Friday, 20 December 2013

Warwickshire Life - Deli Shopping at Christmas

 I'm delighted to have been selected as a contributor for the online version of Warwickshire Life magazine.

For my first article, I've written about Christmas shopping at delicatessens - veggie style - focusing in particular on one of my favourite delicatessens in the area - Lewis's of Moseley.  

Delis have played a big part in my (food shopping) life and in the article I recall memories of shopping with my Mother buying lots of different things that acknowledged our Eastern European roots and that supplemented our ordinary supermarket purchases.

Here's the article link and I hope you get the chance to do some deli shopping of your own before Christmas!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Afternoon Tea at Hotel La Tour

After enjoying a spot of afternoon tea at Hotel La Tour in the summer, I was interested to see that they are serving a Christmas version for the forthcoming festive season.

As well as all the usual goodies including dainty sandwiches, the hotel's signature Welsh rarebit dip with croutons, sweet treats and freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and preserves, there are seasonal variants in the Christmas version to complement the time of year.

Head Chef Dan Pearce said: “We’ve aimed to put a modern spin on the Christmas classics with mince pies in miniature with a swirl of brandy butter, poached pear and mulled wine trifle, marshmallow snowballs and our tiny festive trees. It’s frivolous and fun.”

Christmas afternoon tea is served with a selection of teas from Twinings, freshly-brewed coffee or indulgent hot chocolate. Cocktails, including Champagne and Gingerbread egg are available at a supplement.

Pastry Chef - Rachel Dorrell

For strict vegetarians, Hotel La Tour's Pastry Chef Rachel Dorrell can discuss alternative options beforehand to ensure that sandwich fillings and other preferences such as vegetarian marshmallows are accommodated accordingly.

Served each day, with live musical accompaniment on Saturdays and Sundays,  the Christmas edition is available throughout December and priced at £19.95 per person. 

Pre-booking is essential and can be done online at  
Or call 0121 718 8000 to make a booking and/or discuss vegetarian options. 

Posh Veggie Nut Roast Recipe

I roll my eyes when someone assumes that on Christmas day I’ll be eating nut roast.  “Well what else would you eat?” they ask.
I wish to dispel the myth here and now.  As a vegetarian, I don’t automatically have nut roast for Sunday Lunch and certainly not for Christmas Day.  It is instantly thought that nut roast forms the jewel in the crown of most vegetarians’ diets and that isn’t the case and certainly isn’t for me.   
Over the years, having shied away from nut roasts in its varying forms and I was curious when approached by Waitrose to make a version of my own.  Following some recent research they conducted, it was bizarrely identified that nut roast came both first and last in a poll of most desired vegetarian main courses for Christmas Day.  This research doesn’t surprise me. 
I suppose, being put off by existing versions, I’ve never really felt the desire to venture into creating my own.  But as the festive season approaches and a challenge beckoning, it was time to get roasting those nuts and see if I could be converted. 
I love nuts in all their varying types but placed together in one dish can be a little too much and can be quite dry. 
But seeking inspiration, I embarked upon taking a look at what recipes are available and I was surprised to see how many people were creating their own interpretations and even celebrity chefs were taking the mantel in making their own versions.  The inclusion of all sorts of ingredients and flavours in the varying recipes almost makes the nuts incidental and secondary.
So following their stance on personalisation I began to thinking about my version and what I’d like to include.  I decided to incorporate my favourite flavours and see if I could weave in a few Christmassy tastes and colours as well.
A nut roast obviously needs nuts.  So I thought about my favourite varieties and opted for cashews, peanuts and pine nuts along with some pumpkin seeds to give it more crunch.  (The very same pumpkin seeds which I dried from my Halloween pumpkin I have to add)!  I then began pondering about other savoury ingredients and decided to include some of my favourite anti-pasti goods which included sun-dried tomatoes, caperberries and artichokes.   
Adding a vegetable element to the mix, I opted using grated beetroot for its bulk, sweetness and wintery warmth as well as for its Christmas crimson hue.   Also contributing to the vegetable element were sweetcorn kernels and dried porcini mushrooms (which I pre-soaked/re-hydrated in dry cider) which offer an earthy, appley dimension.

With Christmas denoting a special time of feasting and a free rein on food shopping (well, almost!), special ingredients are granted and I thought it well to reflect this in my nut roast.  Dying for my jar of black truffle carpaccio slices to make its debut, I used a good three slices (chopped) which made for a little indulgence and complemented the mushrooms also used.

In my accompanying ingredient list, I wanted to ensure I had fully covered off the sweet/savoury factors with the nod to Christmas.  So I combined some cranberry sauce, citrusy kumquat flesh as well as the synonymous Christmas spices of paprika, mixed spice and grated nutmeg.
My recipe yields enough mixture to fill 2 standard ramekin pots which make for easy portion sizes if catering for 1-2 vegetarians on Christmas Day or indeed ingredients/cooking times can be multiplied for larger portions.
By taking on the challenge I have actually surprised myself as to how much I have enjoyed re-acquainting myself with nut roast and putting my own hallmarks on it – I have Waitrose to thank for this.  Although I probably won’t make it regularly, I will keep my special recipe especially for Christmas time – after all, that’s what us vegetarians eat at Christmas don’t you know!

NB: This post and recipe are also featured on the Christmas Dinner page of Waitrose's website under the section entitled 'It's Not All About the Meat...'.  Click this link to see more!

Posh Vegetarian Nut Roast
Posh Veggie Nut Roast

Serves 1- 2
The majority of ingredients can be purchased from Waitrose.
Posh Veggie Nut Roast Ingredients

1 Beetroot (grated) (from a vacuum pack in natural juices)
1-2 Artichokes (chopped) (from an Anti-Pasti Jar)
2 Sun-dried Tomatoes (chopped) (from an Anti-pasti) jar)
2 Caperberries (chopped) (from an Anti-Pasti jar)
2 tbsp Dried Porcini Mushrooms (Re-hydrated in 85mls Cider)
3 slices of Truffle Hunter Black Truffle Carpaccio (chopped)
2 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds
2 tbsp Cashew & Peanut Mix
2 tbsp Pine Nuts
1 tbsp Sweetcorn Kernels (tinned)
2 Kumquats
1 tsp Cranberry Sauce
½ a Grated Nutmeg
½ tsp Mixed Spice
½ tsp Paprika
½ Beaten Egg (saving the other half for other cooking)

  • Place the mushrooms in a cup and cover with cider and allow at least 20 minutes for the mushrooms to hydrate.
  • Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.

  • Nuts & Seeds - Blitzed

  • Place the pine nuts, cashew & peanut mix and pumpkin seeds in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds only to get a rubble type consistency.
  • Place the nut mixture in a bowl.
  • Add all the other ingredients to the bowl, including the mushrooms but except the egg.

Ingredients Ready to be Mixed
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Add the egg and mix thoroughly again.
  • Grease 2 ramekins and line with greaseproof paper.
Mixture Split into Ramekins

  • Split the mixture between the 2 ramekins.
  • Place the ramekins on a baking tray and place in the oven on the middle shelf for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture has baked through and doesn’t fall apart when you remove the greaseproof paper.
  •  Serve with Christmas roast vegetables and vegetarian gravy.


Disclosure:   This post was created to promote Christmas recipes for Waitrose - in particular Vegetarian Nut Roasts.    I was re-imbursed by Waitrose to cover my expenses to create the meal.  This review was conducted honestly without bias.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

New Vegetarian Restaurant in Birmingham - Bistro 1847

I recently attended the launch evening of Birmingham's newest restaurant Bistro 1847. Based in the city centre's Great Western Arcade, it follows the model of its branches in Manchester and Chorlton.

Following the launch, I was invited to enjoy a meal there and try more from their menu with a view to blogging about my experience. 

Beer Battered Halloumi

As well as for my blog, I conducted the review for Dine Birmingham.

Curried Swede
Dine Birmingham is a fabulous site that showcases the restaurant scene in Birmingham with accompanying reviews.  An ideal reference point if you’re looking to find a restaurant specialising in a particular cuisine or just to see what’s new in the city.  Take a look at the site for details here.

Hen's Egg
The restaurant steers away from the stereotypical vegetarian image of lentils and beanburgers and provides an amazing myriad of tastes and flavours that would convert even the most staunch of meat-eaters!

Apple of my Eye!

Pablo Cabrito Shropshire Goat's Cheese
To see why the restaurant is packing in the crowds, take a look at my Dine Birmingham review link here.
Cocoa Chanel Comfort Eats Chocolate in Paris 1954

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

Sponsored Post:  This post was written following a kind invitation for dinner from Bistro 1847.  This review was conducted with honesty, without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Pumpkin Seeds for Thanksgiving

For us Brits the pumpkin season has been and gone as the witches’ hats and ghostly Halloween trimmings are put away for another year.  But for our American chums, pumpkin fever continues to burn.  As a stalwart favourite on dining tables State-side all year round, it also has its supporting role in the cast of Thanksgiving Dinner.

Not an expert in the traditions or protocol of Thanksgiving feasting, I’ll leave Pumpkin Pie suggestions to my fellow American bloggers.   (Although, by the way worth noting, Jamie Oliver has a very nice Pumpkin Tart recipe in his ‘Jamie Does…’ book). 

As Thanksgiving approaches and pumpkin flesh is prepped and ready for family dinners, this blogpost steers away from all things flesh and goes to the very core of the pumpkin, focusing on the positives of pumpkin seeds.

We often see green pumpkin seeds on sale in packs at health food shops and don’t really think about how they get there.  When you carve into pumpkin flesh, they’re there, buried in amongst the stringy fibres in the heart of the pumpkin.  By keeping them and preparing them, with a little patience, you could have your own snack stash without having to resort to pre-packed versions.
Drying out the seeds on a tray

  • First things first, scoop out all the seeds and detach any flesh/fibres.
  • Wash the seeds to remove any debris.
  • Pat dry with a tea towel.
  • Spread the seeds out on a baking tray and either put them on the middle shelf of a warm oven or by a fireplace to dry out taking care not to burn them.  This process timewise in the oven it may take an hour or so and by a fireplace, it may take a day or few days to accomplish.
  • Once the seeds have dried out, perhaps shrunk a little and attained a more ‘matt’ appearance, they will be ready to eat.
Pumpkin Seed - Outer White Shell
The actual seed itself is within the outer white shell and to gain access to it, simply twist the top half of outer shell, the green pumpkin seed will be visible, pull it out and then discard the outer shell as appropriate.
Breaking the White Shell - Green Seed inside
I suppose it can seem an excessive exercise to achieve just an edible bowl of seeds but the health benefits make it a worthwhile task.  Here are some of the documented benefits they contain:

  • Packed with minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper.
  • Good source of vitamins B, E and K.
  • High in zinc which can protect again osteoporosis.
  • Contains Omega 3
  • Contain good quality protein levels (30g of protein per 100g of seeds)
  • Is one of the very few foods that increases in nutritional value as it decomposes.

Green Pumpkin Seed

So when you carve up your pumpkin for Thanksgiving this week or even for Halloween next year or in fact for any time in between, think twice about throwing away your seeds and keep them as you’ve got a little snack goldmine in the palm of your hands  just waiting to be devoured.

Note:  Health benefits have been extracted from online sources – Link one and link two
To gain a full overview of pumpkin seed benefits, refer to a qualified nutritionist.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dried Green Beans with Walnuts

Avid readers will note that this year has been my baptism into the world of tibits, whose sister outlet, Hiltl, is recorded as the world’s old vegetarian restaurant.  Further to dining at their London outlet in the summer and joyously working my way through their recipe book, I wanted to replicate one of their signature dishes for myself.

The dish in question is their Dried Bean Salad with Walnuts.  Having tried it (and gone up for seconds) at their London restaurant, this was something I wanted more often than just having it whenever I was in the big smoke.  So, when speaking to Lidija, the Manager on duty when I visited tibits, she explained that the dried green beans are brought over from Switzerland and in the main can’t be purchased over here.  However, bags of dried green beans could be purchased from tibits directly with accompanying recipe postcards. Acknowledging my enthusiasm, Lidija gave me a bag and suggested I give it a go at home and see how it works.

Dried Green Beans in the Pan - Ready for Cooking

I was pleased to see that I didn’t have to re-hydrate the beans overnight as you have to with some pulses, although soaking them for a couple of hours prior will make them a little less 'wrinkly' post-cooking.  Otherwise, it was a case of boiling them in water until tender, cooling them, then adding the other ingredients which include coriander and walnuts.  

Onions & Walnuts Ready for the Salad

Although the recipe states using certain oils or vinegars, you can experiment with other ingredients and make substitutions as required, but note by doing this, you will alter the original recipe and taste.  I enjoyed serving the beans hot as a side dish for my main course but you can, as the dish is intended, to eat it as a tepid or cold salad.  In addition, the recipe is rich in vitamins and as such is promoted on their menus as having 'concentration booster' benefits.

The beans once cooked, tasted a lot sweeter and almost chewier than standard green beans but this for me I found a tastier and a more interesting spin on your average green bean ensemble.   

Dried Green Beans - Ready for Eating

This is a definite recommendation to try this for yourselves with additional praise from my carnivorous husband, who doesn’t always gravitate towards his ‘greens’  who has asked - “when can we have this again?”
As mentioned above, the beans are only available from tibits, so to obtain a pack, contact them directly.  The recipe is available on cards from their restaurant or can be found in their tibits at home recipe book (or see images below).

For me, dried green beans have created  the perfect excuse to nip back to tibits in London where I will treat myself to another pack and/or have lunch there again.  And what would I have?  Well it would have to be a whole of plate of Dried Green Beans with Walnuts all to myself.  That would suit me just fine…….
Other Links
To read my review of 'tibits at home' cook book, click on this link.
To read my review of tibits restaurant, click on this link.

Sponsored Post:  This post was written following receipt of a pack of dried green beans from tibits Restaurant London.  This review was conducted with honesty, without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Bistro 1847 Birmingham Launch

It’s always a delight when a new restaurant comes to town and for me, the delight is no greater than when that restaurant is vegetarian!
Following the huge success of their Manchester & Northern outlets, Bistro 1847 have opened their central Birmingham branch in the beautiful Victoriana-esque Great Western Arcade just off Colmore Row by Snow Hill Station.  

Attending their launch evening recently, it was a chance for myself and other guests to sample what we can expect from Bistro 1847 and an introduction to their offering.
The restaurant’s décor is contemporary with modern wooden seating both downstairs (although removed for the night to accommodate the launch) and upstairs which then leads out into a balcony area overlooking over the rest of the arcade.  It is arranged in such a way that it is perfect for intimate dinners or can accommodate larger private parties.

Bistro 1847 - Launch Party

The sensational food is directed by the restaurant’s chef Alex Claridge whose vision of combining ingredients, flavours and tastes together takes vegetarian food beyond the normal predictability of vegetarian menus.  
Canapes based on the restaurant’s menu were served which included:  Beer Battered Halloumi with Caper & Lemon Tartare, Mushroom & Liquorice Pate and Blackberry dessert pots.

Beer Battered Halloumi with Caper & Lemon Tartare
A singing jazz duo brought an atmospheric element to the evening which in turn promoted the restaurant’s plan for regular jazz nights.

Blackberry Dessert Pots

I’m absolutely enchanted with Bistro 1847 and I for one will be going back to dine there soon to sample more of Alex and team’s creations.
Website including Christmas menu:

Monday, 4 November 2013

Veggie Polish Food at The Karczma

Bar Area - The Karczma

I regularly dine at The Karczma – Birmingham’s only Polish restaurant.  I love their cosy, rustic, homely décor and for me, I get the chance to eat Polish food without having to do any of the work!

Appetiser Table - The Karczma

Based on a recent visit with friends, I conducted a review for Dine Birmingham focusing on The Karczma’s vegetarian offering.

Bread & Gherkins

Dine Birmingham is a fabulous site that showcases the restaurant scene in Birmingham with accompanying reviews.  An ideal reference point if you’re looking to find a restaurant specialising in a particular cuisine or just to see what’s new in the city.  Take a look at the site for details here.

Potato Placki at The Karczma

As the Christmas shopping season approaches, if you’re looking to escape the crowds and fancy a change from the annual German market, then  exchange the gluhwein for a vodka toddy and make a detour to The Karczma.  

Wisniewka - Cherry Liqueur
To see why it is one of my favourite haunts, take a look at my Dine Birmingham review link here.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Good Hemp Range

Over the years, I've heard a lot of good things about hemp seeds and their multiple health benefits.  So I was really interested when approached to try out some hemp products from the GOOD range created by Braham & Murray.  

The GOOD range is made from hemp seeds grown by husband and wife team, Glynis and Henry, on their farm in Devon and they have worked extensively with other British farmers to grow perfect hemp seed crops, which incidentally require no pesticides/herbicides, so are excellent for the environment.  

It is also worth noting that the GOOD range only uses hemp that is grown under licence from the Home Office and doesn't contain THC (the psychoactive substance found in cannabis) and has no connection with the narcotic at all.
A little bit about hemp seeds themselves, naturally high in Omegas - 3, 6 and 9 they provide the body with essential fatty acids and are easily digestible.  
I remember when oil choices in the supermarket consisted of either vegetable or sunflower and for those with a taste for the exotic, an expensive bottle of olive oil.
I love the fact that now choices have been extended to a wealth of different oils in a variety of flavours, infusions and uses.  One such oil is GOOD Hemp Oil.  Regularly seeing it on the shelves, I’ve always been curious about hemp oil compared to its more mainstream oil counterparts.  So when presented with the opportunity to try some I was delighted to indulge in my curiosity.

Studying the GOOD Oil  bottle and reading the back, I was intrigued to see that it is classed as a 'super food' and that GOOD Oil (made from 100% cold pressed hemp seed oil) has a wealth of benefits which include:
It contains 40% less saturated fat and 25 times more omega 3 than olive oil
Contains Omegas 3/6/9  
Zero transfats
        Award-winning and endorsed by celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, its taste is nutty yet gentle, it wasn't overwhelming or heavy and was extremely pleasant.  I enjoyed frying and roasting with it (see mushroom picture below) as well as drizzling it on salads.
        Recently, I created an ultimate veggie 'super food' recipe focusing on non-meat protein ingredients and I used GOOD Oil as one of the ingredients.  Link for the recipe is here.
Chestnut Mushrooms fried in GOOD Oil


In addition to the oil, I was also sent some GOOD Hemp Milk.   Dairy free, an alternative to milk and soya, containing omega 3, low in saturated fat and it is fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.  It states that it is cholesterol free and easy to digest making it ideal for those that suffer from bloating caused by dairy products.
Ideal for any occasion where milk is used - for cooking, for cereals, tea/coffee or just to drink as it is.  I used it to make a cheese sauce for a cauliflower bake and the sauce was rich, thick and creamy and made a nice change from dairy milk which I normally use.  However, it tasted a little too creamy when used in tea and coffee, so I wouldn't use it for that purpose again.
Although I have milk in my diet, just as a personal taste preference I don't drink it straight in the form of a plain glass of milk.  So I asked family to try GOOD Hemp Milk as a plain milk drink. None of them knew what to expect, but upon drinking they all agreed it was delicious, an almost sweet taste which was more palatable than dairy milk.

I enjoy eating seeds during the course of the day and either eat them as a snack or I eat bread containing seeds as a way of building them into my daily routine.  Another great way is consuming them with my breakfast cereal  as a topping.  GOOD Seed have their hemp seeds ground (shelled hemp) and packed ready to use which they define as their ‘sprinkle’ format, another item from their range which I was able to try.  This convenient way means you can use as much as is needed and then seal it away for another time.  Perfect for baking with or snacking, or as I did, sprinkle on top of my cereal with yoghurt and pomegranate seeds.  This discreet way of seed intake is perfect for making your breakfast a little more crunchy and turns it into more of an event.

Omega 3 & 6
Rich in Protein
20 Amino acids

GOOD Hemp seeds on breakfast cereal with Pomegranate Seeds

The GOOD Hemp collection is certainly one of those brands that when you see it you recognise it has positive benefits.  But upon inspection, you see that it beholds a multitude of advantages beyond original conception.   
A great range of goods using a valuable seed which is normally under promoted yet abundant in nutrients - suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.  

The GOOD range will certainly be residing in my kitchen cupboards here on forward.
Special Offer:  To purchase GOOD range items at a discounted rate, visit their website: and when prompted, enter discount code: GOOD13.

Disclosure:  This post was written following kind receipt of  complementary items from the GOOD range.    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.