Saturday, 30 January 2016

Culinary Captures - January

It is really the end of January already?  I can’t believe how fast time has flown, Christmas only seems like 5 minutes ago!

Nevertheless, the foodie world is busying itself for the year ahead with lots of new promotions and restaurants opening, it’s exciting times all round.

So, scooping up the news that has come my way, here is a round-up for January of things that have caught my eye.



Interestingly, the United Nations has declared 2016 as The International Year of Pulses (IYP) to draw attention to the  nutritional power of these foods. They’re healthy, nutritious, affordable and sustainable, and with a renewed focus on these benefits, they are pinned to become the new go-to staple for chefs and nutritionists in 2016.
Photo:  c/o

From a staple ingredient to a gourmet dish, pulses are a healthy and affordable way to expand your recipe repertoire. Some of the best loved foods include pulses as a main ingredient: baked beans, hummus, falafels, soups, stews, curries, tacos, dals and for the more adventurous, green banana and beluga lentil fritters with coconut salsa and chilli coulis or a broad bean and chickpea falafel with sprouted lentil tabbouleh and schoog.

The Gate Restaurant in London has developed a series of delicious recipes using Pulses to inspire people across the country, which can be found on the International Year of Pulses website www.Pulses.Org, which also includes over 60 National Signature Dish recipes and over 200 innovative pulse recipes.
What’s your favourite pulse dish?

Bistrot Pierre

With 14 restaurants already UK-wide, this spring sees the French inspired chain sashay its way to Birmingham!
With the promise of ample vegetarian fayre, I was told about one of the bistrot's top selling dishes, the Tartes Flambée, which can be made as a vegetarian option. 

Tartes Flambee
Photo:  c/o Bistrot Pierre
Ajay, Director of Food Development, joins co-owners Rob and John during annual research trips to France to source new recipes ideas and new wines to bring back to the bistrots. He said:
“The Tartes Flambée was introduced on menus last year after we were inspired during a trip to Alsace. The origins of the dish came from an Alsatian tradition hundreds of years ago where a small piece of dough would be placed in a wooden oven to test its temperature before cooking. Accompanied with onion and cheese, it became very popular and eventually a dish in its own right".

“We initially trialled the dish exclusively in the Torquay bistrot and after receiving such positive feedback from customers we decided to introduce the Tartes Flambée across all 14 bistrots and it’s been a resounding success."
"It’s one the bistrot’s most popular dishes and is available as a lunch item, evening meal appetiser and now is also available on our new children’s menu so younger diners can enjoy the traditional Alsatian dish too. We source the recipe of the dough directly from Alsace and use one that goes back hundreds of years. Rather than using a traditional wooden oven we cook the Tartes Flambée in a stone oven which is heated from the base. The dish is cooked fresh to order and only takes about eight minutes to prepare and cook – c'est delicieux!”

I love a dish with a bit of a story attached to it!  Has anyone tried one already?  Put me down for one of those when Bistrot Pierre arrives in Birmingham! 

Veggie/Vegan Cookbooks

On the back of a lot of people trying out Veganuary or just trying to be healthy this time of year, the demand for appropriate recipes is high.  Publishers Apple Press have released a number of books focusing on certain healthy ingredients and lifestyle options.  Although I haven’t read them myself, they are definitely of interest and you may think so too.

Superfoods 24/7 by Jessica Nadel brings delicious, healthy antioxidant-rich ingredients to every meal and has over 100 vegan recipes to choose from.  Having read her Greens 24/7 I know this will be a good read too.
Photo:  c/o Apple Press

Photo:  c/o Apple Press
Launching this year, the ‘We love’ books at Apple Press highlights healthful trends that have captured the imagination. Kale and Quinoa are highly regarded superfoods to eat and in We Love Kale and We Love Quinoa books, they show how you can maximise their potential.
Photo:  c/o Apple Press

Incidentally, kale is low in calories, yet high in fibre, this zero fat ‘queen of greens’ is the perfect ingredient. Packed with nutrition, kale is high in iron, Vitamin K, and powerful antioxidants, it keeps you healthy whilst tasting delicious.   We Love Kale has over 50 recipes to choose from ranging from smoothies to enchiladas and brownies to ice creams.
Equally, quinoa is among the least allergenic of all the grains, making it a fantastic wheat-free choice. It contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete-protein source and an excellent choice for vegans who may struggle to get enough protein in their diets.  Again, We Love Quinoa will help suggest how you get the most of this versatile ingredient.
The Star & Garter Events
Photo:  Source:  Star & Garter
New on Leamington Spa’s dining scene, in my last Culinary Captures piece I mentioned the pub’s menu offerings. 

To complement it, The Star & Garter have arranged a number of forthcoming events to suit all tastes including a night for those that wish to paint the town red with a little dancing or perhaps partaking in a designed gastro experience to maybe simply just wish to treat a loved one to a nice relaxing meal package – it’s up to you! 

For a summary of what’s on offer see below or visit their website for more details.
Retox Party - Friday 5th February 2016Food specials and dancing!

Valentine's Weekend - 13th - 14th February 2016Sharing specials all weekend.

Spring Menu Tasting - Friday 4th March 2016, 6pm - 10pm VIP spring menu tasting.

Mothering Sunday - Sunday 6th March 2016Prosecco Brunches and the Sunday Best Menu available from noon until 9pm.

Wine & Cheese - Wednesday 16th March 2016A VIP event in the Private Dining Room where you can meet suppliers and taste a selection of the best wine and artisan cheese on offer.

Easter Weekend - 25th - 28th March 2016.
Spend all weekend at The Star & Garter starting with DJ night on Good Friday, sample Easter Sunday Best continuing then on Easter Monday with Brunch specials.

St George's Day - Saturday 23rd April 2016 Celebrate with the best of English where local produce and wonderfully sourced British beers will be available.

Note:  All items/services featured have been personally selected and I have not received any incentive or compensation to feature them. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Review of Ferment Your Vegetables Book

I felt a lot of synergy between myself and author Amanda Feifer when reading through her recipe notes in her latest book Ferment Your Vegetables  published by Fair Winds Press.

Reason being Amanda, like myself, has Ukrainian/Polish heritage and this has influenced a lot of her blog work and the contents of the book.  Eating fermented foods was a definitive way of keeping a larder of food going during cold winter months in years gone by, especially in the Eastern European village dwellings of our ancestors where conveniences such as fridges were unheard of – so this was the perfect way of storing food.

So, focusing on fermented foods itself.  Very much a catchphrase from the last couple of years in foodie circles which continues to gather momentum in 2016.  People are latching on to the health values that fermented foods offer from the natural  (good) bacteria they produce and in turn are enjoying the ‘going back to basics’ method of producing fermented food for oneself.

I think most are familiar with the fermented/pickled forerunners of sauerkraut and pickled gherkins (which I adore incidentally) and perhaps more recently the variety of Korean kimchi available which is gaining a fashionable following in many restaurants.

But Amanda opens up this arena to showcase it can be more than the above and she helps the reader understand the principles of fermentation and to promote it as an easy process to accomplish.  Fermentation is explained in essence as being a product of the union of salt + vegetables. 

Paraphrasing Amanda’s introduction -  a higher output is gained from quite a low input and the result is an achievement of food that has probiotics and specialized enzymes which contain a higher vitamin content than if consumed in its raw format.  Also, fermentation prolongs the longevity of food which means you can consume it all year round rather than just having it when in season.

The book really does take the time to explain everything which is very handy for those that are absolute beginners and no doubt there is something new to learn for those who are fermentation veterans.  To add to this, there is a Troubleshooting/FAQ section which is really interesting and can provide some scientific reasoning as to why the fermentation process happens the way it does.  It has a good number of photographs to illustrate the recipes with added hints/tips.

Split into various sections, the book has European influenced classics such as krauts and pickles and then there is the Asian inspired kimchi/Japanese pickles/miso chapter which as mentioned above are en vogue right now. 

Kvass Drinks
Photo:  Extracted from the book

A further chapter entitled Kvass discusses fermented drinks, again full of probiotics and Amanda makes them attractive by offering suggested flavour pairings.  I’m already in the know about Kvass as my father talks about it frequently stating how back in his native Ukraine he would drink it regularly and what a positive thing it was.

Recipes which have caught my eye are:  Very Veg Vegan Kimchi, a twist and play on words with Mac & KimCheese and the imaginatively titled Dilly Root Kraut.  I love the write up for this recipe:  Amanda writes:  (Referring to being of Ukrainian/Polish descent), “I am legally required to crave dill and root veg” – something I can relate to!  The kraut has a base of rutabaga (swede), red cabbage and beetroots and I look forward to trying it.

I've really enjoyed reading through this book.  I am already planning what I want to make and it will be nice to say “I made this” rather than “I bought this” when preparing my picnic basket or BBQ table this summer.

The book serves as an informative introduction to fermenting/pickling and gives some great suggestions of ingredients to use and demonstrates the flexibility of this process.  The recipes seem easy to follow and the assembly of the goods is quick and simple, the longest part is to wait for the fermentation magic to happen but with some planning ahead regarding timings, this will be feasible to achieve.

For more information about Amanda Feifer visit:


Disclosure:  This post was written following kind receipt of a complementary copy of:  Ferment Your Vegetables published by Fair Winds Press.  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. 



Monday, 18 January 2016

Gratitute for Modern Day Vegetarianism Article in Express & Star

At times, I’m sure most vegetarians like me think “things could be better/easier/more convenient” when shopping or dining out. 

Back In Time For Dinner Picture
Source:  Betterware
But last year, I watched the BBC2 programme ‘Back In Time For Dinner’ where a modern day family were transported back to the 1950’s/60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s to live and eat how people did in those decades and to compare the differences to today.
I think some things historically were more positive, things such as the observation of seasonal eating and the ritual of eating together as a family was more prominent, but from a vegetarian’s point of view, there didn’t seem to be much evidence of being able to support a veggie lifestyle, certainly not in the 1950’s or 1960’s at least. 

So, should we be grateful for today’s circumstances in comparison?

I wrote an article for Midlands’ publication Express & Star about my thoughts on this topic and subsequently, it was also circulated on social media by The Vegetarian Society.

I hope you find of interest too and if you’d like to get in touch, I’d love to hear of your thoughts on this subject.
To read the article:  Click here.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Ukrainian Community in Birmingham


This post I know isn't food connected but with it having strong links with many of the food posts I write relating to my Ukrainian heritage, I thought it may be of interest to you.

My Ukrainian heritage stems from my father who came to the UK in 1948 after World War II and settled in Birmingham thereafter. 

Gradually, a community formed and the Ukrainians found kinship with each other whilst settling into a new life.

In the 1980's, my father wrote a document outlining how the community formed so that subsequent generations (for those like me), would have a memoir to refer to.

Many Brummies/West Midlands people will know Dr Carl Chinn from local press and TV, as well as being a lecturer at University of Birmingham and a champion of local history. 

I contacted Dr Chinn about the document to see if anything could be done to preserve it and he kindly offered to feature it in his monthly Brummagem magazine which catalogues different regional stories from yesteryear.

The article is present in this month's edition and is available to purchase online or directly from WHSmith on High Street in Birmingham city centre (opposite Marks & Spencer for those that know the city).

The document itself is available to read and/or use for research at Birmingham Central Library in their Archive department.  Contact them directly for information.

Like those that trace their heritage through ancestry websites to find out more about their lineage, I too feel that my heritage is important and I try to preserve it any way I can and so I am thrilled that it is has been documented through Dr Chinn's work. 

I hope you enjoy reading it.

For information about Brummagem visit: 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Getting Al-Desko with Perk!er

Doesn't seem to happen at the weekends, but when at work, I get an awful attack of the munchies about 10:30am and again at 3:00pm.  Doesn't help mind you when you have colleagues grazing all round you.  There are lots of low-GI snacks around but it is always good to find something new to try in a bid to combat these little urges.

Recently, I was introduced to Perk!er Bars.  Just in time for the start of the new year too because if you're anything like me, a fortnight of yuletide feasting at all sorts of hours, and mostly rich treat food too makes it hard to get back into a 'normal' routine.

So trying to re-train your body to get used to a typical 3-meals a day scenario again is hard and those cravings for little cakes and chocolate truffles are going to come a-knocking. 

I found that after having a Perk!ier bar I wasn't as hungry and I could hold out more easily for the next meal time.  So how come?  Its base ingredient is quinoa, still shining in popularity, it lives up to its 'keeping you fuller for longer' claim.  Coupled with quinoa, the bars also contain sprouted grain oats which conduct a slow release of energy.  Overall, the bars provide natural sources of fibre, protein, antioxidants and omega 3 and there are added bonuses of the bars being gluten/dairy/wheat free.

Coming in 4 different flavours - there is a flavour combo to suit all:

PERK!IER Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Bar
PERK!IER Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bar
PERK!IER Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar
PERK!IER Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar Enhanced with Sprouted Buckwheat

So if you're still after a little chocolate fix, the Cacao & Cashew option may be your best bet as unlike cocoa found in chocolate per se, cacao is cold pressed to retain its vitamin/mineral/antioxidant levels which can only be a good thing.

If fruit is more your thing, try the goji one as they are rich in vitamin A which promotes healthy skin, vision and immune system.

Myself and My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) have enjoyed a little sampling session of the bars during Christmas week and they do indeed keep you fuller for longer as well as tasting rather good (the cacao being our favourite).

As the return to work beckons after the weekend, we're planning to pop a couple of these in our work bags in preparation for when those munchies attack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

So new year, new eating regime perhaps, then if you're looking for something healthier to eat at your desk, al-desko (don't you just love that phrase?) then 'Get Your Perky On' with a PERK!IER bar - worth trying to keep those snack demons at bay!


Disclosure:  This post was written following kind receipt of  complementary Perk!ier bars.  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.