Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Goodness me, it is that time of year again!  Where has 2015 gone? 

But nevertheless, as the year draws to a close I've enjoyed reflecting on my blogging adventures this year: everything from my first food festival demo at Asparafest to singing with veggie musician/rapper Professor Green and all the fabulous meals and veggie experiences in between.

My thanks too go to all you lovely readers who take time out to read my blogposts and who re-tweet/share my posts on social media as well - thank you muchly, it really means a lot to me!

So it just leaves me to bid you all a delightful, sparkly Merry  Christmas with every good wish for a healthy and peaceful 2016!

With love and best wishes
Anna xx

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Homity Pie at My Cranks Supperclub


‘Tis the season to eat comfort food.   December is overflowing with parties and eating out opportunities but it is still so nice to eat at home and put together something warm and hearty to keep out those wintery chills.  And taking part in the Cranks Supperclub allowed me to do just that.

Who are Cranks?  Established in 1961 in the swinging sixties heartland of Carnaby Street London, their mission has been to provide quality vegetarian food with chef ambassador Richard Corrigan championing them.  Their restaurant in Devon is where you can sample their fare in person or visit their website which is packed with recipes and foodie ideas.

A trip to Devon is somewhat not convenient from my West Midlands abode, so the Cranks Supperclub theme brings a flavour of its tenet to my kitchen sparing me the traffic jams on the M5!

Cranks Supperclub conjures up visions of a gaggle of your dearest & nearest nestled round your dining table and yes, conventionally that would be the case but my streamlined version of a more modest ‘romantic night in’ with My Carnivourous Husband (MCH) was how we dined Cranks style, enjoying great food whilst catching up on the week’s events.


Porcini Mushrooms

Using the recipe on the Cranks website, I adapted it to give it my own twist and also a festive flavour as a nod to Christmas.  Keeping to the key ingredients of potato, onions and cheese, I also added porcini mushrooms for some texture variation, the warmth of port and I also used ready-rolled short crust pastry for speed and ease.    Like the Cranks’ recipe, I too didn’t use an egg which makes it suitable for those vegetarians that don’t eat eggs.


Fresh Cranberries


To accompany the pie, I made some rainbow chard cooked in olive oil and sumac and also, inspired by Cranks’ Beetroot & Orange Salad, I decided to make a make a hot version of this, suiting the season with hints of citrus and cranberry.


Homity Pie before it is oven-bound

Both delighted with the outcome of the Homity Pie as well as the sides, MCH has put a request in for this again (praise indeed).  Also, thinking about that post-Christmas Day/pre-New Year period, the pie is perfect for those suppers where minimal cooking is welcomed and a great solution for those leftover potatoes and wedges of cheese that always seem to be around this time of year.

If you decide to make my version of Homity Pie and/or my Hot Beetroot & Orange, I’d love to know how you get on, so do let me know!
 
~~
Homity Pie
 
 
Cranks Homity Pie (With a Word In Veg Ways Twist)
Serves Two
125g Ready Rolled Short Crust Pastry
1 large Potato (or equivalent to 150g)
150g Onions
1 tbls Vegetable Oil (Plus extra for frying)
1 tsp Dried Mixed Herbs
50g Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp Milk (plus extra for brushing the pastry)
Salt & Pepper to taste - optional
10g Dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 tbls Port
Hot Boiled Water (enough to cover the mushrooms as per instructions below)
 
  • Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a mug, pour the Port over the mushrooms and top up with a little hot water but only enough to just cover the mushrooms.
  • Leave the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes to hydrate, although the longer you leave it the better.
  • In the meantime, peel and slice the potato(es) and boil in salted water until soft.
  • Chop the onions and fry until brown in some oil.
  • Once all the above elements have been completed, place the potatoes and onions in a bowl.
  • Sieve the mushrooms from their liquid and place in the bowl as above.  (Although keep the liquid for my Beetroot & Orange Recipe if making, otherwise discard).
  • To the bowl, add the vegetable oil, dried mixed herbs, milk, salt & pepper (if using) and half of the cheese and mix together well, ensuring that the ingredients have cooled before moving on to the next step.
  • Roll out the pastry and line a 7” tin and brush the pastry with a little milk.
  • Place the ingredients into the pastry case and smooth over.
  • Grate the remaining the cheese on top.
  • Place in an oven on gas mark 5 for 20-30 minutes – until the pastry has browned and the pie contents has become golden.
  • NB:  When ready, the mixture may not be set so do be mindful of this when cutting in to the pie, but this does not affect the finished article.
 
Hot Beetroot, Orange & Cranberry
 
 
Hot Beetroot, Orange & Cranberry
Serves Two
300g Beetroot (vacuum packed in natural juices not vinegar)
50g Fresh Cranberries
Rind of half an Orange
Good Grating of Fresh Nutmeg
1 tsp Sugar
Optional: A little of the Port/Water liquid from the Homity Pie above
 
Pour a little of the Port/Water into a saucepan.
Place the cranberries into the saucepan and begin to gently heat on a low setting on the hob. (If not using the port/water, just use a little cold water).
 
Wait until they start to pop/burst and change into a mushy stance.
Grate the beetroots into the saucepan, add the orange rind, sugar and grated nutmeg.
Mix well and heat through until hot and then serve.
 
 
Rainbow Swiss Chard
 
 
Rainbow Swiss Chard with Sumac
Serves Two
200g Rainbow Swiss Chard2-3 tsps of SumacOlive OilBoil the rainbow swiss chard until it is has softened (approx. 4-5 minutes).
Drain the chard and return to the saucepan.
Drizzle on some olive oil and pour over the sumac.
 
Stir to combine and re-heat through before serving.
 
 

Disclosure:  I was re-imbursed for my expenses to re-create the meal based on Cranks menu by Cranks Food.  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, 5 December 2015

Food Roots Interview - Ainsley Harriott


Photo:  c/o Jeremy Hicks Associates

 
You only have to say the name ‘Ainsley’ and instantly, everyone knows you’re referring to Ainsley Harriott, such is his kudos.   For the past 20 years, fun loving Ainsley has brought cookery to the masses through our TV screens in an entertaining, informative and accessible way.

In fact, I have had the pleasure of cooking with Ainsley when back in 2004 I was a contestant on BBC1’s Ready Steady Cook with my friend Lucy.  He was genuinely one of the nicest celebrities I have ever met, he was utterly charming during our day recording with him and I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since.

His career started out by working at London venues such as The Strand Palace, The Dorchester and Brown’s where he created food on a stellar scale for VIP patrons including Elton John and Princess Margaret.  In the early 1990’s whilst working as Head Chef of the Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground, he was asked to present More Nosh, Less Dosh for BBC Radio 5 which then led to him becoming resident chef for BBC TV’s Good Morning with Anne & Nick. 

Many other shows followed such as Can’t Cook Won’t Cook, The Great British Food Revival, The Ainsley Harriott Show for NBC in the US and of course Ready Steady Cook.     

Outside of the TV arena, Ainsley has written many best-selling books such as In The Kitchen, The Olympic Cookbook and Ainsley’s Barbeque Bible which have all enjoyed worldwide success.  Retail-wise, Ainsley’s own branded food products grace the shelves of major supermarkets and include his flavoured couscous and soups ranges.
 
 

Photo:  c/o Jeremy Hicks Associates

Fresh from the dance floor of BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing this year, Ainsley has waltzed his way into a new programme alongside Strictly judge Len Goodman called Len and Ainsley’s Big Food Adventure (currently available to view on BBC iPlayer). 

With Len looking to wake up his old-fashioned food palate and Ainsley acting as his guide/mentor, they have travelled in their special street food van visiting a number of towns across the UK in a bid to sample as many different foods as possible.  Together they have visited some of Britain’s most vibrant multi-cultural communities combining their new findings with fascinating food and social history facts.

I loved their episode filmed in my home city of Birmingham and I was thrilled when they visited one of my favourite haunts – The Karczma, a Polish restaurant which has gained a lot of plaudits in the past few years.    A nod to my Polish heritage roots, I love dining at The Karczma when I can and enjoy having their pierogi (stuffed dumplings – like ravioli) so it was great to see Ainsley trying them out and making a batch for himself on the show!

With Ainsley’s passion for international cuisine together with his well-documented Jamaican heritage (which he traced on BBC1’s genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?), I am delighted he has taken the time to partake in my Food Roots Interview series to talk more about his family and food memories and what they mean to him.
 

~~~

Growing up in the UK, how important was it for you to keep your Jamaican roots alive and how important is that today?  How much of that was expressed through food?

It was and is important for me to keep my Jamaican roots alive because it’s part of my history. I was born and brought up in South London and was surrounded by people from all over the world. I was experiencing the most amazing cuisine from the other families in the area who obviously felt the same and we learnt so much from each other because of it. All growing up with those lovely smells in the house. I don’t eat West Indian food every week but I do enjoy it when I have it.


What are your memories of eating Jamaican food at home and how nostaglic (if at all) does it make you feel?

I don’t really feel nostalgic about it because it’s just what we had. I suppose Sundays were quite special – Mum would do a feast and the beauty of it was us all going down the market to buy the West Indian fruit and veg from Ronnie Fraser’s stall. My late mum introduced us to the flavours and made sure we kept the passion alive by cooking such delights as Caribbean style breakfasts (a favourite of mine at Christmas).


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

Any culture’s food is important – because the produce is home grown; what they grow is what sustains them. I don’t celebrate any festivals, we just celebrate being able to get together. I don’t get that hit at home so much anymore as my sister doesn’t live close by and my mum and dad are both gone now, but family is important and we have made it a ritual to get together when we can, cook some food and celebrate our heritage and our folks.


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

You’ve got to try rice ‘n’ peas with a jerk sauce, fried plantain chips - mmm hmm. A vegetable curry – they’ll often have things like sweet potato and black beans in them. Sip on a fruity Rum Punch. If it’s breakfast time – cornmeal porridge is a Caribbean classic.


What would be your 'must have' pantry items to replicate a Jamaican/Caribbean kitchen?

It’s all about the seasoning – allspice, chilli peppers, black pepper, thyme and jerk seasoning.

~~~

 
Notes & My Thanks: 
 
I would like to thank Ainsley Harriott for his time in participating in the interview.
 
For more information about Ainsley Harriott, please visit http://www.ainsley-harriott.com/home
 
 

Len and Ainsley's Big Food Adventure is currently available to watch on

 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Culinary Captures - November 2015

There are some lovely foodie offerings around right now, both for purchasing or as places to visit.  Below are a few things that have caught my eye recently and so I've decided to feature them in my Culinary Captures for November!  Enjoy!

~~~

Fudging Lovely

I think everyone likes a little fudge, especially when it is home-made.  And that thought is what inspired Shelagh Keating to create ‘Fudging Lovely’, a brand of home-made fudge in a variety of contemporary flavours. 
Having tasted some recently, I really enjoyed it and their pretty little Cath Kidston-esque patterned boxes make them being a wonderful gift for anyone who loves a square or two of fudge!  Perfect for Secret Santa or stocking filler gifts. 


 

Photo:  c/o Little Social
 
Doughnuts at Little Social

I received an email alert recently which featured these doughnuts and described them with such aplomb that I felt I had to simply share this with you all! 
Now, I think we’re all au fait with run-of-the-mill jam doughnuts (which are fabulous in themselves), but these really sound like they are the Rolls Royce of the doughnut world!

Defined as:  Maple-Glazed Doughnuts with Baked Bramley Apple, Cinnamon and Port Filling, I found myself instantly craving for one of these, they sound so good!  Even Harpers Bazaar declared them "impossibly soft and exquisitely moreish". 
With the Jewish festival of Hanukkah occurring next month where traditionally oil-based items such as doughnuts are eaten, if celebrating, these would be perfect to mark the occasion with! 

If anyone is off to Little Social, then please try one and let me know what you think – I’d love to know!
www.jasonatherton.co.uk

 
 
Photos:  c/o Star & Garter

Star & Garter Leamington Spa
I love Peach Pubs here in the Midlands and I’ve had the pleasure of eating at The Highfield in Birmingham and The Rose & Crown in Warwick where good food and contemporary surroundings are a given. 

New to the Peach Pub family is The Star & Garter in Leamington Spa near Warwick.  What promises to be a similar offering, I can’t wait to go and check it out!  If you go before I do, tell me what you think!
www.starandgarterleamington.co.uk           

 
Photo:  c/o Nama London
 
Nama London

After seeing their gorgeous, vegan food on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch programme recently, I feel the need to give these guys a special shout!  Their tempting raw food offering is 100% meat & dairy free, vegan, organic, unprocessed and they are also gluten free. 
With Breakfast goodies such as: Spiced Apple Grawnola for the taking which consists of: a crunchy mix of activated almonds, sprouted buckwheat & spiced fruit served with fresh blueberries, served with thick vanilla cashew yoghurt on the menu or their dinner time salad special of:  a special blend of nutrient dense dulse, wakame and nori seaweeds mixed together with kohlrabi, cucumber and mixed seeds with a sesame and tahini dressing – definitely makes you want to know more, they just sound so good for you!

Based in Notting Hill in London, check out their site for more information: 


~~~

Note:  All items/services featured have been personally selected and I have not received any incentive or compensation to feature them. 

5 Minute Cocktail With Professor Green



So, I walked into a room, got handed a microphone and was beckoned to join in whilst the rest of the people present were singing Bohemian Rhapsody  being led by none other than rapper/musician Professor Green.  Let me tell you, this is not how my Thursday nights usually roll.

I was amongst those enjoying the VIP launch of Karaoke Box in Birmingham, located in Regency Wharf off Broad Street.
 
Décor In One of the Themed Rooms 

Already a phenomenon in London, inspired by venues in the Far East, the concept offers 11 pre-bookable private karaoke booths ranging in size for 2 people through to accommodating bigger groups ideal  for birthdays, stag/hen parties or corporate team building events.  Each of the rooms are themed for a bit more glamour– my personal favourite being the room designed like a London tube station. With over 15,000 songs to choose from (and for ease you can pre-select your songs before you arrive), plus bar service available to the room, the set-up has the all the hallmarks for a fun evening out. 
 
London Tube Station Themed Room

I settled into the seat next to Pro Green (as he affectionately called), and as the changeover from Bohemian Rhapsody to something new took place,  I seized this opportunity to have a 5 minute chat over a cocktail with him and get to know a little more about his foodie preferences and his penchant towards karaoke.
 
Décor In One of the Themed Rooms

Widely documented that he is a vegetarian, we instantly got talking about all things veggie, comparing notes as we went along.  Chatting about the topic in general, he hinted that he felt people are consuming too much meat these days and listening to him speak, I sensed that it was not a faddy lifestyle choice for him but something he feels very passionate about and his desire to adhere to and continue to explore vegetarianism was very clear. 
Pro Green's Tunes Ready to Go!

Exchanging random facts, Pro Green carried on with telling me that he loves eggs, but hates cheese – I told him I was quite the opposite.  Asking if wife Millie (Mackintosh – model, fashionista and former E4 Made In Chelsea star) is veggie too, he said no, but described how they love cooking together at home, staying in, having a meal and how much he enjoys the ritual of that.

One of the Largest Themed Rooms
 
Swapping tips on places to eat in his home city of London, he brought out his phone to show me Cook Daily in Shoreditch which he recommended and its one for me to add to my list of places to go and visit when next in the capital.  (London certainly does have some great veggie/vegan places popping up right now I have to say).

Entrance to Room 5

Conversation naturally turned to karaoke, asking him if he had an ultimate favourite song to sing, he said he didn’t have one particular one but expressed that he enjoys the karaoke experience as a whole, especially going to somewhere like Karaoke Box where you can get together with friends and use it as a way of hanging out and having fun.  Asking if he and Millie ever do duets he smiled and said no.  Explaining that Millie isn’t as fond of singing as he is, he did say although (whilst beaming with a proud, smitten smile), “when she does sing she sounds so cute, I love that".
VIP Drinks

The Zutons/Amy Winehouse classic ‘Valerie’ came on to be sung and with an army of eager fans trying to get their 5 minutes with the Pro, I felt it was time to depart. 
 

It was great to meet him, sing with him (that’ll be my claim to fame for a long time to come) and it was a pleasure to get to know the man beyond the music: a man who loves his veggie food, karaoke and his wife.
Pro Green & I

~~~

Notes:  For further information about Karaoke Box Birmingham, please visit here

 ~~~

Disclosure:  I was invited to the VIP launch event by Karaoke Box Birmingham and Dine Birmingham.  I was not required to write a post and/or make positive commentary.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review of Lebanese Home Cooking


 
Blustery storms, damp weather, dark nights getting earlier and earlier – this time of year always has me rushing towards warm comfort food.

Loving Middle Eastern food (as I find the spices used are more earthy rather than chilli hot ones which suits me more), I’ve always known there is more to it than just tagines and flatbreads.


Receiving the book Lebanese Home Cooking by Kamal Mouzawak to review, (published by Quarry Books), this mostly vegetarian book conjures up images of souks with sacks of vivid spice powders seeping out on each alleyway corner, with food stalls begging you try their wares and it really sets the scene of what cooking means to Lebanese communities with a touch of social history commentary along the way.

The introduction to the book does just that and describes how dishes are cooked by tapping into experience and instinct and goes into rituals of (religious) fasting and even touches upon other religions like the Greek Catholic/Orthodox faiths which is my heritage background so I found myself relating to what I was reading.

The author, Kamal Mouzawak himself has always been around food (harvesting and making it) since he was a child and in adult years has worked as a macrobiotic cooking teacher and as a TV chef  as well as being the founder of Souk el Tayeb, Beirut’s first farmers market.  Promoting unity within communities, sustainable farming and small scale farmers, he is continues this mantra via his other projects which includes a farmers kitchen. 

Looking at the Acknowledgements at the back of the book, I love the dedication he makes to the women in his life who have passed on their recipes and know-how to him and who also support the farmer's market.

Split into sections (such as Salads, Souk Food, Good Friday Food <for those who fast>), there is an introduction to each main ingredient used – eg: bulgar, and its purpose and how it fits into the whole cooking repertoire. 

Recipes are aplenty with interesting versions of Stuffed Artichokes, Spinach & Sumac Pies and Turmeric Cake.  There are lots of images to support the recipes and all the ingredients and instructions seem easy to follow. 

One suggestion for the book would be meal planning ideas, of what dishes complement each other so you can build your own dinner party menu for instance. 

All in all a really interesting, informative cookery book that offers an insight into Lebanese culture as well as a good provision of mostly hearty vegetarian recipes, ideal for when winter nights call for something warm, spicy and comforting.

~~~
Disclosure:  This post was written following kind receipt of a complementary copy of:  Lebanese Home Cooking published by Quarry Books.  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. 

 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Review of Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant


Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant.  For years its presence has dominated Birmingham’s China Town area, it’s the restaurant that everyone knows -  almost acting as a point of reference or a tourist landmark with its red and gold exterior armour beckoning you in.
Chung Ying Cantonese
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Including myself as one of the ‘everyone knows it’ people, I have been going to Chung Ying Cantonese for years myself.  When I walked in on the night of my recent visit, I felt that sense of familiarity which was particularly comforting. 
Chung Ying Interiors
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 
Being seated at a table in the downstairs area, I took a cursory glance around and thought back to all the occasions I’ve been here in the past – everything from work dos, hen parties to Chinese New Year feasts – I think I must have sat in each part of the restaurant over the years and even done a stint on the karaoke stage upstairs – quite a lot of memories if I’ve honest.

On this occasion it was myself and My Carnivourous Husband (MCH) dining, we were having a ‘date night’ (if you will).
Vegetarian Crispy 'Duck'
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Chung Ying Cantonese are always good on the vegetarian side of things and as usual, there were lots of options to choose from which was great.  Trying to branch out from my go-to fail-safes of veggie yuk sung and chow mein, I saw that they had Vegetarian Crispy ‘Duck’ on the menu as starter for two people.  I thought this was a perfect way to start our night, MCH happy to forego meat on this course and I was keen to see how they would do this dish veggie style.
Hoisin Sauce & Chinese Salad
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Pancakes with Crispy 'Duck'
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Made from bean curd (tofu), it was presented in a way that was similar to how duck would be, cooked to have a crispy coating and served with hoisin sauce, pancakes and Chinese salad so you could make up pancake rolls.  The sauce gave it a sticky texture and the salad made it refreshing.  Definitely a portion for 2 people and we devoured it completed – really enjoyed it.

Scallops with King Prawns
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 
For our mains MCH opted for the Scallops with King Prawns.  A good medley of both but he felt it need a little something to boost it, perhaps a sauce or additional seasoning.

Sizzling Japanese Bean Curd
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Again, steering myself from ‘the usual’, I had the Sizzling Japanese Bean Curd with Chinese Mushroom based on our waiter’s recommendation.  This dish did indeed come out sizzling!  The bean curd/tofu was quite fluffy and a little marshmallowy which I didn’t enjoy as much as hoped as I thought the tofu would be harder (which is how I prefer it) but it would suit those that prefer softer consistencies.  The mushrooms within were delicious.


Chinese Vegetables
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 
We had Egg Fried Rice to share which had a nice nutty texture to it and also a side portion of vegetables which worked well and had a good mixture of different vegetables, although I felt it came with too much sauce so I should have asked for it to be served ‘dry’ – but that’s just a personal inclination.
Tiramisu
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
For dessert, MCH had the Tiramisu which was a bought-in ready-made ice-cream based dessert and performed as a palette cleanser to finish the meal with and all very pleasant.

Lotus Seed Buns
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I continued with my vain of keep it traditional and so I had the Lotus Seed Buns, something I hadn’t had before.  A very mallowy, soft, gooey bun which had a slither of lotus seed paste inside (acting like a very dry jam).  The portion size came as 3 buns and I would’ve liked to have had 2 buns with a scoop of ice cream to add variety to the dessert and to give a little contrast to the buns.  Would ice cream added to lotus seed buns be uncouth?  I don’t think so, I think it would give it a different dimension which would have been welcomed.  It was interesting trying them and I enjoyed something new to experience.  
Lotus Seed Buns when cut open
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
All in all, the menu is extensive and vegetarians have a dedicated page with a wide selection to choose from – the Vegetarian Crispy ‘Duck’ is definitely a new favourite of mine and one to order again in the future.  Plus the staff are super helpful in guiding and explaining a little more about each dish to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Chung Ying Cantonese is definitely loved by Brummies, the evidence of full to capacity was there on the night to see and from my point of view, I will always be extremely fond of it with my memories of events gone by and knowledge I’ll always be looked after there each time I visit.

 ~~~
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Chung Ying Cantonese 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.