Food Find of the Week – Fortnum and Mason’s Knickerbocker Glory

A visit to Fortnum and Mason is an essential pre-Christmas activity for me. I love the gorgeous Christmas windows, the impressively ornate architecture, the luxury and the unrivalled quality of products and service. I met up with my best friend on Tuesday to do a spot of shopping and to treat ourselves to a special dinner before we went our separate ways for Christmas.

Before I tell you more about my food find of the week, their fabulous Knickerbocker Glory, let me show you some of the Christmassy displays in the shop – I forgot to take pictures of the windows!

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Exclusive Emma Bridgewater Designs

 

I booked a table in the Fountain restaurant, which is on the ground floor of the store. It is beautifully decorated and the service makes you feel very special!

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I really like the ‘Savouries’ section of the menu, which is basically a brunch menu with things like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, omelette Arnold Bennett and even lobster Benedict, which you can have at any time of day. Isn’t it the height of luxury when you can have brunch for dinner?!

I went for the pan-fried halibut, with tempura cod cheek served with caponata and a creamy sauce. It was delicious, and was even better with their ‘like chip shop chips but more posh’ chips and bread basket.

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And so to the Knickerbocker Glory, which apparently they have been serving since 1955! I’m not surprised it’s still on the menu – it was impressive and soooooo good. With fresh strawberries in sauce at the bottom, layered with the best strawberry ice-cream I’ve ever tasted, fresh vanilla flavoured whipped cream, more strawberry sauce and finally topped with Italian meringue which has been gently toasted on top.

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It wasn’t cheap at £12 but it’s definitely a sharing sized portion! I know it’s not particularly Christmassy but it is the perfect refresher to a posh shopping trip round Fortnum and Mason! Let me know if you have tried before, or if I’ve inspire you to give it a go!

 

 

 

 

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Salone del Gusto 2012

The Salone del Gusto is an incredible gathering of food and people; organised by ‘Slow Food‘, it runs on the principles of a good, clean and fair approach to food. Back in October, my MD and I took a flying visit to Turin to experience Salone del Gusto and see if there is anything we could learn from the event and of course do a spot of shopping and eating too!

We were led from massive meat displays to towers of cheese, from interactive workshops to lecture theatres, street food to circus food – we totally immersed ourselves in the world of Slow Food and the food of the world.

The Street Food area was extremely popular and after a review of everything on offer we decided to share a fritto misto, which was incredible!

There are huge halls dedicated to the different regions of Italy, and from large companies to small artisans you could taste your way around the Country, trying and buying some of the most amazing, exciting and delicious produce available. Below is a quick walk around the highlights of the regions:

Chillis galore…

Lots of nduja (soft, spicy salami) in the Calabria regional area…

You could even buy nduja warmers!

One man and his boar…

Wall of ham…

Pasta growing on trees…

In the centre of these nests of hay lay delicious cheeses…

I was intrigued by a crowd around one stand and was pleased to find them selling arancini balls – this one was filled with beef ragu and mozzarella and was packed full of flavour.

Beautiful jars of peppers…

Pasta making lessons…

A caper tree and lots of caper products…

Rather special giant onions…

We then went on to visit the world food area, where representatives, and their produce were showcasing their wares.

Pit fermented cabbages from Germany…

Beautifully branded spanish canned fish…

Biscuit heaven (we stopped here for a coffee and a biscuit)…

Happy lady from Thailand proudly showing off her rice…

Snails and snail caviar from Vienna…

We had to try the snail caviar, which were like little bursting pearls of saltiness.

Black honey bread from Vienna…

We were there to experience everything we could, so when we heard about a Michelin starred dinner, in a big top with circus entertainment we made a beeline to get ourselves tickets. We were delighted that after waiting in the rain there were tickets left to the event, and at only 22 euros thought we were on to a winner! Sadly for me, two of the courses had a strong goats cheese as their main ingredient – I’m not one to be too fussy, but with two pungent anchovies laying on top of a goaty risotto I was gutted not to be able to eat it. I really don’t like goats cheese.

Dessert was very exciting, and based around vegetables sweetened with what we concluded must have been sugar beet. It was pretty and deliciously absorbing and as we ate tension mounted as one of the circus acts climbed higher and higher on her trapeze… the result was rather shocking and to keep it brief we didn’t get a chance to finish our dessert and decided not to mix circus and food at our shows!!

I hope you have enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the Salone del Gusto – take a look at my Flikr page if you would like to see more images. Did you go to the show? If so, what were your highlights?

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BBC Good Food Show London – back and better than ever!

The BBC Good Food Show London was back in the Capital last weekend, and although hard work, was a truly awesome Show! Thanks to all that visited, exhibited and worked to make the show brilliant and better than ever before! In this post I’m giving a few sneaky pre show pictures, a few of my shopping highlights and a run through of the areas that I look after at the shows – where you will find all the lovely, speciality artisan producers!

So to begin… the show in choux! Brand new company Choux London impressed us with this gorgeously edible homage to the BBC Good Food Show, along with their fabulous filled choux buns. My favourites were salted caramel and peanut butter flavours.

I often wonder if visitors know how much work goes into putting our shows together… not just the year building up to the show (we’re already working on the 2013 show!) but in the days before the show opens. Below are a few sneaky pre show insights which might surprise you!

Thursday 1130 – MasterChef Demonstration Pod half way to being built.

Thursday 1300 – Getting our (well, show manager Paul Patterson!) hands dirty cleaning a stand roof! As you can see lots of stands still just empty shells at this stage.

Thursday 1730 – meeting with Custom Creams for a liquid nitrogen powered ice cream making demonstration!

I love show opening – we usually have one of our celebrities open the show by cutting ribbon with giant scissors. Below is James Martin on the Saturday, don’t his white trousers make our pink carpet look bright?!

It’s great to see thousands of food lovers all under one roof, and I must admit, Olympia is definitely my favourite venue in terms of how beautiful the structure is. When the sun goes down there are some amazing colours coming in through that huge domed window!

Here is a bit more about the areas of the show that I look after and am very proud of!

The Producers’ Village

This is our collection of nearly 100 small artisan producers, which we have scoured the country to find – from charcuterie to choux, truffles to turkey, fish to fudge there should have been something to please most foodies!  The smell of aromatic coffee wafts from the Jaccs Gourmet Coffee stand, where you could find all sorts of beans and flavours of coffee. Mortons Turkeys came all the way from North Norfolk (very near my home town!) and were sampling their delicately smoked duck and taking orders for Christmas turkeys at the show – I’m planning to visit the farm when I’m back home for Christmas!

I always make sure I buy some Calabrian (Italian region) delicacies from De Calabria before the end of the show. Giuseppe is a real character, “an arteest” as he would put it, and is a wonderful addition to the show – he brings the most deliciously vibrant green olive oils, wild honey and herbs, n’duja, chilli products, sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, salamis, even chick peas (I bet you didn’t know they grew like this?!)!

Joe and Sephs launched their gourmet popcorn company at our show 2 years ago and they never cease to amaze me. True to their nick name of the Willy Wonka of the popcorn world, their black pepper, chilli and caramel is magical as you get the caramel first, then a black pepper hit, and then seconds later the chilli starts to build… and then you just want more (and more!). Other flavours include madras curry, brandy butter, goats cheese (not for me but others love it), mince pie and vanilla cheese cake. If you haven’t tried before then you must, you won’t regret it!

I shouldn’t have favourites, but Karantania Deli had to be one of the most attractive stands at the show – a tree decorated with chocolate salami twinkled away between piles of irresistible pastries, breads and cakes and bottles of bubbly, chocolate liqueur and other Slovenian delights. I love it when producers make an effort with their stands like this!

I sometimes come across oyster virgins trying their first at the Shows… love ’em or hate ’em literally thousands get shucked and knocked back at the shows!

David here, from Real Organic Foods, created his company through a passion for food and by noticing a gap in the market for organic foods that actually tasted good. Definitely worth a try!

I was sure to take advantage of the bargain olive oil from Candiasoil – beautiful bottles and delicious single estate oils from Crete, the perfect stocking filler for a foodie!

New to the show this year was The Pelagonia Range – Macedonian mezze products like pumpkin jam, roasted peppers and other delicious dips.

Bursary Winners

Our bursary award winners did us proud and every one of them loved using the show as a springboard to put their products in front of thousands of influential food lovers. We had amazing African sauces from Bim’s Kitchen, savoury seaweed seasonings from Mara Seaweed, delicious drinks from Norfolk Cordials, seasonal pestos from Well Seasoned, hand made and indulgent marshmallows from Patchett’s Confectionery and authentic Indian fresh chutney from the Maha Partnership. Take a look at how they got to the show here.

Good Food Champions!

A brand new addition to the show this year, my way of highlighting some of the most outstanding producers at the shows. This year at London, visitors will have been able to try 2 of the top 50 best foods which were from The Exquisite Range and Momo Cha Fine Teas. I was delighted that Gelupo were there, the gelato sister of famous Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo – I tried their fresh mint choc chip and dark chocolate sorbets, which were incredible! Pistachio Rosebrought their beautiful range of Indian inspired baked goods. Olive Branch sold their olive oils and intriguing olive oil jam, while next door the Artisan Smokehouse presented their range of smoked fish, meat, cheeses, oils, herbs and spices! Joanna from Edible Ornamentals, another one of our Good Food Champions, giving an interview for the BBC You Tube team:

Now, there are so many other things I could write about here… but I could go on forever! Look out for my highlights of the BBC Good Food Show Winter, which opens at the NEC next week on the 28th November, or perhaps I will see you there?!

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The Dessert Deli Cookbook – Food Find of the Week

My latest food find, which I know really isn’t a food, is Laura Amos’s eagerly anticipated debut recipe book – The Dessert Deli Cook Book. Finally it is on sale and fans of her desserts will now be able to recreate her delicious delights at home. I’m rather excited about being mentioned in the credits – Laura is a great friend and I loved brainstorming ideas, recipes and formats for the book over roast dinners and afternoon ciders!

From her signature chocolate mousse with honeycomb to her fabulous flapjacks there is a great selection of desserts, cakes, treats and a special Christmas section too! Laura gives great tips on ingredients, equipment and tweaking recipes to make them your own. I love the photography which helps to guide on how your finished recipe should look and watch out, it will certainly make your mouth water!

You can either buy directly from Laura at one of her markets (follow her on twitter to find our where she is), get a signed copy from the publishers , find in good book shops, or get a bargain price online from Amazon! I will be certainly be buying a few of these for Christmas presents this year.

Have you got your hands on The Dessert Deli Cook Book yet? If so, have you tried any of the recipes? I can’t wait to get baking!

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland 2012 – My Highlights

Last weekend I was up in Glasgow for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland. I think most will agree it was one of the best shows yet with a great celebrity chef line up, including the lovely Hairy Bikers, and an even better selection of speciality, artisan and passionate producers from across Scotland, the British Isles and the world!

It’s our London show next week (9th -11th at Olympia) so I’m super busy getting ready for that… but here is a quick run down of my highlights in pictures. Just click on the post title if you can’t see the images!

The show started with a bang as Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry opened the show – after the ribbon was cut thousands of food lovers burst into the show to start their fabulous food experience! It’s a great sight to see, and always gives me goosebumps as the show officially comes to life.

Borders Biscuits were asking visitors to decide whether their new Christmas spiced biscuit should be put into mainstream production. We put our deciding token into the ‘Oh Goodness they’re yummy’ box!

The lovely Kate from Gower Cottage dishing out her amazing brownies…

Whole Foods Market Glasgow were sampling and selling sourdough loaves, giant meringues and Prosecco!

Have you tried Boozeberries liqueurs? Fresh berries inside gorgeous Irish artisan fruit liqueurs… I’m going to be buying some at the London Show for adding something special to sparkling wine at Christmas.

A quick break for delicious fresh cream filled meringues and scones from the Dancing Goat!

Mo and her Cookie Dough! Morag was one of our bursary winners and did a brilliant job of making the most of the opportunity to appear at the show!

Mr Puddledub Buffalo giving out advice on how to cook his fresh buffalo meat.

A quick stop backstage led me to bump into the Hairy Bikers – Si and Dave look great after their dieting and I must say Si looked like a rock star with his skinny jeans!

What is your Christmas meat of choice? A Taste of Galloway were sampling their succulent goose, which is a lovely luxurious way to celebrate at Christmas.

The Champagne Bar was a welcome addition to the show…

We paid a visit to have a well deserved glass of champagne at the end of the day on Saturday – cheers!

We even had a shark!

Only a lucky few of us get to go up and work at our Scotland Show – so the team back in Teddington were delighted that we brought back a range of flavours from the wonderful Ochil Fudge Pantry!

 

I think my highest highlight was walking Mary Berry around the Producers’ Village before the show opened, she was so enthusiastic and interested in the producers and produce!

And now its on to the next one – London is next week, and then our flagship show at the NEC is on the 28th Nov – 2nd Dec. See you there?!

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Pre-Show Madness

I can’t believe our Scotland Show opens in just three days! Three weeks later it will be our London Show at Olympia and then the biggie at the NEC at the end of November. I always try to get organised before the shows but they just seem to sneak up on me.

I wanted to take a breather to tell you whats going on at the shows that I’m excited about…

Great British Bake Off – sessions on the Super Theatres at Scotland and London and its very own theatre at the Winter NEC Show! Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood at all shows, winner at London and NEC and finalists and others at the NEC!!! Will definitely be hanging out backstage to snaffle some tasters!

Good Food Champions – brand new area of the shows that I introduced based on my desire to highlight some of the best producers at the show. From oils to ethical veal, liqueurs to scotch eggs, smoked fish to fresh venison you are sure to find something to get your mouth-watering!

Producers Bursary Award Winners – all of them small, outstanding producers and brand new to the BBC Good Food Shows so go and show them your support. Look out for fresh cookie dough in Scotland, crystalized edible fresh flowers and foraged ingredients in Birmingham and natural seaweed seasonings in London. Take a look at our tasting day here.

World Cheese Awards – nearly 3000 cheeses all out on display is an incredible sight. I always make sure I’m hanging around this area of the show when they announce the winners (Wednesday afternoon). Two years ago Philip from the Cornish Cheese Company won supreme champion and it brought tears to my eyes seeing him win. It was also pretty fun watching him get through bottles of champagne in the bar that evening!

BBC Food and Farming Awards – held at the show on the Wednesday afternoon, I’m making time to watch the awards ceremony this year as the shortlist of nominations is so exciting! You can add a theatre seat to your booking if you have tickets for the Wednesday.

Right, back to work… hope to see you at the shows and please just ask if you want to know more about any of the exciting stuff going on at the shows!

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Producers Bursary Awards – The Winners!

I’m so excited to announce the winners of the Producers Bursary Awards! They have been through a rigorous application process and will soon be appearing at at BBC Good Food Show near you!

And the winners are…

BBC Good Food Show Scotland, SECC, Glasgow, 19 – 21 Oct

Gusto – handmade dressings, marinades, sauces, spice blends, oils and infused vinegars made in Edinburgh less than 1 year old.

Twitter- @gusto_info

Website- www.gusto-catering.com

Mo’s Cookie Dough – all natural fresh cookie dough ready to slice and cook – made in Glasgow, less than 1 year old.

Website- www.moscookiedough.co.uk

The Chilli Chutney Company/ Muckrach Lodge Hotel – all natural restaurant quality sauces and condiments. Based in Grantown on Spey and only just launching as retail brand.

Website- www.muckrach.com

The Ochil Fudge Company – hand made fudge, Scottish tablet, macaroon and honeycomb made in Alva, Clackmannanshire just over 1 year old.

Twitter- @ochilfudge

Website- www.ochilfudgepantry.co.uk

BBC Good Food Show London. Olympia, 09 – 11 Nov

Bim’s Kitchen Ltd – African sauces and condiments using ingredients such as Baobab fruit, alligator pepper and melon seeds, along with fresh local produce. Made in Palmers Green, 1 ½ years old.

Twitter – @bimskitchen

Website- www.bimskitchen.com

Maha Partnership Ltd – fresh chutneys made to authentic Pakistan and Indian recipes, based in Slough and 8 months old.

Twitter- @mahachutney

Website- www.mahapartnership.com

Norfolk Cordial – all natural, locally sourced fruit based cordials and juices, based in Matlaske, North Norfolk and 1 ½ years old.

Twitter- @norfolkcordial

Website- www.norfolkcordial.com

Patchett’s Confectionery Ltd – all natural, handmade marshmallows, salted caramels and honeycomb – made in Islington and 1 ½ years old.

Twitter- @patchettssweets

Website- www.patchettsconfectionery.co.uk

The Celtic Sea-spice Co – seasonings made from hand-harvested natural seaweeds, produced in Edinburgh under 1 year old.

Twitter- @seaspicegirls

Website- www.seaspice.co.uk

Well Seasoned Ltd – British seasonal pestos made from UK grown produce that change with the seasons, made in Park Royal, London and less than one year old.

Twitter – @seasonalfood

Website – www.wellseasoned.co.uk

BBC Good Food Show Winter – NEC, Birmingham, 28 Nov – 2 Dec.

Bendylegs – granola made with local, all natural Welsh ingredients in Swansea, Wales – 2 years old.

Twitter- @bendylegsjo

Website- www.lovebendylegs.co.uk

CNWD – smoked meat and fish along with pates and terrines produced using traditional production methods and from local, natural ingredients. Produced in Llanelli, Wales and 1 year old.

Twitter- @cnwdfood

Website- www.cnwd.co.uk

Forage Fine Foods – uses seasonal, foraged ingredients to make products such as herb and spice mixes, preserves, jellies, syrups and cakes. 20 months old, based in Walterstone, Herefordshire.

Twitter- @foragefinefoods

Website www.foragefinefoods.co.uk

Meadowsweet Flowers –  crystallised fresh edible flowers, along with chocolates topped with crystallised flowers – based in South Molton, Devon and 2 years old.

Twitter- @meadowsweet01

Website- www.meadowsweetflowers.co.uk

Pig & Co – Sausages, bacon and hams made from free range, rare breed pigs – based in Goostrey, Cheshire and 6 months old.

Twitter- @pigandco

Website- www.pigandco.com

Shropshire Chocolates by Toot Sweets – handmade chocolates made using local Shropshire ingredients. Made in Shrewsbury making her own chocolates for the past 3 years.

Twitter- @tootsweetsshrew & @shropshirechocs

Website- www.tootsweetsconfectionery.wordpress.com

BBC Good Food Show Summer – NEC, Birmingham, 12th – 16th June 2013.

Ooomeringues – handmade meringues in allsorts of shapes, colours, flavours and sizes. Made in Newtown, Powys, Wales and 6 months old.

Twitter- @ooomeringues

Website- www.ooomeringues.co.uk

Pepper and Stew Ltd – traditional handmade, all natural African cooking sauces made in Northolt, London 1 ½ years old.

Twitter- @pepperandstew

Website- www.pepperandstew.co.uk

Saison! – seasoning salts, peppers and sugars made in Dorchester, Dorset 6 months old.

Twitter- @saisonforcooks

Website- www.saison.co.uk

Slamseys Drinks Ltd – fruit liqueurs and gins made from fruit picked from her farm and hedgerows – made in Braintree, Essex and 6 months old.

Twitter- @slamseysdrinks

Website- www.slamseysdrinks.co.uk

I do hope you love them as much as we did and show your support by visiting them at the BBC Good Food Shows!

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Food Find of the Week – Homewood Ewes Milk Cheeses

Another cheesy food find! I went to the brilliant Abergavenny Food Festival last week and amongst all the wonderful producers, I found Homewood Cheeses. I was initially attracted to the feta style pickled ewes cheese, as I’ve been longing for a Greek salad since my holiday to Santorini back in August. So bought that, along with some halloumi, and had a taste of all of their other delicious cheeses.

Homewood Cheeses specialise in unpasteurised, artisan ewes milk cheeses, which they make in Somerset. Along with the feta style cheese they also make a fresh curd/ cream cheese, ricotta, halloumi and their signature semi-hard cheese, Old Demdike. I’m not a goats cheese fan (read why here), so found the Old Demdike a little too ‘farmy’ for me, but I loved the ‘feta style’ and halloumi cheeses. They were also selling cheesecake slices, made from their own curd cheese – they looked delicious.

I made my Greek salad with the slab of pickled ewes cheese placed on top of chopped Isle of Wight tomatoes, cucumber and red onion then drizzled on extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled on wild Calabrian oregano.

Take a look at their website or follow them on twitter @HomewoodCheeses to find out more and where you can buy from them.

 

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Producers Bursary Awards 2012

One of the highlights of my year is the Producers Bursary Award scheme that we run at the BBC Good Food Shows. It’s basically our way of rewarding small, fledgling, outstanding producers with a free opportunity to showcase their products at one of the BBC Good Food Shows. I manage the scheme from taking applications, coordinating the judging at the Good Food Magazine Kitchen, with their team of experts and ultimately deciding which companies will win the coveted award.

We held the tasting day yesterday (Wednesday) and I’m hoping to have all the decisions made by the beginning of next week! See below for a sneaky peek at the Good Food Kitchens, the samples all laid out and being tasted and a few snaps of the judges deliberating, cogitating and digesting…

Making a mess of the gorgeous Good Food Kitchen.

Preparing the samples.

Some like it hot! We had some super hot chilli sauces to try, I wimped out quite early on!

Spices and seasonings were an interesting category.

Drinks included cider, ginger soft drinks, fruity tea and hot chocolate.

The confectionery category was definitely my favourite!

Carefully checking the entries…

The lovely Sarah Cook, deputy food editor, and Cassie Best, assistant food editor for Good Food Magazine gave their expert opinion on the taste and quality of the products.

Holly Brooke-Smith, editorial assistant, and Myles Williamson, cookery assistant for Good Food Magazine also gave their feedback on product taste and quality and anything that needed cooking was put in Myles’ expert hands!

Rebecca Reeves, one of our Good Food Show directors, is a regular judge for the Bursary Awards – she knows what our visitors wants and knows good food!

We also had Good Food editor Gillian Carter, and food editor Barney Desmazery put in an appearance, and Laura Biggs, MD of BBC Haymarket Exhibitions too. Along with some great support from show manager Paul Patterson we had a brilliantly fun day tasting, debating and getting rather full!

Stay tuned here on my blog for details of the winners, and of course, come and see them at the BBC Good Food Shows!

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Food Find of the Week – Jumi’s Belper Knolle

Jumi make some of the most intriguing, innovative and delicious cheeses I’ve ever come across… so, my food find of the week is their incredible Belper Knolle. At first sight you may mistake it for a large truffle, but no, this is a very special little artisan  cheese coated in pepper and dried as it ages.

 

 

 

 

It is packed full of flavour and can be grated/shaved to add a powerful hit of cheesy, garlicky, salty, peppery goodness to pasta, risotto, salads or even steak (or as you so desire!).

It’s not a cheap find at around £8.50 per ball, but it’s so unusual and delicious it’s definitely worth seeking out. It also lasts well in the fridge for some time (if you can resist that long!).

Jumi don’t just make the Belper Knolle, in fact they have a great range of artisan, swiss cheeses from cow and goat milk, fruit bread to go with cheese and delicious truffle (Swiss) honey. Their cheeses are like works of art, and the flavour and quality are incredible – the sign of truly artisan products.

It is a family business based in the valley of the emmental. They use milk from local farmers and are so traditional that they still have to wake up at 3.30 every morning to start up their production!

This sunny cheese, called Apres Soleil, is aged in a cave where the sun shines through into the cave at certain times of the day… so pretty and has a slightly sweet, pineapple flavour to it.

The addition of hemp gives this naughty looking cheese a nutty crunch…

Need I say more? Get yourself down to Borough Market or Partridges Market and go buy some!

PS. They will hopefully also be appearing at the BBC Good Food Shows in London and Birmingham 2012!

 

 

 

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Savouring Santorini

I hadn’t always wanted to go to Santorini, but after stumbling across it on a last minute holiday search, seeing the pictures and reading all about it, my heart was set. Even though it meant lowering our standards in terms of the accommodation (bad reviews and no air conditioning) in order to be able to afford to go, I just had to go and my poor boyfriend didn’t get much of a say in the matter!

He soon got over it, and we had an AMAZING time – it  truly must be one of the most beautiful places in the world (I haven’t been that many places to compare though)… we fell in love with the scenery, people and the food! Yammas to Santorini!

Oia… where the streets are paved with gold (well marble, but doesn’t it look like gold on this picture?!)… It’s definitely the most beautiful man made part of the island. People in the know where white, the buildings are white and built into the cliffs… a truly stunning and magical place. It’s also an expensive place, so before we went we decided not to eat there, just watch the sunset and go back to good value Perissa where we were staying. Its a popular place, and lots (and lots) of people want to watch the ‘magical’ sunset… we didn’t like being squished up against everyone else so as soon as we saw the perfect seat looking out onto the sunset we decided that we could afford to have a meal. 125 Euros later (compare to 30/40 euros for same in Perissa) we had watched an amazing sunset and had an average meal. Great experience though, and I would recommend anyone to visit.

We took our sunset seats while the sun was still high…

The highlight of the meal was the mixed mezze starter with halloumi, sausage, pastries, meatballs, prawns, pitta, hoummous, taramasalata, stuffed vine leaves and salad.

A glass of Vinsanto (Santorini’s sweet dessert wine) finished off our meal as we watch the beautiful Oia sunset.

 We took a trip to the Santo Wines Winery, which is a cooperative for local wine growers. We were too hot to stay long but had a look at the vines, the view and had a good look around the air conditioned shop. Grapes grown in Santorini are grown on special vines that shelter from the island’s strong winds by growing close to the ground. ‘Village wine’ can be bought very cheaply by the litre in supermarkets and by the carafe in restaurants. It is quite acidic but lovely in moderation!

Ancient Akrotiri is over 3,500 years old, a city evacuated before Santorini suffered the most spectacular of volcanic eruptions, with ash from the explosion found so far away as California and those in the UK able to hear its blast. Lava flowed through the streets of the impressively advanced metropolis, preserving its streets, houses, even it’s drainage systems. Taking a tour of the climate controlled archeological site is awe inspiring, and apparently they have only uncovered a very small part of the buried city.

After our tour of ancient Akrotiri, we walked down to the seafront, where we found a lovely row of fish tavernas – perfect timing as we were hungry for lunch. We picked the one furthest along the coastline, where the seating area jutted out into the sea and octopus legs were strung up to dry in the sun.

We couldn’t work out if the octopus was on the menu so went for a few safer different dishes to share. We started with calamari which was so fresh, crispy and tender.

Tomato balls, or fritters, are a santorini speciality. You may have heard of Santorini cherry tomatoes which are awaiting PDO status… I’ve had ‘Santini’ tomatoes from M&S which I think have been grown to mimic the sweet, full flavoured Santorini cherry tomatoes. We tried a few different versions of these delicious tomato balls, and armed with a few tips from our hotel owner Sandy, I’m going to have a go at making my own. Watch out for a future post when I have time!

The old lady serving us brought us out this little aubergine based dish, as a free little extra. We made lots of effort to speak greek so I think we was thanking us with food – we were happy to accept, it was delicious!

We had quite a few greek salads over the week, this one particularly generous with feta. We also had a few Santorini salads which use the native cherry tomatoes, their special sweet cucumbers and caper leaves, another local speciality.

While on the subject of local specialities, we also tried Santorini’s fava beans, which do have official PDO status. They are served like hummus, but have the texture of dahl – we tried two versions which were both delicious.

The food in Santorini was delicious, great value and inspiring… but the scenery, buildings and views were incredible. Here are a few of my favourite pictures, if you want to see more take a look at my flikr page.

Have you been to Santorini? If not, does this post make you want to go?

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Cattlegrid – New Kingston Restaurant

Kingston is the nearest ‘big town’ to me in Hampton Court. I don’t know it very well, and usually struggle to find a nice place to eat… other than low standard, high priced chain restaurants. I was really excited last year when Byron burger opened down by the river, and I must say their burgers are bang on for what I want from a burger with their charred buns and juicy beef patties… anyway, back to this post! Cattlegrid recently opened in the ‘Rotunda’, opposite the station and near the cinema – a sensible place for a new restaurant!

I visited on their very first night, and despite a slight grill problem after two professional rugby teams came in ordering full racks of ribs for starters followed by huge steaks and more ribs… a proper baptism of fire, the food was delicious, service top notch and atmosphere buzzing.

I started with chicken wings, which are made in the proper American style buffalo wing way; hot, sour and buttery chilli sauce coated over big crispy wings. Definitely the best I’ve had in the UK!

I had the ribs for main course which fell off the bone and were smothered in a sticky, spicy, sweet BBQ sauce – really, really good and served with rather tasty skin on chips too.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I will definitely be back again to try more from the menu. Welcome to Kingston Cattlegrid, I will certainly be seeing you soon!

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Food Find of the Week – Iberico Blood Chorizo

After a boozy afternoon at the AEO Excellence Awards on Friday, where I was delighted to be part of the team that contributed to the BBC Good Food Show Summer to make it win best consumer show 2011, I stopped off at The Real Food Market for some dinner. That’s me rather smug with the award below, and the team collecting the award…

Anyway, enough showing off, back to the food! After a couple of bites of my boyfriend’s delicious Jacobs Ladder burger it was time to find my own dinner… I went for one of Black Acorn‘s flame grilled Iberico chorizo rolls, with grilled red peppers, rocket and chilli sauce which was really delicious, especially with a large glass of their special recipe sangria!

I was intrigued by their Iberico blood chorizo so bought one (£5) to take home and try. It is made from acorn fed black Iberian pig meat mixed with some of its fat and blood, which is then minced and flavoured with pimentao paste, garlic, wine, vinegar, salt and spices. I had planned to eat with scrambled eggs, but didn’t have the eggs so ended eating dry fried on its own as a pre dinner snack. I like the richness that is similar to black pudding but the added texture, saltiness and spice that comes from a chorizo style sausage really made it unique and delicious. Next time I would probably try with scallops or prawns, perhaps on the BBQ.

You can buy Black Acorn’s range of Black Iberican pig charcuterie from their website, or if you are in London why not try one of their chorizo rolls and a sangria down at the Real Food Market on the South Bank?

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Food Finds of Weeks Gone By…

So, I started the Food Find of the Week thing to force me to post on a weekly basis – but due to various distractions I’ve let it slip, and owe about 6 food finds to catch up! Ooops! So, following the BBC Good Food Show Summer just a couple of weeks ago, and a full on food filled diary to follow, I have collected a number of food finds for your pleasure…

Tan Rosie

I was really excited to meet Lee Sylvester of Tan Rosie Foods fame at the BBC Good Food Show Summer, who produce a range of Caribbean specialities and run a really popular, Birmingham based supper club. The sauces were great, but I particularly liked her fiery chilli fudge, which not only had a nice heat to it, but you could really taste the chilli flavour too. The ginger, vanilla and chocolate  and chilli fudges were also really good and worth a try.

 

Pelagonia Range

A delicious and unusual range of Macedonian meze items including roasted peppers, pumpkin jam and Aivar, a gorgeous aubergine and pepper dip. They come in really attractive jars and are very well priced around the £3.50 mark. They have limited stockists around the country but will also be on show to sample and buy from at the London BBC Good Food Show in November.

Peter’s Yard

Many people will have heard of this brand by now, but I have to feature them here as I was totally inspired by a talk by one of the co-founders, Wendy, at the recent Foodie Bugle Lectures. The artisan crisp breads are made to a traditional Swedish recipe here in the UK and are not only really good for you, but delicious too! The original bakery is up in Edinburgh, and is on top of my must visit list!

Lahloo Tea

Another speaker at the Foodie Bugle Lectures, Kate Gover, who I have met before but never realised her faultless passion and drive for tea and her own growing business Lahloo Tea. I particularly liked the tasting notes on the tea tins, of the few I saw two mentioned baked apples with brown sugar and butter, and one talked of madeira cakes – great to be able to pull out flavour notes from the tea that you can relate to. She has recently opened a tea pantry in Bristol, which is also on my must visit list, and is planning on opening more outlets across the country in the future, definitely one to watch!

Demijohn

Angus Ferguson is a BBC Good Food Show regular, but he never stops impressing me with his passion, enthusiasm and simply outstanding liqueurs. This year his new flavour was Morello Cherry Brandy, which was really delicious but I always fall back to his Rhubarb Vodka, which was particularly tart this year. At the end of the show Angus was busy finding picnic fayre to satisfy the participants of his upcoming annual elderflower picking pilgrimage – lucky pickers!

Hardiesmill

I took home a couple of souvenirs from the Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh, last week – some Hardiesmill Aberdeen Angus popeseye steaks and a beef haggis. The steaks were really, really tender and you could really taste the difference of grass-fed animals in the fat too. The highlight was the haggis, which didn’t seem as fatty as the lamb based version, and had a lovely delicate flavour and firm texture. You can buy fresh beef products and charcuterie from their website.

So I think that brings me up to date with my fabulous food finds, but I must find the time to write up more highlights from the BBC Good Food Show Summer, my judging of the Great Taste Awards, my visit to the Royal Highland Show and the wonderful Foodie Bugle Lectures too! Its been a busy few weeks!

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Brockley Market – My Highlights

I recently took a trip down to the much talked about Brockley Market and was really impressed! Created by a local photographer (Toby Allen) with a passion for food, dedication to succeed and the ability to spot an opportunity to create a new market to benefit his local community. I had a lovely time there, great producers, great street food and space to either sit or stand around and eat. Here is a quick run down of my highlights.

Amazing looking stand and food from Mike and Ollie, must try on my next visit.

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Food Find of the Week – Quince Juice

My latest food find is perfect for Summer cocktails – quince juice from Norfolk producer Drove Orchards. I was very happy to find it in my sister’s fridge and just had to try it. I drank it with Vestal Vodka‘s Amber elderberry flower liqueur, with a little soda and lots of ice, a delicious cocktail to drink in the sun.

I’m not sure where my sister got it from, but I believe it’s widely available across Norfolk delis and in their farm  shop near Hunstanton (definitely visiting next time I’m back in Norfolk!). Their website says they are hoping to start selling their range of juices online soon, but give a number to call and order if you can’t wait that long!

It’s so good that the Great Taste Awards judges awarded it two gold stars last year, here’s what they said about it:

 Good smell of Quince.  Slight Cloudiness.  Pleasant honey flavour.  Blended very well.  Quince comes through very nicely – good balance.  Sugar is well in control, good tartness.  ‘Grown-up’ product – this would be lovely even with a mixer.  A summery drink.

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Aalto Restaurant, inspired by Marcus Wareing @ Hotel La Tour, Birmingham

With Birmingham being crowned as the Food Capital of Britain by Olive Magazine, I was embarrassed to realise that the range of food I had experienced in Birmingham spread little further than the NEC outlets and buffet at the on site hotel! I was invited up to visit a brand new independent city centre hotel, whose restaurant had been inspired by the brilliant Marcus Wareing, so I happily accepted and had a lovely lunch at Aalto restaurant at Hotel La Tour.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so arrived early. There were many local businesses, and members of the local press, that had been invited and the bar area was full of people who seemed to know each other. I distracted myself from my awkwardness with a refreshing lemony cocktail and kept the canapé waiters talking for as long as reasonably possible.

Finally it was time to take to our seats, leading me to wonder/ worry about who I might be seated with… to my delight I was seated up at the chefs table along with some local journalists and the lovely Managing Director Jane. It meant I had a view right into the kitchen and an army of friendly staff to talk me through the dishes and keep my wine glasses filled (I was glad I took the train!!).

The menu gave us a taster of what the restaurant has to offer – head chef Alex Penhaligon and his team have worked closely with Marcus Wareing and local producers to deliver a great value, top quality seasonal menu.

We started with leek soup with a Jersey royal foam – served in a shot glass I found it hard to resist swooping my finger round the glass for last of the delicious soup clinging to the glass (I did resist by the way).

We were then given a little cocktail as a palette cleanser between courses. It was strong with a gingery citrus hit.

Next came salty bacon olives balanced with fresh peas and broad beans – I’m pretty sure the ‘olives’ were from Trealy Farm, a brilliant local charcuterie producer.

For the main course came tweed kettle salmon with a fennel on the side and a herb and nutmeg crust. Not only was it beautiful on the plate but delicious too.

The highlight of the meal was the dessert, a Jaffa cake pudding, which was served with the chocolate sauce separately. Marcus Wareing a two Michelin starred chef came and poured the sauce over my pudding himself! I blushed, but thanked him very much. I think chocolate and orange are perfect together so loved the pudding.

After the lovely dinner, we had a chance to talk to Marcus, and Alex the head chef. I was impressed by Alex’s passion and enthusiasm and had a great chat about local producers, I’m going to keep in touch and recommend some of my favourites. Marcus was charming and told me how his relationship with the hotel works – Alex and his team trained and experimented  in Marcus’ own kitchens and are welcome their any time. He works closely with them on their menus, to help inspire and develop ideas. This way of working helps to deliver Michelin starred quality but with affordable prices – something we are all looking for these days.

I’m so glad I got to experience a bit of the Birmingham food scene, but it has made me hungry to try more of it. Whats your favourite Birmingham eaterie? I’d love to know so I can start planning my next trip!

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Food Find of the Week – Egg Boss Scotch Eggs

This week’s first food find of the week is the fabulous Egg Boss who makes his own scotch eggs along with a brilliant brown sauce. I’ve been following the egg boss AKA Sean Lawson on twitter for a while and finally met him at Brockley Market last week. I went for a Holy F**k egg, checking for children in the locality before ordering, which is pork combined with The Ribman’s delicious Holy F**k hot sauce.

The photos below have been provided by Egg Boss – I was so taken by the eggs that my camera skills went to pot!

The scotch eggs can either be taken away or served sliced in half with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, celery salt and black salt (I think that’s what it was anyway!) along with a dollop of the Egg Boss’ own brown sauce, which had the perfect tang to lift the richness of the egg.

The egg flavours change on a weekly basis, and you can find him at Brockley Market every Saturday – check his twitter account @egg_boss for updates on where else you can find him. He is definitely worth hunting down!!

I took an extra ‘Holy F**k’ egg and a black pudding egg home for my boyfriend – he ate them in the bath (after a long day playing American football) and loved them!!




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Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria

Down on the Dingley Dell farm live some of the luckiest pigs around… they are destined to fly into the hands of some of the most magical chefs in the land! On Wednesday night I had one of the best food experiences of my life – the Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria.

Dingley Dell supply some of the best chefs, and restaurants, in the country with amazing pork from Suffolk. Mark Hayward’s exciting concept of Flying Feasts brings some of these award-winning, pioneering chefs together, to cook up the most delicious piggy based feasts and to celebrate the glory of the Dingley Dell pig. Not only do you get a wonderful tasting menu, but a complete food experience taking the pig from farm to your fork. I watched a butchery demonstration, video footage of the happy pigs on the farm,  a live video stream directly into the kitchen to watch my food being prepared and then a talk on the dishes from the chefs themselves!

And now for the amazing menu…

Paul Foster – Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk

Pigs trotter carpaccio, charred broccoli, smoked garlic, peanut and burnt onion

Mark Poynton – Alimentum, Cambridge

Pork rillette, braised jowl, acorn praline, pineapple and chickweed

Madeline Bonvini-Hamel and Ross Pike – The British Larder, Suffolk

Crispy pig’s head, ham hock scotch egg, salsify & cauliflower & shallot piccalilli, nasturtium leaves

One more, so you can see how good the scotch egg looks!!

Paul Merrett – The Victoria, London

Asian Dingley Dell Pork: 12 hour belly vindaloo with coconut sambal, jungle style cheeks with soured mango noodles, dim sum with blood orange and fennel

William Curley – Patissier Chocolatier, Richmond

Amedei dark chocolate entremet centred with a smoked bacon caramel served with apricot compote & lemon thyme ice-cream

The tasting menu was absolutely delicious. Highlights for me were the jungle cheeks with mango noodles, crispy pigs head and the salty bacon with the dessert. I loved meeting Mark Hayward, the proud farmer of Dingley Dell pork and all the amazing chefs listed above. Mark and I are putting our heads together to see if we can bring the Flying Feasts to one of the BBC Good Food Shows which would be incredible! Stay tuned!

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Food Find of the Week – Natural Seaweed Seasonings

This week’s food find is from The Sea-Spice Co who have created a range of super healthy seasonings made purely from naturally harvested, Celtic seaweed. Fiona Houston and Xa Milne, also known as the sea spice girls, have established themselves as experts in seaweed foraging through their own book ‘Seaweed and Eat It: A Family Foraging and Cooking Adventure’, magazine columns and radio and TV appearances. Earlier this year they launched their range of sea~sons, and seem to be going from strength to strength!

I must admit to only having tasting the seasonings with bread and oil, and haven’t had a chance to try in a recipe yet. I’m really keen to try the pepper dulse, which is known as the truffle of the sea, sprinkled on top of seared scallops. The range also includes sea lettuce, which is bright green and looks a bit like parsley to be used as a garnish or towards the end of cooking. The dulse is a deep purple colour, and the tasting notes suggest a hint of smoked bacon and that it is strong and robust enough to pair with meat and game, almost like an anchovy equivalent. Shony flakes are a blend of seaweeds to be used as a table condiment and to add colour and flavour in cooking. Finally, Celtic Kombu provides an umami boost to dishes and can be used as a stock. I can’t wait to get experimenting!

Find out more by following @seaspicegirls on twitter, or if you fancy trying some, you can buy from the range at their online shop. Their website also gives some great recipes and suggestions for use, along with the story behind the company and some of their recent success stories.

I will update once I’ve had time to use some in a recipe, but for now I will keep dipping my finger into the pouches when I need a savoury kick!

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