Wednesday
Feb102016

Valentines '16 from M&S

Marks and Spencer have some fun, fabulous and fantastic ways to celebrate Valentine's Day with your loved one.  There is nothing better than snuggling up together with a good glass of wine and some together time.  And of course what could be better than some delicious chocolate.  In this post i am going to share some of Salt and Sparkle's favourite things from the 2016 Valentine's Range.

This Graham Beck The Rhona Rosé NV available from Marks and Spencer is one of the most elegant wines.  When I was president of the University of St Andrew's Wine Society I organised a wine tasting with one of South Africa's most successful wine makers Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck.  Pieter's passion for wine was infectious and since that rainy night in the old grey toon, I have been a lover of Graham Beck's wine's, especially their sparkling wines.  From its elegant pale salmon hue to its fine mousse and luscious flavours of creamy red berries, this is a notably stylish and highly appealing sparkling rosé.  The wine is a blend of nearly equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay ensures finesse and vibrancy, while Pinot Noir adds intense berry fruit flavours.  It is a wine of a rich and refined style, the grape varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  

French almond-flavoured macaroons, crisp on the outside with soft chewy centres presented in the most styish box.  Macaroons are the most romantic of sweetness.  At a French-Spanish-American wedding in New York City pyramids of macaroons with glasses of Graham Beck The Rhona Rosé NV available from Marks and Spencer.  Romantic and elegant, simple and sweet, what a perfect way to spend Valentines with your loved one.  

 That is the thing about Valentine's simple and pure is the most romantic.

 Marks and Spencer have lots of fun treats for Valentine's as well, from heart shaped marshmallows and pink and red foiled chocolate hearts.  Valentine's should be fun, not prissy and serious, but fun and joyful.

 Marshmallows and chocolate hearts fun and chic.

 These caramel chocolate ladylove bugs from Marks and Spencer are my favourite - sweet, salty and full of soft luscious caramel.

 Don't you love fairy lights?  They are my favourite thing.  I love sparkling lights.  Dark rooms light my little lights now that is romantic and Valentines Day should be cozy and soft, full of romance.

 Jellies = jolly.  Ever so slightly childish but oh so full of fun.  Marks and Spencer have got our love for childhood delights like sweeties down perfectly.  These hearts, hugs and kisses are chewy, tasty and great for sharing with your loved one.  A kiss for you and a hug for me, a kiss for me and a hug for me.

What about packing a big foil covered heart into your loved one's lunchbox - hashtag loveyou - Marks and Spencer have a range of fun and fabulous hearts and lollypops perfect for that.

 

 

 

 

These little jewel boxes with gold foil messages are filled with four chocolate caramels from Marks and Spencer, are not only sweet and tasteful they are great for keeping keepsakes in long after February 14.

 

A good bottle of red wine is always good, this Marqués del Romeral Reserva Rioja 2010 is a wonderful wine.  Rich and mellow, it has a deep red hue the colour of garnets.  With ripe red-berry fruit and subtle vanilla and toast undertones. The finish is long and smooth.  This wine from Marks and Spencer is a classic mature red for those who like their wine traditional. Made from a blend of classic Spanish grapes - Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo and classified as a Reserva, this wine was aged in American oak barrels for two years and a further year in bottle. The winemaker was Elena Adell.

Valentines cards can be romantic or sweet, funny or sentimental.  They aren't only for loved one's we are in romantic relationships with, but for friends and family - beacause it is always the right time to tell someone you love them.  This Dalmatian card or this card that is also a framable print that says 'I Love You' from Marks and Spencer are just a couple of a range of marvellous cards in store.

 Then there are velvet boxes of chocolate made in Ireland.  Hearts filled with caramel, white chocolate truffles, milk, dark and white chocolate packaged brilliantly by Marks and Spencer. 

 

 

 

 

And, if you would like something different from what I have suggested you could try the tasty treat of Marks and Spencer Valentine's Dine in for Two

Love Love Love

Love Love Love

Love Love Love

Love Love Love

Love Love Love

One day cannot encapsulate it or contain it.

LOVE LOVE LOVE

A universal feeling we all experience. But more than a feeling.  A way of life.

One that brings great joy. One that can create intense pain.

Valentine's Day is not the be all and end all, it is a day of fun and laughter.  A day just like others but a day when we can join together and celebrate love.

Let's celebrate LOVE.

Happy Valentine's Day.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Tuesday
Feb092016

How to make cheats Charleston Pecans

The smell of sugar warm and soft floated out from the storefronts in the late November air.  I was walking around in a think shirt eating a cone of candied Charleston Pecans.  The jintys drove up and down and East Bay Street had a refined energy.  I spent five days in Charleston walking and absorbing the atmosphere, it was wonderful.

One of my favourite things to eat where the pecans, big sweet nuts made sweeter still with an almost fudge like sugar coating.  To make this properly takes quite some time and really is a labour of love.  It involved lots of bubbling boiling sugar.

My Cheat Version could not be simpler.  Take some pecans and a jar of Marks and Spencer salted caramel sauce, lightly toast the nuts shuffling them in the pan over a medium heat for about 30 seconds, be care not to burn them, then immediately add three large teaspoons of M&S salted caramel sauce.  

Stir continuously until the nuts are covered in the gooey caramel, stir fast for about 20-30 seconds, then remove from the heat and place onto a cold surface covered with parchment paper.  Be careful not to get any of the nut caramel on your skin as it will burn intensely as you work with them.  Leave to cool and serve with ice cream and crepes.

Then maybe if only in your mind you can go to Carolina.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Feb072016

Three ways with Pancakes

I unashamedly love pancakes.  Whether lacey and crisp, thick and fluffy, hot off the griddle or toasted with tea and jam, they are nearly my favourite food.  Definitely in the top three.

They are my go to food for celebrations - one I always make for family breakfasts or when we have friends staying.  They are brilliant for heartache or a late night snack.

This Shrove Tuesday I urge you to get on the pancake train.  Whether you make them yourself, or enjoy some of my favourites from Marks and Spencer - just make sure you get some.    They have thick buttermilk pancakes and thin lacey crepes, as well as ready to pour batter.  Buy several packets of crepes and lots of toppings, invite your family or friends over and enjoy some time around the table this Pancake Day.

Lemon and Sugar will always remain the ultimate toppings for me their sour sweet simplicity wins everytime.

These thin Marks and Spencer crepes I have warmed in a pan, dusted with icing sugar and served with M&S raspberry coulis and some honey nuts as a grown up dessert or for afternoon tea with a cup hot tea served with a slice of lemon.

However I do love to see children's faces light up when they sit at my table for pancakes because I like to give them lots of varieties of toppings and they love it, grown ups look on in awe but they can't help but join in the fun.  Pancakes and toppings are so exciting.

Mini Marshmallows, chocolate malt balls, salted chocolate balls and toffe sauce, piled onto a warm crepe then roll.  Children love rolling pancakes into long sausage shapes. One bite contains crunchy chocolate, sqishy marshmallows and soft crisp pancake.

Marks and Spencer do the best toppings on the High Street.  There are Belgium chocolate cubes, fudge cubes, jazzle sprinkle sparkles and two fantastic sauces.

I bet even you will sneak a spoonful or two of the salted caramel sauce, straight from the jar. I always keep a jar in the larder, it is a silky dulce de leche, as perfect on a rice cake as it is with ice cream, or spread thinly unto pastry on the bottom of a chocolate torte.

Then there is the grown up nutuella a rich darkly deeply chocolate truffle sauce, delicious hot or cold.  Melt some and stir in some frozen raspberries, a touch of maple syrup place into little small glasses and allow to cool in the fridge then serve as little pots alongside a stack of thin lacey crepes.  

Marks and Spencer have some delicious pack of frilly crepes that come in packs of sixes, either with or without lemon sauce.

This Marks and Spencer special chocolate truffle sauce is another storecupboard staple.  Set the jar on the edge of a cooker or somewhere warm to allow it to soften just before you use it.

Then my latest love are savoury pancakes and they couldn't be a simpler, tasty healthy tea.  To make on, take a Marks and Spencer Crepe, warm it in a pan, add some spinach sauteed with cherry sante tomatoes , add some crumbled goats cheese, and then wild rice, sweetcorn, red peppers and quinoa balls from the new Eat Well Marks and Spencer range of grains. Close the crepe to a 1/2 moon and serve with a spinach salad.

How do you like your pancakes?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Friday
Jan012016

Ridiculously Amazing 2016

Happy New Year!

That's it for now

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Dec222015

Favourite Christmas Cheeses from Marks and Spencer

The three ladies were debating the merits of turkey curry, versus turkey stew for a Christmas Day evening party for 16 people.  The coment I kept hearing was 'I don't want to do much cooking. It is Christmas day, after all.'

I was absolutely exhasuted just listening to this conversation that seemed to go back and forth, without actually finding a resolution.

Trying to keep quiet at times like this is not my forte, especially when I have solutions that are elegant and easy; and involve lots of lovely cheese from Marks and Spencer.

These peppery breaded camembert when cooked until the insides are molten and bubbly ooze soft sweet cheese, that goes well with a cranberry port sauce.  They make an elegant starter, or a side dish; or even relaxed kitchen supper.  I serve mine with a chopped spinach salad, and Marks and Spencer red and black pepper mixed nuts.  The crunchy bite of the nut making a comfortable juxtaposition against the hot slippery cheese.

Cheeseboards are as verstile as they are stylish.  They can work for a wide range of occasions and feed lots of people well at once.  I always prefer a cheese plate at parties to dishes of canapes.  It is filling, works well for boys who always complain about the lack of proper food at a drinks party.  I have yet to hear boys or men complain when offered cheese.  This Marks and Spencer slate plate comes with four cheese from local British and French suppliers.  

I serve it with grapes and Marks and Spencer red black pepper nuts.  If you have to bring a well rounded cheeseboard with interesting cheeses - a mix of smoked Leicester, mature cheddar, camembert and a blacksticks blue.

When I travel I always take note of ideas and whys and ways with food, I think will come in handy at a later date.  Such as a cheese board served in cubes of cheese.  I first tried this at an Art Gallery in Oakville, just outside Toronto.  Several types of cheese had been cut into cubes and then served with cocktail sticks for people to help themselves with a range of chutneys, crackers and little pieces of meat. 

A genuis idea that I quickly adopted to great success - because when you serve cheese like this, you have a) an idea how much you need to serve roughly 4-7 cubes per person, b) it is easy for the guest to help themselves to some cheese, without having to cut it, getting the knife stuck or leaving the plate looking messy.

It is always good to leave the cheese plate looking lovely for the person who comes behind you.  

Another way to serve cheese, is melted and oozing.  Bake camenbert is one of my favourite ways to serve this particular type of cheese, and it makes an instant fondue.  I even have a ittle camenbert bowl to bake the cheese in.  The Marks and Spencer French Camenbert is silkly smooth and perfectly ripe at the moment.  If you don't have a dish you can bake it in a small roasting tin with a foil lid.  

To prepare for baking unwrap the cheese, then pierce some holes in the top grate with a microplane grater a clove of garlic over the top, press into the cheese.  Then add a couple of teaspoons of white wine.  Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and really runny.

Serve with a range of unsalted nuts and crackers, or Marks and Spencer cheese crisp bites.  I particularly like the rosemary and pistachio ones.

 Whenever you have to serve lots of people I always think it is a good idea to opt for an indoors table picnic.  Plates laden with cheeses, pate, parnsip crisps,nuts,chutneys and black grapes. 

 Serve these with a range of Marks and Spencer crackers or sliced bakery breads.

 

 Marks and Spencer cheese and biscuits or crackers, with a bottle of something fruity always make a welcome hostess present or actual Christmas present.

 I love giving these waxed shaped cheddars which come in a range of flavours like balsamic pickled onion, cranberry and blueberry.  The cheese is tangy and sour with a rounding sweet note on the palate.  Cheese for Americans who don;t like flavoursome cheeses, this is not.

 

 Do you love mulled wine?  I do enjoy it but I have a confusion to make, I don't love it.  I find it too full bodied and heavy when heated.  And, unless it is well made it is usually rocket fuel as opposed to drinkable glugg.  Enter Marks and Spencer Rose wine - for any of you who preper a lighter mull this rose is absolutely delightful.  Ripe, fruity sweet but not sugary, zingy without being sour.  It refreshes and cleanses the palate.

 There is nothing like a glass of port at Christmas - whether you drink it and eat cheese at the same time is up to you.  There are lots of schools of thought on this, I suggest you do what your tastebuds enjoy.

Mix this fruity beauty with blood-orange juice, some clementine juice and Marks and Spencer citrus-flavoured vodka and fresh lime juice to make a punch - serve it in a bowl with big glass cups.  Or pour into champage, or over chocolate ice cream, or simply sip slowly.

A bottle of red wine is always a welcome present.  Marks and Spencer have a really good range of wines on the High Street.  Such as this Grenache shiraz mourvèdre from Australia.  The Marananga Dam Grenache Shiraz Mourvédre has a vintage of 2012 and is a wonderfully rich, spicy red with heart-warming flavours of ripe plums, mocha and black pepper.  For this exclusive blend, renowned winemaker David Powell used fruit from 50 year old vines, blending rich Grenache with peppery Shiraz and savoury Mouvedre. He then matured the wine for 18 months in French oak barrels for added complexity

Merry Christmas everyone,

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Sunday
Dec202015

Drinks to snuggle with

How are you feeling?

Do you ask yourself that much?  Especially at this time of year when life seems to take on a speed of its own.  Our legs turn like wheels on a car speeding downhill and not really looking like it is going to stop. Christmas is many things, but there are also many things about it that just aren't good for us.  They are far from healthy.  That is why I think it is essential to chose to take some time out, have a snuggle.  Cuddle a loved one, read a book.  Lie by the fire doing nothing at all, stroke the dog.  None of these things require something to sip, but they are all better with a refreshing drink.

This Christmas week take some time out to chillax, to just be.  To come in from the cold, enjoy the lights and wrap your hands around a warm or cool glass of something soothing.  Whatever you are looking for alcoholic or not, Marks and Spencer have something delicious on offer.  If you are having a drink then something to nibble from a lovely tin is a great match.  

Marks and Spencer Robin tailed shortbread tins are filled with rounds of Scottish shortbread that is crisp, buttery and morish.  The tin is very pretty and would work well for those long Christmas car journeys that we all embark on.  My Great Aunt and Uncle used to always keep a tin of Marks and Spencer short bread in the car.  Their reasoning - you never know when you might need something to nibble.

Marks and Spencer Mulled punch is a non-alcoholic alternative to Mulled wine, it is smooth and rich.  I warm it on the Aga with a cinnamon stick, a crushed green cardamon pod, some cranberries and slices of orange. Marks and Spencer Mulled Punch which is made in Co Tipperary in Ireland has been appearing on my table every Christmas for several years.  It is the perfect warming drink to serve guests who come in out of the cold, its mix is subtle not overpowering, mixing orange, cinnamon, apple and cloves.  It can be served warm or cold, and topped up with alcohol should that be your tipple - rum, and a mild Irish Whiskey are great places to start.

I like to serve the punch warm with pieces of Marks and Spencer shortbread.  I might even break the shortbread into pieces and dip it into the punch.

Marks and Spencer have a range of creamy alcohol drinks all made in Northern Ireland, just around the corner from me.  The Salt and Sparkle favourites are Honeycomb Cream and Chocolate Yule Log Cream.  The Chocolate Yule Log Cream is a blend of alcohol, fresh dairy cream and chocolate flavouring.  Serve with lots of ice, as usual we mean at least a glass full, to really allow the tantalising flavours of cream and chocolate to shine through.  This is a great drink to sip while watching a film, snuggling with a loved one in bed, or at the end of dinner instead of pudding.  

 


However, if you want to double up the chocolate experience, look no further than the Mark and Spencer Chocolate Christmas Yule Log. It is rather decadent and divine. An airlight chocolate mosit springy sponge, with thick, buttery chocolate icing.  It has a great deep sweet chocolate taste and it is light enough to serve at the end of dinner as dessert.  Bring one of these out at the end of Christmas dinner if Plum pudding is your bag and enjoy.

And, for those of  you that just want to drink coffee.  Really good coffee, these bright red packets of Christmas Coffee from Marks and Spencer.  This is the coffee that makes the stresses and strains of the season just ease away.  So chose to stop just for a moment and relax and chat over a cup of rich, silky smooth coffee.  Marks and Spencer Christmas Coffee is rich, chocolately and very warming, it makes a great base for an Irish coffee with a twist - instead of whiskey, make the coffee using Marks and Spencer Yule Log Cream. 

 

Whatever you are drinking this Christmas - I hope you have a JOYFUL time.

Merry Christmas,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Dec202015

Ikea Food Hamper

I love the foodhall at Ikea - there are so many fantastic treats, like gingerbread, and rye crackers, chocolates, and sparkling apple juice.  Chocolate spread with pieces of honeycomb, sour cream crisps, mulled cider and juice.  

If you are not sure what to get someone for Christmas you should pop into the Ikea food hall and pick up a whole range of delights.  A food hamper from Ikea is the gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable