Norfolk’s “Liquid Gold” – A Review Of Crush Foods’ Rapeseed Oil

Continuing my series of articles on independent Norfolk food producers, I headed for a pot of liquid gold that’s found in a quiet corner of North Norfolk.

As a keen cook I was delighted to find a culinary oil that offers a healthier option than many on the market as well as a range of innovative associated products, look no further than North Norfolk based Crush Foods.

Operating since 2010, the company uses only Norfolk grown oil seed rape in its products as it firmly believes in the importance of supporting local growers. Crush Foods’ rapeseed oil is unrefined due to being cold-pressed mechanically on-site. It’s then triple-filtered which makes it extra light and a crystal clear golden yellow colour. All Crush products are produced in Salle, Norfolk by a small, dedicated team of people who ensure that high standards are always met. Rapeseed oil contains half the saturated fat of extra virgin olive oil and is high in Omegas 3, 6 and 9 which are essential for healthy bones and joints, brain function, heart health and balanced cholesterol.

As well as the original cold-pressed rapeseed oil, Crush now offers a range of infused oils including smoked chipotle chilli, garlic and “feisty” chilli as well as an incredibly flavoursome lemongrass, garlic, ginger & chilli stir fry oil. Dressings and sauces were added to the product list and currently include a tangy honey and mustard sauce, a zingy lemon dressing and a honey and balsamic dipping oil. Crush has also developed an exceptional selection of granola cereals: who wouldn’t be tempted by a breakfast consisting of honey, apple and cranberry or chocolate and hazelnut granola, to mention just two flavours? From March 2017 the entire granola range became gluten-free to make it accessible to a wider customer base. Earlier, in February 2017, Crush unveiled its egg-free (and vegan friendly) mayonnaise and there are currently two flavours available: garlic and chipotle.

Crush Foods retails in many farm shops, delis and other independent retailers across East Anglia and selected sellers in London and Kent. You can also order the products online via the website: http://www.crush-foods.com

 

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Oodles of Healthy Noodles

One of the great things about writing a food blog is having the opportunity to review new products, kitchen equipment or food. I was recently asked to try “Mr Lee’s Noodles” which are marketed as “Gourmet Oriental Noodles in a Cup”. They are gluten-free, and contain freeze-dried ingredients which retain flavours better once reconstituted  – as opposed to dehydrated – with “absolutely no nasties”. And there’s more – they’re low in salt, low in sugar, low in saturated fats and low in calories. All well and good but would they also be low in taste?

I was keen to put them to the test as I’m always on the lookout for healthy options for food on the go but first I thought I’d better see what the competition was like so I trotted along to the supermarket to see what I could find. It seemed that a popular and not too expensive variety was “Pot Noodle” and there are apparently at least a dozen different flavours to choose from. I selected the Chicken & Mushroom – here it is:

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And here’s the nutritional information on the back of the pot:

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It’s disappointing for someone who’s trying to eat more healthily to see palm fat and monosodium glutamate in a list of ingredients and what exactly do things like potassium carbonate and disodium inosinate add to these noodles? If I don’t know what it is, I’m certainly not going to eat it.

So onto the noodles provided by the team at Mr Lee’s.

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I spent a week trying out the six available flavours (noodles almost every day!) and you can see below what I thought of them. It’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve never tasted any other brand of instant cup noodle (I only photographed the chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle – it then went back on the supermarket shelf because the ingredients really put me off) so I couldn’t do a direct taste comparison with other noodles on the market. I took photos of the nutritional information panels of each Mr Lee’s flavour and there are indeed no “nasties” such as monosodium glutamate or palm fat. I’ve also calculated – for any Slimming World members who may be reading this review – the amount of Syns per pot and Mr Lee’s Noodles are reassuringly low Syn.

As I’m a bit of a chilli wimp, I thought I’d start with a flavour that was classed as ‘mild’ ( one chilli rating) – Hong Kong Street Beef. Mr Lee’s consist of rice noodles which I find are a lighter option than wheat noodles.

Here’s the nutritional panel:

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Here’s what they looked like when I’d made them up:

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You can see the decent sized pieces of beef (which actually tasted of beef and not some indeterminate meaty substance) , broccoli and red pepper and the noodles softened very well but weren’t soggy. There was more than a subtle hint of chilli – I’d say 5/10 in the heat stakes – and the flavours of ginger and five spice were evident in the light, savoury sauce. The sauce had a clean, fresh taste and wasn’t over salty. Slimming World Syn value – 2 Syns per pot

Next I tried the Shaolin Monk Vegetable noodles.

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This flavour is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans as it contains honey. This flavour has no chilli rating. It had a good selection of vegetable pieces with cauliflower, green beans, red pepper and sweetcorn being particularly evident.

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Although five spice, garlic granules and yeast extract were listed as ingredients, they didn’t come through that well. Overall, this pot was quite bland and while not unpleasant, it was a little disappointing as I thought the variety of vegetables – including usually more robust porcini mushrooms – would add more flavour. Perhaps a little chilli would have livened it up. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

Next came the Warrior Fighting Shrimp flavour.

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Now this flavour was rated “3 chillis” so I was prepared for quite a whack of heat.

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What came through very strongly at first was the five spice and the fish sauce and the hit from the chilli came soon after and numbed my taste buds somewhat – so much so that I couldn’t really distinguish any other flavours. The prawns were quite plump and you could see spring onion and seaweed flakes but for me, the chilli overwhelmed them. I think a “medium / two chilli rating” would have allowed the other elements to shine a little more. I found the chilli levels in this pot a little too challenging – perhaps a 9/10 heat factor – and would recommend having a large glass of water nearby. Due to the amount of chilli in this and the very fishy taste (as opposed to a more delicate seafood flavour), this was my least favourite of the noodles I tried and I didn’t finish the pot. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

The first of two chicken varieties I tried was the Tail Chi Chicken.

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Once made up, this pot had quite a strong smell of chicken (not artificial) and the pieces of meat were clearly visible along with sweetcorn and green beans.

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There was a noticeable hint of ginger which balanced the overall flavour and it reminded me – in a good way – of chicken and sweetcorn soup that I used to eat in Chinese restaurants, back in the day. This had no chilli in it but there was a gentle warmth from the ginger and plenty of flavour without it. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

Next I chose the Dragon Fire Mushroom pot.

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This had a rating of three chillis like the Warrior Fighting Shrimps and so I prepared myself with a glass of water and an electric fan – just in case. (Actually, I’m joking about the fan!) Reassuringly there were a lot of mushrooms in this pot along with red pepper pieces.

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When made up, the vegetables looked very substantial and the mushrooms weren’t slimy once reconstituted. The liquid was very well absorbed so it was less “soupy” than the other varieties I tried. This pot had a mild savoury taste with a hint of wild garlic and surprisingly, given the three chilli rating, wasn’t as hot as I’d anticipated. I’d say it had an 8/10 chilli factor and as a result I managed to finish all of it. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot.

The final pot of Mr Lee’s Noodles was Penang Chicken Curry Laksa which had a two chilli rating so I expected a manageable medium heat.

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When prepared, this pot had a good mix of chicken pieces, cauliflower and red pepper.

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The ingredients included coconut cream but I couldn’t really taste is as the predominant flavour was curry powder – which was fine but I’d hoped the coconut would have had more of a presence. I’d give the heat from the chilli a 6/10 rating. I felt this pot had a good ‘clean’ flavour and the curry taste didn’t linger on my tongue afterwards. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

 

Having sampled all six varieties of Mr Lee’s Noodles, I would recommend them for occasions when you have to grab lunch on the go. Of course, I’ve given my honest opinion on each of the flavours based on what I like and the fact that I can’t eat food with too much chilli.

Mr Lee’s Noodles would be a good cupboard standby for times when you can’t always cook from scratch e.g. when you’re at work as all you need is a kettle. All varieties are gluten-free and some flavours are suitable for vegetarians.

Slimming World members – Mr Lee’s Noodles are only 1 ½ or 2 Syns per pot whereas standard pot noodles (any brand) are at least 5 Syns – and may contain several unhealthy ingredients and fillers too. As far as ‘fast food’ goes, Mr Lee’s Noodles are a healthy option that you can easily incorporate into the food optimising lifestyle.

 

Mr Lee’s Noodles (and there is a real Mr Lee behind them) are not currently available in supermarkets but you can buy them online at: www.mrleesnoodles.com.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Mr Lee’s Noodles in return for an honest review. The above reflects my genuine opinion of the product.

 

A Chat About Chutney with Candi Robertson

IMG_4756 For my first in a series of interviews with some of the best independent food producers in North Norfolk, I had the pleasure of meeting Candi Robertson, the woman behind the “Candi’s Chutney” brand. Having met Candi on a few previous occasions at Farmers’ Markets and foodie events, I was keen to hear how this former head chef ended up making award-winning products from her “chutney barn” in Holt.

Sitting down over a cup of tea with the deliciously warm, fruity smells of chutney wafting in from the kitchen next door, Candi told me that she’d worked as a chef for 22 years and during that time used to make her own small range of chutneys which she sold at local markets. The small profit that she made at these events selling a couple of dozen jars each time funded family holidays and treats for her children. When Candi had to give up working as a chef due to a shoulder problem, she had more time to spend on her own product and in 2012, she had a stand at the two day Holkham Food Festival where the 300 jars she’d taken with her sold out early on the second day. This is when Candi realised that her chutneys had a very promising future.

In the beginning, Candi’s business was home-based but rapid expansion meant that she needed to move into commercial premises in October 2015. During the interview, I had a quick peek in the kitchen and there were four huge pans of parsnip and chilli chutney (her best-selling flavour) on the go, with each pan producing 30 jars of chutney with no preservatives, artificial colours or additives in any of the flavours.

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I was surprised to learn that rather than having a team of kitchen staff, Candi makes the chutney herself so all of the ingredients are hand-prepared, grated, chopped and cooked and then each jar of chutney is hand-filled and hand-labelled. Candi admits it’s a time-consuming process but feels it’s the best way to control quality and ensure the results are consistent. Candi is in the kitchen from Mondays to Fridays and deals with other aspects of the business at weekends – that is, when she’s not attending markets or food festivals.

Currently, there are 186 stockists of Candi’s products in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire including ‘Bakers and Larners’ and ‘Jimmy’s Farm’. Tearooms, pubs and cafes also have Candi’s Chutney on the menu, for example, The Art Café in Glandford, Pensthorpe Natural Park Café and The Crown Hotel in Wells, to name but a few.

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Candi currently only sells her products within East Anglia and takes great pride in sourcing ingredients from local growers and suppliers although certain items such as cassia bark and star anise have to be obtained from further afield. Candi has won several prestigious awards for her chutney and her most recent success was “Best Norfolk Food Producer” in the Muddy Stiletto Awards 2016 and he brand has just been nominated as a Norfolk Food Hero by the Aylsham Show. Three flavours have also won “Great Taste Awards” namely the Parsnip & Chilli Chutney (2013), the Norfolk Crier Onion Marmalade (2014) and the Spiced Carrot Chutney (2015). Also in 2015, Kettle Crisps chose Candi’s Chutney as the winner of their “Business Mentoring Award”. There were also “highly commended” certificates from the “Norfolk Food & Drink Awards” in 2013 and 2014.

 

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Candi has signed up to the “Proudly Norfolk Food & Drink” labelling scheme and the idea is that products with this label stand out on the shelves when lined up with mass produced items. For the consumer, you know that you are supporting genuine local food producers who care passionately about their products.

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I asked whether, given the amount of recognition Candi’s Chutney has received from the food industry, she had plans to expand the business further. Candi replied that although it’s something she’ll have to consider, she’s is concerned that the business could lose its “small family business” element if she grew too much.

If you’d like to learn how to make chutney yourself, Candi has set up a “Chutney Club” where you can find out the secrets of how to make a good chutney, suggested ingredients and a “how to” technique. Contact Candi via her website or speak to her at one of the foodie events she attends if this is something that would interest you.

Candi will be attending the Royal Norfolk Show on 29th And 30th June 2016 so it’s an ideal opportunity to sample her chutneys and take a few jars home.

This is Candi in full sales mode – always with a smile!

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Other upcoming events for Candi are:

Saturday 2nd July 2016 – Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market

Saturday 9th July 2016 – The Norfolk Diet Farmers’ Market

Saturday 16th July 2016 – White House Farm, Norwich PYO

Sunday 17th July 2016 1pm to 5pm – Barnham Broom Village Fete

 

 

 

Candi’s website is: http://www.candischutney.vpweb.co.uk and she’s also on Facebook and Twitter (@candischutney1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warming & Fragrant Autumn Squash Soup

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I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself this week having had minor surgery (on an ingrowing toenail if you must know) and a rotten cold so I was in desperate need of cheering up. Whenever I’m ill – which fortunately isn’t too often – my thoughts turn to comfort food. I definitely crave soup when I’m under the weather and this recipe has become my favourite. It doesn’t take too long to prepare and the kitchen smells wonderful when it’s bubbling away.

So instead of wallowing in self pity – which was not impressing the husband or the dog – I made soup which is actually so robust that it makes an excellent lunch served with a chunk of crusty bread to mop up the bowl with at the end.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil

I medium white onion, peeled & finely diced

I large clove of garlic, peeled & crushed

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed into very small pieces

1 heaped tablespoon unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 small to medium butternut squash (or 1 small pumpkin), peeled, seeds removed & chopped into 2cm cubes

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

800mls water

1 vegetable stock cube (I used Knorr vegetable stock pot)

2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and drained

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. Over a medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a solid bottomed pan and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Allow to cook, occasionally stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
  2. Add the dried red chilli flakes, the crushed kaffir lime leaves and the desiccated coconut and stir to combine. Add the chopped butternut squash or pumpkin cubes and stir everything for one minute.
  3. Add the tin of coconut milk and the water plus the stock cube and stir. Allow the soup to bubble gently uncovered for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is just tender when pricked with a knife.
  4. Add the washed spinach to the pan and stir for about a minute until it has wilted.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls, eat and enjoy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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!