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New Year Resolutions 2011

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good time whatever you were doing. About this time last year, I spoke to you about my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Well, I thought I would do the same again this year but before we look ahead to 2011’s New Year resolutions, I thought we could back at last years and see whether or not, I achieved them.

Last years New Year’s Resolutions were:

  1. Try and post on the blog more often (at least once a week) > This was generally achieved most of the time but not all. Will be worked on again in 2011
  2. To get more people doing guest posts and guest post on other people’s blogs > I got lots of people doing guest posts on my blog, including Linda, Charlene, Louise, Helen, Gary and Nora but I only did one guest post myself on Nora’s blog. Will be worked on again in 2011
  3. To be more adventurous in my baking and make more bread > I joined the Fresh From The Oven challenge and was quite active for a few months in 2010, so this was partly achieved. However, I think I can do better and will work on it in 2011
  4. To arrange meeting(s) with Midlands Food bloggers on UKFBA. < There were two meetings of the Midlands Food Bloggers in 2010 and I am hoping in 2011, there will be more, especially if I get help from fellow bloggers to organise them
  5. Meet other foodie bloggers from the UK and hopefully, beyond < I met many UK food bloggers in 2010 including Kavey, MeemaleeBron, Pippa, Helen and Edd. I hope in 2011 to meet more especially some from outside of the UK
  6. Go to my first Michelin starred restaurant < I achieved this when I went to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor
  7. Make cupcakes < I achieved this by going to two cupcake making/decorating classes at Kiss Me Cupcakes and Cirencester Cupcakes. I now make cupcakes on a regular basis
  8. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own < I did not really achieve this. I brought even more cookbooks! I must stop buying and start using the ones I have already got
  9. Expand my cooking repertoire < I achieved this objective as I made paella for the first time and a variety of breads including Kringel and Croissants
  10. Get better at food photography < This was not achieved and will be worked on in 2011

Overall, I did fairly well on my 2010 resaolutions but think I could do better on some of them. So here are my New Year’s resolutions for this year:

  1. Post on my blog at least once a week
  2. Get fellow bloggers to get post on my blog and do some guest posts for people in return
  3. To create a regular series of events for the Midlands Food Bloggers (with help of fellow Midlands based bloggers)
  4. To set up a blog for the Midlands Food Bloggers with a list of members, people/companies who support us and get people to regularly contribute
  5. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own
  6. Expand my cooking repertoire – I now know how to make pasta so want to start making it regularly and cook more seafood dishes
  7. Get better at food photography – my Dad is making me a food stage with a white background so that I have something to put my dishes on to take a photo of them. Stuart and I have just purchased a second-hand Canon EOS 400D Digital SLR Camera, so with practice I am hoping that the images on the blog will improve.
  8. Meet Sarah and her goats at Brockhall Farm
  9. Go to The Wild Garlic Restaurant in Dorset
  10. Take part in more blogging challenges especially Fresh From The Oven and Forever Nigella

These are my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2011, what are yours? Can you help me with any of mine?

Happy Cooking! :-)

Review Of The Year 2010

2010 was my first full year of blogging so its seems right that I should look back and reflect on what an amazing year it has been.

In January, I did my first Fresh From The Oven Challenge, making Chocolate Buns. This formed part of my New Year’s resolution’s to be more adventurous in baking and make more bread. I also made cottage pie and did my first ever guest post on Nora’s blog.

In February, I made Valentine’s Cupcakes (that looked like boobies!) for English Mum’s Best Valentine Cupcake competition.  I reviewed my first cookbook, Skye Gyngell’s My Favourite Ingredients and Nora did a guest post on the blog.

Image by Wendy from Peters Yard

In March, I celebrated completing my first year of blogging. The first meeting of the Midlands Food Bloggers was held at Loaf’s HQ in Birmingham, where we cooked pizza’s and tasted Peters Yard’s Crispbreads and Brock Hall Farm’s Goats Cheese for the first time. I went to my first Cupcake workshop at Kiss Me Cupcakes and I hosted my first Fresh From The Oven challenge, Kringel

.

In April, I entered and won the Easter Cake Bake and made cupcakes for the Mad Hatter’s Shropshire Tweet Up. Helen did a guest post on the blog and I made croissants for the first and last time!

May started by making the ultimate spring time brunch and a crumble. Pizza Napoletana was the Fresh From The Oven challenge.

In June, Jo’s Kitchen was invited by Miele to do the Masterchef Invention Test at the BBC Summer Good Food Show. Marie and I took on a Giant Cupcake Challenge and I went on an archaeological dig and left my blog in the care of Gary, Linda, Louise and Charlene.

In July, I made my favourite childhood dinner of Fish Fingers, Mashed Potatoes, Peas and Parsley Sauce. I entered my second English Mum’s Big Bake Off and held a competition to win a Masterchef Apron.

In August, I made a sweet version of Fish Fingers, Mash and Ketchup with Mat Follas’s help and went on a foodie trip to Ludlow visiting the Ludlow Food Centre and Ludlow itself. Brioche was this month’s Fresh From The Oven Challenge.

September was a busy month so I only made some cupcakes and garlic and basil focaccia.

In October, I made some spooky Halloween cakes for English Mum’s Autumn Bake Off, went to my first 24 Carrots Farmers Market and attended the second Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up.

In November, I made Coca-Cola Marinated Steak, with Wedges and Cool Beans, and I went to Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, London. I also reviewed the Findus Fresher Taste range of ready meals.

In December, I was invited back to the BBC Good Food Show Winter by Miele. I took part in two cookalongs and met lots of fantastic producers. I went to the new Jamie’s Italian in the Bullring, Birmingham. I learnt how to make pasta for the first time at Loaf and shared my Christmas wishlist with you. Finally, for a late seasonal treat, I shared my Mincemeat Flapjacks recipe.

Overall, 2010 was an amazing year. I met so many fantastic people, ate lovely meals, made lots of new recipes and I was lucky enough to review some great products. I cannot wait to see what 2011 will bring. Thank you to all my readers for being along with me for the ride. I hope you will stay with me for 2011. I hope you all have a great night tonight, whatever you are doing. I will see you early in 2011 with my New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year! :-)

When You Entertain with Coca-Cola

A while ago, I was sent a copy of ‘When You Entertain’, a recipe book from Coca- Cola. This is a modern version of a book originally written for Coca-Cola in 1932 by legendary American hostess, Ida Bailey Allen. The new book is written by a collaboration of celebrated British Foodies; chef Tom Aikens, ex Blur bassist and food addict Alex James, 2008 Celebrity Masterchef winner Liz McClarnon and food blogger, Julia Parsons of A Slice of Cherry Pie and founder of the UK Food Bloggers Association. It is edited by renowned journalist Tiffanie Darke.

The book is divided into four categories; Weekend Brunches, Family Mealtimes, Saturday Night with Friends and Easy Lunch. Recipes include, Caveman Corn and Chicken, Spicy Crab Mushrooms, Braised Lamb Shank with Honey Roasted Garlic and Gammon and Peas Pudding.  There are even some inventive recipes that use Coca-Cola in the book and they include, Coca-Cola Ginger Cake, Coca-Cola Chicken Salad with Garden Potatoes and Coca-Cola Sticky Ribs.

However, as soon as I saw Coca-Cola Marinated Steak (a recipe from Julia Parsons), I knew I had to give it ago.  In the book, it is served with coleslaw and corn but I decided to serve it with Cool Beans (a recipe from the book by Alex James) and my potato wedges that I sometimes serve with steak.  The steak marinade was simplicity in itself: onion, garlic, Coca-Cola, Worcestershire Sauce and Dark Soy Sauce. Put it in a freezer bag and leave it in the fridge for as long as you can and griddle or BBQ it until it is cooked the way you like it. The beans recipe is slightly harder and made harder still when you do not read the recipe properly like I did. Doh! You are supposed to cook the beans in a low oven for 24 hours however; I did not notice this until 2 hours before I wanted dinner so I have made an adapted quick version below.

Jo’s Quick Cool Beans (Adapted from a recipe in ‘When You Entertain’ by Alex James)

Serves 4 as part of a main course

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped into small chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 tin of beans of your choice, drained
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of Coca-Cola
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Put some olive oil in a casserole dish that can go on hob and in oven. Allow the olive oil to heat up briefly and add the onion and garlic and fry until softened.
  2. Add the beans, the tomatoes and the can of Coca-Cola. Stir and add the Worcestershire Sauce, Soy Sauce and some seasoning. Once simmering, put a lid on it and put it in a preheated 180°c oven.
  3. Allow it to cook for 30-40 minutes; stirring occasionally until thickened and all the flavours have come together. Check again for seasoning and serve it with the Coca-Cola marinated steak and potato wedges. Enjoy!

You can get the book from Harvey Nicols stores nationwide and online as part of hampers with selected ingredients from the book.

Many thanks to Laura for sending me the book :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up

On Sunday 19th September, the Midlands Food Bloggers  had their second meeting at the Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham.  It was attended by Louise of Comida Y Vida, Gavin of To Bizzy to Bake , Marie (@Maries_Cakes on Twitter, blog to follow soon),  Brian from 24 Carrots, the Jewellery Quarter’s Farmers Market and of course, Me!

Over coffee and cake, made for the Urban Coffee Company by Gavin (both chocolate Guinness and chocolate fudge cake, we chatted about Midlands food, the 24 Carrots Farmers Market, promoting ourselves and food businesses via social networking and how we could get the Midlands Food Bloggers known about more widely. It was decided that a blog would be set up for the Midlands Food Bloggers with a section to highlight local foodie businesses.  Louise and Jo also decided that they would visit the Jewellery Quarter’s farmers market to promote it on their blogs and the new MFB blog. We would like to thank everyone who came to the meet up, and Becs and the team from Urban Coffee Company who made us feel very welcome.  We will be back again soon!

If you would like more information on the Midlands Food Bloggers, please email midsfoodbloggers@hotmail. co.uk

Midlands Food Bloggers on Facebook

Midlands Food Bloggers on UK Food Bloggers Association

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Hello Again!

Hello again! I know it has been a while but I am back and ready to blog again. I have had a crazy month at work and not had the time to blog. I have missed you all and we have lots to catch up on. Some of the things I have been getting up to this month are:

  • Attended the Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up at Urban Coffee Company (write up of event will be my next post)
  • Received my own weight in Total Greek Yoghurt and have been making up some recipes using it (post about this coming soon)
  • Won a signed of copy of Nigel Slater’s new book ‘Tender Volume II’ (will be making recipes from this book  soon)
  • Received a copy of the new Coca-Cola cookbook ‘When You Entertain’ (will be making recipes from this book soon)
  • Received some Sliver Spoon cake decorating items to make and decorate some cakes for Halloween
  • Made venison chorizo, red wine and peas risotto (recipe coming soon)
  • Received an updated version of the Lawrence Keough Kidney Care cookbook (will be cooking from this book soon)
  • Went for a meal at Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, London (review will be coming soon)
  • and finally, I still need to tell you about my foodie adventures  in Croatia in the summer

Phew, what a list! I had better get cracking. I will be back as soon as possible with my write up of the Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up.

Back soon!

Happy Cooking! :-)

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Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up: Sunday 19th September

I am the creator of the Midlands Food Bloggers group. You can find us on Facebook and the UK Food Bloggers Association. We are going to have our second meet up of 2010 on Sunday 19th September at the Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham at 1pm.  If you are a Midlands based food blogger, Midlands food producer or just generally interested in Midlands food, why not come along and meet some like minded people for coffee, cake and lots of chatting. Please email midsfoodbloggers@hotmail.co.uk if you can attend, have any questions or would like to know more about our group.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Happy Cooking! :-)

Cirencester Cupcakes Decorating Class

I am sure that you all know by now, that I love cupcakes and have been trying to improve my skills in making and decorating them. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity when Louise invited me to her new shop in Cirencester to learn how to decorate the cupcakes in more detail.

Cirencester Cupcakes was set up in 2009 by Louise (on Twitter: @Happy_Food) and she originally worked from her home supplying cupcakes. However, by 2010 her business was expanding so much she moved to a shop in Swan Yard, Cirencester and this is where the decorating class took place. I have known Louise for a while now, through Twitter and the wonderful world of food blogging. Her personal blog is here and the cupcakes have their own blog here. Louise is also in joint command of the Midlands Food Bloggers group with me on the UK Food Bloggers Association and Facebook.

The decorating class took place on a Sunday morning in the shop. I was joined by Maria and Cara (on Twitter: @CaraLaw) for the decorating class. Cara has a fantastic food blog, please check it out here. Louise started by telling us a little of history about how she started baking and how the shop came about. We then moved onto our first decorating technique which was Glacé Icing. This is something I have always had problems with, but with Louise’s help, all three of us cracked it quite easily. It turns out that there is a perfect pouring consistency for Glacé Icing which is shown in the video below.

Next we learnt how to decorate the cupcakes with Royal Icing and how to colour the icing correctly in right shade of whatever colour you want. Louise also showed us how stick the Royal Icing to the cupcake using buttercream and a small palette knife. The video below shows you how to prepare the cupcake for placing the Royal Icing on top of the buttercream and how then to build the cupcake icing up if the buttercream is to be the only icing on top of the cupcake. After learning how to do this, we had a bit of a play with embossers to put decorations into the icing. We then used edible lustre spray (spray paint) to enhance the embossed effect in the Royal Icing.

The final part of the session was to learn how to pipe buttercream on to the cupcakes. I already knew how to do this, due to my other cupcakes class with Kiss Me Cupcakes but more practice always makes perfect. Louise showed us a handy trick of putting the piping bag into a pint glass (I knew they would be useful for baking for something!) to allow you to put the icing in easier and not get you or the piping bag covered in excess icing. The video below shows Louise demonstrating how to pipe onto a cupcake. We then were left to play with all the sprinkles and sparkly things to decorate our other three cupcakes. We were all talking and having so much fun, that the session ran over by an hour. It didn’t matter though, we loved it!

Once we were all finished, we posed for photographs with our lovingly made and decorated cupcakes and then we went left to enjoy the rest of our already fabulous Sunday and eat our beautifully decorated cupcakes.

Thanks to Louise, Maria and Cara for a fantastic day! :-)

Easter Cake Bake 2010

 

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you have had a lovely long weekend. I relaxed all day on Friday and most of the day on Saturday, cooked Easter lunch for six yesterday and baked a cake. Today I am relaxing again and tomorrow (I have another day off), I am going meet Louise at Cirencester Cupcakes and see her new shop, that opened last week. 

Today I would like to share with you the Easter cake I baked yesterday which is especially for Julia Parson’s, from A slice of Cherry Pie and author of a soon to be released cookbook in the same name,  Easter Cake Bake Competition. I saw the competition last year and wanted to enter it but I hadn’t been blogging very long and didn’t quite have the confidence to do it. This year I have and I decided to use my new-found cake decorating skills and have a go. 

 

The chocolate recipe is from Rachel Allen’s Bake book and you can find the recipe here on the Good Food Channel website. It is a recipe that I have used before that I knew would turn out well. The icing is chocolate buttercream which I used 250g butter, 400g icing sugar and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. I had hoped to pipe the icing on and decorate it properly but I made the icing too runny to pipe and had no more icing sugar to thicken it, so I just put it all over and in the middle of the cake. I used the flakes to made the nest and look like twigs. I think I should broken all the flakes instead of leaving some whole, and others broken. You do get an idea of the effect though. I made the chicks using ready-made coloured icing and rolling it into balls for the body and head. The feet were more balls of icing squashed flat. I used writing icing to stick everything together and make the eyes. Mini eggs were used to fill in the gaps. 

What do you think of my first Easter Cake Bake attempt? I think I can do better next year. I was cooking dinner for six at the time so I did not give all my attention to the cake, which I should have. I am keeping everything crossed and hoping I win the competition.

Comments and feedback are very welcome as always.

 

Happy Easter. See you again soon 

Happy Cooking! :-)

West Midlands Foodie Blogger Meet Up

Image by Wendy from Peters Yard

As I am sure I have told you a few times before, I am a member of the UK Food Bloggers Association. On the UKFBA I have set up a group for West Midlands based food bloggers which currently has 25 members. Last Saturday, we held the first of what I am hoping will be many meet ups at Loaf’s HQ (otherwise known as Tom’s (Director of Loaf) house  in Cotteridge, Birmingham. Along with Tom and myself, Charlene of No Love Sincerer, Louise of Comida y Vida and Wendy, one of the Managing Director’s of Peters Yard all came to join in the fun.

We started with introductions and how we had all got into blogging and then we got tucked into the food. For our starter, Wendy had brought some Peters Yard crispbreads which she served simply with butter and the most fabulous goats cheese from Brockhall Farm in Shropshire. The crispbreads were fantastic;  so crisp, crunchy and full of flavour, unlike any other crispbread I had ever tasted. The goats cheese, that is made fresh everyday by Sarah complimented it beautifully as it was really rich and creamy. The perfect contrast to the crispbread.

Image from Peters Yard

Once we had munched our way through a large pile of the crispbreads and goats cheese, it was time to get down to the serious business of our main course. Tom has a wood burning oven in his garden and we used it to make pizzas. Tom had prepared the dough before we arrived and he showed us how to roll it out the dough and put in on a board, to go into the oven. we each made our own pizza with whatever toppings we wanted and then Tom showed us how to get the pizza into the wood fired oven correctly. I nearly tipped mine into the oven and turned it into a ball so Tom had to step in and lend a hand. We all shared each other pizzas and talked about food, life and blogging.

After eating our pizzas, which were honestly the best I have ever tasted. They were so quick to cook too. They only took 2 minutes in the oven as it was so hot, we went back inside and tucked into pudding. I brought along, one of my family’s favourites, Rocky Road (recipe here), Louise brought along some carrot cake (recipe here) and Charlene brought some home-made scones that were so delicious, you would never of known that she had never made them before. The scones were served Tom’s home-made hedgerow jelly that complimented them beautifully. We then toasted to the success of our first meet up, with a glass or two of lovely Spanish red wine that was kindly donated by Louise.  We discussed the future of the West Midlands foodie bloggers group and we decided to turn it into a Midlands group for all the foodie bloggers in West, East, North and South Midlands. So if you live in any of these areas or on the borders and would like to join us, please do. The link to the group is on top of the page. I am also going to create a Facebook group to compliment the group on the UKFBA so I can update people on news more easier. I will let you all know once I have set this group up.

If you would like to know what Louise and Charlene thought of the event, please see their posts here and here. I would like to thank everyone for coming and especially thank Tom for agreeing to host. I would like to thank Wendy for supplying us all with a sample of crispbreads to take home with us. I have been eating them all week at work for lunch. Thank you all again and I cannot wait for our next meet up in the summer. :-)

And the Winner is…


Last week, Jo’s Kitchen reached the great milestone of being one year old and I decided to celebrate it with a giveaway of two cookbooks. The two cookbooks are ‘Maze – The Cookbook’ by Jason Atherton and ‘Chicken and Other Birds’ by John Torode. In total, there were 36 valid entries into the competition and I used random.org to randomly generate the winning comment number. (See image above)  I am now pleased to announce the winner of the two cookbooks is Susan Mann. Susan, if you can please email joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk with your address and I will post the cookbooks to you sometime over the weekend.  Thank you to all who left lovely comments celebrating my blog birthday.

Until next time, Happy Cooking! :-)

Happy New Year 2010!

Happy New Year everyone. Hope you had a great time whatever you were doing- we stayed at home with a bottle of champagne and a Chinese takeaway and watched the fireworks. This is a short post to tell you about my New Year foodie resolutions and to give you a simple comfort food recipe to start the year off and give you a suggestion of something to eat in this continuing cold weather we are having.

To begin lets starts with my New Year foodie resolutions:

  1. Try and post on the blog more often (at least once a week)
  2. To get more people doing guest posts and guest post on other people’s blogs
  3. To be more adventurous in my baking and make more bread (I have joined the Fresh from the oven group to see help with this. I will be blogging my first challenge at the end of the month)
  4. To arrange meeting(s) with West Midlands based Food bloggers on UKFBA. (I will be in touch later this week with everyone in the group to arrange first meeting)
  5. Meet other foodie bloggers from the UK and hopefully, beyond
  6. Go to my first Michelin starred restaurant
  7. Make cupcakes (I have been inspired by my friends Caroline and Louise (check out Louise’s website here) to have a go at making cupcakes. I have brought ‘Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery’ book and intend to start using it as soon as possible)
  8. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own
  9. Expand my cooking repertoire
  10. Get better at food photography

These are my foodie related new year’s resolutions. What are yours? Can anyone help me with my resolutions?

Cheese and Potato Pie

Here is my simple recipe for cheese and potato pie, which is possibly some of the best comfort food you can get.

Ingredients

  • 3 average sized potatoes per person (or 4 if you are greedy like me!)
  • Lots of grated cheese (I prefer cheddar- a generous handful per person)
  • Big knob of butter (Hairy Biker’s sized big knob of butter)
  • Salt and white pepper

Method

  1. Peel and chop the potatoes and put into a saucepan of water, bring it to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. (Usually 10-20mins depending on size of your chopped potatoes)
  2. Drain the potatoes and put back in the saucepan and put back on stove and apply gentle heat on your smallest ring to remove excess water from the potatoes for 30 seconds or so.
  3. Now remove from stove and add butter, salt and white pepper and mash until desired consistency. You may need to add more of butter, salt and white pepper to get it right, but do the mash until it is how you like it.
  4. Stir in some of the grated cheese and place mash into an oven proof bowl, put more grated cheese on top and then grill until the cheese on top is melted and golden. Then serve and enjoy.  You can serve it with sausages, pork chops, chicken, ham and vegetables unless you are classy like me and serve it with baked beans!

I will be back soon but until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

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