Day 4: Olive Magazine 7 Meals for £30 - Take Two!

Day 4 - over half way already! Time for something a bit different. Out of the 7 recipes for the week, this was probably the one we were least looking forward to. Me, because I've never been very good at pizza dough and the hubby because he expects meat to be part of every meal.

Slices of spinach and ricotta pizza


Day 3: Olive Magazine 7 meals for £30 - Take Two!

After a short interlude (date night, more of which later), we're back on the 7 days challenge. Tonight, the hubby was replaced by my good friend and fellow blogger Annie Bean as we headed into Day 3.

One-pot Chicken with Orzo and Dill

Ingredients, serves 2:
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs, 4
  • Chicken Stock, 500ml
  • Orzo 150g
  • Dill, 1/2 a small bunch, chopped
  • Butter, 25g
  • Lemon, 1/2 zested and juiced
Put the chicken thighs and stock in a wide shallow pan. Bring to a simmer then cook for 10 minutes. Add the orzo, put on a lid and cook for another 6-8 mins or until tender. Take out the thighs and shred then add back to the pan with the dill, butter and lemon. Serve extra lemon wedges on the side.

Poaching chicken
Fresh herbs - chicken and orzo one pot
one-pot chicken and orzo

I didn't have any fresh dill so I used parsely and thyme instead. I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs and poached as per the instructions. We were expecting this to be quite bland but it actually tasted really nice. The orzo has a lovely texture and was surprisingly filling. I'll make this again and maybe add garlic and some peas or perhaps roasted peppers to bulk it out. 7/10

Day 2: Olive Magazine 7 meals for £30 - Take Two!

Ok, here we are on day 2.

In case you're not up to date, I'm working my way through the March Olive Magazine 7 meals for £30 feature having successfully done it back in October successfully and on budget.


Day 1: Olive Magazine 7 meals for £30 - Take Two!

I followed the Olive magazine 7 meals for £35 back in October (read it here) and since that time it has been my most popular post. A monthly feature, I've always looked but don't always find 7 recipes that both my husband and I want to eat. This month, in the March issue, there is a good selection and even better, its 7 meals for £30 (a grand saving of £5!) so, get ready.... here we go again!
Smoky Black Bean Soup with fresh coriander garnish
Served with coriander, lime yoghurt and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese


Ras El Hanout Spiced Shoulder of Lamb

Here's a lovely way to cook lamb - the aromatic Moroccan flavours of cardamom, rose petal and paprika are perfect for the sweet tenderness of the meat.  If you're looking for an alternative for Easter, why not try it? By using a small joint which cooks in only 1 1/2 hours, you can have 'slow roast' style meat without the 'slow'.


Midlands Best Streetfood - the hunt is on!

As you know, I'm part of the new Midlands BBC Good Food Show blogger community and part of my job is to help them find the Midlands Best Streetfood! I've certainly had worse jobs.. 

Jamies Italian Street eats Ice Cream Van
Cute ice cream van outside Jamies Italian, Westfield
Streetfood is huge in America and the last few years have seen its meteoric rise in London with trendy pop up restaurants, flashy street vendors and artisan food markets popping up all over the city. You can find everything from crepes to Lebanese wraps and hot dogs and alot of the time, the quality is top notch.  BUT, with the Midlands based BBC Good Food Show Summer on its way (12-16 June) we're turning our focus away from London and are on the hunt for something similar on our own doorstep.

Birmingham has some great street eats to offer and it seems that the scene is getting bigger and better every day with greats like Digbeth Diners and Brum Yum Yum already well established.

What is there in Leicester? What is there in Nottingham and Derby? I need your help to identify the best places out there. As the lovely people behind the BBC Good Food Show say, streetfood is quite simply a meal or snack that is not sold from a Restaurant or cafe but is artisan food sold on the streets!

Street food cooking

We have until 16 April to nominate and the winners will be given a space at the BBC Good Food Show Summer and BBC Gardeners’ World Live to promote their product to over 90,000 people.

Judges will be looking at:
  • Quality
  • Creativity
  • Use of fresh, seasonal and local produce
  • Outstanding service
If you think you have somewhere to nominate, you can get in touch in a number of ways.
1) Leave me a comment
2) Send your nominations into the BBC Good Food Show facebook
3) Tweet me @gingeybites and BBCGoodFoodShow using #MidlandsStreetFood

In case you're not sure... here's a map of the Midlands! If its here, it counts :-)

The Midlands Map


Spinach & Rice Soup

One of my favourite and most used cookbooks is Family Meals for a Fiver (Good Housekeeping). I don't know where I got it from, most likely somewhere cheap and cheerful like The Works. I've had it for years and have cooked lots of stuff from it.  So, here's a recipe for spinach and rice soup - filling and rustic. Whenever I make soup, I go large! Make a big pot of it and then have it for lunch at work - either freezing part of it or just filling up a load of tupperwares and sticking them in the fridge. Granted, by friday you're ready for something else but its a cheap and healthy way of feeding yourself at work!

Spinach and Rice Soup


Easter Lamb & Boulangere Potatoes

Here's an impressive roast lamb for your big Easter meal. If you've got family coming over and don't want to be chained to the hob whilst they sit in the lounge catching up, this is the dish for you. You can prep the potatoes ahead and then enjoy your family's company whilst the lamb does its thing in the oven. I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website - always a first stop for me if I can't find what I want in a cookbook. You can see the original here.

I've used this recipe a few times and its always come out well for me. I'll be cooking it again this Easter. The pictures you see here are from New Years Day - I cooked for 6 and used a 2kg joint - this should feed 8 really but we scoffed the lot. 

  • 2kg leg of lamb
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2kg large potatoes, such as King Edwards
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 50g butter 
  • Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Cut small pockets into the skin and flesh of the lamb by piercing it with the point of a sharp knife. Stuff each pocket with a slice of garlic and a few leaves of rosemary, or scatter with thyme. Put in a roasting tin, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover with foil.
  • Peel and thinly slice the potatoes, rinse under the cold tap and pile into a large ovenproof dish or roasting tin. Toss with the onions, remaining slices of garlic and a good scattering of herbs.
  • Heat the stock and butter and pour over the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven with the lamb for 1 hr. Uncover, put the lamb on top of the potatoes and roast uncovered for 45 mins more. Allow the lamb to rest before carving, for about 15 mins. Leave the potatoes in the oven (covered, if starting to brown too much) until ready to serve.
Lamb, garlic and thyme
Lamb studded with garlic and thymeBoulangere potatoes ready for the oven

Tips - I use red onions, they look good and the sweetness is gorgeous. Last time I made this, I didn't use rosemary and thyme - just thyme. Don't worry if your potatoes start to fall apart, as you scrape them out the pan, the crispy bits will just add to the yum factor!

Ready to Carve! 

Roasted lamb
Roast Lamb with vegetables and Boulangere potatoes


Bloggers meet at Purnells Bistro, Birmingham

How lovely to have a Friday off work! Even more lovely was the reason for that day off! Lunch with the BBC Good Food Show bloggers. We met at Purnell's Bistro in Birmingham and were treated to a cocktail masterclass before sitting down for a long chat over a leisurely (and totally delicious) lunch.

The reason for our get together was to discuss the BBC Good Food Show Summer, edging ever closer (12-16 June). We heard about the exciting plans they have for this year and talked about our search for the Midlands best street food. If you have any suggestions, whether its a pop up, a van, a farmers market stall, we want to hear from you! You can send your nominations into me directly or put them on the BBC Good Food Show facebook or tweet them @BBCGoodFoodShow using #MidlandsStreetFood. Nominations will be closed 16 April and winners will be announced by 6 May.

Back to Purnells Bistro - after everyone had settled down, the head mixologist proceeded to wow us with a number of the signature cocktails from the Gingers Bar menu. Probably the highlight (but definitely not for the faint hearted) was the clever 'Lamb Provencal' made with lamb fat infused rum, cranberry and garnished with rosemary. It really does taste like a roast lamb dinner! Very Willy Wonka!  We also tried the Scorched Lemon Margharita, French Connection, and my favourite - Blackcurrant & Ginseng Rickey with gin infused with ginseng tea.
Purnells Bistro Gingers Bar Cocktails

Glynn and his team put together a special menu for us, showcasing some of the Bistro's finest dishes so after enjoying some cocktails, our gaggle of foodies headed over to the table with camera phones at the ready to eagerly await our first course.
Black pudding starter, Purnells Bistro
Black Pudding – Potato Rösti – Poached Hen’s Yolk – Bacon Dressing
Devonshire Cod, Purnells Bistro
Devonshire Cod – Chorizo – White Beans – Red Pepper – Goats Cheese
Dark Chocolate & Creme Fraiche Torte. Purnells Bistro
Dark Chocolate & Crème Fraîche Torte – Red Currant Sorbet Caramelised Hazelnuts
The food at the Bistro was fantastic - high quality ingredients cooked to perfection. The hubby and I ate at Glynns' main (Michelin starred) restaurant back in October and thoroughly enjoyed his 8 course Purnells Tour - you can read my review here. If you want to experience Purnells but can't quite afford to eat at that restaurant, the Bistro really is a great option. I will definitely be back with hubby in tow.

Square Meal

Review: Pizza at Franco Manca - Brixton

Earlier this month I found myself back down in london for my annual Christmas weekend with my university friends.  I seem to be the only one theses days who doesnt live there so its a great excuse to visit. Of course the weekend revolved mainly around food and drink (standard procedure) with our starting place none other than the Gilbert Scott bar in St Pancras station hotel.
We enjoyed a cold crisp glass of moet champagne each with a bowl of crispy squid in chilli and salt and some hand cut chips. Delicious.
Following a wonderful carol concert at St Martin in the Fields, we then headed down to Brixton for a casual dinner at Franco Manca pizza joint. During my time as Magazine manager for sadly no more airline bmi, we did a feature on foodie Brixton, you can still read it online here .
Franco Mancas is a chain of one four around London, with this one being the original, and I am just one in a long line of food critics and bloggers to write about it but I can't help myself, the open front double sided restaurant situated both sides of a shopping arcade has an irresistible charm and the pizza incredible.
Dont expect anything flashy - scrubbed down tables and paper menus accompany cutlery in old tins and bottles of sauce. The menu is limited but all the ingredients are expertly sourced, the pizza is made of sourdough bread and your food is cooked in one of the two pizza ovens which dominate each side of the restaurant. Prices are chesp at around £6-7 for a pizza and a couple of quid for olives on the side. We shared a bottle of the organic red wine at £13.95 and it was fruity and most quaffable!
All In all, if you find yourself hungry and in Brixton, head to franco mancas.. book ahead to avoid queining or opt for takeaway.. however you go about it, I recommend that you do!

Review: Moomba, Loughborough

I know what you're thinking, she eats out ALOT! It feels that way at the moment and I know I shouldn't complain but my waistband is starting feeling the pressure! Tonight we've had baked plaice with steamed veg and rice and I've started on a health kick. I'm on the road to recovery (I think!).

So, this weekend we were at Moomba. Hmmm where to start. Its been in Loughborough for absolutely forever and I've never eaten there. Privately owned, this Australian themed restaurant & bar in a funky blue building at the less savoury end of town. To be honest I never thought it was any good. Turns out I was wrong!

Moomba Restaurant Loughborough

Its not fine dining and its probably not somewhere you'd go on an intimate date but what Moomba do, they do really well. Don't let the theme put you off - big groups, cocktails, cheap, freshly cooked and delicious food in a bright, clean environment full of fun nods to Oz. I was in a group of 8 people - we had four sharing platters to start which worked really well. There are several to choose from on the menu and they were all fresh, hot and tasty!

Moomba sharing platter
Moomba Platter (for 2 people) £10.95:  
Garlic ciabatta, crispy squid, veggie spring rolls, potato wedges with spicy kangaroo chilli, outback jerk chicken wings.

Our mains were all great. I went for the pulled pork/ lamb combo from the specials board and it was delicious. The fennel and pomegranate salad was delicious and the meat tender and juicy. The hubby went all in on the theme with a BBQ combo (no surprises there) which included wild boar sausage and kangaroo. The service was excellent and everyone enjoyed their food.

Moomba restaurant starter Loughborough
From the specials board: approx £12.00 from memory
Pulled pork and slow roasted lamb shoulder, pomegranate and fennel salad and flatbread.

Moomba restaurant Loughborough BBQ combo
The BBQ Combo £14.95: Chicken breast with citrus and herb, wild boar sausage and kangaroo rump.

A major plus point for us too, is that they take the Gourmet Society card - both myself and my friend have one and they accepted both cards (giving us a 25% for 4 out of the 8 meals). Its quite unusual for a restaurant to accept the card on fri/sat nights so we were really pleased to find out that on bookings 9pm onwards, Moomba accept it on a Sat night! If you don't have one, and eat out alot, its well worth getting a Gourmey Society card. We use ours all the time!

Well done Moomba, we'll definitely be back!

Salted caramel, coffee and choccy swirl cheesecake

I made this for our mothers day pudding this weekend and at 824 calories, its NOT for the faint hearted! But, it was absolutely scrummy, really easy to make and very very moreish - in fact, this cake was meant for 12 and 5 of us polished it off no problem!

Salted caramel, chocolate and coffee cheesecake

Chipotle Steak Fajitas & Guacamole

I'm so pleased to be part of the new midlands blogger community set up by the BBC Good Food Show and last week they sent me some smoky chipotle chillis courtesy of Midlands based and award winning chilli growers Edible Ornamentals.

I ummed and ahhed about making something like a chilli and decided it was too obvious so after a bit of internet surfing I decided to try something different. Trial and error resulted in a marinade. I thinly sliced some lovely local rump steak from Budgens and poured the marinade over it, leaving it in the fridge for about an hour to soak up the flavour. Then I griddled the steak for a couple of minutes with some peppers and mushrooms. The smoky spicy flavour was a million times better than anything you can buy in a packet mix! Served with toasted tortillas, soured cream, salad, a squeeze of lime and dollop of homemade guacamole, these fajitas are a real treat! 

Chipotle steak marinade ingredients


Review: Browns Lane, Loughborough

We had our friends here last weekend. They live down south so we don't get to see each other too often. We went for a meal on Saturday evening at Browns Lane in the centre of Loughborough. I've eaten there quite a few times over the last 5 or so years, both in the evening and at lunch and have always had a fantastic experience. 

Having arrived shortly before our 8pm reservation time, we fought our way through the crowd to the bar. The bar area was heaving and very loud, at one point including a gang of student 'pub golfers' which is very unusual for Browns Lane. We had a drink and the waitress told us she'd come and get us when our table was ready.
Enjoying a drink before dinner!

Unfortunately by 8:20 we were still waiting and had to ask before being taken to our table upstairs. The restaurant is upstairs in a lovely, airy space with a high ceiling full of wooden beams and brick walls split up by large windows looking out into the snowy white skies.

Once sat down, we could still hear the loud noise from downstairs - I commented on this and the waitress agreed with me that it was unusual for the place to be so 'raucous'. Anyway, we ordered our meals and got started on a delicious bottle of Chilean pinot noir to help distract us.


These were all lovely. The hubby's carpaccio was delicious and the portion size was good too. Jenn and I had the mussels from the special board. Served with a herb crust, this was a first for me. The mussels were juicy and cooked well. Paul's scallops were a little under seasoned but cooked perfectly.

Carpaccio of beef with a rocket salad, drizzled with horseradish & parmesan shavings  £ 7.50
Green lipped mussels with a herb crust - £6.50

Seared scallops served on crispy leeks drizzled in white wine cream sauce topped with crispy pancetta £ 7.50


Again, Jenn and I had the same meal - pork belly from the special board. It was a huge chunk of meat but sadly the top wasn't crisped properly and as a result, too chewy. Pauls lamb was slightly over cooked and the hubby's steak was nice but nothing special (and hard to cut without a steak knife offered). All in all, we were a little disappointing. 

Peppered sirloin steak with a creamy bourbon sauce and chive mash£ 17.00

From the Specials - Belly Pork with rosti and apple dipping sauce  £14.00

Roasted rump of lamb with a shallot & honey glaze served with dauphinoise potatoes & a red wine, honey jus £17.00

The bill, including tip, came to £140.00 - this was for 2 courses each and 2 bottles of wine. Its certainly not the cheapest place to eat in town but its always felt a bit special to me and worth the money. This time around, I was dissappointed. The noisy bar and less than perfect food let it down but I'm not put off and will be back to give it a second chance.
Square Meal

Square Meal

Review: Wahaca, Charlotte Street, London

I've wanted to eat at Wahaca for a while now. I'm a big fan of Thomasina Miers and her Mexican Cooking Made Simple TV series and one of my best friends has been raving about her restaurants for ages.

This weekend I finally got my chance when a group of us went to celebrate a friends birthday. The idea behind Wahaca is fresh, tasty food based around Mexican street eats. The newest of 8 Wahaca restaurants around London, the Charlotte Street venue is light and airy with mirrors on the back wall giving an illusion of space. Artwork and modern, minimalist furniture make it feel laid back but special.

As there were 8 of us eating, we decided to just order lots of different things to share from the street food menu - this really is what the spirit of Wahaca is about after all.  We started with tortillas and salsa and guacamole followed by the Wahaca Selection (pork pilbil tacos, winter vegetable tacos, huitla-coche quesadilla, black bean tostadas, chicken taquitos, green rice and black beans). We also had a delicious pulled pork pilbil taco from the specials board, sweet potato fries and chicken guajillo. No doubt there was more but I can't remember it all! There is far too much here to tell you what everything is - see the menu here

Everything was delicious. Served as and when the dishes were ready, our table soon filled up with row upon row of tapas style plates. For 8 of us with a cocktail and more than enough food, the bill came to just over £22 per head including tip making Wahaca not only great food but great value too. 

With a focus on the 'fresh' my concern is that if they continue to open more and more Wahaca's, will they be tempted to start cutting corners? Will the focus on fresh ingredients slip as they start to bulk buy this, pre-make that? This is just a musing, of course I'm hoping it may not happen - hopefully the magic they have will continue for ever more!

Fairtrade Ginger Nut Biscuits

Monday 25 Feb - Sunday 10 March - its Fairtrade Fortnight!

Now I have to admit in the past I haven't always bought fairtrade, in fact, I only really knew a little bit about it so this year, now that I'm a bonefide food blogger, I thought it was time I looked into it properly. My first port of call was the fairtrade website which is full of information about what they do.

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