Lovely Legna: a new star is born

Hello all, and Happy New Year!

Before we fully embrace 2019 and all the promises of a new year ahead, I just had to share our final restaurant experience of 2018, because it truly finished off the year in style!

Some of you will already be aware of Legna, Aktar Islam’s latest contribution to Birmingham’s food scene (see my trip to Opheem here), who this week have launched their full menu. We were lucky enough to pay them a visit during the restaurant’s soft launch (the joy of being on their mailing list!), and it was such a treat, from start to finish. As an Italian restaurant, Legna is, of course, quite different to Opheem, but it is just as well thought out, and Aktar’s passion for food and his diners’ experience is just as evident in this new venture.

There was a limited menu available due to the fact that Legna was running a soft launch, but we were still spoilt for choice. We opted for three courses and so missed out on the pasta course; a shame on our part as watching the diners around us devour plates of lush pasta induced serious food envy, so we’ll make sure to explore the pastas next time!

Before our food came, we enjoyed a delicious cocktail of bergamot and raspberry fizz; a combination that is new to me, but was simply superb.

The amuse bouche set the tone for the evening: whipped soft cream, tomato, black pepper and strawberries, a pop of flavour in your mouth… wow.

On to starters! Mine; bresaola, served delicately sliced and as a tartare alongside. The dish was enriched with parmesan and truffles (which I adore), and mini pickled onions which provided a beautiful piquant tartness. My husband opted for king prawns, which I obviously had to sample, too; the succulent king prawns were adorned with a tomato sauce, fiery with chilli and with small prawns running through it. Utterly delicious.

The absolute standout dish of the night for me was the veal fillet, perfectly cooked to rosy perfection with a smoky aubergine purée, salsa verde, charcoaled onion and a rich veal jus. It was perfectly executed, and such a pleasure to eat. My husband opted again for fish, choosing the hake, which was again, perfectly cooked; the fish creamy and rich.

For dessert, we chose two Italian classics: a reinvention of tiramisu and panettone bread pudding served with white chocolate sorbet and custard. I will admit to feeling a little envious of my husband’s bread pudding, as ultimately, that was the one I preferred too. However, the tiramisu was also very good. With a classic dessert, you have a preconceived idea of how it will taste, however my tastebuds were thrown off balance with this dessert! There was a traditional rich coffee flavour coming through, but it was incorporated with a Marsala sorbet which made it fizz in your mouth; unusual and very much in keeping with the restaurant itself.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. The opulent Italian-themed surroundings really made us feel that we were somewhere special. This was enhanced by the ambiance and the knowledgeable, attentive service. The modern and elegant menu is well priced, accompanied by an excellent wine list.

Legna is set to be a star, equal to its sister restaurant, and we look forward to visiting again, very soon. Congratulations to Aktar on what promises to be another success!

Legna: Islington Gates, 8 Fleet Street, Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JH

My Favourite… Swiss Roll Recipe

Hi all, it’s been a little while. How are we all?

Now that autumn is fully here, and the heating is on, and thoughts turn to regular baking (because how better to prepare for all the festive cooking ahead than by… doing more cooking?) I thought it would be a good idea to share my favourite (adaptable) Swiss roll recipe with you all!

I always use a recipe from the BBC Good Food website (found here), and add in a teaspoon of vanilla to the sponge mix, for added deliciousness.

Feel free to mix up the fillings, according to the seasons and your preferences, too! I am using a fantastic black currant curd from Tiptree in the pics below, with a tangy lemon mousse, and decorated with whipped cream, slices of kiwi, and a dusting of matcha powder. As we move towards Christmas, it might be lovely to make a Swiss roll with delicious festive flavours, and of course, my favourite version is my prize-winning White Chocolate Mousse and Lemon Curd Roulade, which is always a treat 🙂

See below for step by step pics:

Here’s the recipe in full, for ease of reference:

Swiss roll sponge (serves 6)

2 large eggs

50g caster sugar (plus 2 tbsp for your cooked sponge)

1 tsp good vanilla vanilla extract

50g self-raising flour, sifted

A knob of butter, to grease your baking tin

  1. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 16 x 28cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together for 5 mins using an electric hand whisk until the mixture is thick, pale and aerated. Gently fold in the flour in two batches using a large metal spoon. Pour the mixture into the tin and gently ease into the corners using a spatula.
  3. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden and firm – keep an eye on it and be careful not to overbake, or the sponge will break when rolled.
  4. While the sponge is baking, sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar over a square of baking parchment. Prepare your fillings/garnishes while the sponge is in the oven.
  5. Turn the baked sponge onto the sugared paper. Peel off the lining paper roll the sponge tightly. Allow it to cool before unrolling and adding your filling(s). Fill, then roll the sponge up from the short edge – using the sugared paper to help you, then transfer to a serving plate or board.
  6. Decorate, then devour.

I topped my slices of Swiss roll with an extra dollop each of cream and that black currant curd, for an extra indulgence.

Do let me know if you give this recipe a try, I’d love to hear from you!

An Opulent Lobster dish.

Setting the standards high for myself my food hero, Raymond Blanc has his new book out, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons – The Story of a Modern Classic, therefore his seasonal Lobster dish was on my radar to cook.

Lobster Plancha with Red Pepper Jus and Caradamon.

To me Lobster is opulent, exuding decandence and conjuring up thoughts of dining on the Orient Express or luxurious restaurants.

I am happy to say it is becoming more affordable to the general public with restaurants such as Nosh & Quaff, Lobster Peninsula and The Lobster Pot local to our vicinity. It is also in vogue at street food vendors with such mouth watering dishes as Lobster, Mac & Cheese or Lobster & Crayfish rolls.

Our local supplier of fresh seafood is the Birmingham Bull Ring Indoor Market offering a vast array of fresh fish, meat, fruit and veg. I choose the beautiful specimen below at a cost of £24.00.

The humane technique to kill a Lobster is to insert a knife in the cross on the top of the Lobster head with the blade facing forward to the front of it’s head. In one single movement put the knife through the cross and cut down between its eyes.

The recipe is broken down into several parts and the 1st part is the creation of a curry oil.

100ml extra virgin olive oil

6g curry powder

1 lemongrass stalk, bruised and finely chopped

7g kaffir lime leaves chopped

Lime Zest

Pinch of sea salt

Juice of 1 lime

Place the olive oil in a pan with the curry powder, lemongrass and lime leaves. Bring to a very low heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Add lime zest, lime juice and salt. Sieve and set aside.

To cook the Lobster bring a large pan of water to boil and blanch the tail for 30 seconds, then immerse in cold water. When cool cut the tail in half lengthways. Remove the dark tract. Lift the Lobster flesh out of the shell to ensure it is loose and easy to eat. Season with the curry oil, salt, a tiny pinch of cardamom powder and 1/4 tsp of finely grated fresh ginger.

Blanch the claws in the same water then cooked in simmered water for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove.

Now the 2nd part of the recipe – Red Pepper Reduction

Lobster shells, head and small legs.

750g red peppers

20ml olive oil

20ml dry white wine

Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 cardamom pod, seeds extracted and taken out

Pinch of cayenne pepper and a dash of white wine vinegar to taste.

Once the ‘dead man’s fingers’ have been removed from the lobster chop the head and legs into 1cm pieces.

Core and de seed the red peppers roughly chopping them. Blitz to a puree then strain through a fine sieve ensuring you keep as much juice as possible. Heat in a pan and reduce by half.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sear the chopped lobster shells. Deglaze with the wine and then add the cardamom, ginger and cayenne pepper.

Pass through a sieve and add a splash of white wine vinegar to taste.

The various stages of the red pepper reduction – The simmering sauce.

Strained red peppers and sautéed lobster shells

Chopped lobster head and legs.

3rd part of the recipe

6 Jersey Royal potatoes, simmered for 10minutes, or until tender with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and thyme sprig, 1 peeled clove of garlic, 1/2 bay leaf, 1 tbsp curry oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to impart flavour.

If you have a meat hammer break the Lobster claws and knuckles removing the meat carefully. I didn’t so I used my rolling pin. One good crack ensures the claw comes out whole, but if you are a little afraid of doing this just watch a You Tube video.

To garnish and serve.

Pre heat oven to 170oC / Gas Mark 3

Heat a frying pan, small drop of oil and sear the lobster tail for 1 minute until lightly coloured.

Place on an oven tray and roast for 3 minutes. Repeat with the claws and knuckle meat.

Once done add the claws and knuckle meat to the warm red pepper reduction.

Arrange potatoes and lobster on a plate and add a trickle of red pepper reduction and curry oil.

Decorate with pea shoots and fresh parsley.

Below is how my Lobster looked after blanching the tail and cooking the claws.

As you can see Gary Jones’ image of his finished dish is beyond sublime. Executed perfectly with the addition of deep fried potato skins, salad leaves and French Cavair, (Sturia).

He also topped his Jersey Royals with curried yogurt and Caviar. I topped my potatoes with seasoned creme fraiche.

I omitted the potato skins and unfortunately no Caviar was to hand instead finishing my take on the recipe with fresh chopped parsley and home grown pea shoots.

Well a huge thank you to Raymond Blanc’s wonderful book which gave me the courage and knowledge to create an amazing opulent Lobster dish, that was immensely appreciated by my hubby.

I am not a qualified chef but with descriptive recipes to follow and the feel for how a dish should taste and look the result was outstanding. I proudly plated it up and tingles of excitement ran down my spine as I anticipated the flavours. Not at all disappointed.

I Hope this has inspired you guys a into trailing a recipe out of your comfort zone.

Until next time – Happy eating all.

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

An Afternoon at Simpsons

What do you do when you’re invited to attend a lunch at one of the best restaurants in Birmingham?  Well, if you’re anything like me, you make sure you’re there with bells on.  Oh, it’s a hard life at times, my friends.

Alongside Kirsty Leahy from Touch FM, and Sean Hughes, runner up in this year’s Home Cook competition, I had the pleasure of joining Russell Allen at lunch at Simpsons, a Michelin starred restaurant close to the centre of Birmingham, following my stint as Home Cook of the Year 2017.

The restaurant is owned by Andreas Antona, and the kitchen expertly run by head chef, Luke Tipping.  Andreas and Luke have worked together for a number of years, to well-deserved acclaim.  The restaurant has maintained the Michelin star they were awarded within a year of opening in their Edgbaston location, and it is easy to see why.  The food they are producing is nothing less than spectacular.

We enjoyed the lunch menu, which I cannot recommend enough!  In particular, the risotto with courgette, black olive and sunflower seeds was an incredible highlight and tasted sublime. The seabream with fennel, artichoke puree and shellfish sauce was simply divine.  The puddings were phenomenal.

I’ve included some photos from our trip, to tantalise your eyes further!

A happy and full team! A lovely afternoon

If you haven’t yet been to Simpsons, then you must go!  Find an excuse, or invent one, and go and treat yourselves: Luke, Leo Kattou and the team are proudly producing some outstanding food, which is simply a joy to eat.

Simpsons: 20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DU.

Cheese and Wine – why not come and join in the fun


It feels a long time since I have sat down and written a blog post, but I have a very exciting evening coming up, which I just had to share with you all.

Some of you may be aware, from my social media channels, that on Saturday 3rd November, I will be hosting a very exclusive, and very delicious Cheese & Wine evening, showcasing 7 beautiful cheeses and fabulous accompanying wines, alongside canapés made by yours truly, highlighting ways to be utilise each cheese, for maximum deliciousness and enjoyment.  We will be gathering at The Bell at Tanworth in Arden, beginning at 6:30pm.

The cheeses will be supplied by the fab folks at La Cave à Fromage, and our host for the evening will be the ever knowledgeable Tony Elvin, from The Wine Events Company. Tony was formerly the GM at Hotel du Vin Birmingham, and will be on hand to guide us through the tasting and answer any questions. The wines have been specially selected from ranges that are available to buy in supermarkets (so you’ll be able to recreate your experience for your friends and family), and I certainly hope that you do!  We will also feature breads supplied by our good friends at Proof Bakery, and some delicious chutneys provided by Tiptree.


We have carefully curated the evening, so that your tastebuds are taken on a full journey; an encompassing cheese experience, from gentle to stronger cheese, with the accompanying canapés providing different textures.

How will the evening look? I hear you ask. Here is the menu in full, my friends; it’s a good’un.

Upon arrival, we will be serving a glass of British fizz, accompanied by some (largely) non-cheesy canapés to nibble on while we get the evening going, including prawns with mango salsa, Parmesan pesto beef, spinach leaves, plus home baked savoury straws and mini sausage rolls.

Cheese no.1 will be a Fosseway Fleece, an English sheep’s hard cheese from Somerset. This is a very gentle cheese with natural sweetness.  Canapé: A sourdough disc topped with sliced banana, a pinch of chilli & toasted cheese.

Cheese no.2 is Comte Reserve. This cheese is made from cow’s milk and produced in the East of France. It is at its best between March – April when the cows eat the rich grass from the mountains. Aged for 18 months, has a nutty flowery flavour.  Canapé: Sour cream and chive crispbread topped with homemade pear chutney.

Cheese no.3 is a Goat’s Cheese; semi-hard texture, with a flavour range from nutty, to sweet, to sharp. This cheese has been marinated in Zephyros extra virgin premium olive oil, with Santa Maria’s excellent green peppercorns and thyme.  Canapé: Goat’s cheese and apricot.

Cheese no.4 is something very special indeed: a Pecorino Truffle.  This hard Italian cheese is made using goat’s milk and a features a delicious swathe of truffle running through the cheese. This is a little extravaganza. This particular cheese cannot be sold in the UK as it is patented by a 2 Star Michelin chef (and no, unfortunately I don’t know who it is!); we are lucky to be having it as a taster.  There is no canapé with this cheese; it will simply be served in its unadorned luxury.

Cheese no.5 is an Erborinato Capra. Another Italian cheese, this is a blue goat’s cheese: firm, slightly salty and acidic and full of flavour.  Canapé: Toasted brioche topped with avocado & crumbled Erborinato.

Cheese no.6 is Fourme au Maury. This is a creamy cow’s milk cheese from central France. It is matured with a natural sweet red wine injected into the cheese.  Canapé: Cheese and fig wrapped in Parma ham.

Cheese no.7, our finale – Langres. This is a cow’s milk cheese from the Champagne-Ardennes region of France. It is a soft and creamy cheese with a slight crumbly texture. This cheese is not turned during production, which leaves a dip in the top of the finished cheese.  As it’s from the Champagne region, what better way to serve than to pour fizz into the cavity (though we’ll be using British bubbly) and then cut in front of guests. It will be served with a simple cracker alongside.

And that is it!  I’ll see you there.


Tickets are £30 per person. A £10 deposit is required to book. Please contact The Bell directly on 01564 742212 to reserve your place.

The Bell at Tanworth in Arden: The Green, Tanworth in Arden B94 5AL

Tour of Tiptree Farm, Factory and Tearooms.

How iconic and totally British is the Tiptree Jams’ and Marmalade badge?When a competition arose with the opportunity to create a bake of my own using one of these delectable products on my Twitter page how could I not get involved?

Out of 99 entrants my white chocolate mousse and lemon curd roulade was judged to be “Winner of the Tiptree Bake Off,” and from there my prize of visiting Tiptree’s site in Colchester took place in May.

How ironic, in my day to day job as a regional sales manager my key account is just under one mile away from this wonderful venue that I never knew existed! Every day each and everyone of us could be passing a hidden gem so my suggestion is engage with the locals to all areas you visit and find out what’s about and recommended!

However I digress…..Tiptree is an independent business now owned by its share holders. Jam and marmalade are their core products nevertheless they want to stay at the top of their game and “Innovation” is a key word in their current set up. Tiptree export to 73 different countries ensuring they have global reach. New product categories include fragranced candles & diffusers, honey, several brands of manukau and gins, a range of fruit varieties.

Under the “Wilkins & Sons” umbrella ranges included are the Thursday Cottage Brand, Jules & Sharpey and Coles Puddings.

They also have their own bakery, Tiptree Patisserie and 10 tea rooms across Colchester, the newest one being in Chelmsford in Bond Street. This was acquired as an empty shell and incorporates the old with a modern new design, very much focussing on customer profiles in 2018, and how to satisfy their needs, whilst ensuring the Tiptree brand exudes its popularity.

My start to the day was meeting Liz Baker, marketing manager, settling in with a coffee and a chat about the resume of the day.

Placed on each table was the Summer Dessert Special – My “White Chocolate Mousse Lemon Curd Roulade.” A little flutter of pride ran through me, and the chest expanded like a courting pigeon!

So many questions, so much information, so much fun all in a space of thirty minutes.

Scott Goodfellow, joint managing director of Wilkins and sons joined us. His enthusiasm and passion swept over us like a wave. His eagerness to discuss new products was infectious, grabbing bags of the new vegetable crisps and dipping in mayonnaise, explaining how Tiptree & Sons want to be innovative and keep moving forward in their market place.

Tiptree are an autonomous business and grow what they can to produce their range of jams and pickles. All their berries are hand picked and hand sorted. Laborious yes, but meets the exacting standards required to ensure they maintain their quality, and the Royal Warrant which has been in place since 1911.

A lot has changed since the early days of taking the employees to pick the fruit!

An interesting fact Dan Waskett, farm tour guide, told me when we were touring the farm was “Caught Red Handed!” Do you know where this comes from?… No nor did I.

It actually comes from the Mulberry tree pickers as when the mulberry is picked it leaves a stain on your hands no matter how gentle you are. In the early days those who stole fruit from a tree could not deny it due to the colour of their hands!

Two other new facts learnt on this informative tour “Plonking!” This is term used when de stoning fruit. It’s the sound made when the core or stone drops on to a metal tray which I can audibly hear in my head, so makes perfect sense.

Also strawberries harvested in the U.K. are picked with a small stalk left on the fruit. This dates back to when the Victorians dipped their strawberries in cream and didn’t want their fingers to be covered in cream. Licking your fingers was not etiquette!

Tiptree, as well as their normal strawberries have their own signature berry called “Little Scarlet.” Obvious question, what’s so special about this berry? It is the size of a 5p piece and is an intense wild alpine strawberry from America. It is very sweet and produces amazing jam. They cannot keep up with demand and have started growing the crops on the table top system to improve numbers produced.

Tiptree have also invested in a NGS system for perfect strawberry production.

Thinking NGS maybe some highly intellectual wording for the system I had to giggle when told it means “New Growth System.”

The NGS system regulates the air temperature and the air quality , with automatic plastic covers moving up or down according to the strength of the sunlight and exterior heat. It is 91% self sufficient, which is pretty darn impressive.

Simple as the meaning is this, it enables Tiptree to remain top of their game and grow fruit of the highest quality. 1,000 tonnes of their strawberries go to supermarkets, plus usage for their own production.

Part of the success includes using Coya, ground up recyclable Coconut musk in their soil which adds nutrients to the fruit.

Dan advised they are often contacted to see if Tiptree will send plants or off cuts to other countries so they can grow the berries themselves but it is always an adamant NO!

It’s fame is even mentioned in a James Bond film, “From Russia with Love” when James himself says he would like “Little Scarlet” Strawberry jam on his toast with the customary English bone China cup of tea.

Whilst touring round the farm we had a whistle stop tour of the Farm camp for the employees. Tiptree have 400 employees, with 250 of them tending the crops.

The camp has been recognised as the best in Britain for its facilities and looking after the welfare of the workers. Around the clean, accommodating looking caravans there is a community hall which has such facilities as a gym, table tennis and pool tables and a pool. Tiptree village is within walking distance for the employees’ shopping requirements, and there was a general feel of camaraderie in the camp. Dan explained that most of the fruit pickers are Romanian or Bulgaria, and return on a yearly basis. Extremely efficient, hard working employees, just what a business needs.

Farm tour over we headed over to start the factory tour. Hair net doned, clean Tiptree coat fastened and appropriate footwear on off we went.

First stop, “The Pudding Room.”

What thoughts does this sign conjure up for you?

This in fact is the Christmas Pudding production room, independent to the main factory. Assembly of the Christmas puddings actually starts at Easter.

As the door opened the aromas took me back to my childhood kitchen, where my Gran had a wonderful mixing bowl and was stirring the alcohol drenched raisins into her homemade Christmas pudding. Cinnamon and nutmeg infused the air, and a warm cloak of general happiness enveloped me.

I didn’t get any recipe secrets apart from the fact their fruit is soaked in apple juice prior to adding to the mixture, and the puddings are gluten free, alcohol free and dairy free.

Over to the main factory tour which proved to be an eye opener. From running through the production of marmalade, to seeing black currant jam start to finish, jarring, labelling and then a warehouse scoot round, all very enlightening.

My tour guide was so informative covering topics of supply, recycling, work shifts and brands. Highly recommended tour.

The final part of the day included a late lunch, the devouring of my white chocolate and lemon curd roulade made by Tiptree Patisserie and a visit to the shop.

The tearooms source local, seasonal ingredients and produce quality home made dishes. For lunch we had an asparagus tart, with a rich blue cheese sauce and mounds of crisp, fresh salad. Salivating just thinking about it now.

Drum roll please! Attention turned to my dessert. The staff at the Patisserie had tried to keep as close as possible to my recipe, and to say I wasn’t disappointed was an understatement. Soft, springy, light sponge wrapped round a luxurious rich white chocolate mousse, with tangy lemon curd coming through in every bite. They did me very proud.

Full to the gunnels off we trotted to the shop. Tiptree and Liz were extremely generous filling my basket with jams, pickles, gin and even a diffuser as all part of my prize.

A nifty gift idea is that in the shop you can get labels personalised while you wait.

Liz produced my own pot of lemon curd with “Winner of the Tiptree Bake Off” on it which was superb.

I also bought my gin loving sister-in-law to be a fruit flavoured gin with a birthday message on it, which I felt was an innovative present. I’m sure this facility is put to full use at busy periods in the shop.

Tiptree Jam Shop & Tea Room

A truly wonderful day. Yes I was treated like a princess and yes as my prize I had some luscious goodies from the gift shop to take home with me, but Tiptree is an iconic British business.

The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and willing to help.

The tearoom serves homemade meals using fresh and local ingredients, and the ultimate cream tea washed down with a selection of teas, coffees or soft drinks.

The farm and factory tour is not only fun, but reveals the behind the scenes of this business. A truly worthwhile day out, supporting our British culture and industry.

Until next time eat well and be happy,

Love Sophie 👩🏼‍🍳 xx

Opheem Birmingham – The Soft Launch

When it comes to food my friends and family will tell you I have an obsession to dine in quality Indian restaurants, searching for traditional Cuisine taking the basic foundations, implementing seasonality and spice.

My heart did a little flutter when I was pleasantly surprised to open an email from Opheem saying I had been accepted to attend the soft launch on Friday 25th June.

Aktar Islam is opening his first solo restaurant adventure, Opheem in Summer Row, Birmingham on the 1st June, 2018. Former chef director of the Lasan Group said his 70 seater restaurant will take his customers on an intoxicating culinary journey.

Music to my Ears.

Suitably suited and booted, so to speak, I made my way to Opheem with eager anticipation. As this was the soft launch the main doors weren’t open to the lush looking, comfortable pre-drink area, so entrance via the fire exit meant direct access to the restaurant experiencing the decor and ambiance immediately.

Modern decor with tables nicely spaced, correct lighting for the time of night and already seated guests were clinking glasses, conversing and generally a relaxed atmosphere greeted me.

The walls are textured concrete, giving a contemporary modern style, with quality cutlery, glassware and plates completing the look.

Opheem’s menu starts with a “To Graze” section and we had the opportunity to taste all three.

To those believers who think an oyster is slimy I’m here to dispel those thoughts. Perfectly cooked Porthilly oyster with a tempura style batter and a Kerala tomato chutney was divine. No slithery texture, pure genius.

Both the Pyazi, chickpea fritter and the Imli Pani, produced as a gel, were equally as impressive but the oyster won my vote of the three.

Moving on to the begin section, how I would of loved to indulge in the Kerala Soft Shell Crab which was the winning course on Great British Menu, but in the last 10 years I have developed an allergy to crab. Not swelling up and rashes I hasten to add, but the kind where it doesn’t stay in my stomach too long!.. No need to add more! I love the taste but it doesn’t love me!

I did however mange to dip part of the crisp basket it was served in and taste the sauce which I imagine was the perfect accompaniment.

My chosen starter was the Kukkut, which was the Punjabi Goosnargh Chicken, with basil coriander and marinated Heritage tomatoes.

Goosnargh chicken is a speciality range that is raised at Swainson House Farm near Preston, Lancashire. They are known for their moist good flavour, and in this dish in total agreement.

Accompanied with heirloom tomatoes, which are sweeter, not mass produced and have a thinner skin than normal tomatoes, made this starter a perfect amalgamation of flavours, textures and you can appreciate how hot and cold can work together as a dish.

As a pre main the waiter brought over this Lamb Pate with Cumin Sour Dough. Lightly spiced pate spooned on to tangy tasting sour dough was YUM! Prior to speaking to Aktar about the ingredients would I have enjoyed it as much? Yes definitely, I am all about using top to toe of the animal in dishes.

The pate was made with lamb’s brain and Aktar if you do read this, please may I have the recipe??!!..

I chose the Rajasthan Laal Maans as my main, a dish inspired by Aktar’s winning course on the Fword.Herdwick Lamb was used to produce a delicious loin, a tongue beignet with Punjabi caviar, barley smoked chilli and a bone marrow sauce.

Herdwick lamb is reared in the Lake District. A quality sheep that is hung, butchered and packaged with fanatical attention to detail. You can discern the quality of the lamb when you eat the dish.

Two things I’m saddened to say I hadn’t eaten before were the tongue beignets and the Punjabi caviar. Obviously not dining in the correct establishments but as an enthusiastic Home Cook these will be trailed.:

The open plan kitchen meant I could watch the chef hand shape and cook the Naan bread in the Tandoor oven. With complete ease he sculpted the Naan and used rods to ensure even cooking of the bread. A piece of cooking showmanship that the chef was totally oblivious too, just content in producing a wonderful bread.

Along side the Naan Bread I ordered a side of the Asparagus and pea rice.

To finish of the choice of three for the options for dessert the Bengal Firni shouted out to me! Using seasonal Yorkshire rhubarb and basil combined with rice pudding was my idea of heaven.

Wow, total deliciousness. crunchy wild rice topped the sublime rice pudding with a tart sorbet and varieties of rhubarb brought the whole dish together. One I would definitely order again.

At the end of the meal I managed to catch up with Aktar and have a chat about the menu and the whole concept of his new restaurant.

His philosophy is simple. He wants to explore the diverse culinary heritage of India using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.

He said the quail was sourced from Norfolk and vegetables from Gloucestershire.

He was inspired by his Mum who is an amazing cook. Aktar still recalls sitting at the kitchen table chomping on the end of a Hovis loaf with hot lamb’s brain as the topping.

Delightful childhood memories.

My only slight criticism would be the waiting staff as discussed with Aktar. Slight hesitancy and nervousness was the feel that came across to me. Obviously with this being entirely new that confidence will grow with both service and knowledge. Interestingly Aktar agreed with me saying the front of house staff do not see this as a career, in contrast the complete opposite to trained chefs.

Fred Siriex, French Maitre d’hotel, known for appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates, recently championed National Waiter’s Day to change the perception of service roles as an unskilled job. He wanted those who embark on a career in waiting to see that it can lead to rewarding careers with great progression routes and amazing benefits. Great concept.

And just a bit of personal information, my business development manager, Maxwell Ravera, did appear on Hotel First Dates and said Fred is a genuine, amenable chap!..

As you can see from my huge smile I was totally delighted by the whole dining experience. I would mark the food 10/10.

Opheem needs to be recognised as a first-rate addition to Birmingham’s reputation for great food.

Don’t just take my word for it guys, get yourselves booked. In and let me know what you think.

Grazing dishes, starters and main courses were all complimentary as part of the soft launch, dessert and drinks paid for by myself.

All opinions and views are my own.

Until next time lovelies have fun and keep producing and eating quality food.

Love Sophie x 👩🏼‍🍳

One Organic Chicken – 6 Dishes.

As an accomplished competitive home cook how could I resist a challenge set me by Aubrey Allen butchers, a family-owned butcher known for its high-end carefully sourced meat?

Aubrey Allen

From Caldecott Farms Aubrey Allen handed over a free range Robert Caldecott Cotswold white chicken.

The bird looked well-shaped with a plump rounded breast and more meat on the breast than the legs. Pliable to the touch insinuated to me the meat would be tender, and it definitely looked moist and plump. Perfect for the challenge.

Robert Caldecott

“Hand over the chicken, Helen!”

Menu planning ensued when I got home.

Actually for me it was an adventure, not a challenge!

Whether you like simple or sophisticated dishes Chicken features in all manner of cuisines at all levels of skill.

Affordability, accessibility and culinary versatility makes Chicken one of the most popular meats to eat in the U.K.

I would probably say every country has their own famous chicken recipe, so I had to call on the grey matter cells, and get them whirring into action to decide on my dishes. Would it be-

Tandoori Chicken from India,

Southern fried Chicken from America

Chicken Pie from England

Chicken Yakitori from Japan?

The list is endless so I assessed my Spice and herb collection and set to work on dissecting the chicken.

Many moons ago I trained at South Warwickshire College of Further Education to become a chef. The skill of removing the meat / dissecting a chicken has never left me. Breast, thighs, drumsticks and wings aptly removed, keeping the carcass to make a stock. As you can see I also removed the wishbone. In my house my daughter and I have a fight to pull the wish bone with our little fingers.

Where it snaps, the person with the bigger piece can make a wish. Does it work? Do you know what I have never actually followed up to see if my wish has come true, but hey family traditions are what make memories special, so we’ll keep doing it!

First up a pretty simple dish using the drumsticks.

Calling on my tried and tested marinade I just slashed the skin and rubbed my yogurt and Indian spice mixture onto the drumsticks and left them overnight in the fridge. These were roasted and served with whole grain rice, long stem broccoli, and fresh parsley. A quick and easy supper dish full of flavour.

Lunch Time – Jack Daniel’s Chicken Wings with crispy noodles and a red cabbage & blue cheese salad.

To ensure the chicken wings were meaty, when jointing the carcass I nipped a corner off the breast.

The Jack Daniel’s sauce is my own recipe and truthfully I really need to get this bottled and patented. I recently had the pleasure of being paid to take part in a pilot cooking programme due out in 2018. One of the challenges was to produce a unique burger, protein of your choice with a sauce and appropriate sides. My duo of chicken Jack Daniel’s burger won and bagged me an extra £50.00 quid, happy days! All family and friends love it whether it be on ribs, chicken or prawns so this was a no brainer to include in this challenge.

No part of the chicken is wasted.

To make my next dish I made a fresh chicken stock with garlic, celery, carrot, bayleaves, parsley and onion. The carcass and the vegetables were just topped up with cold water, brought to the boil and simmered for 1 1/2 hours.

In the strained stock I poached one of the chicken breast with the skin removed.

The skin was salted and placed between two baking trays and baked for 30 minutes at 180oC to crisp up and give a different texture to my Poached Chicken and Vegetable Broth. As you can see I added kale, leeks and fresh parsley to the broth served up with a good grind of black pepper. Obviously all dishes can be adapted to your own taste so a variety of vegetables can be added.

Fresh, vibrant and full of vitamins. Healthy & Low fat. Just reiterating my opening gambit, the versatility of chicken!

Let’s move onto the thighs. Both thighs prepped in two different ways.

The first one was roasted with the meat removed. When I did this challenge Valentine’s Day was looming so I produced a sharing dish – Chicken Croquettes on my red pepper sauce. Two croquettes were enough to share as a starter. The whole idea was to feed each other, as they say “There is no sincerer Love than the Love of Food.”

Crisp coating, delectable filling and mouth-watering sauce. Perfect combination!

To thigh number two.

Remove the bone but keep the skin on the thigh.

Cover in a good tandoori paste and cook on a high heat in a griddle pan until, crispy and gnarly.

With Street Food trending how about a Tandoori Chicken Thigh burger with mango chutney and yogurt in a burger bap. Dressed with fresh red chilli slices and coriander to give an extra crunch.

Quick and easy dish for one.

My final dish was my “Piece de Resistance!”

Taken from a famous dish served at The Ivy this was my take.

Roasted Chicken breast with creamed sweetcorn, buttered mushrooms and a chicken jus.

As you can see from all the pictures the quality of the chicken was second to none. Deliciously flavoured, ample breasts, moisture laden chicken. Working with great ingredients and being creative means all these dishes will hit every single taste bud that you have. This quality of the Chicken had a true impact on the taste of the recipes I cooked, absolutely superb.

So there it is One Organic Chicken – 6 Dishes.

Each portion cost £2.15 each. For a family of four two chickens would be needed. What wonderful cost effective dishes. Food needs to be loved and cared about so nothing better than an organic chicken.

Happy eating folks, and until next time stay safe.

Love Sophie xx 👩🏼‍🍳

Shout Out To Cologne Cuisine.

Through my company I travelled to Cologne, Germany on a business trip. As an avid food lover my 1st thought was “Umm I wonder what delectable dishes are in store for me?”

Rightly or wrongly I had a preconceived idea of German cuisine. If asked to describe the essence of German cuisine I would say it is rich and hearty, great at creating comfort food dishes. I am aware that there are regional variations and some dishes have Austrian and Swiss influences. Each German region has its own speciality dish and Bratwurst is one of the most popular foods.

I acknowledge my ignorance of German cuisine as very surprisingly Germany has the world’s 2nd highest number of Michelin starred restaurants behind France.

We were lucky enough to dine at the restaurant within Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, a luxury 5 star hotel / grand townhouse offering elegant and opulent surroundings.

The current menu of the Hanse Stube


Variation of tomato and melon

with gazpacho and Pata Negra ……………….. 19 €
Octopus carpaccio with saffron mayonnaise,

wild fennel confit, capers and tomato ……………….. 29 €

Half dozen of Fine de Claire oysters

with Cheshire cheese bread, oyster vinaigrette and lemon ……………….. 27 €
Soups and Entrées

Beef consommé double

with slices of beef marrow ……………….. 16 €
Essence of tomato

with buffalo mozzarella and balsamic caviar ……………….. 14 €
„Strammer Max“ of fried scalops

with smoked bacon and fried quail-eggs ……………….. 28 €
Homemade tagliatelle

with chanterelles ……………….. 19 €
Fish Dishes

Filet of codfish

with Pommery mustard mash, green asparagus and chanterelles ……………….. 32 €

Paella Andalouse with Chorizo chip and crustaceans foam ……………….. 39 €

Filet of Atlantic turbot

with purple potato salat, spinach and Beurre Blanc ……………….. 39 €

(alternatively poached or seared)
Meat Dishes

Fried breast of black feather chicken

with Ratatouille and sweet potato mash ……………….. 36 €

Saddle of venison for two, carved at the table

with homemade orecchiette and fried chanterelles ……………….. per person 42 €

Selection of cheese

with assortment of chutneys ……………….. per piece 4 €

Crème Brûlée flambéed at the table

with seasonal berries and ice cream ……………….. 12 €
Duet out of Soraya Grand Cru chocolate

and passionfruit ……………….. 14 €
Variation of lychee

with yoghurt and raspberries ……………….. 16 €
Temptation of wild berries,

buckwheat and Manjari chocolate ……………….. 16 €

To start us off, as in all good restaurants we were served an Amuse Bouche. A delicate prawn served with a duo of Purées and fresh pea shoots.

My starter was a close call between the Octopus Carpaccio and the Oysters! Excuse the pun but I am a sucker for oysters so I chose half a dozen of Fine de Claire oysters with Cheshire cheese bread, oyster vinaigrette and lemon.

To my mind it seemed to be strange to use Cheshire cheese instead of a locally sourced one, but I have to say it was scrummy and worked well with the Oysters.

A colleague’s starter – Strammer Max pan fried scallops with smoked bacon and fried quail-egg.

Beautifully presented with perfectly cooked quails eggs. The scallops were slightly opaque in the centre as they should be, and tasted wonderfully fresh.

Yes it was a colleague’s starter but I’m fortunate enough that he was willing to share!

Unfortunately I can’t give you the correct name of the Lamb dish I devoured but I do remember the Lamb was cooked exactly how I liked it, the jus was divine and the coarse grain mustard sauce gave it a little kick to waken your taste buds.

This was an impeccable dessert treat, a Flambeed Creme Brûlée. Never have I seen this process before and I presume it intrigued my colleagues too because the majority of the table ordered this dessert. Crisp, crunchy sugar topping hid underneath the moist creamy sumptuous Creme filling. To me near on perfection and with the addition of the drama of the flambéing one of my top ten desserts.

From high end dining we ate at a local German Restaurant / Bar Brahaus, the next night, where the focus was the local beer served in 22cl glasses. Sausages, Schnitzel, Asparagus and Pork Knuckle were the specialities. Brahaus was frequented by lots of the locals enjoying the beer, camaraderie, atmosphere, and traditional fancy free meals.

The idiosyncrasies of the bar was the way they served the local beer. The waiter gave the beer drinking guests a 22cl glass and every time the glass was refilled he would keep the tally on the beer mat. If you placed the beer mat on top of the glass you were done, otherwise the refills kept coming and beer was a flowing!..  At the end of the night the beer mats were tallied up and we were charged accordingly.

Prior to departure to the UK I dined at a small Bistro type restaurant at Düsseldorf airport. Never overlooking an opportunity to feast on the local cuisine I ordered a heart warming traditional Potato Soup with Wiener Sausages. This is a very popular German dish that is an “Eintopf Dish”, which means it is made in one pan. The sausages are either sliced or added whole 10 minutes before the dish is served.

Hearty – Yes. Tasty – Yes. Warmed the Cockles – Yes. And would I eat it again? – A big fat Yes!

A variety of local dishes were devoured hungrily by myself. I was pleasantly surprised by all I ate and drank in this picturesque city. Am I a covert to German cuisine? Yes indeed if this is replicated across the country.

Happy, feasted like a king (or in my case a queen) and was educated in local cuisine. A very successful business trip in more ways than one.

Guten Appetit all if you do dine in Cologne.

Until next time Happy Eating.

Love Sophie 👩🏼‍🍳 x

Cook Book Review – Spice for Life by the lovely Anjula Devi

Life throws at you a variety of opportunities that you should grasp eagerly with both hands. Unfortunately my beliefs don’t allow me to think we are here again so “The Journey of Life” should be filled with happiness – Find what it is that makes you happy and you’re set. Cooking makes me extremely content.

You are writing a book review so why are you rambling about life opportunities you maybe thinking! Landed in my emails was the chance of doing a pilot cookery show. Not to be aired, but to run through how the show may run with another seven competent cooks. I jumped at the chance to do a couple of days filming in London.

This is where I met the very talented Anjula Devi. Amongst other things Anjula has founded her own cookery school, demonstrates at BBC Good Food Shows, has created her own brand of sauces – Route 207, and has written this healthy and wholesome Indian cookery book – Spice for Life.

Anjula Devi

On the 2nd day of filming Anjula came armed with copies of her cookbook and her Spice Dabba tins. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of her cookbook, which she signed saying “Enjoy” and I can quite categorically state that my family and I have already enjoyed –

Tasty, delicious recipes created from the book.

I would say I am an accomplished Home Cook. In my teens I trained as a chef, qualified but only remained in the industry for just over a year, due to my 1st husband disliking the long hours a chef has to work in order to achieve recognition.

No longer my husband, needless to say, my passion for cooking has never departed. I am fulfilling my cooking aspirations by working with my local butcher, cooking ready made meals & pies, cooking at local food festivals, and this year I won “Home Cook of the Year” for Warwickshire. Again I seem to be drifting, ….. however you need this background knowledge so you can appreciate my thoughts on Anjula’s book.

Truthfully my competency in the kitchen never extended to me being a knowledgeable cook who could blend all the correct Indian spices to produce authentic dishes.

I dabble regularly in various Indian and Jamaican recipes – goat curry being my piece de resistance cooked lovingly over two days. However I maybe in the same boat as others out there, the correct use of spices both scared and excited me in equal measures!

In order to recreate Anjula’s recipes I wanted to equip myself correctly and purchased the Masala Dabba, an eight spice pot and storage container Anjula created for Lakeland cookware stores.


An easy way to measure and store both the key and warming spices for her recipes. The stainless steel pots, plus the centre pot divided into four sections, makes it incredibly easy to measure out the teaspoon quantities required. Ideal for flavouring your curries and spicing up your chapatis.

As you can see I was able to purchase all the spices required to start my journey on cooking Indian wholesome and healthy food.

I was born in Ilford, Essex, however I currently live in the City of Coventry. Coventry is a multi-racial city and I am very fortunate to say we have a wonderful array of Indian supermarkets and halal butchers to shop at.

I realised at an early stage of reading Anjula’s book, prior to cooking from it, there were a number of core ingredients missing from my already bulging spice shelf.

A visit to the local Indian supermarket equipped me with the goodies below including Jaggery, Mango Powder, Black Cardamons, Dried Fenugreek Leaves and Onion Powder, to name a few.

If you are not fortunate to have a local Indian supermarket close to where you live I would highly recommend you go on line and use Spice Mountain – They produce hand-blended spices and herbs, traditional and exotic. From A-Z they have a huge array available. They also have shops in Borough Market and Westfield Stratford City, London. They have a selection of recipes to try on their site and all their ingredients are sourced ethically.

I was struggling to find Cassia Bark and Ajwain seeds, both of which were available from Spice Mountain. I also bought Curry leaves, as I can buy them locally fresh, but not dried, so I added them to my basket.

Spice Mountain

Ready and raring to go – Cookbook Open – Let’s Cook!

My first recipe was Spinach and Onion Pakoras. All my family don’t like spinach so I switched the spinach to aubergines, but prepared them in exactly the same way. The method for this recipe meant the ingredients bound together by the natural juices from the onions and aubergines!

This meant the pakora was much tastier by incorporating the natural juices and also producing a lighter pakora.

I followed the instructions to a T! And suitably impressed I served up with my homemade sweet green chilli jam and mango chutney. Demolished with in minutes my family gave a big thumbs up to this dish.

Onwards and upwards.

My next dish to create was the Lamb and Amla (Gooseberry) Curry.

When you are a confident cook adapting recipes to your own cooking method comes naturally. On this occasion I used my Instant Pot to cook this dish. I also used mixed meat, which incorporates mutton, lamb and goat from our local Halal butcher.

The instructions are extremely clear and sticking to Anjula’s recipe creates an amazingly tasty dish. No spice is over powering, the meat is extremely tender and the gooseberries add an extra dimension.

Sides to go with this extravaganza of Indian dishes were the next on the agenda.

The wonderful versatile potato was to be transformed into Masala Potatoes. Not only a great accompaniment to Indian dishes these delectable potatoes would work well with grilled meats or fish. Or even if any are not polished off, as a cold side.

A feast for for any table. I can’t boast to having made the bread but the other three dishes were created from Anjula’s recipe book – Spice for Life.

Commentary included – You didn’t cook this Mum!


What you cooking next then?

A silence descended in the dining room as my family Chloe 23, Heidi 21, and Marcus 18 and the husband polished off every last bit of the meal I had created.

With my new found confidence I decided to tackle the Quick Pepper Chicken Masala. Preparation time 30 minutes with a 60 minute cooking time.

My under used pestle and mortar has taken up residency on my kitchen worktop, rather than being boxed away.

Grinding the appropriate spices in the pestle and mortar gives off a fragrant smell and is unusually satisfying.

My slight change to this dish was using chicken thighs instead of breast, basically what I had in my fridge, and I did serve with soft boiled egg and grilled baby tomatoes.

Cooking is all about enjoyment.

Follow these amazing recipes. However should you wish to tweak to your own taste do so.

The rudiments for wholesome Indian cooking are in Anjula’s book. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in and cook with gusto.

Anjula has a font of knowledge about Indian cookery happily giving away such cooking tips as –

Pierce whole chillis and place in dish. The favour will infuse, no need to chop.

The membrane of the chilli has the most heat so remove accordingly for less heat.

Blanch ginger, then chop. No need to stir fry, can just be added to the dish for a great flavour.

So to the crux of the write up – Has this book helped me to cook healthy and wholesome Indian food?!..

And the answer is a BIG FAT YES.

From the wonderful prologue, a Letter to Dad to the section Spices to the Glossary every part is well written, self-explanatory, informative and above all else enables you to create wonderful recipe and dishes.

I am excited to add more dishes to my repertoire . Keep an eye out for them on my Twitter – Sophie’s Tasty Tweets.

An opportunity arose, and I took it. If I had decided not to seize the occasion that arose I would of never have met Anjula Devi, and be on the road to being a competent cook with Indian spices.

Thank you Anjula for the Spice for Life Cookbook. A must for all you cooks / chefs out there. 5 stars.

Until next time happy cooking all.

Love Sophie xx 👩🏼‍🍳

“As a power station needs fuel we need FOOD to power our exsistence” so what better way to stock up with sustenance than a to visit Nottingham Food Festival?

It’s hard to miss an opportunity to visit a local Food Festival but my mind was in a quandary as to whether to go or not due to the very recent death of my beautiful Mum following her short but intense battle with cancer. 

As my opening title suggests we need food to exist. My Mum eagerly used to await the invites to my house for dinner and devour every morsel of the dishes I served her. She was my introduction to food and cooking. She inspired me and shared the joy of what food brought to us – saying being a good cook could enable us to make friends, celebrate occasions in style, court potential lovers and count our blessings. All very true. I knew in my heart she would have wanted me to continue with planned events so off to the food festival I went. 

Regional food festivals pop up all over the country now but let me tell you what I found at the Nottingham Food Festival, and why you should visit a U.K. Food Festival in your area.

The Nottingham Food Festival is one of the venues where Living Heritage Food & Drinks Festivals host on a yearly basis at Wollaton Hall. Living Heritage hold other local / regional gourmet food festivals within the U.K. Check out their website for further information – 

The show has a great line up of celebrity chefs on the main stage that you can watch demonstrating seasonal recipes & offering tips to improve your cooking. This year Theo Randall, Edd Kimber, Matt Tebutt and Chantelle Nicholson graced the stages with their presence and show cased their cooking styles.

In addition to this the Food Roadshow stage hosts further chefs for you to watch and learn from, some from the local area. Encouraging and supporting our local talent is a must in my book. 

I have to mention Johnny Pusztai who is a local Nottingham butcher who presents a burger challenge in the Food Roadshow tent.

Johnny is an award winning butcher who supplies local restaurants including Michelin Star Restaurant Sat Bains. His butcher’s shop, J.T.Beedham & Sons is on Mansfield Road, Nottingham.  Not only is it a traditional butchers shop providing locally bred meats, Red Tractor assured, but also Johnny specialiases in curing and smoking his own meats so well worth a visit. Johnny and his team accommodate any special requests and offer advise on how to cook certain cuts. Johnny and I met through Twitter and I have written a separate blog on a visit to his shop for a further insight.

On site at the Food Festival is his outside catering van – The SnobbyButcher BBQ & Hog Roast Company. A delectable array of delicious burgers and hotdogs are on the menu. The van has a constant stream of visitors who make audible noises of appreciation. Aromas of sizzling onions and  frying burgers whaft around drawing you to see what is on offer. Well worth giving oneself up to a local cob.

So if this doesn’t whet your appetite so far let’s carry on.

Browse the many foods on offer whilst listening to live music from Saxophonix and the Bill Bailey Band. The piazza area is set up for visitors to eat, drink and relax. The variety of foods on offer cover a range of tastes and cultures. So much to get excited about and so many flavours to tickle your taste buds. The enormity of the food offering impressed me and to be honest if you didn’t dine well whilst at the festival I would be shocked!

And to complement the food there’s a large selection of beverages available encompassing wine, champagne, cocktails, real ales, ciders, Perries and soft drinks. The real ale and cider tent had a large selection of local brews from Lam Brewing, Lincolnshire Brewing Co. and Naptin Cidery Ltd. Personally not being an ale or cider fan a cold fresh glass of Kir Royale hit the spot nicely.

The huge food halls are where the sustenance part comes in. Oh my such a wonderful array of both local producers, and those from further afield.

Too many to list – but with four food halls to browse through the selection is huge of food, drinks and gadgets.

Brownies, Cheeses, Chilli Sauces, Pies, Garlic based products, Gins, Greek Sweets, Olives and Speciality teas, to name a few! Where to start, and for me when to stop? I can imagine my fridge at home groaning, “Another food Festival, need to ramp up the power as I’m going to be bulging at the seams shortly!!” This is of course if our appliances could talk which currently is a thing of the future perhaps? 

All the exhibitors were proud to be promoting their wares and with a try before you buy approach you knew exactly what goodies to purchase.

If asked which ingredient I couldn’t do without in the kitchen it would have to be garlic! Look at the wonderful selection from the Garlic Farm. Yes I bought quite a few items but perhaps I had better not list them as the other half will tutt! The Garlic and Chilli dressing is the bomb, and served with grilled / BBQ meats or used as a marinade peps up dishes without any hassle. Perfect to have in the kitchen as a go to when starting from scratch is not an option due to time constraints.

My other food item I tend to overindulge in is cheese. As per my recent tweet my daughter bought me a cheese cookbook to ensure I utilised the cheese in my two rather ballooning drawers dedicated to purely cheese, in the fridge at home.

I was drawn to the selection on offer below. Tome cheese can be produced from cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s milk and is typically produced in the French Alps. It is a hard French cheese made from the skimmed milk after the cream has been removed to make butter or full cream cheeses. Consequently they are low in fat. Originally the cheese was made in Tomme de Savoie from Savoie in the French Alps, but is also produced in Switzerland now too.

Green and vibrant, made with Pesto. Never have I seen a cheese with such a colourful hue so that was on the list to try. Nettles, yes or no?! As my Mum used to say “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!” So another sampler request and when in season Truffle Brie is one of my all time favourite cheeses so I knew I could buy the Tome truffle flavoured cheese without hesitation.

A big yes to the pesto and truffle. Thumbs down to the nettle for my personal preference but I managed to add a few more local specialities whilst purchasing those two. I added to my selection Nibble Nose cheddars and a blue cheese.

How much cheese can a girl have? Self -indulging can’t hurt, right? 

Well only the purse strings and waistline! Time to move on.

Next on the agenda was lunch.

Now to the piece de resistance of my day – The Fruit de Mer Restaurant.

The Crabstock boys, Andy Hunting and Adrian Bartlett present an indulgent platter of the UK’s finest, freshest  luscious seafood.

Crab’Stock and 2 Smoking Lobster is a unique Shellish fruit-de-mer pop-up restaurant at various food festivals in the U.K.

Adrian adeptly advised the diners about the origins of the company and how most of the fish is sourced from the South coast apart from the smoked prawns coming from Newton Abbot and the mussels from the River Tyne.  The oysters that were shucked whilst we were demolishing the rest of the platter are bought on a regular basis by chef Matt Tebutt. 

I was furiously making notes on my I phone whilst Adrian was telling us all about the seafood so I apologise if I have left any information out but at another time on another date I can tell you all about the source of the seafood Adrian has invited me to spend some time with him for exactly that.

All the seafood has a 5 star hygiene certificate with a batch number and date certificate issued with every product to ensure you are eating the purest and freshest seafood the U.K. can offer.

Pictured below is one of the Crabstock boys, Andy Hunting, on the right, and Andy the chef for the day.

Andy Hunting is not only a Crabstock partner but also a U.K. Food blogger, event organiser,demo chef, freelance food writer,restaurant reviewer and recipe developer. Wow pretty full on but does it because he loves it, which is what good food is all about.

Andy explained to the diners about the Tomalley on the fresh Lobster which is an idiosyncrasy to their pop-up Seafood restaurant. Tomalley is basically Lobster offal which is considered a delicacy. In most restaurants this is removed due to the green colour looking unappetising but the green substance is delicately flavoured and immensely tasty, so thank you for the introduction of that. You learn something new every day.

Chef Andy served us with bowls of piping hot mussels that he had cooked with leeks, smoked bacon lardons and cream. Luscious flavours perfectly complimenting the plump seasonal mussels.

Each platter consists of a whole crab, half a lobster,mussels, oysters,clams, whelks and prawns, (subject to seasonality and availability), served up with crusty bread, a selection of dips, samphire and lemon wedges.

The boys supply each diner with a bib and cracking tools. For those of you who are not au fait with peeling, cracking and generally picking all the meat from the seafood shells Andy is on hand to advise and guide you through this memorable seafood dining experience.

Lobster is my perfect seafood dish and served naked, fresh with a squeeze of lemon juice hit sublime heights for me, however I have to rave about the whelks too. Harvested and served to us from the South coast, they were juicy, incredibly meaty and reminded me of my younger days at the seaside when we ate pots of whelks on family holidays. Just perfect.

I hope I have managed to paint a delectable picture of the Seafood pop-up restaurant for you as I cannot enthuse enough about it and an item to go on your bucket list if you are a seafood lover.

As well as all the above family entertainment,craft demonstrations and chainsaw carving are taking place throughout the day.

A show not just for food lovers to indulge in their passion, but families, couples, groups and singles to enjoy. 

FOOD is the core of our exsistence so where better to indulge than at a Living Heritage Food Festival and bring home some interesting and tasty sustanenace?

This is purely based on my own opinion and all food and drink purchased and eaten was paid for by myself. I just want to share with you my food exploits. 

Any feedback or comments always appreciated.

Until next time happy eating all,

love Sophie xx 👩🏼‍🍳