Thursday, 25 April 2013

Solihull French Market





Strolling around Solihull centre today I came across 'Solihull French Market' which is running until Saturday 27th April.




Albeit a whistle-stop visit, I took a quick look around the 'petit marché' to see what delights there were for vegetarians. 















Normandy Custard & Plum Tart





Stalls boasted olives, tapenades, fresh baguettes, patisserie items including Normandy custard & plum tarts as well as cheeses. 














Peppercorn Goats cheese





Directed to the cheeses that were suitable for vegetarians, I came across a variety of handmade goats cheeses and I decided to buy the peppercorn encrusted one, which will work beautifully with a French baguette, cubed over a salad or scattered over pasta.












With the weekend approaching and if you're Solihull bound for a shopping trip, make sure you swing by the market stalls on the High Street.  Even though the market is quite compact, there is definitely something there for everyone.  So why not go and buy some goodies and fill up your ooh-la-la-larder!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John (Rice & Bean Stew) – Taste of Nashville

I’ve got ‘Nashville’ fever good and proper! 

I’m totally addicted to the hit US drama series based on the trials and tribulations of the fictious Nashville country singers who sing their hearts out and bear their souls each Thursday (as is screened here in the UK).

Dreaming of singing with my ‘gee-tar’ whilst the Nashville soundtrack blares from my stereo, I got to thinking about what Nashville is all about and what kind of food is synonymous within the state of Tennessee.

The good old internet brought up quite a few options, things like: meatloaf, peanut butter pie and spare ribs.  But one recipe caught my eye which was easy enough to adapt for vegetarians and that is ‘Hoppin’ John’. 

Packed with rice, beans/black eyed peas and vegetables, it can be eaten in that way or if copying the Tennessee method, vegetarian-style bacon can be added (or pork bacon if making a portion for meat eaters).

Although eaten traditionally on New Year’s Day as a symbol to bring in good fortune (the black eyed peas  symbolising coins), it’s good enough to eat at any time.  Let’s face it, we all need good fortune whatever time of year it is!

Black eyed peas are somewhat difficult to find in the mainstream supermarkets of the UK, as was in my case, so I used tinned haricot beans instead. 

Just to note, I made a 2-person portion , I changed the seasonings slightly to suit my preferences (I put in a heaped tablespoon of paprika and a heaped teaspoon of ground ginger).  Do note the quantity stated on the recipe and if required, divide accordingly.


Hoppin' John
Photograph:  c/o www.tasteofhome.com

Recipe:
NB: Add veggie bacon/pork bacon if you wish.  Remember to keep meat and veggie portions separate and see my note above about portion sizes and seasonings.

~

It’s extremely tasty, it keeps you full, packed with goodness and is a great dish for single portions or placed on the table as a large pot for the whole family to share.

After the meal, volunteer someone to do the washing up, put your feet up and catch up with an episode or two from Nashville series 1 (you know you want to....) ! :)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Green Mooli & Hummus


"Green mooli and hummus??!!  Really??!!" 

That's the reaction I've had from everyone I've mentioned it to, but my response is that you have to try it!  Via sheer experimentation is how I came about this concoction and I have to say it has become a new favourite snack of mine.  Here's how it happened.....

I was shopping at my local Morrisons store where they have a small 'exotic' section selling Asian/Caribbean vegetables.  (PS: Here's the link to a post I wrote about eddoe from said section). 


Green Moolis


Always naturally drawn to this area, I have tried a few things from there already including the long white mooli, but I hadn't tried green mooli which in appearance is fatter, more tubular and of course, green. 

Normally sold singly, I saw a bag of green mooli that been bagged up and labelled for an extremely low price as they were nearing their sell-by date and for this bargain price, I thought it worth trying - nothing ventured, nothing gained.


A Single Green Mooli

So, a bit stumped as to what I could do with my green moolis, I embarked on a little research.  Green Mooli, also known as 'Korean Radish' (with its white counterparts often labelled as Japanese radish, daikon or chai tow), and with its lineage to the radish and turnip families, it bears the same kind of bitterness associated with those vegetables.  In addition, and on a positive note however, it’s very low in calories and has high vitamin C content.

There are quite a few recipes online for green mooli, mainly bearing Asian/Oriental influence.  But I thought about how I could do something a little more Western with it for a change.

I decided to flavour them, roast them and let fate (and my oven) decide how they'd turn out!  I used a little honey to balance out the radishy-bitterness that moolis tend to possess and my recipe was as follows:


Green Mooli Cut Vertically


~~
Roasted Green Mooli
4 Green Moolis
Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Paprika (more if preferred)
Drizzle of Honey
Salt & Pepper

~
  • Wash/scrub each mooli thoroughly.
  • Trim the ends off each one.
  • If the skin seems tough, peel it slightly, but not down to the paler flesh.
  • Slice vertically in half, then cut into long wedges.
  • Coat in vegetable oil and place on a baking tray.
  • Scatter the paprika over all the wedges (add more if you like).
  • Drizzle the honey over the wedges.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 40 - 60 minutes (dependent on how soft you want them) on gas mark 5. 
  • Turn during the roasting process.


~~

Taking them out of the oven they looked like green potato wedges and you could see that they had shrivelled slightly. 


Roasted Green Mooli Wedges

Letting them cool a little, I then tentatively tasted one.  It was a bit hard yet at the same time a bit chewy with a roasted flavour coming through with a little hint of a bitter after-taste but yet very tasty.  In fact, they tasted even better when left to cool for a couple of hours.

Ready for a snack much later on, I thought I’d munch on a few more of the green mooli wedges I’d created and I wondered how I could pair them up with something.  Looking in my fridge for inspiration, I saw a pot of plain hummus kicking its heels on the top shelf and using the logic of raw chopped vegetables and how well they work with hummus, I thought I’d adopt the same approach with the wedges.


Roasted Green Mooli Wedges Dipped in Hummus!

To my surprise, it was absolutely lovely!  The juices from the wedges seeped into the hummus as well, which added to it and it was a perfect union!

Green mooli will definitely appear on my shopping list again and has become my new favourite snack!

Whilst I appreciate that it may be an acquired taste, I urge you all to give it a try.  What do you have to lose?  If your local Morrisons store doesn’t sell it, it can be found in most Oriental/Asian supermarkets. 

So if someone says to you - "Green mooli and hummus??!!  Really??!!", say “Yes, really!” and give them my recipe!



Monday, 15 April 2013

Kings hEATh Streetfood Event

A few months ago, I wrote a piece for Cook Vegetarian magazine predicting that in 2013 interest in streetfood will rise in the UK and true to my word(s), the trend has taken off all round the country.  And following suit, here in Birmingham, this weekend saw the launch of the city's newest food event - Kings hEATh Streetfood Market.



Crowds at Kings hEATh Streetfood Market

Set in the Village Square in the heart of south Birmingham's Kings Heath district, it's Birmingham's first ever authentic streetfood market bringing together 15 of the country's hottest streetfood traders and entertainment.










Margo & Rita's Mexican Food Van


Streetfood is about real, honest food. All cooked to order with flair and theatre right in front of you, from quality local produce and served up from vintage vans and unique popup stands.









Drumming Entertainment



The April showers on Saturday didn't dampen the spirits of the market's ambience, the square packed to the brim with hungry visitors choosing from the wide range of fayre whilst enjoying the vibrant atmosphere and entertainment provided by stilt walkers, guitarists and drumming bands.  

Flic & Barny from The Jabberwocky









Amongst the vegetarian offerings were gourmet toasties from The Jabbawocky, Moroccan inspired falafels, dosas, curries, Mexican fodder from Margo & Rita's, pizzas from Fundi, Middle Eastern salad boxes from The Deli at Edgbaston and waffles from The Bournville Waffle Company to name a few.  Those of a carnivorous nature were not disappointed either.







Middle Eastern salads from The Deli at Edgbaston

Most of the dishes fell in to the £3-£5 bracket, making it an affordable way to eat whilst on the go. Covered dining areas were available so everyone could chill out and enjoy their food in comfort during the inclement showers. And for those that fancied a tipple with lunch, they could buy reasonably priced wine or beer from the drinks tent.








The Fabulous Team from The Bournville Waffle Company

The ethos of streetfood combines convenience, fast turnaround with paramount emphasis on quality and value. It also provides people with the chance to try different foods that they may not normally have the opportunity to taste.











Kings hEATh Streetfood Market's creator Duncan Stanley, Director of Moseley based  Brum Yum Yum who promote/represent independent streetfood producers, stated:
“I have a creative vision of what makes a really great streetfood market. A complete experience; a ‘streetfood show’ with quality food, drink and entertainment combined to create a special and unique vibe."  Duncan continued: 


“People want to eat food that is sourced and produced with care and sold at an honest price. Streetfood ticks all the right boxes, so the initial response to our vision for the food events has been overwhelming. Our online following just keeps on growing and the BBC Good Food producers are in talks with us about featuring streetfood at their shows."





Fundi Pizza
Going forward, Kings hEATh Streetfood Market will be held on the second Saturday of each month from 12pm to 6pm in the Village Square, by All Saints Church, off the High Street (B14 7RA).

Kings hEATh is a fabulous way of experiencing the streetfood phenomenon on your doorstep, the perfect place to have a pitstop whilst shopping with great food and entertainment for all the family. I can't recommend it enough!




Pop the next date in your diary, (I have), and remember to turn up with an empty stomach!


~~~

Here are some links to other articles I've written about Kings Heath and/or streetfood.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking

As a keen cook with greenish fingers, aside from my daffodils and begonias, I have a little herb garden in-situ of rosemary, bay, oregano and mint amongst others.  Whilst I use it frequently, I know that I could make more of it and get educated on how to maximise their use in the kitchen.

When I received a copy of 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cookery'  I knew it was exactly what I needed.





The Herb Guide acts as aid memoir to utilising garden herbs when cooking.  It comes as a handy A4 spiralbound book with a little hanger attached, perfect for hanging on the kitchen wall or noticeboard for easy access and reference.  

Written by Michael Littlewood, a landscape architect turned herb gardener, he has used his knowledge and experience to produce this and other guides.  With acknowledgements to Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons, chef Sophie Grigson and herb expert/author Jekka McVicar, this book has been written with authority and expertise.


History of Herbs
The book explains the history of herbs, with usage recorded back to the 4th/5th century AD when honey, oils, pepper and fennel were used to flavour and preserve foods.  As time rolled on and in the dawn of the industrial revolution, as people moved from the countryside into towns, the art of herb growing declined.  In recent years, herb advocaters such as Jamie Oliver, have brought herb gardening back to life and back into vogue.



A selection of herbs


18 Different Herbs
The book focuses on 18 different herbs and there are sections on:

  • Why they should be used.
  • How to maximise their benefits by eating them raw or by adding them at the end of the cooking process.  
  • Advice how to select  herbs to add depth to dishes like sauces or stews.  
  • How to recognise the differences between hardy and soft/fresh and dried herbs.
  • Which vegetables complement which herbs.  
  • Plus tips on how to store herbs including putting them in water and freezing them within ice cubes for later use.



Herb Reference Charts
A really useful guide are the pictorial charts in the book which act as a quick reference tool for all kinds of occasions when you may need a helping hand to decipher which herbs are suitable for when.  

One chart outlines a herb's compatibility with different food types.  Using the example of tarragon - run your finger along the chart and you'll see it works well with condiments, preserves, biscuits, stews, sauces, lentils, vegetables, salads and soups.

Another great reference chart denotes which herbs suit what vegetables.  It is an automatic assumption that all herbs will work perfectly with all vegetables just because they're plant based.  But this isn't necessarily so.  From the chart you'll see what works well and how to enhance your recipes/dishes.  For instance basil works beautifully with broccoli, sprouts, spinach, swiss chard, beetroot, carrots, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes, swede and brown onions.

As well as pairing herbs with vegetables, there's an informative chart that helps users to marry up which herbs would work well together.  Again not to be assumed that all herbs will work together just because they're herbs.  For instance, tarragon works well with:  chervil, chives, fennel, garlic, parsley, savory and thyme.


Chart denoting which herbs work well together


Eating Herbs and Fruit Together
Fruits also work in harmony with herbs, again, proving their versatility and bringing whole new possibilities into the kitchen.  Strawberries for examples, work fabulously with sage, bay and mint.


An example of pairing fruit and herbs together


~~~

'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking' has certainly helped me to understand how to get the best from my herb garden and how pairing herbs together with a little knowledge will enhance my dishes and give me a wealth of new options to try.  

A wholehearted recommendation for anyone wishing to cook with herbs - a handy guide for any kitchen and also a lovely idea for anyone looking for a culinary inspired gift.


~~~

For more details about Michael Littlewood, 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking' and his other publications, visit:  www.ecodesignscape.co.uk

~~~

Disclosure:  This post was written following receipt of a copy of:   - 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking'.  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. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Vegetarian Dining at Moor Hall Hotel

Aside from vegetarian restaurants where the menus are 100% veggie friendly, it's usually the norm for restaurants to only have a couple of vegetarian options on offer.  So when presented with a menu full of choice, it comes as a welcomed change.


Moor Hall Hotel




Such  choices were available when I, (with my husband), were invited to The Oak Room Restaurant at Moor Hall Hotel in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, and we experienced their dedicated vegetarian menu, which runs in parallel to their standard menu offerings.  







Homemade Bread Rolls with Garlic & Herb and
Tomato & Chilli Butter Patties




Our meal commenced with fresh, made on the premises, bread rolls.  The rolls came with patties of homemade garlic & herb butter (which had a pleasant, warming punchy taste) and also tomato & chilli butter, which was smattered with chunks of tomato and provided a flavoursome yet creamy taste.










Goats' Cheese Brulee

For starters, I had the Goats' Cheese Brulee which was served with a homemade bread roll, rocket leaves and sweet chilli jam.  The goats' cheese, with a crumb topping, was soft with a slight sharp tang and when dipped in the sweet chilli jam, it offered a delicious contrast that lifted the cheese and with the addition of the peppery rocket leaves, it gave it an extra dimension.  It all made for a perfect taste combination.








Wild Mushrooms

My husband had Wild Mushrooms, (an alteration from the menu's Baked Flat Mushroom), which were roasted and served with a tomato confit, accompanied by crushed green olives and a croute slice.  He commented how the sweetness of the tomato gave a pleasant diversity to the salty olives and the mushrooms' softness balanced nicely against the crunchiness of the croute.








Tomato & Courgette Bake
For the main course, I opted for the Tomato & Aubergine Bake.  The aubergine was substituted, (due to no availability), with courgette which the staff suggested as an alternative and they were very willing to ensure that the meal was prepared to my satisfaction to accommodate the change.  The bake consisted of a layered tower of tomatoes, mozzarella, sage, mixed vegetables and courgette ribbons drizzled in a rich tomato sauce.  It was very hearty and the parity of vegetables and cheese worked well together.




Spinach & Potato Cake


My husband had the Spinach & Potato Cake which was coated in crumbs with a sweet & sour sauce and served with wilted vegetables.  Extremely well presented, the cake, which when combined with the sauce, enhanced the taste of the spinach and acted as the perfect accompaniment.








Although the desserts are featured within the vegetarian menu, it is worth noting that not all desserts are suitable for strict vegetarians who omit animal derived ingredients from their diet.  For instance the mousse and panna cotta are not suitable due to gelatine content.  But The Oak Room staff were extremely knowledgeable about all the dishes on the menu and were happy to provide clarification and guidance through the list of desserts to ascertain suitability.



Lemon Tart with Lemon Ice Cream



Lemon Tart is what my husband selected for dessert which was served with a shortbread biscuit and lemon ice cream.  It consisted of a velvety, sweet yet zesty tart filling with the taste of real lemons on a pastry base.  A refreshing palette-cleansing dessert, ideal for post-meal and yet very light.








Creme Brulee with Passion Fruit Ice Cream

I chose the Creme Brulee (a double brulee dinner for me I know!), served with roasted pineapple, a homemade shortbread biscuit and passion fruit ice cream.  The brulee had a nice caramelised crunch layer on top with the creme being thoroughly creamy, thick and indulgent.  The taste of vanilla came through with  vanilla seeds present in the mix.  The pineapple was exquisitely sweet as it had been roasted which worked beautifully with the delicately infused passion fruit ice cream.









The Oak Room Restaurant




The Oak Room provides an opulent setting with high ceilings, fascinating paintings, ornate stain glass windows and a large fire place.  Staff were attentive without being intrusive and eagerly offered guidance and suggestions when requested.



Painting in The Oak Room Restaurant





I would definitely return to and recommend Moor Hall Hotel for fine dining, with a special recommendation for vegetarians who can enjoy a broad selection of dishes.  In addition, my carnivorous husband was very impressed with the vegetarian choices and the courses he had and stated that he didn't miss the meat element of the meal at all - and that is praise indeed!!









For information about The Oak Room Restaurant and Moor Hall Hotel visit:  www.moorhallhotel.co.uk



Disclosure:  This post was written following a kind invitation from Moor Hall Hotel to experience the vegetarian menu at The Oak Room Restaurant.  This review was conducted with honesty, 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.