Thumbs up for… Clearspring fruit purees

ice lollies2

My girls are usually rather excited when I’m sent goodies to review but when they caught sight of this latest delivery from the good folk at Clearspring they were more eager than usual to get their grubby mitts on the contents.

I have to admit to not realising that Clearspring’s range now includes organic fruit purees. I know them for their wonderful Japanese ingredients, like noodles and rice crackers, and I regularly use their Miso paste in Oriental style soups. These purees were new to me but I’ll definitely be stocking up the fridge with them in future.

Containing 100% organic fruit in a variety of delicious fruity combinations, they are are made using minimal heat so the fruit retains all of its natural goodness and are completely free from sweeteners and artificial flavourings or colourings.

clearspring fruit purees

Not that Jess and Mia weren’t bothered about all that though. They simply thought the purees were completely delicious. We found the pots and squeezy pouches ideal for their school packed lunches and they are also fab as an instant pudding stirred into Greek yoghurt.

But the girls enjoyed them most as ice lollies. Simply pour the contents of a pot or pouch into an ice lolly mould and within a few hours you have yourself a gorgeous frozen treat. Perfect for when the kids get home from school on these lovely sunny September afternoons.

ice lollies

The pouches cost around 89p each while the pots are £1.29 and are available in independent health food stores and online at www.clearspring.co.uk.

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary product samples from Clearspring. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Time for tea

cream tea

A bright idea came into Alice’s head. “Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s it,” said the Hatter with a sigh: “it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.”
“Then you keep moving round, I suppose?” said Alice.
“Exactly so,” said the Hatter: “as the things get used up.”

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
Chapter VII ‘A Mad Tea-Party’

Don’t you just love the idea of a perpetual tea party? I have had a thing for a proper old-fashioned afternoon tea ever since I was a child, when I would read about Alice and her curious friends and then take tea with my dolls using my miniature china tea set. Continue reading

A taste of India on The Spice Trail

A Taste of India

One of the countries at the top of my bucket list has to be India. As a lover of spice, it’s really quite poor show I haven’t yet made it there, unless you count a very brief stop in Bombay (or rather Mumbai) as a child en route to Malaysia. Which you can’t.

But this month on The Spice Trail, I’m hoping my fellow food bloggers will bring a taste of India to me in the form of recipes inspired by this diverse culinary nation. Indian cuisine is not all about curry and chillies; just like the country itself, its food is incredibly varied. It’s a vast country, with a population second only to China, where food traditions vary enormously from one region to another. I can’t claim to be an expert and so I very much look forward to discovering new dishes and learning lessons from the blogging community.

Whether your dish is an example of authentic Indian cookery or a fusion of Indian techniques and ingredients with other world cuisines, so long as your recipe features at least one spice and takes some Indian inspiration, then you are invited to link up to this month’s challenge.

selection of natco products

Win a hamper of Natco ingredients

The winner of September’s Spice Trail challenge will receive a fantastic hamper of goodies from Natco, packed full of ingredients to set your creative juices flowing in the kitchen, from flavoured nuts and spiced teas to packs of spices and lentils.

Natco Foods was established in the UK in 1961 to serve the increasing demand for ingredients needed to cook south Asian cuisine. Now, Natco sources lentils, grains, spices, nuts, seeds and chutneys from all over the world and brings them to its award-winning processing hub in the heart of the English countryside. There, the raw materials are graded, cleaned, milled and blended to produce the highest quality products. Natco’s quest is to bring delicious freshness, startling colours, fragrant and pungent aromas and irresistible flavours to the heart and soul of every kitchen, helping you embrace nature and wellbeing to your inner self.

You can find Natco products in major supermarkets as well as independent retailers throughout the UK, or visit the online shop at www.natco-online.com.

How to enter The Spice Trail

spice trail badge square

  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • Up to three recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as each one is inspired by Indian cuisine and features at least one spice.
  • Feel free to link up recipe posts from your archive, but please add the information about this challenge to the post and The Spice Trail badge.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Tuesday 30 September 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a Natco hamper.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted, but unfortunately the prize can only be shipped to a UK address.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

September’s entries

  1. Eggless Kesar Milk Masala Custard & Sooji Halwa (Sheera) Dessert from CHINSKITCHEN
  2. Kulfi from Cakes from Kim
  3. Saag Paneer from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  4. Curried Cream of Cauliflower Soup from Brittany Jackson
  5. Channa Saag-ish from I’ll Cook, You Wash

 

Spiced plum and apple compote

plums and apples

It’s that time of year when fresh fruit and vegetables are in glorious abundance. I really should be pickling and preserving, and I fully intend to soon, but for the moment most of our fruit seems to be making its way into compotes of one kind or another.

spiced plum and apple compote

Fruit compotes are such an easy way to transform a huge pile of fresh fruit into a luscious bowlful of sweet, saucy pleasure. Make lots, as it keeps in the fridge for a few days. Simply tuck into your compote just as it comes or serve with creme fraiche or yoghurt for a delicious and healthy desert. My family’s favourite way to eat it is layered with thick, creamy Greek yoghurt and homemade granola for a light yet satisfying breakfast.

We’re enjoying vast volumes of plum and apple compote, making the most of fruit from our own and friends’ trees. Plums and apples both work terribly well combined with strong spice flavours; in this recipe, I’ve used star anise, cinnamon and vanilla. It really is heavenly. You’ll frequently find me surreptitiously tucking into it straight from the bowl in the fridge when no-one else is looking.

spiced plum and apple compote2

Spiced plum and apple compote

400g plums, stoned and roughly chopped
2 or 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
juice of 1 orange
½ tsp cinnamon
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
4 tbsp demerara sugar

Place the ingredients in a medium saucepan, give it all a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat. Cook for around 10 to 15 minutes until the fruit is soft and just beginning to break up. Leave to cool and remove the star anise before serving.

spiced plum and apple compote3

This compote is my entry into the #AgaInspiredRecipes challenge hosted by Rix Petroleum. The theme this month is cooking with plums.

Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

griddled squash

This is such a beautifully simple dish, inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigella Summer. As Nigella says herself, it’s really more of an assembly job than cooking.

griddled squash3

The star of the original recipe is griddled aubergine but because we currently have a glut of yellow, patty pan squash in the garden, I thought I’d experiment by swapping the aubergine for squash. And I’m pleased to report it wasn’t a complete disaster. The griddled squash didn’t hold together quite as well as aubergine would have done, and so the end result probably wasn’t quite as pretty as it should have been, but it was stonkingly tasty nonetheless.

griddled squash2

The creamy filling of lemon-soaked feta partnered with chilli and mint is gloriously fresh and zingy, making this an incredibly moreish dish while being really rather healthy at the same time; a very good combination, if you ask me.

Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

1 large patty pan squash (or 2 large aubergines (thinly sliced lengthwise)
4 tbsp olive oil
250g feta cheese
1 large red or green chilli (finely chopped & deseeded)
1 bunch fresh mint (finely chopped – with extra for sprinkling)
juice of 1 lemon
black pepper

Thumbs up for…

August Collage

Somehow the entire summer has slipped by without me bringing you a single Thumbs Up For… post. So, while we still have a few days of August before us, here are some of the tasty foods and drinks I’ve been testing on your behalf that I thoroughly recommend you look out for yourself.

New York Bakery Co Seeded Bagel

seeded bagelBagels are a big hit in our house. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the hole? Holey food in general seems to go down well. But I must say, these limited edition Seeded Bagels from the New York Bakery Co went down particularly well.

With that classic bagel chewiness, these tasty bagels are a satisfying source of fibre for slow release energy, packed full of linseeds, sunflower, millet and poppy seeds from the inside out. They cost around £1.60 for a pack of four and are available at Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Black Sheep Coffee Robusta Revival

coffeeTry as I might, I can’t go a couple of hours without a cup of coffee. But it needs to be decent coffee. So when the good people at Black Sheep asked if I’d like a sample of their new Robusta Revival, of course I said yes, particularly when I heard this is the UK’s first fine Robusta bean product. I was intrigued.

Black Sheep rebels against the common assumption that Robusta can only used for low-grade products such as instant coffees. Their product, available as beans or ground, comes from a single-estate in India – the only estate in the world to have received three ‘Fine Robusta’ certifications by tasting experts.

It definitely didn’t taste cheap or low-grade to me. These fine robusta beans made for a beautifully rich and creamy mug of coffee, not at all bitter but instead quite mellow and slightly sweet and nutty. Next time I’m in London, I’ll be heading for the Black Sheep cafe in Camden to pick up another bag, or two. At £5.40 for a 227g bag it’s not cheap, but then good coffee never is.

Västerbottensost Cheese

Cheese CollageIt might not be the easiest to pronounce, but Västerbottensost is a wonderful Swedish cheese. It’s full of flavour, slightly salty and slightly nutty, and is an extremely versatile cheese to cook with. It can be used in baking, sauces, salads or as a garnish for rice and pasta dishes.

I recently tried some in my mini vegetable frittatas, which will be appearing on the blog very soon, which were a hands down winner with all the family. The tasty cheese balanced the sweet veggies perfectly.

Västerbottensost is available in Waitrose, Ocado and Selfridges and costs around £8.90 for 450g. I’ll be looking out for when it’s on special offer!

Silver Spoon Chocolate Flavour Icing Sugar

Choc Collage

On rainy days, an activity I turn to again and again with the children is baking. And with a bag of this Chocolate Flavour Icing Sugar from Silver Spoon, creating some stunning* chocolate and strawberry cupcakes was simply child’s play with lots of bowl-licking action to be had (by kids and mum alike).

Widely available, a 125g costs around £1.60 and is enough to ice 12 little cakes. For more baking ideas, check out the Baking Mad website.

* Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; particularly when it comes to your own child’s creations.

M&S Summer of Flavour

mands CollageOne of the plus sides to commuting three days a week to Bristol has been the chance to pop into an M&S Simply Food store occasionally on my way home from work to pick up a treat or two.

I’ve rather enjoyed their Summer of Flavour range. These world-flavour inspired deserts in particular have proven particularly popular in the Bangers & Mash household, with the raspberry and lychee panna cotta my personal favourite.

The Summer of Flavour range also includes barbecue meats and sides, tasty snacks and cooling fruit juices and cocktails. If you’re quick, you might just pick up one of the M&S in store offers.

Tesco ‘Free From’ Coconut Milk

coconut milkI’ve been shifting rather a lot of this Coconut Milk from Tesco in the last couple of months. We’re enjoying it in our porridge and fruit smoothies – it’s delicious combined with pureed pineapple and mango – and I like a tall glass of it when I get back from a run, usually with some Camp coffee or Nesquik chocolate powder stirred in.  I know; we all have our weird little idiosyncracies and Camp coffee and cheap chocolate milkshake powder are a couple of mine!

But back to the coconut milk. It’s dairy, gluten and wheat free, so ideal for anyone with food allergies or intolerances and at just 67 calories a glass it’s also a handy substitute for anyone watching their weight. It costs £1.25 for a litre carton and is widely available in Tesco stores.

Wychwood Beers

wychwood beersI can’t say I’m much of a real ale drinker; cider is more my thing really. It’s generally only when my Dad comes to stay that ales make an appearance in our fridge.

But when Wychwood got in touch to say they’d like my opinion on their very British craft beers, I was tempted. Maybe it was the curious names, like Black Wych and Hobgoblin. Apparently each beer is named after a character that lives in the ancient woodland that is the Wychwood forest.

My husband was rather taken by the Black Wych, a sweet and smooth porter, but it was a little too dark for me. I really liked Hobgoblin, a fruity ruby beer, but it was Imperial Red that really surprised me. It’s a lovely malty beer that’s full-bodied but not too  heavy. I’ll definitely be drinking this one again.

Wychwood Beers are widely available from supermarkets and off-licences and cost around £12.50 of eight 500ml bottles.

What new products have you been eating and drinking this summer? I’d love to hear your recommendations and new discoveries…

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary product samples from M&S, Wychwood, Silver Spoon, Västerbottensost, Black Sheep  Coffee and New York Bakery Co for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Mexican salsa verde with tomatillos and pineapple

Mexican salsa verde

I am clearly not a proper foodie. The other day a carton of tomatillos arrived on the back doorstep in our weekly veg box from Riverford and I had no idea what they were. I thought they looked vaguely like Cape gooseberries, so peeled back the papery husk of one and popped it in my mouth. I instantly spat it out again as the sour juices hit my tongue.

On consulting the Riverford website, I discovered these little green fruits were indeed tomatillos, native to Mexico and a staple of Mexican cuisine. It turns out they are actually related to the Cape gooseberry, so I don’t feel a complete plank for stuffing one in my gob.

tomatillos

So, what to do with them? I posted the question on Twitter and Instagram, and the response was almost unanimous: Mexican salsa verde. Who was I to argue? Particularly as were planning a barbecue later that day, and I thought a salsa verde would make a perfect condiment.

But as is my wont, I felt the urge to play with the Riverford recipe I turned to and decided to throw in some ripe pineapple for a little sweet to balance out the sour, an addition that worked out rather well I thought. Some recipes call for cooked tomatillos, but Riverford recommend  using raw as “they retain a sour freshness that would be perfect for a summer’s day”. I rather liked the sound of that. The end result was a vibrant and fresh dip for tortilla chips that works equally well as a tangy accompaniment to grilled steak and fish, particularly when washed down with an ice cold beer.

My nine-year-old loved it while my six-year-old wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole – perhaps it was just a little too green for her?

Mexican salsa verde

Mexican salsa verde with tomatillos and pineapple

350g tomatillos, husks removed and washed
½ ripe pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1 lime
large handful of fresh coriander (plus a little extra for serving)
1 tsp brown sugar
sea salt

Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz them up until you achieve a still chunky salsa texture. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with a little extra chopped coriander.

spice trail badge square

I’m entering this Mexican Salsa Verde into August’s Spice Trail challenge, hosted by moi, where the theme is Beach Barbecue.