Tag Archives: Thank you

Happy New Year 2013 and Thank You!


Happy new year everyone! Hope you had a good one. We went to some friends for a couple of hours but had to return due to a very tired Thomas. We celebrated instead by drinking champagne and watching the fireworks. I have done a resolutions post on this blog since it started and have no plans to stop now!!

I am hoping that 2013 will be a year of change for my blog and myself too. I am looking to move the blog to self hosted so there will be some more discreet advertising on the site and my sponsored posting may increase. Any sponsored posts/advertisements will be marked clearly so you as my reader have the choice not to read them should you wish. Sponsored posts/advertisements annoy me greatly when they are on any blog in great number so I will always keep that in mind when I accept them. I will also ensure they suitable for my reader base. If they do start annoying you, please let me know.

I am also looking at setting up my own company related to the food business (more to follow in another post soon when things are in motion) part time and I have dreams of publishing an Ebook too.

I have some posts from 2012 which I need to catch up with over the next few weeks but then after it will be new content including new recipes suitable for all the family. I intend to carry on meal planning and am hoping it will be a regular feature on the blog for the future.

Thank you for keeping on reading Jo's Kitchen. It is greatly appreciated. I enter my fifth year of blogging this year and intend to keep going strong for a while yet!

Thank you all again and I hope you have a fantastic 2013!!! :-)


Behind The Scenes at The Birmingham Malmaison

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have an experience of a lifetime – be in a restaurant kitchen during a Saturday evening service. It was not just any restaurant kitchen either, it was the kitchen of the Birmingham Malmaison. How did this come about I hear you ask? Well, a month or so ago I went to the Tuscan Wine Evening at the Birmingham Malmaison and got talking to their Regional Manager, Stephen. He wanted to know more about blogging and how we can write about restaurant food without really knowing about the effort that went into creating it. I pointed out that I am a cook not a chef and would not criticise a dish that I have no idea how to make myself. I then said, after one or three glasses of wine too many, that I would love to see a restaurant kitchen during service and Stephen replied ‘how about you come and see the kitchen here?’. Of course, I answered ‘yes’ straight away and at 3pm a few weeks later, I was being taken into the kitchen, ready to work my first shift.

I was greeted by Mark Walsh, Senior Sous Chef and in charge of the kitchen as Head Chef Brian Neath was on holiday and given some chef’s whites. I was then introduced to the other chefs and given a tour of the kitchen. The kitchen works nearly none stop from 5am-11pm as it has to deal with breakfast, lunch and dinner services, room service throughout the day and special events. The most important special event while I was there was cooking for Newcastle Utd Football Club who were staying at the hotel the night before their game with West Bromwich Albion Football Club. Others events included a dinner in one of their private dining rooms, a hen party and an afternoon tea.

I was completed amazed and enthralled by the whole experience. I loved seeing all the preparation and time taken to make each dish. I enjoyed seeing how a table’s food came together at the same time on the pass. I liked seeing all the techniques and gadgets they used to make sure everything was perfect every single time. I enjoyed the heat, the smells, the taste and the sheer adrenaline you get from being in a kitchen during service. I was very tired by the end of the night and I was only observing. About halfway through service, I even began understanding what calls Mark was making to other chefs and I understood exactly what  he wanted them to do. I can see why people want to be chefs- they want to make people happy and make them good food. This was evident from everyone I spoke to in the kitchen. After this experience, I would still very much call myself a cook and I will never be any more than that, but I wouldn’t mind going into a kitchen again, just to see the magic happening again.

I cannot find any more words to sum up the amazing experience I had so I will leave you with some pictures that hopefully will tell you more. Thanks to Mark and his team of chefs, Zara and Stephen for this absolutely amazing experience. I hope to repeat it again one day! :-)

Banfi Wine Evening at Malmaison Birmingham

Stuart and I recently went out on our first night out together since Thomas was born. We were invited to a Tuscan Wine and Food Evening at the Birmingham Malmaison Hotel, located in the Mailbox. We were joined by fellow Midlands Food Bloggers members Jules of Butcher, Baker and Julia of A Wannabe Foodie and their partners. The event was to celebrate Banfi Wines and the event was hosted by Dante Cecchini, UK manager of Castello Banfi and David Manson from Bidendum. The menu was designed by Head Chef Brian Neath. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by friendly faces and lots of wine and food to taste.

The menu and the wine was as follows:

Pinot Gigio Toscana San Angelo

Canapés; Pecorine risotto balls

L’antipasto; Mediterranean vegetables & cured meats

Le Rime Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio

Il primo; Hand made pumpkin & sage tortellini

Rosso di Montalcino & Belnero Sangiovese/Merlot

Il secondo; Veal ‘osso busso’, puré de patate, olio d’olivia

Brunello di Montalcino

formaggio corso; Bra formaggio, Piemonte

Florus Moscadello di Montalcino Vendemmia Tardiva

Il dolce; classic tiramisu

The Pinot Gigio with the antipasti and starter was excellent. It was light and refreshing and complimented the cured meats and vegetables. It was my kind of wine – the sort I could (and did!) drink too much of! The risotto balls were amazing and something I will definitely have a go making at home.

The tortellini was expertly hand made. It was very thin and light. The filling was rich without being overpowering. I wish my pasta could look and taste this good. The Chardonnay was a lot smoother than the Pinot Gigio as you would expect. The Pinot Gigio was more crisp and light and although it was my favourite, Stuart preferred the Chardonnay.

The Veal ‘osso busso’ was our dish of the night. It was so tender you only had to look at and it fell off the bone. It was my first time of having this veal cooked this way and I certainly will be having it again. We had two red wines to try with this course and my favourite was Belnero Sangiovese as it was not as dry as the Merlot and had a more rounded flavour with the Veal.

The red served with the cheese course was a bit rich and intense for me. I still enjoyed it but not as much as the reds with the main course. The selection of cheese and crackers were fantastic but my favourite part of this dish was the onion chutney. Its sharpness cut through everything else and refreshed the palette.

For dessert, we had a classic tiramisu. I love coffee but dislike coffee flavoured desserts. I tried the tiramisu but found the coffee way too sharp, rich and overpowering. The regional manager Stephen very kindly asked the staff to bring out another dessert for me which was a lemon tart. This was much more up my street and the pastry was light and crisp and the filling tasted divine.

After a well needed cup of coffee and a final chat to Jules and Julia and their partners, we suddenly found ourselves as the last to leave. It was a wonderful night and one I would love to repeat again. The Malmaison run a few events like this a year.

Many thanks to Zara, Stephen, Brian and the rest of the team for a fantastic evening. I will be having another adventure with the Birmingham Malmaison soon so please stay tuned :-)

PS: You can read Jules account of the event here :-)

Product Review: Sauteuse Pan From Palmers

I was recently contacted by Palmers and asked if I would like to try out one of their products. I have been trying to find a decent sauté pan for ages, so when I saw the Stellar 7000 Sauteuse Pan on their site I jumped at the chance.

I love my cast iron casserole pot but do find that it struggles with cooking things like paella and risotto as the high sides prevent the liquid evaporating off quickly enough.  I was hoping the low sided sauté pan would stop this problem happening. The pan arrived very well packed with very clear care instructions. I took it out of the box and immediately loved the look and feel of it. It felt strong and the stainless steel looked stunning.  I immediately put it work making two of may favourite dishes; Chicken, Chorizo and Seafood Paella (recipe to appear soon) and Chorizo, Red Wine and Pea Risotto. I was impressed with the speed it heated up and how non stick it was. I have had apparent non stick pans before but this is the first one I have seen to work properly. After use, I washed it quickly and then put it in the dishwasher. It came out perfectly clean and ready for its next use. I am very impressed with the pan and am already planning what I am going to cook in it next! :-)

Many thanks to Liam for sending me the saute pan to review. It is much appreciated :-)

Happy 3rd Birthday!

I have been blogging for three years today. I do not know where the time has gone. It only seems like yesterday when I started. It has flown by. I have had many amazing experiences and met some fantastic people. I know my posting has been a bit haphazard over the last year or so and I can only apologise, especially to those people who have invited me somewhere or sent me something. I am slowly getting through the list. It will take me some time but I will catch up in the end.

Thank you to my lovely readers. Your comments are always appreciated on here and through Twitter/Facebook.  I usually do a giveaway to celebrate the blog birthday and I will have one up on the blog in the next couple of weeks or so. I look forward to keep sharing my cooking adventures with you. I have a couple of exciting things in the pipeline and new adventures planned. I will be starting to cook for Thomas soon and we are hopefully moving house too so I will have a new kitchen to play with!

Thank you again for reading Jo’s Kitchen. I hope to be here blogging for many more years to come :-)

Happy Cooking!

I’m still here!

Hello everyone. I am sure you are beginning to think I have disappeared into thin air or have lost my blogging mojo completely. Well I can ensure you that this is not the case.

I have got lots of great things to tell you about but I have not had the time to tell you about them. Since Christmas, Thomas has virtually stopped sleeping at all during the day and when he goes to bed at night, all we have time for is dinner, a bit of tv and then bed ourselves. I want to blog but do not feel I can give it the time it deserves at the moment. I am hoping this will change in the next month or so as we are moving Thomas into his own room and making efforts to make him sleep through the night. I will be back to my normal blogging schedule asap and I appreciate your patience at this time.

Thank you for reading Jo’s Kitchen :-)

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Some things I have tried recently…

I have a confession to make. I have been a naughty blogger. I have been sent lots of fantastic things to review over the last few months and have not told you about them. I would like to apologise to all my readers and the PR’s that sent them to me and I ensure you that it won’t happen again. Here is a little round up of everything that I have received.

Mama Tea

Mama Tea is a range of natural caffeine free herbal tea that are suitable during pregnancy and when you are nursing your baby.  Mama Tea was founded by Anna Louise Simpson who found herbal tea during her first pregnancy but could not find teas that were good for the different stages of pregnancy. Mama Tea is available in five flavours:

Morning Mama (ginger and chamomile) – excellent for the early stages and to help treat morning sickness.

Glowing Mama (rooibos and elderflower) – can be used throughout pregnancy

Cool Mama (spearmint and chamomile) – can be used throughout pregnancy

Ready Mama (raspberry leaf and rose petal) – can only be used from 38 weeks pregnant as can start contractions and bring on labour.

New Mama (fennel and lemon balm) – only to be used once you have given birth

My favourites are Glowing Mama and Cool Mama. I have not been able to try Ready Mama or New Mama yet as I am not at that stage but I gave a selection of all the tea bags to a pregnant colleague who gave birth in August and she loved them all. We both agreed they were delicious and made a refreshing change to many other teas on the market.

Serious Pig Snacking Salami

I love charcuterie and am especially happy to hear about British versions of European classics. Serious Pig was set up in 2008 by George Rice who came up with his idea for a snacking salami while in a pub and being disappointed at the range of bar snacks. The salami’s are available in two flavours; Classic and Chilli and Paprika. They suitably sized to go in lunchboxes and are great as a snack throughout the day.  They are made with fresh British free range pork I loved both flavours but liked the extra kick of the spicy one more. I recommend them for lunchboxes everywhere!

Birds Eye Rice Fusions

I am useless at cooking rice. I overcook it, under-cook it and do everything in between and it is still a disaster! Therefore I was very happy when microwaveable rice came onto the market. Birds Eye have recently launched rice fusions which are the one ones in the microwaveable rice section that can live in the freezer. They are available in the following flavours; Aromatic Pilau Rice with peas and spinach, Egg Fried Rice with peas, Country Mushroom Rice and Mediterranean Vegetable Rice. I enjoyed all the flavours especially the egg fried rice with peas and the Mediterranean vegetable rice. However I did find the rice to be quite soggy when I served it and did not think it was the same quality as some of its none freezer microwaveable rice rivals. The flavours were good and came through quite well. They were fresh tasting. It was just sogginess that let them down. I think I would keep a pack in my freezer for rice emergencies but I am not sure that they will replace the microwaveable rice that lives in my cupboard.

Ryvita Crackers for Cheese

Ryvita have recently branched out and have started making crackers for cheese. They are available in two flavours; Golden Rye and Black Pepper. I served both with a variety of cheeses including garlic and herb and cheddar. Cheese choices are slightly limited when pregnant! I enjoyed both flavours but my favourite was the black pepper crackers as they gave an extra bite and more excitement for the tastebuds when eaten with the cheese. I think the Golden Rye would make an excellent cheesecake base and is something I intend to try in the future. The black peppers can be slightly overpowering if you eat lots so make sure you eat a few of the golden rye as well otherwise you can have black pepper overload!

Thank you to everyone for sending me these products to review and apologies again for the delay in getting them on the blog.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Cookbook Review: On A Stick By Matt Armendariz

Do you like cupcakes? Yes, then don’t forget to enter my competition to win a cupcakes class with Cupcakes By Chrissie. All info here :-)

I love finding unusual cookbooks so when I was asked to review ‘On A Stick’ by Matt Armendariz, I jumped at the chance. Matt is a fellow blogger with a blog called ‘Matt Bites’, which was featured in The Times 50 Best Food Blogs.  He is a food photographer/stylist and has even appeared with Martha Stewart on her daytime show in America.

On A Stick contains 80 easy and elegant recipes that are suitable for parties. The catch is that everything is served on a stick or a skewer. The book includes party favourites such as scotch eggs and caramel apples, along with more unusual things to find on a stick including spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate covered cheesecake. The book is very American orientated but once you get past this, there lots of simple and easy recipes that you can make at home.

As ever, whenever I receive a cookbook to review, I like to cook a recipe from it. This time I decided to make Cake Pops. The recipe in the book originally calls for a Devil’s Food Cake and cream cheese frosting, but I decided to make my life easier and used shop brought Madeira cake. I do not like cream cheese frosting so I used buttercream instead. To make the cake pops, you break the cake into a bowl, add in the buttercream, mix well and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes to set. You then roll them into small balls, put a lollipop stick (or a cocktail stick, in my case) and dip them in chocolate. I did not leave my cake pops to set for long enough so some of them fell apart before they even went into the chocolate. Once they were dipped and left to set in the fridge, they were fine. I took them to work and some people loved them, others did not. They thought they were too sweet and overpowering. I think the recipe essentially works but there is a fine line between getting the right amount of buttercream to make the cake stick together and not getting too much and making them too sweet.

Overall, I am very impressed with On A Stick. I cannot wait to have a BBQ or party during the summer to try some more of recipes out :-)

Many thanks to Matt from Quirk Books for sending me the book to review. It is much appreciated :-)

Cookbooks Crazy!

I am a great lover of cookbooks as I am sure many of you know. I have so many that we are considering moving house so that we have room for the baby when it arrives. I was recently sent a bumper collection of books from New Holland Publishers to review.

The first book they sent me is ‘The Food Lovers Guide to Europe’  by Cara Frost-Sharratt. This is an informative travel guide to the best places to eat, the best farmers markets and the best foodie treats that Europe has to offer. I thought this was quite useful, especially if you are touring around Europe, however in some areas, the book is limited to only the major cities or towns so if you go outside of that area, there are no recommendations. On the other hand, if they did include everything, it would be a very large book! This is perfect size for travelling and is easy to read on the plane or coach heading to your destination.

The second book they sent me is ‘Special Cupcakes‘ by Wendy Sweetser. I love cupcakes and cake decorating so this seemed perfect for me. This book has cupcakes in it for most occasions, including Baby Shower Lemon Cupcakes that I made to tell my work colleagues about my impending arrival.

One issue with this book is that it is American so some of the quantities may seem quite large to what we are used to. Some of the flavour combinations are a bit strange too. Caribbean mango and palm sugar cupcakes anyone? However the book is very good for inspiration and you never know some of the more stranger combinations may taste good!

The third book they sent me is ‘One More Slice’ by Leila Lindholm. This is a follow up to her first book, ‘A Piece of Cake’ and featured recipes for pizzas, bread, pasta, pancakes, waffles and desserts. I have made the basic pizza dough recipe out of this book three times and each time, it has been perfect. I love this book and I cannot wait to get my hands on the first one. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. I highly recommend this book.

Jo’s Kitchen readers can get 25% discount off ‘The Food Lovers Guide to Europe’, ‘Special Cupcakes’ and ‘One More Slice’ from New Holland Publishers. Enter the discount code Jos to get 25% discount plus free P&P when ordering the books through the New Holland Publishers website. (Offer valid until 30th September 2011 to UK residents. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with other offers!)

Many thanks to Iain from New Holland Publishers for sending me the books to review and giving the exclusive offer for Jo’s Kitchen readers. :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

A Bun In The Oven!

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have been slightly irregular of late, and that I haven’t been on Twitter or Facebook as much recently. Well I have a very good reason for my tardiness. I am 12 weeks pregnant today with my first child. Over the last few weeks, I have been suffering with tiredness and morning sickness (its actually all day sickness but they don’t tell you that!) so blogging has not been my number 1 priority recently. I do hope you will all forgive me. I am nearing the end of the first trimester so I am hoping my regular blogging schedule will resume shortly, especially since I have lots of exciting things coming up soon.

To keep this blog to food only, I have decided to set up another blog for my pregnancy adventures. Its called Jo’s Nursery. Therefore, if you are interested in finding out more about what I am experiencing at the moment, then please pop over and say hello. However, if you are not interested, don’t worry, this blog will be staying the same. There may be some cross over but I will try to limit it. You can follow my new adventure on Twitter @Jos_Nursery and Facebook too. I hope to see some of you there.

I will be back soon with another foodie post. Thanks for understanding.

Happy Cooking! :-)

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