Sunday, 1 March 2015

Review of Greens 24/7 Book


Carrot cake has been the long standing example of successfully using vegetables in cakes/sweet goods and its popularity continues to shine with consumers and bakers alike.

Taking the theme one step further in recent times, bakers have been experimenting with other ingredients such as courgettes, beetroots and kale with much success.

One such baker/foodie is Jessica Nadel who has taken the recipes from her Canadian food blog www.cupcakesandkale.ca and had them published.  I was thrilled to receive a copy to review -it’s always good to see when a fellow blogger turns author!

 
 
So, Jessica’s book is called ‘Greens 24/7’ and features vegetable-based baking recipes as well as how to maximise using vegetables within main meals.  The 40 ‘greens’ that are featured include everyday favourites such as spinach, Brussel sprouts and celery as well as more unusual options such as dandelion greens, rapini and chayote.

Starting off with an introduction, Jessica explains the benefits of eating greens such as increased vitamin/mineral/antioxidant/nutrient intake as well as it contributing to natural detox and alkalizing processes within the body. 

The 100 vegan recipes featured demonstrate the versatility of greens beyond the options we are usually used to.  Many of the recipes are gluten free and there is a meal planning section if you want to adopt the principle fully.  Split into sections such as Smoothies & Breakfast, Green Sides & Small Bites, Green Soups & Salads, Green Main Meals and Green Cakes & Desserts – there are plenty of occasions to go green!

The ingredients on the whole are quite run-of-the-mill and can be found in general supermarkets, but there are a few that you may need to source from either a specialist healthfood shop or the internet, so if replicating a recipe, it is worth checking you can obtain all ingredients with ease ahead of cooking.

A delightful, well-written book (published by Quatro Publishing/ApplePress) which showcases a different way of utilising greens and one that will suit vegetarians/vegans alike and will promote to those that possess a little green-fear, an opportunity to enjoy vegetables in a different guise.   

 ~~~


Disclosure:  This post was written following kind receipt of a complementary copy of:  Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel.  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. 

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:  Discover-Ukraine.info

 

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.

Kostroma
Image from:  Explore-Ukraine.org

 

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!

 

~~~
Disclosure:
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:

HEALTHY AND HEARTY

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.


ON THE ROCKS

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.


BEYOND THE KALE

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. 


HOME GROWN

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.


KEEP IT STREET

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.


FEEL THE HEAT

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.

 




 


    Saturday, 24 January 2015

    Gluten Free Lunch at Frais Living


    As a vegetarian I know the hardship of not always being able to find things to eat when you dine out (or the limitations of that) and so I extend my empathy to those with additional allergies and the difficulties they must face when they eat out at restaurants.

    One such allergy is gluten.  I met with Ken recently who on the back of having to observe a gluten-free diet described the difficulties of finding good places to eat that would accommodate his requirements yet be able to demonstrate a full understanding of the condition.  Based on the back of these issues, he decided to set up his own establishment which concentrates on providing a full gluten free offering coupled with healthy food – somewhere where allergy sufferers can dine with confidence.
     
     
     
    His first healthy food restaurant (more in the pipeline) is Frais Living based in the new Parkgate development in the heart of Shirley town centre, just outside of Solihull.   Upon arrival, the smiley team introduce the restaurant’s concept and the menu boards describe all the different foods and options within that you can select from.  Breakfasts, Juices (Keep It Simple/Juice Mixes/Super Juices), Shots, Bulletproof Coffee & Chia Seeds plus the usual hot beverage range and much more.  In addition, Ken’s vision is to ensure that Frais’s produce is sourced locally from nearby farms and companies.  So any egg suppliers, vegetable purveyors and the like from the Solihull area, do contact Ken!
     
    Cartwheel Ceiling Light

    Sitting down with Ken, I commented on the eclectic decoration and he talked me through what he chose and why.  Upon entry, you sense the wooden, forest hut/rustic kitchen feel which immediately oozes cosiness and is welcoming.  Supporting this ambiance are the object d’art items dotted around the restaurant.  These have been selected from an antique fair in Ross on Wye and the showpiece is the cartwheel ceiling light which is stunning!  Ken described how when dusk arrives, the cartwheel really comes into its own.  Intrigue is key behind the décor theme and Ken wants people to remain fascinated and make a point to look out for new things visit after visit.
     
    Interior Lights
    Antique Object d'Art
    Interior Design
     
    Moving onto the menu content, being independent, it allows Ken  the freedom to change and update the menus upon reaction to customer feedback.  For instance, after starting out selling Caesar Salads he decided to change tack after gaining some commentary and he now sells unique versions of mixed bean salad/green pesto/avocado and cucumber salads which his customer base enjoy.
    Food for Sale
    Food for Sale
     
    When building each offering (smoothies, salads etc), as well as always considering the nutritional side of things, Ken has mindfully kept the ingredients to a key group of three.  He feels that this encourages customers to know what to expect and helps to avoid confusion.
    Cooked Mung Bean 'Pasta'
    Dried Gluten Free 'Pasta'
    Dried Gluten Free 'Pasta'
     

    Some of the salads that he sells contain gluten-free mock-pasta which is also vegan.  This is truly amazing!  Manufactured by the company ‘Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine’, the pasta style shapes are made from beans (eg: mung and soy) and water and are then pressed into a pasta formation.  High in protein, it makes for a fabulous alternative for those wanting to cut the carbs, eat gluten free and be vegan.  At Frais, you can either buy it ready cooked as part of a meal or you can buy it over the counter in a dried format for cooking.  Ken kindly gave me some samples to try at home.  Making the Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine version for myself I thought it was definitely the next best thing to pasta.   I cooked them for about 6 minutes in salted water and ate them as they are just to try them au natural and I did enjoy them, more than I thought and I know they would be enhanced with a sauce or added vegetables.  I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Organic Black Bean version as it looks like the black spaghetti you can buy which is normally black as it has been cooked with squid ink which isn’t vegetarian.  By having this as an alternative, I can replicate and make vegetarian versions of some of the ‘black spaghetti’ recipes I’ve seen.  Plus, by using them, I’ll be boosting my protein intake and I’ll be cutting my carbs so win-win-win!
    Dragon's Fury

    Enjoying a little lunch, I started with a Dragon’s Fury Juice Mix which contained tomato, beetroot and apple.  A real myriad of taste, combining sweet, vegetable and fruit elements, it worked really well and was quite refreshing.
    Goat's Cheese Sandwich

    I then enjoyed a Goat’s cheese, mango chutney, grilled carrots, mange tout and prune toasted sandwich on gluten free bread (Genous brand).  This came with a side salad and was dressed with a standard Frais designed mix of olive oil, pepper and chia seed.  A complementary mix of tart cheese with sweet fruits and vegetables it was very tasty.  Part way through eating, I had to remind myself that I was eating gluten free bread as it was surprising nice!
    Fresh Fruit for sale
     
    Apart from sandwiches, as a lunchtime option, other choices include salad boxes and there is a Soup, Roll & Side Salad package can be purchased for £2.25.
     
    Wheatgrass Shot

    A little Wheatgrass shot followed, promoted as being packed with goodness.  Encouraged to ‘down it in one’, the taste was a smidgen bitter but then when I digested it, the aftertaste was quite pleasant.  A little cube of fresh pineapple was welcomed to cleanse the palette afterwards.  Definitely a good boost for the beginning of the day and to have in lieu of the traditional yoghurt drinks I think.
    Bulletproof Coffee
    Bulletproof Coffee
    Coffee Grinder
     

    Ken then presented the Bulletproof Coffee concept to me.   Bulletproof Coffee when purchased is done so almost as a meal replacement.  It is labelled as a ‘super coffee’ typically containing 400 calories.  It boasts properties that energise you and wake you up, Ken said he mainly has it for breakfast.  It has good fatty acids (medium chain triglyrecides) and coconut oil.  Given a little sample, I was a bit apprehensive to try it, me still being a newbie to coffee drinking and still finding my feet with it.  But nevertheless I sipped my sample which contained a double espresso shot, chia seeds, unsalted butter, coconut oil and water.   With each sip, I got more and more used to it and climatised to the taste and surprising didn’t miss the sugar element that I would normally have with coffee.  It was a bit heavy and a bit fatty but if thought of as a meal replacement (like Ken described it), then it works.  If you need a bulk up on calories, this could be a good, healthier way of obtaining them.
     
    Power Ball - Protein Ball

    As my visit to Frais drew to an end, Ken gave me 2 Protein Balls to try at home.  Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, resembling a macaroon shape, they come in 3 types -  Power Ball (featuring Chocolate & Peanuts), Energizer Ball (Seeds & Nuts) and Recovery Ball (Berries & Nuts).  They are packed with good fats and have enough goodness for the whole day, releasing energy gradually,they make for a great snack.  I found them really tasty, especially the Power Ball which still had the chocolate hit which is important for me.

     
    Interior Decor
     

     

    Whilst Ken continues to evolve Frais’s offering including organising nutritionally focused event seminars, his mission remains the same, to provide customers with quality, gluten free, healthy food in a relaxing, contemporary environment which I’m pleased to say is on my doorstep.
     
    ~~~
    Notes:  Free Seminar regarding General Nutrition & Affects of Gluten on the Body on 28th January 2015 at Frais Living.  See www.frais.co.uk for contact details.
    ~~~
    Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation to sample lunch and other products at Frais Living.  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.