All posts filed under: Random

Photograph: Pål Hansen for the OFM

How To Start a Food Blog

It has been a while since I penned advice for aspiring food bloggers (5 years!) and it is woefully out of date. I have been writing this blog for almost 9 years now, and I speak at Professional Blogging Masterclasses at the Guardian (I am preparing for my fifth session in January), and I have previously organised and taught a full weekend course on food blogging there too. It is time to update my thoughts on here.  With 2016 starting to wave in the near distance, it is a good time to refresh the information here, in time for all of you looking to start soon, or for those of you who are new and are looking for guidance.  First things, first. There are two important things for successful blogs: great content & visibility (aka knowing how to make it visible).  Just start Blogging has been around for a while now and there are many of us. It is a very competitive field, however, it is not unusual for a new blogger with their own style and great …

Here is to a big, expansive and gorgeous 2015.

Happy New Year Lovely Readers! 2014 in Photos, and on to 2015

You know I spent a long long time crafting a post that was so rammed full of images and randomness that it might have made your phone explode if you tried to load it. Perhaps your head too. My brain started to melt and I feared a serious injury, so I thought that something simpler and more direct is in order. Would you be even interested in a detailed round up? Maybe not.  So: Happy New Year! I wish you much happiness, joyful encounters, the minimum of stress and lots of happy cooking. When I look back on 2014 I see smiling faces, wonderful places, orangutans (which I am now fully obsessed with) and fabulous plates of food. There was some wine, at times too much wine, but I can never say no, if the wine is good. And that is how I like it. 

UPDATES: Project Bacon & Eat Like a Girl, the Next Evolution

This year has been a a year of surprises and challenges. A difficult year, when I look back I see myself overwhelmed, sometimes panicking and all consumed with Project Bacon, but you know what? It is nearly there. We have the final photography days this week and then my creative portion will be almost complete. The rest doesn’t worry me so much. My art director is brilliant, as is my editor, and my book could not be in better hands. I will switch my attention to more practical matters like printing and distribution, which will be a relief after all of the angst that writing a book can bring. The hardest bit with writing a book is that bit that you should love the most. The manuscript. When in the zone it can be wonderful, but more often than not it is torture. Writers block, panic, fear, too much time alone, constant reassessment of your work, frustration, and ultimately a book that was at times painful to write, but one that you are proud of, …

Almond Crusted Tuna with Chilli Roast Pumpkin, Wilted Lettuce, Tomato & Curry Leaves

Almond crusted tuna frequently pops up my idea periscope when my mind wanders. I first had it in Sicily a few years ago in San Vito Lo Capo, when I was a judge for the International Cous Cous Festival (yes, I really was, and it was bonkers, and a lot of delicious fun). There are many almonds in Sicily, pistachios too, and they appear a lot in the cuisine. Almond crusted tuna was one of my favourite dishes that I tried, a fabulous alternative to breaded fish, the tuna remains crisp and is – obviously – nutty.

Next Stop: Sabah & Brunei

What a week! A very good week, I spent the bulk of it at World Travel Market in London, where I met lots of inspiring people and spoke about food & travel blogging. 4 full days, and a blissful early night followed, so rare, and very much needed. I am shattered, but I have lots to do, for I am going to Sabah and Burnei on Sunday. And that is exciting, isn’t it? Sabah is new to me, in Malaysian Borneo, and a whole new world of food is waiting to greet me. Many of you will know it already, and possibly have even been to a wedding there, as many people travel to marry on their tropical shores. We start in Kota Kinabulu, and explore Sabah from there. I will be doing lots, highlights among these being lots of terrific eating, a cooking class, visiting markets, heading into the jungle, and I am very excited that we are going to see some Orang Utans at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.

Cardamom and Turmeric Chicken Curry

Today has been stressful. Yesterday was worse. Because of stupid but unavoidable things, in isolation fine, together brain stuffing. Delayed planes, trains and automobiles (yes, all three), a broken front door, mysteriously vanished side gate, and lots of other dull stuff. My brain was starting to tense, my heart was pounding and I was being taken away by fury, a red mist. What a bloody nightmare, eh? What to do? Sort the essentials, ignore the rest, withdraw from the world for a bit, and think of curry. Chicken curry to be precise, I don’t think you can beat it if it is made right. A nice plump chicken from a happy home, whatever cut you fancy, or the lot. I bought a small bird, brought it home and removed it from the carcass, which I will use soon for stock along with the chicken skin and wings. I removed the leg, thigh and breast, the legs I kept whole, the rest I diced chunkily, and added all of the meat to a creamy turmeric bath. …

Homemade Matcha Soba Noodles & A Recipe for Matcha Mari Soba

Matcha noodles! Well, why wouldn’t you make them? You surely want to try them. I had the good fortune of eating superb matcha soba when I was in Kyoto last year, and they pop up from my memory to say hi frequently. Sure, you can buy green tea / matcha noodles in speciality shops here, and they are decent, but they are not a patch on the real thing. Of course. But, then you hear that it takes 3 years to learn soba making, 32 years to perfect it (!) and that it is very tricky. But you know what, you still really want to give it a go. Right? Right. Let us get down to the details. There are two things that we need to think about here. Soba and matcha. Soba means buckwheat or buckwheat noodle in Japanese. Buckwheat isn’t actually a grain, it is a seed that is grain like, and is not related in anyway to grass, it is actually closely related to rhubarb and sorrel (both very characterful plants, as …

Mayfields, Wilton Way: Go, While You Still Can (You Have a Week)

This is the briefest review that I have ever written but it really just a quick heads up for all you Londoners. Mayfields in Wilton Way is closing on Saturday 27th. It is a terrific restaurant and has had nothing but rave reviews. The food (from Matthew Young ex Wapping Project) is smart, flavourful and very creative. The room is bustling, run brilliantly by Clare Roberson (ex Shacklewell Nights), the wine list (from Borough Wines) is eclectic and very affordable. When I heard it was closing I booked twice, and this speedy post is a review of those visits, and to urge you to go, while you still can. It is a reminder too for all of us that we need to support great restaurants, especially local ones, or we will lose them. These photos are from my first meal last week. Must orders: lemon sole & grouse and not pictured from last night the mushroom, egg yolk, orange & seaweed; raw razor clams; chocolate mousse and octopus with lardo and dill bobby beans. Price …

VIDEO: Cooking Salt Aged Steaks Japanese Style & Tempura Prawn and Vegetables (In Partnership with Marks & Spencer)

A few weeks ago I met up with Marks & Spencer’s experts Tom (M&S Buyer of Beef, Lamb & Game) & John (M&S Food Innovations Chef) to cook some of their award winning salt aged sirloin beef, Japanese style with some tempura prawn and vegetables. We had a great afternoon and made some terrific food that was uncomplicated and really delicious (yes, I said delicious, it was), using ingredients that are available in your local Marks & Spencer (yes, even those Japanese ingredients). I think you will like these recipes a lot, they are deceptively easy and impressive. Perfect for a crowd or a weekday evening. Check out the presentation too, I am so stealing that idea. Thanks, John! The recipes are fairly straight forward. You can see how John puts together the steak (and how easy and impressive it is) in the video. I will share the tempura recipe with you now, but take a look at the video too to see how easy it is and also to see how golden you want …

New Cooking Classes: Handmade Pasta Class & Feast Available to Book Now

So you know all of that fresh hand made and hand rolled pasta that I have been obsessing over? And the new classes that I promised? Well, here they are! I am scheduling 3 (small) classes only, and they are longer than normal too, running for a full day so that we can cover a lot of pasta ground. They are in Lambeth in central London this time, in a lovely kitchen that has a great prep area and dining area. As with all my classes, this is very sociable, and the price includes wine and a proper pasta feast. Handmade pasta is such a joy, and once you get the hang of it, very easy and speedy. It tastes much better than most you have had too. I am very excited to share everything I have learned and to feast with you. The class incorporates lots of my Italian travels, and some classic pasta dishes that you know (Tagliatelle with Ragu from Emilia Romagna) and some you might not (Malloreddus with Sausage Ragu from …

Sunday Bacon Club at Wilderness Festival and Eat Like a Girl at Blogstock

SUNDAY BACON CLUB AT WILDERNESS Some exciting news: this year, I am bringing Sunday Bacon Club to Wilderness. Wilderness is an ace food focussed music festival (hooray!) in Oxford, and it doesn’t stop there, it also has lots of theatre, small stages with more eclectic stuff, a roller disco, a spa, yoga and wild swimming. Fun! I went last year as a punter and had a wonderful time, highlights of which were breakfasts at St John and feasts at Hix & Polpo (there were also feasts from Moro & Ottolenghi), lots of music and dancing, a fantastic French circus thing and late nights down in the woods revelling. I was keen to go back this year and happily an email popped into my inbox. Would I be keen to bring Sunday Bacon Club to the Wilderness Cookery School this year? Well, YES, I would. Tickets for Wilderness are on sale now (it always sells out so be speedy), as are tickets for Sunday Bacon Club. It is a shorter class than normal at a bargain …

Some Changes to the Blog

I posted recently some thoughts on blogging, and I have been thinking a lot since. I have been chatting to contemporaries in the UK and also on my travels about how they make things work. Sometimes, as much as I love this, I find that the work that pays my rent takes so much of my energy that I have little left to pour in here. I never expected that when I went full time. The truth is, I am a full time food bod but not a full time blogger, and when recently I couldn’t blog for 3 weeks because of other distractions, that really made me think. I have also been talking to people in advertising and business. Like every other established blogger I get pitched to many times a day and often that is exhausting too, because it is rarely beneficial and almost never relevant. But that has become smarter too, and I have recently started having conversations with a couple of agencies who get blogging and bloggers and don’t try to compromise …

Into My Eighth Year & Greetings from South Africa & #Stellenblog

I just logged on to write a post to let you know what I am up to. And then I spotted a message from wordpress, letting me know that yesterday I headed into my eighth year blogging. How exciting is that? I never remember. Blogging, and this blog in particular, has opened the world up to me, brought some brilliant people into my life and made everything that bit more interesting. Thank you for reading and your lovely comments. I really enjoy them.

Sunday Bacon Club at the Underground Cookery School

It has been a while since my last Sunday Bacon Club at the Underground Cookery School, and not long to the next, and it strikes me that I have yet to write about it. Which would be a shame as it was so much fun, is different to any class that I have ever done, more sociable than ever (and my classes are always pretty sociable), with as many drinks as you like, lots of bacon – natch – but  not just bacon. I am talking about candied bacon fudge, (my) bacon jam, candied bacon flapjacks, buttermilk and bacon waffles for brunch drenched in maple syrup. OH YES. You need to know about it. There is only one more in the diary for the foreseeable, so if you are interested, you need to book that too. I have been too busy, ill, then travelling, to advertise it or do anything practical. The first one sold out, and I hope the next one will too.   Sunday Bacon Club is hosted at the Underground Cookery School …

Well Hello! Accidentally Wading Into Debate, Sydney, The Greening, Mudgee. And As You Were. Or As I Was.

Hello there! Pull up a seat. How has everything been with you? Where have I been? Oh… I really don’t like reading blogs that apologise for their absence. Why? This isn’t a newspaper, I don’t have an editor, I blog when I can and when I want to, and I would love to blog more. It becomes difficult though, when external pressures (book writing, bacon boxes, travel and other work that pays the rent and keeps me in Gremlins t-shirts). And here I am apologising, it seems. I just can’t help myself. I am the sole writer here, and it will always be that way. That does limit content, and that is ok, as I am a big ole control freak, and I want everything to be just so and exactly as I saw it in my brain. Plus, this isn’t a place for food and travel stories, it is a place for my food and travel stories. I want to keep it that way. Ahem. Blogging is a funny animal. When I started there was …

Project: BACON – Finally, You Can Pre-Order a Copy – And More Bacon Boxes

In a frenetic spurt of activity, I was overjoyed when I succeeded in crowd funding my next book – a book about bacon and bacon only, curing your own, brilliant brunches, afternoon tea (yes! salted caramel bacon eclair grab you?), home curing, cocktails, suppers and sweets – and I have been working on it since. The initial publication date was scheduled for February, but as long term readers may know, my Dad passed away last Autumn just after the funding run finished, and so I had to put everything on hold for a short while. Now, I am close to completing and sending my manuscript to my ever patient editor. We will start photography once my photographer has finished working on a cookbook by a very-famous-baker-that-you-all-know-and-love. AHEM. My photographer, Georgia Glynn Smith is wonderful, and very much in demand. She shot my first cookbook, Comfort & Spice too. Lots of you missed the Kickstarter and were disappointed. The money raised covered a first limited edition print run that is available only to the Kickstarter supporters. Most …

2013 in Review – Your Favourite Recipes, My Travels, Project: BACON and Plans for 2014

Hello Everyone! I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, and that it was full of delicious food & drink, joyous nostalgia and as few arguments as possible (lets face it, we all have them). I did little in the run up to Christmas here, for a few reasons, one was that I just wasn’t feeling it (I will explain in a bit), the other was that I was furiously making 75 bacon boxes for Kickstarter Project: BACON supporters, to ensure that they were received just in time, and in the best, freshest shape possible. I have 160 more to make in the New Year, and I am still writing the book. But, I am very nearly there, and I am excited. 2013 was in some respects wonderful and exciting, and in others very difficult. I travelled a lot, and learned much from it, spending time in places that I love like Japan, Thailand, Peru & Australia, as well as many European cities. I went to Canada again, and finally to Newfoundland where I uncovered their …

Last Call for Sunday Bacon Club Xmas Presents!

Sunday Bacon Club has proved a very popular present for Xmas this year, so if you are stuck for a present for a bacon loving friend or family member, look no further! I can send you a voucher by email ASAP after you have booked it. What is Sunday Bacon Club? The Sunday Bacon Club will run from 11am – 3pm (it is Sunday after all, and I know most brunch fans love a lie in), and will consist of arrival drinks / snacks 3 hour long masterclass with previews of recipes from Project: BACON, and also including some classics from past classes (chipotle bacon jam, maple candied bacon, bacon fudge). The classes are 100% hands on, and you will make everything you make yourself, and from scratch, with support from me and chefs that I hire to support me brunch, glorious bacon brunch, with a bacon bloody mary and wine The venue is the very spacious and smart Underground Cookery School. Brilliantly located a 5 minute walk from Old St station, this school is …

Announcing: Sunday Bacon Club (A Bacon Masterclass & Bacon Brunch) – Book Your Place Now

I love teaching my bacon masterclasses. Over the course of the 3 hour class everyone chats, and gets to know each other, but then everyone has to go home. Bacon is a terrific social glue. With the general excitement about the class, the quirkiness of the recipes, the smells (oh, those smells), then finally the deliciousness as you eat it, it always seems a shame to just go. So, I looked into ways that I could extend the classes. What to do? Evenings are too short once you leave work, so I looked at Sleepy Sunday and thought, well what about a class then? Followed by brunch? When there is no time pressure, and people can relax, and have some wine while they cook, and then after with brunch? Sounds good, doesn’t it?  The venue is the very spacious and smart Underground Cookery School. Brilliantly located a 5 minute walk from Old St station, this school is a lovely sociable space with everything we might need to help make bacon even more brilliant. There is …

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London: Jacob Harrison Pastrami (Montreal Style Pastrami in London and it is the Real Deal)

“Square pastrami makes me so angry! I have to avoid that counter in the supermarket every time”. An unusual conversation to be having in a park in North London, perhaps. Over a portable gas burner and a pot containing a vacuum packed bag of meat. Stranger still was that it was with a someone that I had never met before and knew vaguely only through the internet. However, I had heard great things about Jacob Harrison’s Montreal style pastrami and I had to try it. Even if that meant that we had to meet somewhere in between (to be fair, he had offered to meet me at my place and invited me over to his, but I only had an hour to spare so this was the best that we could do at the time). Montreal smoked meat (aka pastrami) is famous. Schwartz’s Deli is a first stop for most travellers to Montreal – myself included. When I last visited and requested a sandwich, the waiter looked at me and said, “have you tried the …