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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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#Review: Santa Maria Pulled Pork Dinner Kit

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie | Posted on 25-03-2016

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I’m a bit of a fan of pulled pork. It’s one of those things that always seems to taste delicious when I eat it out somewhere but that I’d never try at home because it takes hours, and I doubt I’d be able to replicate the flavour anyway. When it comes to cooking at home I tend to get quick and easy food. The boys eat together, and then I eat with my husband in the evening when the children are in bed. I don’t have time to do any major cooking, so I like things that are fast to prepare, and tasty.

Santa Maria contacted me recently to see if I wanted to review one of their brand new meals kits. I’ve used meal kits in the past to make an array of Mexican dishes, so the concept was familiar. What interested me was that it was a kit to create Pulled Pork, and that it was going to take just 90 minutes to cook. I was intrigued.

PulledPork-Box

All I needed to buy was some pork and some red onions. Now, we didn’t get any red onions – inexplicably the local supermarket was out when I popped in to get some – but we did everything else that the recipe required.

PulledPork-Contents

So the box contained everything else we needed – seasoning for the pork, a bag to cook it in, seasoning for the red onions had we had any, chipotle BBQ sauce, and small tortillas.

PulledPork-Bag

I put the pork into the special bag and added the seasoning mix and some water. Bit of a shake and it looked like this… not entirely appetising but it was hardly going to look delicious at this stage! I put the bag in a dish in the oven for 90 minutes and that was it – job done. The smells coming from the kitchen we very enticing.

When it was finished cooking you simply pulled the pork apart and served it on the tortillas with some marinading red onions if you had them and the chipotle sauce.

PulledPork-Wrap

Now the tortillas were indeed mini, so we shared the eight included between the two of us and served it with sweet potato fries. The box suggests that these would make good canapes or that you could put the meat on rolls for a bigger meal.

The meal was delicious. It was an authentic pulled pork, and the only thing that let it down was the piece of pork I bought, but that was nothing to do with the meal kit. A better less fatty piece of meat would have created far more delicious pulled pork. Next time I’ll also make sure I get some onions!

Santa MariaPulled Pork Dinner Kit and Santa Maria Pulled Chicken Dinner Kit will be available in Morrisons from late November, RRP. £3.99.

An Aldi Summer…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 24-09-2015

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At the start of the summer I was contacted by Aldi, asking if I’d be interested in looking at some of their products. I’ve been fascinated by the rise in popularity of the so called budget supermarkets, so have always wondered what the quality is like and whether it genuinely tastes as good as the pricier alternatives. Before the delivery my only real experience of Aldi foods was the five bird roast they did a few Christmas’ ago so I thought it was about time I tried more.

I was interested in looking at their store cupboard items – those ambient bits and pieces that you have in the cupboard all the time. The selection I received was mind-blowing, partly in volume but also in pricing. We received pasta sauces, dried pasta, rice, curry sauces, croissants, tea bags, conserves, coffee, washing powder, fabric softener, popcorn, crisps, baby wipes, nappies, fruit pouches, rice cakes and raisin boxes. The first thing I noticed was the cost. A truly vast amount of products and it all came to a little under £40. Truly a bargain, but what for the quality. Cheap is all well and good, but only if the quality is there.

I have been working my way through the samples all summer, and I have been very impressed. The pasta sauces have been delicious, and make a great fast dinner for the boys. The croissants were huge and tasted so buttery, and with the strawberry conserve they made a perfect Sunday breakfast. Little Dude’s favourites were definitely the rice cakes. We were sent a couple of packets and once they were opened it became clear I’d have to start nipping to Aldi to keep the supply up.

Aldi-SussexMummy-Collage

The baby wipes are superb – slightly thicker than your average wipes which make bottom cleaning easier. The curry sauce is a new favourite and a great alternative to a takeaway or ready meal, and the pasta and rice were good quality and good value. To be honest the only disappointment were the crisps, but that was purely a flavour problem and not the quality of the crisp.

So will I be doing my weekly shop at Aldi from now on? No, I won’t. There isn’t one handy enough and to be honest I get my food shop delivered as I can’t face doing it with a small child in tow. Will I pop in to an Aldi now and then to pick up a few bits? Without a doubt.

#Review: Riverford Recipe Box

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 13-04-2015

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Riverford are well known for their vegetable box delivery service – we’ve had a few of them ourselves in our time – but they have recently started doing “Recipe Boxes” as well. Each box contains all the ingredients – save for the salt and pepper – that you need to create three meals for two or four people. You get all the vegetables, the meat where appropriate, the herbs, and anything else, all measured out and individually wrapped. There’s a choice of three box options – Original, Quick, and Vegetarian – and all promise tasty seasonal meals. We were sent the Quick box to try – the one I thought would be most appropriate for us. Three meals all ready in around 30 to 40 minutes with virtually no preparation apart from chopping a few vegetables. Sounded ideal to me.

The box we received contained the ingredients to make Baked Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Herb Ricotta, Lamb Steaks with Saute Potatoes, and Pork & Apple Sausages with Braised Vegetables. All sounded delicious to me and the box itself looked brilliant when it came. The packaging and organisation that went in to it was first class.

RiverfordRecipeBox_SussexMummy

There was a complete list of what you’d received in case anything had gone missing or you were unsure as to what something was, and details were included as to where to store things. All the meat and anything that needed to be chilled – in this case butter and some cheese – were stored in a reusable cool bag which, along with the box, can be returned to your driver upon his next delivery. Everything which arrived was in first class condition and looked as if it had been packed mere moments ago.

Conveniently for us this box arrived a few days before our seventh wedding anniversary. We had planned a takeaway to celebrate, but instead took the opportunity to make one of the meals. We have in fact made all three meals, but the one we had for our anniversary was the one I actually remembered to photograph – I will never make a very good food blogger… – and as luck would have it, our overall favourite.

Here are all the ingredients needed to make the Sausages with Braised Vegetables.

RiverfordRecipeBox_Ingredients_SussexMummy

As you can see everything comes fully weighed out for you, including the pots of butter and caraway seeds, and you even get sent a stock cube. I’m sure you’re all thinking those carrots look far too clean to come from a vegetable box but yes, I did wash them before taking their photograph. Everything looks beautifully fresh and is indeed seasonal.

Along with the ingredients are simple to follow recipe cards. There’s notes and information on the recipe, a list of equipment and utensils you may need – nothing too fancy, serving number and preparation times, and then step by step instructions. This recipe was completed with just eight steps, and to be fair they were incredibly simple and nothing more strenuous than occasionally stirring a pan. After about half an hour we served up the meal.

RiverfordRecipeBox_Sausages_SussexMummy

Super easy to make, much healthier than the planned takeout, and, most importantly, delicious. Everything was beautifully cooked and seasoned, I used items which typically I would never have picked up in my weekly food shop, and it was, as described, quick.

Now these boxes start at £33 and that gets you three meals for two people. If you want to feed a family of four it goes up to £58. Its not a cheap way to eat, but as an occasional treat or even as a quirky gift for someone, I think its ideal. Its clearly not something that I’m going to be buying every week, but its something I would certainly consider once in a while, particularly for special occasions when we’d perhaps typically go out for a meal. The quality is incredibly high and the attention to detail is such that it makes your cooking experience easy, which is precisely what you’re looking for when buying a box like this. A definite success.

You can find more details on the Recipe Boxes as well as all the other box delivery options available via the Riverford website.

Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Travel | Posted on 06-11-2014

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Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel – a former farmhouse and barns all of which have been converted – which has, so I’m told, the reputation of being the best hotel in Yorkshire. After receiving the invitation to head north and review for them I checked out the website, looked at photos and even spent a little time reading up on it on travel review websites. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it looked stunning and sounded amazing – but could it really live up to its reputation? Would it be worth the 600 mile round trip? Here’s what we thought.

Ox-Pasture-Exterior-SussexMummy
Things certainly looked optimistic when we arrived. Hard to believe this photo was taken on the first weekend of November isn’t it? Admittedly it wasn’t hot by any means, but unseasonably warm certainly. A short walk up this path led us from the spacious car park to the hotel reception where we checked in. Now the hotel was expecting me to arrive with my husband so we’d actually been booked into the Honeymoon Suite. We’d arranged to have Afternoon Tea upon arrival so it was agreed that we’d eat that in there – we could of course have eaten in the hotel lounge, the bar or on the terrace, but we wanted to give Little Dude the chance to roll around after his journey – whilst they set us up with a twin suite. We were escorted to the suite and enjoyed a comfortable sit down whilst we waited a short time for our freshly made Afternoon Tea to arrive.

Ox-Pasture-Afternoon-Tea-SussexMummyOkay so its a bit of a shame that the table in the Honeymoon Suite was in front of a radiator, but I’m sure you can appreciate how impressive this Afternoon Tea looked. Two large fruit scones, four small jars of jam, some clotted cream, finger sandwiches – egg mayonnaise, roast beef and horseradish, and cream cheese and cucumber – which were crust free, a selection of miniature cakes – profiteroles, bite sized lemon meringue pies, tiny cheesecakes, chocolate brownie squares and a mint chocolate slice, as well we a large pot of tea. Now we’d seen photos of these Afternoon Teas before we’d set off so we’d eaten nothing since breakfast, and it was most definitely worth the wait. It goes without saying that the cakes were without doubt the highlight – though we were certainly ready for a cup of tea or two after our journey – but the sandwiches were delicious too. At £15 per person I think this is very well priced for the quality and quantity of food that you receive. We’d arrived a little later in the day than we had hoped – I blame the M1 for most of our trouble – so we were a little concerned that if we ate it all we’d be full for the day. This didn’t stop us from tucking in with gusto however and we thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

After eating our Afternoon Tea, changing Little Dude’s nappy and getting him some milk – though I’m pretty sure he wanted a cake – we were helped to our actual room for the evening. A spacious beautiful suite overlooking a pretty courtyard with a rather nice view of the gardens and Yorkshire countryside beyond.

Ox-Pasture-Gardens-SussexMummy

 

The suite was made up of three well sized rooms. A living area with two large chest of drawers, a large wardrobe, comfortable sofa, coffee table, TV set, and drinks facilities. There was a bedroom which had been set up with two single beds, a desk, a chest of drawers, another TV and a travel cot they’d set up for Little Dude’s use. Finally there was a bathroom which boasted a huge bath, two basins – all three coming with waterfall taps, a walk-in shower and a toilet. Now whilst the bedroom and living area were well equipped and comfortable, the bathroom was, for me, the highlight.
Ox-Pasture-Bathroom-SussexMummy

The entire room was tiled floor and walls, with the suite itself a bright white with silver taps. Complimentary toiletries were supplied along with cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues. I thought this was a nice touch and something more than you may expect from hotel bathrooms. There were plenty of towels on offer and room for you to unpack your own bits and pieces. Sadly I didn’t have a bath – I’d probably never have gotten out if I had – but Nana did use the shower. Whilst she loved the large shower head the walk-in nature of it did result in a bit of a death trap. The “cubicle” had two walls and a glass partition, the fourth side was open to the rest of the bathroom. Whilst the floor in there did of course slope towards the plug Nana did manage to distribute water throughout most of the room. Either a steeper slope or a less enthusiastic shower head needed here I think.

Our original plan was to take dinner in the Courtyard Restaurant. Now as all parents know plans tend to need a bit of adjustment when small children are involved, and after spending the best part of the day in the car getting little sleep, Little Dude wasn’t in the best of moods. He wanted to roll around, have cuddles with Mummy and generally chill out – and who can blame in. We decided it would be best for him and the sanity of the other guests for us to eat in our room so we called reception and they brought over some menus. There was a great selection of meals on offer and it took a fair bit of deliberation before we settled on our dinner for the night. I started with Duck Liver Parfait with Melba Toast and Cranberry Compote, followed by the Beef dish which consisted of a Mini Beef Fillet, a Tender Brisket, Creamy Mash Potato, Mushroom Duxelle, Baby Turnips and Carrots. For dessert I chose the Lemon dish which included Cheesecake, Yogurt, Mousse and Ice Cream.

Ox-Pasture-Meal1-SussexMummyIt just looks incredible doesn’t it? Everything was so beautifully presented, so perfectly cooked, and SO delicious. Despite having eaten a substantial Afternoon Tea just a few hours before every last morsel from my dinner was eaten and thoroughly enjoyed. There was just enough and once I’d eaten I felt comfortably full. I hate getting a mountain of food in restaurants which is heavy and overly filling so you end up leaving so much of it and its such a waste. Not the case here. Don’t get me wrong, the servings were not small, it was just a well balanced meal and everything complimented everything else.

Nana went for three different courses. She began with Marinated Herring fillet, served with Pickled Cucumber and Tartar Dressing. To follow she enjoyed a Pork dish which was made up of Slow Cooked Belly, Tender Loin Stuffed with Apricot and Sage, Savoy Cabbage, Sautéed Potato, Homemade Black Pudding and Red Onion Marmalade. She finished with a Caribbean cocktail dessert which included Coconut Panacotta, Mango Rice Pudding, Passion Fruit Sorbet, and Pina Colada.

Ox-Pasture-Meal2-SussexMummy

Am I making you hungry yet?

Our meal was delivered efficiently and courteously to our room, the waiter tiptoeing in every time in case Little Dude was sleeping and for fear of waking him. We also had a bottle of wine brought over in an ice bucket, which was also lovely. You got the impression that nothing was too much trouble yet that they were acting as they would with any guest, not just us because they knew we were there to review. A truly professional service.

An excellent nights sleep followed – yes, even with a six month old who slept through till 6.30 – and after feeding him his milk and getting dressed we ventured over to the dining room for our breakfast. A high chair had been set up by our table ready for Little Dude who settled in quickly and tucked into his porridge whilst we waited for our cooked breakfast to arrive. There was the option of a Continental Breakfast with pastries, yogurts and fruit, but we chose to set ourselves up for the day. Large pots of tea were also supplied along with a rack of toast with a selection of jams. We went for the full Yorkshire breakfast, and as you can imagine we weren’t disappointed.
Ox-Pasture-Breakfast-SussexMummyPerfectly cooked bacon, delicious local sausages, mushrooms, black pudding, cooked tomato and the nicest scrambled egg I’ve ever eaten. In fact my breakfast looked so tasty that Little Dude decided it was rude of me not to share. Despite having eaten a bowl of porridge and half a fruit pouch, he also packed away half my scrambled egg. Hopefully I’ll manage to replicate it at home for him too.

I don’t have cooked breakfasts very often so this was something of a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed it all, and the beautiful setting of the restaurant overlooking another gloriously designed courtyard made for the perfect start to our morning.

Now sadly for us it was soon time for us to make our way home. Another epic journey down the M1 awaited, but not before a brief walk through the gorgeous gardens of the hotel. They were truly breathtaking and we commented time and time again how perfect they would be for wedding photos, with so many lovely spots. This was one of my personal favourites, the ideal place for the happy couple to take a breather during a hectic day. This cute pagoda is located in a quiet corner of the front garden. It would also be a lovely spot for a relaxing drink.

Ox-Pasture-Pagoda-SussexMummy

The car soon beckoned and we reluctantly set off. We’d not spent very long at the hotel at all, but it had certainly made an impression. The staff were friendly and intent on ensuring everything was perfect for everyone, without being overbearing or in your face. The setting is breathtaking, and its hard to believe you are just a few minutes from the sea. The suite was perfect, ideal for couples enjoying a romantic break, but also just right for families with small children. The hotel was incredible, nothing was too much trouble, and whilst it is without doubt a luxury hotel you feel nothing but welcomed.

Without question I would heartily recommend this hotel to anyone. Was it worth the 600 mile round trip and the chaos of the M1? Without a doubt. You can find full details of the hotel, including rates and events on their website.

 

 

 

 

Review: Giovanni Rana Pasta

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 06-12-2013

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My motivation to cook has been pretty much none existent this pregnancy. Mostly because for about four weeks the concept of eating any food made me nauseous, and I survived on Doritos and Lemonade which was hardly a nutritious diet. Things have improved a lot recently thankfully but there’s still some foods which I would ordinarily really enjoy that I just can’t face, like potatoes and chicken. When I do cook I want something that I can cook quickly and easily, mainly because at the moment I’m cooking one meal for Little Man and Daddy, and quite often something separate for myself. When I was contacted by the team at Giovanni Rana to ask if I’d like to test out their new range of fresh filled pasta it seemed like the ideal solution. giovanni rana pasta sussex mummyFresh pasta which cooks within four minutes makes it super fast and ideal for a last minute meal.
I was sent the Giant Ravioli with Tomato, Mozzarella and Olive to test out. On the back the serving suggestion was to eat it the “traditional Italian way” with just a drizzle of olive oil on. Whenever I’ve eaten fresh filled pasta like this before I’ve always had it with an accompanying sauce so I was a little apprehensive but decided to go with it. Now the filled ravioli itself was delicious – well filled and the flavours were superb. The salty whole olives were just what I was after and I liked that the ravioli was giant and not tiny little parcels which tend to be more pasta than filling. Sadly I’m not a traditional Italian kind of girl and I didn’t really enjoy the plainness of just an olive oil topping. I think a simple tomato sauce would have worked well with this and complimented the flavours of the ravioli perfectly. A range of sauces is also available so maybe I’ll try it again another time and buy myself a complimenting sauce to go with it. The Giovanni Rana range of pasta and sauces is available now from Asda and Sainsburys.

 

 

Foodie: Philadelphia Simply Stir

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 06-05-2013

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I’m sure you’ve all seen the adverts where delicious looking meals are crafted from a few ingredients and a humble tub of Philadelphia. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who’s licked their lips whilst watching and thought “I could eat that…”. Well Philadelphia have created a new product which is set to make those meals even easier and more accessible, even to the busiest of parents. Philadelphia Simply Stir is a new cooking sauce which you’ll find in the fridge next to your usual tubs. Available in two flavours – Mushroom and Garlic & Herb – these 200g pouches are enough to feed a family of four, when mixed with meat, vegetables and rice or pasta. We were sent a Mushroom Simply Stir pouch and a recipe for a simple Beef Stroganoff to test out.

Ingredients:
240g Long Grain Rice
2 tsp Oil
450g Rump Steak, thinly sliced
1 tsp Paprika
200g Mushroom Simply Stir
250g Broccoli florets

Method:
Cook the rice according to packet instructions.
Cook broccoli in boiling water for 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry beef for 4-5 minutes until browned. Sprinkle in the paprika and stir through the meat.
Reduce the heat, add the Simply Stir sauce and broccoli, heat through and stir well.
Serve the stroganoff over the cooked rice.

It genuinely is THAT simple. It literally takes about 15 minutes from start to finish including preparation and cooking. This recipes serves four, but we made slightly less as it was just for myself and Hubby. The finished meal was delicious. Very creamy but not too rich and overpowering. It was so much easier than making a mushroom sauce yourself from scratch and it tasted much fresher than other jars of sauce I’ve used in the past. A lovely meal – I’ll certainly be stocking up on a few pouches of Simply Stir in the future!

You can find more recipes and meal inspiration on the recipe finder section of the Philadelphia website. I think I’ll be trying out the Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta with Garlic & Herb Simply Stir this week on my family. Let me know what you try!
 

 

Foodie: Thermapen Review & Giveaway

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Competition, Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 02-04-2013

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Keeping our family safe and healthy is our ultimate priority is everything we do. When we’re providing food for them its also a priority, whether that food is babies milk or a Sunday roast. Making sure what we’re serving is fully cooked and at the right temperatures ensures their safety, and one of the ways to do that is to invest in a Thermapen.

A Thermapen is a probe which you can use to make sure what you are cooking or warming is the ideal temperature. You can use it when you are warming your babies milk to make sure its the correct and safe temperature. It can be used in baking to make sure cakes are cooked, for making sugar syrups, in jam making and for tempering chocolate. It is an essential piece of kit for your Summer barbecue, when most food poisoning accidents occur with under cooked meat and poultry. We received a Thermapen to test out and my Mum has been using it relentlessly when she’s been cooking in the kitchen, ensuring the Sunday roast is always the right temperature throughout.

The Thermapen is so easy to use – opening it turns it on, and closing it turns it off again. The digital screen is easy to read at a glance and the bright range of colours available means there’s no danger of it getting lost. You could even get a Thermapen to match your kitchen colour scheme! For more information on Thermapen’s check out their website and follow them on Twitter @Thermapen_.

Now I have a brilliant GREEN Thermapen to give away to one of my lucky readers. In order to win you MUST be following me on Twitter and then Tweet the following:

I want to win a @Thermapen_ from @SussexMummy #FoodSafety #FamilySafety

One winner will be chosen from all the entries received by 8pm on Friday April 12th and the winner will be DM’d as soon as possible, so make sure you’re following me. Good luck!

 

Recipe: Salmon En Croute

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Information | Posted on 28-03-2013

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With Easter just around the corner, Asda’s fishmonger, Darren Wrend, has created a series of simple recipes to show you how to cook a delicious whole salmon. This is my favourite of the recipes – a delicious Salmon En Croute.

Salmon En Croute filled with Parsley, Lemon and Lemon and Pepper Butter

This recipe will serve 6 people

Ingredients needed:

2 skin-less salmon fillets (fillets taken from a whole salmon)
Bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 lemon
3 lemon and pepper butter ovals (available from the Asda fish counter)
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt
Cup of milk
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
1 sheet of baking paper

Cooking instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 230oC/ Gas mark 8
Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper on a oven dish/tray, and on top of this lay flat one sheet of rolled out pastry
Place one salmon fillet on top of the pastry, skin down (if the fillet is too long for the pastry tuck the tail under to fit)
Along the middle of the fillet place sprigs of flat leaf parsley, then finely grate the lemon over the parsley, along with some cracked black pepper
Crumble on the lemon and pepper butter ovals for additional flavour
Place the second salmon fillet skin side down on a chopping board and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper
Once seasoned place the second fillet on top of the other fillet skinless side down
Brush the visible edge of the pastry with milk, then lay the second sheet of pastry on top of the salmon
Using the side of your hand go around the edge of the fillet and seal the pastry together, cutting off any excess pastry
Using the excess pastry decorate the top of the en croute and brush the top layer of pastry with milk
Place the salmon en croute on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry has gone a light golden brown colour