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Eating Out|| The Plough, Ford – The Cotswolds

The Plough has been around since the 16th century. Located in Ford, a little hamlet in Gloucestershire, between Tewkesbury and Stow-on-the-Wold, it’s almost the middle of nowhere. But that’s what adds to the magic.

Last year The Plough was awarded the Best Cotswold Pub in The Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards, for supporting local suppliers to produce quality food. Another reason why, when my Dad mentioned a visit, it immediately became a must!

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

The Plough is a cosy, homely country inn. A roaring wood burner, untreated wooden country-dining style tables and chairs, paintings dressing the walls, and quirky ornaments spotted about, it’s almost what you’d expect from a village pub.

Getting in is a bit confusing. The car park is on the opposite side of the road and the entrance round the back. It’s like you have to walk through the beer garden to get to the door, which does look like it’d make a great little spot in the summer.

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

But after that, you have the warm welcome at the bar, the choice of tables (well on a Saturday lunchtime – but by the sound of all the bookings coming in it must get busy), and relaxed service. The team were friendly enough. Not overly chatty, but accommodating. The only real wait being for someone to take our order, which was a little longer than expected. But food didn’t take too long, especially as it’s all cooked fresh to order.

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

On the note of food, there’s plenty of choice. Between the standard menu and the specials, there’s pretty much something for all, from pub classics to more contemporary takes on the favourites. From smoked haddock fish pie with cheesy mash to half roasted Gressingham duck (with orange sauce) with bubble and squeak or beef with mushrooms in a creamy black peppercorn sauce with saffron rice, the choice can be a tough one.

Although the starters did sound fab too, like the Japanese crumbed squid rings and black pearl scallops with chorizo sausage & lemon oil,  portions in general are huge. So I’d definitely say hold out for the main event.

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

The pie of the day was a chicken, leek and ham when we visited. Served with a choice of chips or mash (a no brainer, pie has to be served with mash) and peas, it’s a pub classic whoch went down a treat. The pie was delicious, with a good filling to pastry ratio, and the mash was creamy. The dish also came with a little pot of creamy sauce which had a subtle chicken taste to it – dad’s description was “chicken soup sauce”, which actually pretty much summed it up! Haha.

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

The fish pie was one of the best I’ve tasted. The smoked flavour of the haddock came through beautifully, there was plenty of fish and the cheesy mash topping took it to another level. The roasted vegetables which accompanied the dish were a la dente, and full of natural flavours – you know sometimes the carrots just don’t taste of anything, well not here. They also looked super cute!

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

The vegetarian wellington however. It was definitely on par with my favourite beef one. Stuffed with goat cheese, butternut squash, spinach & walnut, it was filled with well-thought out textures and flavours. It was rich, emulating a traditional wellington, and super tasty. It arrived with garlic & parsley sautéed potatoes (crispy on the outside, fluff in the middle), a creamy wild mushroom sauce, and a choice of vegetables or salad. The salad, the option I chose, was fresh and crisp, and not just your usual side salad. It had a good mix of leaves, cress, onions, pepper, cucumber and tomato.

The Plough at Ford, The CotswoldsThe Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

After that, there’s not much space for anything else. Even with the sticky toffee pudding and banoffee pie calling me.  No regrets though, as I was enjoying my main too much, and could not have stopped!

As we were driving that day, I didn’t get to try any of the Donnington Ales. The large diet coke – a pint! – quenched all thirst.

The Plough at Ford, The Cotswolds

SUMMARY:

  • Price: Mains priced between £10.95 and £21.95. Some of the dishes, as you expect, are more expensive (i.e. the fillet steak). Portions are more than generous so you get what you pay for.
  • Food: Quite a variety between the main menu and the specials. Great quality! Each dish we tried was delicious. But I did notice they didn’t have any vegan options, and little vegetarian options, which is quite important in today’s world.
  • Drinks: They serve local Donnington Ales, from a brewery in Stow-on-the-Wold – something I didn’t get to try but would have loved to taste! Large diet coke was £3, which is pretty expensive considering other options.
  • Atmosphere: Homely. Like a country dining room, with a wood burner roaring. Quite quiet on a Saturday lunchtime.
  • Wait: Seated straight away. Wait for someone to take our order was a little longer than expected, but food didn’t take too long, considering it was cooked fresh.

Have you discovered a fab place to eat in the Cotswolds?

Chloe xx

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Chloe & Alex Try || Raising the steaks (M&S Beef) & tips for the best burger

I’ve been eating less beef recently. Chilli isn’t always what I want when it’s warm out. And when I’m limited to time in the evenings, and occasionally on creativity too, simple burgers are the other main thing which pop to mind. But they’re not always what I fancy. Which I know disappoints Alex. 

I’ve come to the conclusion I was just un-inspired by the meat. I wasn’t feeling the urge to try and create anything more summery. I just don’t think I realised how good beef could be. Whatever the weather.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

I recently attended an event with M&S where I learnt all about its beef and how best to cook it. Did you know, they can actually trace all meat back to the cow through DNA tracing, not just the farm? Someone has already asked me why you would want to know that info. But it’s more to do with the fact that you know it’s come from a healthy animal and that it’s all recorded.

They also only work with select farmers (from two suppliers), all of which have been hand-selected and rigorously tested. A team personally goes out to validate each farm. They know every animal, when its born, etc. and really do care about where the meat comes from and how animals are treated. Which I think is fantastic!

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

What’s more, all the beef in store is 100% British. Totally repping that local produce. Even sandwiches and ready meals include British beef which has gone through the same tracing as it’s most expensive meat. Which is pretty cool!

We heard from one of their suppliers, Kettyle, from Linden Food Group, who manufacture air and salt-dried beef. Morris who founded Kettyle, travelled the world to learn about beef and now aims to be super innovative within the industry.  They’ve created their own unique salt block (which has been patented) to help with the ageing process. We heard all about the dry-aged beef, and how the more aged it is, the more flavoursome it is. Although when it gets to over 100days, it does start to go a bit funky.

All this knowledge and insight started inspiring me to try more beef recipes. From salads to sandwiches, brunches and even using a bit of aged steak to top dishes, I wanted to try it all.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideasThis was the dessert from the event – beef fat biscuits, chocolate ganache with miso, dark chocolate with wasabi. Amazing. So creative. 

We of course talked through burgers – they’ve sold millions of patties this year. The M&S “Best Ever Burger” has recently launched too. Made from chuck steak, brisket and short rib, each burger even includes bone marrow which is processed by hand. There’s no added rubbish either, just a little breadcrumb and salt. Exactly how a burger should be! It’s one super tender burger, packed with flavour.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

Alex and I had one the other night – and it topped all other burgers. Definitely not a simple burger. But how you serve it really does make the difference. You have to think about the flavours, the textures and how to make that burger as far from simple as possible.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

Because we both like our burgers topped a little differently, here are some of our tips for the ultimate burger – no simple ones:

  • Fried > oven. The fats from the burger should grease the pan itself, so don’t use extra oil. Frying helps keep the flavours from the fats in the burger. You don’t want to lose that to the grill tray.
  • Cheese – The meltier the better. I do love a blue cheese in my burger, but it does over power the other flavours. The new M&S cheese melts are SO good. They’re crumbly, and creamy and melt really easy. They’re easy to add and delicious in flavour.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

  • Bacon – Crispier the better. Adds a delicious crunch to the burger. If you have time, even add a super crispy piece, and a couple slightly less crispy for a good mix.
  • Salad – Absolutely no tomato. It just slides out, or comes out in one go the minute you bite into it. But Lettuce and onion I’m all for.
  • The bun – we always disagree about this aspect. Alex loves a brioche bun. I love a more flavoursome wholemeal/cheesy one, or even a sesame seed topped roll.
  • Get creative – bored of burgers? Shake up the buns and toppings. There are so many combos! Ever tried adding Peanut Butter to a burger? Try blue cheese or feta instead of cheddar/cheese melts. Add mac’n’cheese or brisket too – not the healthiest, but certainly worth it. Even switch up the sauce, or go bunless with salad.

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

It’s not just the burgers we’ve tried. And there are plenty more beef and steak product we’re dying to try too. As mentioned, I’m now totally inspired to try more beef dishes…

Other beef recipe ideas I’ve tried or am now dying to try:

  • Steak Asian salad – we made this at the event. With green leaves, radish, asparagus, slaw, caramelised nuts and a light dressing (sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce and lime), it was simple yet delicious.

  • Open top brisket kebabs – I made these last weekend. Topped with hummus, beetroot, apple & pink cabbage, brisket, halloumi, carrot and herbs. They were amazing! Definitely a more summery dish

M&S Beef + Beef recipe ideas

  • Beef jerky salad with peach – I think the beef would go so well with the juicy flavours from the peach. Throw some nuts in too for some added texture.
  • Salt beef hash – Love a hash for brunch! So thinking I might add salt beef next time; or perhaps even have salt beef eggs benny.
  • A sweet potato salad bowl, with a rainbow of vegetables and rare steak. I love a sweet potato dish, so think this would make the perfect summery dish.

Keep an eye out for more beef recipes coming your way.

Do you eat beef/steak very often? How do you eat yours?

Chloe xx

* I was invited along to the M&S beef event. All views my own. 

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Eating Out|| Chelsea Creperie

Monday sure crepes up on us quite quickly 😉 can leave you feeling flat as a pancake… (ok I’m stopping with the puns). But I’ve found the saying “a Sunday/weekend well spent brings a week of content” to ring pretty true. So it’s even more important to make the most of the weekends…doing the things you love and need.

For me, that’s food. Well gym too. And seeing friends. But you can do that over food right?! Plus a little rest and relaxation, catching up on the fave TV shows.

Bank Holiday Weekends seem to leave me with work blues. Lots more than any usual weekend. The extra day really makes a difference. It’s like I get holiday blues. But I’m still adamant we need one every month. So on Bank Holiday Monday we headed South to Chelsea for crepes.

Chelsea Creperie

Chelsea Creperie is a small, independent creperie directly opposite Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. The inside feels like a minimalist cafe, but with amazing landscape canvasses on the walls. There’s only about 26 covers, so it is small. But it wasn’t overly busy at 12pm on the bank holiday. I think the location might make people second-guess how good it is. But it really shouldn’t.

Chelsea Creperie

The menu is pretty extensive. More variety than Le Creperie de Hampstead. There are plenty of sweet savoury crepe options, and even a few all day breakfast numbers. The savoury side of things, had lots of cheesy veggie numbers as well as meatier choices including a Mediterranean (Feta, spinach, tomatoes, olive and pesto), Tartiflette (Reblochon cheese, gratin dauphinois, bacon, crystallised onions, cream) and the Norwegian (Smoked salmon, cream, lemon, dill). The sweet side had all the usual you’d expect and more, from Sugar Lemon or Nutella to Belle Helene (Vanilla gelato, pear, dark chocolate, whipped cream) and Amazing Apple (Crystallised apple, salted caramel, vanilla gelato, cinnamon, whipped cream). There are even a several waffles, and few salads on there too…although not sure why you’d do that to yourself whilst your pancake date is eating these…

Chelsea Creperie

The crepes themselves are made from buckwheat. This makes them more brown in colour, and taste more savoury. Almost like a wholemeal crepe. Each holding (actually almost hiding) the ingredients inside, showing only a peek into the fillings.

Chelsea Creperie

The All Day Breakfast is a pretty beasty crepe. With chopped bacon, a sausage, fried egg, cheddar, baked beans (minus the mushrooms & tomato, because y’know, Alex) it was packed with filling. The baked beans didn’t make the filling too runny, so there was still the urge for a bit of ketchup/brown sauce. The sausage was pretty tasty, as was the bacon. The yolk was just runny. It was like a better version of a full english, with a crepe rather than toast.

Chelsea Creperie

The Chevre was even better in my eyes. Goats cheese, crystallised tomatoes, rocket salad, honey & walnuts makes this one seriously cheesy crepe. Goats cheese and tomatoes is always a good combo. But slightly melt the cheese, add crunchy walnuts and you have one fab combo. It almost tastes a little indulgent, but the buckwheat crepe reminds you it’s not actually unhealthy. I loved it.

Chelsea Creperie

It was different having a rocket salad on the side. But something I’d definitely do again. Even with breakfast crepes!

The drinks menu surprised me a little. There weren’t just teas, coffees, juices & smoothies, but beer, cider, fizz and wine too! So if you’re after a boozy brunch/lunch they have you covered.

For those not drinking (through detox, choice or being hungover – crepes make a great hangover brekkie), there’s plenty of choice too. The smoothies were great. Both really cold, sweet and fruity. The strawberry and banana slightly thicker, it was a delicious consistency. And perfect temperature for Alex.

Chelsea Creperie

The strawberry, banana & beetroot ( a special at the time), blew my mind. I’d never thought about putting beetroot in a smoothie before, but it tasted SO GOOD. The beetroot adding a sweeter edge, and tangy after taste.

The smoothies were a great finish to breakfast, ending the meal on a sweet note.

SUMMARY:

  • Price: With crepes between £3 and £11.50, it’s pretty good for Chelsea. Ours were £8.50 and £9.
  • Food: The buckwheat crepes are so tasty. Plenty of options for fillings.
  • Drinks: There is alcohol available, but I’d highly recommend getting a smoothie!
  • Atmosphere: Quiet, minimalist cafe. Friendly, attentive team.
  • Wait: There were plenty of tables free on arrival. The wait for food wasn’t long at all – the crepes are whipped up fresh in no time.

Where do you go for crepes? What are your favourite fillings?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to review Chelsea Creperie. All views my own. 

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Recipe|| Bacon & Pesto Crusted Chicken Thighs

Chicken is the one reason I couldn’t go fully vegetarian. Ok, and fish, but on the meat side of things. I could live without bacon. A life without steak and I could deal. I wouldn’t even miss sausages. But chicken. Especially a good chicken thigh recipe. I just can’t give it up.

So when it comes to cooking for Alex (a total meat eater) and I, chicken appears A LOT. Also because it’s quite often cheaper than other good quality meat options. 

Bacon, Chilli Pesto Topped Chicken Thighs Recipe

I like to shake it up, and although I do love the slow cooker in the week, I’m not always that prepared.

This recipe came about due to leftovers – something which inspires many of my dishes. I am not one for food waste. 

With bacon and pesto to use up, and some bread in the cupboard which was starting to go off, I decided it’d make the perfect combo for a crispy topping for my chicken thighs. And it sure did.

Bacon, Chilli Pesto Topped Chicken Thighs Recipe

Chopping the bacon into small pieces, and frying until crispy, gave the crunch I was looking for. The smoky flavour, accompanied with the nutty, chilli pesto was beautiful, and with a little parmesan, even better. The bread added a little more texture, but also bulked out the mixture to cover more chicken thighs.

Bacon, Chilli Pesto Topped Chicken Thighs Recipe

Added after the thighs were cooked, the chicken was then grilled to crisp the top up. Pretty easy. Yet very tasty, and a fab change to the usual chicken dishes.

It was delicious served with roasted potato slices and a fresh simple salad. It’s balanced and not too heavy meal.

The recipe is below.

How do you like your chicken? Have you tried anything new recently?

Chloe xx

Bacon, Chilli Pesto Topped Chicken Thighs Recipe

Bacon & Pesto Crusted Chicken Thighs

A fab way to spice up those chicken thigh dinners

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp all-purpose seasoning
  • 2 bacon rashers
  • 4 tsp chili pesto
  • 2 tsp parmesan
  • 1 bread slice going off, or lightly toasted

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° celsius. Pierce each of the chicken thighs and place in a mixing bowl. Cover in the soy sauce and sprinkle in the all-purpose seasoning to cover evenly.

  2. Wrap the chicken thighs in foil (so the juices stay in) and cook in the oven for 35 minutes. 

  3. Whilst the chicken is in the oven, cut the bacon into lardons and fry until crispy. Place in a small bowl and mix with the chilli pesto and parmesan. Tear the bread into small pieces and stir into the chilli pesto mix. 

  4. Once the chicken is cooked, spoon the chilli pesto mix onto each of the chicken thighs. Push down lightly with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Grill for 5-10 minutes, until starting to brown. 

  5. Serve with roasted potato slices and fresh salad, or grains and seasonal veg. Enjoy!

Bacon, Chilli Pesto Topped Chicken Thighs Recipe

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Fitness|| The Esquared App – fitness on demand

I love trying new fitness classes. You have to keep shaking it up to make it fun, so you want to keep going. Keep getting fit.

But it has to be easy. No, I don’t mean the actual workout. Easy to find new classes. Easy to book.

When I already have a gym membership, and a subscription with FlyKick, it also can’t cost the earth. Which is why I haven’t been able to sign up to Class Pass or anything similar. Because I can’t afford another monthly direct debit for workouts. Occasionally I just want to book the odd class elsewhere.

The ESquared fitness app

But even for those who don’t have all the rest, subscription services can be expensive. Booking as you go however, means no pressure, no paying whether you go to all your classes or not, and being able to manage it week by week. Because let’s face it, some weeks you need it easier than others.

I’ve been trying out Esquared, an app which aims to connect gym-goers with classes and gym access, and works on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The app

It’s simple to use. Sign up using an e-mail address, add credit and you’re off. Paying only for the classes you book. You can search via a map, searching the city as a whole, or gyms and studios closer to your location. I however preferred viewing it in the list format, so I could more clearly see what was on offer for the price.

You could also filter by time, venue rating and facilities (including pool, free weights, cardio machines, sauna and parking). The time filter was super helpful when searching for classes first thing or after work. Especially as the list format sorts the options by the venues closest to you, rather than time.

The ESquared fitness app

The only filter I think it was missing is by class style. But maybe that’s a blessing really. It makes you consider all options, and not just the types you’d usually go for. Making you more likely to try something new.

Access to gyms starts from as little as £6, and classes range quite a lot dependent on what was on offer. I’ve seen classes from £10 through to about £30.

Spaces were quite often available last minute too, so I could book ahead, or book on the day. Even half an hour before.

The ESquared fitness app

I did experience a couple of glitches when searching for classes/gym access nearby my home location. Perhaps as it’s still quite new – there’s already been one update to the app since I’ve been using it so it looks like they’re on it. But it was nothing that caused any issues with booking. The screen just flickered slightly. And it soon stopped.

You can tell Esquared wants to make sure everyone stays safe too, as there’s a waiver before payment is taken. Just a few questions to ensure you’re fit enough, and not about to put yourself to harm. Just the standard – nothing tricky – but do give it a read.

The classes

This was the main reason I was using the app. The classes. Although there were plenty of gyms on the app, I much prefer someone shouting at me, telling me what to do. It motivates me more. I’m more likely to work as hard as I should be.

There were so many different classes all over the city I wanted to try. From premium spin classes to balance fit (on the pool) and boot camp, there was such a variety. Lots of new ones to try.

The esquared fitness app. Fitness on demand

Upon arriving at the classes I booked on to, I was checked in as though I was already a member/regular attendee. They had my booking and the team was helpful when I told them it was my first time too.

I tried an aerial fitness class called Pop Fit at Sky Lab Studio in Camden. Arriving early, I got signed in, changed and was soon flying. Well not quite.

The esquared fitness app. Fitness on demand The esquared fitness app. Fitness on demand

It was pretty intense on the upper body and core (let’s say I didn’t realise how weak I was), but such a good work out. The instructor, Samantha, was fab and so helpful. The classes ended with a lot of hanging upside down which was SO much fun! One I’d definitely recommend trying!

The esquared fitness app. Fitness on demand

At £20, it’s pretty average for a premium fitness class in London. And so worth it!

I can’t wait to try my next one! I’m already eyeing up a jump fitness class on little trampolines and a barre core class. I’ll update this post after my next class!

Summary:

  • Price: Pay a you go. No contract. Just top-up and book away. You can choose classes/gym access dependent on your budget
  • Fun/serious: Depends what you go for. Plenty of both!
  • Level: suitable for all levels – there’s such a variety of classes.
  • Recommend? Yes. It’s a great way to find out about and try new classes, without committing to a series of sessions. Love that you’re not tied into any contracts or monthly fees.
  • How to book: Download, setup an account on your e-mail address, top-up and get booking.

Have you tried any new fitness classes recently? How do you find out about yours?

Chloe xx

*This post is in collaboration with Esquared who provided me with credit to try the app. All views my own. 

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