Sunday, 29 March 2015

Cocktails & Dining at Chung Ying Central


I have spent many a lovely night over the years down in Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter at Chung Ying and Chung Ying Garden Restaurants.  Sometimes marking the occasion of Chinese New Year or just enjoying time with friends over a quality meal.

 
Although there are many restaurants in the Chinese Quarter, both Chung Ying outlets really do hold court in the area and have earned themselves a well-respected reputation.  Taking the Chung Ying brand half a mile further into the heart of the city centre, owner James Wong has opened Chung Ying Central in the business district on Colmore Row capturing a new clientele.


 
 
Upon arrival, warmly welcomed by James and his team, we were shown to our table.  The first thing I noticed was how different it was to the décor of the other Chung Ying restaurants, more contemporary bronze & black with a few hints of oriental symbolism but very discreet, as opposed to the vivid reds & golds in the other restaurants.  Both appeal to me and I liked seeing this style in comparison.

I had been told about the fabulous cocktails at Chung Ying Central, which incidentally are very popular amongst the post-work crowd, and we decided to sample a couple for ourselves.  With a special mixologist on-site, James explained he wants to have that dedicated resource in-situ to manage the cocktail making side of the business.  This allows those with only a short amount of time to pop in, have one of their renowned cocktails, yet still be able to sample the Chung Ying ambience and it does brand itself as a Bar & Restaurant thus capturing the drinkers and the diners.
 
One of the interesting things that Chung Ying Central has produced is a menu of 12 cocktails that reflects the Chinese Zodiac, with each one embracing the characteristics of the sign it is made for.  The Dragon one has fierier flavours for example.

Year of the Tiger & Year of the Rabbit Cocktails

Dining with My Carnivourous Husband (MCH), he had the Year of the Rabbit cocktail denoting his year of birth and that was called ‘Fluffy Cottontail’ and consisted of Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, passoa liqueur and egg white.  I had Year of the Tiger which was called a ‘Crouching Tiger Mai Tai’ which consisted of light and dark rum, tropical juices, lime juice and orgeat syrup.  We agreed these were a fabulous idea and a great talking point! 
South China Breeze Cocktail
For my next cocktail, turning to my passion for vodka, I chose a South China Breeze which contained Absolut Mandarin Vodka, pink grapefruit juice, lychee syrup and angostura Bitters.  MCH decided to leave the spirits behind and nurturing his love for all things ale, he had the TsingTao beer which is a beer he has from time to time anyway and so he knew he’d enjoy it.
Chiu Chow Dim Sum
Another reason for the restaurant’s popularity is their Dim Sum menu.   Again, like with the cocktails, dim Sum make for the perfect snack solution for those with a limited timeframe.

Spring Rolls & Fun Gor Dim Sum
So, MCH and I decided to sample a few dim sum as appetisers.  The dim sum menu was split into Meat and Vegetarian choices which made deciphering them a lot easier for us both and our waitress gave us an insight into what each one was as on the menu it named them but without descriptions. We had the Spring Rolls and the Fun Gor and Chiu Chow ones were mixed vegetable based.  All lovely, MCH had the sweet & sour chilli based dipping sauce, but with my chilli allergy, I was given a hoisin sauce instead which offered a sweet aftertaste contrasting with the vegetable fillings.

Talking through my allergies with James and the team, they were very accommodating and said that if customers flag in their allergies, they will do their utmost to work round them and provide a meal that suits.
Vegetarian Yuk Sung
With a good list of starters to choose from, I opted for the Vegetarian Yuk Sung which although wasn’t on the menu, it can be requested.  I’ve written my own yuk sung recipes in the past as I love it and I relish any opportunity to have it made for me.  It came without spices/chilli (as per my wishes) and it had a nice blend of flavours and a nice contrast against the crisp iceberg lettuce leaves.
Salt & Chilli Spare Ribs
MCH had the Salt & Chilli Spare Ribs and he said it was a generous portion, with a plentiful amount of meat on each rib.  The salt & chilli coating was just right both in terms of seasoning and quantity.
King Prawns with Garlic & Fresh Chilli
For the main course, MCH chose King Prawns with Garlic & Fresh Chilli.  He stated that the prawns were tender and delicate and the sweet smelling sauce was flavoured perfectly and was very tasty.
Salt & Pepper Stuffed Aubergines
Steering away from the predictability of choosing chow mein,  (which I tend to do) when I saw my favourite vegetable (aubergines) were on the menu I was delighted and went ahead with ordering it as my main course, especially as I found out  it doesn’t feature on the other Chung Ying menus.  They were Salt & Pepper Stuffed Aubergines.  Sliced, with tofu on top and then cooked with a salt & pepper batter coating.  I ordered mine as a non-spicy portion.  The coating was light, not greasy and the seasoning was just right, enough flavour from both elements without it being overpowering.  The amount of tofu in each slice parcel was just enough as well.  It needed something to go with it, so the suggested sharing portions of egg fried rice and noodles as side dishes were welcomed.
 
Mango & Lemon Sorbets
The dessert menu didn’t feature any Chinese delicacies from what I could see, but we opted for lemon and mango sorbet respectively to act as palette cleansers which were a refreshing way to end the meal.
We had an early reservation and as our visit drew to an end, the restaurant had filled up with diners replacing those that had finishing dining too.  One thing I noted was James went out of his way to personally bid each person goodbye and to thank them for their custom, which I was impressed with.

Overall a lovely, hospitable restaurant, in an elegant setting with staff who are very knowledgeable and who offer a quick service.  Plenty of choice available, including a wealth of vegetarian options that can be tailored-made if needs be whether you’re having a banquet or just dim sum with cocktails.
 
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Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Chung Ying Central 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, 25 March 2015

Oat & Banana Smoothie


Following on from my Oat Crunch Ice Cream recipe using Flahavan’s Porridge Oats, for my next recipe, I decided to use them in a smoothie drink.

To make the oats compatible for a smoothie, I created a porridge mixture in the microwave.  Now, whilst I’m not keen on porridge as a standalone breakfast cereal,  using it in a smoothie is fine as it is combined with so many other ingredients.

In addition to the porridge mixture I used bananas, milk and Greek yoghurt for protein plus some coconut shavings for flavour.
 
Flahavan Oats & Flavourings
 

Popping in some chia seeds, I felt would give the smoothie a nutrious boost.  Chia seeds have begun to gain a reputation as being  a new super-food.  Packed with omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants and minerals, it is easy to see why its popularity is wide-spread.    A little turmeric and mixed spice also went in to pep it up.  Turmeric is such a versatile spice, with many documented benefits such warding off dementia, cancer, inflammation and more commonly flu and colds. 

Making a jug of it for my work colleagues, it was very well received.  Making it with porridge oats does make it a thicker consistency and more grainy/bitty, but we all agreed that isn’t a bad thing as it added a bit of texture to it.

Having it in lieu of my mid-morning piece of fruit, it was a great way to incorporate a number of good nutrients and with porridge oats being a low-GI food item, it meant I wasn’t craving anything until lunchtime!  Definitely one to have again when the elevensies urge kicks-in!

What would you put in your smoothie?
 
 

 

Oat & Banana Smoothie

2 ripe Bananas (chopped)
2 tablespoons Greek & Honey Yoghurt 
1 tsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Coconut Shavings
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Mixed Spice Powder
140ml of milk
40g Flahavan’s Porridge Oats +70ml of milk (to make the porridge mixture)

  • Mix the Flahavan’s Porridge Oats and milk together and heat in a microwave for 2 minutes so that it becomes a porridge consistency.
 
  • In a large jug place the bananas, Greek yoghurt, chia seeds, coconut shavings, turmeric, mixed spice and milk.

  • Add in the porridge mixture to the jug.

  • Using a blender stick, blend until a smooth consistency is achieved and it is ready to drink! 

  • If you feel you need some sweetness, then add a little honey or if you want a runnier consistency, then add more milk and/or yoghurt.

 ~

 
 Disclosure:   
           This post has been written following receipt of a #PerfectPorridge Breakfast Kit from Flahavan's Oats.    This is one of three posts.  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, 20 March 2015

Oat Crunch Ice Cream


I’ll be honest, I’m not really a porridge person.  So when I was approached to participate in Flahavan’s #PerfectPorridge campaign I didn’t think I would be able to take part. 
 
 

But when thinking about the oats themselves, I thought about porridge alternatives and the fact you can do so much with oats, so I thought yes, I will take part but use them in a different way.
 

So here is my idea number one: 

Everyone knows about crumble toppings for hot fruit desserts but I discovered a nice variation of this theme for use on ice cream instead.

I made my topping batch whilst I was roasting something else to maximise the oven usage.  (My mother would be proud of me for that!!)

This is a great solution for those dessert emergencies if you have unexpected visitors or if you just feel you need something sweet at the end of a long day, you can give good old fashioned ice cream a make-over with a drizzle of molasses to give a sharp sweet taste and a good sprinkle of oat crumble for texture.

Create the topping using Flahavan oats for extra crunch and follow the recipe below.

You’ll have a quick and easy dessert combination that looks great, tastes fantastic and yet started out as just a handful of humble oats………….
 
 

 



Oat Crunch Ice Cream

50g Plain Flour
30g Butter
30g Brown Sugar
25g Flahavan Porridge Oats
2 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
Drizzle of Pomegranate or Grape Molasses
Handful of Cocoa Nibs/Chocolate Shavings/Decoration of Choice
 
 
Oat Crumble ready for the oven
 

·    Place the flour and butter together in a bowl and rub together with your fingers until it resembles bread crumbs.

·    Stir in the brown sugar and Flahavan Porridge Oats.

·    Pat the mixture into a baking tray.

·    Bake in the oven – gas mark 5 for 15/20 minutes (middle shelf) until golden brown, stirring it half-way through the baking time to ensure all the mixture is baked fully.
 
·    Allow to cool.

·    Scoop the ice cream into a bowl.

·    Drizzle the pomegranate/grape molasses onto the ice cream.

·    Scatter the crumble mix (break it up with your fingers if it has gone hard) over the ice cream.

·    Dress with cocoa nibs or other decoration as desired.
 
 
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Disclosure:   
           This post has been written following receipt of a #PerfectPorridge Breakfast Kit from Flahavan's Oats.    This is one of three posts.  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, 15 March 2015

Veggie Sunday Roasts at The Plough Harborne (Birmingham)


I have to say, I was very thrilled to receive an invitation to visit The Plough Harborne.  It had been on my ‘hit list’ for some time, with so many plaudits surrounding it, I was excited to be finally going there.

Set in leafy Harborne, a Birmingham suburb about 3 miles from the city centre, Harborne has always enjoyed a good reputation for food and drink with many of the city's celebrated restaurants and pubs clustered within.  The Plough is being one of them.
 



Nestled at the bottom of the High Street nudging the Edgbaston border, it stands quite dominantly against its neighbours in contemporary grey and looked a lot bigger than I imagined.



Walking through the entrance, I saw it had been decorated with babushka doll wallpaper which made me smile, with my Eastern European heritage I kind of took it as a personal welcome – coincidence of course, but a good omen nevertheless!
 
 

We were met by the Manager James and his team and were warmly greeted.  It was Sunday 1pm and the pub was packed – all tables full with some even braving the inclement weather outside. 
 

Taking a cursory glance around, I noted the contemporary, eclectic décor.  It is more of an eatery than a pub (by The Plough's own admission).  A marker their success are their future plans to move into the property next door to provide more covers and also to accommodate a private dining area.
 
 
 
I witnessed a very mixed crowd of people – young professionals, young families, parents with their adult children etc.  Some were enjoying the casual country kitchen style bar, relaxing with a big teapot and pastries, with room to spreadout the Sunday papers.  But the majority from what I could see were there for The Plough’s Sunday lunch.  And indeed, that was our purpose too.
 
Condiments with Pip's Sauce
 
The Plough’s Sunday lunches have won not only local plaudits with media and customers alike, but also national awards including being 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.  In addition, award-winning local hot sauce purveyor Pip's Sauces began life after being inspired by a visit to The Plough and bottles of which are available as part of the condiment range.


 

When offered some garlic bread as an appetiser, we gladly accepted and anticipated a couple of slices of a garlic smothered baguette as you may typically get as a side order in some places.  However, we were very impressed with what we received.  It was a large pizza-style garlic bread, fresh and topped with cheese and herbs.  Garlicky enough without being overpowering.  James later explained that it is made on site, even down to the dough itself.  Very delicious.  This came with a small ramekin of green olives, capers and sun-dried tomatoes as an anti-pasti accompaniment which worked really well.

 



Dining with My Carnivorous Husband (MCH), he had the Sunday roast option with roast beef.  Cooked to order as he wanted it, it was succulent and he stated it he could tell it was high quality meat.  A good portion size, it came with all the extras that mine did (see below).
 



My vegetarian option in lieu of the meat came with stuffing.  Now, I have to admit I thought that the meal would’ve come with stuffing anyway as part of a standard roast package, but after seeing and trying it, I can see that it is very different to how it sounds.  Expecting a token couple of rolled balls as you might expect at a carvery pub, I was delighted to see that the stuffing came as a thick sliced wedge looking like a Mr Kipling almond slice cake.   I chose to have a little of the two options available (apple & cranberry and apricot).  Cutting in to the apple & cranberry one, it was soft with a layer in the middle of cranberry (like you’d have jam in an almond slice) with a sprinkling of flaked almonds on top.  As stuffings go, it was the best I’d ever had!  Moist, packed with flavour and I wanted the recipe for myself!

The other roast elements were braised red cabbage (delicious and sweet), roast potatoes (crispy and fluffy), mashed smooth swede, Yorkshire pudding with peas plus gravy (flavoursome but not overpowering).

I was informed that all the ingredients were vegetarian and that the gravy was home-made as well.  Bravo The Plough!




Always making room for dessert,  MCH decided to try the Grasshopper Pie which looked amazing (and something different from your average menu).  Only issue was it contains marshmallows which aren’t veggie friendly so I couldn’t partake sadly and I did have a little food envy when it arrived I have to say.  But he said it was dessert-heaven, the chocolate was dense with a minty aftertaste and the ice cream that came with it was almost clotted cream-esque.
 



I opted for the White Chocolate Raspberry Tart.  For me it resembled the taste of frangipane on a crumbly pastry base with the tartness of raspberry coming through.  Served with a good quality raspberry swirl ice cream it was pleasant but I would it have been nice to have some fresh raspberries to accompany it to really bring the flavour out of it. 

As our meal drew to an end, taking the last few sips of my sauivignon blanc, we reflected on what a fabulous roast lunch we had had and we agreed that we could see why it had won the awards.  Earmarked in  MCH’s mind as a meet up point with friends in the future, we are looking forward to returning very soon.

All in all a wonderful gastro venue, with echoes of a trendy London suburb, a cool hangout, excellent food with a good vegetarian bias and something for everyone.

~~~
To read about what food trends The Plough are predicting for 2015, click here.



Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from The Plough Harborne to sample their Sunday Lunch 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, 8 March 2015

Foodies Festival - Cannon Hill Park Birmingham

Have you heard?  Birmingham will be hosting a new food festival this May and I for one am looking forward to welcoming this new arrival to the foodie scene here in Brum!

So what is Foodies Festival?  It was launched in 2005 at an Edinburgh hotel after founder Sue Hitchen noticed a gap in the Edinburgh market for a food festival.  A successful launch led onto the festival expanding into other towns and cities and to date the festival group has become the UK's biggest celebration of food & drink and have welcomed over 2 million visitors as well as having helped to promote numerous new businesses and small producers.   


Foodie Festival


Making its debut in Birmingham this spring, Cannon Hill Park will play host to the Foodies Festival which will see local Michelin-star and top chefs taking part as well as new tasting theatre events and pop up restaurants available for all to try.

Glynn Purnell


The Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre will see Michelin-star chef Glynn Purnell cooking up his favourite recipes with other local chefs Matt Cheal from Simpsons and Atkar Islam from the Lasan Group taking centre stage too.

Ping Coombes

Fans of MasterChef can watch 2014 winner Ping Coombes cook up her signature dishes from the series in the Chefs Theatre as well as making dishes from her Malaysian Pop-Up on the Street Food Avenue.  Joining Ping will be MasterChef 2010 winner Dhruv Baker and finalist Jackie Kearney.

Raise a glass and toast Foodies Festival's 10th anniversary in the New Wine and Champagne Theatre with experts Neil Phillips and Charles Metcalfe and beer expert Melissa Cole will be holding masterclasses in the New Craft Beer Theatre.

For those seeking something a little different will enjoy the New Tasting Theatre where 'How to Sniff Chocolate like a Rockstar' or Chocolate Safari masterclasses with Coeur de Xocolat will be on offer.  Katy B from Little Miss Meat Free will be sharing her vegan recipes for all to taste too.


The Cake & Bake Theatre is a must-go destination for all passionate bakers and the Street Food Avenue will be offering international dishes for sale inspired from countries such as Japan, India, Mexico and Brazil to name a few.



Other attractions include a Chilli Eating Challenge, Children's Cookery Theatre, Pop-Up Bars & Cider Farm plus 200 exhibitors will be selling their wares in the Artisan Producers Market.

I've got it in my diary - hope you have too and I'll be looking forward to seeing you there!  And if you're not Birmingham based, take a look at the other dates and venues below! 

Ticket prices are outlined below with a special 2-for-1 offer to take advantage of now!


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Ticket Information



Tickets are on sale now at www.foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111

Friday adult day ticket £10.00 (£8.00 concession)
Saturday or Sunday adult day ticket £13.00 (£11.00 concession)
3-day adult ticket £18.00 (£15.00 concession)

Friday VIP ticket £35.00
Saturday or Sunday VIP ticket £38.00
VIP tickets include a welcome glass of bubbly, access to the VIP tent with private bar and refreshments throughout the day, priority entry to food and drink masterclasses, a goody bag and a showguide.

All children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Open times:
Friday 15th May: 11am – 7pm
Saturday 16th May: 11am – 7pm
Sunday 17th May: 11am – 6pm
 

2015 Foodies Festivals:
Brighton, Hove Lawns: May 2,3,4
Birmingham, Cannon Hill Park: May 15,16,17
London, Syon Park: May 23,24,25
Bristol, The Downs: June 26,27,28
London, Alexandra Palace: July 3,4,5
Cheshire, Tatton Park: July 17,18,19
London, Clapham Common: July 24,25,26
Edinburgh, Inverleith Park: August 7,8,9
Harrogate, Ripley Castle: August 21,22,23
Oxford, South Parks: August 29,30,31

 
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Disclosure:  All queries for the 2 for 1 ticket offer must be made directly with the festival organisers, using the telephone number given.  All ticket purchases must be purchased via the telephone number given.  Word In Veg Ways will not be responsible for any aspect of the offer and/or ticket purchasing.

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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.   

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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.