Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mexico - Live It To Believe It!

MEXICO Live It To Believe It!!

At the beginning of November I attended the World Travel Market, held at the Excel in East London. This was the first year I attended this travel trade extravaganza and I was not really prepared for the enormity of it.  I shall be attending, worldlier and wiser, next year.

The Ministry of Tourism of Mexico and the Mexican Tourist Board in conjunction with Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants chose this same week, as they were already in the UK, to announce their new partnership with Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants and held it at The Natural History Museum.  It is years since I visited the Natural History Museum but to visit as a VIP guest at a private event was unforgettable!

The well stocked Margarita bar seemed dwarfed below the hanging skeleton of a dinosaur!
But that didn’t stop us drinking Margaritas!!
The event was highlighted by videos and speeches by Mexican dignitaries including the Secretary of Tourism, Claudia Ruiz Massieu who invited everyone to think about visiting Mexico and experiencing for themselves the diverse cuisine the country can boast.
UNESCO has declared the traditional cuisine of Mexico to be of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, encouraging the communities to hand down this valuable tradition from generation to generation.

The videos highlighted a roll call of the best Mexican chefs the country has to offer and four of them attended the evening along with their special creations showcasing that Mexican cuisine is not all tacos and tortillas! (Not that there is anything wrong with tacos and tortillas!)
The chefs that attended and presented us with their creations were:

Elena Reygadas– Restaurante Rosetta
Flores e insectos (flowers and insects)
Ostiones en escabeche (pickled oysters)
Persimos y hierbas (persimmons and herbs)
Algarrobo y hoja santa (algarrobo chilli and hoja santa is an aromatic herb)

Diego Hernández – Restaurante Corazón de Tierra
Tostadita de pescado ahumado (tostadas with smoked fish)
Hinojo, papa y carbon (fennel, potato and charcoal)
Papada de cerdo (pork jowl)
Cóctel de almeja tipo Ensenada (Ensenada clam cocktail)

Benito Molina – Restaurante Manzanilla
Ceviche verdeCrujiente de lechon pibil con caviar terrestre (suckling pig with caviar)
Tostada de abulon a nuestra manera (abalone tostada)

Luis Feria – Café Cobalto
Espresso and cappuccinos

Luis Robledo – Tout Chocolat
Tres leches
Obleas de cajeta (caramel wafers)
Café de Olla (traditional Mexican coffee)

As 2015 is a special year for collaboration between Mexico and the UK I plan to feature loads of Mexican cuisine on this blog. I hope that you will look forward to it and come back periodically to read.  A trip to Mexico would be an absolute dream and one that I will continue to dream about 2015 and beyond!

I was not paid to attend the event or to write about it afterwards.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Comté - Perfect Cheese for any Cheeseboard or Meal

Recently I  was invited to discover Comté cheese.
I was invited to cook with Comté cheese and with chef Laura Pope recently at a Central London cooking school.

The plan of action for the day was to make three recipes, all using Comté cheese, and taking home most of what we cooked.  We would taste the recipes that Laura made and take ours home to share with the family.

Comté comes from the Massif du Jura region of France and is still made the same way as it has been for centuries. Only Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows are allowed to produce milk for the cheese. There are all sorts of restrictions such as their feed and amount of grazing pasture for each cow. Once the cheese is made it is matured for 12, 18, 24 or 36 months before making its way into our supermarkets and delis.  Only the best quality is packaged with the green symbol and sold abroad.
The intense flavours, rich colour and smooth texture of Comté make it the perfect addition to your Christmas cheeseboard.
To start our cooking session, working in pairs we made our own pastry for the Mini Spiced Apple, Pecan and Comté pies. A perfect mix of sweet and savoury to give your palate a break over the Christmas holidays from solid mince pies.
Next we made Sundried Tomato, Green Olive & Comté Loaf Cake. This recipe makes two 1lb loaf so you can pop one into the freezer to have when unexpected guests pop in for a glass of wine and nibbles. Sliced and served warm with a glass of white wine would be my perfect party nibble.

200g Self Raising flour
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp sea salt
Few twists of freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
100ml olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the tins
100ml whole milk
100g pitted olives, halved
100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g Comtécheese, finely grated.

 Heat the oven to 190oC/fan 170oC) and grease 2 small loaf tins (1lb)


Mix flour, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Add the eggs, oil and milk and beat with an electric whisk for 1 minute to form a smooth batter.

Mix in the olives, tomatoes and ¾ of the cheese.

Pour the batter into two loaf tins, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes until the loaves are firm, golden and crusty cheesy on top.

Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn onto a wire rack. 

Lovely served slightly warm or at room temperature.

If freezing a loaf, defrost it completely before baking in an oven, pre-heated for 5-10 minutes to reheat.
Our third and final recipe for the afternoon was Mushroom & Thyme Tartlets with Comté.  These are quick and easy and are simply a sautéed mushroom and onion mix with the addition of Comté cheese put into cases made from cut outs of buttered bread and topped with some grated Comté before baking in the oven for about 12 minutes and are best served warm.
We were given some Comté cheese to take home and I made my own recipe for a quick Saturday night supper.
In an ovenproof dish put three medium or two large croissants chopped into small pieces.

Sprinkle on a package of finely chopped or shredded ham and 200gm grated Comté cheese.

Pour over a mixture of 6-8 eggs, 100ml single cream and 50ml milk, salt & pepper.

If you want you can sprinkle some chilli flakes on top as well.

Bake in the oven (180oC) for about 35-40 minutes until set and golden and cheesy on top.
Serve with a cheese sauce and a mixed salad.
I did not receive any payment to attend the event or to write my account. As usual all opinions and photos are my own.


Book Review - My Relationship With Food - Lisa Roukin

Towards the end of last year I was invited to the launch of the book ‘My Relationship with Food’ by Lisa Roukin (chef and teacher) and was given a copy of the book to review.

I was early to the event and was privileged to be able to spend half an hour with Lisa getting to know what was behind her decision to write such a book and to get to know her a little.  What I discovered was a lovely, confident, beautiful young woman with a passion for imparting others with her story of how she overcame personal challenges around body image and eating and went on to manage her relationship with food.
Lisa told me that everyone has a food agenda or relationship and for the most part, for most people it is a normal one, however for around 37% of women and 26% of men it is not a happy or satisfying relationship.
In her beautifully illustrated book with 100 gluten free recipes (they also do not include sugar or an overload of carbohydrates) Lisa tells how she overcame her negative thoughts and bad body image and now has a healthy, positive relationship with food.

Our relationships with food are impacted daily by the choices we make in what we are going to eat and these can be influenced by culture, family and friends as well as outside influences.

At the book launch we were able to taste food that had been made from recipes in Lisa’s book. These dishes were beautiful as well as delicious and did not immediately indicate you what you were missing (sugar, dairy, gluten etc) but satisfied the palate and they eyes as well.
I was so interested in Lisa’s book that I did not want to rush home to write this review but to take time to think about the book and my own relationship with food.  I have over the years tried most of the diets and still am the same shape and size and still struggle with my own self image.
I have been thinking for a long time about changing my eating habits and perhaps becoming more active (I have a sedentary job in an office and actively dislike exercise!) and attending this book launch and meeting and talking with Lisa has spurred me on to take a look at my personal situation and how I can make changes.
I wanted to make a series of small changes (over the years I have attempted to do too much too quickly and failed) such as going ‘gluten light’ and ‘dairy light’, seeking to cut down not eliminate totally.  I want to make myself more aware of the ingredients in food that I buy such as hidden sugars and salts and to increase my activity in a manageable way. I got a fitbit for Christmas and am currently trying to take more steps during the day, monitor how many I take with a daily goal of 10,000 (the recommended minimum amount an adult should be taking in a day!)
How long I can sustain this new regime I cannot say but I am already walking two to three as much as previously and have cut down on my daily caffeine intake.

I will be making some of the recipes in Lisa’s book ‘My Relationship with Food’ and spending time on changing my personal relationship with food.  Watch this space!
This book is self-published and is available from for a RRP of £25.

I was given a copy of the book to review but was not paid to review it or to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Look, Touch Taste - the latest in salt and pepper grinders.

Look, Touch Taste –finum salt & pepper grinder

A pet hate of mine is having a salt and or pepper grinder in the cupboard or on the side and when you pick it up to use it, it leaves behind some of the spice!

The new slightly alien looking grinder from finum is the answer to my prayers.  It has a clear plastic cover for the base which can stop the debris or can be used to store up some of the salt or pepper until you want to put it into whatever you are preparing.
It is curvy and easy to hold with a glossy body that comes in pink, white, black, red, apple green and transparent/black.  It is easy to direct the grind where you want it although most of the time you just want it in the pot or saucepan!
You can adjust the grind easily from coarse to fine and it is easy to pull apart for filling and cleaning.
The finum grinder has won the Interior Innovation Award for 2014 and Good Design Award and is going to fit into your kitchen with its colour range and quirky shape.

A great tree present this Christmas with a RRP of £24.95. Click for stockists and to follow on Twitter and/or Facebook.FB/ictcCookware - /finumstyle

I was not paid to write this review and all photos and opinions are my own.









Soup time! Number 1 tip for surviving winter

I do love making soup and if I can make one that cost a few pence per serving I am even happier!

The other day in the supermarket I got two beef rib bones loaded with meat and a good deal of thick, yellow fat on them for £1.33.

I roasted them in the oven with a little seasoning until most of the fat had rendered off. This will be saved for Sunday's roast potatoes.

I put the roasted bones into a sauce pan of fresh cold water along with two carrots, sliced and two sticks of celery also sliced.  Boil for about 30 minutes then add a handful of dried fava beans and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.  The beans should be soft and the carrots cooked.

The meat fell off the bone and the extra fat and grizzle discarded. Seasonings from my store cupboard, parsley from the allotment and the total cost of the batch of soup is around £2.00. 

I will get 2-3 servings as it is or can decide to add some cooked rice or pasta and it will serve 4-6 people making a cost of approximately £0.40 per serving.

Tasty, nutritious and satisfying meal (add a chunk of favourite bread) and low cost.  What could be better.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Hats Off to Benito’s Hat - A Festive Evening at Benito's Hat

A few weeks ago I walked past a branch of Benito’s Hat, a small (but expanding) chain of six Mexican restaurants and thought to myself; “I must try them out one of these days”.  Three days later I got invited to review their new Mix-n-Match sharing platters created and prepared by Executive Chef and partner Felipe Fuentes Cruz!

Felipe met Ben who would become his business partner in 2007 and their story began. they work tirelesly to spread the word that good, authentic Mexican food can be found in London along with a cookbook and cooking classes.

The name Benito's Hat is a reference to Benito Juarez, the first indigenous president of Mexico who would often be seen wearing an extravagant hat.

On arrival I went upstairs to the President’s Bar and was immediately offered a Margarita. Good plan I thought!
The salt Benito's Hat uses to rim the glasses of Margarets comes from Mexico and is mined in Peubla by Felipe's mother!

Felipe welcomed guests and invited us to come behind the counter and try our hands at making the flour tortillas using, as he said “the latest technology from Mexico” which was in fact a simple press made of two boards to slightly flatten the balls of prepared dough, ready to pop into the pan and become the carriers for all the lovely treats we had coming.
On the table was a bowl of tortilla chips, sour cream, a mild chilli and coriander sauce and an innocuous looking red sauce.  I was right to be afraid of the red sauce, one tip of the tortilla chip dipped tentatively in and an explosion of flavour and heat exploded in my mouth!! It did taste good but was just too hot for me.
As we got settled at our tables, and I shared with a lovely blogging couple, we were given Benito’s Hat sharing appetiser platter.  Sharing platters are all the rage at them moment and I really enjoy them. I love to pick at bits and pieces without having to commit to one starter.
Our main sharing platter was loads of little bowls filled with such treats as pulled pork, pulled chicken, tomato and onion salsa, rice, grated cheese, re-fried beans with chorizo slices, a creamy and crunchy sweet corn salsa and my favourite of all, the beef mole. This came with a straw basket of warm tortillas that we had all been making beforehand.
The mole, a rich beef stew with a secret ingredient of chocolate and animal crackers, was my favourite.  I really must give this recipe a try.  Only a North American would know about animal crackers but apparently broken rich tea biscuits would work too.
The menu is simple, very Mexican and reasonably priced with special holiday celebration specials like Felipe's Festive Taco Tray or Rompope a Mexican eggnog served over ice.

If you are around Kings Cross, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, Goodge Street, Farringdon or the one I went to Leadenhall pop in for some authentic Mexican food that will thrill your taste buds and Margaritas to make your day!
I was not paid to attend the menu reveal and as usual all opinions and photos are my own!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Have a Snuggly Christmas & Snuggle Up at The Snug Bar

The Snug Bar group (my nearest is St Albans but we visited the one in Hitchin for the menu launch) are offering a fun, simple and impressive Christmas Menu this year.

Mr R and I were invited to try out some of the Christmas menu items recently at the Hitchin Snug Bar.  We sat with a lovely parent blogger and her husband and really got into the holiday spirit!

We delved into the alpine dressing up box and took pictures,
We learned how to make two festive cocktails, a Candy Cane and an Apple Pie. You can book your own Christmas Cocktail Class and learn the secrets of the trade with a group of friends for some real festive fun this December!
We tried the festive sharing platters, potato skins with turkey, cheese and caramelised onion topping; chicken wings tossed in a Bourbon and cherry glaze; mini sausages in a honey & mustard glaze; fig and Wensleydale & cranberry skewers, miniature prawn cocktail; bacon and Brie quesadillas and cranberry & Brie bruschetta. 
There was also a vegetarian festive sharing platter which consisted of Mixed Italian olives; vegetable quesadillas; potato skins with goats cheese and caramelised onion topping; fig and Wensleydale & cranberry skewers; mixed mushrooms in Diane sauce and crumbled blue cheese; beetroot and rocket layered salad; and cranberry and Brue bruschetta.
We got to try the Christmas Burger – a 7oz British beef burger, topped with turkey, Cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, Bourbon & cherry sauce and pickles served with a side of pulled pork in BBQ sauce and skinny fries!

The festive Snug Christmas desserts include Eggnog Cheesecake, The Snug Trifle and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sunday, all very yummy and indulgent.
They have a selection of different festive menu’s and suggestions to get you and your friends and family in a real Christmas mood.  You can follow The Snug bar on Twitter (@THESNUGBAR) and on Facebook (
Thanks to The Snug Bar Hitchin for a lovely evening.  I was not paid to review or write a positive review. As usual all opinions and photos are my own.