Review: The Little Table of Delights

little table of delights8

Playing with food has always been something I’ve encouraged at Chez Bangers, so there really couldn’t be a more appropriate theatrical experience for my little ones than The Little Table of Delights, which we were lucky enough to be a part of last week at the Yeo Valley Canteen.

Created by Bristol-based Theatre Damfino in collaboration with chefs Matt Williamson and Claire Thomson (The Five O’clock Apron), this brilliantly interactive show tells the story of what we eat and where it comes in five acts, taking us from bread and then beetroot, through to spices, eggs, milk and honey. Continue reading “Review: The Little Table of Delights”

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.


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.


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.


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).


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!


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…


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.


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.

Recipes for Life: the final round-up

swallow cookery So here we are – the final round-up in the Recipes for Life challenge. It really doesn’t seem like seven months ago since I kicked it off in partnership with SWALLOW, an amazing charity in Somerset supporting adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives.

The idea of the challenge was to find easy, wholesome dishes for members of their cookery club to try out and also to appear in their new fundraising cookbook. And each month food bloggers have done us proud, posting the most incredibly diverse and delicious range of recipes, based each time on just three simple, core ingredients.

Tracey O’Leary, SWALLOW’s cookery tutor says: “Thank you to all of the entrants of Recipes for Life. We have been amazed by the variety of recipes that have been submitted.  It has also provided us with a good stock of simple, tasty and nutritious meals for our group to learn to make over the coming weeks and months!”

And Stephanie one of SWALLOW’s members, adds: “I have really enjoyed cooking, and eating, the winning recipes.”

This month, as well as announcing the winner of August’s challenge, we’re also naming one overall winner of the whole Recipes for Life challenge, who will receive a copy of Yeo Valley’s rather splendid Great British Farmhouse Cookbook by Sarah Mayor. I got hold of this book recently and it’s rapidly become one of my favourite cookbooks.

great british farmhouse cookbook Firstly, let’s take a look at the entries to August’s challenge. I must apologise for taking so long to post this round-up – work has been frantic the last couple of weeks, and the blog simply hasn’t had a look in. But better late than never, eh? The trio of ingredients for August were eggs, milk and flour, possibly the most rudimentary of ingredient combinations you can get. As ever, food bloggers came up with a sensational selection of both sweet and savoury dishes, starting with…

…Mabintu of Recipes From a Pantry who gave us not one, not two, but three tempting pancake recipes: fluffy golden pancakes, gingerbread pancakes and banana pancakes. The latter are a personal favourite of mine; they remind me of lazy Sunday mornings and of course that classic Jack Johnson song.

Recipes from a Pantry Collage Sylvia from Happiness is Homemade also brought us pancakes, accompanied by her gorgeous photography. Don’t these pancakes with raspberries and chocolate chip pancakes make you just want to reach into the screen and grab a spoonful?

Happiness is Homemade Collage One of Recipes for Life’s most loyal supporters from the outset has been Helen from The Crazy Kitchen, and in the final month she rustled up a couple of beauties: a deliciously simple ham and tomato pancake pizza and some very tempting white chocolate and cherry muffins.

The Crazy Kitchen Collage I hadn’t heard of Königsberger klopse before but I really like the look of these German meatballs entered by Carolin at Mummy Alarm, and intend to try them out on my lot very soon. They are a traditional German meal, usually made from veal but Carolin created hers with beef mince in her family-friendly, budget version.

recipe-Königsberger-Klopse-German-meat-balls-with-white-caper-sauce Claire from Under the Blue Gum Tree decided not to enter a clafoutis after “one too many claggy-clafoutis attempts” but to be honest I’m rather pleased she entered her Flammkuchen instead, as this is just the kind of food my family adores. It’s a bacon and creme fraiche tart, which originally comes from the Alsace region of France. Tasty and rather good-looking to boot. Ticks all my boxes!

flammkuchenNext up are these gorgeous Pea-nut-ella Rolls from Cutchi Kitchen, which I think would go down well at breakfast time or as an after-school snack. Anyone who likes Reese’s peanut butter cups will know how well peanut butter and chocolate go together and the thought of them together in a warm roll is making my stomach growl…

pea-nut-ella rolls

Sarah at the Garden Deli has been another regular entrant in the Recipes for Life challenge, and I’m really pleased she made it just in time with her summery Pizza Pancakes, filled with the essentials of a good pizza topping – tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Simply delicious and so quick and easy to rustle up.


I left it to the very last minute to get my entry in. I made my first Tarte Tatin while we were on holiday in France and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make. I tried a Nigella Lawson recipe using Danish pastry, which works really well and is just as good eaten cold the next day.

tarte tatin

There you go, that’s the final round-up and didn’t we do well? But who, I hear you ask, is August’s winner? Well…

* drum roll *

I’m very pleased to announce that August’s winner is Claire from Under the  Blue Gum Tree for her scrummy Flammkuchen. The team at SWALLOW loved the fact it was a little bit different yet still very easy for their members to make themselves. So huge congratulations to Claire on her very well deserved win! A little gift from SWALLOW will be on its way via airmail to you very soon.

But of course, there’s still one more announcement to go. Who will take the prestigious title of overall winner of the Recipes for Life challenge? To be honest, it was an obvious choice. It just had to be Helen from The Crazy Kitchen for her sheer dedication to the cause. She has won the monthly challenges no less than three times – and in a row too – and has entered a CRAZY number of recipes, each and every one of them fulfilling our brief for tasty, wholesome and easy-to-make dishes.

Helen will receive a copy of the Great British Farmhouse Cookbook from Yeo Valley, who incidentally are also based right here in Somerset. We hope you like it!

So that’s it. The Recipes for Life bloggers challenge is over. But watch this space for news of SWALLOW’s new cookbook, featuring many of the recipes entered over the last seven months. And also watch this space for news of a another cookery challenge I will be launching very, very soon.

Thanks again to everyone that has taken part – both the team at SWALLOW and I are very grateful for all your support!