Friday, 31 October 2014

Our Day Out at Greenwood Forest Park

In Snowdonia, just an hour away from Chester lies Greenwood Forest Park, a place for challenging fun, action packed outdoor pursuits and active adventure for all the family.  We had tickets for a visit during their Halloween event and so yesterday, Freddy donned his favourite Halloween onesie and headband and we made our way to Wales for a day out!

I was glad that I had packed Freddy's wellies because it was pretty muddy, but thankfully the weather was kind to us and it was quite warm for late October.  Greenwood Forest Park is pretty rustic with attractions that blend into the forest setting, so don't expect flashing lights and fancy rides.  Instead you'll find lots of natural materials and things that rely on people power!

There were plenty of Halloween bits and bobs around the park to get us in the Halloween mood, and kids in costume received a free hot chocolate, which was a nice touch.

Halloween at Greenwood Forest Park

The Great Green Run is a 70 m  sledge run that allows riders to whizz down a hill in a toboggan. There is also a smaller version for younger children to enjoy.  Freddy tried out both of the runs and absolutely loved it!

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

The Crocodile Maze is a boardwalk maze in the forest.  Willow cuttings are dotted throughout the spaces between the raised platforms. When it is all fully grown it will be much harder to find your way through, but it was still a good challenge for Freddy who found his way to the centre to find the crocodile sculpture and then found his way back out, leading us all behind him.

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

The WildWEB is a 6 m tall double mast rope pyramid, which provides a great challenge!  Freddy did really well working out how to climb up the ropes.  Daddy looked on to help him across some of the trickier bits!  It's a great activity for kids looking for a physical challenge.

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

The Moonkarts are pedal powered one or two seater carts that can be ridden around the quite extensive track.  Freddy did really well getting the hang of the steering levers although he did have a few crashes, including an incident where he totally rear ended his sister's cart!  It was great fun though!

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

The Barefoot Trail proved to be a real favourite activity.  Children can walk through the trail exploring the different textures with their bare feet.  There was water to wade through and smooth stones, rocks, fossils, mud, pebbles and straw to walk over.  It is a real sensory experience that both Freddy and Kizzy really enjoyed doing.  It is quite a long trail and very well designed with all the different areas to explore underfoot.

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

There is plenty of storage for shoes and socks and afterwards, there is a foot cleaning station with soap, water and paper towels to clean up messy feet!

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

We all enjoyed the Jungle Boats where we had to propel our boat through a canal using only paddles and ropes to pull ourselves along.  It was a lot of fun and we went round twice, with Freddy being the chief oarsman!

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

There are lots of play areas including the brilliant wooden Tree Top Towers complete with netted walkways, tube slides and four tall timber towers.  The Tunnel Warren is a smaller version for the under 7's to enjoy, but Freddy loved the challenge of the huge Tree Top Towers.  The Giant Jumper was also very popular with Freddy.  It is a huge 1500 sq ft pillow shaped bouncy jumper that children can clamber up and bounce on.  It was a lot of fun!  The Zip Wires and Trim Trail were also good activities for active kids.

Halloween, Greenwood Forest Park

There is a people powered Green Dragon Rollercoaster that runs on a 250 m track through the woods. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to ride it.  Nor did we have time to take part in any of the craft activities, do a donkey ride or have a go at archery. There really is a lot to do.

The restaurant was really good, serving lovely veggie burgers, chips, kids' lunchboxes and traybake cakes. Four of us ate for £30, making it reasonable value.  Inside is an indoor play area The Enchanted Woodbarn for kids up to 1.4 m tall.  Freddy loved playing while we enjoyed a coffee after our meal. It is a really nice attraction for families whatever the weather.  There are other soft play areas for toddlers too.

Greenwood Forest Park is a good value attraction with most of the things to do being included in the entry price. We spent a good few hours there and Freddy totally tired himself out.  By the time we came home, Freddy was worn out and dirty after all his physical fun - just how kids should be after a proper day out!

It is nice to see a park that is eco-friendly, relying on nature and people power for many of its attractions. It was perfect for someone of Freddy's age as he could do everything, giving him the freedom to explore. And we were impressed to find a decent veggie option in the restaurant.  All in all, it proved a good day out where we had lots of laughs, which for me is what a family adventure is all about.

You can find out more about Greenwood Forest Park here:

Spooky Sandwich Ideas for Halloween

This Halloween, I've been making some fun spooky sandwiches using Warburtons bread.  From a Wholemeal Jack O'Lantern to a Thins Monster to a Bread Roll Ghoul, adding a bit of scary flair will make teatime extra fun for little ones.


The Sandwich Thins Monster is filled with cheese spread and decorated with cheese slice fangs and a red pepper tongue.  Raisins pressed into two cut out circles make his eyeballs. 

Warburtons, Halloween

The Jack O' Lantern has cut out eyes and nose with the cheese filling showing through.  

Warburtons, halloween

Using Halloween shaped cookie cutters, I made some simple, little Marmite bats and cheese spread ghosts, but my favourite sandwich that I made is the Bread Roll Ghoul filled with jam, and with grape eyes and sliced almond teeth.  A spot of chocolate sauce made his eyeballs.  A sweet treat to enjoy at Halloween!

Warburtons, halloween

As they are all made using Wholemeal or Half and Half bread, they are a healthier, higher fibre option for children to enjoy.  Even fussy kids will enjoy eating something that captures their imagination.

It's fun to get creative with food at Halloween and kids love helping out with the making as well as the eating.  With some cutters or a knife and a bit of imagination you can turn the humble sandwich into something with a Halloween theme.  They will look great as a part of a Halloween spread or will make a tasty teatime treat for your little monsters.


However you celebrate Halloween, I hope you have some real spooky fun for your family this year!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Half Term Fun in Salford and Trafford for #FamFest14

This half term, the arts are staging a take over in Salford and Trafford bringing some great entertainment to families.  The Lowry have partnered with major local attractions, including Media City UK, Ordsall Hall, Sea Life Centre Manchester, Lowry Outlet, Manchester United Museum and LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre to deliver some exciting activities to the region up until November 3rd.

Family Arts Festival

We were invited to come along and see some of the attractions for ourselves, which is fabulous for us as both my older daughters Ella and Megan live in Manchester.  It was the perfect excuse for some half term fun and an opportunity to see the girls.  We booked into the newly refurbished Travelodge at Salford Quays ready to experience #FamFest14.

With pop-up workshops, activities and performances taking place, there is a whole host of things to choose from, from arts and crafts, to theatre to literature.  While in Salford Quays you can enjoy shopping at the Lowry Outlet where they  have a free Halloween Trail that takes you around the shops collecting stamps. Once you collect them you can exchange your card for a really cute bag of Halloween sweets!  Kids can enjoy some Halloween crafts from 12 - 3pm on the 31st October in a free workshop.


The Big Family Play Date, on Sat 1 November, sees venues  popping-up  with activities from 10am – 5pm.  The cast of acclaimed new comedy Peter Pan Goes Wrong head to intu Trafford Centre, before their run at The Lowry this Christmas, for a shambolic photo-shoot at Sea Life Centre Manchester! The Octonauts are also appearing at Sea Life Manchester until November 30th and there is a downloadable Kids Go Free voucher on the Family Arts Festival website.

Best-loved children’s books come to life, with music, drama and audience participation at the Lowry Outlet (Sat 1 November) with interactive readings of  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! and Emily Brown and The Thing.  

Emily Brown and The Thing also has its own stage show which runs at The Lowry until Sunday 2nd November.  It's a great show for children aged 3 and up, taking place in the smaller Quays Theatre in the Lowry.  We had tickets to see the show, which is based on the much loved children's book by Cressida Cowell and Neal Clayton. .

theatre, The Lowry

It tells the story of Emily Brown who is trying to get to sleep, but keeps being disturbed by The Thing who wants her to help him at bedtime.  Along with her toy rabbit Stanley, Emily goes on some amazing adventures to find his pink cuddly, his bedtime milk and his green medicine. But Thing just can't seem to settle.  Will Emily ever find out what he really needs?

The show is really kid friendly with lots of music, action and fun.  The cast of three give their all in their energetic and comedic performance, getting totally into character and delivering the story brilliantly. It's a lovely introduction to the theatre for young children. Freddy loved it, especially when Emily demonstrated her ninja moves! He laughed and joined in with the audience participation.  It was perfectly pitched for little ones.

The global phenomenon STOMP! are bringing their signature style of percussion, humour and dance to the Lowry Theatre until November 1st.  I was lucky enough to have tickets to the show and took my girls for a night of STOMP! action!

STOMP, the lowry

The show sees the super talented cast playing their tunes on anything and everything they can lay their hands on...including the kitchen sink!  From matchboxes to Zippo lighters to their trademark dustbins, the eight highly energetic performers create the most incredible rhythms with some insane choreographed routines.  The cast never miss a single beat in their fast, fresh and very funny performance.  It is a truly brilliant, inventive and entertaining show.  The talent of the six guys and two girls as they make their own brand of music on drain pipes, shopping trolleys, buckets, brooms, balls and plastic bags is really breathtaking.  The humour that runs through the show is really engaging, with perfect comic timing complementing the amazing routines.  The scene with the Zippo lighters is simply incredible and quite beautiful, quite unlike anything I have ever seen before.  The whole audience seemed as enthralled as we were and the standing ovation at the end was completely deserved!

The ferocity of the banging and jumping did kick up a lot of dust into the air, which actually triggered my eldest daughter's asthma, so if you are asthmatic, don't forget your inhaler!!  It's also very loud so be prepared for some noise.  


We had a fabulous couple of days in our favourite city.  It is a great place to visit as a family with so much to see and do.  You can find out all the details of what is going on by checking out the Family Festival website.  You can check out what's coming to the Lowry at or follow them on Twitter @The_Lowry.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Some Halloween Fun from Love Brands

We received a great Halloween Hamper from Love Brands full of lots of goodies for us to have some seasonal fun!  With products such as Nestle Milky Bar, Smarties, Yorkie, Hartley's Jelly, Shredded Wheat and Lyon's Golden Syrup, there was plenty of scope for getting creative.

Halloween hamper

The Smarties tubes are great for arts and crafts.  Freddy made a scary spider using green pipe cleaners wrapped around the tube to make a furry body and legs.  Googly eyes completed the amazing arachnid!

smarties tube

Smarties tube

After doing some crafts we headed to the kitchen so Freddy could make his favourite chocolate crackle cakes.  He decided to add some extras such as chopped marshmallows, Jelly Tots, chopped Milky Bar and sprinkles to the melted chocolate, syrup and crushed Shredded Wheat mixture to make Witch's Cauldon Cakes!

chocolate crackle cakes

Apart from heating the chocolate and golden syrup in a pan, Freddy was able to do everything himself.  He loved crushing the Shredded Wheat with his hands and stirring through the melted chocolate.  He added sweeties to the mix and topped each individual portion with some sweets and sprinkles.  You can add marshmallows, dried fruits, nuts or any jelly sweets to the mix.

Halloween cooking

This is a great no-cook kitchen activity for even the youngest child to participate in.  They love getting messy and can experiment with the ingredients.  We use cooking a an opportunity to brush up on maths skills; weighing, measuring and counting.

The Witch's Cauldron Cakes are left to set and then can be enjoyed as a Halloween treat!

Halloween cooking

A great tip to make a scary jelly treat is to oil the inside of a clean rubber glove and use it as a mould. Pour in the liquid jelly, tie a knot in the glove and leave to set. Cut away the rubber glove. The resulting jelly hand is a truly terrifying and tasty centrepiece to add to any Halloween party table!

Whatever you make this year, have some fun crafting and cooking!

Monday, 27 October 2014

My Favourite Halloween Things - including Wingflatables from Asda!

The half term holidays have begun and we are looking forward to an action packed week, culminating in some Halloween family fun!  To get us in the mood for some spooky fun and games, I've been checking out what is on offer in the shops this year.

Asda are selling one of my favourite items this Halloween and they are wingtastic!  Asda's exclusive Wingflatables are unique, novel and something completely different this year.


The self-inflatable Halloween bat wings look really impressive.  They are battery operated and quick and easy to inflate with the flick of a switch on the power pack which can clip to a pocket or waistband.  The wings are lightweight and easy to wear and make a fancy dress costume come alive!

wingflatable, halloween

Freddy thought they were "cool" and "the best thing ever".  They looked brilliant on him and he could use them independently, popping them up and down for maximum effect!  He loved them because they stay up and hold their shape, unlike the usual floppy wings on the market. The silver spider webbed pattern on the inside of the wings looks really good and will go with a whole host of outfits for both boys and girls.  The fan makes a bit of a noise as they inflate, but it won't be too noticeable at a Halloween party, disco or while out trick and treating.

The Wingflatable Bat Wings are available at Asda in store or online for £8.00.  They are definitely a great buy.  The adult ones are £10.00 and there are various styles and colours available.

Check out for further details.

Poundland is always a great place to pick up bargains with everything from tableware to decorations to fancy dress accessories, all at just £1 each.  Trick or Treaters will be kept happy with Poundland's range of top brand Halloween sweets from Maom, Haribo and Swizzels.  They even have DVDs and books to keep your little monsters entertained all day long.


Poundland is a great one stop shop making it easy to budget for your Halloween celebrations.  You can make an awesome looking party table centrepiece complete with a cauldron full of sweeties, spider's webs, spooky lights, Halloween tinsel and creepy lace table cloth all for less than a tenner. The kids will love it (and your purse will too!)

Halloween, Poundland

Check out what's on offer at and get some inspiration for seasonal ideas!

Freddy is absolutely loving this Halloween Activity Book from Buster Books.  It is packed with puzzles, activities and other creepy things to do this Halloween.  There are blood, guts, gore, brains and severed limbs aplenty throughout the fully illustrated book that little monsters will adore.  The creepy creatures featured are more cute than scary and Freddy loves them all, but especially the zombies.  Anything that gets him interested in books or reading gets a big thumbs up from me.

At £5.99 it is great value and will provide hours of top quality Halloween fun this half term.

Face painting is an activity that 12 year old Kizzy is really getting into...and she is very good at it.  So I bought a pack of Snazaroo facepaints from Wilkos for £10, to unleash her creative side.  This is one of her creepy Halloween creations, a scary doll!

Halloween doll

Scary dolls are something that freak me out a bit since watching The Conjuring and its spin off film Annabelle!  I love a good horror film and thoroughly enjoyed both of these movies.  Ian and I did a day time date while the kids were at school to watch Annabelle at the cinema.  There was just us and an old couple who sat there without removing their coats and with packets of boiled sweets on their laps at the 10.30am showing.  It was a bit surreal!

We did enjoy Annabelle although it wasn't as scary as its predecessor The Conjuring (which remains the scariest horror film I've ever seen!)  The scary doll thing is really making a resurgence.  I am looking over my shoulder whenever I go in the kids' rooms, just in case any of their toys get any funny ideas this Halloween!

horror films

Sunday, 26 October 2014

We've Been to the Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic Show

We love ice skating and we love Disney on Ice really is an incredibly appealing combination for me and my family.  So being invited to the NIA in Birmingham to watch the new Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic show was such a treat for us.

The show features 65 favourite characters from 18 different stories and has a fabulous soundtrack filled with Disney classics.  Mickey and Minnie introduce the cast taking families on a magical adventure.  The Disney Princesses with their princes star in a moving celebration of love Disney style.  The Mulan sequence includes snowfall and an avalanche scene, which was beautiful.  Freddy loved the Finding Nemo scene which featured some absolutely brilliant shark costumes alongside Nemo, Dory and Marlin. Pinocchio saw the Blue Fairy fly in from the sky and an assortment of wooden toys dancing.  When Monstro the Whale arrived on to the scene it was really impressive!  A homage to the famous Disney ride "It's a Small World" saw a parade of lights and sparkling floats along with characters representing all the nations of the world.  Other sequences featured Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Incredibles, Mickey's Band, Lion King and Toy Story: each one perfectly choreographed and beautifully presented.
Disney on Ice, NIA Birmingham

To say we loved the show is an understatement!  I actually sobbed at how wonderful the Disney Princess's ice dances were.  Kizzy said it was "like Dancing on Ice but better because the skaters are good and it is Disney!"  Each pair danced to their signature love song and the lifts and moves were simply magical.  Breathtaking stuff!

Merchandise was pretty expensive.  We bought a snowcone in a presentation cup and it was £9!  But the kids did love it.  Freddy had a light up spinning wand that we bought from a vendor outside and he loved waving it throughout the show.

The finale came complete with pyrotechnics and starred all the skaters together in a wonderful routine.  Seeing all the characters together on the ice was quite a spectacle.  The costumes are all so colourful and look amazing.  It is such a lovely show that will be enjoyed by Disney fans young and old.  There are some really incredibly talented ice dancers who bring the stories to life.  How they manage to skate in full costume I do not know!

I would not hesitate in recommending the Disney on Ice shows to families.  The audience were all enthralled, even the little babies on their parents' laps were sat spellbound by the lights, sights and sounds.  Freddy, whose attention span is not great, was mesmerised by most of the show especially Toy Story with the marching soldiers, Finding Nemo and whenever Mickey was on the ice.  Kizzy, who is 12, found it very emotional and beautiful to watch. Like me, the Disney Princesses were her favourite part of the show and she said they were just perfect!  Even Ian thought it was visually fantastic and said it gave him that warm, familiar feeling of Disney Magic.  He liked how they kept each segment short, condensing the stories and keeping even the youngest member of the audience interested and focused.

The show is on at the NIA Birmingham until November 2nd.  After that, you can catch it at the following venues:

Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield – 5th – 9th November 2014
The O2, London – 24th December 2014, 26th – 29th December 2014 and 3rd & 4th January

Coming in Spring 2015 is a brand new show, the Magical Ice Festival, an enchanted adventure into the worlds of Frozen as well as Tangled, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  It looks phenomenal!! Tickets are available from November 7th.

To discover more about Disney On Ice, go to

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box Film Review

In THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX, 17 year old Mariah Mundi's life is turned upside down when his parents disappear and his younger brother is kidnapped by an unknown enemy.  With the help of Charity, his father's friend and partner from the secret government Department of Antiquities, Mariah discovers a world of ancient mysteries and powerful evil as he follows the clues to the Prince Regent Hotel where Otto Luger is searching for a long lost and very powerful artifact, the Midas Box.

Mariah takes on an undercover cover role as a porter at the hotel.  He has the fate of his family and the world in his hands as he faces his quest, where he discovers the mystery of a child stealing monster and what really goes on within the majestic Prince Regent Hotel and on the island upon which it stands.

With an all star cast featuring Sam Neill, playing the awesomely evil villain who will stop at nothing to find the Midas Box, this is an entertaining if not slightly hammy romp into steam driven Victorian England.  It has the feel of a Saturday evening family TV drama (a little old school Doctor Who-ish but without a Tardis or aliens!)  It's quite dark and scary in parts, with guns, fighting, kidnap and dark magic aplenty, but still kid friendly enough for older children, with the promise of hidden treasure and magic amulets to keep up the intrigue.

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box

Charity, played by Michael Sheen, is a quintessentially British eccentric who hunts the powerful and potentially damaging artifacts from around the world, keeping them out of the hands of the sinister bad guys.  His role adds a splash of colour to the darkness of  the Victorian era.  Lena Headey plays a wonderfully wicked role as Monica the hotel manager. Keeley Hawes plays Sasha who finds herself embroiled in the adventure and ultimately becomes Mariah's love interest.

The very final scene in the film throws a big twist into the tale and opens the door to a potential sequel.  It's all quite tongue in cheek and never takes itself too seriously, making it an enjoyable film for the whole family to enjoy on a winter's evening.

The Adventurer is out on DVD and digital download from October 27th 2014.


The Snow Queen - Film Review

The Snow Queen is the magical fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson that inspired the hit Disney film Frozen.  This new release from Signature Entertainment brings the beautiful, original story to selected cinemas from October 25th and to Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on November 3rd, to warm the hearts of children and melt even the coldest of hearts!

Snow Queen

Gerda, a little orphan girl, embarks on a perilous journey across an icy wonderland to defeat the evil Snow Queen who has taken over the kingdom and kidnapped her brother Kai.  They are descendants of a wizard Master Vegard, who according to the prediction of a magic mirrior, had the power to defeat the Snow Queen. Accompanied by her pet Ferret Luta and Orm the Troll (one of the Snow Queen's minions who comes good) Gerda faces danger in her race against time to save Kai and bring warmth back into the hearts of people across the land.

The Snow Queen

Gerda and Kai are lovely characters, nicely animated and with lot of appeal. They both possess special powers and good hearts.  Orm and Luta are great sidekicks adding lots of humour to the adventure. There are some great laugh out loud moments to break up the tension. There are a lot of heartwarming and emotional moments, but also a great deal of mild threat and peril.

This version of a much loved story is definitely a little dark in parts.  Gerda and Kai's parents are taken by the Snow Queen's polar wind and ultimately killed by the Snow Queen in the opening scene. The head of the children's home where the children live is really horrible and Gerda encounters lots of people on her travels intent on destroying her mission.  The ice beasts and ice trolls are quite fearsome and the Snow Queen herself is really evil and so this may be a bit frightening for the very young or very fainthearted children. But slightly older children will love the adventure and the thrills of the movie.

The Snow Queen

The finale of the film is quite intense and a little bit scary, but we find out the truth about the Snow Queen and see good triumph over evil. Gerda's bravery, along with the spirit of her family in her heart, defeats the evil of the queen and we see peace and warmth restored to the kingdom. The Snow Queen learns that having hatred in her heart helps no one and Gerda and Kai are reunited.  So there is a happy ending for everyone.

This is a great take on the traditional story and a perfect film in the lead up to Christmas.

Here is an activity sheet that can be clicked on and printed to entertain the kids!

The Snow Queen

Friday, 24 October 2014

Green Toys Sandwich Shop - Bigjigs Play Patrol

For Freddy's latest Bigjigs Play Patrol Mission, he was sent a Green Toys Sandwich Shop to test out. The set is made from 100% recycled plastic which is free from BPA, phthalates and PVC.  It consists of two halved buns and two slices of bread, plus a range of fillings that all connect together to make a sandwich.  There is an order form included, which enables children to write down what fillings are required for each sandwich and then make them up from the instructions.  This is done using tick boxes against words and pictures of each component part.

Green Toys Sandwich Shop

This toy is for children aged 2 and up, but its potential for role play, following instructions, communication, vocabulary, developing fine motor skills and construction play for older children is very good. The order pad is a lovely touch adding the extra dimension to the toy for older children.  As each food item is named in three different languages, it's a good introduction to learning a few foreign words too!

Green Toys Sandwich Shop

The Sandwich Shop is a good stand alone toy or would equally be a nice addition to a play kitchen or shop.  The pieces fit together well with a bump and dimple style connection between each piece, and are compatible with other Green Toy stacking play food. 

Green Toys Sandwich Shop

Freddy enjoyed making the biggest, most filled sandwiches that he could in his pretend cafe.  Here is how he got on putting the fun to the test playing with the Green Toys Sandwich Shop.

Green Toys Sandwich Shop

The Green Toys Sandwich Shop is available from Bigjigs priced at £15.99 and is perfect for budding chefs and sandwich lovers!!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dhruv Baker's Perfect Curry Recipe for Diwali

Tilda have released their first Rice and Spice Guide in conjunction with Masterchef winner and rice sommelier Dhruv Baker, to help people understand the complex characteristics of rice and develop the perfect mealtime pairings. Based on the top rice and spice pairings, Dhruv has come up with some wonderful recipes to coincide with Diwali.

rice, spice

I was invited to try out one of Dhruv's recipes for myself and I chose to try Dhruv's Perfect Chicken Curry, adapted to make it vegetarian of course, teamed with Tilda's Pure Basmati rice.  Often referred to as the 'Prince of Rice', Basmati is the perfect accompaniment to a curry, with Star Anise being its ideal spice partnership.

Dhruv Baker

The recipe involves roasting up some wonderful spices in a pan, including fennel seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise.  The fragrance was just amazing!  It is so much nicer than using a jar of sauce or using a ready made curry powder to make a curry.  Using real ingredients feels so authentic and is well worth the effort.

star anise

The recipe makes enough curry paste for two curries, so half can be frozen and used for a future meal.  The combination of tomato, onion, garlic, coconut and spices is a great base for a deliciously authentic curry.

curry, cooking

The beauty of the recipe is its versatility.  Whereas Dhruv's vision was of the perfect chicken curry, I went for a perfect Quorn, pea and spinach curry.  I omitted the optional green chillies and I also added a splash of coconut cream to sweeten it up a little and make it more kid friendly.  The result was absolutely delicious!

curry, Indian, vegetarian

I served it with Tilda's Pure Basmati, which was the perfect rice to complement the dish, paired with the star anise in the spice mix.

curry and rice, Indian

The Pure Basmati is grown on the foothills of the Himalayas, and has a delicate fluffy texture, a fragrant aroma and good flavour.  It is the most nutritious rice with high amino acid and nutritional content.  It is naturally gluten free.  I used a microwave pouch of steamed Pure Basmati rice for convenience.

Indian, curry

Dhruv's Perfect Chicken Curry Recipe from


75g desiccated coconut
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 whole dried red chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp salt
5 tbsp vegetable oil
3  red onions, finely chopped
4  cloves garlic finely chopped
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
6 tbsp fresh curry leaves
8 tomatoes finely chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs or Quorn fillets cut into chunks
200ml water or stock
1 small bunch fresh coriander finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon
1 green chilli finely chopped (optional)


Toast the coconut in a pan over a low heat, stirring until it turns golden brown.
Set aside the coconut and into the same pan add the cinnamon sticks, dried chillies, peppercorns, star anise and fennel seeds. Roast in the pan for 3-4 minutes then add the ground coriander and chilli powder and stir for 1 minute. Add 100ml of water to form a paste and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and whole chillies and put aside for later. Add the toasted coconut, turmeric and salt to the pan. 
Add everything to a spice grinder and grind to a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in the same pan and slowly cook the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes then add the curry leaves and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and spice paste, return the cinnamon stick, star anise and chilli to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove half the mixture and freeze to use on another occasion.
Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes. Add 200ml chicken stock and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. (I used Quorn pieces and added a handful of peas and frozen spinach).
Remove the star anise, cinnamon and chilli, stir through the lemon juice and green chilli and scatter over fresh coriander.

The recipes and the Rice and Spice guide are available to download at


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