Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Sushi Shop: Sushi Workshop

So, here's a bit of a weird one... Last week I went to a sushi workshop. Not so weird, except from the fact that I don't like sushi! I'm not a big fish eater so the thought of eating it raw isn't good for me. However, I am fascinated by the process and the beauty of it so I went along anyway!

The workshop was run by the head chef of Sushi Shop and featured 3 of the sushi rolls he has designed for their Football Club Box to celebrate Euro 2016. You can read more about the Football Club box on their website here.

Now, not being a sushi lover I can't review the Football Club Box apart from to say that the lovely Helen from Fuss Free Flavours tells me that Sushi Shop is the BEST at Sushi. So, if you're in London you've just got to try it!

Here's some snaps of my sushi making experience. I think you should give it a go, it was good fun!

Disclaimer: I was invited to Sushi shop to try my hand at making sushi free of charge. However, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Collier's Cheese and Bacon Twists

These. Are. AMAZING...!

I know it's not the done thing to rave about your own work, but I honestly this that anyone would love these sticks of delicious pastry, cheese and bacon. Well, anyone who isn't vegetarian anyway. Munch them for lunch with a side salad, on a picnic with loved ones or even just in front of the TV in the evening. However you eat them, you're sure to be left with a lap full of crumbs and a craving for more!

These twists are essentially made from just 3 ingredients, which means that the quality of those ingredients is super important. Get that wrong and it'll be really quite obvious.

Back in March of this year, I was invited by Collier's Cheese to Wales to learn about their fantastic Welsh cheddar. I didn't realise until the trip that a collier was actually someone who worked in a mine and the cheese is designed to be something that is hearty and full-flavoured enough to satisfy even the hardest working collier. The word they use is 'powerful' and I can't think of a better way to describe it myself! A delicious, strong cheese with a great texture that doesn't crumble to nothing or stick to your teeth.

I'll be writing more about the trip over the coming month or so but if you want to learn more about Coller's Cheddar, check out this little video from founder Chris Swire.

For this recipe, you really do need a powerful cheese like Collier's to make it work. They need a punchy cheese to work with the strong flavour of the smoked bacon. Get that right and they are perfection.

It's also important that the right bacon is used. You see, most bacon you buy in the supermarkets is 'wet cured' meaning that the meat is cured by immersing in a curing solution. This keeps the moisture in the meat and quite often with this method the meat is also injected with more water before slicing. However, most of the 'premium' bacon is instead 'dry cured' with a rub, removing some of the water and firming up the meat; it tends to produce a bacon with a much better flavour and also with a much lower water content.

Anyone who's ever seen The Great British Bake Off knows how much of a disaster excess moisture is when working with pastry. Mary Berry is not impressed by soggy bottoms and neither am I! So, be sure to use dry cured streaky bacon in this recipe and avoid a stodgy, soggy mess. You can find this in most of the supermarkets under their 'premium' label, or you could cure and smoke your own if you're feeling adventurous!

Making the twists is super simple, but the below pics are a good visual aid if you can't picture how to twist them properly. However you do it, they'll still taste wonderful anyway!

So that's quite enough talking from me. On to the recipe...

print recipe

Collier's Cheese and Bacon Twists
Perfect for lunches, picnics and TV snacks, these twists are sure to be a hit with everyone. Except vegetarians.
  • 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry, left to come to room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g Collier's cheddar cheese
  • 10 rashers dry cured, smoked streaky bacon
  • A few twists black pepper
1. Unroll the pastry from the pack and brush all over with the beaten egg. 2. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and lay the bacon on top. Put the slices as close together as possible; bacon shrinks as it cooks and if you leave space between the rashers you'll end up with twists that are all pastry and no bacon! Grind over some black pepper if desired. 3. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut into individual slices and twist over twice to form the twisted shape required. 4. Lay onto lined baking sheets, then place in the fridge for 20mins to allow the pastry to firm up. Whilst the pastry rests, preheat the oven to 200C. 5. Remove the twists from the fridge and brush the exposed pastry parts with beaten egg to give them a golden colour when baked. Don't brush over the bacon or it'll have an unappetising white colour when cooked. 6. Bake for 15-20mins or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for 5mins then remove to a cooling rack. Eat when just warm or cold. 7. Best eaten on the day of cooking, but can be kept for a couple of days in the fridge in an airtight container. To crisp up, place back in the oven for a few minutes.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Around 10 twists

If you fancy trying your hand at more pastry-based treats, have a look at these recipes from fellow bloggers:

I was invited to Wales to try Collier's Cheese and learn about its history free of charge. However, I wasn't asked to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. I wasn't commissioned to write this recipe, but I did because I believe Collier's Cheese is excellent for these twists!

Monday, 6 June 2016

REVIEW: North, Norwich

From the owners of one of my favourite Norwich haunts, Frank's Bar, comes North; a fresh new face in the 'up and coming' northern quarter of the city. You'll find this little gem just opposite the Mischief on Fye Bridge Street.

I went there for the first time a few weeks ago and I loved it!

First Impressions
The feel of North is just like Frank's Bar, with a lovely homely feel to it. Lots of recycled bits and bobs and quirky furniture really make you feel at home as soon as you walk in. The toilets were nice and clean, something I always appreciate! A great start. 9/10

The staff were really friendly and attentive without being over-familiar. At one point, we struggled to find a waiter to ask for some salt but as soon as we did we weren't kept waiting at all. Oddly, my ice cream was served with a soup spoon... I'm not sure if that's part of the charm of the place or the waiter didn't know the difference. Either way, I'm not too fussed. 8/10

The Food and Drink
I went to North with my friend Rob and, naturally, we started off with a couple of cocktails. The cocktail menu is fairly standard; not much in the way of new or original combinations, but sometimes the old favourites are the best anyway! Rob had a Cosmopolitan and I had a Bramble. They were both great, just as they should be. Following my cocktail, I had a nicely chilled pink of Aspall cider.

We found the food menu to be quite limited. I'm not sure if this is because North is new and they want to limit the menu and therefore reduce the propensity for waste or if it will always be this way, but I'd say having only 3 main courses on a menu (none of which are vegetarian) plus a couple of specials just isn't enough.

None of the mains on offer caught my eye, so I ordered two of the 'Light Bites' - Pork Belly with Jalapeños and Pitta and Cheese Arancini (deep fried risotto balls). However, Rob liked the look of the Ossobucco and Saffron Risotto from the mains on the menu.

My dishes were delicious. The pork belly was soft but with a crispy skin and went well with the charred jalapeños and the arancini were wonderfully creamy and cheesy. Lovely little bites to eat!

Rob's risotto was a little watery and not as creamy as expected, but I'm told it still tasted great. He found it to be under-seasoned but I don't think we've ever been out to eat without him having to add salt, so I think this is more due to his individual taste and I'd much rather a dish was under-seasoned than over.

For dessert, I had the ice cream. I think this was locally produced and came in some wonderful flavours. I opted for one scoop of stem ginger, one of cinnamon and one of a sorbet (I can't remember the flavour!). All 3 were delicious.

All in all, a good (if too compact) menu with dishes cooked well and a classic drinks menu. A good 7.5/10

Value For Money
At around £10-12 for a main course and £7 for a cocktail, I'd say North's prices are about average. For food and drink of this quality, I think that's good value for money. 9/10

All thinks considered, I think I'll definitely go back to North. The dishes we tried were delicious and if the menu was slightly extended and some more original cocktails added, I'm sure it would have something for everyone. I know the menu at Frank's Bar well and everything I've ever tasted there is delicious so I have no reason to think North would be anything other than equally as good. A very solid 8/10 from me!

I wasn't invited to review North and they didn't know I intended to write a review. I paid full price for all of the food and drink consumed and this review should reflect the experience of the average customer at North.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Charred Spring Onion and Butterbean Dip

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... The HUMMUS KILLER!

OK, so that's a little bit of an exaggeration but I am definitely completely in love with this dip I've created. So much so, I've banished the half eaten tub of hummus lurking in my fridge to the bin. Be gone, poor imitation for a bean-based super-dip!

Burning things seems to be all the rage these days; maybe you'd even go as far as to call it a 'trend'. People like my sister will be pleased about this, since she seems to be able to burn a pan of water and she uses the smoke alarm as a cooking timer... (Only joking, Sis! Love you really.) Seriously though, burning things is cool. I think top chefs think that to serve something with a bit of char shows real confidence and bravery in the kitchen; for me, I just love adding a bit of charred flavour to my dishes.

This dip was inspired by a Yotem Ottolenghi recipe for Burnt Spring Onion Dip. His recipe takes the onions a little further than I'd dare and mixes them with a lot of cheese and yogurt. Since I'm trying to avoid dairy at the moment and trying to diet, those two extras didn't seem necessary. How could I get a nice, creamy dip without adding dairy, I asked myself? The answer came to me in the form of a tin of creamy butterbeans.


This is about as much char as I wanted on the onions... Cooked and soft through, with some blackened parts to add a nice char to the flavour of the dip. You could burn them more or less according to your individual taste. Same with the garlic and lemon juice... Just adjust according to what you like; there's no hard and fast rule here - unlike baking, there is no science involved!

I love to use my Netherton Foundry pan* for recipes like this, but you could use any other heavy pan or griddle pan you have to hand.

My Optimum ThermoCook* made short work of blitzing the dip. I used it on speed 4 for around 1 minute, stopping to scrape around the bowl every 15 seconds. Perfect!

print recipe

Charred Spring Onion and Butterbean Dip
A dip to rival even the finest hummus. Combines the creamy smooth flavour of butterbeans with the charred flavour of spring onions.
  • 1 bunch spring onions,; washed, dried and trimmed
  • 1 tin butterbeans; drained, with the liquid reserved
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fat clove garlic; roughly chopped
  • A twist of salt and black pepper
1. Start by cooking the spring onions in a dry pan over a med-high heat until charred on all sides. Roughly chop and add to the bowl of the processor. 2. Add the drained beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and seasoning. Blend until smooth; If using the ThermoCook, this will be around 1 minute on speed 4. Stop every 15 secs or so to scrape around the bowl. 3. Taste and decide if more lemon juice or garlic is needed. If the dip is thicker than you'd like, add a tbsp of the reserved liquid from the beans and blend. 4. Enjoy with a range of items to dip! Crackers, pitta bread and vegetable stick all work really well.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One large bowl of dip

For more bean-based dippy goodness, check out these recipes from fellow bloggers:

Disclaimer: Links marked * are affiliate links, meaning I'll earn a small commission for every item purchased using that link. I only recommend products I genuinely love and know you will love too; commission or not!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Gin Mondays: Caorunn Gin and Rosy Cheeks Cocktail

Last Thursday and Friday, the garden of The Imperial in Chelsea was transformed into an edible 'Gin Garden' filled with plants, fruits and botanicals ready to be picked and used to flavour and garnish a delicious gin cocktail. 

The garden was created by Caorunn (ka-roon!) and they invited me along to sample some of the cocktails and take in the atmosphere of the garden. After tasting the yummy gin I felt it only appropriate to make Caorunn the latest gin to feature in Gin Mondays, along with a cracking cocktail recipe I've developed for you to try at home.

We arrived at The Imperial and walked straight through into the beautiful garden. Unfortunately, it took a while for one of the waiting staff to notice I was trying to get their attention and when someone did eventually come over, she told me she couldn't help with the gin and had to get someone else! 10 minutes later and a waiter arrived; unfortunately, he could barely speak English so trying to explain why we were there and order drinks was a challenge... However, eventually we did manage to order two G&Ts to start with; I always try new gin in a G&T first so I can really taste the flavours. They arrived garnished with sliced apple which really enhanced the flavours.

Caorunn is the Gaelic word for the rowan berry, which is just one of the 5 unique botanicals foraged in Scotland and infused in the gin during the distillation process. As well as rowan berry, Caorunn is also infused with bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf. They give the gin a really nice, earthy and slightly 'wild' flavour which I really love! 

Once the G&Ts were gone (I don't know what happened to them, honest...), we ordered two of the gin cocktails. Adam went for the 'Goodness Rose' and I opted for the 'Mint Julep'. Both arrived looking great but we had a lot of fun picking more botanicals to compliment the flavours in the cocktails.

Goodness Rose: Caorunn Gin, Raspberry Jam, Rose Water, Orange Bitters, Pink Grapefruit Juice.

Mint Julep: Caorunn Gin, Sugar, Mint Leaves, Peach Bitters, Dandelion & Burdoch bitters.

The cocktails provided delicious combinations of flavours I've never really tried before and most definitely a cut above the usual cosmopolitans and mojitos available in most 'cocktail bars' these days. I've always been a little scared of using rose water in recipes; it's really easy to overdo it and end up with something that tastes like grandma's potpourri dish. Not good.

However, inspired by the Goodness Rose, I set out to create a rose-flavoured cocktail at home that could be created by anyone with just a basic cocktail cabinet and a few fresh extras. Leaning on the collective wisdom of Google and Twitter, I decided on my flavour combo of rose, cucumber and pomegranate and spent an evening blending them to achieve what I felt was the perfect combination for a sophisticated yet delicious drink. The Rosy Cheeks was born!

So, want to learn how to make your own Rosy Cheeks? Here we go...

print recipe

Rosy Cheeks Cocktail
A fun yet sophisticated cocktail, blending the delicate flavours of rose and cucumber with juicy pomegranate.
  • 1 handful whole ice cubes
  • 1 long slice of cucumber
  • 50ml Caorunn gin
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 0.5tsp rose water
  • pomegranate juice
  • To serve:
  • 1 long slice of cucumber
  • 1 glass lightly crushed ice
  • A few pomegranate seeds
1. Using a vegetable peeler, take a long slice from the whole of the side of a cucumber. Place the ice cubes and cucumber into a cocktail shaker and, using either a muddler or the end of a rolling pin, smash the cucumber into a pulp. The ice will help with this process. 2. Add the gin, bitters, rose water and a splash of pomegranate juice to the shaker, add the lid and shake until mixed and a mist of condensation has formed on the outside of the shaker. 3. Take another slice of cucumber and twist around the inside of a glass; the moisture from the cucumber will help it stick to the glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. 4. Strain the cocktail over the ice into the glass and top up with more pomegranate juice if required. Sprinkle over the seeds and serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One cocktail

I hope you've enjoyed this instalment of Gin Mondays. Stay tuned for more gin-related fun!

Disclaimer: Caorunn invited me for complimentary cocktails at The Imperial and supplied a bottle of gin for recipe preparation and photography. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Vegetarian BBQ Recipe Roundup

When a reader recently asked me for some veggie recipes for the BBQ, I must admit I was a little stumped. My BBQs tend to be pretty meat-heavy affairs... However, I'm trying to eat more vegetarian food in general these days so I decided to do a little research and some fab bloggers came to my rescue with their brilliant recipes.

My first stop, of course, was with the brilliant Tinned Tomatoes. If I ever want a veggie recipe for something, Jacqueline's blog is the first (and usually the last) place I look. She has a number of veggie BBQ recipes, but my absolute favourite has to be these Cajun Spiced Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers. Don't they look delicious?!

Laura's Moroccan-Inspired Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs over at Knead Wine also provide a brilliant alternative to the usual chicken kebabs I would serve.

Back over at Tinned Tomatoes, there are more veggie kebabs and more halloumi. One look at these Falafel & Halloumi Kebabs with Spiced Peanut Butter Marinade and my mouth is watering already. Mmmmm!

I'm always amazed at the range of recipes Sus over at Rough Measures cooks as she lives on A BOAT! How cool is that?! This Beetroot and Orange Salad she's created is the perfect accompaniment to a veggie BBQ.

Another brilliant side dish comes from Tinned Tomatoes in the form of these BBQ Apricots with Goats' Cheese. *drools*

Of course, we mustn't forget dessert and these BBQ Waffle S'mores from Claire at Foodie Quine would certainly fit the bill for me.

Our final recipe comes from Fab Food 4 All. Bananas and chocolate are a classic flavour combination and Camilla shares her version of Banana S'mores with us.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this round up of Vegetarian BBQ recipes. I know I have! I now have loads of insiration for my next BBQ get together with family and friends!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

REVIEW: Glorious! Cuban Creamed Corn Soup

When I sat down to plan my latest post for Glorious! Soup, I took a look through their range once more. As soon as my eyes fell on the big yellow car and bright, cheery colour of the Creamed Corn Soup I just knew that was the one to review this time.

It's almost 8 years since I went to Cuba on holiday for the first time, but I can still remember certain parts of the trip like it was yesterday.

Several things stuck out for me during my visit:

  • The people; I met so many people during the course of my 2 week holiday. Some were extremely poor, some a bit better off but almost all of them were incredibly welcoming and friendly. The Cuban people welcomed me into their country, they were appreciative of the money spent by tourists and I'm pretty sure the rum added a certain amount of happiness too!
  • The vehicles; since the U.S. placed a trade embargo on Cuba in the 60s, the Cuban mechanics had to come up with new and innovative ways to keep the old cars and trucks moving. This, combined with the hot and dry climate, meant there were lots of old classics to be seen. At the time I was a big fan of VW Beetles and it felt like I found one parked on every street in Havana. I loved it!
  • The hurricane (eek!); that's right, I did say hurricane. You see, I didn't earn much back in 2008 but I wanted a big adventure. I found that Cuba was pretty cheap in September and promptly booked a holiday. A couple of weeks later I discovered precisely why it was cheap: September is the heart of hurricane season! Oh well, I thought, a hurricane is possible but it's never going to happen to me. It did. 

    2008 was the year that Hurricane Ike hit the shores of Cuba and passed right over the resort of Guardalavaca where I was staying. As the hurricane approached, the women and children were shipped off to local 5* hotels which had secure hurricane-proof shelters. However, us men were piled into a disused kitchen store room, with the door nailed shut. All there was to do was to sit in the darkness and wait until the hurricane passed. Quite simply, the most frightening thing I have ever been though up to that point and even since. Screaming, glass smashing, the winds ripping the boards off the door and total darkness. Not nice!

Despite my brush with Ike, I loved Cuba and I'd really like to go back there someday. I think I would even like to go back to the same hotel, Club Amigo Atlantico, though maybe not during hurricane season this time...

Anyway, back to the soup. Not only did the vintage car and cheery colour of the soup remind me of Cuba, the flavours were very evocative too. I ate a lot of pulses when in Cuba, including a lot of sweetcorn, and sweet potato and cayenne pepper were also prominent features on the menu. So, when I tasted this soup and closed my eyes I could almost imagine myself there once again! It is delicious and is made better by the fact there are just 300 calories in the whole pot. YUM!

I've come to the end of my time reviewing Glorious! Soups now, but I hope you've enjoyed reading about them. The links below will take you to my other reviews. As I've said before, if I buy a pre-made soup then it is ALWAYS fresh and ALWAYS Glorious! and I hope yours will be from now on too.

Disclaimer: Glorious! sent me some of their soups to try and compensated me for my time in writing this review. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

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