Archive of ‘Off The Shelf’ category
It is T minus two days until Father’s Day and I’m in a bit of a tizz. Pa Berg has requested weedkiller for Father’s Day! Weedkiller?! I’ve offered to take him out for lunch (to the Old Boathouse in Amble, which I’m desperate to try) , for brunch (to the Mal, because I’ve been waiting for an excuse to sample the new menu for months) and even to the cinema (as I fancy a bit of picamix and seeing the Great Gatsby) but all he wants is weedkiller. “Dad, we can’t consume weedkiller!” Why can’t he be more like Ma Berg, who gratefully received her Mother’s Day gift of a trip to La Bodega when I wanted to test their tapas? (review here).
The usually very hungry Daddy Berg has even gone as far as banning me from buying him anything he ‘doesn’t need’, which I think sort of goes against the sentiment of the day. In a way I think many dads are quite unassuming on Father’s Day and don’t like to make a big fuss. Personally, I consider cheese a bit of a necessity and he seems to really enjoy meat every Sunday lunch time, so I’m pondering making a purchase from the TASTECLUB’s Father’s Day collection. I had hoped to win their Foodie dad competition and circumvent the whole rule about ‘buying him anything he doesn’t need’ but alas, I just checked the winner’s details and it’s not to be. So, in the running for Dad’s special gift, along with a bottle of weedkiller, is…
A turophile tour
Cheesemaking tour and tasting £25 (photo courtesy of TASTECLUB)
A mountain of meat
Luxury steak board (£65), photo courtesy of TASTECLUB
My thinking is that if he really doesn’t want anything, I can at least help him get rid of it when it arrives (ahem), which is definitely not possible if I opt for the weedkiller. Plus, I’m almost 100% certain if I did buy him the weedkiller he’d go in the huff like the time I made him a mini-breakfast (he’d already eaten toast, I was trying not to bloat him).
So, what’s it to be? Weedkiller? Cheese? Steak? Is anyone else’s father being a total grump this year? Should I respect his wishes and not buy him anything? Guidance, please!
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Despite my good intentions I always seem to be writing about my foodie penpal parcel of the month about five days after reveal day. Reveal day is usually on the last day of the month and the idea is that everyone who takes part in foodie penpals Europe and America posts a link to their blog on the Lean Green Bean site so we can all take a look at what everyone else has received. As a former journo I’m extraordinarily nosey so I love taking a peek at what everyone else has received in their parcels and it always incites inspiration and jealousy in equal measures (even if I have a fantastic present on my table at home). Moving forwards I’ve decided to be extra strict with myself to try to meet the posting deadline, in fact, I’ve decided to spring clean the blog in general over the Bank Holiday weekend and polish up part-written posts and semi-perfected recipes, as well as having a bit of a restructure.
Anyway, enough of my weekend world takeover plan, here’s a little look at what I received in this month’s foodie penpal parcel, which came to me all the way from the lovely Lina in Lithuania.
Lovely Lithuanian treats
Lina had a hard job as I’ve been trying (and failing) to diet this month – so she put together a parcel of authentic Lithuanian foods including Lithuanian crackers and sweet vanilla biscuits (great for tea dunking), as well as some other healthy-ish bites. There was a lot of variety in this package, which included everything from meat marinades and oats to add to smoothies right through to a coffee bean lollipop! I’ve recently become semi-addicted to the chocolate beans from Hotel Chocolat and I’m pretty sure this lolly was a lot kinder calorie-wise. It was also a lot kinder to my pocket as at £3.99 a packet the beans are an expensive new addiction – does anyone have a good recipe/technique for making their own? The package element I’m dying to try is the dried mushrooms – I got really into mushroom consumption during meat-free March and I’m contemplating putting these into a pasta or risotto dish.
I sent a parcel to Stephen in Belfast he doesn’t have a blog and I unfortunately forgot to photograph the goods before I sent them over – but I went for a mix of sweet treats and Asian cooking ingredients, which I’m hoping hit the spot. If you’d like to get involved with foodie penpals, take a trip over to Thisisrocksalt and read up on the fantasticness that is Euro foodie penpals.
Once upon a time there was a girl who really hated beans – their shiny, slimy skins, their squishy, icky inners and in the case of baked beans, their sick-inducing smell. That girl was me. One of the main reasons behind me going meat-free last month was to spur me into trying new things and on this level at least the experiment was successful – I have finally embraced the bean, well sort of.
Mid-way through Meatfree March I bought a really big organic butternut squash, pretty huge in fact and after turning part of it into chips I got a bit stuck as to what to do with the rest. I’d been craving sweet things all month so decided to make a batch of cupcakes with some of the squash and stumbled across this recipe from my beloved Domestic Sluttery, which helped me to find a use for the rest. Although some of my Meatfree March teas were less experimental (thank you Quorn for inventing battered sweet and sour Quorn pieces) I did make a massive effort to make appealing lunches during the month, so that I didn’t feel temped to stray from the vegetarian path. So, armed with two very colourful antipasti jars I’d been given to review from the Pegalonia range (which I picked up from the lovely Country Whey Deli in Jesmond, they usually cost £3.50 a jar), I decided to make some mezze wraps complete with my own version of a butternut squash and bean spread. Here is my take on the Sluttery recipe – it came out really rather scrumptious:
Butternut squash and butterbean spread
- Half a large butternut squash (cubed and roasted in olive oil)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 large glug of olive oil
- 1 small tin of butter beans
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp ground coriander
This was a really easy spread to make – it was just a case of roasting the squash in olive oil, letting it cool and then blending all of the ingredients together, adding the lemon juice and olive oil gradually until I got the correct consistency. Then it was onto the wrap creation.
My midweek mezze lunch ensemble
On the hunt for tasty meat-free treats at the start of March I was pointed in the direction of the Pelagonia range, which is made up of jars of Macedonian vegetable loveliness. I chose the Lutetiniza – roasted spicy pepper and Malidzano – smoky aubergine , to sample and thought they would be just the thing to go in a wrap with my butternut squash spread. Turns out I was right.
Butternut squash and spicy pepper/smoked aubergine wraps - better than a burrito!
My butternut-squash-bean dip was quite hot, which meant it went really well with the creamy, smoky aubergine and even better with the hot, spicy and sweet peppers. These sauces had no hint of the usual antipasti oiliness, so I felt nice and healthy as I tucked into the wraps, which i microwaved and served with a side salad at lunch time. I can honestly say they were better than a beefy burrito and they had the added bonus of being completely dairy-free, which meant my tum was extra happy.
Parcels really brighten my day, which is why in addition to Foodie Penpals, myself and Bitsandbobsbecs set up a vegetarian/vegan recipe swap this month. As a result, it’s been a pretty busy month for our postie and a busy month for blog posts. With this in mind, I’ve decided to do a double whammy penpals post this month. Las month, my parcel arrived a little late month so I didn’t have time to blog about it. The contents of my parcel from my partner were so lovely I thought I’d share them this month along with my set of surprises from my partner this month Kathryn.
Tasty teas, mustard and szechuan spice
I’d told Rose that I’ve been getting into herbal teas to try and avoid caffeine and she sent me a lovely mix of really special teas along with a defuser to pop in my tea mug – such a thoughtful gift. I’ve really enjoyed the Thai style chai in particular. Alongside the teas she sent me some German mustard and a szechuan spice, though I haven’t yet tried these as they seem like natural partners for meat. I was paired up with Eeefke from the Netherlands who eats a vegan and gluten-free diet and blogs about it here and the pairing gave me some good insight ahead of Meat-free March. I sent Eefke some ras el hanout, chipotle chilli, dark chocolate drops, mojo sauce and crystallised pineapple for snacking
This month I was again matched with an overseas partner – this time based in Austria, Anette. I’m still waiting to hear if she liked the parcel I put together for her, which I’m hoping will add a little spice to her life. Annette unfortunately doesn’t have a blog or Twitter, but I put together a parcel of currry spices, a latska kit, crumble fudge and popping candy as she said spices weren’t so easy to get hold of where she lives.
My mass of parcel goodies for March
My March came courtesy of Kat who blogs about pretty and prestine lunches over at Sushisushibento , if you find yourself in a bit of a packed lunch rut you should definitely take a look at her blog, it made me up my lunch game! I nearly burst with glee when her parcel arrived. Not only did it contain a homemade condiment and a conserve, WHOOP! But it was really packed out. There were so many things packed into my parcel and all vegetarian – so I’ve been able to enjoy them throughout the month. I unfortunately started enjoying them a little too soon though, as what isn’t pictured among my amazing haul below is some toffee chocolate biscuit that Kathryn had made herself from TUC biscuits. I tried one piece and couldn’t put the tub down, so they missed out on being snapped. Kat really had everything covered in her parcel – my love of condiments (she sent homemade tomato chutney and damson jam), my love of snacking – crisps AND nut bars, and my new sweet tooth – the biscuits. She also included some mini eggs for Easter, which was a lovely thought.
If you fancy getting your own selection of goodies through the post every month, click on the foodie penpals button at the bottom of the site.
One of the first things I did when I set up this food blog last year was to join Foodie Penpals, which was recommended to me by my friend Jules over at Goodgobble. It was one of my smartest moves of 2012 by far! There’s something really nice about having a personalised parcel delivered to your door every month and when the scheme took a brief hiatus last month for Christmas I felt very bereft of parcel loveliness despite it being the month of Father Christmas!
The scheme works by matching you up with two penpals – one you send a parcel to and the other sends to you. This month I was very organised about sending my parcel because of the big move. I was also a tad excited to be back into the penpals parcelling after the month off, so I so sent if off within the first week to Steph from Steph Loves Cake. She’d very kindly given me free reign over what to buy her so I got very excited and sent a mix of cooking and baking ingredients and naughty and nice things that could be eaten straight away. I included some cracked black pepper pretzels and bear-shaped biscuits with banana baked in (only alliteration can make tea-dunkers better). You can read about the things I sent Stpeh here. While you are there you should take a look at her recipes, she’s been doing some beautiful things with bagels recently!
I’m extra glad that Steph liked her parcel because I managed to injure myself in the rush to get it posted. After a heated debate with a queue jumper in the Post Office (I love a bit of British queueing outrage) I managed to topple over on my very sensible and lovely Cuban heeled shoes on my way back to the office. It was a proper CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! moment, which ended up with two burly men carrying me into a nearby Subway while I held a banana belonging to one of said gentlemen. Next, a carer for a wheelchair-bound man got a bit peeved that I wasn’t moving out of the way of the wheelchair and tried to queue rage me before he clocked my purple swollen foot now glowing like a sickly beacon. The eventual outcome was me spending the afternoon wandering around A&E sans shoes and tights (and thankfully with fake-tanned legs), accompanied by my pseudo mother for the afternoon, Becs from Bitsandbobbecs. It was all a bit ‘What happens in Kavos’, if you catch my drift and totally not what I had in mind for a Wednesday afternoon.
My parcel this month came courtesy of Katie Lawes. Katie doesn’t have a food blog but she does have a site featuring her design work and her work on food and drink branding in particular gave me some major chuckles since I work in marketing. This digital work is very fun! Katie sent me a mix of healthy snacks and though I couldn’t eat the bombay mix (peanuts=food nemesis) my dad was over the moon to be presented with it and I bagged some daughter points. I’ve been munching my way through the rice cakes with soup at work and giving off a very saintly impression to my new co-workers. I’ve also been slathering the ridiculously hot but bloody gorgeous pickle on as many foods as possible. I cannot stress how much I love condiments. Send me more condiments foodie penpals! Send me all of the condiments! Also in the parcel was come goji berries, which I’m planning to add into some breakfast muffins and some carob powder, which I intend to use to make something special for another parcel I am sending this month as part of heart swap. This is a Valentines Day present swap that will guarantee I won’t spend Valentines Day without a gift for the millionth year in a row (pity me, send me stuff).
Here’s my super food(s) parcel from Katie
My parcel of niceness featuring bombay mix, liquorice, chilli pickle, rice cakes, goji berries and carob
Fancy being a foodie penpal?
If you like the sound of people posting you stuff and you brightening up other people’s days, (injuring yourself in the process is optional) you should check out the scheme. It is run by the very lovely Carol Ann over at thisisrocksalt, read more about it here. If you haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, or have quit yours already, I think receiving more fantastic food things in the post is a pretty good resolution to make and one that you won’t regret!
I feel slightly like I’ve been in a Christmas carb coma for a week or so, thanks to the razzmatazz of the festive season and this is the excuse I’m using for getting a little bit behind with my blog posts. Over the next few days i’ll be playing catchup while casually munching my way through the chocolates and sweets Santa kindly brought me.
Something else Santa delivered co/Zoe at splodzblogz, was my fabulous Moneysupermarket Secret Santa present. For an overview of the scheme see my previous post on the scheme, but as a brief reminder – I was tasked with finding an appropriate present for a fellow blogger and received a brilliant gift from her in return. I was paired up with active, adventurous snacker Zoe and you can read about the foodie Christmas Hamper I sent her here. The hamper was delivered through one of my favourite Leeds shops, Millies, who run a dedicated hamper service
If you find yourself in need of gift ideas next Christmas, or for birthdays, weddings etc, I can thoroughly recommend their service and their hampers, which come packed with really unusual, but vey tasty treats,
As for my surprise, I was thrilled with the gorgeous, colourful tagine Zoe chose for me from kitchenware store Lakeland. She picked up on my love of all things spicy and thought it would make a useful kitchen addition, which I’m pretty sure it will. I haven’t made anything in it yet but I’ve been scouring the cookbooks I received for Christmas for suitable recipe and I’ll be asking Zoe if she has any recommendations too. Here’s a picture of the beaut:
Christmas is a lovely time of family, festivity and FOOD! There’s not much that tops the pure indulgence of the holiday season and the jewel in the crown of this socially acceptable eatathon is Christmas Day itself. It’s become a tradition in our household that I prepare the starter for Christmas dinner while my hardworking Ma makes everything else including dessert. This is in spite of the fact that neither she nor I actually eat Christmas pudding. For our final course we usually tuck into a large bowl of rum sauce and soya rum sauce respectively, mmm.
This year I decided we deserved more, far more. So, I got my hands on some alternatives to the traditional Christmas pud, desserts without a zillion nuts and sultanas but not without a festive feel. Here are my top three and their respective reviews.
1) Bettys chocolate orange cake £12.95
This is a very classy chocolate cake – filled with chocolate orange ganache, it’s coated with swiss milk chocolate and shimmering gold chocolate. Extraordinarily rich it found favour among the adults who said it went perfectly with a cup of after dinner coffee. This is quite a large cake and could easily feed 10 with it being so rich, however we thought it would be better at an adults gathering or perhaps a New Year shinding because of how utterly indulgent it is. The mix of textures from crisp chocolate through to soft, moist cake and smooth ganache were mouth watering.
Bettys deliciously rich chocolate orange cake
2) Asda Sparkle Chocolate Cheesecake £7. Apologies for the photo quality on this one, I didn’t have my camera to hand and my iPhone seemed to think this was a blurry cheesecake and not a sparkly one. What you should be able to see though is that it came generously topped with chocolate sauce, curls, balls, flake and more gold shimmer! Apparently gold shimmer is where it’s at when it comes to festive desserts. This was the all-round family favourite thanks to the chocolate topping and crunchy chocolate biscuit base. Not quite so rich as the Bettys cake this still felt like a luxury dessert and the cheesecake tasted ‘cheesy’ unlike many cheaper cheesecakes you buy in supermarkets and at 1kg per serving, it was a real family sized dessert. This was probably our favourite all rounder and is a great fallback for those with unexpected guests.
Asda sparkle chocolate cheesecake from the top, complete with sparkle
And to show it’s plentiful size.
Deep and crunchy and even chocolate cheesecake
I decided to take a slice snap to just how deep the cheesecake was, and yes that is a Christmas tree in the background.
3) Coles black cherry and Amaretto Christmas pudding £6.95-£8.95 This was the closest to a traditional Christmas pud and the dessert I as a huge cherry and Amaretto fan was most excited about.
Cherry and Amaretto pudding with cream
Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite the cherryatto delight I was hoping for. It was a little like a toffee pudding crossed with a traditional pud. A strong selling point for the non-Christmas pud eaters was – though it did have almonds on the top it was relatively nut free and sultanas were nearly non-detectable. However, it wasn’t nearly as Amaretto flavoured as I would have liked and the sweet almond liqueur was only really noticeable when you got a cherry (oo-er) which were obviously soaked in the stuff. Still, it was definitely nicer than the traditional Christmas pud and a good compromise for the family. It also felt like a proper grownups dessert.
As there is no Foodie Penpals this month I was very glad to be approached to take part in Moneysupermarket’s Secret Santa Challenge. The scheme is acting as a December connect for bloggers who operate in the same areas and the idea is that each blogger buys another a secret santa present with a budget of £25 (which they’ve provided), with everyone blogging about what they send and receive (much like Foodie Penpals, which I’m hoping to persuade my partner to join).
I love taking part in Foodie Penpals and I also love Christmas, so I jumped at the chance to send a Christmassy foodie package. I’ve been paired up with Zoe at Splodzblogz who has quite an eclectic blog with leanings towards food blogging. From her blog, I’ve learnt Zoe likes doing outdoorsy stuff (a braver lady than I), has quite a sweet tooth and loves a good cuppa.
I’m hoping the parcel I’ve put together for her is suitably Christmassy and appeals to her tastebuds. I’ll be doing another post once I’ve received my parcel and Zoe has unwrapped hers, so check back to find out how it all goes down. Meanwhile, take a look at her blog and her post about the scheme.
Splodz likes the outdoors, hopefully my parcel will fuel some adventures
I’ve also joined forces with my work colleague Becs to bring Secret Santa to my office this month, as I really do love surprise presents. It’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!
I seem to start many of my Foodie Penpal posts by explaining why my post is late – we are meant to post on the last day of the month all at the same time. So, as has become the tradition…this month my post is late because I’m away for the weekend visiting some lovely friends in London, so have only just had the time to get to my laptop.
Excuses over, if you haven’t read one of my penpal posts before, Foodie Penpals is a scheme that originated in the US and was brought over to the UK by the lovely Thisisrocksalt, to find out more about how it works take a look at her blog or click on the badge at the bottom of my page.
This month my parcel came courtesy of Rachel over at Foodnerd4life, who I was very impressed to learn has the envious job of inventing pie fillings for a living. Since my evening of pie at Asda HQ ‘pie maker’ is a job I’m much aspiring to. I told Rachel I was feeling very Christmassy, loved spice and warned her about my limited cow milk intake, but gave her quite a loose scope on what I’d like to see in my parcel. In the end, she sent a package full of sugar and spice and all things nice. Here’s the beautiful food-inspired Christmas card that came in my parcel.
My festive foodie Christmas card courtesy of foodnerd4life
Inside the parcel was a real mix of ready-to-eat and quality ingredients. The diversity of this package blew me away and though I’ve not had a chance to sample much of it yet I’m very excited about doing so. The first thing I dived into was the homemade chocolate fudge, which I did share a little with my work colleagues (I’m nice like that). It’s always lovely when a penpal goes to the effort of making something for you and the fudge was delicious. I hope the fudge I’m making as part of my Christmas hampers turns out half as well. Rachel also include a mix for ;Joy the Bakers pancakes’, the recipe for which can be found on her blog (you should take a look, her blog is very pretty). The special thing about the mix is that it requires no eggs. Also in the sweet category was some Rabbit Candy from her local Chinese store.
Moving on the the spice, Rachel had included some fabulously fragrant Paprika from a recent trip to Madrid (it’s begging for me to make paella with it) and some Japanese chilli oil. And for the nice, I had some freeze dried olives and some unusual squid ink. I think I’ll probably put the olives into some scones and if Santa brings me the pasta maker I’ve asked for, the squid ink could well be making it’s way into a pasta dish. Here’s my impressive haul..
My foodie penpal parcel November 2012
I sent my parcel to Kimberley Stout fullasanegg Manchester, who is a fellow baker and a bit of a chocolate lover. Kimberley told me that she liked ginger (which I may have got a wee bit carried away with). I sent her some festive chocolates from Bon Bons as I was feeling Christmassy, some chocolate coated ginger fudge – also from Bon Bons, lavender essence for baking and some Alnwick Marmalade complete with more ginger and rum. I was a bit worried about it looking like quite a small parcel but I’d blown my budget a little in Bob Bons. This little boutique chocolate shop is one of my go tos when I get partnered with someone with a sweet tooth.
There’s no foodie penpals running in December, but I am taking part in another exchange specially for Christmas, which has been organised by moneysupermarket.com. As I love giving and receiving parcels I couldn’t really resist when I was asked, so expect more details on that over the next few weeks.
There are few things I love more than pie and I mean few (I’m just going to leave that one lingering) and it seems I’m not the only lady who loves to dig deep into a hearty, moist pie. A survey from Asda published last month found that four in ten woman eat pie each month compared to only two in ten males. Take from that what you will.
Some people in high places somehow found out about my love of pie and invited me to the ultimate: an evening of pie. The event was held at Asda headquarters, Leeds and was an opportunity for bloggers to find out how Asda develop their pie recipes and then manufacture them on a large scale. On the agenda was a chat from the Asda pie team (yes, a team dedicated to pie), a cooking demonstration, some booze, a tour and even a baking challenge. It was the stuff of stuffed pastry dreams.
First we were introduced to the concept of recipe development and shown on a smallscale how to make one of the supermarkets’ new season pies the Ultimate Steak and Ale Pie. We were shown how the chefs make it in the kitchen and also told how to make it in the factory and I was surprised to learn that many tasks are still done by hand. I was also introduced to the concept of tumbling – putting corn starch around your meat to keep it moist. Another interesting tip imparted by the chief of pies was to cook your steak in half of your ale and add the rest of the ale once your gravy is formed, hereby giving more of a depth of flavour. Here’s a photo of the pie chief putting my crimping skills to shame.
Expert pie crimping at Asda Pie Night
Later in the evening, when the pies were ready, we got to sample them straight from the oven alongside real ale from the brewery where the pie’s boozy ingredient comes from. I really don’t like ale, but the pale ale from Joules (not the one pictured below) which we were also given the opportunity to sample was actually really nice. Light (as you’d expect), but still fragrant. Another thing I picked up on the evening was the concept of adding texture to the glaze of your pie. The Asda chefs sprinkled the top of their pies with oats, which inspired me to embellish my own pie when it came to the pie-off.
Steak pies fresh out of the oven washed down with real ale
So, what’s a pie-off? Well, it turns out it’s a lot like Ready Steady Cook, or the invention round of Masterchef but solely pie-centric. My fellow bloggers and I were paired up and presented with a choice of ingredients to use from and asked to invent a pie of our own and let loose in the Asda kitchens. I was paired with a lovely member of Asda staff as there was an odd number of bloggers and she was kind enough to act as my sous chef (which mainly involved reassuring me when it looked like my pie was going crust up). I decided to make a version of my Pizza Pie by cooking chorizo directly into a tomato and red pepper sauce and layering it with spinach and a mix of cheese, onion and egg. This made for a really rich tricolore pie. Into my sauce went onion, fresh basil, garlic and diced chorizo, along with some sweet red peppers I roasted in the oven. Here it is on the assembly line.
My tricolore pie with chorizo, tomato and red pepper sauce, cheese and spinach
As is fairly typical of my cooking, I made far too much mixture and actually ended up baking two pies, on with a puff pastry top and one entirely shortcrust. The pastry was readymade, but the crimping and glazing were down to me. I decided to add some black pepper to the top of one of my pies, inspired by the earlier chef’s showcase. Here I am in action:
Me, mid pie creation
When all of the pies were cooked we sat down to sample them all, alongside some gravy, tasty roasted veg and tatos. Comfort food heaven.
Who ate all the pies? We did at Asda Pie Night
This is a closeup of one of my pies, which clearly shows I need to improve my crimping skills, though it was very tasty, even if I do say so myself.
My tricolore pie at Asda Pie Night
It was really nice to sit around the table with the other bloggers and share a pastry feast and I particularly enjoyed meeting the lovely pret-a-mummy
, as well as the eventual pie-off victors arewenearlythereyetmummy
. It was a lovely evening all round (albeit a calorific one). One thing I did learn and will never forget… pie sweats are worse than meat or even cheese sweats. So kids, remember always to eat pie in moderation.