Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Foodies Festival Comes Back to Birmingham

Foodies Festival has now become a fixture on Birmingham’s events calendar and once again it returns to Cannon Hill Park in Edgbaston ready to accommodate the 30,000 food lovers that are set to visit.

Photo:  c/o Foodies Festival

Organised to take place between 22-24 June, it is billed as being ‘the UK’s biggest celebration of food, drink and live music’.

TV chefs taking the stage will be Kenny Tutt, winner of BBC Masterchef 2018, Great British Bake Off 2017 Winner Sophie Faldo and finalist Steven Carter Bailey.  Local foodies Michelin-star awarded Brad Carter (Carters of Moseley), Rob Palmer of Peels Restaurants as well as ‘Yummy Brummie’ hero and My Kitchen Rules presenter Glynn Purnell will also be making appearances.

Photo:  c/o Foodies Festival

Thirty food stalls with over 100 artisan producers’ goods will be present as well as The Drinks Theatre showcasing mixologists and sommeliers from Fizz Fanatics, Spanish Sensations Tastings and Waitrose.

Photo:  c/o Foodies Festival

Those with a ‘have-a-go’ spirit can take time out for Prosecco and Parmesan Masterclasses or a bit of chocolate-making, cake decorating or kombucha tea brewing or can step into a workshop on gut friendly bacteria or plant-based proteins.

Younger foodies can have fun in the Kids Cookery Theatre, craft area and play zone with bouncy castle and face painting.

Supported by Musicians Against Homelessness, the live music stage will see talented emerging bands and solo artists perform with tickets raising money for UK-wide homelessness charity Crisis along with celebrity performers Toploader, The Hoosiers and 90’s Britpop favourites Dodgy.

Photo:  c/o Foodies Festival

Vegetarians will be able to enjoy many highlights including the on-trend Avocado Trailer, Frozen Yoghurt bar, crepe stand and also Greek Souvlaki and Exotic Tagine have veggie options on their menus.

Photo:  c/o Foodies Festival

That’s quite a lot going on don’t you agree?  Sounds good, yeah?  All we have to do now is pray for dry weather so we can soak up the atmosphere and a few sun rays.  Hope to see you there…………


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For tickets and information visit:  www.foodiesfestival.com or call 0844 9951111.

**Blog Reader Offer** - claim 20% off all tickets by heading to www.foodiesfestival.com  and entering FOODIES20 at the checkout! 

Children aged 12 and under go free on early bird tickets to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

VIP ‘The Red Carpet Welcome’ Tickets are also available.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Review: Jacob The Angel

It's good to go somewhere for a 'nice' coffee.  I like nice coffee and a nice sit-down, often with a nice cake in a nice place.  I use chain outlets when I'm somewhere like at the airport but where possible, I'm all in favour of supporting independent and quirky venues.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

London has some real gems and one of them that I've recently become acquainted with is Jacob The Angel.  Set in the parameters of Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, it is cushioned cutely in between its holistic merchant neighbours and their pastel coloured frontages.  It is quaintly denoted as being building number:  16½ .

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Run by the same team behind Soho's success story The Palomar and recent triumph The Barbary (which is next door), this is a more casual affair capturing the beverage and take away brigade.   On sale was the usual array of coffees and cakes, but when we arrived mid-afternoon there were only a few sandwiches/bagels left, but there were good flavour combos for vegetarians taking in hints of the Levant (a la The Palomar).  Salads such as Sweet Potato, Coconut Yoghurt, Chilli Butter, Sumac, Almonds & Coriander and sandwiches such as Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Peanut Satay & Picked Vegetables to choose from.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

It is only tiny, with a longish bench on one side and a couple of tables on the other plus a few more outside, so I imagine it can get full very quickly at peak times and so maybe their take-away option may be more realistic.  But if so, your environmental conscience can be placated as they boast sustainability credentials of recyclable/biodegradable packaging and with the use of free range goods via ethical, local producers, it mirrors the values of many.

Interestingly, whilst you can dream up all sorts of thoughts as to who Jacob is and why he's revered to as beatific, the story goes there was a man, called Jacob (from the Middle East), who opened the first ever coffee house in England in 1651 at the Angel Inn - hence the name Jacob the Angel!  Who knew eh?

We have a lot to thank Jacob for really, for being the pioneer in coffee culture as we know it today and I'm sure he'd be thrilled to be celebrated in this way all these years on.  So I'll raise my coffee cup and toast Jacob's initiative whilst I have my nice sit-down with a very nice cappucino.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

What's On The Menu in Krakow?

Kraków is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I'm half Polish so yes, I might be slightly biased, but equally the thousands of tourists that visit there each year don't contradict that statement either, many of whom return time and time again.

The sights are wonderful, Wawel Castle, Rynek Glowny, Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter) and I could wax lyrical about those all day, but right now, I'm focusing on the food.

Before we left, MCH (My Carnivorous Husband) and I made a pact that we would only eat Polish or Jewish food whilst there and even though there is a plethora of international cuisine available, we went for the 'when in Rome' approach - or rather when in Kraków.....  The other main reason is although I love cooking Polish food at home, most of it is so time consuming to make, so the fact we could have it readily, with no washing up afterwards was a blissful concept.

So what is Polish food?   Many in the UK might already be au fait with it following the wave of Polish migration to the UK in recent years with Polish shops and restaurants appearing on High Streets, but in essence, I call it hearty, rustic and comforting.

Menus typically contain lots of meat dishes like bigos, pork knuckles, traditional steaks, fish for those of a carnivorous persuasion, but for vegetarians, Kraków is great, especially if you are happy to dip into trying international foods.  There are plenty of standalone vegetarian restaurants and a good few vegan venues dotted around the city with even vegan sushi on offer (I wonder what my Polish Grandma would've made of that?.....).  

Photo: Word In Veg Ways
But like I said, we were staying firmly on the Polish/Jewish cuisine path.  So, quite a few times during the weekend I had 'pierogi' for lunch and dinner.  I adore pierogi!  For those that haven't tasted the splendours of pierogi, they are stuffed dumplings like ravioli but made from dough rather than pasta dough.   They can be sweet or savoury, fried as well as boiled and typically come in a 6-8 piece portion size.  The savoury classics are Ruskie (mashed potato with cheese) or cabbage & mushroom and when served with fried onions and/or sour cream it is sheer comfort on a plate!  It depends where you eat, but it can be as little as £3.00 when bought from a food truck (underneath Wawel Castle) or from a casual cafe (like Marchewka z Groszkiem) or it can be over £10.00 when purchased at one of the outdoor restaurants in the main square Rynek Glowny.  I literally gorged on them for the whole weekend.

Golabki and Pierogi
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Gołąbki (stuffed cabbage leave parcels) are another favourite, more likely to be stuffed with meat, but vegetarian versions can be found made with buckwheat, mushrooms or rice.  Filling and the epitome of home cooking, these are gloriously served with a rich tomato sauce (typically).  They are on the menu in one of my favourite restaurants, Ariel, in the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz).  Frequented by Steven Spielberg when he was filming Schindler's List in Kraków, this restaurant is hugely popular and as such, you could struggle to get a table inside or outside.

Ariel Restaurant - Jewish Quarter
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The whole of Kazimierz is full of fabulous restaurants that really showcase Jewish cuisine and some run a full kosher kitchen.  Most of which are based on the semi-pedestrianised Ulica Szeroka (Broad Street) and as well as Ariel, there is Ester and Klezmer Hois.  On a warm day, there is something very relaxing and even romantic about sitting outside one of these restaurants as their own klezmer musicians provide a backdrop soundtrack with accordions, violins and oboes playing a host of Yiddish tunes like Hava Nagila and more familiar songs from The Fiddler On The Roof.  As well as gołąbki, other veggie Jewish food such as latkes (potato pancakes) and cholent (bean stew) can be ordered.  Different yet similar to Polish food, but still with the emphasis on comfort and plenty.

Jewish Purim Cake at Klezmer Hois
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Keeping the momentum going for me now I'm back is the cook book 'Wild Honey & Rye' by Ren Behan.  It's full of Polish classic dishes as well as some that have been given a contemporary makeover.  As well as the recipes, for me, there are lots of nostalgic references within.  Both Ren and I are children of Polish diaspora, a topic which she talks about and Ren weaves those into her recipe descriptions breathing life and relevance into each one.  I totally recommend it for anyone looking for an introduction into Polish cuisine or who having a little exposure already, wants to explore it further. 

I truly fell in love with Kraków, both culturally and with the food scene, with thoughts now turning to when I can return.  In the meantime, I have Ren Behan's book and a bottle of duty free Zubrowka Czarna vodka to keep me company until I'm Polska bound once again.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Solihull Radio Appearance

Since launching on 6 December 2017, Solihull has had its own radio station (Solihull Radio) giving the community the opportunity to hear about local events, news and a chance for residents to promote their wares live on air.

I was lucky enough to be featured on 29 March with DJ Geoff O'Brien where we talked about my blog and another passion of mine, Ukrainian food and festivals, in particular, Ukrainian Easter which is being celebrated today (8 April).

For a short time, you can listen to my feature on the radio's website and here's how:

Happy listening!  

PS:  If you're too late to listen to my feature, then take a look at a previous post I've written about Ukrainian Easter and I hope you enjoy that too!   

At the Solihull Radio studio

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Nigel Slater: The Christmas Chronicles

I have daffodils in a vase on my table.  I have Easter Eggs waiting to be freed from their foil wrapping and to be eaten.  The clocks have gone forward.  The weather presenters are talking about Spring Equinox.   And this is one of my favourite times of year.

However, I'm still reading a certain book by a certain author who has made me fall back in love with winter.  And that’s Nigel Slater, with last year’s offering of The Christmas Chronicles.

It’s all a bit topsy-turvy, me writing about winter as spring is trying its hardest to break through, but with the recent bouts of Beastly named weather storms, it has felt that winter has been elongated somewhat and so I’ve felt justified in continuing to read Nigel’s tales of mid-Winter bliss.

I guess I’ve taken winter for granted somewhat over the years, judging it on face value of dark days, biting weather, the stress of fighting with Christmas crowds, it’s easy to wallow in the negatives, but Nigel’s wordsmithery has made me see the beauty of what winter offers and I’ve thought – he’s right!  It is wonderful!

The Christmas Chronicles follows the rhythm of a diary, each day from November to February is written with recipes, anecdotes, memories, fables, fairy tales, traditions (both widespread and Nigel’s own) for that particular point in winter, with a good measure of history and fact too.  As the days roll further into December, for example, there is plenty written about the preparations for Christmas.  From Germanic Christmas Markets (their stollen, nutcracker soldiers, magical decorations), to the purchasing of ingredients for the ideal Christmas cake to the art of elegantly wrapping gifts through to enjoying the serenity of a crackling fire and candlelight.  At other times, it is about what is around you, he revels in the joys of country walks under arctic blue skies and the grinding crunch of footsteps over freshly fallen snow.

Yes!  I love all those things too and deep down, I always have.  His well-written, fabulously articulated prose has helped me realise this.  So thanks Nigel.

The Christmas Chronicles will now join my festive literary repertoire of go-to books for old favourite recipes and inspiration when yuletide rolls around again. 

But as we nudge the parameters of Easter, I'm happy to let spring and summer bask in their glory first, they've waited a long time to visit us again.  And rest assured, winter will be here again before you know it and it'll be time to dig out The Christmas Chronicles

Friday, 2 March 2018

Review: Zou Bisou Cafe

Last Sunday's bitter chill and biting cold air acted as a dress rehearsal for the arrival of the 'Beast from the East' or the nightmare that is Storm Emma.  It led my friends and I to take shelter rather than to stroll round Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa as originally planned.

Leamington Spa (or Royal Leamington Spa if you please), bears similarities of Cheltenham with its formation of white facaded Georgian buildings and huddled amongst the high-end retailers are a wealth of eateries and coffee houses.  A string of those are in Regents Court, tucked behind the main thoroughfare of The Parade.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Piling into Zou Bisou Cafe, we were lucky to find a table for four, seemingly it is very popular with young families and students with laptops who took up much of the table space.  Clearly they didn't fancy Jephson Gardens either.

The menu is quite concise with crowd pleasing pastas, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, bagels etc with a range of drinks and smoothies and even a daily specials board.  A big thumbs up for their vegan range  of 'milks' and cakes which will serve them well for those who are continuing with Veganuary.

Ciabatta Sandwich
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

We all had different things, but I had a warm Mediterranean Vegetable & Houmous Ciabatta Sandwich served with crisps and side salad.  The ciabatta was good quality and had a nice, firm crust and it was bigger than I anticipated so that was a bonus.  The vegetables within were well cooked.  If I was being picky, I would've preferred chips instead of crisps, but with hindsight, it probably saved me a few calories so not a bad thing.

I had the Broccoli, Mango, Spinach and Banana Smoothie served in a jam jar style glass tankard.  Very green, but very delicious.  I wanted something other than water so this fitted the bill well and was packed with vitamins so another benefit.  The old lady on the next table was somehow perplexed by the whole concept of juiced broccoli and wondered why I'd go for that instead of a mug of tea.  So much so, she interrupted my conversation with my friends to show her husband who'd returned from the toilet what I was drinking and he too stared at it with awe.  I didn't convert either of them to green smoothies but for one can vouch it was good and again, a decent sized portion.

Creme Egg Brownie
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Talking of portions, when ordering my sandwich etc initially at the counter, I couldn't take my eyes off the Creme Egg Brownie.  I found myself post-sandwich, unable to think of little else so counter-acting all the goodness of the smoothie I had, I had to have a slice and with the suggestion of having it served warm, well, that justified the whole transaction and I applauded myself with good decision making skills.  A very good sized portion, it was nice and gooey with the trickle of fondant from the Creme Egg, what's there not to like?  Two friends having food envy bought a slice too.  We all sat there murmuring contently with each mouthful.

All in all, a very nice eatery/cafe, cosy, casual, with a good amount of vegetarian and vegan choices (especially cakes).    

I would definitely go back but to be coupled with the need to walk off my cake afterwards in Jephson Gardens.  But I think I'll wait first for a sunny day ensuring that Storm Emma and her Beastly Eastly companion have 100% blown away....


Note:    I funded all costs for the meal myself with it being my choice to blog about my experience.  The venue was not  informed that I was visiting or aware that they were being reviewed.     

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Review: Bulgarian Village Kitchen

Having never quite found agreeable flight times from Birmingham to Bulgaria for a holiday, I recently decided to sample a little of Bulgaria in Birmingham instead.

Quite the new(ish) joint in town, Bulgarian Village Kitchen could easily be missed.  Nestled unassumingly in the building opposite the side of the Alexandra Theatre in the city centre (where the old Bierkeller used to be in the '90s), you could miss it, especially as it isn't where the main footfall trails are.

So our little Saturday luncheon affair for the girls commenced with my Mother and two of our friends fighting through blustery winds and rains to get there and we were pleased to be greeted by central heating and Bulgarian pop music.  All of us being of Slavic heritage and fans of Eurovision, the music set the mood, we instantly felt akin with the place.  

We took in our surroundings of Bulgarian crafts and object d'art, pointing things out to each other and although it wasn't amazingly busy, we waited a little while to receive our menus and drinks.

The drinks menu had a number of Bulgarian spirits and liqueurs present as well the usual wines, beers etc but the soft drinks menu was quite basic.

The menu reflects Bulgarian fayre (obviously), but would benefit from more description and explanation.  Our waitress (who was exceptionally friendly and helpful I have to say), gave us more information about each dish and pointed out the vegetarian ones for me and one of our friends who is also veggie.  She also brought out her phone and showed us photos of some of dishes to help us depict what we were interested in.  

Some items need to perhaps feature an accurate English description to avoid confusion.  For instance, the items described as 'pastries' are actually more in the style of flatbread pizzas, whereas by calling them pastries, it gave us the initial impression of them being more pie based, so it is worth discussing items with the staff before you order.

Our two friends both had the Traditional Bean Soup and Mum and I shared a Kypolou Salad (mashed roasted aubergine, red peppers, tomatoes, onion and parsley), with a Garlic Pastry (aka flatbread).  They both commented that their soup was delicious, filling and hearty.  Our Kypolou was tasty with good flavour and upon the suggestion by the waitress, it was enhanced by a drizzle of olive oil.  The flatbread went perfectly with it.  A big portion for one person as a starter, but ideal for two.

All of us gravitating towards the same, Mum and one of our friends had the Chicken Vreteno and us two vegetarians had the Shopski Claypot (mine without egg).  

The consensus was the chicken dish would've benefited from some vegetables to accompany it or at least the recommendation of some to be ordered as the dish was delivered as just chicken in a sauce.  There were tiny elements of mushroom and carrot in the sauce but it was thought by both that they would be present as whole vegetables.  Oh well.

The Shopski Claypot was cutely presented in a rustic handicraft style painted pot and was nice and hot.  Like a vegetable stew with feta, it was hearty, flavoursome but with hindsight, I would've ordered some more bread or potatoes to go with it to capture the juices.

This is a nice niche restaurant and great to see something different in the city.  In a similar vain to The Karczma, it offers a cosy Eastern European village dining experience and you'll get more out of your visit there once you become au fait with the menu.  

And in the meantime, I'm still waiting for those flight times to Bulgaria to become more convenient....


Note:    I funded all costs for the meal myself with it being my choice to blog about my experience.  The venue was not  informed that I was visiting or aware that they were being reviewed.  

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: My Vegan Travels

Veganuary has become a badge of honour amongst those that are looking for a healthier approach to their eating patterns and for some it has gone hand in hand with the abstaining partner of Dry January.  Quite a big challenge for those that maxed out on gluttony in December and the never-ending feasting opportunities that Christmas brings.

But you can’t ignore the hype when you read the stats in press that:  Waitrose saw a 5 fold increase in vegan searches on their website, that 120,000 people worldwide have signed up for the Veganuary campaign with 52,000 of those being in the UK.

Let’s face it, meat-free doesn’t have to be boring and whilst shops are promoting their vegan friendly wares, there are plenty of dishes that you can make at home that neither skimps on variety or taste.

As such, avid MasterChef UK viewers will recognise Jackie Kearney from 2011 where she became a finalist and this led to her being one of the country’s most recognised vegan chefs.  Having already written award-winning Vegan Street Food, Jackie’s new book My Vegan Travels (published by www.rylandandpeters.com) has brought even more dishes to the vegan forefront and an ideal aid memoir for those that want to partake in Veganuary at home.

What I like about cookery books now and what is present in My Vegan Travels, is that there is a story associated with each recipe.  Not just ingredients list, method and photo, but there is a tale about where the recipe came from, why it is special to the author, so I find that I get more out of those kinds of books and they are more of a joy to read.

Jackie takes you on a whirlwind trip around the globe with her recipes and shares some of her most exciting travels with you which builds up elements of wanderlust as you turn the pages.  Am I slightly jealous?  A little. To have that freedom to travel must be so liberating.

The book’s wordsmithery is supported by beautiful photography and styling to support the recipes which helps to bring them to life.

As well as the main recipes, the book features ideas for stocks, gravy and basics to get you started as well as alternative suggestions for vegan cheese and milk which feature heavily in mainstream recipes including vegetarian ones so you don’t have miss those things if you decide to take the vegan path.  The one I think most people would appreciate is a replacement for egg which some vegetarians seeks as well as vegans.  Jackie’s recipe using flax/linseeds will solve many an egg issue I’m sure!

My word, there are so many recipes to champion here, but I particularly like:  Macadamia Crumble Pot and Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic Cream & Hazelnut Crust.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book both from a storytelling aspect as well as from a food tutorial viewpoint in a genre that is continually rising in popularity and that will take you way beyond Veganuary.

More information about Jackie Kearney can be sourced via:  www.hungrygecko.com
My Vegan Travels is published by www.rylandandpeters.com


Disclosure:    This post has been written following a complementary copy of My Vegan Travels.  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.