Monday, 19 June 2017

Best Potato Salad You Will Ever Make - Perfect for Summer BBQs

I don't really like mayonnaise and most potato salad recipes use mayonnaise to make the dressing.  On a trip to the US last year my sister and I ordered a sandwich which came with a side of potato salad.  I tasted it like I always do, not expecting to like it, but WOW it was really good.

The waitress explained how they made it and as soon as I got back to the UK I set about trying to re-create the recipe.  I must say I am particularly pleased with the result which has now become my signature, bring to any event potato salad!

You can boil any potatoes but the new, waxy type are best.  I usually boil about about 1.5kg. There is no need to peel them but that is optional.  Once boiled let the potatoes cool.

In the meantime I fry up some smoked streaky bacon until crispy then put that aside to cool on a piece of kitchen towel to help absorb any bacon fat.
I usually only use one Philadelphia and one sour cream however for a big family gathering I cooked 3kg of potatoes so doubled up on the dressing.

Initially I whipped the Philadelphia (cream cheese) until thick.
Slowly beat in the sour cream and pour over the potatoes and at this point add crumbled bacon. Check salt and pepper as the bacon can be quite salty so you won't need quite so much.
If any of my guests are vegetarian I take some out before adding the bacon.  Often I  chop chives or spring onions for the top before setting on the table to serve.
I hope you enjoy this mayonnaise free potato salad as much as our family do.  Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  Will you try it this way?

I was not asked to write this post and as usual all opinions and photos are my own and my not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tobago: Harvest Sunday

When we think of Harvest Sunday in the UK we think of something in the autumn when schools and churches collect non-perishable foods for old people's homes and underprivileged families.  In Tobago Harvest Sunday is a food, family and friends gathering that happens somewhere on the island every Sunday!

Each village has it's designated Sunday which falls on the same Sunday each year.  The village holding Harvest when we were there on the 1st Sunday of May was called 'Belle Garden'.  There is no set number of families taking part, its just if you want to you get together with other family members and cook large pots and cauldrons of food, stock up the fridge with local beer and soft drinks
and crank up the music ready for an afternoon to evening of eating, drinking and music.

The Sunday we were in Tobago we (Mr R and I) were invited to a family's home in Belle Garden.
Shorn Richards is the chief cook for the day and with a big smile he beckoned us to come closer and see what he was doing.  Shorn would have a taste and deftly sprinkle a little more of spice or tomato puree or whatever was needed!
When we arrived there were huge bowls with various meats and fish marinating waiting for their turn in one of the great pots.  Shorn was planning on cooking tuna, chicken, pork, local blue crab,
rabbit and iguana.  I must admit I was not too upset that the iguana wasn't ready by the time we left!!

When recipes call for coconut milk no one opens a can but in true Caribbean style they grate the flesh from the coconut, put it in the blender with water and blitz.  Next you strain the milk from the pulp and use that in your recipe.  Nothing is wasted though as the pulp will be squeezed out and used in cakes and sweet breads.
As the pots were so big and the fires so hot you need a very long wooden spoon/stick to stir.  Of course you just know I wanted to get one of these and bring it home with me.  It's a long story but I am happy to report that my spoon made it home safe and sound!
As the food starts smelling amazing and the day heats up friends and family as well as other villagers start to assemble ready for the festivities! Each family provides this feast absolutely free in the spirit of sharing.

As well as the large pots cooking there were several of the women in the family in the small kitchen cooking what the locals call 'provisions' - a mixture of plantain, dasheen, casava and sweet potato.
Mr R had a good time making new friends in spite of the difficulties understanding some of the local dialect. Clinking a couple of beers together is the same in any culture so he was happy waiting outside, drinking beer and chatting while the food preparations were in full swing.
Tobago is an island rich in culture and traditions and it was an honour and a pleasure to participate in this traditional Sunday lunch.

We came to this village as strangers and left as friends with hugs all around and a promise that I will come back the first Sunday of May next year and help with the cooking!  It's a date!
The event comes to an end when the food and drink are finished or the music stops!  Then it's all about planning for next year.

I was a guest of the Harvest Sunday celebrations in Belle Garden.  I was not required to write a positive post and as usual all photos are my own and are not to be reproduced without my written permission.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Kent: Celebrations The 350th Anniversary of The Battle Of Medway

I was invited to the launch of the celebrations for the 350th Battle of Medway (click here for full program).  Ironically we lost the battle so you might question why are we celebrating.  Well this battle signified a radical change in the course of the Anglo-Dutch war for the Royal Navy.

Until the defeat the purse holders (the government) was reluctant to put money into the fleet however following this defeat the government of the time were able to recognise that they needed to develop the fleet and it eventually turned into the first class Royal Navy that we know today.

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway I was invited to the official launch which started at Upnor Castle in Kent.  We assembled at the castle entrance whilst we waited for the guest of honour, HH Prins Maurits of Holland to arrive.
At the castle, on a warm windy day
the VVIPs pose for a phot-call
Prins Maurits unveiled a plaque to commemorate the celebrations
There was a sail past of a couple of dozen small Dutch craft to show support for the celebrations and to get a salute from the prince.
We moved to Royal Chatham Dock, which incidentally is a great family day out with loads of interactive exhibits and a chance to learn about this battle and many others in British naval history.
As with all good British celebrations it is important to have a marching band.  First up was the Dutch naval band,
followed closely by the British naval band.  They both entertained us, the VVIP guests and selected members of the public.
The Dutch naval frigate was in port and we waited for the arrival of HH Prins Maurits
who was intending to tour the ship and meet some of the crew.  A salute and permission to come aboard.
His Highness showed a good deal of interest in the workings of the bridge and I must admit feeling rather special to be there.  This ship has only 50 crew members due to the fact that it is so digitally advanced.
The press photographers were rather hoping that the prince would jump aboard the rescue boat and take it for a spin. However he was just interested to hear all about it from the crew member.
At Chatham Royal Dockyard on the 17th June 2017 there will be a huge re-enactment of the battle with flames, smoke and gun fire.  Even if you cannot make it to the display on the 17th take the family to Chatham for a great day out.  There is ample parking on site or you can get a train from St Pancreas station in London and arrive in just under 35 minutes!

I was a not required to write a positive review and as always all photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Literary Corner - Latest Book Reviews

I have been sent the following books to review:-

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani (published by Frances Lincoln - Quarto Group)
I met Sumayya a couple of times before she had produced her first book 'Summers Under the Tamarind Tree'.  She was also a member of a Facebook group that I belong to and it was evident from her postings how dedicated she was to her recipes from her Pakistani background and her family.

We all have our favourite savoury recipes from our local Indian/Pakistani restaurants but we hardly ever order dessert.  Sumayya's recipes are all about the sweet traditions of her beloved homeland. She recounts to waking to mouthwatering spices and unusual puddings such as 'Shakarkandi di kheer' or Sweet potato pudding with rice flour and spices.
The photos in the book are truly beautiful and evocative of an other world where spices and rose petals rule.
Mountain Berries & Desert Spice is Sumayya's second book and the RRP is £20.00.

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek (published by Jacqui Small - Quarto Group)
This book is about healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India.  For me the word 'heritage' is so important as many of our traditional foods, cultures and skills are being lost due to the busy lives of everyone and with time so precious shortcuts are becoming so popular.

Mira Manek has been inspired by recipes her mother and grandmother cooked for her as she was growing up.  The photos are captivating and this one with the older woman patting out her bread really brings that sense of heritage to life.  You can sense the love, skill this woman is putting into her food.
The recipes inside are wonderful sounding dishes like Beetroot & Coconut Curry, Chilli Kick Grain Bowl and the simple but traditional Gujarati dal served simply over rice and with a spicy poppadom.
This book will be one of those you keep in the kitchen and constantly refer to for main meals and quick suppers.

The Excursionist - A Novel by J.D.Sumner (published by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc)
This book is a satirical novel about a newly single guy who wants to become a member of the Traveler's Century Club before his upcoming landmark birthday.  I thought as it was a novel about travel that I would take it with me on holiday.

I must admit that I found it hard to get into and being lured into the Caribbean Sea I have put this book aside to read later.

I was sent these books to review and was not paid to write a positive review.  All opinions and photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Tobago: Book Review and Giveway

'Tobago: Clean, Green and Serene' is a beautiful coffee table book that was given to me on my recent visit to the Caribbean paradise island.  This book echoes the diverse and colourful  life on this idyllic island as well as giving you an insight into the history, traditions and local customs (I will soon be posting about a local custom called 'Harvest' which I think you will enjoy).
As you flip through the pages you will feel like you have been transported to this special place in the Caribbean; sunny, warm and friendly whose people are intensely proud of their heritage and customs.  I attended a community cooking session leaning how to make cou cou and even brought home one of those long cooking sticks!
And of course one of the highlights of the community calendar is the Easter Goat Racing at Buccoo Reef!
The beaches are serene and very rarely busy making you think you may be the only one on the island at that point along with calm, warm and beautiful clear waters.
This book is publishes by Hansib Publications Ltd with a UK RRP of £20.00 and you can win a copy for your own coffee table by following the instructions below.  The giveaway is open to residents of the UK only.

I was a guest of Visit Tobago (The Tobago House of Assembly) and Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort.  I was not required to write a positive report.  As usual all photos are my own and may not be reproduced without my written permission.


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