Heartbeat

For those that know my friend Sara, little of this will come as a surprise.

How do you fancy catering my charity party? They’ll be about 100 people..

Sara has always hated running, so now she’s running the London Marathon. Admirably, this will be in support of The British Heart Foundation and in loving memory of her dad. You can read her inspirational story here.

To raise cold hard cash she decided to throw one big party.. One big hurrah; the party of the century to smash her fundraising target in one fell swoop.

100 people is a lot more than I’ve ever cooked for, but sure, how can I resist helping out a friend. The loan of her brother’s barn, many late nights of planning, and a troop of dedicated volunteers helped her to pull everything together for the big night.

So. What do you cook for 100 people? It had to be street food, gluten free, and without doubt a Food Revolution stunner – something nutritious, delicious and portable. Oh, and with a vegetarian option too..

Thankfully I had a special request for chilli, and between us we hatched a cunning plan to feed everyone without actually having any cooking facilities in said barn.

Oh, great news Alex, it’s been really popular and I’ve sold a few more tickets..

So.. now we have 250 hungry mouths to feed. I’m big enough to admit I was somewhat terrified. Not to worry though, as my 6-year-old daughter, Winter, crafted me this little beauty to keep me company:

mascot

Many, many hours of prep and we finally made it to crunch time with a beef chilli and a vegetable chilli to serve in wraps with sour cream, salad, chillies, cheese and fresh herbs.

Oh, not to forget the comedy of barbequing sweet potato in a panic.. I kid you not:

barbequed sweet potato slices

A couple of camping burners in the barn to keep it all piping hot and we were away.

Getting ready

What a party! I started serving at 9pm and it was 11:30pm before I had a moment to glance at my watch. I have a whole new respect for people that do this for a living.

The Heartbeat BHF party

Clich here for the Pulled Beef Brisket Chilli recipe, and slide over to Jamie Oliver’s website for the Smoky Vegetable Chilli recipe. Personally, I think that the Veggie Chilli tastes better, but as you can imagine, given the option almost everyone went straight for the beef until it sold out.

I’m super pleased to report that Sara raised a staggering £6,000 for the British Heart Foundation. Amazing. What a legend. Same again next year?

Heatbeat party bottles

Pulled Beef Brisket Chilli

For all the lovely folk that enjoyed the Beef Chilli at the Heartbeat party for the British Heart Foundation in Newent last night, here’s the recipe I used (based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe):

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 kg beef brisket, trimmed and scored
  • olive oil
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 400 ml beef stock
  • 4 bell peppers (red/yellow), sliced
  • 1 tin of black beans
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 red chillies, sliced
  • red wine vinegar (splash)

Method:

Mix the spices together with a little salt and pepper and rub it all over the beef. Drizzle with olive oil and seal in a hot pan until browned all over.

Browning beef brisket

Place the brisket in a large pot and add the tomatoes, stock, peppers and black beans.

Fry the onions and chillies for a few minutes and add them to the pot.

Bring it all to the boil, cover, and then simmer on a low heat for 4 to 5 hours until you can easily pull the beef apart using 2 forks.

Add a splash of red wine vinegar to balance the flavours.

beef brisket chilli

Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, fresh chillies, salad leaves, fresh coriander and basil. If you’re serving the beef in tortilla wraps, this should serve around 20 people.

 

 

Tasty Tuesday

Wowzers Whole Foods.. you need to charge more. £5 for five tasty little dishes with wine is just crazy – no wonder your 100 tickets sell out so quickly.

Whole Foods Market Cheltenham put on a special evening event every second Tuesday of the month, where each department in the store competes against each other for your votes and team kudos.

£5! What a great idea. I love being able to get the low-down from the experts behind the counter whilst sampling what they’ve created from the surrounding shelves. The store is open at the same time (handy if it just happens to be Valentines Day and you’ve got to shoot home to make dinner for your loved one…).

whole foods market tasty tuesday

My vote went to the Meat and Fish gang for their sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce, roasted butternut squash, rocket and lambs lettuce.

sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce

Delicious. See you next month!

Kindness & Co.

How very refreshing. I ventured into Cheltenham’s newest café today and had the pleasure of sampling some of their healthy delights. That’s right, we Cheltonians now have our very own health food café in town, and it puts a smile on my face just knowing that it’s there. I have to say that there aren’t many establishments that have such an impressive ethos, nor that leave you feeling that your body and soul has been refreshed and revived.

flat white at Kindness & co

I haven’t followed the ‘clean eating’ trend over the last couple of years but I have to use the word here; everything is so fresh, zingy and simply ‘clean’ on the palate. It’s a revelation.. we’re seeing a food revolution. 

I usually get a little overexcited when eating out as it doesn’t happy very often; I opt for the most colossal daddy offering on the menu, which has me waddling out of the door with regret, irrespective of how well it’s executed.

This however, is something else. I feel virtuous on a number of levels. Even the cutlery is compostable ‘vegware’. Kindness & Co know that diet and nutrition are key to optimum well-being and they’re committed to helping you live a longer, healthier and ultimately happier life.

This is no Holland & Barrett with a coffee machine. Their focus is on creating stunning dishes from natural, unprocessed, unrefined, fresh ingredients (and they also make a mean Flat White too. Turmeric Latte? No problem).

salads and fishcake

One of my favourite features at Kindness & Co is that they don’t have a separate ‘kids menu’. It’s a particular bugbear of mine; lovely gastropubs, cafés and restaurants letting themselves down with the ubiquitous and pathetic sausage chips and beans/fish fingers chips and beans blah blah vomit. Kindness & Co are taking a stand and playing their part in the fight to change the status quo. Little people are like sponges, constantly influenced by everything around them, so it’s important to expose them to what adults eat, just in smaller portions.

choosing salads at Kindness & Co Cheltenham

Yeah, the space may be small, but this is a little gemstone in the heart of Cheltenham that I see as a game-changer. It’s well worth discovering for yourself.

Mrs FoodFitForFelix 

http://www.kindness-and-co.com/

38 Clarence Street, Cheltenham, 01242 697 211

Cheese & Bacon Pastries

Twists, turnovers, straws – all so deliciously naughty and yet devilishly simple to make at home.

Every now and again I have moments where I look at something familiar, and wonder why I’ve never thought of having a go at making it for myself. Often the ubiquitous is simpler than you think. Some things just aren’t worth the effort, however these pastries most certainly are.

I find it so satisfying to transform a block of puff pastry into delectable treats. Naturally, they’re not going to be a healthy option, but at least they’ll be homemade and you’ll know exactly what’s gone into them.puff pastry

Life’s too short to be making your own puff pastry, so don’t feel bad about using a shop-bought block or even splashing out a few extra pennies for the pre-rolled sheets for an even quicker turnaround.

Here’s a few options using similar ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry (block, rolled or even your own rough-puff)
  • Streaky bacon
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is nice and tangy but feel free to experiment)
  • Dijon or English mustard
  • Egg, beaten
  • Seeds – black/white sesame or poppy (optional)
  • Tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Dusting of flour

Method 1 – Twists:

  1. Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick on a dusting of pastry or simply unfold your pre-rolled sheets.
  2. Brush over a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Top with grated cheese.
  4. Lay down parallel strips of streaky bacon, leaving a little gap between.
  5. Carefully cut between the bacon using a large knife to make equally sized strips.
  6. Holding each end, confidently twist.
  7. Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and help them keep their shape when cooked.
  8. Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese bacon twists

Method 2 – Turnovers:

  1. Cut your rolled out pastry into even squares about 12cm x 12cm.
  2. Brush with a thin layer of mustard (optional).
  3. Add a couple of slices of tomato (optional).
  4. Lay a rasher of bacon diagonally across the pastry.
  5. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Fold one corner into the centre and brush the exposed pastry with a little beaten egg.
  7. Fold the opposite corner over to form the turnover shape.
  8. Sprinkle over a little extra cheese for good luck.
  9. Back in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese and bacon turnovers

Method 3 – Straws:

This is perfect for any offcuts or leftover pastry.

  1. Simply cut your rolled out puff pastry into strip, brush with beaten egg and top with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of seeds.
  2. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  3. Devour.

homemade cheese straws

 

Have a go at looking at the world differently. Question yourself and rise to the challenge.

For me, it’s going to be flatbreads next. I already know that they’re super-easy to make – easier than a normal loaf – yet somehow I’ve never had the confidence that my attempt would be as good as shop-bought.

Winter and the cheese bacon tomato turnovers

 

Okonomiyaki

Today is a good day. I’m rarely happier than when I’m off on a foodie expedition, ice-axe in hand. There’s things I’ve eaten, read about, seen on TV and the like, but the mountain is never really conquered until you’ve truly ‘been there’. Tick.

Okonomiyaki [o-konomi-yaki] is a Japanese savoury pancake. I’ve eaten plenty, but discovering how easy and satisfying it is to make them in your own kitchen is positively joyous.

Here’s the low-down:

Make a pancake batter, fill it with delicious savoury ingredients, cook it slowly and top it with equally delicious and visually attractive garnishes. 

The name derives from ‘okonomi’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ meaning ‘grill’. As you may be aware, I’m a big fan of using up leftovers and reducing food waste so this is right up there in the list of go-to/back-pocket dishes.

Although it has regional variations across Japan, generally speaking it’s filled with shredded cabbage, but I’ve used gem lettuce in my version as it’s what I had to hand. It’s your dish – mix it up to your liking, but you’ll have to trust me with the mayonnaise zigzag.. I think it really is essential and brings an additional dimension.

Felix eating Okonomiyaki

Ingredients: (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg
  • 50ml stock, cooled
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 handful lettuce (or cabbage), shredded
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds or Furikake*
  • 1 tsp rapeseed of vegetable oil
  • mayonnaise (from a squeezy bottle)
  • oyster sauce
  • Sriracha chilli sauce

Method:

  1. Beat the egg, stock and flour together with a pinch of salt.
  2. Mix in the lettuce and some of the spring onion (or ‘whatever you like’).
  3. Fry in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until until golden and a little crispy.
  4. Top with the obligatory crisscross of sauces and top with the remaining spring onion and your choice of condiments.

*Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from mixed sesame seeds, Shiso leaves and nori seaweed.

japanese savoury pancake dish

Foodie Resolutions 2017

Every year the Food Revolution becomes stronger and reaches further. This year is going to be a big one – I can feel it. The number of concurrent initiatives combined with growing media coverage is helping us to build awareness. Every little action adds to the snowball effect that will ultimately turn the tide and deliver change.

So. For 2017, my resolutions are as follows:

  1. Carve out additional time for supporting the Food Revolution charity. I’ve found it quite challenging over the last year as I’ve been involved in more activities and events than ever before, but it never feels like enough. I want to do more, so I’ll have to develop a strategy for allocating time.
  2. Run. I honestly don’t think that there’s any other sport as accessible and ’rounded’ for mind, body and soul. I’m slowly returning from my running hiatus and I need to focus on getting out there as often as possible.
  3. “Why not?”. I love pushing the envelope and forcing myself into situations where I have to try something new, different or out of my comfort zone. Last year I made a list of specific ingredients that I’d work with and it was hugely satisfying. Whatever comes up, my initial response will be to ask myself “why not”. Relax and go with the flow; what’s the worst that can happen hey?!?
  4. Make more videos. Hmmm, see point 3 ref: comfort zone. Do I wish that I had more clips of events and moments from the last few years? Absolutely. Let’s be a bit brave and see how it pans out.

Now, when I suggested this monthly ambassador challenge to the team, I was feeling, like every year to date, quite optimistic and positive about what the following year may have in stall.. Little did I know that the world would be facing such troubling developments with potentially long-lasting and catastrophic implications.

Good luck all, I hope it’s a good one.

 

Christmas Cake

Here’s a classic fruit cake which I reluctantly refer to as a Christmas Cake, as it seems a shame to restrict beautiful food to a particular time of year, religion and belief :o)

Festive Cake?

Albeit an incredibly delicious cake, the joy of this is all in the making for me; the family can all get involved in the various steps of the process and feel equally proud of the results – there’s always going to be plenty to go round, and more than enough to share with friends and family. I was so chuffed at how well received it was this year.

This recipe is lifted from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, his latest (and potentially greatest) book to date. Developed from refinements on classic recipes and innovative twists over nearly two decades, it certainly won’t be gathering any dust on my shelf.

My 5-year-old daughter, Winter, was particularly keen to get involved with this bake and I found myself having to reel her in at times so I had a moment to pause and think before crashing ahead. #SuperKeenBean

Ingredients:

  • 75g dates
  • 75g prunes
  • 100 glace cherries
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 apple
  • 100ml stout or porter
  • 1 clementine, zest and juice
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Find yourself a 20cm square cake tin, grease it with butter and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Grate in the apple, add the stout, clementine juice and zest, and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, a little at a time.
  5. Combine the two mixtures and then sift in the flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa, folding everything together.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 2 hours at 150°C.
  7. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. You can finish the cake however you like – you may want to just eat it like that – but we chose to coat it in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by marzipan and finally a fairly thin layer of royal icing.

Coating with Jam

Little hands working hard to roll out the royal icing on a sprinkling of icing sugar. rolling out the icing for the Christmas cake

We used a simple Scandinavian (Ikea!) cookie cutter to stick mini sugar pearls to the cake with a dab of water.

decorating the christmas cake

The finished ‘Festive Cake’:

Christmas Cake

Enjoy!

(Note to self – steady on the royal icing).

Gluten Free Hoisin Sauce

I’m hoping that I’m not the only person who struggles when deciding what to cook when friends come over to eat. I get a bit anxious when said friends have allergies or a particular intolerance. Thankfully there are thousands of recipes and ideas out there on the internet, but I still seem to have a bit of a mental block about it.

I thought I’d cracked it last time with ‘Char Sui Pork’ until I realised that Hoisin sauce (one of the key ingredients) isn’t gluten free..

Given that I aim to make everything from scratch, I thought I’d have a go at making the hoisin sauce as well – it turned out better than expected and made quite a nice little parting gift as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1tsp Five Spice powder
  • 125ml Red Miso paste
  • 125ml Honey
  • 2tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar

Method:

  1. Blend it all together.
  2. Marvel at how clever you are.

You can use your GF hoisin sauce straight away or pop it into sterilised jars, refrigerate and use within a month.

homemade Hoisin

This blog post is part of December’s Food Revolution challenge to make your own condiment.

And for interest, here’s how the Char Sui Pork belly strips turned out:

GF char sui pork

Happy eating!

 

Going Green

I’m a convert. I’ve been initiated into the world of smoothies.

Inspired by the request for an ‘Alien Food’ cooking lesson at St James’ Primary School, I too have ventured into a somewhat mysterious and unfamiliar world..

This has long been the domain of my wife (For The Wellness Of Winter) and her dawn blender sessions that act as my daily alarm clock.

This recipe is just so perfectly quick and easy, but more importantly for me, the result is more ‘juice’ than ‘smoothie’ (personally I struggle with texture of smoothies).

Today’s four classes proved that children just adore this recipe, even though it’s loaded with raw spinach – a great way to pack in essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

green smoothie classes

Green Juice

Ingredients: (1 glass)

  • 100g Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 125ml Apple Juice
  • 1/2 Banana

Method:

  1. Wash your spinach, peel your banana and squeeze the juice from your lime.
  2. Blend it!
  3. Serve.

If you have a Nutri Ninja/Bullet then great, but a normal blender will be just fine. The baby spinach leaves are not fibrous like kale so you won’t be left with any pulp.

happy face