Monday, 19 September 2016

Warm Vegetable Salad

Following the food demos by The Vegetable Butcher at selected stores this summer, Sainsbury’s are really flying the flag for vegetables right now, with so many new products on the shelves like black garlic and spiralised boodles, there are new things to try outside of the usual remit of carrots and potatoes.

I was asked by Sainsbury’s to put a vegetable salad idea together and using a bit of inspiration from a cook book I recently read – Nourishing Noodles, I decided to go down the spiralising route as I’m finding it quite an addictive cooking process!

Here’s my warm vegetable salad which I served with pasta to make it a fuller meal.  The photo here doesn’t do it as much justice as I had wanted it to, but hopefully its vivid, colourful appearance will entice you into trying this (or adapting it to your own preferences). 

It’s a nice dish that bears a few hallmarks of summer and offers an opportunity to enjoy delicious beetroots which are very much in season.


Warm Vegetable Salad

1 Courgette 
1 Beetroot
1 Sweet Ramino Pepper (thinly sliced)
100g of Spinach
1 tablespoon Milled Flaxseed
2 tablespoons of Anti-Pasti Vegetables (from Sainbury’s deli counter)
3-4 Artichoke chunks (jarred)
1 tomato (chopped into chunks)
A little oil for frying
Salt for seasoning


Peel the beetroot and spiralise it (or cut it into very thin strips) and put to one side.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, spiralise the courgette and place it in the frying pan.

Add the beetroot to the pan and stir-fry through until soft.
Add the pepper, anti-pasti, artichokes and spinach and stir-fry until soft.
Add the salt (and any other seasoning you wish).
In a separate pan, heat the tomato gently in a little oil until it breaks down and resembles a sauce.

Serve up the vegetables, pour the tomato sauce on top and sprinkle the milled flaxseed all over.



Disclosure:    I was reimbursed my expenses by Sainsbury's to create this dish. 
This post was written 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.  



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Review: The Almanack - Kenilworth

A bit clichéd I know, but I have to say whenever I go to a Peach Pub I feel  it is like putting on a pair of fluffy slippers with diamantes – comfortable but with a hint of glitz.  I feel I always know what I’ll get and it will served up with a Peachy smile.
The Almanack
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
‘Tis the case with The Almanack in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.  Part of the Peach Pub chain, it sits at the top of the High Street by the Holiday Inn Hotel not far from Elizabethan Kenilworth Castle.  With a little pay & display car park at the back, it’s all quite easy logistically and makes organising your visit smooth.  Personally, I love the drive from Solihull to Kenilworth, especially on a summer’s evening, sun-dappled fields with hay bales on view – makes you feel relaxed ahead of your meal.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

But anyway, enough romancing, back to The Almanack.  The welcome was as expected, very warm and we were shown into the main dining area.  Looking around, it was quite busy for a Thursday evening, but more so in the bar rather than the dining section.  The décor is comfortable, very contemporary and there was a funky reclaimed wood mosaic style mural behind us, which is very ‘now’.
Mural - Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Looking through the main menu and specials, there was quite a lot to choose from with good options for vegetarians.
English Garden
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Starting with a pint of Peroni beer for My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) and an English Garden cocktail for me, (vodka in lieu of gin, cloudy apple juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber and ice), we had a good perusal over the menu.  Although I have to say, as I’m not keen on gin, I asked if the gin could be replaced by vodka and the team gladly did that, with the caveat that the cocktail is supposed to be led by gin so the taste will change, but I love the other components so I was happy to take the risk and as it happened, it was very nice and refreshing – and best of all, I was pleased to see they were accommodating adaptations upon request.
Summer Vegetable Risotto
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
For our Starters, I had the Summer Vegetable Risotto.  It had the typical sticky consistency of risotto rice, made sweet with the peas and sweetcorn.  It was pleasant although not overwhelming.
Ham Cheddar Croquette
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
MCH opted for the Ham Cheddar Croquette.  It was crispy, packed with melted cheese which when dipped into its tomato relish drizzle, gave it a sweet edge. 

Aubergine Escalope
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Enjoying an English Rose mocktail (cloudy lemonade, elderflower & cranberry) as the mains arrived, I awaited my adapted Pan-fried Aubergine & Feta Escalope, Heritage Tomato Salad & Baby Leaves.  Adapted because it was confirmed that the dish (the feta element of it in fact) had chillis in it which I am allergic to so upon asking if they could amend it, they said all portions were pre-made but they had a way round it.  They went to the local shop, bought some feta cheese and made me a bespoke version.  I was really impressed with that as well as their stance of going the ‘extra mile’, I was very grateful.  The aubergine was covered in breadcrumbs, it was a good ‘escalope’ style creation and quite filling but I had a side order of new potatoes to go with it which worked well as I felt it needed something additional to go alongside it.

Market Fish
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

MCH chose the Market Fish main from the specials board.  Consisting of mackerel, haddock, king prawns and squid and accompanied by fries, some samphire, salad and a lemon-water finger bowl to refresh your fingers with.  MCH said all the fish was cooked well and it was a nice opportunity to have a number of different fishes and seafood to sample rather than just a larger portion of one type.
Strawberry Cheesecake
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

There is always room for dessert so MCH went for the Strawberry Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis from the specials board.  It was very fluffy and light making it a little different from a usual type of cheesecake.
Chocolate Brownie
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I pretty much always lean towards Chocolate Brownies on menus so true to form, I did the same here.  The advertised accompanying banana ice cream was substituted with vanilla as it had ran out, but no problem.  A little more cakey than googey in texture, I would’ve preferred more of the latter if I’m honest, but still a lovely way to end the meal with and the chocolate itself came through as good and dense.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Overall, The Almanack is another gleaming gem in the Peach Pub crown, the staff are exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable (about everything including the ingredients on the menu) and are willing to go the extra mile (especially great when you’re a veggie with allergies like me)!
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Definitely worth a visiting if you’re looking for somewhere to eat after a day out at Kenilworth Castle or just want somewhere to dine in an area that’s got a quiet village feel about it but yet has a good gastro offering.  
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from The Almanack to sample their menu.  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.      

Monday, 5 September 2016

Food Roots Interview: Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani
Photo:  Joanna Yee
Back in springtime, I reviewed a book called Summers Under theTamarind Tree which focused on Pakistani food and the culinary memoirs of author Sumayya Usmani.

Swapping the world of law for writing, Sumayya’s career now focuses on promoting her love for food.  As well as being a being a freelance food writer/broadcaster she also hosts supper clubs and cookery classes (including at Sophie Grigson’s school). 

Appearing in: The Guardian, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Irish Times, Delicious, Good Food, Crumbs, Good Housekeeping, Vegetarian Living, Kitchen Goddess, The Foodie Bugle, Foodista, British Curry Club’s CHAAT! Magazine, BBC Asian Network and Asian publications HELLO! Pakistan and Express Tribune, she also has a column with Dalda Magazine, blogs regularly for Great British Chefs and is a member of the Guild of Food Writers.

Such is her reputation, in 2014, BBC Good Food named Pakistani cuisine one of the top to watch and flagged Sumayya Usmani as the UK’s go-to expert in this field.  She has been featured in The Spice Scribe’s ‘Foodie to Watch’  hotlist and has appeared on London Live and other broadcast outlets to discuss Pakistani cooking including Madhur Jaffrey’s Good Food Channel programme ‘Curry Nation’, with her recipes featuring in the book of the same name.  

Sumayya also produces the award-winning spice range Masala Monsoon available to purchase from her website. 

Having loved reading Summers Under The Tamarind Tree, I’m fascinated with Sumayya’s story and she kindly agreed to participate in my Food Roots interview to tell me a little more about being born and raised in Pakistan and her passion for exploring and promoting her rich food heritage.




Living in the UK, how important is it for you to keep your Pakistani roots alive?  How much of that is expressed through food?

My belief is that when you move abroad you embrace the culture you adopt, but that doesn’t mean you forget your heritage. Your roots are what make you an individual and offer a sense of belonging. For me the greatest expression of my culture has been through the flavours, aromas and food memories of growing up in Pakistan, so this is why more than any other manifestation of my culture, the flavour of Pakistan is what keeps my memories alive in a new home.

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

Hugely – I can smell my childhood the minute spices hit the pan, I can taste my grandmother’s treats as I cook them and I can sense home as I see a dining table of dishes I grew up eating. Food takes you to a place of comfort, sweet memories and nothing connects you to nostalgia as much as the aroma of home cooking.

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

The most important Pakistani festival is Eid (I love the one after Ramazan, there are two), and I always celebrate this no matter where I am. It is all about a day of thankfulness for what we receive, after a month of abstinence of food, one gets to value the role of meals and contemplate the lives of people with less than us. Eid is day of feasting – large spiced roast legs of mutton, rich fragrant goat biryani, decadent saffron bread puddings and sweet vermicelli dessert grace the occasion. We spend the day eating, feeding and centring the whole day around food, sharing with  family and friends.

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

Though Pakistani food culture is heavily meat based, most people do eat a lot of local seasonal vegetables, as meat is expensive. Not all authentic recipes are found in restaurants here. Pakistan’s vegetarian recipes are simple and very much based of seasonal vegetables, in Punjab, sarson ka saag (mustard greens) is eaten, in Sindh, lotus root curry or karri (potato and chickpea flour turmeric stew), in the north they eat mishi – (black eyed peas and walnut dip), the list is endless.  So if you are lucky enough to eat at a Pakistani feast, depending on where your guests are from in the country, ask them to make you a local vegetarian recipe and be prepared to be surprised with something quite original!

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

I would say certain that there are certain utensils that can’t do without:

* A tawa: flat pan for making flatbreads

* Tempering pan: small round deep pan with long handle for making tarkas/baghar

* Spice grinder and mortar and pestle

I love to have 2 boxes of spices, one with whole spices (I like to dry roast and freshly grind my spices) and another with dry ground spices I would not be able to buy whole.

A box of spices: star anise, coriander, cumin, black cardamom, dried red chilli and cinnamon are my favourites.

I also love amchoor (dried raw mango powder) and anardana (dried pomegranate seeds) and of course, tamarind, I love these are they add a little sourness to balance the basic sweetness of tomatoes and red onions.

Other store cupboard essentials for me are I walnuts, pistachios and the best quality long grain Pakistani basmati rice.



Notes & My Thanks

I would like to thank Sumayya Usmani for her time in participating in the interview.

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee, is published by FrancesLincoln (£20). 

“This book is a treasure. Charm, information and what Sumayya calls ‘the flavour of my Pakistani heritage’ permeates every single recipe.”
- Madhur Jaffrey
 “My favourite sort of cookbook: personal, beautiful and full of things I want to eat”
- Meera Sodha (Made in India)

 “It’s wonderful to discover the world of Pakistani food and adaza (sensory cooking) in this perfect cookbook”
- Olia Hercules (Mamushka)


More Information



Sunday, 28 August 2016

Can Your Holiday Go On & On Via Food? Article: Express & Star

There is always a sense of sadness when holidays are over and whilst we can't live in sun-drenching bliss forever, we can keep that holiday vibe going (for a short time at least) via food - recreating those meals or dishes that we enjoyed whilst we were away.

Whether that is a moussaka, a calzone or intoxicating Ibizan style cocktails, everyone wants to have the taste of their holiday on a plate or in a glass - just one more time.

I've written some of my thoughts on this in an article for regional newspaper Express & Star.

Take a look at the link HERE and I hope you enjoy recreating your foodie memories.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Review: Nourishing Noodles

Everyone has been at it for months if not longer and yet I am new to the spiralising party, but hey, better late than never.

As a vegetarian, the whole spiralising phenomenon should have appealed to me right from the start but I have to say, I didn’t want to commit to buying an expensive bulky piece of kit that I may/may not get on with.  But I found a cute little hand-held spiraliser on one of the discount voucher websites which turned out to be worth the gamble.

So, with spiraliser in one hand, courgette in the other, I was quite proud of my Zoodles/Courgetti (whatever you wish to call them) when the curly ringlets appeared on my plate at the end of the process.  Feeling all gung-ho, I wanted to do more and so I was pleased when the Nourishing Noodles book came my way to review, timing couldn’t have been better!

Photo: c/o Race Point Publishing

Guiding people like me to understanding how far you can push your spiraliser, Nourishing Noodles byChris Anca, published by Race Point Publishing (£14.99) offers nearly 100 recipes that showcase the versatility of vegetables and how diverse salads or veggie side dishes can be with a few cheeky techniques.

Written for an American audience originally, it features their scale of measurements (eg: cups), but has UK equivalents on the side and also a few words here/there which are more Stateside but it doesn’t detract from the focus of spiralising and there are lots of photographs to provide inspiration and the recipes seem easy to follow.

The recipes cover all mealtimes during the course of a day from Breakfast to Supper with also a few mini recipes for add-ons to a dish such as herb or spice mixes which is quite useful.  It also promotes healthy eating with plenty of suggestions for those that are into ‘raw food’ eating as well.  Recipes include:   Cucumber Sprouts Thai Noodle Salad and Fresh Spring Rolls and take a peek below for details.

This is a really good book to help you get acquainted with spiralising and to get more out of it but is equally good if you just want some recipe ideas that will help you vary your salad/vegetable preparation routines if you’re bored with your current repertoire.


Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of a complementary copy of Nourishing Noodles.
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.  

Photo:  c/o Race Point Publishing

Makes 5-6 spring rolls

1/3 medium carrot, thin spirals
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
½ tsp raw honey or maple syrup
1/3 medium zucchini, thin spirals
½ Lebanese cucumber, thin spirals

1 cup (150 g) cashews
½ cup (120 ml) water
2 tbsp Mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece green (spring) onion, white part only
¼ tsp sea salt flakes
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 pinch chili flakes

5–6 rice paper wrappers
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced lengthwise
1 small handful sunflower sprouts
10–12 mint leaves
10–12 cilantro (coriander) leaves

1 Place carrot noodles in a large bowl. Add apple cider vinegar and raw honey or maple syrup to the bowl and massage noodles for 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cucumber noodles to the bowl, next to the carrot noodles (do not mix noodles).

2 Place all dipping sauce ingredients in a blender and process until creamy and smooth. Pour into dipping bowls.

3 To make the rolls, dip the rice paper wrappers in cold water for 2–3 seconds, then place them on a clean, dry cutting board, rough sides up. Add a small handful of each of the noodles right below the centre line and top with avocado, sprouts, mint, and cilantro.

4 Lift the side of the wrapper closer to you and tuck it tightly on top of the filling. Lift the sides of the sheet and tuck them tightly on top of the filing.

5 Begin to roll away from you, applying gentle pressure on the filling to keep everything in place; this pressure will help create a firm roll.

6 Repeat steps 4–5 for remaining rolls.

7 Serve immediately with dipping sauce on the side.

Recipe extracted from Nourishing Noodles by Chris Anca, published by Race Point Publishing (£14.99).


Photo:  c/o Race Point Publishing


Serves 2 (as a light meal)

1 tbsp tamari
Juice and pulp of ½ lime
1 tbsp coconut nectar
½ tsp grated ginger
¼ tsp cold-pressed sesame oil
½ tsp chia seeds
1 pinch chili flakes

2 large handfuls sunflower sprouts
4 small radishes, thinly sliced
2 small handfuls finely chopped mint
1 small spring onion, thinly sliced
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thin spirals

2 large handfuls baby spinach or seasonal greens of your choice
1 tbsp white and/or black sesame seeds
2 lime wedges

1 Place all dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

2 Add the sprouts, radish, mint, and onion to the dressing bowl and toss until thoroughly coated. Massage vegetables for about 1 minute to help soften them. Let sit for 5 minutes.

3 Add cucumber noodles to the bowl and toss until thoroughly coated.

4 Arrange a large handful of baby spinach or greens of choice on each plate, then top with coated noodles.

5 Sprinkle on sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges

Recipe extracted from Nourishing Noodles by Chris Anca, published by Race Point Publishing (£14.99).

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Review: Folkington's Presses

This time of year is when I want something thirst-quenching but with flavour, that’s refreshing but won’t leave me even thirstier than how I began.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

So when I saw Folkington’s Gently Sparkling Presse range, I liked their flavour combinations and the fact it presents itself brand-wise as having ‘natural’ ingredients rather than being packed with additives.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Their Lemon & Mint flavour is certainly dominated by the Sicilian lemons within and gives a strong citrusy punch right at the last gulp.  Sharing it out amongst a couple of us, we all agreed, this flavour was definitely very refreshing, it was lovely.

The Elderflower Presse version was very pleasant and although refreshing too, the flavour wasn’t as strong as the lemon & mint one.  But quintessential British nevertheless.

Photo:  c/o Folkington's

When I was ready to try the Rhubarb & Apple one, I found it had disappeared from the fridge as My Carnivorous Husband had already drank it, so I can’t comment on its taste personally.  However, he said it was very palatable with a subtle hint of sweetness.

These are great as standalone drinks but would also work beautifully as a mixer, especially with a good vodka or in a jug of Pimms!  Very much a ‘summer drink’.

I would definitely have them again and I might even get to try the Rhubarb & Apple one next time!!!

Take a look here for stockists and for recipe suggestions whilst the summer is still with us!


Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of samples from Folkingtons.  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, 12 August 2016

Foodies Festival - Birmingham

June saw the return of Foodies Festival in Birmingham back in its residence of Cannon Hill Park.
Mine was only a fleeting visit due to being somewhat of a ‘social butterfly’ that weekend sadly (places to visit, too little time), but nevertheless, I was still able to take it all in and enjoy what was on offer albeit for a short while.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Visiting on Saturday morning, arriving prior to the 11am gate opening, I thought I’d be first in the queue but clearly others had the same idea as me to get there pronto as there were a good number of people there ready and waiting.  The advantages were that before the crowds descended, we could have a good look round without too many people to jostle with.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Some of the usual traders were there from the Birmingham food scene as well as one or two I recognised from last year’s festival.  But equally, there were some new faces including some new streetfood vendors.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I particularly loved Coco Labelle in their powder blue van boasting inspired foods from Sicily, Jamaica and Mauritius.  I wanted to try their sweet potato offering but it had already been prepared with chillis (which I’m allergic to) so I couldn’t have any.  I was gutted and they too were genuinely disappointed they couldn’t help me.  May be next time….
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

A whole marquee was dedicated to Mary Berry’s range of sauces which attracted a swarm of people who were dipping cut up baguette chunks into sample pots – and very nice they were too.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Harry from GingerBeard’s Preserves overheard my enquiry for soda bread and gave me his own recipe which I keep meaning to try (and when I do, I’ll blog about it).

Seeds of Change were giving out free chive seeds and again, I am yet to grow mine but hopefully I’ll have a nice batch of herbs on my kitchen windowsill before too long.  (Really must get my act together)….

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
New Bailey’s Coffee was being offered out as samples and I have to say, it was incredibly moreish.  With a good amount of Bailey’s in it, I could have gotten quite merry had I have had a standard mug full, so probably a good thing it was restricted to one sample per person.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Also, I was lucky enough to catch up with Katy Beskow (Lil Miss Meat Free) who was preparing for her demo in the theatre tent.  Having done an interview with her a few weeks prior so it was lovely to meet her in person.  Amongst other dishes, she was going to make a vegan panna cotta which looked really delicious.

With still a good month of the summer to go, there are plenty of cities yet to host their version of Foodies Festival, so if there is one near you, it is definitely worth visiting, making a day of it and seeing what foodie delights you can pick up and if you’re not driving, just head straight for fabulous cocktail stands!

Disclosure:    This post has been written following a complimentary invitation to  attend the Foodies Festival.  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.