How to be a successful food blogger: Wells Food Festival workshop

Bangers Collage

Why do I write a food blog? It’s a question I’ve been pondering quite a bit recently but one for which I don’t really have a straightforward answer.

Ultimately it boils down to the fact I enjoy cooking, writing and photography. But then so do lots of people I know. And they don’t stay up til midnight ‘quickly’ finishing off another post or keep their family waiting at the dinner table while they capture just one more shot of their latest culinary creation.

Looking back, I realise I’ve come a long way since publishing my first post back in November 2011, complete with the poorly-lit photos and dodgy hand-drawn illustrations. You can read my first blog post here.

The reason I’ve been thinking about why I do what I do is because I’ve been asked to share my pearls of wisdom on food blogging at a workshop at this year’s Wells Food Festival . I’ll be joining Anita-Clare Field from Lover of Creating Flavours and Rosie Llewellyn from A Little Lusciousness to give an anatomy lesson of what makes a good blog, explore some of the trials and pitfalls, talk photo gear, consider trends and niches, and maybe brainstorm a few ideas for future posts.

The workshop takes place at 3pm on Sunday 12 October in Wells Town Hall. Perhaps we’ll see you there?

Find out more on the Wells Food Festival website. Space is limited, so please email to reserve your place.

Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken tikka kebabs with spiced vegetables

chicken tikka kebabs

There are times when you try out a new recipe and you know the very instant it touches your tongue you’ve got yourself a keeper; that this dish is set to become a firm family favourite, an easy regular for the weekly meal plans.

And so it was with these chicken tikka kebabs from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. I thought it was about time I cooked a dish to enter into my own Indian-themed Spice Trail challenge, and this felt like a good excuse to try another recipe from Jaffrey’s classic curry tome.

chicken tikka kebabs2

The whole family loved these succulent, delicately spiced kebabs, which don’t glow bright red like the chicken tikka you so often find in Indian restaurants. Perhaps it was the light yet creamy marinade or simply that the kids always make a beeline for any food served on a stick; whatever the reason they were demolished in a matter of seconds.

courgette green bean sabzi

I served the kebabs with basmati rice, flavoured with a few cardamom pods and a couple of bay leaves, and another Jaffrey dish – a courgette and green pepper ‘sabzi’, although I substituted the pepper for green beans. This was another hit with the children. I generally expect my youngest daughter to put up a fight when it comes to spices and/or vegetables, but she tucked into the sabzi quite happily.

We also had a couple of raitas as an extra accompaniment, along with some naan bread. I’ll bring you the recipe for the raitas another day.

Chicken tikka kebabs

Serves 4 as main course or 8 as a starter

675g skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice (I used lime juice)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic (I used 3), crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
6 tbsp whipping cream (I used double cream)
½ tsp garam masala
3 tbsp corn or peanut oil

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and rub in the salt and lemon (or lime) juice. Gently prod the chicken with a sharp knife and rub in the seasonings again. Leave for 20 minutes before adding the ginger, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, cream and garam masala. Mix it all together well, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the grill. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. Madhur Jaffrey recommends the flat, sword-like ones but I went with bamboo skewers. Brush with oil and balance the skewers on the rim of a shallow baking tin.

Grill about 13cm (5in) from the heat source for around 6 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through.

Courgette & green bean sabzi

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish

3 tbsp olive or corn oil
pinch of ground asafetida
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp mustard seeds
560g courgettes, sliced into 4cm (1½cm) long fingers
200g green beans, topped and tailed (or 1 large green pepper, seeds removed and sliced, as in Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe)
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chaat masala

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the asafetida, followed by the cumin and mustard seeds. The mustard seeds will start to pop in just a few seconds; at this point add the courgette and green beans (or sliced pepper). Stir fry for 5 minutes.

Next add the yoghurt and stir it into the vegetables until it is absorbed. Reduce the heat to low and add the ground coriander and salt. Stir again for a minute before adding the chaat masala. Give it all one final toss and serve.

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I am entering this dish into September’s Spice Trail, a monthly blog challenge which I host. The theme this month is A Taste of India.


Round-up: The Spice Trail beach barbecue challenge

spice trail badge long

I’m loving this extended summer we’re having here in Somerset, particularly as it means we can continue having barbecues. In fact we enjoyed a teatime barbecue just yesterday when the children got home from school.

And so I don’t feel too bad about having taken so long to bring you this round-up of delicious beach barbecue recipes from August’s The Spice Trail challenge. I’m hoping there’s still time to enjoy a fair few of these dishes al fresco before the weather turns and autumn proper sets in…

Beach Barbecue Collage Continue reading

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

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

How to enter The Spice Trail

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  • 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
  6. Paneer Tikka from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  7. Tandoori Chicken with Coronation Macaroni from Chef Mel’s Kitchen
  8. Vegan Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dhal from Mess Makes Food
  9. Puttu with Kadala Curry from Subha’s Dairy Free Treats
  10. Chicken Tikka Kebabs with Spiced Vegetables from Bangers & Mash
  11. Gujarati Thali from Home Cook Food
  12. Spicy Stuffed Baby Eggplants from Home Cook Food
  13. Dal Bukhara from Home Cook Food
  14. Quinoa Carrot ‘Meatballs’ in Tamarind Sauce from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  15. Vegan Marrow Curry with Tricolour Couscous from Allotment 2 Kitchen


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.