Category Archives: Guest Post

Midlands Supper Clubs

When I told friends that I’ve been invited to attend two Supper Clubs, their responses ranged from intrigue at trying something new to trepidation of dining at a secret location. I’m torn between Italian cuisine in Warwickshire or a French menu in Birmingham to try, so I hope that writing this post helps me to decide which one to go to!

Historically born out of out of paladares of Cuba, London, New York and Amsterdam were quick to popularise the idea of Supper Clubs. As a pop-up dining experience that caters for individual tastes, Supper Clubs have evolved as an alternative to ordinary restaurants or stuffy dinner parties. With a recent survey by YouGov revealing that 40% of us now think that dinner parties are too expensive, time-consuming and stressful to bother with, Supper Clubs are most definitely here to stay.

Inspired by the idea of sharing good food, every month Alex and Sara Chambers throw open the doors of their Warwickshire home and invite strangers to dinner. As owners of Squisito Deli, the couple extend their love of Italian cuisine to foodies who join them at the Squisito Supper Club for a five course meal.

Squisito Supper Club menus make the most of fresh seasonal produce that are also prepared with the Slow Food ethos. Frolesworth free range chicken with green olives and Squisito preserved lemon, Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Warwickshire honey all featured on their last event.

Squisito is the only Supper Club that I am aware of in Warwickshire, but there are a few more running in Birmingham.

The Tan Rosie Caribbean Supper Club is a chance to sample Caribbean dishes from Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Cuba in the hosts’ living room in Erdington. Chef Monica says that their Supper Club is “a great way to eat fantastic home-cooked food, meet new people and broaden your knowledge of Caribbean food in a fun, friendly and safe environment.”

Over in Bearwood, baked scallops and prawns in saffron cream and duck in balsamic syrup with dauphinoise potatoes were main courses for the first Supper Club held at the end of May. Cake maker Rachel (one of the Crafty Muthas) and professional chef Richard have teamed up to run a new monthly Supper Club for up to 20 people. Rachel says that guests can expect “a five to six course meal served over a good three to four hours with background music, atmospheric surroundings and plenty of chat!”

Judging by the response on Twitter, Le Truc Cafe’s first event on Saturday 9th June could well be a sell-out.  Du pain, du vin and beaucoup de fromage are promised at La Soiree Popette in a secret location in Birmingham.

So what makes a successful Supper Club? Genial hosts who genuinely food and cooking, a popular cuisine and chance to try something new seem to be the winning combinations. With a bring your own drinks policy, £25 is the average price that you can expect to pay for a truly memorable Supper Club evening.

Whether you want to try out recipes on friends, be a chef patron of your own restaurant for the night or just entertain for less money, running your own Supper Club is the dining revolution you’ve been looking for.

If you’d like to run your own Supper Club, then there is only one site that I’d recommend. Kerstin Rodgers, also known as mrsmarmitelover, is a food blogger and pioneer of supper clubs in London –  launching one of the first in the UK back in 2009. Her blog is packed with recipes, photos and tips on running a great Supper Club that is stylish and individual.

Alternatively, enjoy the experience by being a guest and check   http://www.supperclubfangroup.ning.com to find your nearest Supper Club.

http://www.squisito-deli.co.uk

http://www.tanrosie.com/supperclub.html

http://welovebearwood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/bearwoods-got-taste.html

http://www.letruc.co.uk

www.marmitelover.blogspot.co.uk

By Tracy of Midlands Gourmet Girl

The Street Food Revolution

Here is a guest post from one of our newest member’s, Felicity of Jabberwocky, a VW transporter that, along with Barny the chef is taking the good street food message all across Warwickshire. You can check out the blog of their adventures here.

The Street Food Revolution

Over in America, where everything is bigger, the craze for fast food is something of a national pastime. It’s no surprise then that street food there has taken off in a big way, with huge vans serving weird and wonderful concoctions on the street and a TV show to make sure everyone was aware of it.

Over here the revolution is gradually picking up pace as people move away from the tired-looking burger and begin to explore new alfresco pleasures. In 2010 the first competition to find the best British street food was held, and in 2011 the prize was a pitch at the Olympics, a sure fire sign that the country is taking notice of the humble “mobiler” and beginning to change habits of a lifetime.

I say habits, because as a nation we can be a tad reluctant to embrace change. As someone firmly ensconced in the catering side of the divide I constantly come up against willing volunteers who would love to try something new if offered for free, but would run a mile before parting with hard earned cash, because they “might not like it”.

These fine folk have a very valid point, of course. There is an excellent case for going to a restaurant you know and like rather than risking “that new place”, because the resulting dining experience might be mind-bogglingly bad and ferociously expensive. Incidentally, that’s where the blogging community comes in handy, offering impartial advice without the amusing and wonderfully reactionary bile of Trip Advisor.

However with street food the internet cannot (yet) provide the same wealth of information, so we will occasionally be faced with a whole new van of food, and no up-to-date information on whether we will like it. Here is where I think we need to take a chance. Street food, by nature, is cheap and cheerful. This applies to the van serving the wholesale burger and those selling the artisan, hand cooked falafel or the gourmet noodle box alike.

So I would like to leave you with a simple request, on behalf of all my fellow mobilers out there: if you find yourself tempted by the same old things, take a chance with you lunch, and try something different. Even if it doesn’t work out you have not broken the bank, and if you pass your feedback to the food van they will probably even be grateful to hear it, I know I would be.

I may well be preaching to the crowd here, but I think independent food is worth fighting for, and there is no better time to start than where you’re feeling a touch on the peckish side and fancy a “something or other” on the go.

By Jo of Jo’s Kitchen

On behalf of MFB

BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards

We’re back and our first post of 2012 comes from the lovely Charlotte of Go Free Foods,  a company which provides quality cakes free from wheat, gluten and dairy but as tasty as ‘regular’ products. Not content with being a MD of her own company, Charlotte is also a food writer, recipe developer, cookery demonstrator and food blogger for Hello Magazine.com. So over to Charlotte to hear about her day at the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards.  

It was a great thrill to receive tickets to attend 2011’s BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards. It’s, to my mind, of great importance that the BBC champion independent and artisanal food producers from farm to fork, so to speak, and I took great interest in finding out more about the nominees, spanning from cheese makers, to a micro brewery in Bristol. For a full list of nominees, take a look at the Food and Farming Awards website here.

The awards were recorded in Birmingham at the NEC, at the same time as the BBC Good Food Show, so it was an excellent opportunity to take a good look around the show at the same time. I always love to catch up with friends and see what new food producers are up to at these shows.

My guest for the day was Vanessa Kimbell. Running late from delayed trains into Birmingham, we practically sprinted through the NEC to make it to our seats in time, hurriedly catching up on our news as Sheila Dillon, the wonderful presenter of the Food Programme on Radio 4 took to the stage.

BBC Food Farming Awards - Sheila Dillon

Throughout the presentation, which was also being recorded to be broadcast on Radio 4 (it was repeated on Christmas Day morning) at the same time, we were shown some delightful videos of the shortlisted food producers and what made them so special.

Each award was presented by a well known figure; with those presenting including Rick Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Richard Corrigan and Adam Henson from Countryfile.

All of the awards were tremendously well-deserved and indeed so were those of the runners up. There are many genuinely exciting and innovative food producers, farmers, cooperative owners and artisans all over the British Isles, and it’s great to celebrate the valuable work they do.

I chatted to Richard Corrigan after the awards, who was just bubbling with excitement about the quality, skill and expertise which goes into the production of so many wonderful foods. We talked about just how far this has come on in recent years, and how the quality of so many foods being produced in the UK easily rival any being made abroad nowadays. Particularly so on the cheese front. You can here Richard talk about the Loch Arthur Creamery cheese makers on BBC iplayer, which won the Best Food Producer website.

Adam Henson and I discussed the changes in farming which have taken place in recent years, including the focus on sustainability and the positive impact this can have on farmers.

BBC Food Farming Awards - Adam Henson

I was also lucky enough to chat with Adrian Dolby, runner up in the Farmer of the Year Award, and his delightful wife. The work they do on the Barrington Park Estate is tremendously valuable.

I was so thrilled to have the chance to chat to some of the winners and runners up after the awards ceremony. The lovely ladies at Alder Tree Fruit Ices told me about their lovely products (which were absolutely delicious, my blackcurrant fruit ice disappeared in no time). They are predominantly a fruit farm, who use home grown seasonal fruits in all their ices. They, I think, are destined for great things.BBC Food Farming Awards - Golspie Mill

I tried some sensational bread from Golspie Mill (runner up in the Best Food Producer category) whilst chatting to the lovely Wayne Wright, a passionate chef at Harper Adams Community College. An inspirational chef, with a great philosophy and winner of the Best Public Caterer Award.

BBC Food Farming Awards - Wayne Wright

Next time we go on holiday to the Lake District, we will be stopping off in Bolton, that’s for certain. Their sensational market won the Best Food Market Award. All I can say is that I wish there were more food markets like this. A great community market, where people can actually go to do their weekly shop! I’m all for farmers markets and there are so many excellent ones around, but the issue I have is with the cost of some of the products on sale. It’s just not realistic for very many people to buy a significant proportion of their weekly shop there. Bolton Market is different, selling great value, local produce and is, as a result, really well supported by the local community. Below are Malcom Veigas from Bolton Council, who accepted the award.

BBC Food Farming Awards - Bolton Market

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was the deserving winner of the BBC Food Champion of the Year Award, for the Hugh’s Fish Fight campaign, working tirelessly to change the rules and regulations surrounding fishing quotas and fishing wastage. We were shown a clip from the television campaign which Hugh fronted to highlight the issue, and I was truly horrified by the practices which are in place, which have to be followed defying common sense or logic.

Finally, I chatted to Valentine Warner, a great champion of British produce, who was really excited about the awards and what they mean, and is very keen to support the work of BBC Radio 4 in running the awards.

BBC Food Farming Awards - Valentine Warner

Please do take a look at the nominees and winners and remember…support local when you can!

Thanks to Charlotte for her insight into what was a great day. You can see more of what Charlotte’s up to on her blog Charlotte’s Kitchen Diary

Festive Food Bank Time

Today we have a guest post from one of our longest members of Midlands Food Bloggers, Charlene from No Love Sincerer. At this time of over indulgence she highlights a cause that should be close to every foodies heart. 

A couple of months ago, Edwina Curry, a former Conservative minister, stated that she did not believe that people in this country go hungry. Do you agree with her comments?

As food bloggers we are, as a breed, usually well-fed. We cook good food, eat in nice restaurants and even get sent food for free to review a lot of the time. It is easy to forget that there are people in this country who do not have the luxury of being able to afford both heating and food. Food poverty is an issue in the Midlands, as well as a wider issue throughout the UK. This BBC article from earlier this year explains how a ‘Food Bank’ in Stourbridge saw a 45% rise in demand since 2010.

That’s why I want to tell you about Food Banks. Food banks have been set up throughout the UKby the Trussell Trust, a charity working to fight poverty. They have now launched over 100 food banks in theUK, which they report fed over 60,000 people who were experiencing food poverty last year.

Food Bank

You can help your local food bank by donating money, food or time. This map will allow you to find your nearest food bank along with their contact details and web address, so you can find out where and how you can help, should you wish to. There are already a number of food banks in theMidlands area, with more under development.

My nearest food bank is in Coventry , and we have been collecting tins of food for the cause at work. Supermarkets have also been getting in on the action, with non-perishable food donations being collected at most of the major supermarkets in the area. Here is an explanation of how the food bank works.

It being the season of good-will and all, I thought it would be worth highlighting this very worthy cause. I hope you will consider helping in whatever way you can.

Thanks to Charlene for this great article. 

Home of Rossopomodoro – visit to Naples

Back in September we had a guest post from friend of MFB, James Day of Eat the Midlands, tell us about Rossopomodoro – a new Italian in Birmingham. Now James is back with a detailed look into where the inspiration for the restaurant comes from. 

“They taste great, but I bet they are not true authentic Neapolitan pizzas?” –  A comment made during a recent review of the new Italian Restaurant Rossopomodoro, in Selfridges, Birmingham.  Two weeks later, my bags were packed and I was off for a visit to Naples, the ‘birth place of pizza’ to see for myself!

Naples

A hair-raising trip through the busy streets of Naples to the rustic head office for a welcome briefing, and even more welcomed Neapolitan coffee – seeing as I had not slept at this point for 24 hours! The senses awaking coffee was  accompanied by Pastiera – Traditional Neapolitan cake with wheat, ricotta cheese and orange flower water.

Neopolitan Pasteria Cakes

The briefing was then followed by a whistle stop tour of their suppliers … jumping in their company 4×4, and off to the mountains we went, a climbing up the side of the dormant (we hoped) and imposing Mt Vesuvius volcano, up to where they had just harvested the last olives. “The best olives are picked by hand, and traditionally pressed within a few hours,” the farmer explained (translated from Italian!) “we have been harvesting in this area for generations, and this year has been one of our best for a long time.”  The hillside was densely packed with large, twisted olive trees, some up to 300 years old, covered in nets to catch the falling dark olives.

Mountain side

Nutty in flavour, and golden in colour, this was the ‘daddy’ of all oils the D.O.P. (Denomination of Origin Protection – monitored for picking to packing) with strict controls on horticulture and purity of process, which was evident in the flavour. We tasted variants, mixed with the local herbs, including rosemary, wild garlic, and even the lemon oil, which raised the flavour not to mention the potentials for usage to another level – of course Rosspomodoro only use the pure DOP for their salads, and buffalo mozzarella drizzle, and the extra virgin for their pizzas, topping with the aged black olives, sweet and firm in texture.

But there is more to pizza than great olive oil. Of course there is the base, and the toppings – not the now customary, ham, pineapple, peppers, and even eggs, and chicken Tikka as I have seen in the UK – but true authentic Neapolitan pizzas contain four simple ingredients: “00” flour for the base, tomato puree, mozzarella (Buffalo of course) and olives. So, Rossopomorodo olives – yep, wild flavoursome and hand-picked –  “Tick”, but what about the rest of the ingredients?

We headed back down off the side of Vesuvius and into the narrow cobbled ancient streets of Naples and found a small group of ladies or ‘Nonnas’ (grandmothers) who were tucked away at the rear of what I can only describe as a ‘volcanic cave’, which had been painstakingly carved out and had become the rear of the tomato packing plant with large Kilner jars stacked up to the roof on well used pallets containing rich red tomatoes, and fresh fruits, jams and preserves. The local San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes, are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world – reputed to be a gift from ancient Peru – and grow on the sides of Vesuvius, to create a unique rich intense flavour and firmness of skin, and they certainly had both qualities.

San Marzano Tomato

The next day it was off to the lowlands of the region, about an hour from the City, just in time to see the last batch of the day’s Mozzarella “di Bufala Campana” from the DOP Compagna region being produced. Fresh straight from the Northern Hills, where the milk is tested on arrival for purity and authenticity of origin coming only from water buffalo on a farm in Paestum, Campania.Water Buffalo

The factory consisted of stainless steel vats and white tiled floors, as ordained by the DOP institute (Mediterranean Institute of Certification) but the cheese makers had fought for one tradition of retaining their wood mixing vats to ‘retain tradition and remind our workers of the origin of their works” which I must say looked out of place, but certainly added to the contrast of the need for modernity but maintaining the origin of tradition.

 Fresh Mozzarella

Trying it at this stage was a complete taste sensation – a firm rich outer texture, and then on biting it revealed its inner intensity, creamy, warm, airy, and lush – still being able to taste the fresh grass the Buffalo were grazing only a few hours ago, like a savoury marshmallow that one could savour all day; the unique quality of Buffalo Mozzarella. The owner has been producing this mozzarella for many generations and is considered a master in his field – supplying only the finest outlets in Italy, and selected European destinations – including Rossopomodoro in Birmingham (even in their ice cream)! So, Buffalo Mozzerall….”Tick”

Buffalo Mozzarella

So, the perfect tour to make the perfect pizza. Do the ones at Rossopomodoro in the UK taste like “true authentic Neapolitan pizzas” do in Naples?  Well, returning to Birmingham, I went straight to Selfridges and ordered a margarita (the first ever pizza created for Princess Margarita, in, er Naples) and they come pretty damn close – fired in their authentic oven, at over 480 degrees, taking just 90 seconds, from heat to plate, they are a delight to eat

Rossopomodoro restaurant and products are available in Selfridges.

Rossopomodoro Products

So thanks to James for giving us the low down on Rossopomodoro and the provenance of it’s ingredients and next time you get a trip like that ….. can we come?! 

If You Go Down To the Woods Today …..

Today’s guest post is a little something sweet for you. Our lovely member Julia of A Wannabe Foodie has been attending a secret cakey rendezvous. In her lovely unique style Julia shares her experience …. 

The morning had arrived of the much anticipated Loughborough Clandestine Cake Club ! My first foray into Secret Cake Clubs and the pre cursor to my own event in October (Derby’s First ever Clandestine Cake event!!) ! The theme for the event was ” Once Upon a Cake …” and the venue ??? A small hideaway in the woods !!! I was amazingly excited … I knew exactly what I was baking and how I was going to do it !! I just hoped I’d got up early enough to bake the fairytale extravaganza I had planned !!

It was 7.45 am … I had shopping bags strewn across the kitchen full of exciting ingredients and promises of splendour … I donned my ” Celebrity Chef” apron ( a joke gift from a friend after my family appeared on a BBC TV show ) and set to creating this masterpiece of confection !!!! YIKES !!! I weighed and I whisked and I stirred and I whizzed and I poured .. and I flavoured and I baked ! And I hoped for the best ….! I cooled and I stacked and I spread and I bashed and I chopped and I melted ( chocolate .. not me physically though it was a close call) I prayed and prayed to The God of Cakeyness for success ! Was I rewarded handsomely ?? I like to think so …..

” The Magic Faraway Tree Toffee Shock Cake ” was born ……!!! (4 layers of vanilla , caramel , chocolate caramel & chocolate layered with caramel and smothered in a double chocolate ganache and festooned with fudge , toffee and popping candy …)

So we intrepid explorers th’usband and I laden with cake and kagouls and the twins ! Hopped in the car and started off on our fairytale adventure in the woods ! Who knew what to expect ? We had our clandestine directions and headed for the M1 ! It was very exciting and a little bit nervewracking …. and of course we took a wrong turn … and of course it was my map reading skills that caused such a catastrophe (Harumph) but at last we found the ballooned entrance to the woodlands .. and headed on down to the strawberry beds … 30 minutes early !!! Ooops !!! We continued on foot and followed the balloon trail through cabins and trees and paths to a marvellous little caravan in the woods … !

Greeted by Pete, Anne and Janet (our organisers for the day) we got stuck in, adorning plates with little fruit patterned napkins and awaiting the arrival of everyone else ! Kettles were boiling , tables were set … the kids were up and away playing in the fabulous tree house .. the sun was shining !!! I felt so at ease and relaxed .. standing in a truly peaceful , gorgeous location …. happiness and a sense of calm engulfed me !

One by one troops of people arrived carrying such marvellous cakes ….. Plum & Cardamom , chocolate & hazelnut , Black forest gateaux , pine nut adorned baked cheesecake , Chocolate malteser cake , Apple & berry crumble cake , a fresh cream apple sponge (with fudgey goodness) and my mammoth cake .. and Janets Disgusting Mountain of Snakes…… ! (See Picture …)

Everyone’s own interpretation of the theme …. a lovely late summer , woodland , fairytale theme to the day ! Janet gave a short introduction and we were away ….. slices and slices of cake were consumed …. I loved Anne’s Chocolate & hazelnut .. so moist and nutty ! Perfect ! (looking forward to that being blogged .. hint hint!) and then it came … We had obviously angered the Rain Gods with our flamboyant eating of cake in such wanton abandonment … The heavens opened .. we all dived for cover , the gazebo , the treehouse , the caravan … hoods up .. smiles still planted firmly on our faces …. cake eating commenced ! Ha .. rain would not deter us ….!! And so the Gods thought better and the sun shone once more ! Easy conservations carried on , new friendships formed .. a sharing of like minded people from different corners of the Midlands.. chatting and laughing like old friends … all with a story to tell and a cake to share!

As the early evening sun shone we all swapped slices of cake ready for our return home …. we all said our cheery goodbyes and headed off smiling … sated with cake and with an inner sense of peace !

A truly wonderful experience … and a huge Thank you to Janet and Anne for an amazing afternoon !!! We loved it .. the boys loved it … and we can’t wait to do it all again !!!!!!!!

For more information about Clandestine Cakes go to www.clandestinecake.co.uk

Thanks to Julia for letting us know about her first CCC experience. She has organised the next Midlands event in a secret location in Derby on October 23rd 2011 which has now sold out – luckily I got my place so can let you know what fun we get up to. For future events in Derby email Julia for more information.

Judging Sausages at Ludlow Food Festival

Today we have a guest post following our recent MFB visit to Ludlow Food Festival. Kath from the Ordinary Cook is a local to the event and for the last 2 years has been part of the judging panel for the event’s Sausage Trail. So it’s over to Kath for a lowdown ….. 

The Ludlow Food Festival was brilliant this year.  I had my best year yet there, wandering around finding all the brilliant local producers, trying and buying their wares.  There were lots of highlights, including meeting up with Jo and Louise from Midland Food Bloggers.  It was lovely to meet them and have a chat and a wander.

Then at 3pm the main event for me was being part of the judging team for the Expert’s Choice for the best sausage of the five sausages on this year’s Sausage Trail.  The judging panel this year was myself, The Sausage King and his very adorable young son The Sausage Prince (who of course was the best judge at the table – that kid knows his sausages!) and Rosanna Taylor-Smith, Councillor for Ludlow North.

Every year, as part of the festival, there is a sausage trail, with two rounds of judging, the Peoples’ Choice Award and the Expert’s Choice Award.  For the first, festival-goers buy a Sausage Trail Leaflet and then set off to try a bit of each of the sausages.  They then award each sausage a score, decide which one is best, take their leaflet to the final sausage tent and swap their completed leaflet for their favourite sausage in a bun. (It is extremely popular and the queues at each sausage stand are a sight to behold.) All of these leaflets are sorted and the sausage with the most votes becomes the People’s Choice.  Then a panel gets to try all five sausages and decided which sausage should win the Expert’s Choice.  This is the second year I have been on this panel and the judging is great fun, if not just a little bit difficult because of the very high standard.

All five butchers are local to Ludlow and the surrounding area and all five are traditional butchers producing some excellent quality meat. The sausages were all of a very high standard and all tasted mighty fine.  However, for the expert panel there were two sausages which came very close to being the best.  We all tasted and then tasted again, and then tasted again.  But in the end we all came to the same conclusion, the sausage from D W Wall just about clinched it, with Griffiths’ sausage coming a very close second.

The People Choice Award also went to D W Wall, with the Ludlow Food Centre coming a very close second in that competition.

The entries this year were:

Andrew Francis Butchers – Pork with cracked black pepper

A. H Griffiths Butchers – Pork with sundried tomatoes and mushrooms

Legges of Bromyard – Pork with smoked pancetta and rocket

Ludlow Food Centre – Pork with blue cheese, redcurrant jelly and port

D W Wall – Pork with camembert, chives and redcurrant jelly

As a member of the expert panel you take a blind taste of the sausage, so you you are not told the name of the butcher or the flavour of the sausage.  You simply make your decision based on which one tastes the best to you. This year all three of us agreed on our favourite sausages, but they were all very good. I do hope I can do it all again next year.

Another highlight of the festival for me was meeting Sarah from Brock Hall Farm.  She produces artisan goat cheeses from her herd of pure Saanen goats on her farm in the beautiful Shropshire hills.  Her unpasteurised cheeses are amongst the best I have tasted with the most delicate tang and wonderful texture.  If you get a chance to try her cheese I recommend that you do.

Many thanks to Kath for the letting us know what a tough job she has a Sausage tasting judge!! It’s great to have an “expert” as an MFB member. 

Rossopomodoro Pizza at Selfridges, Birmingham

Another guest post today and another one with some Mediterranean flavour whilst still sharing a Midlands food experience. James Day of Eat the Midlands went to the launch of Rossopomodoro in Selfridges, Birmingham. 

Tonino Magno is a big, stocky fellow with the broad shoulders of a rugby forward and the reach and delicate fingers of a concert pianist. However, he is not making music but creating the most melodious pizza that you will have tasted outsideNaples.  The son of a pizza chef, he started helping his father when he was only ten, and now at 31 has 21 years of pizza making skill under his quite massive belt.

For the next couple of months he will be essaying his craft at Rossopomodoro, a genuine Neapolitian pizzeria transferred from the hectic streets ofNaplesto the comparative calm of Selfridges Food Hall inBirmingham’s Bull Ring.

It is a joy to watch Tonino at work.  His left hand reaches out for a batch of the very special dough, made some 12 to 16 hours before by an expert pizzaioli (Pizza chef) from special flour shipped from the south ofItaly, yeast, water and salt. Tonino now throws it deftly from hand to hand, like a cricket bowler waiting to run up the wicket.  When he feels it is pliable enough he puts it down on the cool marble work top and begins working it until his fingers tell him it is ready.  He now adds the tasty Rossompomodoro tomatos, elongated fruits grown in the volcanic soils aroundNaples, the delicious delicate and pliable Mozzarella cheese made inItalyfromBuffalomilk and drizzles on cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the sunny Amalfi coast.

He now pulls the pizza long-ways and sideways, proving its elasticity, before sliding it on the flat long handled blade with which he transfers it to the oven.  This is also traditional, a brick built cupola shape, with a flat base of volcanic rock and wood-fired to reach some 485°C that will cook a pizza in 60 to 90 seconds.

The other day I shared a Margherita with Mario Romano, the Italian London-based managing director of the British arm of the Rossopomodoro restaurant chain with branches in Covent Garden, Fulham and Notting Hill. This Margherita, by the way, is no tequila and cointreau cocktail, but a very special pizza created inNaplesin June 1889 by chef Raffaela Esposito to celebrate the visit by Queen Margherita ofSavoy.  He used tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil to represent the red, white and green of the Italian tricolour, the flag of the still-young nation unified in 1861 by Garribaldi under King Victor Emmanuel.  Mario explained to me that the company was founded inNaplessome 25 years ago and now has branches all over Italy London, New York andTokyo– and now Birmingham.

Our pizza was as light as a maidens kiss, with raised edges full of air, the centre was soft, moist and stretchy: the fast cooking preserving the flavours of the tomatoes and olive oil.  The authentic “00″ Italian flour is light in gluten with no added emulsifiers, or preservatives, so I understand very friendly to those with a wheat intolerance to modern processed wheats, or have sensitive stomachs, such as Coeliacs.   If up to now your only experience of pizza has been commercially baked concoctions with thick bases and tough edges, then drop into Selfridges food hall and have yourself a real touch of Naples form only £8.50 for a Margerita up to £11.50 for an Afragolese at £11.50 that includes mozzarella, beef bresaola, rocket and parmesan cheese shavings.  This boutique restaurant has an excellent wine list including quite my favourite Italian white, the Gavi di Gavi from Piedomont (£28.00) as well as a spicy Valpolicella Ripasso (£32.00)

There is also a Pasta menu for those who might prefer a change from pizza, a short but tempting list of desserts and quite excellent coffee.  Do finish this entertaining experience with a Doppio Espresso (£2.20).  This tiny drop of most excellent strong coffee sent me out into the Bull Ring singing O Sol a Mio! – but very softly, as even in my shower I am no Mario Lanza.

Thank you to James for letting us know of this great addition to the Birmingham food scene, we’ll definitely be going to sample the pizza and to enjoy the sights – that’s the wood fire oven and not the waiters of course!! 😉 

James also runs the Gourmet Life dining club that we have written about previously here. For the latest offers on membership then drop us an email.

From the Midlands to Andalucia – Journey of a foodie

Today we have a guest post from outside the Midlands … all the way from sunny Spain (well I always imagine it to be sunnier than here!) and Lynsey of La Rosilla with her story of how she came to run a Supperclub in the Andalucian mountains. 

Although some 1500 miles away, in the ‘Montes de Malaga’ in the Axarquia, Andalucia, Spain my ‘foodie’ beginnings were born in the Midlands, growing up in a small Warwickshire village & then later once married and offspring came along, we happily re-located to a village outside the wonderful Stratford-upon-Avon. Entertaining, experimenting, hosting and exploring all things culinary became a passion and hobby, that I have now finally after many years had the courage to share with others.

Tapas

After cooking in a local restaurant, I decided I would go it alone, but with a different style. Supperclubs started sweeping the U.K, but had not yet reached Spanish soil, so I took the plunge and opened La Rosilla , well my terrace, to small groups of like minded food worshippers.

Don’t get me wrong there are many wonderful places to eat and feast here in Andalucia, but up in the Montes they are sporadic, and many with menus offering everything as-long as it is ‘Pig n Chips’. Home cooked dishes, wonderful recipes often staying just that, in the home, and not offered so freely to those wanting to discover the real taste of Spain.

So with Happy hens, a full veggie patch, a terrace with a view to die for, and an eye to entertain in style, I took the plunge. I make everything from scratch, always served with Hot home-baked bread, home grown salad, welcome drink and ‘Foo Fah’ (my name for an amuse bouche) & then 3 delicious courses of food in season.

I’ve had the odd challenge, power cut in the middle of service, a torrential storm, (the terrace is covered by a vine only) , guest turning up thinking it was a party..But all in all only, positive experiences have been gained. I don’t think I’ll make my fortunate, but word is spreading, and for our family who are all involved, No 1 daughter dances and entertains guests, No 3 daughter keeps the dogs quiet, no 3 son eats the leftovers and OH is a great pot washer 😉 it keeps us on our toes, and allows us to experiment & enjoy.

Buen Provecho.

Many thanks to Lynsey for sharing her story and if you ever end up in that part of Spain check out her Supperclubs, gourmet tours and cooking courses here. In the meantime, she shares lots of wonderful spanish recipes and much more on her blog.

Tuk Tuk Thai & Tempura Prawns

Today we have a guest post from MFB member Craig of Lyons Made, a dad of two that enjoys cooking and having fun with with it. Here he shares his experience of a Lincolnshire producer of Thai dips and sauces along with a great recipe. Over to Craig …..

I have just been sent a box load of products from Thai food specialists Tuk Tuk Foods for me to review and create recipes from, so I got to work on trying them out, and wow, yes wow, such intense flavours and mouth-tinglingly great combinations of ingredients.

Tuk Tuk Foods is the brainchild of Bangkok born Tukata Bird, 11th of twelve children, Tukata was trained by The Thai Royal Household as her Aunt was a chef there.  Tukata was taught the fine art of pounding, chopping, grinding and combining the highest quality Thai herbs and spices. Tuk Tuk’s dips and sauces have won many Gold, Silver and Bronze awards from the Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards. Tukata is based in Stamford, Lincolnshire, England where she can often be seen on her food stall giving demonstrations.

The Salsa recipe is one of Tukatas own, and it is simplicity itself, once tried I am sure this will become a household favourite. I have used a tried and tested Tempura batter recipe thats simple and pretty much faultless. It uses Tuk Tuks Mild Green Chilli and Coriander dipping sauce, which would also be great over fish, crispy beef or pork.
All Tuk Tuks products are suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians, contain no preservatives, artificial colourings or flavourings and are gluten free and wheat free. And even better they are all produced in the UK using fresh ingredients. To order some of Tuk Tuk Foods products please visit their website www.tuktukfoods.co.uk which also has some awesome free Thai recipes to download too.
Tempura Prawn with Tukata’s Mild Green Chilli & Coriander Salsa

15 raw king prawns, shelled and de-veined
Pure vegetable oil for frying

Tempura batter mix
1/2 egg beaten
50g plain four plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of Bicarbonate of soda
125ml of ice cold lager, I used a Thai beer for more authenticity. 

Salsa Ingredients
 2 teaspoon of diced cucumber
1 teaspoon diced carrot
1 teaspoon sliced shallots
1 teaspoon coriander leaves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon lime zest
3 Tablespoons of  Tuk Tuk Foods Green chilli & coriander dipping sauce
Method
1. Combine all the salsa ingredients together in a bowl, stir well and place in fridge until ready to use.
2. Pre-heat a deep fat fryer to 170C, or carefully use a heavy bottomed large pan.
3. Make the batter mix, making sure that the lager is ICE cold, I placed the bottle in the freezer for 30 minutes prior. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and gently whisk, do not over whisk, its fine to have lumps of flour, this adds to the texture of the batter.
4. Dust the prawns in some seasoned flour, then dip into the bater mix, making sure the whole prawn is coated, then gently fry 4-5 of the prawns at a time in the heated oil, for around 4-5 minutes or until golden and cooked through. ( I always cut one in half, to check they are cooked all the way through). Then drain on some kitchen paper.
5. Plate the prawns with a small bowl of the salsa for dipping. Enjoy!
Serves two as a starter
Thanks to Craig for the post. If you are Midland Foodie and want to become a member and contribute guest posts, please get in touch.