In The Pink With Pinkster Gin

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As readers of this blog will know, on Saturday 29th August 2015 I attended the first day of The BBC Good Food Festival at Hampton Court. I promised I’d write in a little more detail about some of the goodies I saw and thought I’d start with Pinkster Gin. Because it’s PINK! And also because it tasted rather good so deserves a special mention in a post of its own. I should add that I bought a bottle of the pink stuff with my very own credit card and Pinkster did not ask me or pay me to write a review.

I’m not a big drinker at all and so on the rare occasions I do imbibe, the product needs to really hit the spot and satisfy my not very complicated and usually alcohol free taste buds. I was very interested to see how the steeping of raspberries in gin would affect the flavour. It gives the gin a delicate pink tinge which is visually very appealing but how would it taste?

At the BBC Good Food Festival, there were two charming young chaps at the Pinkster stand and they were offering small tasters. They did ask if I’d like to try a sample ‘neat’ so I did! I only took a small sip but it packed a lot of flavour and wasn’t bitter. Here are the two chaps in question. They did look awfully fetching in their pink shirts and stylish black aprons.

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As I’m not a regular drinker I can’t comment too much on the ‘bouquet’ or any other such stuff so my review is comparatively simple. What I found was that although I didn’t pick up a strong raspberry flavour – rather a subliminal hint – there was no bitter aftertaste that I’ve noticed previously with other gins, (bitterness is apparently down to the juniper). I then tried Pinkster with some Fever Tree Indian tonic water and I have to say I thought it was delightful: refreshing, smooth and not heavy. I could see Pinkster making an excellent base for cocktails although as I’m no mixologist, I’ll leave that to the more creative individuals. Actually, there are cocktail recipes on the Pinkster’s website so that’s a good place to start!

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According to Pinkster’s website, they make small batches and hand-steep fresh British raspberries in the spirit at their headquarters in Cambridge. Pinkster’s is “a premium gin made up of five botanicals” and it launched in 2013. All I’d add to that is: it tastes awfully good. As the Colonel would say – pip pip!

http://www.pinkstergin.com

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A Grand Day Out at the BBC Good Food Show

I was kindly allocated a press pass (as a person with a food blog) to attend the BBC Good Food Show at Hampton Court which is running for 3 days from Saturday 29th to Monday 31st August 2015. I appreciated the opportunity to see what BBC Good Food would do with an all round Food Festival as most of the shows I’ve been to over the last couple of years have had a cake and baking theme.

Hampton Court is a fantastic venue for an event like a food festival. The extensive grounds mean that the stands aren’t squashed together in tight rows and you can walk around feeling you’re stepping on anyone else’s toes. When I arrived in the early afternoon, the sun was shining, there was live music playing in a pretty bandstand and there was a very lively atmosphere. The rain did sadly make an appearance later on in the day but at least I’d packed a small but efficient umbrella just in case.

I decided that as there were almost 100 foodie related stands to see, it was easiest to have an initial browse to see what was there and then to revisit stands with the goodies that tempted me the most. What I really like about food festivals like this is the variety. Some companies that exhibited this time were already well known such as ‘Bonne Maman’, ‘Montezuma’s Chocolates’, ‘The Garlic Farm’ and ‘Vitamix’ but then you see the sometimes relatively new producers that wow you with their offerings. I saw lots of things I liked and I could have spent a fortune but as I had used public transport to get to the event, I had to be realistic about what I could reasonably carry back with me.

Much as I loved many of the items on display, I couldn’t buy from everyone. I’d like to give a special mention to ‘The Tipsy Tart’ (www.thetipsytart.co.uk) having sampled their caramel infused vodka; ‘Pukara Estate’  (ww.pukara-estate.co.uk) who produce flavoured oils and vinegars with real depth, and ‘Oppo’ (www.oppoicecream.co.uk) who make luxury, healthy ice cream using virgin coconut oil, stevia leaf, fresh milk and superfoods. I tried the salted caramel and lucuma ice cream and it was excellent but alas, I couldn’t take home a pot as it would have melted after a lengthy journey home on public transport.

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If you ever get he chance to try the Pukara Estate products, I recommend the lime infused olive oil mixed with some of their caramelised balsamic vinegar as it combines well to make a flavourful dip for crusty bread.

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I also spent half an hour in the company of John Whaite, who in 2012 won the Great British Bake Off. Well, actually I watched him do a live cookery demonstration in the Summer Kitchen Theatre. I was somewhat taken aback – although really chuffed – when he said hello to me. He must have remembered me from the recent Foodies Festival on Clapham Common when I walked with him from the tube station to the event and we had a god chat. I hope he doesn’t have me pegged as a stalker when I’m simply a bit of a food enthusiast. John’s recipe for Korean fried chicken smelled so good but sadly it was whipped away after the demo for the crew to eat. Pfffft. What was that about? John did say he would put the recipe on Twitter so do look out for it.

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I was lucky to be in the front row, hence the close up picture. If ever you get the opportunity to watch John doing a demonstration, I’m sure you’ll be charmed by his sense of humour.

I didn’t get the chance to see any of the interviews that took place on the Interview Stage and so also missed out on the possibility of winning a Lakeland voucher. Never mind…… Next time……

I’m going to write separate posts about some of the producers I saw, namely ‘Pinkster Gin’, ‘Coole Swan Irish Cream’ and ‘The Flavoured Shortbread Bakery’ as I think they deserve a few column inches in their own right.

I left the BBC Good Food Festival having enjoyed a really good experience. Due to time constraints, I didn’t get the chance to eat and I was disappointed not to have squeezed in a light meal at ‘The Bingham Pop Up Restaurant’. There are other BBC Good Food Shows coming up later in the year so next time I won’t miss out.

Finally, I’d like to say what a pleasure it was to meet up with my friend Kevin who writes a food and craft blog called ‘The Crafty Larder’. He’d travelled down from Norwich for the event at Hampton Court which just goes to show that you can never keep a chap away from good food. Here we are in the front row at John White’s demo.

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Fabulous Flat Bread

My Twitter based Sunday Baking Club set a #GetBready theme last weekend which tied in nicely with the previous episode of The Great British Bake Off. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make an amazing 3D showstopper out of different types of dough but I still wanted to take part. I make bread 2 or 3 times a week for my husband so I felt I should be a little more adventurous for SBC.

What I came up with exceeded my expectations. I thought a flat bread would be a good idea: fairly quick and not complicated. Plus I’d get to use the griddle / hotplate accessory which came with my RangeMaster cooker 3 years ago. Ahem. Yes, well, I’d put it in a safe place and forgot it was there……

I rummaged in my cupboards to see what I could use to fill the flat breads, as I thought keeping them plain was a little unadventurous. I found: unsweetened desiccated coconut, some ‘mild’ red jalapeño flakes and some kaffir lime leaves. I thought they’d go well together and with a little heat from the chilli flakes, they would have a bit of a flavour kick.

Anyway, I toddled off to my little pink kitchen (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) and a little over an hour later I had my extremely tasty flat breads, ready to eat. They are simple to make and for that reason, I’ve decided to share my recipe with you. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Flatbread

 

Coconut, chilli & kaffir lime leaf flat breads

A really good flavour combination which results in a soft flat bread that’s ideal for soaking up curry sauce or as an accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup. They are also good as a light lunch with some dips.

Makes 4 good sized flatbreads

For the dough

200g strong white flour

4g of instant yeast (packets are usually 7g)

½ tablespoon caster sugar

½ teaspoon of salt (I like pink Himalayan salt)

1 tablespoon of light vegetable oil

For the filling

½ tablespoon light vegetable oil flavoured oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

½ – 1 teaspoon red jalapeno flakes depending how much heat you like (I used Bart spices)

50g desiccated, unsweetened coconut

5 good sized dried kaffir lime leaves, crushed into small pieces

1 Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl, then stir to combine. Add the oil, then add 125 – 150 mls of tepid water. Bring together to form a soft dough. Place onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and stretchy. Or you can let a stand mixer and a dough hook do the work for you – also knead for 10 minutes.

2 Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has roughly doubled in size.

3 Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until golden and softened. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and the crushed kaffir lime leaves then continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut and stir to coat in the onion and chilli. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

4 Once the dough has risen, knock it back to remove any air, then divide it into 4 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece into a circle. Place one quarter of the filling in the centre of each circle, gather up the sides and squish the edges together to seal the filling in. Flip them over so the squished edge is underneath. Re-roll the dough until each piece is about 15cm in diameter or you can make oval shaped flat breads if you like. They need to be as flat as possible as they will uff a little when they are cooked. Set aside.

5 Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, add a small drop of vegetable oil or coconut oil. Swirl the oil around the hot pan and tip out any excess. Fry the flatbreads for 2-3 minutes on each side, until large air bubbles appear, and the bread is a little charred in places and cooked through. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

 

EAT AND ENJOY!

My thoughts on the ‘Blogger Blackmail’ story

I set up my food related blog comparatively recently and I do it as a hobby. I’ve written articles in the past for local newspapers and other publications – sometimes for a nominal fee but mostly for free – because I enjoy writing and I get a little thrill when I see something I’ve worked on in print. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some suppliers of foodie items / ingredients and written about their products, which they have kindly sent me to test or I’ve created a recipe for them. No money has changed hands and I have written honest reviews on the goods I’ve received. Yes, they were positive reviews because I liked the products. If I hadn’t liked them, I would have contacted the suppliers and told them that I had reservations and why. I would not have printed a negative review without speaking to the supplier and to be honest, I believe that giving them feedback directly would be more useful than writing a scathing article advising people to steer clear of XX product.

Likewise I’ve written honest reviews of restaurants, tea shops and cafes that I’ve visited in different towns. I’ve always paid for my food and drinks and the venues have not known that I was going to review them. It shouldn’t make a difference anyway because good food and service should be provided at all times and not just when you are aware a review may be carried out.

There are many excellent food and lifestyle bloggers who are fortunate enough to make a living from their blogs and associated activities and that’s great. What isn’t so great is when you hear of people trying to use their ‘food blogger status’ to obtain free stuff from a supplier and when they don’t get it, writing a damning post or article about the company in question. I heard about something like this last week (you couldn’t avoid it really as it was all over social media) and was quite shocked how so much ‘dirty laundry’ was aired.

It seems a food blogger contacted a bakery to ask if she could try their goods and write about them on her blog. The bakery agreed but when the blogger turned up, she was unhappy with the small selection of macarons and sweet treats she was offered and apparently asked for several boxes of goodies which would have cost about £100. The bakery declined and then the blogger wrote a negative piece about her experience after having purchased two (namely ONE macaron and ONE marshmallow) items herself.

The bakery then retaliated in print and it all got quite difficult. You can find out the ins and outs of this particular case on Twitter or Google by typing in the phrase ‘blogger blackmail’. I appreciate that there are two sides to every story and the whole incident probably came down to poor communication by both parties but the ensuing fall-out resulted in negative publicity for both the blogger and the bakery.

I am one of hundreds (probably thousands really) of people who write a blog and I would be mortified if anyone thought my intentions were not honourable. While I write for pleasure and in my free time, if I can build relationships with people who produce goods and occasionally test out things for them, I’m happy to do that. I have approached one or two suppliers of things I’d wanted to try and when they have sent me some items, I’ve written about them and commented about them on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also recommended certain ingredients that I really like whether they were free samples or paid for.

What struck me about the blogger in question is her assertion that it took her 8 hours to work on a blog post including her research time, taking good photographs, making notes, typing up, etc. This vast effort – in her opinion – fully justified her request to the small bakery of £100 worth of goods. I seem to recall supermodels saying in the past they didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000. Is £100 of cakes and biscuits the blogging equivalent of this?

The blogger also remarked that ‘writing doesn’t pay well’ and she doesn’t make a habit of using her free time producing content and marketing a brand ‘for peanuts’. She added that she has a right to value what she produces and politely negotiates this. Unfortunately her conduct with the bakery in question doesn’t support that. Interestingly, she states that she is an engineer by trade and that her blog, in so many words, is ‘amateur writing’. I’d respond to that by saying that as an ‘amateur’ and not being so well known in the blogging world (although she has now gained a certain notoriety thanks to the joys of social media), she should treat prospective contacts with a little more grace.

The bakery in question said they agreed to her request for some free samples in return for a positive review purely to get their name up on the SEO rankings. The owner said that when they refused the £100 boxes of treats, the blogger insinuated she would give them a bad review. She returned later to purchase her two small items and later posted unflattering photos and comments about them, although these have apparently since been deleted.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that a blogger and small bakery have both received some adverse publicity they could have done without. I believe the unfortunate event was potentially due to a lack of communication on both sides about what the expectations were. I hope it doesn’t put companies and suppliers off working with bloggers because mutual respect and understanding can foster excellent long-term relationships which benefit all parties. This incident really does demonstrate that biting the hand that feeds you is not a good idea.

A Review of ‘Number 28’, Holt, Norfolk

Number 28 cafe

I had the good fortune to have lunch at the Number 28 café when I met some friends in Holt, Norfolk, earlier this year. There are quite a few eateries in Holt with a range of offerings and prices – some more reasonable than others although I have to say that Holt isn’t the sort of place you are likely to get a dodgy meal. Number 28 was appealing as it offered food made on the premises, the seating area was light and airy and the owners were very friendly.

The story behind the meet up is an interesting one. I belong to a Twitter based baking group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week, a baking theme is announced and anyone who wants to take part bakes something the following weekend and posts a photo on Twitter. The ten best, most impressive bakes are then put up for a public vote, with the weekly winner being awarded a (virtual) Golden Spoon. The people who take part in this each week are a very friendly bunch from all over the UK and beyond. Not everyone is an experienced baker while some people are extremely talented and could easily outdo the professionals. I’ve made a lot of online friends through The Sunday Baking Club and last year some of us met up at Cake Shows in London and elsewhere and I also attended a ‘celebration cake making day’ at Konditor & Cook next to Borough Market in London with some of these new friends.

The meet up in Holt was just for three of us. I was on holiday visiting my parents who live nearby, while Cathy – who I’d previously met in London – and Kevin both live in Norfolk. It’s strange to think that if it hadn’t been for the Internet, many friendships just would not have happened. I’m delighted to have made friends with a diverse group of people who all came together due to a love of baking.

So, we chose our lunch at Number 28: Cathy had a craving for smoked salmon (as you do) and chose a filled baguette which came with salad and tortilla crisps. Kevin opted for a chicken and vegetable pie and accompaniments and I had a delicious leek and gruyere tart, which was served with a fresh coleslaw salad and tortilla crisps. The portion sizes were very good: substantial but not overwhelmingly so. The main course dishes got the thumbs up from all of us with clean plates all around. We didn’t have room for dessert which was a shame, but there’s always next time.

What I must comment on – and highly recommend – is the hot chocolate drink I had. This wasn’t any old hot chocolate but white chocolate that was smooth, rich and not too sweet. It was clearly a good quality white chocolate (trust me, I know these things) which easily surpassed another one I’d had elsewhere a few days previously.

Chris and Kelly, who own Number 28, said they’d taken it over in September 2014 and revamped the café to their own style. I thought it was a very relaxing atmosphere with so much light and space – and there was more seating upstairs. Kelly said that they will be increasing their range of cakes in the coming weeks so I’m hoping that when I next visit the area, Number 28 will be doing the most amazing cream teas to go with the morning coffees, light lunches, and so on. The address is: 28, High Street, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6BH

 

 

 

A (Gypsy) Tart with a Heart

Gypsy Tarts on rackI grew up in the 1960’s and 1970s, not years that are particularly renowned for exciting developments in the food world unless you consider Vesta chow mein, chicken Kiev or Angel Delight to be top notch cuisine. Celebrity chefs at the time included people like Fanny Cradock and “The Galloping Gourmet” although Delia Smith and Mary Berry were nipping closely at their heels and today are regarded as cooking and baking royalty.

My main food memories of that time are connected to school dinners, something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives and have mixed feelings about. Apart from the lingering odour of stewed cabbage, I mostly remember the puddings: semolina (often lumpy) with a blob of bright red jam in the middle, pink wobbly blancmange, lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska and suchlike.

My all-time favourite school dessert was called Gypsy Tart and I’ve been surprised to find out that many people have never heard of it. This is probably explained by the fact that it originates from the county of Kent where I grew up but it’s a little disappointing that its fame hasn’t spread further. Gypsy Tart is very sweet as it’s made with evaporated milk and muscovado sugar whipped up and poured into a pastry case. It has the advantage of being very quick to make (especially if you use a pre-made pastry case) and also cheap. The filling firms up as it cooks and the tart has a creamy, almost butterscotch-like flavour which instantly transports me back to my carefree childhood and the memory of the one school dessert that I actually liked!

You can make one large Gypsy Tart in a standard flan tin which can be cut into elegant slices or make smaller individual tarts – see the photograph. I appreciate that not everybody likes making pastry (it’s not my strong point, I have to admit as I have warm hands) or has the confidence to do so, therefore there is no great shame in using pre-made pastry cases from the supermarket. So, I give you a quick and easy to make, cost-effective and apparently ‘retro’ dessert with only three ingredients. How easy is that?

 

RECIPE

Pre-made pastry case – 1 large or 6 small

400 mls evaporated milk

330g muscovado sugar

 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3 and place the pastry case(s) on a baking tray.

Whisk the evaporated milk and muscovado sugar together for at least 15 minutes on a fast speed. This will dissolve the grainy sugar and result in a light, creamy filling.

Pour the milk mixture into the pre-baked pastry case(s) and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until the filling has risen and the surface is ‘tacky’.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set before serving. You can decorate the top with grated or melted chocolate if you like. The tart goes well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or fresh double cream.

 

 

 

 

 

Tea & Cake with Lisa Faulkner

IMG_1287My name is Tracy and I’m a recipe book-aholic. There, I’ve said it. I’m officially out and definitely do not need treatment! I am however a little selective with regard to exactly what recipe books I add to my already groaning shelves. The recipes have to be “do-able” for starters. Now you may think this is obvious but having had the occasional disaster following recipes devised by really “cheffy” chefs, I now only buy cook books written by people I can identify with in some way. People who seem “normal” and approachable, with a non-patronising writing style. I’m a home cook and baker, I don’t need a five Michelin star super-chef guiding me around my little pink kitchen (yes, it really is pink) making over-fluffed food.

I can safely say that most of the recipe books I’ve bought over the last 2 – 3 years have been cake, baking, or sugar craft related with the odd exception, like Alex Hollywood’s recent book “My Busy Kitchen” which has some great mealtime dishes in it. I heartily recommend her new potato salad which has yoghurt in the dressing. There are a lot of other very good things in it too so that’s one to request if you have a birthday coming up.

So for this post, I thought I’d review one of the the latest cakey bakey recipe books that I’ve purchased, which happens to be “Tea and Cake with Lisa Faulkner”. I am a big fan of Lisa, having seen her on stage at cake shows last year and having agonised with her and cheered her on during her time on Celebrity Masterchef a few years ago. If you take away the facts that she’s blonde, slim, attractive, has a great new career (after being a successful actress) as a TV chef, Lisa does actually seem very normal and down to earth! And in case you are wondering how I “identify” with Lisa (as per my opening paragraph), it’s the normal, down to earth bit I refer to. I’ve never been blonde, I think I was slim once upon a time for a short while in my 20s and I don’t have a glamorous TV career but I can appreciate people who do! Amazon was offering Lisa’s book at a very good price and so I bought it and plonked myself down on the sofa and browsed through it on the day it arrived.

Well, I was hooked right away. Lisa has a really friendly, chatty writing style and clearly loves a decent cuppa and some cake or biscuits to go with it. I do however, unlike Lisa, draw the line at Earl Grey tea as for me, that never goes down well.

The book is divided into 6 chapters: Biscuits; Sweet Things; Cakes; Chocolate; Teatime and Tarts and Pies. There is therefore some type of cake or bake to suit everyone. I was pleased to see recipes for several things I haven’t tried, such as fondant fancies (do you remember the contestants one year in The Great British Bake Off had them as a technical challenge?), Battenburg, madeleines, clafoutis, and more. There is even a rather naughty recipe for peanut butter cheesecake! Each recipe is accompanied by a large photograph so you know what the final result should look like. I really can’t understand why some recipe books omit photographs – if you’ve never tried a recipe before, you need to know you are heading along the right track with it. Another good thing is that the ingredients lists are simple – you don’t get put off by thinking you have to visit specialist shops to source items to make a cake.

So overall, I’d recommend Lisa’s book to anyone wanting to prepare a decent spread for an afternoon tea or a one off batch of biscuits, or a pie or a cake. The recipes are definitely “do-able” and will surely taste as good as they look in the photographs.

Lisa – I eagerly await your next book. Please do more cakes. One can never tire of cakes. I thank you.

 

Posted in my previous blog March 2015