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!

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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: 


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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Review of New Autumn Menu at Bistro 1847

 
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

 
Birmingham has become fond of veggie trail blazing restaurant Bistro 1847 and its popularity amongst vegetarians and equally meat eaters alike has grown massively since it opened in the city a couple of years ago.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

Having eaten there many times both in my blogger’s guise and independently with friends, it was with pleasure (and must excitement) that I accepted their kind invitation to review their new autumnal menu.
Silver Birch Décor
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

My mother joined me, who has adopted a flexitarian approach in recent years and her knowing my fondness for Bistro 1847, she was delighted to accompany me to see for herself how good it is.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Admittedly, not having been there for probably about a year, I was nice to have that familiarity of the restaurant still keeping its Scandinavian minimalistic vibe but with a few new tweaks.  Their ‘Welcome to Nature’ strapline is emphasised by forest inspired imagery, wooden silver birch hangings and autumnal art work.
Autumn Pictures
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

To start proceedings off, we chose some Organic Blanc Light Fruity Bordeaux White Wine to accompany our meal with alongside some complimentary water.  The list of soft drinks was quite short in our opinion but nevertheless we opted for some cranberry juice as neither of us had had any in a long while so we thought why not.
Mossy Décor
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

Perusing the new lunch menu it was good to see that there were 5 choices available per course, making our selection all the more of an elongated process (a rarity for me and one I thoroughly devoured).
Puy Lentils
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

Kicking off with starters, Mum chose the:  Puy Lentil with Roasted Carrot, Spring Onions & Garlic Tofu.

She commented that the puy lentils were tender, the carrots were sweet and the spring onions in oil were extremely tasty as was the sauce that went with it.  The lentils were served warm and cooked just enough to provide a little bite.  Her thoughts were it was a good combination of ingredients that worked well together.
Whipped Feta with Radish
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


I had the Whipped Feta with Radish, Brown Butter Leeks, Sesame Seeds & Dill Oil.  The radishes’ bitterness against the cheese was a good contrast and never having had feta in a whipped format before, I was pleasantly surprised.  Its consistency was like a thick cheese spread.  I did feel it needed some bread so not to waste the cheese and dill oil which was gladly given when requested.
Halloumi Battered
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

For mains, seeing as it was Mum’s first time at Bistro 1847, I suggested she have the Halloumi Battered with Potato Chips, Pea Emulsion & Lemon Curd.  Admittedly I was a tad envious as I adore this dish but I was grateful to have a little taste of it to satisfy my curiosity.  Well, it was as beautiful as ever.  My mother agreed and was ‘mmmm’ing between each mouthful.  The pea puree and the hint of lemon from the lemon curd really built up the flavours well.  This dish cannot be praised enough.
Caramelised Cauliflower
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

As much as I wanted the Halloumi too, I decided we should have different things to vary it up.  I had the Caramelised Cauliflower with Wild Rice, Bulgur Wheat, Crispy Hen Egg & Red Mustard Frill .  Not being a massive fan of eggs on their own, I asked if it could be substituted and the waitress came back with the suggestion of polenta instead of egg which I accepted.    Overall, it was pleasant, but needed a sauce to go with it (which the egg <if soft boiled> would’ve provided that had I have had it) but as polenta chosen instead, it needed something.    The burnt ashen taste of cauliflower was good and the rice and bulgur wheat made it a filling dish.
Earl Grey Cake
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Desserts were a must and the options were quite inventive.  Mum went for:  Earl Grey Cake with Beetroot Jam, Fresh Raspberries & Passion Fruit.   The beetroot sauce and passion fruit were a good pairing and a good offset of sweet versus bitter.  The cake element was softly baked and red in colour, but there wasn’t a strong Earl Grey taste coming through, however, that’s doesn’t detract from the whole dessert as it was excellent.
Triple Chocolate Brownies
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I went for the Triple Chocolate Brownies with Blackcurrant Coulee, Ginger Gel, Blackberries & Crème Fresh.  The brownies weren’t spongy as some brownies can be, instead they were fudgey, thick and dense.  I absolutely loved it and the sourness of the blackcurrant was tongue tingly!  The ginger didn’t come through as strongly as I anticipated, but a hint of it was probably enough as it may have been too overpowering otherwise.  A darling of a dessert and essential for all chocolate lovers.

The new menu is varied with some good combinations that again proves veggie food doesn’t have to be boring.  The Halloumi is still on the menu, for which I’m delighted, it has become their signature dish and I hope that it will remain a constant on the menu in years to come.  And when I next visit, I’ll be having it again rest assured.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

As our lunch came to an end, I took a minute to reflect on our visit (whilst finishing my wine) and I noted how full the restaurant had become and how speculative diners were being told to come back later as it was so busy – so I’m pleased for Bistro 1847 as there is clearly so much adoration for them and the affordable lunch time deal helps which also makes it more accessible to all. 

Not been?   Then it’s time you did and definitely have the Halloumi!

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Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Bistro 1847 to sample their new 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Review of Sage by Heston Blumenthal No Mess Waffle Maker


Thinking back to my recent travels in America where waffles graced every hotel breakfast buffet, I thought it a fateful coincidence to be offered the opportunity to try out a new waffle maker from Sage by Heston Blumenthal.

Wanting to re-create a little bit of Americana back in my UK suburban kitchen, to see if home-made versions are like those over the pond as well as to ascertain if their USP of No Mess was indeed the outcome, I was keen to put it to the test.



The No-Mess Waffle Maker™  is a blissful concept as there is nothing more stressful than using a piece of equipment only to then find yourself having to soak, scrub and de-scale it thus putting you off from ever using it again then it ends up being a redundant item wedged at the back of your kitchen cupboard.  But this claims otherwise.

So assessing it fully, I noted that the waffle maker itself is quite compact so placing it on your kitchen surface isn’t intrusive at all.  The instructions are easy to follow as is the preparation process of cleaning the machine before use.  So far, so good.

Waffle Batter being prepared.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The instruction booklet comes with some recipe ideas at the back which is really handy, so I thought I’d try the Buttermilk Waffles first.

The recipes are easy enough to follow and they come with instructions at the end how to use the waffle mixture made in conjunction with the machine, which saved me from having to flick between the recipe and the instruction manual sections.

No-Mess Waffle Maker
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

All plugged in, once the ‘Ready’ button had lit up on the waffle maker it was set to go.  True to its word, the mixture does expand so you only need as much as is mentioned in the recipe per portion.  Mixture in, lid down, you just wait again until the ‘Ready’ button goes off and that indicates your waffle is ready.

To make the waffle to your preferred shading, you can choose a setting between 1-6 (6 being very dark). So I opted for level 3 to see how it would turn out.  I found that this was too light and so I moved it to number 5, left it in the machine for a bit longer and the colour of the waffle came out a deeper bronze shade which I preferred.

Waffles on Setting No.3
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Having put a smidgen too much mixture in the maker at the start (as above, note to self, do only use the recommended amount as per the booklet!), I was fearful that it would be difficult to extract the waffle, but no – it all came out in one piece, spilt mixture and all!

As the claim states – no mess.  The waffle plate was totally clean, no stubborn mixture left, nothing - the wrap-around moat round the waffle plate catches and cooks any excess batter. #Impressed!

Testing the Buttermilk Waffles out at my parents’ house, we liked them but felt they were a little too sour (because of the buttermilk) but they were improved with a little bit of jam to counterbalance the sour/sweet ratio.

My next team of testers came in the format of my work chums.  Taking the waffle maker into the office, I soon had a curious audience watching and waiting for a piece.  (I felt a little like the demonstrator reps you see in department stores promoting new gadgets)! 

Making the Classic Waffle recipe this time, it was a lot tastier than the Buttermilk version.  I kept them on browning level number 5 as others too felt that the lower settings made the waffles too pale.  We had an array of melted chocolate, jams and squirty cream to hand to jazz up the waffles which were enjoyed by all.

Wowed by the ‘no mess’ factor, one of my colleagues was so enamoured by the waffle maker he decided to buy one himself!

Overall, this is an excellent piece of kit – the No Mess guarantee really is true to form.  In fact, putting the ingredients/mixture together for the waffles is where the effort lies in the process and that isn’t any great hardship to be honest.

I kept hearing people say “it’s great if you have kids” and whilst that is true, it’s just as enjoyable for adults to use as well – so I’d say it’s good fun all round!    One thing to note is that I do think however that you need to have the intention to use it regularly to justify the purchase as it is an expensive item to buy.

All in all, The Sage No-Mess Waffle Maker™  is a great item for foodies and would make for a nice (Christmas perhaps?) gift for someone who enjoys kitchen gadgetry or for a family that want to invest in something that will give a fun experience over breakfast or that will provide easy elevenses treats.

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Notes: 

The Sage No-Mess Waffle Maker™  is available from John Lewis, Amazon or via www.sageapplicances.co.uk

Demonstration Video available to view the Sage No Mess Waffle Maker's full impact. 

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Disclosure:    This post has been written following kind receipt of the Sage No-Mess Waffle Maker .    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.