Category Archives: Foodie Travel

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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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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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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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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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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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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