Collagen – will this make me look longer? It possibly will! There does seem to be a trend for all things collagen. I was given some lovely gin, with added collagen, from Collagin for Christmas. I met the makers at a show and sadly they weren’t guaranteeing any health or youth enhancing benefits, but it is a lovely smooth gin. There are also a selection of collagen powders out there which do promise benefits for your skin.
What is it? Collagen is the protein in our bodies, found in our tendons, muscles, bones, blood vessels, digestive system and skin. It gives skin it’s elasticity and strength. We naturally produce less collagen as we get older and then start to see wrinkles appear. The suggestion is, and there are a few studies to back it up, that if we take a collagen supplement it will help with our skin’s elasticity as well as helping with our joints. There are different types of collagen which target specific areas, so you would need to research which one is best for you.
Any recipe suggestions? Add it to your smoothies in the morning or a muffin mix to make it palatable. A bone broth is the most direct way of eating it. This is not a vegan friendly product.
Conclusion: There are a lot of powders out there at the moment offering various solutions to our ailing bodies, I am still of the school of eating and drinking a balanced diet as the best remedy for now.
Valencia – the food capital of the world according to the Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. What a delight! We (my husband and I, the trip was part of ongoing birthday celebrations) had sunshine, blue skies and enchanting food, in the middle of January, what is not to love!
The wonder of Valenica is that it doesn’t seem to have caught up with the commercialism of the other big Spanish cities. Just 3 Euros for 2 coffees and a pastry. Our favourite was the Pasteleria Ciudadela. for ensaimada, a coiled sweet bread dusted with icing sugar.
We stayed at the Westin. A 15 minute walk to the old town and a 30 minute walk to the Port via the Arts & Science Complex. The Campo de Mestalla football ground is a 2 minute walk. The service throughout the hotel is some of the best we have had. On the bar list was Zeta Beer, a local craft beer, 100% natural, unpasteurised and unfiltered. The Zeta Hell was refreshing with a citrus flavour. We only ate in the El Jardi bar, the food was okay, I suggest you go out. Close by is the Bocadobar , we had the best Iberian ham croquettes of the holiday here (we did a lot of croquette tasting!). The sauteed prawns with wok vegetables are good and the wine list has a good local selection.
The best tapas of the holiday came from Casa Montana, a Valancian institution and well written about. Our favourite tapas were the smoked eel and the cuttlefish and onions, top class. The smell of Vermouth from the casks as you enter is intoxicating and made for a refreshing apertif with ice and lemon.
The City of Arts and Sciences is an architectural sight to behold as well as a great place to visit. With Europe’s biggest aquarium, and a science museum where not touching the exhibits is prohibited!
On food and drink must tries, look out for the Tiger Nut milk or Horchata, a creamy, luxurious, nutty flavoured drink. So named, because of it’s stripey shell, as it isn’t actually a nut, its a legume. Available at most local cafes and in the Central Market. If you want to try it now Rude Health have just bought out a product available in Waitrose. The other must try, is the tomato bread, if it makes me look as good as the glamorous ladies that we saw breakfasting on it each day, I’m in! Take some rustic bread and grill, rub with garlic and tomato, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!
For any food lover the Central Market is a must do, it has an extensive display of top quality local produce. The saffron price and quality is excellent as it is produced locally, go and see Domingo Lopez at his stall La Panada de las Especias, for a good selection. There are a lot of food tours on offer, we went as part of a paella cooking lesson from Escuelade de Arroces y Paellas, where we learnt the art of Valencia paella. They have a recipe on their website if you’d like to try at home first.
We loved Valencia, its weather, architecture, food and drink, go and visit!
Healthy snacks – Public Health England has started the year with a focus to reduce children’s sugar consumption, with the instruction to only give two healthy snacks of no more than 100 calories per day.
In April, obesity in the UK is still a major news story and further highlighted in the BBC’s ‘Britain’s Fat Fight with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’.
The British are the largest snackers in Europe but help is on hand with the expanding healthier snack market. See some of the new options below –
New processing techniques have really enhanced the flavours in snacks, particularly with LioBites, which have taken ripe fruit and then have been quickly frozen and dried. This enables them to maximise the nutrition and retain the vitamins in the fruit. The strawberry and banana smoothie bites are my favourite.
Kernel Cobs make roasted corn snacks in ranch smoked barbecue flavour or firecracker chilli which have a great spicy kick. They are gluten free, high in fibre and low in sugar. Based in Hampshire they are on the start of their journey to market, but you can buy online.
Ape Snacks have bites made from coconut, and puffs made from rice and coconut. I’d eaten all the chocolate bites before I got to photograph them, they are delicious! The bites are part of your 5 a day, are high in fibre and under 150 calories. Be aware of the fat content, as they are naturally high with the addition of coconut. They come in chia seed, sesame seed and a natural option, as well as the moreish chocolate.
The puffs come in Thai chilli and lightly salted flavours. They are suitable for vegans, not fried and have no added sugar. They are like a crunchier cheese puff with more taste. Ape’s philosophy is to “provide delicious coconut snacks to get you eating better for yourself”.
Fruut , 100% fruit red apple snack, (other flavours are available) contains only 36 calories per portion, they have no added sugars or preservatives, are gluten free and look like crisps. A great snack on the go.
Just Peas and Beans are roasted British fava beans in sweet chilli and lightly salted options or British green split peas in wasabi flavour. The snacks are roasted in cold pressed rapeseed oil which is half the saturated fat of olive oil and 35% lower in saturated fat than sunflower oil. They are high in protein and fibre and suitable for those with a gluten and nut intolerance.
Eat Real have a variety of of products, such as lentil chips, veggie straws (like chiplets) quinoa chips and hummus chips made from chickpea flour, in lots of different flavours. Eat Real’s concept is around ‘real taste, real nutrition, real ingredients’. They are available in your local supermarket. The lentil chips get my vote for a great crunch!
It has been a pleasure to taste all these new snacks, some fabulous tasty choices which are a great addition to a balanced diet.
Are you kidding me? It’s true! Kids are on the menu. I had kid at Lyles last Easter and its back on the menu again – Suckling Kid Shoulder with Yoghurt and Ramson for two to share. I’ve held off writing about it as you can’t easily buy it, but Iceland now stock it and there is a limited fresh supply into Sainsburys, so it will be available for everyone soon.
As a nation we have embraced goats cheese and milk but that means the poor male goats are getting slaughtered at birth in favour of the nursing nanny goats. Thankfully not all suppliers work that way, instead they are developing their goat herd and producing delicious and tender meat, and stopping the waste. London restaurants have embraced this, my favourites are detailed below.
Where can I buy it? Cockerham Herd have been established since 2000, you can buy meat from their British herd online. Iceland do packs of diced goat meat and Sainsburys have some fresh product in store. Cabrito are Temper’s supplier, you can order a selection of cuts online for home delivery. Try roasting a joint to maximise the taste and texture, or the diced meat in a curry.
Where can I eat it?Temper Soho, from Chef Neil Rankin, is my favourite, they have succulent smoked goat on flat bread. I visited the Coal Shed on Friday, where I had Moroccan spiced smoked goat, zatar flat breads, aubergine, tahini, chickpeas and harissa yogurt, delicious! Smoking Goat have barbecued goat Thai style.
Nutritional facts – Roasted goat, per 100g – Total Fat 3g; Saturated Fat 0.9g, which is less fat than chicken. Low in cholesterol and high in iron.
Well done to Toff for being crowned Queen of the jungle! Now you can get a bit of the action with your own bush tucker trial at home with this latest trend.
Grubs, worms and insects come in a variety of delectable ways to eat – snack packs or bars, pasta, flour, crackers or buffalo worms with a sprinkling of spicy chilli.
Insects can be good for you, they contain more protein than chicken, two times more iron than spinach and are good for the environment. I tasted them first in Mexico 7 years ago, where I had deep fried crickets with guacamole, which had a moreish crunchy texture.
This trend will be coming to your table at home soon, with its strong environmental credentials and nutritional source, we need to join the other two billion people world wide who eat insects regularly.
What does it taste like? Cricke do a range of products using crickets, I like the crackers, they have an oat cake type taste and texture. Eat Grubs flavour their crickets with Peri-Peri or Smoky BBQ for a crunchy snack and they’ve also made them into bars with blueberry & almond flavour and orange & red berries and taste quite like a cereal bar. Jimini’s have flavoured crickets, buffalo worms, mealworms and grasshoppers in snack packs, they also have bars and pasta. The spicy chilli buffalo worms I had last night would be a great addition to a salad.
Where can I buy it? Cricke crackers are available from their online shop, hopefully their bread, flour and pasta will be on sale soon. Eat Grub products can be brought at their on line store or Yumbles for the snack bars. Jimini’s pasta and snacks can we picked up via their online store and also at Amazon.
Any recipe suggestions? Insect pasta is full of protein so I have used a classic vegetable pasta sauce from Nigella Lawson. Try Nigella’s pasta with courgettes from Nigellissima with Jimini’s ground buffalo worm basil fusilli. It has the texture of wholemeal pasta and is hard to distinguish in taste from regular pasta.
Where can I eat it? For a taste of the exotic try Archipelago restaurant in Fitzrovia, they have pan-fried chermoula crickets with quinoa, spinach and dried fruit and for dessert, caramel mealworms with bilinis, coconut cream and vodka jelly.
Environmental –insects release 99% fewer greenhouse gases compared to cows. They also require less space, water and food than cows, pigs or chickens to grow and will become more important as a protein source as the world’s population expands.
Nutritional facts – insects contain vitamins B1, B2, B12 and Omegas 3 & 6 and 63g of protein per 100g. They contain more iron and calcium than chicken, beef or pork.
It’s only chocolate, but not as you know it… With the ongoing trend for healthier alternatives, as highlighted in the BBC’s trend picks for 2018 with the continuing growth of veganism and a healthier millennials diet, cacao has found some new friends to mix with.
The upside of this trend is that it has provided a lot more variety for anyone with food intolerance’s, particularly dairy, or who are vegan, who wouldn’t have been able to have chocolate before.
What does it taste like? It depends what the producer is using to replace the dairy element. Push Chocolate combine Colombian chocolate with rice to produce a high protein vegan chocolate button in Mylk, Dark and Orange flavours, the orange flavour has a distinct Terry’s chocolate orange vibe. Goodio Chocolate use “low production temperatures to ensure a rich taste that honours the cacao and its origins” . They are gluten and soy free, have no additives and are suitable for vegans. The coffee version I have been munching on uses cashew nuts to give it a creamy taste.
Where can I buy it? Push Chocolates store is coming soon, sign up on their website for the launch date. Hotel Chocolat have a selection of vegan chocolates, the chilli penguins being my favourite! Goodio can be found at Planet Organic or Revital stores as well as on Amazon.
When pairing wines you need to take into account the seasoning, for a better together combination.
Salt makes wine taste less dry and bitter, less acidic, and will leave you with a smoother and richer mouth feel, making a tannic wine more palatable. Tannin’s are mainly found in red wines, it is extracted from the grape skins, stems and seeds. They bind to the proteins in your saliva so your mouth will feel dry after drinking them, they can be bitter, but add to the richness of texture.
Combine the red wine with fatty seasoned steaks, (the fat on the steak will also make the wine taste less acidic) go for the chefs choice of rib eye.
To drink? Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza is a good place to start. They have been producing wine since 1557, Mendoza being the largest wine area in Latin America and 5th largest in the world. Malbec is the single most planted grape variety in Argentina and is mainly used as a single varietal. You are expecting a full bodied, ripe, black fruit tasting wine with some spice.
Where can I buy it? I went cheap, this is only £5 from Tesco at the moment. Give it some time to breathe and do not drink it on its own! This really needs the seasoned steak to make for a smooth, rich mouth feel.
Any recipe suggestions? Try my beef rib tried and tested recipe, it will make any tannic red wine taste good.
West Africa has been around for a few thousand years but its cuisine is coming to the forefront with the support of a restaurant called Ikoyi which opened earlier this year. A four star review from Fay Maschler helped, with the headline “West African dynamism not to be missed”. I was there a month again and the food is a revelation, flavours you know, mixed to a different intensity, with some chilli heat. New suppliers are coming to the market with marinades, oils and sauces, as seen at the recent trade fairs I’ve attended. It will be coming to your table soon!
What does it taste like? Hot! Scotch bonnet is the traditional chilli of choice, (though you will find mellower versions available at all the restaurants and suppliers mentioned) but it is the mix of spices and pepper that gives a distinct taste of the region, peanuts often feature in stews.
Where can I buy it? You can buy Zims Tribe marinade, sauces and oils at their online shop. Penja pepper, is available from Amazon as used in Ikoyi’s starter. It is a white pepper from the volcanic soil of eastern Cameroon, which has a musky perfume with lingering heat but not the fierceness of black pepper. Use with pork and fish dishes to season the dish before serving.
Where can I eat it?Zoe’s Ghana kitchen in Brixton has been around since 2010, Zoe believes “we are on the cusp of an African food revolution”, I agree! Zoe has a cookbook out this year, available from Amazon full of contemporary African dishes. And Ikoyi as mentioned earlier.
With the momentous growth in coffee over the last 10 years the tea makers are desperate to keep a piece of the action and are coming up with some wonderful flavoured products and unique serving methods. My favourite flavour on today’s search is Bloody Mary tea bags from Fortnum and Mason, possibly bought on by the delicious Bloody Mary cocktails from Little Devil Spices which I had at the Taste for London festival this weekend. For new serving methods, I got excited about tea and infusions on a recent trip to Siberia where they use cafetieres to press tea with fruits and spices, making for a much fresher taste.
At the Speciality Fine Food Fair I found two suppliers who have moved on from the tea bag. Myteatime, have great teas in flavours to support you through the day, such as Lemon Superboost with lemongrass, goji berries and silver needle white tea and the Revitazest with clementine zest, lemongrass and root ginger. In the Jasmine Pearl Zen, you can see the real flowers. They are all perfume and chemical free and the flavour is a step change difference to a bag.
Tea Rex’s strap line is that it uses 100% RAWR! fruit & root to make their infusions. There are two flavours, lemon, turmeric, lemongrass and ginger and a berry infusion of blackberry, ginger, raspberry, lemon and blueberry. They come as a chilled pouch of loveliness that you can pour into an over the cup filter that is provided, or you can use a cafetiere. They are cold pressed and can be used with either hot or cold water.
Where can I buy it? Myteatime is available on Amazon. You can order a box or sign up to a subscription at the Tea Rex website.
Take a sweet bottle of fizz and some white chocolate for a better together combination. I have a sweet tooth, so this combination of sweet and sweeter is heaven! This very much supports my WSET lesson that dishes high in sugar should be matched with a wine that has at least that much sugar.
Why? The two sweet items together balance out the overly sweet taste they have on their own.
To drink? I like a bit of fizz and the sweetness of either Asti DOCG and Moscato d’Asti work fabulously with sweet things.
Where to buy it? All the major supermarkets have Asti DOCG. I like this one from Waitrose. I am partial to Lindt white chocolate truffles but any white chocolate will do, add a sofa and a rom com and I’m sorted for a night in!
Recipe suggestions? If you fancy cooking, my ripe jackfruit tarte tatin recipe uses sweet jackfruit in a tarte tatin style. Asti DOCG has a lot of the flavour characteristics of the fruit and will go well.
Top facts – The Asti method of making sparkling wine is different to others as it doesn’t involve the production of a still dry wine such as the Champagne method, using must and pressurised tanks instead. Main grape varieties are Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains.
Jackfruit, scary to look at but when you get over the size (35kg), and through the spikes, the golden flesh is delicious! I tasted it’s ripe, sweet seeds in its home of Southern India a couple of years ago.
It’s become trendy, as in its unripe and green state it hasn’t much flavour, is fibrous and is being used for its meat like texture in vegetarian and vegan dishes. The Guardian wrote about it in 2015 but with the surge in veggie options (The 3rd Veggie Pret recently opened, Wagamamas with their first vegetarian + vegan menu, and the Food Foundations Vegetable Summit) and the continuing rise in flexitarians who want to reduce their weekly intake of meat, but like the texture, it will be coming to a table near you soon!
What does it taste like? The ripe jackfruit seeds taste like very ripe pineapple. The unripe fruit tastes more like artichoke.
Where can I buy it? For the sweet option try out this from Asda. Amazon has both the ripe, unripe and fresh, canned and dried versions.
And to drink? With this recipe try Empress Ale, a golden ale, craft brewed to complement spiced foods. You can order online at Empress Ale.
Where can I eat it? Go to Mooshies London and try the ‘Pulled Mooshie’ with BBQ sauce and coleslaw. Or a jackfruit Scotch egg with masala mayonnaise in the recently opened Pickled Fruit. Club Mexicana have a pulled Jackfruit Tinga with pumpkin seed puree, avocado salsa verde and pink onions, at their Shoreditch site.
Top facts – Jackfruit is grown in Southeast Asia, Brazil and Africa in lowland, tropical areas. It is from the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family.
Environmental – A mature tree can produce 100 to 200 fruits per year. It is resistant to pests and drought. It is a meal in one, green unripe for savoury dishes, ripe for desserts and the flour can be used for anything from cookies to chapattis.
Nutritional facts per 100g – 0.2% total fat, 1.5g of dietary fibre and 1.7g of protein, it is a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C and high in potassium.
Highlighting food and drink that are literally better together….
Taramasalata and salt and vinegar crisps are a fabulous dipping combination. A few too many Saturday nights in with friends and a couple of beers brought me to this revelation. The vinegar enhances the fish roe flavour and makes it a whole different dip. Do a test with salted crisps to compare.
Why? The acidity of the vinegar coagulates the protein in the roe, making it more tender.
To drink? My beer of choice was a Desperados at the time, with its lemony notes working with the vinegar in the crisps it wasn’t the worst choice I could have made!
Where to buy it? I found the tinned soft cod roes in Waitrose, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda and Ocado. Ocado also offer fresh smoked roes.
Environmental -I have used John West Specialites Soft Cod Roes, certified sustainable seafood.
Top facts – taramasalata is not fluorescent pink. This is food colouring, if you want yours pink use a little beetroot juice to keep it natural. Fish roe is red and when blended can take on a very light pink tinge which got exaggerated over time.
Nutrional facts per 100g – Cod Roe has 4g of fat of which 0.8g are saturates and 12g of protein
Grey skies and rain were the weather highlights from our trip to Dublin over Easter. Thankfully the food and drink and Irish hospitality were fabulous. Everywhere we visited, pub, to cafe, and restaurants, all supported local produce and could identify their suppliers.
Our first stop (I went with my husband, a rugby game on Sunday was pivotal to our trip!) was the Guinness Storehouse. There were hundreds of people traipsing around the shiny happy store. My husband remembered it from 25 years ago when you saw the actual brewing process, this is a bit more of an ‘experience’.
Five floors of brewing theory, history and the iconic adverts, with a pint of Guinness at the top floor where you can admire the view on a clear day. Worth a visit to get out of the rain but if you want to learn about the brewing process go and visit your local craft beer brewery.
Our restaurant of choice that night was Drury Buildings, such a cool building with limited signage that we walked past it! It is lovely when you get in, the downstairs bar and atrium area had a great atmosphere and were busy. Upstairs the Italian restaurant was quieter, the food and service were excellent and the set menu great value for money. Mark’s roast guinea fowl with cep, hisip cabbage and wild garlic was the stand out dish.
We struggled to find great coffee on our visit, a cappuccino we ordered came with a 2 inch layer of whipped cream rather than milk, a bit like an Irish coffee but sadly missing the booze! The Bestseller in Dawson Street was as close as we got. It’s a lovely environment with everything you can see for sale, including the flamingos. They serve coffee, tea, wine and cocktails and some cold snacks. A very easy place to chill out and read the papers. Cafe en Seine, on the same side of the street, is worth a pop in and drink to admire the over the top French decoration.
In a celebration of all things potato, you must visit Gallahers Bistro in Temple Bar. They have a platter of potatoes three ways, chips, bread and dumplings. In 1988 Mr Gallagher developed the Leitrim Pan Boxty, which is a pancake mix that maintains the traditional 70% potato content. This is then used in either a boiled, baked or pancake version. The chips are actually grated raw potato, cooked mash and flour, made into a batter with fresh milk and slow cooked in a pan until golden brown, they are delicious and very moreish.
Our final meal in Dublin was at Chapter One who have just had their 25th birthday. The food and service were excellent and you can absolutely understand why they have won all their awards, including a Michelin star. We had the set menu, which was such fantastic value for money that in my professional capacity I can’t see how they are making any profit out of it. The providence of the food was outstanding in its detail, from the smoked bacon from Fingal Ferguson down to the butter from Cuinneog.
A couple of places to try that we didn’t manage to get to, for celebrity spotting, Sam Smith was at Chez Max the day before our visit. Bunsen is a local burger business which always had queues out the door. They support local produce and suppliers and have four sites around Ireland.
We enjoyed walking around and visiting the historic sites in-between our food and drink stops, but will plan to visit in the two day window of summer next time!