Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, the two most beautiful words in the English language"
~Henry James

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

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Blueberries were very hard to come by for the first several years I lived here in the UK.     I m happy to say that in the intervening years they have become readily available, and actually quite affordable.   We can buy them in all of the grocery stores now, even the budget shops.

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The Toddster and I also grow our own as well now, which means I have lots to use in a variety of ways.   They are not quite as flavorsome as the wild ones from back home, but they are still pretty good!

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We had the missionary elders for tea last night and so I baked them a little taste of home in the way of this fabulous Blueberry Coffee Cake.   The British idea of a coffee cake is a cake which is highly flavored with Coffee, as in a Coffee and Walnut Cake.  This is NOT one of those . . .

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Instead this is a coffee cake in the North America sense, which merely means that it is a lovely moist cake, sometimes with a crumble topping, perfect for enjoying with a hot or cold drink . . .  perfect for brunches . . .  and yes, a great dessert when served warm and topped with ice cream or cream.

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This is exactly that kind of cake . . .  with a moist and tender cake batter, flavored and moistened by the use of lemon yogurt . . .  with the fruity topping of a generous amount of fresh blueberries . . .  and a moreish buttery crunch of cinnamon flavoured brown sugar streusel on top.  Delicious.  Simple.  Quick to make.  You can substitute butter for the vegetable shortening if you wish.

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*Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake*
Makes one 9 inch square cake
Printable Recipe

This cake has no coffee in it.  It is merely a moist cake, chock full of berries and topped with a cinnamony streusel topping, perfect for coffee break or elevensies with a hot drink. 

for the cake:
110g of white vegetable fat (TREX or Crisco, 1/2 cup)
145g of white sugar (/3/4 cup)
1 large free range egg
280g plain flour (2 cups all purpose)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
60ml of milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
55g of lemon yogurt (1/4 cup)
400g punnet of fresh blueberries (about 2 cups)
For the streusel:
200g soft light brown sugar (1 cup, loosely packed)
105g of plain flour (3/4 cup all purpose)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
75g of softened butter (1/3 cup)

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 9 inch square baking tin.  Line with baking paper.   Set aside.  (I like to leave enough overhang so I can lift it out when it is done.)

Cream the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg and vanilla.   Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together the milk and yogurt.   Add the flour to the creamed mixture, alternating with the wet ingredients, until combined and equally moist.  Spread in the prepared baking tin.   Cover with the blueberries.  To make the streusel, mix all of the streusel ingredients together in a bowl, rubbing them together with the finger tips until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top of the berries.

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Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan until just warm.  Lift out and cut into squares to serve. 

Note - Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is awfully good on this.  Just saying is all.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Top Tips on Creating the Perfect Packed Lunch


Making sure children who avoid gluten have a lunchbox which includes a good mix of nutritious and filling foods as well as a yummy treat can be quite an art, so Mrs Crimble's  - the much-loved gluten free bakery brand - has come up with some tips on how to guarantee that your children can always enjoy a healthy, fun and gluten free lunch.


Single Serve Bakewell Slice from £1.10

Treats and high-energy snacks - Identify at least five things that your child loves and then rotate them so it will be a surprise.  If your child plays a lot of sport you may want to include an extra high-energy snack.  Mrs Crumble's now has single servings of their NEW cranberry and Almond Oat Cookies, their NEW Double Choc Oat Cookies, a range of Oat Flapjacks, Choc Macaroons, Jam Rings, Bakewell Slices and Double Choc Brownies.


Buttery Oat Flapjacks from £1.10

Sandwich Substitutes - Rice or Quinaoa Salads with chopped red peppers and other crunchy vegetables are great, or try gluten free falafels.  A mini pack of hummus with a packet of Mrs Crumble's Potato Bites or some carrot sticks also go down well.


Cheese & Onion Potato Bites Multi Pack (4 bags) £1.79

Bake Your Own at Home - Mrs Crimbles home bake mixes are easy to make and can be adapted for all sorts of recipes.  Make your own fresh gluten free bread using the Mrs Crimble's Bread Mix - perfect for sandwiches at lunch time.


Rice Cakes - Mrs Crimbles Apple Rice Cakes are wrapped in handy five slice portion packs inside the box.  These make a delicious and nutritious snack when paired with individual cheese portions or can be enjoyed just as they are.


Calcium - For growing bones, it's good to include a yoghurt (don't forget a spoon), or a milk drink.  If your child is dairy intolerant, then some calcium enriched oat milk, cubes of cheese or some sardines (if they like them) are a good idea.  


Single Serve Jam Ring, from £1.10

Drinks - Making sure your child drinks enough is vital.  Water is best and fruit juice is also good, just be aware it can contain a surprising amount of sugar.


Cranberry & Almond Oat Cookie  RRP £1.49

Mrs Crimble's started over 30 years ago and today their products can be found in all good independent farm shops, health stores, delicatessens and supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, Co-op and Tesco.  Mrs Crimbles can also be found in he USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  

Exciting Sponsorship News!

Mrs Crimbles is the Official Free From Sponsor of England Netball, in particular supporting the Back to Netball scheme which encourages female players of all ages to get active and re-introduced to the much loved school sport.

Mrs Crimble's have also continued their support for the Breast Cancer Charity - for the first 15,000 new members who sign up to the Back to Netball Scheme during the 2013/14 season, Mrs Crimbles will donate £1 to the charity.

In response to consumer feedback, Mrs Crimble's have launched an online shop through their website providing consumers with a convenient location to access the complete range.   The website also features Mrs Crimble's blog and a regularly updated "Where to buy tab.

Follow them on Facebook  
Follow them on Twitter
Follow them on Pinterest

Toasted Sesame Chicken Pasta

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This is an incredibly delicious chicken salad, with a wonderful oriental style dressing and plenty of colour and crunch!  

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I just wish it photographed as beautifully as it tastes!  The flavours are phenomenal!  The chicken is moist and tender, having been quickly poached in some stock with a bit of garlic.  You allow it to cool in the stock, and so it holds in all that moisture and flavour.   You quite simply shred and tear it with a couple of forks when done so that you end up with plenty of texture.  

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The green beans add plenty of colour and crunch to the dish.  They have such a mild flavour that doesn't jar with the dressing.  You could also use asparagus if you wanted to be really fancy! 

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The toasted sesame dressing is just wonderful . . .  with the flavors of orange, and garlic, soy, sesame, ginger . . .  just a bit of sweet and sour . . .  but not so much that it takes over.  It's really just a really decent blend of flavors, nothing cloying or overpowering . . . 

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I have to say however . . .  the candied pecans are absolutely stunning in this. I could just sit and eat them all on their own, but don't do that.   They add such a wonderful depth of flavor and crunch to the salad.  This is the PERFECT salad to serve to the ladies who lunch!  

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It may look like a lot of work, but trust me, it really isn't, especially if you spread out the steps over a couple of days.  The chicken can be poached ahead and the pecans candied.  You can even make the dressing ahead of time.  Just be sure to give it a good shake prior to using.   With all of those steps taken care of ahead of time, all you will need to do on the day is cook the pasta and green beans!  Even the so called pasta hating Todd enjoyed this!  

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*Toasted Sesame Chicken Pasta*
Serves 4 generously
This might seem like a lot of work, but if you take the time the day before to make the candied pecans, cook the chicken and toast the sesame seeds, it will go together in a flash!

For the chicken:
3 pounds of chicken tenders (I like to trim mine, removing that
tough tendon and discarding it)
Chicken stock to cover
a clove of garlic crushed

For the candied pecans:
175g of soft light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
110g of butter, melted (1/2 cup)
240g of shelled pecan nuts (2 cups)

For the dressing:
90g of orange marmalade (1/2 cup)
110ml of toasted sesame oil (1/2 cup)
110ml of rice wine vinegar (1/2 cup)
80ml of soy sauce (1/3 cup)
80ml of Worcestershire sauce (1/3 cup)
2 TBS lemon juice
 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
4 TBS toasted sesame seeds
salt and black pepper to taste

You will also need:
1 pound of pasta shapes (Fusilli, radiatore, etc.  You want something which the dressing will cling to)
400g of fresh green beans trimmed (about 1/2 pound)  

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To make the candied pecans, preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Stir the melted butter and brown sugar together to dissolve the sugar.   Stir in the pecans.   Spread out on a rimmed shallow baking sheet.   Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool and then break apart.  Store in an airtight container.  

To cook the chicken, put the chicken into a large saucepan with the chicken stock and garlic,  Bring to the boil.  Turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and allow to cool to room temperature in the stock.   Drain well and shred with two forks.  You want it to be a bit chunky.   If making the day ahead, cover and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

To toast the sesame seeds, place them into a dry skiller which you have heated over medium high heat.  Cook and stir for about two minutes until golden brown.   Allow to cool before using.
To make the dressing combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.   Stir in the sesame seeds.   

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Cook the pasta according to the package directions in lightly salted water.   Add the green beans during the last two minutes of cooking time.   Drain well, rinse with cold water to cool.  Drain again.  Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces and place them in a bowl along with the pasta.   Add the chicken.   Drizzle over the dressing and toss all together to combine.   Sprinkle with the candied pecans and serve immediately.  

This is the perfect way to begin August, don't you think??

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Creamy Potato Gnocchi Salad

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If any of you have been reading my blog for a while now, you will know that I am an absolute fan of gnocchi!  It's one of my cupboard staples and something which I try to use in a variety of ways.  I am always stretching the boundaries somewhat . . .  seeing how far I can take it, usually with quite tasty results.

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I have fried it, hashed it, scrambled it, souped it, mac and cheesed it and baked it into creamy gratins.  About the only thing I haven't done with it, is to make it from scratch, but watch this space.  I have plans and you all know what happens then!

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I am of the opinion that you can treat gnocchi in just about the same way as you would treat a boiled potato, or any other type of pasta and so the other day the wheels started turning and what with the hot weather we have been having lately I thought I would try turning it into a type of potato salad . . .  except it would be a gnocchi salad, a creamy Potato Gnocchi Salad . . .  and guess what?

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It . . . like . . . TOTALLY worked!  'Nuff said.  (I love it when that happens!)

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*A Creamy Potato Gnocchi Salad*
Serves 6 to 8

I took a package of gnocchi and treated it like potatoes, coming up with what I thought was a very tasty salad indeed!  

boiling water
1 pound of potato gnocchi
a couple handsful of frozen petit pois, thawed and drained
1 small bag of radishes, trimmed and diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

For the Dressing:
2/3 cup mayonnaise (146g)
1/3 cup salad cream (73g)
the juice of two lemons
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
a small handful of chopped fresh parsley

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Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.   Add the gnocchi and cook according to package directions. Drain well.  Rinse in cold water.  Drain again and then tip into a bowl.   Add all of the vegetables, along with the chopped hard boiled eggs, and stir together to combine.  Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Fold this dressing into the gnocchi and vegetable mixture.  Smooth over and cover.  Chill for about 3 hours before serving.  Stir again just before serving.  If desired sprinkle with some more parsley.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Baked Spaghetti

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Oh yes I have been torturing the Toddster with pasta again.  What's a pasta loving girl to do.   We can't always eat meat and potatoes.  I need a bit of variety!  I need pasta!

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This recipe is a little bit unique in that you mix the spaghetti with a delicious and easy to make Alfredo Sauce.  You then press it firmly into tiny loaf tins (or if you don't have loaf tins, large muffin cups or even buttered ramekins would work well also).  You sprinkle them with some mozza and cheddar cheeses, and then you bake them in a moderate oven . . .

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until they are set and golden on the outsides . . .  a bit crispy on top . . .  but still moist beneath that top crust of cheese . . .

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Perfect for ladling on a delicious sauce.  You can used jarred marinara sauce, which is what I did today, or you could use a tasty Bolognese Sauce like the one I made last week . . .  or you could make the delicious sauce from my Spaghetti and Meatballs.    You could even just be lazy and use frozen meatballs, or none at all if that is your choice, and it was mine today.  I don't always want meat.

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I think I could quite happily become a vegetarian, if it wasn't for my occasional craving for a good steak . . .  or roast turkey.  Christmas wouldn't be the same without roast turkey . . .  or bacon . . .  I kinda like bacon . . . a LOT!

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Okay so maybe I could never be a true vegetarian, but I do love vegetables and I don't always have to have meat.  Just so you know . . .

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But  . . .  I digress.  Baked Spaghetti.  Delicious.  Easy.  Simple to make.   Family pleasing comfort food.   A unique presentation of a delicious dish.   And easily adapted to your own individual tastes.  Heck, the Alfredo Sauce tastes fabulous just tossed with the noodles and eaten like that.   Please yourself!  Whatever!  But if you are looking for something just that tiny bit different, without having to put in a whole lot of effort . .  .  this is the dish to do it with!

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*Baked Spaghetti*
Serves 6

This is a simple concept, easy to make, and very delicious.  It's also a very attractive presentation of what is essentially Spaghetti with sauce!  The Alfredo Sauce is to die for. on it's own!  

For the Alfredo Sauce:
450ml of double cream (2 cups heavy)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp parsley flakes
4 TBS butter
125g of cream cheese (4 ounces)
530g of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (3 cups)

You will also need:
375g of uncooked spaghetti noodles (6 cups cooked)
120g of grated mozzarella and Cheddar mixed (1 cup)
Chunky marinara sauce (I used Ragu Tomato and Basil)
Meatballs (optional)
extra cheese for serving  

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.   Butter six mini loaf tins very well.   Set them aside on a baking tray.  (Alternately you can butter six large muffin cups or ramekins)

Bring the cream, garlic, pepper and salt to the boil over medium low heat.   Whisk in the butter and cream cheese, whisking until smooth.  Whisk in the Parmesan cheese, 1/3 at a time, until smooth. Stir in the parsley flakes.  Keep warm over very low heat.  

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  I break mine in half so it is easier to handle for this, but that is up to you.  Once it is cooked, drain well. Rinse with some cold water and drain again.  Stir this into the alfredo sauce.  Fill each of the mini loaf tins, pressing it well in with the back of a spoon, packing it down as much as you can.  Sprinkle the tops with an equal measure of the grated mozzarella and cheddar.   Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and nicely set.  

Heat the marinara sauce, adding meatballs if using.  To serve,  spoon a bit of marinara on each of six plates, place one of the baked spaghetti loaves on each, then if using meatballs, top with a couple of meat balls, and the remainder of the sauce.   Pass the cheese to serve.  

Oh, and I am pleased to announce that I am the winner of the Tuscany Now Contest, with the prize being a weekend for two at one of their Villa's in Tuscany!  Yay me!  YAY YOU!  It was YOUR votes that put me there and I am so very much appreciative of them.  Now all I have to do is come up with the air fare for the trip.  I guess I am going to have start selling a lot of cookbooklets and art.   I can do it!  I can do it!  Once again many thanks!  I am halfway there to making my dream come true!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Delicious Blueberry Tarts and a Giveaway!

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We had the Missionary Sisters over for supper last Tuesday night and I cannot believe I am only getting to now tell you about these beautiful tarts that I made for our desserts!  I suppose half a week pretty much without internet has really made me fall behind on my posts.   But I am showing them to you today and that is what counts!

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The blueberries are ripening on our bushes at the moment and I took advantage of this fact to bake some lovely little blueberry tarts for us all.   I have baked this before using apples and plums as a large tart, and it was gorgeous.  You can find that recipe here.  I decided that it would work very well as individual tarts and using blueberries.

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It is a really simple recipe and always turns out.  It made 5 individual tarts, but my tart tins were 4 inches across.  If you made smaller ones you would get more tarts out of the recipe.  These were very filling and on the large side for delicate appetites.

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The pastry is a real doddle to make. It goes together in the food processor, lickety split.   And you can have it rolled out in no time and lining your tarts.  There is no need to pre-bake the pastry either.  You just slap the filling in and bake them.

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The filling consists of a vanilla sponge which bakes like a cake inside that sweet short crust pastry . . .  puffed up and golden brown . . . clustered around those lovely sweet berries, all sweet and sunken into the delicate sponge . . .  I erred on the side of caution when adding the berries. When I make these again, and I will do just that . . .  I will add even more berries.  A tasty brush of warm apricot jam finished them off.  We had them with clotted cream . . .  of course!

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*Summer Blueberry Tart(s)*
Makes8 servings as a tart
or 5 individual tarts  
This is a delightful tart, with a sweet shortcrust pastry, a sponge filling and lots of sweet fresh blueberries.   Feel free to charge it up by adding a mix of berries instead of just the blueberries.  It may seem like a lot of steps, but once you get everything assembled, they go together quickly and easily.  

For the pastry:
220g of plain flour (1 3/4 cup)
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed (9 TBS)
85g of golden caster sugar (7 TBS)
1 medium free range egg

For the sponge:
45g unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 TBS plus 1/2 tsp.)
90g golden caster sugar (7 1/2 TBS)
1 medium free range egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
90g of plain flour (1/2 cup  plus 3 TBS) 
You will also need:
several handfuls of fresh berries
3 TBS apricot jam, seived    

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For the pastry, put the flour, butter and sugar into the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz to create a mixture resembling fine bread crumbs.  Beat the egg and then add it while the food processor is running on low, to create a soft dough that you can make into a ball.  (You can do this by hand, but you should grate the butter first as it will make it a lot easier.)  

To make the sponge, put the butter and sugar into a small mixing bowl.  Beat until creamy.   Beat in the egg and vanilla.   Sift the flour and baking powder together and then fold them into the creamed mixture. 
Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.   Have ready a tart tin with a removable bottom (10 inches in diameter) or five individual tart tins with removable bottoms.  Place on a baking tray.  

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, to one quarter inch thickness.   Carefully line the tin.  (If making individual tarts, divide into five equal sized balls and do the same)  Trim off any excess and discard.  (I just roll a rolling pin across the tops and it cuts it off evenly.)  Spoon an equal amount of the sponge mixture into the tart base (s), smoothing it over to the edges.  Sprinkle with the berries.  (You can use a mix of blueberries, halved strawberries and raspberries if you wish.  All are lovely, especially when mixed!)  

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Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.  The tart is done when the berries have sunk in a bit and looked cooked, and the sponge has risen and gotten golden brown in places.  Also the pastry is crisp and golden brown.  Allow to cool for several minutes  before removing to a wire rack.   Melt the jam in a small saucepan and push through a seive.  Brush some on top of the tart (s).  Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or ice cream.  

Note - If making individual tarts, start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.  Caster sugar is a type of fine granulated sugar.  Regular granulated sugar will work just fine if you cannot get caster sugar, or you can blitz the granulated sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds or so.  Golden Caster sugar is less processed and more natural than the white. White works just fine.  

And now for THE GIVEAWAY!  

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I was recently sent a set of these "Clongs" from Dreamfarm to try out, along with a set to give away.  If you are not familiar with the Dreamfarm ethos, they are a company which is from Australia and which prides itself on designing interesting, useful and brilliant products for the home cook.  Unique, useful and problem solving, they are very innovative and their products are now available here in the UK.  

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Clongs, available in black and red, are a brilliant version of cooking Tongs, but so much more than that!   

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With their unique bend in the stainless steel handle they keep your counter tops clean and your tongs hygenic!  Their silicone tips are safe to use on non-stick cookware and are heat resistant to 260*C/500*F

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They open and lock easily with one hand, thanks to the  click-lock button mechanism on the end of the handle.  And it does what it says, works with ONE hand.  Very clever indeed!  You just tap the end on the counter to release, and then again to lock.  Smart stuff!

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They are also dish washer safe.  At 12 inches in length, I have found them to be a very useful piece of kit over this past week or so, and one that I find myself reaching for over and over again!  They worked beautifully when I did my Crispy Fried Chicken Breasts the other day, and I have been using them for a whole lot more than that.  Perfect for dishing out pasta, boiled potatoes, steamed veggies, tossing salads and serving salad leaves, sauteing spinach, etc.  There has been no end to their usefulness.  You can find the Dreamfarm products here in the UK on Amazon!

I love their sleek stainless steel arms and brilliant styling, as well as  their length, which help to keep your fingers safe from spattering fat. They also look them very attractive sitting in my utensil jug.   In short, I give them a ten out of ten and two thumbs up! I am very happy to say that the Dreamfarm people have sent me an extra set to give away to one of my readers!  So yes!!  There is an "identical to mine" set available for one of you too!  To be in it to win it, all you have to do is to leave a comment in the comments section in this post telling me which is your favorite one of all their products which you can see by visiting their home page!  I love all their stuff, but it would be really fun to see what you like as well!

I am really excited about being able to share these lovely Clongs with you!  And I hope you are too.  I will be picking a winner one week from today,  on August 5th at noon my time (12 pm GMT) so don't be left out!    Oh,  and unlike some giveaways, it doesn't matter to me where you live, as I will send them anywhere in the world, so get commenting!

Note - I will refrain from responding to every comment on this post as it will make things a lot easier for the giveaway.  Let it be noted I always appreciate each and every response!