Category Archives: Foodstuffs

Celebrating at Michael Caine’s Abode, Chester

In order to celebrate my sister’s graduation, in Chester, we booked a table at Michael Caine’s restaurant Abode. I’ve always liked the look of Michael’s cooking and was confident that it would be a great place to visit. We had set our hearts on the tasting menu and didn’t even get swayed by the special MasterChef menu. It was a special occasion, so we started with champagne cocktails in the bar and spent a bit more on wine to match the tasting menu.

We began by sitting in the bar with a celebratory cocktail, with a huge picture of the beautiful Debbie Harry looking over us. Cheers and congratulations to my sister Abbie who graduated with a degree in Government Studies!

The glasses were set at the table, ready for our wines to match every course.

The bread was amazing – brought to the table warm and crusty with salty, creamy butter.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Truffle Soup – this was brought to the table in a small cup, a few squares of artichoke and a little truffle   arranged inside.

Along came our waiter with a steaming jug of liquid – poured carefully into our little cups. It was so deliciously creamy, rich and truffley good that we all looked around at each other grinning. If the soup was this good, how amazing would the other courses be?!

‘Wow’ would sum up our reaction to the Citrus Cured Salmon that came next. It was almost heavenly as the salmon melted in our mouths.

Then came the gorgeous braised halibut served with squash and cumin puree, pickled baby onions and a yoghurt and pumpkin seed cracker. This was probably my favourite dish, with so many different tastes and textures.

The main course was a duo of Lake District farmers pork – a seared loin and a braised shoulder. Both were cooked perfectly and the celeriac puree, red cabbage and apple complimented it perfectly.

The cheese course which was a sliver of Garstang Blue with pear and perry chutney and toasted hazelnut bread on the side. Just the right amount of an amazing cheese.

The next course lightened things up a little – a fromage frais mousse with blueberry jelly and lemon granite. A sprinkle of popping candy really made the dish special, we all loved it!

Hot chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream was next, again an amazing dish… Problem was that at this point I had been keeping up with the boys and had drunk all the wine that had come with each course. Things had started to get a little fuzzy!

My sister’s boyfriend has a rather severe nut allergy and I cannot praise the way Abode’s staff dealt with this any more highly. At every point where there was either nut or chocolate in a dish, they prepared and brought out separately, his very own alternative. In his 37 years of living with the inconvenience, he has never felt more at ease, or more cared for in a restaurant. My memory from here rather hazy, I have no idea what this dessert was, but it looked very pretty!

We then had coffees and teas accompanied by petits fours – home-made fudge, marshmallows and raisin cakes. My sister tried the cake first and her reaction made me so excited to try it that in my haste I dropped it in my tea (absolutely nothing to do with my slight drunkenness). It was still delicious!

John had his very own special nut free cake brought out in its own little basket. He loved it!

We concluded it was one of the best meals we had all had… and then I fell asleep in the taxi and got carried to bed!



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Baking at River Cottage HQ

One of my 30th Birthday gifts (from my lovely sister) was a baking day at the River Cottage. We stayed in Axminster for the weekend, had a wonderful meal at the River Cottage Canteen, and made the most of being by the seaside by including a fossil hunting expedition. The baking day was full on, with a great mix of learning, watching, making, socialising and lots of eating!

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BBC Good Food Show – The Lovely Bits and My Highlights

There was so much going on at the BBC Good Food Show Winter this year that I’m pretty certain I missed a lot of it! With 13 theatres at the show, featuring the Great British Bake Off, Saturday Kitchen and MasterChef and the very best line up of chefs possible, there was just too many places to be at the same time! So what was I doing if I wasn’t watching the chefs?! Well, I was in my element in the Producers’ Village – tasting, talking, learning and loving every minute of it! This blog gives a little  some of my personal highlights from the show.

‘Pizza Time!’ I loved getting this text message from Tim Croft from Paddy’s Hooked on Fish – he had a deal with Amy and Chris from The Northern Dough Co (delicious frozen pizza dough) on the stand opposite… he provided the Queenie scallops, and they provided the dough, tomato sauce and cheese. Scallop pizza. I’m so glad he shared. Amazing with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon!

I always stop and consider my audience before pronouncing the word chorizo. Obviously its a spanish product, so perhaps you should pronounce as the Spanish do, which is chor-ith-o. I feel a bit of a twit saying it like that, so I usually go with chor-itz-o or chor-ise-o. I came across Ana, from Flavours of Spain, (who knows more about chorizo than anyone I know) teaching one of our visitors how to pronounce it the Spanish way. This photo catches it perfectly, don’t you think?!

I didn’t get round to eating any, but don’t these oysters from Rossmore look great!?

I almost bought this Moorlands Cheesemaker’s cheese making kit for my sister, but after asking a few strategic questions to find out if it would be a hit, we concluded that it would all be a little too smelly for her. If my flat wasn’t the size of an average person’s lounge then I would have bought one for myself.

Judy Goodman and her family rear wonderful geese – just look at the lovely way they are presented in the picture below. Goodman’s Geese are Jamie Oliver’s favourites and I can certainly vouch for them after having one at the centre of my  Christmas table for the past few years. If you haven’t tried goose then its a must – so much more luxurious than turkey.

I was very excited to taste the World Cheese Awards World Champion (we hosted the World Cheese Awards and the results were announced on the Wednesday of the show) which was a 10 month Ossau Iraty made by farmhouse producer Fromagerie Agour. I was also delighted that the Cornish Cheese Company came second overall (they were supreme champions last year). I’ve got some in my fridge to take home for the Christmas cheese board.

The World Cheese Awards judging is a spectacular occasion – over 2,500 cheeses all laid out to be judged by the ‘who’s who’ of the cheese world. Favouring Blur over Oasis back in the day, meant that seeing Alex James (from Blur) and his floppy hair perusing over the cheeses did make me go a little weak at the knees!

Beautiful freshly ground spices from Spice Boys London – it was their first BBC Good Food Show and I’m sure you will agree a great addition to the show.

I was delighted with the all round success of Simon Diss at the show – host of the Magimix Theatre. It was his first time presenting at the BBC Good Food Show and we all agreed that he was brilliant! Look out for him at future shows and follow him on twitter (@simondiss). His estate up in Cumbria also rears delicious Geese and Turkeys for Christmas, has an award winning farm shop and sounds rather idyllic – The Cowran Estate.

Now, this is a little bit embarrassing, but I featured on some of our show graphics this year at the Winter Show. It was a welcome to the Producers’ Village message (my area of the show) with a few of my highlights on it. Rather embarrassing when I had to walk past, but I’m still pretty proud of it (and so is my Dad)!


Anyway, I could go on and on, but thats enough for now… I would love to find out what I missed though – what were your highlights?


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Christmas Excitement…

Now that the shows are over (yes, I’ve been slack and still need to publish my highlights from MasterChef LIVE and BBC Good Food Show – sorry) I can’t help but be excited about Christmas! Its been such a busy couple of months at work that I have neglected my blog… but I will have so much to write about over the next few weeks that all I will need to find is the time to get it on here!

So, I have 45 minutes to write this, get dressed and get over to my friend (and colleague) Emily’s house to start our preparations for our Christmas Day in London! We are attempting to make Heston’s Meat Fruit as a starter, which I feel is rather ambitious but Emily thinks we can do it. I will take lots of pictures and report back! We then have one of Judy Goodman’s Geese for the main, with ALL the trimmings, followed by some kind of Pavlova. As you can probably tell, we still have some planning to do, and all the shopping – wish us luck!!

I bought the goose at the BBC Good Food Show and he has been patiently waiting in the freezer for us to devour today – while he roasts we will be drinking mulled wine and ice skating at Hampton Court Palace – I’m so excited!

 

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Pick Your Own, Pumpkins and Poppies

So this year, my ‘grow my own’ dream hasn’t exactly delivered, and so to pick my own I had to turn. My boyfriend and I produced little more than a handful of clove sized garlic bulbs, a few scraggy herbs and a dozen or so of the tiniest potatoes I’ve ever seen. So a few weekends ago we headed off to a local farm shop where we knew we could get that little bit closer to the good life by picking our own.

It was the last weekend of the year for pick your own and families were out in full force to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. There were a few things still available in addition to the pumpkins – sweetcorn, beetroot, spinach and to my surprise strawberries!

Some wasted cobs left naked on the ground…

 

A poppy surprised us in the middle of the corn field, which now reminds me of the amazing sight which was looking down from the gallery of Olympia, at the thousands of silent and still chefs, workers and crowds at MasterChef Live at the weekend. It was a truly moving, goose bump inducing sight.

A few strawberries still left ripe for the picking…

We left the pick your own area of the farm (Garson’s Farm in Esher) with 5 corn on the cobs which were rather over priced considering we had to do the picking ourselves! It was fun though, and got us out into the fresh air for a little while. We then heading for the farm shop where I spent as long as I could get away with looking all the wonderful produce! Jamie gets bored very quickly in such places so I have to scan the shelves wide-eyed to try to absorb all the jars, packets, boxes and tubs of goodness.

I really liked these bottles of french fizzy pop from La Mortaucienne, which are one of my Grandparents’ favourites, come in beautiful bottles and are available online from Natoora.

The other thing that caught my eye were these jars… unfortunately I didn’t stop long enough to pick up on the brand and a half-hearted google search for ‘Just So…’ didn’t bring up any results. They look great though!

The trip to the farm shop ended up rather costly (we couldn’t resist buying a picnic of meats, cheeses and olives), so I think we needed to put a little more effort into growing our own in 2012 – watch this space!

 

 

 

 

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland – Highlights

I am recovering today from a particularly brilliant BBC Good Food Show Scotland – I worked hard and played hard and hope that anyone that either visited, demonstrated or exhibited had as good a time as I did! From kippers to karaoke this blog is going to cover my personal highlights – please do add your own to the comments section.

The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse brought their traditional kipper smokers, and mounds of kippers and smoked meat, fish and game. You can order ‘kippers by post’ on their website.

We don’t do stand awards… but if we did my winner would be Crabbies, it was magical!

Although I don’t like whisky, I think one of the most innovative products we have at all our shows is the Whisky Tasting Company‘s tasting sets – perfect if you want to try whisky but not buy full bottles of each (especially the expensive ones!).

Really good smoked salmon from Rennie’s Smokehouse.
Mojito Jelly from Trotter’s Independent Condiments – tangy and tasty.
The Commonwealth Orchard‘s beautiful apple display.
Just Slate‘s gorgeous slate cake stand.
The Truckle Cheese Company‘s range seems to grow every time I see them! Make sure you try their chocolate cheese if you see them!
 
Luponde Tea‘s delicious teas ready to sample. 
Super shiny knives from Hammer Stahl Cutlery.
Gorgeous cupcakes from Truly Scrumptious.
Iron Brew Sorbet from S. Luca Ice Cream. 

Miss Tunnocks (Caramel Wafers) took a tour of the show – that dress is made out of wafer wrappers!
The Rachel’s Organic team enjoying a few drinks at our exhibitor party.
The team went to a lovely Italian restaurant on the Saturday night – Fratelli Sarti, on Bath Street. From there it went downhill with a rather fun karaoke session! We were all very proud of the show this year and hope all our visitors enjoyed!
 
So, countdown now begins for our next show – MasterChef Live, hope to see you there!

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Great Haymarket Exhibitions Bake Off!

On Wednesday Haymarket Exhibitions paid tribute to the final of the Great British Bake Off by holding their very own Great Haymarket Exhibitions Bake Off!

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Fresh Pretzels and a Walk in the Park

I got up very early this morning to go and take pictures of the beautiful hazy sunshine coming up over Bushy Park (near Hampton Court). It dawned on me that in my world 8am on a Saturday was early, but in reality, this seemed to be a normal waking time – there were about 50 cars in the car park and I was expecting to be the first there!

After a little walk in the park my boyfriend and I drove into Kingston, where we were to get breakfast, a few bits from the market and then straight home, before it got too busy. I remembered an interesting stall on the market a few weeks back and suggested pretzels for breakfast. Why Knot?

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Time for (Heston’s) Dinner

Back in April I treated, and surprised, my boyfriend to Heston Blumenthal’s then brand new restaurant Dinner. It was amazing, and I can’t believe its taken this long for me to write about it!

Dinner is Heston’s London restaurant, hosted in the rather grand Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. It is “inspired by historic British gastronomy”, headed up by Ashley Palmer Watts and was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had (and probably the most expensive!).

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The Italian Butcher – Cooking at La Cucina Caldesi

Back in August I visited La Cucina Caldesi to try Giancarlo Caldesi’s Italian Butcher Cookery Course. I was promised meat, meat and more meat and it sounded great! I hadn’t ever been to a cookery lesson or course before, so I was really excited and unsure what to expect from the day.

I arrived early at their Marylebone cookery school, and was greeted with coffee and biscotti by the very friendly, and very Italian, cookery assistants. Giancarlo then appeared, unfortunately with a limp after falling from a ladder, with a cheeky smile on his face despite his obvious discomfort. He is one of the most enthusiastic, charming and funny men I have ever met and it was a pleasure to watch him teach and share his passion for food.

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Ludlow Food Festival 2011

The Ludlow Food Festival is probably one of the most successful regional food festivals in the UK. The organiser’s strict policy to ensure all exhibitors are from the Ludlow Marches area means you are sure to find genuine local produce and meet passionate artisans from the area. As suggested in my previous post, the passion for food that shines through in the town is what, I believe, makes the Ludlow Food Festival the huge success that it is.

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Ludlow – Around the Town During the Festival

Ludlow is a beautiful little foodie town on the Welsh borders in Shropshire. Just looking round the town makes you realise why the Ludlow Food Festival is so successful – there is obviously a lot of passion and commitment both from producers and the townsfolk that buy it. There are butchers, bakers and probably candlestick makers – so many independent shops, cafes and restaurants line the streets of Ludlow.

 

One of my favourites is Price and Sons, a craft bakery headed up by the very talented Peter Cook. They always come up with a new bread for the Food Festival’s popular bread trail, I particularly like their pear and perry sourdough loaf.

 

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Spoilt Rotten

I’ve been spoilt rotten so far, and it’s not even my birthday yet! I turn 30 this Sunday which is rather scary. I’m sure I must have lost a couple of years somewhere…

My first surprise was this beautiful birthday cake made by the lovely Laura at The Dessert Deli. It was chocolate, Cointreau and raspberry and was absolutely delicious.

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Retro Campers and a White Horse

Last week I made my annual trip back home to North Norfolk for the Cromer Carnival. For a whole week the town celebrates with a parade full of fancy floats, a beer tent, a fancy dress ball, karaoke, bingo, awesome fireworks, street food and we even get a visit from the Red Arrows! Cromer gets pretty busy for the week but it’s definitely worth a visit – my favourite part is sitting in the sunken gardens on the cliff top with cider and hog roast, waiting for the parade to arrive. After the parade we walk up along the cliff top (picture below) to the carnival field, where the beer tent and band awaits!

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Scotch Eggs for a Special Picnic – My Recipe

My best friend’s fiance is currently on tour in Afghanistan, and while back for a couple of weeks for much needed R&R, one of his requests was for a big picnic, with his family and close friends. The venue was The Long Walk in Windsor, and the theme was typical traditional picnic fayre. I found out there would be a ham, Melton Mowbray pork pie, salmon terrine and game pie so my contribution had to be the all time picnic favourite – Scotch Eggs! In this blog I will share my low effort, maximum taste recipe to make golden, crispy black pudding scotched quails eggs.

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Nottingham – Concrete Lace, Scotch Eggs and a Marvellous Deli

I spent 3 fun-filled years at university in Nottingham and last weekend went back for a visit. I wish I could say that I went back to visit all my favourite foodie haunts but to be honest my budget and interest in food was rather different then to how it is now. So, I left my friend to guide me round the gastronomic highlights and also consulted the mighty twitter too.

First stop – The Kean’s Head. The lure of their scotch egg, as recommended by @simonhjohnson, was too strong to resist. The pub itself wasn’t particularly impressive, although if I liked beer then I would have been in my element – there were many to choose from!

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Producer Highlights – BBC Good Food at Westfield

We had a lovely selection of producers at  BBC Good Food at Westfield London – visitors could choose from cheese, chocolate, fine wine, curry sauce, apple crisps, rapeseed oil, sausages, cakes, chutney, olives… I could go on. Instead I will take you on a brief tour of the producers in pictures!

The stands – ready and waiting for the shopping centre to open.

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Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival – Best Bits

Although the restaurants at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival were awesome, I realised while writing this second post that what I liked most about it were the other bits! A mini farmers market, Mussel Men, giant fruit on forks, the WI, sparkly brownies, music, crumpets and strumpets!

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Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival – My Pick of the Restaurants

I was delighted to have the chance to visit Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival down on Clapham Common on Saturday. I took my best friend and we had a wonderful day in the sun, filled with amazing food, bubbly drinks and great entertainment and music.

There is so much to report from the Big Feastival that I’m splitting the day into two posts, starting first with the restaurants. We made the most of the opportunity to try both the local, and the well-known restaurants by sampling our way through their taster plates…

Popcorn Shrimp by Redhook was cooked to order, so was hot, crispy, juicy and full of flavour. I took an extra one home for my boyfriend to try as it was so good!

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Pop up BBC Good Food Show at Westfield London!

Over the last couple of weeks the team have been busy getting things ready for our first ever pop up event at Westfield London. We have brought together some of the very best MasterChef and BBC Good Food Show talent for our Cookery Theatre and have gathered a selection of the most popular producers and retailers too. Continue reading

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