Category Archives: General musings

Review: Paleo Granola by The Paleo Foods Co.

Dinosaur Snacking from The Paleo Foods Co. 

Paleo Granola Samples from The Paleo Foods Co.

Paleo Granola Samples from The Paleo Foods Co (this is not their final packaging btw!)

Just a quick post today to tell you about some Paleo Granola I was sent to review from The Paleo Foods Co (their full website is coming soon).  All their granolas are suitable for the Paleo diet – which means they are grain free and therefore gluten free.  The ingredients used are a range of nuts, seeds, raw unpasturized honey to sweeten and coconut – no oats which are usually found in granola – plus of course the extra flavourings such as vanilla, dried fruit and cocoa. All highly nutritious ingredients. Woot.

The flavours I tried were;

  • Honey & Pecan
  • Berries
  • Cocoa

I ate all 3 samples on their own as a snack, one of which on a very long plane ride from London to the USA.  I had planned to keep back at least 1 sample for a nutritious breakfast along with some non-dairy milk or yoghurt and some berries (what a treat that would have been) – however the US immigration had other ideas!  I didn’t realise you can’t take nuts or seeds through security so I munched up the final packet waiting in the customs line for fear of having it confiscated (I wasn’t going to throw it away!)

The granola itself had the perfect level of sweetness.  I really struggle with foods that are too sweet as they send my blood sugar levels (and appetite) crazy.  I find this especially problematic at breakfast time which is why I usually choose to eat a meal that’s high in protein with fat plus veggies.  This granola didn’t noticeably have that effect on me, plus it was uber tasty. My only criticism was that by the time I came to eat the 2nd and 3rd packs, the granola has lost its crunch. Maybe that was to do with the way I’d stored it, would be interested to see it in its final packaging which is now available.

The granola would be a perfect breakfast partner for COYO coconut milk yoghurt, for dessert on top of fruit or a crumble, or just snacked straight out of the bag.

I’ve read about on the internet, and now seen in real life some USA brands tackling this idea so it really is fab to see a new start up company flying the flag for a clean eating product like this in the UK.  Great logo too guys!

The granola is currently available to buy on-line from Red 23

With thanks to The Paleo Foods Co for the Samples.  All opinions in this review are my own, I was not required to write a positive review.  

Behind the Scenes at Pure Taste Pop Up

An adventure to a paleo & gluten free pop up kitchen – set in a professional restaurant!

Keen to get as much experience in nutrition, cooking and the like outside of my personal experiences writing this blog, last week I was invited down to the Pure Taste Pop Up restaurant by proprietor Holly Taylor to suss out what goes on behind the scenes.  Pure Taste is a pop-up restaurant in Sussex that specialises in gourmet gluten-free and paleo-friendly food.  Once a month, the pure taste team take over Jeremy’s Restaurant, which is located in the stunning locations of Borde Hill Gardens near Haywards Heath.  

My task was largely to assist Holly and the team with various tasks throughout the prep and service, but also served to give me a taster of the environment of a working restaurant kitchen – and a completely paleo/gluten-free one at that.  Let’s just say it was nothing like the experience of cooking up a meal in Ceri’s kitchen!

Breads and Canapés

Breads and Canapés

Holly’s Menu changes each month, and offers a variety of choices for Paleo, gluten-free-ers, dairy-free-ers, vegans & vegetarians (if requested).  With a selection of breads to start, followed by a canapé, starter, main course, dessert, Petit fours AND coffee – using all nutritionally good for you ingredients – there is no question that it is worth the modest price tag of £30 per head.  Dietary restrictions or not this is a fabulous menu!

Starters at Pure Taste Pop up

Starters

So what goes on behind the scenes you all want to know?

I arrived mid afternoon, just in time to help with all the prep for evening service.  Many aspects of the menu had been prepared in advance by Holly on the preceding days – marinades, tarts, jelly, ice-creams – but there is still so much lot to be done since many ingredients must be prepped fresh on the day.  Cue lots of chopping, slicing, skewering, marinading and filleting from the team.  Plus I had the rather enjoyable task of fetching vine leaves & edible flowers fresh from Jeremy’s garden – purely for decorative purposes!

Mains

Mains

I spent the evening during service working with Rebecca on desserts.  It was fun working as a team, having the rather arduous task of squeezing chocolate sauce decoratively all over the plates, warming through slices of pecan pie in the oven, scattering over freeze-dried raspberries and learning some top tips on how to keep a scoop of ice-cream on a plate (slithered almonds work a treat).   Each dish is literally plated up in the 2 minutes before the customer receives it.

Desserts

Desserts

Once service was over, worktops were wiped down, and the kitchen cleaned ready for handing back to Jeremy I had the opportunity of sampling a smorgasbord of leftovers piled onto one plate.  The stuffed vine leaves were my absolute favourite (look out for my own interpretation soon), the stuffed chicken delicious, and the cauliflower cous-cous noticeably tasty (so citrussy).  I may have also enjoyed a slither of mango pie and some petit fours… I’m personally very used to eating paleo food, but I am confident in saying a newcomer to this style of eating would honestly not notice the absence of refined ingredients, grains, glutens, legumes and white sugar so often found in gourmet restaurant meals.

All in all fab experience which was close to feeling like the fastest 7 hours of work in my life. Many thanks to Holly and the team for making me feel so welcome.

p.s All my photos were taken during service, so firstly must apologise for the poor lighting, reflections and shadows.  Not an ideal time or place to create fabulous food photography…

Pure Taste Pop Up runs once a month, usually on a Tuesday night.  £30 per person.  For more details check out the website or follow on Facebook for forthcoming dates, menus and how to book. 

Lamb Butchery Course – Drings Butchers, Greenwich

My future career as a butcher?

Michael & Michael of Drings in action

Michael & Michael of Drings in action

Last week, I was invited along to a Lamb butchery course organised by my local butchers Drings of Royal Hill in Greenwich.  Throughout the course of the 3 hour evening we saw an entire lamb butchered into the well and lesser known cuts, learned a heap about seasonality, sourcing, farming, had a go at butchering ourself and finished off with a tasty lamb curry.  The course was held in a catering facility not far from the shop.  It was such a gloriously hot and sweltering summer evening on arriving I rather hoped I could opt to spend part of the evening in a large catering fridge.  Thank goodness there was no cooking involved in this kitchen tonight!  

The course was taken by two of Drings butchers Michael and Michael.  Both are hugely experienced in the butchery trade (Michael 1 for 50 years), and are always incredibly friendly and helpful with all the questions I continually ask as a loyal customer – how to cook a rabbit a perfect example.  Drings had very kindly sponsored my Pop up Afternoon Tea raffle offering a place on the course to the raffle and inviting me along for the ride also. Brilliantly the raffle prize was won by a friend of mine – Matt from Fitter Food so I had a perfect foodie partner in crime to assist with sawing up meat joints and to compare butchery skills with.  Much to my dismay Matt was much better than me!

Lamb is I think (am I allowed to say I think since I can’t actually decide) my favourite meat, but I do tend to play safe with mince, and all the cuts that I know how to cook; for example shoulder, neck fillet, leg, pre-prepared chops and steaks.  It was great to learn the anatomy and cuts of the lamb right from head to toe whilst simultaneously discussing how best to cook them.  I especially found it interesting to learn the journey of the animal through rearing, slaughtering then to our plate (or farm to fork as they say in USA).  If we’re going to eat meat I think its really important we know where it comes from – and be totally OK with all the processes within that.

Lamb butchery

Lamb butchery

From a fact filled & surprisingly hands on evening here are some key things I learned; 

  • This whole lamb used for the demos (top left pic) was bought from Smithfield market ridiculously early that very morning for around £110.
  • All lambs are labelled with weight, branding and origin when slaughtered for market (top right pic).
  • Lambs are often force fed to grow in time for Spring slaughtering.  Summer lamb is therefore actually better tasting than Spring lamb – since it is allowed to grow/eat more naturally.
  • Lamb will have different levels of fattyness/leaness throughout the year.  Cooking time and method should be amended accordingly.
  • There is demand for different cuts at different times of year.  Stew & roasting cuts for winter, BBQ’s cuts in summer – a whole butterflied leg for a Summer BBQ anyone?
  • The organ meats are not sold with the carcass – apart from the kidneys which are still attached.
  • The neck of the animal works incredibly hard, so the meat is lean, but tough.  Lamb neck is therefore a great cut for slow-cooked stews.
  • Lamb mince is usually made from shoulder meat plus all the leftovers from trimming up the other cuts.  Nothing is left to waste!

In amongst all that learning we got to have a go at butchery ourselves – saws, very sharp knives and supervised guidance were essential to our success;

Lamb butchery

My lamb butchery

  • Top left:  Trimming, stuffing and rolling a breast of lamb ready for a slow roast in the oven.  Breast of lamb is very economical cut of lamb, since its not very popular.  Best cooked long and slow to make it tender.
  • Right:  The popular and expensive best-end/rack. Trimming this was hard work, mine not particularly neat – at all.
  • Bottom left:  A rolled saddle ready for roasting

Unbelievably generously the rolled breast, saddle and best-end along with some bones for stock were for us to take home.  Just as well as I’m not sure my poorly butchered cuts would look enticing in their shop window.  I’m pleased to report all joints made it safely home through the heat and are happily sitting in my freezer ready for me to have a go at cooking them all for the first time.  Though before freezing I did take the liberty to chop the large saddle in two, so I could trial out a new recipe just for me at the weekend.  I came up with this:

Roast Lamb Saddle with Roasted Vegetables tossed in Pesto & topped with Watercree

Slices of Roast Lamb Saddle with Roasted Vegetables tossed in Pesto & topped with Watercress

Pretty pleased with that.  The lamb was divine.

Our butchery evening finished with a delicious slow cooked 4 hour lamb shoulder curry. The meat was incredible – so melt in the mouth tender.

4 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder curry

4 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder curry

All in all a fun evening, with heaps of tips, knowledge and meat to take home with me.  I don’t think my future career as a butcher beckons – I’ll leave that to Drings!

The butchery courses are held monthly and are soon to be moving to a larger facility in the local area.

Drings Butchers – 22 Royal Hill, Greenwich London, SE10 8RT
http://www.drings.co.uk Tel 0208 858 4032

Disclaimer: I attended the course as a guest of Drings.  All views and opinions are my own. 

Food Blogger Connect #FBC5

Connecting, Inspiring, and…. (gulp) Moderating

7th July will go down in history as the day that a Brit finally regained the crown at Wimbledon Tennis Championships.  A mere 3 miles up the road in the beautiful Battersea Arts Centre. I had won my own personal championship.  Getting through 3 days of moderating non-stop at FBC!

Photo credit:  Sarka Babicka

Niamh Shields, (me!) & David Lebovitz.    Photo Credit Šárka Babická

Food Blogger Connect is the annual gathering of food bloggers from all over the UK and beyond, where we get to learn, meet and inspire.  Whether it be from speakers, food traders and specialists or quite simply each other.

As a second time attendee at FBC and returning volunteer (my report from last year is here) I felt far more relaxed as I approached the weekend – that is apart from the rather huge task I’d been set by organisers Bethany & Joslin of acting as Master of Ceremonies for all of the sessions. It was my job to time-keep, moderate all 3 of the panel sessions and, the most daunting task of all – working all the power point presentations on an Alien-to-me Mac.

Being involved behind the scenes with the conference has again this year been an incredible experience.  Speaking in front of that many people is not something I thought I felt natural at – I tend to make silly whoop noises, stumble my words or swear inappropriately given half the chance… It turns out I’m not so bad after all and I actually felt like I thrived on the experience (all those years of nerve wracking clarinet recitals must have been perfect preparation).  Thank you Bethany and Joslin for the experience.  I feel I’m richer for it.

Photo Credit:

BAC, Keynote speaker David Lebovitz & FBC founder Bethany Kehdy, Sessions in Session. Photo credit: Šárka Babická

Anyway – back to the blogging!

The Sessions
An incredible diverse range of topics populated the schedule this year.  From sessions to inform  & provoke debate, technical sessions to be a ‘better’ blogger, and those that just inspired me.

It was a pleasure to take part in panel sessions with the likes of David Lebovitz, Niamh Shields (Eatlikeagirl) & Emma Gardener (Poiresauchocolat).  Bloggers who in my eyes are a little bit famous.  On meeting them it was refreshing to realise that as bloggers we already have one thing that unites us all – no matter how successful.  I particularly appreciated David’s advice to just be who you are warts and all.  The stories behind the recipes, are what does it for him, the human side behind a failed recipe or a less than perfect plate a charm. We discussed what successful blogging means anyway.  The outcome?  A unanimous decision that success means something different for all of us.

I particularly enjoyed the forward thinking sessions from organisations I knew little about – The Sustainable Food Trust and Food Cycle.  As bloggers I think we have a huge responsibility to go out and spread the good word that these organisations are doing rather than hiding in our own little blogging world.  I’d really love to volunteer with Food Cycle.

FBC2

Penny De Los Santos, Emily Jonzen, Niamh Shields and me. Photo Credit: Šárka Babická

I have no designs on being a photographer – I can barely use my camera on anything other than the automatic setting but Penny De Los Santos‘s session really did inspire me to get out there and capture life (and food) through a lens.  Personally, I found Emily Jonzen’s food styling session incredibly useful – I will be trying my damned hardest to take some of her tips on board, when I’m next trying to make a pot of meatballs or chocolate nut balls look appealing (my last nut balls looked like poo…) Her work is stunning.  Swoon.

Meeting Kerstin Rodgers  (Ms Marmite Lover) was as to be expected entertaining.  She was there to talk to us about her food career enterprises launched with her blog as back up – including her infamous supperclub.  When I told her I had been thinking of starting a supperclub for about 2 years.  She told me just to get on and do it and stop making excuses about not having the right table (point taken).  She also told the whole room I live in New Cross.  An open invitation to everyone from FBC??  Likewise was great to hear Denise from Moel Faban Supers talk about her supperclub experience.  If Denise can hold a successful supperclub in North Wales half way up a mountain – surely I can get a few people to pop along to my tiny flat in SE London??

Others to briefly mention included a session on Free-From recipe writing by Holly taylor (Puretastepopup) and Adriana Rabinovitch (Gluten Free 4 Kids).  Hurrah for a topical for me session to be placed on the schedule!  I hope others found it as useful as I did.  Plus Regula (missfoodwise) on breathing life into your brand & design.  Having just been through a re-brand, I wish I’d heard her speak before starting out on the process!

Once 3pm Sunday arrived I had firmly put my heart on producing my own book with Blurb,  whilst simultaneously launching a street food stall thanks to Toma Mexicano, managing my own product line thanks to Dana Elemara (Arganic), and in my spare time getting my work published thanks to Karen Burns Booth and Ren Behan (not forgetting the supperclub plans).  A tad ambitious to do list me thinks…

The Food
There was street food…. Like last year street food stalls had been drafted in to feed us.   Queueing for food and eating in such an informal way in the glorious sunshine provided perfect opportunities to chat and connect with fellow bloggers.   Special shout out to Pig A Chic for the most amazingly flavoured pork and chicken skewers – would love to know what was in the marinade!  Also to Yummy Choo Eats and her flavourful Mauritian food.  I’ll be visiting one of her pop up events as soon as I can!

Pig a Chic, Yummy Choo Eats, Lidgate butchery demo.  Photo Credit:  Sarka Babicka

Pig a Chic, Yummy Choo Eats, Lidgate butchery demo. Photo Credit: Šárka Babická

There were also tastings…. I was enamoured with the Sauces and Oils by Seggiano.  I’m already a pesto lover and with many of these being NKA friendly I am excited to try more. Ooh and Rare Tea Company with their very fine tea especially brewed over ice for us due to the sweltering temps.

There were also brands & products…. We had coconut water literally on tap with a what felt like unlimited supply from Jax Coco coconut water.  It kept me suitably hydrated in the rising temperatures all weekend – amazing!   Plus Hackney based Happy Kitchen Gluten-Free Brownies which were I’m sure strategically placed around the reception areas purely so I could eat them with each trot past.

As an appreciator of quality meat I was sad to miss most of the the butchery demo by Lidgates due to a combination of my official duties and being in the Pig a Chic queue.

For me, the pinnacle of the eats was the amazing Lebanese Feast cooked up by Bethany Kehdy (and family) to launch her stunning new cookbook “The Jewelled Kitchen” readers of the blog will be fully aware I love this cuisine – so a feast that included dishes such as; Barbequed meat skewers in an incredible marinade, smoky aubergine dip, smoky aubergine & split pea stew, finishing up with date & tahini truffles was not to be missed.  Bethany had been cooking for nearly 2 weeks in preparation for the feast. There was no chance we were leaving hungry.  All these recipes are in the book (which I now own) – and are accompanied by gorgeous photography by another FBC attendee – Šárka Babická (who also provided the photos for this blog post – thank you so much!)

The Jewelled Kitchen & Feast in preparation. The Photo Credit:  Sarka Babicka

The Jewelled Kitchen feast in preparation. The Photo Credit: Šárka Babická

The People
Food Blogger Connect  is not only about learning and sharing about blogging – but connecting with people. It was great to reconnect with those I’d met last year and kept in contact with in the interim – but also fab to say hello to many new faces – some I already knew of from the Internet and some who I’ve been chuffed to find.   Each and every blogger making me a little more humbled with their passion and talent for this ‘hobby’.  I was reflecting last week about what inspires me in life – I thought a lot about my answer and settled on ‘other people’ – their stories, ambitions, achievements.

A special mention must go to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly as a team behind the scenes, before, during and after the conference to make it all happen.  Who knew taking down a marquee or sticking your face in a fridge could be so much fun?

Until next year….

Giveaway: Italian Chestnut Flour

Hello – I’m back from a gorgeous but short trip to Italy to visit my family. In between eating (a lot), cycling (a bit), spending some time in the sun and working out how to stop all my mosquito bites itching (lavender oil works a treat) I popped to the supermarket for a couple of bags of my favourite gluten-free baking flour – chestnut flour. I bought a couple of bags one for me and one for you lot, since I thought it would be rather fun to host a blog giveaway in celebration of the rubbish summer we’re having in London…

Chestnut flour is known as Farine di Castagne to the Italians and I‘ve been a fan of using it in baking ever since I bought my first bag in Italy a couple of years ago. The flour is made from dried milled chestnuts is very starchy, fibrous, naturally sweet and gluten-free – perfect! Since I imported my first bag I’ve worked on a variety of yummy recipes;

Recipes using chestnut flour

Recipes using chestnut flour

Since the flour is naturally sweet, without gluten and doesn’t rise it needs trying and testing. I’m always looking for tried and tested recipes with chestnut flour that not only work but are delicious. Have you seen or tasted any?  What would you do with the flour?  Enter the giveaway below by letting me know and you might have the chance to try out the recipe yourself Each task counts as a separate entry so make sure you leave separate comments for each one for more chances to win!

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what you’d cook with the chestnut flour including a link to an on-line recipe (must be gluten free).
  2. Like ‘Natural Kitchen Adventures‘ on Facebook and leave a comment below stating you have done so.
  3. Tweet this – ‘Check out @cerikitchen giveaway http://wp.me/p1x8GT-Pl for the chance to win a bag of Italian Chestnut Flour’ and leave a comment below stating that you have done so.

Giveaway open to UK residents only and ends Midday GMT 8th July. Good Luck.