Monday, 28 July 2014

Halloumi & Strawberry Salad

Salad can get quite samey this time of year so it is nice to have an incentive to jazz things up.  I was invited by Florette to create a salad from their product range with my own spin.

I perused through a lovely recipe book called ‘A Salad for All Seasons’ by Harry  Eastwood (from Channel 4’s ‘Cook Yourself Thin’ series).  There are so many salad variations in there, beautiful photography to help depict each recipe complete with specific notes for vegetarians and which have a focus on different ingredients thus steering away from predictable salad bar options - great inspiration.  In addition, I was inspired by a salad I had seen on the menu at The Jockey Club restaurant in Ibiza earlier this summer - for Goat’s Cheese & Strawberry Salad and had made a note to try that some time.  But twisting that idea again, I ended up making Halloumi & Strawberry Salad.
I decided to make it pretty rather than just functional, (for speed, functional is how I make salads to have with my evening meal).  The salad was to accompany my mini barbeque for my husband and I  it was nice to have some salad greenery to balance out the other goodies from the grill.
I grilled my pieces of halloumi on the barbeque, although you can of course cook them on a griddle pan.  Then placing them on a bed of mixed soft/crispy leaves (I used the Florette Classic Crispy leaves), I added sliced beef tomatoes and wafer thin sliced cucumber.  The saltiness from the cheese with the sweetness of the strawberry contrasted well, combined with a balsamic glaze (that is renown to work with both elements), it provided the tastebuds with a medley of flavours and textures.
Certain fruits work well with salad and this is definitely the case with strawberries. 
Taking the salad to a further glamourous level, I added some edible flowers, which in this case were multi-coloured violas purchased from Waitrose.  Away from my barbeque dinner, this would make for a nice dinner party salad or a pretty side dish for a girly lunch.
Florette do have a nice range of salad bags that contain varying leaves according to preference – traditional leaf mixtures through to more unusual leaves (such as lollo rosso) and for those that like a fiery salad, there are peppered versions too.
Currently, Florette are running different salad recipes to give consumers ideas of how to vary salad intake – which is great either for your lunchbox, barbeque (as I did) or to give the wow factor at dinner parties.  Just take a look at the website:
In the meantime, here is my Florette salad recipe which I hope you will enjoy too!

Halloumi & Strawberry Salad
Halloumi Cheese & Strawberry Salad
Serves 2
100g Halloumi Cheese (cut into strips)4  Strawberries (thinly sliced)100g of Florette Classic Crispy Salad
Drizzle of Balsamic GlazeDrizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oilGrinding of Pink Himalayan salt¼ of a Cucumber (thinly sliced)½ Beef Tomato (cut into cubes)
Scattering of Edible Flowers
*  Barbeque or fry the halloumi strips in a griddle pan until golden brown.  Set aside.
Place the Florette leaves into a bowl.
Add the tomato, cucumber and strawberries.
Season with pink Himalayan salt.
Place the halloumi strips on top.
Drizzle the whole salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Scatter the edible flowers over the top.
Salad is ready to serve.

Disclosure:  I was re-imbursed by Florette to cover my expenses for the Florette salad and was sent a complimentary copy of  'A Salad for all Seasons' book.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the product purchased.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nuances of Bengali Food (Warwickshire Life Magazine)

Food Demo at Stratford Food Festival - Moushumi Moran from The Cardamom Pod
Recently meeting local Bengali cook and tutor Moushumi Moran from 
The Cardamom Pod, led me to finding out about the specifics of Bengali cooking as a standalone cuisine rather than it hiding under the general banner of Indo-Asian food.

I took the time to find out a little more about the cultural/social side of eating Bengali style and had the myth dispelled that not everything is covered in spices as is naturally assumed!
This made for an informative article for  Warwickshire Life magazine.
To read the article and find out more, please click onto the link here:  
Warwickshire Life Article – Bengali Food.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is a romantic sounding dish, but yet when translated from Italian into English it means - harlot's pasta - perhaps compromising its enchanting image but certainly not compromising on taste.

Invented by an Italian restaurant owner in the mid-20th century,  he created a dish for a group of late night diners using only the few ingredients he had left in his kitchen.  Its popularity led to it becoming a regular feature on his menu and he called it Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.  Named as such, making reference to the inadequate ingredients he'd used for the dish (in his eyes), twisting the words puttanta the Italian noun for 'worthless' and puttana  meaning 'harlot' - the dish was a favourite amongst the restaurant's patrons and was soon glorified en masse.

Beyond Italy, its popularity has spread worldwide and has been featured by many celebrity chefs in cookbooks and TV shows alike.  It's a dish that is easy to make and yet provides a variation to good old pasta with a basic tomato sauce.

Bearing this in mind, when I was approached by Central England Co-operative to contribute to their 'Easy Eating' campaign, this dish instantly sprang to mind.  The 'Easy Eating' campaign promotes non-complicated meals and recipes using ingredients from  Co-operative stores that are easy to make whether you are looking for a post-work supper or a weekend lunch.

My version omits anchovies (used in many versions) thus making it vegetarian and is a nod to many of the Neapolitan forms in existence.  The saltiness synonymous with the recipe is retained by the use of additional olives.  Its format as a pasta bake makes it easier to serve as a table dish in its baking tray - ideal for families or for an informal lunch with friends.  Equally, by making extra portions (multiplying the ingredient quantities as appropriate), it is great to heat up the next day for a quick lunch or to have as an instant meal after work when the last thing you want to do is cook from scratch after a long day!

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients purchased from The Co-operative

250g Penne Pasta
400g Tin of The Co-operative Chopped Tomatoes with Garlic & Oregano in Tomato Sauce
330g Jar of The Co-operative Green Olives Stuffed with Sun Dried Tomatoes (Truly Irresistible range)
275g The Co-operative Closed Cup Mushrooms (Button mushroom size if possible)
50g Peppadrew Piquante Peppers (from a jar)
2 Cloves of Garlic (chopped/sliced)
200g The Co-operative Mild Cheddar Grated Cheese
Chilli Flakes (Optional)
Oil for frying
Serve with:  Fresh Parsley and a The Co-operative Garlic Bread baguette


*  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (or equivalent).
*  Cook pasta as per packet instructions in salted water.
*  Place the olives (without the oil from the jar) into a food processor and blitz until you have a paste.  Set aside.
*  In a saucepan, fry the garlic and mushrooms in oil (keep them whole if possible, but slice if too big).
*  Add the chilli flakes if using.
*  Add the olive paste, Piquante Peppers and the chopped tomatoes.  Mix well and heat gently.

Tomato/Olive Sauce Cooking Through

*  When ready, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/olive/pepper sauce and mix well.
*  Transfer to an ovenproof dish and cover with grated cheese.

Pasta  Bake Alla Puttanesca - From the Oven

*  If serving with garlic bread, place the baguette in the oven as per packet instructions.
*  Place the pasta bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted.
*  Serve the pasta bake alla puttanesca with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca served with Garlic Bread

Disclosure:  I was re-imbursed by Central England Co-operative to cover my expenses to create the meal.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the products purchased.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 


Monday, 14 July 2014

Birmingham Independent Food Fair - 13 September 2014


For those that enjoyed last summer's #FutureFoodies event in the city, then here's something for your diaries in September - Birmingham Independent Food Fair. 

Birmingham’s vibrant independent food and drink sector is set to shine, at a new event showcasing over forty different producers, restaurants, drinks merchants and street food traders.
Organised by local food guide, Dine Birmingham, and supported by Visit Birmingham, the food fair will take place at Millennium Point on  Saturday 13 September 2014. Early Bird tickets have just been released.

Venue - Millennium Point and Eastside Park

The city’s rich and varied culinary range will be well represented, after the organisers received a flood of applications from the local food and drink industry.

Popular venues such as Thai Edge, Le Truc Cafe, Min Min Noodle Bar and Epi Restaurant will be serving up samples of cuisine to try and buy. Meanwhile, a pop-up will be operated by sponsor Don Diego Bar de Tapas, using specially-sourced ingredients to create authentic Spanish paella, tapas and churros.

Popular independent coffee shop Six Eight Kafe will be at the fair

Other food on offer will range from Greek deli food and artisan chilli sauces, to handmade chocolate and gluten-free confectionery. Outdoors, street food traders will serve up Polish cuisine, Indonesian curries and wood-fired pizza.

The fair will feature a Spirits & Wine section, sponsored by Langley’s Gin. Here visitors will be able to taste the Birmingham-distilled premium spirit, and also explore tipples from other local vendors including Cellar Door Drinks, and Soul Tree Indian Wines.

 Martini made with locally distilled Langley's Gin

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, the independent company behind Island Bar and Bodega, will be offering special cocktails at their stand. A craft beer bar will cater to the well-established taste for locally-sourced, high-quality brews.

Sally Bowen, Director at Midlands gourmet dining club The Gastro Card, said:

“The volume and breadth of businesses taking part in this event is a real credit to Birmingham’s thriving food and drink scene. With everything from chef-prepared dining to beer and deli foods on offer, there will be something for everyone at Birmingham Independent Food Fair.”

Discounted Early Bird tickets have now been released for the food fair. These can be found, along with further information, on the official website. 

Hope to see you there!