February Challenge #1 for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassadors: Cook for loved ones this Valentine’s day.

Easy!  That was always going to happen.

Our morning started with a little surprise for the children at breakfast with homemade cards and a chocolate heart treat – it was the weekend after all.

Chocolate Heart treats

Breakfast was a baked blueberry sharing pancake which was rather predictable for us other than using a square tin.  Crème Fraîche is essential to cut through the sweetness. We always have the ingredients for this to hand as it’s mostly store cupboard staples and I also pop spare blueberries in the freezer before they turn.

Valentines Baked Blueberry Pancake

Eating Baked Blueberry Pancake for Valentines

Lunch comes around so quickly, especially following lazy mornings.  A bit of spare ham we roasted a few days back and a couple of mushrooms.. Oh what to make?

Thankfully, the friendly freezer contains all sorts of good stuff; homemade chicken stock, peas, broad beans, spinach etc. Combined with a little pasta, a potato, carrot, celery, onion, garlic and we’re away: Hearty Winter Minestrone.

Felix eating MinestroneNow onto the main event.  Felix has become obsessed with fish. Today he decided on a beautiful Plaice from the counter which we dusted in seasoned flour and fried in butter for a total of four minutes:

plaice: before and after

For us, it has to be steak for Valentines (or any other good excuse). Unfortunately we only had sirloin to hand, but at least it was excellent quality:

sirloin steak

A classic Prawn Cocktail spiced up with grated horseradish and Rose Harissa:

Classic Prawn Cocktail

A mushroom sauce, a tarragon dressing to smother the steak, deliciously crispy oven roasted chips, rocket and a bottle of Argentinian Malbec Bonarda:

Oven Baked Chips

steak dressingfresh rocket saladcreamy mushroom sauceArgentinian Malbec

Good honest food and the love of my life.  Bliss. Even if I did forget dessert.

Mrs Wifey on Valentines Day

Happy ‘Eating Nice Food’ Day. x

Breaking The Law

Jailbreak.  If you like beer and you’re anywhere near Baltimore or Washington, you should pay these guys a visit. So let’s set the scene. Nestled in Laurel and founded by Kasey Turner and Justin Bonner, Jailbreak is a relaxed, inviting and generally cool little bar. Actually, it’s rather spacious.  Most importantly, it’s an awesome microbrewery producing knock-out beers. Jailbreak Laurel

I love the fact that the bar looks straight into the brewery through a huge glass wall. This place is clean, calculated and professional, yet laid back and unpretentious.

Now here’s something I found interesting: craft beers in the US are predominantly canned. Their cans are lined, keeping the beer in great condition and preventing the metallic, ‘tinny’ taste provided you drink it from a glass. Cans have a bad reputation in the UK, with consumers associating them with lower quality and ‘park-bench-drinkers’. It’s cheaper than buying beer in bottles, and without venturing into the BPA debate here, I’d say that I’m all for switching; surely it makes sense for everyone? The positives really do stack up – the beer stays fresher, as unlike bottles the cans prevent light getting to it. Shipping and environmental costs are reduced, as cans are much lighter and less bulky – we all know that cans are easier to carry… I’ve smashed plenty of bottles en-route to picnics and parties; so much safer on camping trips. Impatient? The thermodynamic properties mean your beer will chill quicker in the fridge/ice bucket.

Jailbreak Brewing Co. beer

Jailbreak’s beers are quirky and exciting. For me, it was all about the Dusk till Dawn, an imperial espresso stout packing a 10.6% punch in the face. Key Lime Pale Ale anyone? What about a basil infused Belgian style wheat beer: ‘Made Wit Basil’? Clever. Check out for further info.

Right.  So this is where it gets really interesting. Jailbreak stood out for me as their bar supports local food trucks. Now, in the UK, most people would turn their noses up at this point and conjure up images of dirty burger vans and the smell of fried onions. Think again. We’re talking the real deal. Jailbreak advertises which trucks are going to be parked up outside the front door each day, and even more astonishingly awesome, you place your order and they give you a pager to let you know when to pop outside and collect it. I’ve never known a pub to allow you to bring your dinner in and eat it at the bar.

Food TruckT&J Waffles fayreNaughty Chicken Waffles

As T & J Waffles had the prime spot, we went for Chicken Waffles (When in Rome…) and sampled the salmon for good measure. Good with beer? – how couldn’t it be.

To top off this visit, we got an impromptu brewery tour. I kid you not. Could this night get any better?

Touring Jailbreak Brewing Company

You Sir, are a Legend.

view of the bar from the brewery

A privileged view of Jailbreak Brewing Co. Bar

Did we hit a few beers and pick up a few more from the fridge to keep us going?  You betcha.

6-pack of Big Punisher

Funky carrier, but I’m sure our flimsy translucent ones must be better for the environment..? Discuss.

Keep up the good work Jailbreak – I can’t wait to be back in town.

Super Ambassador Status

I’m feeling hugely honoured to have been appointed a ‘Super-Ambassador’ for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It’s been great working as an Ambassador over the last year, and receiving the email was a wonderful and truly unexpected surprise – it certainly only took me a couple of seconds to accept the invitation.

The Food Revolution Ambassador Programme started in 2012.  The aim is to engage volunteers with a strong commitment to food education and build a network to help spread the Food Revolution in communities across the globe. There are currently over 1,300 ambassadors in more than 121 countries.

The Super Ambassadors will act as the eyes and ears on the ground in their respective countries and support newly appointed ambassadors in the local area; building relationships and helping to strengthen the network.

Huge congratulations to all my fellow super ambassadors around the world:

Lorena Somesan (Romania), Beatrice Chan (China), Mardi Michaels and Susan Ng (Canada), Alexx Stuart (Australia), Debbie Thorpe (UK), Diego Ruete (Uruguay), Sandra Mukidza (Kenya), Maria Elena Ledesma (Argentina), Prachi Grover (Dubai), Lindsey Shifley (Illinois), Julie Cockburn (Oregon), Joe Selph (California), Terri Salminen (Netherlands).

Food Revolution Day will take place on 15th May 2015 and plans are already starting to take shape.  Watch this space.

Steak Tartare

This has become a birthday ritual for me.  Not that it’s my birthday; not for ages.  I’m hoping that the younglings will adopt it so that I can guarantee making it at least 3 times a year.

This dish is all about the beef. ALL ABOUT THE BEEF.  Like sushi, it needs to be excellent quality, from a reputable source and trimmed of any fat or sinew. I always use beautiful, delicate fillet, chilled and cut by hand as the texture is everything – you certainly don’t want to end up with a burger patty.  You can of course use rump or sirloin if you prefer more flavour and bite. I’d recommend about 150g per person.

Beautiful Fillet of beef

I think everyone that makes Tartare for themselves has their own style and particular way of preparing it.  Your biggest concern will be whether to incorporate the condiments or not.  I have to admit that it can look less appealing (and more like an uncooked burger) without.  Although I’d still eat it of course.

Once you have your beef diced to your liking, mix in chopped capers, shallot, flatleaf parsley, gherkin, Worcestershire sauce, Tobasco sauce, extra virgin olive oil and season it with salt and pepper (rough quantities below if it’s your first time). As I say, you can always serve these condiments on the side and let people mix them in to taste. Form it by hand or use a little mould/ring.

Finally, make a tiny well in the centre and adorn your creation with the freshest free range egg yolk you can lay your hands on.  Raw of course.

Close up of Steak Tartare

I seem to remember TV shows like ‘Mr Bean’ giving Tartare a bad reputation. Meat and egg, raw, are you mad? Trust me, you’ve not lived until you have eaten Steak Tartare.

steak tartare, chips and condiments

Here’s the solution if you’re like me and can’t decide on the condiment front – have it all.  Serve with a few chips, maybe some chives and Dijon mustard; whatever you like.  I’ve gently persuaded plenty of friends to try it, and all have fallen in love with this almost sensual dish.

steak tartare with raw egg

Ingredients: (per person)

  • 150g Steak
  • 1/2 tsp Capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Gherkin, finely diced
  • Dash of Tobasco Sauce
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Dash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flaky Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper.