Wednesday, 31 July 2013

July Foodie Penpals

Having sent a parcel to Germany last month, this month I received one from Germany. There's definitely an extra added excitement when you know your parcel is coming from abroad. I've had some great parcels from England too, but you know you'll have something new to try when it is from another country.

This month, I sent my parcel to a lady in Derbyshire called Denise. I sent her a selection of Japanese bits and pieces, which I hope she enjoys!
My parcel was from a lovely lady called Friederike. She sent me such a massive parcel of goodies that I don't even know where to start. As I opened it, it just kept going and going! Just look at this selection!

I think this needs a couple of photos to show what everything is! 

So first up, clockwise from top left, we have - 
Rye Bread - Friederike said she had always struggled to think up something traditionally German that she could send, until she thought of bread this month. I love British bread but am very happy to give this a try! 
Pumpernickle Bread - I have always wanted to try this. I have no idea what it actually is, but the name is just fantastic! 
Chickpea Flour - Frederike said this is her favourite thing in the parcel. Apparently it makes amazing muffins and pancakes. Life has been a bit too crazy lately to give this a go yet, but I definitely will soon!
Museli - I have to sleep in at work tonight, so this is in my bag ready for breakfast in the morning. I'm going to need a pick me up! 
Himalayan Salt - I recently said that we should get some decent salt, and voila! here it is. 

Second half (left to right) - 
Strawberry and Rhubarb truffles - These smell and taste so deliciously strawberry-y! From what I can make out of the German on the packaging, they're gluten free, vegan, nut free and soya free. 
Chocolate and brazil nut biscotti - I'm can't eat chocolate for two weeks, so haven't been able to dig into these yet, but I can't wait until I can. They look scrummy!
Yoghurt Gummies - My boyfriend and I dived into these straight away. They aren't as sweet as usual gummy sweets, and have that vaguely sour taste that yoghurt has. My boyfriend loved them, despite usually being a sweet hater. They are really morish! 
Vivani Mango and Coconut Chocolate - Again, not able to eat this because of my chocolate ban, but what an amazing sounding combo! I'm sure it'll be gone within minutes of opening the packet.
Grok cheese biscuits - These are SO cheesey. YUM! I could have eaten the whole packet in one go, but have been restraining myself! 

Are you interested in joining foodie penpals? Why wouldn't you be? The fun of making up and sending a parcel, AND receiving a box of goodies every month. It's brilliant. Click on over to see Carol Anne to find out more! 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

June Foodie Penpals

I had a lovely pair of foodie penpals matches this month! The Foodie Penpal powers that be (aka Carol Anne from Rock Salt) had obviously done some alphabetical organisation, so I recieved my parcel from Susan, and sent it to Sue!

Susan, from East Sussex, was a brilliant penpal, who tried really hard to send me a box full of things I'd like. After I told her I cooked a lot of Asian food, she even went to a local Asian supermarket just to buy me some goodies. How sweet is that?! Unfortunately, life has been crazy recently and I haven't had a chance to try out any of my goodies yet. I get fed at work, and while that's handy, it does limit the amount of cooking I do. However, I have a couple of evenings off this week, so will definitely be diving in!

Clockwise from left, my parcel contained:
Divine Chocolate - Delicious and fair trade. Perfect!
Golden Swan Long Life Egg Noodles - We are noodle fiends in this house so these are great.
Coconut Milk Powder - I've been looking for this for a while and I can't wait to try it out. There's a recipe for a coconut creme brulee on the back that I am trying to pluck up courage to try!
Fish Sauce - We use this a lot, so a bottle is always welcome.
Sweet Mango Chilli Sauce - This makes me want to grab some poppadums and dig in.
Chilli Powder - We currently have 2 chilli powders on the go, but one is blow your mouth off spicy and the other is basically just paprika, so hopefully this'll be a happy medium! 
Jelly Belly beans - One of my teachers at Middle School was half American, and always used to bring us these back after the holidays. I don't think I've had them since, but they're just as much fun as I remember!
Lemongrass - Fresh lemongrass is such a treat. It adds a lovely flavour and the smell is one of my all time favourites. 
Pancit Canton Chow Mein Noodles - I wouldn't usually use instant noodles, but they'll be a handy quick lunch for just before work.

Susan also sent me this lovely card that she had leftover from a trip to Japan. Isn't it beautiful?

Thank you for such a fantastic parcel, Susan! I can't wait until I have enough free time to try out all my ingredients! Susan doesn't have a blog, but Sue (the German lady I sent my parcel to) does, so you can see what she thought of my parcel over at Sue in Training. I had a bit of extra time the day I sent her parcel off, so I had fun decorating it with my washi tape! 

If you're interested in joining foodie penpals (and why wouldn't you be?!) this click the button below to find out more!


Friday, 14 June 2013

Good Food Show Summer 2013

I've never been to the Good Food Show before but have always wanted to, and living in Birmingham it would be criminal not to! It's only about 30 minutes from our front door to the NEC, so as soon as I saw the first bit of advertising for it, I knew this was the year to go. And when I saw that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were two of this year's celeb guests, my excitement levels went up another few notches! John came along for the ride, as well as 2 of our friends; one bake off mad obsessive like me and another who was more interested in the free alcohol samples!

It was great! I am so glad we went. The definite highlight was getting this:

New favourite possession? Probably!!

Even better, I just had time to ask him why my bread always looks cooked and risen but is still doughy inside (underproving or possible oven temperature), have a brief chat about what kind of oven I have (where I made a fool of myself by just saying "ummm an electric one") and exchange a little smile before my overexcited friend ruined our mature conversation by telling her we loved him. Haha. We made a hasty retreat after that!! 

Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry's talk in the Supertheatre was great fun too. Lots of bake off innuendo, Paul making jokes about his own love life and they made a delicious looking bread and cake. Their banter is top notch and even the baking hating boys we dragged along were giggly.

However, the day wasn't all about the Great British Bake Off. There were loads of fantastic food stalls and cooking demonstrations. My only real criticism was the lack of variety in the produce stalls. Lots of cheese, alcohol, sausages and olive oil, but not much else. Having said that, the cheese was amazing and I ate far more samples than was good for me! I managed to resist buying, but loved the taste of this Castello Creamy White. Another old favourite of mine are Lymn Bank Farm who have an enormous selection of different flavours, all of which are delicious (except the chocolate orange, that's a step too far for me!). 

There were lots of things to tempt us for lunch, but we ended up with a hog roast bun from Castle Moor Farm. It was delicious. I absolutely love hog roasts, and this one was moist and flavoursome and came with the absolutely necessary stuffing/apple sauce/crackling combo that makes any hog roast complete!

True love is...

The only thing that made me regret my hog roast was when I was looking on the Good Food show website, and found there was a small area of the arena we had missed that had the winners of the Midlands Best Street Food competition. All the vendors look amazing, but I was especially sad to have missed Fresh Rootz, who look absolutely incredible. Their veggie and vegan, eclectic and sustainable selection of food looks right up my street. Hopefully I'll be able to catch them somewhere later this summer.

Another stall that definitely deserves an 'honorable mention' is Good Hemp. John has been using soya milk for a long time because it is meant to be more eco, but when we actually thought about it we weren't sure how it could be. Aside from the issues to do with rainforests (which is hard to find info out about), soy isn't really grown in the UK, so its all imported, which certainly isn't helping anyone. Enter Good Hemp. A UK grown product made into a milk that John actually much prefers to soy. We've been buying their milk for a while, and were really pleased to see a wider variety of their products at the show.

I also bought some amazing lemon and chilli fudge from Tan Rosie Foods (whose spice rubs and marinades were also delicious),a little treat for this month's foodie penpal from Cornish Sea Salt and a mandolin (the slicing kind, not the musical Captain Corelli kind!).

However, we spent longest browsing the Fox's Spices stall. We'd bought some stuff from them at the Ideal Home show a couple of years ago, and I was still dreaming about their Spicy Pineapple Chutney, so we knew that would be on the shopping list this time. They have so many amazing smelling spices, delicious condiments and dried products that we could have spent a fortune! Their products cover a massive range, from Indonesian sambals to whole spices to cury powder to mustard to dried mushrooms to Mexican flavourings. My only criticism is that they don't have a website; if you want to buy from them you need to call 01789-266420 to request a mail order catalogue. Hopefully they'll have a website soon! I could have bought everything from their stall, but limited myself to this selection.
Chipotle chillies, Ketjap manis, hot mago pickle, spicy pineapple chutney and smoked paprika. I've been on the hunt for smoked paprika, chipotles and ketjap manis for ages but not managed to find them anywhere, and the mango pickle and pineapple chutney are both ones we've had before and taste amazing with poppadoms or stirred into a curry. 

All of us had a fantastic day, and I would definitely recommend it. It's probably a bit late notice for this show (although there are still tickets left for Sunday), but there are 3 others later in the year in Glasgow, London and a winter one back here in Birmingham. I haven't booked a ticket for the winter one yet, but I don't think it will be long until I do!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Great British Bake Off Challenge: Mini Pork Pies with Quails Eggs

I know it's been a while since I last posted an attempt at one of the Great British Bake Off Technical Challenges, but I have still been making my way through them slowly. I'm just too lazy to blog about them! As soon as I showed John the list, he requested the pork pies straight away. However, I'd never used hot water pastry before, I almost never cook with pork and I barely even knew what gelatin was. It was definitely a recipe that made me panic! However, they've made two different pork pie style pies on the GBBO, and so I knew I had to overcome my fear! I started with the mini quail's egg pork pies, as they were made in a tin, rather than being hand raised. 

The recipe I used was this one, straight from the Great British Bake Off. The recipe was pretty easy to follow. The only slight issue I really had was on sizings. I found that the sizes of pastry discs to cut out that the recipe gave were much too big for my muffin tin, and there would never ever have been enough pastry if I'd done them all that size. As it was, I used all the pastry, and less than half the filling. Maybe do 1 and a half times the pastry, or less of the filling. In the end, I mixed up some more pastry used the rest of the filling to make another large pie that we had warm for dinner with veggies and gravy, so it all worked out for the best! 

The hot water pastry was easier than I thought actually. It was odd having hot pastry to work with, but it behaved itself well. I didn't roll it out quite thin enough, but I think that was my fault rather than the pastry! The rest of making up the pies was quite easy, just mix up the filling, boil and peel quail's eggs, then put it all inside the case and put another pastry disc on the top. 

Making up the pies 

Ready to go in the oven


The next difficult thing was getting the jelly into the pies. you mix gelatine with stock, then pour it in through the hole in the top of the pie. I don't know what I did wrong, but in almost all of my pies, there wasn't any space really between the filling and the pastry for the jelly to fill. A bit of wiggling did allow it to sort of pour in, but after they'd set and I cut it open, the jelly went in between the meat rather than round the edges. It didn't stop them tasting nice, but I'd love to try and get it right next time. 

I need 3 hands for photographing cooking. 

Finished pork pie the next day, after being left to set. 

Despite my misgivings with the jelly, they still made a delicious part of our picnic! 

So, pork pies successful (mostly). Not looking forward to the scary hand raised ones still on my list though! 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Foodie Penpals May

All the foodie penpal parcels I've received have been lovely, but this month's was extra fantastic! It was a combination of Stephanie putting in such a lot of thought, and the fact that it was the first parcel I've got from abroad. Stephanie is an American, living in Switzerland, and I requested anything local, things I might not have tried before, some of her favourite bits and lots of little things if possible. And she definitely didn't disappoint!

Going clockwise, starting from the top, we have...
Spitzbuben cookies: These were the first things I opened, and they are delish. Just like grown up jammie dodgers! 
Blevita tomato and basil crackers: These were part of a picnic we had last week, and they definitely provided a tasty crunch! 
Set of 3 jams from Stephanie's local bakery: I haven't opened these yet, because I haven't finished the jams Kathryn sent me last month, but I am sure they will be good when I do.
Toblerone and Strawberry Cheesecake chocolate bars: As Stephanie said, you can't have a parcel from Switzerland without chocolate, and these were both scrummy!
Selection of little boiled sweets: These are now living in my handbag, from when I need a sugar rush on the go!
Homemade lollipop: This is still sitting on the side in the kitchen, because it is far too sweet to eat! 

And on the packaging, there was this cute little drawing! I wonder if people would be impressed if I got my 25 year old boyfriend to draw a picture on their package? I'm not sure his art ability is any better than Stephanie's little son! 

I just had to put the cookies on this plate John's Mum recently bought us. They look too too sweet! I only did this for the photo opp then put them straight back in the tin, after eating one. Or two. Or three. The things I do for my blog!

Isn't the packaging on this strawberry cheesecake chocolate bar amazing? As if strawberry cheesecake flavoured chocolate wasn't enough to make you love it, it also introduces itself so nicely. 

Thanks for a gorgeous package, Stephanie! 

I sent my parcel this month to Maria in Cyprus. I sent her a combination of English goodies (cereal, cadbury chocolate) and some of my favourites (curry powder, green tea, sumac, wasabi peas). Unfortunately, neither Maria or Stephanie have a blog for me to share with you, but I certainly enjoying my foodie penpal experience with them both! 

If you're interested in becoming a foodie penpal, check out for more info!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Scotch Eggs Bento

John and I like good food and we usually like to try and eat pretty healthily. However, we both have certain junk foods that we love! Mine are pretty much all sweet foods, especially anything smothered in chocolate. John's are all savoury, and while we were still in Japan, I wanted to see if I could make one of his favourites, Scotch Eggs. I have no idea how popular these are in the rest of the world, but I rather think they're a fairly British institution! They are an egg (traditionally a chicken's egg) hard boiled and peeled then wrapped in sausage meat, dipped in raw egg, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. There is nothing healthy about them at all, but homemade ones taste fantastic, hot or cold. This makes them a perfect bento item, especially when made mini with quails eggs like these ones. You can commonly buy them everywhere in England, and lots of people (John included!) don't really consider a picnic complete without them!

Following this Jamie Oliver recipe, I successfully made a batch when we were in Japan (although I just used pork mince and flavoured it, rather than sausage meat) and then more recently, I made a batch for a bank holiday picnic. They're a bit fiddly, but taste so SO much better than shop bought ones. Definitely worth a try!

Fried and draining off the excess oil.

A very British picnic. Scotch eggs, pork pies (blog post on them coming soon!), strawberries, bananas, chocolate and salad. 

A bento made while still in Japan. Scotch eggs with cucumber, edamame, sweet potato, lettuce and salad dressing. 

Linking up to:

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Foodie Penpals April

This month I once again had a lovely time with foodie penpals! I sent my parcel off to Mina at Ant Steps,  a healthy lifestyle blog. I was a bit naughty with my parcel to her, and sent her some treats as well as some meal ideas. She's been away this week so I haven't heard what she thought of my parcel yet, but hopefully there'll be a blog post up later!

I got my parcel from Kathryn, over at SushiSushiBento, which, as the name suggests, is full of bento and Japanese food ideas! I was very excited to 'meet' another bento maker from the UK, all the other bento blogs I follow are American or Japanese. However, my bento and Japanese food collection is far too big as it is, so I asked Kathryn not to send much stuff along that line. Instead, I expressed a preference for anything homemade, and she sent me a lovely selection of different bits and bobs.

Japanese Ramen Noodles - John and I had said earlier in the week that we wanted to make our own ramen (after we'd visited the only restaurant we could find serving Japanese noodles in Birmingham and it was rubbish), so we'll definitely be using these to make a bowl of yumminess sometime soon!
Homemade Jam - I love anything homemade, and so I can't wait to try these 3 interesting jams (damson,                     ), all made out of fruit from Kathryn's garden.
Flaxseed (plain and cocoa) - This is something I've been meaning to try for ages, having seen it on lots of trendy blogs, but now I've got some, I don't really know what to do with it! Any good ideas anyone?!
Fruit and Nut Bunny Cookies - These were yummy and have all been eaten long ago!
Bunny card with a recipe for hummus and a can of chickpeas - You will notice a distinct absence of chickpeas, because pretty soon after the parcel arrived, John stole them to put in the Moroccan tagine he was making for tea. I will, however, buy some more and make Kathryn's yummy sounding hummus recipe soon. 

Thank you for such a lovely parcel Kathryn!