Two recipes for a Mother’s Day lunch

salmonmousseIf you’re thinking about what to do next weekend and fancy giving your mum a home-cooked treat, I’ve done a coupl eof recipes which are very simple and use pretty ordinary ingredients but that cook up a treat.

For a fresh and luxurious starter, there’s a salmon mousse and then for the main the traditional favourite Homity Pie.

The recipes really are as simple as child’s play.

Please do let me know how you get on – tweet me a snap! – and you can see my other recipes for Farmer’s Choice here.

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Not just bringing home the bacon but …….making it?

baconSeriously, have you ever thought about making your own bacon? I can’t say I have, but apparently this level of home-made food production is gaining popularity.

According to Manchester journalist and food blogger at the wonderful Lone Gourmet, Louise Bolotin, it’s becoming something of a trend.

Writing at the new(ish) plaform for freelance journalists Contributoria, where I am editor, she says:

“Most people, when they fancy a full English, pick up their pack of bacon at the supermarket or from a local butcher if they have a good one nearby. But an increasing number of people are making their own, as well as more complex foods like pancetta and salami. Some are making kitchen table cheeses for their family too, and not from a commercial kit.”

Louise has already won backing from the members of Contributoria to investigate the topic more fully and will be starting work on it soon.

The way the site works means that other people can help with the article – if you’ve any knowledge of this type of produce, or perhaps you make similar things yourself – you are invited to get in touch there.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with and, once the article is complete, it will be issued under a non-commercial licence so I’ll share it with you here.

Of course I’m biased on this, but I think the Contributoria platform could be a good way to fund more food writing. There’s already been an article on a local food producer in Glasgow and there’s also currently a writer looking for backing to investigate local versus global food networks for next month.

If that story sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can back the writer by joining the site (membership is currently free) and you’ll be issued with 150 points to spend. Points are translated into real pounds and pence which is paid to the writers.

And if you’ve a food-based story you’d like to be paid to produce, pitch-in, we’re always recruiting! Sign up here.

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Welcome to the Yorkshire Food Otter

copy-yfo-banner-check1The latest food blog to join our map of Northern Food Blogs is the Yorkshire Food Otter.

A relatively new blog, it’s all about the search for great ingredients as author Emma explains:

This blog is my search for quality ingredients produced or stocked by passionate individuals who want to encourage their customers to eat seasonally so as to taste the ingredients at their best and with confidence that their provenance can be traced. A natural path to follow on from these ideas is recommending places I have been to such as street stalls, pubs, restaurants, cafés or coffee houses, for example, that serve up glorious fare whilst also being advocates of eating and drinking knowledgeably.


* If you belong on the Northern Food Bloggers map, please let me know via the comments below or twitter @foodiesarah or email foodiesarahATme.com.

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A vegan lamb

This picture appeared from my Twitter stream this week. I’m afraid no attribution has come along with it – if it’s yours, please let me know and I’ll add a credit. Brilliant!
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Recipe: Japanese-style chicken stew

Japanese style chicken stew

Japanese style chicken stew


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.

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Honours, fish and chips and investigations – hello 2014

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.

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Recipe: Turkey a la king

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.

Get the recipe at Farmer’s choice here.

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Product trial: Grey’s Christmas Hamper

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:

greys

Minimalist

Packaging
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.

Contents
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. Spanish foods

Verdict
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.

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Recipe: Spiced red cabbage for Christmas

cabbageraw

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.

Mine’s already in the freezer!cabbageclose

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Review: Going veggie down at Pizza Express

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.
brushetta
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.
prosecco
Venue
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.
salad
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.
balls
Overall
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.

Value

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.

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