Hipster BBQ Guide

Well, the barbecue season is *technically* here, British weather permitting as usual. If you’re tired of seeing the same old things at a barbecues, here’s my guide to shaking it up a little.

Meat matters

I won’t go into the meat too much, suffice to say this should be locally sourced, from a farmshop, farmers market or quality butchers. You can eat supermarket meat on any other day of the week, get the organic, tender, aged, best you can buy for a BBQ. Plus, it’s better for our farmers and animals.

Plant-based popularity 228798011_0_640x640

Increasingly people are opting for more plant-based diets these days, veggie and veganism is more in fashion than ever, so make sure you’ve got this covered. I recommend these Aromatic Moroccan Veg Cakes from Great Foods (you can get them on Ocado, naturally). These are delicious and may event tempt a few meat eaters too.

Shrimp on the barbie

Don’t forget about the pescatarians too, this is a very popular way of life (I pretty much live it). As a child we would use freshly caught scallops to make our own family version of coquille st jacque on the barbecue – but to be honest a nice bit of salmon, king prawns or fish kebabs will do just as well.

Bye baps, hello brioche 

Yes, even bread has had an update. It’s out with the baps and in with the brioche buns with their beautiful golden shine. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a hearty burger and should be top of your shopping list.

Gin is inbrockmans-gin

Unless you’ve been living on the moon recently, you’ll know that gin is in. The quirkier and more unusual sounding your gin, the better! If you can get a locally distilled gin (like Hampshire’s very own Twisted Nose), that’s ideal. Another recommendation from me is Brockmans Gin, just make sure you’ve got the grapefruit peel, or at least the blueberries to go with it. If all else fails, Sipsmith is a great choice and it’s available in supermarkets. The mixer matters too, step away from the Schweppes and pick up the Fever-Tree Tonic, it’s the best!

Anyone for tea?hb

For something a little lighter but still alcoholic check out Harry Brompton’s Alcoholic Ice Tea for some sweet refreshment. It’s delicious and free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. You’ll be supporting a lovely British brand too, so cheers to that.

British bubbles

If it’s a celebratory barbecue occasion, cast aside the Prosecco and opt for an English sparkling wine – there are some truly fantastic ones out there. If you don’t have time to get to a local wine shop (like Winchester’s fabulous Wine Utopia), supermarkets like Waitrose have a few English wines these days, like the lovely Nyetimber.

Super saladssalad

Last but not least, the salad, often overlooked, people tend to think of it as that person at a party no-one really likes but you have to invite anyway. Personally, I don’t feel this way and put a great deal of effort into my salad making. I recommend adding cous cous or quinoa into the mix for a bit of texture and flavour. Use plenty of fresh herbs too, a little chopped coriander, mint and chives (my salad favourites) make a world of difference to how a salad tastes. I like to add a little feta cheese or mozzarella as well. Keep your salads bright with plenty of vegetables and textures and they’re sure to be more popular. I say that it’s high time salad stopped being a wallflower and took centre stage, so let’s make it happen!

Happy BBQ-ing everyone, fingers crossed for a glimpse of sun again!

xXx

P.S. Don’t forget your mason jars to drink out of.

 

 

 

Magnificent Meze and More in Cyprus

It’s been a little quiet lately on FoodTeaLife and it’s in part due to a wonderful trip to Cyprus, lucky me! The other contributing factor was the dieting in the lead up to my time away, which left me with few yummy foodie things to write about (any one see my post on fast day foods?!). Thankfully the foodie drought is well and truly over now and this post is packed with delicious highlights from Cyprus.

Okay, apologies in advance for some of the terrible photography in this post – clearly I enjoyed a little too much of the lovely local wine every night!

On the subject of the local wine, here they are…

vasilikon2008 vasilikon_red

Both from the Vasilikon Winery in Pathos, Cyprus – it’s fair to say many many bottles of both the white Vasilikon and the red Methy (a Cabernet Sauvignonwere consumed! It left us all wondering why don’t we get more lovely wines like this over in the UK?! I’m not going to get all wine notes here but they were both so very pleasant and very reasonably priced for being so enjoyable.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel, right by the coast, so naturally plenty of fish and seafood featured in the holiday diet, including two separate fish meze nights! Meze (as anyone who’s seen Come Dine With Me will know) is a selection of small dishes often including pitta and salad, what I didn’t realise was that it doesn’t all come together (like it does on Come Dine With Me!) but continuously, course after course! The word literally means ‘small dishes’ and it’s a style of eating that features many different courses, but each course contains just a little of each item, enough to have a taste. Well, even though they are ‘small dishes’ – it soon gets pretty filling, especially if you gorge on salad and pitta bread in between courses! Here’s just a small selection of the dishes included in our fish meze…

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

King Prawns

Terribly out of focus but delicious king prawns

Sardines

Sardines

white fish mezze

White fish

As you can imagine as all of these dishes (and more) kept coming our table got pretty chaotic…

Messy meze!

Messy meze!

Every inch of the table was packed with plates of fish, seafood, salad and pitta…which of course meant you just had to keep on eating to free up some space! Heavenly though it all was, it has certainly not done my waistline any favours – so worth it though! The fish was cooked so well, with just a little olive oil and lemon, simple but lovely.

I couldn’t let the week pass without indulging in a little traditional moussaka either…

mmm...moussaka

mmm…moussaka

Of course I had to sample one of the local desserts too…

Baklava

Baklava!

I do love Baklava! It’s little rolls of filo pastry with a deliciously sweet, cinnamony, nutty filling – so good with ice cream!

Our hotel (the Amathus Beach) was lovely too – check out these little delights left in our room most days…

free fizz, petit fours and canapes!

free fizz, petit fours and canapés!

The cocktails served at the hotel were absolutely delightful – we sampled many of these too of course…

Holiday classic - a pina colada

Pina Colada, a holiday classic!

All in all it was one beautiful, delicious, laughter-filled week in sunshine. A huge thank you to my extended family for the magical trip!

amathus 2

Fun in sun

Amathus

And relax…

xXx

Mormons, Lobsters and London…

I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been about seeing Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical, The Book of Mormon! I’d booked the tickets waaay back in November as a special treat for Tom and at last the weekend had finally arrived!

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To make a real occasion out of the day (I don’t do London all that often) we went for a spot of lunch first. We headed to the Burger & Lobster – nearby restaurant serving you guessed it…burger or lobster. There’s only three choices on the menu so all are done really well, there was a choice of lobster with a salad and fries, a burger with bacon and cheese and a lobster roll. I opted for the lobster roll, which was to die for, I’d eat it again right now if that were possible! The lobster roll was actually toasted brioche bread, with cold lobster in a lemon mayonnaise, accompanied by salad and fries…so good!

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Lobster Roll - delicious!

Here’s a look at the other two dishes on the menu…

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Burger at Burger & Lobster

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Lobster and chips, a classic!

Being as it was a special occasion, I enjoyed a few lunchtime cocktails too. Here’s a Winter in the City, a vodka based cocktail with cranberry, elderflower…and I forget what else…it somehow tasted like an iced mulled wine, if you can imagine that tasting good.

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Winter in the City - beautiful and delicious

A few wines were also enjoyed at lunch and then a few more at the theatre too…so it did end up little messy that evening, but lots of fun. The show was fantastically funny, Trey Parker and Matt Stone at their best. Highly offensive but totally getting away with it, by being so on the mark and amusing. There were actually points when my theatre companions had tears of laughter in their eyes! It’s hard to conceive of how a musical about Mormons could be so brilliant, but like South Park and Team America, it just somehow is. If you enjoyed Team America you’ll enjoy The Book of Mormon for sure, definitely worth the trip to London!

Feeling a bit like Santa…

This week has been so epically full of food…this must be how Santa feels on Christmas morning after gorging himself on a million mince pies the night before!

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It all started on Wednesday at an award ceremony in London’s The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel. After a nightmare journey and arriving 45 minutes late, the evening wasn’t off to a great start but somehow we were still able to consume all three courses of the meal on offer (oh the wonders of mass catering)…wait make that four courses if you count the lovely little Petit Fours at the end…

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I thought the Petit Fours might turn out to be the best bit of the evening, but no…Sue Perkins was hosting! She was witty and amusing as always and certainly made my evening – meeting her more than made up for not winning the award! A large wine afterwards helped too.

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The real tremendous day of eating came on Thursday when I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner out. I began the day with a fabulous girly breakfast at Paul’s – a lovely french patisserie  in London and followed this with a ladies lunch also in London (I will add that I only ate a salad…), finally I rounded the day off with a dinner at Winchester’s Number 5 Bridge Street. Thankfully Number 5’s menu features a whole range of smaller dishes to enjoy, so I didn’t quite have to be rolled home!

And this weekend…well…I’ve shamefully had not one but two Subway sandwiches (dam it’s close proximity to my new home!), but also a lovely dinner at The Bugle Twyford and some hearty bread and mince pies from Winchester City Market.

I guess I’m just preparing my stomach for the indulgences of Christmas….? My tree’s up already, bring on the festivities!

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Try Sakura – Winchester’s First Teppanyaki Restaurant

Winchester folks have you noticed that Cellar Peking has gone? Remember the Chinese restaurant on Jewry Street down all those steps? Well it’s no more and in it’s place is Sakura, a Japanese restaurant serving teppanyaki. I was lucky enough to try it out last weekend and it was excellent.

Firstly the whole place has been completely refurbished, with a contemporary Asian themed interior and of course a central teppanyaki griddle. If you have not experienced teppanyaki before, it essentially involves watching an amazingly skilful chef cook your food in front of you on a flat top grill, while you sit around the grill and enjoy the whole theatrical foodie experience. Meats, vegetables and rice are all prepared on the grill top and it’s great fun, as well as very tasty.

On the menu, there’s also sushi, sashimi, salads and soups as well as set menus incorporating a little of everything. I was impressed to see Sake and cocktails on the drinks menu too.

Sake!

A mojito had to be sampled of course

The sushi menu

On to the food! We started off with some mixed sushi which was delicious and beautifully presented. We followed this with teppanyaki steak, king prawns and scallops to share – we finished the lot!  The ingredients were fresh and cooked to perfection.

Teppanyaki steak and vegetables

The staff were excellent too, helpful and ready to explain anything we didn’t understand on the menu. The restaurant itself was very quiet, although it was a Sunday and I think as more people find out about what a hidden gem the place is the atmosphere will certainly pick up. All in all I’m very much looking forward to going back and sampling more of the menu!

Dinner of teppanyaki steak, prawns and scallops being devoured!

If you haven’t been I recommend you try it out, the number is 01962 864178 (there’s no website set up for the place as yet, so contact details are a little hard to come by).

 

Fun & Fromage in Les Deux Alpes

A little while ago I went to Les Deux Alpes where I enjoyed some fantastic local dishes, drank some lovely wines, suffered a few hangovers…oh and did a bit of skiing, only a bit though, it was all about the fromage for me really.

Here’s our trip in pictures (thank you to Tom and Joe for most of these!)

The hotel…

Hotel Cote Brune - Highly Recommended

Adorable Alpine Chic Bedrooms!

A beautiful and perfectly located hotel, with friendly staff, good food and peaceful spa area.

The wine…(six bottles between five on the first evening)…*sore heads*

A lot of this lovely mountain wine was consumed

The Food…

Cheese heaven!

Escargot...garlicky goodness

Plenty of meat and hot stone cooking took place...

Crepes - a ski trip must!

Tartiflette - a delicious local speciality made with cheese, potatoes, bacon bits, cream...you get the idea!

The world's smallest salad (and this was a starter!)

Last but definitely not least it’s the raclette, heaven for cheese lovers like me…can you believe it…I’d never actually had one before this trip! To order a raclette there must be at least two people to enjoy it (partly why I’d never had one before)…So I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to Joe for manning up and sharing a raclette with me! It was awesome… in fact it was so awesome and exciting  that I forgot to take a photo…so here’s a picture very much resembling our raclette experience courtesy of Google Images…

 

Fromage Fantastique!

The Best Restaurant…

Crepes A GoGo - quirky, fun and good quality food...I cannot rate this restaurant highly enough!

Oh and the slopes…

Here I am taking in the beautiful scenery

Great memories of a great trip!

My weekend in food

It occurred to me that I do my most interesting eating at the weekends, whether I’m out and about or attempting to create a little of my own kitchen magic. So I thought I’d start to report of my weekend nourishments, foodie moments and culinary catastrophes…and as it’s a Sunday, I’m starting now …

Friday’s used to be all about going out for me, but now I long for the opportunity to stay in and cook something lovely, possibly watch a film and wash it all down with a glass (or bottle!) of something equally lovely. So this Friday saw me and Tom creating that most indulgent of comfort meals, home-made burgers. The nearby shop stocks local minced beef, which I blended together with finely diced red onion and a few herbs and spices. Isle of Wight cherry tomatoes helped me make a salsa to spread on a lovely wholemeal bun, with salad and cheese…oh and a little extra indulgence, garlic mushrooms! I wish the film we watched had been as good as the burgers…

The Saturday was more of a wishful, food wanting day. As I wandered into Winchester, with the Christmas lights on the famous Christmas market now open, the city was absolutely crammed, with everyone of its eating establishments packed out with people – but I did manage to squeeze a quick visit to the newly opened Caracoli – an excellent coffee shop with amazing foods. I am big fan of it’s well-established Alresford branch, so popped into to the new Winchester to store to pick up one of their artisan scotch eggs as a treat for Tom.

Saturday night saw us catching up with a few friends in The Bridge at Shawford, where the boys enjoyed a rich winter special of pheasant with sweet potato mash and I had a rather nice piece of salmon. What was also great was the interesting selection of beverages behind the bar including Kopperberg fruit ciders and Liefmans fruit beer – just right for the walk between The Bridge and The Bugle Inn!

I’d like to say that night ended quietly there, and not that we ended walking home at 5.30am…but, we did, and that about brings me up to date on weekend food, aside from this morning’s bacon and mushroom sandwich (hangover heaven).

What’s next…well Tom’s pushing for a Rimjhim’s King Prawn Coconut Curry – we’ll see.

***

-Update, he’s just brought me a cup of Earl Grey – love him.