Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Pumpkin/Butternut Squash, Miso & Black Garlic Recipe

I was reading the Daily Mail’s You magazine Sunday supplement recently and there was a really interesting article in there about fermented food and the benefits of it for health and diet which have been documented in a new book called ‘Cultured Food for Life’ by Donna Schwenk. 
The fermentation process has been in existence since ancient times with many cultures using it as a method of food storage in a time before the luxury of refrigeration.  Global examples of which are kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables), sauerkraut in northern/central European regions and fermented soya beans (miso) in Japan.  Endorsement is wide with quotes in circulation such as:    Until 100 years ago, many of the foods we ate were fermented in some way and this made it easier to retain the balance of good bacteria in our bodies,” says nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shaughnessy ( “Our bodies have evolved to thrive on this kind of diet.”   
Quite a concept for further investigation and consideration I feel.
So how apt that I receive a jar of Yutaka’s Organic Miso Paste to try – a perfect example of fermented food and also a great opportunity to increase the fermented principle into my diet a little.
As mentioned above, miso paste is made up of fermented soya beans and is a staple in Japanese cooking used in everything from soups to stocks.  It is extremely versatile from that perspective and has a soury-vinegary tang but is yet very tasty.
For my first trial of it, I spread a little on a Quorn Chicken-style fillet, grilled it which worked well and I served it with a salad, quinoa grains and mange tout.
Quorn with Miso Paste & Quinoa
Spreading my culinary wings a little more but yet steering away from the obvious soup and stock options, I saw a recipe online from Feasting at Home which used miso as a spread for roasting and so I decided to replicate the recipe for myself.   I have to say, we enjoyed it tremendously and will include it occasionally as part of our Sunday roast ritual going forward.  Plus, it gave me a chance to use some deliciously indulgent black garlic cloves which added a nice molasses-balsamic vinegar edge and also a fine way to use up the  last of my pumpkin stocks (although butternut squash makes an excellent alternative).

Pumpkin Wedges with Miso Paste & Black Garlic
Black Garlic Bulb
Black Garlic Cloves

Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) Roasted in
Recipe adapted from Feasting at Home
*  1 Butternut squash (peeled, deseeded and cut into long wedges)
    Half a small Pumpkin (peeled, deseeded and cut into wedges)
*  1 Heaped Tablespoon of Yutaka Organic Miso Paste
*  3 Cloves of Black Garlic (chopped into pieces)
*  Vegetable oil for roasting
*  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.
*  Peel and deseed the butternut squash or pumpkin.
*  Cut into wedges.
*  Drizzle the oil into a roasting pan.
*  Place the wedges into the roasting pan and turn them over so that the whole wedge is    
    covered in oil.
*  In a bowl, mix the Yutaka Organic Miso Paste with the black garlic.
*  Using a pastry brush or palette knife, paint the paste/black garlic mix onto each wedge.
*  Place in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes or until roasted through and soft.
There are dozens of recipes online for use of miso paste (including on the Yutaka site) and personally, I can’t wait to try more -  especially with the news that a little more fermented food in our diet can only be a good thing!

Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of a complimentary sample of Yutaka Organic Miso Paste.   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, 12 November 2014

Growing Popularity of Indian Wine - Express & Star Article

I have written an article for the online version of West Midlands publication Express & Star about the Indian wine industry, with a focus on Birmingham's Soul Tree Wines, their commitment to Indian farmers and their vision to get Indian wine on a par with winery counterparts from Australia, New Zealand and the like.

Soul Tree Wines in Birmingham, offer 100% vegetarian wines produced in India.  With the Indian wine industry well and truly growing in popularity, it is now the ideal opportunity to find out more and sample a drop of Soul Tree for yourself.

Click here to read the article.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Waitrose Cookery School - The Art of Michelin Cooking Course

A friend of mine regularly attends the different courses at Waitrose Cookery School in London and has always regaled tales of the wonderful things she has cooked and experienced.  Her story of the Spanish themed event springs to mind where she enjoyed the fruits of her labour with copious amounts of red wine and sangria.  Tempting for anyone I say.
Waitrose Cookery School Reception Area
So when I was invited by Waitrose to try a course at the Waitrose Cookery School, I needed no persuasion to attend!
I was able to choose from the wide programme of events organised for the year and I opted for The Art of Michelin Cooking as I knew that would be completely different to anything I have experienced before and therefore a prime opportunity to explore this particular culinary arena.
Conveniently situated just by Finchley Road tube station, the school is only a 15 minute tube train ride from central London. 
Upon arrival, I was welcomed with a choice of beverages, granola mixes and pastries which acted as breakfast and was gratefully received after a long train journey!  The waiting area was bright and airy with shelves adorned with various cook books from celebrity chefs.
The class started with an overview of the day before we were invited into the lecture theatre to commence our course.  We were each given a folder with the recipes for the day and a section to make notes in which was really useful not only whilst we were there but also afterwards at home to have a reflective read-through. 
Kitchen Demo given by Lisa from the Waitrose Team
The itinerary ran as such, whereby before going to cook ourselves, the Waitrose chef team took it in turns to provide a demonstration of the techniques to use for each of the dishes we would make.  This demonstration was conducted on a purpose-built kitchen workspace and was supported  with cameras and screens to show close up images which really helped to illustrate what we needed to do.  We would then go back to our kitchen workstations to then cook the food ourselves.  This was repeated for each of the dishes we made.
Waitrose Cookery School - Kitchen
With the course topic focusing on Michelin style cookery, it would be impossible to make every element from scratch, so the Waitrose team prepared some of the stages for us in advance and we did the remaining techniques, (where time allowed), the final cooking parts and the overall presentation.
As the token vegetarian on the course, the Waitrose team really looked after me and did a lot of specific preparation for my bespoke menu and they took on board all my dietary requirements which I submitted ahead of attending (for instance - jelly used was veggie friendly jelly).
The courses we made were:
Gazpacho Jelly with Avocado
Gazpacho Jelly with Avocado
Matching Wine: Avigue Solutre Rock Macon-Solutre 2012 Burgundy, France
Mushrooms with Gnocchi & Truffle Emulsion
Mushrooms with Gnocchi & Truffle Emulsion
Matching Wine: Cave de Beblenheim Grafenreben Riesling 2009/10 Alsace, France
Aubergine Tower with Polenta Fries, Olive Puree & Sauce Vierge
Aubergine Tower with Polenta Fries, Olive Puree & Sauce Vierge
Matching Wine: Les Dauphins 2013 Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cotes du Rhone
Orange Cake with Marmalade Cream and Cointreau Caviar
Orange Cake with Marmalade Cream & Cointreau Caviar
Matching Wine: Brown Brothers Special Late-Harvested Orange Muscat & Flora 2012 Victoria, Australia
One of the wines served with the course
L-R:  Carmen and myself at our workstation
Even though I attended the course alone, I partnered up with another lady called Carmen  and together we became ‘station buddies’.  As a lot of the cooking  is done jointly (where you share the ingredients and utensils), you have to find someone to work together with.  The beauty of this type of course is that many of the attendees are like minded so it is so easy to quickly become acquainted and work together.  The atmosphere was really friendly and jovial so it was very easy to mix with everyone and find a partner if needs be.
Wines to accompany the courses
As the day drew to an end, we were all awarded our attendance certificates  which was a nice way to acknowledge our tuition.   I for one was thrilled that I chose The Art of Michelin Cooking course as I was able to try out different techniques I wouldn’t ordinarily have the time or the equipment to do at home, making it informative yet fun.  Knowing that if I did want to replicate any of the more elaborate techniques, I could go online and buy the necessary equipment or ingredients (such as for the Cointreau caviar).  For a special dinner party, it would be tempting to do so!  It also gave us the chance to enhance some of the basic techniques we already know and learn a chef’s method by comparison, such as chopping a particular way.
Also, it offers suggestions of new ingredients to try and in our case, Carmen and I were intrigued by the Thai basil that we were using.  Neither of us had tasted it before and we were elated to have found a new herb for our kitchen repertoire.  Although looking like standard basil,  Thai basil  has somewhat of an aniseed aftertaste which is rather pleasant yet punchy and would pep-up a salad or vegetable dish beautifully.
Courses come in half or full day packages and range from making macaroons and bread to cuisine specific courses, varying in complexity, but most definitely there is something on offer for everyone.  I would wholeheartedly recommend the course I attended and look forward to seeing what is available for next year. 
With Christmas on the horizon, the courses or course vouchers, make for a wonderful experiential gift idea for that special someone who enjoys creating a little magic in the kitchen!
Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of a complimentary course voucher for Waitrose Cookery School .   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, 2 November 2014

Provamel Zero Sugar Soya Yoghurt

Provamel Zero Sugar Soya Yoghurt with Breakfast

Approached by the team at Provamel recently, I was asked to sample their new Zero Sugar Soya Yoghurt which has launched this autumn.

The range is the first ever zero-sugar, organic plant-based alternative to yoghurt.  Its status as having zero-sugar comes from using an adapted version of Provamel’s normal production process which, after fermentation, leaves not even the smallest grain of sugar, hence it has a sugar level of 0g.  For those that have need to have a little sweetness though, there is an agave syrup version.  
A little more about both products - they are organically grown, sustainably produced and ethically sourced, are 100% plant-based, organic and dairy free.  Their production processes are CO2 neutral, with ingredients being sourced at the point of where they grow naturally. 
As yoghurt fans, my mother and I sampled the plain Zero Sugar version with an element of curiosity.  Appearance-wise, the yoghurt is off-white in colour (compared to its natural style yoghurt competitors) and although it is quite creamy, it is equally quite pourable.  Taste-wise, I could tell that the sugar had been omitted and I found I had to add a sugary component to satisfy my tastebuds.  Once I had added either a little pomegranate molasses, honey or jam, I enjoyed the yoghurt more and found it was delicious with muesli (as I would normally consume it).  However, my mother said that she preferred eating the yoghurt as it is without any additional extras and she also found it was very appealing.
The yoghurt is ideal for those with intolerances towards dairy and is a perfect solution for those that observe a vegan diet.  All in all, a very nice yoghurt that can be enjoyed in its natural guise or that can be dressed up with many different foodie condiments for either breakfast, dessert or snacking during the day.
Disclosure:    This post has been written following receipt of a complimentary sample of Zero Sugar Soya yoghurt from Provamel.   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. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

VIP Night at Marco's Stratford

A cocktail and canapé evening provided the perfect introduction to Stratford Upon Avon’s latest gastro haunt, marking the arrival of Marco Pierre White’s restaurant – Marco’s New York Italian.
Alive with entertainers, mixologists, DJs and a glittery covered outdoor area, the launch evening was bursting with the energy and created an exciting atmosphere to taste the Italian inspired cocktails available on the menu which included:  Italian Mojito, Negroni and Espresso Martini.
As a treat for all foodie fans, Marco was in residence himself that evening, personally endorsing the restaurant and hosting the opportunity to talk with him and have autographs/photographs.
The restaurant has a contemporary feel yet set in a Tudor building (as is synonymous with Stratford), and provides an intimate and welcoming ambience.  Borne from Marco’s love for the American food scene and influenced by his Italian heritage, the restaurant fuses both elements together to bring  you the New York Italian concept.  Some of the vegetarian dishes on offer include:  Goat’s Cheese Arancini Risotto Fritters Tomato & Basil Salsa,  Penne Pomodoro and Gorgonzola, Chicory & Pear Salad Walnut Dressing.
Seeing as a trip to neither New York or Italy are on the cards right now, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to sampling both in quintessentially English Stratford Upon Avon in the near future.  With one of those divine cocktails – of course!
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Marco's Stratford.  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. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Introducing 'Food Roots'

I hope you all enjoyed reading my exclusive interview with Romina Chiappa (from The Chiappa Sisters) for World Vegetarian Day as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Coupling Romina’s comments about her Italian ancestry and bearing in mind my own Eastern European heritage, it got me thinking about other people, their family roots and how they have been influenced by them when either cooking on a daily basis or preparing for feasting occasions such as Christmas and Easter.
So this has led me to launching a new feature on my blog called ‘Food Roots’ where I will be inviting culinary personalities to share with me a little insight into their heritage and how it plays a part in their cooking repertoire.
I would love to receive some nominations or suggestions, so please do get in touch via my email: if you have any ideas and in the meantime to give you a feel of how it would look,  do take a moment to read my interview with Romina Chiappa here.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thai Menu Tasting at Tiger Bills


I was recently invited with my husband to try the new Thai main courses from the revised menu at Tiger Bills Birmingham.   Their location is based in the Five Ways entertainment complex at the top of the popular nightspot stretch of Broad Street.  Its base makes it ideal for those wishing to eat after a family afternoon at the cinema/bowling or for those wanting an early supper before enjoying a night out.

Tigers Bills Birmingham is part of a restaurant group that have been operating around the country in different cities and whose concept bears similarity to that of the many ‘world buffet’ outlets
that have become popular in recent years.  Rather than including elements of the world’s major cuisine types as others do, Tiger Bills concentrate on two areas – Thai and Grill (American flavours).  Rather than an all inclusive price, it mirrors usual restaurant fashion where you pay for each dish you order.
Visiting early on a Saturday night,  I noted that the atmosphere was quite buzzy, enhanced by low-lighting, middle-of-the-road background music and a cross-mix of diners.  Clientele ranged from a hen party, to couples to a large family gathering  - it demonstrated a wide mass appeal.
The décor focused heavily on picture-postcard images of Thai beaches and markets with even an actual tuk-tuk bike above the kitchen station.  In contrast, a few nods to America were existent by way of pictures on the wall of Rodeo Drive and the like.

Taking a look at the Thai main courses, I was pleased to see a good range of options available for vegetarians, comprising of the standard Thai fayre of stir-fries, noodles, curries and soups and varying in spice strength. 

Vegetarian Pad Thai

I opted for the Pad Thai Noodles which came with vegetables, bean sprouts, carrots, egg, spring onions and crushed peanuts.  As someone who is unable to tolerate spices, I asked the kitchen to bring me a spice-free portion.  I was delighted to see that my request was honoured and I had a portion to my specification.  My worry is with some chain outlets is that there is often very little room for bespoke requests, but on this occasion I was pleased that my meal was served as I had wished.  The vegetables and noodles were cooked well and there was a nice nutty aftertaste from the sauce.
Sweet & Sour Fish
My (carnivorous) husband, opted for the Sweet & Sour Fish which was a fried fish fillet of Basa (catfish) and served with rice, stir fried vegetables in a sweet & sour sauce.  Overall, he commented the dish was enjoyable, the sauce a little more sweet than sour but still nice and although the rice was a little plain,  when mixed with the sauce, it gave it a new level of  flavour. 

We decided to round off the meal with dessert.  The dessert listing was quite limited and leaned towards the ‘Grill/American’ side of the restaurant’s offering and echoed the kind of dessert menu you may find at a family pub – Chocolate Fudge Cake, Banoffee Cheesecake, Ice Cream etc.  I opted for Lumpy Bumpy - a chocolate cake topped with chocolate truffle and a layer of vanilla cheesecake coated with chocolate glaze.  My husband had the Deep Dish Apple Pie – which was a deep filled warm apple pie served with vanilla ice Cream.  Both were nice, although the apple pie would have benefited from being served a little warmer.
All in all, the Thai main courses provided the best and widest choice for vegetarians.  I would’ve liked to have seen more vegetarian options on the Grill side of the menu and also perhaps some Thai influence in the dessert offerings along with more contemporary desserts choices too.
Tiger Bills Interior
Having a wide appeal for all demographics,  I feel Tiger Bills makes for an ideal place to eat before/after a cinema visit, great for large works parties and even hen do’s before a night of revelry.  Definitely a family-friendly place to dine, with something for everyone and with more branches set to open in the UK soon and even abroad in India and Tunisia, there will be plenty of opportunities to try the Tiger Bill’s concept somewhere near to you.
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Tiger Bills Birmingham to sample their Thai main courses.  All other courses and drinks were paid for ourselves.  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.