Chinese Style Sticky Ribs

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In my circles, it seems not many of us cook ribs at home. It could be because they are a bit fiddly, or perhaps because you don't get much meat on them. You can buy pork ribs at most main supermarkets and they make great social food. You will end up with sauce all over your face but that just adds to the enjoyment in my mind!


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Melton Mowbray Artisan Cheese Fair - 4th & 5th May Bank Holiday

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We're very lucky to have some fantastic cheese makers in the Midlands and on the 4th & 5th May many of them will be in Melton Mowbray at the annual Artisan Cheese Festival

Melton Mowbray Artisan Cheese Fair 2013

Cheese-makers from the four corners of the British Isles will gather here in the Leicestershire in Britain’s rural food capital Melton Mowbray to serve up over 150 varieties of Great British cheeses - from the well-loved and ubiquitous English Cheddar to the more specialist regional cheeses including Hampshire’s Organic Turnstone, Cornish Yarg and Swaledale – this year promises to be the biggest and best ever.

“As Great Britain is fast becoming a rival for France, in the amount of native cheese varieties the country now produces, the aim of The Artisan Cheese Festival is very much about supporting the specialist business of making good quality cheeses and enhancing the UK’s growing reputation,” says organiser Matthew O’Callaghan.

“This year the festival has grown four-fold and we are expecting a large number of cheese-lovers to come and visit us in Melton Mowbray – the home of one of Britain’s best-loved of British cheeses –
Blue Stilton,” he adds.

“For those interested in how you make cheese, we will also be demonstrating production of one of this region’s oldest cheeses, Colwick Cream Cheese, originally made in Nottingham in 1645. Sadly production ceased in 1995 but we will be bringing it back to life at the festival,” says Matthew.

The Artisan Cheese Fair will also host other fine food and drink stall-holders to complement the
cheese-makers – from chutneys and specialist bread-makers to Old English Cider and wine; as well as a programme of talks, demonstrations and tastings from industry specialists. Entry to the whole event is only £1.

Melton Mowbray Cheese Festival

It all takes place on between 10am-4pm on the 4th and 5th of May at The Cattle Market, Melton Mowbray. I will be skipping breakfast to make room for all the cheese and I cannot wait to tuck into a pork pie. See you there? 
 
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Easy Chickpea Curry

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Here's a recipe which appears on this weeks meal plan for Thursday night. Actually, due to a an impromptu plan to eat out with friends at a new place in Loughborough, we'll now be having this tomorrow night. The good news is that its already made and I'll simply take out the freezer in the morning to defrost in the fridge whilst we're at work.

This is such an easy and low budget dish which is filling and quick to make. Save even more time by freezing it for busy nights. Sometimes people are scared to make curry from scratch but it really is simple - you just need the right spices. As an avid curry chef, my Dad stocks my cupboards once every 6 months or so following his trip to the Indian supermarkets in Leicester. He buys the big bags and we split everything out!

Chickpea curry with rice and yogurt

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Meal Planning Monday (22 April 2013)

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Meal Planning MondayI love to plan ahead when it comes to our evening meals - in fact, if I want to be organised and avoid temptation, its a must. We both have busy full time jobs and a well planned menu is often the only way to avoid the call of the takeaway!

After recently coming across the wonderful 'At Home with Mrs M' blog via a fellow midlands blogger Jo's Kitchen, I just had to join in the Meal Planning Monday fun. Its a great way to avoid wastage and ensure you eat healthily too. Plus, by looking at others meal plans, you can get some inspiration for your own along the way. No one wants to eat the same meals week in week out!

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Slow-cooked Pork with Sage Polenta & Greens

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Sometimes all you need is a hunk of slow cooked meat and when you find you're in posession of those rare Sundays where you have the time, its just a must.  This recipe is from 'Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy & Paul Merret which I got from Christmas and as yet, had not cooked from. Thanks to Belleau Kitchen and this months Random Recipe Challenge (including the swanky new thing-a-ma-doody), I've now made my first dish from it!

It calls for pork shoulder and also pork ribs - I didn't have ribs, so I left them out but it made no difference as they are for another recipe later on in the book. This book is all about cooking on a budget (hence the title!) so quite often, recipes include additional ingredients for something else etc... Very clever and resourceful!

The quantities below are for 4 people. This is a long winded process with lots of ingredients but its worth it for something a bit different to your usual roast pork dinner.


Ingredients:
  • 800g pork ribs
  • 2 onions peeled and diced
  • 4 rosemary twigs stripped and stalks thrown away
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2.5kg pork shoulder - boned but not rolled
  • 5  X 200g tins of tomatoes
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 60g butter
  • Small handful sage leaves finely chopped
  • 1 litre milk
  • 80g parmesan, grated, plus any old rind
  • 350g quick cook polenta (not ready-made)
  • 400g runner beans or other green veg.
Method (this is cut down from the original slightly):
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6. In a deep roasting tray (eg 30cm X 40cm), put the pork ribs, onion, rosemary, chilli flakes, oregano, garlic and 80ml extra-olive and mix together. Season well with salt and pepper [at this stage, I did all of this minus the pork ribs].
  • Season the pork joint with salt in small knife cuts and sit on top of the ribs. Put in the oven for 30 mins.
  • Tip the tomatoes into a bowl and chop them up (if not already chopped). After the pork has been in for 30 mins, add them to the tray along with the bay leaves and give it a good mix, then put it back in the oven for a further 30 mins.
  • By now the crackling should be ready (there wasn't really any on mine). If not, leave it in for longer. Take the tray out and turn the oven down to 160c/140c fan/ gas mark 4, leave the door open while you do the next step to cool it down.
  • Use a thin, sharp knife to ease off the crackling and set  aside.
  • Spoon the tomato sauce over the naked fatty pork top, and stir the sauce a bit. Cover with foil and put the tray back in for an hour [if the sauce is drying out, add a bit of water and at this stage, lift the ribs and put aside for the sticky ribs recipe on another page in the book]
  • Turn the pork, baste it again with sauce, stir and put back in the oven for a final hour.
  • When you take the pork out the oven, take the foil off, flip the meat and baste in the sauce once more. Turn the oven off, but put the crackling back in to warm through on a tray.
  • While the meat is resting, put a large saucepan on a medium heat and melt the butter and a tbsp of olive oil together. Fry the sage gently for a few mins before pouring in the milk and 500ml water. Chuck in any bits of Parmesan rind you have too.
  • Season well and once everything has come to a simmer, pour in the polenta like rain onto the surface of the liquid, whisking all the time. From here it will take no more than 10 mins to cook. [Oil a baking tray lightly - again, this is for a 2nd recipe]
  • Put a second pan on with no more than 5cm salted water for the runner beans. Cover with a lid and once its boiling, drop the beans in for about 4 mins then drain.
  • Take the Parmesan rind out now and bin it. Finish the polenta by stirring through most of your grated Parmesan (save about a quarter to sprinkle on at the end). Taste for seasoning, it will need it.
  • Spoon the polenta onto each warmed serving plate, [again, there are now some instructions for the 2nd polenta dish] and add 4 thick slices of the pork. [I also added a spoon of the tomato sauce although most of it should be saved for yet another recipe in the book!].


The pork was lovely and tender and the sauce spicy and rich. We had this with mange tout rather than runner beans and the green on the plate was a lovely contrast to the polenta and pork. The polenta was really tasty and could have taken even more sage in my mind. You do have to season it well though as it does have a tendency to be a bit bland.

All in all, a fiddly dish which takes a while to do - it was nice and the pork was great but unless you're going on to cook the other recipes, there is a lot of wastage.

I've entered this into the Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe Challenge!
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Leftover Cheeseboard Pie

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This is basically a lot of leftover cheese, some filo pastry, potato slices and onions. It's most definitely NOT diet friendly but eating a warm slice (or 2 or 3) of this on a Sunday afternoon is seriously good! And what a perfect way of using leftover ends of cheese from your festive cheeseboard?

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Kings hEATh Streetfood Market - launch day review

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The sun poked its head out briefly this Saturday, just in time to shine down on Kings Heath Village Square, for Birmingham's first streetfood market. We arrived just after 12pm to see that there was already a sizeable crowd milling around and sizing up the choice of food stalls from the local area and further afield too. Immediately the smells hit me, a mixture of sizzling meats, pizza, freshly brewed coffee and more.. divine.


Having purposely missed breakfast we got stuck right in, starting with amazing slow cooked lamb and salsa verde from Ross and Ross Food. Based in Oxfordshire, they also produce potted meats and terrines, these I have GOT to try! Back to breakfast - the lamb was soft and melt in the mouth and the hit of gherkin and caper from the salsa verde complimented it perfectly. The soft floury baps were the icing on the cake.

The Hungry Toad crispy fried chicken

Next, we moved onto something sweet, a banoffi toastie from Leamington Spa's Jabberwocky - that's right, a sweet banana and caramel filled toastie. Say no more.

Then, back onto the savoury with crispy fried chicken in a buttermilk batter from Redditch based The Hungry Toad. We ordered chilli sauce but got honey and sesame - no problem there as it was delicious and the coleslaw gets a thumbs up from me too. An ingenious bunch who cook their ribs in an old filing cabinet!


As we left at around 1:30pm, the crowds were huge and the queues at each stall, testament to the quality of the grub being produced and a clear sign of success for the man behind the magic, Duncan at Brum Yum Yum . Well done and I wish you all the very best on this new and exciting venture because I think its bloody brilliant!

There was so much food to choose from, all high quality and prepared with love - sadly we didn't get to taste it all. I've got my eyes on locals Pop Up Dosa and Fundi Pizza for next time. The Kings hEATh streetfood market will be held every second saturday of the month. See you there soon!
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Review: The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire

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At the start of the month, we stayed for the weekend at The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. It was an indulgent, foodie weekend in opulent surroundings to say the least.


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Kings hEATh - New Midlands streetfood market launching in Birmingham

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Some of you may remember a few weeks ago that I was asking for street food nominations for this years Summer BBC Good Food Show. If you weren't sure what I was after and like the sound of street eating then this is for you. Forget London, great streetfood is finally coming to the Midlands with the launch of Birmingham’s first ever authentic streetfood market this Saturday (13 April) and I'll be there with bells on filling my boots!

'Kings hEATh streetfood market' is the brainchild of local promoter Brum Yum Yum (promotes & represents independent streetfood producers across the Midlands) and their director, Duncan Stanley has said: “I have a creative vision of what makes a really great streetfood market. A complete experience; a ‘streetfood show’ with quality food, drink and entertainment combined to create a special and unique vibe."

The market brings together 15 of the country’s hottest streetchefs with all food cooked to order with flair & theatre right in front of you, from quality local produce and served up from vintage vans and unique popup stands. Most dishes are in the £3-5 range with lots of snacks and sharing plates on the menu. Good beers and quality wines will be served at very reasonable prices (£2 bottle/glass) and if the weather disappoints, visitors can soak up the atmosphere from covered dining areas. 

Highlights from the menu for the launch include; local baby back ribs from the filing cabinet barbecue, the ultimate dry aged Hereford beef burgers, 10 hour roast Cotswold lamb, authentic Neapolitan woodfired pizza, south Indian pure veg masala dosa, handmade Moroccan falafel and hummus, Bradford-Kashmiri halal curries, freshly made hot Belgian waffles, and Middle Eastern salads created by ‘The Deli at Edgbaston’. I've also heard there is going to entertainment in the form of an urban circus and music - so it should be a great day!

Kings hEATh will be at the Village Square, Kings Heath (near Vicarage Road, B14 7) on the second Saturday of every month with more markets at various locations due to be announced.

Find Brum Yum Yum on twitter @brumyumyum and facebook for more info and if you're free and in the area, I hope to see you there on Saturday! I can't wait, all we need now is the sunshine.

Hmmmm what to try first...
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Review: The Royal Oak, Long Whatton

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Date night occurs once a month. We take it in turns to surprise the other - it could be a takeaway, a trip to the cinema or a meal out. Obviously you cross your fingers and hope for a meal out when its not your turn. In March my numbers came up!

Off we went in the car, driving towards Loughborough with me listing restaurants off and adding more as we passed by. Out of Loughborough we went and out past Hathern - turns out we were going to recently Michelin recommended and 4 AA Rosette The Royal Oak in Long Whatton.

This place is definitely not fine dining, its noisy and its a pub. Accept that and you will have a fantastic time. Its amazing food but in a relaxed environment. The first thing that hit me on the menu was the 'Our suppliers' section - listing right down to the farms, where they source their meat, fish, eggs, cheese and so forth from. It was a great feeling knowing that the meat we ate that night came from farms within a 20 mile radius of where we sat.

To start I had a soft poached egg and asparagus dippers and it was delicious. Such a simple idea but really tasty. The hubby had a beautiful smoked duck salad with pomegranate seeds. Neither of us felt that the breaded deep fried brie added anything to the dish although it was tasty.









Salad of smoked duck breast, deep fried breaded brie and chicory leaves, with an orange and pomegranate reduction £7.50
Crispy breaded soft boiled egg, with char grilled asparagus soldiers, Dijon dressing (v) £5.75

For mains, we both opted for something from the more expensive 'mains' section although there is a slightly cheaper 'pub classic mains' section too. We both agree that my main was one of the best we've tried in a long time - in fact it gave many more expensive restaurants a run for their money in my mind as it was just mind blowing. The char grilled pork loin was cooked to perfection, slightly pink in the centre and meltingly tender. The pulled pork patty was ingenious - crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. All in all, a full 10/10 from both of us!


10oz 21 day matured sirloin steak, topped with Café de Paris butter and served with hand cut chunky chips & a rocket and pecorino salad £17.95


Pork fillet chargrilled in smoked paprika, served with a pulled pork and saffron croquette, crackling crumb, butterbean and chorizo mash and a red wine, honey and chilli reduction £14.95
The hubby had Steak (surprise surprise) and it was also lovely, tender and well cooked. Cafe de Paris sauce added excitement. We shared a side of vegetables which were sugar snap peas and petit pois in minted butter, roasted mediterranean veg and carrots roasted in honey and fennel.

Overall, we had a fantastic night, great food and a lovely atmosphere. We will most definitely be back!
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Day 6: Olive Magazine 7 Meals for £30 - Take Two!

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Ok, I apologise for not doing these in order - we had an Easter interlude and now another days interlude as I was down in London with work! So, its a sunny Saturday afternoon and I've just finished eating the next recipe on my 7 meals for £30 journey, which is, appropriately, full of spring colours! 

Warm Squash & Quinoa Salad with Lemon Soy Dressing

Ingredients, serves 2:
  • Butternut squash, 350g cut into wedges
  • Red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • Groundnut oil
  • Quinoa, 100g
  • Edamame beans, 150g
  • Sesame oil, 1tbsp
  • Lemon 1/2 juiced
  • Soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp
  • Ginger, a small chunk finely chopped
Method:
  • Put the squash and onion in a bowl and add 1tbsp oil and lots of seasoning and toss. Spread onto a non stick baking dish and roast for 25-30 minutes until tender. 
  • Cook the quinoa following pack instructions and add the edamame for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain well.
  • Divide the quinoa between two bowls and add the squash and onion then whisk together the sesame oil, lemon, soy and ginger and spoon over the top.
Verdict:

I made this for myself so halved the ingredients and as I didn't have any quinoa in, I used basmati rice instead. The dressing really lifted this and the sharpness of the lemon against the salty soy worked well. This is something I see as more of a lunch dish than a dinner - its not really hearty enough to fill you up after a long day at work! 8/10 

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Pretty Kitchen Things!

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I've written about Kitchen Style before. My kitchen is by far my favourite room in my house and as a keen cook, I spend a lot of time there. A kitchen doesn't have to just be functional - it can be a fun space, decorate and style it just as you would your lounge or bedroom. If you look around, its so easy to update your kitchen without spending the earth. 

I got these gorgeous 'blue country spot' tea, coffee and sugar pots from Dunelm Mill last weekend and at just £3.99 each, they are a total bargain and not dissimilar to Emma Bridgewater in design. also went for a utensil jar, butter dish and teabag holder. For the whole lot, I paid under £25! I think they look great next to my gorgeous Delonghi Icona Vintage kettle too.


I always keep a cookbook out on display - and change it frequently. At the moment we've got the Greedy Italians on display but next week I'll go for something different. Its a great way to inspire yourself and also helps jazz up the kitchen! 


We also got these cute cat feeding bowls and wipe clean mat from Dunelm Mill. At just 79p for the mat and £2.39 for the bowls, they were a bargain - and Winnie seems to think so too! 


Every good home cook should have a set of scales, mine are quite retro looking and were fairly inexpensive, under a tenner from memory, from Tesco. Paired with this quirky enamel spice jar, its both practical and stylish! My Pestle and Mortar is another staple - perfect for grinding spices and making marinades. Mine is a Jamie Oliver model and well used!


There are so many ways to make your kitchen stand out - fill window sills with fun tin signs, quirky items and herbs. If you're lucky enough to have space, nothing looks better than your cookbooks displayed. I don't quite have room for all of mine but I love having them to hand.


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Day 5: Olive Magazine 7 Meals for £30 - Take Two!

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Sorry for the brief Easter interlude, tonight we are back on the 7 meals with Day 5. We've had a lovely time away, staying in a fantastic hotel in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds and are now back to earth with a bump, catching up on Masterchef last night and back to work today.  


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