Review: Flavour Box

I was rather excited to have a Flavour Box delivered the other week. It’s always fun to receive parcels by post, and even more so when they contain food – and artisan food at that.

Flavourly

Flavourly provides a monthly food subscription service costing £20. Their customers receive a monthly Flavour Box packed full of delicious, independently produced, artisan food products sourced from all parts of the UK. It costs less if you sign up for three or six months at a time.

According to Flavourly’s founder, Ryan O’Rorke, the company works closely with many niche producers and by featuring their products in the Flavour Box they provide them with a solid marketing channel, getting their foods directly into the hands of foodies, small shop owners and market traders. What’s more, for every Flavour Box bought, Flavourly donates a meal to some of the 250 food banks throughout the UK through the FareShare community food charity.

It sounded like a great concept to me. The idea of a surprise box of tasty foodie delights arriving each month certainly appeals and it could be a good way of discovering interesting new artisan products and producers. So of course I was up for receiving a box to try out.

In our sample box we received:

  • Cambrook Caramelized Almond and Blueberry Bar
  • Cambrook Sesame Peanuts
  • Trotter’s Mostarda
  • Bath Pig Well Hung Chorizo
  • Corn Again Chilli and Lime Popcorn
  • Cochrane Cottage Lime Salad Drizzle.

It was quite a novelty opening a delivery of food and having absolutely no idea what was in there. As you probably know, I’m a big advocate of meal planning and so pretty much everything we buy and eat has been planned with almost military precision. I won’t go into detail here about why I plan meals so carefully – suffice to say it saves us lots of money by doing so and you can read more here in my very first blog post. And so opening and going through the Flavour Box felt rather exciting and very indulgent.

Pretty much everything in the box got a thumbs up from my family.

FlavourlyCollageThe sesame peanuts from Cambrook were a particular favourite with both me and my youngest daughter. We devoured the packet between us in one sitting, although my husband and oldest thought they were a bit too sweet and could clearly take them or leave them. The children unfortunately didn’t get a look in on the scrumptious chilli and lime flavoured popcorn from Corn Again. The idea of chilli as a popcorn flavouring appealed but I wasn’t too sure about the lime, but it absolutely worked, giving a fresh zingy taste with a good chilli kick that grows gradually. My husband and I polished off the packet in no time, washed down with a cold bottle of beer when the kids were in bed. Lovely. We did leave them the almond and blueberry bar, again from Cambrook, which they thoroughly enjoyed as a snack while we watched the monkeys at Longleat during the Easter holidays.

Another favourite of mine is the Trotter’s Mostarda, a divine compote of fig, apricot, apple, prune and mustard seed. I am rapidly working my way through the jar, enjoying the contents whenever I eat cheese or cold meats. The Cochrane Cottage Lime Salad Drizzle is very good. It’s fresh and spicy and, at only six calories per serving, is proving a bit of God’s send on 5:2 diet days.

The Bath Pig is the only brand of all those featured in the box I was already familiar with. We tried the chorizo as part of a spread with other cold meats but it wasn’t all that popular. We all agreed it tasted much better cooked when I used it in a simple dish recently of Jerusalem artichokes with a chorizo breadcrumb topping. I love the way the chorizo turned the breadcrumbs bright orange!

jerusalem artichoke with chorizo

So all in all, the individual contents of the Flavour Box were extremely well received in the Bangers & Mash household. But the big question remains as to whether we’d ever consider signing up for the subscription service ourselves.

While I really like the concept and probably would have signed up like a shot say ten years ago, before we had children, I probably wouldn’t these days. We’re on an extremely tight budget and although I love the surprise element, I need to carefully plan how we spend our food budget and so a monthly box like this just wouldn’t work.

But for anyone in the fortunate position not to have to worry so much about their finances, I would highly recommend the Flavour Box as a fun and tasty way to have delicious and interesting new foods delivered to your doorstep. I’d also be  interested if Flavourly ever introduce the option to send a Flavour Box as a gift, and I’d be dropping very unsubtle hints to friends and relatives about the existence of such a service!

Try a Flavour Box yourself with a £10 discount code

Flavourly is giving Bangers & Mash readers the chance to test drive a Flavour Box themselves by offering them £10 of their first box. Simply use the redemption code FLAVOURLY10 at their website checkout.

Disclosure: Flavourly sent me a complimentary Flavour Box  for review purposes. No money exchanged hands.

March’s Recipes for Life challenge: what can you do with beetroot, carrot and cheese?

Take part in the Recipes for Life food bloggers challenge for your chance to see your recipe featured in a new charity cookbook!

With such a great response to the first Recipes for Life challenge, I really can’t wait to see what dishes come in this month.

Your mission for March – should you choose to accept it – is to show us what tasty and tempting dishes you can create using beetroot, carrot and cheese.

As you’ll recall from last month, this challenge is run in conjunction with a fantastic charity called SWALLOW, which supports adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. SWALLOW is looking for new recipes for its members to make in their cookery lessons, and ultimately to include in its new cookbook coming out later this year. Therefore it’s important entries to Recipes for Life focus as much as possible on the three key ingredients and aren’t too complicated to make.

This month your dishes featuring beetroot, carrot and cheese can be either savoury or sweet, raw or cooked and you can use any kind of soft or hard cheese you like, just so long as it’s widely available.

Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by basic store cupboard items.
  3. 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 26 March 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #recipesforlife, @BangerMashChat and @SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet each one we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much needed funds for its ongoing work.

Any questions, please feel free to email or tweet me and best of luck with your dishes!

March’s entries

  1. Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Cheesy Croutons from The Garden Deli
  2. Beetroot and Carrot Pancakes with Herby Mascarpone from Bangers & Mash
  3. Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza from Chez Foti
  4. Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce from The Crazy Kitchen
  5. Roasted Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  6. Two-of-your-five-a-day Chocolate Cake from The Crazy Kitchen
  7. Beetroot, Carrot and Cottage Cheese Salad from The Crazy Kitchen
  8. Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tatin from Martin at The Tempest Arms
  9. Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog
  10. Beetroot, Carrot and Feta Cheese Salad from Bangers & Mash
  11. Carrot and beetroot cake with a cream cheese topping from Lucy at The Bell Inn

Guests for dinner

I’ve had the honour of being asked to write guest posts for a number of other food blogs recently. So I thought you might like to see what I’ve been up to and to take a look around their excellent blogs at the same time.

At the end of October, the insanely talented Thinly Spread featured my Thyme for Soup guest post. I shared a car with Chris from Thinly Spread to get to the MAD Blog Awards in September, and I used those hours to pick her poor brain raw on anything and everything about blogging. If there’s anything you want to know about blogging, Chris is your woman!

I love Thinly Spread. It’s a lovely collection of delicious vegetarian recipes the whole family will love, ingenious arts and craft activities, as well as gardening projects and advice, all of which Chris posts when she’s not got her hands full with her four gorgeous children.

Last month my Simple Fish Pie was featured on a fabulous family food blog I’ve only recently discovered called The Good Stuff.

The Good Stuff is written by two dads, Matt and Corpy, who like me live in the wonderful West Country. The blog charts their cooking adventures with their young kids, which they describe as a “swap shop for new parents with a passion for good, healthy food” – the blog that is, not their kids!

And finally, my Cooking with the Kids post was one of the first to feature on the new Appliances Online blog, which aims to build a community of people interested in all things interior, crafty, family orientated, foodie and  fun. In this post I give some tips on how to involve your children in the kitchen so that you hopefully don’t lose your mind in the process, as cooking with children can sometimes be a rather stressful affair! Or is that just me and my kids?

So there you go. I’ll be back soon with a recipe on my own blog and in the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, perhaps you might want to head over to my new(ish) page for Bangers & Mash? See you soon!

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Here is another entry for Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver contest – my very easy sausage, cranberry and apple plait. Costing around £5.70 to make and feeding a family of six, this tasty dish works out at only 95p a head; even less if you were to make your own pastry from scratch.

The charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more families are finding it increasingly difficult to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas (less than £1.25 a head) on Facebook and Twitter. The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

Visit the Action for Children website for more details on how you can get involved.

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Filled with sausage meat, this plait is essentially a big, posh sausage roll but much yummier. The cranberries and apple provide those lovely festive flavours. You can also do a sweet version by switching the sausage for marzipan or maybe mincemeat.

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
knob of butter
50g dried cranberries
320g ready rolled puff pastry
6 pork sausages
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

Put the apples in a saucepan with the knob of butter and cook gently until they begin to soften. Stir in the cranberries and cook for a few minutes. Then leave to cool.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the puff pastry on top.

Slice open the sausage skins and squeeze out the sausage meat down the centre of the puff pastry. Top with the cooled apple and cranberry mixture. With a sharp knife, cut stripes almost from the filling out to the edge.

Brush some beaten egg onto the pastry and then carefully fold in alternate sides of the pastry to overlap on top of the filling.

Keep going until the filling is covered. Fold over the pastry at the top and the bottom. You may need to trim of some excess pastry if it looks a little too bulky.

Brush the pastry with more egg. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

Carefully slice the sausage plait and serve with a simple salad. Delicious!

Birthday bangers

This time last year I had absolutely no idea what I was about to launch myself head first into.

Yes, it’s a year ago to the very day that I summoned the courage to hit the Publish button for the first time and with it created Bangers & Mash, complete with hand drawn pictures and dubious photography. (I do cringe a little when I look back at those early food shots.)

So I would like to take this opportunity to wish Bangers & Mash a very happy first birthday! I hope you like my little cake in honour of the occasion.

In my first post, I attempted to justify why we need another food blog? If you’re interested, and I haven’t already bored you senseless on the subject, you’ll find this post lays out my ethos of cooking wholesome, family food using good quality, seasonal ingredients, without it costing you a fortune. I also talk at length, as I am prone to do in a verging on obsessive way about meal planning, particularly how it has helped dramatically reduce our shopping bills and food waste and encouraged us to eat a much more varied, healthy and adventurous diet.

The first recipe I posted on Bangers & Mash wasn’t actually one of mine. It was my husband’s fabulous carrot cake. But in a way, that’s very appropriate, as I hadn’t a clue about cooking until I moved in with my other half. It’s funny to think back to my early 20s when I had no idea how to cook anything really and no inclination to really bother. How things change!

While I would by no stretch of the imagination consider myself a fully fledged food blogger quite yet, I do believe I have come a long way over the last 12 months.

My recipes and photography are improving all the time. The main reason for that is the feedback and support I get from friends and family, but perhaps most importantly other bloggers. That’s what has surprised and impressed me most – the support network provided by the enormous blogging community out there, through both our blogs and Twitter (a platform I avoided like the plague for quite a long time).

When I started out, I pictured blogging as a rather solitary pastime, sitting alone at a PC and broadcasting thoughts and ideas to an invisible audience. But what I’ve discovered I enjoy most about blogging is the interaction and conversation. I didn’t realise just how much I would learn from others as a result of writing a blog.

But that’s enough of that. The children will be getting up soon – as usual, I’m writing this in the early hours of the morning when the house is still and quiet – and my day must start properly. I’ll be back soon with my latest concoction. And I look forward to hearing about yours!

Around the world in six suppers

… my big plan is to cook six meals inspired by some of my favourite holiday destinations from years gone by, and share those recipes with you here on the blog. I have some ideas already for dishes I’d like to cook, but if  you have any suggestions for recipes I should try I would love to hear them…

If I’m honest, the idea of a ‘staycation’ has never appealed much to me. For a holiday to be a proper holiday you really need to get away from it all, don’t you?

I adore exploring new destinations as well as returning to much loved haunts; sampling the local cuisine, relaxing by a pool with a good book or acting like a Japanese tourist and fitting in as many sights as I can in a single day.

On holiday in France with Jess and Mia

Admittedly, holidays have changed quite a bit since having children. We’ve been forced to slow down and plan ahead much more carefully.

I remember our first holiday abroad with Jessie when she was just learning to walk. With another couple and their young daughter we rented a beautiful villa in Tuscany. It would have been amazing, if it hadn’t been for the unfenced pool and marble staircases and sheer drop down what seemed like a mini cliff face at the bottom of the garden, oh and all the prickly rose bushes scattered around the stunning garden. Nansi and I were having near heart attacks every five minutes as our plucky girls explored and stumbled their way around the place. Not a relaxing holiday. But a massive lesson learned on the need to check out how family-friendly your holiday accommodation will be.

Sadly it looks increasingly likely we won’t be having a family holiday this year. My husband has quit his job and is retraining in IT, and I’m freelancing part-time on a couple of projects but the income is very up-and-down. And we’ve just been stung by some rather steep vets’ bills. So a staycation it might just have to be.

But I’m not going to let that get me down. Oh no, not me. So while I might read about other’s plans to fly off to far-flung foreign destinations, I won’t get jealous. We live in lovely Somerset after all. There’s so much to do right here on our doorstep, isn’t there? How many tourists flock to this part of the world every year to get away from it all, and here we are already!

And if I can’t go off to see the world this year, well I’ll just have to bring the world to our corner of Somerset.

Over the six weeks of the school holidays, my big plan is to cook six meals inspired by some of my favourite holiday destinations from years gone by, and share those recipes with you here on the blog. I have some ideas already for dishes I’d like to cook, but if  you have any suggestions for recipes I should try I would love to hear them. Even better if they appear on your blog as then I can easily link up with them too.

In no particular order, the places I’ll be visiting on my culinary world tour are:

Barcelona: when I went inter-railing with my best friend Ruth after our A-levels, this had to be my favourite city. The food, the beer, the Gaudi, the boys…

New York: I have very fond memories of visiting New York with my Mum and sister Elly when I was about 12 years old. I remember Mum bartering with a bloke on a street corner selling bangles and an Italian waiter chasing us down the street as we hadn’t left a tip!

Northumberland: I spent some of my childhood just outside Newcastle and enjoyed many an idyllic day out playing on the beautiful beaches, visiting the spooky castles and wandering along Hadrian’s Wall. I can’t wait to take my husband and children there sometime soon.

Penang: My Mum was born on the Malaysian island of Penang and I think it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. And the food isn’t bad either!

Rio de Janeiro: one of my jammiest PR jollies ever was to take a group of journalists to Brazil for a tour of an aircraft factory. The tour lasted half a day but we had to stay a week because of flight availability. What a shame! We had a fantastic time in Rio and Sao Paulo and I’m desperate to get back there again one day.

Mystery destination: I haven’t quite decided on my final destination. I’ve been considering Turkey and Italy, or perhaps Bordeaux or Greece. Or how about Norway or Sweden? I’ve had wonderful times in each of these countries but whose food should I try to recreate in the final week of my staycation? Please let me know where you think I should head to!

Food Glorious Food!

This pretty much sums up how I feel about food…

Oliver! is one of my all-time favourite films. I love musicals almost as much as I love food. I’ve always wanted to be in one, but it doesn’t really help that I can’t sing or dance.

But now my seven-year-old daughter Jessie is learning lots of the songs from Oliver! in her Musical Youth club. So this song is heard a lot in the Bangers & Mash house at the moment. Very tuneful, I’m sure…

Anyway, thought I’d share it with you – enjoy! And do sing along!