Mexican Beef Stew

Here's comfort food with a kick. Taken from one of my less used books The Market Kitchen Cookbook, this is a Tom Parker Bowles recipe which brings together the homeliness and comfort of a beef stew with the kick of Mexican Chipotle Chilli.

I used Edible Ornamental Chipotle Chillis for this recipe and was introduced to them by my lovely friends over at the BBC Good Food Show. They have an incredible smokiness which really permeates the dish. They grow all of their chillis in Bedfordshire, just down the road from us here in Leicestershire. They grow over 60 varieites of chilli and also sell sauces, salsas and other gourmet products! Check them out but be careful - I used two (as per the recipe) and this was SPICY!

Mexican style beef stew

Ingredients: serves 4

  • 1-3 dried chipotle chillies, (see cook's note)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 kg chuck or braising steak, cut into 5 cm cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 350 ml passata
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp oregano, leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 75g per person, long grain rice (to serve)
  • Pour hot water over the chillies in a bowl and soak for 30 minutes or until soft, turning them over halfway so they soak on both sides. Drain, then cut off the stems and slit the chillies open. Remove the seeds and veins before chopping the chillies finely.  
  • Heat half the oil in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole over a high heat until hot. Brown half the meat for 8-10 minutes over a high heat, then remove and repeat with the remaining oil and meat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Return all the meat to the pan and pour in the passata. Add the vinegar, oregano, chopped chilli and bay leaf, and season to taste.  
  • Cover and simmer on top of the stove stirring occasionally for 1 hour 30 minutes or until the beef is tender and the tomato juices well reduced.
  • Add a swirl of creme fraiche to sooth the heat and serve with boiled rice and fresh coriander.
Edible Ornamentals chipotle chilli
soaking the chipotles Browning the beef

If it looks like its drying out a little, just add a dash of water! The finished thing, perfect with a swirl of creme fraiche.

homemade Mexican style beef stew


Spicy Corned Beef Hash

There are no ways to make this look attractive. Its basically pink mush in a bowl. Its my job as a food blogger to make meals look good, to hope that you go away and try them in your own kitchen because they look so tasty and inviting. Well. With this post I've failed. Its down to my words to try and convince you to try this one.

So, here we go - spicy corned beef hash. This recipe came from an ex-boyfriend and although he's long gone, its remained in my head and every now and again when I need a bit of something comforting, I make it.

Corned Beef - key fell off
Don't you hate it when this happens?
Gouging my way through the tin!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)
  • 1 tin of corned beef (stored in the fridge for an hour)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 chilli, finely diced/or a dash of chilli sauce (or both if you like it extra hot!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • Piece of ginger approx 1 inch cubed, finely diced
  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes

  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they drop off a knife. Switch heat off.
  • Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger for about 10 mins on a high heat until softened. If using chilli sauce, add a dash at this stage. I use Wiga Wagaa Cooking Sauce - it packs a punch so you don't need much!
  • Cube the corned beef and add to the onion mix. Fry for around 5 minutes, breaking up the corned beef with a wooden spoon. 
  • Drain and mash the potato. You don't need to add anything to it, 
  • Once the corned beef has softened down, add the mashed potato and stir everything up until its well mixed. 
  • Serve with a crack of black pepper, it shouldn't need any salt.
Wiga Wagaa Chilli Cooking Paste
The chilli mans face says it all!

The finished thing! Remember, it tastes better than it looks (much better!)..


Office Snacking - Graze Box Review

A few years ago, Graze boxes were all the rage. I remember everyone in the office having them. In more recent times, the Graze Craze seems to have worn off a bit. But why?

Tailor your box to what you fancy - be it savoury, sweet, healthy or naughty. I've just re-started my account - sitting in front of a computer for 9 hours a day can be tough on your waistline (add to that, food blogger and my waistline is doomed!) and I'm terrible for snacking so I decided to give them another go. Not wanting to throw myself straight into healthy eating, I opted for the 'nibble box' with a mix of sweet and savoury items. As I remember, the packaging is gorgeous, recyclable and bold.


Review: Fratelli, Braunstone Gate - Leicester



After a very hectic week at work, last weekend, we decided to don our glad rags and head into Leicester. Both of us have lived there before and although we're country bumpkins these days, sometimes we crave the buzz of the city! We headed to Braunstone Gate, ever trendy and full of city workers and students alike. After a couple of drinks (and a bout of nostalgia for me) in the Looking Glass, we moved next door to Fratelli. Opened just 6 months ago, this place is Italian, run by (as the name suggests) two brothers.

To start, Dave had calamare - freshly floured with a delicious home made tartare sauce. The calamare was delicious, not at all greasy and very light. I went for pasta (you can choose to have the pasta as a main or a starter) and thoroughly enjoyed what I had. All the pasta is made on site, my tagliatelle with cream, spinach and sausage was delicious. A crack of black pepper and sprinkle of parmesan and I was transported back to summer holidays in Tuscany.

Tagliatelle Fratelli - £5.95
Calamari Fritti -£6.50
All of the pizza and pastas on the menu are hand made on site and I am sure that the pizzas are absolutely delicious but we both opted for steak. At £16.50, steak is the most expensive thing on the menu -overall, everything was very reasonably priced.

Ever the greedy boy, hubby went for 'Filetto Fratelli' - Fillet Steak wrapped in Parma Ham & Smoked Cheese and baked in Pizza Dough. Both of us agreed that the pizza dough was delicious but probably not needed. I opted for something more rustic, 'Filetto Provencale' - Grilled Fillet steak served with warm Capers, Anchovies, Olives and a Cherry Tomato Salad. Both of our steaks were perfection. Tender, rich and cooked exactly as we'd requested. For £16.50, this has to be the best fillet steak in Leicester! Served simply with potatoes or chips and steamed veg. What more could you want?

Filetto Proven├žale - £16.50
Filetto Fratelli - £16.50
Of course the hubby  had to go for a dessert too - I couldn't fit anything else in! This summer fruits cheesecake was delicious and creamy. The waitress even bought it over with 2 spoons, she must see our scenario alot! The waiting staff, mostly Italian, were friendly and chatty although the restaurant was full the night we went and they were running low on menus which caused a little wait to get served initially. They explained this to us though so it certainly didn't impact on our enjoyment of the evening!

We'll definitely go back to Fratelli, and we'll bring my mum and step-dad. They are in love with Italy and visit once or twice a year. I'm sure they will love the authenticity of the food here, as well as the atmosphere and gentle lull of Italian voices at the bar.

Hairy Dieters: Spanish Style Chicken Bake

I love a competition and I was the lucky winner of this book from a competition which was run by fellow blogger Nicole at Miss Fridays Feast.So many of my friends have told me how great the Hairy Dieters book is and I had my doubts as the TV show was verging on cheesy. But, given that I probably eat a little too much, this book is just what we needed. Flavour and decent portion sizes but with less calories!

I've made a few things from it now and this one is by far my favourite - scored on the page 9/10 - a high score indeed! With 370 calories per serving, its really filling and absolutely delish! Next on the agenda is the Lamb Tagine, it comes with high praise from friends.

Sliced veg - so colourful!


Review: Fernandos Grillhouse, Loughborough

In April the new Fernandos Grillhouse opened its doors on Leicester Road slap bang in the centre of Loughborough. After a hefty marketing campaign around town, we were eager to get in and see what the fuss was all about.

Flame grilled chicken and steaks served in a casual style with sides of your choice. Aside from the steak, it turns out that Fernandos is....well... Nandos with an extra 'Fer' on the front.

Unfortunately, given the strict council rules, Fernando's don't yet have an alcohol licence so, at the moment, its a booze free zone. Still, this was no bad thing as we headed over there on a week night with some of our friends. Bottomless soft drinks all round for us!

The decor is minimal, clean and functional with brick effect walls and booths. The menu, spice levels and even ordering are the same as Nando's, as are the bottles of sauce. Everything is really reasonably priced and I think this place will do a roaring trade with the students and bargain hunters alike.

I decided to go for my standard Nando's choice for a direct comparison - 1/4 chicken, spicy chips and coleslaw. The chicken was moist and tasty and well seasoned. You can't really go wrong with chips and coleslaw. The hubby had BBQ beans and these were well flavoured and smelt lovely.

A big bonus is that all of the sauces are freshly made on site and the spicy ketchup in particular was delicious.

Fernandos chicken LoughboroughFernandos chicken and beans Loughborough

All in all, we had an enjoyable meal which was well cooked and really reasonably priced. A meal and soft drink was around £10 per person. Although Fernandos will never blow your mind or break the mold, its a great addition to the Loughborough dining scene and we will return!

Friends in Fernandos
We finished the evening with a couple of drinks in the lovely Organ Grinder part of the Blue Monkey brewery chain and just around the corner. Full of character and serving lots of local ales, its a fab little find.

The Leibster Award

Something a bit different which I just love the sound of and couldn't wait to have a go at!

The very fabulous and local to me, blogger Emily nominated me for this. Her blog, Recipes and Reviews always has something home made and delicious to look at and on top of this, her favourite food is sushi - which makes her all good in my view!

The Leibster Award. Here it is in a nutshell:

"The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 300 followers and the rules of the award is that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 10 random facts about themselves, answer the 10 questions from the award giver, and then nominate other bloggers and make up 10 questions for them to answer. it's a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow."

Task 1 - Ten random facts about me:
  1. The teeth either side of my two front teeth are missing - if you look closely, you can see that my pointy ones have been filed down to look 'normal'.
  2. I am addicted to onion ring crisps, the cheaper the better.
  3. My favourite food in the world is roast belly pork.
  4. When I was 18 I spent the summer working as a school cleaner.
  5. I once stood on Jools Holland's foot.
  6. I have a tattoo of a butterfly on my right arm.
  7. I have tiny feet - size 3!
  8. I have my very own recipe guinea pig  - he's also my wonderful husband of 7 months and counting.
  9. I love the Shrek films.
  10. Last year I flew to Los Angeles and back in 1 day.

Task 2 -Answer Emily's questions

How would you sum up your blog in five words?
Lighthearted, local, simple, fun and varied.

Where did your blog name come from?
From my hair colour and family nickname - as a child my hair was flame red! Its faded a little now so I like to think of myself as more 'strawberry blond'!

What is your ultimate favourite cuisine?
I absolutely love Indian food as you can probably tell from the amount of reviews on my blog. I cook a lot with Indian spices at home and love nothing more than a good curry!

What foodie product or utensil could you not live without?
My wok! I use it for frying, stirfry, curries.. anything really!

Do you think you could go veggie and why/why not?
Absolutely not! Although I tend to cook one or two vegetarian meals a week, I love meat and fish and couldn't imagine my life without them.

What would you cook if you went on 'come dine with me'?
Ooooh I've thought about this so many times and never come up with the answer. I guess I'd do something simple like parma ham wrapped asparagus and soft boiled egg to start followed by a rich and meaty beef stew with crusty bread and a light cheesecake to finish!

Who is your favourite celebrity chef and why?
My all time favourite is Glynn Purnell - not only is he from the Midlands but he's a great chef with a cracking sense of humour. At the moment, I'm a little bit in love with Tom Aitkens too, its the ginge which gets me!

If you were to make an icecream with three scoops, any flavour, what would they be?
Can I have sorbet? Lemon sorbet, vanilla and strawberry :-)

What is your earliest memory of cooking/ baking?
My dads eggy bread. He used to make it for lunch on the weekends when my mum was at work. His giant hairy hands dipping the bread in the egg mixture and the smell of frying! Yum.

Last but not least... sweet or savoury?
Savoury. That is all.

Task 3 - Nominate other bloggers

I've stuck to a foodie theme with this - so, here are my nominations - all great foodies, well worth checking out!

The British Menu
Adam is a fellow Leicestershire food blogger with a great attitude to food and sense of humour.

Eat Slurp Burp
I was one of Carol's first blog followers. She's eaten at some amazing restaurants around the world.
Very jealous!

Domestic Goddess on a Shoestring
A girl after my own heart, Cut Price Kate has a penchant for a yellow label! Her blog focuses on reduced price food and she proves you can eat well on just pennies!

Cooking, Cakes and Children
A lovely family oriented blog written by the ex-Foodies 100 editor.

My 10 questions, should you choose to accept the challenge:
  1. When and why did you decide to start a food blog?
  2. If you could only eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
  3. Red sauce or brown sauce?
  4. If you could have anyone to your house for dinner, who would it be and why? You can invite 4 people.
  5. What is the one ingredient you can't live without?
  6. Favourite takeaway?
  7. What's your most embarrassing food secret?
  8. What is your favourite style of cooking and why?
  9. Cheeseboard or cheesecake?
  10. Who inspired you most as a young cook & what did you learn from them?
So, thats it, my Leibster post is almost over! Thank you for nominating me Emily, its been really fun and I hope to see some answers from my nominees soon!

Cornish Farings (a fancy name for tasty biscuits)

I'm trying to improve my baking skills. As the owner of a very savoury tooth, I don't tend to spend much time baking. Seeing as I am also the owner of a husband with a very sweet tooth, its time I put this to rights. So, over the past few months I've started trying more 'sweet' recipes and this one is by far the easiest I've done so far.


Budget Busting Sausage Casserole

You know how it is - pay day has been and gone and you're running out of money already. One way you can cut back and save the pennies is by being frugal with your food shopping. There is no shame in buying own brand ingredients to cut costs, often I find they are as good as the big brands. Using some of the Midlands Co-op Simply Value range as well as their clever casserole pack, I've come up with a budget busting sausage casserole which keeps the cost down without scrimping on flavour.

As you know, I'm a fan of all things local and I do blog for the Midlands Co-op but my opinions are my own and I truly rate these products. Unlike the 'budget' lines at some other supermarkets, the Simply Value range includes free range eggs, nothing is animal tested and none of the products have any artificial colourings or hydrogenated fats in them. Good stuff!

Out the oven and ready to serve up


Review: Hilton St Georges Park, Burton on Trent

I kicked off the bank holiday weekend with a real treat, a night away at the Hilton at St Georges Park in Burton on Trent. I accompanied my friend and fellow blogger Annie Bean as she had been invited to review the hotel as part of their 'Rediscovering Hilton' campaign.

We were booked in for dinner in their restaurant at 8:30pm - as it was still light, we were able to take full advantage of the beautiful countryside views from the floor to ceiling windows running the length of one wall. The hotel is less than 6 months old and the decor throughout is neutral, modern and stylish. The restaurant has a mix of tables and booths with soft fabrics and a nature inspired colour scheme of greens and browns. A very relaxing environment.

The kitchen looks out on the restaurant too - always a sure fire sign that there is nothing to hide. I started with an Artichoke Salad and Annie Bean went for the Mushroom Pate. The presentation was immaculate on both plates and we both enjoyed our starters. On my dish, a creamy new cold potato salad which had a crispness perfectly suited to warm grilled artichoke.

Warm Artichoke Salad
Mushroom Pate and tomato chutney

For my main, I had Sea Bream on a bed of pea puree, potato and chorizo. It was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. Annie Bean went for a warm halloumi and sweet potato salad which smelt and looked delicious.

Sea Bream with pea puree, chorizo and potato
Sweet potato and haloumi salad

My only criticisms are that the portions were on the small side - which is fine, except that I'd asked the waitress if sides were needed and she'd said no. I also think there is someone in the kitchen with a pea shoot obsession! They are very 'en vogue' at the moment and tasty but there did seem to be a lot of them on all our plates!

We finished with a cheeseboard and banoffee pie. Both delicious! 


We drank Monte Verde Sauvignon Blanc which was crisp and refreshing. I'm a big fan of new world wines and Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favourites. This particular brand is great value for money at under £7 in the supermarkets and easily available.

Overall, we had a lovely evening at the hotel - the room and communal areas were beautiful, clean and spacious. The beds were very comfy and the gym and swimming pool facilities top notch. The food was delicious and modern in style and presentation and I would recommend it whole heartedly. As the FA training centre for the England football teams, the hotel is surrounded by training pitches and such like, its also in the countryside outside of Burton itself but if you don't mind that (and football themed art and photography all around), its a lovely lovely place, perfect for a chilled overnight break. I will definitely go back and this time I'll take the hubby.

*The meal at Hilton St Georges was complimentary - had we paid for the meal and wine, it would have been around £30- £35 per head including a glass of wine*

Melton Mowbray Artisan Cheese Fair - the round up!

This weekend saw the annual Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton Mowbray, foodie capital of the Midlands. The sun was shining and the sky was blue as we headed over there with pockets full of cheese-dosh and empty tummies.

We arrived to the busy cattle market, collected our voting forms and headed out to the stalls. There were cheese makers from all over the country offering soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese and more as well as local heroes Cropwell Bishop and Long Clawson.

As we meandered our way around, we tried lots of different cheeses - cocktail sticks at the ready to make sure we could try as many as possible. For me, the best has always been (and still is) the Cropwell Bishop Classic Blue Stilton. They are based in Notts and I first encountered them at the BBC Good Food Show last year (see here) and their creamy Stilton cheeses are just delicious and melt in the mouth. Of course we had to buy some!

Whilst we are on the subject of blue cheese (my favourite incidentally), we also came home with a decent sized chunk of Colston Bassett Blue Stilton. Another local cheese maker, they are based in the Vale of Belvoir on the Notts/Leics border. It smells delicious, very oozy and I can't wait to try it later on this evening with a glass of wine and a cracker or two.

We also bought cheese from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers, a family run business based in Hampshire. Their cheeses have won numerous awards over recent years and the 'Old Winchester' which we purchased most recently won Gold at the British Cheese Awards. Its very dry and aged 18 months to give it an almost hard cheese, Parmesan taste. We had it grated onto pasta for lunch today and it was delicious, almost nutty in flavour.

It was good to see the wonderful Loughborough based Chocolate Alchemy at the fair, almost sold out of their fab homemade chocolate. There were also local breweries offering their wares as well as a pie stand which was doing a roaring trade.

We're in the season now for food festivals and markets and I love it - buying food and drink from the makers themselves and knowing that for a lot of it, you're eating produce grown and produced in your local area - it doesn't get better than that.

Next up - the Derbyshire Food and Drink Festival at Elvaston Castle on the 18-19 May and of course, the BBC Good Food Show Summer on 12-16 June at the NEC in Birmingham. If you want to go but haven't sorted your tickets yet, I have a special Gingey Bites discount - just use the code GB15 for a 15% off standard tickets!

Cosmo Blog Awards - Best Food Blog?

Morning everyone,

I've been a bit awol and I apologise - after a manic couple of weeks at work, things should be calming down going forward meaning I have a bit more time and energy to get back to blogging!

Enter the 2013 Cosmopolitan Blog Awards
I've entered my first ever blog awards this weekend and need everyone to help by nominating me. The awards are hosted by Cosmopolitan Magazine and Next and I've entered myself into the 'Best Food Blog' category. So, if you have a couple of minutes spare (and think I deserve it) please nominate me here!

Thanks guys... xx
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