Thursday, 28 April 2016

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree, Review & Giveaway

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree is the debut cookery book by food writer, Sumayya Usmani. I think this cookery book is a first of it's kind as it documents recipes from Pakistan. Many of us are familiar with Indian cooking and the fiery curries that are associated with that country, but what about Pakistan, what dishes are associated with this country? For some reason, unbeknown to me, Pakistani cooking is somewhat of an unknown entity. Luckily, for you and I, Sumayya has shared her family recipes, a combination of Arab, Persian and Indian influences. I think the publishers, Frances Lincoln have done a wonderful job here, there's stunning on-location photography with some mouth-watering photos of the finished dish. Having flicked through several of the pages to and fro and book marked several, I think that this cookery book will be considered to be a "classic" in years to come. Not only for introducing the reader to Pakistani cuisine, but also for the breath of the recipes that are covered and beautiful food writing. This is my favourite sort of cookbook, one which is personal, a narrative and contains do-able recipes.

This cookery book gets a big thumbs up for a whole chapter on breakfast - one of my favourite ways to start the day.So far, I've only tried two recipes, the khagina (spicy scrambled eggs with tomatoes and coriander) and Lahori Fish (in chickpea batter and ajwain seeds) but I plan on making much more. The recipe I choose to share is the Lahori Fish, coated in gram flour, this gives a traditional haddock more of an unusual, interesting and delightful take, one which I loved.
Lahori Fish

Spicy Eggs with Tomato and Coriander.

Lahori Fish, In Chickpea Batter and Ajwan Seeds
Preparation - 20 minutes, Cooking 10-15 minutes, Serves 4-6
4-6 haddock fillets
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
100g generous gram flour
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp dry-roasted chin seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
100ml rice water (made by boiling 1 cup wear, straining and reserving the water.

Rub the fish with the lemon juice, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix the gram flour, rice flour, cumin, ajwain, red chill flakes and remaining salt together in a bowl. Pour the rice water into another bowl. Dip the fish into the dry gram flour mix then in the rice water and repeat again. Continue until pall the pieces of fish are covered. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for 4-5 minutes each sir until cooked through with a crisp coating.

The lovely people over at Frances Lincoln are giving one lucky reader a copy of Summers Under The Tamarind Tree. To be in with a chance of winning a copy, follow the below instructions:
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  • Frances Lincoln publishers is responsible for sending out a copy of the cookery book. 

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Preserved Lemon, Za'atar and Honey Chicken

One of the great things about living in a multi-cultural diverse city is that you can find readily available ingredients from all cultures within a few miles radius. I love Middle-Eastern food, I'm aware that it one of the current food trends, but I sampled Middle Eastern almost 14 years ago, as a teenager  (one of my closest friends is half Jordanian). The spices commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking are full of flavour, but there is no heat. I love heat, but I do not want to necessarily want to eat spicy food every day (maybe every other day), but I always want flavour, lots of it. 
I had a number of what I consider to Middle Eastern spices and condiments and wanted to perk up a Sunday roast chicken, with a combination of Preserved Lemon, Za'atar and Honey Roast Chicken. The honey was a last minute and yet wonderful addition to an impromptu rub; it helped to add a golden glaze and to crisp up the chicken. The roast chicken, took the normal to the extraordinary, the preserved lemon and it's juices helped to keep the chicken moist with a slight hint of citrus, the za'atar added an additional depth and the honey further flavour. You must give this a shot. 

1 large organic chicken
1/2 preserved lemon
2 tablespoon preserved lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayene pepper
2 tablespoon za'atar
2 tablespoon runny honey

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5. Insert the preserved lemon in the chicken cavity. In a mug, add the preserved lemon juices, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, za'atar and honey and give this a good whisk until everything is mixed well. Using your hands, smoother the chicken all over with the marinade. Place the chicken in a large oven tray and cover with foil. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the foil from the oven tray. Cook for additional 40 minutes, or until when a skewer enters the chicken thigh, the juices run clear. 



Saturday, 16 April 2016

Exceedingly Good Mr Kipling Slices and giveaway

I think many of us who grew up in the UK would have eaten a Mr Kipling treat at some point or another. In fact, my sisters favourite treat was Viennese Whirls, I was a fan of their bakewell tart too. I remember fondly on snacking on lots of sweet and naughty treats from Mr Kipling and I still do from time to time. But guess what, you can have your cake and eat it. Mr Kipling are lunching a new range of sweet treats, entitled Exceedingly Good Slice, the aim is that the nation will break for cake, albeit a healthier more nutritious version. In two delicious flavours, Cranberry and Orange and Dark Chocolate and Coconut, costing £1.49 per pack of four, these are affordable and delicious. At around 137 calories and relatively low (ish) fat 5.7g, this is a guilt free, midday treat. My favourite out of the two flavours was the cranberry and orange, sweet, tangy and delicious. You need to get yourselves to your local supermarket and stock up on these gorgeous treats.

The lovely people at Mr Kipling are giving away a hamper for one lucky reader, this includes some of the classic cakes: Angel Slice, Cherry Bakewells, Bramley Apples and French Franices.
To be in with a chance to win a selection of these products follow the below.

  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter
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  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random. 
  • The competition will run from 16.04.16 - 15.05.16 
  • Winners will need to respond in 5 working days
  • Mr Kipling will post the products.
  • Please feel free to share the giveaway. 
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Disclaimer: Many thanks for Mr Kipling for these cakes.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Boston Tea Party Birmingham

There are so many fabulous restaurants in Birmingham, so many I never heard of and so many that I need to try. I was recently sent an invite to review The Boston Tea Party and after taking a look at their website, their ethos and most importantly, the menu, I stated yes. For those of you that don't know, The Boston Tea Party is a modern independent British cafe, one which I think is changing the perception of the British Cafe (usually associated with fry ups). Located in Corporation Street, at the heart of the city centre, this cafe is easily accessible and is open Monday-Saturday 7am - 7pm and Sunday 9am-6pm. I visited with my cousin and as soon as I entered the cafe, I was impressed with the layout, lightness and space. Also, what immediately caught my eye was the diverse range of cakes, biscuits and tray bakes, I wanted to dive straight in. I liked the seating a combination of stools and tablets and leather seats.

There was an extensive range of coffees, chocolates and homemade cold drinks, this was perfect as we visited Saturday morning and I required a strong pick me up.

Our friendly waitress, gave a run through some of popular beverages sold and I ordered the espresso with a caramel syrup and my cousin chose the rich and velvety hot chocolate. I also ordered the homemade lemonade and my cousin ordered the homemade orange juice, refreshing.

The breakfast and mains are served all day and as we arrived at 12 noon, I was longing for breakfast, but decided on ordering lunch. If you are interested in ordering a breakfast dish, you can chose from The West Country Breakfast, Chorizo Hash, Kedgeree and Brown Rice Porridge, amongst others. For lunch, I ordered the Club Sandwich (£7.95) which contained chicken, bacon, avocado mayo, tomato, cos, blue cheese mayo and a side salad, my cousin ordered the Ultimate Burger (£8.95), this included a brioche bun, bacon jam, cheddar, pickled cucumber, chipolte, aioli, tomato, cos, coleslaw and fries. As we are greedy, we also ordered the Sweet Potato Fritters & Dip (£2.95) and a Side Salad (£2.75).

The Club Sandwich was perfection, a phenomenal combination of toasted bread with all the fabulous ingredients sandwiched between each slice. Although my club sandwich did not look as hearty as my cousins burger, I had to have a mini break to try and finish it off. This was one of the best club sandwiches I have tasted, simply wonderful. My cousin also enjoyed her Ultimate Burger, it was huge, she shared that the flavours and the addition of all the extras worked well. My cousin couldn't finish off her burger, perhaps because we ordered the Sweet Potato Fritters & Dip, these were moreish, addictive and delicious.

Not only was the food delicious but we didn't have to wait long for our drinks or food which is perfect for hungry tummies. I would definitely visit again, this cafe food was scrumptious, affordable and fresh. If the amazing main dishes does not tempt you, then how about the wonderful cakes and bakes that are on sale here.

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of The Boston Tea Party.

  Boston Tea Party Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Breakfast Salad of Bacon, Eggs Fried Bread and Frisse

Now that Spring is upon us, my palette is more open to having salads. It's not that I dislike salad, but salad for me, is similar to soup in that I associate both with seasons. This salad, inspired by the classic breakfast dish bacon and eggs, is taken from the Spring chapter in Harry Eastwood's wonderful book "A Salad For All Seasons". I enjoyed this during a mid-week lunch and whilst I enjoy bacon and eggs in a bap or sandwiched between toast, this salad, is a brilliant and healthier spin on a classic.

Serves 2 

120g lardons
100g stale bread, broken into chunks
a little salt and black pepper
2 large free-range eggs
a small head frisse lettuce
1 small banana shall, cut into tiny dice

For the dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
1 tsp white wine vinegar

Set a full kettle on to boil. Heat the lardons in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the stale bread to the pan with the lardon juices and season with a little salt and pepper. Once the bread is crunch and coloured, turn off the heat and set aside. Do not wash the pan,
Meanwhile, lower the eggs into boiling water and cook for exactly 6 minutes. This will ensure you have a cooked egg with a runny middle.
Next, whisk the mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil and creme fraiche in the now empty frying pan until combined. Thin down the dressing with the vinegar then taste and season.
Toss the salad leaves into the pan and coat them with the dressing before dividing between two plates. Scatter the lardons, fried bread and dices shallot over the top.
Peel the eggs and cut in half. Set on top of the finished salad with a crunch of black pepper. Serve warm.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Bar and Block Restaurant Review

There's a fabulous new restaurant in Birmingham, a contemporary and modern take on the iconic Beefeater: Bar and Block, which is wonderful steak house. Located on Waterloo Street, Bar and Block opened last month and during my visit, the day before good Friday, this restaurant was jam backed and buzzing with people. As me and my friend walked in almost all the tables were full of hungry customers, so I was glad that my table was reserved. This restaurant is relatively large and there is a large bar area and some interesting wall features. I also liked that you could see the kitchen area, it's always refreshing to see the chefs preparing dishes, none of this microwaved foods. 

No onto the food,  we feasted on a three course meal including cocktails. It wouldn't be a girly meal without cocktails, I ordered the Cosmopolitan (£6.99) and my friend ordered Chambord Royale (£6.99).

We ordered starters of Garlic King Prawns (£7.50) which was served with crusty ciabatta and Cheese and Herb Topped Mushrooms (£5.50), whilst we waited for our starters our lovely waiter brought popcorn coated in beef dripping. I mean popcorn coated in beef dripping, I was intrigued and after having a few handfuls, this flavour needs to be stocked in supermarkets as it's incredibly moreish. My prawns were so succulent, refreshing and light, the ciabatta was perfect for mopping up the prawn and lemon juice. My friend, praised the cheese and her mushrooms, stating that it was gooey.

Now onto the mains, there's a selection of main courses such as Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Beef Short Rib and Beer Battered Fish and Chips, but if you are going to a steakhouse, you really should be ordering steak. There's a good selection of steaks from rump, ribeye, sirloin and spiral cut. My friend and I both ordered the 8oz Rib Eye Steak (£15.50), I ordered the traditional bernaise sauce and my friend ordered the  creamy mushroom. My steak was medium and my friend's was well done, I love the succulent flavours of my medium steak, it was perfectly chargrilled on the outside and moist on the inside. Delightful.

After such a gorgeous steak, we refreshed with more cocktails, mine being a Mitango (£3.25) , a virgin mojito - I never even missed the rum and my friend ordered a cosmopolitan (£6.99).

When it comes for desserts, I am all for chocolate so what better way to get chocolate wasted as I like to affectionately call it and order the impressive Chocolate Toffee Fondue for Two (£9.95). This chocolate delight comes with cinnamon coated banana fritters, warm bread & butter bites, chocolate brownie bites and fresh fruit, served with a warm chocolate toffee sauce for dipping. Well, I was in heaven, my friend and I loved dunking the fruits and brownies into the rich chocolate sauce.

Did I tell you that I was impressed with the decor and the vibe of this restaurant. I loved the bar area and the interior.

Disclaimer: I dined as guests of Bar and Block.

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