Gung Hay Fat Choy – my favourite New Year

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Celebrate Chinese New Year in tasty style

I don’t love the New Year that falls at the end of December. It always seems to be disappointing reality over incredible expectation. I mean, how many dreadful, overpriced meals, followed by a triple rate taxi ride if you can get one have already paid the babysitter quadruple rates.

How much better to wait a few weeks, and then indulge in some great Chinese food. I mean, we’d love to be heading to Hong Kong to celebrate it, but Chinatown would do, or even just a good local Chinese restaurant.

I’m sure if it’s a good restaurant, you’ll need to book for the weekend ahead, but I reckon it will still be a better deal than most places on New Year’s Eve. Alternatively, have a trip to a good Chinese supermarket ahead of time and get stocked up. I’m buying won ton wrappers and making pot stickers.

I’m sure if you live near a Chinatown then there’ll be plenty going on to enjoy. And you might not even need a babysitter, as most events happen in the daytime. Now, pass me some dim sum please!

Photo by Paolo Camera on Flickr.

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What to drink on a Dry January Friday night

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Drinks for Dry January and beyond

 

Let’s be clear on something:

  1. I’m not doing Dry January.
  2. In spite of my love of gin…and wine…and champagne…I’m not actually a very big drinker.

So actually I spend quite a lot of time drinking non alcoholic stuff. Which has been dominated basically by elderflower anything. It’s a move on from lime and soda for sure.

But I think what’s really exciting is the development of lots more alternatives in the drinks department geared towards adults. So whether you’re doing Dry January (in which case please go and try these in your local pub, they still need you) or you choose not to drink alcohol all the time or just sometime, then these are worth a look:

Non alcoholic wines from Belvoir Fruit Farms

Belvoir Fruit Farms deliver a large amount of the cordial content of this house, mainly because they are just up the road. I am really excited by their alcohol free wines as something new to add to the table, particularly for a dinner. The white is from Chardonnay grape juice, blended with peach juice and elderflower, and the red is Shiraz with elderberry and blackcurrant juice. The rosé is a mix of grapes of all colours, but sounds delicious none the less. I can see me keeping stocks of all of these in.

 

Gunna Drinks

I quite often switch to a ginger beer, particularly if I’m eating something more meaty or spicy. Gunna say they are here to spice up the soft drinks market, and their original drink would seem to do that. A blend of spring water, natural gingers, lemon juice and aromatic spices, this sounds like a good winter version of a soft drink.  Great looking packaging too.

 

Seedlip Spirits. Which are not spirits.

 

Seedlip seem to be a very sophisticated offering in this field, and act as great alternatives to gin and vodka. Copper pot distilled, these are sugar and sweetener free, no artificial flavours and still calorie free, these are designed to work with tonic. I think Spice 94 would be my winter choice, moving to Garden 108 for the warmer weather. Not cheap at £27.99, and I think I’d want to try it before committing to a bottle so will be looking out for bars serving it.

 

Nix and Kix Two

 

Nix & Kix would also spice things up, as this one is delivering a hit of cayenne chilli in each drink. Mango & Ginger sounds like a ready made bedmate for chilli, Cucumber & Mint less so, but not tried it so I won’t knock it. Look, it’s a bit light on the benefits of cayenne, it references the 1000 years of benefits but not what it’s doing for you here. Which I imagine is not much. Buy it for the taste, not benefits.

Double Dutch Premium Mixers

Double Dutch’s products could be mixers, or could just be a great drink on their own. Pomegranate & Basil would be right up my street, but then Cucumber & Watermelon sounds great too. Just keep me away from adding the gin to them!

So whether it’s Dry January or Sober October, or all the months in between, then definitely worth checking out your options, whether in a bar, the pub or the supermarket. And if they’re not stocking anything interesting then ask for it, it’s the only way to get things changed.

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Food culture, not just ancient culture, in Paphos

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Food culture and more in Paphos

Paphos is the joint European Capital of Culture this year (along with Aarhus in Denmark, in case you’re interested). Which might surprise you, as you might just think of it as a place for a week in the sun. But there’s more to it than that.

Now, there are lots of incredible sites of ancient culture in Paphos and the beautiful surrounding countryside, which you could spend weeks exploring. There are many beautiful hotels, and there are some really naff ones (hello The Roman, I’m looking at you).

But I’ve already written that my favourite thing, unsurprisingly, about Paphos is the food, which is definitely about culture to me. Let’s face it, if anything binds us to those who went before, it has to be that we all had to eat and drink.

And culture can be many things. There’s history to the dishes, passed down the generations from ancient starting points. There’s the mixing of cultural influences, particularly in somewhere like Cyprus, a great trading post or stopping off post for travellers in all ages.

There’s myth and legend, which is bound to either get mixed up in food and drink, or get some good retellings after a little bit too much of the local wine. And there is some good wine, although my experience it doesn’t travel well.

My original article is here, and I would love to be there, eating some of these dishes, at some of these places. I have to give a health warning here, I no longer have connections with the island (well, not living ones, my dad is enjoying his eternal rest under a shade giving tree there) so I haven’t been in about 4 years, but I would still recommend it.

Look, like many places with sunshines and beaches, there are some incredibly naff parts where you could be anywhere. But with a bit of searching out, and heading a bit off the main drag, then you will definitely find out why Paphos is well deserving of its year in the cultural spotlight. And you will enjoy some brilliant, local, seasonal cooking, at a fraction of the price those titles might set you back in many other cities.

And I would still prefer a Keo beer to Denmark’s biggest beer export. Especially on the beach at sunset.

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Japanese Peruvian food is this year’s big thing!

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Lemon and chilli to get us going

 

Well, it is in this household, thanks to a great couple of hours on a course at Divertimenti just before Christmas. I’d never heard of Japanese Peruvian food and, being an out of towner, then couldn’t reel off 3 Peruvian restaurants I’d eaten at.

All the Londoners could.

Let’s face it, we haven’t even got a Wahaca yet in Nottingham. But I digress. We picked this because it was the course on the date nearest to MGGs birthday, not because we’d seen in Olive that Peruvian and Japanese Peruvian would be big in 2017.

Led by Fabricio Cano, this gave us an introduction to the cuisine, but with recipes that I’ll be making at home. Teriyaki sauce will be coming from a pan not a bottle in the future, apparently keeps well for a fortnight in the fridge. This time we converted it into a Peruvian teriyaki beef with stir fry vegetables, definitely one for a week day supper.

 

Beef teriyaki on the go

 

I loved doing the ceviche and the sushi rolls. I mean, look at the tuna we started with!

 

Some serious tuna going on

 

Being in the Midlands fish this fresh is a little more difficult to come by, but I would definitely do this if I was passing a good fishmongers.

 

Tiradito Nikkei

 

We did a salmon ceviche maki alongside the tuna dishes, all amazing. Fabricio talked about lots the techniques of ceviche, how long to leave it for, even down to things like ditching the middle of the red onions for ceviche as the flavour is too strong.

 

Ceviche Nikkei

 

MGG and I both loved making the gyoza, and were pretty impressed with our pleating. We could have just polished off the plate of these, and will be making these soon.

 

Pork gyoza, pleated by us

 

I loved this as a course, there were 7 of us on it, everything was really well organised, and the pace was great. Sitting down to eat everything we’d cooked together was lovely too, helped along with some sake, a classic Chilcano de Pisco and some good wine. That was me, not MGG.

 

Peruvian Japanese lunch is served

 

This is not for you if you’re a bit shy, as you are essentially cooking in the middle of the lower shop floor, but that wasn’t a problem for us. I’d definitely look to go on other courses at Divertimenti, there’s everything from baking through Italian food, knife skills to Malaysian. Fabricio is teaching again in March, this time Peruvian street food.

Lovely to go on, reasonable from a cost perspective and a great range of subjects. The only downside is you’ve got to try and get through the Divertimenti shop without spending anything…! So tempting, so many things you never knew would help your cooking and baking!

 

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Food trends of 2017: what will the hipsters do?

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What will the hipsters eat this year?

 

I had thought about trying to analyse the many lists of food trends for this year, to see if could reach a consensus of what were the really big things making food waves.

Well, turns out Eater (not to mention their big team of writers) got their first, and their list of all lists is most definitely worth a read. But analysing that, I would say from their leg work that these are things that are getting lots of noise so might be worth a taste or two. Unless you’re a hipster, in which case get busy on all of these!

 

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

 

Photo from BBC Good Food

Well, who am I to disagree with Bon Appetit and the James Beard Foundation, but I would have thought this one was beyond a trend now, and is now mainstream, but maybe not. They both say it’s the new kale, which hopefully means kale is over and done with. So, possibly time to start perfecting your cauliflower pizza crust or rice.

 

Vegetables

 

Vegetables may be about to rule the world

 

It’s a takeover. It’s all about the veg. Apart from where it’s about the return of proper butchers. Or maybe it’s more about balance than ever before. But Bloomberg, James Beard and the Telegraph are all backing veg for an even bigger role this year. Good news for vegetarians, that maybe there might be choices on the menu, which is probably good news for all of us.

 

Savoury Yogurts

 

Beetroot moves into dairy

 

Maybe this is the spin off of the rise of vegetables, and that they are just taking over everything. Apparently could be beetroot, carrot or sweet potato amongst others. Waitrose say it’s a thing, and the Telegraph reported it.

Beetroot from Pinterest.

 

Sprinkles

 

Sprinkle as though you're a 7 year old!

 

Enough with the healthy stuff, this is a trend all about full on, technicolour desserts, overflowing with sprinkles and other sugary stuff. It was a trend from the James Beard Foundation, but pulling on reports from the New York Times, BuzzFeed and the Washington Post, not to mention all over Pinterest. But if it’s a dull night in January, then I say bring on the sprinkles.

 

Filipino Food

 

 

 

I thought that Japanese Peruvian food was going to be the thing, or maybe just because that’s the last course we went on. But according to Bloomberg and Food Network, Filipino food is the next thing. It could be great, as they describe it as the original fusion food, with influences from Chinese, Spanish, Malay and other South Eastern Asian cuisines amongst others. We will all know more about lumpia, longganisa and kinilaw by the end of the year. To be fair, we haven’t even got a Wahaca yet in Nottingham, so it may take some time to experience this locally.

 

These lists don’t really matter, you can just ignore them as you choose. Or you can have fun exploring some of them. Which to me is what food should really be about.

Now, pass the sprinkles please.

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The Friday Five – Healthy eating, no fads allowed

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Healthy eating, no fads allowed

 

I don’t have a great record on healthy eating books, or certainly those of a certain mindset around “healthy” eating. Deliciously Ella lasted about 2 days in my house, and a book with a recipe for unicorn fuel is my worst cookbook of the year.

But, it’s January, and many of us are thinking about how we could eat a bit more healthily, whether for health or vanity. These ones are ones that tick the boxes in that they do have proper recipes in (although one may have avocado on toast as a recipe, close call) and are quite clearly geared up to people who like to eat and like to cook.

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

 

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

 

I’m not the biggest Jamie Oliver fan, I’ve had a number of his books over the years but none have stayed in the house too long. I was given this one though, and MGG and I have cooked from it a lot. It’s an interesting read, as well as good recipes, and is definitely geared to busy family life. We loved the pesto and curry paste recipes, these are all in the freezer. The only nay from us was the Butternut Squash Mac’n’Cheese. In MGG’s view, some things are not meant to be healthy.

 

Fitness Food/Fitness Gourmet

 

Fitness Food

 

Took me a few moments to work out this is exactly the same book, just in hardback and paperback. I liked this when I reviewed the original version, other than the incident with the coconut pancakes. Still avoid that one, the recipe looks to be exactly the same between the editions. It’s easy to follow, you can work out how to dial up dishes if it’s just you on reduced calories and you’ve got growing teens to cater for too.

 

Cook Nourish Glow

 

Cook Nourish Glow

 

Amelia Freer’s second book, and I thought that with my history I was straying into dangerous territory here. But I managed to get all the way through without one FFS, so pretty good going. There is quite a bit of raw kale, which is a no go with us, but there are plenty of tasty things like chicken breast with ginger and apricot stuffing, or halibut ceviche. I like her writing style, she talks as a fellow adult, and there are plenty of well known people who will testify to the success of her approach.

 

Ready Steady Glow

 

Ready Steady Glow

 

I’m going to get these two confused. Both second books, this one by Madeleine Shaw is about wheat and sugar free, and well written. Although I can live without a yoga routine in my cookbooks if I’m honest, but it’s right at the back so you can skip it. Apricots and chicken feature again, but also something different like slow roast beef cheeks with celeriac mash. Sounds like perfect winter cooking to me, just with healthy overtones.

 

Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet

 

Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet

 

Okay, this one isn’t out for a few more days, and I haven’t seen anything of it other than what is on Amazon. Well, that and the change in Tom’s appearance. Let’s face it, he’s about a third of the man he was, but you can’t imagine he’s been living on rice cakes and almond butter. I’m know he’s been putting in the hours at the gym as well (I have a great story about him and a friend of mine in the sauna at the gym…nothing remotely mucky, all about getting a table at the Hand & Flowers), but I reckon if this worked for Tom then it must be good, and very tasty. I mean, you won’t think you’re on a diet if you’re eating braised beef with horseradish or Chinese pork hot pot. I may well have to order this one and give it a go.

 

Whilst I’m definitely gearing up to eat more healthily this year, I’m also not going to eat joyless food. Finding healthy food with taste is the goal, along with an awful lot more movement. Don’t wish to be a bore but loving my FitBit, really is making me think about how long I’m sat still for. Talking of which, time to move!

 

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My worst cookbook of 2017

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s only the 4th, there’s a lot cookbooks to go at this year.

Nope, this is going to top them all. This is my worst cookbook of the year, hands down. It probably will be up there in my all time worst cookbooks ever. It’s probably vying for top spot with Deliciously Ella.

 

Eat With Intention - my worst cookbook of 2017

 

Eat With Intention is just not for me, and here’s why:

  1. Any cookbook that has me saying FFS several times by page 29 is probably not boding well. Although obviously I feel sympathy for the problems her brother faced.
  2. I don’t need my cookbooks to offer up a daily visualisation or meditation.
  3. I don’t need my cookbooks to give me a daily mantra.
  4. I don’t need a recipe for Unicorn Fuel. FFS, I’m not a 9 year old. Although that’s probably because I’m not attuned to my magic, the mantra for that day.
  5. I don’t need a recipe for AB&J rice cakes. I can manage to get almond butter onto a rice cake without a recipe. If you can call spread a tablespoon of almond butter on a rice cake a recipe. But then again I’m already comfortable with the ease and flow of life, so could skip that recipe and mantra.

So look, some people will love this book. Cassandra Bodzak is probably an incredibly nice person and, let’s face it, she’s having the last laugh here. She has a book deal, a TV channel, a post as a healthy living guru…and I’m just an overweight, middle aged wage monkey with a little blog and an unmagical approach to cook books.

But then, as the mantra on page 195 says, I appreciate both the sweet and sour in my life. I look forward to the sweetness of good food writing ahead. The bar’s not exactly been set high!

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