have the weirdest allergy in the world and can’t digest potato skin. Bummer, I know. Instead though, they were happy to substitute me another patty in my usual Naughty Shephard which was thoroughly enjoyed and very much appreciated.] If you haven’t tried The Grazing Shed yet, you really are missing out.

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Source: Pieminister Instagram

Pieminister is somewhere I’ve always been a big fan of – who doesn’t love pie & mash?! (Un)fortunately, we’re so spoilt for choice in Cardiff that I’m always keen to try new img_7026places so these guys have become rather a rare treat for me somehow. They’ve been phasing out their straw stocks for a while now, only supplying them on customer request, but since they officially went plastic straw free a month or so ago I decided it was high-time for another visit. In this case, they visited me via the magic of Deliveroo; I went for my usual Heidi pie but this time added cheesy mash (is there anything better than cheesy mash? Seriously?!), gravy and a side of mac ‘n’ cheese, just because. It was bloody delicious and all packaged in cardboard containers marked as recyclable (though they did appear to have a coating on the inside similar to coffee cups and ice cream pints…), which was a real bonus*. Great job team!

*This links in with an email I received from Deliveroo just a few nights ago, stating that they’re investing in the manufacture and production of more recyclable and/or biodegradable containers for transporting hot foods via their service, in order to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. They’ve also supplied some of their businesses with trial biodegradable straws and are introducing an ‘opt-in cutlery’ scheme to encourage wider adoption of these eco-friendly alternatives. Brilliant news!

 

 

Juno Lounge, one of my long standing favourite places, have taken to only using compostable straws which I’m thrilled about! You can read my full review of Juno here, it’s one for a cosy comfort meal for sure.

 

 

Wahaca has always been one of my favourite places to eat in Cardiff because I love their policy on sustainability, food waste and the fact that their fish is clearly stated as MSC certified. These guys have always been against straws (but recently made it official) for any of their soft drinks or delicious cocktails and I’ve been too many times to list, however the things I always go from their street food menu are the plantain tacos (I almost always have plantain on a menu if it’s available) and the cod tacos. Bloody lovely. Their sweet potato & feta taquitos go down a real treat too – I’m hungry just thinking about it. If you like Mexican, give Wahaca a go.

Penylan Pantry – you may have seen these guys before on my list of Top 5 Cardiff Breakfast spots and I still stand by that. I love everything about the inside of the Pantry and intend to visit again very soon, but as well as their delicious & freshly made food, their sustainability and environmental awareness is a big bonus factor for me [see Hungry City Hippy’s post for more] and I really do hope more businesses take these things on board. Go, see for yourself; you won’t regret it.

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Milk & Sugar/Llaeth & Siwgr I’ve also mentioned before in my Top 5 Cardiff breakfasts and they remain very much one of my favourite go-to places in town. I’ve not yet had a disappointing meal from them in the Old Library and I happily go there time and time again. It’s great for people watching if you get a window spot, it’s a lovely big space (also available for functions, parties and sometimes kitchen takeovers) and there’s something on the food or drinks menu to suit everyone. They have also taken the No Straw Stand so next time you’re in town, stop by and give Milk & Sugar a try – trust me.

 

Lastly, Lilo’s Pasta is relatively new to the Cardiff scene but started off in nearby Pencoed where owners Liam and Chloe spotted a gap in the market and, after Chloe living on pasta for most of her second year of university and playing around with tasty variations, dived in full-force after graduating. They now have two trucks for festivals and weddings (you may have seen them at Cowbridge Food Festival last year or Depot from time to time), two successful cafes and have been really focusing on moving towards a plastic-free environment. As a new business, Chloe has taken the opportunity to make ‘sustainable swaps’ wherever possible, such as storing their ingredients in big glass jars and ordering their signature coffee in brown paper packaging, whilst ensuring that whatever packaging they do use is either fully recyclable or compostable such as the takeaway boxes. Straws are a work-in-progress but their plastic ones are only available on request currently and a more eco-friendly option available as soon as possible.

Their pasta itself is proper, convenient comfort food for a very reasonable price and with plenty of options to choose from (including vegan & veggie options), as well as regularly changing specials – like this one pictured which was their duck special not so long ago [source: instagram]. Your waistline needn’t take a hit either, swapping regular pasta for courgetti if you wish or even adding protein to any smoothie or milkshake. They’ve also begun offering Oatly as a vegan milk replacement in their hot drinks at no extra cost and if you take your own coffee cup or food container you’ll get 20p off your order. Great job guys!

One interesting thing that came up in conversation was that in their store it may seem like recycling isn’t been followed through as there aren’t separate bins, however when the waste collector was asked about this it was assured that the recycling is separated at the plant later on. I really hope this is the case for many other businesses because I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of assuming that no separate bins meant no recycling! Moreover, Chloe told me that she’s even been asking their supplier to cut down on packaging when goods are delivered where possible, such as not double-wrapping salami etc. This, my friends, demonstrates that if we, the consumer, put the pressure on the businesses to adapt and change, then businesses apply this same pressure to their suppliers, meaningful change can begin to happen and across a wider board. Fingers crossed, eh? It’s all about spreading the word!

 

 

So, if you haven’t taken the No Straw Stand yet, why not check out some articles online or refer back to part 1 of my plastic series. If you have, but your favourite restaurant or pub hasn’t, why not ask them about it? I’ve been surprised to have received some bemused looks when requesting no straw in my milkshake or cocktail recently, which just goes to show that the message still needs to be spread further and wider to get everyone on board. So grab your bamboo straw (or metal, but bamboo is more sustainable & eco-friendly truth be told) and get the message out there!

You can get bamboo straws from Save Some Green or Tabitha Eve Co when she’s next at Cardiff Market.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 3

We’ve now had more than enough of 2018 to ‘get back into the swing of things’ and try get our heads around whatever resolutions we made for ourselves (is it really Spring already?). Hopefully, if you’ve been interested in reading this series, reducing your plastic consumption has been one of those resolutions – refer back to parts 1 and 2 for more context – and hopefully some of the little tips and tricks I’ve been sharing in my journey have helped some of you do this. Small changes really do have an impact when everyone gets involved! So, what’s new since last time?

Laundry (the bane of my adult existence)

I finally ran out of the laundry tablets I’d been using and decided to search for an eco-friendly alternative. I was sent this very useful video a few weeks ago and was tempted to make some of the laundry tablets on there, however I hadn’t realised I’d run out until going for the empty box in the cupboard (doh!) and so had to act quickly. Luckily, next day delivery is a thing and I was intrigued having read about Ecoegg from fellow Cardiff bloggers The CSI Girls and heard about it from a work friend, so I bought myself one online and it arrived the next day. So far I have absolutely no complaints!

IMG_7375The egg itself is, to be fair, made from recyclable rubber and plastic but the key selling point is that it’s not single-use and comes full of refillable pellets so that once you have an egg, all you need to do is replace the pellets to use time and time again! These pellets biodegrade throughout your washes, coming in a variety of scents (I ordered lavender to begin with but may mix it up next time) and your first full egg is claimed to last around 54 washes – you get a little tick list to keep track if you like.

Additionally, the company are UK based, UK made, cruelty-free, vegan friendly and package the product in cardboard making it fully recyclable. I’ve been really conscious over the past year or so to start phasing out anything not cruelty-free in our house, starting with makeup, so this was a major selling point for me too because you’d be surprised how many household things are tested on animals (this, like the plastic, is a gradual process of adaptation and a learning curve). I must note that on this occasion I was also very impressed with the minimalist brown paper envelope it was delivered in, later recycled. The only possible criticism is that the scent of the Ecoegg pellets isn’t as strong as some of the popular laundry detergents, but to be honest this doesn’t bother me as long as the clothes are clean!

Sustainable cinema – is it a thing yet?

IMG_7376 (1)Something else I wanted to talk about, although it may seem more of an occasional thing rather than an everyday lifestyle change, is that I’ve recently been trying to apply the reusable coffee cup principle to my cinema outings. Several years ago when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I fell for the marketing strategy and bought one of the limited edition decorated drinks cups from the cinema. I had since kept it lying around as a keepsake until we went to go and see the latest film, The Last Jedi, when it dawned on me that surely if I took this drinks cup to the cinema it could be refilled same as a reusable coffee cup would in a café? The answer, sadly, has been somewhat unclear.

First time around, the poor guy did look a little confused when it wasn’t one of the more recent ones they had on sale at that time, but didn’t hesitate to fill it up once I’d explained it was already mine from years ago. Second time, the server seemed unsure what size drink it represented so insisted on pouring out a usual, plastic cup and tipping it into my reusable one and yes, this does defeat the point. Third time (was not lucky), I was flat-out told that it would not be refilled and that if I wanted to use it I’d have to tip from a normal plastic cup myself. On this same occasion, my own bamboo coffee cup lovingly featured in my first post (which was refilled without any hesitation – why the difference?!) went missing after the film so, all in all, I feel a bit defeated by this sustainable cinema quest! I’ve raised the issue with Cineworld via twitter where all of these attempts took place but so far haven’t had a clear answer. I will continue to be a pain in the arse and take my cup with me, however, so this line of enquiry is to be continued…

Cuppa, anyone?

In other news, as you may have seen it turns out that a lot of teabags are actually sealed with plastic. Slightly heart-breaking, I know. The good news, however, is that the Loose Leaf pyramid teabags from Twinings are plastic-free and fully biodegradable, or there’s always the option of loose leaf tea and a cute little strainer, such these I picked up in Madrid IMG_7308last weekend and now keep in my desk at the office (pictured right).

Moreover, this is something you could buy in bulk similar to pasta, rice, coffee etc. at the new Natural Weigh store in Crickhowell which opened last weekend and which I am dying to try out! For the time being I’ve been using up the teabags I currently have – which are still recommended to be composted at home or in the food waste bin, despite the small amounts of plastic currently in most – but will thereafter be switching to more loose leaf and making sure to buy fully compostable or biodegradable* brands when necessary – here’s a list below:

  • PG Tips pyramid bags (recent change but should be on sale now, see article for more)
  • Twinings Loose Leaf pyramid tea bags (specifically these, the rest are not yet plastic-free)
  • Pukka Herbs – fully compostable
  • Teapigs – these are confusing; the tea bags are compostable but must be put in your food waste not home compost because they need to be broken down industrially. The plastic bag the tea bags are packaged in is, however, compostable at home
  • Aldi’s premium Specially Selected range
  • Waitrose’s Duchy range
  • Coop [coming soon] – their own-brand 99 teabags are set to become plastic-free by the end of the year

*I just learned there’s a difference between compostable and biodegradable; call me foolish but my mind is now blown.

Zero Waste washing-up: Tabitha Eve Co.

I’m revisiting this subject from part 2 because as I feared, my microfibre cloths idea isn’t quite as plastic-free as I’d hoped. At the moment, I am still using them for cleaning and dusting until they get past their best, at which point I’ll invest in some reusable bamboo cloths or cotton muslins, but when I saw Tabitha Eve Co. at Cardiff’s Riverside Market I couldn’t resist her ‘none sponge’s!

IMG_7053This mum of two started by taking the no straw stand with her much-beloved cocktails, then began to wonder where else she could make a difference around the home. Debbie decided to begin working from her studio in Cardiff with the aim to provide beautiful, handmade zero waste products that can convert people to living more eco-friendly and plastic free ways and has only been trading since December of last year, so it was a real bonus that I was able to support a new, local business as well as get some great products!

The ‘none sponge’s are simply bamboo material and cotton sewn together carefully (sourced from the UK as much as possible but otherwise Debbie scours the ‘net for sustainable alternatives, such as hand woven organic cotton by a cooperative in Kerala), these resemble washing up sponges without the unnecessary plastic and work great. They can be cut up and composted once done with, though it’s worth noting that fabrics do take longer to decompose than food so should be tucked into the middle of an actual compost heap rather than the food waste bin [what can go in the food waste bin can be found here]. Composting is something I’ve been meaning to look into further so I’ll come back to this point another day, but for now I’ll be using my parents’ compost heap as and when I visit home.

The point is, you need to check out this lady’s products because they’re gorgeous, natural and plastic free. [Her etsy is here in case you don’t have chance to catch her at the market!] I’ve also started using the cotton produce bags to store my loose fruit & veg in the cupboards, as a means of keeping potatoes apart from onions etc. in line with Love Food Hate Waste’s recommendations.

Wrapping it up

One of my closest & dearest friends was kind enough to send me some beeswax wraps IMG_6969after reading this series so far (I know, she’s a keeper) and I’ve been avidly using them as much as possible as I’ve heard good things – they even came with a lovely little note from Beeswax Wraps UK. So far I’ve tested them out for wrapping sandwiches and covering bowls of leftover food, they’ve worked a treat! Much better than nasty old clingfilm; natural, reusable, available in lots of pretty patterns – I urge you to invest as soon as your last roll of clingfilm runs out. They can also be home composted once worn out or you can even have a go at making some yourself, either using online tips or one of Tabitha Eve Co’s special kits which were on sale at Cardiff Market.

And finally, two things I’ve found to be absolutely key in sticking with sustainable changes:

  1. Investing in or rediscovering an old, larger handbag or small backpack is a great way to ensure you remember all your eco bits when out and about. As long as it has room for a reusable coffee cup, your bamboo straws, bags for life, a Tupperware container for those leftover bits at the end of a meal (or even for fresh fish or meat you get at the market), a refillable water bottle and ideally some reusable cutlery, you’re good to go. I’m yet to make a cutlery pouch myself but I’ve been keeping an eye on Zero Waste Cardiff’s Instagram how-to and am definitely keen to try!
  2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It might at first feel like you’re being a pain in the arse, but if you don’t ask the awkward questions you’ll never get a straight answer. Ask for the straw to be left out of your drink. Ask if you can have your water bottle refilled (this is actually your legal right in most premises). Ask if you can have your fresh fish/meat in your own tupperware instead of wrapped in plastic bags*. And what’s more, the more people ask then the more this kind of movement will grow and opinions begin to change.
    *I’m told Cardiff Indoor Market have answered yes to this question, though if you can’t always make it local I asked Asda and was told it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you have the sticker to scan!
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My backpack/handbag with (almost) all my eco essentials 🙂

Change really is happening guys, especially with new drinking water fountain/refill plans and a potential plastic straw ban following Scotland’s success, so don’t be afraid to get involved…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

‘Special’ by name, special by nature: Arbennig

The award-winning Arbennig restaurant is situated in Pontcanna not far away from the well-reputed Brød Danish bakery (which I’m sadly yet to visit, but it’s on my list) and Pipes beer (a personal favourite of mine), but well worth the wander out of town. I’d heard many good things about it from colleagues and fellow bloggers beforehand and even met the owner briefly when handing out roast dinners to the homeless with the Arbennig staff and other volunteers just after Christmas, but I was yet to dine there myself. So for Valentine’s Day this year we decided to take the plunge and try it out. We were not disappointed.

The set menu was short but catered well for different tastes, we thought, and sometimes I think there’s a charm in smaller menus as it allows more focus on the ingredients themselves and can result in dishes of a higher standard (see photo below). IMG_7008 All three of the starters were chosen between us, mine being the beetroot cured salmon with horseradish, blood orange and endive. I didn’t really know what endive was but I assumed it was the baby gem-like leaves when the dish came, which presented a good texture contrast. It was very tasty, the combination of beetroot and cured (rather than cooked) salmon worked really well, however I personally don’t like horseradish so that was my only issue. My father had the same and absolutely loved it, my mother had the garlic mushrooms and said it was perfectly balanced, not too heavy and a great start to the meal and my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his lamb ragu. Happy faces all round so far.

For mains my parents shared the treacle and mustard braised short ribs and I have to say, despite not being to my taste, they looked and smelled (much to my surprise) fantastic. The presentation really was spot on throughout, you can tell this is something Arbennig pride themselves with and they do it all without compromising portion sizes or flavour. The ribs were full of flavour, cooked perfectly with the meat easing off the bone and totally delicious, according to my parents. My father just wanted more! It’s worth mentioning here that the care taken in Arbennig to source their ingredients from local, fresh and often family-run suppliers really shines through in the quality of their dishes, these ribs being no exception.

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The braised short ribs

My boyfriend and I opted for the roasted cod loin where the quality of the fish was also very noticeable, heightening the overall dish which was so bloody tasty we’d have it again any time. The ingredients complimented each other perfectly in every way, the zing of the lemon purée marrying with the fresh fish yet contrasting with the scorched baby gem. It’s such a good feeling knowing that you’re supporting local suppliers, within a local family-run business and the meals taste all the better for it. I love that supporting local is such a big thing in Cardiff and long may it continue if these are the results!

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Roasted cod loin & Israeli cous cous etc.

Several glasses of wine and many comments on how fantastic everything was later, it was time for dessert. Again, all three of them on the set menu were chosen between us: my mother’s blood orange, biscuit crumble and almond meringue combo was another perfectly balanced combination, the meringue (my favourite) was just crumbly enough without breaking apart too easily and tasted incredible. My father’s rhubarb and almond tart was also impressive looking, well-balanced in flavour & texture and very satisfying. But the star of the show for me was the warm chocolate fondant with honeycomb and sorbet… Oh. My. God.

I’ve seen many a fondant go horribly wrong on Masterchef but, from that, I’ve got a good enough idea of what they’re supposed to be like; this was absolute perfection let me tell you. Held its own on the plate just until you dipped your spoon in to gently tear it apart and then out came the oozing, gooey, warm and gorgeous chocolate. I’m a huge chocoholic anyway and honeycomb is one of my favourite things to pair with it, so I can honestly say this is a serious contender for my favourite dessert ever. Perhaps even taking the top spot. The sorbet was the cherry on top, presenting that brilliant contrast between warm and cool, sponge and smooth and just all-round awesome-ness. I’d have it again tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that… (Except I’ve given up chocolate for lent ☹ *cries*)

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The work of art that was the chocolate fondant…

The service at Arbennig was just as fantastic as the food, too. The staff were very attentive, seeing to our every need or request, happily explaining anything we asked about and were genuinely interested in how much we were enjoying our experience. The place was a little chilly when we first arrived but warmed up when the other tables started filling up (and once our wine had kicked in). All in all, everything was perfectly balanced, very well flavoured and prepared and presented to a high standard. I can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait to go back to try the normal menu; by which I just mean not a set menu, as the restaurant menu itself changes weekly in line with what’s fresh and in season – isn’t that brilliant? Exactly how things should be, not to mention always keeping it interesting. Have you tried Arbennig yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: this post was not sponsored, we paid for our meal in full and all views are my own.

Getting Saucy in the kitchen with Saucy Affair

Saucy Affair Raw Sauces are new and coming to the UK market. I was fortunate enough to be invited to try their sauces for review, so the following post is kindly sponsored by themselves (however the opinions are my own).

So, what are these ‘raw sauces’? The idea is that they’re simply blended fruit, veggies and herbs, no nonsense, making it easy to cook up something healthy in the kitchen with their ‘just coat and cook’ slogan. Admittedly, it is as simple as that. Upon checking I was also informed that due to these natural ingredients all sauces are vegan friendly, gluten & wheat free, lactose and nut free too. However, the only potentially questionable ingredient is guar/xanthan gum as there is some debate over the fact that although both are derived from natural substances, they have to be processed in some way to make the gum; thus questioning their classification as ‘raw’… But, from what I can gather, despite being largely indigestible neither tend to have negative impacts on the human gut unless consumed in large quantities, and I can only assume that the gum is there just as a preservative. So personally, I’m willing to overlook it (it’s already in so many things, including many dairy products) but if you’d rather stay paleo maybe skip this one out.

There are 6 sauce sensations to choose from: Teriyaki Malarkey, Cucumber Blunder, Smokey Cokey, Fiery Fiasco, Beetroot Cahoot and Tarragon Shenanigan. Each comes with recommended flavours and ingredients to pair with such as white fish, goats cheese, sausages etc. including several of their own recipes on the website. I chose to do a few of theirs and a few of my own in order to be a bit creative. Here’s what I found!

Teriyaki Malarkey

For this I used their Tofu stir fry recipe which was tasty, satisfying and very easy to do. All done in about 15 mins so really good for a quick, simple dinner and this sauce worked really well with both the stir fry and the tofu; all in all, I’d recommend and repeat this recipe. Tofu isn’t something we usually go for but I even got my boyfriend to like it for a change!

Cucumber Blunder

This one I did my usual trick of just chucking things together in a pan to see how it goes; I did follow their advice from the sea bream recipe and fried my cod fillets in the sauce on a medium-high heat, also throwing in some chopped peppers and green beans. I fried all this for 5-8 mins (by the end the cod broke apart into chunks but I don’t mind as long as it’s tasty) and served with creamy mash potato, which is my own secret recipe. It wasn’t very photogenic as you can see above but the sauce complimented the ingredients well without overpowering and the whole dish tasted delicious. Another thumbs up from me.

Smokey Cokey

A smoky BBQ-style sauce, I had this as a packed lunch stirred into pasta with chunks of Quorn sausages and some veggies in the mix. Some grated cheese on top would’ve been the icing on the cake to be honest but this sauce provided a good, smoky flavour without feeling too ‘meaty’ as I sometimes find with BBQ flavoured foods. I can imagine this sauce would go well with chicken wings (key word being imagine) though I wish I’d tried the mac ‘n’ cheese recipe on their website too, maybe next time.

Fiery Fiasco

Burrito bowls have been one of my favourite things to make recently for a quick, tasty dinner and easy meal prep for the following day’s lunch – you may have guessed from my Instagram. This time I used the Fiery Fiasco sauce instead of frying the onion & peppers in fajita seasoning, served with coconut rice and a dollop of mayo – recipe below. Take note of the two chilli rating on this sauce though, it gave a bit more kick than I was expecting! I really enjoyed this dish and the sauce worked well, but personally I don’t think I’d use it again as it was just a little bit hotter than I’d usually make. Perhaps if I tried their seafood fiesta recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 3 Quorn sausages
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 peppers, chopped
  • (1 medium clove of garlic, crushed – if doing with normal fajita seasoning)
  • Coconut oil
  • Basmati rice ~130g or 1 mug-full (also works with brown but that takes longer, or can substitute for cauliflower rice)

Method:

Boil a kettle. Heat a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat; once melted add in the rice and stir around so that the oil coats it. Add boiled water and reduce to medium-low, simmering for around 10 mins* until rice is fluffy and most or all of the water is absorbed. (Remember to stir occasionally to avoid any sticking to the pan, but the coconut oil should help with this anyway).

Meanwhile, cook the Quorn sausages to your preference (I like to grill them on our panini press), this should take around 10 mins so *try to time it the same as the rice.

Whilst the rice & sausages are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and fry until softened. Then add chopped peppers and fry until onion starts to turn golden.

Drain the chickpeas and black beans and add to the pan. Fry off for about a minute then pour in the bottle of Fiery Fiasco sauce and stir to mix. If your pan has a lid, put the lid on and let it simmer and reduce for around 5 mins. Keep an eye on it and keep intermittently stirring.

By this point, the rice and sausages should be done, or nearly there. Remove the sausages from the heat and put onto a plate to cool for a few minutes. Drain the rice in a sieve to remove any leftover moisture and allow to steam a little.

Next, chop the sausages using kitchen scissors and stir the chunks into the sauce, which should now have thickened and be ready to go; remove it from the heat whilst doing this.

Serve with the coconut rice and a dollop of mayo or yoghurt and enjoy!

Beetroot Cahoot

This is another one I decided to make my own recipe with; there’s a little note on this sauce saying that it can be enjoyed cold as a ketchup, which gave me the idea of pizza, substituting the usual passata for Beetroot Cahoot. Seeing as it was #Veganuary at the time, I also decided to branch out and try a cauliflower base (taken from letscookvegan.videos), so this whole recipe can be vegan (and gluten free) if you skip the goats’ cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole cauliflower (or cauli rice)
  • 2 tbs Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • ½ cup oat flour (made from grinding GF oats in a nutribullet/food processor)
  • ½ cup GF self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Sprinkle of thyme
  • Sprinkle of smoked paprika
  • Toppings of choice (chopped peppers, sweetcorn, goats’ cheese)

Method:

Preheat the oven to around 200 degrees C. Chop the cauliflower into florets and use a blender or processor to turn into rice. Blanch the cauli rice in hot water then drain into a sieve, shaking as much moisture out as possible before shocking with cold water and transferring to a clean tea towel or nut milk bag, if you have one. Twist and ring out the bag/tea towel until the water is pressed out, then empty into a mixing bowl.

Add all ingredients and mix well with your hands to form a dough. Next, either line a baking tray (circular if possible) with baking paper or grease the tray with olive oil. Form the crust onto the sheet/tray, gently pushing about with your fingers and palms to fill the tray.

Bake for 20-30 mins, keeping an eye on it. The video I used says to overbake it, which I would’ve done had I not been in a rush and so would recommend for next time.

Once it’s browning nicely, take it out and spread the Beetroot Cahoot sauce over the base, using the back of a spoon. Add your toppings of choice and put back in the oven for around 5 mins.

When the toppings look done, take out and enjoy! Be careful because this base is very crumbly – or at least mine was; if yours works like the video it should be fine. This worked well as a combination, the base was really nice and the goats’ cheese really complimented the sauce, however the slight kick of horseradish was not to my liking so I wouldn’t choose this one again. My boyfriend liked it though so each to their own.

Tarragon Shenanigan

I originally had another website recipe I was going to adapt for this one, using the basis of the aubergine bake but swapping out the aubergine for butternut squash and the feta cheese for halloumi. Sadly though, for various reasons, I didn’t manage to cook with this one before its expiry date so I’m unable to give a full review. It did sound delicious and I truly am gutted because I hate to waste anything, yet had I realised sooner that the sauces are actually suitable for freezing I would’ve done that to ensure full usage. My apologies here, guys. I will be looking to try it out when it becomes available in stores out of curiosity.

All in all, I enjoyed cooking with these sauces as a change from my usual routine. I don’t actually tend to use bottled sauces often and prefer to create my own, but as these are formed of humble, natural ingredients I made the exception. My personal favourites and those I would choose to buy in stores were the Teriyaki Malarkey and the Smokey Cokey; the first because the tofu stir fry was absolutely delicious and the second because I’d love to try it with mac ‘n’ cheese. I’d also have the Cucumber Blunder again to try with sea bass and roasted potatoes, so my advice to you is to have a browse on the website for some recipe ideas and pick up one or two bottles when you see them in stores and on supermarket shelves (which should be very soon!).

Have you tried any of these yourself? If not, which are you looking forward to trying? I’d love to know if you try one of the recipes above!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Special thanks to Saucy Affair for sponsoring this post with their tasty samples.

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 2

Although time has passed since the first post of this series, the pressing plastic problem has not changed. There have been some more highlights in the news, including the introduction of more freely available tap water throughout England to encourage water bottle refills and reduce purchases of single-use bottled water, as well as several other political promises made; but nothing legally binding yet. Blue Planet 2 did, however, receive an ‘Impact’ award at the National TV Awards which recognised the significant increase in environmental awareness both in the hearts of the nation and the Houses of Parliament, since its release. Carrying this impact with us, we press on in the quest to Say Goodbye to Single-use Plastic.

Although part 1 was published after Christmas, I didn’t want to overload it with too much info so in this part 2 I’ll talk about some of the things that helped make my Christmas a little more eco-friendly – although there’s still a long way to go. Following my 5 things to remember at Christmas post we were then lucky enough to receive a restaurant gift voucher from one of our family members which, in my opinion, is a perfect example of a thoughtful, zero waste present. What better time for a discounted date night than January in the post-Christmas blues?

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A shocking infographic showing the truth behind Christmas waste. Source: article by House Beautiful.

One thing that became apparent whilst opening presents was the sheer amount of waste that wrapping creates, considering that a lot of wrapping paper cannot be recycled as it’s reinforced with plastic and/or sprinkled with specs of glitter – side note: have you ever noticed that you use glitter once and then it never seems to go away? Yep, it’s a very harmful micro-plastic for that exact reason. Biodegradable glitter has in-fact been developed by ecoglitterfun but it will cost you a pretty penny so use it wisely (or avoid glitter altogether). I would say sorry to all the festival go-ers but I know that I was one IMG_4828myself this past year and I know for a fact that I wore glitter on my face at Glastonbury (pictured). This just goes to show, however, that these little changes do require time and effort but aren’t impossible. A group of Nurseries in the UK even banned glitter all together in their efforts to protect the environment, good job! Personally, the next time I go to some such festival I’ll factor in the extra money for eco-friendly glitter – or even chip in with a friend. I digress; the point is that looking at the huge pile of spent wrapping paper in front of us, my family and I agreed next year to abolish it and use newspaper, bags, tissue paper and string or even a nice fabric instead. Better still, focus more on intangible presents that don’t require wrapping.

As for eco-friendly presents, there were some handmade Welsh soaps wrapped in paper rather than plastic, several non-plastic kitchen bits including a bamboo chopping board, IMG_6930and a make-up removing cloth which, so far, has been my personal highlight and a real game-changer. My friend and I had this very conversation only a few months ago, wondering what we could do to eliminate the waste caused by our makeup wipes and cotton pads, yet here the answer was all along. There are a couple of different brands available now but mine is the Magnitone Wipeout and you literally just wet it with warm water and wipe (or rub) the make-up away (mine is very well used as you can see…) I was a little hesitant but it actually works a dream, even on thick eye makeup! I love it! Just goes in the wash with everything else when it needs a refresh.

Outside of Christmas, one of the things I wanted to talk about in this post is washing up. In the first post I talked about my coconut hair, biodegradable scourer and since then I’ve made a few other changes to my washing up routine – or, at least, tried. In terms of ditching the sponge, that I have done. I’ve employed the use of microfiber cloths I already had but wasn’t using, for washing up and general cleaning in place of sponges and kitchen roll (which, by the way, isn’t always recyclable so I’ve ditched that too. Same goes for tin foil.) This works really well and I can’t complain, although I am conscious that this may be a plastic fibre issue to tackle at some point down the line… let’s hope not.

As for washing up liquid, however, I was super keen to make my own after seeing several recipes online, as I talked about in part 1. When it came to it, sadly I’m not sure it made the cut (pictured above). In theory it’s a simple combination of soap, vinegar, water and some essential oils but in reality the lack of lather in comparison to the usual shop-bought washing up liquid made it hard to tell whether it was actually doing the job, and seeing my cutlery dry with soap spots was the final (non-plastic) straw for me. So unfortunately, we had to emergency swap back to normal for the time being, though we tried to pick one that’s supposed to last forever and ever until that annoying little kid on the advert wants to build his bloody toy rocket. At least he’s reusing.

Moving home recently was another opportunity to seek out eco-friendly/non-plastic alternatives to things normally bought for the house, such as making sure I bought a metal rack for the draining board (as oppose to the many plastic options out there) and hunting high and low for a suitable, sustainable foot stool (we are short people, we can’t reach the top cupboards). The perfect little footstool was finally found in TK Maxx – see photo below; I wanted a wooden one with character that we could keep forever and ever and, seeing as my boyfriend loves orcas, that’s exactly what I found!

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Our perfect, adorable orca stool 🙂

Time for another DIY project: homemade antibacterial spray. Antibac wipes are yes, very convenient but not only contain plastic fibres like many other types of wet/makeup wipe, they also get flushed down the toilet (for some reason completely unbeknown to me; they are NOT ‘flushable’, the packaging lies) and cause all kinds of drain blockages, bursts, contribute to littering and even help form ‘fatbergs’ as we’ve seen in the news IMG_6924because they do not decompose. Anyway, I kept aside a spray bottle of old antibac that would otherwise have been recycled and made up my concoction. This one works an absolute treat: water, white vinegar, lemon juice, lavender oil, tea tree oil. That’s all there was to it! Wine vinegar is a naturally brilliant cleaning agent especially for stainless steel and glass, whilst lavender and tea tree oils are naturally antibacterial and add a little extra scent to mask some of the vinegar. My boyfriend still thinks ours smells too vinegar-y, but it’s only when you’re actually spraying and wiping it down, once dry the odour doesn’t linger. Personally I’ve been loving using this spray and would recommend anyone to try it at home, it’s so simple and so effective! And amazing to know that you’re only using natural ingredients so there’s no itchy skin from chemicals afterwards (no nasty testing on animals either!).

There’s plenty more I could write here, but better save it for next time… The key points this time are:

  • Use up what you already have first to save waste, or perhaps even give it away
  • Dedicate a little time researching the best eco and plastic-free alternative (or, at least, single-use-plastic-free) and it will pay off
  • Take the opportunity to make a sustainable swap when it presents itself i.e. moving home or replacing something
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to others about this, not just friends & family but bars and restaurants. There are plenty out there looking to make a difference, which I’ll do a separate post about soon but The No Straw Stand is a good place to start.

If you’re still just starting out on your plastic-reduction journey, here’s an article from earthyandy on some small, simple steps to get going.

IMG_6876Also, update on the bamboo straw teething problems from last time: since making sure I always have one or two in my handbag it has become much easier to implement and I no longer fear making a fuss by asking specifically not to be given a straw with my drink. If I have more than one on me then usually a friend borrows one too, double-win. I recently got asked about them when putting my own straw in my drink at a bar, which just goes to show that interest can spread and there is hope for a Straw-Free Cardiff. More on this to come…

Do you have any advice on favourite eco-friendly products? Have you been trying to cut down on plastic and live more consciously too? Stay tuned for more next time! (And if you haven’t watched Blue Planet 2 yet, seriously what have you been doing?! Catch up here).

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: none of the links in this article are sponsored.

Source for Featured Image: Justin Hofman photography.

Tasty Tapas at Cathedral 73

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always found it hard to share. Fortunately, not when it comes to tapas. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cathedral 73 to try out their new tapas taster menu, following management changes back in November; I was informed that some of the options have been designed as sharers so brought a friend along for the ride.

We arrived not quite sure what to expect but were greeted kindly on arrival with some very nice Bloody Mary’s and took a moment to enjoy the décor around the place; funky, chic and interesting without seeming tacky, this place has truly been decorated to a high standard. It was a very warm welcome from both the staff and the establishment; it was so nice to walk into a hotel lobby and not shudder at the excessive use of air-con! Before the food began, we were treated to a tour around some of their unoccupied rooms: the bridal suite, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment.

The Bridal suite is spread over two floors and is cosy yet very comfortable, with extra little luxurious touches such as a stand-alone bath within the lounge area itself to soak in bubbles and watch your favourite TV… Or just enjoy the freedom of a separate bathroom to send your partner off to rather than let them interrupt your relaxation time! The apartments are more focused towards business guests for long stays, who may prefer to keep to themselves and cook rather than eat in the restaurant each night. They are, however, also suitable for couples or even small families, each containing a small but functional kitchen area (I say small, about the same as my own one-bed flat kitchen to be fair), lounge area with TV, and bedroom with generously-sized ensuite. I’d happily live in one of these if it were an option! Overall we were very pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms in Cathedral 73, all with a very professional finish, and it’s now definitely on my radar should we or any relatives ever need a place to stay in the centre. Grand tour over, it was high time for a bite to eat.

On our table waiting for us were some delicious garlic breads to whet our appetite and keep us ticking over whilst the food was being freshly prepared. Needless to say; they were gone in a flash. First came some well-presented faggot balls atop mushy peas and sporting a single parsnip crisp, which although I couldn’t eat I was told were hot but tasty. My veggie option was a thick slice of goat’s cheese atop a leafy salad, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a zesty jus. I thoroughly enjoyed and the cheese slice was just the right size so that I still had room for more, as goat’s cheese can sometimes be too filling as a starter.

Fish pie then came in cute little pans and tasted and smelled delicious, yet their handles were very hot to the touch so approach with caution when trying to scoop out onto a side plate. The individual components were also cut into small chunks for ease of consumption, which actually felt like a really nice touch. There was then a cottage pie for the meat-eaters, which again looked and smelled very good, yet at this point we began to think that ‘small plates’ may have been a better description than tapas as we were beginning to get very full. My alternative was a porcini mushroom wellington, which is not something I would usually go for as I’m not keen on the mushroom texture but the jus was delicious and the pastry was perfect, all together a very satisfying dish actually.

Finally, full to the brim we just managed to squeeze in some Welsh rarebit with a poached egg on top to finish. The egg was perfectly runny and as my first taste of rarebit it was delicious. I would definitely go for it again!

All in all, it was a really good evening with generous hosts, a lovely venue and very tasty (very filling) food. Despite unfortunately not catching the details of the full menu or prices, I would very much like to return for dinner some time (I did eye up their Valentine’s menu but haven’t decided yet) as well as try out some of their cocktails; plans were mentioned to expand their gin collection in the near future, starting with an event tomorrow evening (Friday 26th) that I sadly can’t go to, but I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more.

Have you been to Cathedral 73? What did you think?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

5 things to remind yourself of this Christmas

The festive season brings forth all kinds of emotions; excitement, anticipation (constipation if you’re not careful), stress, sadness, depression, love. It can be easy to get bogged down in any one of these, whether it’s the run up to the big day stressing over whether you’ve got every last present right, the wishing a loved one was with you, wishing you had more loved ones (dark, but for some this is a sad reality), or even get so caught up in the excitement of it all that you forget to appreciate the smaller details, casually overlooking something that should actually be crucially important. The most important thing, however, is to make the best of what you have and be sure to appreciate it. Really appreciate it.

TV adverts this time of year come out in brute force making us feel guilty, gluttonous and regretful that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a warm meal and people to share it with. The killers for me are the RSPCA adverts and this year’s WWF elephant adverts which remind us that despite recent (absurd) political changes, animals are in fact sentient beings and deserve just as much love as we humans do. With all this going on, it’s important to remember a few things in order to make the most of our own Christmases:

1. You can’t donate to everyone

Personally I find this one hard to swallow but it depends on your own individual beliefs and/or situation. I always feel plagued with guilt from all the emotional adverts and charity cases exposed to us at Christmas but it’s important to remember that whilst you may be more fortunate than many, you can’t give everything away. Yes, by all means give to any and as many charities as you practically can (also not forgetting street singers and musicians because often they’re doing it for a great local cause as well as a bit of fun), but don’t feel bad that you can’t give to everyone because you simply can’t. It’s not practical nor sensible. Just give to whatever causes you can or wish to, be kind and let that be enough.

Side note: if you’d really like to do more, have a sort through your wardrobe and donate jumpers, gloves, thick socks that you perhaps don’t need any more to a homeless charity or individual. Food banks always need extra supplies too – it’s not all about giving money.

2. Write down or organise your gifts

This is important if you’re buying on a budget. Make a list of everyone’s gifts (or dig out the original one you wrote months ago when you swore you’d finally get organised this year) and do your best to tick them off as you go along. This way, you can be sure you’ve got everything (and ‘enough‘) without panic-buying unnecessary things last minute and costing yourself a bloody fortune. If you do this in advance too it can really help spread the cost out over time – bearing in mind many of us have a long wait ’til January’s pay cheque…

3. Don’t be afraid to buy presents early

Basically, buy things when you see them and don’t be afraid to be that person that starts buying Christmas presents in September, because that was me this year and I have absolutely no regrets. As stated earlier, this is cost beneficial and there’s almost nothing worse than going back to buy something you’d seen before and it’s gone. Just, don’t take the risk.

4. Edible/intangible presents are as good as anything

It’s not a cop-out, it’s actually much more likely to be useful if you don’t have anything specific in mind. Moreover, this is immaterial and so can reduce your Christmas waste. A lot of restaurants now have vouchers available in-store or online so treating someone to a free date night could actually be much nicer than a typical box of ‘smellies’ all in single-use plastic bottles, covered in plastic packaging, tested on animals and that will probably take them until next Christmas to use up – if at all.

Alternatively, buy them an experience such as cinema vouchers, zip-lining, wine tasting, spa treatments, whatever their bag. You could even use the Christmas markets to pick up the chutney, cheeses and nibbles for the big day so that you know it’s going to be used and not wasted or forgotten (I do this for my parents, works a treat). As I said, this not only reduces waste in terms of packaging and excessive amounts of wrapping paper (there’s all sorts online about more sustainable ways of gift wrapping) but can also be more beneficial to the recipient anyway (unless you’re an insanely good gift-giver). Not to criticise anyone’s gift-giving abilities, merely a planet-friendly suggestion with everyone’s best interests at heart.

5. Let go and relax!

Whether it’s easing up on your time-managed schedule to make sure you fit everyone in, or taking a care-free approach to (and simply accepting) the serious amount of calories to be consumed; please, please just relax and enjoy the ride. Both are equally as important as each other. I’m a terrible culprit for the first as I’m usually only at home for a few days over the festive season and I like to have my annual traditions, stressing out a bit when the agenda changes. It’s so important, however, to just embrace those changes and enjoy everyone’s company, making the most of everything on your to-do list without worrying about meeting self-inflicted time deadlines.

IMG_6563Secondly, Christmas calories don’t count. I know, it sounds ridiculous and is completely untrue, but what I mean is that restricting yourself on a day we Brits have centred around indulging to the absolute max is just not going to give you joy. Eat that chocolate, those few extra mince pies; crack open that new bottle of booze now & not later because at the end of the day Christmas only happens once a year. Is the January workout going to hurt? Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt. But, once it’s done, it’s done and it’s pointless wasting time regretting anything consumed over the festive period because it’s not healthy to never take a break. (This last point is as much aimed at me as it is you because I’ve conveniently forgotten how to gym lately and it hurts, but no point worrying this side of the big day – what good is that really going to do?!).

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So, there you go. I hope this is useful for at least a few of you, to be honest it’s more of a note-to-self. But I wrote it because I know it can be easy to lose perspective over Christmas of what’s actually important, which is not how many gifts under the tree are yours to unwrap or getting upset over things you can’t control, but doing what makes you happy and appreciating what and who you do have.

Nadolig Llawen pawb; Merry Christmas one and all

Charles xx

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Top 5 Cardiff breakfast spots: Charlie’s current cravings

I don’t know about you but I really feel like breakfast (or brunch) has upped its game recently. Gone are the days when going out for breakfast just meant a full English or a greasy fry-up; now it’s all about the picturesque pancake stack, the avocado on toast or the perfectly poached eggs we see flooding our Instagram feeds. I, however, welcome this change with open arms (I’ve never been much of one for full English breakfasts anyway) so have rounded up my current favourite breakfast/brunch spots in Cardiff.

In no particular order…

  • Juno Lounge, Wellfield Rd

I’ve written about this place before and honestly really miss the days of living just over the road. It saved me from many a hangover and hosted me writing many a blog post in the early days. Juno is great for any occasion in my opinion (and it’s pup friendly which is a huge bonus!) but for breakfast I’d recommend: the avocado brunch, triple-stacked buttermilk pancakes with fruit & yoghurt OR bacon & syrup, or the lounge breakfast (like a fry-up) also available as vegetarian. They’ve also recently added sweet potato waffles to the menu which look and sound delicious…

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Sorry, I’m always too hungry to snap breakfast… but used to love writing here with a burger & pint!

  • The Moos, Whitchurch Rd

A wonderful little vegan cafe which celebrated its first birthday earlier this year, The Moos is a great place to go for a filling, healthy breakfast. Their speciality is smoothie bowls and/or açai bowls which come in a variety of colours, wonderfully decorated and taste as good as they look. There’s also avocado toast if you need to satisfy that craving, as well as a range of delicious sweet treats, takeaway wraps & sandwiches and a recently installed pick-your-own salad bar so you can easily take home a lunch or snack for later. It’s also worth noting that AIM yoga studio has not long opened in the space above the cafe with a wide range of classes available to book online – dream combination really!

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Yes, this was all for me… I was hungry that day…

  • Barkers 

These cafes are split into Barkers Tea House and Coffee Barkers, one in each of the arcades either side of High Street in town. Both are cute, comfortable and perfect for a casual catch-up with a friend, afternoon tea (booking is necessary), or a weekend brunch with a nice hot pot of tea. The eggs royale and salmon & cream cheese bagel are my personal favourites, with plenty of freshly made sandwiches, paninis and cakey bits also on offer. It’s without doubt one of my go-to places in town and I look forward to one day trying the afternoon tea!

  • Milk & Sugar/Llaeth & siwgr

After seeing such a buzz online about the opening of the new branch in the Old Library in town, I went to try it out with The Octopus Diaries last month. I can safely say it was one of my favourite brunches so far! We both went for the chilli avocado & poached eggs on toast (obviously) and it was dreamy, perfect yolk if ever there was one (see my instagram for evidence). It was just enough, not too heavy for a Saturday morning. Other options available include full Welsh breakfast, thick-cut toast with sweet & savoury options, classic cheese omelette and many more including an ever-changing specials board which looked very tasty. The space is big and open without being cold and airy, great for people watching over a delicious breakfast or lunch. I’ll definitely be visiting again!

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Seriously dreamy poached eggs right there…

  • Penylan Pantry

The most recent of my breakfast escapades, this place did not disappoint. I’m sure you can guess what I went for… (organic crushed avocado & chilli on toast with a poached egg, of course) but it was absolutely delicious, so fresh and full of flavour. Another great people watching spot too if you’re sat in the window. I’m keen to go again soon because the menu had so many tantalising options (80% of which are available as gluten-free according to their website!) such as healthy chocolate porridge, the healthy start bowl, homemade Pantry beans & toast and gourmet grilled cheese on toast – the latter of which my boyfriend’s parents tried when we went and said it was delicious. There was a small mix-up with our meal which meant a slight delay but otherwise the quality and flavour were fantastic. There’s also a deli counter, an impressive selection of local organic produce and all kinds of pantry items available to buy (perfect for those Christmas hampers). To top it all off this place has a nice neighbourhood feel, I’m a fan.

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I don’t know who decided to add feta to the mix but definitely a good choice

And there you have it, my current favourite Cardiff brunch & breakfast spots. Trust me, there are many more on my list to visit! Any particular recommendations are most welcome, but if you’re looking for somewhere to brunch this weekend I’d definitely recommend one (or a few) of the above; all of them delicious, fresh and very satisfying.

Happy weekend!
Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

My fabulous first year!

So today my blog is officially a year old – time flies! It’s definitely been a learning curve and I’m still learning new things all the time with plenty more still yet to come. However, I thought I’d write a quick little update on what I’ve learned in my first year, so here goes…

It is a hobby, but it’s a lot more time-consuming than you may first realise.

Social media is a huge part of our lives these days, for better for worse, and it’s where many of our main influencers now come from. With this in mind, it’s a hugely important part of promoting yourself and gaining recognition as a blogger and widening your audience. Yes, some people are much better at taking the typical ‘instagrammable’ photos than others especially if they have a fancy camera, but you can still do a lot with the photos you do take just by trying different angles and edits/effects. Either way, this takes time; I’ve found that working full time in something unrelated can make it hard to juggle everything so the fact you can save things as drafts and schedule posts nowadays is an absolute life-saver – it’s basically a part-time job! Although it does depend on how seriously you want to take it and at the end of the day, I’ve gathered you get out what you put in.

Also, twitter is a huge part of engagement and networking with other bloggers, restaurants and influencers so when the twitter convo strikes up it’s important not to be late to the party if at all possible. I’ve also realised there’s no need to be afraid to talk to people you recognise from twitter or Instagram, this is how you make meaningful connections and even friendships and therefore gain supporters for your blog and vice versa. It also means that if you both go to the same event or go out together, you both come away with useful material.

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own.

File_000 (73)For me this wasn’t really an issue anyway as I enjoy meeting and speaking to new people and don’t find social situations too awkward, but it links in with the above in that it’s important to physically talk to others you recognise from or have connected with in the blogosphere as this is how you make friendships and good connections and may just lead you onto opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise known about (such as the fabulous Cardiff Gin Club, for example!).

Read other peoples’ blogs and take interest.

This, again links back to making friends and connections but also, as a new and developing blogger it was really useful reading other popular blogs to get a sense of how everyone portrays their own individual style and also how other bloggers have designed their websites, whether there’s anything you like about theirs that you can work into yours somehow. I’m yet to do a review and rehaul of my page but it’s something I’ll be considering over the next few months so watch this space… Plus, reading other peoples blogs can give you ideas for new posts of your own, give you great insight into some of the places on your to-eat list you perhaps haven’t quite got around to yet, or even just give you something to talk about next time you see them.

Finally, there are no hard and fast rules. Yes, engagement and all the PR side of things is important and if you’re dead set on posting three times daily then you’re doing very well for yourself, however it’s different for everyone. Just remember that comparing yourself to others never did anyone any good – true in many aspects of life. As I said, it starts as a hobby at the end of the day and if you start stressing yourself out over it all (as I have done many a time and probably still will) then you’re in danger of losing the funFile_000 (72) and why you started it in the first place.

For me, it’s a creative outlet where I don’t usually get one in my day job. Also happens to give me a perfect excuse to eat out a lot. However through this I’ve met some lovely people and eaten some fantastic food and I really look forward to seeing where else I can go with it all.

 

Happy Anniversary to me!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*the cover photo is a personalised olive wood cheese board my boyfriend was lovely enough to buy me!

Boozy Bottomless Brunch at The Hilton, Cardiff

A few weeks ago I broke my Bottomless Brunch virginity at The Hilton, Cardiff and it was such a good deal I felt it worth shouting about. We went for a work friend’s birthday (because who doesn’t love bottomless prosecco?!) and we were pleasantly impressed by how attentive all the servers were, not once did our prosecco actually get to the bottom of the glass before being refilled – ideal! From when all guests sit down you have 90 mins to take full advantage of the free refills to the best of your ability and we were determined to do just that. (So much so that it became an afternoon of day-drinking in the sunshine afterwards but what can I say, make the most of our youth!)

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There isn’t just prosecco at this Bottomless Brunch, Grey the Hilton’s restaurant also offer two courses within the deal, some savoury and some sweets. You can even pick two of the same if you wanted to, we’re not here to judge. My first choice was the crushed avocado & chilli onimg_5388-1 rye toast with a poached free-range egg. The rye toast was thick and delicious and not too overpowering or heavy, whilst the avocado and egg were perfectly balanced in flavour and, as always, really complimented each other. This is already one of my favourite weekend breakfast/brunches and this was no different, I’d definitely have it again. It was a fairly small portion, more so than if you were ordering in one of Cardiff’s many brilliant breakfast spots (Juno Lounge, The Pot Bistro, Society Standard just to name a few) however this was part of a two course brunch so room was needed for more…

Next, I chose a sweet as my second course and had the warm sticky toffee pudding with local sea salted caramel ice cream. Sticky toffee pudding isn’t honestly something I usually go for, I’m often more of a img_5391gooey chocolate brownie or as-much-ice-cream-as-you-can-eat kind of girl, but this dessert restored my faith and really hit the spot. It was delicious! There was the perfect amount of toffee sauce in my opinion (it was smothered in it) and the pudding wasn’t too hot, just the right temperature that it went perfectly with the ice cream. My only slight critique with this dish was that the actual plate it was served on didn’t quite lend itself to scooping up every last bit of ice cream/sauce, perhaps something with steeper edges might’ve been more appropriate.

All in all, we all had a great time and enjoyed our meals – even more so the prosecco! We worked out that we must’ve had somewhere between 5-6 glasses each in the 90 mins, (it was hard to tell as they were topped up before being fully emptied) which equates to just over a bottle each. The bill was £30 each for the two courses and the ‘bottomless’ prosecco, which we found very reasonable. This was perfect for a girls’ outing, the restaurant was full of hen do’s, birthdays and groups of women celebrating various occasions, and I will surely be doing it again the next time I find good enough reason to! (Although, do we really need any excuse?)

Have you tried this bottomless brunch? Or have you any others you’d recommend? Let me know!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx