Saturday, 21 June 2014

June 2014 Favourites List

Hello everyone!

Here is my June selection of lovely stuff. 

They say that the Summer is "Festival season" and Glastonbury will soon be upon us. But although I love music, and live performances, I really don't see myself as the festival going type. It's a camping phobia which puts the mokkers on it for me. Sleeping in a tent? Chemical toilets? Facing the prospect of not showering for 3 days and smelling of sweat and baby wipes? No, even my favourite acts aren't worth that level of discomfort! And sadly, I am not paid anywhere near enough to contemplate "glamping" at Glastonbury.... (Any rich patrons reading this, if you feel a pang of sympathy and you'd like to fund the whole silver-Jetstream Winnebago and hot shower experience, you will have my lifelong thanks!)

If you are going to a music festival, however, I do wish you the best time. We're all different, and life would be dull if we all liked the same things, right? Rock out and sing along to your favourite songs extra loud, just for me.

This Spring and Summer although I won't be going to any festivals, I have been catching lots of superb live music. So in honour of the season, I am featuring pictures from some of the recent gigs I have been to.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and my collection of links and recommendations. Perhaps you don't have time to go through it all right now, but perhaps you might just come back to dip in and dip out.

Blogs Worth Following:

Josh Homme, acoustic


6 Nations Rugby themed menu by the wonderful Incredible Spicemen - Todiwala and Singh.

From Antonio Carluccio's new pasta book, Curried red mullet linguine, India meets Italy:

Aaloo Palak Paratha (Potato & Spinach Paratha) recipe - on Mamta's Kitchen. (FYI - Mamta's Kitchen is the online cookbook by Mamta, the mum of Kavey (Kavey Eats) Well worth having a browse through - so many brilliant recipes!)

I might just make some of this and try to smuggle it into the cinema – Mark Hix’s chilli popcorn:

Another popcorn recipe from Mark Hix, but one for Sunday’s roast chicken leftovers….

Nigel Slater investigates garlic: Sirloin steak with aubergine, Chilli pesto garlic bread, Roasted garlic mushroom tart and more:

A lovely make-ahead packed lunch for work or picnic dish, Rice salad with black beans and sweetcorn:
We mere mortals can’t get a table at Chiltern Firehouse for love nor money… So we can cook this Nuno Mendes dish instead and pretend…
A mashup of all the best pasta sauces -- tomato, asparagus, and carbonara -- with surprisingly harmonious results.

Regine and Win, Arcade Fire
Articles/Know How:

Useful and informative for any Indian cooking newbies or curry virgins:

A food scientist uses chemistry to tell us how to have the perfect barbequed meat!

Inside Claudia Roden's kitchen.... her kids preferred beans on toast to her excellent Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking - WTF?!

This week is English wine week. Here are Fiona Beckett's picks of the best... with some surprises!

Damon Albarn

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle


Courtney Barnett

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

Jack White - Lazaretto

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tilda Mums Helping Mums Cookbook Recipe Road Test

Tilda Basmati rice has long been a family favourite. When I was growing up, back in the 1980s, proper basmati rice was not available in the supermarket. You had to go to the specialist Indian grocers, which in our case, meant a trip to colourful, vibrant Southall. Those Saturday trips were an adventure; lots of traffic, the parking was a nightmare, the High Street was heaving with people. It was exhilarating. We would then visit one of the grocers there to buy a very big bag of rice. Tilda was the brand my mum would buy, and ever since then I have done the same. I've tried others, but there is something about the fragrance and fluffiness of the cooked Tilda that I prefer.

I was very pleased to hear that Tilda are involved in a charitable campaign to help new mothers and expectant mothers in developing world countries. It is called Mums Helping Mums. To do this, they have posted a free cookbook with recipes donated by many of the UK's most famous mums. Some come from musicians, such as Cerys Mathews who shares her Potato and Tomato Bhaji recipe, Cheryl Baker (of Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz) gives her recipe for Fish Shish Kebabs, singer-songwriter Jamelia has contributed two of her family’s treasured recipes. Equally rock and roll are recipes from Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker (his perfect chicken curry) and Anjum Anand (Chicken and vegetables in aromatic coconut sauce). TV's Nina Wadia, Konnie Huq, Esther Rantzen and Arlene Phillips CBE also contribute.

Tilda as part of this "Mums Helping Mums" campaign are currently selling a special silver Mums Helping Mums 1kg bag of rice (priced £4.49). For every pack, a meal will go to a new or expectant mum to help ensure her good health and nutrition. It is well documented that poor nutrition, particularly in expectant mothers can lead to low birth weight. The resulting low birth weight can seriously affect a baby’s physical and cognitive development. Last year's campaign resulted in a million meals for new and expectant mums. Tilda are keen to beat that target.

I downloaded the cookbook and liked the look of many of the recipes. But the one I decided to try out here as a Recipe Road Test turns out not to involve any rice at all!

The recipe I chose to make was by TV cook, food writer and stylist Jo Pratt. I have seen her on television many times, and always found her to be knowledgeable, engaging and full of great recipe ideas. Her recipes, which I have tried in the past, are always reliable.

Jo Pratt's "Easy Tray Baked Chicken" seemed like a brilliant way of breaking the monotony of regular Roast Chicken for a Sunday lunch. The fact that it was a single cooking implement meal, using only one large roasting tray was another factor. However lovely it is to make Sunday lunch at home, the washing up it creates is ridiculous! Not what you need on a late afternoon or Sunday evening as you contemplate going back to work the next day.

The ingredients were all available in the supermarket, although I bought whole chicken thighs and had to skin and de-bone them at home. We have a thriving rosemary bush in the garden, so I only had to pop out of the back door to grab a couple of sprigs. Thankfully on our arrival back from the supermarket, Him Indoors put the oven on to pre-heat, or I would be telling a more cautionary tale of missed timings and rumbling tummies!

Baby potatoes, chunks of pepper, carrots, onion  and lemon wedges, and whole cloves of garlic were prepared and assembled in my large cast iron casserole dish (a far better fit than my roasting tin, which was far too big). Lemon juice, paprika, rosemary, salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil would provide the flavourings. The chicken thighs and pancetta were mixed in with all the other ingredients by my getting my hands stuck in.

As you can see, before the cooking started, I had a wonderfully colourful array of ingredients.

The casserole dish was then heated on the hob, and stirred around to bring the ingredients up to a decently hot temperature before being put in the oven. The lemon, oil and paprika were beginning to give off their fragrances by this point. If only you could have smelly-vision, right?

At the half way mark, the casserole dish was hauled out of the oven, runny honey added, everything was thoroughly mixed together once more, and it was time to start on the home straight.

This was the finished product, before being served up on plates.
Our verdict is that this is an easy, achievable meal that anyone inexperienced in cooking can make. It is a very tasty and enjoyable meal, which needs no other accompaniments. We thought it was an excellent alternative to a Sunday roast, particularly for busy people who don't have either the time or energy for the full roast preparation and cooking experience.

I also think it is a brilliant basis for experimentation and development according to your own personal tastes. Thyme or a little chopped sage could be added. You could use up leftover vegetables languishing in the fridge such as mushrooms, courgettes or aubergines. Adaptability will keep it fresh, so you can make it repeatedly and not get bored. 

In fact, we revisted the recipe only this weekend, adding some mushrooms and thyme as we had some in the house. Here are the results:

If you want to download the Mums Helping Mums Cookbook, you can get it for free here:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Meat Porter: Restaurant Quality Meat Online

I was recently invited the launch of a new business, Meat Porter. It's a startup with a simple premise: bringing home cooks restaurant quality meat to their door. Him Indoors and I are confirmed meat eaters, therefore I was keen to investigate what this new venture was all about, so I headed out to Battersea's Doodle Bar to sample the wares. 

Doodle Bar, by the river, has a cute little outdoor beach area. It was the perfect place for an early Spring Barbeque, just the informal and fun setting for trying out Meat Porter's products; artisan, high quality meat and poultry.

I met with Stefan Porter, the company's Managing Director and founder, and had a natter with him about his background, the new business, his love of meat and home cooking. Stefan is a meat nut. I mean that in the nicest possible way. He is passionate about food and crazy about meat. He speaks with knowledge and a genuine love for all things meaty. In his teenage years he worked in a restaurant, where, as he says he "learnt a lot at that restaurant: how to sauté, how to sweat, how to scrub and how to swear." Naturally, he also learnt to cook! 
Stefan Porter, Meat Porter's founder and MD; picture provided by Stefan

So what is different about Meat Porter's meat? Well, most of us are used to buying meat in the supermarket. It's convenient and inexpensive. But what we are losing out on is quality and taste. Much of the meat has been pre-frozen to facilitate transportation from producer to shelf. That process results in loss of flavour and texture in the meat. Also, to make us feel the products sold are fresher than they really are, some of our meat gets monkeyed around with. 

Water is added to up the weight and make the meat look moist,  for example. I didn't realise until I spoke to Stefan that even the humble steak isn't safe. Because we have been persuaded to believe bright red meat is better, the suppliers to supermarkets 'gas flush' raw beef with nitrogen to prevent any natural oxidation. In fact, steak should be burgundy rather than bright red. Meat Porter's meat has not been pre-frozen or messed with, and the steaks are aged for flavour and texture.
Sirloin Steak; picture provided by Stefan Porter

Stefan has managed to feat of finding restaurant quality meat by finding out where top London restaurants get their supplies from. As a result, he uses the same Smithfield based butchers as some Michelin starred eateries in the capital.

But what about the taste testing? The lamb chops with honey and black pepper were scrumptious, the meat needing little fuss or other ingredients to taste great. They were juicy and had far more flavour than I expected. 

The chicken shish kebabs were simply prepared with a little lemon juice. The chicken was firm, and despatched all notions of the cardboard chicken breast meat we are so used to from the supermarkets. I usually avoid buying breast meat as it is bland. This had quite literally the taste of chicken about it!

The duck breast was deep and earthy. No, I didn't take a picture of them, because, well... I stuffed my face with it before I remembered to take a picture!

So, what is Stefan's favourite meat? Turns out it isn't beef (I had suspected he would be a steak fiend), but is, in fact, lamb. As Stefan says: "it’s so versatile. Because it’s naturally sweet, it works so well with spices, but also with acidity. From culture to culture, it features. From tagines in Morocco, to British Sunday roasts with mint, from seared chops with Garam Masala, to flame-grilled with rosemary and honey. And the fat crisps up so well, too!" 

If you are interested in Meat Porter's high quality products, then do visit their website: Not only can you put together your own box of meat, but soon there will be a monthly selection picked by Stefan and the team (based on seasonality and quality) and a "surprise me" box. The minimum order is £25.  

The website is still young, but has a blog featuring recipes, cooking tips and meaty thoughts from Stefan and his colleagues. 

My readers can get a 20% discount off their first order by using the voucher code:  IAMNEW14MAJU
A useful element of the service is next day delivery if you order by midday Monday to Friday. Deliveries for Tuesday to Friday are free, and because the service is new, Saturday deliveries are currently free. 

The guys will deliver to home or work, and your parcel is kept cold using ice packs so you don't need to annoy your work colleagues by taking up all the space in the communal fridge if you get your meat sent there! The package is designed to keep your meat cold for 30 hours from dispatch, with the meat vacuum packed to keep it fresh.

My thanks to Stefan who invited me to the Meat Porter launch as a guest.