Category Archives: Food

Never Seconds never again

Martha has photographed school dinners, raised money for charity, drawn 2 million hits to her web site and been banned from blogging by her council. At 9-years of age she is about to get a little more famous as Twitter gets outraged at this appalling decision by Argyll and Bute Council.

Martha started blogging in April 2012 in order to post a picture of each of her school dinners. As she said:

Every post will have a pic and a list!

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It wont happen, will it?

Never Seconds raised £2000 for Mary’s Meals charity which “sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. The charity now feeds more than 600,000 children every school day and it costs just £10.70 / €12.40 / $16.80 to feed a child for a year”.

Today Martha was called in to her head mistress’s office and told that she could no longer photograph the food at her school after a newspaper headline.

You can write to Argyll and Bute Council to complain about their decision through their contact form.

The following is what I wrote:

I think it is such a shame that an enterprising little girl such as Martha ran her own blog, raised money for charity and managed to raise such publicity for a public function and you stopped her from transmitting such information.

Public school meals should be transparent and council functions are meant to be accountable. I hope you reverse this simply anachronistic, and close minded, decision and allow this little girl to not only do a good deed but to serve as a democratic citizen holding you to account.

Update: Never Seconds is allowed to keep taking photographs. Here is the updated statement by the council: http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/news/2012/jun/statement-school-meals-argyll-and-bute-council

Blueberry and ricotta pancakes

With leftover ricotta in the fridge and an abundance of blueberries – three punnets bought at 40p each and one arriving with the veg box – I felt inspired this morning to find out whether blueberry and ricotta pancakes are a thing.

They are. They are very tasty so here is the recipe:

1 cup of self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup of milk
2 table spoons of ricotta
half a cup of blueberries
butter for the frying pan

Add the flour and salt to a bowl. Make a well and add the egg and milk and ricotta. Whisk until well combined. Add the blueberries and mix. Our blueberries were huge so I cut them in half.

Dollop the mixture into the frying pan and fry the pancakes until bubbles appear on the one side. Flip over.

I drizzled with maple syrup and my daughter loved them.

Tip from the Homemade Mama: add two teaspoons of corn flour into the mixture for fluffy pancakes.

Blueberry and ricotta pancakes

Mersina enjoying her blueberry and ricotta pancakes

Red velvet cheesecake cupcakes with a hint of mint

Possibly the best cupcakes ever – adapted from this recipe for Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies.

Ingredients

Red Velvet Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
A sprig of mint
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Cream Cheese Layer:

1 tub of cream cheese light, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment
1 cupcake tray
Paper cupcake molds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Brownie layer
Melt the butter with the mint in a saucepan. Pour the butter into a large bowl and add the following ingredients: sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. Mix well. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add into the cocoa mix.

Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Pour 3/4 the mix evenly into the cupcake molds. 1/4 cup of the mix will be added to the top.

Cream cheese layer
Blend together the following ingredients: cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie mix into each cupcake.

Add the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern.

Bake the cupcakes for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before removing the cupcakes.

Recipe Healthy Vegan Brownies

The lovely Kimberlee from the Homemade Mama has let me post her healthy vegan brownie recipe just in time for any jubilee parties over the long weekend.

It makes a great guilt free cake to take with you and it’s very healthy.

“Chocolate & beetroot go amazingly well together and I’m pretty sure you can get away with considering one of these brownies as one of your 5 a day!”

Vegan Beetroot Brownies

  • 125g Plain flour
  • 80g dark cocoa powder (or 100g melted bitter chocolate)
  • 80g Golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 75g chopped nuts of your choice (I use brazils/walnuts/hazelnuts/pecans)
  • 80ml Hazelnut milk (or soya/almond milk will do, i just love the nutella flavour hazelnut milk gives)
  • 80ml sunflower oil
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed.
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 45g grated fresh beetroot
  • 25g bitter chocolate chips or chunks
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4 & line a 28x18cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and nuts.
  3. In a separate bowl or jug mix together the hazelnut milk, oil, mashed banana and the vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture.
  5. Now add the grated beetroot and stir until just combined. The mixture will be quite thick.
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined tray & top with chocolate chunks.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.
  9. Eat them all!!

Picture

Froyo at AngelBerry

AngelBerry is a new frozen yoghurt place on Broad Quay on the Harbourside. It replaces Coffee Beach which was a cafe that looked like it would have been better placed next to a bus station but which surprisingly managed to stay open for about a year.

Thank goodness for change. I am not exaggerating when I say that, second to Flinty Red on Cotham Hill, Angelberry is the best thing to ever happen in terms of food enjoyment in Bristol. There is a delicious and magical variety of flavours surrounded by choices of chocolate , more chocolate, fruit and other yummies.

The only thing that could be better than this froyo dispensary is a 24-hour bookstore combination cafe over three floors in some old but incredibly well lit building which also sells froyo in a corner somewhere and cakes by the Homemade Mama. Until then, we have froyo by the Harbourside.

The new place is a lot brighter and more spacious because there is only seating at the front half of the store and outside on the pavement.

The back half is filled with 10 frozen yoghurt (FroYo) machines and a counter full of toppings. The froyo flavours change occasionally and last week there was pina colada whereas the decidedly delicious coconut is no longer around.

The process of obtaining the precious FroYo is quite simple. You pick up a small or large tub, fill it with one or more of the FroYos, add toppings, weigh your creation and pay. There are healthy toppings like muesli and fruit, usually lots of strawberries, kiwi fruit and blueberries. There are also more indulgent treats like mini oreos, mini eggs and white minstrels.

It is all quite child-friendly and my 15-month-old daughter has visited three times with me so far and received many smiles. She gets offended by the coldness of the yoghurt, likes the marshmallows yet eschews the pobbles. Pobbles (agar jelly beads filled with fruit juice) are a big talking point but they are also heavy-ish so take care. My strategy is to fill up on marshmallows which are light but tasty.

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Things that make it even better
The FroYo is fat-free and has 1/3 of the calories of ice-cream. Remember to pick up a loyalty card because the 10th purchase (up to 200gms or £3) is free.

Angelberry is run by Ryan Pasco and James Taylor. This is the second cafe they have opened, the first is in Hartcliffe.

Angelberry, Unit 3b, Broad Quay, Bristol, BS1 4DA. www.angelberry.me, @angelberryme

Vegetarian thoughts

I was eating chicken wings the other day at work and not only did they remind me of the time I worked at a fast food restaurant on university campus but they also made me feel utterly wretched for the poor creatures who died so I could have this meal in a disposable container.

I had just been reading statistics about foot and mouth disease in animals and how an immense number of them are killed just to control the spread of it. It brought to mind the documentary I saw once about foot and mouth disease and how one of the men who had to kill lots of sheep developed PTSD. Wouldn’t you? Destroying so many souls. He said that he had killed a mother sheep and the little one was backing away and trying to escape from him. I was heartbroken eating these chicken wings at my desk at work.

I know that we don’t need meat to survive. We can find all the essential nutrients from other sources. I was raised as a meat eater but it’s hard to keep making a conscious choice to eat another creature. I can do it just fine when I don’t think about it. It’s easy and automatic.

I was thinking about all that when I came across a piece on vegfest by Fritha. She outlines how eating meat is not just a choice to bring about another creature’s death but it’s also a way of perpetuating suffering in these poor animals. I don’t want to part of that.

I am going to put a lot of effort into bringing so much amazing food into mine and Mersina’s lives so that meat just doesn’t have a place in it. I also read Ohdeardrea‘s blog and her pictures and descriptions of her vegetarian / vegan meals for her and her little girl are incredibly inspiring and just so beautiful.

Choosing this type of lifestyle feels good not only spiritually but also physically. My body doesn’t do too well with a lot of fats and meat products. I’m just going to see how it all goes for a while and enjoy the delicious and colourful foods out there.

Tonight we are having vegetables in a tomato sauce with pasta for little M and with chickpeas in a tortilla wrap for me.

1 red onion,
1 green pepper
1 courgette
a few mushrooms for the sauce
a few raw mushrooms to add later
1 tin of chick peas
1 clove of garlic
1 carton of passata
olive oil

Chop onion roughly, slice courgette and green pepper, chop up half the mushrooms and slice the garlic thinly. Add all these to a frying pan and saute with olive oil until softened and slightly browned. Add garlic towards the end of the frying process as it burns easily then add the tomato passata, some water and a dash of salt. Cover and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Once the sauce is thickened it is ready.

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I’m going to keep looking for inspiration in places like pinterest and other websites with vegetarian recipes. Please send me any recipes you think I might like. I asked about soy bechamel the other day on Twitter and some lovely people sent me links with great recipes including silken tofu so I am going to pop by the Chinese supermarket tomorrow and get some.

Cosmo, reopens

Last Wednesday, I was enjoying a Michelin-starred tasting menu in a Tipi on Queen Square while the live act sang soothing Laura Marling tunes.

Three days later I was dodging elbows in the back, and plates piled high with chips, while holding my 14-month-old-daughter, at Cosmo which has reopened on Clifton Triangle.

The pan-Asian restaurant provides a buffet of up to 120 dishes from nine countries including China, Japan and India. There used to be three sections in the first version of the restaurant although the curries were never particularly appealing as they swam in their soup-like sauces; the fried foods were passably good, and the Chinese dishes were mostly quite nice.

Around the time that buffet-extravaganza Za Za Bazaar opened on the Harbourside, Cosmo shut down and in the hands of new management took some time to transform itself. The seats used to be on the outer edges of the restaurant with the central floor space left for the food.

The new Cosmo sees every available space filled with seating and with the seating area at the back of the restaurant extended to provide more covers. They have increased the number of dishes and improved the curries.

There used to be more Asian-styled desserts with jellied mousses and individual cups of creamy sweets. This has now changed to slices of cake, fruit (including cherry tomatoes) and Summertime ice cream straight from the tub.

The perils of a buffet were made apparent as my daughter and I watched a bowl of very nice looking grapes be picked over and handled by one diner before he chose only one or two bunches. The profiteroles were from frozen and some were still ever so cold. The cakes were tasty though.

The renovations mean that the food space has expanded and the aisles narrowed. One row of warmed food tubs was made of only fried food like spring rolls, prawn toast and chicken dumplings. It looked like a sea of light beige. The Chinese dishes which used to be quite edible in a late-night-takeaway sort of manner had lost any of their charm and tasted vinegary and plain. Sauces were in big squirty bottles like mass catering offerings although more care had been taken with the Indian food.

There were fresh naan and a tandoor oven for the chicken which seemed colourful and not unpleasant. There was mango chutney and lime pickle for the fresh popadoms and the usual rices. The sushi bar is only open on Sunday lunch time and evenings but the food was already being prepared and looked as it should.

The whole experience was quite depressing and not just because it was a buffet prepared for the masses but because the previous incarnation was actually quite nice.

The lunch time price of £7.99 for adults and children 1.5m or less at £3.50 means that it is accessible to families and a cheap way to eat out. It’s a shame however when eating out equates to a rushed service, a poor selection of not very appetizing dishes and a cramped experience.

As Mersina and I were venturing back to our seats, Laura Marling started playing on the radio and I guess that’s the only time that this buffet style cattle market will have anything in common with the fine dining experiences available at the moment.

See the following blog post for my housemate’s experience at Cosmo of having to delete his photos from his camera phone.

New Year’s menu

Sometimes, I wish that every meal I ate could be sourced from the deli / butcher / restaurant Source but alas it just isn’t meant to be. For special occasions, however, they are the most wonderful resource in Bristol. My household had Christmas dinner from there which we ordered in advance and I also went there for ingredients for my New Year’s dinner.

The main meal was steak and frites. Two aged Aberdeen Angus sirloin steaks were cooked simply on the frying pan after being left out to get to room temperature. They were covered in oil and salt first. That doesn’t require much of a recipe but it may need a little improvement so suggestions are welcome. Maybe I should have tenderized the beef slightly by bashing them with the frying pan first? I shall experiment.

The first dish I cooked was a lovely chorizo, chickpea and prawn stew. It was very nice and could turn out to be amazing with a bit more care and seasoning. I bought tiger prawns from Source that were so big I managed to cut myself three times on the shells as I peeled them. I undercooked the prawns, didn’t have sherry so I used Port and I forgot to add salt and pepper.

But next time the stew will be incredible.

For now, here’s the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil
4 fresh piquillo peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into 2cm squares
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
150g good-quality cooking chorizo sausage, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp dry sherry
600g drained cooked chickpeas (freshly cooked or tinned)
100ml chicken stock
70g baby spinach leaves, washed
20 good-quality raw tiger prawns, peeled, deveined and heads removed
Large handful of basil, leaves only, torn
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
METHOD

How to make tiger prawn, chorizo and chickpea stew
1. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large, wide pan and add the peppers, red onion and chorizo. Cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes again, then add the sherry and vinegar and reduce down.

2. Add the chickpeas, stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

3. In a separate pan, fry the tiger prawns in the remaining olive oil for about 30-45 seconds each side. Once cooked, add to the chickpea stew with the spinach. Let wilt slightly, then scatter over the basil, season and serve.

© Gordon Ramsay
http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/gordon-ramsay/tiger-prawn-chorizo-and-chickpea-stew-recipe

Za Za Bazaar, Harbourside

If you love Pizza Hut and Iceland then your luck is in. Za Za Bazaar opened about a month ago now and serves 997 people at a sitting. It is the place you can go to enjoy a family meal, a casual treat before going out or something else which puts an emphasis on ‘casual’. There is one exception which is the Indian selection of dishes which are excellent.

There are meant to be cuisines from around the world but there are only about eight main sections:

Indian: Excellent; butter chicken; lamb roganjosh, dhal, pilau rice with a hint of safron, chicken tikka, fresh, handmade naan, popadoms.

Chinese: Poor; noodles, rice and a few meat based dishes; steamed dumplings which didn’t quite taste right; spring rolls and other fried dumplings.

Tex-Mex: Mediocre; nachos; chicken wings.
American: Mediocre; burgers cooked on the grill; toppings; corn on the cob.

Piri Piri chicken: unknown; I am not sure why this dish gets its own section but it is cooked to order apparently.

Sushi: Mediocre;

Italian: Mediocre; garlic bread, risotto (freshly made), pasta, pizza;

Salad: Poor; Broccoli, chick peas, olives and a few more individual items. Dinner offers a greater selection but they’re still not brilliant. There are individual miniscule prawn cocktails which are bland at best.

Dessert: Poor; three / four types of mini cakes; profiteroles; soft serve ice cream, chocolate fondue. For dinner there is also a serving of mini creme brulee which were actually quite tasty; melon and grapefruit. Cupcakes – atrocious.

The dishes I’ve mentioned are only a selection and there are a few more available. Note that there are fewer dishes at lunch time than at dinner.

Lunch is £6.99 each from Monday to Thursday; £9.99 the rest of the days. Dinner is £12.99 each from Monday to Thursday; £15.99 the rest. Under 5s eat free; 5s to 11s half price.. The drinks are a bit pricey with the cheapest red wine at £4 for a small glass (175ml).

The service was excellent. My daughter made an incredible mess under her high chair but the staff laughed it off and said that cleaning was just part of their job.

The curiousity of such a large and colourful place is probably more exciting than the food. I thought it was ok if you’re looking for a cheap solution that accommodates a lot of people. I would be mortified if I was taken there on purpose and along with La Riva, it is on my list of places to never propose marriage.

Try it or don’t try it. It won’t make much difference to your life either way.

http://zazabazaar.com/

Mexican Tequila Bananas

I saw this recipe on a Mexican cooking show this morning.

Take four bananas, cut lengthwise
Melt butter in a frying pan, add bananas
Let them get a bit of colour
Sprinkle with sugar
Turn over, sprinkle with sugar
Keep cooking until caramelized
Add tequila, flambe
Add double cream
Add half a lime
Top with cinnamon

Serve. Enjoy.