Sunday, 8 April 2018

Solihull Radio Appearance



Since launching on 6 December 2017, Solihull has had its own radio station (Solihull Radio) giving the community the opportunity to hear about local events, news and a chance for residents to promote their wares live on air.

I was lucky enough to be featured on 29 March with DJ Geoff O'Brien where we talked about my blog and another passion of mine, Ukrainian food and festivals, in particular, Ukrainian Easter which is being celebrated today (8 April).

For a short time, you can listen to my feature on the radio's website and here's how:

Happy listening!  

PS:  If you're too late to listen to my feature, then take a look at a previous post I've written about Ukrainian Easter and I hope you enjoy that too!   


At the Solihull Radio studio

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Nigel Slater: The Christmas Chronicles


I have daffodils in a vase on my table.  I have Easter Eggs waiting to be freed from their foil wrapping and to be eaten.  The clocks have gone forward.  The weather presenters are talking about Spring Equinox.   And this is one of my favourite times of year.

However, I'm still reading a certain book by a certain author who has made me fall back in love with winter.  And that’s Nigel Slater, with last year’s offering of The Christmas Chronicles.

It’s all a bit topsy-turvy, me writing about winter as spring is trying its hardest to break through, but with the recent bouts of Beastly named weather storms, it has felt that winter has been elongated somewhat and so I’ve felt justified in continuing to read Nigel’s tales of mid-Winter bliss.

I guess I’ve taken winter for granted somewhat over the years, judging it on face value of dark days, biting weather, the stress of fighting with Christmas crowds, it’s easy to wallow in the negatives, but Nigel’s wordsmithery has made me see the beauty of what winter offers and I’ve thought – he’s right!  It is wonderful!

The Christmas Chronicles follows the rhythm of a diary, each day from November to February is written with recipes, anecdotes, memories, fables, fairy tales, traditions (both widespread and Nigel’s own) for that particular point in winter, with a good measure of history and fact too.  As the days roll further into December, for example, there is plenty written about the preparations for Christmas.  From Germanic Christmas Markets (their stollen, nutcracker soldiers, magical decorations), to the purchasing of ingredients for the ideal Christmas cake to the art of elegantly wrapping gifts through to enjoying the serenity of a crackling fire and candlelight.  At other times, it is about what is around you, he revels in the joys of country walks under arctic blue skies and the grinding crunch of footsteps over freshly fallen snow.

Yes!  I love all those things too and deep down, I always have.  His well-written, fabulously articulated prose has helped me realise this.  So thanks Nigel.

The Christmas Chronicles will now join my festive literary repertoire of go-to books for old favourite recipes and inspiration when yuletide rolls around again. 

But as we nudge the parameters of Easter, I'm happy to let spring and summer bask in their glory first, they've waited a long time to visit us again.  And rest assured, winter will be here again before you know it and it'll be time to dig out The Christmas Chronicles
again....

Friday, 2 March 2018

Review: Zou Bisou Cafe

Last Sunday's bitter chill and biting cold air acted as a dress rehearsal for the arrival of the 'Beast from the East' or the nightmare that is Storm Emma.  It led my friends and I to take shelter rather than to stroll round Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa as originally planned.

Leamington Spa (or Royal Leamington Spa if you please), bears similarities of Cheltenham with its formation of white facaded Georgian buildings and huddled amongst the high-end retailers are a wealth of eateries and coffee houses.  A string of those are in Regents Court, tucked behind the main thoroughfare of The Parade.


Photo: Word In Veg Ways


Piling into Zou Bisou Cafe, we were lucky to find a table for four, seemingly it is very popular with young families and students with laptops who took up much of the table space.  Clearly they didn't fancy Jephson Gardens either.

The menu is quite concise with crowd pleasing pastas, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, bagels etc with a range of drinks and smoothies and even a daily specials board.  A big thumbs up for their vegan range  of 'milks' and cakes which will serve them well for those who are continuing with Veganuary.


Ciabatta Sandwich
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

We all had different things, but I had a warm Mediterranean Vegetable & Houmous Ciabatta Sandwich served with crisps and side salad.  The ciabatta was good quality and had a nice, firm crust and it was bigger than I anticipated so that was a bonus.  The vegetables within were well cooked.  If I was being picky, I would've preferred chips instead of crisps, but with hindsight, it probably saved me a few calories so not a bad thing.

I had the Broccoli, Mango, Spinach and Banana Smoothie served in a jam jar style glass tankard.  Very green, but very delicious.  I wanted something other than water so this fitted the bill well and was packed with vitamins so another benefit.  The old lady on the next table was somehow perplexed by the whole concept of juiced broccoli and wondered why I'd go for that instead of a mug of tea.  So much so, she interrupted my conversation with my friends to show her husband who'd returned from the toilet what I was drinking and he too stared at it with awe.  I didn't convert either of them to green smoothies but for one can vouch it was good and again, a decent sized portion.


Creme Egg Brownie
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Talking of portions, when ordering my sandwich etc initially at the counter, I couldn't take my eyes off the Creme Egg Brownie.  I found myself post-sandwich, unable to think of little else so counter-acting all the goodness of the smoothie I had, I had to have a slice and with the suggestion of having it served warm, well, that justified the whole transaction and I applauded myself with good decision making skills.  A very good sized portion, it was nice and gooey with the trickle of fondant from the Creme Egg, what's there not to like?  Two friends having food envy bought a slice too.  We all sat there murmuring contently with each mouthful.

All in all, a very nice eatery/cafe, cosy, casual, with a good amount of vegetarian and vegan choices (especially cakes).    

I would definitely go back but to be coupled with the need to walk off my cake afterwards in Jephson Gardens.  But I think I'll wait first for a sunny day ensuring that Storm Emma and her Beastly Eastly companion have 100% blown away....

~~~

Note:    I funded all costs for the meal myself with it being my choice to blog about my experience.  The venue was not  informed that I was visiting or aware that they were being reviewed.     




Sunday, 25 February 2018

Review: Bulgarian Village Kitchen

Having never quite found agreeable flight times from Birmingham to Bulgaria for a holiday, I recently decided to sample a little of Bulgaria in Birmingham instead.

Quite the new(ish) joint in town, Bulgarian Village Kitchen could easily be missed.  Nestled unassumingly in the building opposite the side of the Alexandra Theatre in the city centre (where the old Bierkeller used to be in the '90s), you could miss it, especially as it isn't where the main footfall trails are.

So our little Saturday luncheon affair for the girls commenced with my Mother and two of our friends fighting through blustery winds and rains to get there and we were pleased to be greeted by central heating and Bulgarian pop music.  All of us being of Slavic heritage and fans of Eurovision, the music set the mood, we instantly felt akin with the place.  


We took in our surroundings of Bulgarian crafts and object d'art, pointing things out to each other and although it wasn't amazingly busy, we waited a little while to receive our menus and drinks.

The drinks menu had a number of Bulgarian spirits and liqueurs present as well the usual wines, beers etc but the soft drinks menu was quite basic.

The menu reflects Bulgarian fayre (obviously), but would benefit from more description and explanation.  Our waitress (who was exceptionally friendly and helpful I have to say), gave us more information about each dish and pointed out the vegetarian ones for me and one of our friends who is also veggie.  She also brought out her phone and showed us photos of some of dishes to help us depict what we were interested in.  

Some items need to perhaps feature an accurate English description to avoid confusion.  For instance, the items described as 'pastries' are actually more in the style of flatbread pizzas, whereas by calling them pastries, it gave us the initial impression of them being more pie based, so it is worth discussing items with the staff before you order.



Our two friends both had the Traditional Bean Soup and Mum and I shared a Kypolou Salad (mashed roasted aubergine, red peppers, tomatoes, onion and parsley), with a Garlic Pastry (aka flatbread).  They both commented that their soup was delicious, filling and hearty.  Our Kypolou was tasty with good flavour and upon the suggestion by the waitress, it was enhanced by a drizzle of olive oil.  The flatbread went perfectly with it.  A big portion for one person as a starter, but ideal for two.


All of us gravitating towards the same, Mum and one of our friends had the Chicken Vreteno and us two vegetarians had the Shopski Claypot (mine without egg).  

The consensus was the chicken dish would've benefited from some vegetables to accompany it or at least the recommendation of some to be ordered as the dish was delivered as just chicken in a sauce.  There were tiny elements of mushroom and carrot in the sauce but it was thought by both that they would be present as whole vegetables.  Oh well.




The Shopski Claypot was cutely presented in a rustic handicraft style painted pot and was nice and hot.  Like a vegetable stew with feta, it was hearty, flavoursome but with hindsight, I would've ordered some more bread or potatoes to go with it to capture the juices.



This is a nice niche restaurant and great to see something different in the city.  In a similar vain to The Karczma, it offers a cosy Eastern European village dining experience and you'll get more out of your visit there once you become au fait with the menu.  

And in the meantime, I'm still waiting for those flight times to Bulgaria to become more convenient....


~~~

Note:    I funded all costs for the meal myself with it being my choice to blog about my experience.  The venue was not  informed that I was visiting or aware that they were being reviewed.  

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: My Vegan Travels


Veganuary has become a badge of honour amongst those that are looking for a healthier approach to their eating patterns and for some it has gone hand in hand with the abstaining partner of Dry January.  Quite a big challenge for those that maxed out on gluttony in December and the never-ending feasting opportunities that Christmas brings.

But you can’t ignore the hype when you read the stats in press that:  Waitrose saw a 5 fold increase in vegan searches on their website, that 120,000 people worldwide have signed up for the Veganuary campaign with 52,000 of those being in the UK.

Let’s face it, meat-free doesn’t have to be boring and whilst shops are promoting their vegan friendly wares, there are plenty of dishes that you can make at home that neither skimps on variety or taste.

As such, avid MasterChef UK viewers will recognise Jackie Kearney from 2011 where she became a finalist and this led to her being one of the country’s most recognised vegan chefs.  Having already written award-winning Vegan Street Food, Jackie’s new book My Vegan Travels (published by www.rylandandpeters.com) has brought even more dishes to the vegan forefront and an ideal aid memoir for those that want to partake in Veganuary at home.
 

What I like about cookery books now and what is present in My Vegan Travels, is that there is a story associated with each recipe.  Not just ingredients list, method and photo, but there is a tale about where the recipe came from, why it is special to the author, so I find that I get more out of those kinds of books and they are more of a joy to read.

Jackie takes you on a whirlwind trip around the globe with her recipes and shares some of her most exciting travels with you which builds up elements of wanderlust as you turn the pages.  Am I slightly jealous?  A little. To have that freedom to travel must be so liberating.

The book’s wordsmithery is supported by beautiful photography and styling to support the recipes which helps to bring them to life.

As well as the main recipes, the book features ideas for stocks, gravy and basics to get you started as well as alternative suggestions for vegan cheese and milk which feature heavily in mainstream recipes including vegetarian ones so you don’t have miss those things if you decide to take the vegan path.  The one I think most people would appreciate is a replacement for egg which some vegetarians seeks as well as vegans.  Jackie’s recipe using flax/linseeds will solve many an egg issue I’m sure!

My word, there are so many recipes to champion here, but I particularly like:  Macadamia Crumble Pot and Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic Cream & Hazelnut Crust.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book both from a storytelling aspect as well as from a food tutorial viewpoint in a genre that is continually rising in popularity and that will take you way beyond Veganuary.
~~~

Notes: 
More information about Jackie Kearney can be sourced via:  www.hungrygecko.com
My Vegan Travels is published by www.rylandandpeters.com

~~~
 

Disclosure:    This post has been written following a complementary copy of My Vegan Travels.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.  
 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Food Roots Interview: Zoe Adjonyoh

Zoe Adjonyoh
Photo:  c/o Z Adjonyoh


One thing that strikes me when I see Zoe Adjonyoh on TV or when interviewed in magazines is her passion for food, her Ghanaian heritage and the desire to fuse them together.

Bearing this in mind, as relatively unexplored territory on the food scene, Zoe has made it her mission to bring African/Ghanaian food to the masses.

Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and cook from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana.   There she spent time exploring recipes in her grandmother’s kitchen and at the famous Kaneshi street market, where she met with cooks who shared their own takes on traditional recipes.

Described by The Observer as a “standard bearer for West African food” and picked up by Nigel Slater as one to watch on the topic of immigration food in Britain, Zoe has been enjoying enormous success ever since her first sell-out supper club in 2011 at her home in Hackney Wick.

Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London and Berlin as well as prominent street-food festivals around the UK, including Bestival and Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective.

Named as one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

Zoe's Ghana Kitchen Cookbook
Photo:  c/o Z Adjonyoh


2017’s highlights for Zoe include the release of her debut cookbook ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ published by Octopus Books as well as her commencing a residency at The Duke’s Head Highgate in London this month showcasing her Ghanaian menu.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is the spirit of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice.  And if you’ve not had chance to sample Zoe’s food yet, then her interview below will give you a flavour of what you can expect.


~~~

How important is it for you to keep your Ghanaian roots alive? How much of that is expressed through food?

It's incredibly important and very much the heartbeat of everything I do. Ghanaian food was, for a long time, my main access to that part of my heritage and one I've kept alive through my restaurant, cookbook and event catering business. It has been that route to navigating and unearthing cultural heritage that started Zoe's Ghana Kitchen in the first place. 


  
How nostalgic (if at all) does it make you feel eating Ghanaian food?

Food is such a nurturing part of childhood - it can denote safety, comfort, family, love, special occasions and apart from the nostalgic memory of where a special or even regularly cooked dish can take you in time - the taste, smell or texture of food in the present day can jolt you back to those familiar, less complicated times ...

For me - the epitome of this is always groundnut soup.  My favourite dish to eat as a child and still as an adult, the dish that launched my business and nothing compares the spicy sweet piquancy of the dish and with fluffy boiled yams and some simple fried plantain - it just tastes of love and feels like being hugged with each mouthful. My ultimate comfort food by far.



How important is food in Ghanaian culture and do you celebrate calendared Ghanaian festivals with any particular kind of feasting?

Isn't food important in any culture? Of course it is and in Ghana as with many other African cuisines, dishes and ingredients are imbued with meaning, tradition and particular health benefits sometimes too.

Here in the U.K. the main event on the Ghanaian calendar for me is Independence Day and I usually prepare a huge feast of well-known staples and favourites such as Jollof, Red Red, Palaver Sauce, Kelewele, Suya, Hot Pepper Soup, Oto and whole Tilapia with Banku.



What vegetarian dishes could you recommend when dining at a Ghanaian feast and/or restaurant?

Wow, there are so many - palaver sauce, tatale, yele kraklo, oto, okra soup ...



What would be your 'must have' pantry items to replicate a Ghanaian kitchen?

Hmm - well that really depends on your dietary requirements.  If you're cooking stews and soups you're going to want to have a stash of smoked or stock fish to add to a pretty basic holy trinity of onions, tomatoes, finer and fresh peppers - having a good stock of Shito is always a good thing - then Kenkey and plantain will pretty much make any meal for me.


~~~


Notes & My Thanks

I would like to thank Zoe Adjonyoh for her time in participating in the interview.
To find out more about Zoe and where you can enjoy her food, please contact:

Website: www.zoesghanakitchen.co.uk
Twitter: @ghanakitchen
Instagram: @ghanakitchen
Facebook: /zoesghanakitchen


Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen cookbook is available to purchase and is published by Octopus Books.

Address:
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Unit S36 Pop Brixton
49 Brixton Station Road
London
SW9 8PQ
Reservations: 07494 746907 or  email
popbrixton@zoesghanakitchen.co.uk

For more information about Zoe’s residency at The Duke’s Head Highgate, please click here.






Monday, 23 October 2017

Kefir

Kefir.  It's kind of dancing around the edges of mainstream.  

Still very much cocooned in health food shops and farmer's markets, but it's getting there, out into a wider arena.  



Mind you, it's always been 'there' in Eastern Europe.  My Mother loved it when she lived in Poland and defines it as the ideal thirst quencher on a hot day, which may seem an odd thing to say as kefir is milk based.




So what exactly is kefir?  It's made from kefir grains which resemble a cauliflower floret and these grains when combined with (any kind of) milk begin to ferment it and it starts to make a bacterial culture.  The grains are then removed with a strainer and used again to make a new batch of kefir and the process goes on.





Whilst there is no exact definition of when these grains were discovered or how indeed the concept of kefir was produced, it is known that it originated from the Caucasus mountain area which straddles the Eurasian borders so hence why kefir's popularity in Eastern European is so great.

Kefir can have a little sourness to it, so just like you would with ordinary milk, I like to turn it into a smoothie with berries and it becomes a sweeter drink.   Classed as a probiotic and because it is a fermented product, it's claimed that it is suitable for those that are lactose intolerant.




With Polish shops on many High Streets selling mass produced kefir in their refrigerators and many farmer's markets selling artisan versions, isn't it time for trying something new and perhaps getting it a step nearer to being mainstream?

~~~
 


 


 

More Information:

To find out more about gastro-health check out fellow blogger's site:  A Balanced Belly.

Artisan kefir makers Barrel & Bone and The Happy Gut Hut trade at Farmer's Markets in the Birmingham areas of King's Norton, Moseley, King's Heath to name a few, selling kefir and other fermented goods.

Photos featured were taken at the Barrel & Bone stand at King's Norton Farmer's Market.