Saturday, 22 April 2017

Put St George's Day on the Calendar

It is one of my bugbears that St George's Day here in England isn't celebrated with the gusto that it should be.

My article for Express & Star explores why and suggests that we should make it an occasion to be proud of, even if it is just making a meal packed with English ingredients.

Take a look, see if you agree and Happy St George's Day to you all!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Supercharge Breakfast with Manuka Honey

My BFF Sonia is endeared with the fact I have a 'weekend' breakfast cereal.  Whilst Monday-Friday is a quick, easy, practically put together affair, at the weekends, I like to put something together that's a bit more of a showpiece that I can enjoy leisurely and in peace.

When Holland& Barrett asked me to take part in their Supercharge campaign, I knew it would fit into my daily/weekly schedule and equally into my weekend cereal routine very well.

Supercharge promotes enhancing your daily routine by making small and easy changes to the things you do every day with the use of Holland & Barrett products.  Adding items such as Manuka Honey or Spirulina into your meals can prove that the little things can make a big difference nutritionally.  


Taking the example of using Manuka honey in porridge, I made my porridge firstly by using low fat Greek yoghurt with a smattering of Manuka honey and then I left it overnight in the fridge to absorb fully.

Next morning, I added summer fruits to the centre and circled the edge of the bowl with quartered baby fresh figs.  I then dotted the figs with a little more Manuka honey to bring extra sweetness to the fruit.

My porridge ensemble left me feeling full, boosted by the thick consistency of the yoghurt, the textured fruit and the sweetness of the Manuka honey. 

Manuka honey has a more solid form and an authentic sweetness rather than some of the more economical honey available.

So why Manuka honey and not standard honey?  Elizabeth Wall, nutritionist at Holland & Barrett explains that it is a natural alternative to sugar.   Manuka honey is made by bees gathering nectar from the Manuka bush, found in parts of New Zealand.  Manuka honey contains different active constituents which have been shown to have anti-bacterial effects. It is also widely thought to have immune system boosting effects, anti-viral effects, anti-fungal effects has been linked to promoting digestive health.   Manuka honey is a natural alternative to refined sugar that makes a tasty addition to tea, toast, cakes and bakes and even adds a natural sweetness to snacks, sides and smoothies.  And for a healthy breakfast option and natural sweetness, Manuka honey on porridge is a superb pairing.

My Manuka Honey Porridge recipe can be scaled back to its basic form of porridge/yoghurt/Manuka honey for busy weekdays and dressed up with fringes of fruit for elongated weekend mornings.

Manuka Honey Porridge

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

50g Porridge Oats
2 tbls Summer Fruits
2 tbls Greek Yoghurt
2-3 Baby Fresh Figs
1-2 tsps Manuka Honey


*  Place the porridge oats in a bowl and swirl in the Greek yoghurt and half of the Manuka Honey.

*  Cover the bowl and leave it overnight in the fridge to absorb.

*  Next morning, uncover the porridge, add the summer fruits to the centre.

*  Cut the figs into quarters and place around the edge.

*  Drizzle a little more Manuka Honey around the fruit.

*  Ready to eat!




Information:  For more information about Manuka honey and the Supercharge campaign, visit Holland & Barrett’s website.  #superchargeit



Disclosure:  This review was conducted following receipt of a complementary sample of Manuka Honey from Holland & Barrett.  The review was conducted honestly without bias. For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Lunch at Leon Restaurant

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Leon Restaurants.  Somewhat a popular outlet in many a London borough and it made its way up to Birmingham at the end 2015 as part of the restaurant ensemble for the re-vamped Birmingham New Street station.
Photo:  A Kobic

It’s funny as I’d not really had Leon on my radar before and then all of a sudden Leon was everywhere I went!  I spied them in London when on my travels (bizarre how I hadn’t noticed before) and I even clocked one of their cook books on the bookshelf of the set of The Saturday Show on Channel 5 with Gaby Roslin.    Leon was all around me.
Photo:  A Kobic

So what is Leon?  Now with over 45 stores, it was set up in 2004 by John Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and chef Allegra McEvedy, their mission was to make it easier for everyone to eat well.  The menu is inspired by the flavours, variety and natural healthiness of Mediterranean cooking.  Their families have Mediterranean roots, so it was a natural fit to weave that into their business ethos.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Having received a vintage style postcard inviting me to try out their wares, myself and friend Adela headed off to sample the menu.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Must do a shout-out here: Adela writes Beau’s Breeches – a fabulous blog for bookworms everywhere and those that like a little social commentary, please do take a peek.
Photo:  A Kobic

Now do be mindful, there are two entrances to Leon within Grand Central/Birmingham New Street station, one which is for people that have come especially to dine there ‘off the street’ so to speak and the other one, is for those who have gone through the ticket barrier and are ‘train side/Grand Central side’ of the station.    We did spend a few minutes perplexed how to get in, so bear this in mind when you visit.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Upon entry, the colourful Moorish floor slates adorn the threshold whilst modern white tiled walls are all around you with hints of Mediterranean and Latino décor breaking up the stark whiteness. 
Photo:  A Kobic
Occasional bookcases are packed with Leon’s literary merchandise (a la the cook books as seen on The Saturday Show).  It’s fresh, vibrant and vintage without trying too hard to be. 
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Leon adopts a ‘fast food’ discipline so the food was presented in boxes with disposable cutlery on trays making it suitable to dine in the restaurant itself or it bears the versatility to take it away.  Very much a canteen style of dining, we enjoyed the informality of it and the fact we were just being left to eat our order in peace rather than having the constant waiter/ess service.
I had: Sweet Potato Falafel Vegetable Mezze, fries with Tarragon Mayo and a Clean Green Shake.

Adela also had the fries with Tarragon mayo, Clean Green Shake but she had a Chicken Quinoa Salad.
Photo:  A Kobic

Although Adela anticipated hot chicken rather than chilled, it didn’t deter her enjoyment of it and it had a good, almost smoked flavour.  A varied dish which was given a fruity element c/o the pomegranate seeds.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
My mezze had variety with a mixture of textures and was filling, the hint of tarragon in the mayo gave a cool, herby contrast to the fries.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The Clean Green Shakes made us feel like we were ‘being good’ by counterbalancing the fries we were eating.  The shakes consist of a mix of avocado, spinach, apples, ginger, lemon and pear juice and consistency-wise, an equilibrium between smoothie and shake.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

There were many vegetarian options on offer which made a nice change and it was a joy to have a number things to choose from instead of the usual one or two token items. 
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The ‘meal deal’ offers are good value and with a variety of sides and drinks to choose from, it offers that pick ‘n’ mix element which is even better when there are more than one of you as, for example, as you can share different side orders.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Adela felt Leon was almost like a Mediterranean Pret a Manger and I can kind of see what she meant as they have a similar stance of providing good food quickly.

Photo:  c/o Leon Website
We came away enjoying our experience at Leon and I would definitely go back when I’m in need of a quick, healthy meal whether that be here in Birmingham or elsewhere.  It’s in an ideal location for commuters who can buy and then go with a healthy meal in hand.  In fact, I’ve even recommended it to my work colleagues when they’re working away and are in search of good food with a quick turnaround - Leon can certainly do that.

Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Leon Restaurants to sample their meal deal.  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.  **Our visit was a year ago, so all food descriptions are as of the 2016 menu.**.      

















Sunday, 26 March 2017

Just a Coffee.... at Damascena

Last Sunday was just one of those lovely Sunday afternoons that flowed from one nice thing to another.   Having walked around Birmingham Botanical Gardens first, taking in that early spring sunshine, en route home, we popped to Moseley for a coffee.  Just a coffee I thought.

Ushering My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) towards Damascena, I was surprised at how busy it was - it was 3pm, I thought it would've been quite empty but alas no.  Lucky to find a table, we found it all rather delightful, like being in the midst of a quaint souk, if you can imagine such a thing.  Middle Eastern inspired furniture and soft furnishings adorn every corner and ceiling point, complemented by a Middle Eastern menu.  

Falafel, halloumi and aubergine are the staple three items that feature heavily within the menu in different guises - in wraps and mezzes to name a couple.  The desserts are amazing too such as baklava glossed in sticky honey, hot drinks ranging from Turkish/Arabic strong coffee to the sharp freshness of a Moroccan Mint Tea.  But of course, you can have a mug of good old fashioned 'builder's tea' or a cup of decaf if that's all you're after.

The 'just a coffee' idea soon expanded to include a Halloumi Wrap and a Baklava Mini Selection.  MCH pinched a couple of pieces off my plate, equally I had a decent mouthful of his wrap and instantly wished I'd have ordered my own.  Never mind.  Not able to take the pace of strong coffee, I stuck with my usual Cappuccino and MCH had a large Turkish Coffee served in a beautiful Turkish silver cup with pouring jug.

He ate his pieces of Turkish Delight that accompanied his coffee before I could make claim on one of them.  He told me they were delicious, I can only vouch that they looked delicious.

Baklava Mini Selection
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I'm afraid that I only took one photo, we were somewhat caught up in the gastro-moment, a bit too endeared with our food and coupled with sticky baklava covered fingers, photos were way down on our list of things to do. Sorry.  But I hope you take that as a sign of us enjoying our time there.

With Damascena now in Birmingham city centre (Temple Row West, by Snow Hill) as well as in Moseley, you have double the opportunity to visit 'just for a coffee'........



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Seasonal Food in February

So it’s February. 

February seems to float in and out of winter’s spectrum quite swiftly, with it being a short month smattered with a quick celebratory offering of Valentine’s Day and Shrove Tuesday - it’s then gone.

That to one side, thinking about food (as always), I was asked by Central England Co-op to explore the scope of seasonal goods available in February.

So whilst we’ll all familiar with seasonal goods in summer and even at Christmastime, what’s around in February?  Quite a lot actually. 

On the cusp of remaining seasonal are: cabbage, cauliflower, rhubarb, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, leek, parsnip and swede - whilst oranges, kale, purple sprouting broccoli are at their peak.  All of which lend themselves well in many recipes.

My first recipe suggestion, in lieu of purple sprouting broccoli, I made some griddled Tenderstem Broccoli, a snack I make when I don’t want a full meal, but when I just want ‘something’ or equally, it makes for a nice side dish.  Flavoured with oil, salt and lemon juice, it’s simple and quick.  Ideal.  This time, I ate it alongside a few Co-op Olives on one of those days when something ‘picky’ was just enough.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Tenderstem Broccoli (Or Purple Sprouting Broccoli)

200g Tenderstem Broccoli
Drizzle of Co-op Olive Oil
Grinding of Salt (preferably Pink Himalayan Salt)
Juice of Half a Lemon

·         Shallow fry the broccoli in water in a griddle pan (just enough water to cover the base of the griddle).

·         Shallow fry until the water has evaporated and the broccoli has slightly wilted.

·         Drizzle over the oil, lemon juice and salt.

·         Continue to fry for another 2 minutes until the broccoli has absorbed all the flavours before serving.

One dish which encompasses a lot of the goodness in February’s repertoire is Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie which I made and tweaked, inspired by Lorraine Pascale’s recipe featured on the BBC programme The Hairy Bikers and Lorraine Pascale: Cooking the Nation's Favourite Food

With vitamin C rich cauliflower, leeks packed with fibre and vitamins A, B1, B6 and C there is plenty of nutrition within and ingredients are available at Co-op Stores with some support from a few store cupboard essentials. 

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

For the filling

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 75g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 200g Ready to Eat Puy Lentils (from a tin <drained> or a packet)
  • 200g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

  • 1 (2 if small) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
  • 2 potatoes peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
  • ½ small cauliflower, leaves and root removed, separated into florets
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp finely grated cheese (cheddar)

For the filling, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leek and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until beginning to soften.

Add the carrots, mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook, stirring regularly, for 4-5 minutes.

Add the dried mixed herbs, lentils, tinned tomatoes, stock and red wine and stir together until well combined. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat until it is simmering and continue to simmer for 15 minutes while you make the topping.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan/Gas 6.

For the topping, add the sweet potato and potato to boiling water and boil for 10-12 minutes. Add the cauliflower and boil for a further 8 minutes, or until tender.

Drain the vegetables well and return them to the pan. Add the oil, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then mash until smooth. Set aside and keep warm.

Add the chilli flakes (if using) into the filling mixture, which should have thickened during cooking. Continue to simmer for a further 1-2 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture is too dry (simmer for longer if the mixture is too watery). Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Transfer the filling mixture to an ovenproof baking dish, then spoon over the topping and spread into an even layer. If you like a crispy topping, create peaks in the mash using a fork. Sprinkle over the cheese.

Take the shepherd’s pie in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
A quick easy-peasy dessert is an Instant Chocolate Mousse which was inspired by a recipe taken from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express book.
Taking a seasonal orange (or blood orange if you can get one) as the signature flavour here, I used the recipe in the link below, however, I removed the marshmallows, swapped the butter for olive oil and the water for juice from the orange. 

Taking the orange theme one step further, I used Co-op 56% Cocoa Dark Chocolate with Orange from the ‘Irresistible’ range. 

Chocolately, citrusy, creamy – it’s got it all!

Click here for the recipe.


More information is available on the Co-op Food website about seasonal food via this link. 

Disclosure:  I was sent complementary Co-op vouchers to explore seasonal foods.  The review was conducted honestly without bias. For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.



Saturday, 28 January 2017

Baxters Souper Swap Challenge

Lunch during the working week can sometimes come and go  without any aplomb, with choices made on autopilot or with only 'hobson's choice' from the local shop or food delivery van it can be all quite groundhog day.  And there are times when you don't even bring anything in from home.

I have soup at least once a week anyway to give myself an alternative to sandwiches and salads, whether that be a home-made portion or a shop bought one.

Baxters approached me to see if I fancy stepping it up a gear and having soup more often in the week via their Souper Swap Challenge.  So I thought why not!

Easy for me, as my workplace has a microwave that I can use so having hot soup is feasible.  The first thing that came to mind was apart from having to source some crusty bread (a must!) to go with it, is that I don't have to think about where and how I'll be lunching.  Here's a can - ready to go.

So what do Baxters have on offer?  I think most people recognise it as one of the main soup manufacturers on the market and found in most shops.  They have their own Vegetarian range as well as their Hearty range which also features vegetarian flavours. 

Charts c/o Baxters

They are very keen to demonstrate the benefits their soups offer.  In addition to the variety of ranges within the brand, they include calorie scales for those that are conscious of that as well as options that are low fat and/or gluten free.  It seems there is something for everyone's dietary needs.


So I started my challenge off with Baxters Garden Pea & Mint flavour.   It was very hearty, the taste of pea came through fully with a hint of mint but it wasn't overbearing.  It's traditional, but it is a nice neutral flavour.


Baxters Lentil & Vegetable flavour again was hearty with lots of small vegetables within.  A good balance of ingredients and equally wasn't too 'lentily'.

Lastly I tried Baxters Minestrone & Wholewheat Pasta.  A flavoursome soup and the one thing I was impressed with was that the pasta came as whole shapes - like conchigliette, not just cut off pieces.  Very enjoyable.

The soups are really good especially as they come in cans.  As mentioned above, the challenge is easy to do and this time of year, some warming soup is exactly what you need.  Grab a can and go.  Also, I felt fuller for longer during the day, a typical trait of soup in general, so I was less likely to snack later on which is a good thing.

Adding commentary to the challenge's benefit, Fiona Hunter, expert nutritionist says: 

The Souper Swap Challenge is an excellent way to kick start your healthy eating regimen. A bowl of soup is a nutritious and filling lunch and has much less fat and calories than many other lunch time options, and with some types of soup contributing up to three portions of vegetables reaching your five a day target should be a doddle. The Souper challenger will also help you save time (no more queuing at the sandwich shop) and money.”

Will you take up The Souper Swap Challenge?


Disclosure:  This review was conducted following receipt of a complementary samples from Baxters.  The review was conducted honestly without bias. For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.


Friday, 20 January 2017

Ukrainian Christmas Festivals

January is always very busy for me, hence I'm only now just sitting down to write.  Reason being, I have my second Christmas in January - my Ukrainian Christmas as I call it.

Through my Ukrainian parentage, my religion, Ukrainian Greek Catholic, we use the old Julian calendar, similarly to the Orthodox faith and as such when everyone else is wrapping up their celebrations, mine are starting (again).

6th January is Christmas Eve which is celebrated arguably with more ceremony than 7th January which is Christmas Day itself.  Prompted by the first star seen in the sky that evening, a 12 course pescatarian meal commences with Kutia to start with (a wheatberry, honey and poppy seed mix) and ends with a dried fruit compote known as Uzvar with plenty of hot dishes in between. 

Image:  Owner unknown, sourced from internet

The table is laid with a candle in the middle to mark the star that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, straw is scattered around the table to symbolise the straw from the manger and a straw wheat arrangement (known as a Didukh) which represents one's ancestors is placed at the end of the table.  A small gesture to remember those that are no longer with us.

Homemade Pampushky Garlic Bread
Eaten on Christmas Eve
Image:  Word In Veg Ways

Christmas Day (7th) traditionally commences with a mass at church and more feasting. 

New Year's Eve on 13th January (known as Malanka) brings about its own style of merriment with a Zabava (a dance) being held the old villages and towns in Ukraine, just like it is in a lot of the Ukrainian communities here in the UK.  (I've never left one sober....)

It all ends with Epiphany on 19th January, known as 'Jordan' (Йордан) as this marks the day that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan.  In Ukraine, church services are held for the whole village by the riverside, ice sculptures are made in the shape of a crucifix, water is blessed which is consumed and often houses are blessed with holy water by the priest.  Some brave souls even swim in the icy cold water and with typical temperatures of -3 degrees - rather them than me!

So I always endeavour to celebrate as much as I can, hence my January is busy, busy, busy!  I do my best to make the 12 dishes, I lay the table just so, I dance my heart out on the 13th and yesterday, I sprinkled holy water around my house for Йордан.

You can understand  now why there is no way I can take part in any faddy diet or participate in Dry January!  What sort of Christmas would that be?! 

I've got the best of both worlds and I love it!