Category: Food and Drink

The Drinks Report: Simply Nectar Peach

The Drinks Report: Simply Nectar Peach

Simply Nectar Peach

 

Just a very quick drinks report from me today sharing something I have recently loved. Friends will know that I love everything peachy, so I was particularly excited to find Simply Nectar peach juice at the Dockside Delifonseca. This little deli is well worth a trip to if you happen to be in Liverpool and you love food (or wine!). This was definitely one of the best peach juices I’ve tasted, although it would have been even more excellent topped up with prosecco. A bellini is surely one of the best cocktails.

Peach is definitely one of those flavours I get a little obsessed with, along with almonds. What are your flavour obsessions?

The Food Report: A Croquembouche

The Food Report: A Croquembouche

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This weekend my very favourite group of friends traveled to Liverpool for the eighth edition of Nom Nom Club, our little supper club. We settled on a French theme for this weekend, and whilst we got off to a bad start with the Correspondents gig being cancelled, we were soon eating many delicious courses and basking in the marina-side sun.

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We had pâté, soup a l’oignon, moules marinière, boeuf bourguignon, ratatouille, pommes dauphinoise, tarte au citron and cheese – all the French favourites, and delicious they were too (you can see some of these here). We drank home-brewed blond ale, Côtes du Rhône and Muscat (plus an absolutely-not-French-but-delicious-all-the-same Pinot Grigio), and plenty of coffee. A mid-meal bracing stroll and shout along the Mersey was a perfect interlude to the evening, especially when it meant returning to slices of lemon tart, coffee and Cards against Humanity. 

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To end the night with a bang I decided to embark upon the baking mission of a lifetime: a croquembouche. Now for all you aspiring Michel Roux’s out there this probably seems like a fairly simple task – you’ve made choux buns before, you love spinning sugar, you’ve got your creme pat down, just got to throw it all together, right?

Well I had done not one of those things (although I’m a dab hand at caramel so that was a plus), so this was going to be my oven-based Everest. I used a very very good BBC recipe, which guides you through making a croquembouche over three days. Obviously not three days solid baking, I’m not actually Mary Berry, but it means that you get enough time for everything to cool and dry before the next step. If you’ve ever seen them do it on Masterchef (which was my inspiration, let’s face it) and watched the buns slide off each other into a toppled mess, it’s clearly because they don’t have enough time. Now I’m not going to reproduce the recipe here, because why would you trust a blog recipe when you have Auntie Beeb on your side? Head here for the real thing.

First up, making choux pastry really wasn’t as daunting as it seems when they’re doing it on telly. Just keep beating (really put some strength into it) until it looks right! I made my buns a little larger than they really should have been, but it wasn’t a major disaster. The next day I made my creme patissiere. The recipe offers you a limoncello cream, which sounds divine, but I wanted to do something a little less lemony. I made a traditional creme pat with the addition of a vanilla pod to give it that lovely speckled look and excellent flavour, and then a salted caramel version for some of the buns (I was a tiny bit more generous with the salt than this recipe). This is another of those things that can go badly wrong on cooking shows, but as long as you’re paying attention and whisking a little at a time it’s not the worst thing. If it does look about to split, use Nigella’s tip and plunge your pan into cold water, whisking all the while.

Then it was a case of filling up the buns, leaving them to set and then assembling the tower. I made the cone (as in the recipe), propped it up in a jug and set to work (tip: put something heavy in whatever you’re using to make sure it can’t topple over). I would say definitely dip the top of the buns into the chocolate rather than drizzling, as you get a much better coating (just be careful not to burn your fingers!).

Once you’ve turned it out you just need to decorate. The traditional way is spun sugar, crystallised flower petals and icing sugar. I did really want to go for a crystallised rose petal scattering, but I couldn’t find any. Instead, to go along with the white chocolate holding it together, I went for spun sugar, white chocolate stars, and plenty of edible glitter thrown over the top. Be prepared to make a mess and do be careful when you’re throwing hot sugar around.

Overall, it was a little bit of a leaning tower (it rather resembles the mountain from The Grinch), and I certainly have some work to do on my sugar technique, but it was tasty and enjoyed by all!

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After a few days making this treat it had rather become my life’s work, but after all the photos be prepared to tear it all down and stuff it in your face. For a little perspective, here was the post-Nom Nom carnage:

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What is your biggest baking mission? Have you ever made a croquembouche? Do you know where I can find crystallised rose petals? Let me know!

The Drinks Report: Green Tea Chai Latte

The Drinks Report: Green Tea Chai Latte

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When I wrote my post about instant tea, I claimed that it was my first encounter with such a drink. Recently I realised that this was a tiny lie. Why?

Because I’ve been slurping this instant chai latte for years. The Drink Me chai latte was a revelation found by my aunt in the hallowed aisles of Waitrose, way back when the packaging looked like this. (Side note: I love branding/packaging so please do send me any pictures of stuff you love. You can see some of my favourites here.)

It’s a really delicious hug in a mug, creamy and tasty. The vanilla version is a little bit too sweet for me, with not much added flavour, but the spiced version is fantastic. For my taste I put in 2 teaspoons rather than the suggested 3, so that it’s not too sugary, but you’ll find how you like it. I always add a dash of milk, but it’s extra good with half or even all hot milk.

Anyway, to move onto how this became this week’s drink report, I recently tried the green tea chai latte.

I’m a fairly recent convert to green tea – I only started to like it a few years ago, and it’s now in my regular tea rotation. Top tip: if you think you don’t like green tea, it might just be because you’ve had it when the leaves have been burnt, making it bitter. Boil your water then let it cool a little before you add it to the cup, brew it for just 2 minutes and pick a lovely flavour if the pure stuff is too much for you (I love the Twinings Lemon or Peach and Cherry Blossom). It’s delicious and good for you!

So, I love chai latte and I love green tea. What’s the next logical step? Try them combined, obviously!

This is a drink that I couldn’t imagine – I knew I would really love or really hate it. Luckily the odds swung in my favour and it’s definitely a drink I love. Lighter and more energising than its spiced counterpart, it’s a little bit of an acquired taste, especially as we’re not used to having green tea with milk. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way in to liking green tea as you will then find the usual leafy version much less exciting, but if you’re already converted then this is definitely worth a try as it still has the essence of chai with some greener notes. This one is also 99% caffeine free and gluten free, so it’s pretty healthy and a good bedtime drink. There are a whole host of other Drink Me flavours – the next on my list to try is mango!

On a side note, if you are looking for a way into green tea, try one with peppermint – that was definitely the bridge-tea for me.

Do you like green tea? Have you tried green tea chai latte?

The Food Report: A Weekend in Stroud Pt. 2

The Food Report: A Weekend in Stroud Pt. 2

I promised a bonus Food Report from Stroud this week, so here it is!

On Friday morning before my delicious lunch (more on that here) we popped into the newly-reopened Greyhound for a mid-morning coffee. This used to be more of a bar, and served the greatest espresso martini. I spent many a fun evening trying to sample their extensive cocktail range, and so I’m pleased to see it back open offering frozen margaritas for the night-time and excellent coffees for the day. My Nanny and I shared a salted caramel cookie which was completely divine.

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In the evening we went to The Olive Tree in Nailsworth. This has long been a favourite of mine having spent many hours languishing over coffee or breakfast here with friends way back before I went to university. When I saw it on the drinks menu I had to have Orangina. It was always the drink I had when I was little, I love those bobbly bottles and it just about reminds me of Sumol (a delicious Portuguese pop that I crave every day).

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In a predictable series of events, we all ordered the same thing – a seared tuna steak salad. It was all delicious, fresh and crisp with sharp capers and a great vinaigrette running through. The tuna could have been a little more rare, but that’s just me, and the slightly runny egg on top was just my cup of tea.

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On Saturday afternoon, after all that Farmers’ Market goodness, we headed up onto the Common for an ice cream at the new Winstones parlour. The ice cream factory that always stood there has been revamped with a brand new place to sit and eat your ice cream, or even order a coffee, and I was pretty excited to head along and try it out. Word on the street (/from my mother) was that they had also brought back the long and oft-missed chopped nuts, and I was not disappointed!

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I’ve never really known where our family-favourite Winstones combination comes from, but as a child we would head to the ice cream van (that’s a van that’s stationary on the Common, not one that roams around playing Teddy Bear’s Picnic) and get a tub of cold, creamy dairy with lime sauce and nuts. I know what you’re thinking. It sounds disgusting. It looks pretty bad too, that bright green sauce everywhere. But it tastes sweet and savoury and like childhood and summer all at once. You can’t beat it.

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In younger days, you would have your ice cream swept into the tub with a paddle, flattened, and then the spoon stuck in and dragged across to make a reservoir for the sauce, but this was a pretty good replacement all the same.

I had an excellent eating weekend in Stroud. What did you get up to?

Which foods remind you of your childhood?

The Food Report: A Weekend in Stroud

The Food Report: A Weekend in Stroud

Some of you may know I come from Stroud in Gloucestershire. It’s famous for wool production, lots of art including an incredible Fringe Festival, Cider with Rosie, Damien Hirst and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Aside from all that, we have some pretty great food. We had the country’s first fully organic cafe and one of the best farmers’ markets (it’s true, we’ve won the award several times), with all produce from within a 17 mile radius.

This weekend I went home for a few days, so I got to sample some of the many culinary delights of Stroud.

On Saturday we took a trip to the Farmers’ Market to sample nibbles and sip hot apple juice to keep out the grey cold.

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I got a little converted to marmalade but I’m never going to love it. Luckily there was plenty of chutney to snaffle. I didn’t take a picture but there was also a Salted Caramel and Calvados sauce. It was intensely wonderful.

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A new falafel shop has opened so obviously we had to sample their delicious treats, which were incredible – especially the amba (a mango sauce and turmeric sauce), but there was a great big smooch of hummus in there and lots of crunchy salad too.

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This was a delicious day, and I haven’t even covered the afternoon’s ice cream trip or Lunch on Friday! I’ll be back with more of that later.

Do you have a local Farmers’ Market? What do you like to eat on a Saturday?

The Food Report: Bakchich

The Food Report: Bakchich

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Last night I went to Bakchich on Bold Street for a little dinner and catch up with Kate. It’s pretty ridiculous that I haven’t been there before considering that I love any kind of street food and I especially love Lebanese food. We started out with some fresh mint lemonade. I continually rhapsodize about my love of mint and this was no exception. It was also the perfect accompaniment to some of the richer elements of the meal, but next time I want to try a frozen yoghurt smoothie (halva and pistachio, yes!). We also loved the harissa tins used as cutlery pots. Remind me to save mine!

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Obviously I wanted to try all the food, but I was especially craving halloumi. I’m usually craving halloumi if it’s on offer, so I satisfied this particular lust with a halloumi wrap – perfectly grilled with plenty of herbs, sauce and sweet tomatoes.

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In a bid to eat as much as possible we shared a vegetarian platter. Those little cheesy manakeesh were delicious and gone in seconds, the falafel crispy and not-at-all greasy, the houmous creamy as you would expect. The real stars for me, though, were the baba ganoush and that herb-heavy tabbouleh. A spoonful of bright, lemony tabbouleh with a little smoky baba ganoush on the edge and a sweet pomegranate seed is just dreamy.

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I loved our little evening at Bakchich. I’m hoping to make my next trip of a morning so that I can delve into the breakfast menu – sumac fried eggs, halloumi and labneh are calling to me!

Have you been to Bakchich? Where do you love to eat street food style?

 

The Food Report: East Avenue Bakehouse

The Food Report: East Avenue Bakehouse

It’s probably no secret to readers of this blog that I love brunch. So when a new place opens that might provide a brunch destination I’m all over it. East Avenue Bakehouse opened on Bold Street a couple of weeks ago (on International Women’s Day to be precise, for this is a women-led venture!) and I’ve been keen to get in there ever since, so this Saturday I took a trip with Kate for a mid-afternoon lunch.

First, we tried the bread board. This was a perfect starter for our first trip, as you get to try all of the loaves with some delicious dips. The garlic and basil was perfect, the tomato and garlic was light and delicious, but the real star for me was that big pan of balsamic and olive oil. It’s a classic combination but this was a really sweet balsamic, which I loved, and plenty of it – no scrimping here. Tearing off hunks of bread to squidge them into delicious oil is pretty much the best meal money can buy.

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All of the breads were delicious but we went particularly doughy-eyed over the chia seed (the yellow seeded one in the middle). I’ll definitely be picking up a whole loaf sometime soon.

Having already started the day with an early (ish) breakfast at Leaf, I moved onto a lunchy option of Rarebit with leeks. This was an ideal cheesy treat for a cold day, and they hadn’t shied away from the mustard, which I greatly appreciated.

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Kate tried a Bakehouse Benny and a homemade Scotch Egg, which came with a great chutney that I promptly stole and gobbled up. Then we moved onto pudding, both opting for a scone (and the usual debate over pronunciation, obvs). This came with raspberry jam and clotted cream, as you would expect, as well as superb homemade lemon curd, which was a lovely surprise!

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We washed all of this down with tea, apple and elderflower cordial and orange San Pellegrino. As I said to Kate, I think you can judge a lot about a place based on their non-alcoholic beverage offer, and East Avenue ticked all the boxes for a lazy afternoon. Just look at those straws!

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What’s really exciting about East Avenue Bakehouse is that whilst we tried some of their Small Plates at lunchtime, they also have a perfectly formed Breakfast and Brunch menu as well as Large Plates served in the evening, so there’s plenty more to try. Whilst we were there we got a good look at the salads (including an incredible looking panzanella) and other cakes, which are certainly top of my list to get on my next visit (did someone say Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondie?!). With a lovely menu, lovely surroundings and, most importantly, brilliant bread, East Avenue Bakehouse is certainly worth a trip and I’ll be looking forward to more from them over the coming months!

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P.S. Olivia has started up her blog again and her latest post features the mango salsa recipe from Caribbean Nom Nom Club. Go check it out!

The Drinks Report: Café Amaretto

The Drinks Report: Café Amaretto

I’ve always had more of an affinity with tea than coffee, but the occasional cup is a real treat.

I picked up this Little’s Café Amaretto a few weeks ago. I love amaretto so this was a pretty natural choice, albeit an impulsive purchase. I really love the packaging and the idea of an instant coffee that still cares about flavour.

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I don’t really like the syrupy flavoured coffees you find in coffee shops as they’re just too sweet for me, but this isn’t like this at all! The coffee tastes rich and creamy, with a hint of that almondy flavour I love so much. It’s perfect with hot milk and a cake on a rainy afternoon, but it’s just as good with a splash of milk hastily thrown in of a morning.

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Little’s Coffees sell at £3.60 for 50g, which is obviously more expensive than your average instant, but it’s also a lot more delicious worth saving for a Sunday morning extravagance.

It’s testament to how good this coffee is that I’ve been popping it in my Thermos a couple of mornings a week instead of my usual cup of tea.

I can’t wait to try some of the other flavours, especially Irish Cream.

Do you like flavoured coffee? How do you make yours?

The Food Report: Crumble

The Food Report: Crumble

Most of my meals begin with a craving for just one ingredient. I just ate two weeks of Mexican food because I had a craving for avocados that led into a deep need for black beans.

This Sunday’s food-based love letter started with a pot in the corner of my eye in M&S. I absolutely adore homemade custard, but I have to admit there is a very special place in my heart for the kind you can buy from the shops, made with thick cream and big flecks of vanilla. Once I saw this, I knew I would need a pudding to accompany it. If you’re going to have a pudding with custard it should really be a crumble or a pie, and I knew this one should be a crumble. I didn’t want apple – I’ve overloaded on apple puddings recently – so what was it to be?

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Plums, of course.

I bought yellow and purple plums for my pudding, and stewed these down for the filling. I kept a few back, then sliced them and popped the slices in at the end, before adding the topping. This way you get a variety of textures rather than just a stewed mess. If you like yours more like a compote you can leave out this step, or stew the fruit for much less time for an even more textured affair. I added a dash of peach juice and the merest sprinkle of sugar to these already-sweet fruits, but you could add more sugar to taste or a splash of red wine. Plums love red wine.

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Then you just need to add your crumble topping of choice. Mine is 200g flour (self-raising is fine, it adds a more cobbler-like crust), 100g butter, 75g sugar – rub it all together, throw it on your fruit and then use Nigel Slater’s trick of splashing a little water onto the surface to get a variety of crumbs in there. I also sprinkle on some oats, because they’re delicious.

Bake it until it’s golden brown and bubbling at the edges (my favourite bit of crumble is the little sticky bits that catch on the tin). Then you can spoon it out and dollop on the custard that started this whole kitchen session.

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Preferably you should prefix this kind of pudding with an amazing roast dinner. Use all your crockery and make a mess of your kitchen. Eat it all up and leave the washing up until you’ve had a nap.

Which ingredients set you off on kitchen adventures? Is this just me?

The Drinks Report: Rum Punch

The Drinks Report: Rum Punch

I swear when I started the drinks report I envisioned it being about tea and smoothies, but it seems to have taken a turn to the alcoholic.

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Punch is one of my favourite things – take all the drinks leftover from house parties, anything gross that you want to get rid of, some fruit and some ice, et voila – a delicious (and only slightly lethal) treat! For Caribbean supper club last weekend we made a rum punch. In all honesty it was an ever-changing beast but in the end we reached something delicious which I would definitely recommend if you’re looking to make a party in a jug.

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We started with rum (obviously – Sailor Jerry’s is a good spiced option but I’m keen to try Kraken Rum soon and we had a bottle of Navy’s for the non-spice lovers) and a tin of mango pulp (you can usually buy these from world food shops or large supermarkets). We threw in pineapple and coconut  juice (you could go with malibu for the coconut but we went for a dark rum instead), lots of mint leaves and ginger beer. The fizz combats the sweet syrup of the mango, but you can play with your quantities to get the right mix for you and your friends!

To make this week a little more healthy than the weekend, I’ve also been drinking all of the vitasoy (you can grab this in Asian supermarkets and it’s too delicious for words). I just need to resist the urge to make it into punch.

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What delicious things have you been drinking this week?