BBC Good Food Show 2011

It’s a day of enjoying lots of tastings, a day of wishing I had more money to spend on kitchen gadgets and appliances and a day of spotting a few celebrity chefs … it’s one of my favourite days of the year.

For the last 4 years I have made a visit to the BBC Winter Good Food Show and this year was no exception. I had booked my ticket at last years show so after 365 days of waiting my mum, Baby G and I all headed off to the NEC.

I went to enjoy it as a family day out and not as a “food blogger”. But then when Belling invited me along to their stand to get a front row seat to watch a few cookery demonstrations well I couldn’t resist. As the official appliance sponsor of the show they had a fab stand full of lots of their fab ovens including this one which I am hankering after.

On the day we visited (Friday) Brian Turner, renowned for his appearances on Ready Steady Cook, was the celebrity chef cooking on the stand. Other days saw top inidian chef Cyrus Todiwala and Ruth Clemens of Great British Bake off fame demonstrating and sharing some top tips.

Brian Turner at Belling Stand BBC Good Food

In the first cookery demonstration Brian demonstrated a gourmet BLT which looked fab and set off our taste buds, so afterwards we wondered off to grab a few tastings from the wealth of producers at the show.

BLT from Brian Turner

After lunch we popped back to the stand to watch Brian attempt a Get, Set, Cook challenge with a bag of mystery ingredients sourced from the show’s exhibitors. In 20 minutes Brian produced no less than 4 dishes.

He also did a demonstration (which we sadly missed) using recipes from a cookery book that Belling produced containing recipes sourced from the public on twitter with just 140 characters. All proceeds of this book are being donated to FoodCycle, a social enterprise which is tackling food waste and poverty in communities across the UK and you can get your hands on a copy here for £4.99.

Sorry for the lack of pictures and information about everything else at the show, as I say it was a non-blogger day. I did enjoy the day and couldn’t miss picking up some of my favourite brownies from Gower Cottage, or some eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg co (though I wasn’t convinced that adding chocolate to a scotch egg was a good choice – I’ll stick to the favourites of beer and black pudding in future!) . New favourite find for the day was the pate at Findlaters – sublime!

I also bumped into a few other Midlands foodies including Jo of Jo’s Kitchen, Louise and J of Good Food, Great Fun and Gluten Free, Jules from Butcher, Baker  and James from Eat the Midlands who was with the lovely Suree from the King and Thai, which made the day even better.

There was also a bit of celeb chef spotting – Paul Hollywood, Galton Blackstock, and the Masterchef duo to name a few. The best bit was getting an autograph from my favourite yummy brummie after watching him in the Supertheatre.

Glynn Purnell

It was a great day out and I can’t wait till next years.

Thanks to Belling for the invite to their stand and a copy of Tweet Pie.

Bite ‘N’ Write

An event for food bloggers right on my doorstop, a chance to learn to some information and get tips to improve my blog, and an opportunity to meet some of my fellow bloggers with whom I have tweeted with for a long time … well I couldn’t resist. Bite 'N' Write badge

I booked the ticket for Bite ‘n’ Write so long ago, that by the time November 19th arrived I was too excited for words, if a little nervous at leaving Baby G with Daddy for the longest time yet …. 14 hours!!

So bright and breezy I jumped on a train to Birmingham and once in the lobby of New Street searched out a few of my fellow attendee’s. How to spot a blogger in a busy public place is perhaps a discussion for another day but I wouldn’t recommend walking up to a stranger and asking them if they are a blogger …. you will most certainly get a strange look!

Once the troops had gathered, including the my fellow MFB members Jules of Butcher, Baker, Julia of Wannabefoodie and Kath the Ordinary Cook, together with the very lovely Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Charlotte of Go Free foods, we set off for the venue. The event was held in the Old Library room at the Custard Factory.

I won’t go into detail regarding all the workshops that were held during the day as many other blogs have put it far better than I could including Louise at the Vegetarian Experience. I haven’t any decent photo’s to share with you either as was too busy taking in all the information, but here’s my highlights:

* The photography workshop by Craig Fraser of Frasershot was the best start to the day. An interesting look into how professional food photography is carried out and some simple tips to create stunning pictures at home. Who knew silver card and a tampon could be such useful tools?

* Judith Lewis of Mostly about Chocolate and SEO specialist gave an insight into optimising your blog which I found interesting but which was a tad too technical or not of interest for some of my fellow attendee’s.

* The tasting by Artisan du Chocolat was a particular high, a chocolate high that is! We got to learn all about chocolate and taste a wide range of their products. I particularly liked the mint one and the Masala Chai. I loved the look of the O’s too.

* Jeanne of Cook Sister gave a really interesting talk about writing and how to make your blog attractive to readers with tips on the design and content of the blog.

So those were my highlights, but for a fair review I must mention my disappointment with some aspects of the day. The main issue for me was the the lack of time and setting to mingle with the other food bloggers. Whilst I got to know the people on my table it was difficult to find time to meet everyone else. Also the venue was not the greatest with a serious heating problem leaving me drinking cups of coffee just to stop from turning blue, and the meaty non-indian lunch was a bit of a let-down.

I applaud Annie Ko for having the intrepidity to get up and organise something like this event, especially after such a short time blogging, and considering it was her first event it was good. However, there are many things to be improved upon and I would hope that these are put into place to make sure this can become an annual event.

I finished off the day with a get together with some of my tweeties for some delicious food and wine at Jamie’s Italian.

Baking Bread at Loaf Online

Apologies for the delay between posts but I have returned to work and it’s been a bit of a shock to the system after being off on maternity. Whilst I have been doing some work during my maternity in and around Baby G’s naps and feeds, now she goes to a childminder for 2 days per week. I try not to miss her too much and get some work done, with try being the operative word!

Not satisified with a day job, a baby to look after I all the rest of things that fill my life I have also setting up my own papercraft business as an Independent Stampin’ Up! demonstrator. My other interest apart from cooking is crafting, and being a demo is now becoming a big part of my life.

So that’s where I’ve been and why I haven’t yet told you about the completion of one of my 2011 resolutions. This year I wanted to learn to bake real bread and I particularly wanted to go on a course at Loaf Online. Once word got out on twitter that me and Jo of Jo’s kitchen were going, we had a few other tweeps interested and so organised a Midlands Food Bloggers (and friends) course with Tom Baker of Loaf Online. Now I’d previously been to Loaf Online as part my first foray into the food blogger world and so knew what to expect and was really excited about the reality of learning how to bake good bread, and what’s more consistently good bread.

The day began with some fresh bread (naturally) and tea and coffee whilst Tom explained what we would be doing during the course. It sounded like we had a lot to do … ciabattas, white loaves, wholemeal rolls, fougasse, brioche dough and not forgetting pizzas for lunch!

As Tom demonstrated the perfect kneading technique we learnt how to ensure consistent good baking with a few tips and tricks like the right oven temperature and weighing your water amongst others.

Then it was our turn and in pairs we set to work on making our dough’s. I loved how “hand’s on” the course is, as getting the right dough mix and knowing how the feel of it changes as you knead is really the key to good bread. Plus we had Tom there to check we had kneaded it enough and had a good dough to prove.

Bread course

Once the dough’s were made and left to prove, we were taken outside to Tom’s clay woodfire oven to prepare fougasse and pizza’s.

Tom built this oven himself (wonder if can get hubby to add one to our garden?!) We were shown how to make fougasse with it’s distinctive slits and then set to work to make our own. The hardest bit for me was trying to get the bread into the oven with the peel – it’s all about a confident sharp shove apparently!

Our fougasse were flavoured with the morrocan spice blend Ras el hanout and once baked put to one side to kick start our  bread bounty that we would take home at the end of the day.  Then it was on to lunch and we each to prepared a pizza to share with the group. 

During the day we also made the dough for the ciabatta,  which we all found quite tricky to work with due to the wetness of the dough, but it was good to do this on the course so you can get a feel for how wet it really “should” be. (oh yes, I did sit there smirking when the contestants on Great British Bake off seemed perplexed about the wetness of the foccacia dough!)

During the afternoon it was time to bake the loaves, buns and ciabattas we had prepared and the last job of the day was to prepare a brioche dough which we would take home to bake the next day.

It was a great day and I can say it made me feel more confident in baking bread at home.

Thanks to Tom and all the other MFB tweeps that attended for a really enjoyable day.

Midlands Food Bloggers meet at 99 Station Street

This weekend saw the latest Midlands Food Bloggers (MFB) meet up. I was a little nervous about it all as I had arranged the venue and plan for the day, and just hoped everybody would enjoy themselves. So what did we get up to?

MFB, Community Bloggers

First there was the food, well a MFB meet wouldn’t be the same without some fab food of course! As a community of food bloggers who like to support local producers where better a venue than a restaurant that serves modern British food like 99 Station St in Burton-on-Trent and sources as much as possible from local suppliers. When I suggested a meet up at the restaurant, owners Ross & Susan Boardman, were more than happy to allow a “bounty of bloggers” to descend upon them and also offered some extra special treats.

First off, we got to meet Daniel Pilkington, the head chef, who was full of enthusiasm and information about the products he uses to create their seasonal menu. We learnt that local producers include the farm in Bromley Hurst who supply their 28-day aged Mature Beef, and Freedom Brewery from Abbots Bromley as one of their beer suppliers. The menu features a wealth of dishes that are all created from scratch at the restaurant wherever possible, with homemade sausages, ice-cream and pies delivering a fantastic choice.

We sampled their 3 course lunch menu for a bargain price of £10.95. I opted for the Baked Goats Cheese starter which was served on a lightly dressed salad and with a lovely tomato chutney.

Goats Cheese, Starter

For main I chose the meat option of Sautéed Strips of bed with red onions and wild mushrooms. This was so full of flavour, the beef was tender, not an easy thing to achieve for sauteed strips, and the mushrooms added a depth of flavour.

Beef strips, main

For dessert I was swayed by the Chocolate brownie with chocolate fudge sauce and homemade Vanilla ice-cream. Naughty …. but very nice. Rich gooey brownie with lots of chocolate fudge sauce. My other half opted for the Bailey’s Cheesecake served with some homemade honeycomb.

Cheesecake, Honeycomb

Afterwards we headed off with Susan to her home to meet Ross and learn all about Staffordshire Fine Foods (SFF). Launched earlier this year to satisfy customers who dined at 99 Station Street and wanted to get their hands on some of the menu favourites, SFF sells sausages, pies and smoked products online here or in specialist retailers like Brown and Green.

On my recent visit to Brown and Green I actually purchased some of the SFF smoked salmon and one of the Chicken, Chorizo and Sweet Pepper pies and I have to say that the Cold Smoked Salmon was possibly the best smoked Salmon I have ever eaten. The only one to come close was some Canadian Sockeye Smoked Salmon in Hy’s Whistler which given the provenance was duty bound to blow your taste buds! Here in the UK the SFF smoked salmon far out ranks any I have tasted either shop bought or in a restaurant with a healthy aroma of a camp fireand a gentle smokey flavour it was devoured in no time at all.

During the afternoon we spent a fabulous couple of hours with Ross, savouring his knowledge and enthusiasm on curing, smoking and foraging. We learnt the difference that brining makes to the smoking process with some samples of salmon.

After a sample of some smoked venison and pigeon breast we had a wonder into the local woods understanding what fabulous ingredients can be found on your doorstep if you know where to look. Here we picked some nettles and wild garlic and then headed back to the house to make a lovely fresh broth with some chicken stock that had been flavoured with some of the new air-dried Chorizo that Ross is trialling. It was amazing that such simple ingredients can create such flavour.

We all left with a new understanding of the curing and smoking processes and an eagerness to forage and I cannot thank Ross or Susan enough for welcoming us into their restaurant and their home. Thank you thank you, thank you!!

I look forward to creating something yummy with the sample of chorizo we came home with so watch this space.

99 Station Street on Urbanspoon

New Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up.

As an active member of the Midlands Food Bloggers group since last year I have signed up to assist it’s creator Jo of Jo’s Kitchen with the running of it.

Our aim is to provide a hub for the food bloggers of the Midlands and arrange meet ups to share what we love – food, talking about food, writing about food and more food – with fellow fans. We would also love the group to be actively supporting local producers, restaurants and food businesses and have made friends already with some fabulous companies across the region.

It has been a while since the last one but the Midlands Food Bloggers (MFB) are planning another meet up for fellow Midlands foodies on Saturday 4th June 2011.

We have opted to head to the north of the region for the next meet and would love for as many people as possible to join us. The venue is


99 Station Street
Burton upon Trent
DE14 1BT

An award winning restaurant – This family run venue opened to critical acclaim in May 2008 and has not sat still since. The seasonally accurate menu is built around great ingredients sourced from enthusiastic local suppliers.

The proposed plan for the meet is lunch at 99 Station Street, sampling some lovely local food, followed by hopefully a peek at their smoking and curing processes for producing their own sausages and other lovely products which are sold through Staffordshire Fine Foods. No doubt there will be lots of conversation about food and blogging too!

If you could reply and confirm your attendance by Friday 13th May so we can arrange for a table to be reserved.

Hope to see you there.


24 Carrots – Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter Market

I was vaguely aware of a few local farmers markets around the Birmingham area thanks to the genius of twitter but at last months Midland Food Bloggers meet up (as written about by fellow Jo’s Kitchen) we met a representative of 24 Carrots, which is the monthly Farmers Market in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
Brian from 24 Carrots came along to our tell us about the market and how it all began. It was set up by members of the Jewellery Quarters’ Residents’ Association, in an aim to bring fresh local produce to the residents of the area, instead of relying on the ubiquitous supermarkets. Not only was I impressed by the genius of the name for the market, but I couldn’t resist popping along to the next one, as did Jo from Jo’s Kitchen.

So on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning in we met up outside the Big Peg for the October Market. Through twitter I had learned that another fellow Midlands Foodie that I met in March, Tom Baker of Loaf, was going to be there with his wood fired pizza oven, and I had been looking forward to another of his pizza’s all week.But as we arrived and spoke to some of the stallholders we learned Tom had suffered a disaster, as his oven had collapsed on the journey from the other side of the city. You can read all about it here and see how Tom turned the disaster around by opening up a Pop-Up Pizza Takeaway from his home and what a victory with over 70 pizzas sold!

So with no Tom to stop and chat to, we went off to meet the other stallholders. We first got chatting to Sara from Squisito Deli, whose stall was full of tempting Italian treats like the range of Focaccia’s including Red Onion, Roasted Squash and Sage, Mushroom, Sausage and the one I was chose was the Gruyere and Leek. There was a range of other breads including Ciabatta and some little bread rolls called Parma Twists, which also made it into the shopping bag, and were delicious later with my lunch. For next time I already have my eye on the sweet Focaccia with Apple, Cinnamon and Sultana.

Squisito Deli Squisito Deli

They also produce a range of Sausages, and lot of Italian inspired cooking ingredients, including Oak Smoked Chilli and Smoked Sea Salt and bulbs of Oak Smoked Garlic which is prepared by Squisito in Warwickshire. Also, if you can’t make it to a Farmers Market to meet the lovely Sara you can always order her products online through Big Barn, the online farmers shop.

With lunch for later taken care of, my thoughts turned to what could I have to keep me going and warm me up on the chilly morning, I turned around there was Gavin and his stall More Cocoa, serving the best Hot Chocolate I’ve ever had. I’m not a huge fan of hot Chocolate normally but this may be due to instant chocolate I was given when I was younger, but this was divine, topped off with a few Marshmallows and a drizzle of melted chocolate. If Hot Chocolate is not your thing, then Dean of More Cocoa also makes some Chocolate based sweet treats including some lovely looking Brownies.

The next stop was at Hindley’s Bakery which is actually local to me from the neighbouring town of Lichfield, which is a supplier to some of my favourite eating venues in the area including my local The Yorkshire Man and it’s sister eatery 1709, The Brasserie and the Granary at Weston Park which I visited earlier this year (read about it here).

Whilst Jo opted for the Butalump, I thought I’d buy my first Spelt loaf. We had this for Sunday morning brunch, lightly toasted and served with Scrambled Egg and the wonderful Black Pudding I picked up from Woodhouse Farm.

Woodhouse Farm Kiss Me Cupcakes

The Woodhouse Farm stall was full of all sorts of different meats and smoked products and had I not already planned and bought my food for the weekend I’m sure more than Black Pudding would have been purchased. Same goes for the other stall we spent a while at, Kiss Me Cupcakes, one of Birmingham’s leading cupcake bakeries, who had their fabulous cupcakes on offer in different flavours.

With a stop to take in the live entertainment of McScraggy and the Suits, me and Jo completed our trip to 24 carrots. We had a wonderful morning chatting to all the stallholders and picking up some lovely goodies and I’m sure to be back again.

If you feel like visiting 24 Carrots, the remaining two markets for 2010 are on 20th November and 18th December.