Valencia – the food capital of the world

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!

Paella Lady
Paella Lady

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.

Casa Montana
Casa Montana

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
The City of Arts and Sciences

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!

Central Market
Central Market

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!





I’m an insect get me out of here!

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.

Paprika crickets
Paprika crickets

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

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.

PUSH chocolate buttons
PUSH chocolate buttons

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.

Any recipe suggestions?  Try my easy cacao truffles for a delicious treat.

Better together – red wine and seasoned beef rib

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.

Beef rib and red wine pairing
Beef rib

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 African cuisine is hot!

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!

Cow Foot, Dark Beer & Penja Pepper at Ikoyi
Cow Foot, Dark Beer & Penja Pepper at Ikoyi

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.

Any recipe suggestions? Try this traditional West African chicken and peanut stew recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand cookbook. I used Zims Tribe extra hot chilli marinade to make this easy West African chicken marinade recipe to be served with wild rice or salad.

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.


Better together – Hello sweetie!

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.

Ripe jackfruit tarte tatin
Ripe jackfruit tarte tatin

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.


Better together – taramasalata and salt & vinegar crisps

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.

Taramasalata and salt&vinegar crisps
Tara and S&V crisps

Recipe suggestions? Taramasalata and salt & vinegar crisps

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