Saturday, 31 May 2014

Chablis Wines - Wines Not Just For Christmas

I have been asked by Chablis wines to write about my ideal summer/BBQ food & Chablis wine pairings.  To help get me in the mood I have been sent a bottle of Chablis and a bottle of Petit Chablis.

I love Chablis and don't need an excuse to open a bottle but for a lot of people it is a more celebration wine. I suggest you get the bottles in the chiller and get set to enjoy with a range of summer foods, salads and BBQs! Chablis is a very special Chardonnay from the northern part of the Burgundy wine region in France.

The Chablis I was sent is from Laroche Wines, crisp, fresh with notes of apple and pear and is available from Majestic Wines at a RRP of £14.99. The bottle of Petit Chablis is a wine with loads of freshness and elegance, 100% Chardonnay and unoaked. Also available from Majestic Wines at a RRP £12.99.

My creation is one that can be made outside with the BBQ or inside with a griddle pan.  I  have two beautiful aubergines, large, plump and dark purple which I have sliced thinly.

I lightly oiled the slices and placed them in  batches on a very hot griddle pan and cooked each side for about 4-5 minutes.  The griddle pan ensures the slices get the cooking lines as they would on the BBQ which adds to their appearance.  The weather wasn't great however this works really well on the BBQ. I let the slices cool.
With some super juicy tomatoes I got in the market on Saturday I made a simple but delicious tomato sauce by sautéing chopped onion in a good quality olive oil then adding the chopped (peeled if you want to) tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.  I added a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2T tomato puree and 2T basil pesto, 2tsp chilli paste or 1tsp Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper and cooked for a further 5 minutes. I then blitzed the sauce and checked for seasonings. Mr R said it was a bit garlicky however I knew adding the aubergine slices and grated cheese would meld the flavours together and produce a really smooth end result.

The next step is to layer the aubergine slices and tomato sauce in a loaf or square pan (I used the new loose bottom square baking pan from the new James Martin Baker's Dozen collection) and sprinkled the top with cheese. 
Depending on what I have in the fridge it could be parmesan or cheddar or a mixture of both.
Into a hot oven (180-190C) for about 45 minutes and serve with plain pasta and/or a seasonal salad.

The aubergine has a really sweet taste and complemented the wine totally.
A really crisp, cold glass of Chablis served alongside is summer food perfection!

Thanks to Chablis wines for my two bottles. I was not paid to write this post and all opinions and photos are my own.






Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What does KFC mean to you?

When I was invited to spend the day at the KFC headquarters and to visit a local KFC restaurant I was pretty sckeptical. The chicken pieces arrive frozen and ready to cook - right? The chicken pieces are greasy - right? The food is high in salt and sugar - right?

What I found out was that all the above ideas were Wrong!!

KFC (used to be known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) first opened in the UK in 1965 and is today on a continual, nutritional journey. The original core recipe is still used to make their signature chicken pieces and they offer to the public around 500,000 chickens per week! They are involved in ensuring they have 'happy chickens' and look after them under the watchful eye of Red Tractor initiative.

KFC is very environmentally conscious and health aware, trying to comply with government guidelines to reduce saturated fats and salts in the food items.  The children's menu in the stores lists the calories of all of the choices allowing parents to make an informed choice of food for their child.

There were three of us bloggers and a BBC film crew following us around the head office and the restaurant and I did feel a little sorry for the BBC crew who had to film as we ate our way through a fantastic selection of products!  The film crew are making a fly on the wall, three part documentary about KFC for the BBC which is planned to air in the autumn.  Keep an eye out for me and my fellow bloggers (Jan B who writes at A Glug of Oil and Chris O of Tikichris) in case we get a few seconds air time!

The sweetcorn cobbettes are just pieces of a very sweet variety of corn that is steamed and wrapped to keep it hot without any added butter or salt.
We tried the three main types and flavours of chicken breast and then each got a salad with our preference.  I liked the original recipe. I very much liked the salad, lots of greenery and tomatoes with crunch and a choice of dressing (I picked cesear)
We were also able to try the next thing that is being launched in the autumn but unfortunately we are forbidden from talking about it yet. Just let me say you will love it, it's yummy!!
After loads more food and finishing with some ice cream we had a little test to do.  KFC is trying to reduce the salt in their chicken and we were instructed to find the odd one out of the three pieces we were given through a food hatch (very clandestine!).  There could be two with more salt and one piece with less or two with less and one piece with more.  We wouldn't know, just taste and find the odd one out.  Well none of us foodies got it right!
We were then driven to a KFC restaurant just beside Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. It's all very high tech in the restaurants with display screens full of information such as how long the batch of chicken has been cooked and the time to remove it from sale. I wanted to know if there were any schemes or plans to implement any such scheme where the meat that did not sell could be given to a food charity or homeless facility but due to Health & Safety the product would have to be chilled down quickly and stored until it was possible for some one to collect and currently that would require equipment and storage that is not available to the stores.  It is not, however, never going to happen so I will watch this space as I hate wastage.
All the chicken pieces arrive fresh and are picked through to look for any bits of giblets that may remain and any sharp pieces of bone that might cause distress.

The pieces of chicken are then rinsed, shake dried and breaded by hand in a flour seasoned with the famous 'secret recipe' - did you know that only two people ever know the spice mix and they can never travel on the same aeroplane!
Then the pieces are loaded onto trays and lowered into the pressure fryers for a specific amount of time.
The pieces are then drained for a further five minutes before they are placed in the dispensers ready to be sold in the restaurant.
We were given many opportunities to ask questions and were given open and honest answers.  One of my questions was on a subject very much in the media - Halal meat. A portion of the meat is killed according to Halal regulations but they must follow EU stun regulations They are also on the way to being palm oil free and are currently at 99%. They are reducing the salt in their food and are committed to carrying on trying to make improvements in taste and quality as time goes forward.

Thanks to KFC for a fun and informative day out - they certainly educated me and changed my perceptions.  I was not paid to attend the event and all opinions and photos are my own.

Sumptious Sweet Treats from Thomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery

I was sent the new range of sweet biscuits from Thomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery collection.  They arrived in a beautifully presented box and it was really exciting to unwrap and see what was inside.

Thomas J Fudge's have been a family baking firm since 1916 and from humble beginnings baking biscuits, breads and rolls they now have a very extensive collection of sweet and savoury biscuits to suit every ocassion.
They look absolutely delicious and can be served with your favourite cup of tea or coffee or on the side of a bowl of homemade ice cream! The new range comes in a cute inner box which can be used at the table on its own if you don't want to use a tea plate.

I really like these Florentines - lovely white chocolate and the nutty, caramel layer is not too chewy!

Chocolate covered flapjacks - chocolate heaven + flapjack heaven = die happy!
My favourites in the new range are the Wondrous White Chocolate Florentines.  They look lovely served in the box they came in or
But they also look fantastic on a nice glass plate.

Many thanks to Thomas J Fudge's for their selection of the new range of scrumptious biscuits.  I was not paid to try them (hard life right!) and all opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Spanish Olives with Omar Allibhoy and Foodat52

I was very happy to be invited to cook with the brilliant young Spanish chef, Omar Allibhoy recently along with Olives are It. Omar Allibhoy is a Spanish chef on a mission to bring Spanish food and its culture to the UK. I have cooked with Omar three or four times before and always learn something. He is very knowledgable and good fun.
The evening was held at Foodat52 in Clerkenwell, London, a venue I know well and always love attending cooking classes there. I was the first guest to arrive and because the pudding would need a bit of time to set Omar suggested he and I get on with preparing that one. Private lesson - priceless!
Stawberries and black olives gently poaching

When the other guests turned up we proceded to make the rest of the meal.  There were bowls of olives to nibble on whilst we worked to keep our strengths up!

Omar kept a watchful eye on us as we created his recipes offering lots of hints and tips.
The meatballs were in the oven so we started on the sauce!

Working in pairs.

Musells cooking with green olives

And on the plate ready to sample

I think my overall favourite recipe was the meatballs but loved all of it!

I am looking forward to the next cooking session with Omar! If you are in Westfield Shopping Centre or BlueWater check out Omar's restaurant Tapas Revolution
I was a guest of Olives are It and all opinions and photos are my own.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Cosy at The Snug Bar -St Albans

Following a recent refurbishment of The Snug in St Albans I was invited to review their menu .It's nice to have a meal in St. Albans without having to travel into London and for Mr R to accompany me.

St. Albans has a vey popular restaurant culture with the big guys, such as Jamie Oliver, Raymond Blanc, Antonio Carluccio and others, vying for prime spots in the city centre (St Albans has an historic  cathedral) making it a nice alternative to dine in a relative newcomer. The Snug has a few other branches such as in Hitchin, Cambridge and High Wycombe.

There were lots of little nooks and crannies to sit in and enjoy the company of friends and family
with a fully stocked bar area for a fun Friday or Saturday night out in town.
The menu is not crowded or confusing but with plenty of choice.  We decided to share a starter of Loaded Potato Skins wanting to save room for the main courses (a problem of getting older!). The portion was a good size and I thought it would be a nice idea to order two or three as a tapas with drinks with friends.

I liked being offered chunky chips, skinny chips or sweet potato chips with the main course. I picked the sweet potato to accompany my rack of ribs.  OMG I never expected so much food! Of course the time I forget to bring my take home cartons there is too much for me to eat!

A full rack of ribs, huge portion of sweet potato chips and a stack of onion rings!

Guess what I will be having for lunch the following day!

Mr R had the BBQ Chicken Stack, grilled chicken breast, smothered in BBQ sauce and topped with bacon and melted Cheddar cheese (I will have this next time) and he had chunky chips.

There were some lovely looking puddings but we were both so full we opted for some of their ice creams. I also ordered an espresso coffee and poured it over the vanilla ice cream - delicious and smooth.

You can visit for lunch with a special Lunch Menu served monday - Friday until 5:00 pm and my favourite is the Breakfast Menu!  Mr R and I love to go out for Sunday Brunch, have a Full English breakfast, lots of cups of coffee and pour over the Sunday papers.
We will be visiting The Snug Bar again very soon for drinks and for a meal after our weekend shopping very soon.  Check them out on Twitter and Facebook for more details.
Many thanks to The Snug St Albans for a lovely meal and to Evie our waitress who looked after us really well!  Kitchen Talk did not receive any payment to reivew this restaurant and all opinions are ours.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

My Office Tea Party with Monkey and PG Tips!

I was sent a hamper of tea from PGtips to introduce me to their new range of fruit, herbal and green teas.  So many times in the past I have fanced a fruit tea and pouring the boiling water onto the tea bag gives an awesome aroma but very often the taste doesn't follow through.  To that end I was interested to try the new range from PGtips.

It was suggested that I could hold a tea party with my friends and we could all try the teas together. Work and other commitments mean I don't have a lot of free time and this got me thinking I could bring the teas into work and we could have a work tea party.

Everyone was really interested in the selection and in some cases came back to try more than one flavour. You can see Monkey came along to make sure everyone had a great cuppa!

My favourite flavour is the Smooth Red Bush and Vanilla, a South African Red Bush tea with a hint of vanilla. Red Bush tea is a great way to keep hydrated and is caffeine free.

Other teas in the basket were Fresh Peppermint, Juicy Red Berries, Aromatic Spices & Mint, Pur Green, Vibrant Mandaring Orange flavour Green Tea, Fragrant Jasmine flavour Green Tea (my second favourite), Juicy Raspberry (a really strong smell of raspberry as the hot water hits the tea bags), Delicate Camomile and Zesty Lemon flavour Green Tea.

Tracy loved the Jasmine and said how refreshing it was.

Janet was spoilt for choice and came back for a different flavour later on. Helen tried the Jasmine and Red Bush with Vanilla.

Angela went for the Raspberry and said how fruity and raspberryish it was.

And finally, Dr Magda said they were perfect to unwind with!
Thank you PGTips for my great tea hamper. I did not receive any payment to review this tea or write this review.