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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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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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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How to stay out of the dog house this Christmas

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Stay out of the doghouse this Christmas

 

So, here we are, it’s Christmas Eve, you’re all sorted. Nothing to do but maybe take a nice country walk, pop into the pub for a seasonal beverage, head home and light the fire…

Oh, hold on, what’s that you say? No one told you it’s Christmas tomorrow?

Oh come on, not that old one again. I’ve been writing this blog for years and every time it’s the same There’s always someone still looking for a gift on Christmas Eve, even as the rest of us have started sales shopping.

I mean, I could really just suggest you head out and brave the high street or shopping mall, that it serves you right. But you might find that you’ll fare better to find a great gift for a food lover from home than picking over what’s left on the shelves, and might even have something to show for it on Christmas Day. Here’s some thoughts:

 

Opening our minds, and appetites, through travel

 

Go for tickets to something, or somewhere. You could book a full on trip to a great food destination, or even just to something like the Good Food Show. Use your printer, use your crafting skills, get the wrapping paper out and you can still make something of this.

 

Holiday reading

 

Take out a magazine subscription for them (even better if you can pop to your nearest convenience store and find the latest edition too). Quite a lot of them are geared up for you to print out cards and things so again, something for their stocking. Slightly harder to wrap, but gives them huge scope, is to take out a subscription for them to Readly. For a food lover this is amazing, as there’s a huge selection of food and drinks mags from around the world.

 

Afternoon tea and more

 

Many of the gift experience companies do downloadable vouchers, or again you can get busy with your printer, scissors and glue. Red Letter Days are one of my favourites for their range of “gourmet” experiences, from sushi or chocolate making to vineyard and brewery tours. BuyAGift also have a great range, and an e-voucher option.

 

My holiday cookbook reading

 

Steal their Kindle or any other tablet, and load it up with good e-books on food. I’ve written about lots of different books during this year, from the best cookbooks from around the world to cookbooks fit for a Queen, so surely something for everyone and all kinds of tastes.

If they are like me, and the cookbooks are taking over the kitchen and beyond, then give them a subscription to Eat Your Books. It means that they can find any recipe in seconds, as Eat Your Books have done the hard work and indexed every recipe for them. There’s over 1 million recipes listed from a huge number of books, and they might enjoy the setting up as they look at all the lovely books they have just sitting there.

If these are still not quite doing it for you, and you want to give an actual gift, then check out my guide to shopping at St Pancras (other stations are available) or how to do gifts from your local convenience store with style. All of which are better than sitting there tomorrow morning with nothing for your loved one at all.

And no, saying that it’s the thought that counts doesn’t count when you haven’t thought about it! Get to it!

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