Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Challenge - Myself (with help from Chia Bia)

Chia Bia Whole Chia Seed

I am not sporty, I don't really diet but I do care about my health (just sometimes a bit lazy there!).

At the recent Speciality Fine Food Fair I met the lovely people from Chia Bia in Ireland. Their product is a seed called Chia that claims to have multiple health benefits. They gave me some seed samples and some chocolate seed snack bars which I really enjoyed - they tasted lovely and they were doing me some good. Win-Win!

Sitting at my desk and laptop last week I wondered what would happen if I took some chia seeds for a period of time such as three months? I approached Chia Bia and they really liked my idea.  I also decided that most mornings I would take my seeds in greek yoghurt so I contacted Total Greek Yoghurt and they were more than happy to take part in my challenge.

I plan to take approximately 2 dessertspoonfulls of seeds each morning (this is the minimum recommended for the best effect).  I will also be using the seeds in some cakes, smoothies and other foods.  I want to get my blood pressure read in the next week or so and see if there is any difference in a couple of months too.

I will be blogging once a week or so to act as a journal and will be tweeting on a regular basis too.

Now to answer your question - What is chia seed and why is is so good for you?  Basically it is a natural way to boost your nutrition and improve your health, it is high in Omega3, loaded with antioxidents, a good natural scource of protien, lots of trace minerals like zinc and magnesium, a source of low fat vegetable fibre and really so much more.  I am hoping to get more energy from this exercise.

I thought I would give you a fact or two each time I update this post. So be sure to keep coming back.

So where am I with the challenge. Today, 22nd October 2012, is day two.  Yesterday I made some porridge oats (I tried Flahavan's Irish course cut oatmeal) - so easy in the microwave in a couple of minutes and really creamy.

Getting ready to make porridge

and today (day 2) I made a fruit smoothie with Total Greek Yoghurt and added my daily amount of chia seeds. 

Ingredients for my fruit smoothie
It is very much like adding poppy seeds to food.  You can only slightly taste them or feel the texture because they are so small.

Please follow my blog so you don't miss my Chia Bia updates and information.  I hope you will see the potential as I did and want to try it for yourselves. Please let me know what you think.  Cheers.



Thursday, 18 October 2012

Happy Birthday - Fish is the Dish

Fish is the Dish is one year old today and to celebrate I wanted to tell you about the opportunity I recently had to learn all about fish, how to fillet, de-bone, de-scale and the eat with Fish.

The lovely Heather welcoming everyone to the workshop

We had a talk about the sustainability of the fish we buy and eat by one of the chefs at the Westminster Catering College in Vincent Square near Victoria Station, London. There were plenty of opportunities for people to participate and help and in turn we all learned loads about the 'other' fish available such as pollock and hake and how to fillet a sole along with the different varieties of sole. Shoppers tend to go for the old favourites like cod and haddock but there is pressure to stop fishing for them and give them a chance to regenerate.

A new friend??
We had a demonstration by Miranda Godfrey, a cookery lecturer at Westminster Catering college, featuring some quick and easy fish recipes such as Grilled Mackerel with Black Pudding & Savoy Cabbage and Korean Style Shellfish Broth.  I volunteered a couple of time to fill mackerel and whisk the beurre blanc sauce.

Grilled Mackerel with Black Pudding & Savoy Cabbage

Korean Style Shellfish Broth
My wonderful whisking is keeping this sauce velvety!!
This was followed by a demonstration by Tina Pemberton of quick and easy recipes we could use for entertaining or simple suppers.  Tina demonstrated Baked Fillet of Seabass (Chinese Style), Teriyaki Tuna (my personal favourite) and Hake Nuggets with Pasta Bows (these were really delicious!).

Tina Pemberton

Teriyaki Tuna

Hake Nuggets with Pasta Bows
We all got a small portion of each recipe to taste and went home with the recipes, a new apron, fish slice and a lot more knowlege of handling and cooking fish.

I confess to being slightly scared of cooking at home with fish but it is couses like this that give me the confidence to try some.  Seafish have sent me some lovely scallops and squid to try and they are currently living in my freezer waiting for my daughter to visit and I am going to turn them into a rissotto, mmmm - looking forward to using my new found knowledge!  Fish is the Dish and we need to eat more - how about you?

Some of my favourite seafood

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Give me Valium!!!

Mr R has a couple of days off so he is re-organising my larder cupboard!! He never cooks and never preps for the meal so he doesn't really need to enter the larder!

"Oh look what I found!" He screams. "Yeah I know it's there" I respond. And so it goes on. "Did you know we had these?" "Yes I knew" etc.

He did find a block of Valhrona dark chocolate (950gm) that I knew was there but had been looking for so that was a positive!

But it wasn't my agenda for today and I can't get on with other things so a bit grumpy!!

Looking forward to Mr R returning to work on Monday that's for sure! In the meantime someone please make me a coffee - l can't get to the kitchen!


Monday, 15 October 2012

Speciality Fine Food Show - Bord Bia

I was recently invited to visit the Speciality Fine Food Fair (an event for showcasing artisan food and drink to high quality trade buyers) and in particular the Bord Bia - the Irish Food Board's area.  This consisted of over a dozen small food producers from The Republic of Ireland who are working in partnership with the industry to promote Irish food and drink  by developing long-term relationships between Irish companies and trade buyers.

Kelly from the PR company who are working to promote Bord Bia, invited me and treated us like real VIPs when we got there! She took me around and introduced me to each producer and we had a chat and sampled some of their products.

Kelly and the lovely lady from Pandora Bell - homemade sweets

Mr R and I were going to the Paralympics that afternoon and staying in a hotel in Central London in the evening so he accompanied me to the Food Fair.

The exhibitors in the Bord Bia area were so friendly and truly hospitable (they are after all known for their Irish hospitality) and were all keen to tell us about their product or service. There were lots of things to sample.  It was the first time I tried Black Pudding and not only did I try it twice but I actually liked it.

We tried olives from around the world via Olives Et Al,

and delicious fruit liqueurs from Bramley & Gage . My favourite was the Elderflower Liqueur.

A small selection of fruit flavours
And Burren Smokehouse sent us home with a lovely selection of their smoked salmon, trout and mackerel.


Also worth a mention was Yeats Country Foods who had a range of soft cheese (two cow and one goat) and which I tried.  They were creamy and definitely worth a place on a cheese board. I also met the people from Chia bia.  Chia is a seed originally from South America, which is really high in Omega3 and other essential minerals and vitamins such as Zinc and Magnesium. You can sprinkle it on yoghurts and cereals or use it to reduce the amount of fat in baking a cake. Chia can help with all sorts of health conditions and is definitely worth further investigation.

But I must say one of the highlights of the morning was meeting Cookbook author and TV presenter Catherine Fulvio.  Catherine is a very gracious and friendly lady who owns and runs Ballyknocken House & Cookery School in Co. Wicklow, Ireland.  I think a visit to Catherine's cookery school might be one of my 2013 New Year's Resolutions!

Catherine had a preview copy of her new cookbook Eat Like an Italian
We had to make a move to go to the Paralympics and as the arena was starting to get very crowded we left.  I would have like to stay longer - there were so many more stands to talk to so I am planning to stay longer next year!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Icecreamists

The Icecreamists - I was sent this book to review and was blown away by it. It is different from any other ice cream book.  The cover is dark and melodramatic yet enticing and is the creation of Matt O'Connor.  The definition of an 'Icecreamist' is someone who is addicted to or obsessed with ice cream.

There is an introduction which tells the tale of Matt's introduction to and journey into the world of ice cream along with a description of terms used and instructions on making the fantastic recipes.  The majority of ingredients are easy to source except maybe the breast milk!

I loved the descriptions of the flavours and the endless play on words of the titles of each recipe.  The Vanilla Monologues (Madagascan Vanilla), Priscilla Cream of the Dessert (White Chocolate), Gingiana Jones (Asian Spiced Ginger), Smack, Crack and Pop (Popcorn) and a couple dozen more plus recipes for sorbets and drinks too.  The most unusual perhaps being Baby GooGoo (made with breast milk)!

It is certainly a great conversation starter if you have this one on the coffee table. 

The book is published by Octopus Books and is priced at £16.99.

When we attended the Paralympics in London we spent the night in a hotel on The Strand and on our way home the following morning we were walking towards the underground station and we came upon a small shop - The Icecreamists.  How lucky was that - I could add this experience to my book review!

The shop wasn't open but staff were setting up outside so I asked if I could pop inside and take some photos  and told them about receiving the book and linking the two together.  Tim the Manager said I could have a look around and take a few photos.

As we were getting ready to leave Tim asked if I would like to taste a couple of the flavours.  Absolutely, would love to taste a couple.  As a guideline I always tast vanilla first.  This was a delight to the tastebuds, smooth and creamy and full of madagascan vanilla.

The second flavour I tasted was the peanut butter.  Wow, a pleasure to the mouth, creamy and peanutty but not overpowering.  A drizzle of chocolate sauce and this would have been the most sensual Reeses Peanutbutter Cup ever.

At Tim's suggestion I tried the Frisky Bison - apple and Bison Grass Vodka sorbet.  This one is made with apple juice and the Polish vodka Zubrowka with an undertone of cinnamon (I am sure you have seen the vodka with the blade of grass in the supermarkets)
Blue velvet chair to relax in front of a wall painting
The menu from the Covent Garden shop

A painting hanging in the Covent Garden shop

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Lunch for One with my Vitamix

Just needed a quick lunch so put some pasta on to cook. Whilst the water was boiling I popped 6 tomatoes into my Vitamix, followed by 2 garlic cloves, 1Tbsp tomato puree and a large handful of basil. I drizzled about 1 Tbsp olive in as well and turned it on. In about 5 seconds I had a stunning autumnal coloured sauce which I heated up along with a pinch of salt and pepper and some chilli flakes, whilst the spaghetti was cooking.

I thoroughly enjoyed my simple lunch which enabled me to carry on working!


It's Chocolate Jim ... but not as we know it!! Valhrona's newest.

There was dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate and it remained like that for years. But due to a slight miscalculation in the Valrhona development laboratories there is now a NEW chocolate and it is BLOND! And just like me (blonde) it is lovely, luscious and luxurious!  It is like the fourth emergency service for chocoholics!!

I was invited to a press information session for Valrhona who is a top range chocolate producer producing chocolate created for and by pastry chefs for the past 90 years.

The new Dulcey from Valhrona is perfect for moulding, pastry, coating, creams, mousses, sauces, ice creams and much much more. It has a not too sweet taste and intense biscuity flavour with a smooth, creamy texture.

The new 'blond' chocolate in pod/capsule form

As well as being introduced to this chocolate we were offered a plethora of desserts made with it, each one more delicious than the one before it.
Hazlenut shortbread with a Dulcey chocolate ganache
Lovely little puddings with a tropical marmalade on the bottom and a chocolate cream

White chocolate velvet cake

It was a lovely way to be introduced to a new taste sensation!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Competition Result

A short while ago I entered a competition in assocation with To-Tuscany to win a week in a Tuscan villa and many of my friends and readers voted for me to win.  Well firstly thanks to all those who voted but unfortunately I did not win.

But the good news is that I did win one of the runner up prizes which was delivered a few weeks ago.  The prize consisted of two parts.

1. A bottle of Tuscan olive oil; Casanuova di Ama from The Bencini family. This is an olive oil cold pressed shortly after picking using traditional methods which helps it maintain its aroma and flavour.  this isn't an oil for splashing into a frying pay but for drizzling on your salad or vegetables or hommous and experienceing all that it has to offer your taste buds.

2. A copy of Valentina Harris' cook book

This book is a visual delight to the Tuscan table.  Even though it was first published in 2009 the photos are pure delight.  At the beginning of the book there are a few basic recipes, white sauce, tomato sauce, basic bread and clear consice photos and methods.
Thanks again To-Tuscany.