Saturday, 31 December 2016

Merry Christmas & Happy 2017!

It's New Year's Eve and I can't believe it is 'that time' of year again!  Honestly, where has it gone??!

Just thinking about the blogging part of my life, I've enjoyed trying out all the new places opening up in and around Birmingham and checking out their vegetarian offerings and there is plenty more to come in 2017!  (Rumours of London's famous The Ivy for one.....)

I was also thrilled this year to be a short listed finalist for the Birmingham Food Drink & Hospitality Awards in the Best Food & Drink Blogger category!  A glorious plaudit - a true highlight of the year!

I hope Christmas has been a joyful and peaceful time for you all, that you've had some quality time with those who are special in your lives, some time to recharge those internal batteries and the opportunity to devour the lovely food that the Christmas season always brings.

As we countdown to the new year, I just want to say a big thank you for your support with Word In Veg Ways - whether that is reading each post or following me on social media or even by voting for me in the BFDH Awards this year, I treasure every single gesture of support - I thank you wholeheartedly!

I hope you enjoy the rest of the Christmas break and I wish you lots of happiness and health  for 2017!

Anna xx

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Rise of Social Enterprises

Having frequently seen Miss Macaroon on the Birmingham food scene over the years, I was really pleased to hear when MD Rosie Ginday announced that she was opening a shop in Birmingham's Great Western Arcade.

The shop focuses on selling macaroons which can be consumed over a glass of Prosecco.

Rosie operates Miss Macaroon as a social enterprise which provides employment and training for unemployed young people.

Social enterprises are on the increase with many businesses wanting to not only have  commercial success but to also 'give back' to the community.

My recently written article for Midlands publication Express & Star, focuses on Miss Macaroon and the popularity of social enterprises and how they benefit the community.

To read the article, click here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Food Roots Interview - Joudie Kalla


After thoroughly enjoying reading and reviewing Joudie Kalla’s cookbook – Palestine On A Plate, I thought it would be interesting to interview Joudie via my Food Roots Interview series to find out about her and her heritage and how it fits in with her personal and professional life.

Joudie Kalla
Photo:  Ria Osbourne

Joudie has been working as a chef in London for 16 years focusing her cooking around Palestinian cuisine, promoting healthy, vibrant, moreish dishes that are packed full of goodness.

She trained at the prestigious Leith’s School of Food and Wine and has worked at restaurants such as Pengelley’s (a Gordon Ramsey restaurant), under Ian Pengelley, Daphne’s and Papillon under head chef David Duverger.   

Her book and her work has been applauded by Ottolenghi chef Sami Tamimi (who has also taken part in my Food Roots interview series).
 
Photo:  Ria Osbourne

Palestine On A Plate makes for a really fascinating read (click here for the review) and the Q&A below will offer insight into the nuances of this branch of Middle Eastern food with an appetite to find out more.

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In the book, you talk a lot about re-connecting with your Palestinian roots in recent years, what do you feel was the catalyst for this and how do you incorporate honouring your roots into your daily life?
Reconnecting with my Palestinian roots came quite suddenly but in two stages. Once where I found myself lost in Beirut and realised I couldn't really communicate with anyone properly to get back to home, and secondly was when I lived in Paris on my own and really felt food sick. I missed the meals we were eating at home and things that were usually on the dinner table and it just sparked something in me to really think about who I am and where I am from. I started to learn how to read and write properly in Arabic and began a year long course at Leiths school of food and wine also. This was combined with my mother teaching me all her recipes. I went to Leiths because I wanted to become a chef and putting all those skills together with what I was learning at home just opened up a whole new world for me.

 

Do you feel the supper clubs that you host have brought you closer to your roots as well as introducing many to Palestinian cuisine?
My supper clubs are the most recent thing. I used to run my own deli serving Palestinian food and catering as well. It brought me closer to my roots and my background, learning all the secrets from my mother. The supper clubs just helped me reach out to more people as they were more public and very specific. So many lovely people attended these events, which continue each month, and it brings me so much pleasure to see them all enjoying the food, meeting new friends and learning about Palestine. I also get to meet them and chat about dishes that they have never heard of or had before. So it’s always a good thing.

 

What kind of dishes would you choose if catering for a vegetarian dinner party?
Well this is an easy subject as we generally eat vegetarian food. You know, we didn't have labels before. It was just food. And when I was writing the book I realised that about 90% of it was vegetarian by default. So I had to change it and add different things to balance it out for every reader. For a dinner party I would probably make a selection of things as this is traditionally how we eat.

I would have a delicious tangy Yalanji, which is a tabbouleh stuffed vine leaf,
Hindbeh salad - which is a dandelion sumac, paprika and caramelized onion dish served with pomegranate seeds, my charred cauliflower and tahini salad.

And to finalise the meal it would add my Burghul (cracked dark wheat) tomato and courgette stew.

 

On special feast days, festivals or holy days, what are the special things that you cook and do they have any symbolism?
Wow, on feast days it can be so many things. But it’s usually a Makloubeh which can easily be turned into a vegetarian dish and something we do often. This is a real showstopper of layered vegetables that have been previously cooked, layered with fragrant rice and then cooked slowly and flipped over in one piece like a cake.

We always have mamas Muttabal on every special occasion as it is so delicious and goes well with everything.
My feta wrapped vine leaves also come out to play as they are so beautiful and take such little effort that it’s always good to have something simple when things can get a bit messy and complicated in the kitchen.

I would also say that we have the feta and spinach pies as they remind me of my aunties as they love pastry making and this is something very reminiscent of them.
I think rather than symbolism, we have an emotional connection to them. The fact that they are traditions and that my grandmothers would make them and serve them is something that is important to us. We like to feel connected to our food not just in taste, but in history. So my mother does it and I do it too. It feels like home and all the family is around is when the food is down, even if it is just a few of us at the table. Every dish reminds us of someone.

 

What are the key items you’d suggest having if wishing to replicate a Palestinian pantry?
Ok so my pantry is INSANE. I learnt from my mother to always buy in bulk as you never know what you want to cook or eat on any given day. I literally have everything and then some.

To replicate a Palestinian Pantry I would suggest the basic ingredients:

Tahini
Palestinian pearl cous cous
Dark Burghul
Vine leaves
Pomegranate molasses
Olive oil
Za’atar
Sumac
Cardamom
Orange blossom
Lots of  tomato passata and tomato puree
Vermicelli
Egyptian rice

The list can go on. But I think this is a great way to start with things that I use all the time to create many dishes and their bases.

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Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla, photography by Ria Osbourne, is published by Jacqui Small (£25).

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Notes & My Thanks

I would like to thank Joudie Kalla for her time in participating in the interview.
 
For my review of Palestine On A Plate:   Click here.
 
Find @Palestinesplate to follow Joudie on Twitter


 

 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Mr Crumb Stuffing


I don’t always make stuffing when putting together a Sunday Roast Lunch, but when I do, it is usually a cheap & cheerful packet mix that I can make up in minutes (sorry to all food purists, it is very uncouth of me I know…..)

I’ve never really thought about ‘luxury’ stuffing until I was alerted to Mr Crumb.  Mr Crumb is an Irish company that state that their methods replicate those from grandma’s kitchen (made in small batches, made by hand).  The onions are sautéed in Irish butter, before being mixed with fresh breadcrumbs from a local bakery, herbs, spices and other ingredients.   (Suitable for vegetarians).

It’s a chilled product, it comes in a tray which can be oven baked or microwaved and the contents of which can be formed into balls if you wish.

Available in two flavours, I had the Apple & Apricot version and I gave my mother the Sage & Onion one to try for herself.
Photo:  c/o Mr Crumb
 
She oven baked hers and said it was extremely tasty, nice, soft and not grainy like standard stuffing and was packed with flavour plus it wasn’t too ‘heavy’.

Photo:  c/o Mr Crumb

I too oven baked my pack, with similar commentary – so much nicer than packet mix stuffing, a much more rustic flavour with good chunky pieces of apple and apricot which makes a difference visually and taste wise.  My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) also remarked this was the best stuffing he has had in a very long time and asked should we have this for Christmas Day?

In answer to MCH’s question, I believe yes.  As Christmas is the Grand Prix of Sunday lunches (I’m paraphrasing DJ Johnny Vaughan there), a little more quality and convenience is much deserved.  I like the idea that I can just pop it into the oven all ready to go as there will be 101 other things to sort out on Christmas morning.

All in all, a jolly nice stuffing for Christmas.  Or any time of year for that matter if you want to spend the extra pennies.

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Notes:  Mr Crumb stuffing range is available in selected ASDA and Sainsbury’s branches in the fresh chiller cabinet section.  The stuffing is available in 225g trays, has an RRP of £1.50 - £2.00.

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Disclosure:  This review was conducted following receipt of a complementary samples from Mr Crumb.  The review was conducted honestly without bias. For further information about reviews, please see the Disclosure tab on this website.