Tuesday 31 October 2017

Spiced Pumpkin Soup with the Simplissimo Chef from Scott

Simplissimo Chef Cook Blender by Scott

A little while ago, my trusty blender broke and I found myself a little bereft. I tried to get it fixed, sent it off to the manufacturer but was told there was nothing that could be done.  To be fair, it had taken a hammering over the years with almost daily smoothie making, so I'd been looking around for a new model to replace it with.  It was perfect timing then, when Scott got in touch to see if I'd like to try out the new Simplissimo Chef cook blender, due to hit the market in early November.

The Simplissimo Chef it turns out, is so much more than just a blender.  Like all good quality models, it can knock up a smoothie with ease and has no trouble crushing up ice cubes so it's perfect for making drinks.  At this time of year, I make a lot of soups.  And I mean a lot.  The Other Half takes a homemade soup to work most days, it's our lunch of choice at the weekends and we never venture out on an outdoor adventure without a flask of hot, nourishing soup.

And when it comes to soup, this is where the Simplissimo excels.  It's not merely a blender, but it cooks the soup too, meaning one seamless operation from start to finish - less hassle and considerably less washing-up!  It has two pre-programmed soup functions, for either smooth or chunky soup and you simply put in all your ingredients, your water or stock, any seasonings, hit the button and away it goes.  30 minutes later and you have piping hot, perfect soup every time. You can add ingredients during the cooking process so it's perfect if you want to stir in things with a shorter cooking time.

This is such a timesaver as it means I can simply load it up and get on with other things, walk the dog, do the laundry...whatever!  No more watching a pot on the stove, no stirring and no checking to see if it's done.  It also has a very handy 30 minute keep-warm function once finished which is ideal in a household like mine when you never know what time people are getting home.

What else was I going to make on this beautiful Halloween day than spiced pumpkin soup?  The recipe is below, and it's quite forgiving so use whatever you have - add in some sweet potato, butternut squash, courgette... That's the great thing about soups, they're perfect for using up odds and ends in the fridge.


600g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 leek, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 inch root turmeric
1/2 red chilli, seeds removed
3/4 pint water or stock


Handful of pumpkin seeds
Sprinkle of sea salt (roasted in a low oven for 10 minutes)

There's no 'method' as such to write.  Simply add in all the ingredients, select 'smooth' and press start.  It really is that simple!

The cook function on the Simplissimo really sets if apart from other gadgets and makes it so much more than just a blender.  It comes with a steamer basket so you can cook healthy, nutrient-filled vegetables, and it will even cook sous vide so you can cook vacuum packs of fish and retain all the goodness.  I think this is really going to come into it's own when we're having our kitchen re-done as this little gadget can do it all.

The unit itself is very sturdy, with a good quality glass jug.  The controls and touch screen buttons are very responsive and easy to use.  It's stylish enough to have on your counter-top, and small enough to put away in a cupboard if you wish.

Oh, and the other thing? It has a self-clean mode.  Bravo!  Simply add water and washing up liquid, set it going for the 5 minute cleaning programme and it's done.  Seriously, this machine is genius.

Simplissimo Chef Self Cleaning Mode

I can't wait to try out more recipes - cocktails, dips, sauces and steamed food.

The Simplissimo Chef will be available from early November online here or from Amazon and Ebay with a RRP of £159.

Disclosure: We were sent the cook blender in exchange for our review.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Michael Morpurgo's Shadow - A Review and A Giveaway

Michael Morpurgo is one of the UK’s most loved authors, having written over 140 books in a career spanning over 40 years, with numerous accolades to his name, including The Children’s Book Award for a record fourth time last year for his novel An Eagle in the Snow.  

Many of his novels have been adapted into stage shows and several of his titles have been made into films, most famously the Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse, which we were delighted to discover is on tour at Bristol so we're planning to see it over half term. 

Lots of Michael’s most popular books feature stories of animals and this autumn Harper Collins are highlighting some of his most loved novels, to coincide with World Animal Day.

As you can see from Ruby's bedtime reading stash, he's a firm favourite in our house and we were thrilled to be asked to take part in this blog tour.  We're looking today at his novel Shadow, a particular favourite of Ruby's - I think she must have read it 5 or 6 times now.

The old adage of never judging a book by its cover doesn't seem to ring true for children, and she ABSOLUTELY initially chose to read it based purely on the front cover illustration showing Shadow the Springer Spaniel, as we too have a Springer.  So there was an instant hook and connection.  From there she has gone on to read many more of his books whether that be at home or at school.

So, over to Ruby to explain more about the book...

What is the book about?

It is about Matt's friend, a boy called Aman who is from Afghanistan.  He desperately wanted to come to England with his mother to escape the war there.  While hiding in a cave, an injured dog turns up. Aman helps it to get better and they form a strong friendship and the story is about that bond and their journey to safety.  But on finally arriving in England, they find that they may not be able to stay so are sent to a detention centre.

Which is your favourite character in the book?

The dog Shadow because I have a dog the same and Shadow is loyal, kind and brave.

What did you like best about the book?

I liked the story that Aman told because although it's fiction, it is a story that could have really happened to someone.  I could imagine it happening because it was so well written.

From a personal perspective, I think this book really explored the current issues around conflict, the refugee crisis and the treatment of asylum seekers, at a level that children can understand.  Often these issues may be picked up when the news is on at home, or headlines from a paper, and it's such a complex and emotional issue as a parent it is one I have difficulty explaining. Morpurgo humanises the plight with his characters and makes it much more accessible for younger readers to get an understanding of some of these modern issues.  Another connection for us is that much of the story is set at Yarl's Wood detention centre which is very close to where we lived.  Although thankfully they no longer house children detainees there now, the centre has been plagued with controversy since it opened in 2001.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to children aged 9+, those who are interested in animals will be hooked, and if, like my daughter your child is someone who wouldn't ordinarily be drawn to a book about war, then this is a great introduction and opens up conversations about topical issues such as the plight of refugees and the way they are treated both in their own countries, and once they arrive  at a 'safe' European country.

If you want to explore further, there are some activity sheets available here.

I'm delighted to say, that I have a copy of the book Shadow, signed by Michael Morpurgo himself to give away to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply complete the rafflecopter below, and don't forget to check out the #MorpurgosAnimals hashtag on social media where you'll find all the other blog posts in the book tour and a chance to win lots of other signed books.

Entrants must be resident in the UK.  One winner will be chosen at random and the prize will be sent directly from the publisher.  Closing date is midnight on Tuesday 31 October 2017.

This post is a featured post in collaboration with Harper Collins.

a Rafflecopter giveaway