Wednesday, 15 April 2015

What a Corker - Natural British Crisps

I have been sent a box of assorted packets of crisps from Corkers. Natural British Crunch.
Their flavours are made without artificial or MSG products and they know the origin of the potatoes because they grow them themselves.  The potatoes are grown in East Anglia and hand cooked to perfection.

Some of the flavours you can expect are Pork Sausage and English Mustard, Red Leicester and Caramelised Onion, Sea Salt, Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar as well as Sweet Thai Chilli and a flavour I am really keen on trying - Gressingham Duck & Hoisin Sauce.
The family have been growing potatoes (Naturalo potatoes) on the fens of Cambridgeshire since the 1800s so are pretty good at it!  The crisps are all hand cooked in sunflower oil to minimize the grease and keep the crunch.

Mr R loves crunchy crisps - I am sure these will be a great hit in his lunchbox this week.
Thanks to Corkers Crisps for my box of crisps. I was not paid to try these and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.




Sunday, 12 April 2015

Can't Cook, Won't Cook or Just Don't have Time!! Midweek Meals with Food at 52 Can Help

I have attended a few courses at Food at 52, a central London cookery school and always come away with fresh new ideas.

Food at 52 have a new seasonal course - Midweek Meals - which I was invited to be one of the first to experience their new repertoire.  In Midweek Meals you spend most of a Sunday at the cookery school and learn to make five simple and seasonal recipes that are perfect for making after work on busy weekday evenings.  You eat two of the dishes that you make and take home the other three so lunch for the next couple of days at work is taken care of!

The recipes are straight forward and in most cases you will have the majority of ingredients in your store cupboard.

We worked in small groups each group making what they would be eating or taking home.

The perfect start to any dish!
Turning into a Tuscan Bean soup with a simple, griddled garlic bread.
There are so many really great things inside Food at 52.  This wall size mirror doubles as the board for writing the menu on.
Starting stages of a Butternut Squash Risotto with pumpkin seeds.  So easy and delicious.  Butternut squash is really good for you and now easily available in the major supermarkets as well as foreign shop.
You add the stock little by little until the rice can absorb no more then the cheeses and white wine. Top with roasted butternut squash slices.
The chicken curry was simple and a definite crowd pleaser. You can control the level of heat if someone in your family don't like it too hot.
Store bought puff pastry, cut into rectangles and scored around the edges.  Bake and when cool take off the lid of the pastry.
Fill with a creamy mixture of steamed salmon and top with watercress or rocket, bake then add a side salad and you will have a really quick, easy and refreshing mid-week supper.

Our final creation was a Baked Cod and Chorizo with Cherry Tomato parcels.
Baked in the oven in a foil parcel then served on a bed of chickpeas.
We all shared a couple of bottles of wine while we ate two of our creations and packed up the other three to take home.
I attended a selection of winter recipes but the Midweek Meals courses will be seasonal and will now be working on fresh, springtime recipes.

I was a guest of Food at 52 and was not paid to write this review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Busaba Eathai - Thai cooking masterclass

Traverse Events put on conferences aimed mainly at travel bloggers.  The recent Traverse15 was held over the weekend of 27-29 March and the venue was Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.  The only impression I had of Kingston was a huge one way system and a department called Bentalls.

Our informal group of food bloggers attended this conference hoping to get an insight into the travel blogger world and to find a way to cross the bridge and take our food blogs further afield.  I write a food blog and want to write it from somewhere else!

One of the Sunday experiences we could book into was a cooking master class at Busaba Eathai restaurant on the riverside and on a cold, wet and blustery morning myself and fellow food blogger Nayna were the first to arrive. Slowly other participants arrived and we were off to a good start with a briefing from Hesh, one of Busaba’s executive chefs and our personal tutor for the morning.
Hesh’s lighthearted approach hid a wealth of knowledge of Thai cuisine as he took us through the first recipe which we prepared alongside.  We put our creation into a serving dish and realised that we had prepared a Som Tam in an easy and straightforward way. 
We left our Som Tam and proceeded to group around Hesh in the kitchen and prepare the Thai fish cakes the restaurant is so well known for, a literally all hands on deck moment!
( I wondered what people passing by the restaurant would think if they were to peer inside and see a group of individuals holding their cameras high and taking photos of someone with their hands in a bowl of coral coloured mixture.)
Following the prep of the fish cakes we proceeded into the main part of the kitchen, got acquainted with gas cookers that were more like jet engines, roaring with the flames and taking it in two groups of three we prepared our Pad Thai dish that would be our main course.
All of our ingredients were pre-measured out to save time and allowed us to get straight to the cooking. 
Watching the first group prepare their Pad Thai looked more like something out of MasterChef than a group of food and travel bloggers!
A group lunch followed with so much food in front of us (and Hesh decided we also had to try Busaba signature fried squid).
There was so much food that the only solution was to take some home to eat for lunch the following day!
I picked up loads of information and tips on Thai cooking, a cuisine I have already learned to love and with the recipes we were sent home with I plan on making a Pad Thai very soon.
I was a guest of Busaba Eathai and this session was arranged for us by Kingston First.  Thank you both for a fun and educational morning.  I was not required to write a positive review and as always all photos and opinions are my own.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Asda Easter - Hot Cross Buns

Never having made hot cross buns before I accepted Asda'a Hot Cross Buns challenge. I expected them to be fiddly and messy.

I had one of The Little People staying and we got set into the ingredients and recipe Asda sent me.

Before bed on Thursday we mixed the dough and set it aside to double in size. 
Friday morning, Good Friday, we finished making the buns, rolling, second rising , putting on the crosses then baking.
Once out of the oven they were glazed and served straight away - eaten that quickly too!!
Next year I think I will be making a double or even triple recipe!

Thanks to Asda for the package of ingredients to make the hot cross buns. I was not paid to make them or write a positive review.  As usual all photos and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Take to the Streets with Voltaire this Spring at Crowne Plaza London City

Voltaire Champagne & Cocktail bar, nestled in the vaults of the Crowne Plaza London City (across from Blackfriars Station in London) celebrated two special associations recently with a lavish launch for media, journalists and bloggers.

First of all the bar is working closely with three pop up restaurants over the next three months; Bill or Beak, The Cheese Truck and Randy’s Wing Bar.  Each one of these pop ups will take over a part of Voltaire’s kitchen Wednesday to Friday evenings (5:30pm – 10:00pm) for about a month and produce a small range of their signature food for customers of the bar.
The Cheese Truck, known for their meltingly gooey toasties served from their bright yellow food truck, will be in residence 25 March – 10 April 2015. Using artisan cheese and local free-range produce they will feature Classic Keen’s cheddar, Ogleshield and mixed onion; Cropwell Bishop Stilton, sweet cure bacon and pear chutney; Rosary goat’s cheese, honey, walnuts with rosemary butter and Queso Chihuahua cheese, choritzo and rocket.
Bill or Beak will serve fully loaded burgers 15 April – 22 May 2015. The burgers will be filled with either duck (bill) or chicken (beak) and topped with unusual sauces and served in a toasted brioche bun.
Bill: shredded duck and pork, topped with spring onions, coriander, mint and a Vietnamese dressing with tempura shallots.
Beak: grilled, corn-fed chicken drizzled with Caeser dressing topped with tempura capers, rosemary croutons and fresh Parmesan.
Sides of fries topped with hoisin, pickled cucumber mayo and finished with chicken scratchings.

Randy’s Wing Bar is a wonderful addition to the London street food scene with American style chicken wings will be at Voltaire 6 May – 22 May 2015.
Buffalo wings with blue cheese and celery; Asian wings sprinkled with crushed fried peanuts and toasted sesame seeds as well as Buffalo shrimp with a lemon and dill dip.

The Voltaire bar is cosy and comfortable and as well as ample seating inside also has a smoking passage and several little alcoves built into the wall which have recently been decorated with a whiskey theme by Glen Fiddich. You can book these alcoves if you want a cosy and private seating place, they are heated and tables have room for a large ice bucket should you have champagne or white wine to keep cool!
The second collaboration is with The Amy WinehouseFoundation, run by Amy’s father, singer and band leader, Mitch Winehouse. 
The foundation works closely with young people who are trying to recover from drug and alcohol addictions. The three paintings of Amy in the background of the photo will be auctioned at a gala event at The Savoy to raise funds for the foundation.
Everyone had a great time listening to some wonderful jazz music, drinking prosecco and eating the plentiful street food.  If you are in London pop into Voltaire’s Champagne & Cocktail Bar especially during their Tastes Of The Street this Spring promotion Wednesday – Friday evenings, 25 March – 22 May (5:30 pm – 10:00 pm).

I was an invited guest to the Tastes of Street Food launch. I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Crowne Plaza London City - Dicinnove Restaurant Review

I like popping into London with Mr R for some quiet 'us' time.  We were invited to try the Crowne Plaza London City across from Blackfriars Station. Inside the hotel there are two top class restaurants, Chinese Cricket Club and across the entrance hall the Italian restaurant Diciannove19 the heart and soul of Italian cuisine.

It was the Diciannove we were dining in on this occasion.

Our Hostess, Danielle asked if we wanted time between courses to relax which was exactly what we wanted.  I also asked for Danielle's recommendations and put our meal in her hands.
While we read the menu we had a huge and beautiful wooden bread bowl to nibble on and which would go really well with our starter.  The different breads are made in their own kitchens daily.
We started with a sharing platter - Il Supremo which can be ordered to serve 1-2, 3-4 or 4-6 people.

I really like the new trend in sharing platters.  Ours had loads of goodies such as Fried Calamari, fried zucchini, proscuitto toscano, fennel salami, mortadella di bologna, parmegiano reggiano, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

We then had a pasta course.  I had the Tagliatelle al Ragu, a sauce of slow cooked beef and pork chunks so tender they were just falling apart in a tomato based sauce full of flavour and fresh herbs.
Mr R had the Spaghettini All'astice - pasta with a fresh lobster, pigato (a wine made from the white pigato grape), thyme and fresh tomato sauce.
At this point we should have stopped but Danielle wanted us to try the main courses.  I ordered the Pesce Spada, a char-grilled swordfish steak with cherry tomatoes and rocket salad.  I put the slice of lemon in view for the photo to give an impression of the size of the swordfish.  It was HUGE but perfectly cooked, medium rare and so much taste.  I must admit I struggled to finish it but persevered!
Mr R ordered the Fegato dei Vitello a calves liver with a sauteed spinach, raising, pine kernels and balsamic reduction.  The Italians cook calves liver to perfection, tender and without a strong 'liver' taste, subtle and tasty.  Mr R always orders calves liver in an Italian restaurant and this one certainly did not disappoint!
I do like to order a dessert but I am afraid we were so full there was no way we could eat another mouthful.  The temptation to order the Tiramisu was great but I had to say no.  I would like to pop in for coffee and pudding some other time when I could do it justice and really enjoy it.

A Grappa Ian Italian liqueur made from grapes) and a coffee and we were ready to wend our way home. Our train home to St Albans stopped right across the street at Blackfriars station. This was one occasion I wished we had booked a room in the hotel so we could just float upstairs to sleep!

I was a guest of Crowne Plaza London City and was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.