Monday, 30 May 2016

Culinary Captures - May 2016


In a month sprinkled with Bank Holidays and bluebells, May’s foodie offerings have been aplenty too.  Boosted by National Vegetarian Week, (sandwiched right in the middle of the month), May has been packed with lots of events and recipe ideas to give everyone food for thought.

And as always, here is a little round-up of foodie news that has come my way to share with you!

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Cranks
 
 
I was contacted by Cranks for my input into a piece they were writing for their blog with regards to National Vegetarian Week (NVW). 

As one of the sponsors for NVW, Cranks were asking veggie bloggers about their Best and Worst experiences as a vegetarian as well as what advice they’d give for people starting out on their journey of vegetarianism.

Take a look at the suggestions given  - mine amongst them.

Best & Worst Experiences of Being Vegetarian
Hints & Tips for First Time Vegetarians
 
What piece of advice would you give to newbie veggies?

What have been your best and worst experiences?
 
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Yumzee

Photo:  c/o Yumzee

Now, let me tell you about Yumzee.

It is a new way of social dining and connects people who love to cook, with those who love food in great company and in a unique and authentic home experience. Think ‘AirBnB meets Come Dine With Me’!

After being a big trend in Paris, social dining has finally come to Birmingham too!

For those passionate about cooking can become hosts and create a meal, be it a dinner party, Sunday brunch or cocktail tasting. The host chooses the date, sets the number of places at the table, creates the menu and sets the price for the meal.

And for those who love to eat can sign up to the meal, show up to the host’s home, meet new wonderful people and enjoy. Et voilà – you host or attend your very own supper club!
Photo:  c/o Yumzee

Feedback from a previous Yumzee guest has been: “I can’t believe how nervous I was when I first rang the doorbell, compared to how sad I was when it was time to say goodbye. It was a really great bunch of people, and I really didn’t want the night to end. What a difference to my normal Friday night take away”

To get involved and to take your passion to the next level or to meet likeminded people over great food visit:  www.yumzee.co.uk for more information.

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Birmingham to Host First Major Rum Festival this Summer
 
Photo:  c/o Dine Birmingham

 
Birmingham Rum Festival, organised by Dine Birmingham, is being held on Saturday 2 July and will take over the whole of Cuban-themed venue - The Cuban Embassy in Moseley.  On the site of the former Bull's Head pub, the event will spread across two storeys, an outdoor courtyard and open-air balcony terrace.

Visitors when arriving can sample and discover rums from a host of brands and exhibitors. Experts and cocktail mixologists will be on hand to guide, inform and entertain the rum-loving public.

Street food will be a prominent feature of the festival. A menu of Latin American and Caribbean-inspired dishes will complement the rum selection.  Organisers are aiming to create ‘a lively carnival atmosphere’, with live salsa, samba and reggae music performances throughout the day.

A total of 130 different rums will be available behind the bar, ranging from dark to white to spiced varieties.  There will be a special focus on the exotic and diverse provenance of rums, with bottles from Bermuda, Guyana, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia and beyond.

In addition, Birmingham-based retailer The Drinks Emporium will host a rum shop where visitors can browse and buy bottles to enjoy at home.

Tickets include entry to the Afternoon or Evening session, access to the sampling area and a welcome drink. Find more info and tickets here.
 
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Food Festivals In Your Lunch Break
 
 

Streetfood and food festivals aren’t just being contained within the realms of weekend events anymore, the idea of bringing food to the masses and capturing the workforce is becoming more popular.  As such, a number of Birmingham and Solihull business centres are creating mini festivals for workers to cover the lunchtime period, encouraging everyone to make time for a break. 

I attended an event at Birmingham Business Park recently hosted by Gary Poulton from BBC1’s The Apprentice and it was great to see so many people getting out and enjoying some fresh air over lunch. 

Definitely an event that should be encouraged more across all places of work – and reap the health benefits of taking time out for a rest.  It’s time to perhaps be a little more al-fresco than al-desko!

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Glynn Purnell’s Friday Night Kitchen Competition

Photo:  c/o BirminghamMail.co.uk

Glynn Purnell’s Friday Night Kitchen (GPFNK) is a live culinary event taking place at Aston Villa in Birmingham on Friday 7th October.

Led by the Michelin-starred ‘Yummy Brummie’, the event will also feature X Factor winner Sam Bailey, master chocolatier Will Torrent and other guests, as well as hosts Suzanne Virdee, Ed James and Phil Upton from local Midlands TV & radio.
Back for 2016, the #FridayNightFoodie competition runs on Fridays and Twitter followers are encouraged to send in a picture of their Friday night dinner using the hashtag #FridayNightFoodie and tagging @GPFNK, with the ultimate winner receiving two tickets to the event at Aston Villa in October. For more information, visit:  http://gpfnk.co.uk/fridaynightfoodie
 
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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. 
 
 




 
 
 

 


 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Launch Night - Be At One Birmingham


I am quite choosy when I go out these days, I like to find places where I don’t feel too old, but somewhere where I can still have a fun time.  Sometimes it can be tricky to judge and of course places change so it can be hard to keep up with where’s good.

Well, good news.  I’ve found somewhere new to go to which fits the bill.  Welcome to Birmingham, Be At One.

Already a well-known brand in London, this bar offers cocktails on a diverse scale – 150 different ones to be exact with challenging taste combinations that become a talking point.

For those with bearings of Brum, here’s where it is:  Nestled within Piccadilly Arcade off New Street in central Birmingham, it has taken over where the old snooker hall used to be, to the side of what was once Diesel Clothing and right opposite the back entrance of Grand Central.  It’s a small doorway, you’d be forgiven for walking right past it – but don’t be deceived.
Inside Be At One
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Any excuse to put my highest of heels on, as I tottered down the stairs on launch night, I could see that we had walked into a deceptive tardis of a venue, set out nightclub style.  I could see My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) making approving facial gestures as we headed towards the huge rectangular bar.  “It’s so nostalgic, but yet it feels current” he said.  Spot on MCH!  We agreed instantly we liked it.
 


Checking out the menu, I flicked straight over to the vodka section and whilst the usual suspects were present (Woo Woos, Cosmopolitans), I was keen taste their signature cocktails not found elsewhere.
 
Swedish Death Nettle
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


I was instantly drawn to the macabre sounding:  Swedish Death Nettle.   A combination of Absolut Elyx vodka, Nettle cordial, lemon juice, chilled English breakfast tea and soda water.  On paper, they are a clash of flavours (vodka and tea?!) but in reality it was really refreshing and a great opportunity to try something different – in particular, something ‘nettley’.  I’d have this again for sure.
 
Svenska Detox
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Sticking with the vodka and the Swedish theme, I opted for Svenska Detox which had hints of vegetable.  Vegetables in cocktails, it’s a new one on me.  Worth a shot I thought.  A blended mix of: Absolut Citron vodka, lime juice, agave, pineapple chunks, spinach and kale.  It was quite thick and very smoothie-esque, but nice.  All the goodness from the spinach and kale was counterbalancing my alcohol consumption which was a positive.  I would have this again but perhaps reserve it for those times when feeling under the weather when you welcome a little tot of something to warm the bones, with an injective lift of vitamin goodness to give your immune system a boost – those kind of times.
 
Candy Pants
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Next was the cutesy, flirty entitled Candy Pants which was a mixture of Absolut Kurant vodka, Chambord, lemon juice, strawberry puree and cranberry juice.  It was sweeter than I imagined (perhaps a smidgen too sweet for me) but yet quite fruity.  It is a good option for those that don’t like their cocktails too top heavy with alcohol.
 

Virgin Mary
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

MCH who was nominated driver for the evening, enjoyed a number of ‘mocktails’ including the Virgin Mary.  A vodka free version of a Bloody Mary, it contained black pepper, horseradish, celery salt, Worcester sauce, tabasco, tomato juice and he enjoyed the spicy kick it gave.
Happy, Smiley Bar Staff
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

Hanging at the bar, you have to make sure you catch the bar tender’s attention as it is so busy and although the cocktail making process can be a little long (but all made from scratch so you need to make allowances for this), their enthusiasm and friendly banter make up for it.   It very much reminded me of the style of Tom Cruise’s character Brian Flanagan in the film ‘Cocktail’.  (Remember that)??!

I have to applaud the music, a superb mix of 80’s/90’s/00’s with current tunes it gives the place an infectious energy and gives you that ‘night out’ feeling without it being overwhelming and we certainly felt ‘in place’ not ‘out of place’.

I’ve told a number of people about Be At One since my visit and that they need to go and they’ve all come back echoing my thoughts, so that’s a good thing.

It’s a great place, it’s centrally located and even if you don’t like cocktails - beers, other alcoholic drinks and mocktails/softs are all available so everyone’s happy. 

Let me tell you, on the journey home, with the drinks leaving me quite merry and the ‘Cocktail’ film soundtrack sub consciously whizzing round my head, I reflected on what a jolly time I had had.   So much so in fact, my high heels are all buffed up ready to go and I’m planning my next visit very soon…..

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Disclosure:    This post has been written following an invitation to the launch night of Be At One Birmingham.  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, 22 May 2016

Grab & Go at Grand Central Birmingham


Modern life means we can’t always take time for a lunch break like we used to and often our lunch is bought on the hop with a limited timeframe to eat it in.  As such, we often compromise by purchasing whatever’s nearest to hand rather than buying something we truly fancy.

Recognising this trend, a variety of Grand Central’s restaurants and cafes have now developed a ‘Grab & Go’ offering which enables those who can’t take advantage of a long and lazy lunch, to experience quality, tasty food which is all available to grab and go in your lunch break. 

In addition to the restaurants mentioned below, Nandos, Giraffe, Handmade Burger Co., Caffe Concerto, Costa Coffee, Cocomacs, Joe + the Juice and Carluccios also offer every meal from their menus as a take away version for customers.

And not just reserved for lunchtimes, worth noting, all of the restaurants inside Grand Central offer a take away service from breakfast right through to dinner, so Grab & Go’s concept is for any time of day – a big plus if at the end of a horrendously long day you don’t feel like cooking at home and want some instant dinner or indeed if you need a little snackage for your onward train journey.  

With many vegetarian options available within Grand Central and with it still being National Vegetarian Week, it’s the ideal time for highlighting and celebrating the veggie Grab & Go offerings – life on the move never tasted so good! 

Now this has been brought to my attention, it makes me wish I worked in central Birmingham to take advantage of it all………
 
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Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
 
FRANCESCA
You can now have your pizza and eat it too with Francesca’s stonebaked pizzas hand cooked in just 4 minutes!    
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
YAKI NORI
Think fun, authentic and tasty Japanese food. Think delicious & affordable lunch. Yaki Nori is offering their customers an option of 3 different boxes to takeaway. Varying from £4.99-£5.99, Yaki Nori fanatics will be spoiled for choice as they can choose from a Bento box, rice/noodle box and Ramen noodle soup. It’s an easy food to pick up and take back to the office, or wherever you choose!
 
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
TAPAS REVOLUTION
Omar Allibhoy has brought his delicious Churros to Birmingham and they are taking the city by storm. For just £2.95 you can take away a cone of churros, with a separate pot of warm chocolate sauce. They may be naughty, but they are a tasty treat to get you through the working week!
 
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
PHO
The only Vietnamese restaurant in Birmingham has proven very popular since its launch. ‘Pho to go’ is now being offered from their Grand Central restaurant, which makes eating their delicious salads, soups and noodles even easier! The food is cooked fresh to order so it’s well worth the few minutes wait.   For those that can take the heat, Bún chay Huế: hot & spicy tofu & mushroom (veggie stock base) has been recommended!
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
CREPEAFFAIRE
What could be better than a crepe on the run? In just minutes, the Crepeaffaire team will whip up a sweet or savoury giant pancake of your choice for you to take away. Choose from some savoury favourites including; The Moroccan or Le Goat Deluxe or if you have more of a sweet tooth why not try the Apple Crumble or Merry Berry!
 
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
PAUL UK
Fancy a sarnie? On offer is Paul’s Sandwich Le Chèvre which is seeded bread filled with Goats cheese, butter, roasted peppers, tomato and lettuce.
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
SQUARE PIE
Pies are the ultimate crowd pleaser.  At Square Pie, they have a selection of pies, which you can accompany with mash, mushy peas and lashings of gravy!   One of the popular things at Square Pie is their tasty bite-size canapés which have vegetarian options such as; Cheese & Onion and Spinach and sweet potato & goats cheese.
 
 
 
Photo:  c/o Grand Central
 
ED’S EASY DINER
Ed’s Grab & Go offering comes in the way of their Cajun Vegetable burger which you can pick up in a jiffy whilst on your travels.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Culinary Captures – National Vegetarian Week Birmingham Special


National Vegetarian Week is a great platform for restaurants and organisations to showcase their vegetarian wares and it gives us vegetarians the opportunity to find out what’s new as well as for those who want to just be a little more flexitarian, it offers a chance to explore more meat-free options.

So, with my ear to the ground around Birmingham this week, here’s what’s happening and where!
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Both Photos c/o 1847
 

1847 Vegetarian (aka Bistro 1847)

Pushing the boundaries further, alongside their å la carte menu, 1847 have also introduced a special "Free-From" menu for National Vegetarian Week.
All dishes on this menu will be either dairy free, vegan or gluten free and really showcase something different from their norm.

The Head Chefs from each of 1847’s restaurants are producing these so each site will offer something different!
Menus are now live on the web and reservations are recommended during this busy week! www.by1847.com

 

 The Plough

The Plough is well known for making sure that veggies are looked after when they visit and pushing the boat out even further this week, they have a number of new dishes on the menu for NVW!
Take a peek!


 

Photo:  c/o Five Rivers


Five Rivers
Renowned Indian restaurant team at Five Rivers have launched a new Vegetarian 8 Course Tasting Menu!  Contact them for more details.

 
 


Photo:  c/o Brum Yum Yum
 

Brum Yum Yum
kingshEATh Goes Veggie!  Brum Yum Yum’s event is hosting a special veggie day on Sunday to mark National Vegetarian Week.  Between 12pm – 5pm you can join the veggie/vegan/gluten free traders at Kings Heath Village Square for some streetfood fodder with additional attractions to boot!

www.brumyumyum.com
 
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Monday, 16 May 2016

Epicurean Mementos Interview - Katy Beskow - Little Miss Meat Free

In this very special edition of Epicurean Mementos to mark National Vegetarian Week, I’ve invited Katy Beskow aka Little Miss Meat Free, to share her culinary keepsakes and favourite things, offering us a little glimpse of her life in the kitchen.

Katy Beskow
Photo:  c/o K Beskow

Katy is an award-winning food writer, cookery tutor and recipe developer with a passion for local produce and great vegan food. Katy also writes for Huffington Post UK and Holland & Barrett’s Healthy magazine, alongside posting recipes at the popular website www.littlemissmeatfree.com

Photo:  c/o K.Beskow

In addition, she teaches a range of classes at Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School and York Cookery School and demonstrates modern vegan cooking at food festivals throughout the UK.

Talking of which, Katy will be demoing at the Foodies Festival in Birmingham over the weekend of 3-5 June, details of which can be found here.

I hope you all enjoy the interview and of course enjoy the rest of National Vegetarian Week.



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Photo:  c/o K.Beskow

Flint and Flame Knives
I love these Flint and Flame knives - not only do they look beautiful but they’re weighty and easy to use. Every kitchen should have a few good knives as it makes chopping and preparation so much easier. Buy the best you can afford and look after them well by always chopping on a semi-pliable wooden chopping board.



Photo:  c/o K.Beskow

Kilner Jars
My kitchen is full of Kilner jars, both empty and full. They make great storage containers for pulses and rice and also for transporting snacks and lunches. I even use them as vases to brighten up my dinner table.



Photo:  c/o K.Beskow

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World - Isa Chandra
Surprisingly, I own very few vegan cookbooks as I prefer the challenge of veganising recipes from any recipe books, not specifically vegan. This is my go-to cupcake book, with every recipe being tried and very much tested. You’ll find that most of the pages are stuck together with cake batter, which is, in my opinion, the sign of a good recipe book!


Notebook and Pen
I can’t live without my notebook and pen in the kitchen - perfect for listing ingredients for new recipes I’m testing and creating new ideas from kitchen disasters…..



Photo: c/o K.Beskow
Maldon Sea Salt
“Food without salt is like seeing in black and white”.   I love to season my dishes with Maldon’s crisp and crunchy sea salt flakes.  It gives bursts of flavour and a clean, subtle taste. I love it so much, I even keep a mini tin in my handbag!

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My thanks to Katy Beskow for taking part in the interview.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree


 
Even before I open Summers Under The Tamarind Tree, I find myself taking a minute or so to contemplate what’s inside, what the contents is.  My mind starts to wander as I study the Eastern art design on the front and I absently mindedly stroke the embossed cover.  I even start thinking about tamarind trees and their sense of exoticism (I’m a girl used to oaks, birches and horse chestnut trees you see).   It really has stirred up my thoughts and I’m genuinely intrigued.  With Madhur Jaffery’s endorsing quote “This book is a treasure” stamped at the top, I sense I’m in for a treat.

I put my hands up, I know very little about the country of Pakistan which is where author Sumayya Usmani grew up and it is the basis for her book.  Within, she describes the colourful Pakistani landscape and the bounty of food that filled her childhood producing subsequent memories that she translates into stories throughout the book.  I feel I’ve gained some insight that wasn’t there before.  The country’s a melting pot of flavours drawing influence from historical events, migration and weaved with a cornucopia of sun drenched ingredients supported by heritage and tradition.

The book features many meat recipes but this is balanced out by vegetarian ones coupled with a heavy bias towards spices (as one would expect from Asian cooking).   Even from the meat dishes, veggies can take inspiration and substitute the meat with other things – something I often do anyway.   But fighting on with my chilli allergy (often documented on my blog as one of the bains of my life), I’ve thought about adapting some of the recipes to accommodate this and with tweaks here/there, I think I can make it work for me. 

The other thing to note is that some of the ingredients are very specific to Asian cookery and so some shopping from Asian stores or online may be needed ahead of hitting the kitchen or some UK alternatives may have to be used instead (eg: Greek yoghurt perhaps instead of buffalo yoghurt) which won’t compromise the taste or effect too much.  However, I have to applaud the use of Himalayan salt throughout (a staple in my house), an ingredient which is now more mainstream in the UK, it’s the best salt you can use and transforms dishes brilliantly – you’ll never use table salt again!    

The introduction to each chapter sets the scene and creates stunning visions in the mind’s eye – eg: “large clusters of red, orange and pink bougainvillea, violet and oxblood pansies”.  Equally, family memories are also shared:  “In summer, chutneys were artfully pureed by hand on our family heirloom ‘sil batta’ a big stone block and cylinder used like a mortar and pestle”.  These insights really bring the recipes to life.

Genuinely, I have loved reading this book as it feels it has come from Sumayya’s heart and I love her food mantra of:  “work can wait, lunch comes first”.   As a girl who champions my own heritage, I love how Sumayya has done the same for her daughter and concludes the book with the dedication for her – “may this book be your guide to your heritage as you grow…..”. 

Highlighting the pages with sticky markers of those recipes I want to have a go at, whilst my summers won’t be spent under a tamarind tree, I can try and re-create the experience.  Albeit from my kitchen in the West Midlands…..
 
 
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Notes:
Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani. Photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln.

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Disclosure:    This post has been written following a complementary copy of Summers Under The Tamarind Tree.  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.