Saturday, 21 February 2015

Ukrainian Pancake Topping for Butter Week

I know that Shrove Tuesday has been and gone and those that are sacrificing something for Lent are well on their road to abstinence by now. 

But just to end the week with, here is my article about Masnytsya (aka Butter Week) which is celebrated in the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.  It gives another dimension of how ‘Pancake Day’ is celebrated which I hope you will enjoy reading about.

I know that for some, may be due to work/family commitments, having pancakes on the weekend after Shrove Tuesday is more practical and if this is the case for you, featured below is my recipe for a Ukrainian Style Pancake Topping which you may wish to try. 

The article and the recipe were both recently featured in the Ukrainian Thought newspaper which is printed in the UK.


The prelude to Lent is marked worldwide with celebrations such as Shrove Tuesday (UK) and Mardi Gras (France), endorsed and feted quite ardently.  Known internationally in its more common guise as ‘Pancake Day’, Eastern European communities have their own version referred to widely as ‘Butter Week’ or in Ukrainian as Масниця (Masnytsya).


Customarily celebrated in the last week before Great Lent, as well as it being considered and used to mark the end of the winter season, Masnystsya mirrors other global pre-Lent festivities.  It is the last opportunity to have those products that are traditionally forbidden during Lent, namely dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese. 

Image from:


In addition, if observed fully, all kinds of gaiety such as parties, music and dancing are also forbidden during Lent, so the Masnytsya period acts as the last occasion for these activities.

Image from:


Masnytsya is still enjoyed in the Ukraine and encompasses historic rituals being played out such as the creation of a straw mascot called a Kostroma, (similar to a scarecrow), which is dressed up in brightly coloured clothing.  Tradition has it that the clothing is taken off and then the Kostroma is burned on the flames of a bonfire.  Ashes from which are then buried in the snow in a bid to fertilise the crops.  With snow so often still abundant in the Ukraine at this time, Masnytsya also includes snow-led merriment such as snowball fights and sledging.


Even if celebrating Masnytsya cannot be experienced identically as it is in the Ukraine, it can still be marked by way of feasting.  As is the case for Shrove Tuesday celebrations, pancakes are the main characteristic food for Masnystya.  


Pancakes are enjoyed at this time (either savoury or sweet) and if wishing to replicate a taste of the Ukraine, you can choose toppings such as cheese or mushrooms as well as traditional sour cream and fruit syrups/jams which are used extensively throughout Ukrainian cuisine.

Pancakes with Sour Cream & Cherry Jam

Ukrainian Style Pancake Topping

4-6 pancakes (made by hand or purchased ready-to-eat)
150ml Sour Cream
2 tsp Caster Sugar
2 tsp Cherry Jam


·       Mix the caster sugar with the sour cream until fully combined.

·       Heat the jam a little until it becomes warm and slightly runny.

·       Ensure the pancakes are warm prior to eating.

·       Pour the cream over the pancakes and top with the warm jam.






Friday, 13 February 2015

Cauldron's Ultimate Street Food Guide & Vegetarian Yuk Sung

Over the past couple of years, I’ve documented how the street food phenomenon has taken Britain by storm with special events happening countrywide and vendors upping their game and becoming more adventurous in their offerings.  Moving away from the roadside greasy burger and pizza vans, these have now been upgraded to artisan/contemporary meals and incorporate more exotic international  flavours from countries such as Brazil, Vietnam and Nepal.

Although seen as quite a new culinary trend in the UK, albeit gathering rapid momentum, street food has been long established in places such as the far east and south America where it is a way of life. 

Many vendors however, do still tailor their menus around meat-based dishes but championing the flip-side to this, Cauldron are flying the flag for vegetarians with their new Ultimate Street Food Guide available on their website. 


The aim is to take a virtual food tour around the globe each month, which will offer an introduction to a featured country, get the taste-buds tingling with a fascinating insight into their food culture and customs with vegetarian recipes for you to replicate using Cauldron products.   The guide will also share secrets from the owners who run the UK’s top street food stalls so you can you get the lowdown on what’s hot in the street food arena from those in the know.

The first stop this month is China in time to mark Chinese New Year.  Recipes such as; red cooked marinated tofu, buddhas stir fry vegetables with marinated tofu and Sichuan-style aubergine with tofu  are featured to whet the appetite and spark ideas how to create your own Chinese New Year banquet at home with more ideas from fellow Cauldron fans featured on the Cauldron Facebook page.

The team at Cauldron have scoured the country to find the best street food markets, stalls and trucks and their Facebook page  lists their favourite ones so far and any further suggestions are more than welcome!

Supporting the Ultimate Street Food Guide on the website is a free downloadable pdf book packed with delicious recipe ideas, inspired by street food culture with lots of innovative ways of how you can use Cauldron products to create vegetarian street food feasts in the comfort of your own home.  It is definitely worth having to hand when you need some inspiration in the kitchen.

Thinking up my own ideas to add to the list, I re-vamped my Vegetarian Yuk Sung recipe to contain Cauldron’s Marinated Tofu which worked beautifully, with the option of spicing it up if you fancy adding some heat to your portion.  A winner even amongst those that are meat-eaters, with my carnivourous husband going up for second helpings and enjoying Cauldron’s tofu as a change from meat for him.  The recipe is outlined below and I hope you will enjoy making it for yourself.

Cauldron’s Ultimate Street Food Guide offers a one-stop destination for instant vegetarian inspiration for those that want to add an international flavour to meal times.  More food focuses are planned for the coming months, so make sure you pop by the website to see what’s on offer or sign up to Cauldron’s Facebook page to receive instant alerts to see what is making a stir on the Ultimate Street Food Guide!

Bon appetite!



 Vegetarian Yuk Sung

Yuk Sung Prior to Wrapping
Yuk Sung Parcel Wrapped

Serves 2-3 as a main course




1 head of Iceberg Lettuce
160g Cauldron Marinated Tofu Pieces
220g tin Water Chestnuts
1 nest of Vermacelli
Half a Red Onion (diced)
Half a Red Pepper (diced)
Half a Carrot (thinly diced)
1 Celery stick (thinly sliced)

4 Mushrooms (sliced and diced)
2 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
2cm of Ginger (thinly diced)
1 tbsp. Soy Sauce

1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 red chilli (chopped) (Optional)
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable oil

Yuk Sung Ingredients

Yuk Sung Mixture when Cooked

  • Separate the leaves of the iceberg lettuce, wash and dry gently.  Set to one side.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan.
  • Fry the garlic and ginger together.
  • Add the red onion.
  • Crumble the vermicelli nest into small pieces into the saucepan.
  • Gently mix together.
  • Add the Cauldron Marinated Tofu pieces and coat in the oily mixture.
  • Add the carrot, red pepper, mushrooms, celery and water chestnuts.
  • Add the soy sauce, ground ginger and chilli if using.
  • Add a grinding of salt & pepper and mix thoroughly.
  • Heat and mix regularly for at least 5-10 minutes until all the ingredients have cooked through.
  • Taste a sample and amend the seasoning if required.
  • Place the iceberg lettuce leaves on plates and when the yuk sung is ready, place a good spoonful of mixture in each lettuce leaf.
  • Wrap the leaf around the mixture and enjoy!


I was re-imbursed by Cauldron Foods to cover my expenses to create the recipe.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the guide featured.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.  




Saturday, 7 February 2015

Frying Pan Review Ahead of Shrove Tuesday

With Shrove Tuesday on the horizon, thoughts turn to pancake making.  I’ve always been of the mind-set that good quality ingredients are the key and yes they are, but I’ve never really given that much thought to the frying pan – as long as I’ve got one, then great.

Well, I’m now on a different train of thought.

Having been sent a House of Fraser Linea branded frying pan to trial, I am now converted to the mantra of “it is all about the pan”.
The Linea Cast Aluminium Frying pan comes in attractive red cast aluminium, is 24cm in diameter, has a non-stick coating, suitable for the dishwasher and all hob types (including induction) and comes with a lifetime guarantee.  NB:  Not microwave or oven safe.  Retail price:  £40.00.
The bottom of the Linea Cast Aluminium Fry Pan

To complete the trial, I decided to use a favourite pancake recipe of mine from Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’ book – Green Pancakes with Lime Butter.
Ottolenghi's Green Pancake

The oil in the pan heated very quickly and cooked the batter evenly, speedily, without any awkward scraping needed and the pancake glided as I moved it around the pan and it kept its shape beautifully.
Inside of the frying pan

It is quite heavy (as you would expect from it being aluminium), but that emphasises its quality and is yet still easy to use.  The handle is solid rubber and makes for a good grip.  The non-stick coating does its job well and makes pancake production and general frying really easy.
Frying Pan Handle

It does require following the special cleaning instructions issued, but it is worth adhering to them to protect the pan.

Personally, I am totally converted to using this pan going forward for frying and I can see the validity in investing and spending a little extra to gain much more.  Although I have a good set of pans at home already, a good frying pan is definitely worth its weight in gold and the process of frying (especially pancakes) has been made all the more easier.  
The Linea Cast Aluminium Frying pan is a welcomed addition to my kitchen kit cupboard.

What would you make in your frying pan?


Product link:   Linea Cast Aluminium Frypan

Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of a Linea Cast Aluminium Frying Pan from House of Fraser.  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 February 2015

2015 Food Trend Predictions by The Plough Harborne

The Plough, in Harborne Birmingham is no stranger to accolades.   The Plough has been recognised for its coffee, Sunday lunch and interior – named by the Independent as ‘Best Coffee Shop’, celebrated by The Times for the 'Best Sunday Lunch in the Region' and awarded the ‘Best Restaurant / Bar Design’ at the Northern Design Awards.

Backing up the awards won, they are passionate about the food they offer.  As well as having a strong environmental stance and sourcing local ingredients where possible, they endeavour to keep their menus current, reacting to feedback and seeing what is trending in the wider foodie arena and delivering that back to the customers. 

Plough Director Adam Johnson said, “The team invests a lot of time researching and exploring the latest themes and innovations in the industry.  Alongside this we also work closely with our regular customers who help inform everything from our menu to interior. This provides us with unique insights and our predictions are based on these whilst offering a glimpse of our plans for the year ahead.”

As per Adam's comment above, The Plough have devised their own predictions for 2015 and they are outlined below.

I hope like me, you find them of interest. 

What food predictions have you thought of or come across?  Get in touch, I'd love to know!


The Plough has revealed its food and drink insights for the year ahead. The 6 trends - Healthy and Hearty, On the Rocks, Beyond the Kale, Home Grown, Keep It Street and Feel the Heat - have been devised by the development team at the popular pub in Harborne.

The Plough’s 2015 food and drink trends are:


Beyond the ubiquitous January health drive we anticipate a real focus on healthy fodder throughout 2015. We’re all for healthy living at The Plough but compromise on taste? Never! We’ll be championing healthy and hearty; think nutrition and flavour packed sweet vegetables cooked to perfection alongside interesting combinations such as baked okra and potato hash - you get our drift.


The three-ingredient drink is set to gain even more popularity this year and we’re set to take minimalism a step further… We like nothing better than a cracking spirit served neat or on the rocks and we predict (well, we know) that our list of craft spirits from micro distilleries is set to grow - which means those drinks orders should get much simpler if it’s your round.


While kale was heroed as the super food of 2014 we’ve got money on the humble beetroot stealing the spotlight in 2015.  The beet is just sweet roasted and a great bed fellow for grains du jour - quinoa, and new kids on the block, freekah and millet. 


Provenance and seasonal eating will continue to grow in importance and popularity while people search for more ways to infuse their diet with nutrition. We’ll be packing our dishes and smoothies with the freshest vegetables on the block from our very own veggie patch and herb garden.


Street food will continue its foodie offensive apace in 2015 and our guess is there will be a move towards more imaginative and inspired presentation with a focus on quality ingredients.


South American influences will be a plenty with the reinvention of the humble taco - we’re talking mouth watering tender tacos filled with luscious fillings here. Watch this space for a cracking Pazole (half chili, half soup) with heaps of fresh raw veggies piled on top too.