Category Archives: Gourmet Life

BBC Summer Good Food Show 2012

A few weeks ago, I went to the BBC Summer Good Food Show at the NEC. I look forward to the show every year as it is a great way to meet lots of like-minded people in one place. Upon arrival and after a quick coffee in the press area, I went to see my friend James on the Gourmet Life stand. He was joined on the stand by Duncan of Relish Publications who were promoting the launch of Relish Midlands (more to follow about this in another post soon).

Following this, I went to meet the lovely people at Riso Gallo UK who were showcasing the wide range of products they have on offer and had chefs on hand to show you how to cook it. On the stand they were cooking courgette, chorizo and pea risotto and they even made a chocolate, meringue and strawberry risotto too. I received a selection of their products to review and will telling you more about them soon.

After this, I went over and met Tracy from The Gingham Chicken who make some of the most inventive fudge I have ever seen. I loved the lemon meringue one!

I next went to Samuelson’s of Whitney and tried their delicious lemonade and virgin mojito.  They tasted like how drinks used to taste and were very yummy. I brought three bottles.

Next up was the My Secret Kitchen ladies who were wowing the NEC with their creations as they always do. I especially loved their maple caramel sauce.

Next up was a revelation to me, a frozen dough company called The Northern Dough Co. who make fresh dough in the factory, freeze it straight away, you take it home, defrost it when you need and then make fantastic pizza.  We have loved what I brought at the show and need to stock up again. Thomas enjoyed it too. It is that good!

One of my final stops of the day was to Grandpa Lew’s, a Derbyshire based business selling the finest pies and sauces they can. I enjoyed their Curried Potato, Cauliflower and Pea pie and an Atomic Buffalo Brownie. Before leaving the show I went and saw old friend’s Tim at Macarons and More and Kate at Gower Cottage Brownies.

While at the show, I was lucky enough to interview Olly Smith and Glynn Purnell. Their interviews are next up on the blog so stay tuned. I had a fantastic time at the show and think it one of the best shows yet. I can’t wait for the winter show to arrive in town. After walking round all day and working on James’ stall for a while, I was even more tired than what I had been looking after Thomas all day!🙂

Cookbook Review: Simpsons – The Cookbook by Andreas Antona

I have wanted to visit Simpson’s Restaurant in Birmingham for a very long time and have not made it there yet. It is high up on my list of restaurants I really want to go to.  It climbed even higher on my list when I received a review copy of their second cookbook, which is to be published on 20th June 2011.

The book simply called ‘Simpsons the cookbook’ is written by Andreas Antona, chef and owner of Simpson’s with Luke Tipping and Adam Bennett, two of his sous chefs. They have chosen their favourite and most popular dishes and set them out in a simple format, aimed at amateur chefs and passionate foodies.

On first receiving the book, I was very impressed with the photography. It shows the restaurant at work and also it is one of the only cookbooks that I know of, that has a photograph of every dish in the book. You can see the time and effort that has gone into making the book on every single page.

Starters include ceps on toast with summer truffle; and risotto of goat’s cheese, piquillo pepper and rocket. Main courses are dishes from poulet Basquaise to  favourites such as cote du boeuf, Yorkshire pudding and roast new season carrots. Delicious desserts range from great retro efforts such as black forest in a glass and chocolate baked Alaska to the more simple but equally impressive white chocolate truffles with rum and vanilla; perfect as petits fours with coffee. Some of the dishes in the book seem very easy and straight forward to make (see my version of a dish below), however some of the dishes just seemed a tad too advanced for me. I love the look of the Black Forest in a Glass but it is the kind of thing that would take me (a reasonably competent cook) all day to make.

As ever, whenever I review a cookbook, I always make a dish from it. I decided to make Tagliatelle with Black Mushrooms. However, I could not find any black mushrooms in my local supermarket so I made it with Portabello mushrooms instead. The recipe also called for fresh pasta and although I can make fresh pasta (see here) I decided against it as I made it as an after work treat and with baby brain and general tiredness going on, making pasta was a step too far for me. I did use fresh free range egg Tagliatelle from the supermarket instead. I also got slightly confused between two mushroom dishes in the book. One the Ceps on Toast called for Black Summer Truffle and I thought the tagliatelle dish needed it instead so I ordered a truffle from Mister Truffle to make the dish. Therefore, my version has extra truffle on it. Here finally is my version of Andreas Antona’s classic dish.

Tagliatelle with Portabello Mushrooms and Black Summer Truffle


  • 100g tagilatelle per person, cooked according to the packet instructions
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4-6 small portabello mushrooms, peeled and chopped finely
  • Small knob of butter
  • Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • Parmesan, grated (optional)
  • Salt ad pepper, to taste
  • 5g of Black Summer Truffle, grated very finely (optional)


  1. In a frying pan, add the butter and fry until melted. Add in the shallots and mushrooms and fry gently until cooked.
  2. Add in the cooked pasta and parsley. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Pour the pasta and mushrooms into a warm serving dish. Grate truffle and parmesan over the top, if using and then enjoy!

Overall, I am very impressed with the Simpson’s cookbook. It contains simple Michelin starred recipes but it also contains recipes that give you something to aim for and challenge you. It is not an everyday cookbook but it is one you want to look at everyday.

You can preorder Simpson’s The Cookbook here

WIN a LIMITED EDITION copy of the new Simpsons Restaurant Michelin Cook Book: Download some FREE Recipes to win:

Many thanks to Syamala for sending me the book to review

Happy Cooking!

A Night At The Wild Garlic Part 3: The Apartment

After a wonderful meal at The Wild Garlic, it was time to retire to fabulous apartment on the second floor above the restaurant. The apartment design was inspired by Angie Lewin and is decorated in 50’s/60’s style to compliment her artwork in the apartment. The apartment is a not an hotel room or holiday cottage, its a retreat. The fantastic staff of The Wild Garlic will leave you alone as much as you like. You have your own key and can come and go as you please. I loved it as you are right in the heart of the village and you get a real idea of what is going on, in the restaurant and the village. One small negative is that it is on the main road so you can get a bit of road noise at night. This did not bother me however, if you are looking for a country hideout away from noise, this may not be the ideal place.


When you arrive you find, bread, milk, butter, apple juice, tea and coffee things and even a bottle of wine in the kitchen. Inspired by the local produce in the apartment and in the local fruit and vegetable shop (see post here for more information) , I made myself mushrooms on toast for breakfast before I left and here is my recipe for it:

Mushrooms on Toast

Ingredients (Serves 1 hungry person!)

  • 1 slice of thick local bread, toasted
  • 1 field mushroom and 1 chestnut mushroom, peeled and chopped with stalk removed
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large knob of local butter, for frying
  • 1 small bunch or parsley, finely chopped
  • Rocket leaves, to serve with it, if desired


  1. Melt some butter in frying pan, add in the shallots and fry until softened slightly
  2. Then add in the mushrooms and fry until cooked through. Add in the parsley at the last minute and serve on top of hot toasted bread.
  3. Put some rocket leaves on the side if you like and enjoy!

I would to thank Mat and all team at The Wild Garlic for a an amazing stay. I will be back again soon.🙂

Happy Cooking!🙂

PS:  Midlands Food Bloggers Members and Supporters can now get a Gourmet Life card for three months FREE! If you would like more information, please see the post here

PPS: Sorry for the delay between posts. If you would like to know why there was a delay, please see post on Jo’s Nursery here

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!🙂

BBC Summer Good Food Show 2010

This weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to the BBC Summer Good Food Show as a guest of Miele. Part of the deal to us being invited to show was that we had to take part in a live on stage version of the Masterchef Invention Test and do a cook-along with a Barney Desmazery from BBC Good Food Magazine. I was very nervous and excited about taking part in both but fortunately I was not alone. I was joined by my friend James from Eat The Midlands, and fellow bloggers Kavey, Meemalee , Bron and Ailbhe. We were given basic store cupboard items and a bag containing secret fresh ingredients that were not revealed to us until two minutes before we went on stage. In our bag we had: chicken, bacon, Stilton, celeriac, mascarpone and fresh berries. I decided to cook a chicken and bacon pasta dish. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.  I unfortunately did not win but I am very pleased that Kavey did with her excellent pancakes, mascarpone and berry sauce. Matt Follas and Dhruv Baker were there on stage to offer us help and John Torode and Greg Wallace came along to check on our progress and do the final judging. The videos below  shows the entire invention test in two parts  so please have a look and see who you know on there.

After the invention test had finished Marie, Ali and I had a look around the show. Our first stop was to visit James on the Eat The Midlands/ Gourmet Life stand where Louise from Comida y Vida and a member of the Midlands Food Bloggers was helping out. I brought some chocolate from James stand from Chokolit which I intend to do some baking with soon. We then moved on,  to Supreme Sausages where we each brought our own weight in lots of yummy looking sausages that are now filling from freezer and I cannot wait to cook with them. We then got slightly distracted by the alcohol section as we tried Crabbies Ginger Beer and then went into the Beers of the World Live where you can lots of tasters of many beers and get educated about them as well. While looking round, I brought myself a Kin Knife (which I used on the Invention Test) as a birthday present to myself. (I turned 25 years old on Sunday) We also found a company called Goody Good Stuff that makes sweets that are virtually everything free (except sugar- which is the natural sugar from the fruit). Stuart and I love sweets and I thought these were excellent, especially as they are much better for you than the majority of sweets you buy, with lots of chemicals and additives in. They virtually give you permission to eat lots of them! After a quick stop at Grants for a Whiskey cocktail, it was time for me to do the Miele Cook-along and appear on stage again.

The Miele Cook-along with Barney Desmazery was much harder and a lot more nerve racking than the Invention Test. We had 30 minutes to cook three dishes in following the chef, Barney.  This would been ok but some of my equipment and ingredients were missing so I spent the first 10- 15minutes catching up with everyone else. Barney also moved along at chef speed instead of our normal home cook speed so he had to keep waiting for us to catch up. I think the cook-alongs are a good idea but they need to allow more time for them, for people who do not cook at chef’s speed. We made marsala chicken skewers  that we cooked in the Miele steam oven, with a tomato and red onion salad and Za’atar spiced flatbread with a strawberry, hazelnut and toffee tart for pudding. I will give you the recipes for these when I make them again at home myself soon. My Invention Test dish recipe is below if you want to make it yourself at home.

Spicy Chicken, Bacon and Peas Pasta- My Masterchef Dish

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite sized chinks
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder(or more if you like it spicier)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Small handful of frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g pasta of your choice


1) Cook pasta as per the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.

2) While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil into a pan and allow to heat up. Add in the onions, garlic, bacon pieces and some salt and allow to cook until softened slightly. Add in the chicken and lightly brown all over.

3) Add in the chopped tomatoes, along with the paprika and chilli powder  and allow to simmer gently until chicken is cooked through. Add water or chicken stock to the sauce if it starts getting a bit thick. Add in the frozen peas near the end so they are just cooked.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is cooked, add parsley in at the last minute before adding the cooked pasta and mixing it with the sauce. Serve in a bowl on its own or with garlic bread. Enjoy!

Overall, We had a fantastic day at BBC Summer Good Food Show and I would like to thank all these wonderful people for making it so good:

  • Nicola, Roxy and Caz  and everyone at Miele
  • The Students from the Birmingham College of Food and Tourism who helped us out so much on stage
  • James Day and Louise Sims, who are both true foodie friends
  • Kavey,Meemalee , Ailbhe and Bron and all the other food bloggers who were there taking part or supporting us.
  • The staff at the Grants stand
  • Melissa from Goody Good Stuff
  • Andi Peters, Greg Wallace, John Torode, Barney Desmazery , Matt Follas, Dhruv Baker, Tim Kinnaird, Alex Rushmer for being so supportive and having a laugh with us backstage.
  • And a very big thank you goes to my  friend’s Marie and Ali for being there to support me and for being true friends.

Happy cooking!🙂

My First Gourmet Life Event: Loire Valley Wine and Food Event at Brockencote Hall

A few posts ago, I told you about a scheme called Gourmet Life that allows you to support local producers and lets you save money on while you are doing it. Every so often, Gourmet Life hosts special foodie events at locations across the Midlands and Stuart and I were lucky enough to go to one such event last Thursday night.

This event was to celebrate Loire Valley wines which all came from one family, Domaine Cady from St. Aubin-de-Luigine. It was hosted by local esteemed food and wine writer, Philippe Boucheron at Brockencote Hall in Chaddesley Corbett, Worcestershire. All the wines that we drank were matched to a wonderful four course menu created by the head chef John Sherry.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Philippe who gave us a glass of Domaine Cady Crémant du Loire NV, which was a crisp and refreshing sparkling wine that tasted better than most champagne in my opinion. We tasted a few glasses of this, just to check it was lovely of course! After relaxing for a short time in the hotel lobby, we were invited to take our seats in the private dining room.

Once seated, we were given an Amuse Bouche of chilled pea soup with smoked olive oil, served in an espresso cup. I forgot to take a photo of this but I can tell you it was very yummy and was devoured by everyone on our table quite quickly. We were then served the wine to go with our first course which was, Domaine Cady Anjou Blanc 2008 which was a full bodied wine from the Chenin Blance grape. This was to accompany:

Crottin* de Chavignol Coulant Salade de Céleri branche, btterave et noix caramelisées


Soft Centre of Chavigon goats cheese with a salad of celery, beetroot and caramelised walnuts

*Crottin is local slang for tiny black goat’s droppings

Stuart and I are not great fans of beetroot, walnuts or goats cheese so this dish was not exactly our favourite, however we felt the wine complimented the dish perfectly as it was strong enough to shine through the goat’s cheese. The next wine for the fish course was then brought out, which was Domaine Cady Anjou Blanc Cuvée Cheninsolite 2008 which is another Chenin Blanc from a single select hectare on the Domaine Cady estate. The wine was golden in colour with fruit aromas and hints of vanilla, which accompanied:

Lassagne d’ Araignée de Mer à la Truffle et Soupe d’ Asperges


Spider Crab and Truffle Lasagne, Asparagus Soup

This dish was one of my favourites of the evening. It was a triumph. I have never tried spider crab before but in this dish, it was perfect. So light and full of flavour which the truffle and the asparagus soup complimented beautifully. The wine brought all the flavours together and let them all shine through on your palette. Two wines were then brought out to accompany the main course. The first and the cheaper of the two was, Domaine Cady Anjou Rouge 2007 and the second was Domaine Cady Anjou Villages 2006. Philippe wanted us to try both wines before the food and tell him which we thought was best and it was the second one. The first one was nice but not as smooth on the palette as the second one. These were to accompany:

Grenadin de Veau de Lait rôti et sa joue croquante

Galette de pomme de terre, petit legumes primeurs, créme de Morilles


Roast Fillet of Veal, Crispy Cheek

Potato cake, young spring vegetables, Morille cream

This dish was fantastic. The veal was cooked perfectly and the veal cheek was incredible. I have never tasted anything so good. It crispy and crunchy yet soft and sweet in the middle. I could eat an entire KFC style boxful of these beauties. It was the surprise of the entire evening and I loved it. The wine choice also changed as well as the less expensive bottle of wine tasted better with the main than the more expensive one did. This is strange but it does show how much food can affect the way you taste wine. A dessert wine was then brought out to conclude our meal which was Domaine Cady Coteaux du Layon St. Aubin 2007 which was another wine from the Chenin Blanc grape. I am not very keen on dessert wines but thought that this one was quite good as it was not as sweet as some of the other dessert wines I have tasted previously. This was to accompany:

Tarte aux Poires et aux Amandes

Ave Glace au Roquefort, Gelée de Muscat Noir et Caramels Salés


Pear and Almond Tarte Fine

With Roquefort Ice Cream, Black Muscat Jelly and Salted Caramel

I forgot to take a picture of the pudding as I think the vast quantities of wine that were going round had started to affect my head. Unfortunately, there were not too many things on this dessert that I liked. I loved the tart and the caramel. They were superb but I dislike blue cheese and I hoped that its flavour might be slightly muted as it was in the ice cream. However, it was not to be and the ice cream along with the harsh Muscat jelly took over everything else on the plate in my opinion. This was a shame as the other dishes were so good but I think Stuart and I were in the minority for disliking the dessert.

We had such a fabulous evening that I was even inspired to cook something from the meal at home over the Bank Holiday weekend. I decided to cook asparagus soup using some of the last of the current season’s asparagus. I roughly followed this recipe from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver and it was delicious. It was not quite good as the one I had at the restaurant but still very tasty and it will be my lunch at work for the next few days.

I would like to thank Philippe, James, Alison and all the rest of team which made the evening a great success. I will definitely be going to another Gourmet Life soon and I really want to go back to Brockencote Hall for another meal too.

Until next time, Happy Cooking!🙂

Gourmet Life

As I am sure you all know by now, I like local and seasonal food and I especially like supporting local food producers. Therefore, today I  have decided to tell you about a scheme I have signed for myself that lets you support local food producers and get money off for doing it. This scheme is called Gourmet Life, which is run by James who also does the fantastic local foodie site called Eat The Midlands, which I am going to write articles for, as well as this blog and Dine With Us, which promotes great places to eat out in the Midlands.

Gourmet Life is the region’s only ‘ethical’ dining card. Helping people to support the region’s producers, by choosing to dine at  specially selected venues who must source more than 20% of their a l carte menu ingredients from across the region (within a 50 mile radius where possible). By going to these venues, and dining with them at certain  times, you can enjoy 20% off your a l carte food bill.  All you have to do is, tell the venue you have a Gourmet Life card and dine with them on a Monday to Friday, lunchtime or evening. Its as simple as that.

In addition to getting 20% off at some of the finest dining establishments in the Midlands, you also get the following additional benefits:

  • 20% off your dining bill at almost 100 of the region’s top dining venues
  • Monthly invites to gourmet nights
  • Additional discounts off meals at selected venues, up to 2 for 1 at selected venues
  • Discounted foodie events
  • Savings at Deli’s, and farm shops of 10%
  • 20% or more off overnight breaks, including Birmingham & London!
  • Exclusive tasting menus also available, specially made for you!
  • and even more benefits coming soon!

If you would like more information on this, please visit the Gourmet Life website here. If you would like to join the scheme, please email at with your address and I will send you a leaflet and a free Gourmet Life Taster Card so you can try the scheme for yourself before you sign up or you can simply join up on the website here, just please say that Jo of Jo’s Kitchen sent you.

I will be back soon with another post, so until next time,

Happy Cooking!🙂