Monday, 28 July 2014

Halloumi & Strawberry Salad

Salad can get quite samey this time of year so it is nice to have an incentive to jazz things up.  I was invited by Florette to create a salad from their product range with my own spin.

I perused through a lovely recipe book called ‘A Salad for All Seasons’ by Harry  Eastwood (from Channel 4’s ‘Cook Yourself Thin’ series).  There are so many salad variations in there, beautiful photography to help depict each recipe complete with specific notes for vegetarians and which have a focus on different ingredients thus steering away from predictable salad bar options - great inspiration.  In addition, I was inspired by a salad I had seen on the menu at The Jockey Club restaurant in Ibiza earlier this summer - for Goat’s Cheese & Strawberry Salad and had made a note to try that some time.  But twisting that idea again, I ended up making Halloumi & Strawberry Salad.
I decided to make it pretty rather than just functional, (for speed, functional is how I make salads to have with my evening meal).  The salad was to accompany my mini barbeque for my husband and I  it was nice to have some salad greenery to balance out the other goodies from the grill.
I grilled my pieces of halloumi on the barbeque, although you can of course cook them on a griddle pan.  Then placing them on a bed of mixed soft/crispy leaves (I used the Florette Classic Crispy leaves), I added sliced beef tomatoes and wafer thin sliced cucumber.  The saltiness from the cheese with the sweetness of the strawberry contrasted well, combined with a balsamic glaze (that is renown to work with both elements), it provided the tastebuds with a medley of flavours and textures.
Certain fruits work well with salad and this is definitely the case with strawberries. 
Taking the salad to a further glamourous level, I added some edible flowers, which in this case were multi-coloured violas purchased from Waitrose.  Away from my barbeque dinner, this would make for a nice dinner party salad or a pretty side dish for a girly lunch.
Florette do have a nice range of salad bags that contain varying leaves according to preference – traditional leaf mixtures through to more unusual leaves (such as lollo rosso) and for those that like a fiery salad, there are peppered versions too.
Currently, Florette are running different salad recipes to give consumers ideas of how to vary salad intake – which is great either for your lunchbox, barbeque (as I did) or to give the wow factor at dinner parties.  Just take a look at the website:
In the meantime, here is my Florette salad recipe which I hope you will enjoy too!

Halloumi & Strawberry Salad
Halloumi Cheese & Strawberry Salad
Serves 2
100g Halloumi Cheese (cut into strips)4  Strawberries (thinly sliced)100g of Florette Classic Crispy Salad
Drizzle of Balsamic GlazeDrizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oilGrinding of Pink Himalayan salt¼ of a Cucumber (thinly sliced)½ Beef Tomato (cut into cubes)
Scattering of Edible Flowers
*  Barbeque or fry the halloumi strips in a griddle pan until golden brown.  Set aside.
Place the Florette leaves into a bowl.
Add the tomato, cucumber and strawberries.
Season with pink Himalayan salt.
Place the halloumi strips on top.
Drizzle the whole salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Scatter the edible flowers over the top.
Salad is ready to serve.
Sponsored Post:  I was re-imbursed by Florette to cover my expenses for the Florette salad and was sent a complimentary copy of  'A Salad for all Seasons' book.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the product purchased.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nuances of Bengali Food (Warwickshire Life Magazine)

Food Demo at Stratford Food Festival - Moushumi Moran from The Cardamom Pod
Recently meeting local Bengali cook and tutor Moushumi Moran from 
The Cardamom Pod, led me to finding out about the specifics of Bengali cooking as a standalone cuisine rather than it hiding under the general banner of Indo-Asian food.

I took the time to find out a little more about the cultural/social side of eating Bengali style and had the myth dispelled that not everything is covered in spices as is naturally assumed!
This made for an informative article for  Warwickshire Life magazine.
To read the article and find out more, please click onto the link here:  
Warwickshire Life Article – Bengali Food.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is a romantic sounding dish, but yet when translated from Italian into English it means - harlot's pasta - perhaps compromising its enchanting image but certainly not compromising on taste.

Invented by an Italian restaurant owner in the mid-20th century,  he created a dish for a group of late night diners using only the few ingredients he had left in his kitchen.  Its popularity led to it becoming a regular feature on his menu and he called it Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.  Named as such, making reference to the inadequate ingredients he'd used for the dish (in his eyes), twisting the words puttanta the Italian noun for 'worthless' and puttana  meaning 'harlot' - the dish was a favourite amongst the restaurant's patrons and was soon glorified en masse.

Beyond Italy, its popularity has spread worldwide and has been featured by many celebrity chefs in cookbooks and TV shows alike.  It's a dish that is easy to make and yet provides a variation to good old pasta with a basic tomato sauce.

Bearing this in mind, when I was approached by Central England Co-operative to contribute to their 'Easy Eating' campaign, this dish instantly sprang to mind.  The 'Easy Eating' campaign promotes non-complicated meals and recipes using ingredients from  Co-operative stores that are easy to make whether you are looking for a post-work supper or a weekend lunch.

My version omits anchovies (used in many versions) thus making it vegetarian and is a nod to many of the Neapolitan forms in existence.  The saltiness synonymous with the recipe is retained by the use of additional olives.  Its format as a pasta bake makes it easier to serve as a table dish in its baking tray - ideal for families or for an informal lunch with friends.  Equally, by making extra portions (multiplying the ingredient quantities as appropriate), it is great to heat up the next day for a quick lunch or to have as an instant meal after work when the last thing you want to do is cook from scratch after a long day!

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients purchased from The Co-operative

250g Penne Pasta
400g Tin of The Co-operative Chopped Tomatoes with Garlic & Oregano in Tomato Sauce
330g Jar of The Co-operative Green Olives Stuffed with Sun Dried Tomatoes (Truly Irresistible range)
275g The Co-operative Closed Cup Mushrooms (Button mushroom size if possible)
50g Peppadrew Piquante Peppers (from a jar)
2 Cloves of Garlic (chopped/sliced)
200g The Co-operative Mild Cheddar Grated Cheese
Chilli Flakes (Optional)
Oil for frying
Serve with:  Fresh Parsley and a The Co-operative Garlic Bread baguette


*  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (or equivalent).
*  Cook pasta as per packet instructions in salted water.
*  Place the olives (without the oil from the jar) into a food processor and blitz until you have a paste.  Set aside.
*  In a saucepan, fry the garlic and mushrooms in oil (keep them whole if possible, but slice if too big).
*  Add the chilli flakes if using.
*  Add the olive paste, Piquante Peppers and the chopped tomatoes.  Mix well and heat gently.

Tomato/Olive Sauce Cooking Through

*  When ready, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/olive/pepper sauce and mix well.
*  Transfer to an ovenproof dish and cover with grated cheese.

Pasta  Bake Alla Puttanesca - From the Oven

*  If serving with garlic bread, place the baguette in the oven as per packet instructions.
*  Place the pasta bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted.
*  Serve the pasta bake alla puttanesca with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca served with Garlic Bread

Sponsored Post:  I was re-imbursed by Central England Co-operative to cover my expenses to create the meal.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the products purchased.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 


Monday, 14 July 2014

Birmingham Independent Food Fair - 13 September 2014


For those that enjoyed last summer's #FutureFoodies event in the city, then here's something for your diaries in September - Birmingham Independent Food Fair. 

Birmingham’s vibrant independent food and drink sector is set to shine, at a new event showcasing over forty different producers, restaurants, drinks merchants and street food traders.
Organised by local food guide, Dine Birmingham, and supported by Visit Birmingham, the food fair will take place at Millennium Point on  Saturday 13 September 2014. Early Bird tickets have just been released.

Venue - Millennium Point and Eastside Park

The city’s rich and varied culinary range will be well represented, after the organisers received a flood of applications from the local food and drink industry.

Popular venues such as Thai Edge, Le Truc Cafe, Min Min Noodle Bar and Epi Restaurant will be serving up samples of cuisine to try and buy. Meanwhile, a pop-up will be operated by sponsor Don Diego Bar de Tapas, using specially-sourced ingredients to create authentic Spanish paella, tapas and churros.

Popular independent coffee shop Six Eight Kafe will be at the fair

Other food on offer will range from Greek deli food and artisan chilli sauces, to handmade chocolate and gluten-free confectionery. Outdoors, street food traders will serve up Polish cuisine, Indonesian curries and wood-fired pizza.

The fair will feature a Spirits & Wine section, sponsored by Langley’s Gin. Here visitors will be able to taste the Birmingham-distilled premium spirit, and also explore tipples from other local vendors including Cellar Door Drinks, and Soul Tree Indian Wines.

 Martini made with locally distilled Langley's Gin

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, the independent company behind Island Bar and Bodega, will be offering special cocktails at their stand. A craft beer bar will cater to the well-established taste for locally-sourced, high-quality brews.

Sally Bowen, Director at Midlands gourmet dining club The Gastro Card, said:

“The volume and breadth of businesses taking part in this event is a real credit to Birmingham’s thriving food and drink scene. With everything from chef-prepared dining to beer and deli foods on offer, there will be something for everyone at Birmingham Independent Food Fair.”

Discounted Early Bird tickets have now been released for the food fair. These can be found, along with further information, on the official website. 

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Jockey Club - Salinas - Ibiza

“You have to go there!”  “Honestly, it is a must, make sure you go!”  These were the verbal reviews I had of The Jockey Club before I headed off to Ibiza recently.  So armed with these plaudits, I felt I had to find out for myself if it lived up to its reputation once I landed on the ‘white isle’.

Set in the resort of Ses Salinas near to Ibiza airport (renown for the island’s salt production), The Jockey Club is a beach bar/restaurant which plays host and offers respite for the ‘beautiful people’ and the celebrities that adorn its beach area and who come and enjoy the chilled out ambience that The Jockey Club provides through its cocktail list, restaurant menu and DJ music.
Arriving in early June as I did, I was fortunate not to have to book a table but my understanding was that in the height of season (July/August), booking would be mandatory.  Getting a table for lunch we were shown to a large wooden bench table which we had to ourselves (these are shared in full season so I believe, in order to accommodate everyone).  The prices are not cheap, so take my advice of familiarising yourself with the menu ahead of going so that you are au fait with what to expect.
Appetisers at The Jockey Club
I was pleased to see that there were a few vegetarian choices on the menu which doesn’t always happen in Spanish restaurants as I’ve found over the years.   I chose the Stuffed Calzone Vegetal which was packed with aubergine, pumpkin, peppers, onion, carrot and cheese served with a side salad costing €19Euros.  The portion was massive!!  A rare situation occurred whereby I gave some to my husband to sample and share, and he agreed, it was delicious.  I was also tempted by the Goat’s Cheese & Strawberry Salad but in the end, I chose the Calzone, feeling that it would be more hearty.  My husband opted for one of the specials of the day which was Beef with Beetroot and Wild Berries – he enjoyed it tremendously (alongside a section of my calzone)!
Calzone Vegetal
Beef with Beetroot & Wild Berries
Of course, seduced by holiday fever and the mellow atmosphere, my scrumptious calzone was washed down with one of The Jockey Club’s Caipiroska Tropical cocktails which was a welcomed refreshment as the temperature was soaring towards 30 degrees.
Jockey Club Cocktail
Outside The Jockey Club, you can hire their sun loungers and enjoy the waiter-cocktail service all day as the DJ plays the beats and again, my understanding is that come July, getting a spot either inside or outside of The Jockey Club will be tricky due to its popularity.
The Jockey Club lends itself well for all ages with older people present down to small children and provides something for everyone.  I cannot praise it enough and as per what my friends were telling me, I’m saying to you all – “You have to go there!”   

Inside The Jockey Club

We had a truly wonderful, relaxing time there rounded off by some sunbathing on Salinas’ golden beach with echoes of the DJ in the background.

Monday, 23 June 2014

On the Go - Lizi's Granola Pouches

Lizi's Granola - On the Go Pouches

I am rather partial to granola and a while ago, I reviewed Lizi’s Granola brand which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The team at Lizi’s have identified that preparing a granola based breakfast isn’t always practical with the hustle & bustle of daily life.  So they have come up with little pouches called ‘On the Go’ which make the ritual of cereal eating a little more convenient.  So I was interested to see how it would work when I was offered the chance to sample a pouch or two which included Original and Treacle & Pecan flavours.
Each pouch contains a standard ‘one person’ portion size of granola which is dusted with lactose-free dried milk, a ready to make cereal that comes with a folded plastic spoon to eat it with.  All that you need to do is add cold water, mix and it is ready to eat.
As you may have read in my other posts, I’m not a milk fan so making up a cereal which will turn into a milky mixture isn’t to my preference.  So I decided to eat mine dry (without the added water element) and I offered my family and friends the opportunity to try the pouches with added water.
The consensus was that although it took a second to work out how to open the packet, adding the required amount of water was easy to do.  As with the main Lizi’s Granola bags, the pouches possessed a good mix of seeds and a nice level of sweetness with ingredients such as coconut enhancing the flavour but not overpowering it.
I tested mine at the weekend as I need to take some breakfast with me whilst attending the Summer Solstice event at Stonehenge.  And although I didn’t add water to it, I just ate it dry, it was a great concept, handy and a  quick way to have breakfast and easy to dispose of afterwards – really good.
All in all, a convenient way to enjoy granola on the move (whether that be with hydrated milk or just dry) and with the summer season in full swing, it makes an ideal solution for car journeys, camping, festivals or even to have at work if you’ve not had the chance to eat at home.
Sponsored Post:  This post was written following kind receipt of Lizi's Granola On the Go pouches samples. This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Provamel - Alternative Milk Drinks

I’m not a ‘milky’ person really  - might have mentioned that before.  Other than in tea and the odd cappuccino, I don’t really drink it.  Just a personal taste thing rather than for any other reason.  So, I always look for ways or products that will help me to embrace all things milk.

The team at Provamel might just have found a fair compromise for me.  Although an established brand already within the plant-based foods sector, they have recently adopted a new look with additions to their product range.

So why use Provamel over conventional cow's milk?  The products are dairy-free so it makes a perfect option for those that may be vegan or lactose intolerant as it promotes itself as a healthy alternative as it is a 100% organic and contains plant-based ingredients.

I was sent two carton samples to try - Oat Milk and Rice Almond.  As mentioned above, not being of the milk persuasion, I asked my family to be part of my testing panel.  So we started with the Oat flavour, which now contains more oats and fibre than previously.  All came back saying that it was delicious, certainly a noticeable difference to cow's milk, but in a good way.  Even trying it myself, I have to say I enjoyed it far more than cow's milk, although I could only sample a small glass due to my preference levels.

The Rice Almond milk, made with organic Italian rice, almonds and blended with spring water and a splash of agave syrup, when tested was a lot sweeter than the Oat Milk with a slight hint of nut (from the almond), although others enjoyed drinking it cold,  I found it was a little too sweet when used with tea or coffee. 

Smoothie drinks I do enjoy.  The combination of fruit with milk makes it far more palatable for me.  So, I made a batch of banana smoothies with both sets of milk.  Enjoying a good few glasses myself, I also made samples using both milk flavours for my work colleagues which in turn went down very well and they all couldn't believe it wasn't cow's milk and were all keen to know more about the brand.

Banana Smoothie

Available in health food stores (including Holland & Barrett), Provamel has a range of products, not just milk but also yoghurts, desserts and custards.  For more details on the range and for recipes, visit  I for one, will definitely be making more smoothies going forward, but I will keep them to myself - I won't be as keen to share this time!


Sponsored PostThis post was written following kind receipt of Provamel products.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.