I came up with this simple one-pot recipe that’s inspired by the clean tastes of Japanese cookery and uses surprisingly few ingredients for such a big flavour. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Japanese or Chinese food store then there are broth products available although I used an well-known basic consume powder from a major supermarket which worked just fine and gave the dish the slightly glutinous texture you’d expect.
It’s an easy and complete meal with no need for accompaniments – check out the ingredients and step-by-step instructions on my page at Farmer’s Choice here.
A very Happy New Year to all!
Getting 2014 started here at the food blog with heartfelt congratulations to Manchester’s amazing Tse sisters, Lisa and Helen.
The twins, who operate the Sweet Mandarin restaurant, were each awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
While they are probably best known to many for the Dragon’s Den appearance below, I shall personally remain in Lisa’s debt for teaching me some wok moves all those years ago when the pair of us tweeting our cookery lesson became a first for a UK restaurant. Wow, how times have moved on.
Cheers to you both for your well-deserved recognition.
A haddock fillet with light and non-soggy batter, mahogany edges protruding from the soft embrace of a scantly buttered bap. Fried in dripping, not sunflower oil. Always with scraps, those delectable leftover fragments, the pain perdu of the fryer.
This, what I can only call an ‘ode to fish and chips’ was published earlier this week on my latest project, Contributria.com – a community-funded writing platform. It was written by Kate Feld, the writer behind the enduring Manchizzle blog and is a delicious piece of food writing. If you fancy doing something similar for a future issue, the site is now open to writers to propose submissions for commission and membership is currently free. Further details on that here.
Finally, I happened to catch, briefly, some trashy TV programme over the break about how the food and health industries make us unhealthy. Before I switched over, a startling claim was made – that industrially produced bread is padded out with chicken feathers. Now whether this is true or not I haven’t had time to properly investigate – I’m guessing there’ll be many a complaint from the food lobby to Ofcom if it’s not – but it struck me that many edible products now seem to contain what can only be described as byproducts from other parts of the food industry.
I’m hoping to look at this more at some point this year and would very much like to hear from anyone who has first-hand knowledge about any such activity. Please feel free to contact me in confidence foodiesarahATme.com.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Whatever to do with that leftover turkey? This recipe is something tried and tested and is ideal with plain boiled brown rice if you’ve over-indulged. Although I can’t claim any medicinal basis for my observation, I believe it’s a help for what the French call ‘crisis of the liver’ which seems to be widespread at this time of year (aka. hangover!) and can give you a lift of you’re feeling a bit under the weather.
Last week I caught a television programme about the upmarket store Liberty of London. It charted the establishment’s history as an emporium which brought items of wonder from the east to us in the west.
That tradition of seeking out items of wonder from far-off lands is something that’s much more difficult in these global times but our desire to be delighted is unlikely to ever be diminished.
It struck me that the same challenge can be seen when it comes to our forever roaming tastes in the culinary world. With supermarkets offering international food items sourced around the globe and online specialist sites offering just about anything your imagination could seek to find.
So when it comes to specialist food offerings, suppliers have to work hard to find that certain something that will whet our purchasing appetites. Enter Grey’s Fine Foods from North Yorkshire, they’re offering the best in Spanish food and sent me a selection in one of their Christmas hampers to try. Here’s what I found:
The hamper is actually a wooden crate – stylish in that designer, minimalist way. Inside all the goods are wrapped and nestling inside paper filling so there’s some excitement to digging in to find out what’s inside – a bit like a lucky dip! I liked the style of it all and, when it comes to hampers, those first impressions count for a lot.
The company promises that the contents inside will ‘surprise anyone during the festivities’. There’s certainly a good range – from their trademark charcuterie from Iberian breed pigs to luxury storecupboard items. This is a hamper for people who like to cook as well as eat, so alongside the award-winning ham there’s also a beautifully presented essentials like the Senorio de Vizcantar extra virgin olive oil which blends three olive varieties and some proper hot smoked paprika.
For the sweet-toothed there’s the traditional Christmas after dinner sweet of Turron de Jijona and an exquisite chocolate that’s blended with olive oil and sea alt. This unusual mixture comes from the Basque chocolatier Alma de Cacao and I haven’t tasted anything quite like it – rich yet light with a melting texture, it really is a remarkable dark chocolate experience.
I loved it. At £50 the Grey’s Christmas Hamper would seem to be pretty good value given the quality of the contents if you’re looking for an unusual and stylish gift for the foodie in your life. Definitely something that will tickle the interest of even the most jaded tastebuds.
The Grey’s Christmas Hamper costs £50 is one of a range starting from £35. Delivery is usually 3-7 days but they offer a one-day service too if you plan to order for Christmas.
* The hamper was provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note, if you wish to provide goods for review, they are accepted on the understanding that good, bad or indifferent, this blog’s product trials section strives to say it as we find it.
One of the best things about Christmas dinner has to be the effort we all go to with the vegetables.
For the biggest cooking day of the year, even a humble cabbage can take pride of place at the table.
This is one of my favourite recipes because it can be made in advance – I think it improves on reheating.
I’ve shared the full recipe over at Farmer’s Choice here.
Tomato, basil, cheese and bread. How many of the world’s best dishes actually boil down to those ingredients? A recipe book attempting to feature them all would probably be a mighty tome indeed.
But Pizza Express has known since it opened the first restaurant in 1965 that the British love affair with the tri-colour representation of Italian cuisine is a long-term relationship and across its 400 UK restaurants continues to explore new ways of presenting our favourite ingredients in interesting ways.
I’d rarely do reviews which give a chain restaurant a rattle – after all, they all offer the same thing so there’s usually little point – but as they’ve just started to introduce some new vegetarian offers into menus just now I took up the invitation to go along and ended up trying a few of the veggie options that also appear on the Christmas menu.
I went along to the Northallerton restaurant. It’s a place that always seems to be busy in a town that’s a bit if a magnet to foodies as it also boasts a Betty’s tearoom and the remarkable upmarket food store Lewis and Cooper. Partly because it is a busy, bustling restaurant but, also because there’s something about the acoustics of the space which doesn’t make for a quiet or intimate space, instead it’s aimed much more at a family meal deal.
We decided to go for the set Christmas menu which consists of two or three courses and is kicked off in seasonal style with a choice of tipples – we went with the Prosecco then dived into the menu.
The starters all manner of differed ways of those tomatoes, basil, braed itc. The brushetta, which also features on the standard menu, is a large helping and features well-seasoned salad and herbs.
Likewise the mozzarella and tomato salad with pasta which is refreshing introduction to the meal.
For the mains we selected a goats cheese pizza – which had a light cheese and a notable velvety soft red onion marmalade to distinguish it.
The standout item of this meal was the superfood salad which was a true dinner salad with lovely fresh assortment of leaves, pine nuts, goats cheese, avocado and sweet beetroot. With a dressing of balsamic syrup this salad packs a lot of flavour into those few hundred gluten free and veggie calories. A proper plate salad and most definitely not an on the side after thought.
For desert, the Christmas snowball dough balls sounded like a fun idea – but really wasn’t. The cream’s just too sweet and the dough balls not sweet or aromatic enough for a seasonal treat at a time when fruits and the rich warming scents of spices give over the festive feeling.
The winter fruit crumble by comparison answered all of those problems with its rich berries and light sweet custard layer.
It must be difficult for a chain restaurant which everyone feels they know so well to introduce something a little bit different.
The idea of incorporating more vegetarian options into a land where the deep pan pepperoni is king is a welcome move, as are the gluten-free options.
Good value at £17.25 for two courses with apperitif and £2 extra if you decide on taking the three courses.
* Please note the food was paid for by pizza express but via the issuing of a gift card which meant I was able to visit the restaurant unannounced. I prefer to do reviews in this way in order to ensure ther’s no preferential treatment dished out.
Fruity gin by the fire – there’s a seasonal tradition that can enjoyed at this time of the year. While you might be thinking ‘sloes’ , this recipe from guest blogger, Katy Pollard, takes advantage of a fruit that’s a bit more commonplace – the elderberry.
Every year I plan to make Elderflower wine. Every year I watch the Elder flowers grow…and die. We have an Elder tree in our front garden and this year I was determined to do it. And I watched as I watched the flowers wither again this year, I realised that the berries could also be fruitful.
So this weekend when they’d become plum and juicy I took my trusty wicker basket out and snipped them down, leaving a few for the local birdies.
The Elder tree is one of our staple growers in the UK. You must be careful when plucking its goodness as most of the tree is poisonous to humans. (Make sure you remove all stems and warm the berries through before using.)
Despite this, the tree has long been believed to have medicinal qualities and is, for example, understood to help in treating ‘flu – useful for those of us looking for natural home remedies for ailments (and needing an excuse to drink this recipe).
Along with the increasing trend for complementary medicines, has been a resurgence in foraging for freely-available foods. Many now spend weekends grazing for fruit, nuts and berries. Tapping into our wild sources of food has perhaps become an even more attractive option in the current economic climate.
Similarly, gin rose to popularity in the early eighteenth century in this country when times were pretty tough and it tended to be the favoured drink of the lower classes. Believed to have a calming effect (doesn’t all alcohol in moderation?!) the spirit takes its flavor from juniper berries.
With the recent interest again in gin (Hendricks anyone?) with the complementary tastes of two berries and a shared history and this seems a perfect recipe.
For a jar of Elderberry Gin:
500g of Elderberry
100g of sugar
70cl of gin
Warm berries gently (microwaving for a couple of mins works a treat) and then stir in the sugar so it starts to dissolve. Tip the mixture into a sterilised jar. Pour over the gin. Seal the jar and put in a cupboard for about a month. Take your ruby goodness out of the cupboard on Christmas Eve, open and sniff. Strain the fruit out (and use in a dessert). Pour. Enjoy.
* Katy Pollard grows herbs, fruit and veg and keeps chickens, ducks and even a pig. She loves cooking with items from the garden in Leeds and is sharing some simple seasonal recipes here.
I’ve already munched a few on my travels as they seemed like a good breakfast on the go option.
The snack bars are wheat, dairy and gluten free and have 10g of protein in each bar.
They’re made by British company Natural Balance Foods who started making healthy wholefood alternatives to processed foods in 2006 and who launched this Nakd range as healthy snacking option.
More about them in this video.
So if you’ve like to try one, send me an email with your address on it to foodiesarahATme.com and I’ll post it out on a first come, first served basis.
John Lewis seems to have entered the British psyche when it comes to Christmas – whether the television advertising delights or annoys you, there’s no getting away from the fact that the retailer’s become synonymous with seasonal provisions.
The arrival of a hamper from the store has become a mini-tradition in our household too so when John Lewis asked if I’d like to try out their latest offering I was intrigued to see what would be different about it.
And so here we are, in November having a bit of an early festive treat to share with you.
The most obvious thing to notice first is there’s no traditional wicker basket. Instead this ‘trug’ hamper comes in smart, contemporary leather bag.
Of course the creak of leather and the flicker of candlelight in front of the fire can be just as Christmass-ey as the more usual wicker picnic-basket style of annual treat and, depending on your decor, this upmarket packaging might just be a better fit with your modern festivities.
(I think it might well end up as our kindling basket – unless the cat takes up residence in there first!)
This a selection of store cupboard luxuries rather than dinner table essentials for the big day so there’s plenty of those treats which everyone loves. Turkey and sprouts will have to be catered for elsewhere because this hamper is all about those little extras which can help the fetivities go with a little more spice and sparkle.
On the booze front, there’s a rich, deep bottle of Sangiovese Poggio della Quercia IGT Rubicone. Great with the cheese board or just as a tipple in front of the fire.
And the cheeseboard gets some further attention with some of the savoury items including the smooth Cairnsmhor Crushed Black Pepper Crackers and Claire’s Handmade Red Onion Marmalade from Cumbria which is now a firm favourite for sandwiches, goats cheese and anything else that needs an intense flavour.
For the sweet-toothed, it’s all quite chocolate focussed. There’s light and buttery Edinburgh Preserves Chocolate Chip Cookies and Fudges Belgian Milk Chocolate Florentines but the stand-out treat are the moreish Ferdia Milk Chocolate Salted Caramels with their intense soft centres.
It’s certainly got the wow factor with the different appearance from the packaging and the treats inside will suit most tastes. At £65 it’s at the lower end of what hampers can cost when you order them online like this (the most expensive hamper offered costs an eye-watering £800!) but the value of the goods wouldn’t really stack up if you bought them individually. It’s really the novelty of the packaging and excitement of exploring it that you’re sending as a gift – a special treat for a style conscious person who likes to entertain in the run up to Christmas.
* The goods from the John Lewis Christmas hamper were provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note, if you wish to provide goods for review, they are accepted on the understanding that good, bad or indifferent, this blog’s product trials section strives to say it as we find it.