Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Japanese style stir fry for a change.

I have been trying to eat more healthily of late and due to the fact that I have a lot on regarding my writing commissions and creative commitments this month I have been looking for tasty and quick options. In this regard I have made liberal use of my wok and whacked up a few yummy stir fries. A pack of stir fry veg can last two days as can 'straight to the wok' noodles. Boneless chicken pieces appeal not only to me but also the cats next door as they enjoy a titbit from Uncle Phil. Plus I got a bargain from my Local Sainsbury shop in a reduced pack four pork an pepper kebabs for £2.50. I got two good meaty stir fries out of that! Plus an almost out of date pack of mushrooms added bulk and a packet of Tesco's finest Japanese style stir fry sauce ( intensely flavoured Japanese style stir fry sauce combining Japanese 7 spice with zesty orange, sesame seeds and soy sauce.)

It certainly makes short work of the alternatives in preparing an evening meal and gives me some variety.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A beer and taking time out to glance at the flowers.

Midday I sat outside my house with a cool San Miguel  beer from the fridge and watched the energy saving flowers prefer not to sway. My bare feet suffered the heat of the path, lifted up and suffered again. A fervently keen trilogy of bumble bees landed on the lavender and took off again, each seeming to know what the other two proposed to do. The aged rosemary bush practically vibrated in the heat. The washing I had hung out only an hour ago was now bone dry. Soufie the cat lapped eagerly at her bowl of  tepid water. She ignored the small dead fly in the corner.



Lunch at Wagamama in London and time spent with a well known playwright.

Howard Brenton
This time last week I had the privilege of being invited down to London to interview the playwright Howard Brenton for the high quality amateur theatre magazine, Sardines. Time was short and I arrived at St Pancras, fresh from a two hour train journey from Nottingham and took the most direct route possible on the underground to the river Thames. I had never been to The Globe Theatre before but had a rough idea where it lay. The south bound Northern Line took me to the London Bridge station and I exited through a closing market and made my way out on to the Thames embankment via throngs of people and an old ship in dry dock. The area looked very thriving. After a brief call on my mobile I met up with Paul Johnson, Editor in Chief of Sardines magazine. Despite the title the magazine has nothing to do with food but takes its title from a running gag in the comic- play Noises Off. As I suspected from our numerous phone calls he was a very nice, intelligent fella and great fun to be around.

Paul and I had a short meeting to discuss the forthcoming interview. We sat next to the cafĂ© bar at The Globe and then we headed to the box office to announce our presence and shortly afterwards had a very pleasant interview with renowned playwright Howard Brenton. Full interview can be read in the August edition of Sardines.

Pleased with the interview, Paul and I headed off in search of lunch. London was particularly busy due to the Tour de France event that day and even though we were a few miles away from the main action the crowds were evident. After perusing a few places along the riverside we settled on Wagamama's. This was the branch at Clink Street - Bankside. I hadn't eaten at this establishment anywhere in the country before so the menu was new to me and because of our convivial chatter it took me a while to decide on what to eat. To start off we ordered a couple of chilled beers. It was a hot day and a good choice. Neither of us were bothered about starters as such. Nor were we bothered about slurping up steaming bowls of noodles either. Something more, how shall I say - dignified - was preferred at this, our first, casual and relaxed business lunch.

After some deliberation I settled on the chicken raisukaree; an unctous stir fried chicken and vegetables in a coconut and lime curry sauce, augmented with mange tout, peppers, red and spring onions served on sticky white rice and garnished with red chillies, coriander and lime. Paul went for the chicken katsu curry - a bread crumbed chicken breast deep fried in panko breadcrumbs and served with sticky fried rice, garnished and dressed with mixed leaves and red pickles.

chicken raisukaree
Due to the ginger and chilli in my meal (exacerbated by the fact I had the remnants of a head cold)  I developed an irritating cough that was only halted by a very enjoyable dessert of coconut reika ice cream; three scoops of dairy coconut ice cream topped with a fresh, tangy mango sauce and very edible and crunchy toasted coconut flakes. I discovered that, as well as being a popular Wagamama  dessert, reika is a Japanese word used for chilled sweets or ice cream. The tangy mango sauce was so rich and tasty it remained on the palpate long after the ice cream had dissipated.

During lunch I showed Paul an image, on my tablet, that I had taken of a dish I had made recently of fresh rope grown mussels cooked in a Mediterranean style with lots of garlic, onions and tomatoes in a white wine sauce and fresh coriander. He seemed impressed and I was forthcoming about this blog and its contents and origins. Over lunch was a good time to chat and get to know each other better.

Sardines kindly paid for the meal and Paul and I took a stroll towards the London Eye and Paul headed home via Waterloo as it began to rain. I headed off to familiar haunts around Covent Garden and Piccadilly and took a few photos before returning to St Pancras and the train home.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Delicious fruit and veg box from Woodlands Farm

I've never ordered a vegetable box before mainly because of the very close proximity of a fine fruit and vegetable shop in the village but during my visits to food fairs across the East Midlands I have often spoken to the providers of such services. Such is the case last year when I chatted to the guys from Woodands Organic Farm, Kirton in Lincolnshire. I took one of their brochures as I often do for information and was delighted when, very recently, they asked me, as a food writer, to review one of their vegetable boxes. I was so pleased that I said 'yes'.

I rang and spoke to a very friendly lady called Rachel and arranged a delivery date. It turned out that they chose to send me a whopping great Large Veg box that would be worth £17 with no delivery charge. The box was very lovingly packed and it was a pleasure taking everything out and enjoying the fact that this was all organic. It was like a veggy box Christmas! And like the Christmas stockings of my childhood it had some oranges in too. And blueberries - one of my favourites!

Looking at all the contents I would say that it was great value for money, very fresh and some of the items gave me 'food for thought' as I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. The artichokes I recognised from various food programmes but the purple roots foxed me for a while until I discovered they were Kohl Rabi, (German name meaning cabbage-turnip) and very popular  across Europe as a flexible root and with the Chinese as it can be used peeled and thinly sliced in stir fries. When eaten raw the taste if peppery with a hint of radish.

So far I have created a meal of new potatoes, carrots, broad beans and chard with a small beef steak. There was something very satisfying about preparing all the veg - popping the broad beans, washing the soil from the potatoes, snipping the greenery from the carrots and even washing the fine soil from my kitchen side. The chard and broad beans were steamed over the carrots (kept whole) and new potatoes and I decided to cut the steamed chard up very small and added a little parmesan at the last minute.

It was one of the most satisfying meals I have cooked in a while and although quite simple and very tasty it was because of the love that had gone into the products that Woodlands Organic Farm had put into their products. Highly recommended and do check out their prices in the  picture below. I think they offer very good value for money.

The box contents would be different each week because of the changing seasons and you can tailor your box so that you can be assured of no waste. Well I can assure you that this delicious fare won't be wasted and thank you Woodlands for this opportunity to enjoy a fab fruit and veg box.

Tel: 01205 724778

email for info at

Friday, 6 June 2014

News of a new Rachel Khoo TV show airing very soon!

This is a copy and paste blog from an email I received today from Rachel Khoo about her new TV show. If you are as excited to hear about this as I was read on!

'For me, travel and food go hand-in-hand. I love nothing more than creating a recipe inspired by a recent adventure. My kitchen is sprinkled with bits and bobs that I’ve picked up on my travels, from enamelware unearthed at a French flea market, to handmade crockery from Sweden. Whilst filming my latest television show, I was lucky enough to be able to combine my love of food, with a touch of wanderlust.

I’m so excited to announce that my show (divided into two seasons) is airing in the UK next week! It has been lovely to receive feedback from my viewers in other parts of the world (ranging from Poland to South Africa!), but I’m really thrilled that the show will now be airing here in my own stomping ground.

Things kick off this Monday June 9 on the Good Food Channel (Sky 247 or Virgin 260), with back-to-back episodes from the new series. First up, I explore how fashion influences food in the first episode of Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London.

The fun continues at 9:30pm with Episode 1 of Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cook (my second series), when we discover the culinary delights of bustling Istanbul. Click here to try some of the mouth watering recipes featured in my new show, all inspired by my adventures in London and beyond.

Did you spot my Instagram snapshots from my recent press trip to South Africa? It was great to meet some of you at the BBC Worldwide press events, and thanks for coming along to the Delicious Festival in Johannesburg.' Rachel.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The joys of being skint for two weeks. How I survived.

It's strange how adversity can make you more resourceful. On Thursday 12th May I discovered that I would be two weeks without any money at all and was overdrawn on my overdraft. This meant that I had two weeks to go without any money until I get paid this coming Friday. It was a shock. But from this have come some lessons and some positives.

The positives.

  • A few people have been kind enough to lend me a some money totalling £55 and of course I have to pay that back. But a big thank you to those who did so.

  • I have realised how flexible pasta can be as I was fortunate to have a fair amount in my store cupboard and have eaten rather a lot of the stuff.

  • Tinned chopped tomatoes are now my best friend. A sauce originally made for a liver and tomato stew can be added to for a sausage casserole and added to for a chilli. All the meaty ingredients dug out from the freezer rather than shopping for more.


  • Having no beers to drink of an evening has been a godsend as I am not constantly nipping upstairs to the loo and Harris the cat has been very happy to sit on my lap undisturbed due to this. Going to the shops and seeing the price of said beers (without the cash card as a way of paying) has made me rethink what amount I do spend on the bottles of beer and my intention when I am back in the world of money in the bank is too cut back drastically.

  • Having to be frugal has made me more inventive in what I can afford to eat although I draw the line at more pasta for breakfast!

  • A £4 Tesco voucher gained from my points allowed me to carry home ten tins of rice pudding at 15p each (makes a nice breakfast) plus four tins of tomatoes and a pack of mushrooms.

  • I used up four eggs by making a very nice omelette and the remaining two today in an egg sandwich with fried mushrooms and slices of tomato purchased a lot cheaper than supermarket prices from the local veg shop.

  • Again, using up what I have in the house I enjoyed a simple bowl of noodles flavoured with a light soy sauce the other evening.

  • I have discovered treasures in the freezer that I can use up over the next couple of days namely, some sardines, a trout, two mackerel, a breast of chicken, some cooked chicken, plenty of peas and sweet corn, a Moroccan lamb dish, and something that looks like meatballs in a bag except they are white (?). Plus the inside of the freezer part of my fridge is very frosted up so once all the 'treasures' are gone I can defrost the compartment.

  • My cupboard has some rice, plenty of lentils, un-opened jam and marmalade, un-opened peanut butter, two packets of (God knows what possessed me to buy) glass noodles, a jar of korma curry sauce, various small cans of tinned fish, an out of date (June 2013) opened jar of pickled cabbage and some old flour.

  • A 'reduced' 43p pack of asparagus tastes fine and you can rest assured that your wee will still smell funny afterwards too. Double bonus.

  • I have tea and milk so I have an essential drink to start the day. Without that I may well crumble!

  • On my visits to supermarkets (Sainsbury's, Tesco and The Co-Op) I have started to realise just how expensive things are and my previous thinking of 'oh it's only a couple of quid' are rapidly beginning to be revised and I may well find myself shopping more locally at independents. My greengrocer in the village is very good value for fresh fruit and veg.

  • I am discovering that the cheaper foods, liver, sausages, sardines, vegetables, rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes and rice pudding are really quite tasty. Inner and outer frugality may well be my watch words in the future.

  • Sometimes small amounts of help can come from surprising sources and bring a smile to my soul. For this I am tremendously grateful.

  • Today I made an apple and blackberry crumble for 49p. The blackberries were in the freezer from picking them locally last year and the apples were free to staff at Tesco yesterday because they had a short date. The crumble mix cost 49p. There will be three or four portions to enjoy.

  • The cooked chicken and Korma curry mix will make two days worth of evening meals.

  • I bought a bag of Tesco's own brand of cooking rice for 40p from Tesco the other day as I had run out of rice. It will be interesting to find out what it is like.


  • I like to have a cup of tea at CaffĂ© Nero sometimes and I have missed this as the staff are very nice too. Not that big a luxury but all the same. Plus I had to do without my cheap cup of filter coffee at Broadway cinema on Friday morning before I go off to do my late shift and I missed the habit.

  • I have discovered that a few people simply don't care or don't want to understand the predicament a person like myself on a low to average wage might find themselves in from time to time. I try not to dwell on them and hope they never find themselves thus so.

  • Round flat tins of Fray Bentos pies, tasty and cheap though they are, are an absolute bastard to open especially when you get home tired after a long day at work and a ludicrously long two bus journey home. I just wanted to have something easy for tea without waiting hours or slaving over a stove. At one point I thought that I had broken the can opener. I got quite bad tempered and it almost became a Fray Frisbee!

Overall this has been a bit of a wake up call and there have been other good things in terms of keeping myself positive and those have been opportunities to continue to review plays and performances gratis. Whilst I may not be able to afford a drink before or at the interval I have been given chances to write and say lots of positive things about the various shows I have been given to review.

The lavender in my garden is starting to grow flowers and a hollyhock is standing proud in the front garden. I shall follow their example and blossom regardless. Here I am  (third picture down) waving and blossoming even though my belt is literally and proverbially tighter.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The miracle of out of date scones

I purchased a pack of four of Tesco's Finest scones a short while ago and the scoff by date on the packaging was 15th May. I kept meaning to eat them before the date and I've been extra-ordinarily busy of late reviewing plays, doing interviews with theatre producers and actors alike for my other blog as well as reading allsorts about WW1 for a theatre project I'm writing and taking to Germany in December this year. Plus I've been reading plays and watching DVDs on the same subject for an article that Sardines magazine have commissioned me to do. Oh yeah and I've been working full time as well. So all in all said scones sat on the kitchen side neglected and forlorn. I'm sure I heard them softly weeping in a Cornish accent during the early hours. I could be wrong.

Today, 27th May I chanced to examine the un-opened pack and assumed that therein would lie many a blue blob and I'm not talking blueberries. How delighted was I to discover - twelve days after the scoff by date - that they were all perfectly edible. They went down very well with a pot of tea and some old blackberry jam from the back of the fridge. Result!

For anyone inspired to make their own scones here are some good recipes.