Recipe: Italian style braised beef

braisedbeefMy latest recipe for Farmers Choice is now available online. I thought the chaging weather should be marked with something a bit warmer and this will make a change from roasting your joint.

Braising the beef in wine gives a juicy kick to the dinner table with a very basic sauce or gravy cooked in the one pot too. Whether it’s for a Sunday lunch or something more sophisticated, the long cooking time and warming spices make a dish which is tender and perfect after an autumn walk.

Get the recipe and order the ingredients at the website here.

What’s cooking in Malaysia Kitchen?

Guest blogger Stanley Harper went along to a recent showcase of Malaysian food in Manchester and found that simplicity is the key to the cuisine. Here’s his report……

It took a lot of persuading to get out of the house on one of Manchester’s particularly freezing mornings but on Saturday 26th January I managed to pay a visit to Oldham Road’s ‘Wing Yip’ Oriental Supermarket, the Chinese cash and carry on the outskirts of the Northern Quarter. Malaysia Kitchen, a campaign raising awareness of Malaysian cuisine and culture in the UK, had arrived in Manchester to showcase the simplicity and great taste of Malaysian cooking, and I wanted to be there!

For those unfamiliar to Malaysian cuisine, in a nutshell, it takes the best flavours from Indian, Chinese and traditional Malay food and merges them into something unique. The result is an amazingly vibrant, delicious and varied cuisine.

The demos were presented by none other than MasterChef 2010 Winner Dhruv Baker. Dhruv was showcasing four traditional Malaysian dishes throughout the day; Chicken Rendang, Curry Laksa, Nasi Goreng and Kway Teow Goreng. To highlight the simplicity of the food and to clear the mystery surrounding Malaysian food, Dhruv used pre made cooking pastes from Malaysia.You wouldn’t expect a top chef like Dhruv to champion pre-made cooking pastes, however you could tell that these pastes were a cut above the rest as he admitted he was amazed by the authenticity and quality of them.
The first dish showcased was a Chicken Rendang.

This chicken curry consists of lots of coconut flesh and milk, slow cooked with chilli and cinnamon, creating a dry but extremely fragrant curry.
The Curry Laksa is a curried noodle soup with tofu, prawn and chicken pieces, very similar to a Japanese Ramen but with a thicker soup. The Laksa had more of a kick than the Rendang but still the lovely light taste which runs through all of the Malaysian dishes we tried.
The other two dishes were very similar. The Nasi Goreng was a chicken and prawn dish with fried pre-cooked rice, the Kway Teow Goreng had fried noodles that were also pre-cooked. These dishes were spicy and flavoursome and are a great way to utilise any leftover ingredients that you may have in the fridge.

Seeing the simplicity of the pastes used by Dhruv, there was no way we couldn’t return home without trying the food for ourselves at home! We left with full bellies and shopping bags, purchasing all of the pastes used by Dhruv and a few extras. Dhruv used a special type of soy sauce called ‘Kicap Manis’, which is much sweeter and thicker than normal soy sauce. The Malaysia Kitchen Ambassadors and Wing Yip staff were both really helpful with their recommendations on Malaysian products, backing up Dhruv’s expert knowledge.
If you want to try them for yourself you can either pop along to Wing Yip for the ingredients (incredibly reasonably priced), or go on to to find your closest Malaysian restaurant along with loads of fantastic recipes from Tim Anderson, Atul Kochhar and many more!

* Stanley Harper is a guest blogger from whynot!If you fancy writing for this blog, here’s how to get in touch.

Vermillion bosses launch charity seafood cookbook

The Seamark business is well known in Manchester for both its headquarters in the east of the city as well as for being responsible for probably its most expensively built and designed restaurant – Vermillion.

Now the global business is taking both the story of its success and the recipes which grace the plates of the restaurant to new audiences with a book that’s just been published to raise money for charity.

Called ‘Seamark bringing fruits of the ocean to your plate‘ the 150 page book is a mixture of business history and cookbook with enough food photography to make it a coffee table read.

The early pages detail the Ahmed brother’s ‘story of determination’ in building a business which is today a £150m operation.

“In 1984, with a £100,000 credit facility, the brothers set about capitalising on Britain’s growing taste for seafood and began importing prawns from their home nation of Bangladesh.”

Then we move onto recipes from Vermillion which starts with a useful glossary of spices and herbs used in Thai cooking. There’s easy to follow instructions on dishes which many people will already be familiar with eating such as as tempura prawns, salt and pepper squid or salmon tikka.

But there’s some more unusual dishes too including several pages on spicy salads and a black prawn curry recipe from a Thailand’s northern jungles where coconut milk isn’t used.

Some of the ingredients might be tricky to source outside major cities but largely they include items such as oyster sauce and Kaffir leaves which are easily found in supermarkets or online.

I’m looking forward to trying out the Nile perch with Thai pepper sauce which uses green peppercorns and includes instructions for a butter rice accompaniment.

* The book costs £9.95 with all proceeds going to the Iqbal Ahmed Foundation which was set up to help people in developing countries through education, training, housing and healthcare. At present it can be purchased from the website and should be in the Amazon store in coming weeks.

World Curry Festival, cooking apps and cupcakes – food news to start the week


– Bradford’s been playing host to the World Curry Festival over weekend. It’s a massive three day event across multiple venues in the city which the organisers said has been running for the past three years: “The World Curry Festival was created in 2010, in celebration of 200 years since the first curry house was originally established in the UK. The event, now in its third year, attracts curry-lovers in their thousands, who come to experience an authentic curry and to revel in the party atmosphere.” The Telegraph and Argus has this video report from the start of the event.

– How many apps do you need? I have to thank @GirlLondon on Twiter for sharing this – an incredible 50 apps to get cooking from The Next Web.

– If you’ve spotted the new Pet Lamb cake shop in Newcastle’s Grainger Market over the past week and wondered who’s behind it…turns out it’s food blogger Katie Cakes’ latest venture. But not content with the new shop (and that gorgeous looking recipe for a chessboard cake) she’s also managed to fit in writing a book. She posts on her blog:

“For the last few month I’ve been the busiest I have ever been in my whole life.  I opened a cake shop named Pet Lamb in the heart of Newcastle with my best friend and partner in crime, this would be enough to keep any normal person occupied but not me.  While pouring all of my heart and soul into my fledgling business I have also been spending every second I had away from the shop writing my book.”

– and talking of Newcastle, don’t forget…..
Urban Night Feast


Northern men taking cooking lessons? Here’s proof

While looking around for examples of interesting cookery courses going on in the north, I came across this snippet from my Northerner colleague Martin Wainwright who claims to have unearthed something of a gender shift in the culinary arts.

He writes about the Cooking School at Dean Clough.

“A fish-cooking course last month had men as half the students, compared with a usual ratio of 80 percent women to 20 percent men, and it wasn’t a series of sessions in how to run a fish-and-chip shop (historically more of a male occupation, though not exclusively). Indian cookery courses have also seen more men involved, as have the ‘Taste of..’ adventures into global cuisine which the school runs on Monday evenings.

“Organisers have had a look at bookings and concluded that women buying a course as a gift is partly responsible, a good way round the familiar problem of men expressing great enthusiasm to have a go, knowing that they will be refused because of the probable mess and incompetence. The school’s chef manager Matthew Benson-Smith also suggests that there may have been a bit of ‘Look how clever he is..’ goading in front of TV sets at home, as celebrity hunks show off their cooking skills.”

You can read the full article here. Is this a kitchen revolution? I’d love to hear details of any more schools, courses or from people who have attended any such across the north of England. Please do drop me a line or comment below.

The woman who is baking her way around the world

bakesToday is, as I’m sure you’ll all know, world baking day when a global bakeathon will be taking place to share the joy of cakes. So what better day could there be to introduce you to the intrepid Lauren Prince who is attempting a journey around the world in 80 bakes.

From the safety and comfort of her north-east base, Lauren has been stirring, beating and scoffing her way through some of the cake-based cuisines of the world since September last year when she set about her challenge with a tart au citron.

Since then we’ve been treated to fancies such as the local Sunderland Gingerbread to exotics such as Herman the German Friendship Cake

As you can see from the most recent entry, Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake, each of the bakes comes with careful descriptions and some lovely photography.

Lauren says she was inspired to start her foodie journey after discovering interesting tastes in far off places during sabbatical travelling and from going on holidays.

“The idea came to me one metro ride to work. I love eating, baking and travelling. Why not combine them all and challenge myself to baking and blogging eighty things from around the world? I began that day and it started to consume my mind completely.”

There’s 50 more world recipes to go so follow the blog at Oh, and she’s also running the Great North Run in aid of Oxfam and you can sponsor her efforts here.

Three free food apps

If you want to take your food planning mobile, you could pay for celebrity tips or give some of the free iPhone and iPad apps a whirl. Taking a look at The Sunday Times top apps today it seems that celebs are cashing in with apps which will cost you – Jamie’s 20 minute meals (£4.99), Nigella’s quick collection (also £4.99), and River Cottage every day at more modest £1.79.

But the list also highlights some worth a try out for free. Here’s three that caught my eye if you want to shun the slebs;

  • VeganYumYum mobile; lets you search, view, and organize veggie recipes from the award-winning food blog,
  • Boskoi; The only android app to make the list is also open source and helps users map wild food available for a bit of foraging. Made by the foragers at Urban Edibles in Amsterdam Boskoi is an Ushahidi-based app that comes with a few foraging guidelines. If you don’t have an android smartphone, the service is also available on the web.
  • All dinner spinner;  Like the website, this iphone app lets you search for recipes by ingredient or time allowable or by popularity and makes the recipes sharable.

Cookbooks explored by Bakelady

If you’re still looking for some inspiration on which cook books to buy in the sales, a visit to the Bakelady’s blog today could cut down on the research.

In her post, Some of my favourite cookbooks she takes a look at a whole host from Kitchen to Barefoot in Paris and introduces the pleasure of reading such recipe-laden treats;

“Looking at the wonderful pictures and being inspired by the recipes helps my brain to relax and get back to sleep.”

Please Jamie, can we have some more (time)?

Seems Jamie Oliver is causing a bit of a stir with Christmas cookbook readers accusing him of poor timekeeping.

His bestselling 30-Minute Meals might have been top of the stocking list, but should more properly have been named One Hour Meals according to those who’ve attempted the recipes.

Amazon reviewers certainly are in no doubt;

“Unfortunately I received 2 copies this Christmas and both are being returned. I think Jamie’s great but this book has done him no credit at all. The recipes can not be made in 30 minutes. And many are extremely expensive too. Avoid!”P. Gedge.

“I’ve tried 5 recipes and enjoyed everyone, especially the Jerk Chicken. Only negative point is that 30 minutes is wishful thinking, I cook quite a lot and so know my way around the kitchen and am averaging about 45-50 minutes.”Steve.

“Last night I cooked the Piri Piri Chicken and, in spite of being an experienced and competent cook, it took me more than an hour, just for the one course. Most of the time was spent in trying to work out which bits I should be following and the absence of any timings for some procedures.”Mrs Janet Parr

……..and so on it goes with some of Jamies’ fans wading in to defend the new style cookbook and point out that the amount of time taken doesn’t matter too much.

Being a bit of a slow food fan myself I’d have to agree that there’s no need to rush for good food but, in this particular case, it’s easy to appreciate the upset as the whole USP of the book would appear to be around convenience.

Time undoubtedly = money for a busy celeb like Jamie and with more than one million copies rung through the tills already, that’s quite a lot of half hours he’s clocked up from time-hungry followers.

The best gravy – who’d have thought

This story seems to be getting plenty mileage on UK newspaper websites today – How to make the best gravy……according to scientists.

I’ll save you the click;

The Royal Society of Chemistry found the ideal mix was juice from a beef joint and leftover water from boiled cabbage.

Well I never!

Who thinks up these research questions – and perhaps more importantly, why?

Although the RSC sounds like a very serious scientific body, its blog post on the subject today reveals that this gravy discovery;

“….. follows the success of last year’s ideal Yorkshire puddings (popovers to our American friends) – and the decree that they cannot be named so unless they rise to four inches or higher.”