What will you drink on National Tea Day this Friday?

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Time for tea on National Tea Day

 

I love a cup of tea. Whether it’s National Tea Day or not, I love tea.

If I had to choose between tea and coffee for ever more, then tea would win hands down. Perhaps it’s my northern upbringing, but I can’t start the day without a cup of tea.

Unless I’m in Italy. In which case it’s pointless drinking the tea. Likewise in the USA.

But what kind of tea? Well, it depends on when.

Morning

 

Bellevue Belter for a good strong cuppa

 

I’m a bit of a traditionalist, and it’s usually Yorkshire tea here. That said, I’m also partial to the Bellevue Belter too, which is a good strong black tea. Both will get your day up and running.

Afternoon

 

Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co

 

I guess I can take two routes here, depending on what time of year the afternoon falls. For these lighter, occasionally warmer, afternoons, then I like an Earl Grey type. If you want something just a little different on the same theme, then I like the Lady Lavender tea from Bluebird Tea.

If the weather turns cooler, or as we head into winter, then I love the smokiness of Russian Caravan tea. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, literally, but I love the aroma and the dark, smoky taste.

Evening

 

Chinese Treasures from Bluebird Tea

 

I have to admit to not drinking tea after about 6pm, as even decaf seems to cause sleepless nights. There are plenty of good options, if you like fruit or herbal infusions. Certainly Bluebird have over half a dozen different options which might set you on the right track for a good night’s sleep.

So, morning, noon or night, tea can be there all the way, on National Tea Day or beyond. You need a decent mug (back to my northern upbringing, cups and saucers only happen on trips out) and preferably somewhere cosy to get curled up with your tea.

And then, possibly, a decent biscuit, or two to go alongside a marvellous mug of tea. So, what will you choose? What’s in your tea mug?

 

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Around the world in 3 amazing cookbooks

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‘dAround the world in 3 amazing cookbooks

 

I’m feeling a bit guilty, because I’ve been sent 3 fabulous cookbooks to review. They’ve made my mouth water at pretty much every page, and I’ve not got round to cooking from any of them.

And it’s not because they are not appealing, as all three are, particularly as they cover three different styles of cooking. I think I could have an amazing, although possibly slightly confused, global dinner cooking a course from each one.

So, first destination: Turkey

Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking*

 

Tree of Life Turkish Home Cooking

I think this is probably the most beautiful cookbook cover I’ve seen in the while, but it’s not style over substance. Whilst I’ve always loved Turkish food,  I really love that this focuses on home cooking.

I could make a whole meal just from the first couple of recipes: yogurt dip with cucumber & mint (çaçik in Turkish), with baked hummus with pine nuts and grilled halloumi with lemon caper sauce. My idea of heaven.

That said, for something a bit different then I want to make The Imam Fainted, which would definitely prove to be a talking point at any dinner.

Next stop: India

Saffron Soul: Healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India*

 

Saffron Soul: healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India

I like Indian food, it is definitely one of my comfort food tastes (chicken tikka masala in Tokyo made me cry one night). That said, it’s reputation is not for being the healthiest, so this book sets out to change some of that perception.

It does help that this is vegetarian food, but it doesn’t just mean vegetables hidden in a curry sauce. I mean, lentil dumplings in yoghurt and tamarind is a step above my local takeaway for sure.

I’ve never seen an Indian recipe book with breakfast recipes before but this one does. I’d want to try saffron porridge with jaggery at least once, and there’s a recipe for proper chai as well. This book just makes me want to cook, and I almost don’t know where to start. I might just let it fall randomly open at a page and start there.

Final stop: Pakistan

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice*

 

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice

 

I have to admit to knowing nothing about Pakistani cuisine, so maybe starting with the sweet stuff is good for me and my sweet tooth. I really wanted to cook from this before a member of my team left, as his family heritage is Pakistani, so wanted to see how authentic a taste I could produce.

This book would be a challenge, in a good way. I mean, I’ve never made a porridge with buckwheat, or cooked with pink salt. Equally, I think mango, cardamom, saffron and red chilli murraba would challenge my perceptions of what I like to eat.

But I’d give it a go.

Beautiful photography (as with the other two books as well) and dishes that just make you want to cook and eat new things every day.

 

All three cookbooks are just something a little different, and I definitely want to find time to cook from each one. They’d make great gifts for a cook who loves to experiment with different flavours and dishes, or just enjoys a selection of beautiful cookbooks to read in bed! That’s a gift in its own right.

As and when I get round to cooking, then I will share some of the outcomes. Although if they are too delicious, I am terrible at eating first then remembering I’ve forgotten to photograph the dish!

 

Non affiliate link here.

*Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.

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Probably the dullest post I’ve ever written

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The most boring post I've ever written

 

And there’s not even much food in it, apologies.

This one definitely falls into must do rather than want to do, but given recent changes in ASA guidelines around affiliate marketing, then I needed to flag this.

If you’re not sure what affiliate marketing is, the simple guide is to think of it as a commission. With some links to things I write about, if you purchase that thing from that site, or anything else from them in a set time, then they send me money.

To be fair, not much money, but they do send it.

They just don’t drive what’s on here. My posts are never driven by having links, I wouldn’t write something with the sole purpose of driving cash. Or if I had been, then I’m really bad at it, as I’ve probably made enough over the years for a decent bottle of champagne.

Just the one.

I write for the love of it really, the small amount of cash is incidental. It doesn’t influence what I write about, and I write many more times about stuff with no commercial return at all.

I will obviously comply with the ASA rulings, and going forward will show affiliate and non affiliate links, the choice is yours on where to click.

It’s an interesting area, because when you think about magazines, there’s very little disclosure there. I’m not talking about things like advertorials, which are explicit about being paid for, but it’s more things like how many lunches or lovely events were involved, how many free products for “testing” and photography before a product hits the pages. None of this has to be declared to the reader.

I always declare when I’ve been sent products or books, and there really is no intent to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. If in doubt, please feel free to ask me!

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Get out and celebrate your local butcher today

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The meat counter at Dickies, my local butcher

 

Today marks the end of National Butchers Week and, given that it’s Sunday, then perhaps it’s time to visit your local butcher and get the Sunday roast in.

If you’re lucky enough to have a butcher then they are something to treasure and make the most of. My best choice of local butchers is Dickies at Plungar, which has been a great addition to the local area.

Like any great butchers, Rich knows where the meat came from, how it lived, and how it died. Beef is well aged, and about as far away from supermarket beef as you can get. I love that he has the more unusual cuts, so things like picanha steaks, onglet and skirt.

 

Picanha steak from Dickies

 

If you don’t know how to cook it, then ask and he’ll give you a good idea. If you don’t know what something is, then ask. If you know what you want to cook then Rich will let you know what he recommends. And if you only want to spend so much, then he’ll let you know what’s best value for your money.

That to me makes the perfect butchers. The fact that they serve great bacon and sausage rolls, make a very decent cup of coffee and have great bread and pastries from Hambleton Bakery.

If you have a butchers, then please do what you can to support them. They are treasures that you need to make the most of, not just this week, but in every week. I’m a great believer in eating less meat, but better quality, with great provenance, and your butcher will hopefully provide you with that.

I forgot, the other thing Rich also provides is a great line in chat. Don’t go in if you want to not interact with a human. Go to the supermarket for that. Stay and chat a while, you’ll be amazed what you might learn.

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Time to get busy on the pie front

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Celebrate British Pie week by getting making your own at home

This is one of our favourite weeks, British Pie Week. The British Pie awards were judged yesterday just up the road from us in Melton Mowbray, and there’ll be a chicken and mushroom pie featuring soon on the menu here.

Are you all set for pie making? These would be my essentials.

Silicone mat for pastry rolling out

Professional silicone pastry mat

Ok, until I had one of these I never thought this was an essential. Now I have one, I wouldn’t give it up. It makes it easy in terms of not sticking, but also for rolling out to the right size. It doesn’t take up much space, can also be used for things like chocolate and tuiles, so I think it makes a good addition to any kitchen.

An adjustable rolling pin

 

Adjustable rolling pin from Joseph Joseph

So, once you’ve made getting the right size of pastry sorted, then there’s also the thickness. I’ve often still worked with a pound coin at the side to check, but this clever rolling pin definitely takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. I love that Joseph Joseph continue to think about how to make things just that little bit easier.

A conversation-stopper of a pie funnel

 

Rooster pie funnel for pie perfection

 

There’s nothing like the sight of a fabulous, steaming pie heading to the table, and especially when there’s an interesting pie funnel in the middle of it. I’d like a set of these animal ones for different kinds of pie, so rooster for our immediate plans, but there are cows and lambs as well, not to mention apples and other fruit.

A great set of tins

 

Simple Simon Pie Moulds

Who says that it has to be all about one big pie? Although that is never a bad thing, I really love this set of tins from Simple Simon for making a set of small raised pies. It’s a clever adaptable bit of kit in terms of size, and definitely useful for if everyone likes a different filling, or for making pies for a fabulous buffet spread.

A beautiful pie dish

 

Fluted stoneware deep pie dish

 

I’ve always been in two minds about ceramic dishes. You certainly need to work a bit harder to avoid a soggy bottom, but when you’ve got that cracked then there are so many beautiful dishes around. I really like this fluted stoneware one from Nom Living. A beautiful dish for a wonderful pie.

Five things to make at home pie making a little easier, or a little more stylish. Although if I don’t get round to making a pie, then maybe it’s time for another order from Bray’s Cottage. Still our favourite pork pie maker bar none.

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The Friday Five – in praise of toast

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In praise of toast

 

Ok, I’m a day late, National Toast Day was yesterday. But who doesn’t love a delicious slice of toast?

So, whilst I am sure these are not the first cookbooks you’d rush out to buy, given their single inspiration, if you love your toast, then these could take that love to the next level.

Toast: The Cookbook

 

Toast the Cookbook

Well, it’s not the most imaginative title, but it’s a good place to start. Fifty recipes, sweet and savoury, for each season, it also includes some celebrity chef contributions including people like Fergus Henderson. Guessing that might be the bone marrow on toast, but maybe not. Beautiful looking, and actually the recipes look interesting and tasty. Spicy pepperoni butter sounds like a good topping to toast any day.

 

Posh Toast

 

Posh Toast

 

These are apparently recipes for glorious things on toast, not just any old thing. Whipped gorgonzola, rocket and honey drizzle on toast definitely sounds a step up from my usual Cheddar on toast. According to the blurb though, the trend for posh toppings begin in San Francisco…I’m not convinced. I mean, surely good pate on toast counts as posh? Well, it does in this house!

 

Things on Toast

 

Things on Toast

 

Things on toast are my favourite standby meal, but this would help get you a bit beyond the staples of cheese, beans or scrambled eggs. This covers you from breakfast to supper, savoury to sweet, with everything from poached eggs with chilli and chorizo through to griddled steak with anchovy butter. A bit more cooking involved with this, but that’s definitely no bad thing.

 

Toast: Homage to a Super Food

 

Toast: Homage to a superfood

 

That title will have the clean eating brigade choking on their quinoa and kale smoothie! We eat more toast than any other food in the UK apparently, and Nick Parker the author wanted us to stop undervaluing its role in our daily diet. Part love story, part recipe book, this is a great gift for someone who really, really loves their toast.

 

Toast

 

Toast

 

Shortest main title, but longest sub title, which is “Tartines, open sandwiches, bruschetta, canapés, artisanal toasts and more”. Which should pretty much cover it! Beautiful photography and layout, quite minimalistic in approach, but very tasty sounding recipes. Some great ingredients make their way into this one, like burrata and fresh figs. Lots of inspiration.

So whether you go posh toast, or just the comfort of a toasted square of cheap white bread (which is my food vice) then go ahead, get toasting and celebrate the toasted carb in all its glory. What’s your favourite thing to toast?

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Going sweet and savoury with Great British Biscotti

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Learning to make our biscotti

Learning to make biscotti on our trip to Italy last year was one of our highlights, and one of the things we make most often. However, when I saw what the Great British Biscotti Co are up to, then it made me think about changing things up a bit.

 

Savoury biscotti from Great British Biscotti Co

 

Savoury biscotti.

Never come across them before, and have to say I’m quite converted. The team sent me a box of pretty much everything they do, and we’ve had a great time sampling them.

Twice baked, as per tradition, these have some great flavours going on. For the savoury ones, they’re great alongside a chilled glass of wine, but I decided to try the tribe out on these with some different toppings too.

 

Great British Biscotti Serving Suggestion

 

For the Chorizo & Parmesan and Parmesan & Fennel, I made some whipped ricotta with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. I added some parma ham to the chorizo one and then a fennel salami to the other one.

I was a bit stumped on the Indian spice one, and in the end went with a goats cheese with a hint of honey. The sweetness set off the warmth of the spices nicely.

I would say these are great to have in the cupboard as a standby for a plate of snacks like these, or a last minute crouton on some soup, or just for munching. The sweet ones had traditional flavours like the almond one, perfect to go with a coffee. We were also really fond of the honey and lemon as a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea.

 

Great British Biscotto Co

Check out their stockists list to find them close to you, or look out for the distinctive bright packaging in good food stores in your area.

Though I still think they missed out on a great naming opportunity, I’d have gone with Britscotti myself.

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What food says I love you?

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How not say to I love you on Valentine's Day

 

So, it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day, which means only one thing to me.

It’s the night of the year not to go out to eat.

I apologise to all those in the restaurant trade, I know you’re doing you’re best. But generally the set menus are bland or trite (not you, The Modern Pantry, loving your work).

And the worst offenders are those that rename dishes with “romantic” titles. To me, fancy pant restaurant dishes are really unlikely to say I love you, in spite of every good intention.

What would you choose then, what really says I love you? Here’s my choices:

 

Tea & Toast in Bed. Heaven

  1. Saturday morning toast and tea delivered to bed by MFL.

 

Chicken soup makes everything better

 

2. Chicken soup any time you’re under the weather, even if you have to heat it up yourself.

 

Sprinkle as though you're a 7 year old!

 

3. Anything your kids make for you.

 

Time for tea. Any time.

4. A good cup of tea anyone else makes for you, just when you need it most.

 

Macarons from a loved one

5. Someone bringing you something that they remembered you liked, like when a friend arrived with a box of macarons straight from a Parisian patisserie. Or a chunk of Parmesan straight from a cheese shop in Rome.

What does it for you? What says I love you from you to someone else, or them to you?

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Doing Valentine’s Day with style

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Valentine's Day with taste

 

I’m not a great lover of Valentine’s Day, for its over-commercialised predominance of pink and red crap. And never mind the idea that romance is just for one day a year.

But there are some tasteful, not to mention tasty, options around, if you look now, and avoid the last minute trip to the supermarket!

 

The Modern Pantry Perfect Breakfast Hamper

 

For instance, I wrote last year about the lovely hampers from The Modern Pantry, and this year would be no exception. I love their collections, and sure any food lover would too. Also worth checking in on Ottolenghi as well.

 

 

For chocolate lovers, I would try Drop Dead Chocolates or Amelia Rope, as my favourites. Oh, but then there’s Rococo. Not to mention my last great find of The Chocolatier, who would definitely have lots of tasty choices.

 

Heart shaped box from Pong

The only cheesy gifts I’d think about giving on Valentine’s Day would be good cheese ones. Pong are still one of my favourite suppliers of interesting cheese, whether you choose a single cheese or a hamper.

 

Burleigh Pink Edition Gin

And then there’s fizz. Or not fizz. I love Adnams for something a bit different on the wine front, but it might also be a good time to give a pink gin. Burleighs have a limited edition pink edition if you can still get hold of it, or Edinburgh Gin have a very pretty looking rhubarb one.

So, as always from me, my recommendation is go for taste first and foremost, design second, and pre-made Valentine tat only in very ironic, last minute desperation!

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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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