Slow Food Peak District & Staffordshire at Freedom Brewery

So after the hubby’s first forage into Beer reviews we thought we might indulge a little more and came up with a new series of posts to be called Bebida/Drink. So a few weeks ago when I saw there was a chance to attend a Brewery tour which was organised as the first event of Slow Food Peak District and Staffordshire, we could not resist. 

The tour was at Freedom Brewery, home to award winning hand-crafted English lager and luckily for us was just a few miles drive away in a beautiful countryside setting in Bagot’s Park Farm estate near Abbots Bromley. We have sampled Freedom beers at local food festivals and at our local gastro pub The Yorkshire Man and were eager to see how and where they were produced. The evening kicked off with a quick explanation of the Slow Food movement and what the new group was eager to achieve and then it was over to Edward and Susan Mayman, owners of Freedom Brewery for a tour. 

Edward began by explaining the company history and how a micro-brewery for lager ended up in the heart of rural Staffordshire. The company was originally founded in London in 1995, but as brew pubs became obsolete the brand was bought and within a few years moved to it’s current location, just a few miles from the famous brewing town of Burton-on-Trent. The location we learnt is part of Freedom’s success, as they are able to tap into the same water source as all those famous large brewing companies just a few miles away, which is perfect for brewing and requires no chemical treatment or additives for the brew process. 

Freedom Brewery

it's in a cow shed don't you know!

Edward went on to explain how all their products are created with just 4 ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast in the traditional way. Freedom are very keen on making sure they get the best key ingredients and along with that all important water source they also take care to acquire their barley and hops. They have also sourced organic materials to create their organic lagers.

Freedom Brewery

the fermentation tanks

Most micro-breweries focus on ales and so it was interesting to hear how lager is made. The most memorable fact of the tour was that “lagering” is a german word meaning to store from when beer was stored in caves back in medieval times, and Freedom continue to do this important stage maturing the lager for 4-6 weeks before it is either bottled or transferred to kegs. This is in comparison to those large lager brands brewed down the road at Burton-On-Trent which are created in just a few days. It does raise the question can those ubiquitous brands really call themselves lager? 

Freedom Four

Courtesy of Freedom Brewery

  • Freedom Four – at 4% abv it has citrus notes and a long dry hoppy finish and one that I quite liked (pretty impressive for a non-lager drinker!) 
  • Freedom Pilsner – a crisp refreshing lager to rival the continental offerings. 
  • Freedom Organic – everything you want in a lager and Owen’s drink of choice, it has a subtle bitterness and is very drinkable. (thank goodness they have it on draught at our local!)
  • Freedom Organic Dark – brewed with blend of four malts it has multi-layered sweetness and a gentle bitterness. 
  • Freedom Stout – due to a demand from their customers, Freedom created this stout to add to the range, with a rich and complex palate and just the right amount of bitterness and warmth. 

With the sampling of beers we also got to try other local producers including some fabulous sausages specially made for the event by Denstone Hall Farm Shop using Packington Pork and some Freedom lager, sourdough baguettes from The Loaf in Crich and a range of Cottage Delight sauces and chutneys. A very tasty BBQ indeed. 

It was an enjoyable evening, learning about a very local producer and we can’t wait for the next Slow Food event. For more details on this visit and any future events please have a look at the Slow Food Peak District and Staffordshire page.

Hasta la proxima / Until next time

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Review: Grooms Cottage, Bosherston, Pembroke

With the arrival of Baby G into the family we decided to return to holidaying in the UK. The last few years have seen us jet abroad for our breaks from France to Canada and even a couple of weeks in the Carribbean with my family. This year my parents and sister were eager to spend some time with us and Baby G so we decided to go away for a short break and opted for the childhood holiday destination of South Pembrokeshire.

I scoured the internet for a cottage suitable for 5 adults, one 5 month old baby and a boxer dog for a period of 5 days in July. Many cottages do not do short breaks in the summer and many are not pet friendly but I did find a number suitable for our needs. We opted for Grooms Cottage based on the great location, price and modern but comfortable look of the place.

Grooms CottageGrooms cottage is the middle of 3 cottages based on the site in the village of Bosherston set in the Pembrokshire National park – a true wildlife haven. There is the famous Bosherston Lily Ponds as featured on the BBC’s Autumn Watch just a couple of hundred yards from your doorstep. Go for a walk along the ponds and you will reach Broadhaven beach in less than a mile, which is just one of the fabulous beaches along this coastline.

The cottage itself was fabulous, recently refurbished it was comfortable and modern but in keeping with countryside location. It sleeps 6 with 2 double rooms and one twin, perfect for a large family or to take the Grandparents away with you. We were also provided with a travel cot for Baby G and just had to take along her own bedding. The upstairs Master bedroom was a fabulous size complete with skylight windows for gazing at the stars. The only little problem we had was we could hear a small scratching ….. yep wasps had started to nest in the roof and as the bedroom is in the loft space we could hear them through the ceiling, but a quick call to the owners and they were getting it sorted.

There was a large open living space downstairs with a lounge, dining area for 6 and a kitchen complete with modern appliances. This was great as we could prepare our meals whilst still being able socialise and keep an eye on Baby G playing on her Jungle gym in the living room.

Grooms Cottage

Courtesy of Capell Creative

Each cottage has it’s own private garden. For Grooms cottage the access was from the end of the driveway and not directly from the building. This was fine. the only slight disadvantage was that we were not able just to let the dog outside without accompanying him. One of the other cottages at the site, The Mews, has patio doors that open directly onto their private garden.

Cottage GardenGrooms Cottage
The garden itself was absolutely picture perfect, a typical country cottage garden complete with herbs, fruit trees and rhubarb growing. The garden for Grooms cottage is the biggest of the three and Samson was in heaven exploring it. It has a summer house and BBQ too. We were lucky enough to have lovely weather during our visit so could take full advantage of the garden and did have a BBQ one afternoon. Though we did buy a disposable BBQ to use on top of the garden one as the grills were a little rusty due to being left out.

We had such a lovely time at Grooms Cottage, enjoying making use of the self-catering accommodation with a couple of fried breakfasts and a Mexican feast. We also sampled the fabulous food at a local gastro pub The Stackpole Inn and of course the obligatory fish and chips at the seaside. 

It was a lovely family holiday and I would definitely return to Grooms cottage for another. 

Hasta la proxima / Until next time

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Postcard from Pembrokeshire

The recent quietness here at Comida y Vida was due to a short break away with family. It was Baby G’s first holiday so we chose somewhere not too far away and opted for the location of many childhood holidays – Pembrokeshire.

Saundersfoot was the resort we opted for during my childhood but this time we found a gorgeous cottage in Bosherston, home to a National Trust site featuring the gorgeous lily ponds. 

first trip to the beach, the gorgeous Freshwater East

Bosherston Lily Ponds

Bosherston Lily Ponds, 300 yards from the cottage

A walk via the Lily Ponds leads to this fab beach

Cottage was perfect location for our energetic boxer

Saundersfoot harbour

trip down memory lane to Saundersfoot

Manor Park Wildlife Park

Baby G's first trip to a zoo

Baby G in her sun hat, we were blessed with fab weather

Sunset over our first family holiday

That’s all for now, but will be back soon with a review of the cottage and some top tips for your first holiday away with a baby.

Hasta la proxima / Until next time

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Welcome aboard

Now hopefully you might have arrived here from my old blog at Blogger so welcome to the new home of Comida y Vida.

The move and new website coincide with a slight change in direction. It has always been called Comida y Vida / Food and Life and the majority of writing has covered my foodie adventures with a little sprinkling of my life.

With the arrival of Grace, aka Baby G, my time and focus has obviously changed. Gone are the days of whiling away hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast, or dining out on a regular basis. So this blog is changing to reflect that, there will more of a balance between Food and Life, with a sharing of my experiences as a first time mum.

It could not come at a more appropriate time as Baby G approaches the age where she will begin her foodie adventures, so it will be a true tale of Food and Life, and I hope you’ll join me along the way.

So as a little housewarming present to myself I have baked these muffins.

Raspberry MuffinsRaspberry Muffins

120g self raising flour
120g wholemeal self-raising flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
200ml milk
2oz butter, melted
170g raspberries

Preheat the oven 190C. Lightly grease the muffin tins. Sift the dry ingredients together, tip in the wholewheat flakes from the sieve. Beat the eggs, milk and butter with the dry ingredients to create a thick batter. Add the raspberries and stir them in gently. Spoon the mixture into the tins and bake for 30 minutes

So make yourself a cuppa, grab a muffin, put your feet up and have a look around.

If you’re only interested in the food related posts then click Comida on the link on the menu bar, for all parenting related posts click on Vida.

Hasta la proxima / Until next time

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The Domino’s Challenge

You know those nights where you get home late and can’t be bothered to cook? Do you be naughty on the purse and the waistline and order takeaway? Do you pop to the supermarket and grab a ready meal or do you get home and try and whip up something quick like an omelette that often leaves you hungry?

We have had many of those nights here since Baby G has arrived and often resort to our favourite type of ready meal – pizza. It’s quick and easy to cook and generally satisfies that need for food. We don’t often order takeaway pizza but when Domino’s offered me a challenge to order some of their pizza’s to sample and then try to recreate them with my homemade version – well I couldn’t resist!


So with a couple of friends invited round for the evening we decided to give it a go. Ordering the pizza was easy. Domino’s have the ability to order pizza online, with a simple entry of your post code it will select your nearest store and then away you go. Unfortunately due to our random location in the depths of Staffordshire we were unable have the pizza delivered so we arranged for collection. We selected 3 large pizza’s from the menu but if you can’t find something that you fancy then you can also just create your own.and picked a couple of the types of pizza’s that you can only get in establishments like Domino’s.

  • Reggae Reggae – Reggae Reggae sauce, roast chicken, tomatoes, green peppers and pineapple
  • Americano with a stuffed crust – BBQ sauce, pepperoni, chicken, onion and herbs
  • Chicken Feast – chicken, mushrooms, sweetcorn

 

The Reggae Reggae was good. I liked the heat and various elements of the toppings. For my friends it was too spicy and one of them totally disapproves of pineapple on pizza! Owen enjoyed the spicy kick from the sauce which is used as the base.

The Americano with a stuffed crust was probably the overall favourite of the night. Lots of smoky barbecue sauce and lots of pepperoni. I love pepperoni on pizza but am often disappointed with the measly few slice scattered on many pizzas and their haphazard and unfair distribution, making me rearrange the topping before cooking. This pizza did not suffer this problem, lots of pepperoni covering the whole pizza. Have to say did not particularly notice the other toppings of chicken and onion due to the wealth of pepperoni, but I’m sure they added to what was a universal success for us.

The last pizza we tried was a rather tame Chicken Feast and this was my least favourite. There was nothing wrong with it all, lots of topping and the tomato base was nice but after the other two taste bud tingling pizza’s, this one was slightly bland in taste for me. However it was the favourite of two of my guests as they don’t like spicy foods so I suppose it’s all down to personal preference.

Overall we enjoyed the Domino’s experience, all pizzas were full of toppings and the base was still crispy. The only downside for us is due to the distance of the nearest store they were warm by the time we started and pretty cold by the time we finished.

Now onto the challenge, could we recreate them ourselves? Well we have recently begun to make homemade pizza, not sure why we didn’t do it before as the dough is very simple to make. Until the domino’s challenge though our toppings were pretty standard affair of tomato and mozzarella or pepperoni.

So we set about creating our own versions of the 3 Domino’s pizzas trying to stick to the toppings where possible. Here is how we got on:

The Pizza Dough – for three 10 inch pizzas.

4 teaspoons of dried yeast
360ml warm water
630g strong plain flour
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

Mix the yeast with 8 tablespoons of the water and soak for 1 minute. Whisk lightly with a fork till dissolved. Put the yeast mix, flour, salt and olive oil in a blender and mix for 30 seconds, then add the remaining water a little at a time until the dough comes together in a ball – you may not need the whole quantity of water. Once in a ball knead the dough for 5 minutes and then place in an oiled bowl, covered with clingfilm and in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Then simply divide into 3 and roll out into circular or square shapes.

The toppings:
1 large chicken breast – roasted in the oven, chopped into small pieces.
1 tomato, deseeded and finely chopped.
1 green pepper, diced
1 tin of pineapple chunks
Reggae reggae sauce
Pepperoni slices
half small onion, finely diced
Jack Daniels BBQ sauce
1 tin of sweetcorn
50g of mushrooms, sliced
1 carton of Passata
lots of grated cheddar cheese

The Reggae Reggae – mix a couple of tablespoons of Reggae Reggae sauce with a couple tablespoons of passata and spread over the base. Then add all the rest of the toppings – tomato, pineapple, chicken and green peppers and top off with a sprinkling of cheese.

The Americano – mix a couple of tablespoons of the BBQ sauce with a couple of tablespoons of passata to spread over the base. Then add a sprinkling of cheese and top with chicken and onion and lastly the pepperoni ensuring complete coverage.

The Chicken Feast – cover the base with passata and add chicken, sweetcorn and mushrooms and a sprinkling of cheese.

All pizza’s were cooked in a hot oven, placed on a hot baking tray, for 20 minutes.

Overall we enjoyed the homemade versions of the Domino’s pizzas and got a pretty good likeness to the “real deal”.

The verdict:

Taste

As far as the toppings go I think our homemade versions were pretty much spot on to match the Domino’s, maybe a touch more seasoning on the Chicken Feast next time. As for the base whilst I thought the homemade version was good it did not match up to the crispiness of the Domino’s bases, I am wondering if a pizza stone would help achieve the allusive crispiness? Also it may be some time before I have a go at a stuffed crust. The only reason Domino’s is not scoring top marks for taste is that due to them not being piping hot, the stuffed crust had solidified and was not that lovely gooey melting cheese it should have been. 
Domino’s – 9/10
Homemade – 8/10

Speed

For the Domino’s pizzas it was 40 minutes from ordering to eating – able to collect in 15 minutes but travelling time delayed it. For those with a Domino’s branch closer it would no doubt be much quicker. For the homemade version 1 hour 30 minutes due to he hour needed for dough to rise and 20 minutes cooking time.
Domino’s – 9/10
Homemade – 7/10

Price

The benefit of collection was that we only paid £9.99 per large pizza when the normal price for is £16.99. Total cost including £2.00 extra for one with a stuffed crust was £31.97 which was not too bad considering there was 4 of us. The cost of preparing the 3 pizzas at home did not exceed £10 and we have plenty of the sauces and some of the toppings left over too.
Domino’s – 8/10
Homemade – 10/10

So overall Domino’s scored 26/30 and homemade pizzas scored 25/30 making it a very close call. I guess if you really can’t be bothered to cook then Domino’s online pizza service is the way to go, but for those with tighter purse strings then it is possible to create a homemade version with a little effort and time.

 

For me, this challenge has opened up my eyes to a wealth of toppings and flavours for pizzas so thanks Domino’s.

Disfrutas/Enjoy!

The Domino’s pizza’s were provided by Domino’s and Arena Quantum. Homemade pizza costs covered by myself.

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Two Towers Brewery

Now seen as I don’t really like to drink beer in any form (well maybe just the one!), Owen thought he would contribute with a few posts on local breweries and their beers. Think he finally realises us food bloggers aren’t an alien species after coming along to our recent meet up and decided to get in on the action!

On the most recent visit to 24 Carrots Farmers market in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham we discovered a local producer that we hadn’t heard of before. It is Two Towers Brewery.

The Two Towers refer to the iconic towers in Edgbaston, Birmingham that allegedly inspired the writings of JRR Tolkien and are just one of the Birmingham features that are used by the Brewery. The names of the beers are all routed in the history of the city.

Owen sampled 3 of the beers from their range and here are his thoughts:

Chamberlain Pale Ale – I liked this beer with it’s fresh citrusy aroma; it has a crisp and refreshing flavour. It is as light as you would expect from a Pale Ale and has some floral notes. It leaves a lasting tang on the palate with a yeasty sediment. I’d say it’s perfect for a summer’s evening of drinking.

Baskerville Bitter – I loved the full-on hoppy flavour of this bitter complemented by the classic aroma of a traditional bitter. It is a well rounded beer and could easily become a session beer. Full of body and with a tangy finish.




Jewellers Porter  – I enjoyed the deep classic flavour of the stout with it’s dark molasses taste. It surprised me with it’s complex fruity finish but overall very enjoyable.

The Two Towers Brewery also have 2 Mild’s and another bitter in their range. Currently I think you can get Two Towers Beers on draught in local pubs around Birmingham and also bottles at Farmer’s Markets like 24 carrots. Check them out if you’re ever in Birmingham.

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Restaurant Review: The Swan Hotel – Stafford

Since the arrival of Baby G, dining out has become something to treasure. We either have to plan a meal around nap time and feed time or rely on family to help out.  Luckily Baby G’s grandparents live nearby and are always happy to have some quality time with their new granddaughter.

So me and Owen decided to treat ourselves to some “us” time and booked a table at the Swan Hotel. Part of the Lewis Partnership since 2002 The Swan, situated in Stafford town centre, is an 18th century former coaching inn that has been transformed into a modern hotel, an award winning restaurant, two bar areas, a relaxing coffee shop and new Eco garden – a great venue for the town indeed.

 Swan Stafford Brasserie

We booked a table in the Brasserie and arrived to be escorted to a lovely secluded corner booth. As we sat down we were offered water for the table, and whilst Owen opted for one of the draught Cask Ales they serve, I requested the wine menu which had a great selection of wines by the glass, not something you find everywhere.

They offer an evening set menu, which changes weekly, at a very reasonable £13.95 for 2 courses, or 3 courses for £17.95, alongside the the main menu. We both opted for the main menu, which changes with the seasons, as with dining out a being a rare treat, we wanted to make the most of it.

I often choose Goat’s cheese from a menu as it is something we don’t have often at home as Owen is not a huge fan, and was particularly tempted by the thoughts of Goat’s cheese ravioli, baby beetroot and Jersey royals with tomato vinaigrette.(£5.95). I’ve never had it in this way before and enjoyed the twist on the classic combination of Goats Cheese and beetroot, far superior to the normal salad style offerings. The pasta was light and cooked perfectly, the tomato and beetroot brought the acidity needed to cut through the rich cheese. Flavourful yet light, it was a perfect start.

Owen opted for the Seared Scottish scallops with crushed peas, crispy pancetta and white wine caviar sauce (£6.50). When it arrived on the table I was wishing I’d picked it, perfectly presented on a slate plate,it looked amazing.

For the purpose of this review I obviously had to sample it too – the benefits of being the food blogger in the family!! The scallops were perfectly cooked and the usual pairings of pea and pancetta were enhanced by the delightful sauce.

Both starters had certainly pleased and though these may seem a little pricey to some, they are the two most expensive starters on the menu with plenty of other choice ranging from £4.50.

For main I chose the Rump of Lamb, balsamic glazed cherry tomatoes, sauteed spinach, black pudding bob bons and rosemary vinaigrette. Yet again, Lamb served in this way is not something we do at home as until recently Owen never ate lamb and only now likes served in spicy dishes like curry or tagines.

The lamb was served perfectly pink, and as rump can be a bit on the fatty side the accompaniments were a great choice; the iron rich spinach and the sweet and sour tomatoes cut through it and the vinaigrette just brought all the flavours together.  Now that would have have been a lovely plate of food, but what turned into a fabulous plate was the black pudding bon bons, gorgeous little deep fried balls of meaty delight. I did begrudgingly have to share one with Owen though – payback for the scallops I think.

The only thing I struggled with was the lack any potato or form of carbohydrate. Unfortunately I am one of those people who craves my carbs, particularly when dining out as diets don’t count then right? So to complement my dish I ordered a side portion of Handcut chips, which were huge chunky chips, and very good indeed.

Owen opted for a comforting tasty bowl of pasta with the Linguini of chilli marinated king prawns with chorizo sausage, slow roasted peppers and tomato fondue. I did have a little taste of this and it was superb – lots of paprika warmth, a generous amount of prawns and a wonderfully rich sauce.

After these two courses we were both feeling quite full, but in the interests of this review I opted to have a look at the desserts menu, and in the end could not resist ordering the Strawberry Mille Feuille with passion fruit and strawberry ice-cream (£4.95). This was light and creamy and the strawberry sauce and passion fruit provided a tartness to cut through the cream. A delicious way to end the meal.

Throughout the evening we had impeccable service, we were asked a few minutes after each course had been served if all was ok; we were approached for drinks when our glasses were almost empty, plates were cleared away shortly after finishing each course – attentive without being intrusive.

It was a lovely meal, perfect for our little bit of “us” time and what was even better is that with my Gourmet Life dining card we saved 25% off the bill – how fantastic!! Discount is available at all the Lewis partnership establishments including The Moat House Hotel, The Dog and Doublet Inn and even the Greengate Deli.

At the recent MFB meet up I also learned that James, the brains behind Gourmet Life, is hoping to extend the number of venues across Staffordshire and Derbyshire. I can’t wait!

Hasta pronto / be back soon

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