Category: Food Glorious Food

The great croissant debacle – Twit(s) of the Day

According to this morning’s news, Tesco will – from tomorrow – stop selling traditional crescent shaped croissants. This is because British consumers find them too awkward to spread filling on.

I’m not sure who’s the bigger twit here? The general British public for such a stupid opinion on a traditional food stuff, or Tesco for pandering to them?

Aside from the fact that “croissant” is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as being crescent shaped, and quite literally translates to the word crescent in French, what on earth is so difficult about it anyway?

I think the issue comes from people who are treating croissants like a bread roll that needs to be sliced open in order to spread the fillings. That’s not how to eat them. You should tear pieces off and spread or spoon the butter/jam/honey on to each chunk.

(actually, who am I, telling people how they should eat a croissant?! I should say it’s not the best way to eat them, from a sticky finger and crumby awkwardness point of view. But the internet says I’m right anyway)

The main problem is that it’s just another example of demanding consumer stupidity. Croissants are croissants. I, for one, like the shape. Way more aesthetically pleasing, and if you hold it up to your face you get a big croissant-y smile.

Croissant smile

(image from GoodyFoodies)

A straight croissant isn’t a happy croissant.

Let me know your thoughts (if you even care!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Cauliflower rice

I try not to eat carbs during the week, purely to compensate for my greedy weekends where I’ll eat anything and everything. In truth all bets have been off recently as I’ve been eating everything and anything with no regard for what day of the week it is or its nutritional content, but that’s an unsustainable attitude (unless I want to buy a whole new wardrobe) so it’s time to start showing some restraint again (urgh). I don’t like giving things up but if there’s a substitute I can use instead I’m generally happy to do that, so when I read about cauliflower rice I was intrigued. Some dishes need a side like rice, something to soak up the juices and add substance but obviously rice is carby and because I have no concept of portion size I probably eat a week’s worth of calories in one dinner.

The first couple of times I tried making cauliflower rice I hand grated the cauliflower, which is time consuming and awkward (grated knuckles anyone?) and the resulting vegetable was very wet. Then I bought a food processor, primarily for this reason and handmade coleslaw (an expensive investment, granted!) which is a much better way of doing it.

With a food processor it’s so much quicker and easier, and the end result seemed better. For some reason the processed vegetable contained less moisture which cooked and tasted better. It’s super easy to do and definitely worth a try.

Remove the centre stalk from the cauliflower and chop into smallish heads.

chopped-up-cauliflower

Make sure you’re using the grater attachment on your food processor and then just pulse the cauliflower heads until they resemble rice like grains.

grated-cauliflower

For cooking I read a tip that it’s a good idea to use a flavoured oil as it will give the cauliflower some depth. I used a splash of stir fry oil which has hints of garlic and ginger, but you could use whatever to match the dish you’re serving it with.

Just heat the oil in a hot wok, add the cauliflower and keep stirring for around 2-3 minutes.

cooking-cauliflower-rice

You may want to check the consistency until it suits your palette, I left mine slightly al dente.

All I would say is don’t think this is going to taste like rice. It’s not. That’s because it’s cauliflower. But it is a great alternative when you’re trying to be healthy, and also a good way to get more vegetables in your diet. It tastes good and is a great non carb side.

You could also add peas, chopped carrots and water chestnuts and cook with soy sauce and chilli for an oriental flavour – perhaps add chunks of chicken or minced pork and serve as a main meal.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

My foray into green smoothies

A couple of weeks back, on the last day of holiday before work (and therefore the last true day of indulgence, supposedly, <<snort with derision>> Liz Earle was on Sunday Brunch talking about detoxing and juicing and the like.

I’ve toyed with the idea of juicing in the past but the investment in a Nutribullet or similar is pretty expensive for something I’m not sure I’ll get along with.

Then I started reading up on green smoothies, as I already have a blender. Some websites suggested that smoothies are better because they keep all of the fruit pulp in and therefore more of the goodness. So I researched some recipes and settled on one that I thought sounded ok. Even though I don’t like bananas! (I hoped the banana taste would be covered by the rest of the ingredients).

I found the recipe here

I halved the quantities to make just one. The ingredients are spinach, orange, ginger, banana and water. Lots of lovely goodness.

Orange banana and ginger

I peeled and chopped the veggies and fruit.

Chopped green smoothie ingredients

Popped it all in my blender, and added the water.

Blended and zapped and pulsed it until I couldn’t see any solid bits.

Blitzed green smoothie ingredients

And poured it into a glass ready to enjoy.

Green smoothie in a glass

Unfortunately I could really taste the banana, which put me off, especially when I got half way down and almost swallowed a lump of banana that hadn’t blended <<heave>>. Plus there were a few remaining stringy bits of leaf and orange, only tiny bits, but that detracted from the experience somewhat. It may have benefitted from more water as it was a little bit thick, but by the time I realised that I was already done and tipping a quarter of it down the sink.

What’s worse is that the husband had declined my kind offer of a smoothie, and was eating an omelette that I’d made for him instead. It was probably a similar amount of calories and nutrients (peppers, mushroom and tomatoes) and a damn sight more enjoyable.

Breakfast omelette and salsa

Now I’m not saying there’s any connection, but when I washed the glass up later it smashed! As if to say “I will never be clean again, I’m tainted forever“.

Lesson learned. Eat your greens, don’t drink them.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

5 things to consider when leaving a Tripadvisor review

I rely heavily on reviews when it comes to booking hotels, restaurants, or even visiting attractions so I think it’s important for me to contribute honestly to review sites as a “thank you”; putting something back in for other travellers. Plus good reviews are just as important as bad – people are often vocal when they have something to criticise or complain about, but credit where credit’s due is important for both the business and the customer.

I had an email from TripAdvisor telling me that I finished 2015 in the top 1% off Birmingham reviewers, with 56,093 readers (go me!) so I must be doing something right!

TripAdvisor top 1%

Here are my top 5 tips for leaving a review.

1) Use correct spelling and grammar. If you can’t articulate yourself well, who’s going to take your opinion seriously? (clue, not me)

2) Only review things that are within control of the establishment. Marking a hotel down because it rained for your whole trip is just dumb. They can’t control the weather!

3) Be reasonable about expectation vs. reality. Going to a restaurant in Spain and then complaining they don’t serve chips shows a lack of culture and brains.

4) Be honest but tactful. Not happy? Explain what the problem was with facts, not just by saying “everything was shit”. If the food was cold or your order was wrong then say so, without getting personally rude about the chef or waiting staff.

5) Be sensible. Visiting castle ruins and complaining there isn’t a lot there is just a waste of your time typing and a visitor’s time reading.

Are you a review writer or reader? Let me know any daft ones you’ve seen!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Review: Dirty Cow Burger Company

I wasn’t aware of the Dirty Cow Burger Company until I spotted a deal  on LivingSocial offering two burgers and fries for a tenner (value up to £22.98). I have to say the location wasn’t particularly appealing  (O Bar on Broad Street, which, for anyone not local, is the bar crawl street that every city has where people get horribly drunk and girls don’t wear many clothes and the police invariably have to patrol the place at 2am every Friday and Saturday). Having said that, we figured that a Saturday or Sunday afternoon would be a fine time to redeem it as most of the usual clientele would be sleeping off a hangover and we could be in and out before the marauding boozers arrived.

Unfortunately, with Christmas, we didn’t make it into town at the weekend and so we were faced with a voucher about to expire and a choice of week nights to enjoy it.

Which is how we ended up on Broad Street on a Thursday night in January.

In fairness, the bar was actually fine. It was pretty empty (by that I mean about 5 other people were in there). It was bloody freezing (not taking your coat off freezing) and the music wasn’t to our taste, but the barman was very helpful and friendly and no-one was stumbling around or being sick from drinking too many shots, which had been our main concern.

I’m painting a great picture, no?

And so to the food, which is what this post is really about. It was good. Very good! The burger menu was extensive with lots of different flavours and combinations, and fries can come as standard or be added to with cheese, chill, bacon or pulled pork.

We went for a Nacho Libre (me) and a Big Brummie (the husband).

The Nacho Libre spoke to me as soon as I saw it – a 6oz burger topped with chilli, nacho cheese, guacamole, sour cream and – wait for it – nachos.

Dirty Cow Burger Company Nacho Libre burger

This genius addition gave the burger crunch and bite, and was also useful for scooping up all the excess chill that oozed over the sides. There was so much topping on the burger that I had to do a KFJ (knife and fork job) – the bun literally couldn’t hold it all together and, unbelievably, my mouth wasn’t big enough to fit it all in! My only slight compliant is that it wasn’t quite hot enough, but that did mean I didn’t have to wait for anything to cool down and could wolf it all immediately.

The Big Brummy is a beast of a burger – three 6oz patties with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and brummy sauce.

Dirty Cow Burger Company Big Brummy burger

Again there was no way this could be eaten by hand and mouth alone and cutlery had to be implemented. But the husband was very very complimentary (and his burger judgement is sound  as they’re one of his favourite menu choices and so he has plenty of  experience).

We went for one regular fries and one topped with cheese. The fries were just perfect. Golden, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and salty. Yum.

Would we go there again? Doubtful. It wasn’t enough of a nice place to tempt us back. But do we regret going? Not at all. We went home with full tums and happy heads. And for 5 quid each you can’t ask much more.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Eating away temptation

I’m not the kind of person who has much willpower.

Or, mostly, any willpower. I cave incredibly easily in the face of temptation. It’s not one of my better traits.

I can resist everything except temptation

So, while I stated that I was ready to be eating lighter meals in my previous post, it seems I’m not ready to give up the junk just yet. Purely because it’s there.

Plus it seems so ungrateful to waste it! Some of the tasty treats still lingering around were part of our annual goody bag from my Mother in Law, and you can’t throw away gifts now can you?

Therefore the best course of actions seems to be to dispose of them in other ways. Remove temptation. Eat them. Well, if it’s good enough for Oscar Wilde…

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it

Which is why I ate most of a toblerone on Monday night. A large one. And why I ate a whole bag of Wispa bites last night (not all in one go, if that makes things any better?)

It’s also how I discovered that Original flavour Pringles smothered in Whole Earth crunchy peanut butter is delish.

Somebody stop me!

On the plus side it’s mostly all gone now. Phew!

Unless I start on the husband’s Ferrero Rocher…

Is anyone else struggling to shake off the holiday gluttony?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Recipe: “Taste of Christmas” pie

A couple of weeks back we had “an incident”. The remote control for our Blu-ray player has gone missing, which meant we couldn’t watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on 1st December. This is A.Tradition. And therefore became A. Disaster (not with me, I might add).

Because the husband took it so well (snort), I tried to placate him with Scrooged purchased from Virgin. He was having none of it.

Determined not to waste the £2.99 I’d paid for a two day rental, I declared that we bloody well would watch Scrooged the following evening, and I would make something Christmassy to eat.

Christmas knife and fork

And so my “Taste of Christmas” pie was born. This is all from my own little head, because I like Christmas and I like food, and I could just imagine it all working together.

The concept is based on cottage pie, but includes all the lovely Christmassy flavours instead of the traditional beef and mashed potato. It’s super quick and easy to make, but mega tasty and festive.

Start with chopped onions and mushrooms (chestnut work well for extra depth of flavour) in a pan.

taste-of-christmas-pie-mushrooms-and-onions

 

Add turkey mince and dried thyme, and cook til browned (onions) / not pink (meat)

taste-of-christmas-pie-turkey-mince

 

Then add some tomato puree and a small amount of thick gravy to bind it (you could use onion gravy granules for extra flavour).

This is your first layer – spread it out on the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

taste-of-christmas-pie-first-layer

 

On top of that spread a layer of cranberry sauce. If you’re a domestic goddess, make your own. If you’re normal, use a jar.

taste-of-christmas-pie-second-layer

 

Next layer is mash. You can be as creative as you like here. Personally I use carrot and swede mash as it’s sweet and also healthier than potato mash. But standard mash would also work, or add in mustard or cheese. Or use sweet potatoes. Your pie – your choice. Spread this over the cranberry and turkey mince.

taste-of-christmas-pie-mash-potato-layer

 

Next make up some stuffing mix. Again you can use your choice of flavour. I use sausage meat flavour because it’s delish. Spread over the other three layers.

taste-of-christmas-pie-first-layer

Pop the dish onto a baking tray in case of spillage and stick it in a pre-heated oven at about 180-200 degrees (I’m not a very precise cook). Keep an eye on it until the stuffing starts to bake and go crispy; probably about 20-30 minutes.

taste-of-christmas-pie-stuffing-layer

 

It will be all gooey and sweet and layered and yum!

 

 

I served it with sprouts and roast parsnips but you could go with your choice of veg – creamed leeks would be good, or roast potatoes for a carb fest, or a cauliflower cheese.

taste-of-christmas-pie-parsnips-and-sprouts

 

It was declared an absolute success, and we watched Scrooged.

Food review – Dark Horse, Moseley

I’ve been going to the Dark Horse in one form or another for over 10 years. It was where the husband and I had our first official date (when it was The Cross) and I’ve had many a boozy Sunday lunch with friends, mid week burgers and £1 sambucas over the years.

Late last year, or early this, The Cross was bought by the owner of the Prince of Wales (also in Moseley – read my review here) and everyone got super excited because Keith (the owner of both establishments) has great flair for being a publican. The Prince is testament to his vision.

The Cross underwent a quick makeover to become a pop up restaurant called Mo-Dough for a couple of months (the name being a play on Moseley and pizza base), before turning into it’s current incarnation of the Dark Horse.

The focus of the Dark Horse is very much on cooking well. No sub standard pub food here. They’ve invested heavily in a wood fired pizza oven and a meat smoker to make sure things are done properly. Ingredients are all fresh and locally sourced. The place has a quirky, cosy homely feel with mismatched sofas, exposed brickwork walls and decorations such as a saxophone and a road lamp on the walls, and the outside is lit with hundreds of fairy lights sparkling and inviting you in.

The Dark Horse, Moseley

Drinks wise there is a focus on craft beers and an increasing wine collection alongside draught and bottled lagers, traditional wines and spirits.

We went out for food and drinks this week and there was no question of where we were headed. Parked in the front window with the twinkly lights and a view of our beloved Moseley, we set about choosing from the menu.

Dark Horse Christmas tree

Drinks at the Dark Horse Moseley

It was a no brainer for me as soon as I saw the low & slow smoked beef brisket. Served with chipotle sauce, pickles and skin on chips, it’s the most tender and tasty brisket I’ve ever had.

Dark Horse brisket

Dark Horse skin on chips

It’s was so squishy that if cows were actually made that way, they wouldn’t be able to stand up. The sauce was sweet and smoky and the pickles sharp and crunchy. The portion size was huge, with loads of chips, and piles of meat. Super impressed.

Husband went (as he so often does) for a burger – the Big Kahuna. With pineapple and candied bacon, it wouldn’t be to my taste but he was very excited and proclaimed that excitement to be justified.

Dark Horse Kahuna burger

A big well stacked burger with plenty of toppings, all of which could be tasted individually. The pattie was, he said, juicy and succulent.

With small plates such as mac & cheese topped with pulled pork (hello!), and God’s own fries (skin on chips smothered in chilli, pulled pork, burnt ends, jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and cheese sauce) there’s a smorgasbord (I love that word!) of flavours to experience, as well as Sunday lunch and desserts like warm chocolate brownie and baked cheesecake.

The Dark Horse knows meat, and knows what to do with it.

Restaurant review – Saba Birmingham

Saba is a Persian restaurant just outside Moseley. I’ve driven past it many times and not really paid much attention. Then I saw it listed on a voucher website and the offer was really good, so I checked out the menu and TripAdvisor reviews (which are excellent) and purchased the deal.

As is often the case with vouchers, we end up leaving them until they’re about to expire and then toy with whether or not we can be bothered to go. Never was that more true than on Sunday evening, on a rainy windy night when the temptation to stay in and decorate the Christmas tree was really strong!

But I’m so glad we did. Because the food was outstanding.

The restaurant seats maybe 30-40 people. It’s nothing fancy; nice but not a posh night out, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s unlicenced, and doesn’t offer a BYOB policy either.

Saba persian restaurant interior

There were no other diners when we arrived and the waiter was very attentive; happily talking us through the menu and making suggestions based on flavours and tastes we like.

Oh, and the menu really doesn’t do the food justice. At all.

To start, the husband ordered Naan Panir Sabzi, which included feta cheese and walnuts. The colours were vibrant and fresh, the food tasty.

Saba persian restaurant feta and walnut salad

I ordered Kashk-e Bademjan which is mashed aubergine – not very exciting, right? Wrong! It was incredibly tasty with lots of flavours and one of the biggest naan breads I’ve ever seen.

Saba persian restaurant mashed aubergine

Saba persian restaurant naan bread

For main course husband ordered a skewer with rice and salad – I can’t remember if he went for chicken and added a lamb one, or the other way round.

Saba persian restaurant skewer grill chicked and lamb

Either way, it was delicious (I had to try it, purely for research purposes, obvs). The meat was tender and juicy and succulent.

I had lamb shank with rice.

Saba persian restaurant lamb shank and fragrant rice

The lamb was smothered in a thick succulent sauce and was some of the most tender lamb I’ve ever had; it quite literally fell off the bone.

To finish we were served baklava and Persian tea.

Saba persian restaurant tea and baklava

The baklava was sweet and flaky with a nutty honey taste. The tea was served in a beautiful ornate pot and poured into tiny glass mugs.

Saba restaurant persian tea

Saba persian restaurant tea

It was clear and fragrant with both sweet and spicy flavours. I tried to guess some of the ingredients- the waiter wasn’t keen to share all of them as it’s a secret apparently – but he did tell me that cardamom and rose are two of the flavours.

We had a fabulous evening and will definitely return in the future without a deal voucher. In fact I’m already wondering what to have next! The menu also includes Afghan options, which definitely pique my interest.

Have you eaten Persian or Afghan food?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

Restaurant review – Fahrenheit at Genting Casino, Edgbaston

This week the husband and I did something a little different, and went for dinner at the Fahrenheit Restaurant at Genting Casino just outside Birmingham city centre.

The reviews were great and it’s nice to mix things up a little sometimes. Neither of us are gamblers, so casinos are not our usual stomping ground (I’ve been to one a couple of times, many years ago for work Christmas parties).

What a great decision it was!

The whole experience was fabulous. On arrival we were asked if we would like to join, and advised that we couldn’t bet more than £1400 without ID. Funnily enough, that wasn’t a problem! Photographs were taken for security (fair enough) and then we were shown through to the venue.

I was a little concerned that the atmosphere might be a bit brash, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The gaming area is on one side of the space, with an opulent bar area in the middle, and the restaurant tucked away offering a quiet and sedate dining experience at the other side. We were welcomed by the manager who invited us to take a seat while he brought drinks to our table. We were given menus to peruse and then ordered our meals before being shown to our table in the restaurant.

Bar area Genting Casino Edgbaston

Drinks in the bar

The menu comprises a good selection of starters, a grill section of steaks and burgers and a mains section with various fish and meat dishes. For starter we both ordered the black pudding scotch egg; in fact this was one of the reasons we decided to eat at the restaurant because I’ve been raving about them to the husband for ages, and he’s a big black pudding fan.

For main course I ordered yuzu glazed pork belly with pea and potato salad, and husband chose the chicken burger with chorizo and halloumi served with sweet potato fries.

First the starters – they lived up to expectations and then some.  A crispy coating, not too thick or crunchy gave way to a layer of flavoursome black pudding encasing a soft boiled egg. It was cooked to perfection, the juice of the yolk spilling out and mixing with the accompanying delicately flavoured mustard aioli to give an extra bit of moisture to an already juicy dish. Just stunning.

Black pudding scotch egg

Main courses were well presented ; husband’s burger on a wooden board with a metal basket full of sweet potato fries and his extra side order of the house chilli and bourbon sauce.

Chicken burger

I sneaked a chip (because, why wouldn’t I?!) and they were so good; crispy, crunchy, fluffy and extra delicious dipped into the sauce which was a mix of sweet and fiery and rich. The burger toppings of halloumi and chorizo were plentiful, although he did comment that the chicken was slightly too overcooked around the edges rendering it a little crispy. A small thing to deal with in the grand scheme of things.

Close up of chicken burger

My meal was served in a glazed bowl; two thick pieces of pork belly on top of peas, broad beans, purple baby potatoes and pak choi. The crust of the pork was slightly dry in places, but the meat was incredibly succulent and fell apart on the fork. The salad lacked seasoning and was quite bland, but a good helping of salt resolved that and the freshness was a perfect foil against the indulgent pork.

Yuzu pork belly

Yuzu pork belly close up

Now, generally when we go out to eat I’m not a dessert person, but the dessert menu was very good and peanut butter cheesecake was too tempting an option to not try. Served with a smear of strawberry jam, freeze dried raspberries and salted peanut brittle, it was just divine.

Peanut butter cheesecake peanut brittle

Like contort-your-face-into-all-sorts-of-enjoyment poses divine. The topping was light and fluffy, with a distinct taste of both the peanut butter and cream cheese, on top of a sweet biscuit base. The brittle was crunchy and sweet and savoury all at the same time, and the sweetness added an extra zing.

The staff were exceptionally good – from the manager who gave us his personal welcome to the two waitresses who served our table; they were polite and keen to please without being too over the top or in your face (I hate that when I’m eating out). The ambience of the restaurant was really lovely; softly lit and welcoming.

Fahrenheit restaurant Genting Casino

Interestingly, the bit that put me off (that it’s in a casino) actually intrigues me for our next visit. I had a wander around the gambling area and it’s all very enticing – not in a “gamble your house” kind of way, but in a “this is something a bit different after a meal” kind of way. Obviously they’re equipped for big betters (and I’m sure that’s their preference) but minimum stakes on the roulette table start from just 50 pence so even just a tenner could be a fun way to round off a night.

I already can’t wait to go back.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x