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Project: BACON – 29 hours to go | 93% funded | So close

So close!

So close!

RIGHT. Right now there are probably two particular strains of reader:

– excited ones that are hopeful / nervous about Project: BACON (you have been in touch, so I know :)

– some who are so over Project: BACON (although I must say even my vegetarian and vegan readers have been terrifically supportive and helpful in spreading the word).

The good news is there is only ONE DAY LEFT. One day! Not there yet, there is 7% left to go, just under £1,500 and only 30 hours to raise it.

Normal service will resume soon. There won’t be much further mention of Project: BACON on here from the end of this week. After that all bacon communications will be filtered solely through The Bacon Post, a weekly missive for Kickstarter supporters with exclusive new recipes (you can get this by signing up to any reward level on Kickstarter, including just for The Bacon Post at £3).

So quick recap – adopts cheerleading pose with pom poms (very sleepily).

If you want Project: BACON as a hardback book, this may be your only opportunity. The print run will certainly be a small one. You will be able to get the ebook, but not the hardback book on Amazon, when Project: BACON is published in February.

Xmas & Halloween Bacon Boxes are now available for the UK & Ireland, and very popular they are too. Think Bacon Selection Box. I will be very busy with these it looks like. Numbers are limited but there are still plenty.

4 Bacon Masterclasses have been pledged for in the UK & Ireland and there are 2 more in the works. For a £540 pledge, I will turn up and teach up to 16 people in your space if you supply ingredients etc., or I will teach 6 people in your home and all will get a copy of the book when it is published, as well as a copy of The Bacon Post.

I only had one Project: BACON stress dream last night, I woke startled at 5am – OH MY GOD, only £10 is needed to make it and it is just about to expire and FAIL. ARGH – and then I realised it was a dream. And I hope my last one, related to the funding process at least.

I will be on the John Murray Show on Radio 1 in Ireland this morning chatting bacon, sometime after 9. You can listen live online.

Bacon the world a better place, one slice at a time ;)

PLEDGE ON KICKSTARTER HERE

Thank you.

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Project: BACON – 54 hours to go – 22% to fund

Project: BACON, 54 hours to go - and 22% to fund

Project: BACON, 54 hours to go – and 22% to fund

*updated Monday am*

SQUUEEE! Nearly there! And I should really be in bed as it is almost midnight on a Sunday and I have to hot foot it to a radio studio tomorrow in the very early morning, but I can’t let this slip at any point now. I have been so careful to be tender about this and not be in your face but this is the final push, and so here I am. I have to be.

I am nearly there, but I still might not make it. If you want to see this book, if you want to cook from it, if you want to read it and try out those crazy bacon recipes (in the best possible way) you have 2 days to buy it or it just won’t happen. And I am not exaggerating at all.

This has been a fantastically interesting process, and hopefully it is only the beginning. I am so glad I did it this way. I am really tired, bone tired if I am honest, but I am hopeful that by the time it finishes I will be so energised with the idea of starting. I know I will be. I know that if this happens I will forget that I was ever even tired at all and will bound right into it. I am excited.

I need your help to make that happen.

To meet my target I need 220 of you to buy hardback books at £20 each.

That shouldn’t be such a trauma, but I fear many of you think I will make it anyway so you aren’t so worried about it and are just watching from the sidelines. I unfortunately am very worried, so I am asking you to pledge, if you want this book.

In other news:

3 awesome Bacon Masterclasses have been booked as part of Project: BACON starting with one in Donnybrook Fair in Dublin on September 18th, followed by one at James Whelan Butchers in Avoca next Spring and one at The Meat Merchant in Co Down (date TBC). There are many more Bacon Masterclasses that can be booked if you want them, I will travel and if you want me to teach more than 6 and can help with the ingredients and space, I can teach up to 16 for the £540 commitment. (These classes are all tentative on Project: BACON being a success of course but my fingers, toes and all the hairs on my head are crossed. I may not sleep until this is finished). 

So that is it. Irish people: you can catch me on the John Murray Show on Radio 1 tomorrow (Monday) morning. You can listen live here at 9.30am.

You can pledge on Kickstarter here.

End Bacon Broadcast.

Niamh

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Announcing Bacon Masterclasses for the Autumn: Book Now for Early Bird Rates

Aveqia - new space for bacon masterclasses in Farringdon

Aveqia – new space for bacon masterclasses in Farringdon

NEW BACON MASTERCLASSES FOR SEPTEMBER THROUGH TO DECEMBER

New classes! Huzzah.

A wonderful new cookery school in central London, Aveqia, has approached me to teach my Bacon Masterclasses there. The school is very central, based near Farringdon and is beautiful. The original school is in Sweden and the same elegant Scandinavian design has been used here, and as you would expect, it is a thoughtfully designed and very useful space. Those Swedes know what they are doing.

On arrival there is a bar, before going to the teaching space with lots of room to cook and also to eat after. This is why I love it, the kitchen is large and spacious with lots of room and all the kit I could need, even a paco jet for making maple bacon, bourbon & vanilla ice cream. After we can all sit down at a large communal & very sociable space to eat and indulge in some bacon bloody marys.

The classes will be hosted on Saturdays only, and I am expanding the class concept to include a sit down brunch after the Bacon Masterclass. The classes are more expensive to run but I would still like to keep the classes accessibly priced, so I am going to be offering the first 6 early bird places for £75 with the remaining 10 places at £95. The prices must unfortunately go up to meet my increased costs.

Aveqia Cooking School in Farringdon, London

Aveqia Cooking School in Farringdon, London

Each bacon masterclass will start at 10am with bacon jam on toast and tea / coffee and finish at 2pm after brunch with a bacon bloody mary. There will be 3 hours cooking. All classes are hands on and you will have a lot of support. The recipes are explicitly detailed and even where complex, very easy to follow. I am there to help and teach at all classes, of course. Cooking is core, but there are not just about cooking, they are also a lot of fun. You will be comfortable, I can promise you that.

Sounds good? I think so.

The recipes will vary, but the core recipes will be:

– chipotle bacon jam
– candied bacon
– bacon jam fudge
– candied bacon marshmallow creme

The classes will be on:

Sat 21st Sept
Sat 26th Oct
Sat 16th Nov
Sat 14th Dec

So, please email me at niamh@eatlikeagirl.com and I will send you details on how to pay and book you in. The classes will have a maximum of 16 attendees and I will need a minimum of 10 to go ahead. Hopefully, that won’t be a problem.

Project: BACON - under 4.5 days to go

Project: BACON – under 4.5 days to go

With regard to Project: BACON, I still need your help and will blog a detailed update later. There is only 4.5 more days and 43% funding to go.

Two Bacon Masterclasses have been sold – one at a butchers shop in Ireland and the other at one in Northern Ireland. I am so excited about these. The class concept is flexible – if you want me to teach more than 6 and up to 16, this is still possible for the same £540 once the ingredients can be provided and a space.

Please support this by buying the book in advance, buying a Xmas Bacon Box (think selection box but with bacon) or simply subscribe to The Bacon Post for £3. If I don’t raise the full £20,000, it fails and all pledges disappear, then the book simply doesn’t happen and won’t be written. So, if you are thinking that you might just wait until February when it comes out, that is a high risk manoeuvre – for you and me :)

You can pledge here – every penny counts.

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Feasting at Wilderness Part 1: St John Breakfasts, Moro Afternoons & Polpo’s Venetian Banquet

Many years ago, pre blog, when I was just a normal mildly obsessive individual idling on the streets, I had three passions: food, travel & music. Other stuff too, of course but the core directions I would find myself moving in centred around those. I read more music blogs than food blogs when I first started (which seems bizarre I would agree) but I always loved live music, finding great new music to listen to, and this was the best place to do this. Even as my life became increasingly centred on food, I still went to music festivals and gigs and always, almost without fail, despaired at the food there.

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St John at Wilderness – loved the lettering outside

Bring on Wilderness, one of a new breed of festivals that takes food very seriously. Not just by inviting some of London’s best restaurants but also enabling them them to create sumptuous feasts. In the centre of the festival site, there is a large restaurant area with a banquet tent which hosted lunches and dinners from Ottolenghi, Polpo & Hix. Surrounding this was St John & Moro in their own tents providing feasts of their own, but also lifesaving take away food. J Sheekey had a van serving great fish and chips (and also randomly serving red bull). There was many more trucks including some of London’s favourites, but this is what I focussed on, so this is what I will describe here.

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St John at Wilderness

You probably know, but I really hate camping. The late nights and waking up with the dawn light results in a lack of sleep that I can barely cope with, never mind with a hangover. (Next time: glamping with a sleep mask). On this occasion I had a hastily purchased and tiny loathsome tent which I bounded out of promptly every morning and went to feed.

The best breakfast in that situation was a St John life giving bacon and egg roll in a slightly sweet brioche style bun. The bacon was cooked over a BBQ outside and there was coffee. There was also a ridiculous but fantastic welsh rarebit, so huge it wouldn’t fit on the plate. It is one of my favourite things on the St John menu, so it was only right that I should have it at Wilderness too. Wine too, if you were brave enough to have that with breakfast (I wasn’t). In fact, one of my top tips for Wilderness is to avoid the main bar and get your wine in the restaurant area. St John had a great list from the affordable & quaffable to more sublime.

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St John’s lifesaving bacon and egg roll at Wilderness

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St John welsh rarebit – just LOOK at it! And go to St John and have one with a glass of house champagne

Saturday afternoon was spent joyfully idling and soaking it all in with a mid afternoon snack of terrific Moro lamb chops, I only wish that I could have fitted in more there.

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Some dramatic lamb chop cooking at Moro at Wilderness

Roll on Saturday night and the decadent Polpo Venetian feast. The banquet hall was enormous and beautifully decorated. We were all given masks on arrival and everyone sat, chatted and laughed on long tables. There was live music from a small stage in the centre and the atmopshere was electric.

Live music at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Live music at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Starting with an aperol spritz, platters of baccala mantecato crostino, fennel salami & pickled radicchio grissini and carta di musica & sage oil with olives, we were still only at the appetisers. One of the meal highlights followed, the sharp and rich mackerel and horseradish tartare, served with arancini, fennel almond and curly endive salad and an excellent selection of salami and prosciutto.

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Mackerel tartare at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

We are still not even half way through, Rise e Bise came next, served tableside in bowls and the prelude to the main courses, of which there were several. Grilled lamb with salsa verde, spot on heritage tomato panzanella, runner beans with red onion and pecorino salad and one of my favourite parts of the meal, the whole grilled sea bream which was fresh and succulent and fresh off the BBQ from out the back (130 sea bream were grilled for the banquet that night).

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Risi e Bisi served tableside at Polpo’s Ventian Banquet at Wilderness

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Lamb with Salsa Verde

Whole sea bream being grilled on the BBQ for the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Whole sea bream being grilled on the BBQ for the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

For dessert we had a tiramisu, which was light as it was rich and strawberries with clotted cream and aged balsamic. A near perfect meal, the only criticism I would have is that there was too much of it, and how can that be a criticism at all?! It can’t be.

Tiramisu at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Tiramisu at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Music festivals, pay attention: this is how you do food at a festival. Part 2 soon which will be all about the Hix Sunday Lunch Banquet and a life saving bloody mary.

With thanks to Wilderness who invited me to attend the festival 

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Project Bacon Update: 40% funded, 6 Days to Go & New Reward Level on Kickstarter

Project: BACON, 6 Days to go and 60% left to fund

Project: BACON, 6 Days to go and 60% left to fund

So, you are all keeping me waiting, right? Not kicking in until the very end because I don’t need you to?

Well, I do.

Project: BACON is only at 40% funded with 6 days to go. I have deliberately been very quiet about it as I didn’t want to annoy everyone. I was also quietly hoping that it might just happen, but that is not how life works.

So, basically, here it is: I am not going to write this book unless it is supported on Kickstarter, so if you want it, get involved. All you need to do is buy the book upfront, in digital or hardback, you can now even get some bacon stuff posted to you (see below), and you can book a class for you and your friends, all on that fabulous Kickstarter space.

I promise that the book will be awesome, I get giddy just thinking of jumping on that magical bacon brick road. I have an ace designer, editor and photographer just waiting for me to say that we are go. You want to keep this smile on my face don’t you?

(In my defence, I have never used emotional blackmail here before, but there you go. Really, I am just trying to be very clear, not threatening ;)

NEW REWARD LEVELS ON KICKSTARTER – BACON CHRISTMAS BOXES

I have added new reward levels where as well as getting signed copies of Project: BACON and Comfort & Spice, I will also send you a Bacon Christmas Box of bacon marshmallows, bacon fudge, maple & tamarind candied bacon, bacon maple popcorn and chipotle bacon jam all nicely packaged and just in time for Christmas and in advance of the books.

– £25 for a Bacon Christmas Box and the Bacon Post sent every week from the beginning of the project to the end, with 12 new recipes in advance of book publication
– £45 for a Bacon Christmas Box and the Bacon Post sent every week from the beginning of the project to the end, with 12 new recipes in advance of book publication and a signed hardback copy of Project: BACON
– £60 for a Bacon Christmas Box and the Bacon Post sent every week from the beginning of the project to the end, with 12 new recipes in advance of book publication, a signed hardback copy of Project: BACON and a signed copy of my first book, Comfort & Spice

Go to Kickstarter to upgrade your pledge or pledge fresh. 

 

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Project:BACON Update

Project:BACON 22 days to go and 27% funded!

Project:BACON 22 days to go and 27% funded! – play won’t work here, but it will on Kickstarter :)

So, I did it, and I put it out there. It was scary. What if people didn’t want my bacon book as much as me? It is a very public and nerve wracking way of exploring interest in your work, and the good news is that you and others support it (20% of the funding so far has been direct from the Kickstarter community who discovered it on there, amazingly).

PHEW.

It is exactly one week since I put Project:BACON on Kickstarter and it is funded by 27% as I type. This is fantastic, but I am still a fair way off with just 3 weeks to go.

So, I need you to jump on board. Here is another low down, briefly, as my last post was (well) wordy. Go figure.

Project:BACON on the Kickstarter Popular list! SQUEEEE!

Project:BACON on the Kickstarter Popular list! SQUEEEE!

So –

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. I am basically asking you to buy my next book in advance to allow me to write and publish it myself.

WHY?

I am a prince certified project manager (I never thought I would type that here) and previously worked in scientific publishing as a project manager. I want to apply these skills to my own book and to publish my next book myself.

I have met some amazing and inspiring self published authors in the last few years who have proven to me that through self publishing, you can write your book exactly as you want to write it and do a great job, and with high production values. It is a lot more work, but I have never been afraid of that.

I want to write a book that is in essence a bacon wonderland. I want to write recipes that take you from breakfast to brunch to supper to a bonkers bacon party where you can serve your guests – or just yourself – bourbon bacon and vanilla ice cream, bacon fudge, bacon marshmallow, bacon cocktails and lots of other delicious things.

HOW?

Raising £20,000 on Kickstarter will allow me to put these plans in motion. This sum (minus taxes) will allow me to pay an editor, a photographer and a book designer.  Together we can put together an ace bacon book with 80 recipes with a great cover and lots of photographs. There will be a limited print run for the people who supported the Kickstarter project. This doesn’t include anything for me, simply the production of the book. I hope to make money later on from the ebook.

This amount will pay only for the hardback books that are bought on Kickstarter, so this is exclusive to Kickstarter. You will be able to purchase a Project: BACON ebook after it launches in February but I will not be selling the hardcover book on Amazon, as Amazon fees mean it will actually cost me money to sell it there. I am many things, but I am not rich or stupid. (If it does really well, I will consider a paperback, but that is not factored into the costs here, and it would have to do really well to fund it).

If I raise more than £20,000 I can expand the book concept, increasing the amount of design time and including some illustration and more photographs. More pledges for books means I need to print more books. If I print a lot, my print run is cheaper, and I can produce magical bacon videos to go with the book and work on some bacon merchandise. I can consider a paperback version to sell on Amazon (it would have to do extremely well to consider this). I have so many ideas.

HOW CAN YOU BE INVOLVED?

Support the Kickstarter project by:

subscribing to the Bacon Post for £3 which gets you weekly electronic updates and 12 new and exclusive bacon recipes from the Project:BACON book

buying the ebook for £8 early bird or £10 when that runs out (incl The Bacon Post)

buying the hardback signed print Project:BACON book for £17 early bird (almost gone) or £20 incl UK postage (incl The Bacon Post). I will post anywhere for a £5 fee. Don’t hold out for Amazon discounts as they will simply never exist.

buying the hardback signed print Project:BACON book along with a signed copy of my first cookbook, Comfort & Spice for £35 incl UK postage (incl The Bacon Post). I will post anywhere for a £10 fee (the books will be quite heavy).

buy a 3 hour bacon masterclass for you and five friends for £540 incl a copy of the book each. I can travel to you, within reason. Email me first. As it stands I am talking to people about Bacon Masterclasses in France and in Dublin. Possibly even Hong Kong! I can be flexible on numbers too with some adjustments. This includes The Bacon Post for everyone at the class.

There are just 22 days left with 219 backers so far. Which is wonderful, and I appreciate every single one, but there are many, many more of you reading this here!

Leave me a comment with your thoughts, I would love to hear from you and to hear what you think about this.

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Announcing! Project: BACON. A New Book. With Your Help.

Bourbon, Bacon & Vanilla Ice Cream - so delicious and one of my recipes from Project: Bacon

Bourbon, Bacon & Vanilla Ice Cream – so delicious and one of my recipes from Project: Bacon

I have been asked many times about my next book. I have been thinking about it quite intensely for some time but never quite had the answer (until now).

I have been speaking to many authors about their experiences over the last two years. I have met some really inspiring people that have self published their own books and have produced something that is entirely theirs and that they are proud of.  And not because they have failed in the traditional route, but for them, this was a much better option, giving them more control over the output and the book that hit the shelves.

Making bacon fudge - a bacon masterclass recipe, also in Project: Bacon

Making bacon fudge – a bacon masterclass recipe, also in Project: Bacon

Once I decide to self publish, I decided not to pitch this book to a publisher at all. So it is not that I have pitched it and failed, I want to be very clear about that. Combined with the very positive & enthusing experiences that I have had with meeting brilliant self published authors, I know the people that I want to work with to produce my book.

I am quite entrepreneurial by nature, and have experience as a project manager in the publishing industry and also as an author. Writing a book is an obsession, heart and soul and agonising and fantastic all at once. The one that I want to write now is about BACON. I want it to be fabulous and tasty and fun. I am hoping that you will help me do this by supporting and investing in my Kickstarter project.

Project: BACON will include recipes that I have developed over the last three years and taught in my bacon masterclasses. Those recipes, that energy, all of that fun and deliciousness in one book, that I put together myself (with the help of that great team that I will hire). The decision was made, next question. With limited resources how do I do this? I thought that I would look to you and see if you would take the risk and invest in me from the start.

The details are laid out explicitly in my Kickstarter project. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, that enables independents like me to get projects done. I am asking you to invest in me, and not donate money, but to buy the book in advance, invest in a masterclass, or subscribe to The Bacon Post for just £3 (which will give you 12 new great bacon recipes and weekly updates as I go). These will only be available to Bacon Post subscribers, and won’t be available on the blog.

You can buy the book up front, signed of course in print. £10 for the ebook and £20 for the hardcover print book, both include a subscription to The Bacon Post. The book sent to kickstarter supporters will be limited edition, so getting in early not only guarantees you get a book, it guarantees that you get a special one. There are also some early bird specials, if you get in there first you can get the hardcover book with The Bacon Post for £17, or you can get the ebook and The Bacon Post for £8.

Candied bacon chocolate truffles - from Project: Bacon Candied bacon chocolate truffles – from Project: Bacon[/caption]

What if it is successful and I manage to raise more than my goal of £20,000?

I can only hope, but if this happens, simply, I will hire an illustrator to make it even better, I will add more recipes as I will be able to hire kitchen support, and I will print more books, maybe we will even see it in bookshops. My print run will be small, so it will be expensive. Publishers save money by printing batches of books at once. Should there be anything left, I will professionally shoot recipe videos to go along with the book. I would love to do that and I am hoping that you would like that too.

Over to you.

I am nervous, I am worried, I am excited, I am terrified. I hope that you will support this endeavour, and join me on my crazy little journey, stretched out over the 7 months ahead.

READ MORE AND SUPPORT PROJECT: BACON ON KICKSTARTER HERE.

(shouting because that is what it is like in my head right now, possibly a bit shrieky too)

and here is the video (also on Kickstarter) – a wobbly bacon party political broadcast from me, to you – filmed on a very hot day in my back garden. We are amateurs and also I am not good with heat so please be kind :)

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A Fun Evening at Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube Summer Party

Donal Skehan and Jamie Oliver at Foodtube live on Tuesday

Donal Skehan and Jamie Oliver at Foodtube live on Tuesday

I popped along to the filming of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube Summer Party, his live youtube show filmed in London. Irish food blogger, author & TV bod Donal Skehan was in town to cook on it, and there were some other Youtube characters involved too. I have to announce my ignorance here, I had no idea who any of the others were, save Donal and Crumbs & Doilies (I had a neighbouring food stall to them in Covent Garden some years ago). The Youtube food landscape is completely different to the blogosphere, and I am only beginning to explore it. It was a really fun evening, and also an education.

Filming Food Tube, behind the scenes

Filming Food Tube, behind the scenes

I have been talking about starting a Youtube channel for – oh – three years now, so my curiosity spurred me along. I love video. It is lively, engaging, fun and a great way of sharing stories of people and places. With food & travel, and travelling as much as I do, there is so much that I could do here, and I feel sad when I think back to trips to amazing places like Bangkok and Tokyo, and how much I could have done there. My problem is time, and lack of kit and technology. I am working on it and hope to launch soon.

Back to Food Tube. Jamie’s team had an alleyway decked out with bunting and cooking islands. I spotted Donal straight away, and behind him was DJ BBQ, in a superb branded spandex catsuit brandishing tongs near his smoker. Cheerful young twins from London sat nearby, these turned out to be JacksGap, their Youtube channel has over 2 million subscribers. They had quite a few superfans waiting outside for hours for an opportunity to have a photo taken with them after. Gennaro Contaldo was dressed as a pepper (or tomato? not sure!). Also in place were Pixie Woo, and the Chiappa Sisters.

The live video is gone now, but there are lots of videos from some of the above on the Food Tube Youtube channel so be sure to take a look.

Jamie Oliver's Food Tube Summer Party - 442

Crumbs & Doilies cupcakes. I love the 99 one.

Crumbs & Doilies cupcakes. I love the 99 one.

Jamie's Greek salad

Jamie’s Greek salad

Donal's lamb kebabs

Donal’s lamb kebabs

Donal's lamb kebabs

Donal’s lamb kebabs

Donal & Danny from Food Urchin

Donal & Danny from Food Urchin

DJ BBQ and his supersoaker full of apple juice to spray on the BBQ shoulder to moisten it

DJ BBQ and his supersoaker full of apple juice to spray on the BBQ shoulder to moisten it

Gennaro's Puttanesca

Gennaro’s Puttanesca

Some neighbours watch on overhead

Some neighbours watch on overhead

Regula, aka Miss Food Wise, samples Gennaro's pasta

Regula, aka Miss Food Wise, samples Gennaro’s pasta

DJ BBQ's carnitas

DJ BBQ’s carnitas

Jack's Gap sample Donal's lamb kebab

JacksGap sample Donal’s lamb kebab

Jamie Oliver's Food Tube Summer Party - 388

Filming Food Tube

Filming Food Tube

Gennaro, Jamie & DJ BBQ

Gennaro, Jamie & DJ BBQ

Donal is feeling it :)

Donal is feeling it :)

JacksGap & Jamie eating chillies and maybe regretting it

JacksGap & Jamie eating chillies and maybe regretting it

Definitely regretting it!

Definitely regretting it!

DJ BBQ - fantastic! Awesome spandex outfit and he can cook too :)

DJ BBQ

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Competition: Win a Holiday to the Canary Islands

A rare competition from me this morning, sponsored by Canary Islands Tourism. Best of luck! 

Canary Islands

Canary Islands

Lets face it, the British and Irish summer is hardly reliable, so if you are looking for a break with almost guaranteed sun this year, the holiday specialists at Shineagain.com are offering a chance to win seven sunny getaways in the Canary Islands.

Part of Spain but located very close to mainland Africa, this archipelago enjoys balmy temperatures throughout the year. Some islands are known for their lively and family friendly resorts but others offer peace, nature and unique national parks.

The holiday will include flights, accommodation, transfers (or car hire depending on what you choose) and other tasty extras including a sailing excursion, guided walks, a diving experience and lunch at some gorgeously located dining spots.

How to enter:

Choose from one of these island destinations:

La Gomera – For nature
La Palma – For picturesque scenery
Fuerteventura – For beaches
Lanzarote –  For volcanic landscapes
Tenerife – For a bit of everything
El Hierro – The meridian island
Gran Canaria – Another all rounder

Then go to Shineagain.com to make your selection, enter your contact details on the form and then check your email account to complete your entry into the draw.

Want to multiply your chances of winning? Just tweet about the competition and share it on Facebook.

The competition closes at the end of July. Good luck!

Canary Islands

Canary Islands

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Recipe for Kroppkakor (Potato & Pork Dumplings) from Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

I am sitting here indoors looking out at the summer sun. It is gorgeous. The only mild frustration being an idiot wasp who keeps flying in through my window, only to get stuck and freak out, buzzing frantically for at least five minutes every time. Initially I was helping him out with paper, but I have given up now and am trying to tune him out.

My garden in the mornings is like the cast of Despicable Me. The squeaky over enthused baby birds chirping randomness into the air from way too early in the morning. But it is summer, and it is sunny, and I will forgive these creatures their annoying habits. I am sure I annoy them too with my open windows and untended garden. However, I must remind them that I am the one paying rent here.

Ninnis

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

This time last week I was in Öland, making midsummer head dresses and eating dumplings, washing it all down with aquavit. It was a gorgeous day and is now a lovely memory. The dumplings are particular to this part of the world and remind me a little of Acadian poutine râpée which I had in New Brunswick in Canada.

The wheat field next to Ninnis. The wheat swayed gently and hypnotically. So soothing.

The wheat field next to Ninnis in Öland, Sweden. The wheat swayed gently and hypnotically. So soothing.

Ninnis, where I had these, were kind enough to give me the recipe. You should be able to get most things easily. You can get potato flour relatively easily here, and you can certainly get it in Chinatown (it is sometimes called potato starch). For salted pork use uncooked ham, or treat yourself with a mix of (uncooked) ham and bacon. That is what I would do (and plan to).

Because these are boiled and the potatoes are starchy, they are a bit sticky but eased with a coating of cream and soothed with lingonberry jam. Very comforting, and very popular in Sweden. It is also common to eat them with butter, but this isn’t essential.

Kroppkakor at Ninnis

Kroppkakor at Ninnis in Öland, Sweden

RECIPE: Ninnis Kroppkakor from Öland, Sweden

Ingredients

5 kg raw potatoes
300 g boiled potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup potato flour

Filling

1 kg salted pork
3 onions
salt, finely grated allspice

Water and salt, to boil

Method

Peel and grate the potatoes. Squeeze them into a solid mass. Grate the boiled potatoes and mix the potatoes with salt and potato flour. If the paste is hard, dilute it with water until it is like a dough and easy to manage.

Cut the pork into small dice. Peel and mince the onion. Mix the small pork cubes and the minced onion. Season with salt and the ground allspice.

Shape the mixture into balls. Flatten and add a hefty spoonful of filling. Roll into round balls.

Place the dumplings in boiling water, it is really important that the water is boiling! Allow them to simmer, without a lid, for one hour.

Eat hot with fresh cream and lingonberries or lingonberry jam.

Kroppkakor at Ninnis

Kroppkakor at Ninnis

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Burger Monday (on a Wednesday) at Shake Shack in London

Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, Danny Meyer, founder & CEO of the Union Hospitality Group (& therefore Shack Shack) and  Daniel Young of Burger Monday and Young & Foodish

Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, Danny Meyer, founder & CEO of the Union Hospitality Group (& therefore Shake Shack) and Daniel Young of Burger Monday and Young & Foodish

I got a sneak peak of the new Shake Shack in London yesterday evening, via Daniel Young of Young and Foodish and his terrific Burger Monday. I am not a burger obsessive by any means, but I appreciate good food (natch) and when a friend brought me to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Gardens, NYC, I didn’t have very high expectations. A burger is a burger, right? Right. Well, not really.

Weekend in Williamsburg NYC

My Shake Shack burger in NYC Madison Square Gardens last year

I loved it. For the simplicity, the size of the burger, the flavour, moisture, sticky cheese slipping over the edge and the the lovely potato bun. It was a good solid burger, and I went back the next day. It became a favourite. Now, they have come to London,  the burgers are made from 100% Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef, the SmokeShack (my favourite) features British free-range Wiltshire cure smoked bacon and the concretes (frozen custard blended at high speed, a rich elegant ice cream) include Paul A Young chocolate and St John Bakery products.

I focussed on the burgers last night, there is only so much that even I can eat. My favourites were the SmokeShack with bacon, chopped cherry pepper and ShackSauce and the Shack Stack which was a combination of the ‘Shroom Burger and Cheeseburger in one. The ‘Shroom burger is a rare thing, a vegetarian burger with deep flavour and texture, but I will continue to have mine with a cheeseburger ;) Get some cheese fries on the side too, crinkle cut chips topped with a creamy cheddar cheese sauce.

We already have some great burgers in London, but this is a good addition to the scene. It opens tomorrow, the 5th of July, so check it out, and expect some long queues.

Some pics for now, and I will be back to try the rest of the menu.

Shake Shack, 24 Market Building, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RD

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‘Shroom Burger

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Cheesy Fries

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SmokeShack Burger

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One of the very cheerful staff members with lots of Shack Stack Burgers

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Red Velvet Concrete

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Posh Lunch Club at Pizarro

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 26

To refresh your memories and to introduce new readers, Posh Lunch Club is all about finding the best fine lunches at bargain prices. So set menus, and all that jazz. Mainly in London but also anywhere that I might find myself. Which is a lot of places, at times. I have a long list to hit in London, and will be focussing on that for the next few months.

I love Posh Lunch Club because it makes London restaurants so accessible. I really believe that you don’t need to have a lot of money to eat well, either at home or out on the town. When I first moved to London and existed on a pittance, I took advantage of the amazing ingredients available to me and taught myself to cook more, as I couldn’t eat out that much. Now I can, but I still relish a bargainous and delicious discovery.

Posh Lunch Club isn’t a real club. I have had requests to join but sometimes there is only one member – just me on an indulgent solo lunch – more usually it involves one other, and sometimes, many more. The membership lasts for as long as lunch, and that is that. The real idea is for you to use this as a guide for your own posh lunches. I will show you the best and most delicious places to spend your hard earned cash.

Let us begin.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 01

My first Posh Lunch Club of 2013 was at Pizarro. One of my favourite restaurants, they have started doing a brilliantly priced Menu del Dia (as is typical in Spain) for £20 for 3 courses or £17 for 2. I have a confession, even though I normally stick to the menu, when in Pizarro I can’t resist going off piste and bumping things up a bit. I adore the jamon there (with a glass of fino, natch) and the cod fritters are very hard to resist. So we started with those.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 15

The cod fritters are crisp with a fabulously light & fluffy center. The jamon is nutty, rich and melts in the mouth. I can taste it now as I type. The jamon that is served at José (Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado) is sold at £1000 per leg retail elsewhere, so it is a bargain, even at £20 a plate.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 05

On to the starters. There are three choices, but I can’t look beyond chorizo, even if I have no idea what Trinxat is (Trinxat, chorizo was on the menu). It turns out to be a refined sibling of bubble and squeak with tiny diced chorizo, fried and crisp on top and on the side with some crisp greens. The cake itself was just holding together and when I touched it, it seemed to sigh and fall apart.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 09

For my main course, I went for the pork chops with jersey royal and apple. The pork chop was very large and with a big coating of fat. The pork itself was delicious but the fat was divine. I left none behind. It lay on some apple puree, not over sweet and still perky. The jersey royals played a small supporting role with a herb dressing. My friend had mackerel plancha, which was super fresh as mackerel should be (but often isn’t).

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 07

And this is where we stopped. No more food, and I finished with a coffee. But were I stronger, more greedy (or less greedy at the start), I would have had the Santiago tart. Really, I would.

A perfect breath of new life for Posh Lunch Club and about time I reviewed Pizarro. A wonderful restaurant, all heart and great food, those two courses cost only £17. There is a great sherry & wine list too.

It gets very busy, but there is almost always a seat at the bar. I have spent many a Saturday there. Enjoy it.

Pizarro, 194 Bermondsey St, London Borough of Southwark, London SE1

I am still experimenting with video. Here is a little one of Pizarro. A little shaky, but not bad for a phone at all. Imagine you are on a train as you watch it ;) (I think a little tripod for it would be very useful, I will perfect it!).

 

With thanks to Carphone Warehouse, who supplied the Samsung S4 which I used to take all photos in this post, and the video. Not bad, is it?! 

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A Postcard from Småland and Öland

Gorgeous old windmill in Öland, Sweden

Gorgeous old windmill in Öland, Sweden

A gorgeous rural weekend can be enough to heal the fractures imparted on the soul by urban living. I love city life but it does take as much as it gives and increasingly I find I need to retreat from it, just for a bit.

I did that last weekend with a trip to Sweden with their annual Culinary Acadamy, this year to Småland and Öland in Southern Sweden. Rural and pretty with sweeping forests peppered with mirror lakes, Småland is in the South East tip and Öland is a long narrow island cosied up next to it, flat and dotted with old unused windmills scattered among wheat fields. 

Wild foods abounded, I gleefully picked wild strawberries at every opportunity when walking through meadows and fields. I bet it is amazing in the Autumn when the blueberries & lingonberries rear their heads amid carpets of mushrooms too.

We found (and ate) lots of wild strawberries. Swedish kids store them on a straw so we did the same :)

We found (and ate) lots of wild strawberries. Swedish kids store them on a straw so we did the same :)

We spent a few days travelling around meeting producers, trying local foods, learning local recipes and eating at some of the local restaurants. For a small area there is a lot going on, and we met a few of the Swedish Chefs of the Year as we travelled, eating the food cooked by one and cooking with another.

I have lots to share but will start with some photos. I could have shared so many more, but I have – literally – thousands yet to edit. Here is a start!

Gorgeous wild flowers on a wall in Öland, Sweden

Gorgeous wild flowers on a wall in Öland, Sweden

Goats! At Hagelstad Goat Dairy Farm in Öland, Sweden

Goats! At Hagelstad Goat Dairy Farm in Öland, Sweden

Kroppekake (potato and spice pork dumplings, served with cream and lingonberry jam), at Ninni’s Kroppkake Cottage in Långerum, Öland

Kroppekake (potato and spice pork dumplings, served with cream and lingonberry jam), at Ninni’s Kroppkake Cottage in Långerum, Öland

Dreamy wheat field, swishing in the breeze in Öland

Dreamy wheat field, swishing in the breeze in Öland

Klas Lindberg, Swedish Chef of the Year 2012, who we cooked with at the Öland Museum in the village of Himmelsberga

Klas Lindberg, Swedish Chef of the Year 2012, who we cooked with at the Öland Museum in the village of Himmelsberga

Sommelier and beer specialist Sanna Blomquist, who matched the drinks and also had the best head dress :)

Sommelier and beer specialist Sanna Blomquist, who matched the drinks and also had the best head dress :)

Gorgeous dresser in the cafe at the Öland Museum in the village of Himmelsberga

Gorgeous dresser in the cafe at the Öland Museum in the village of Himmelsberga

We made some beautiful midsummer head dresses

We made some beautiful midsummer head dresses

... with these lovely flowers

… with these lovely flowers

Here is mine :-)

Here is mine :-)

A traditional Fika at Krusagården in Eksjö, Småland

A traditional Fika at Krusagården in Eksjö, Småland

I travelled to Sweden as a guest of Visit Sweden.

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RECIPE: Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

I never even heard of toad in the hole as a child. I may have heard it referred to but I always thought that it referred to Toad of Toad Hall of The Wind in the Willows. I was quite surprised to discover it was a joyous and simple concoction of sausages roasted in Yorkshire batter. Delicious!

This is super easy to prepare at home and I am sharing the recipe with you today very quickly, because I really think you need to make it. I have also made this with the cocktail cooking chorizo sausages from Brindisa in a muffin tray. They were so cute I half wanted to tuck them up in bed instead of eating them.

For this, I used common or garden proper pork sausages. That taste of pork and just that. I am not liking the trend of sticking all types of things in sausages. Some things are best left simple (unless they are very good and then I am ok with that).

This makes enough for 2 with 2 sausages each. Or if cooking for 1 as I was, enough for 1 and a big Yorkshire pudding for later. I often cook for 1, and it upsets me that people think it is pointless to do so. We should all cook for ourselves and take pleasure in it.

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

RECIPE: Toad in the Hole

serves 1

Ingredients

1 egg
50g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
150ml whole milk
2 sausages
one small tray that will accomodate two sausages and wiggle room
flavourless oil or – indulgently – duck fat

Method

Whisk together the salt, egg, milk and flour until there is no lumps and leave aside for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 200 deg C and lightly roast the sausages in a little oil / fat until they are starting to brown.

Remove the sausages and add more fat, it should cover the whole of the bottom of the pan (or you won’t get a nice crisp bottom). Heat in the oven then add the sausages and pour in the batter until it comes half way up the sausages. Put the leftover batter in another small tin with fat to cook a Yorkshire pudding. Or make a second one.

Roast for 20 minutes, in white time the pastry will puff up and crisp.

Eat with gravy and lots of it.

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My Favourite London Places to Eat (my Top 10 London Restaurants, if you will)

I have a shortlist of must eat places that I visit every time I am back in town. Places that offer comfort, deliciousness and that make me feel right at home. Bowls of loveliness and pies of joy, spicy fabulous curries and fatty fabulous seekh kebabs. This is not a list of anything specific, like my favourite fine dining or cheap eats, but a list of the places that I think about when I travel and head straight for when I get back.

I always promise that I will share these, but I never do. (I don’t know why, I suspect it is because I find things like this a bit of a Sophie’s Choice). There are restaurants that I love that aren’t on here as they are more occasion type places for me (L’Anima, Racine & The Ledbury, for example). They are centred around Soho, and in South London where I live, but these are places that I travelled to before I lived here from the North and East and are destinations for me. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise.

So, here you are, enjoy. I know you will love them as much as I do. I have eaten at each one many times. (Photos are random and are a mix of camera phones and random cameras – I will update with proper photos as I go).

Koya – the best udon in London, these are as good as any (and better than some) in Japan. Made fresh daily using the traditional 5 hour under-the-foot method, bonito is shaved fresh for the soup stock (which goes a little way to explaining the flavour and vibrancy). Everything is good here, and don’t ignore the specials. I recently had a divine udon with tempura hake, wild garlic and leek, and I just can’t stop thinking about. When ordering udon, be sure to order tanuki (crispy tempura bits) and onsen tamago (slow poached egg). Served cold may sound odd, but when cold they have terrific texture. I let the weather choose whether I go cold or hot. The drinks list has some lovely sakes, wine, beer and cider. I try to stick to sake when I go. When in Rome (or in London) etc.

Koya, 49 Frith St, London, Greater London W1D 4SG, United Kingdom, no reservations

José & Pizarro – I can’t mention one without the other, José and Pizarro are two restaurants owned by Spanish chef José (yes) Pizarro. José is a relaxed tapas and sherry bar on a street corner in Bermondsey, always full and with a brilliant atmosphere. All of the food is great but especially good are the tortilla, jamon, gazpacho and croquetas. With a glass of sherry, of course (the list is excellent). A 5 minute walk away sits the younger sibling, although it feels a little more mature. A touch more formal, although really not by very much, Pizarro serves a more structured menu and an excellent and great value Menu del Dia during the week.

José, 104 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UB, United Kingdom, no reservations
Pizarro, 194 Bermondsey St, London Borough of Southwark, London SE1, United Kingdom

Prawns at Pizarro

Prawns at Pizarro

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar – Bone Daddies is fierce. It is the type of ramen that grabs you by the chops and wrestles you into submission. Big flavours, lots of heat, and rich broths, this is the real deal and is really considered. The tantanmen was my favourite until I became too weak or it became too hot. Now I favour the super rich and silky tonkotsu, and the kimchi tonkotsu when it is on special. With punchy kimchi, corn, and some fine grated parmesan, it hits every spot, even some that I didn’t know I had. Soft serve ice cream is a must. The flavours change daily, I have had the green tea and I hear that the black sesame is very good. There is a great sake list and this is where I focus my attention, although the Fever Tree ginger beer is pretty good too.

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, 31 Peter St, London, Greater London W1F 0AR, UK, no reservations

Bone Daddies Tonkotsu & Sake

Bone Daddies Tonkotsu & Sake

Lima – my favourite Peruvian food in London and great cocktails too. The ceviche (sea bream) is the best in town, as is the pisco sour. Braised tender octopus with bubbles of bitter rich olive and suckling pig with lentils are divine, and the chocolate with blue potato crystals – trust me – is a must. I need to go back and familiarise myself with the rest of the cocktail list, I rarely stray from the sours.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Pl, London W1T 1JH, United Kingdom

Octopus with olive and quinoa at Lima

Abbeville Kitchen – local to me, but worth the journey, Abbeville Kitchen is a perfect local restaurant. Modern British, I love to go with friends and order some of the food to share, from Desperate Dan style pies (my favourite was venison and pickled walnut) to rib of beef, chips and bearnaise to share. Starters are lovely too, the charcuterie is particularly good. House cocktails make a perfect aperitif and the wine list is very fairly priced and accessible.

Abbeville Kitchen, 47 Abbeville Rd, London SW4 9JX, United Kingdom

Trinity – great food, great wine, accessible prices. Possibly the best priced tasting menu in town. Chef Adam Byatt and his team make many delicious things, but their taramasalata is the best I have ever tasted and their signature trotter dish is divine. Wine matching is excellent, and the prices aren’t intimidating. I brought a friend last year and he goes back now all the time with anyone that he can find that hasn’t been there yet.

Trinity, 4 The Polygon London SW4 0JG, United Kingdom

Pig trotter on sourdough with sauce gribiche, crackling and quail egg at Trinity

Lahore Karahi –  a small and way too bright Pakistani restaurant tucked away in a corner of Tooting, the Lahore Karahi is one of my favourite curry houses in London. I started obsessing about the lamb chop masala, four tandoor lamb chops in a thick, rich lamb masala sauce. I would always have these with the lamb seekh kebabs, and the chicken and fenugreek ones. But then I discovered the haleem. Which is a divine concoction of 3 types of lentils and lamb, smooth as silk and rich as velvet. It is only available at the weekends which is just as well. The prices are brilliant, with main courses circling £7 or less. BYO & no corkage, treat yourself to a visit.

Lahore Karahi, 1 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SN, United Kingdom

Haleem at Lahore Karahi

Haleem at Lahore Karahi

Jen Café – I go here for the dumplings and the bubble tea in hungry moments in Chinatown. The dumplings are very simple, Beijing dumplings with pork, steamed and sometimes, if I am in the mood, fried. Always with a dipping sauce fashioned from the condiments on the table: black vinegar, (often a little too much) chilli oil, and a little soy sauce for sweetness, salt and balance. Never more than £10 and always satisfying. Althhough the staff can be quite rude, and they are inconsistent. (Update October 2013 – I now prefer to go to Leongs Legend Continues around the corner for the Xiao Long Bao, which are some of the best in London, and a cup of tea).

Jen Cafe, 4-8 Newport Place London WC2H 7JP

Fried Beijing dumplings and watermelon pearl juice at Jen Cafe

Fried Beijing dumplings and watermelon pearl juice at Jen Cafe

Gelupo – gelato and granita, in cups, cones or sourdough donuts, there is very little not to love at Gelupo. Blood orange granita is a must, although the recipes are seasonal so be sure to explore. Look beyond the counter to the fridge for some chocolate covered ice cream, ice cream cakes and bon bons. At one point the even sold (terrific) charcuterie from sister restaurant Bocca di Lupo across the road.

Gelupo, 7 Archer St, London, Greater London W1D 7AU

Chilli Cool – I am adding this at the end and slightly tentatively as I used to love it here but haven’t been in a bit so including it here is slightly risky. I do often think of returning for the firey grouper and tofu hotpot, smothered in chillies and spiky sichuan pepper corns, a piece of fish or tofu rescued from the oils beneath is delicious. I was first brought here by a friend of a friend from Chengdu who loves it and did all of the ordering. I have been hooked to Sichuan food since. I last brought a friend who was so shocked by how hot it was – despite my pleas for him to drink aloe vera juice to soothe his palate – that he insisted we leave half way through. If you like hot food, you will love it. I do.

Chilli Cool, 15 Leigh St, London WC1H 9EW

Chilli Cool - Grouper Hot Pot

Have you any favourites that you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments :)

Coming soon: more favourite London places, incl for fine dining, posh lunch, cheap eats, coffee, wine, brunch etc.

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Eat Like a Girl Named As One of the Top Travel Experts on Twitter (for food, of course)

When people hear what I do, their reaction is almost always “WOW! You have the best job”. And I might do. It has perks, and it also has pitfalls. My enthusiasm for my journey has compromised my waistline and sometimes my head. Have you ever been so exhausted after a big meal that you had to go to bed, only to repeat it again the next day and the day after? It seems a nonsense complaint and terrible in so many regards, but this is my reality. I am really not complaining at all.

I am starting to reign it all in. I eat out less than I did (but still a lot more than is normal). I walk a lot more (my phone is also a pedometer and it is like a tiny tyrant ticking away in my pocket). But, I will never fully control it, for where is the fun in that? I love it, from tucking in to BBQ pig tail in Barbados, to goose webs in Beijing. I will continue to devote my life to this madness, and store all the experiences here.

So, I was fairly delighted to receive an email this morning from Travel Media Group to say that I have been named as one of the “Top Travel Experts on Twitter”. In food, of course, along with Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Rick Griffin.

UHM, ok. I will take it. A little nervously. They are some pretty big players there, but from my little corner of the internet, I will carry on. And continue to love it and soak it all up.

Thanks for reading and you know, if you are not on twitter, you should really sign up. It is a lot of fun and I post lots there that never make it to the blog.

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Hunting Down the Waterford Blaa in Newfoundland (and a recipe for you to make it at home)

Waterford Lane, in St John's Newfoundland

Waterford Lane, in St John’s Newfoundland

Do I need to reintroduce you to the blaa? I probably do. The humble bread roll from Waterford, it is fluffy, square and white with a flour crust, and we are a little obsessed with it. It is thought that it came to Waterford with the Huguenots who called it blanc (because it was a simple white roll), but with our accent and a little time to erode it, it became a blaa.

It is a simple bread, slightly sweet with a little sugar and fluffy with a little butter. Allowed to rise slowly, it is the perfect vehicle for our traditional (and my favourite) chicken and stuffing sandwich. Also, for the occasional tayto (cheese & onion) crisp sandwich with butter to cushion the crisp.

Street art in St John's, Newfoundland, featuring fish (what we know as cod), a huge part of their culture

Street art in St John’s, Newfoundland, featuring fish (what we know as cod), a huge part of their culture

There used to be 60 bakeries in Waterford that baked the blaa, and it never really left it. You never used to see the blaa anywhere else. This has changed recently, in no small part due to the efforts of the remaining bakers, now only 4, who are trying to protect it and have applied for a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). To apply there needs to be at least 3 producers and we are getting low. As a result there has been some press, and I have seen the blaa pop up here and there a bit more.

St John's, Newfoundland. It was common to build houses on stilts, to cope with the dramatic surfaces of the land.

St John’s, Newfoundland. It was common to build houses on stilts, to cope with the dramatic surfaces of the land.

I used to make and sell them at my market stall in Covent Garden 4 years ago, where I made and sold my own food. Not content with doing anything that wouldn’t push me as far as possible and drive me (seemingly) close to deaths door, every day I would make a number of different dishes, always from scratch. Soups, stews, tarts, salads and sandwiches (and all on my own). I would get up at 5am and bake blaas fresh every morning, then serve them filled with overnight roast shoulder of pork and spiced apple relish, or spiced overnight roast shoulder of lamb, with aubergine and tomato relish. They were a hit and I always had a queue, so I ensured that these recipes made it into my cookbook, Comfort & Spice.

A house on the Battery in St John's, Newfoundland

A house on the Battery in St John’s, Newfoundland

I was speaking once with my father about Nova Scotia (as I have a good friend from there who I was visiting). He, previously a master cutter at Waterford Crystal, knew some ex colleagues who had moved to Nova Scotia to set up a crystal company there. And somewhere along the way, my father had discovered that they made the Waterford blaa in Newfoundland, and only there. That sounded familiar.

That had my attention and it has been in my head ever since. Food is culture, it tells you a lot about where you come from and the land itself. Newfoundland has many Waterford connections, not least in their accent which can be very similar to my own. It turns out that this is for a strong reason, Waterford city used to be the headquarters of the seasonal cod fishery in Newfoundland dating back to the 16th century. Many people from Waterford and surrounds travelled to Newfoundland to work in the cod industry as seasonal workers (mainly between 1763 and 1830) and lots stayed on. Their mark is still there, there are many Powers, Barrys, Butlers, McCarthys, in fact there are over 1300 Irish names on Newfoundland now.

I was fascinated and determined to seek the blaa out. I was sure it must be there but my initial research proved fruitless. I contacted the tourism board and a local historian, both super helpful, they tried but could not find my blaa. I was sure it must be there, so I took a risk and thought, if I can find a baker, I will visit. I was sure that they were making them, and that they have just given them a different name.

On my first day in St John’s, I popped into a local pub for a bowl of chowder, and served next to it was what I would know as a blaa. AH-HA! I knew it! What is it? Just a bread roll. But it isn’t. Not to me and most of Waterford at least. The next day I was meeting Lori Butler, a local baker and chef with a passion for Newfoundland food and recipes. We had communicated over email, and Lori had said that she made a bread roll, but wasn’t sure if it was a blaa. I was now fairly certain that it was.

Lori and her mother in law Regina

Lori and her mother in law Regina

We started early, in Waterford Valley in St John’s. We got the dough ready and left it for a first rise. Like most home home cooks, Lori does things by eye and by feel, using recipes that have passed through the generations. We left the dough to double gently and then portioned it into 8, rolling it in flour and leaving it to rise, all cosy and cuddled together, as blaas are.

Proving the dough

Proving the dough

Proving the dough

Proving the dough

Dividing the dough into 8

Dividing the dough into 8

I was now fairly certain that we were making blaas and I was excited. We allowed it rise again, gently on the side and then dusted it with a final flour flourish. We baked it, we tore them apart and I had a bite. This is a blaa, I declared! I knew it! I have found it. It was a little bigger than normal, but it was the very same bread. I was even happier when I discovered the roast turkey and dressing sandwich, which is similar to our roast chicken and stuffing sandwich except that here they pour warm gravy on also. I am taking that back with me. (Dressing in Newfoundland is stuffing made with savoury, in place of our thyme). They drink steeped tea too, something I always associate with my childhood in Ireland.

Steeped tea

Steeped tea

Dusting the bread with extra flour

Dusting the bread with extra flour

 

Ready to taste

Ready to taste

I found them! Lori and her home baked blaas

I found them! Lori and her home baked blaas

Lori had learned her bread recipe from her mother who had learned it from her mother in turn. I brought some with me to give to some other Newfoundlanders who all agreed that they had remembered their mothers making them too.

Here is to history and culture, the kindness of strangers, the food that brings us all together, and a humble little bread that travelled to the other side of the Atlantic and stayed the course.

My Blaa Recipe

be sure to have it with roast chicken, stuffing and gravy – OR – and you have my permission, some tayto crisps and butter ;)

Makes 8 blaas
[Read more]

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A BBQ in Halifax & a Recipe for Foil Wrapped Halibut with Garlic, Oregano & Lemon

BBQ Halibut with Oregano, Lemon, Chilli & Garlic

BBQ Halibut with Oregano, Lemon, Chilli & Garlic

A quick post for you today with a few photos. I am in Halifax now, staying with a fond old friend. When we both lived in London we often met over food and wine. Things are not much different now. We had planned a large dinner with her family, lots of dishes using the best of local produce. I was going to make my bacon fudge. Five minutes into cooking the propane went out. We had no cooker and oven.

What to do? It became a BBQ. Not one dish that we had planned could be made on the BBQ so:

Cajun prawns with grits became lemon & chill prawn skewers. The grits can wait for another session.

Chilli & Lemon Prawn Skewers

Chilli & Lemon Prawn Skewers

Halibut with chorizo, breadcrumb and herb crust became two dishes. Chorizo (the soft fresh cooking kind), tomato & pecorino koftes perched like little spicy torpedoes on the edge of the grill. Oregano, garlic and lemon woke the halibut from its slumber. We portioned it and put put each in an individual foil parcel with a simple marinade. The halibut was local (and bought in the lovely Seaport market in Halifax mid tropical storm) and beautifully tender and sweet, 15 minutes later it was perfectly cooked and delicous.

Chorizo, tomato & pecorino koftes

Chorizo, tomato & pecorino koftes

Chorizo, tomato & pecorino koftes

Chorizo, tomato & pecorino koftes

Halibut with Lemon, Oregano, Garlic & Chilli

Halibut with Lemon, Oregano, Garlic & Chilli

Asparagus and ruby chard met over an open flame instead of in a pot, and I even managed to kinda candy bacon in maple syrup on the BBQ and we served that, chopped into small bite size bits, on top. With more space and the right pot it is of course possible to make fudge, at this point, I decided to leave it though.

Ruby chard with asparagus (which later met garlic, evoo, sea salt and lemon)

Ruby chard with asparagus (which later met garlic, evoo, sea salt and lemon)

Israeli cous cous was briefly sauteed in olive oil before the propane went out. I covered it in boiling water from the kettle in a shallow pan (to about an inch above it). It soaked it all up and then I quickly steamed off the excess water on the BBQ in a foil tray. It then became a salad with goats cheese, confit tomatoes, chorizo (sauteed in a foil tray on the BBQ), red onions and herbs (which I forgot to take a photo of but I was more interested in the wine at that point :)

Prawn skewers & chorizo torpedoes - ready to eat

Prawn skewers & chorizo torpedoes – ready to eat

Sometimes, with a twist of fate and some quick thinking, things just work out better. Enjoy.

RECIPE: BBQ Halibut with Lemon, Oregano, Chilli & Garlic

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes (depending on your BBQ)
Seres: 1 (obviously many more if you want to)
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A Postcard from Niagara

Maid of the Mist at the base of Niagara falls - no time to do it on this trip but definitely next time!

Maid of the Mist at the base of Niagara falls – no time to do it on this trip but definitely next time!

I am working backwards, feeling slightly justified as I am still in Canada, even if I am writing about it the wrong way round. But hey, you have come to expect that now, haven’t you?!

I am a mite passionate about wine. I love the stuff, and I love to visit vineyards, do tastings, and explore the wine culture of any country I visit that has one. I am in awe, and worried for, people that can deny themselves wine and/or pasta. Why? Just, why? Life is short, bring the joy, and buckets of wine and shovel loads of (great) pasta. Carbonara or tagliatelle with ragu for me please! With a gutsy delicious wine. Several Canadian provences make wine, and I have visited a few, the Okanagan, Nova Scotia and Niagara.

My trip to Toronto was short, just 3 days, and I devoted one of these to a trip to Niagara for a little explore. Niagara (famous for the falls) is also a well established wine region, producing some excellent wines including ice wine. I visited two wineries: Trius (where I also had lunch) and Inniskillin (which is particularly famous for ice wines, the were one of the pioneering ice wineries (is that a thing?!) in Canada). I also visited a maple syrup farm, farmer’s market and antiques market, had lunch, and whizzed by the falls. Because you just have to.

Enjoy!

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Asparagus at the Farmer’s Market in Niagara

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Canadians love their pickles

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Maple syrup at White Meadow Farms – all picked in the same season, the syrup darkens as the season goes on

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Dark maple syrup from the very end of the season at White Meadow Farm

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It takes this many buckets of maple syrup from the tree to make one small jug at the end – the tree syrup is cooked down until it caramelises and becomes amber

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Wine in Niagara

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Hillebrand Gewurztraminer at Trius Winery (Hillebrand recently rebranded as Trius)

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Lunch at Trius Winery – their version of Surf & Turf – mini lobster roll served with a wild ferment Trius chardonnay and rib eye mini burger with the Trius red – love the idea and it worked. Delicious food too.

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Hillebrand ice wine – 2007 vintage – ice wine is made from grapes frozen at minus 8 – 10 deg C for 2 – 3 days. Each grape produces only 1 – 2 drops of juice so it isn’t cheap, but it is really delicious

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Rhubarb dessert – behind it was a terrific ice cream cookie sandwich made from an oat cookie and rhubarb sorbet – served with the ice wine above

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Chive flowers (delicious!) with the Trius vineyards behind

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All types of worms – live and available to purchase from this machine at the gas station

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Sparkling ice wine at Innniskillin – one of the pioneering wineries in Canada (especially with regard to ice wine)

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Innikillin ice wine and dessert and cheese pairing at Niagara

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Ice wine grapes at Inniskillin vineyard

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A Postcard from Newfoundland & Labrador

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An actual postcard!*

A street of colourful houses in St John's in Newfoundland at dusk

A street of colourful houses in St John’s in Newfoundland at dusk

I say Newfoundland & Labrador, on this trip I just went to Newfoundland, but lets say the whole thing, if only so I can say that that this is where the labrador dog comes from (they were originally the St. John’s water dog) and also, there is a Newfoundland dog too. And it has webbed feet. Webbed feet! Not just that but a water resistant coat. I saw fantastic over the top puffins, with their crazy orange lipstick. A MOOSE!, some eagles but no whales or icebergs so I will be back.

Not just for the wildlife, I loved it there. It is like a quirky mirror of Ireland on the other side of the Atlantic, but everything is much bigger (N&L is almost the size of Japan but with a population approximately 248 times smaller), and the people there are some of the calmest and most laid back that I have ever met. This is the place to go and detox from the big city.

This isn’t a wildlife blog though, so what of the food? Such fresh cod, cod tongues, cod cheeks, served with scruncheons – diced fried cubes of salted pork fat. What can be wrong with that? Nothing! Don’t be fooled with the fact that these are so called cheap cuts (or have that put you off, cheap cuts are almost always the tastiest anyway), the cod tongue is so light and delicious, fried and encased in batter it beats normal fried cod. If you are worried about eating cod, the cod is caught in a sustainable way now, post moratorium, and is very tightly controlled.

I ate homemade fish cakes (always with salt cod which is not called cod here, it is simply fish), and was shown how to make them too, recipe soon. Moose sausages, pickles, lobster benedict for breakfast. What an indulgence. I saw seal flipper pie, moose pie, rabbit pie, potted seal, potted moose, bakeapples (cloudberries), partridge berries (lingonberries) and lots more. Seal flipper pie & potted seal might sound harsh, but this is a traditional food there, and so I will document it. I had my first Jiggs dinner with Lori and her family.

I also went to hunt the Waterford blaa, which I had heard was there and was determined to find. I found it, in a way, at Lori’s house, but that is a story in itself and I will be back with that soon.

For now, some pictures, as always. See you soon!

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Ferryland lighthouse, where I had a great picnic lunch (the picnics are provided on site and are excellent)

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I grew up by the sea, and this used to be true for me too :)

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A flying puffin!

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Cannonised saints – they are actually standing on canons from the war between the French & the English in Canada

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Flying puffins and murres, three up close and many more speckled behind

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A view of St John’s and the harbour from Cabot Tower, Newfoundland & Labrador

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Cod tongues with scruncheons and tartare at Blue on Water, St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

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Lobster benny for breakfast at the Sheraton hotel, St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

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A murres in flight – Newfoundland

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Baking bread (blaas!) with Lori in Waterford Valley…

...and preparing a traditional Jiggs Dinner which we ate with her family

…and preparing a traditional Jiggs Dinner which we ate with her family

I travelled to Newfoundland & Labrador with the Canadian Tourism Commission

*everyone asks when I post one of these on instagram / twitter / facebook, so, if you are wondering, the postcard was taken using a function on the camera of my Samsung S4.