On loving Lakeland

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Whenever you want to moan about the state of British retailing, then go visit a branch of Lakeland. Of course, I am old enough to remember when they were Lakeland Plastics, but they are about so much more these days. But one thing that remains is the terribly nice, mainly ladies, who work there.

I went in there today, in the pouring rain, to find a very nice lady handing out plastic bags for umbrellas. Lovely.

 

The Tefal Electric Jam Maker - easy jam making for the easily distracted

 

I then found more things for making jams and preserving things than I thought existed. I restrained myself from buying the Tefal Electric Jam Maker, although I understand it takes the stress out of jam making. Or, in my case, remembering to stir it regularly so not to burn the sugar on the bottom.

I did finally buy an easy-fill jam funnel to make entry into jars much easier, not to mention less messy. I resisted all the twee jam covers though. Which is possibly why my jam is always passed over at the Horticultural Show, due to it being in a recycled pickled onions jar.

I remember the time I had bought a jelly straining kit from them, only to find it had, in error,  no straining bag. And I had a pan full of boiling elderberries on the stove waiting to be strained. The lady on the helpline was very helpful, and laughed with me as I considered what I was going to strain with whilst awaiting the replacement she was sending me (M&S 15 denier as it happens).

So if you ever find yourself in need of an extra bit of kitchen kit, some unusual foodstuffs or just generally stuff you’d never thought about, then Lakeland is the place. It’s also one of the best sources of gifts for foodies that I know of. Not posh, but definitely useful! And such lovely people!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Home (food) thoughts from abroad

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Enjoying the very best of the British weather by thinking of the best of British food

 

I am sat looking out at the British summertime i.e. the pouring rain, after nearly 3 weeks in France, musing on the things we missed. This was a conversation over a few Kirs one night with other people who were staying at the same gite, and I think the general conclusion was not much.

I mean, we were in South West France, with all its amazing flavours and fresh fish and seafood on tap. But there were just a few things that people were determined not to miss, and so had carried with them by land and sea. Our house had its supply of Yorkshire tea, because coffee is great, but nothing beats that first cuppa.

The Dutch family had brought Gouda cheese with them, as apparently, like the French, the stuff they send outside of the Netherlands is not as good. Why is this always the case with cheese? Although there only seemed to be Cathedral City cheddar in the local supermarket, so pot kettle black syndrome may be in place here.

The Scots had brought peanut butter. I like my peanut butter but it wouldn’t have been top of mind. However, having tried to find it in the supermarket for a recipe I was testing I found that a) the French don’t eat peanut butter much b) it sits in the exotic world foods aisle c) there was only a choice of two and d) it was the best part of €4 for a very small jar.

Consequently, I shall be taking my own next year!

Meanwhile, we will be making a big pan of Rogan Josh any moment now. Oh happy day! Bring on the naan bread.

What food do you miss when you’re away from home?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Helping heroes with cooking

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

This isn’t really the post I thought I was going to write today, but sometimes events converge and the topic makes itself. Several things are going round my head: the death of Harry Patch over the weekend, the last of a quite remarkable group whose bravery and sacrifice can never really be measured; being at the Memorial Centre for History yesterday and trying to explain two World Wars to our 7 year old daughter; having a very good dinner at La Cremaillere on Juno Beach on a very tranquil evening that made it harder than ever to imagine the living hell that would have been unleashed around there just over 65 years ago.

 

Help for Heroes Cook Book
Help for Heroes Cook Book

 

And finally, today, the, in my view, despicable action of the government today to reduce compensation payouts to those injured in combat who develop later complications.

So today I am asking you, foodie or not, if you buy only one cook book this year please buy the Help for Heroes Cook Book. This is much more than a cook book, with personalities and servicemen and women writing about who their heroes are and why, and what they would cook for them, with some fascinating stories, and great recipes. You can buy the book directly from the charity here, or Amazon also stock it.

Please support the work of Help for Heroes in supporting wounded servicemen and women. This is a non political organisation, in their own words they “recognize that wars happen under any government… are non critical, preferring to get on with the job rather than talking about rights and wrongs.”

For my heroes, I am choosing my mum and dad. My dad has Alzheimer’s and at a pretty early age, and so is a hero for living with it. My mum, like many, many carers, is an absolute hero and they deserve our respect and recognition too. I would cook them whatever made my dad happiest, which was roast beef and Yorkshire pud last time they were here.

Go ahead, show your heroes you care and support all the other heroes out there.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

The Saturday Session – pack a picnic

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Always time for a picnic

 

We’ll be on our way through France when this is published, having already completed a fairly long drive down to Portsmouth to catch the ferry. Which means either running the gauntlet of British service stations, not to mention needing a second mortgage, or taking your own.

Guess which we went for for the first half of the trip?

So for today’s Saturday session, I’ve looked out for some great, interesting picnic food. After scanning quite a few, I came across an amazing selection on The British Larder. This is like foodie picnic heaven, but a lot is also very practical. Although possibly the frozen broad bean creme fraiche might not be!

If I had my choice, I would go for the Beetroot Tart Tatin, the Sesame Toasted Basmati Rice and Broad Bean Salad, Green Chilli Chicken Won Tons, and then following on with Chocolate Salami and the Gooseberry Polenta Slice. Heavenly!

So go on, make a picnic about so much more than picnic eggs and damp sandwiches!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Not flailing around for a good meal

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

The Plough & Flail at Mobberley

I’ve been on a bit of a great North run around over the past two days, which involved an overnight stay in Sale. And dinner at the Plough & Flail in Mobberley. One of those places that is pretty hard to find, but very much worth the effort.

It has all the cues of gastro pub, which can be good or bad. Too many times, there seem to be places that think just slapping up some Farrow & Ball paint makes them a gastro pub. All style, no substance. Not this place. It was one of those menus where you could have ordered everything and anything.

There was everything from great fish to great comfort food. I went for a homemade steak and onion pie, with fabulous hand cut chips, not to mention something described as sticky red cabbage, which was delicious.  Not sure what recipe they used, but there’s one here on the BBC Good Food website that sounds like it would be close.

It’s very close to Tatton Park, so a good stopping point if you are going to an event like the RHS Flower Show in a couple of weeks time. I would suggest whenever you go that you book. We were there at 7pm on a Monday night, and it seemed to have a good amount of tables occupied. There is plenty of outside space as well, but I would imagine it would be packed on a Sunday lunchtime. The food would make it worthwhile though.

If it’s too busy, you could always go and visit the alpacas next door!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Bring back afternoon tea

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

What Sunday afternoons are made for

 

Not all of us can afford, or want to go to, tea somewhere posh, but that doesn’t mean we should miss out. Afternoon tea is one of my favourite meals (it’s right up there with breakfast. And lunch), and we had a lovely one with friends today. Which is a great excuse for baking! This is my Victoria sponge from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Family Cookbook, the one where you have to weigh the eggs!

Odd instruction, but tasty results!

So to foodies everywhere, I say flex those baking muscles and treat everyone to tea! Bring back one of the things we do best, with fabulous regional variations, throughout the UK, which is why it’s mimicked around the world. Bake and be proud!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

The Friday Five – let’s start at the very beginning…

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

If, as a foodie, you’re at all like me, you will have shelves groaning with cookery books, food writing and magazines about food. The food and drink section of any bookshop will be your first stop, where you will lovingly eye up titles. Sound familiar?

So I’ve decided to feature 5 books each Friday, about different aspects of food and drink, some serious, some not, some for true foodies, some for dabblers, but always something that you can add to your wishlist. And let me know what yours are on each subject, love to hear! May just find a new title to add to those bookshelves!

For the first outing of the Friday Five, I’m starting at the beginning, with the 5 books that really fired my love of food.

 

The Be-Ro Home Recipes Book

 

1. The Be-Ro Home Recipes Cookbook – I still have my mum’s copy of this that is probably at least 35 years old, but love each and every recipe. When I’m feeling nostalgic, or just need comfort baking I turn to this. If you missed out on this, there’s a 40th anniversary edition available.

2. Delia Smith’s One is Fun – I had this when I first left home, and cooked from it lots. When I left one particular flatshare, I discovered that although I could cook most of the braised steak au poivre blindfold, I couldn’t finish the dish. This because my flatmate always did the last bit whilst I made the mash. The chocolate mousse is still my go to recipe.

3. Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater – any book with recipes for bacon sandwiches and smartie sandwiches is absolutely fine by me. Spoke to the need for good food, in a hurry, possibly the worse for wear. Which happened quite a lot.

4. The New Moosewood Cookbook – my godmother sent me this. I think she knew I was cooking from number 3 a lot. There aren’t a lot of smarties in this one. Or bacon. But I did cook quite a lot from it in attempts to be healthy.

5. A La Carte Magazine – not strictly speaking a book, but in the 80s this was food porn at the highest level! My mum used to buy it and I used to spend hours looking at the recipes and photography, which was luscious. Can’t even find any on eBay, but Gastronomy Domine has a recipe on her blog from there, so have to make do with that!

Love to hear what were the books that stoked your interest in food! And if anyone has any copies of A La Carte, be interested in hearing from you! With the resurgence of dinner parties, it must be time to bring back the Black and White dinner parties!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

A fabulous foodie treat of an afternoon tea

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Laura Mercier Perfume Tea

 

Buying gifts for foodies doesn’t just have to be things. In many ways, experiences will last longer than many physical things you can buy. And if your foodie fancies a bit of a treat, then I love this new afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols.

The Laura Mercier Perfume Tea is a fabulous combination of tea, cakes and fragrance, so ticks lots of boxes. Inspired by Laura Mercier’s Vanilla Gourmande fragrance, Fifth Floor executive chef Jonas Karlsson has designed the most wonderful tea, that is just a bit different to your average afternoon tea. The store’s in-house tea blenders were commissioned to create a new infusion, creating a bespoke blend of jasmine, vanilla, rose and green tea to complement the vanilla orchid, liqueur, bourbon, musk, heliotrope, daylily, sandalwood and amber notes of Vanille Gourmande.

Once you’ve got a cup of tea poured, then you can choose from a whole range of themed delicacies including smoked salmon and horseradish, cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise finger sandwiches; scones with kumquat and vanilla marmalade and clotted cream; a vanilla and lemon-infused cupcake; a chocolate praline mousse cake; a raspberry éclair with rose and raspberry cream and chocolate, pistachio and peach macaroons. I know, I could eat all of that right now.

Whilst not cheap compared to a cup of tea and a slice of cake at Starbucks, it’s hardly comparable and so the £19.95 per person could be money very well spent. You can upgrade in various ways with champagne and gift wrapped bottles of the perfume, it depends on your budget!

I have to admit to loving this idea, and it’s one I’ve used myself. I was thrilled to be involved in the relaunch of Girard fragrances last year, with a launch at The Dorchester. The team there created canapes and cocktails that matched with the key ingredients of the 5 fragrances. I can’t take credit for it being an original idea, I was inspired by the amazing sounding dinners that Chandler Burr, the fragrance critic for the New York Times, created. I wish I’d been at a few of those too!

If you fancy the food but not the bill, then I found a recipe for Kumquat Vanilla marmalade on Lick My Spoon, which would make a great treat and change to the usual raspberry or strawberry. And if you want the fragrance then you can order it from Harvey Nichols but their delivery charges are quite steep. Stop by your nearest Space NK, they’ll have it but they don’t stock it online.

I’m off to see if I can recreate those macaroons!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

A very British delight

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest

The Full English Scotch Egg

We’ve been introducing a friend’s American girlfriend to British culinary delights today, starting with the Scotch egg. No summer picnic is complete without them, but if you’re going to do them, do it properly! Truly, you need to be getting your eggs from The Handmade Scotch Egg Company, these are the eggs to end all eggs!

As gifts for foodies go, it’s not the first thing that would leap to mind, but these guys will send your loved one a mixed box, large ones or small ones, with flavours including tarragon and garlic, smoked bacon, paprika, chilli…even one based on an Irish white pudding recipe! I promise you, they will never look at the ones in the garage fridge in the same way again!

If you don’t want to buy online, then check out their events page to find out where they are going to be next.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Facebooktwitterpinterest