Monthly Archives: November 2010

Review of Findus Fresher Taste

I was recently invited to attend a tasting event in London but unfortunately I could not attend. The tasting event was for a new range of Findus products called ‘Fresher Taste’. As a child, I adored Findus Crispy Pancakes, especially the minced beef and onion one. Therefore, I was quite disappointed that I could not attend. A few weeks later, a parcel popped through my door and to my surprise, it contained:

  • 4 vouchers to get free Findus Fresher Taste dishes
  • A £10 voucher for Odd Bins (I brought Three Peaks Chardonnay with it as it goes well with fish and chicken)
  • A blindfold (so that I could blind taste test the dishes- I didn’t!)
  • A memory stick with a video on about the Tasting Event (See bottom of post for video)
  • And a lovely letter saying that as I could not go to the event, that they were bringing the event to me!

The Findus Fresher Taste range is designed to give busy people frozen food that tastes as good as fresh. It has been created by the Findus head chef, Serge Nollent and uses prime cuts of fish and chicken. The see-through packaging acts like a roasting bag, retaining the natural moisture and flavours of the dish and allowing the meat or fish inside to self-baste. Each pouch is vacuum packed to help the food stay fresher. All the nutritional value is kept in and it takes less than 10 minutes to cook in a microwave.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Findus Fresher Taste range. I tried all of the dishes which are:

Roast Chicken Breast in a Sun Dried Tomato Dressing with a side of potatoes, peppers and courgettes

Wild Pacific Pink Salmon in a creamy White Wine and Asparagus Sauce with a side of Potatoes, beans, carrots and peas

Tender Chicken Breast in a Vintage Cheddar and Bacon Sauce with a side of broccoli, green beans and peas

Flaky Cod Fillet in a creamy Mornay Sauce with a side of potatoes, broccoli, carrots and parsnips

I am not a great lover of ready meals, especially the frozen ones but these were quite good. A couple of points that they could improve on, in my opinion is the size of the fish/chicken and the vegetables. The fish/chicken was lovely but needed to be a bit bigger I think. (This might just be me being greedy!) The vegetables had a lot of water in them from being frozen and this made the potatoes (that been sautéed) very soggy and lots of water went on the plate as I served the veg. It was not very attractive. The sauces that all the dishes came with were delicious. They did taste fresh and you could tell the quality of the ingredients. I can see me possibly having one occasionally when time is tight and I am hungry.

Many thanks to Molly and Caroline for sending me the surprise parcel. It was much appreciated

Happy Cooking! :-)

PS: I will be at the BBC Good Food Show Winter tomorrow and Sunday so if you see me, please say hello!

When You Entertain with Coca-Cola

A while ago, I was sent a copy of ‘When You Entertain’, a recipe book from Coca- Cola. This is a modern version of a book originally written for Coca-Cola in 1932 by legendary American hostess, Ida Bailey Allen. The new book is written by a collaboration of celebrated British Foodies; chef Tom Aikens, ex Blur bassist and food addict Alex James, 2008 Celebrity Masterchef winner Liz McClarnon and food blogger, Julia Parsons of A Slice of Cherry Pie and founder of the UK Food Bloggers Association. It is edited by renowned journalist Tiffanie Darke.

The book is divided into four categories; Weekend Brunches, Family Mealtimes, Saturday Night with Friends and Easy Lunch. Recipes include, Caveman Corn and Chicken, Spicy Crab Mushrooms, Braised Lamb Shank with Honey Roasted Garlic and Gammon and Peas Pudding.  There are even some inventive recipes that use Coca-Cola in the book and they include, Coca-Cola Ginger Cake, Coca-Cola Chicken Salad with Garden Potatoes and Coca-Cola Sticky Ribs.

However, as soon as I saw Coca-Cola Marinated Steak (a recipe from Julia Parsons), I knew I had to give it ago.  In the book, it is served with coleslaw and corn but I decided to serve it with Cool Beans (a recipe from the book by Alex James) and my potato wedges that I sometimes serve with steak.  The steak marinade was simplicity in itself: onion, garlic, Coca-Cola, Worcestershire Sauce and Dark Soy Sauce. Put it in a freezer bag and leave it in the fridge for as long as you can and griddle or BBQ it until it is cooked the way you like it. The beans recipe is slightly harder and made harder still when you do not read the recipe properly like I did. Doh! You are supposed to cook the beans in a low oven for 24 hours however; I did not notice this until 2 hours before I wanted dinner so I have made an adapted quick version below.

Jo’s Quick Cool Beans (Adapted from a recipe in ‘When You Entertain’ by Alex James)

Serves 4 as part of a main course

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped into small chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 tin of beans of your choice, drained
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of Coca-Cola
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Put some olive oil in a casserole dish that can go on hob and in oven. Allow the olive oil to heat up briefly and add the onion and garlic and fry until softened.
  2. Add the beans, the tomatoes and the can of Coca-Cola. Stir and add the Worcestershire Sauce, Soy Sauce and some seasoning. Once simmering, put a lid on it and put it in a preheated 180°c oven.
  3. Allow it to cook for 30-40 minutes; stirring occasionally until thickened and all the flavours have come together. Check again for seasoning and serve it with the Coca-Cola marinated steak and potato wedges. Enjoy!

You can get the book from Harvey Nicols stores nationwide and online as part of hampers with selected ingredients from the book.

Many thanks to Laura for sending me the book :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Restaurant Review: Jamie’s Italian, Covent Garden, London

A few weeks ago, Stuart and I both happened to be in London for work at the same time. We decided to meet for dinner after work one night in the middle of where we were both staying. I was on one side of the Thames, he was on the other. We had lots of choice of where we could meet but we opted for Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, as it is close to a tube link (Leicester Square) and Jamie Oliver is one of our favourite chefs. In my pre-blogging days, we dined at Fifteen Cornwall twice and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

We arrived at the restaurant at 6:50pm on a Wednesday evening and people were already queuing to dine there. You are not able to book a table at any of the restaurants (other locations include;  Bath, Cardiff, Glasgow,  Leeds and Reading) unless you are in a group of 8-16 people. We waited for 5 minutes in the queue and were greeted warmly and efficiently by a member of staff who told us that a table for two would take 40 minutes. She took a mobile phone number and gave us a pager that is supposed to beep/flash/makes lots of noise when your table is ready and told us to go for a drink nearby. We found a pub around the corner, had a drink and exactly 40 minutes later, we were called (the pager did not work) and told us our table was ready.

On our return to the restaurant, the place was buzzing with music, chatter and laughter. Various types of hams and other preserved meats hung on a wall, wine bottles in glass cases were used to decorate walls and the kitchen was open for people to see into as they entered the restaurant. We were taken to the downstairs seating area, which was quieter than the main floor above.

Our menus were brought over and soon it was decision time. The menus at all Jamie’s Italian locations changes seasonally and most use the same menu, with some local variation. Apologies for the quality of photos in this post, the restaurant was quite dark and I did not want to use a flash as I would have disturbed my fellow diners. To start, we shared the Selection of Top Italian Breads and the World’s Best Olives on Ice. My favourite of the breads was the rosemary focaccia as it was light but chunky at the same time and full of flavour. The olives were fresh and tasted delicious.

Next we shared an Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank, which included  mortadella, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and a crunchy salad. The plank  was rested on two tins of Italian tomatoes which gave it a rustic charm. I loved the prosciutto and the crunchy salad. The little balls of mozzarella were amazing too. They were so sweet and creamy.

For our mains, I had Shell Roasted Brixham King Scallops with crispy pancetta on a fresh tomato salsa. They were fantastic scallops. Big, fat and juicy but in the spicy crumb, they were a bit lost. It was a shame really. It could have been an incredible dish. I still ate it all though. Stuart had the Feather Steak and we both shared the sides of braised fennel with anchovies and chilli  and funky chips with garlic and parsley. The chips were amazing. I will definitely try serving them like that at home. They were yummy!

For pudding I had honeycomb and vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce and honeycomb chocolate bits. It was heaven! I love honeycomb and there was lots of it. Simple and delicious. Stuart had a fresh and zingy lemon sorbet, which he enjoyed as well.

Overall, we had a really enjoyable experience at Jamie’s Italian. I loved nearly everything, even the napkins! (See photo at top of post). A new Jamie’s Italian opened this week in the Bullring, Birmingham, just down the road from me and I cannot wait to try it!

Red Risotto!

Recently, I was watching Good Food (it would be on in our house all the time, if Stuart would let me!) and I saw a Rachel Allen programme called ‘Home Cooking‘. In this programme, she made a chorizo, red wine and pea risotto. This seemed an ideal dish to me as I love red wine, chorizo and risotto and was interested to see how they would work as one dish. I used venison chorizo from Great Glen Game and it was yummy! I cannot wait to cook with it again :-)

I adapted Rachel’s recipe slightly as I can not understand why the chorizo was not cooked in the risotto from the start, therefore I added the chorizo in before the onion so that that everything could have a bit of its lovely spicy flavour. I also did not use fresh peas as they are not in season at the moment and I think they would be wasted in this dish. Frozen peas worked fine, added in near the end of cooking. Fresh peas sweet flavour would of been lost as the chorizo and the red wine overpowered it.

I absolutely loved this risotto. I prefer it to normal white wine risottos. The red wine and the chorizo gave it a real kick and the sweetness of the peas was an excellent contrast. I will definitely be making this again!

Happy Cooking! :-)