Foodies Festival ticket giveaway

Earlier in the month we spent a delicious day at the Foodies Festival on the Bristol Downs. It’s a proper family event with lots of live music, a kids tent and cookery school, health living zones, demos and vintage teas. And while the festival may be best known for all the celebrity chefs you can spot there, for us it was just lovely to kick back and enjoy all the fine food and drink on offer from the masses of stalls. I’m still dreaming about those crispy duck pancakes…

Now’s your chance to enjoy a Foodies Festival in my ticket giveaway! There are Foodies Festivals taking place all around the UK in the coming months, so winners will be able to choose from London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Tatton Park, Edinburgh and Oxford. Full details of locations are on the Foodies Festivals website. I have five pairs of tickets up for grabs, which can be used on all three days of each of the festivals taking place this summer.  Continue reading “Foodies Festival ticket giveaway”

Calling all bakers: tell your best children’s stories in cake!

Official C&B Show logo

With four shows in four new venues, the Cake & Bake Show is bigger than ever this year, and includes a BAKING COMPETITION on the theme of ‘Children’s Stories’ taking place at each of the venues: Harrogate, London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The Cake & Bake Show is calling on all cake makers to create a fabulous cake that is an interpretation of a children’s story. Each cake creation can be inspired from any children’s story or film, (there’s lots of inspiration in the cinemas this summer with new releases Minion, Peter Pan and Jurassic Park); or it can be a combination of your favourite characters or stories from over the years! Continue reading “Calling all bakers: tell your best children’s stories in cake!”

It’s all Greek to me! Review and giveaway

Nomad Collage

The weather has been so wonderful here for the last couple of weeks. It really has felt like we’ve been on holiday in our own home – spoiled only by the annoying need to go into work. Even so, with beautifully warm and balmy evenings, I haven’t really felt like I’ve been missing out. Much.

Last weekend, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine ourselves on holiday on some stunning Greek island. There is something very special about being in the UK and being able to spend all day long outdoors, especially eating al fresco. OK, we had to make do with a paddling pool instead of clear turquoise seas and we drank Somerset cider in place of retsina. But at least the food was authentic. I was lucky enough to have been sent a delicious food box from Kitchen Nomad to review, full of carefully selected, speciality Greek products providing the basis for five inspiring recipes developed by Tonia Buxton of My Greek Kitchen.

Kitchen Nomad is a new subscription food box service offering the best in world cuisine delivered monthly. It’s the brain child of three friends, Clara, Fanny and Bryn.  Each month, they select a different country of the world, carefully source authentic products and typical recipes of that country, pack it all up in a beautiful box and deliver it right to your door. It’s an ingenious way to discover world cuisine and cook new recipes in your own kitchen.

I was intrigued as to how the three of them came up with the concept of Kitchen Nomad and this is what Clara told me:

Fanny and I are really close friends. We met in Lille, France, seven years ago while studying at Business School. We travelled a lot together and were always excited about discovering new cultures and …. new food!  After graduation, Fanny went to London and I went to Paris to start our careers. In London, Fanny met Bryn (they worked at the same place) and they quickly realised how much they had in common, especially food and travel!

Bryn and Fanny currently work as project managers in banking in London, and I live in Paris, working in marketing for a company dedicated to sustainable development services.

So here you have three young entrepreneurs, passionate about travelling the world and experiencing new culinary discoveries.

When returning home after travelling, we noticed how difficult it is to find all the products and recipes we need to cook some of the amazing meals ourselves that we tasted on our travels. Also we wanted to share all the delightful things we have experienced on our travels, and that’s how Kitchen Nomad was born!

 So what did we receive in the first Kitchen Nomad food box?

Kitchen Nomad

  • Dukkah spice mix – a tasty spice dip perfect with a little olive oil for dipping big chunks of bread. Originally from Egypt, this is the Greek version, as adapted by the Real Greek Restaurant.
  • Kalamata extra virgin olive oil – an award-winning oil with a beautifully robust peppery flavour
  • Vine leaves in brine – the must-have ingredient for making authentic dolmades from the Athenian Grocery
  • Kalamata black olives – gorgeously dark, plump and juicy
  • Pickled capers – intense and mustardy, I had to lay down the law with my oldest daughter Jessie to stop her from eating the whole lot straight from the jar!
  • Orzo pasta – a short-cut macaroni, shaped like a large grain of rice, perfect in stews
  • Organic pressed tomato sauce – produced on a family farm in central Greece
  • Cassia bark – a lovely aromatic spice, like a subtler form of cinnamon stick
  • Dried Greek figs – while I love fresh figs, I’ve never really been one for the dried variety, but I had to lay down the law with myself to stop me eating all of these sticky, chewy bad boys before they made it into pudding!

What makes the food box so special are the recipe cards to accompany the intriguing ingredients. And the recipes were all very easy to follow, although the preparations time given were slightly misleading – or perhaps I’m just a little slow in the kitchen? Over the course of the weekend, I cooked up most of the recipes provided:

dolmades
Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)

While I know I love dolmades, I really wasn’t sure how the children would take to them. I was rather surprised to discover they loved them too. Perhaps it’s because they’re such neat little bite size parcels – perfect finger food for little ones. Admittedly they take a little time to prepare, but they’re not difficult and it’s really quite a tranquil, almost meditative activity, particularly since the children scarpered super quick from the kitchen when I suggested they lend a hand.

Youvetsi (slow cooked lamb with orzo pasta)
Youvetsi (slow cooked lamb with orzo pasta)

This one pot dish is something I’m going to cook again and again. And again. It’s just so good. The whole family wolfed down the slow cooked Youvetsi. The cassia bark gives it such a warm, slightly sweet and aromatic flavour, it’s really hard to say no to seconds. Or thirds.

Tart with black olives and capers
Tart with black olives and capers

Incredibly easy to make, my children took to calling this tart a “Greek pizza” but without the cheese. The Kalamata black olives really were the making of this tart. We’re enjoying working our way through the remainder of the tin.

Fig and walnut bake served with Greek yoghurt
Fig and walnut bake served with Greek yoghurt

And another ridiculously easy dish, this fig and walnut bake is perfumed with a light syrup flavoured again with cassia bark, and it is just downright gorgeous served with a big dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt. We’d have enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast the following morning, but there weren’t any.

So what’s my verdict on the Kitchen Nomad food box? Well, quite simply, I love it. At first I thought it might be a little on the expensive side, since you have to shop for all the additional fresh ingredients. But these dishes could easily have provided us with three or four days worth of meals – we were just greedy and went for it over one weekend. Each box costs £22 (plus delivery), but if you sign up for a minimum of six months it drops to £21 a month, and for a year it goes down to £20 a month.

It’s about more than the produce you actually receive. It’s about the thought that goes into the boxes, the recipes you’re supplied with and the knowledge and passion that goes into them, and the tips that are passed on. And it’s about the adventure and excitement and mystery too, because you have no idea where in the world you are going next. I’m sold and I’m signing up. Especially since I’ve seen the next box has a Vietnamese theme – a cuisine I’m not all that familiar with but am keen to try.

Giveaway

If you’d like to try a Kitchen Nomad food box yourself, here’s your chance. Clara at Kitchen Nomad has very kindly offered one Bangers & Mash reader the opportunity to win a box. Simply leave a comment below by Saturday 3 August letting me know why you’d like to receive a Kitchen Nomad box and you could be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!

Kitchen Nomad box

 

Disclosure: Kitchen Nomad sent me a complimentary Greek food box for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Eggspress review and giveaway for Valentine’s Day

Have you ever wanted to say “I love you” in egg-form but never quite known how? Alright, so the vast majority of people are unlikely to have felt such an urge but for those that have, this neat little Eggspress heart-shaped boiled egg mould might be just the thing!

When I was first invited to review an Eggspress on the blog, I immediately said yes. Eggs are a staple foodstuff in our house and we get through a fair few. So I’m always open to new ways to serve this most ovate of ingredients.

But on receiving my Eggspress, I realised it was actually for moulding cold, hard-boiled eggs. I’d assumed for some reason it was a mould in which to poach an egg, which actually would have been slightly more useful I think. My family doesn’t really eat all that many hard-boiled eggs. I much prefer them soft-boiled so I can dip my hot buttered soldiers into them on a lazy Sunday morning.

Anyway, on Saturday I tried the Eggspress out on my daughters. They were having a cold tea and I thought some hard-boiled eggs might make a nice addition.

The idea is you hard-boil your egg, leave it to cool, remove the shell and then place it into the Eggspress mould. Once you’ve firmly closed the mould, you then leave it for another 10 minutes immersed in cold water while the egg is squeezed into a heart-shape. To be honest, I found all this a little bit of a faff. The instructions say it should work on small to medium eggs, but I found my medium eggs were still a little too big and had to be forced into the mould – which probably explains why they came out slightly wonky!

My children did remark that they thought the eggs looked lovely, so perhaps the effort was worth it. For all of those five minutes that it took the kids to wolf down their tea…

Giveaway!

While I don’t think the Eggspress will end up getting much use in the Bangers & Mash house, maybe it’s more your cup of tea? If you’re the kind of person who prefers their eggs small, cold and hard-boiled and has a penchant for anything heart-shaped, then you really need to have one!

I have one Eggspress to give away to one of my blog readers. Simply add a comment below letting me know you’d like one before midnight on Thursday 14 February, and it could well be yours. The first name drawn from the hat after the closing date will be the lucky winner.

Please note: this competition is only open to UK residents due to shipping costs and there is no cash or other product alternative.

Disclosure: I received two complimentary Eggspress moulds for review and giveaway purposes. No money exchanged hands.

Free pass to chocolate heaven

Congratulations to Jen from Blue Kitchen Bakes, the winner of my recent contest to win a fantastic raw chocolate making kit, courtesy of Elements for Life.

Jen’s prize consists of everything she’ll need to make a batch of gorgeous chocolates:

  • 100g raw cacao powder
  • 120g raw cacao butter
  • 300ml bottle of Sweet Freedom, low GI natural sweetener
  • reusable heart-shaped silicone mould
  • information and recipe card.

On entering the contest, Jen said:

I like being able to make as much of my food from scratch as possible, so the chance to win a raw chocolate kit would be amazing. It’s something I’ve always wondered about doing but haven’t fully understood how to go about it before so thanks for your informative post and great pictures of the chocolate making process.

I really hope you enjoy making your own chocolates Jen, and do let me know how you get on! Congratulations again!

And look, I really did pull the winning name out of a hat…

My weekend in chocolate heaven… plus your chance to win a raw chocolate making kit

Isn’t the sight (and smell) of melted chocolate one of the most beautiful things on the planet? When I see melted chocolate, I want to jump right in, just like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

In case it you hadn’t heard, here in the UK it is Chocolate Week (8 – 14 October 2012). And in preparation for this, I successfully spent much of the weekend in blissful chocolate heaven.

We had a rare lie-in on Saturday morning as Miss Bangers has had a bit of a cough all week so we didn’t want to chance her with her 9am ballet lesson. In celebration we breakfasted on pain au chocolat, dunked into hot chocolate.

The kids had their usual stuff from the supermarket but J and I went for Fiery Raw Hot Chocolate from Elements for Life. It’s a very grown up hot chocolate, with a tasty kick to it. Despite the name, it’s not overly hot. I love it as an occasional alternative to my morning coffee. So, as you can see, a rather indulgent start to the day.

Once we’d got our Saturday chores out of the way, we headed over to the wonderful Lipsmacking Pop Up Chocolate Shop in Frome, open all this week until Sunday 14 October from 10am to 6pm. The Pop Up Shop in Frome’s Paul Street is a great little venue, and has been home to all kinds of in businesses in recent months, including a tapas bar and a children’s arts and craft workshop.

As well as selling all things cacao, the Chocolate Pop Up Shop is running a number of chocolate-themed events, from chocolate making workshops (see below) to meeting chocolatiers and even creating chocolate-inspired jewellery!

The Pop Up shop is very much a precursor to the Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival in Frome on Sunday 18 November 2012, which as you can imagine I am looking forward to. A lot!

The children enjoyed chocolate milkshakes, while J and I indulged in yet more hot chocolate – this time a warming spiced number featuring cardamom, definitely my spice of the moment.

But the main reason we were there was to meet up with Paula from Elements for Life for a lesson in making raw chocolate.

Based just over the border in Wiltshire, Paula and Dan, the lovely husband and wife team behind Elements for Life, produce a wide range of handmade raw chocolate products. They are all dairy, gluten and wheat free, free from refined sugar, with no artificial additives, and packed full of goodness.

According to Paula and Dan, raw chocolate is much better for you than normal chocolate in so many ways, and having tried a number of their products I can certainly vouch for the fact that it tastes incredible.

The award-winning Yummy Scrummy raw chocolate brownie – one of my personal favourites

With normal chocolate, the cacao bean is roasted, destroying much of its nutritional value. Add to that all the refined sugar, fat and the myriad of other things added to it and you end up with something that’s bad for you. Raw chocolate on the other hand is actually said to be good for you. It is one of the richest sources of magnesium, essential for a healthy heart and clear mind, and contains much higher levels of anti-oxidants than either green tea or red wine. It’s packed full of essential amino acids, feel good chemicals and vitamins, and what’s more it is an appetite suppressant!

But health benefits aside, it tastes fantastic and that is essentially why I jumped at the offer to find out more about making my own.

Paula from Elements for Life melting the cacao butter – the smell was so good!

What surprised me most was just how easy raw chocolate is to make, particularly since, unlike normal chocolate, there is no fiddly tempering required. It’s simply a case of melting the raw cacao butter, mixing in the raw cacao powder, and sweetening with a low GI fruit sweetener.

It didn’t take too long for my two girls to get in on the chocolate-making action!

Once the melted chocolate has been poured into the silicone mould, you simply place it in the fridge for an hour and a half, or in the freezer if you can’t wait that long. Paula’s tip was to pour it into a small jug before attempting to pour into the mould, otherwise it can get very messy indeed. But then when you’re cooking with my children, nothing you do can prevent the mess!

Making raw chocolate would be the perfect activity for a children’s party, or even next time you have your friends over for a couple of glasses of wine. Or as Paula suggested, how about serving the melted chocolate in a hollowed out pumpkin for a Halloween fondue?

Paula shared with us all some chocolates she had prepared earlier and the end result is really very, very good. It’s ever so smooth and creamy, and despite being a dark chocolate, it isn’t nearly as bitter as most dark chocolates I’ve had before.

Paula’s demo made it all look very easy. Question was though, would I be able to recreate the same quality chocolate experience back at home with the kids? That was to be our challenge for Sunday morning.

So on Sunday, once we’d got breakfast and homework and Christmas card making (I know! our school PTA is über organised!) out of the way, our adventures in chocolate making began as we put the Elements for Life starter kit to the test. Simply grating the cacao butter filled the kitchen with the sumptuous aroma of pure chocolate.

The scent increased to even headier heights when we started to melt it.

Holding the little ones back from immersing themselves in the melted chocolate was the only tricky bit!

With one of Elements for Life’s raw chocolate making starter kits, I can categorically say that making your own chocolate is child’s play. It took us less than half an hour to make, and just over an hour later we were scoffing these little beauties:

I added a little sprinkle of confectioner’s glitter to the moulds before pouring in the chocolate. Pretty eh? As we had some leftover chocolate in the jug, I poured the rest out in a metal tray lined with greaseproof paper and sprinkled with some chopped nuts and currants to create my own chocolate slab. Isn’t that such a great word? Slab. Love it!

So there you have it. If I can make raw chocolate, then anyone can. As I mentioned before, raw chocolate isn’t as bitter as the normal stuff, and the other good thing is you don’t need so much either. Just a couple of mouthfuls and you’re satisfied. And coming from me, that says a lot. I can usually eat chocolate until I make myself sick. Trust me, this is good stuff. The kids loved it too, but for them the best bit was licking out the bowl. Isn’t it always?

While the kits themselves would make an excellent gift for the chocaholic in your life, my personal plan is to experiment a little with additional ingredients (such as more nuts and fruit) and give the chocolates themselves as Christmas presents.

During Chocolate Week (8-14 October 2012), Elements for Life is offering 10% off every product bought via their website, so now is a great time to stock up.

Win a raw chocolate making kit from Elements for Life

Now it’s your chance to win a raw chocolate making starter kit from Elements for Life worth £14.99. The kit includes everything you need to make a batch of gorgeous chocolates (and an extra slab too if you like!):

  • 100g raw cacao powder
  • 120g raw cacao butter
  • 300ml bottle of Sweet Freedom, low GI natural sweetener
  • reusable heart-shaped silicone mould
  • information and recipe card.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is provide a comment below saying why you’d like to get your mitts on an Elements for Life chocolate making starter kit.

Double your chances by tweeting about this competition, linking through to this post and including the hash tag #MakeRawChoc and my Twitter name @bangermashchat. I’ll keep an eye out for your tweets but make sure yours doesn’t slip through the net by also mentioning you’ve tweeted in your comment.

The closing date for competition entries is midnight on Sunday 4 November. The winner will be the first name randomly drawn after the closing date.

Please note: this competition is only open to UK residents due to shipping costs and there is no cash or other product alternative.

Disclosure: I was provided with two complimentary raw chocolate making kits by Elements for Life; one for review and one for a competition prize. No money has exchanged hands, but honestly – would you expect me to want to be paid to review chocolate?