Comedy Night at Queen Victoria Arts Club, Leicester

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Sitting proudly in the shadow of The Curve Theatre in the city centre of Leicester is the Queen Victoria Arts Club. A classy venue for a pre-theatre meal or, as the case was on my visit, a night of comedy in the basement.

Housed in a beautiful building directly opposite both The Curve and The Athena venues, Queen Victoria Arts club opened in October 2018. The restaurant at the venue features a Modern British style of cooking with vegan options and pre-theatre menus available also.

Tonight, the restaurant would be put to one side. As comedy in the basement area was the order of the evening. A local Leicestershire business named ‘SomeBrightSpark’, specialising in design and live events, were hosting a corporate function for their staff – including a free bar and food.

Having resisted the urge to drop my CV into the company (I mean, seriously, how well are these guys treated?!) I took my seat next to some familiar faces. The MC for the evening was local Leicester comedian Jay Neale, a friend of the company owner hosting the event.

Jay also had brought along a couple of aspiring comedians from his comedy workshop – a six week course on getting started in stand up. With three acts to learn from – plus Jay himself. These guys are in good hands.

The basement itself was the perfect place to host a comedy performance. The low ceiling, bar within close proximity and comfortable seating made for a relaxed setting. With Prosecco flowing and food being eagerly devoured in small bowls, it was time for the gig to get underway.

Jay kicked off proceedings with good-natured banter with the audience. Having a rapport and a good session of banter with the crowd, Jay got the gig off to a great start – even surviving one audience member calling him ‘a dick’. All in good humour.


Another face amongst the familiar was that of comedian Stevie Gray. We seem to have a habit of bumping into each other within The Midlands comedy circuit and Stevie’s act continues to be a keen subject on these pages.

In the lead up to Stevie’s Edinburgh shows, this was a good opportunity to see the fine tuning of his already consistent act. The high energy that Gray brings to the stage was much needed as the room was still settling into the gig. With full attention on the stage, Stevie had a great night and did well to keep hold of the audience.

Following each performance there was always an interval of 15 minutes to allow those in the audience to return to the bar, go to the toilet or pop outside for a smoke. In my case, it was to get a decent mobile phone signal as sadly the basement didn’t support the EE network.

Next up on the bill was comedian Lovdev Barpaga. A casual looking figure in his Puma jumper and clutching a bottle of beer, Barpaga strongly reflected a man in the corner of a pub reeling off gags.

The set that Lovdev delivered was well thought out, clever and ultimately hilarious. The set comprised of gags focused around the Indian version of ‘Guess Who?’ and various other one liners. It was a superb performance.

By now, the room was lively and feeling the effects of the free bar. Everyone was in good spirits and having a blast. The headline act then made his entrance – a comedian from St Albans named Chris Norton Walker.

A giant of a man with an equally giant task in front of him, Chris set to work trying to control the front row. A hilarious exchange between Norton Walker and a lady slightly the worse for wear had the crowd in stitches.

Chris eventually turned away in order to allow the lady to stagger to the toilet. Next came probably the most unique moment that I have ever experienced while watching stand up comedy….ever.

Norton Walker came up with the idea that the whole room should leave their seats, gather in a little alcove out of sight while the lights were switched off and he would continue to fire off gags into the dark. It was absolutely brilliant.

After a good while, the lady returned and we could come out of hiding. Chris continued with his set, turning a 20 minute slot into the best part of an hour. The one liners, in similar fashion to Lovdev’s, were all brilliant. It was the ideal ending to what had been a top evening.

The experience at Queen Victoria Arts Club comes highly recommended. A classy restaurant and bar is the ideal place for a lunch date or pre-theatre meal. The basement offers the perfect space for a conference, private party or comedy night. It really left the impression on me that this is one of Leicester’s best kept secrets.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the evening was learning from Stevie, Jay and the fellow comics about the industry and tapping into the mindset of a stand up comedian. I have huge respect for anyone who stands in front of a crowd, microphone in hand, attempting to entertain and amuse.

Fancy giving comedy a go? Check out Jay Neale’s Comedy Workshop here

Website: https://www.queenvicleicester.com

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 1130-0000, Sunday 1130-1600

Nearest Train Station: Leicester

Where To Find The Best Hidden Gems of India

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India holds some of the world’s most sought after gems and jewellery, but how can you find them? This is where author and professional photographer Kim Rix comes in. Kim’s guide book to Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in India unlocks all the answers.

A gemologist qualified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), Kim’s knowledge is second to none when it comes to, quite literally, unearthing hidden gems. Kim’s latest book focuses on how to identify the real deal from a fake, how to avoid scams and provides the names and addresses of reputable dealers throughout India.

The book is divided up into sections with clear headings denoting what each section specifically refers to. I am a complete novice to the world of purchasing gems and jewellery abroad so for me, as the reader, this was most helpful.

The contents not only feature where to find both gemstones and jewellery but also how to care for them. When spending what can be a small fortune on something precious, it’s a nice touch to have further information on how to preserve and maintain it.

India’s history of gemstone and particularly diamond trading was fascinating to read about. It came as a real surprise that one single city – Surat, on India’s west coast – is responsible for 90% of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing.

Photography is Kim’s profession and the book really does benefit from this. The images captured of daily life in India, food and of course the stones and diamonds are of the highest quality.

As is customary wherever a premium product is being sold, there are always likely to be fakes close by. Kim explains, in detail, how to spot a fake using various different methods. Even advising on how to barter with the dealers and what signs to look out for to signify a ‘bad deal’.

With jewellery and gems proving ever popular throughout the world of social media, this book has come along at just the right time. Other books in Kim’s series from other countries can be found on the link at the base of this page.

For a traveller keen on discovering more about the worlds hidden gems, this book is a must-have. Especially when visiting markets in search of precious stones. Reading this will ensure that you get what you pay for and that it will be exactly as it appears.

 AD – Gifted in return of an honest review.

Kim Rix ‘Gemstone Detective’ series can be found here

Kim Rix on Twitter @kimrix

Mitch’s Kitchen

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Vegan food continues to rise in popularity. The strength in the ‘vegan’ hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram is very much in the ascent. A man very much within this movement is looking to provide ready meal options for those choosing the vegan way of life, a man named Mitch and his kitchen.

Mitch's Kitchen

Mitch’s Kitchen offers meals by delivery to your door completely free of palm oil, gluten, nuts and pesticides all 100% vegan. Mitch kindly sent us a few meals to try via delivery from the ever dependable DPD. A convenient service that gives you a delivery slot and a way of tracking your parcel.

Mitch's Kitchen

With us being non-vegan this was unchartered territory. Our experience of ready meals had been the usual curries, pasta’s and suchlike – all of which contained meat or dairy. When the frozen meals arrived, the packaging was all recyclable. A real demonstration of care shown by Mitch’s Kitchen towards the environment.

Mitch's Kitchen

Coconut Kathal Masala

A North Indian curry is always something tasty in my experience. The inclusion of jackfruit and potatoes in a sauce containing aromatic spices was very tasty. For my taste it needed a little seasoning to bring the flavours alive but that was easily solved by adding a pinch of salt.

Coconut Kathal Masala Mitch's kitchen

Eating a curry without meat is something that we’re quite used to. Bombay potatoes and Saag Aloo are two examples of excellent non-meat Indian dishes. The full on vegan version was very good indeed with the red rice a perfect partner.

Chocolate Chilli

The chilli had a rich flavoured sauce with the inclusion of smoky tomato and dark chocolate but really there were a crazy amount of beans. Not being a particular fan of beans this was tricky to eat but if kidney and borlotti are your thing then you will love this.

chocolate chilli Mitch's kitchen

Again, a pinch of salt really helps bring out the flavours. The sweetcorn and coriander wholegrain rice was a really good accompaniment with great flavour.

Gardener’s Pie

This was one of our favourites. A take on a cottage pie with lentils replacing traditional beef mince. In the mix for the filling were also chestnut mushrooms to give a faux meaty element. The sauce on this was was a lovely blend of tomato and red wine.

Gardners Pie Mitchs Kitchen

Smooth mash, made light with soy milk, on top of the pie worked perfectly in tandem with the filling.The pie did take more in the region of 50 minutes to bake rather than the specified 35-40.

Sunkissed Pasta

Pasta can be a victim of the ready meal curse. A fair time in the oven cooking can turn an al-dente strand into mush, sadly that’s how this one ended up.

sunkissed pasta Mitch's Kitchen

There were some good flavours coming from the sun-blush tomato sauce but the texture was a real issue. With artichoke hearts, spaghetti and kale plus brown rice spaghetti all being baked together there is a tendency for them to go a little slimy.

Buckwheat Jambalaya

A nod to the south with this cajun number – an assortment of peppers, ‘chorizo’, saffron and spices all in a buckwheat bowl.

Buckwheat Jambalaya Mitchs Kitchen

Again, the beans were ever-present in the form of butter beans and kidney beans. I worked my way around them and found the flavour lacking in this one compared to others. The slice of lemon on the side had pretty much dried out in the oven.

Moroccan Tagine

I was really excited about this one, a blend of aubergine, courgette, butternut squash and toasted chickpeas. The sauce and garnishes comprised of red lentils, apricots, goji berries, diced mint and tri-colour quinoa rice.

Moroccan Tagine mitch's kitchen

Flavour-wise the dish delivered on the depth of spices found traditionally in good Moroccan cooking. The texture of the slimy aubergine and courgette wasn’t my favourite but the chickpeas and lentils along with the rice really stood out.

Each meal at 450g costs £6.75 with a double portion coming in at £9.98. The service and care that has gone into the packaging and preparation of the meals has got to be admired. For two meat eaters trying these products for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised.

You can order your meals from Mitch’s Kitchen using the link https://mitchskitchen.co.uk/collections/our-meals

AD – Gifted – We were sent six meals in exchange for an honest review.

Cinco de Mayo Healthy Loaded Nachos

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Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and very soon mounds of green goodness will be consumed along with the festivities. By green goodness, I am of course referring to guacamole. An essential accompaniment when it comes to loaded nachos.

healthy loaded nachos

Notoriously unhealthy, loaded nachos are not exactly the first thing that come to mind on a healthy diet plan, right? Well, taking inspiration from the superb Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, I devised a recipe that is both healthy and delicious.

Tortilla chips, made from scratch, are layered with mozzarella cheese, fajita spiced chicken, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream – all the ingredients are readily available from Waitrose.

To serve two people, you will need…..

4 Mini Tortilla Wraps

2 Chicken Breasts, free range ideally

1 Packet of Fajita seasoning

30g Mozzarella, grated

Smoked Paprika, to dust

2 Large Vine Tomatoes, diced

1 Onion, diced finely

Handful of Coriander, plus extra to garnish

1 Chilli, de-seeded and chopped

1 Lime

2 tbsp Sour Cream

2 tbsp Guacamole

Olive Oil, to drizzle

1. Preheat the oven to 170C.

2. Stack the tortillas up on top of each other and cut into triangles, similar to how you would slice a cake. You should end up with 32 triangles.

3. Place the tortilla chips in a bowl and drizzle over around a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a good shake of smoked paprika and season with salt. Toss the tortilla chips in the bowl to coat them with the seasoning.

4. Lay the chips in a single layer on a large non-stick baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden and crisp.

5. For the pico de gallo, place the diced tomato and onion in a bowl. Add a good squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Add in the chilli and stir. Leave the flavours to intensify for 5-10 minutes.

6. Turn the oven up to 190C.

7. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of baking parchment or cling film. Bash the chicken with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin until halved in thickness. Set a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.

8. Liberally dust the chicken breasts with the fajita seasoning and lay them into the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes per side or until completely cooked through with no pink remaining. Dice into cubes.

9. Layer the tortilla chips up in a baking dish along with the chicken pieces and top with the mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

10. Load the nachos with the pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. Add a sprinkle of chopped coriander to garnish. Dig in and enjoy!

Healthy food has a real association with being boring. This not only tastes great but feels like that one naughty treat. There really is very little between this and an unhealthy version of the same dish.

Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style, just because you are being good shouldn’t stop you from getting your Mexican fix – vamos!

AD – Gifted Guacamole and gift card to purchase ingredients.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

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“Bonjour, je voudrais un table pour….” let me just stop you there. This is Restaurant Melodie, the chances of a walk in spot at this hole in the wall in Bordeaux are virtually nil. Therefore, reservations are an absolute must. We secured ours online and headed to this much talked about restaurant.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The reason for the popularity could be due to the pricing of the menu. For just €20 you can enjoy three courses at Melodie and for a handful of euros more, a glass of fine wine. The restaurant well located within a stones throw of the famous Place de la Bourse.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Tucked away down a sidestreet, you could easily walk past Restaurant Melodie if you weren’t looking for it. The restaurant is no wider than a corridor with seating all the way down the sides. It’s a cosy place run by very friendly people who speak superb English.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Naturally, there’s always one British person that lets the nation down. A smug young man decided to announce his intention to place his order in French rather loudly. The waiter, no doubt disgruntled with having to tend to a full restaurant, patiently waited.

Menu, Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The waiter then played an absolute blinder. The young lad ordered ‘LUH STEAK SIVOO PLAY’ and the waiter replied ‘and how would you like that cooked?’ leaving the man dumbstruck and frantically flicking through his mental phrase book ultimately admitting defeat. Brilliance.

wine menu Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

We saved the waiter a lot of hassle by ordering our three courses at the same time. There are three choices per course, all of which sounded delicious. For the starter, I had to go with foie gras terrine with Ali opting for Saint-Nectaire cheese with bacon.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The foie gras was buttery and indulgent but the cheese did make me a little jealous. Saint-Nectaire cheese is almost like Camembert, very good when melted with baguette slices on the side to dunk.

Foie gras Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Our wine choice was a very good one indeed. We went for two glasses of Château La Lande from Medoc at €6 each. A beautifully smooth red and superb with my main course – a Parmentier de Canard.

Red Wine, Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

I wouldn’t really associate the French with Shepherd’s Pie but this is exactly what it was. A sublime combination of slow cooked confit duck topped with smooth, rich mash with a parmesan tuile for company on the top. Delicious!

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Across the table there was even more duck. This time a breast of duck with sauce bordelaise. I had really wanted to try the steak version this complete with the famous bordelaise sauce – a sauce made from shallots, red wine and herbs.

Duck Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

This sauce was incredible and a perfect partner for the duck. Even better, a top tip is to add a bit of the sauce onto the parmentier so it becomes like Shepherd’s Pie and gravy – yum! The loudmouth across the room even stole that tip as he saw me pouring the sauce over my main.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

As always in France, desserts are always something to look forward to. I bravely ordered Tarte Tatin, I say bravely because my last experience of Tarte Tatin at La Maison des Tetes in Colmar was less than satisfactory.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Thank goodness the folks here at Melodie know how to make a quality apple tart. Caramelised puff pastry and sweet apples with a side of cream, you just can’t beat it. This was one of the best versions from my journeys throughout France.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Jealousy once again reared its ugly head as a salted caramel creme brulee landed across the table. The double layer of caramelised sugar provided an audible crack when whacked with a spoon. The set custard underneath was to die for. Smooth and full of flavour, this is the dessert to order.

sea salted creme brûlée Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Full of food and extremely satisfied, we settled the bill and disappeared into the night. I don’t think that there is a better restaurant for value versus quality anywhere in Bordeaux. The reservation process is simple, the staff are wonderful and the food is straightforward delicious. Restaurant Melodie is a solid option when in Bordeaux.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Opening Times: Monday & Tuesday – 1900-2230

  Wednesday & Thursday – 1200-1430, 1900-2230

        Friday – Sunday 1200-1430, 1900-2300

Nearest Tram: Porte de Bourgogne (Line C)

Website: www.restaurant-melodie.fr

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

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Within hours of landing in Bordeaux, we just had to get stuck into the wine culture. You can choose from a whole range of wine bars and bistros throughout the city but one really took our fancy – Le Bar a Vin.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

Located just off the Place de la Comédie, which houses a famous theatre, Le Bar a Vin is situated in a building named ‘Ecole du Vin’ or ‘School of Wine’ in English. Enthusiasts of wine and its heritage can take workshops starting from €32 to learn all about the culture of wine and its production.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

We sadly missed out on the classes but were just fortunate enough to make the last seatings at the bar. Having arrived without reservations it really was pot luck as to if we could get a table or not. Luckily the tables here do turn quite quickly and after a 20 minute wait we were in

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux
Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

The food offerings here are simple and delicious. Boards of ham, cheese, smoked duck and sausage are all available in various combinations. We opted for a plate of foie gras at €8.50. This arrived with various slices of different flavoured breads.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

You would expect the wine list in a place like this to be intimidating, that isn’t the case at all. A small selection of carefully chosen wines are listed on the card. We decided to mix it up a bit and go for two cheaper glasses against two more expensive.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

The white wines were chosen with the theory that they would compliment the foie gras. The cheapest wine – an AOC Bordeaux – Château Rauzan Despagne at just €2 per glass incredibly outshone it’s fellow counterpart AOC Pessac at €6.

Foie Gras Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

An fruity, acidic and slightly dry white wine was a perfect foil for the richness that comes with a foie gras terrine. Along with the different breads such as the walnut and raisin, this was a perfect partner.

White Wine, Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

Our red wine choices were slightly disappointing. With the same system deployed we sampled a Bordeaux Château  Saint Barbe Merlot at €2.50 per glass. Going up against that would be a glass of AOC Saint-Estephe Château Laffitte Carcasset at €6.

Red Wine, Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

The reds just had too much tannin really which dries the mouth. I had expected better flavour coming from the Saint-Estephe but for us the real winner on the night was undoubtedly the AOC Bordeaux – Château Rauzan Despagne.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

The setting for Le Bar a Vin is so relaxing. Even with closing time approaching, the staff were still serving with a smile and allowing everyone to unwind. Location-wise it couldn’t really be better placed. Directly in the centre of Bordeaux and a solid choice before a theatre show nearby.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux
Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

Opening Times: Monday-Saturday 1100-2200 (last seating 2145)

Nearest Tram: Quinconces (Line B)

Website: www.baravin.bordeaux.com

Courgette and Chestnut Mushroom Frittata

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Shaping up for summer is now entering the critical stages with the warm weather fast approaching. Here at Artisan Traveller we are looking to swing towards the healthier options when it comes to breakfast.

This is very much a ‘left-overs’ kind of breakfast. Often there’s a spare courgette or a few mushrooms left in the pack that you couldn’t be bothered to slice up for the previous night’s meal – believe me, we’ve all been there.

So with these leftovers at my disposal, I put together this neat little omelette or, to make it sound a little more posh, ‘Frittata’. A simple arrangement of courgette, mushrooms, thyme, garlic, parsley and eggs.

 

Here’s what you will need…

 

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Courgette, grated

A handful of Chestnut Mushrooms, finely sliced

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed

1 Sprig of thyme, or ½ tsp dried

1 Sprig of Parsley or ½ tsp dried

3 Large Eggs


1. Begin by placing a non-stick pan over a high heat. Add half of the olive oil and add in the courgettes, garlic and mushrooms. Fry until softened and slightly coloured, around 3-5 minutes.

2. Add in the thyme and parsley, stir and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Fry the mixture until very little liquid remains. The mushrooms and courgettes naturally will produce a lot of water so by frying at a high heat this will evaporate for the most part.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the courgette and mushroom mixture to cool slightly, around 5 minutes is fine.

4. Whisk the eggs in a bowl using a fork or whisk. Pour the courgette and mushroom mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Use a spatula to get all the remaining contents from the pan into the bowl.

5. Pour the remaining olive oil into the pan and ensure that the base is entirely covered. Set the pan back over a high heat and pour in the mixture from the bowl. Immediately turn the heat down to low and run the spatula around the edges of the omelette to ensure that it releases from the sides of the pan.

6. Preheat the grill to high and after the frittata has been cooking for 5 minutes, place the pan under the grill. If your pan handle is plastic, ensure that this is away from the heat of the grill. Grill the top for around 5 minutes or until the egg is set and slightly golden in colour.

7. Slice up your frittata and enjoy!

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

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Comedy in The Midlands is now becoming a regular outing for us here at Artisan Traveller. Having experienced the professional scene at both The Leicester Comedy Festival and Funhouse at Bartons PLC, we decided to see what £1 gets you on a Wednesday night.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

NCF are a comedy promotions company based right here in The Midlands who were hosting the event. The £1 comedy night is aimed at both experienced comedians testing out new routines and also comics who are less experienced or even brand new to stand-up.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

These £1 nights are regularly held at Canalhouse – a pub that has been on my ‘to-do’ list for a while now. It would be easy to think that one could simply arrive at the venue and pay on the door but the events do sell out quickly. It’s a lot easier to book tickets online to guarantee your seat in the house.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

With a pre-gig meal at the fabulous Cafe Coco Tang devoured, we headed down to The Waterfront. The nearest station to the venue is Nottingham Station but Canalhouse is also a brisk walk easily reachable from The Lace Market tram stop also.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Canalhouse is a unique pub in the sense that there is an actual canal running through the centre of the building. Two narrow boats rocking back and forth create a unique feel. The staff are friendly and the selection of beers is incredible for anyone arriving armed with a CAMRA beer guide.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

With a good crowd in the bar for a Wednesday night, this looked incredibly promising. Many people were asking about the comedy and if they could purchase tickets from the bar. The event is actually held in a room above the pub which the staff are only too happy to show you to.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

The room was very impressive and a world away from the pub function rooms that we are  used to. A mass layout of comfortable chairs and a large stage area plus a bar at the rear of the seating made for the perfect setting.

Audience-wise it was a young crowd with a scattering of older faces. We watched on in amazement as the bulk of the 100 plus seats were taken. Our MC for the evening, Adam Coumas, then took to the stage.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Coumas, based in London, began with fluid banter and interaction with the front couple of rows. A group of students trying to pass themselves off as ‘Lollipop Men’ provided a real highlight of the opening exchanges prompting hilarious responses from Coumas.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

After Adam’s opening efforts to warm up the crowd, the first act made his way to the stage…incredibly slowly. Dan Nicholas is a comedian with an unusual style, choosing to mime to the crowd for a few minutes before taking the mic. His set had its highlights but it wasn’t really our style of comedy. The crowd reaction was also rather muted.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Nathan Gibbons, another Londoner, took to the stage next – a man who quickly picked up on his likeness to Afroman and Marouane Fellaini. Sadly for Gibbons his set didn’t quite hit the spot and even included a moment of him falling off the stage.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Following the interval came two comedians a level up from the previous two. Mustafa Fecto produced a set with some memorable gags, in particular one about comparing a pescatarian eating fish to a shark’s feeding habits. An 18 year old named Oscar Roberts put in a good shift next for someone so fresh to the scene.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Up to now, the crowd had been lively during the exchanges between acts with Adam Coumas but some had resorted to talking between themselves during the acts which was a bit disrespectful. Many of the acts had slots of between five and ten minutes.

NCF £1 Comedy Night at Canalhouse, Nottingham

Undoubtedly the star turn of the night went to a comedian named Mark Row. Sharp material interspersed with audience interaction brough the biggest laughs of the night. In 2017, Mark undertook the huge challenge of going into stand-up with no previous experience and making it all the way to The Edinburgh Festival within a year, an incredible story.

For £1, this is a very good investment. It’s certainly a mixed bag when it comes to levels of talent and experience but therein lies the beauty of the event. You could be watching the next huge star of the comedy scene here in the UK. For any comedian new to the game, this is the perfect place to start the journey.

Website: www.ncfcomedy.co.uk

Nearest train/tram station: Nottingham Station

Mark Row’s documentary ‘A1: The Long Road to Edinburgh’: https://amzn.to/2KvZwCd

Caminito, Buenos Aires

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After our bucket list tour at Boca Juniors stadium La Bombonera, we made the rather hazardous 500 yard walk down Valle Iberlucea dodging the stray dogs and potential muggers to reach one of the more colourful areas of Buenos Aires, Caminito.

caminito buenos aires

Caminito translates to ‘Little Path’ in Spanish. This area is a couple of streets filled with everything from souvenirs to tango dancers, even the odd Maradona impersonator. This of course was the birthplace of the tango and many bars offer a free live show along with a steak dinner.

caminito buenos aires

If you’re not hungry, you can just watch one of the dances being performed outside of various buildings and restaurants. It really does bring alive the soul of South America watching this famous dance in full swing.

caminito buenos aires

One other thing to watch around here are your valuables. Caminito may be pretty and colourful but it’s a prime area for pickpockets and thieves. Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket, hold your handbag under your arm and try not to have too much cash on show. We didn’t experience any problems but many sadly have.

caminito buenos aires

The memorabilia shops are a good place to grab yourself a souvenir of Buenos Aires. In these you will find such items as postcards, football shirts and hats. With all the bunting hanging between the buildings and the dances being performed, this is almost like the aftermath of a street party.

caminito buenos aires

caminito buenos aires

For us, it was nice to see Caminito but we didn’t spend more than an hour here. Once you’ve watched a show, dodged an overpriced restaurant and declined Diego’s offer of a photo, you’ve pretty much done Caminito.

caminito buenos aires

As with the Boca Juniors tour, I would highly recommend getting a taxi here. The fare from Plaza de Mayo should be around $70 ARS (£1.47) each way. Many taxis do run from Caminito so it shouldn’t be an issue getting one – just check the drivers cab licence is visible behind the driver’s seat before you get in.

caminito buenos aires

Caminito was good to see and we did enjoy watching the live show but that’s where it ends for us. It’s a bit ‘once you’ve seen it, that’s it’ really. Take care in the neighbourhood of San Telmo. We didn’t experience any problems but many have not been as fortunate. Stick to the main roads and you will be fine.

caminito buenos aires

Nearest Subte: San Juan

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chocolate Miso Ice Cream Recipe

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There is something about sweet and salty desserts that is just heavenly. The Yee Kwan ice cream range includes some sublime flavours with one of the most interesting being chocolate miso. A rich chocolate ice cream given an unusual twist with the addition of miso paste.

 

This flavour is a perfect match for any sweet, rich dessert. In this recipe I have paired the ice cream with a sticky toffee pudding. The salty kick of the miso creates a delicious diversion from the overload of sugar that sticky toffee pudding can often possess.

These are individual sticky toffee puddings so you will need either dariole moulds or ramekins for this recipe.

Here’s what you will need….

 

For the puddings…

 

175g Self Raising Flour, plus extra for dusting

100g Dates, pitted and roughly chopped

50g Unsalted Butter, softened plus extra for greasing

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

75g Golden Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Ground Ginger

 

For the sauce…

 

100g Unsalted Butter

100g Dark Muscovado Sugar

100ml Double Cream

Pinch of salt

 

To Serve….

Yee Kwan Chocolate Miso Ice Cream

 

Here’s how to make it…

1.Grease 4 dariole moulds with butter and then add a light dusting of flour, set aside. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Place the chopped dates into a small bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover the dates. Allow the dates to sit for 5 minutes until plump, drain and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter until creamy. Crack in the eggs and whisk, using an electric whisk, until combined. Add in the flour, vanilla extract, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and dates. Mix well until combined.

4. Pour the mixture into the dariole moulds until the mix comes two thirds of the way up the moulds. Place the moulds into a small baking dish or on a baking tray and lightly tap the moulds to release any air. Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Add all the sauce ingredients to a pan and heat over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce becomes a dark, thick consistency.

6. Carefully turn out the puddings and place onto a plate. Spoon over the sauce and serve with a ball of Yee Kwan Chocolate Miso Ice Cream – the ultimate indulgence!

Yee Kwan Chocolate Miso Ice Cream is available to purchase from Ocado

This is a sponsored post for Yee Kwan

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

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It’s safe to say that we are fully immersed into the UK comedy scene. The intimate gigs in the bars and pubs that hosted The Leicester Comedy Festival have given a whole new perspective on watching stand up comedy.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

A company called Funhouse Comedy had a gig scheduled for a location local to us – Bartons PLC. A former bus depot now turned into an events venue, hosting street food, markets and comedy, was hosting a Friday night gig.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

One slight issue was that these gigs sell out in double quick time. Thankfully the MC for the evening, Stevie Gray, was able to secure tickets for us at the last minute. We had met Stevie during his preview show and full show at The Leicester Comedy Festival and were both very grateful to him for securing the seats.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

You can’t really miss the venue. Taking a tram to High Road-Central College in Beeston drops you right outside the fluorescent-lit building. Just in case you miss the lighting arrangement, a huge banner outside reading ‘COMEDY’ is a dead giveaway.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

I was really impressed with the size of the venue. A large seating area with a range of different seats ranging from bar stools to comfy chairs. There is a fully licensed bar serving beer, cider, wine and spirits plus soft drinks all at a very fair price.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

From the inside, you could never identify this as part of an old bus depot. Aside from the tributes on the wall to Thomas Barton perhaps. A simple set up of a stage, a microphone, a sound system and a simple lighting setup completes the scene.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

After Stevie’s successful efforts to whip up the crowd, the first comedian of the night made his appearance. Andy White hails from nearby Birmingham and began his set with a hilarious self-deprecating view of life as a mixed race man married into a wealthy family. A first-rate Nelson Mandela impression had the audience in stitches.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC
Photo Credit: Stevie Gray (@Stevie_Gray on Twitter)

Andy’s set was a complete hit and he will undoubtedly be a comic that i’ll be looking out for at future gigs. After each act a 20 minute interval was scheduled to allow people to use the toilet or head back to the bar. Samosas were also being sold at the venue for £2 each.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC
Photo Credit: Stevie Gray (@Stevie_Gray on Twitter)
Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

Second onto the stage was a comedian from Ramsbottom named Dominic Woodward. A drama teacher by day, comedian by night, Dominic began his set with some sharp lines. With his entertaining northern humour getting increasingly loud laughs from the crowd, Dominic rounded his set off with a session of ‘speed maths’.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

Two members of the audience had to choose two numbers between one and ten with Dominic creating a grid on a whiteboard. A third audience member then had to time how long it took Dominic to create numbers across the grid to total the exact number made by the audience. Amazingly he managed it in under 23 seconds.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

By now, the venue was rocking. The wine was flowing and the anticipation building towards the headline act. So far, the gig had been of an incredibly high standard. The freedom to be able to converse with the performers in the bar area is a nice touch, there’s a real community feel to the event.

Last on the bill, the headline act was a man with a guitar named Richard Morton. A geordie, now living in London, Richard has been around the comedy scene for over 20 years and has worked with such legends as Lee Evans.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

Some of the crowd began to feel the effects of the constant trips to the bar resulting in small heckles but without malice. Richard took it confidently in his stride like a true pro. His set included adaptations of well known songs to mock ageing musicians and even the royal family. This really was like watching a master at work.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC
Photo Credit: Stevie Gray (@Stevie_Gray on Twitter)

After a rapturous reception for his set, Richard left the stage for Stevie to close the show and thank the audience for what had been a superb night of comedy. I managed to grab a word with Richard and Stevie at the end of the show to congratulate them on a great event.

Funhouse is exactly that – a house of fun. Everyone had a great night and the event was a huge success. With reported sell outs at many events that Funhouse put on, it’s a huge step forward for British comedy.

Funhouse Comedy at Bartons PLC

At just £10 per ticket for this event, we really felt like we had got a bargain. The quality of the performances keeps surprising me at each gig and bodes incredibly well for the future of comedy in the country. A perfect alternative Friday night out.

Website: www.funhousecomedy.co.uk

Venue: www.bartonsplc.co.uk

Twitter: Andy White (@AndyJWhite)

Dominic Woodward (@dominicwoodward)

Richard Morton (@RichMortonSound)

Stevie Gray (@Stevie_Gray)

Gordon Ramsay’s Lemon Pizza

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Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix recently took a journey through Italy, France and Scotland – with hilarious consequences. The show, broadcast on ITV, was like cookerys answer to Top Gear.

 

During a hair-raising vespa ride through Naples, Gino decided to ditch Gordon and Fred on their way to the oldest pizzeria in town – Port’Alba.

 

When Gordon and Fred finally caught up with Gino, everyone got to enjoy a taste of true Neapolitan pizza fresh from a wood fired oven. This set Gordon Ramsay’s creative side into overdrive.

Topping a pizza base with lemon curd, Amalfi lemon segments, zest and juice produced a tangy finish. To add a sweet element to balance the acidity, Gordon tapped powdered sugar around the crust to allow the outside of the pizza to caramelise while in the 400 degree heat (celcius).

I attempted to replicate this lemon pizza in the Ooni 3 pizza oven, using a technique that I discovered on the Ooni Community Facebook page.The gap between the rear of the pizza stone and the pellet hopper provided the ideal space for some wood kindling.

Using 5-6 large pieces of kindling all interconnecting, it was easy to light a roaring inferno. The stone came up to 350 C in no longer than 10 minutes – amazing when you consider that pellets usually take around 15-20 minutes to reach temperature.

Feeding the fire is easy through the rear of the Ooni, by removing the pellet tray. This creates a narrow corridor with direct access to the fire. Feeding kindling into here was simple and took away the whole ‘babysitting’ process of constantly topping up with pellets. It was a far more relaxing cook.

The video will show you how to make the pizza step-by-step. By proving the dough for 48 hours, the flavour really does develop. As does the texture. If you are in a rush, you can just go for a simple 1 hour prove. In my opinion though, nothing beats the 48 hour result.

For two pizza’s, you will need…


500g ‘00’ Flour, plus extra for dusting

350ml Warm Water

7g Dried Yeast

1 tsp Salt

1 tbsp Olive Oil

4 tbsp Lemon Curd

1 Large Lemon, preferably Amalfi

6-8 Basil Leaves

6-8 tsp Creme Fraiche

Powdered (Icing) Sugar, to dust

 

1. For the dough, place the yeast into the warm water and stir to dissolve. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt, flour and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a dough hook. Start the machine on a low speed and gradually add the yeast mixture to form a dough.

2. Increase the speed to medium and allow the machine to run for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. Remove the bowl from the machine, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 48 hours.

3. After 48 hours, remove the dough from the fridge and allow to stand for 1 hour before using. This makes the dough a lot easier to work with.

4. In a separate bowl, add the lemon curd. Grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl and cut the lemon in half. Remove the outer white skin from one half, exposing the segments. Dice up the segments and add to the lemon curd.

5. Add a squeeze of juice from the remaining half of the lemon into the bowl and mix together. Reserve in the fridge until needed.

6. Light the Ooni oven and leave to heat to a temperature of 350-400 C. Add a sprinkle of flour onto a work surface and form half of the dough into a ball. Stretch the ball out to the size of a dinner plate, around 10 inches (refer to video for technique).

7. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on a pizza peel. Add the pizza base onto the peel and spread 2 tbsp of the lemon curd mixture onto the centre leaving a 1 inch gap around the edge for the crust.

8. Tap a dusting of powdered sugar around the crust of the pizza and place the pizza into the Ooni oven (refer to video for technique).

9. Continue to rotate the pizza every 20 seconds until the sugar has caramelised and the curd on top is slightly golden.

10. Top the pizza with dots of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of basil leaves. Slice it up and enjoy!

 

*A stand mixer is not a necessity, you can achieve a great result by combining the dough ingredients into a bowl and kneading by hand for 10 minutes until smooth, simply add the dough back into the bowl, cover with cling film and prove for 48 hours.

 

So, how does it taste? Granted, a lemon pizza sounds strange but the combination of lemon, basil, creme fraiche and wood smoke is something truly magical. The sugar on the outside ensures that no one will be leaving that crust behind!

As I stated in the video, the taste isn’t so much like a pizza per-se. It’s more of a flat lemon drizzle cake or spongey brioche. The sourdough really gives the pizza an intense flavour which matches perfectly with the toppings. It really is unique.

Gordon Ramsay Lemon Pizza

This pizza may be unusual in conception but it is seriously good. Any of you that own an Ooni 3 really need to invest in the wood technique. I found that this gave my pizza a far better flavour and a flawless crust.