Beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger juice

beetroot orange carrot and ginger juice text

My health kick continues to go well. As well as feeling so much better in myself, I’m thrilled to report that I’m finally back to my pre-children weight and dress-size – my oldest is nearly 10, so it’s been some time coming. This feeling is really rather addictive and I can see how the changes I’m making to my lifestyle and eating habits will stay with me for the long-term.

In addition to doing the 5:2 diet and generally eating more healthily, I’ve also set myself targets of walking 10,000 steps a day, getting a good night’s sleep every night (I’m aiming for at least seven hours), and fitting in a short workout most days (even if it’s only 10 minutes of Pilates or cross-training), plus a least one run a week.

And I am really feeling the benefits. I have so much more energy, my brain feels more focussed and productive, my clothes fit well (the muffin top has been banished!) and I just feel good in my own skin. Continue reading

A double helping of foodie feasts

Love Food Collage

We’ve had a good food day today. A lovely Sunday roast followed by homemade cherry pie and ice cream. But it doesn’t compare with what we got to tuck into last Sunday. (Although I must say the cherry pie was pretty top notch. You’ll be able to judge for yourself, as I’ll be posting the recipe on the blog soon.) But last Sunday was rather special on the food front, as we were well and truly spoilt for delicious delights with not one, but two foodie feasts. Firstly an afternoon spent at the Love Food Festival in Bristol, and then an incredible five-course Italian meal in the evening, cooked by the marvellous Valentina Harris, for all those involved in the Wells Food Festival.

The Love Food Festival is the brain-child of Lorna Knapman and takes place throughout the year in venues in and around Bristol, showcasing and championing local producers from across the South West. Lorna has been described as a “food loving mum on a mission to create a sense of community and pleasure in food wherever she goes.” I like the sound of this woman! Dubbed Bristol’s Creative Quarter, The Paintworks on Bristol’s Bath Road is a fantastically vibrant location, and it regularly plays host to Love Food and that’s where we whiled away many happy hours last Sunday, talking to local food producers, growers and cooks and blissfully tucking into some of the best food and drink the Westcountry has to offer. That’s what Love Food is all about after all and we took full advantage of all that was on offer.

After devouring their Burger Theory burgers and Rib Street hot dogs (despite my best efforts to bring them up as adventurous eaters, meat in a bun is still their favourite form of street food – and my husband’s too for that matter), my daughters had a brilliant time making paper lanterns and dragons for Chinese New Year, as well as cute little yarn-wrapped sheep, perhaps in readiness for Shaun the Sheep’s imminent arrival in Bristol.

When I asked them what their favourite activity of the day was, both girls agreed it was making their own Chinese spring rolls and wonton dumplings with a little help from the head chef from the cafe at St Werburgh’s City Farm. They prepared them using those little wraps you can pick up at any Chinese supermarket and filled them with lots of fresh veggies. We took them home to cook for lunch the following day. They were so easy and very tasty too, especially dipped in sweet chilli sauce; the kids were so proud of their culinary creations and I’ll definitely be enlisting their help to make more again soon.

My personal highlights of the Love Food Festival were a beautifully spiced South Indian vegetable curry and parsnip and ginger pakora from Gopal’s Curry Shack, Henny & Joe’s rather wonderful homemade masala chai infusion (which I’m told also works a treat in a fruit cake – look forward to trying that out), and the gorgeously addictive Turkish delight from MKS Food Distribution. And it was so good to bump into Sarah again from Wookey Farm, just down the road from us in Somerset, who I was so pleased to see was doing a roaring trade with her goat’s meat, milk and cheeses.

The next Love Food Festival at the Paintworks will be on Sunday 29 March. To keep up-to-date with all their latest news and events, visit www.lovefoodfestival.com.

If that wasn’t enough, we then headed back down to Somerset for a special dinner hosted by Paddy and Judith O’Hagan who are both involved in the organisation of the now annual Wells Food Festival. A gathering of volunteers and supporters of the festival, we were treated to five mouth-watering courses by Italian cook Valentina Harris, chef and author of nearly 50 cookbooks and the chef behind last year’s stunning Italian Feast. Valentina created a whole host of beautiful canapes, followed by various pasta dishes (including macaroni cheese, which I devoured but was delighted when my daughter told Valentina it was good but not as good as mine!), then a delicious risotto, all kinds of naughty puddings and finally cheese and biscuits. Phew!

Valentina's puddingsI was far too busy scoffing and chatting to take any photographs, but I did manage to get a quick shot on my phone of the puddings – a chocolate torte, orange cake and pears poached in red wine and spices. Bang went my diet!

Valentina promised my daughters she’d send us her recipe for the poached pears as they loved them so much. Watch this space – I’ll share it with you once I’ve had a go at making it myself.

There was lots of talk that night about plans for this year’s Wells Food Festival, which returns in October. As soon as the details are firmed up, I’ll bring you news of that too. But rest assured it will be a joyous and delicious celebration of all the very best that Somerset has to offer in terms of food and drink.

Crispy Chinese duck with pancakes

Crispy Chinese Duck Pancakes3 web

It’s the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations tomorrow, so what better reason to have a go at making my favourite must-have dish whenever I find myself in a Chinese restaurant?

Crispy Chinese Duck Pancakes text

I absolutely adore Chinese crispy duck. It’s that irresistible combination of soft, succulent meat; crispy, spicy skin; crunchy vegetables (I added rocket to the usual mix of slivers of cucumber and spring onion); rich, sweet plum sauce; and the DIY joy of wrapping it all up in paper-thin pancakes. It’s why children love this dish so much too – anything they can make up themselves, putting them in control of what they put in their mouth as well as a great excuse to get all sticky and messy – it’s just such delicious fun. Continue reading

Chocolate pancakes with berries & rose-scented yoghurt

Chocolate pancakes2 web

Pancakes are always a popular weekend breakfast in our house, and then when you go and add chocolate into the mix, well, who doesn’t love chocolate? So these bad boys are always a winner.

Served with juicy berries (I always keep a stock in the freezer so we can them all-year-round) and a heavenly perfumed rosewater yoghurt and drizzled with syrup or honey, these simple pancakes are elevated to celebration status, perfect for Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday and birthdays. Continue reading

Hot & sour soup with king prawns and salmon

Hot and sour soup

This is the kind of food I crave if I’m feeling under the weather, suffering after a few too many red wines the night before, or simply have a dose of the blues. It’s clean and soothing, yet at the same time refreshing and a rip-roaring riot of flavour. With each slurpy spoonful you feel your physical and psychological health being reassuringly restored.

The broth has at its base chicken stock and tom yam (or yum) paste. Tom yam soup originates from Thailand and is popular across South East Asia, and the paste is made from galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilli. It has an irresistibly spiky, spicy, sour flavour, that wakes up your tastebuds and shakes them out of their doldrums. You can of course make up your own paste but I like to make life as easy as possible and generally have a pot of ready-made paste in the fridge. You can pick some up easily in most supermarkets and Asian groceries.

You can make your hot and sour soup simply with vegetables, or throw in some seafood and fish minutes minutes before serving, or a couple of handfuls of shredded roast chicken. I generally make both a fishy and a chicken version in our house as my husband doesn’t really eat fish, although he does cope with the fish sauce.

And I like to throw sliced chillies, seeds and all, in at the very last moment (after I’ve served the kids’ helpings). I adore that fantastically fiery hit of chilli to really clear the system. Tissues at the ready! You may like to add yours earlier to mellow their impact a tad, or leave them out altogether as the tom yam paste already has quite a kick to it.

Hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup with king prawns and salmon

1.5 litres chicken stock
1 tbsp tom yam paste
1 stick lemongrass, hard outer leaves removed, finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
200g green leafy vegetables, roughly chopped (I used Swiss chard)
1 salmon steak, cut into bitesize chunks
500g shelled raw king prawns
7 spring onions, sliced
3 red bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan and stir in the tom yam paste, followed by the lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of minutes before adding the green vegetable. Cook for a few more minutes then add the chunks of salmon, king prawns and spring onion. Cook for a few more minutes until the salmon and prawns are just cooked through.

Stir in the sliced chillies and serve, sprinkled with the fresh coriander, and revive those senses.

I’m entering my hot and sour soup into the following challenges:

spice trail badge square cooking with herbs Extra-Veg-Badge-003

The Spice Trail (Temple Food) – Bangers & Mash
Cooking with HerbsLavender & Lovage
Extra VegKerry CooksUtterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Flavours

Family Foodies: make every day Pancake Day

pancake text
We adore pancakes in our house and eat them all year round – no waiting for Shrove Tuesday to come around here!

But since it is that time of year with Pancake Day coming up on Tuesday 17 February, it seemed like a jolly good excuse to have all things pancakey as our theme for the Family Foodies challenge.

So, how do you eat yours? Sweet or savoury? Healthy or naughty? Thin crepes with lemon and sugar? Fat, fluffy American pancakes with bacon, smothered in syrup? Asian-style banana pancakes as devoured by backpackers? Chinese pancakes filled with lotus paste? Indian dosa stuffed with spicy lentils, pickles and chutneys? Or maybe Russian blini with smoked salmon or even caviar is more your thing?

However you do pancakes in your house, we want you to share your recipes in this month’s Family Foodies. And, as ever, the more family-friendly they are the better. Link up your entries by Saturday 28 February 2015. I’m preparing to salivate!

Family Foodies entry guidelines

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, although there is a limit of three entries per blogger. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at bangermashchat-at-gmail-dot-com, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Saturday 28 February 2015.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (below) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChat and Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • You may enter from anywhere in the blogosphere, but prizes can only be posted to UK addresses.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.

family-foodies

 

February’s entries

  1. Crepe Cake from Caroline Makes
  2. ‘Findus’ Style Ham & Cheese Crispy Pancakes from Caroline Makes
  3. Chocolate Pancakes with Berries & Rose-scented Yoghurt from Bangers & Mash
  4. Spiced Kefir Pancakes with Manuka Honey and Crème Fraîche Chocolate Sauce from Chocolate Log Blog

My ten favourite things about the Food Reader Awards 2015

Food Reader Awards 2015

Photography by Guy Harrop.

On Monday last week (26 January) I was thrilled to join a whole host of foodies from across the South West at Yeo Valley HQ in Blagdon, Somerset, all of us finalists in the Food Reader Awards 2015. Accompanied by my husband Jason, we were excited (and slightly daunted) to be joining a dazzling line up of tasty talent from across the region to feast on delicious West Country fare served up by Yeo Valley’s kitchen team at Fodder and celebrate the winners of this year’s competition.

Here are my top ten highlights from the night…

1. And the award for Best Blogger goes to…

Me! So yes, that’s got to my number one highlight. I honestly almost fell off my chair when my name was read out. I’d completely convinced myself I really didn’t have a chance and was simply overjoyed to have made it to the awards dinner. Scooping the Best Blogger trophy, particularly with such strong competition from Hells Belles’ Bites and Wuthering Bites, was absolutely the icing on the cake and I’ve been having to pinch myself all week.

Thank you so much to all my blog followers, fellow food bloggers, friends and family who took the trouble to vote for me. You have absolutely made my year. All those late nights “just finishing off one last post” and putting up with the moans from my family waiting to tuck into dinner while I take “just one more photo” of their food have been worth it!

2. The venue

Yeo Valley HQ provided a splendid setting for the night’s festivities. The Fodder restaurant is a beautiful space, and apparently boasts fabulous views over Blagdon Lake, although it was too dark for us to appreciate these sadly. We’ll have to take the kids there for lunch one weekend to see these for ourselves. And I loved the way the venue was decked out with vegetables, from carved sheep to dirty parsnips suspended above our heads.

veg

3. The music

Whoever selected the music for the night has great taste. There was lots of chair dancing going on around our table. If only there’d been a dance floor… And I love the fact different tracks were carefully selected to play as the winners of the different categories were announced. I went up to collect my award to Paperback Writer by the Beatles.

4. The canapés

There’s nothing like some delicious nibbles to get the party started and the canapés really set the standard high for what was to come later. Jason and I strategically positioned ourselves close to a large trayful when we first arrived. His favourite were the very moreish Exmoor Blue cheese biscuits (got to have a go at baking some of those myself), while I couldn’t get enough of the pickled vegetable arancini (deep-fried risotto balls) and steak tartare crostini.

canapes

5. Severn Project salad

I first heard about the Severn Project on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme last year. Set up by Steve Glover in 2010 on a disused plot of land in Bristol, the Severn Project is a fantastic social enterprise producing and supplying salad to food-lovers and restaurants, training and employing people from ‘socially-excluded groups’, such as those recovering from drug abuse, or those with mental-health or offending backgrounds. I was delighted to see their salad on the menu accompanying the hot smoked Blagdon trout. Urban leaves are gert lush!

severn project salad and smoked hot trout

6. Holt Farm beef

The dinner served up by the talented kitchen crew at Yeo Valley HQ was a truly fantastic feast. Well, it had to be really, with all those discerning and very hunger foodies gathered together. For me the star of the show was the main course, a gorgeously succulent roast fillet of beef from Holt Farm, the original family farm in Blagdon where Roger and Mary Mead started farming back in 1961 and the Yeo Valley story started. Now you can’t get much more local than that. Or delicious.

beef

7. Sharp’s Dubbel Coffee Stout

Each course was matched with West Country beers and ciders. Sharp’s Dubbel Coffee Stout paired with the dark chocolate pudding was an inspired combination; the rich, bitter stout balancing perfectly the deep, dark chocolate and sweet clotted cream from Rodda’s (who picked up the gong for Best Foodie Product).

stout

8. Thatcher’s Rose

Also matched with dessert was Thatcher’s Rose Cider. A crisp, light and refreshing cider made from rosy red Katie apples, it couldn’t be more different to the Coffee Stout, yet also worked oh so well as a sweet pudding tipple. As Jason was the nominated driver for the night, I got to sample both. Lucky me!

rose

9. The Loos

I’d heard so much about the ‘facilities’ at Yeo Valley HQ ahead of the event, and they didn’t disappoint. Jason and I even ended up taking selfies for some bizarre reason in the wonderfully kitsch and decidedly eighties disabled loos! At least I can blame the alcohol…

loo

10. Johnny Depp

Someone told me that all the pictures on the walls in the corridor leading down to the restaurant at Yeo Valley HQ were chosen by the staff. Fab idea! And good call to whoever it was that picked this Rolling Stone cover featuring the sex god that is Johnny Depp. Cue another selfie! Anyone who knows me from my schooldays will understand.

johnny

11. Helen Upshall

OK, so I realise I was only supposed to be bringing you my top ten highlights, but I’ve just got to squeeze in one more. I have to give a big shout out to Helen Upshall from Hells Belle’s Bites, who I was sat next to during dinner and who was also up for Best Blogger. I was convinced the award was hers. Helen has a beautiful blog, creates amazing dishes and has such a strong connection to the West Country in that every recipe celebrates at least one local ingredient. If you’re not following her already, then I strongly urge you to do so.

A huge thank you once again to everyone that voted for Bangers & Mash, and got my 2015 off to one helluva start. To get the low down on all the other winners, take at look at the Food Magazine website.