A tempting trio of Calabrian preserves

A tempting trio of Calabrian preserves

Everyone loves Italian food so when I was approached by Artimondo to try a tempting trio of Calabrian preserves produced by Sirianni, a family business founded by Agostino Sirianni in 1999 and located in Cittanova, a small hamlet south of the Aspromonte mountains, in the province of Reggio Calabria (Italy) I jumped at the chance. These are a range of pates and condiments which have a whole host of uses, adding interesting new flavours to your antipasto and beyond! First up is their confettura di cipolla. This is essentially classic onion marmalade with added Italian flair. It gives you a really sweet and deliciously intense oniony flavour. This is obviously a perfect partner to cheese and cold meats but I would be more than happy to use this across a wide variety of foods from a falafel wrap to sausage and mash. The next jar I tried was pate d’aglio e pepperoncino it’s a mildly spicy garlic condiment, something I have not had or heard of before. It’s interesting and tasty but I don’t think is has the versatility of the other two, although I would love to be proved wrong! The one thing that sprang into my mind is that it would work well thrown onto a plate of plain spaghetti with a few flicks of grated parmesan for a quick meal that would excite the taste buds. I deliberately saved this one for last. I knew I was going to love it. The Spilinga Nduja spicy salami sausage spread is a similar product to one a large upmarket pizza chain uses as a spicy, exotic way to give a...
BBQ Season Part 2: Barbecue chicken

BBQ Season Part 2: Barbecue chicken

Created in Buffalo, New York these barbecue chicken wings are a staple dish in the USA and beloved by Super Bowl watchers across the nation. It’s a simple but delicious barbecue chicken recipe, blending the spicy heat of fermented chilli peppers into a rich clingy sauce which just goes so well with chicken. I remember going to Texas many years ago, being on a shoestring budget the first night I ordered pizza and Buffalo wings. Being from the UK and loving my curry, I had this crazy idea that Americans didn’t do hot food, so of course I plumbed for the “super hot” wings on the menu. I soon found out (as I did throughout my trip to the Lone Star State) that my assumption was wrong, those wings blew my head off! Back then the Texas tourist motto was “It’s like a whole other country”, but this was more like a red hot new world to my taste buds. There are many variations and hundreds of recipes for this dish, but I am going to give you a simple medium version which doffs its spicy cap to the original. Ingredients for barbecue chicken wings For the chicken 500g Chicken wings Small amount of oil Good pinch of salt and pepper For the barbecue sauce 150 mls Hot sauce* 125g Butter (half a standard pat) Salt (if required) Cayenne pepper (for more heat if required, probably not!) *I used Frank’s (148ml bottle) but try Tabasco or your favourite hot sauce. You can even use sriracha for a more exotic Asian style wing. Take the chicken and rub all over...
Smoked Salmon fit for a Queen!

Smoked Salmon fit for a Queen!

When you are asked to taste test smoked salmon you really do have to say yes. But when you are asked to taste smoked salmon from a traditional family business based in Scotland (the home of smoked salmon) and purveyors to Her Majesty the Queen, then that has to be a hell yes! That’s the lucky position I found myself in. John Ross Jr is a family owned fish smokers based in Scotland. They have been producing smoked salmon since 1857, using 19th Century red brick kilns to smoke with oak chippings. I love high quality products using sustainable, local produce and traditional techniques, even better when they have significant heritage and expertise. Smoked salmon is an amazing product which has its place in the highest echelons of luxury foodstuffs. But not all smoked salmon is created equal. Opening the John Ross Jr pack the care taken in preparation and the quality of the product is obvious That smoky smell hits your nose as you peel the soft salmon slices from the pack, the beautiful orangey-pink translucent colour shines and glistens like a salmony beacon lighting your way to a taste sensation. To put it through its paces I decided to eat it my favourite three ways. First I feel it would be a crime not to try something as special as this salmon naked, with nothing to get in the way of its flavour and texture. The depth of smokiness really hits you first chew it, you really can taste that oak smoke, I imagined the salmon hanging up in those kiln slowly smoking…I’m such an old romantic!...
Yorkshire local produce rocks!

Yorkshire local produce rocks!

Yorkshire is famous for saying what it likes and liking what it says, there is a sense of pride up there which is enviable as I found out on a recent trip to York. It’s not just the Yorkshire tea, Yorkshire Blue cheese (delicious but never seen it in supermarkets down south) or the ubiquitous Yorkshire pudding, it’s the overwhelming focus on local produce everything from fish and meat to vegetables and baked products which was a real eye opener. There is an impressively large number of independent shops in York which are abound with Yorkshire made or produced products, everything from sauces such as Henderson’s Relish (I had never heard of this before), or try the fantastic local biscuits at Betty’s tea shop. You can’t miss the Yorkshire brand, and around every corner cafes and restaurants have beef, pork, lamb and more all produced in the big county and they are happy to shout it from the rooftops. I love the fact that the local food/food miles mantra does not need to be marketed up there, it does not even have to be suggested. For them it’s in their DNA, it’s a birthright. With so much great produce on their doorstep cities like York really create a unique feel on the high street, something which we should all think about as we tire of the bland chains which dominate most of the country. I guess living in London with so many different cultures and not having a geographical allegiance with any farming areas, “local” produce, despite being pushed as hugely important, is not very high on the agenda....
We all scream for ice cream

We all scream for ice cream

The ice cream van has arrived…yes that great institution is back for the summer. At least it is down my street. Have you seen or heard one yet? That unmistakable plinky-plonky music takes you back to another world and instantly gets you excited…even as a grown up! This particular van wittily plays the Monty Python theme (as a child my local one played the match of the day tune) and blasted it through my front room as it pulled up outside my house…and I mean right outside, I could have leant out of the front door and grabbed myself a Mr Whippy (see pic). Now if today’s kids are anything like my generation, the sound of the ice cream van is probably the bane of their parent’s lives. The minute you hear one in the distance the nagging starts “mum, dad can I get an ice cream”. When I was a kid I remember the range of ice creams as being incredible. As well as the soft scope cones variants you also got the choose things like funny feet, screwballs and the rockets. Some of them I never got to try, like the outrageously expensive Oyster, despite my constant nagging. Even though I can now afford the reckless decadence of the legendary Oyster, I always plum for the Flake 99, a true classic and beloved by many. It’s a little know fact that a certain Margaret Thatcher (before moving into a rather successful political career) worked as a developer for Lyons and played a major part in the creation of Mr Whippy ice cream! Always a welcome sign of...
Creative Canapes – Quick, Easy Ways to Impress!

Creative Canapes – Quick, Easy Ways to Impress!

Canapes are ideal for stylish entertaining without taking a lot of time and effort. They need to look nice, taste nice (well d’uh!) and be easy to eat. These are healthy too. So much more impressive than opening a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa. These are a few of my favourites which always go down well and which I prepared most recently just this Sunday! These quantities adequately/generously serve 12 guests. Pear & St Agur filled Crispy Prosciutto Cups Ingredients to make 24 cups: 150 g prosciutto, thinly sliced (12 slices), each halved so roughly square 2 ripe pears juice of 1/2 lemon 75 g St Agur or other soft blue cheese Method: Heat oven to 190 C/375F Line small muffin tin with the prosciutto – one half per cup, overlapping any tears, crimping to fit Cook for 10 minutes until the fat is golden and crisp (give them a couple more minutes if necessary) Core the pears and chop up small Mix the pears with the lemon juice When the “cups” are cooked carefully, with a fork, lift them out onto kitchen paper to drain and cool Just before serving fill the prosciutto cups with the pears and top with the cheese Duck Bites with Citrus and 5 Spices Ingredients to serve 12: 525 g duck mini fillets 1-2 tsp duck fat or coconut oil juice and finely grated rind of: 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 1 lime 1 tsp agave nectar, or to taste 1 tsp five spice powder 1 tsp butter   Method: Marinade the duck in half the juices with all the...