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.

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.


It is time for tea, pressed tea

Pressed tea

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.

Any recipe suggestions? Try my simple pressed black tea and berries recipe.

Where can I drink it? If you are fancy a great cuppa in a lovely setting, myteatime is available at Mandarin Oriental hotels.


Come and try a fruit named Jack – Jackfruit

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.

a picture of ripe jackfruit
Ripe jackfruit

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.

Any recipe suggestions? I have adapted a Malay lamb recipe from the The Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cookbook .  The unripe jackfruit takes on the texture of the slow cooked lamb neck fillets from the original recipe. – Malay jackfruit recipe

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.