Monday, 27 June 2016

Vegetarian Parmesan Style Cheese - Gran Kinara from Vorrei

Not all parmesan cheese is vegetarian friendly.   A lot of people are under the impression that all cheese = vegetarian – but sadly not.  It’s all in the rennet and for some who don’t eat meat, having animal derived rennet in cheese isn’t an issue, but for others it is.

Parmesan is one of those cheeses that features heavily on menus as a ‘dressing cheese’ – dishes such as ravioli, gnocchi, pasta etc are garnished with parmesan as a finale.  As a veggie when dining out, I always ask if the parmesan is vegetarian and if not, I ask for it to be omitted.

To find a good parmesan alternative is easier than it was, although still a little tricky, especially if you’re looking for the real deal from Italy.

Set up by husband & wife team Luca & Nicola Pagliaro, online Italian food and wine company, Vorrei, have a range of goods (many of which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans) which boast to have no additives or preservatives.  Equally, they’re not industrially produced and are often hard to find in the UK.  One of their range is a vegetarian friendly parmesan style cheese called Gran Kinara.

Gran Kinara is the world’s first aged cheese produced with vegetable rennet made from a type of thistle which is suitable for those that observe vegetarian, lactose free and halal diets.  The maturing of the cheese for 12 months combined with the use of vegetable rennet, ensures that the lactose turns into lactic acid (which doesn’t cause issues for lactose intolerant individuals)* much faster than in cheeses made with traditional animal rennet.  (* = The science bit courtesy of Vorrei).

The only ingredients present in the cheese are: partially skimmed cow’s milk, salt and vegetable rennet.

The producer of the cheese is Le Fattorie Fiandino.  The Fiandino family have been mountain shepherds since the 1700’s where they used to use thistle flowers as a cheaper alternative to animal rennet.  This process was revived only two years ago and they currently have a herd of 250 Bruna Alpina cows which graze freely and produce limited quantities of quality milk and this goes into the making of the parmesan style cheese.
Gran Kinara on Spaghetti
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Although it can be eaten on its own (with sparkling wine as Vorrei suggest), I grated it on a plate of vegetarian faux meatballs with spaghetti in my own homemade tomato & garlic sauce.  I was quite impressed by it, it resembles parmesan in looks + taste and grated well.  It does come in at a top end price-point of £6.50 per 250g, but if you are a frequent user of parmesan then it is worth the investment.

Disclosure:    This post has been written following kind receipt of a sample of Gran Kinara from Vorrei.  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.  

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Japanese Food at Rofuto

Auckinlech House in Five Ways Birmingham was a prime example of 1960’s architecture.  Underneath and within was Five Ways Shopping Centre, a mish-mash of Boots the Chemist, baguette shops and varying nightclubs (which I found myself in many a time in the ‘90’s).  But as the years wore on, a tad neglected, they all stopped trading and a facelift began, resulting in Park Regis Hotel being unveiled this year.  A high end hotel with a suitability high end restaurant on the 16th floor.

That restaurant is Rofuto.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Owned by Des McDonald, former Head Chef of the screamingly famous The Ivy Restaurant in London, he has brought his zeal for the good life to Birmingham and is promoting Rofuto as the place to be and as a go-to place for Japanese food.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Since Japanese restaurants have recognised that us vegetarians also want the whole sushi experience (but without the fish obviously), things have changed, they have improved and on the back of this, I’ve been more keen to explore Japanese food and its flexibility for us veggies.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Keen to promote this mantra was our waiter for the evening Alex.  Very enthusiastically, he explained how the courses worked and made various suggestions as we perused the menu.  Starting as one should, with the cocktail menu.

A good number of cocktails available, Alex explained that they could all be converted into ‘virgin’ cocktails (mocktails – alcohol free).  Perfect for those who are designated drivers.
Yuzito Cocktail
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Dining with my mother, she opted for the Yuzito Cocktail which contained:  pamper Blanco rum, yuzu, lime, passion fruit, kaffir lime leaves.  Refreshing, not too much alcohol, quite ice-heavy.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I had the Ka-Pow Punch Cocktail:  a mixture of raspberry, guava, lemon with extra added yuzu giving it a more powerful citrus hit.

Yuzu I found out is a Japanese fruit from the citrus family which is a cross between lemon and lime.  This features heavily across the food and drink menu at Rofuto, but as I’ve not seen it anywhere else, I was keen to get my quota of it in!

Midnight Geisha Cocktails
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

We also had the Midnight Geisha as a virgin/mocktail.  This was again a fruity number, similar to the Ka-Pow Punch with chambord, guava, raspberry, lime and lemongrass.

Salmon Avocado Sushi
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Onto the Sushi menu.  One of the reasons my mother accompanied me is because she has been desperate to try sushi for ages so this was the part she was waiting for.  A flexitarian/pescatarian, Mum opted for the: Salmon Avocado Sushi Roll which she described as fresh, mild and amazing tasty using a tiny touch of wasabi on each roll she said it really lifted it for her.
Vegetarian Futomaki
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I had the Vegetarian Futomaki which were fat sushi style rolls with compressed vegetables and a little dried fruit which offered a sweetness against the sticky rice, delicious when dipped into soy sauce. 
Cucumber & Roasted Sesame Hosomaki
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Same for the Cucumber & Roasted Sesame Hosomaki I had, which were slightly more dainty and were more ‘cleaner’ tasting than the fukomaki but both good in their own way.
Sake Wines
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Given some sake wines to try in authentic little ceramic pots, we had the Hakurakusesi Junmai Ginjo which was quite dry bearing similarities to western wines.  However, our favourite one was the Tenzan Yuzushu.  In appearance and in taste it was like cloudy lemonade (alcopop Hooch without the fizz).  It is flavoured with the yuzu fruit and acts as a palette cleanser.  I could’ve easily carried on drinking it all night if I’m honest.

Alex gave us a little anecdote about the ritual of sake drinking.  As a rule it should be served cold.  However, when brewed, a secondary batch was always made and created for workers in the coldest part of Japan where they used to heat it up and serve it hot in teapots.
Table Setting
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Choosing from the Robata Grill menu next, we shared:
Aubergine Kushiyaki
Photo:  Word in Veg Ways

Aubergine Kushiyaki, Nasu Dengaku which were little skewers of aubergine cubes that had been grilled softly and drizzled in a peanut satay sauce.  These had been recommended to me by someone who had dined at Rofuto previously and true to their word, this was a perfect choice and an excellent vegetarian option.
Sesame Spinach Cassava Crisps
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways 
Sesame Spinach, Cassava Crisps came with a grey looking seasoning which was mild but with a slight kick.  Definitely one to have with something else and not on its own.
Asian Slaw
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Asian Slaw was a take on coleslaw but it was without any dressing and tasted fresh, zesty, topped with edible flowers and mango.  A good accompaniment to the aubergine.

Wakame Seaweed Salad – we didn’t have that due to its chilli content, although I really wanted it (as I am fan of fresh seaweed).  But it was suggested that if I had rang through in advance I could have ordered a chilli-less version to be prepared for me.  Something to remember for next time for sure.

From the Main Course menu we chose:
Saffron Miso Black Cod
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Saffron Miso Black Cod, Razor Clams, Pancetta – this isn’t on every Japanese menu so Mum wanted to try it and was not disappointed, she exclaimed it was the best fish she’d ever tasted.  Tender, tasteful and packed with flavour.
Miso Shiitake Ramen
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Miso Shiitake Mushroom & Truffle Ramen.  This came as a hybrid from another dish on the menu so my portion also had spring onions, tenderstem broccoli and yakisoba.  It consisted of a reduced mushroom broth, with duck egg (would be a vegan dish without it) and candied beetroot.  The broth made the dish very earthy, intensely flavoured and with a little bit of everything combined, this is a good veggie (or vegan) choice to have.
Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Just about having room for dessert, we decided to choose differently and share. I had the Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu.  A take on the Italian classic but flavoured with (trendy) Japanese whiskey and matcha green tea which has also become an en-vogue must-have for foodies lately.  Both the green tea and especially the whiskey came through and it was incredibly delectable.  A really good spin on a menu favourite which I’ve not heard of elsewhere.
Yuzu & Lemon Tart
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Mum favoured the: Yuzu & Lemon Tart with Cream and Lemon Balm Microherbs.
The lemon balm when cut through with the cream adds sharp hit and then when coupled with the tart – wow!  Tart on its own good, but enhanced when adding the cream to it coupled with an extra touch of crunch from the brulee topping. 

Interior of Rofuto
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Rofuto is definitely a place to go when you want a bit of glitz, a bit of rooftop chic and floor to ceiling panoramic views of Birmingham (and you still see plenty even in the pouring rain like it was the night we went).  It’s stylish and dependent on what you choose, it can be affordable.   
With contemporary lighting/seating/ambience/unique hand painted murals, it can lend itself well equally as a lunchtime venue and will easily convert to a night-time haunt.

Photo:  c/o Rofuto

All the food we had we enjoyed and we felt we’d chosen well throughout.  With more vegetarian options in the pipeline and the menu in the process of being revised to become even easier to identify veggie-friendly options, it opens up a new arena of Japanese food outside of ‘just raw fish’ which people seem to think is all it consists of.  And even if your knowledge of Japanese food isn’t good, with staff like Alex (whom my mother became very endeared with I have to say) they can guide you through it as if they were natives of Tokyo rather than Birmingham. 

Nobu – me thinks you’ve got yourselves a rival…………
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Rofuto to sample their menu.  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.  

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Father's Day Menu at Chaophraya

Photo: Word In Veg Ways
When I was telling people that I was going to Thai Restaurant Chaophraya in the Bullring, they weren’t sure where I meant, until I said “it’s the one covered with grass by the church”“ah yes!” they’d exclaim.  Clearly known for the grass rather than the name.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

But saying that, upon arrival and during the course of my visit, it was busy, packed with people inside and out, so whether known for its grass or its name, it seems a popular haunt.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Welcomed with a true Thai greeting by two ladies in Thai national dress, I liked the fact that a little Thai spirit could be found in central Birmingham.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Taken upstairs to their private area, it was all prepped for sampling their Father’s Day menu coupled with tasters of their cookery school and cocktail making lesson offerings, something myself and a few fellow bloggers were invited to.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

To get the party started we had the opportunity to make cocktails under the tuition of the restaurant’s mixologist.  We were all tasked with making a Strawberry Mojito using rum, gomme, strawberry syrup and mint garnishes.   I was awash with instant reminders of the 80’s classic Slush Puppy as the syrup met the crushed ice, but of course this was a more sophisticated and grown-up version especially with the rum flowing liberally! J  With numerous bottles to work with and industrial looking stirrers, it was fun to have a go albeit I was personally a little heavy handed with the strawberry syrup!
Photo: Word In Veg Ways
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

With bottles of Chang and Singha beer gracing the table, we were all given the first of the starters to try from the Father’s Day menu -  Tom-Kha Soup.  Whilst the others had the chicken version, I had a tofu one.  With a note to chefs in advance, they also catered for my chilli allergy and adjusted the recipe accordingly which (as always), I really welcomed.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

A tofu, coconut based soup infused with galangal, lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and straw mushrooms.  It was creamy yet delicate with multiple flavours coming through.  Very enjoyable.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Secondly from the Starter menu we had Vegetable Spring Rolls which we had to make in the cookery school area under the supervision of the chef.  Pairing up with Alev from the blog Bella & Robot, we took it in turns to finely shred the carrot and cabbage and wok fry it with glass noodles and spices.  The rolling up in the spring roll wrappers procedure somewhat differed between Alev and I.  She made dainty cigar shaped rolls (very professional looking), whilst I focused on the volume of filling (I never deny myself filling) and so mine took on a kind of rotund, portly appearance.  However, never judge a spring roll by its cover - once we’d deep fried them they both tasted really nice with a good mix of textures with every bite.    Never having made my own spring rolls before, I was rather proud of my first achievement, however, I’ll be aiming for them to look like Alev’s next time………. #springrollenvy.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

So after a little of the Masterchefing, we moved onto Main Course tasting which were made for us in advance so it was back to the dining table to have those.  Again, highlighting my chilli allergy, the team at Chaophraya made me a Tofu & Tamarind Curry with Jasmine Rice.  This wasn’t quite on the Father’s Day menu, but was created in lieu of what was and something that can be done if visitors provide sufficient notice ahead of dining.  There was a good flavour tanginess from the tamarind which was absorbed by the tofu pieces and the rice.  Although there was no chilli present, I did have an allergic reaction to another little spice present which prevented me from being able to finish it (despite it being delicious what I had).  Not the fault of Chaophraya at all, as they weren’t to know and I couldn’t pin point it.  They kindly wanted to get me a substitute dish, but I declined as I had eaten quite a lot during the course of the evening anyway so I was fine.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Their eagerness to make sure I was catered for both before and during the event was an appreciated trait.  If you’re in the same boat as me, always worth ringing ahead to see what they can do for you.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Thinking about the Cocktail Making and Cookery School samplers, they were good fun and informal – an ideal activity for those of all culinary abilities and I guess perfect for teambuilding or hen parties and the like.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

The Father’s Day Menu features a number of vegetarian and meat dishes (plus some meat options can be converted into vegetarian ones).  Considering the usually inflated prices for occasions such as Father’s Day, their menu comes in at fantastic value of £14.95 per person for 2 courses and a bottle of Singha or Chang beer. 
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Well worth a visit to ‘the place covered in grass’ whether it be for Father’s Day, Graduation celebrations or just because you fancy some good old Thai food or for a bit of a culinary class.  Plus central Birmingham is easier to get to than Bangkok!

For more information visit:

Disclosure:    This post has been written following an invitation from Chaophraya to sample their Father's Day menu.  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.  



















Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Italian Artisan Goods - The Pop Up Deli Co

I’ve written about my love for delis numerous times over the years on this blog and nothing has changed, I still love them wholeheartedly.

I normally write about physically going to visit them and having that time to mooch around.  It’s all a bit of an indulgence really to be able to do that as often shopping is all about getting it done quick, a supermarket sweep, a mission of errand running.

Well if that’s the case for you then online deli shopping might be the answer to that.  The Pop Up Deli Co contacted me recently to explain their service and they gave me a sample gift box to try out their wares.

As with a typical online purchase, you can visit , choose the items you want and then they get delivered to you.  There are quite a few combinations and ways you can do it:

Subscription Box like a magazine subscription principle, instead, this is a food box that is delivered to you monthly.  Not just randomly grouping items for you, each month The Pop Up Deli Co focus on a different region of Italy, showcasing different suppliers/items that are synonymous with that region.    

The box will also feature travel tips, information and recipes from real Italian Nonnas (Grandmas) so you get a real taste and experience of Italy.  As with all countries, Italy’s food differs from region to region so by subscribing monthly, you’ll in turn have had a flavour of the country as a whole.  Each box contains 6-7 items often accompanied by special offers and occasional free samples to try out.  All items are made via traditional methods, they’re artisan and contain no artificial colours/preservatives.

Single Gift Box this is as above, but as a one off purchase.

Single Items can be bought as standalone purchases as you please.


All vegetarian items are marked up accordingly and to emphasise this further, The Pop Up Deli Co are affiliated with the Meat Free Monday campaign, again with their items labelled as such.  Their commitment of purveying good food coupled with supporting the ethos of quality family time, Meat Free Mondays are the perfect time for embracing this and it makes for a good start to the week as well!

Items are on the higher end of the price scale, but the quality is evident and things like oils, a little goes a long way, so worth the initial outlay in cost.

I love the box as a gift idea and it’s a good suggestion for someone who is normally tricky to buy for as everyone loves foodie treats so you can guarantee this will be received with much gratitude.  Perfect for Father’s Day or as an end of term ‘thank you’ for a teacher.
Contents of Gift Box
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The sample gift box I received had items representing each of the sections within the shop so I could get a full experience of the deli.  Here’s what I thought:


Tenuta Marzo Tomato & Mushroom Sauce

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

This was a sauce that only contains pure, natural ingredients and looks very rustic rather than the processed sauces you find en masse.  Enhanced with herbs, this was really exceptionally tasty, packed with flavour and worked well with pasta (as it would do also with gnocchi, potatoes etc).


Vino Farina Taralli Coconut Biscuits

These Q shaped Italian oven baked biscuits were a big favourite amongst those I shared them with.  Very light, crunchy and sugar coated, these were somewhat addictive and had a nice hit of a coconut aftertaste.

I thought these would make for an elegant partner alongside a cappuccino or another fancy coffee.


Vino Farina Taralli Onion Biscuits

A savoury version of the coconut biscuits, again in a Q shape, these had a strongish but pleasant onion aftertaste.   Very filling and good to pick at if you just want a quick bite in between meals.  A little on the dry side, they do need some kind of moisture to accompany them and hence I think these would be perfect with dips or as a funkier alternative to crackers on a cheeseboard.

Riserva Toscana Artichoke and White Truffle Sauce

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Pasta in Artichoke & White Truffle Sauce
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Promoted as an ‘all-rounder’ sauce, this is ideal with pasta.  The artichoke contributed to the sauce’s grainy texture whilst the white truffle comes through very strongly and gives the pasta a strong, intense, earthy flavour which is a nice change from creamy or tomato based sauces and certainly one for those that enjoy a little adventure with their food. 

Riserva Toscana Rosemary Infused Extra Virgin Oil
Oil Drizzled on Salad
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

With its infusion of rosemary shards, I reserved this for roasting potatoes with.  Drizzled over par-boiled potatoes in a roasting pan, once roasted it gave the potatoes a crispy, herby taste and a softness when you cut into them.  It was definitely a good quality oil and would also work well as a dressing for salads etc.

Condimento Balsamic Glaze
Balsamic Glaze on Roast Potatoes
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I use balsamic glaze in a number of things – eg:  it works well when swirled in a can of chopped tomatoes to give it a boost.  Unlike some cheaper variations, this one was thick and sticky with a good tanginess.  Another use I have is to drizzle it on my roast potatoes once they’ve been oiled before going into the oven.  It gives them a bit of a taste overhaul and comes as a welcomed difference by those that have them.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Riserva Toscana White Truffle Infused Extra Virgin Oil

AKA by many as ‘posh oil’ – this has become more popular in recent years is definitely more accessible.  There are many cheaper options on the market for oils that have been infused marginly but then the flavour is compromised and barely detectable.  However this is strong, it’s earthy and a little goes a long way.  I drizzled it over cooked pasta and fried mushrooms (that classic mushroom-truffle pairing) and with hindsight, I should’ve only drizzled a little as the taste was powerful.  But note to self, will just be sparing in future, a demonstration that this is an excellent quality oil that will last for a long time.


Disclosure:    This post has been written following kind receipt of a gift box from The Pop Up Deli Co.  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.