Foodie fun this weekend at Chequers Fest

If you’re looking for a fun, foodie event this weekend you can’t go far wrong with Chequers Fest, at The Chequers in Eversley Cross,  this Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st August.

Okay, so this is a little outside of Winchester but I have reason to believe it’s going to be great, so thought I’d share the news. The whole of the lovely village pub The Chequers will be given over to two days of fantastic live music, bars and artisan food and drink.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 5 low res

I’m told that the focus for this year’s festival is Great British Produce, with a wonderful array of great home produced things to eat and drink on offer, as well as plenty of opportunities to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

The pub’s invited some great producers to be there for the festival, with plenty of delicious things to nibble and quaff and lots of free tasters on offer (who doesn’t love free tasters!?). There’s a chance to try some fabulous oysters from the Oyster Bar and some delicious regional cheeses.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 6 low res

You can get creative and make your own sausages and fairy cakes in a series of foodie workshops for all the family. Then relax over a glass or two of local ale or something chilled from the bar. There will be live music from Off The Record from 2pm to 4pm on the day as well. Sunday is the day for dancing, cocktails and more delectable food. There’ll be a tasty hog roast available as well as the pub’s usual summer menu.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 1 low res

“Once again we’ll be having some great British produce on offer at the festival and putting on an amazing day dedicated to the good stuff,” says Jordan Marr, general manager of The Chequers.

“We love serving the good stuff here in the pub and this is our way of sharing the best of it with you as well as bringing great live entertainment and fun for everyone over the weekend. Come along and enjoy it all and of course have a brilliant day out,” he adds.

Tickets for Chequers Fest cost £10 for adults and are valid for both days. Under 12’s go free.  As the festival takes over the entire pub for the weekend, entry to The Chequers is only possible with a ticket. Chequers Fest takes place from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday 20th August and from 12pm to 8pm on Sunday 21st August. The Chequers, Eversley Cross, Hampshire, RG27 0NS. To book tickets or find out more  go to www.thechequerseversleycross.co.uk or call 01184 027065.

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.

 

 

 

Something special is coming to the Spinnaker Tower

I’m very pleased to be sharing some exciting Hampshire foodie news on FoodTeaLife today. A pop-up restaurant is coming soon to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and it really is set to be something special.

I was lucky enough to be invited to preview the pop-up experience high above the ground and sample the some of the dishes. I was pleased to learn that locally sourced produce takes centre stage on the fabulous seven course menu from award-winning chef Stephanie Moon. There was fresh fish and seafood from Johnson’s Enterprises and trout from Chalkstream Foods as well as meat from Southsea butchers, Buckwells. Even the desserts featured local suppliers including ice creams and sorbets from the fabulous Minghella’s on the Isle of Wight and delicious Fordingbridge Fudge too.

stephmoon1

Talented Chef Stephanie Moon at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower (image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower) 

Chef Stephanie Moon had very high praise for Hampshire’s local suppliers too. Describing the seabass from Johnson’s Enterprises, she spoke with passion about its freshness and how it just shone!

It was lovely having the chance to chat to Stephanie, who hails from Yorkshire and represented the North East in the BBC’s Great British Menu. I couldn’t resist asking her for her thoughts on the hotly debated issue that is #foodporn (taking photos of your food in restaurants). She gave a perfect answer saying, “I’m honoured if someone wants to take a photograph of my food but I’m equally as honoured if they just want to dive in and get stuck into eating it”.

stephmoon

Chef Stephanie Moon praising Hampshire’s produce

Stephanie has an impressive career to date including The Dorchester and 5 star hotel Park Hyatt in Sydney, so it was real privilege and pleasure to sample her food. You can see her full menu for the pop-up venture here – but I thought I’d share some of my favourites from the night below too…

Canapé: Cauliflower, summer truffle oil and sweetcorn “eggs” with brioche soldiers

Spinnaker 2

This was just one the delightful canapés on offer – I loved dipping the little brioche soldier!

Starter: Seared scallop, Isle of Wight crab, Solent seabass, butter lettuce, tomato, fresh peas, borage, wood sorrel 

Spinnaker 1

Everything about this was just perfect – the presentation, the flavours – it was exquisite! 

Main course: Hampshire South Downs lamb cutlet, sticky braised lamb, bon bon

Carrot anise puree, fèves, courgette, potato terrine 

– This I dived straight into and didn’t photograph, luckily  I was sent this beautiful photo of the dish…

MAINCOURSE

Image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower

To finish: Fordingbridge sea salted caramel fudge, Lavender fields chocolate fancies, Fresh cherry crackle, Pimms’ lollipops with sherbet dib dab – these all came after the main dessert like little petit fours and were simply irresistible!

finish

Who could say no to these delights? Beautiful image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Although I’ve picked out some personal highlights – I can honestly say that every dish was delicious and cooked to perfection. I felt the menu was just the right blend of creative and comforting. The dishes had the wow factor and were beautifully presented, whilst still being simple enough to let the quality and fantastic flavours of the local produce shine through.

Being high above the ground, close to the top of the 170 metre Spinnaker Tower was pretty spectacular too. Arriving at 6.30 meant we got to see the sun going down and watch as night fell all around and lights started to twinkle below. I’m certain it will make a magical occasion – perfect for a special celebration. I have no hesitation in recommending it.

viewspinnake

Views from the Spinnaker Tower as the sun went down 

Sky Dining with Stephanie Moon will be hosted on Friday evenings from Friday 22 July to Friday 12 August 2016. You can find out more and book your table here. 

 

A Taste of Summer with Wine Utopia

The Wine Utopia Summer Tasting Event last Friday made for a fabulous start to the weekend! Set inside Winchester’s picturesque City Mill there were over 30 carefully selected wines to try, all with the summer season in mind.

city mill

I could only stay for an hour but made the most of my time there sampling wines from around the world and thinking ahead to summer days, barbecues, warm evenings and sunshine.

Rot und Weiss

It was a tough decision deciding what to purchase but I opted for two New Zealand wines in the end (Wine Utopia’s speciality). Two Rivers Pinot Noir Rose seemed to be the perfect, vibrant summertime wine to me as did the Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris – so those were my two picks. All I need now is the warm weather to go with them!

Wine Utopia offer free local delivery too, as I live in Winchester I was able to place my order at the event and head off home to await my wine delivery! There’s good news if you live further afield than Hampshire too – you can now get your hands the specially selected wines on offer from Wine Utopia via their new website. 

It was a busy but certainly well-organised event, the City Mill was filled with people looking to get a taste of summer, I wish I could have stayed a little longer!

Capture

There are plenty more fabulous tasting events coming up with Wine Utopia – I recommend taking a look at their website wineutopia.co.uk for more details on these. Alternatively you can pop into either of the shops in Winchester or Stockbridge for a chat with the friendly team.

You need this drink in your life!

I’m a big fan of the Arizona Iced Tea range, so I was delighted when I came across something I’d not tried from them on Ocado…

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Love the design and let me tell you it tastes as good as it looks! Delicious iced tea with added lemonade, a lovely, oh-so-refreshing pick me up. Ideal as we head into the summer months too. Seriously, it’s SO good.

I get mine from Ocado but you can buy online and other places by visiting www.amdrinks.co.uk

Can’t wait to order some more!

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

Ice Tea Recipe

Ice tea is amazing in this hot weather! I find it’s a wonderful way to get my tea fix in the current heatwave. I like to whip up a batch, store it in the fridge and take it to work in my Keep Cup.

I’ve tried many different recipes and shop bought blends – but have finally struck tea gold by combining Ahmad Tea’s English Afternoon Tea, Twinings Strawberry & Mango, Camomile Tea, a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon. The lemon and the lovely hint of bergamot in the Ahmad Tea give a citrus note – while the rest provides the fruity sweetness you tend to need in a cold drink.

It’s very enjoyable with just a few ice cubes but for special occasions you can garnish with lemon wedges and strawberry pieces – it’s a fabulous summertime refresher!

Here’s a batch in progress right now, it just needs to cool and it’ll be ready for me in the morning…

Ice Tea in Progress

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