Thursday, 14 September 2017


I have fond memories of walking past W H Smith circa 2010-2011 at Birmingham New Street when the train station was undergoing refurbishment. Back then, I was studying my Masters degree and would pass time before train transfers to flick through Readers Digest baking book for recipe inspiration. The brownies featured in this book are probably the easiest baking recipe in this book, however when you want a quick chocolate fix, these brownies serve the purpose; they are incredibly easy to make. What's better is these brownies taste amazing, rich and moerish. I added some white chocolate (which is of course optional)  in the brownie mixture which gave it a further chocolate hit. 

125g buter at room temperature
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
230g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
60g plain flour
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
100g walnuts

Use a 20cm (8in) square tin. Grease and line with baking parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F Gas Mark 4) . Melt the butter and 115g go the chocolate in a bowl and set over gently simmering water; remove from heat and leave to cool. 
Whisk the eggs in a bowl with electric beaters. Gradually add the sugar; beat continuously until the mixture is thick and foamy and leaves a ribbon - like trail when the beaters are lifted. Add the vanilla essence and the chocolate mixture and blend in thoroughly. Sift flour and cocoa powder over the mixture and scatter in walnuts and the rest of the chocolate. Fold the mixture together with a large spoon. 
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is a rich brown. place a piece of foil over the top if it looks to be in danger of burning. Cool brownies briefly in the tin cut into squares. Cool brownies completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight conner; they will keep 3-4 days. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Made in Vietnam Review

I only very recently discovered the delights of Far Eastern cooking. This was by chance, during a trip to New York in April this year. I was tired of all the heavy carb based dishes and fancied a light Thai meal. After eating a fiery, light and flavoursome Thai dish in New York, I made it my mission to explore this cuisine and other cuisines in the Far East. I know very little about Vietnam or Vietnamese cuisine, but as a hungry foodie, I am always eager to learn.

This cookery book Made In Vietnam enables me to go on a culinary cooking tour for Vietnamese cooking virgin, such as me, the authors Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, give a short introduction to Vietnamese Cuisine and the cornerstones to the cuisine: rice, fish and herbs. Also, the authors share the influences to this cuisine such as Chinese and French influences. The recipes in this book are dishes the authors have collected over the years and been living and travelling in this country. There are some harder to find ingredients in the cookery book, however if you live near a city featuring a Far Eastern community, you will be able to easily access such ingredients, or use substitutes. 
Made In Vietnam is currently on sale for £14.99, many recipes have photos, recipes are in English and Vietnamese which offers another unusual touch.

The chapters in this book are:
  • Rice and Bread - lots of luscious side dishes including: Broken Rice, Fried Sticky Rice and Vietnamese Baguette.
  • Vegetables and Salads - recipes to try include: Cabbage and Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Mint, Choko and Barbecued Pork Salad, Crispy Noodle Cake, With Sauteed Prawns and Vegetables and Green Mango and Sun Dried Squid Salad and Squid Pomelo Salad. 
  • Barbecued Prawns with Lemongrass, Fish Cakes in Young Green Rice, Prawn Tails Cooked in Coconut Milk and Salted Fish and Fried Rice.
  • Poultry - standout recipes include: Baby Chicken with Char grilled with Kaffir Lime Leaves, Crispy Chicken Wings with Fish Sauce, Soy Poached Chicken and Hoi An Chicken and Rice.
  • Pork, Beef and Goat: standout recipes include: Sticky Rice From The Countryside with Pork and Mung Beans, Pork Ribs Braised with Peanut and Lemongrass and Goat Curry.
  • Condiments: recipes include: Hoisin Dipping Sauce and Lime Chili Dipping Salt.
  • Sweets: standout recipes include: Coconut Ice-cream, Sticky Rice with Red Beans, Coconut and Sesame Seeds and Salty Peanut and Sesame Cookies. 

Recipe for Cabbage and Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Mint
Serves 6
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cabbage, thinly sliced
2 carrots, cut into long thin strips
3 red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
1 handful Vietnamese mint
1 long chilli, cut into rings
2 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped, plus 1 teaspoon extra, to serve

120g sugar
100ml lime juice
60ml fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the chicken, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a chopping board, leave to cool, then cut or shred the chicken into thin strips. Place in a large bowl.
To make the dressing, whisk together the sugar and lime juice until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the fish sauce and garlic.
Add the vegetables, min, chili and peanuts to the chicken. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine. 
Serve on a large platter, sprinkled with the remaining peanuts. 


Thursday, 31 August 2017

August 2017 Monthly Eatings

Another month of visiting a number of fabulous eateries. This month, I checked out Independent restaurants, Chain Restaurants and Pubs.

Staffordshire Grill - Brewood, Staffordshire

Dog and Gun, Wolverhampton

Damascana Coffee House - Birmingham

Chiquitos - Dudley


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Mugham e Azam

Manchester has a curry mile located on the famous Wilmslow Road known for it's large concentration of restaurants specialising in South Asian cuisine. Similarly, London has it's own famous curry quarters, Brick Lane, known for it's vast number of Bengali restaurants. Birmingham, the second city has it's own area known for it's curry houses, although as not as famous as Manchester's Curry Mile or London's Brick Lane, Birmingham's Balti Triangle has a large number of enticing curry houses. Consisting of mainly Pakistani restaurants,  Birmingham's Balti triangle is located in the areas of Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley. Located 3 miles to the South East of the city, this area is easily accessible for visitors to the city and locals alike. As I work in Birmingham, I am very familiar with the curry houses in the Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath area. A drive through Stratford Road, I am reminded the brilliance of living in a diverse and multi-cultural city and am spoilt for choice with the number of restaurants in the Balti Triangle.

A restaurant which I drove past on many occasions is the Mughale e Azam restaurant, which is located in a former church, the imposing building looks intriguing. I've been to many Bangladeshi curry houses, but this is the first time I've visited a Pakistani restaurant. I arrived at Mughale e Azam at 6:30 on a Friday evening, there were a handful of diners, however throughout the evening, the restaurant became busy with families, friends and couples. One thing that I really liked about Mughale e Azam, is the stunning and opulent decor. 

My cousin and I started off with popadoms and a series of chutneys. The popadoms were crisp, I like the chutneys, however I was slightly disappointed that there wasn't any lime pickles.

 For starters we ordered Masala Fish, fresh fillet of cod marinated with spices and deep fried, alongside the Kastori Bout, tenderloin of chicken marinated with ginger, gram flour, fenugreek and topped with cheese. I really enjoyed the Kastori Bout, the chicken was fried and therefore crispy, yet the chicken was moist. The Kastori Bout was lightly spiced. My cousin ordered the Masala Fish which was lightly spiced and crispy.

For the main course, there was a range of new and exciting dishes. I expected Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Bhuna and Chicken Korma to be on the menu but they were not featured which was refreshing. 

I ordered the  Lamb Karahi £8.95, lamb on the bone with fresh tomatoes, onions and green chillies on top. My cousin ordered the Lamb Bhindi (okra) £8.95, lamb and okra cooked with spices, tomatoes and garlic.  My cousin shared that she thoroughly enjoyed the combination of lamb and okra and the flavour of the curry was rich. Although I enjoyed my lamb karahi and in particular ordering a curry which is on the bone,  I was slightly disappointed that the dishes were not very spicy, as I  do like spicy curries.

 For the side dishes my cousin and I decided to share the lemon rice £2.95, which is not only a fantastic colour, the lemon flavour really came through and complimented the rich curries well. As I love naan bread, we decided on ordering one naan bread each, the keema (mince) £2.60 and garlic naan £2.60, the flavours of both were absolutely amazing. 

If you live in Birmingham or plan on having a city break there, the balti triangle is definitely worth checking out. 
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Travelodge for asking me to review one of the curry houses in the Balti Triangle.

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