Midlands Food Bloggers meet at 99 Station Street

This weekend saw the latest Midlands Food Bloggers (MFB) meet up. I was a little nervous about it all as I had arranged the venue and plan for the day, and just hoped everybody would enjoy themselves. So what did we get up to?

MFB, Community Bloggers

First there was the food, well a MFB meet wouldn’t be the same without some fab food of course! As a community of food bloggers who like to support local producers where better a venue than a restaurant that serves modern British food like 99 Station St in Burton-on-Trent and sources as much as possible from local suppliers. When I suggested a meet up at the restaurant, owners Ross & Susan Boardman, were more than happy to allow a “bounty of bloggers” to descend upon them and also offered some extra special treats.

First off, we got to meet Daniel Pilkington, the head chef, who was full of enthusiasm and information about the products he uses to create their seasonal menu. We learnt that local producers include the farm in Bromley Hurst who supply their 28-day aged Mature Beef, and Freedom Brewery from Abbots Bromley as one of their beer suppliers. The menu features a wealth of dishes that are all created from scratch at the restaurant wherever possible, with homemade sausages, ice-cream and pies delivering a fantastic choice.

We sampled their 3 course lunch menu for a bargain price of £10.95. I opted for the Baked Goats Cheese starter which was served on a lightly dressed salad and with a lovely tomato chutney.

Goats Cheese, Starter

For main I chose the meat option of Sautéed Strips of bed with red onions and wild mushrooms. This was so full of flavour, the beef was tender, not an easy thing to achieve for sauteed strips, and the mushrooms added a depth of flavour.

Beef strips, main

For dessert I was swayed by the Chocolate brownie with chocolate fudge sauce and homemade Vanilla ice-cream. Naughty …. but very nice. Rich gooey brownie with lots of chocolate fudge sauce. My other half opted for the Bailey’s Cheesecake served with some homemade honeycomb.

Cheesecake, Honeycomb

Afterwards we headed off with Susan to her home to meet Ross and learn all about Staffordshire Fine Foods (SFF). Launched earlier this year to satisfy customers who dined at 99 Station Street and wanted to get their hands on some of the menu favourites, SFF sells sausages, pies and smoked products online here or in specialist retailers like Brown and Green.

On my recent visit to Brown and Green I actually purchased some of the SFF smoked salmon and one of the Chicken, Chorizo and Sweet Pepper pies and I have to say that the Cold Smoked Salmon was possibly the best smoked Salmon I have ever eaten. The only one to come close was some Canadian Sockeye Smoked Salmon in Hy’s Whistler which given the provenance was duty bound to blow your taste buds! Here in the UK the SFF smoked salmon far out ranks any I have tasted either shop bought or in a restaurant with a healthy aroma of a camp fireand a gentle smokey flavour it was devoured in no time at all.

During the afternoon we spent a fabulous couple of hours with Ross, savouring his knowledge and enthusiasm on curing, smoking and foraging. We learnt the difference that brining makes to the smoking process with some samples of salmon.

After a sample of some smoked venison and pigeon breast we had a wonder into the local woods understanding what fabulous ingredients can be found on your doorstep if you know where to look. Here we picked some nettles and wild garlic and then headed back to the house to make a lovely fresh broth with some chicken stock that had been flavoured with some of the new air-dried Chorizo that Ross is trialling. It was amazing that such simple ingredients can create such flavour.

We all left with a new understanding of the curing and smoking processes and an eagerness to forage and I cannot thank Ross or Susan enough for welcoming us into their restaurant and their home. Thank you thank you, thank you!!

I look forward to creating something yummy with the sample of chorizo we came home with so watch this space.

99 Station Street on Urbanspoon

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Giveaway Winner

Apologies for the delay in publishing the winner of the £100 giveaway for Kitchen Stools Direct. I have been away for the weekend in Angelsey, which is rather great for a get away, no mobile phone signal means you really are getting a break from it all! However it does hamper with the blog reading and tweeting!

We had a lovely time, some special quality family time with Baby G and friends, including Grace’s first trip to the beach.

Newborough Sands, Angelsey

It's a bit windy Mummy, thank goodness I have my woolly hat!

Most of the time was spent chilling out at my friends static caravan but we did go for a fab lunch today before heading home and I can thoroughly recommend the Brasserie at the Ye Olde Bulls Head Inn in Beaumaris. I had a ploughman’s salad which was superb, with lovely mature cheddar and a thick piece of boiled ham. The side order of chips with Halen Mon sea salt were addictive! Had we been there for dinner there was a great choice of mains and there is also a restaurant with a lovely A la Carte menu too.

So without further ado, thanks to all those fabulous people that entered.

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That means the winner of the giveaway is awannabiefoodie so congratulations Julia! If you email or DM me your address I’ll get your prize out to you!  

Hasta luego,

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Ahhh, look how versatile it is ……?

Last week I shared with you a review of the Kitchen Stool we received from Kitchen Stools Direct. We are still enjoying using the stool and it is a great addition to our kitchen, even Baby G likes it

I know, I know, it’s not designed to be a highchair but how cute does she look? (No babies were harmed in the taking of this photo!)

Today is the last day to enter the giveaway for £100 voucher at Kitchen Stools Direct and the odds of winning are great, so get your entry in now. See here for complete details.

Thanks for popping by

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Time for a cocktail – Kitchen stool review and giveaway

One of my all time favorite films is Cocktail, forget the fact that Tom Cruise is too short to be a worthy contender in my “top five”, it’s a film that all women of my age have probably watched a hundred times. Not a film that would demand the critics attention but definitely a “popcorn flick”,  and you can’t help but be charmed by Brian (aka Tom Cruise) and his cocktails. Alabama Slammer anyone?

Now I never met a real life Tom Cruise but when hubby said he’d quite like some cocktail making equipment  I got all excited at the thought of my very own Brian. I went off and duly bought glasses, shakers, mixers, stirrers and the obligatory cocktail umbrellas. Sadly the charming Brian never materialised but I do have a hubby that likes to knock up a few cocktails. So now we have a growing collection of drinks books to add to the cook books and are slowly working our way through them all (well the ones we like the look of!). Last summer I took a liking to the Cherry Blossom (before I found out I was pregnant I hasten to add!) from Larousse Cocktails. It’s a fairly potent cocktail but fruity and nice.

Cherry Blossom 


5-6 ice cubes
1 measure Cognac
1/2 measure Cherry Brandy
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grenadine

Place the ice and and all ingredients into a shaker and then shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain into a martini glass using a cocktail strainer. Serve immediately.

The one thing missing from all this cocktail drinking was a cool bar stool to perch on while testing these drinks for my hubby. Now my prayers have been answered by Kitchen Stools Direct.

They have a wide range of high quality kitchen and bar stools that are both contemporary and stylish. I chose the Ridge Bar Stoolwhich comes in both black and white and retails for £109.99 but which is currently on offer for £89.99.

The stool was easy to put together in a few minutes with the use of an allen key that was provided. The stool has a faux leather upholstery with soft deep padding that makes it very comfortable. It rotates 360° and has a gas lift system for fully adjustable height.

I love the stool, the soft padding help you while away the hours without realising how many cocktails you might drink (oopps!).  The deep seat and supportive back means it’s one of the few stools I don’t feel like I’m going to fall off. I like the adjustable height and it’s also quite surprisingly light so easy to move around the kitchen. So do you want join me for a drink?

Or maybe you’d like the chance to have your very own stool. Kitchen Stools Direct are offering you the chance to win a £100 gift voucher to spend on their stools. Their range starts with a simple wooden stool on offer for just £24 or you can splash out on some serious style with many fab designs at less than £100.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED> 

Thanks to Beth at Jam & Cream PR and Kitchen Stools Direct for the stool to review and the prize.

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Gambas al ajillo

Well it’s the final day of the tapas tour and it’s another tapas favourite and another simple dish. Gambas al ajillo are garlic shrimps and no spanish feast is complete without some sort of seafood. The spanish eat all types of seafood with shrimps or gambas being one of the most common.

Gambas al ajillo

This should ideally be prepared on the hob in earthenware dishes but I have yet to add those to my kitchen equipment (I need a bigger kitchen!!) so i used a frying pan and transferred to these ramekins to serve.

300g shrimps (I used raw tiger prawns which are found in most supermarkets)
125ml olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced.
1 red chilli pepper, cored and finely sliced
salt

Heat the olive oil in the pan, add the garlic and chilli. Add the prawns as soon as the garlic has coloured slightly, sprinkle with salt and fry. Serve immediately in the garlic and oil, with hunks of bread to mop up all those fab juices after the prawns have been devoured. The chilli should be just enough to leave a tingle but not overpower the dish.

That brings us to the end of the tapas spread and I hope you’ve enjoyed it and it has inspired you to bring a bit of the spanish tapas flavour into your kitchen.

June’s Spanish recipes will be something sweet for you to try, but pop back tomorrow for a blog giveaway!

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Queso y Jamon

Firstly, apologies for the delay of this post but blogger was being naughty on Friday and I was busy being craftyyesterday. So without any more delay, here is dish 4 of the tapas feast.

No tapas spread is complete without a selection of cured meats and cheeses. This is not a recipe post but more a guide to what to include on your selection of meats and cheeses.

Jamon

In Spain, the pig is king. They use all parts of the animal, as every good nation should, and it is quite common in rural areas for families to have an annual pig sacrifice to ensure a supply of meat through the year. The annual matanza is where the families spend 3 days creating all manner of products using every inch of the animal for their consumption during the 3 day fiesta or throughout the following months. To ensure a years supply of products, a large proportion of the meat is air-cured. The legs are cured to create Jamon.

There are two types of Jamon in Spain and the difference is due to the breed of pig used.

Jamon Serrano is from the white pig, and is named from the high altitudes the drying and curing processes occur at, as it literally translates as mountain ham.This represents over 90% of the ham produced in Spain.

Jamon Serrano

Jamon Iberico is from the black Iberican pig from the southwest parts of Spain, sometimes called pata negra from the black hoof that typifies the breed. Due to the higher levels of fat in the meat, they can be cured for a longer period of time, resulting in a more complex, intense flavour with an unparralleled sweetness. The ultimate hams are known as bellota from the acorns the pigs feed on in the autumn before they are prepared for curing. The smaller and more intensive level of production means it is more expensive than Jamon Serrano but in my opinion (and I imagine everyone who has tried both) deservedly so.

Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico – courtesy of Orce Serrano Hams

In the UK supermarkets you can normally get your hands on some Jamon Serrano, though I was a little surprised by the blank look on the ladies face behind the delicatessen in my local Sainsbury’s the other day, normally a supermarket with a wide range of products!! Also it is much tastier (any normally cheaper) if purchased off the deli than from the prepared packs. I haven’t located Jamon Iberico in any of my local supermarkets but believe some Waitrose stores may stock it.

The best, but rather indulgent way, is to order in a Jamon from Orce Serrano Hams. They sell a wide range of full leg hams and other artisan products and provide you with all the information you need to get the best experience. It’s next to do on my foodie wish list!

Queso

To match it’s diverse range of culinary styles Spain has a huge range of cheeses. Each region produces several varieties of cheese, each one unique depending on the type of milk used (sheep, cow, goat or a mix), the method of production, the traditions and the ageing and curing processes. Sadly, the majority of Spanish cheeses cannot be easily found in the UK, with the only one that is readily available in UK supermarkets being Manchego.


Manchego is made from the milk of the Manchega sheep in La Mancha, the plateau that covers the central region of Spain and is protected by a Denominacion de Origin (D.O) that ensures the cheese is produced in this area and in a certain way. There are different varieties of Manchego, depending on the age. The type found in UK supermarkets is Curado which means it is a semi-firm cheese which has been aged for 3-6 months and has a sweet and nutty flavour. It is perfect for tapas as it not a cheese that requires an accompaniment, except perhaps a glass of Rioja.

Should you be lucky enough to live near a decent Cheesemongers then other spanish cheeses to note are:

Cabrales: a blue cheese from the mountains of Picos de Europa, Northern Spain. It is traditionally matured in the limestone caves that are typical of the region.

Torta el Casar– sheep cheese from Extremadura, with a soft centre and a strong flavour.

Tetilla– meaning little tit due to its breast like shape, it is a cows milk cheese which is mild and creamy.

Ham and Cheese – the perfect combination in any cuisine but even better done the Spanish way.

Back soon with the final day of the tapas trail.

Hasta luego.

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Chorizo al vino

Chorizo is now one of the most popular and Spanish products used in the UK, popping up on restaurant menu’s around the country and found in many weekly shopping baskets. The often mispronounced product (it’s chor-eetho people!) comes in 2 main forms, a cured version that can be found on most supermarket shelves and a semi-cured sausage that needs cooking. The key flavouring in all chorizos is Pimenton (paprika) but varies according to which type of paprika is used, dulce (sweet) or picante (spicy).

It has become very easy to recreate Chorizo al vino (Chorizo in wine) dish in true Spanish form as many supermarkets now sell the cooking chorizo. I used these from Sainsbury’s and found them to be full of flavour and perfect for this simple tapas dish.

I feel a bit of a fraud posting this recipe as it only has 2 ingredients, but that’s the beauty of tapas – so simple and yet so tasty.

Chorizo al vino

150g cooking chorizo
125 ml red wine – use one that you would happily drink

Puncture the chorizo with a fork and place in a saucepan and cover with half of the wine. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and keep at room temperature for as long as possible, preferably overnight. When ready to serve cut the chorizo into bitesize chunks (for these ones I just halved them)and put into frying pan. Add the remaining wine and cook over high heat until the wine has almost disappeared. Serve with toothpicks or on top of some crusty bread slices.

Hasta manana

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