The Great Get Together

I’m starting to think that the best barbecues are the impromptu, last minute variety. Is this true?

Plans were in place for a Great Get Together in support of Jo Cox and the ‘more in common’ movement last weekend, but as happens all too frequently in our household, plans change.

However… right on cue, some dear friends invited us round to their house for a last-minute Sunday-night barbecue. Perfect little get-together me thinks. Now, living in an apartment with no garden, I can’t begin to explain how delightful it is to receive such an invitation.

So, what’s in the fridge? Some, I expect, might feel a little daunted by this prospect, however I absolutely love the freedom that an open fire brings – take what you have, and make what you can. Expectations can’t be too high can they? Moreover, you have before you the most devilishly ideal creator of flavour known to mankind, the humble fire.

weber coal starter

I’m fairly certain that a planned barbecue merely leads to anxious over-purchasing in the search of perfection, and ultimately greater food wastage.

Anything goes – as long as you cook everything sufficiently, it’s all good. Think about the garnishes, embellishments and rifts that will transform the ordinary into the extroadinary with a kiss of smokey char.

Classic new potatoes with rosemary from their garden, smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, unwaxed lemon peel, salt and pepper.. I even parboiled them before walking over. Wrap them up in foil and chuck them on the heat for a while to get gnarly.

bbq potatoes

Got a pineapple to hand? A splash of olive oil and a twist of black pepper takes it to a different level once it’s had a few minutes over the waning white coals.

Felix cooking up a storm

Good job little man.

BBQ Pineapple

Get outside and get together folks – make the most of everything you have and celebrate friendship. Jo was right.

Sunday BBQ

The Great Get Together is a campaign of the Jo Cox Foundation and partners, supported by Jamie Oliver and the Food Revolution. The Jo Cox Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1170836). Registered address: 40 Bowling Green Lane, London, EC1R 0NE

The White Spoon

Long past are the days when I’d pop out from the office to grab something to eat in my lunch break, but I distinctly remember the options, or lack thereof..

An overpriced, plastic-clad sandwich or unimaginative pub fayre, unless you’re willing to pay through the nose for restaurant cuisine of course.

Competition certainly seems to be hotting up with so many new restaurants opening in Cheltenham this year; those looking to stand out are raising their game and bringing a new level of quality dining at an affordable price.

The White Spoon, tucked away on Well Walk, is offering lunchtime diners two courses in rather splendid yet welcoming surroundings, for as little as £12. Their set menu is written weekly, and makes the most of the freshest local and seasonal ingredients.

Chris White and Purdey Spooner clearly project their own style and friendly ethos to make this a relaxed and comfortable restaurant, supported by their attentive staff who I found to be particularly well-versed in every aspect of the menu.

Highlights for me? Dreamily transformative Applewood Smoked Butter, wonderfully fresh and respectfully handled shelled broad beans, and mashed potato the likes of which I’ve never experienced before: so light and airy you’d swear it was crafted from Altocumulus clouds by nimble-fingered angels.

Dreamy mashed potato

Pork Chop on Broad beans

I’m looking forward to exploring what their evening menu has to offer.

 

The White Spoon

8 Well Walk, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3JX

01242 228 555

dine@thewhitespoon.co.uk 

http://www.thewhitespoon.co.uk/  

 

Japanese Pancake

Okonomiyaki; the classic Japanese savoury pancake. As per my earlier writings on this gorgeous far eastern treat, Okonomiyaki literally means ‘grilled how you like it’. As such, there’s no strict recipe, but then again, is there ever? It’s simply a pancake batter which you pack full of all the goodness that works for you.

This feature is my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Mexican-style omelette wrap. Easy, easy breakfast fayre with a touch of zingy flair to tantalise your taste buds.

As unusual a breakfast as this may seem for some cultures, do give it a whirl. This is how I do it:

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg
  • 50ml cool stock
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 little gem lettuce, shredded
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds or Furikake*
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • Sriracha chilli sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Oyster or Hoisin sauce

Method

Traditionally, this dish is made with cabbage, but I often have little gem lettuce to hand. You can add cooked chicken, pork, whatever floats your boat.

  1. Mix together the egg, salt, flour and stock in a large bowl to make the pancake batter.
  2. Add the lettuce and onion to the mix with any other ingredients you choose.
  3. Heat the oil in a small pan and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and slightly crispy.
  4. Dress your pancake with zigzags of mayonnaise and your choice of sauces.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds or Japanese Furikake (*a seasoning made from mixed sesame seeds, Shiso leaves and nori seaweed.

Simple, delicious and nutritious.

Japanese Savoury Pancake

 

Emily Watkins

Chef Proprietor of the award-winning Kingham Plough, Emily Watkins, kindly took time out of her bustling Cotswold pub kitchen last night to demonstrate three of her favourite grain recipes to a room full of eager Whole Foods customers.

Part of the ‘Eat Real Food’ series, this class was laid on as a special event, with all proceeds going to the Whole Kids Foundation which admirably educates local children and families in healthy eating and nutrition.

Emily inspired and captivated the room with tips and tricks interspersed with stories from her fascinating career, training in male-dominated Italian kitchens and working under Heston Blumenthal at Bray’s Fat Duck. Majoring on under-used yet beautifully delicious grains, we had the joy of experiencing how a professional chef glides around the kitchen and improvises to deliver perfect dishes with minimal fuss.

Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with Millet, Preserved Lemon and Pesto, Heritage Tomato and Pinhead Oatmeal Risotto with a Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil Salad, and Fava Bean and Smoked Bacon Casserole… yes please. Oh how we wished we’d skipped our earlier dinner though.

 

Sourcing gorgeous ingredients from the store, Emily lectured on a concept that’s dear to my heart: “a recipe is just an idea”. You’ve got to approach cooking with an open mind and evolve recipes to suit you and your family – there’s no need to freak out when you’re missing an ingredient, trust your initiative and substitute or simply omit.

If you’re cooking seasonally with stunningly fresh local ingredients, simplicity is king.

Good on you Emily, you’re a Food Revolution hero.

AHL and Emily

 

Watermelon Pizza

So simple it can barely be described as a recipe, the Watermelon ‘Pizza’ is a nifty idea you can pull out of the bag when you’re in need of a fun twist for the kids.

Super healthy and nutritious, the little ones love it for its novelty factor – win win me thinks.

This is the first in a series of twists on Jamie Oliver’s new Food Revolution breakfast recipes, and my remix of his Mini super-fruit breakfast wrap.

Ingredients:

  • Watermelon
  • Yoghurt
  • Fresh soft fruits
  • Seeds

Method:

Slice your watermelon into rounds about 2cm thick and then cut it into sections like you would divide up a pizza. Spoon on a little yoghurt and then dress with your favourite mix of fresh soft fruits and seeds. You could add a drizzle of honey or even get outrageous with a sticky balsamic glaze. Experiment, mix it up, and seek out your favourite combo; there’s no rules! Mint leaves, edible flowers, desiccated coconut, it’s up to you. It’s a handheld fruit salad made for sharing.

As there’s not much to it, you can prepare it pretty much anywhere with minimum fuss.

Bring on Summer!

Breakfast recipe

 

 

SandBar Tenby

Down an alley on Upper Frog Street, neatly tucked away in what reminds me of a trendy converted London mews, is the home of the Tenby Brewing Company and their relaxed, rather funky little SandBar.

This very pleasing oasis away from the buckets and spades of the town only serves products from independent producers – craft beer and spirits from across Wales and the UK. Good on you lads!

Keg beers

It’s really promising to see new ventures like this appearing in the harbour town of Tenby. The combination of quality craft beers and classic streetfood-styled cuisine has been an astronomical success on the East Coast of America, and I see the scene having an equally meteoric growth in the UK as well.

No fuss, reasonably-priced fare that hits the spot with big flavours, and puts a smile all over your face and cheese in your lap. (Hashtag: Please eat responsibly).. I’m on holiday, it’s allowed.

“We’re going to need a bigger boat…”

The Awesome Footlong

Fear not vegetarians, their ever-improving kitchen caters for you too – surprisingly delicious Katsu curry that rivals Wagamama on flavour and texture, flows effortlessly from the kitchen.

Sandbar Tenby Katsu Curry

The highlight for me? Flights. Probably the most generous beer sampling flights I’ve ever seen (please, please don’t change that!) Choose any 3 of their keg beers in ½ pint measures for just £5. As these are mostly punchy craft IPAs, the measures are perfect for sampling and sharing. Love what you’ve sampled; the bar has it’s own shop as well…

paddles

Yes, you still need a beer menu or at least tasting notes for your great range of beers guys, but you certainly get ‘two thumbs good’ from me.

More details at: http://www.tenbybrewingco.com

Stunning art at Sandbar

Food Revolution Day 2016

As we head towards Food Revolution Day 2017 (FRD) on Friday 19th May, I want to reflect on how awesome last year’s events were.

What a day it was. The stats build year on year, and we’re seeing the revolution gaining ground as the key messages propagate around the world from person to person and community to community.

Jamie’s Facebook Live broadcast reached an astonishing 115 million people, and we saw over 700,000 people become revolutionaries by signing up to the Food Revolution Hub.

Our ambassadors and supporters ran thousands of events all over the world and Jamie shared ’10 recipes to save your life’; learn how to cook these, and you can feed yourself, and your family, for the rest of your life. Along with 9 other writers, I published twists on each of these recipes to show how easy it is to build on these basic recipes and broaden your repertoire to 100 nutritious dishes.

I took a couple of the recipes into Felix’s primary school, St James’ C of E, and spent the day cooking up a storm with the younglings. We had muchos fun with the DIY Oaty Fruity Cereal before making the Simple Houmous. SO EASY, yet so delicious and nutritious. Seriously, they couldn’t get enough.

The younger children in reception loved the classic ‘Identify and Try’ class with a variety of fruits and vegetables. They were so good at giving everything a go.

I have to add that none of this would have been possible without the kind donations from Whole Foods Market Cheltenham who supplied literally everything we needed from their selection of beautiful organic products. We’re so grateful.

 

And it didn’t stop there – Jane Gearing and our wonderful friends and Waitrose Cheltenham kindly ran a class for Dunally Primary School as well, cooking lovely little wholemeal flatbreads with pepper dippers and sugar snap peas, along with the simple houmous recipe above. The children were taught how to make their own bread dough and learnt about how to cut safely using the bridge and claw methods. Jayne, Emma and the team talked to the children about healthy diets and the importance of trying new and different foods, a subject they work into all of their classes in the onsite cookery school. Good on you Waitrose, we salute you.

wholemeal flatbreads

Here’s a little statistic for you that will give you an insight into why this year’s campaign is so important to us: “70% of three-year-olds recognise the McDonald’s symbol, but only half know their own surname…..”

Watch this space..

Food Revolution Day 2017

Battledown & Sibling

It’s time to revisit Battledown Brewery. This local family business is going from strength to strength, and recently relocated with Sibling Distillery from their cosy little Keynsham Street sheds, to a rather more serious facility in Dowdeswell Park.

The new space brings the opportunity to rethink, re-brand and relaunch, which is exactly what they’ve done. I had the pleasure of visiting the newly installed 13 hectolitre brewery and marvelling at what, without doubt, is going to be a gem in Cheltenham’s ever improving landscape. My good friend Simon and I took in the extremely welcoming atmosphere at their recent opening event, sampling their wares, listening to live music, and tucking into their signature ploughman’s spread. Bliss.

I’m pleased to say that guided brewery tours are still on the cards, and alongside the renowned Sibling Distillery, the potential is really exciting… I hear rumours that plans are afoot to open the brewery as a licensed venue on certain nights with local food trucks…

As always, Battledown provides online ‘order and pickup’ options and they’re always amenable to catering to customer needs wherever they can.

So there must be some negatives? ..yeah, it’s further to walk from town and there’s a lack of street lights out there – get a cab!

For more information, visit;

http://www.battledownbrewery.com

https://www.siblingdistillery.com

Battledown Brewery LLP
Dowdeswell Park,
London Road,
Cheltenham, GL52 6UT

Telephone: 01242693409 or 07734834104

Alex and Simon at Battledown Brewery

The UK CEO Cookoff

Here’s what you get if you combine 30 of the worlds finest chefs, 60 of the UK’s captains of industry and 600 unsung heroes under one roof. The inaugural UK CEO Cookoff brought this seemingly unlikely gathering of incredible people together in support of the recently established UKHarvest and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

Following the fantastically successful OzHarvest in Australia, founded by social entrepreneur Ronni Kahn back in 2004, the UK now has its own food rescue charity that redistributes quality surplus food from commercial outlets to charities. It carries out this truly inspirational role to nourish our nation’s vulnerable, free of charge. Where do I sign up?

Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall is patron of UKHarvest and we had the pleasure of her gracious company on the night as she mingled with guests and chefs alike, and even got involved in creating a delicious plate of food for an everyday hero.

Camilla Parker Bowles

I was volunteering in the esteemed company of three other wonderful Food Revolution Ambassadors, Lara from Essex, Jaroslav from Switzerland and Thomas from Germany. I’m still awestruck; not by the number of celebrities, but by the sheer inspiration, love and palpable motivation in the room. I’m so grateful to everyone that worked so hard to make this happen.

Food Revolution Ambassadors with Jamie Oliver

Everyday heroes from schools, hospitals and charities were treated to a spectacular evening which I have to admit I was rather jealous of; Nyetimber English sparkling wine and Toast Ale on arrival, producer stalls and the Food Assembly showcasing their wares, stunning food crafted in front of them, raucous entertainment from the magical Dynamo, and the most agreeable tones of Calum Scott.

So here’s how it worked. The 30 chefs taught the 60 CEOs, who then cooked for the 600 guests in groups of 20 around little kitchen pods. It was perhaps the most social, friendly and team-spirited experience I can remember. I dearly hope that this is the first of many such events and given Hotpoint‘s kind sponsorship, I’m sure there’s bigger and better to come next year. I teamed up with Jimmy of Ministry of Food fame, Amy from Hotpoint, the legendary Brett Graham of the Ledbury and Andreas Viestad the Norwegian farmer, traveller, home cook, food writer and activist….yeah, busy guy. My word these guys are talented; the attention to detail leaves me speechless. More importantly, they’re incredibly down to earth, charming and generally bloody good guys. Alongside their budding superstar chefs of the future, Eilish Maloney and Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen from Norway, we had a blast with our CEOs from Google, Quadia, John Lewis and Jamie Oliver Licensing.

I was a little busy to be taking lots of photographs as I normally do, but it would be rude not to pop in a few shots of the mouthwatering plates:

beautiful buffalo mozzarellaUK CEO cookoff dish

These guys weren’t holding back: Truffle seaweed, pigs jowls and goat’s whey butter all made an appearance. The fact that Brett and Eilish put a call through to the Ledbury to have their own bread couriered over in a taxi shows how serious they were about delivering the perfect experience for their guests.

How much did we raise….? Over £500,000 before the night was out, and the total is still rising. Mind-blowing! We’re aiming high in the name of food education, tackling malnutrition and obesity, and reducing the staggering level of food wastage.

Get over there and support the cause folks: www.ceocookoff.co.uk

Roll on 2018 CEO Cookoff.

View from Old Billingsgate Grand Hall

 

Heartbeat

For those that know my friend Sara, little of this will come as a surprise.

How do you fancy catering my charity party? They’ll be about 100 people..

Sara has always hated running, so now she’s running the London Marathon. Admirably, this will be in support of The British Heart Foundation and in loving memory of her dad. You can read her inspirational story here.

To raise cold hard cash she decided to throw one big party.. One big hurrah; the party of the century to smash her fundraising target in one fell swoop.

100 people is a lot more than I’ve ever cooked for, but sure, how can I resist helping out a friend. The loan of her brother’s barn, many late nights of planning, and a troop of dedicated volunteers helped her to pull everything together for the big night.

So. What do you cook for 100 people? It had to be street food, gluten free, and without doubt a Food Revolution stunner – something nutritious, delicious and portable. Oh, and with a vegetarian option too..

Thankfully I had a special request for chilli, and between us we hatched a cunning plan to feed everyone without actually having any cooking facilities in said barn.

Oh, great news Alex, it’s been really popular and I’ve sold a few more tickets..

So.. now we have 250 hungry mouths to feed. I’m big enough to admit I was somewhat terrified. Not to worry though, as my 6-year-old daughter, Winter, crafted me this little beauty to keep me company:

mascot

Many, many hours of prep and we finally made it to crunch time with a beef chilli and a vegetable chilli to serve in wraps with sour cream, salad, chillies, cheese and fresh herbs.

Oh, not to forget the comedy of barbequing sweet potato in a panic.. I kid you not:

barbequed sweet potato slices

A couple of camping burners in the barn to keep it all piping hot and we were away.

Getting ready

What a party! I started serving at 9pm and it was 11:30pm before I had a moment to glance at my watch. I have a whole new respect for people that do this for a living.

The Heartbeat BHF party

Clich here for the Pulled Beef Brisket Chilli recipe, and slide over to Jamie Oliver’s website for the Smoky Vegetable Chilli recipe. Personally, I think that the Veggie Chilli tastes better, but as you can imagine, given the option almost everyone went straight for the beef until it sold out.

I’m super pleased to report that Sara raised a staggering £6,000 for the British Heart Foundation. Amazing. What a legend. Same again next year?

Heatbeat party bottles