Monthly Archives: December 2010

Review Of The Year 2010

2010 was my first full year of blogging so its seems right that I should look back and reflect on what an amazing year it has been.

In January, I did my first Fresh From The Oven Challenge, making Chocolate Buns. This formed part of my New Year’s resolution’s to be more adventurous in baking and make more bread. I also made cottage pie and did my first ever guest post on Nora’s blog.

In February, I made Valentine’s Cupcakes (that looked like boobies!) for English Mum’s Best Valentine Cupcake competition.  I reviewed my first cookbook, Skye Gyngell’s My Favourite Ingredients and Nora did a guest post on the blog.

Image by Wendy from Peters Yard

In March, I celebrated completing my first year of blogging. The first meeting of the Midlands Food Bloggers was held at Loaf’s HQ in Birmingham, where we cooked pizza’s and tasted Peters Yard’s Crispbreads and Brock Hall Farm’s Goats Cheese for the first time. I went to my first Cupcake workshop at Kiss Me Cupcakes and I hosted my first Fresh From The Oven challenge, Kringel

.

In April, I entered and won the Easter Cake Bake and made cupcakes for the Mad Hatter’s Shropshire Tweet Up. Helen did a guest post on the blog and I made croissants for the first and last time!

May started by making the ultimate spring time brunch and a crumble. Pizza Napoletana was the Fresh From The Oven challenge.

In June, Jo’s Kitchen was invited by Miele to do the Masterchef Invention Test at the BBC Summer Good Food Show. Marie and I took on a Giant Cupcake Challenge and I went on an archaeological dig and left my blog in the care of Gary, Linda, Louise and Charlene.

In July, I made my favourite childhood dinner of Fish Fingers, Mashed Potatoes, Peas and Parsley Sauce. I entered my second English Mum’s Big Bake Off and held a competition to win a Masterchef Apron.

In August, I made a sweet version of Fish Fingers, Mash and Ketchup with Mat Follas’s help and went on a foodie trip to Ludlow visiting the Ludlow Food Centre and Ludlow itself. Brioche was this month’s Fresh From The Oven Challenge.

September was a busy month so I only made some cupcakes and garlic and basil focaccia.

In October, I made some spooky Halloween cakes for English Mum’s Autumn Bake Off, went to my first 24 Carrots Farmers Market and attended the second Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up.

In November, I made Coca-Cola Marinated Steak, with Wedges and Cool Beans, and I went to Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, London. I also reviewed the Findus Fresher Taste range of ready meals.

In December, I was invited back to the BBC Good Food Show Winter by Miele. I took part in two cookalongs and met lots of fantastic producers. I went to the new Jamie’s Italian in the Bullring, Birmingham. I learnt how to make pasta for the first time at Loaf and shared my Christmas wishlist with you. Finally, for a late seasonal treat, I shared my Mincemeat Flapjacks recipe.

Overall, 2010 was an amazing year. I met so many fantastic people, ate lovely meals, made lots of new recipes and I was lucky enough to review some great products. I cannot wait to see what 2011 will bring. Thank you to all my readers for being along with me for the ride. I hope you will stay with me for 2011. I hope you all have a great night tonight, whatever you are doing. I will see you early in 2011 with my New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year! :-)

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone. Sorry for the delay in between posts. Things have been a bit crazy round here with the snow, awful roads and Christmas preparation.  I am cooking Christmas dinner for six tomorrow and am off to start preparing as soon as I have written this post. For those of you who may be interested, I am cooking:

  • A Turkey from Goodman’s Farm in Worcestershire
  • Roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips
  • Steamed Brussels spouts and cabbage
  • Cauliflower Cheese
  • Yorkshire Puddings
  • Sage and onion stuffing
  • My nan is bringing sausagemeat stuffing
  • Proper giblet gravy

I know it is probably a bit late to give you a Christmas recipe now but here is my new recipe find of this Christmas: Mincemeat Flapjacks. They are really easy and quick to make and I am sure you have all the ingredients in the store cupboard.

Mincemeat ‘Christmas’ Flapjacks

(Inspired by Food Network UK and Waitrose)

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 410g jar of mincemeat or your own, if you have made some
  • 500g porridge oats
  • 200g Glacé Cherries, chopped (optional) 

Method

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup and mincemeat until thick and runny.
  2. Turn off the heat, and stir in the porridge oats and coat every bit with golden syrup, butter and mincemeat mixture. Add in the glacé cherries if using and stir again.
  3. Pour the mixture into a lined big lasagne dish and cook in a 180 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. It will still be soft when you take it out of the oven.
  4. Allow to cool, cut into squares (it will be very crumbly) and serve. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Hayley at Sainsbury’s for sending me the most amazing mincemeat to make this recipe with. It is much appreciated. Happy Christmas!

Well this is it from me until after the big day tomorrow. Happy Christmas to everyone! I hope you have a fantastic day, whatever you are doing. Eat, drink and be merry!

Happy Christmas!

Lots of love

Jo :-)

Christmas Wishlist

As a self-confessed foodie, I have a pretty constant list of things I would like that would improve my cooking, baking and blogging experience. My current list is below:

  1. A Stand Mixer of some description, either KitchenAid or Kenwood
  2. A Digital SLR Camera
  3. A set of Kin Knifes
  4. A new microwave
  5. A foraging course at The Wild Garlic
  6. A bread baking and a poultry course at Loaf
  7. A set of saucepans without plastic handles
  8. More than 24 hours in a day to allow more time for work, cooking, baking and blogging!

Well, a little while ago I commented on a blog post by Rosie Scribble where a company called Appliances Online had sent her a brand new TV and if you commented on her post, they may get in contact and send you something too. At the time, my washing machine was broken so I put that in my comment. I never expected to be contacted.

However, out of the blue a week or so later, Ben from Appliances Online contacted me and said that although a washing machine was a bit beyond what they could offer me (we had a new one by then anyway), would I like something for the kitchen instead?  So, low and behold, this weekend Christmas came early and a shiny new microwave like the one below was delivered and is now in pride of place in my kitchen.

If you let me know what you would like for Christmas in the comments section, Santa may be watching and you might get an early Christmas present yourselves!!!! :-)

Restaurant Review: Jamie’s Italian, Bullring, Birmingham

Photo by Jamie's Italian

After a really enjoyable visit to Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, London not so long ago, Stuart and I were really looking forward to the branch in the Bullring in Birmingham opening as it is only twenty minutes down the road from us. Therefore, we jumped at the chance when Emma from the Bullring invited us to have a meal there.

Jamie Italian in Birmingham is the biggest of his restaurants so far, with 270 seats. It is set right in the heart of the Bullring opposite St. Martin’s church and has been designed with Birmingham’s Industrial heritage in mind. We arrived on a cold Monday evening at 7.20pm and were greeted by friendly and efficient staff who took us straight to our table, which had the most amazing view of the restaurant interior and the church.  The restaurant has high ceilings with exposed pipes and metal, with the most incredible chandeliers I have ever seen.

Photo by Jamie's Italian

The atmosphere was buzzing when we were seated but due to the high ceilings the noise did not overwhelm. We  browsed the winter menu and as we struggled to decide on a bottle of wine to accompany the meal, the waiter recommended Primivito Di Salento, Cantine Lugi Scritti, a fruity red wine from Puglia. It was so lovely; Stuart and I shared a bottle and had another glass of it to go with our puddings.

To start, we shared a selection of top Italian breads which included focccacia that is baked twice daily on the premises. I can make foccacia ok but mine will never in a million years be as good as the ones I have tried at Jamie Oliver’s restaurants especially this one. It was light and packed with flavour from the rosemary. The olive oil and the balsamic vinegar that was served with the bread were gorgeous too!

After the bread, we each had a bruschetta. Mine had grilled and marinated mushrooms with lemon, thyme and garlic and Stuart’s had oven dried tomatoes, with basil, garlic and creamy ricotta on top. I really enjoyed the mushroom bruschetta but thought that the portion was a bit to large. One piece of bread with the mushrooms on would have been enough for me. Stuart disagreed with this and ate every last bit of his and loved how the basil and the garlic really gave a kick to the tomatoes and creamy ricotta.

For our mains, I had rabbit ragu pappadelle which was rabbit cooked in a broth and served with pappardelle pasta. It was unusual as it had a thin broth like sauce unlike most other pasta sauces. It was light but with the pasta, it was filling and comforting at the same time. Stuart had the grilled Angus sirloin steak, which was cooked to perfection and declared amazing by Stuart. We shared posh chips with truffle oil and parmesan and crunchy salad to go with our mains. The chips were ok, but the best was the salad. It fresh, vibrant and an excellent contrast to both our main dishes.

My favourite course was the pudding as I had the best chocolate, raspberry and amaretto brownie I have ever tasted. It was amazing. I cannot think of words to describe it. It was that good; I think everyone should get down there and try it for themselves. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Stuart had some vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce which he deemed excellent as it was creamy, rich and full of vanilla bean seeds.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Jamie’s Italian in the Bullring. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was buzzing but not on your face and the staff are charming. I am actually looking forward to Christmas shopping at the weekend now as I can go there for something to eat afterwards. :-)

Jamie’s Italian is part of a new scheme that the Bullring is hoping to complete next year. It is called Spiceal Street and it is hoped that in 2011, three new restaurants, similar in style and class as Jamie’s Italian will open in St Martins Square. If you would like more information about the scheme, please see the website here.

Note to readers: Stuart and I dined at Jamie’s Italian as guests of the Bullring. Many thanks to Emma for setting it up :-)

Handmade Pasta Course at Loaf

Last month, I went to Loaf, based in Cotteridge, Birmingham and I learnt how to make pasta for the first time.  I have been wanting to learn how to make pasta for ages, especially since my friend Marie brought me a pasta machine for my birthday.  Loaf is a social enterprise, that promotes real food and healthy living in Birmingham through running cookery courses and a weekly bakery. Loaf is run on a day to day basis by Tom Baker (pictured above), who is my friend and fellow Midlands Food Blogger. The courses are run from Tom’s home in Cotteridge and are limited to six people.  The Handmade Pasta course teaches you how to make fresh pasta from scratch and you get to eat it at the end with a glass of wine too!

Five people and I arrived at Tom’s house on 6.30pm on a Thursday night. After a cup of coffee and a brief health and safety chat, we were paired off and got our aprons on ready to start. Pasta is simplicity itself to make. It is only Tipo ’00′ flour and eggs, mixed together to form a sticky dough and kneaded.  You leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes, while you make the sauce and then you are ready to roll!

It is best to roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is the size of an A3 sheet of paper.  You then cut it into the shapes you require. We made tagliatelle, pappardelle, mezzalune and tortellini.  Tom showed us how to make three sauces and a vegetable filling to go with our different shapes of pasta.

Mezzalune & Tortellini with Parmesan Butter Sauce

Tagliatelle with Carbonara Sauce

Pappardelle with Puttanesca Sauce

My favourite sauces were the Parmesan butter sauce and the Carbonara sauce. I did not really like the Puttanesca sauce as it contains olives and capers. My two least favourite ingredients ever. I will have a go at making these sauces and some fresh pasta in the New Year so I will give you my adapted versions of Tom’s recipes then.

Everyone on the course had a fantastic time. We all asked Tom lots of questions and by the end of the course, we quite merry after drinking some wine and having lots of good pasta.  Thanks to Tom for hosting the course and for showing me that pasta is not that hard to make. I look forward to coming on more courses at Loaf in the New Year, including Bread: Back to Basics and Butchery: Perfect Poultry.  Thanks again Tom! :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

BBC Winter Good Food Show 2010 Part 2

After a cracking day out with fellow bloggers doing the Miele Masterchef Experience, I could not wait to get back to show on the Sunday and meet some amazing producers and I was not disappointed.

My first visit of the day was to Goodman’s Geese who produce free range geese and turkeys on their farm in Great Witley, Worcester. It is run by Judy Goodman, pictured above and their turkeys and geese have featured on many chef’s Christmas TV specials including Delia Smith, Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver. My turkey is coming from Goodman’s this year and I cannot wait to try it!

After this, I went to Gower Cottage Brownies which is run by Kate and she had won a Good Food Show Bursary Award, allowing her to come to show and let everyone know about her delicious brownies.  I already knew about Kate as she is on Twitter @gowercottage and I looking forward to trying her brownies. They are amazing. I will be ordering a box of brownies to be delivered to me soon.

Another producer who I knew from Twitter was at the show too. Sarah of Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies (@Brays_Cottage on Twitter) makes the best pork pies I have ever tasted. I am not a fan of pork pies generally but these are different. They have no jelly in them, meaning that free range pork that is packed into them shines through. The pastry is light, flaky and yummy. Bray’s Cottage make four flavours of pork pies which are; onion marmalade, chilli, chorizo and the traditional. I like the chilli and chorizo ones the best. Sarah was also at the show because she had won a Good Food Show Bursary Award.

As a massive fan of chorizo, I was very happy when I found The Bath Pig. It is run by Mash and Tim (who is not looking at the camera!) and they make British (to a Spanish recipe) RSPCA Freedom Food Standard free range chorizo. It is some of the best I have ever tasted and I am already dreaming up recipes to make with it. I brought the spicy chorizo but I would really love to try their garlic and herb chorizo too.

Tim Kinnaird was not only at the show doing the Masterchef experience. He was their selling his home-made macaroons.  Tim had four flavours which were lemon, rose, passion fruit and salted caramel. My favourites were the lemon and salted caramel ones. I had to eat lots to come to that decision. The macaroons were light, creamy and delicious. Tim has inspired me to have a go at making them at home in the New Year. Wish me luck!

Wandering around the show some more, I sampled some Worcestershire Plum ice cream from Churchfields Farmhouse. Another local producer who makes amazing ice cream using their own cow’s milk and local Worcestershire cream. I also found some British Cassis made by Jo Hilditch. It was lovely and I cannot wait until Christmas when I can try it in a Kir Royale. I saw Edd Kimber doing a demo on the British stage and afterwards went home after a very enjoyable weekend for a Crabbie’s Ginger Beer and a well earned rest.  This is just what I saw, tasted and did at the BBC Good Food Show, for fellow blogger’s viewpoints please look at the links below:

Happy Cooking! :-)

BBC Winter Good Food Show 2010 Part 1

Last weekend, I had a fun filled foodie time at the BBC Good Food Show Winter. For the first time ever, I was armed with a press pass and ready to meet all the amazing producers at the show. I had one added bonus as well. Miele invited me back to take part in two Masterchef Master-classes and have lunch at the Masterchef Restaurant, similar to what I did at the summer show. As I did so much at the show, I have split it into two posts, one on the Masterchef experience and the other on the fantastic producers that I met.

To begin, I will start with the Masterchef Experience. I was joined by fellow bloggers; May, Mimi, Helly, Pippa and James. We are all pictured above with Edd Kimber, winner of The Great British Bake Off. For our first challenge, we had to do a Masterclass with Mat Follas. He won Masterchef in 2009 and the chef/owner of The Wild Garlic Restaurant. I met Mat in the summer and know he is a great guy, with an incredible passion for food. It was his idea to do a sweet version of fish fingers, mash and ketchup not so long ago. For the masterclass, we made chocolate and rosemary mousse. I was quite scared of making this as I have had disasters making it at home. However spending the first 20 minutes in a mild state of panic (my cream would not whip, my eggs refused to be separated and it felt like I spent nearly the whole time on stage with a hand mixer on the go!) I produced lovely (but possibly OTT on the rosemary) chocolate and rosemary mousse.  Everyone was really happy with the results and I will make this again at home and share the recipe with you soon.

After some more celebrity schmoozing with Dhruv Baker, Masterchef winner 2010 and Edd Kimber, it was off to the Masterchef Restaurant for our lunch and well deserved break.

For my main, I had Chicken with a mushroom and Marsala sauce on parsnip mash with glazed baby vegetables which was cooked by Wendi Peters in Celebrity Masterchef Series 3.  It was delicious. Everything complemented each other brilliantly and it tasted even better because I did not have to cook it! For pudding, I had Bread and Butter Pudding which was cooked by Dean Edwards in Masterchef Series 2.  The pudding was dense but very light at the same time. The berries really cut the sweetness and were an excellent contrast.

Soon after this delicious meal, it was time for us to return to the Miele Masterchef stage again. This we were cooking with Alex Rushmer and Tim Kinnaird, both finalists in Masterchef 2010.  In this session, we made Duck Breast with Crackling, Pickled Cucumber and Spiced Tobacco Caramel and Spiced Hot Chocolate. The duck was Alex’s dish and I was a bit sceptical about it at first. The thought of putting tobacco in food seemed crazy to me, however it worked and the duck tasted really good too. Tim’s hot chocolate was amazing. Spicy, sweet and hot. Just perfect. I will make these dishes again at home and share the recipe with you soon.

.

Overall, I had an absolutely amazing day and I would like to thank Susanna and Lauren from Miele for inviting me to take part and everyone else involved for all your help. It was great fun! My next post will be about the amazing producers I met so stay tuned for another post soon.

Thanks to James and Miele for some of the photos. It is much appreciated.

Happy Cooking! :-)