Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lunch at The Edwardian Tea Rooms

Meeting up with friends the other weekend in Birmingham city centre, we all put our thinking caps on with regards to where we could eat that would accommodate a vegetarian, a pescetarian, somewhere that would suit us and my friend’s teenage daughter, be easy on the pocket and yet have a little bit of ‘wow factor’ attached.  So we decided to give The Edwardian Tea Rooms in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery a try.

It is a delightful little haunt which you access via the art gallery floor and through the museum shop (and yes, walking through, it does guilt trip you into thinking how you should visit more often!).
Edwardian Tea Rooms Interior

In recent times, it has been given a make-over both in terms of décor and menu offerings and I’d heard of its good reputation through the grapevine so I anticipated that lunchtimes could be  busy.  So bearing this in mind, we arrived early on the dot of 12pm only to find that everyone else had the same idea too!

Not to worry, we scouted round to find a table of 4 vacating so in a smiley yet predatory way, we waited, exchanged a few pleasantries then got ourselves comfy before anyone else spotted it.  We were also in a good position for a bit of people-watching and to be able to take-in the beautifully painted ceilings and artwork on the walls.
Portobello Mushrooms & Potatoes with Blue Shropshire Cheese,
Red Onion Chutney & Salad

Taking a look at the standard menu and the specials, the others ordered pots of tea with bacon sandwiches, an all-day breakfast and filled jacket potato whilst I had the vegetarian main course of Portobello Mushrooms & Potatoes with Blue Shropshire Cheese, Red Onion Chutney and Salad. Everyone commented that they enjoyed their lunch choices and with regards to my meal, the red onion chutney and Blue Shropshire cheese with their respective contrasts in flavour worked well against the other meal components, especially the chutney against the mushroom.  Whilst quite a basic arrangement overall, it certainly satisfied the lunchtime pangs and would be something I would have again for a lunchtime fix. 
Tea for One

All in all, the menu gave a run-of-the-mill/crowd-pleasing selection with some stalwart favourites including a few vegetarian options.  It was great for what we needed and the timeframe that we had, and in general, I feel the food and venue would appeal to a wide demographic.
Wall Art in the Tearooms

Finishing off our lunches we noted the atmospheric, bubbly hum of noise and witnessed the rest of the lunchtime punters ready to leave with a new wave of arrivals awaiting their afternoon tea.   
Balcony & Ceilings of the Tearooms

I would definitely recommend a visit to the Edwardian Tea Rooms, perhaps teamed up with a visit to one of the many fabulous exhibition events on at the gallery. 

After all, a little coffee, cake and culture is good for the soul in so many ways………..

Friday, 17 April 2015

Food & Genealogy for Warwickshire Life

On the back of my Food Roots Interview feature,  I have taken some time to continue exploring the concept of food and its links to genealogy.

Take a look at my latest article for Warwickshire Life, enjoy a little food history and perhaps gain the inspiration to discover your own food roots!

Easter Basket ready for blessing
before Ukrainian Easter

Paska - Eaten during Ukrainian Easter

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Marmalade Birmingham

The Rep Bar is how I knew it back in the 1990’s.  I used to hear about it every Monday at college as the girls I knew back then were obsessed about the city’s footballers that used to frequent there on a Saturday night.   That’s how I remember The Rep Bar.

Fast-forward 23 years and its reincarnation as Marmalade is a welcomed addition to Birmingham’s food scene.

Part of the Bitters & Twisted Group, which has already given a facelift to a number of Brummie haunts, Marmalade offers the full monty from pre-theatre drinks to full dining menus.

Packed to the rafters before the 7:30pm showing of ‘The King’s Speech’ (with the wonderful Jason Donovan!), my carnivourous husband and I had a cheeky little drink before curtain up and took the opportunity to take a look around.

We witnessed a buzzing atmosphere, eclectic décor, great cocktail list and a really tempting, contemporary food menu with lots of vegetarian dishes that made me go “mmmmmmm…..”

Mediterranean Vegetable Crumble, Tofu, Roast Tomato Sauce, Spinach & Figs or Roast Aubergine, Lentil, Feta, Basil Leaves, Chickpeas, Croutons, Curry Oil, Raisins, Shiitake Mushroom Salad are some examples available and receives a big thumbs up from me as a veggie. Such is my enthusiasm, I even gave a copy of Marmalade’s menu to the venue hired for my works event to show them how us veggies like to be catered for, highlighting we like something more exciting than gnocchi.  

So, we had a date with Jason Donovan that night, time was of the essence and we were only able to have a drink that night, but after enjoying our aperitif and mini-tour around, we agreed we’d return to sample the meals next time.  You know, the ones that made me go “mmmmmmm………”

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Bircher Muesli

The third in my Flahavan’s trilogy of #PerfectPorridge offerings, comes by way of a Bircher’s Muesli.

I'm quite late to the Bircher’s party, but I’ve always thought, “I must have a go at that” but I've never quite got round to it……….

Having my Flahavan’s porridge oats to hand, there is no excuse and I felt it's now time to get acquainted with all things Bircher’s!

So, what is Bircher’s Muesli?  Founded in the 1890’s in Zurich by Swiss Dr Bircher-Benner, he created a muesli that he felt offered his patients a recuperative boost.  The secret to which he believes was down to the apple juice and apple slices he used.   Apples he felt were a factor in his recovery from jaundice in younger years and he became zealous in his approach to using them.  Married up with other typical muesli ingredients, it became internationally known as Bircher’s Muesli and has increased in popularity within recent years.

Other than the apple elements, there are no hard or fast rules with how you make it, celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi have all furnished us with their versions, but a lot of it is down to personal preference and choice.

Here is my version, milk-free (as you may know I’m not a milk drinker per se), packed with a lot of my favourite things, it makes for a good low-GI breakfast and it will be something I shall enjoy eating over the Easter weekend!


Bircher Muesli

Serves one

75g-100g Flahavan’s Oats (quantity dependent on personal preference)

Apple Juice (approx.  half a mug's worth, but enough to cover the oats)

Half an apple (sliced)

2 tblsp Greek Yoghurt

2 tsp Chia Seeds
Other toppings as desired


  • Soak the oats in apple juice in a cereal bowl.  Cover in clingfilm. 
  • Leave overnight.
  • Stir the oats in the morning, add in apple slices and yoghurt.
  • Add the chia seeds and any other toppings.
  • Ready to eat!


           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, 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.
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.


           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.
           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.