Monday, 30 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday (30th April 2012)

Morning! We're all still here then? Not been swept away? I almost considered building an ark this weekend however today it's glorious and the sun is shining, but of course that means a bout of hay fever too... can't have everything I suppose!

This week, there is no plan. Various members of my family have succumbed to illnesses in the past few week and despite that I managed to stick to my plan quite well however Mr M still has zero appetite and cooking up a big meal just for one is a bit of a chore so this week I'm taking it easy and in terms of meals it's probably going to be salad, salad and more salad as I am attempting to be healthy. 

My lack of plan does not let you off the hook, oh no. I still want to see what you've got up your sleeve  this week so do tell all. I'm really hoping the weather gets warmer now so I can dust off that BBQ, I have some great recipe ideas saved that I'm dying to try out!

The Linky is below, so link up and spread the word about #mealplanningmonday!


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Be nice to me...I may be your nurse someday


When I was a child I wanted to be a nurse. It's even something I've toyed with as an adult, the caring professions really appeal to me. This week however I've come round to thinking that perhaps I'm not entirely nurse material.

My husband came down with an illness on Tuesday night. I was ready to maim him by Wednesday lunch time and it now being Saturday? I could quite happily administer a lethal injection directly into a sensitive part of his body. By and large, he's not a complainer and he's rarely ill so I probably should cut him some slack but my patience has been sorely tested this week by his constant moaning. Oh the moaning. I've tried to be supportive - bringing him drinks, going to the chemist, checking on him, dealing with absolutely everything else so he doesn't have to but it has got to the point several times this week where I have just wanted to grab him around the neck and shout YES I BLOODY WELL KNOW YOU ARE ILL!

On Thursday night my darling 6 year old decided to deposit the spaghetti bolognese she had eaten for dinner all over her bed and carpet at 2am in the morning. Her screaming woke my other child up and Mr M dragged himself out of bed to be a little bit of help but had gone back to bed before I'd even nearly got everything tidied up and children settled again. My daughter was perfectly healthy the next day, no sign of illness so I think it was just a blip but of course, couldn't send her to school having been sick so had to cancel the one thing I was doing for myself this week - a trip to the archives in Birmingham to do some research. A trip I had been looking forward to for about five weeks, where the documents had been waiting for me.  Clearly this put me in a stinker of a mood yesterday, what with moping husband and hyperactive and bored child under my feet at home all day.

Throw into this the fact that I have had a migraine since Tuesday night. It started as a silent migraine where I lost my vision in my right eye for a good 30-40 minutes. I could barely get a little bit of concern or sympathy out of my husband so that might explain why I'm feeling less than sympathetic to his plight right now. My migraine is still lingering and nobody has asked me once how I am feeling.

It irks me that men get to mope around the house, feeling sorry for themselves, expecting buckets of concern but when us mums are feeling rough we just have to carry on.  When I had flu (actual flu, not just "I've got a cold but I'm calling it flu") I still had to drag myself out to do the school-run, sort homework, packed lunches, dinner, wash uniforms etc. The world doesn't stop when a mum is poorly - wouldn't it be nice to be able to wallow around in bed feeling sorry for ourselves?!   Am I alone in feeling like this or do you all have wonderful husbands who take time off work when you're poorly and allow you to recuperate in peace and quiet? I'm sure it doesn't happen very often!

I'm on Day 5 of my husbands mystery virus and I'm all out of tolerance. Today I am wearing my "don't talk to me" face. Conversation is monosyllabic and I'm hoping this will keep everyone away from me. It's for their own good really as I am demonstrating signs of The Rage.

It may be time to do a ward round and discharge the patient. In more ways than one.

PS I'm no longer considering a career in the caring professions.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Eating out with Frankie & Benny's


I was recently offered a voucher to dine out at Frankie & Benny's with my family to check out their new menus. Clearly as I love eating and I love going out, it was an offer I couldn't refuse!  

We don't go to Frankie & Benny's all that often, mainly because there's not one in my immediate local area but there are a few just a little further out. Saying that though, I have been twice in as many weeks just now! When I lived at my old house, we were within walking distance of Frankie & Benny's and as a friend used to be a barman there, I used to very much enjoy propping up the bar on a Friday evening whilst knocking back a few Benny's Banana Mochas or Strawberry Shortcake cocktails. 

Image Credit: Frankie & Benny's
Since we've had our children, we've been to a few different branches - in the past few years we've been to Poole, Derby and most recently, Milton Keynes. Although my children are always very well behaved when dining out, they've done it a lot so not the routine and what's expected of them, I like places like Frankie & Benny's because they're allowed to be children here. There are balloons, activity bags, children's cocktails and perfectly crafted children's menus.  

So last Saturday night, at the end of a boring and rainy day, we decided to use our voucher and take the children out for the meal at Frankie & Benny's in Leamington Spa. I'm going to warn you now, there are no photos of the meal - I fully intended to but well, we were very hungry and I forgot.  I had rang up earlier that afternoon to book a table just in case they were very busy and was able to book a table for four without any fuss or bother. When we turned up we shown straight to a booth and the children we're given their activity packs. Then it was time to look at the menus.

We don't always have starters but this time we did. Mr M opted for the Amazing Skins (loaded potato skins with crispy bacon and cheddar) whilst I opted for Warm Dough Sticks with garlic butter. What I was actually brought was the Warm Dough Sticks, Dough Balls & Hot Cheese. If I'd have been paying I might have said something because it was a more expensive dish but as I wasn't I didn't and the children enjoyed sharing this with me. Mr M enjoyed his potato skins which were very tasty indeed.

Image Credit: Frankie & Benny's

For mains, I chose to have the Crispy Chicken Philly Burger (Southern fried chicken breast in a sesame bun with bacon, lettuce and Philly cheese sauce) and Mr M chose the New York Chicken (chicken breast smothered with bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and BBQ sauce). Both were very nice and generous portion too. My only small gripe was that my french fries were cold, however Mr M's weren't, so perhaps I was just unlucky!

When it came round to dessert, we opted for a Brownies & Ice-Cream for share as neither of us are big dessert eaters after dinner. This was plenty big enough for two as often just a taste of something sweet is all you want. The waitress had preempted and brought us two spoons which was very helpful!

Image Credit: Frankie & Benny's

With regard to the children's meals, Frankie & Benny's have a rather good children's menu. For £3.95 small children can have a dinner including soft drink and dessert. For children with a bigger appetite they can choose from the junior menu, which at £7.55 has slightly more choice. My children know what they want and without even looking at menu the little man had asked for Margherita Pizza and the little lady wanted Spaghetti Bolognese. They both had Sketch Quencher to wash it down and opted for the side salad to come with their meal. The pizza was humungous, almost the size of an adult pizza. Obviously he couldn't eat it all but it was very nice as I tried a little bit. The little lady managed to demolish her entire spaghetti bolognese so I am presuming she enjoyed it! Unlike their parents, our children are always able to squeeze in dessert, choosing the Brownie Sundae and the Bananas & Custard and both were demolished in double quick time!

We left Frankie & Benny's very satisfied with full tummies. The staff were attentive and friendly and the food on the whole was good. There were a few small hiccups but nothing that ruined the meal for us.  Our meal including a couple of drinks (one Diet Coke, 2 pints of Boddingtons) came to £57.80, which is not unreasonable for the amount of food we consumed!  Will we return to a Frankie & Benny's? Yes, seeing as we've been visitors in the past, I am sure we will!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Albondigas


If you've never heard of them before, Albondigas are Mexican meatballs. They make a nice,  spicy change from Italian meatballs and were relatively easy to put together which is always a plus point.

This is a Gino D'Acampo recipe that I had bookmarked some time ago (I appear to be quite a fan of his these days!) and hadn't braved it until recently because of the tomatoey-ness (yes, that is an official term) but it was fine, lovely in fact.  The biggest challenge I had was dealing with the chipotle - once I had started re-hydrating it the aroma was overpowering and attempting to fine chopping a soggy hot chilli was interesting. This did concern me as I was a little worried that they might blow our heads off but it was all fine once they'd blended in with the rest of the sauce.

Mr M and I enjoyed these, I really liked the combination of pork and mince as normally I just use one or the other and we'll definitely have them again. The following recipe is to serve 4.

Albondigas

Ingredients

For the meatballs;
1 onion, finely chopped
225g minced pork
225g lean minced beef
50g fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

For the sauce;
1 chipotle chilli, seeds removed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
175ml beef stock
400g canned chopped tomatoes
7 tbsp passata

Method

Start by preparing the chipotle chilli. Soak the chipotle in a little warm water for around 15 minutes whilst you prepare the meatballs.

Combine the onion, pork and beef in a large mixing bowl, before adding the breadcrumbs, oregano, cumin and a little salt and pepper. Mix everything well.  Add the beaten egg and mix this through thoroughly. Roll the mixture into small balls about 4cm each in diameter.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs for around 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Make sure they are browned and cooked through. Put the cooked meatballs to one side.

Finely chop or puree the chilli in its soaking water. For less heat you can puree the chipotle with the soaking water and just use half the puree.  Combine the oil, chipotle, onion, garlic, stock, tomatoes and passata along with a little salt and pepper in a large pan or casserole dish. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer for around 10 minutes to heat through.

Serve with some freshly cooked white rice.

We can't resist a Mexican-inspired meal in our house, so this went down very well!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday (23rd April 2012)

Hello all! Happy St George's Day to the English amongst us.

It's Monday and today the children have finally gone back to school which means I can get back into my routine - I don't know about you, but I positively thrive on routine and miss it when everything gets turned upside down by school holidays, although I do love having the children at home.

Yesterday, you may have seen my blog post, I started the C25K programme. Yes, I have found my willpower to get fit and healthy! This means I am also going to try to eat healthily and at the moment, I am really looking forward to it. I've decided not to diet but just be sensible - no crisps and rubbish, and no mid-week alcohol. Gulp.  I'm not calorie-counting but just trying to pick healthier dinner and serve up more sensible portions - certainly with regard to carbs.

So aside from Ryvita and fat-free yoghurts, this week we will be eating as follows;

Halloumi Salad with Houmous Dressing & Pitta Crisps
Chorizo, Potato & Parsley Tortilla with salad
Crispy Chilli Beef & Broccoli with rice
Spaghetti Con Gamberetti E Rucola
Cheesy Chorizo Wedges with lettuce, tomato, spring onions

Okay, so the last one isn't very healthy but Mr M and I have decided Friday Night Food must remain. We need treats!

If you've got any healthy & extremely tasty meal ideas, please let me know!

Right, the Linky is below for those that want to link-up. Remember the #mealplanningmonday tag on Twitter and I'll try to RT. I've been very slack over the past few weeks, both with commenting and RTing but now my routine is back, I'll be better, I promise!


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Going the distance


Today, on a day when thousands are running a marathon through the streets of London, I became a runner, or at least I am attempting to make myself one.  Inspired in part by a friend who is running said marathon today after only commencing running a little over a year ago I have decided to start the C25K programme which aims to get you from couch to running 5K in 9 weeks.

Now exercise does not come easy to me, at all. I can't pretend to enjoy it and motivation to actually do some is hard to find but I can't deny I have a need. I'm not grossly overweight but I am carrying a little more timber than a lady of my height should and I'm not happy with my figure. More than that, I have a real need to increase my fitness and health as I am only seven years away from the age when my mother had her first heart attack.  I find dieting hard but very effective over the years when I have wanted to lose weight but have never really backed it up with exercise and gradually over time the weight creeps back on. Dieting, when you love to cook and bake is also a bit grim and depressing. This time I want to attack it differently with common sense - eat less, exercise more.

I've toyed with the idea of running several times over the years but never actually gone out and done it. This morning I did for the first time much to my family's amusement.  I prepared myself last night by downloading the NHS Choices C25K podcasts from iTunes and this morning I pulled on my trainers and just went for it. I live in the countryside and the sun was shining so in-between the times I thought I was having a heart-attack it was quite a pleasant experience and I walked/jogged down roads that I've only ever driven on so it gave me a new perspective.

Image Credit: NHS Choices

I'm not going to lie, I found it tough going towards the end which makes me feel hideously unfit but I also feel proud of myself for taking that first step. The podcasts definitely help as they tell you exactly when to walk and when to run and the lovely lady at the end told me in total I had run for 8 minutes which on reflection seems a bit pathetic! For week 1 you do the same session three times - alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of brisk walking. I have two more sessions to do this week and the real test will be seeing if I can motivate myself to go out on Tuesday night after getting back from work. I'm usually completely lethargic after a day of sitting in a hot office and fit for nothing.

I really want to be successful at this and follow something through for the first time but I know it's not going to be easy. My ultimate goal is to be able to run 5K and then I hope to take part in Park Run which I recently discovered.

If you done the C25K programme or are an avid runner yourself, I'd love to hear your stories/advice/words of wisdom!  I'll report back when I've made some progress.


Friday, 20 April 2012

Spring and Summer Jackets



The seasons are changing and so are our wardrobes.  It is time to push the black to the back and add an injection of colour to our style.

Nothing quite finishes an outfit like a statement jacket!  This season’s styles are however proving to be a little different to the styles of the past seasons.  

The blazer is a great investment as it goes with just about anything!  It is also a great piece to opt for if you wish to smarten up an otherwise simple outfit.


Blazers look great worn with jeans and a shirt if you wish to create a casual weekend look.  If you wish to create an even smarter look, team a smart fitted blazer with a shift dress. This season’s blazers are a little different in style to that of the previous styles seen.  The main difference is the cut of the garment.

Designers seem to be varying the lengths of ladies jackets.  Some styles go past the knee, some are cropped and others finish at different points.

Most designers feature an assortment of styles on this season’s runways.  If you can’t quite afford the runway prices, check out the high street instead. Stores such as Matalan.co.uk have a wide range of ladies jackets available, all of which are right on trend for this season. Choose from the likes of light summer jackets, cutesy blazers, heavier jackets and macs.


A ladies light jacket is a great option for a cool summer evening, as it won’t hide your outfit; it will however keep you a little warmer.

**Sponsored post**

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Disneyworld-Style Figaro Fries


Figaro Fries? What are they I hear you cry! Figaro Fries is a light meal/snack that was only available in the Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Alas they are no more but recipes for this culinary delight are plentiful on the internet.

They are basically french fries topped with crispy bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and ranch sauce. Some recipes just mention melting cheese and pouring that over the fries but I couldn't see how that would work so I went for the other option and made a cheese sauce, which I think is more authentic.

Okay, it's not the healthiest of meals I agree, but as a once-in-a-blue-moon treat on a Saturday night? You can't beat it! I use frozen fries and cook them in the oven rather than deep-fry them but that's really your call.

Figaro Fries

Ingredients

3-4 rashers smoked bacon
french fries (I used McCains frozen Southern Fries)
Iceberg lettuce
Tomatoes
Bottle of ranch dressing

For the cheese sauce;
415ml whole milk
2 tbsp cornflour
225g cheddar cheese, grated
pinch cayenne pepper
salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200c/180 fan.

Cook the bacon rashers until crispy. I do this in the oven but grill or frying pan is fine also. Allow to cool and break into small pieces.

Prepare the vegetables by shredding the lettuce and dicing the tomatoes.

Pop the french fries onto a baking try and cook in the oven for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp.

Whilst the fries are cooking start to prepare the cheese sauce. Bring 355ml of the milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over a medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and the remaining 60ml of milk and then stir into the simmering milk. Continue to cook, whisking all the time, until the sauce has thickened. This should take around 2-3 minutes.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the grated cheese and the cayenne pepper until the cheese is melted and the sauce if smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Now you are ready to assemble onto serving places! Place the french fries on the plate, and top with cheese sauce and the crumbled bacon pieces. Next top with shredded lettuce and some ranch dressing and finally the diced tomatoes.

And...eat!





Personalised Gift Ideas



Purchasing a gift for someone can often take a great deal of thought. By giving some thought to a gift, it lets the recipient of the gift know you care. Of all the gifts that you can give someone, personalised gifts are the best to select. When you select a personal gift, it can pertain to the person’s interests and preferences. Personalised gifts are also good for any person, no matter their age. There are many shops and websites, such as Getting Personal that offer a range of different products that can then be personalised for the recipient. 

There are different personal gifts you can select for children. These could include mugs, pillows and picture frames. You can select a colour that fits the d├ęcor of the child’s bedroom. You can also select designs or characters in the gift that also interest the child. Gifts can be select that are personalised with their name, birthday or other personal information. 


For personalised gifts for adults mugs are rather popular. These can easily be personalised with whatever you want on them. They are useful and can be given to just about anyone. Another gift for an adult would be a personalised diary, planner or journal. These can have the person’s name engraved or embossed on the cover. Perhaps you wish to also include a special message to the recipient. Pen and mechanical pencil sets can be quite fashionable. These too are easy to personalise for the person you are giving them to.


There are many other gifts that can be personalised for the recipient. Taking into consideration the person’s interests may lead you to think of a personalised gift that is more tailored for the recipient. For instance, men who like particular sports always find personalised sports memorabilia a great gift. For instance, the avid golfer might enjoy a set of golf balls embossed with his name. Football fans might like a football that comes with their name on it and perhaps a special date or saying.


*This is a sponsored post*

Monday, 16 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday (16th April 2012)

Morning Meal Planners!

This is going to be a very quick meal planning post as I'm off out shortly for a day of torture spending Easter money, shoe-shopping and cinema trip with my children who are still on their Easter holidays. Has everybody else's children gone back to school already?

After a freezing cold weekend, I'm still in the mood for comfort food and that is probably reflected in my menu this week!

Chilli with rice
Sausage casserole
Lasagne (need to find a good recipe, anyone got one?)
Chicken balti

There will also be a Saturday night Chinese style dish but not planned that yet and one night we are eating out as we will be child-free for the evening, can't miss that opportunity! Sunday will either be a roast if we're at home or if the seat belts have been fitted, we'll go out in our new van and have a picnic! 

What are you having this week? The Linky is below just waiting for you to share your #mealplanningmonday posts. There were some issues last week with Linkytools but it's normally only temporary so if you do have trouble submitting, just leave it until later or the next day.

Don't forget you can also submit your favourite recipes this month into my Recipe Link Party.

Thanks for joining in!



Sunday, 15 April 2012

The new addition to our family...


Meet Clementine, or Clemmie to her friends!

Yes, our new 1972 Type 2 VW Campervan! Isn't she lovely? And very orange?

I have to say I was dubious about the orange but I am learning to love it and embrace it and have now embarked on a very unhealthy obsessive hunt of vintage melamine and camping accessories in retro colours.

Owning a VW camper has been one of our dreams for years, hell it was even on the Bucket List and we decided we couldn't procrastinate about it for much longer and decided to take the leap!  We bought the van off a friend and she's pretty much read to roll. There are a few tweaks I'd like to do which are aesthetics more then necessities - like paint the wooden cupboards inside, paint some of the metal work inside, change the curtains etc but these can all wait until the winter. Once we've got seat belts fitted in the rear we're just going to get on and enjoy using the van, although I am planning to change the wheel cover on the front to one like this...

I'm not sure though, what do you think? Yay or nay? I'm a bit of a sad-sack and the first thing I bought for the van was a hip-shaking hula girl for the dashboard. Could I be anymore kitsch?

The camper has got a pop-top and we have two bunks up there. I'm a bit nervous about putting the children on there but we'll see how it goes. We have a driveway awning with the van but I'd prefer not to sleep in there if I don't have to, and I won't put the children out there on their own. 


We're going to take the van out on a day trip first, ease ourselves in slowly, then we plan to have lot of weekends away! I'm sure you'll get to hear lots about our trips over the summer - if you've got any suggestions of good places to go or great campsites to visit, let me know!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Titanic - 100 Years Later


I couldn't let today go past without a post about something which has been one of my lifelong fascinations/obsessions. 

Titanic. 

Unless you've been living under a rock recently then you can't have failed to notice or be aware of that fact that today marks 100 years since the fateful night that Titanic hit an iceberg. Failing that I guess you could also be one of these people...


The tale of Titanic completely captivated me as a small child and the enthusiasm and intrigue I had about it then hasn't waned over the years. I've read countless books, seen hundreds of tv programmes, been to exhibitions and pored over websites. And yes, I've seen that film a lot - I even went to see it again at the cinema this week in 3D (and not just to see if Kate Winslet's breasts were in 3D...).


The survivors accounts and inquest reports fascinate me. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be on a sinking ship like that or in fact, to watch it sink. What has become apparent from many of the items I've read is that even the people right there at the time just didn't expect it to sink and many didn't want to get in the lifeboats as they felt safer on Titanic.  It seems crazy doesn't it? But I have a fear of water and can completely understand that rationale - a big ship, I'm fine with but you'd never get me on a rowing boat.


What is it about Titanic that has captured so many people? I don't really know. After all, there have been worse disasters, before and after. I can't speak for others but for me, one aspect  was the opulence and grandeur of Titanic. Imagine what walking on to Titanic would have been like -  oh the luxury! For first class passengers anyway, but even the lower classes accommodation were apparently above and beyond what had been provided on the ships that came before Titanic.


Then there were also the stories about the people and the courage that they displayed. Many of these people were going off to America to start new lives, they were full of hope for the future. Knowing that many of these didn't make it, and those that did had their families destroyed by death is just so, so sad. Imagine getting onto a lifeboat without your husband, leaving him there, not knowing whether he'd get off safely or not. Only 333 bodies were recovered from the site, out of around 1500. That's a lot of families that never had closure on the loss of loved ones.


It's easy when watching the film to feel detached and forget that this was a real event but it was and tonight, I shall raise a glass to all those that lost their lives in such a dreadful way, one hundred years ago.


Friday, 13 April 2012

Singapore Noodles


I've made these Singapore Noodles tons of times but it's never occurred to me to blog them until now which is a terrible shame because they are very easy to make and extremely tasty. The recipe is one I saw in BBC Good Food a few years back and whilst I've tried other recipes for Singapore Noodles I tend to always go back to this one.

I like this dish because when I'm short on inspiration or time it's a good one to turn to. The prep can take a little time but most of the ingredients are things I would normally have in my store-cupboard or fridge which means I only have to go out and pick up a few items.

The recipe includes pork fillet. I love pork but I have to admit that depending on how frugal I am being I don't always add it. Certainly the dish pictured above doesn't include it. I enjoy it with the pork fillet but I will say, I don't miss it when it's not there so if you want to make this dish a bit cheaper, just leave it out!

I have adapted the recipe a little, and the amounts listed would be enough for 4 people.

Singapore Noodles

Ingredients

250g rice vermicelli noodles
vegetable oil
150g pork fillets, cut into strips
150g cooked and peeled king prawns
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 onion, cut into thin half moons
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
300g bean sprouts
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 limes, quartered

Method

For the noodles, follow the pack instructions with regard to soaking and then drain.

Heat a little oil in a wok and fry the pork until it is brown and cooked through. Tip onto a plate and put to one side.

Rinse out the wok and add a little more oil. Fry the garlic and ginger until it is light brown. Add the prawns, onion and pepper and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the spices and cook for a further minute. Throw in the bean sprouts, noodles and 2 tbsp of water and toss everything together well.

Add the soy sauce to the wok along with the chopped chives and some seasoning. Stir for around a minute. Push the noodles to one side of the wok and drop in the eggs. Cook, stirring for 1 minute then stir the egg through the noodles. 

Toss the pork through the noodles and tip onto a plate or separate bowls. Serve with the sliced chillies on top and quarters of lime to squeeze over.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The ideal foodie break; a holiday rental stay


Cooking might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re planning a trip away. In a hotel it’s not even an option, but if you choose a holiday home rental instead you have all you need to experiment with the local cuisine and whip yourself up a treat, - or go out, as you wish! As discovering the local fare is now a key part of the holiday for many, people are increasingly choosing holiday rentals instead of hotels for the extra facilities they provide; more space, more privacy, more flexibility, and most importantly for food enthusiasts, proper facilities to cook.

You will find the biggest choice of holiday rentals on www.HomeAway.co.uk, which currently advertises more than 300,000 private properties to rent worldwide direct from owners and managers. Many are ideal for novice and master chefs alike; modern villas with gourmet kitchens and BBQs on site, or rural homes with their own olive groves, fruit trees, vineyard or even veggie patch. A holiday rental can also work out up to half the cost per head of a similar standard hotel and as you get more for your money it makes a great value break.  

For a taste of what’s available, take a look at the top 5 foodie rentals below, featuring some unique properties ideal for a break in the UK or abroad.  And for recipe ideas before you go, try the HomeAway.co.uk Travel Cookbook, a collection of holiday homeowners’ favourite local recipes from around the globe.

Top 5 foodie holiday rentals on HomeAway.co.uk


SPAIN
Charming traditional country finca with play area for kids, Pollensa

4 Bedrooms, Sleeps 8. From £895 per property per week

This charming finca enjoys a private location just 1km from the historic old town of Pollensa with the dramatic backdrop of the Tramuntana Mountains. There are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and two lounges, one with Sky TV decoder and WiFi broadband access, as well as a fully equipped country kitchen. Outside, set in 4,000 square metres, there is a fantastic private pool, plenty of sun loungers and a separate play area with play frame, trampoline and a basketball ring to keep the little ones amused. For the grown-ups there is a built in stone BBQ with dining area, ideal for long leisurely lunches or al-fresco evening dining.


SCOTLAND
Country house set in its own grounds, Scottish Borders
5 Bedrooms, Sleeps 10. From £795 per property per week

Branxholm Knowe House is a large detached period property which is set in two acres of well tendered private gardens. The house is furnished to a high standard and is ideal for entertaining and features a fabulous garden room which is perfect for al-fresco evenings. The property has five large double bedrooms and can comfortably accommodate ten adults or two families. It also features a fully equipped kitchen and outside there are two tables and benches, a BBQ, a pond (fenced) with cascading runs, large gardens and woodland.


GREECE
Secluded villa with garden, pool, BBQ & covered outdoor dining area, Kefallonia
3 Bedrooms, Sleeps 8. From £732 per property per week

Villa Elena is situated in the quiet Kefallonian village of Sarlata and offers a peaceful, secluded retreat. The villa comprises two double bedrooms and one twin bedroom with a large family bathroom upstairs. Downstairs there is a large living and dining room, as well as a fully equipped kitchen with island unit and breakfast stool seating. Outside, there is a brick-built charcoal BBQ, plus plenty of space for al-fresco dining and a big swimming pool. Kefallonia has a lot to offer and Villa Elena is situated in a central location not too far from the main town of Argostoli.




TURKEY
Traditional stone house in the hills of Bodrum Peninsula

2 Bedrooms, Sleeps 4. From £585 per property per week

This is a unique, traditional property with beautiful island views located in the hills of the Bodrum Peninsula near Yalikavak. Surrounded by fig, almond and olive trees, and offering a private herb and vegetable garden, the house is on two floors and features a 19th century entry door, a double bed in a Roman arch, an Ottoman kitchen, as well as many other antiques and pieces of art. The house also has a Balinese-style pool surrounded by a small mandarin orange orchard and a patio with an enchanting decorative Ottoman marble fountain.  


ITALY
Beautifully restored trullo with olive garden and pizza oven, Puglia
2 Bedrooms, Sleeps 6. From £550 per property per week

A beautiful trullo, lovingly restored by the owners to a very high standard, employing traditional methods and materials to retain its magical character. The property is surrounded by a garden with olive and fig trees, and an enclosed south-facing courtyard paved with traditional old paving stones. The courtyard has sun loungers for relaxing, a barbeque, garden table and chairs for al fresco dining, as well as a pizza oven. It is situated on the west facing slope of a delightfully quiet valley with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.

This is a sponsored post