Monday, 28 November 2016

Italian Deli Figs

Regular readers will recall that I reviewed a vegetarian parmesan style cheese earlier in the year from Italian online deli food providers Vorrei.  And very nice it was too, so nice to have a quality parmesan alternative.

In the run up to Christmas, Vorrei have put together some hamper ideas with lots of quality, artisan, Italian goods that aren’t necessarily available on the High Street.

As such, I was sent a couple of their fig goods to try out. 

I adore figs and they’ve become quite en vogue in recent years, moving away from the notion that they’re only good for ‘fig roll biscuits’. 

The first item I tried was the Fig Ball.

The contents of which are handcrafted, 100% Italian figs from Calabria.  The variety used is Dottato and the trees they come from are 2500 years old!  (Did you know by the way that figs are deemed as one of the oldest known fruits in the world?).    Dottato’s USP is their richness and that each fruit bears very few yet fine seeds.

Harvested when the figs mature at end of season, they are then divided in to balls and wrapped in green fig leaves. 

Vorrei describe how the baking process that follows gives them a strong and intense taste.

Just open part of the fig leaves which will then allow you to eat them whole or partially in pieces. 

They are sticky yet delicious and I had some on some cheese which worked wonderfully.   The fig ball would make a fascinating piece on a (Christmas) cheeseboard.

The second item was Figs with Almonds.

Presented in a box, (makes for a nice gift to take as a dinner guest), the figs are as above, are the Dottato variety, boasting a bronzy outer skin and matching interior.    They are described as being handpicked piece by piece when fully ripe, they are then oven dried and then stuffed with Sicilian almonds. 

The soft fibrous fruit contrasted by the solidity of the nuts work well.  Again, another goodie for the cheeseboard and a breakaway from the usual range of crackers.  Cheeseboard to one side, they’re nice to munch on as they are.

Both are produced by Artibel who are based in Belmonte on the Tyrhennian coast of Calabria.  It is an ancient family run company dating back to the 12th century and from the mid 1900’s it began to specialise in figs.  Its use of raw materials and simple manufacturing methods offer that completely natural, rustic, artisan authenticity.

Figs themselves assert a wealth of health benefits which include being packed with potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, vitamins B1,B2, A plus they’re a good source of iron.  Combined with the almonds, it is packed with minerals (iron, phosphorous, calcium, vitamins A B1, B2 PP and C).

This might be an obvious thing to say, but being a fig fan will maximise your enjoyment of them as the taste is really intense and can’t really be muted.

As with the many of the items on the Vorrei hamper list, the fig goodies offer something different and interesting to adorn your Christmas table and/or future dinner parties with, so definitely worth taking a look at the site for some inspiration or as the Italians would say – ispirazione!
Disclosure:  This review was conducted following receipt of a complementary samples from Vorrei.  The review was conducted honestly without bias. For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.





Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review: Boston Tea Party

Boston Tea Party.  A phrase although associated with the American revolutionary events held in the 1700’s regarding tea imports, it is rather quite the opposite when it comes to café culture here in the UK.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Flying high on the back of a café chain in-situ in the south west region of the UK, Boston Tea Party (BTP) have spread their wings to Birmingham and following suit, is the recent(ish) opening in Warwickshire’s Stratford Upon Avon.

Stratford is definitely not short on tea rooms or coffee shops, café culture per se is a must have for those that descent on there week in, week out.  Having been invited to experience BTP myself, I was keen to see how it fared against its rivals.
BTP St Gregory's Hall
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Located in St Gregory's Hall Building at the top of the town centre, it isn’t by the river (which is the main hub of the town) but it is by the tourist office and all the souvenir shops so it is still in a ‘buzzy’ part of town but yet not as manic as if you were by the theatres. 
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

My visit was on a Saturday lunchtime in the heart of the school half-term week, so you can imagine how busy it was!  (Then again, Stratford is always busy).  Skimming a look around the café, it was all very contemporary, accented by smatterings of shabby chic with lots of their corporate blue colour dotted around both across their upstairs and downstairs dining facilities.  There were a lot families dining together and a handful of tourists here and there.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

All quite informal, you choose from the menu, make a note of your table number and go to the till to place the order.  The menu is quite varied with Breakfasts, Brunches, Lunches, Smoothies and Cakes (more so than desserts) with a good mix for those who observe a vegetarian, vegan or gluten free diet.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The counter as you approach the till is packed with cakes and goodies so if you are only popping in for a coffee, you’ll have to have some serious will-power to by-pass those pastries!
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

On the walls around you, there are big boards and posters promoting that they only use free range eggs, organic tea/coffee, 100% organic milk (via Yeo Valley) and free range meat which supports their sustainability mantra echoed within their award plaudits.  To name a few:  Shortlisted for Food Made Good Awards 2016, Large Group of the Year (for ethical sourcing of ingredients and for minimising food waste) and Outstanding Commitment to Sustainability in the Bristol & Bath Good Food Awards.

Milkshakes/Smoothies/Soft Drinks
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
My Mother dined with me (she never turns down a visit to Stratford) and we both had a smoothie to keep the hunger grumbles away before lunch arrived.  She had the Breakfast Smoothie (containing raspberries, dates, almond milk, banana, chia and maple syrup) and I had the Dark Chocolate milkshake (nicknamed Cut the Crappe <cheeky play on words>) which was made up of: organic Yeo Valley milk, no frappe but instead used avocado.  Mum’s was sweet, fruity and grainy and overall very pleasant.  Mine was gloriously thick but I would’ve liked to have tasted a little avocado than I did do.
Veggie Burger with Tzatziki
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I opted for the Veggie Burger.  I asked for no chilli which was honoured and I asked for Sweet Potato Battered Fries instead of chips (again, honoured).   The burger was big, a good mixture of vegetable based ingredients within, it was handmade and tasted fresh.  The Sweet Potato chips were a little over battered for me, I wish they had been just fries, so that’s my only negative.  The accompanying Coleslaw had a level of sweetness which was quite different due to the dried fruit within.   By the end, I had felt like I’d had a good hearty lunch.
Superfood Salad & Chicken
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Mum had a Superfood Salad with Chicken which also contained: avocado, mango, radish, sprouting seeds, sugar snap peas, leaves, carrot, nuts and seeds plus extra Sweet Potato fries.    She agreed with my thoughts regarding the batter on the fries, but thoroughly enjoyed her salad saying it was tasty, crunchy, felt healthy and it was well seasoned, plus she mentioned the chicken was very good and fresh.

We had Cappuccinos to accompany our cakes.  Mum had the Carrot Cake and I had the Raspberry Chocolate Flapjack and we shared each other’s.  The coffee was excellent, made to order.  The Carrot Cake was moist and a good size, likewise the flapjack, the chocolate contrasted well to its nutty base.  I was quite full, so I decided to take the remainder of my flapjack home for later – wasn’t going to let that go to waste!

Boston Tea Party is a café with a conscience, definitely wanting to promote its sustainability mission through its food and I think customers appreciate that, I certainly feel that’s a bonus in my eyes.  It’s very much a place to go for hearty fare with a quick turnaround time.  Its menu offerings and casual environment lends itself for family feasting so very good if you have little ones in tow but if you’re after a little escapism from the crowds then perhaps a visit outside of peak times would be advisable. 

I hope to see more Boston Tea Party cafes pop up in the Midlands region in the future.  With their encouraging positive approach to food and the environment, they’re a welcomed addition to the High Street.

Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Boston Tea Party 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.      

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Palestine On A Plate

Joudie Kalla’s culinary memoir brings to life a part of the world that I have little knowledge about – the area of Palestine. 
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla,
photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25).

Palestine On A Plate starts off with an introduction written by Joudie which she refers to as ‘My Journey’.  Her journey is about her desire to acquaint herself with her roots, first through re-learning the Arabic language and then through making food based on her passion for keeping her mother’s recipes arrive.  She expresses the bond and unity that food offers when sharing it with other people, the positivity that that can bring and how she has found that with her Arabic friends.  Also, her words about living/visiting Palestine and the colourful backdrops and landscapes she describes conjure up wonderful images.

The book is split up into sections with one specifically called ‘Vibrant Vegetarian’ which of course caught my eye instantly!  As I flicked through the other recipes, I was mentally thinking how I could convert them into vegetarian options and there are a number that would lend themselves well for that.

Against most of the recipes are beautiful photos helping you to depict the dishes.  I was also interested in the pickling section and also the recipes for different dips, stews, vegetables and Tahini Brownies – an interesting twist on a classic. 

Below is a recipe which has been extracted from the book which I’m certainly looking to try – Lentil & Aubergine Stew with Pomegranate Molasses.  How perfect for these chilly autumnal evenings!

The flavours highlighted within are very Middle Eastern (as you might expect) and whilst a lot of the ingredients specified can now be purchased alongside mainstream goods in many supermarkets, you may need to top up some by purchasing items from specialist shops or online.

Applauded by adored chef Sami Tamimi (of Ottelenghi restaurant and cook fame), this gorgeous book is a welcomed addition to my bookshelf and I look forward to becoming more au fait with Palestinian cooking, especially when in need of some comfort food this winter.
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla,
photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25).
Lentil & Aubergine Stew with Pomegranate Molasses
My grandmother Najla was born in Yaffa in Palestine and lived there until she met my grandfather Fouad and then moved to Al-Lydd. She has provided my whole family with some really wonderful memories, mainly around food and cooking, as that was what she spent most of her time doing. Her commitment and love to us all has inspired many a chef in our family. This dish is very typical of both Yaffa and El-Lyd in Palestine and it has become very popular in Gaza, too. So this recipe is dedicated to all those areas where devoted families have continued the traditions that have been passed onto the likes of me, and hopefully now, to you. Rummaniyeh means 'pomegranatey'. There are pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses all over this dish, draped over lentils and aubergine to create a tangy, earthy combination of utter goodness. A vegan dream!
Serves 4
250g (9oz) brown lentils
1 heaped tablespoon ground cumin
600ml (1 pint) water
1 aubergine, peeled and cubed into small pieces
1 tablespoon sea salt
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4–6 large garlic cloves, crushed
150ml (5fl oz) pomegranate molasses
juice of 2 lemons
1 pomegranate, seeded
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to garnish
Taboon bread or Khubez (pita bread), to serve
Put the lentils, cumin and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and then continue to boil for 10 minutes. Add the aubergine, salt and leave to simmer while you cook the garlic.
Set another pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and the crushed garlic and cook for a few minutes until they turn golden.
When the lentils and aubergine have been cooking for about 25 minutes, add the fried garlic and the pomegranate molasses and mix together. Cook for another 5 minutes, then stir through the lemon juice.
Place in a serving bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, scatter the pomegranate seeds over the top and finish with some parsley. Enjoy with hot taboon bread or Khubez (pita bread).
Tip: Taboon bread is a type of flat bread traditionally baked in a tabun oven and is soft, slightly chewy and doesn't tear easily. It is sold as street food, stuffed with hummus, falafel or shaved meat and is a staple bread in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Recipe and images extracted from Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla, photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25).
For more information about the book, visit the link here.
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a complementary copy of Palestine On A Plate.  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.  



Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: Baxters Deli Toppers

Instead of ketchup or hummus, sometimes it is nice to have something different to top your food with, something that will add a different dimension.

Baxters have brought out a new range of jarred condiments called ‘Deli Toppers’ inspired by the flavours found at internationally eclectic street food events which are now organised in most towns across the UK.

Add caption
The bold flavours they come in are:  Red Slaw, Spicy Slaw, Red Onion and Jalapenos.  As the name (and flavours) suggest, the range promises to offer a little ‘pow’ boost to your meal or snack. 

I trialled the Red Slaw one and it had a good balance between a hint of sweetness with the tang of sour vinegar.  I’ve included a spoonful in my salad box and on a jacket potato (both work well).  

Red Slaw on a Sandwich
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

My favourite way was via an open sandwich I made using a slice of toast, slice of gherkin, vegetarian sausages then Red Slaw on top.  The pickled goodness from both the Red Slaw and gherkin slice really pepped up (or pow-ed up) my sandwich, adding texture, flavour and colour.

With Bonfire Night this weekend, if you’re planning a bbq or just some quick & easy (veggie) burger/sausage sandwich rolls to accompany your fireworks, then a jar of Red Slaw on the side (or one of the other Deli Toppers if your taste buds are strong enough), will give you something new to experiment with and something new to reach for in your pantry going forward.


Note:  For more information about Baxter Deli Toppers plus further recipe ideas, visit their site.


Disclosure:  This review was conducted following receipt of a complementary sample of Baxters Deli Toppers.  The review was conducted honestly without bias.  For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.