Wednesday, 16 August 2017

It's Always Summer With Cider at Ember Inns

I'm always up for trying new experiences, especially when this involves food or drinks. I recently received an invite to check out the new range of ciders on offer at my local Ember Inn pubs. Now, when I think of cider, I have memories of watching teenagers drink bottles of cider being swigged in a field near my school. I've never envisaged cider to be a drink which is considered to be classy or even taste nice, but this changed when I sampled some of the cider drinks available at my local Ember Inn pub, Dog & Gun. My friend and I ordered the Smirnoff Passion fruit and Lime and the Raspberry & Pomegranate Cider. I was pleasantly surprised with how sweet and fruity the ciders were. The passion fruit gave the cider a tropical element and the lime offered a sharp kick to the cider. My friend who sampled the raspberry and pomegranate cider shared that this was sweet and refreshing. Having sampled the fruity and sweet ciders, I am a cider convert.

My local Ember Inn pub have a fantastic evening set meal deal, 3 courses for £11.49 which offers amazing value for money. For starters my friend and I ordered the King Prawn Cocktail (£1 supplement) which was served in a Marie Rose sauce on a bed of crisp leaves with wholemeal bread and butter and the Home Fried Nachos topped with melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, spicy salsa and jalapeño peppers. The king prawns were plump and the nachos were hearty and the nachos were crisp.

For our mains, my friend and I ordered the Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodles - chargrilled chicken with dressed egg noodles, shredded crispy vegetables, coriander and spring onions and the 8oz Rump Steak (£1.50 supplement), served with seasoned chips, a grilled flat mushroom, garden peas, battered onion rings and half a grilled tomato. My friend said the sweet chilli chicken noodles were light and flavoursome. The rump steak, which I ordered was delicious, perfectly served medium. I ordered the borderlaise sauce to accompany the steak which was rich and complemented the steak well. 

The desserts were such a delight, I ordered one of my ultimate favourite puddings: sticky toffee pudding: which is described as an indulgent pudding served with custard and my friend ordered the Belgian Chocolate Brownie served warm with ice-cream and chocolate sauce. My Sticky Toffee Pudding was amazing and everything which I expect a sticky toffee pudding to be: rich, indulgent and gory. My friend shared that she found the chocolate brownie to be a tad too rich for her, however when I tried this I enjoyed it.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Ember Inns to check out the Summer Ciders and great value for money meals. I plan on visiting by the end of the month to enjoy a Sunday roast and also to sample some more ciders.

Thank you to Ember Inns for the invitation.


Friday, 11 August 2017

The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

The classic ice-cream book by David Lebovitiz, The Perfect Scoop has been reissued by Jacqui Small publishing and what a delight this Summer book is. Although I own almost 200 cookbooks, I only own one ice-cream book. The Perfect Scoop wa posted through my door at an ideal time as I wanted to use more of my ice cream maker during the British Summer.  The Perfect Scoop is a critically exclaimed book and considered to be one of the better ice-cream books.

Making ice-cream is incredibly easy especially with an ice-cream maker, but what makes this dessert book so different is the range of flavour combinations. The Perfect scoop not only covers ice-cream recipes, but also recipes for sorbets, granitas and sweet accompaniments. The author must have been eaten a lot of frozen desserts as this is a very comprehensive book on how to make the perfect ice-cream , such as how to make the perfect ice-cream custard and how to increase flavour combinations such as alcohol and fruit. Flicking through this book, I really like David's enthusiasm and chatty approach. So far, I've made a couple of the recipes, the peanut butter ice-cream and the pineapple sorbet, the first is like a taste of heaven.

The chapters in this book are divided into the following chapters:
  •  Basics, In this chapter, key ingredients are covered, extracts and equipment. 
  • Ice Creams- My favourite chapter, recipes to try include Peanut Butter Ice-Cream, Milk Chocolate Ice-Cream, White Chocolate Ice Cream, Coffee Ice-Cream, Green Tea Ice-Cream, Butterscotch Pecan Ice-Cream, Tiramisu Ice Cream and Peach Ice Cream. There are also a number of frozen yogurts in this chapter including: Blueberry Frozen Yogurt and Vanilla Yogurt. 
  • Sorbets and Sherbet, stand out recipes include Mango Sorbet, Pear Sorbet, Strawberry Sorbet, Pineapple Sorbet and Pina Colada Sorbet and Papaya - Lime Sorbet. 
  • Granitas, delightful looking recipes include: Plum Granita, Nectarine Granita, Champagne Cassis Granita  
  • Sauces and Toppings, lots of  recipes for luscious sauces including Chocolate Fudge Sauce, Salted Butter Caramel Sauce  and Blueberry Sauce.
  • Mix-ins, recipes to try include: Peanut Brittle, Fudge Ripple and Marshmallows. 
  • Vessels, great accompaniments for ice-scream, stand out recipes include Crepes and Chewy-Dense Brownies. 
Recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream
180g smooth peanut butter
180g sugar
660ml single cream
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Puree the peanut butter, sugar, single cream, salt and vanilla in a blender or food processor until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

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Monday, 7 August 2017

Hotel Chocolat Chocs to Chill Sleekster Review and Giveaway

A lovely parcel arrived at my home a couple of weeks ago from my favourite chocolate company, Hotel Chocolat. Hotel Chocolat have a range of seasonal chocolates which make the perfect gift for yourself or as a present.  The Summer Season is all about ice-creams, milkshakes and smoothies and the lovely people over at Hotel Chocolat have in-cooperated Summer flavours into their Chocs to Chill Sleekster chocolates. With flavours including Chocolate Milkshake, Vanilla Truffle, Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, Pink Lemonade and Coconut and Mango Smoothie the chocolates are a Summer flavour explosion.

There is a retro feel to some of the flavour combinations features and for the best results, it's best to chill the chocolates 30 minutes in the fridge before serving, if you can wait that long.  My personal favourite is the Coconut and Mango Smoothie, the flavour is soo exotic and luxurious. Retailing at £22.50, this is an affordable small taste of luxury which you can indulge yourself in.

The lovely people at Hotel Chocolat are giving one lucky reader a Choc to Chill Sleekster. If you want to be in with a chance follow the instructions.

  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget. 
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  • Please feel free to share the giveaway. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

July 2017 Monthly Eatings

July is another bumper month food wise, I've visited a number of fabulous restaurants which i'm pleased to share with you.

Mughale Azam - Birmingham - full review will be on the blog shortly

Casaba - Birmingham 

Ginger and Co Shrewsbury


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Calaloo and Cheddar Tart

I love calalloo a leafy green leaf, similar to spinach, originating in West Africa and eaten throughout the Caribbean, it has such a robust flavour.  This tart is perfect for the Spring and Summer months and is incredibly light. I love serving this for picnics and al fresco dining alike. Serve with a leafy garden salad.

You will need: mixing bowl, dried beans and  9 inch flan tin
Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus cooling time.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes.

Fry light for greasing
1 quantity of shortcrust pastry or (1 shop brought ready rolled shortcrust pastry)
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 green birdseye chilli, thinly sliced
3 eggs
125 ml semi-skimmed milk
100g mature cheddar cheese
280 g tinned calaloo or (200g fresh spinach,  washed and finely chopped)
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Lightly grease the flan tin with a couple of sprays of fry light. Lay the shortcrust pastry over a flan dish place a baking sheet with dried beans and blind bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the orange pepper, spring onions and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the 3 eggs, milk and 50g of cheese, until everything is well mixed. Open the tin of calaloo (or spinach if using), place in a colander and rinse.

Remove the flan tin from the oven and remove the baking paper. Add the peppers, spring onions and calaloo in the tart case, try to smooth evenly. Add the egg-milk mixture over the flan tin and top with the remaining 50g cheese. Bake for around 30 minutes on the top shelf, or until golden brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Review of Sharing Plates by Luke Mangan

As many of you know, I love cookbooks. When I'm thinking of purchasing or reviewing a new cookbook, I always consider books that specialise in a specific subject, or new chefs which challenge me with creating more adventurous dishes. What really appealed to me about one of the latest addition to my ever expanding cookbook collection is Sharing Plates: For Brunch, Lunch and Dinner with Friends by Luke Mangan. Currently on sale for £15.90 on Amazon, but can be brought slightly cheaper on other online book stores. I really enjoy cooking feasts and tapas/mezze style dishes to feast on, so the idea of a cookbook dedicated to recipes to share really appealed to me. The author is an Australian chef who owns a number of restaurants. The authors professional chef background is evident throughout this cookery book. I would say that this cookery book is more for the accomplished cook. Because of the theme of Sharing Plates, a lot of the recipes take some time to make, but the flavour combinations and innovative recipes make up for the fact that the recipes take a little longer than the average. 

There are a number of chapters in this book and there is a recipe for any time of the day. Any cookbook which features a chapter on breakfast is a winner for me.
  • Breakfast and Brunch, recipes to try include : Quail Eggs Benedict with Chilli Kale on Mini Muffins, Pancetta & Onion tarts with Asparagus, Buffalo Mozzarella & Honey Thyme Dressing, Smoked Ham, Tomato, Creamed Chard & Gruyere Toasties and the recipe featured Shakshuka with Spinach Parathas. 
  • Bread - lovely looking recipes include: Potato, Caramelised Onion, Fig, Gorgonzola and Grilled Raddicchio Pizzas, Truffled Mushroom & Pecorina Flatbreads and Fruit and Nut bread. 
  • Snacks and Salads - recipe to try include Samosas of Curried Pumpkin & Feta with Mint & Lime yogurt, Salad of Roasted Pumpkin, Chorizo, Chickpeas, Quinoa & Blue Cheese and Honey & Oregano Haloumi with Fig with Golden Beets, Dandelion & Walnuts. 
  • Oyster & Sashimi, recipes to try include - Oysters in Chickpea Batter with Smoky Eggplant & Tzatski and Kingfish Sashimi with nam jim, lime leaf, Coconut Yoghurt & Toasted Jasmine Rice. 
  • Fish and Shellfish - standout recipes include: Salt Cod Croquettes with Piccalilli, Milk Buns with Lobster & Vietnamese Slaw, Seared Scallops with Padron Peppers, fresh Cheese, Romesco & Chorizo Jam and Grilled Chorizo & Octopus with Piquillo Peppers & Apple & Ginger Puree. 
  • Meat - lovely looking recipes include: Moroccan Lamb Cutlets with Raisin & Caper Puree, Broccolini & Hazelnuts,  Beef Short Ribs with Pedra Ximenez roasted red onion and carrot & Cumin Puree and Thai Beef Koftas in Lettuce Cups with Coconut Sauce.
  • Poultry - recipes to try include: Duck Prosciutto with Sliced Peach, Toasted Walnuts & Elderflower Dressing, Chicken Garam Masala with Raita & Tomato & Onion Salad and Salt and Sugar-Cured Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper, Turnip & Tamarillo Glaze. 
  • Sweet - Stand out recipes include: Salted Chocolate Honeycomb, Pistachio & Chocolate Cake with Red Wine & Coffee-Braised Quince, Mini Pistachio Creme Brûlée Tarts and Bounty Bars.

Recipe for Shakshuka and Spinach Parathas
One of my favourite brunch dishes, the Middle Eastern favourite is served with Moerish spinach Parathas. 
For the Shakshua
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 onion, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
400g tin crushed tomatoes
6 large free-range eggs
1/4 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley, leaves only, chopped
1/4 bunch dil, leaves only chopped. 

For the spinach parathas
325g plain flour
1 egg
1 tablespoom extra virgin olive oil
250g spinach, blanched
3 tablespoon plain yogurt
2 large garlic cloves peeled 
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
vegetable oil, for greasing

Method for Shakshuka
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic, capsicum, chilli, cumin and paprika and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the mixture in an ovenproof dish and onto a baking tray. Using a serving spoon to make six small wells, then crack an egg into each well. 
Cover the dish with a plate or foil. Transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the eggs are just set. 

Method for Spinach Parathas 
Combine the flour, egg ad olive oil in a bowl, mixing well. Place the spinach, yoghurt, garlic, salt and spiced in a blender. Whiz to a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary, then add to the flour mixture and mix to form a medium-firm dough. You may need to add some water.
Shape the dough into a ball, then rub a few drops of vegetable oil on the top to stop the dough drying out. Cover and rest for 15-20 minutes in a warm place. 
Heat a tava pan, cast-iron pan or skillet over medium heat. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 2-3 minutes. Divide into golf ball sized portions roughly 80g each. Roll one portion at a time into a smooth ball and flatten it out with your palms on a clean bench. Smear each piece of dough with a little vegetable oil.
Stretch one piece of dough out from the sides until it is four times its original size. Fold back into the centre from all the corners, to make a round 13-15 cm (5-6 inch diameter) paratha. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
One at a time, place a paratha onto the pan and cook over low heat until bubbles appear. Flip it over and cook 1-2 minutes. Lightly brush more oil on top, then flip it over again and cook for another minute. Transfer to a plate and cover with a clean towel to keep warm, while cooking the remaining parathas. 
The parathas are best served warm. They can be reheated by wrapping in foil and warming in a 180C oven for 5 minutes. 

Many thanks to Murdoch books for this cookery book. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

O'Neill's Sound of Summer Competition

O'Neill's, the popular Irish pub chain is launching their Sound Of Summer Competition to find the next big thing in music. 

If you love discovering new acts, hidden talent and listening to live music, O’Neill’s Sound of Summer is your chance to do just that. This is a fantastic nationwide battle of the bands, coming to a venue near you. One band will win a fabulous prize package including £6k, a slot in the Jaegerhaus at a UK leading festival, as well as enough studio time to record their first big hit. 

They could be following in the footsteps of a number of other superstars who have performed at various O’Neill’s venues throughout the UK and you could be there to witness this brand new talent emerge. 

Huge names such as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart have performed at the Wardour Street venue. What’s more, it was the backdrop to David Bowie’s MTV video ‘Blue Jeans’, as well as the recording location of Georgie Fame’s the Night train. 

Catch O’Neill’s Sound of Summer competition at venues nationwide until 16th July and regional semi finals in Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Reading and London between 20th July and 10th August. The Birmingham event is Thursday 27th July and I may pop in to see the local talent

The grand final will be taking place at Wardour Street on 24th August. x 

In collaboration with O'Neill's.


Friday, 14 July 2017

June 2017 Monthly Eatings

June was another bumper moved, where I travelled around the West Midlands, London and  I also visited Wales, sampling a diverse range of dishes.  From pub grub, Thai food and Korean delights, this was a foodalicious month.  

The Oddfellows Wolverhampton

Siamais - Birmingham

Shire Horse Stafford

Beefeater - Wolverhampton, Moseley Park

Carluccios - full review is here

The Sloop Inn, Porthgain

London - Street Food near Tower Bridge

Thai Red Square

I paid for all bar one of the meals myself :-)

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Review of Carluccio's Summer Menu Solihull

Carluccio's restaurant is the brainchild of the much loved Italian food chef, Antonio Carluccio. Better known as one half of the Two Greedy Italians, he also owns a number of Italian restaurants which are in many cities throughout the country. One of the latest addition to the Carluccio's restaurant family is a recent opening in Solihull, West Midlands. Perfectly located on Solihull high street, the restaurant offers a modern and sophisticated dining experience, with outdoor seating which is perfect for al fresco dining. What I really liked about this restaurant, is that there is an in-house shop selling a range of Italian delights. There is also an open plan kitchen where you can see chefs prepare your meals alongside a delicatessen whereby you can purchase olives, cure meats and even a slice of cake.

I attended with my cousin and our waitress was very friendly and attentive. We started with non-alcoholic cocktails, as we were driving with a fruity minty summer drink.

For our starters, I wanted to challenge myself and order something I would not normally try. I ordered the Prawns Marinara  (£6.75)- marinated prawns sautéed with white wine, baby plum tomatoes, chilli and fennel seeds in a tomato & basil sauce. This was served with grilled ciabatta. I found the prawns to be seasoned well, the tomato sauce was thick which was perfect for dunking the ciabatta bread in.

My cousin ordered the Crab Macaroni (£6.95) , white crab meat in a rich cheese sauce topped with garlic breadcrumbs. I sampled a portion of the crab macaroni, I found the the starter to be very hearty and rich.

For the main courses I chose the Lamb Alla Griglia (£15.95) - marinated tender lamb chops chargrilled and drizzled with mint pesto, served with couscous and mixed leaves. I normally order a pasta dish or chicken dish at Italian restaurants but as the Lamb Alla Griglia is a new dish on the Summer menu, I thought I would give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that I received 3 lamb chops - they weren't too big, they were the perfect size and slathered with mint pesto.

My cousin was going for another pasta dish for her main and ordered the Festoni with Smoked Salmon & Vodka £12.50 - pasta tossed in tomato, vodka and cream sauce finished with smoked salmon and basic. My cousin described the festoon with smoked salmon to be very generous in it's portion size, well seasoned and had enough smoked salmon pieces. My cousin shared that she couldn't really taste the vodka in the pasta. 

My cousin and I ordered a side dish each: Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Potatoes £3.50 and  Garlic Foccacia £3.95, both were superb.

The dessert menu had my taste buds jumping for joy, I was really spoilt for choice with the range of Italian delights which included: Panna Cota and Affogtoa. I chose the Italian classic Tiramisu £5.75 and Chocolate & Rum Fudge Cake £5.50. The Tiramisu was strong, but good; strongly flavoured with coffee liqueur, chocolate and biscuits. I would go so far to say, the tiramisu was my favourite course of the meal (I have a sweet tooth so I am slightly biased). I also was able to taste the Chocolate Rum Fudge Cake  £5.50 which I can describe as heaven on a plate: rich, gooey and chocolicious.

Our lovely waiter offered us a shot of limoncello. but we had to decline due to us driving back.
I think the new Summer menu is a great way of trying authentic, fresh Italian dishes and would recommend a visit to Carluccio's to sample these delights.

Many thanks to Carluccios for inviting me to review their new Summer menu.
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