The life changing years…

Life has moved incredibly quickly over the past few years… and has changed entirely! To get you up to speed:

March 2013 – move out of London to North Norfolk for a life by the sea.

April 2013 – set up new business Fabulous Food Finds.

June 2014 – buy first house in Sheringham, North Norfolk (how bloody stressful is house buying?! We didn’t even have one to sell!).

June 2014 – think there’s something wrong with the water in the new house (I LOVE tea, how could it taste so awful?!).

June 2014 – find out there’s nothing wrong with water in new house – it’s a surprise baby in my belly messing with my taste buds!

February 2015 – Lottie was born!

June 2015 – WHAT?! Can’t be pregnant again can I?! Surely that’s not possible?

March 2016 – Alfie was born!

April 2016 – poor Alfie not at all well, 5 days of tests at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital then blue lights to Addenbrookes after finding a lump in his bowel. Open bowel surgery a big success… one week of recovery, wait for results of biopsy.

May 2016 – 5 weeks after operation discover it was a very rare form of cancer for poor Alfie. Scary times but they think it’s unlikely to recur and so far has not.

October 2016 – back to work on BBC Good Food Shows and developing Fabulous Food Finds.

 

Now (July 2017) – I have a very talkative, bossy, beautiful 2-year-old and a hilarious, handsome blonde boy who follows his big sister around everywhere. It’s a struggle to juggle everyday but we have lots of laughs and fun and all love living by the sea. I’m hoping for the ‘busy but happy’ years to follow…

I’ll be sharing more about my crazy busy seaside life in upcoming posts which I hope you’ll enjoy!

 

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BBC Good Food Show Bursary Award Winners 2015/16

After a lovely few months off with my new daughter Lottie I’m slowly getting back into the wonderful world of food… I have to admit, my culinary escapades have been few and far between since she was born! However, over the past few months I’ve been preparing for the BBC Good Food Shows that are currently taking place in Glasgow (last week), London (on now!) and in Birmingham on the 26th November – they are as incredible as always!

I’ve discovered some amazing small producers while managing the BBC Good Food Show Producers Bursary Awards this year – take a peek at pictures from the tasting day and see all the 2015/2016 winners below:

Tasting at Good Food Test Kitchens     Tasting at Good Food Test Kitchens

Tasting at Good Food Test KitchensTasting at Good Food Test Kitchens

BBC Good Food Show Scotland, Glasgow SECC 6 – 8 November 2015

  • Aye Love Real Food (Kilwinning, North Ayrshire) – Handmade scotch eggs and sausage rolls
  • Plant and Grow (Edinburgh) – Seed packs to easily grow vegetables, herbs and edible flowers
  • Poporopo Amaizing Popcorn (Stirling) – Gourmet popcorn using local ingredients
  • Tiphereth Trading (Edinburgh) – Social enterprise producing preserves and chutney

BBC Good Food Show London, Kensington Olympia, 13 – 15 November 2015

  • Canesmith & Co (Huntingdon,  Camridgeshire) – Ex city worker turned gourmet sweet maker, range includes soy and sesame caramel
  • Liberty Fields (Halstock, Dorset) – Apple aperitif and balsamic vinegar
  • Somerset Charcuterie (Wrington, Somerset) – Artisan charcuterie including goat, seasonal and local specials
  • The London Marshmallow Company (London) – Gourmet marshmallows inspired by London locations
  • The Urban Cordial Company (Edgeware, London) – Cordials hand-made from foraged and locally sourced fruits and herbs
  • Vicky’s Donuts (London) – Fresh handmade donuts in Hackney, specialises in raised donuts with a variety of toppings and fillings

BBC Good Food Show Winter, Birmingham NEC, 26 – 29 November 2015

  • Berry Da (Gwynedd, Wales) – Range of products made with unique Aronia berries
  • Eponine (Wirral, Merseyside) – Luxury artisan chocolate, confectionery and patisserie
  • Ogilvy Vodka (Angus, Scotland) – Potato farmers turned distillers, making award winning vodka from Maris Piper potatoes
  • Sedgewicks Charcuterie (Toseland, Cambridgeshire) – Mouth-watering selection of charcuterie made on their small-holding in Cambridgeshire
  • Spice Kitchen (Birmingham) – Spice masters creating blends from across the world, chai tea and mulling spices
  • Tipple Tails  (Sheffield, South Yorkshire) – Fruit cakes in a range of flavours and steeped in artisan speciality liqueurs

BBC Good Food Show Spring, Harrogate HIC, 8 – 10 April 2016

  • Amos & Toms Popcorn (Driffield, East Yorkshire) Gourmet popcorn makers
  • Patrick Macarons & Patisserie (Anlaby, East Riding of Yorkshire) Former builder turned ‘macaron man’ making macarons, patisserie and confectionery
  • Sweeteatie Artisan Caramels (Wigan, Lancashire) – Handmade caramel using unusual, natural flavours
  • Wooha Brewing (Nairn, Scotland) – range of bottle conditioned ales and lagers with no force carbonation, filtration or Isinglass

BBC Good Food Show Summer, Birmingham NEC, 16 – 19 June 2016

  • Popcorn Shed (London) – Gourtmet popcorn
  • Sauce Shop (Nottingham) – Range of sauces and condiments
  • Zantiago  (Chalfont St.Peter, Buckinghamshire) – Authentic Spanish tortilla kits
  • Gwynnes Ice Cream (Swansea, Wales) – Handmade ice cream

I hope you’ll be able to visit these fabulous producers at one of the BBC Good Food Shows!

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Show Time!

This past year or so has been a bit of a whirlwind… a move from London to North Norfolk, buying my first house and becoming pregnant with my first baby! So excuse the lack of blog posts – I hope my twittering has kept you up to date with my food finding activities!

So… I’m now in the midst of the busy but brilliant ‘show time’, where the BBC Good Food Shows comes to life in Scotland, London and Birmingham. While at the shows I look after the Producers Bursary Award winners, the BBC Good Food Champions area and also get involved in other fun bits like interviewing celebrity chefs in the VIP lounge and the show’s official blogging community too.

I first visited a BBC Good Food Show back in 2006 and after visiting I wanted so much to work on the shows! So the following year there I was at my first BBC Good Food Show in London, so the show taking place this week at Olympia is very close to my heart.

If you’re visiting any of the shows I hope you have an amazing time, if not there’s still time to book tickets to the London and NEC Shows! Hope to see you there! Keep up to date with show news by following me on twitter – @katytruss

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Eurovision Feast!

Whether you’re a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest or not, it brings with it an unrivalled opportunity for a themed feast! Last year my sister hosted a spectacular Eurovision party where a ‘traditional’ dish or drink was consumed during every Country’s song – in real time! It was a fantastic night full of delicious food and lots to drink too. I’ve included some of the highlights here – there’s still time to host your own tonight, or why not record it and save for another night?

Fingers crossed for more than nil points for the GB entry tonight!!

German Bratwursts and Mustard

German Bratwursts and Mustard

 

Belgian Chips and Mayo

Belgian Chips and Mayo

 

Estonian Rye Bread

Estonian Rye Bread

Spanish Patatas Bravas and Chorizo

Spanish Patatas Bravas and Chorizo

Blueberries from Finland

Blueberries from Finland

Lithuanian Beetroot Soup

Lithuanian Beetroot Soup

Italian Pizza

Italian Pizza

Greek Dips and Pitta Bread

Greek Dips and Pitta Bread

Chicken Kievs from Ukraine

Chicken Kievs from Ukraine

Romanian Doughnuts

Romanian Doughnuts

Russian Potato Salad

Russian Potato Salad

Irish Spiced Mutton Shoulder

Irish Spiced Mutton Shoulder

Slovakian Kebabs

Slovakian Kebabs

Do let me know if you create your own Eurovision Feast, would love to see the results!

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Food Find of the Week – Isle of Skye Sea Salt

I have to admit to being a huge salt fan, always yearning for a saltier salted caramel… so I was delighted to discover a new producer of sea salt – Isle of Sky Sea Salt.

With the purest Scottish water taken from Loch Snizort on the Isle of Skye, the sun (when it shines!) dries the sea water into delicious irregular salt crystals. Available in fine (great for sprinkling) or premium crystals (perfect for grinders) the salt comes in a beautiful card tube with subtle tartan design, almost like a mini fine whisky tube.

Isle of Skye Sea Salt

The texture is somewhere between the lighter flakes of Maldon Sea Salt and the harder rocks of Cornish Sea Salt. We taste tested against Maldon and found it had a slightly more tangy saltiness to it. Our fish and chips were the perfect vessel to test!

Isle of Skye Salt Crystals

Isle of Skye Salt Crystals

Only available in limited quantities this truly is a rare, artisan food find. Recently confirmed as a BBC Good Food Champion for the Scotland BBC Good Food Show – let’s hope we’ll be able to buy their salt there!

Don’t forget to take a look at my new website www.fabulousfoodfinds.co.uk where you can find this and other producers in my Food Find Directory.

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£3 Meal Challenge for the Trussell Trust – Get Involved!

I had grand plans to get involved in this awesome challenge to create an exciting meal for two for £3… I even got a whole turkey breast reduced from £8.50 to 99p so would have been perfect! The challenge ends this Sunday 15th, so if you have time to get involved, or perhaps just vote for the best looking dish, read on and show your support for a great cause this Christmas…

The Trussell Trust is a UK-based food bank charity currently doing some fantastic work in the community to help families who are on the bread line.  You can find more information about what they do here: http://www.trusselltrust.org/

The Three Pound Challenge:

Find the full details here: www.buyagift.co.uk/threepoundchallenge

To show how difficult it is to feed families on limited budgets, the challenge is to prepare a delicious meal for two without exceeding the tricky budget of just £3.

Entrants are asked to go away, purchase their ingredients and prepare their dish without going over the budget. They’ll then need to take a photograph of their modestly priced meal and email it to: threepoundchallenge@Buyagift.com

They will upload every picture to their Three Pound Cooking Challenge Facebook album and will pick five finalists after the closing the date, the finalists being those with the photographs with the most Facebook likes.

The finalists will be sent over to the team at The Trussell Trust, and they’ll be given the tough task of choosing the ultimate winner.

The winners will receive:

1.       £600 from Buyagift.com to donate to the Trussell Trust so that they can continue their good work within the wider community

2.       A relaxing spa day for two

3.       A delicious meal for two on London’s famous King’s Road

4.       A professional cookery lesson

In case you’re wondering what happened to that turkey breast, I made it into a turkey wellington which was stuffed with brie & cranberry sauce, wrapped in sage and onion stuffing, smoked streaky bacon and pastry! Way over budget but really delicious… I’ll have to donate to the food banks to make up for not entering!
Turkey Wellington

Turkey Wellington

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Show Preview – BBC Good Food Show Scotland 18 – 20 Oct

I’ve been super busy preparing for this year’s BBC Good Food Show Scotland, which takes place this weekend (18 – 20 October) at Glasgow’s SECC. After a radio interview last week, where I talked through all the things I was looking forward to at the show, I’m so excited about seeing it all come together.

Show Team

Last year was brilliant, you can see from our happy faces in the picture above! Here is a quick run through of some of the fabulous things you’ll find at this year’s show!

Good Food Show Champions – this is my hand-picked selection of producers that I think deserve to be noticed! From Spencerfield Spirits with their top 50 best food product in the country (elderflower gin) to The Brownie Bar’s amazing range of brownies, hunks of parmesan from Emilia and Christmas turkeys and rolls/ cobs/ baps from Kelly Turkey Farms there’s a great range of delicious treats to be found!

Producers Bursary Award Winners – don’t miss this amazing selection of producers: The Little Herb Farm, St Andrews Brewing Company, The Wee Pie Company and The Wee Tea Company. They’ve all won an award based on excellent products to attend the show – give them support by trying and buying their fantastic produce!

Book Signing – I’ve helped manage the queues for big celebrities in the past (Nigella Lawson is the most beautiful person in real life and Gordon Ramsay made me blush!) but W H Smith have this set up brilliantly (Sadly no need for my help anymore!). If you want your book signed I’d suggest getting there early, or at least ask the staff to find out how it all works.

Supertheatre – every advance ticket holder gets a free seat in this amazing theatre, where the top chefs entertain by cooking live. I think the mistakes are the best bits, so keep a close eye – they don’t have editors to hide behind when it’s live!!

Love Food Hate Waste Theatre – a great line up on this theatre with demonstrations of recipes aimed at using up leftovers and reducing waste.

Good Food Kitchen – delicious dishes from the Good Food recipe collection, it’s where I’ll be having my lunch and breakfasts!

Scotland Regional Village – lots of producers from across the regions of Scotland. Don’t miss Crystal’s Shortbread (oh it melts in the mouth!) and Ramsay of Carluke’s range of meat (amazing bacon, haggis and black pudding!).

Great British Bake Off Village – a small selection of baking accessories, baked goods and anything else baking related! Say hello to Mo from Mo’s Cookie Dough who launched her business at the show last year.

Many, many more fabulous food and drink producers, gadgets, kitchen equipment, bigger brands with samples, etc, etc… Bring cash as there’s lots to buy to fill your cupboards and stock up for Christmas too.

Gosh – isn’t there a lot to look forward to! If you haven’t got your tickets yet you can save 15% right up until Sunday with my discount code (KT15) either online or by phone. I hope to see some of you there!

Oh, and if you’d rather attend the Birmingham Show at the NEC you can save 20% until the 29th October using code KT20!

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My my, my American style pumpkin pie…

It started with a pair of pumpkins. My boyfriend arrived home with the suggestion of a carving challenge, but I fancied a cooking challenge!

Pumpkins

Pair of Pumpkins

If you think about it, there aren’t many obvious things to make with a pumpkin, other than soup or pumpkin pie. I searched online and through cook books for inspiration but decided since I hadn’t ever made pumpkin pie that I’d give it a go.

Pumpkin

The Victim

I searched through various pumpkin pie recipes and loosely based it on Felicity Cloake’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe. I added bourbon instead of rum, allspice instead of ground cloves (I couldn’t be bothered to grind up my whole cloves!) and also made my pastry really easily in my Magimix.

I started by roasting the pumpkin, which was different to the BBC Good Food Pumpkin Pie Recipe which calls for boiling. After roasting, the pumpkin is peeled, whizzed up to a puree then strained over a sieve to remove the liquid (there was loads!).

Roasting Pumpkin

Roasting Pumpkin

I hadn’t made pastry myself for years so thought it would be nice to give it a go. I overfilled the pastry a little and had excess too, so filled my little pumpkin coloured Le Crueset pots and made a couple of baby pies too.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie & Mini Pie

Sadly, I didn’t quite cook the pastry enough on the blind bake, so created myself a bit of a soggy bottom! The pie was delicious though, and was the perfect end to a delicious American Feast! It wasn’t too sweet, had a lovely autumnal feel to it and a perfect amount of spice. Despite the soggy bottom, the pastry was deliciously crisp round the edges.

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Look out for my next post which will include Tom Kerridge’s amazing fried chicken, the star of the feast! What will you be making with pumpkin this Autumn? Let me know if you have any recipe ideas!

I’ve started blogging at www.fabulousfoodfinds.co.uk so if you want the most up to date posts and news, please sign up to posts by email, or follow there. Thanks!

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BBC Good Food Show Bursary Award Winners 2013/14

I’m delighted to announce the winners of the BBC Good Food Show Bursary Scheme for this year. After months of accepting applications, carefully reading through, sorting through hundreds of samples and finally tasting them all at the BBC Good Food kitchens we’ve selected the deserving winners and here they are!

BBC Good Food Show Scotland – Glasgow, 18 – 20 October, SECC

BBC Good Food Show London – Olympia, 15 – 17 November

BBC Good Food Show Winter, 27 Nov – 2 December, NEC

BBC Good Food Show Summer, 11 – 15 June 2014, NEC

Don’t forget to visit them at the shows and show your support by buying from these outstanding British producers!

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Macarons and More – Tim Kinnaird’s Beautiful Shop

You might remember the brilliant Tim Kinnaird from MasterChef a few years back? The one with Tim, Alex and Dhruv Baker in the final three and Dhruv ended up winning? Well, after the show, Tim went on to develop his own patisserie business, Macarons & More and recently realised his dream by opening his very own shop, by the same name, in the Royal Arcade, right in the centre of the fine city of Norwich.

Shop Front

Macarons

In addition to the fabulous selection of macarons you will find the ‘more’ which certainly exceeds expectations! You’ll find flavoured marshmallows, meringues, pastries, bread, amazing brownies, hot chocolate, nut brittle and lots more! You can also buy a fantastic coffee or tea to drink in or take away to compliment your sweet goods.

Marshmallows

I dare you to resist the gold and silver brownies…

Brownies

Artisan bread comes from a brilliant local baker.

Breads

The shop displays and windows are beautiful, inspirational and made to make your mouth water!

Macarons and More Window

Favours

Window Display

My selection of macarons were the perfect chewy texture, full of flavour and gorgeous to look at. After much deliberation I went for peanut butter and jam which is a classic combination but utterly perfect in a macaron, salted caramel which was buttery, creamy and slightly salty and cappuccino which had a great coffee kick to it.

Macarons

If you can’t get yourself to Norwich, you can buy online or find Tim’s Macarons & More at the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2013, handily overlooking the MasterChef theatre!

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Award Winning Black Pudding from The Fruit Pig Company

I love black pudding, so when I heard about a local producer winning a rather special award from the French for his fresh blood black pudding, I couldn’t help but find out more. What is Matt Cockin’s The Fruit Pig Company doing so well to win a coveted award from the French? I asked if I could pay him a visit and learn some secrets behind his success, and he was delighted to accept!

Matt Cockin

Matt Cockin sources his pigs from local farms and small holdings that he knows and trusts. I was lucky enough to visit one of the small holdings which is located just outside Wisbech (on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) and had a great time with the pigs and getting out in the fresh air!

Now, these pictures are pretty cute, so please do bear in mind that these lovely pigs live a great life and the reality is that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the demand of us meat-loving humans wanting to eat them. It’s also important to understand and appreciate that meat was once a live animal and we should all try to buy the best standard of meat we can afford, or perhaps cut down rather than buying lots of cheap, unethically reared meat.

The farm (or I should probably say small holding) owner loves his pigs, and you can tell that they live happy and fulfilling lives.

Matt really knows his pigs but has chosen to stick to what he does best with the butchery and charcuterie making – all the better for us I say!

Matt warned me that his unit probably wouldn’t live up to my expectations of a traditional wooden shack or cottage out in the country – instead I found a functional, spotlessly clean unit in a business park, which ticks all the boxes for what Matt needs to make his delicious black pudding, sausages and other meaty goods.

Most black pudding producers in the UK use dried blood to make their black puddings. It is rare to find a producer using fresh blood, which takes a lot more effort to do. Marc Frederic, a well respected British Charcutier, is an advocate of using fresh blood in black pudding. In fact, when Matt was experimenting with recipes he asked Marc for his opinion – Marc wouldn’t even taste a dried blood version!

So now it gets a little gruesome… but what did you expect from a post about blood pudding?! Matt has to be super quick to collect the blood from his slaughtered pigs – if he’s too late, the blood starts to coagulate and clot, like our own blood would. As soon as possible he must add the oats, so has a great system for doing this (no secrets given away here!) but he does have to get up ridiculously early to do it! It makes him realise why so many producers take the easy option and use dried blood!

By the time I reached the unit, the oats and blood had already been mixed, but the colour was still shockingly vibrant.

Fresh Blood Mix

So, aside from the obviously good fresh blood, what were Matt’s secrets to the success of his award-winning black pudding? Unfortunately somethings have to be kept exactly that – secrets! Matt mixed his added ingredients before I arrived so I couldn’t tell what was in there – clever man! I did take a good snoop at all the ingredients on his shelves though…

Secret Spices

Secret Ingredients

Oatmeal is a key ingredient in their black puddings – as with all blood puddings there needs to be a binding agent, which is usually some kind of grain like barley or rice but in England oats are usually used.

Oatmeal

Fat is also added to the black pudding, which Matt melts down to give an even consistency to the pudding.

Mincing Fat

The mixture is stuffed into black skins and then placed in a water oven to cook through. I didn’t know, but black pudding is actually cooked when you buy it, so all it needs is a warm through, and for me a little bit of crispness!

Black Puddings

The Fruit Pig Company’s black pudding has a flavour and texture that is definitely worth the extra effort that Matt puts in. It almost has a creaminess to it, which adds to the rich, meaty flavour and crumbly texture.

Black Pudding

Every year in the old French market town Morgagne-au-Perche, over 600 black puddings from across the globe are judged by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding. The festival runs over 3 days with the aim of uncovering the very best black puddings in the world. Matt did England proud by bringing back a silver medal – congratulations!

The Fruit Pig Company don’t only do black pudding… they also have a delicious range of flavoured sausages, bacon, meat joints and other charcuterie items too. I asked whether he was doing anything about the pulled pork trend – of course! Matt opened up an upright smoker and lo and behold shelves full of pork joints smoking ready to be sent out to chefs for pulled pork!

Pulled Pork Shoulders Smoking

I think it’s important to support producers that make this kind of effort with their produce – The Fruit Pig Company work hard to produce a quality product and deserve our attention and custom. Luckily if you aren’t local enough to visit the Creake Abbey or Kings Lynn farmers markets then you can buy online from their online butchery.

If you are keen to find out more about black pudding, and the festival organised by the Knights of the Black Pudding, listen to the brilliant Radio 4 Food Programme on the subject.

If you’d like to see more pictures from my farm visit – take a look at my Flickr page.

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BBC Good Food Show Summer 2013 Highlights

I’ve just about recovered from the BBC Good Food Show Summer – as ever it was an awesome show, with well over 100,000 food and gardening lovers coming through the doors! I’m still buzzing with inspiration after meeting so many fantastic producers, chefs, bloggers and food lovers during the show. Here are a few of my highlights, I’m afraid I was having too much fun to take many photos so you will have to use your imagination for some of it!

Backstage snacking

As part of the show team I get backstage access so on Emily Cloke‘s birthday we took some Ooo Meringues behind the Belling stage and ate them with the lovely Simon Diss… then along came Rachel Allen who is even more beautiful and lovely in real life as she looks on the TV!

Katy Truss and Emily Cloke

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Brompton Cookery School AKA Marcus Bean’s new gaff!

Earlier this month I was invited to the launch of the lovely Marcus Bean’s new cookery school and B&B – Brompton Cookery School and Bed and Breakfast. It is a beautiful farm conversion nestled into the stunning Shropshire countryside, with bed and breakfast accommodation, state of the art cookery school, kitchen gardens and incredible views across the surrounding National Trust estate. Of course, all this made so much better by Marcus Bean and his beautiful family at the helm, after recently purchasing the business.

Marcus Bean

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The Midlands’ Best Street Food!

I’ve been delighted to be involved in the BBC Good Food Show‘s search for the Midland’s Best Street Food, and so excited that the winners have now been announced! I haven’t yet tried food from any of these amazing sounding vendors so am really looking forward to lunching with them at the upcoming Summer Show! They were all mystery shopped by the BBC Good Food Shows’ Midlands Blogger Community, so we know they are of the highest quality in terms of product, service, use of fresh, local ingredients and creativity.

And the winners are…

Ross and Ross – Slow Roasted locally sourced lamb and homemade Salsa Verde, from Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Fresh Roots – Vegetarian and Vegan World Food, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Jabberwocky – Gourmet Toasties, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Squisito Deli– Italian food made using fresh local ingredients, from Rugby, Warwickshire

So that’s four days of lunches sorted! I cannot wait to meet them and find out more about what they do. Look out for them outside of the halls amongst the RHS show gardens, you may just see me there!

Oh, and if you would like 15% off tickets just quote KT15 either on the phone or in the promotional code box!

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Crabs, homemade mayo and a new life by the seaside!

Last month I took a big life step and moved back from London to my home town of Cromer, North Norfolk. It’s something I’ve always thought about doing, so when my boyfriend Jamie got offered a job at the largest (maybe only) employer in his industry in Norwich, we decided to go for it! Luckily I’m still able to do work for the BBC Good Food Shows, but it does now mean I have time to develop my own business and build on my knowledge and expertise… it’s all still under development but keep an eye on www.fabulousfoodfinds.co.uk!

If you didn’t know, Cromer is well-known for its crabs. They are brown crabs, smaller and sweeter than those found on the south coast and are renowned for their delicate flavour. You may have heard about the ‘Keep it Cromer’ campaign last year, when Youngs Seafood were threatening to close down the Cromer Crab Company’s factory and move the processing plant to Humberside. Despite support from local hero Stephen Fry, the Keep it Cromer campaign failed… making over 230 people jobless, and losing the town’s biggest private employer. The Cromer crab industry has quickly returned to the cottage industry it once was, stripping the likes of Waitrose’s shelves of the delicious Cromer crabs, as they are unable to supply large multiples on a national scale. So in short, your best chance of eating a Cromer crab is now by visiting Cromer and the surrounding area. It’s rather beautiful round here!

Cromer

Anyway, back to the crab sandwiches and mayo! Now that I live so close to my family, I invited my sister and Grandparents over for lunch during my self prescribed hour lunch break. With the weather being so cold, the crabs have been hiding under the mud at the bottom of the sea… apparently they don’t come out until the water temperature hits 7 degrees, so thankfully this warmer weather means the local fisherman have been catching. Davies’ Fish Shop on Garden Street had a good range of sizes, so I bought a ready dressed one for each of us at £3.50 each (they range between £2.50 and £5 for dressed crabs).

IMG_7504

I decided to make my own mayonnaise to go with the ready dressed crabs and took the advice of Felicity Cloake who suggests how to make the perfect mayonnaise on the Guardian Word of Mouth blog. The only thing I did differently to her recipe was use only rapeseed oil (from Norfolk of course!) which was from Yare Valley Rapeseed Oil and gave it an almost nutty flavour, and gorgeous yellow colour.

My mayonnaise sadly split, so on the advice of my dad (Geoff the Chef) I cracked a fresh egg yolk into a new bowl, whisked it up and gradually added the split mixture. It blended perfectly. I also added a crushed clove of garlic which was more than enough for a strong garlic flavour.

Since I’d spent far too long hand whisking the mayonnaise, I decided we would have DIY crab sandwiches and set the table up with salad, crusty rolls, butter, dressed crabs and my homemade mayonnaise.

 

I must say, it was a splendid lunch and my Grandparents and sister loved it. The mayonnaise went so well with the crab, and I am rather partial to a slightly over cooked crusty white roll too… with lots of butter. Here’s to the first crab of many more to come!

Oh, and if you’re a crab fan, try to come up for the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival which is on 17th – 19th May. I’m volunteering this year so give me a wave if you see me!

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Food Find of the Week – Nova Scotia Steak Pie

What better way to celebrate St George’s Day with a classic English pie made by a dedicated Yorkshire farm? Nova Scotia Farm are the ultimate producers – not only do they rear their own meat for their pies and ready meals, but they also produce 90% of the feed for their animals too! Traditional short-crust individual pies, suet crust pies and a range of ready meals are made with the highest quality, well hung Yorkshire beef and are truly delicious.

Nova Scotia Farm can be found in the heart of Yorkshire, where happy families of cattle graze on grass sweetened by naturally filtered water which drains down from the Vale of York. Their natural surroundings and traditional husbandry means the herd is close to organic, just without all the paperwork! Back in 2001 the company were one of the first to start selling their beef nationally online, and from there they started making the pies. As demand increased, Mark and Sally the farmers, focussed more and more on pies and meals as customers looked for more convenient products, that still had the quality they were known for. As the company has grown, they now also use beef from other ‘similarly minded cattle producers’ to keep up with demand. How refreshing it is to find a convenient ‘ready meal’ that is made by a truly passionate artisan, that you can really trust!

If you buy online you can choose either baked or unbaked pies – I went for frozen unbaked pies as I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to eat them. They arrive in an ice packed box, complete with ‘dishes to dine for’ cooler bag, which I think you get free with your pies if you buy them at a show or festival.

Concise cooking instructions are provided, along with advice to accommodate different types of oven and baking tips if the pie didn’t come out quite right first time.

45 minutes of baking from frozen… what do they say about a watched kettle?! The smells coming from the oven were making my mouth water!

The result was a deliciously golden, steak filled pie with a really tasty, meaty gravy. You can see the hefty chunks of meat in the picture below, which are cooked to a melt in the mouth tenderness, along with the perfect amount of gravy. The pastry is the ideal thickness and crispness, expertly balanced to let the highest quality beef take the limelight. Mark and Sally have collected some rather impressive (and entertaining) testimonials on their website, so you don’t have to take my word for how wonderful they are.

These pies would be perfect for dinner with mash and fresh vegetables or taken on a picnic for a real treat… or just eaten on their own like I did! You can buy them and other beef based dishes from Nova Scotia Farm Produce online and at lots of food shows and festivals across the country. Their ready meals are sold under the brand of ‘Dishes to Dine For’ so keep a look out for both – they certainly are ‘to dine for’!

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Purnell’s Bistro and Ginger’s Bar

Any discerning food lover will have heard of Glynn Purnell, Birmingham’s celebrated food hero and chef owner of Michelin starred and multi-award winning restaurant Purnell’s. I’ve always wanted to dine there, but haven’t yet had the chance, so I was delighted that the first BBC Good Food Show bloggers lunch was to be held at Purnell’s little sister restaurant Purnell’s Bistro which is also the home of Ginger’s Bar.

We were treated to a cocktail masterclass with the undivided attention of a rather charming bar man. He led us through 6 different cocktails, giving us tips, techniques, unique flavour ideas and some flashy flairing too!

This one was rather intriguing – the Lamb Provencal… made with lamb fat infused rum, cranberry and rosemary – almost like fruity, cold gravy but much nicer than it sounds!

The bar tender had lots of special ingredients tucked away behind the bar, from herb infused spirits and fruity mixes to this sticky almond syrup.

We took our cocktails with us to our table where three courses of specially selected dishes were served.

I love butter, so was delighted to see they had their own delicious ‘home-whipped’ butter to be served with home-baked bread.

I started with the butternut squash veloute and ravioli which was packed with flavour, rich and creamy.

Our lovely bar man then supplied us with another refreshing cocktail to cleanse our palettes before the next course.

I couldn’t resist the slow braised beef with shallots and creamed spinach, it was as tasty and flavourful as it looks here.

Desserts included a seasonal crumble with ice cream or chocolate torte with red currant sorbet and caramelised hazelnuts.

We were very well looked after and it is clear that customer service is very important. Prices are great value and although advertised as a ‘bistro’ it certainly felt special and would be perfect for a celebration or special occasion. The bistro gives Glynn fans a taste of his expert cooking, while offering honest (read hefty) portions, a more relaxed dining experience and prices that wont break the bank.

I loved it, but do still want to visit Purnell’s… I’ll start saving now! Have you been to either restaurant? If so, what did you think?

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The Michel and Monica Experience

Imagine being able to cook up close and personal with your favourite celebrity chef… well, I got to live the dream at Cactus Kitchens where I had a day cookery course with none other than Michel Roux Junior and Monica Galetti! It was truly an experience I will be telling the grand children about and I’m so excited to share it with you here.

Cactus Kitchens are based in Clapham, just of the high street. The recently renovated building is stunning and the kitchen has been designed to the highest quality specification. We were told Michel Roux helped with the design so it’s not surprising! The kitchen is actually above the Saturday Kitchen television studio, so as you go in you can see where James Martin et al spend their Saturday mornings!

There are 12 workstations and the demonstration area, where everyone sits very close to watch the chef cook the dish, giving you tips and the opportunity to ask lots of questions too. As it’s so relaxed and informal, if you want to get up to see something up close you just hop off your stool and take a peek.

Your  own workstation is kitted out with everything you need, even Global Knives! You face another student on the opposite workstation, so it’s nice to chat to them and discuss the dishes and laugh when things go wrong!

Our first course was a celeriac and crayfish gratin, almost like a quiche filling but in a little ramekin dish instead. The basic recipe is eggs, cream, fish, spices and vegetables (celery and celeriac) but it got me thinking about all the different things you can put into this dish. It is also served at room temperature, and can be refrigerated first, so it makes the perfect dinner party starter!

The main was a fish stew with chorizo – another great dinner party dish as you can prepare the stew in advance (ingredients as seen below plus flour, white wine, stock and spices). Once you are ready to serve, you place the fish into the pan, turn off the heat and let it cook through the residual heat.

We used sustainable, budget friendly pollack, then sprinkled it with saffron.

The final dish not only looks impressive but tastes delicious too!

Dessert was this beautiful rhubarb upside down cake. I loved making it so much that I made it for my family the following weekend!

Made with perfectly pink forced rhubarb which is in season now.

I hate washing up, so one of the nicest things about the course is the luxury of people clearing up after you!

The whole day had been perfectly planned out with wines chosen by the Saturday Kitchen experts to go with our lunch and dishes that we had cooked. I only wished I wasn’t driving so I could have had more… and more of the delicious champagne we were served too!!

The Many Faces of Monica Galetti

Monica always gets caught out on MasterChef: The Professionals as her facial expressions give her away as she watches people cook. We got a taste of this on the course as she cooked in front of us and answered our questions… Add in your own captions here!

I love this picture, it really shows Monica’s warm, friendly side. This really shone through on the course as she talked about her young daughter and home life, showing a side you would never get to see on the TV!

At the end, after eating the fruits of our learning and labour, we had the chance to sit and chat with Michel and Monica. They were more than happy to sign your apron (a great souvenir from the day!) or cook books and have pictures taken too!

There are a range of chefs you can choose from for the courses (FYI they aren’t cheap) and as you can see from my coverage here, you really get quality time with the chefs and are in the most luxurious surroundings. The ability level required for the course wasn’t particularly high, although if you were a really good cook you could still get a lot from the tips and support from both the celebrity chefs and the brilliant gentleman (oh gosh I’ve forgotten his name!) who heads up the kitchens there, who really knows his stuff. There are enough people there to help if you get stuck, and to make you drinks when you want them too. Oh, and you get a lunch (with wine) with the chefs and get to take any leftovers home to impress your loved ones! As you can tell, I had a really good time!

Take a look at the Cactus Kitchens Website for more details on the courses, and let me know if you have been or are planning to go on one!

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Food Find of the Week – Well Seasoned Spring Pesto

This food find was delivered to my desk and there is no doubt that this is the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in ages! Well Seasoned won a bursary to attend the BBC Good Food Show London last year and I’m so glad to have found them, and that they sent me their latest delicious Spring flavours!

From a brilliant blog based on seasonal food and cooking Well Seasoned was born – versatile pestos/dips that change with the seasons. The new Spring flavours are stunning – wild garlic, basil and mint which was gorgeous in colour and packed full of flavour and roasted spring onion and parsley which was rich and again had an incredible flavour. Both pestos tasted so fresh and not only could you identify the different ingredients by looking at it, but you could taste all the ingredients too – cobnuts, rapeseed oil, cheese and the seasonal additions.

In keeping with the ethos of seasonal and British, Well Seasoned use Kentish cobnuts, extra virgin rapeseed oil and Old Winchester cheese in all of their pestos. The ingredients change with the seasons so back in the Winter (yes I know it seems like we are still there with the bitter cold at the moment!) their flavours were roasted parsnip and thyme and caramelised shallot and rosemary. Take a look at their website to see the other flavours, and be sure to check out their summer flavours when they launch. You can buy from Partridges in London or a box of 6 online for £19.50 + £3.50 postage (don’t worry they freeze really well).

I ate mine at my desk for lunch two days running… on Ryvita thins, with bread, stirred into plain pasta and on its own too! So worthy of being my food find of the week!

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The Gunton Arms

The Gunton Arms is a relatively new addition to the North Norfolk pub scene, having opened in late 2011. I remember when the previously named Elderton Lodge was closed down for refurbishment and the rumours that flew around about what would replace it (a Londoner, an art dealer, someone to do with Mark Hix – I was excited!). I visited last Christmas and had an amazing meal with lots of wine so we booked early for a lunch with friends the weekend after Christmas. I hadn’t realised, but the pub actually won the Michelin guide’s pub of the year for 2012 – excellent news for them, not so great for us having to plan ahead to book a table!

The owner is an art dealer, and this is certainly reflected in the interior decorations. I’ve heard that there has been some local controversy over some of the art but I think it adds to the character of the pub, and the experience too. A trip to the ladies toilets will either leave you in the privacy of hyacinths or horses and a bare-chested, and rather overweight lady – choose your cubicle wisely! If you are an art lover, you will find a vast range of original pieces including work from Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

Starters were difficult to choose from, with a great selection. My sister went for their Loch Duart home smoked salmon, which was presented beautifully. It had a perfect texture – soft in the mouth, but still firm and dry. The smoke was strong and unique but didn’t overpower the flavour of the salmon.

I went for the duck egg with lobster and seashore vegetables, which I loved. When I visited before I had a similar dish but with brown shrimp rather than the lobster, either way, the duck egg yolk acts like a rich, creamy sauce to lubricate the dish and for me was the ultimate seasonal starter.

Smoked Gressingham duck with walnut and blackcurrant looked great and was very much enjoyed.

Ham hock terrine was served in a generous portion with home-made piccalilli.

The roast beef was by far the best roast dinner I’d eaten in 2012 – made even better by the intensely rich roast garlic bread sauce (Delia’s bread sauce will never be the same again) which accompanied the chicken but was happily served with the beef too. My boyfriend made the mistake of being lured in by the crispy belly pork with chorizo and chickpea stew on the specials board, and spent the entire meal voicing his dismay at his poor menu choice and accompanying food envy. The beef was cooked just as I wanted, tender and full of flavour, the yorkshire was crispy while retaining a bit of stodge at the bottom, roast potatoes just right, parsnips caramelised to perfection and vegetables lightly buttered and supplied in abundance. Oh and a jug of excellent extra gravy too!

We couldn’t resist dessert. The sticky toffee pudding looked like a work of art and delivered everything you want from this classic dessert, along with a light, milky ice cream to contrast against the sticky, treacley richness.

My choice, the Amedei chocolate mousse, was HUGE but great – it was rich while not too bitter, creamy yet still fresh and was the perfect way of showcasing the quality of Tuscan Amedei chocolate.

 

My sister went for the buttermilk pudding with Somerset cherries in eau de vie. The cherries on their own blow your socks off (there were a couple of cherry casualties), but when eaten with the milky pudding they worked in perfect harmony with each other to make a fruity, boozy and creamy pudding.

The interior of The Gunton Arms is welcoming, like a home away from home (perhaps without some of the more outrageous art and stuffed animals) and luxuriously furnished with an eclectic mix of solid wood, leather, animal heads and the aforementioned art. We ate in the ‘grill room’ where a huge fire-place is used to not only warm the room, but also to cook some of the meat based dishes on the menu.

The view from the lodge is incredibly beautiful, with deer scattered across the surrounding fields. The perfect place to take a long walk in wellies, followed by a well deserved indulgent meal. They have 8 bedrooms, which I’m sure are beautifully decorated, so would be a great place to stay too.

The meal wasn’t cheap, at around £40 per head for a 3 course lunch with a couple of drinks each and tip, but with the quality of food and drink, the luxurious and beautiful surroundings and superb service, we were left feeling full, happy and looking forward to returning.  They also have a well priced bar menu, with enticing items like red deer dogs and venison sausage rolls – so will definitely be back when next in Norfolk to try some of the bar snacks too!

Have you been to The Gunton Arms? If so what did you think? If not, does this post make you want to visit?

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