Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Foodie Bugle

If you haven’t discovered the Foodie Bugle yet leave this page immediately and click here now to be transported to the most wonderful foodie magazine ever.  It’s a dream of a site, which supports local, regional and British food at it’s very best.  The photography is out of this world and it gives up and coming food writers and photographers a platform to showcase their work.  It is also free.  There is raw honesty and principles behind this site like no other I know. No advertising.  No fees. No payments.  It is put together and written from just a few ingredients.  Passion, commitment and dedication to the love of food and drink and the lady behind this is an amazing lady Silvana de Soissons. 

The style, panache and perfection of her work and generosity is clear to see from the moment you see her beautiful site.  I know as she is reading this she will blush and proclaim that it is the work of the writers and the artisans written about that merits the attention, but I am going to tell you right here and now that you will not meet a finer person, with as big a heart as Silvana.  She is lovely.  She supports all that is right in food and drink, propelling people along with her knowledge and openness  .. so listen to my interview below with Silvana and chop chop over to The Foodie Bugle. It is quite simply wonderful. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

Meet Felicity and Xanthe

I’ve wanted chucks for as long as can remember.   I love them so when we moved into our forever house in the summer the very first thing we did was build a chicken run.  They are so funny, and engaging each with their own personality -  they all lay different coloured eggs and they go a long way in keeping my household on budget. 

Fenella lays a blue egg and is a Fenton Blue  .. she is the lightest one and really rather snooty.  As you can see she from the picture on the bottom left she really wouldn’t pose for me this morning.  Ditta is a Bluebell and lays a light brown egg, along with my rescue from the battery farm Babette, they are both really cheerful.  Victoria, Camilla, and Calpernia are Mabel Pearmans Burford Browns and they lay the most beautiful conker brown eggs  (Camilla is the one posing in all the photo’s.)

They get fed all the household scraps and I give then the green scraps from my local green grocers too. The chickens are all named after people (both real and fictitious) who I admire. 

In the film Babettes feast Babettes warmth and the wry humour brings out the life in the village as she spent all her money on the most amazing meal. It’s my favorite film. .. that and Flash Gordon ! Queen Victoria no need to explain that one!  Ditta von Tease is a sublimely sexy woman, and Calpernia is my favorite character in the literary world.. she is the house keeper in To Kill a Mockingbird  ..  her love of the children as they seems utterly oblivious makes me think of my own children.  I am just as bossy and they can be just as unaware of the love behind such boring instructions such as wear a vest and eat your greens! Camilla is the second royal in my flock as she manages grace and charm in such a way I can’t help but admire her.

So my two final additions to my small flock are 17 week old point of lay light Sussex ( the white ones at  the top of the photo) and they will be the last that I will buy for some time. They are a gift for my husband for his birthday and they lay pure white eggs.  Al can never remember the names of my ladies so I did  briefly consider renaming them after his ex girlfriends ..  but there were so many to choose from  and none I admired ! * she says with a smile*

So here is the best bit choosing names ..  thought I’d call my two new girls after two of my favorite food writers. 

First is Xanthe Clay who is a food writer for the Telegraph.  I first read one of her books It's Raining Plums when I was expecting with William and so wanted to have a vegetable garden! I love her literary style; Xanthe writes to her audience on a level and her wonderful narrative weaves facts between vivid descriptions.  The pictures she paints with her words are so alive and whenever I read her pieces I am simply transported.  Second is Felicity Cloake writer, Guardian 'How to Make the Perfect' columnist, winner of the Guild of Food Writers' Food Journalist of the Year and New Media awards 2011, and author of Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook's Repertoire that was published by Fig Tree in August 2011 this year.  I love the detail and passion she writes with.  I find her style easy and for some reason I digest the facts easily

So to Xanthe and Felicity if you are reading this I know you that you will appreciate how truly delicious fresh free range eggs are and I hope you will consider this a small honour to be part of my efforts to produce more of my own food. You are in good company with royalty, a burlesque legend , two film characters and a housekeeper all who lay the most beautiful eggs!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Odettes at Primrose Hill

I love British game.  Its really one of the things we do really well and I always choose game if it is in season.  About 2 weeks ago I was included in an open invitation to catch up with some friends from twitter, and I ended up catching up with some good friends and one of my favourite chefs and discovered that they all love British game too !

As is was I had a reservation for four people at Pollen Street Social, but it became clear that there was a few more than four of us and Pollen Street Social have a policy of taking a deposit on bookings over 6 (which is fair enough )  ..  so meeting up in the centre just wasn’t practical so the nine of us  @FionaMaclean @KarenBurnsBooth @atriflerushed @turquoiselemons @FussFreeFlavour @solangeweb  @RenBehan @GoFreeCakes had lunch at Odette’s instead.

Having had such a great meal not so long ago,  it was every bit as good this time and we had the most delicious meal at really reasonable prices.

The owner Bryn Williams the initially became famous as a sous chef in 2006 as he won the opportunity to cook the fish course for the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations on the Great British Menu and he is regarded as one of Wales' best chefs and so for a bit of fun we all popped crowns on as he came over to say hello to our table. Well…  if it worked for HRH !

Over half of us choose the British game options. I went with the game sausage roll with a sweet Cumberland sauce and the braised rabbit leg and aubergine and tomato confi on a herb couscous, followed by a superb floating Island with vanilla and coffee and gorgeous macrons. Oh it was good ! 

I'd sum up Odettes as Seriously delicious, brilliant value seasonal food in a relaxed environment, nothing is too much trouble and I shall be back soon for another lunch ! 

A the end of the meal I caught up  with Bryn after lunch to ask him about British game and why he loves it.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Farrow and Ball - there is nothing quite like it.

I had my first live weigh in on the radio this week.

7lbs… do little dance I lost 7lbs … do a little dance.  I am chuffed to bits!

I kept from thinking about food too much as the weekend was taken up with decorating Isobel’s bedroom. We are now well on our way to changing a long since abandoned teenage boys bedroom into a room fit for a princess.  Although we hadn’t intended on tackling any of the rooms until the roof has been replaced and the major works were done however until we moved house in the summer my youngest daughter had shared a room with her sister.  Sleeping in her new room alone was somewhat traumatic for her and for weeks after we moved she would wake in a fright and I’d have to settle her back to sleep.  It did make me laugh though  as she pointed out her 4 year old logic to us “I am a princess and princesses only sleep in pretty rooms.” Point made.

I choose a really pretty cream curtain fabric with rosebuds on in a discount store in London with my mum a few months ago. Even so I was shocked to arrive home from my radio show a week before Christmas to find Isobel’s wardrobe in the middle of the driveway. I looked up to see a happy husband relishing the destruction of the built in wardrooms you can see in the pictures below ( taken before we bought the house)

Of course the children were squealing in excitement as chunks of wood were hurled out of the window.  Three eager faces then looked down on me  wide eyed in delicious delight to see just how much trouble daddy was in for making such a mess!

When I first met my husband he would practically have a meltdown even for the simplest task. Nowadays he’s amazing, although I am still constantly delighted and surprised whenever he sets about any kind of DIY. He’s really very good.. and I should tell him more often.

Now I know I am on a budget, but in the last house I did up I made a major mistake.  I will never ever   .. ever skimp on paint ever again. My first house was built in the early 1800’s and I used Farrow and Ball. It was amazing. I then used it again in the flat we lived in but in the last house I was conned into believing that you can get a similar finish a look from another heritage paint that was cheaper but which I was promised would have a similar finish.  The painters and decorators went in and painted the house on a contract.  The moment I walked in I regretted my decision.  I just wasn’t the same; there wasn’t the depth or the texture of Farrow and Ball and I couldn’t afford to repaint it.

So this time I am back to what I know is the most delicious, rich, gorgeous paint I know.  Back to Farrow and Ball - there is nothing quite like it. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Beetroot and Horseradish Soup & Cuisinart Soup maker Giveaway

Thank you to Kelly from the Chronicle and Echo for the photo of me above. 

For those of you who missed my temporary insanity post to do a weekly weigh and follow The Rosemary Conley Plan in on my radio show ..   it's a good thing that I have a few tricks up my sleeve.. one of the best things to keep you going on a diet is soup.  It's economical, healthy, delicious and easy to make.

I was sent this soup-maker from Cuisinart to try and I have to be honest .. when I first read about this all one unit I though it was a gizmo that I'd use once, maybe twice and then pop into the cupboard of doom never to see the light of day again until the kids leave home.  It would be palmed off on the first one to go.  But oh no.. not this gadget.  This hasn't been out of action since the moment I took it out of the box. 

It cooks, blends, stores and reheats soup.  It's super quick, easy to clean has a great capacity, and saves so much washing up.  

This beetroot soup is one of the most economical, delicious, sweet, warming and filling recipes I know, but with about 600 calories for the entire 1.4 liters it works out at 150 calories per bowl and yet you just wouldn’t know it.

It’s deep rich consistency, has a retro 70’s Eastern European borscht to it. Beetroot is low in both fat and calories, and has a low glycaemic load, which means that it is slowly converted into sugar by your body and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.   It doesn’t loose any of its nutritional value when cooked, unlike many other vegetables and recent research also indicates that it increases the uptake of oxygen in the body which will help no end working  off Christmas in the gym  .. so whether you are dieting or not this seriously healthy soup is easy to make and utterly satisfying.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
Serves 4
Freezes  Yes

1 onion
1 tbs vegetable oil
750g cooked beetroot
500ml chicken stock
3tbs cream of horseradish
1tbs cranberry jelly (optional)
Parsley to dress

1 Finely dice the onion and sauté in the oil until lightly caramelized

2 Add the cooked beetroot and chicken stock.

3 Blend and simmer for 6-7 minutes

4 Add the cream of horseradish.  You can sweeten this further with a dollop of cranberry jelly if you wish.  Serve hot with a scattering of parsley

I am delighted to be able to offer one of these fabulous soup makers away!  

Please see competition Rules before entering. This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address.  The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on 2nd February 2012 You need to have a profile the allow mw to get back in touch however please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.

This competition on behalf of  Cuisinart and they will be responsible for organizing the prize with the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

There is one main way to enter and there are  4 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted. 

For a chance to win please comment below and tell me what your favourite soup is. 

For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and you MUST comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.

For a third chance to win please follow me @VanessaKimbell on Twitter and comment below to tell me you have done so.

For a fourth chance to win tweet me @VanessaKimbell and tell me if you dunk your bread in your soup or not ... ? ! 

For a 5th Chance to win Follow @CuisinartUK on Twitter

AND THE WINNER IS  @JenniferShefki !!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Giving away my old Diet books

On Sunday mornings I have my own radio show.  I do the Kitchen bit on the BBC Radio Northampton Kitchen Garden show every week from 10am to 11am.  I love it.  It’s fun and really pushes me to get out there and chat with people.  During the past year I’ve had all sorts of guests on the show, from the charming Wiliam Sitwell of Waitrose Illustrated to Ms Marmitelover, James Ramsden, the gorgeous Dan Lepard, Rick Stein, lovely Jules from the Secret Supper society and Gary Jones Head Chef at Le Manoir, Bryn Williams, Auther Potts Dawson and Peggy Porschen, Aldo Zilli alongside lots of local people such as Angelina Cupcake,  Waterloo Cottage farm from Great Oxenden, Ondine our very own Northamptonshire Masterchef finalist and our local Adam Grey.  I’ve been out and about to Oundle, Towcester and Northampton Farmers markets, covered the Northamptonshire food festival and chattered with so many people it’s been such a fabulous year.  I adore Kevin Saddington and Johnny Amos .. we make a great team and  I get so many comments every week from people who listen to the show!  That last time I asked about the listening figures I think it’s about 120,000 people locally, give or take a couple!

So as we were talking New Years resolutions last Sunday Kevin noticed that my diet books I had brought into the studio were all unused.  As I explained that I was always starting diets and then giving up in a fit of utter madness I agreed to kevin's suggestion to diet and chat about it in the show.  But not just diet, but stick to a plan and get weighed in each week live .. yes you read that correctly  ..on air.  .. for a whole year with the aim of loosing 1 lb. a week every week.  Even as I write this I am having a mini meltdown .. I must be a lunatic.   Writing it down right now it seems even more insane.  Why after a decade of trying to loose weight would I suddenly decide to say something so  …  well so ..  just so oh..  what have I done?

I spoke to my boss Mark a couple of days after the show.  I explained that despite all the listeners knowing what I had said I hadn’t actually dared to tell my husband. When I finally mustered up the courage it was as I thought ..  he roared with laugher and echoed Mark's response.  Something along the lines of well you’d better do it then!  -   It was a relatively kind response considering that he's seen me fail so many times before. 

I can’t do it alone. So I decided to sign up with my local Rosemary Conely Class.  I couldn’t face the start of the class so I waited until the end.  As everyone was walking out I walked in and went to speak to Gill who runs the class. I introduced myself and then before I know what happened I burst into tears. I covered my face with my hands and wept.  Wept in anger and shame.  Of all the people in the world who should be able to loose weight it should be me. I know more about food than most people yet despite every attempt over the years I fail over and over again. It’s internally humiliating and so I gave up believing. 

Not so long ago a friend stopped  .. well  .. being my friend with no explanation. It really upset me, and I found myself thinking  that if I was slim then she would still like me.  Of course my rational brain says otherwise, but the emotional me says the effect I have on people would be different if there was less of me.  So really I have her to thank for making me feel so low that there was nowhere else to go but up.

At the same time another lovely lady called Rachel sent me a book called Fat girl Slim in the post. It was a random act of kindness, and as I looked at the book I realized Rachel thinks I can actually do it.  As I explained the effect these two women had on me to Gill tears rolled down my face, She nodded, smiled handed me a tissue before showing me photos of herself before she lost 10 stone. Over half her body weight. Amazing.   For my own sanity I didn’t want to know my weight, so Gill weighted me in and gave me a ground 0 start point. There was no judgment just a friendly smile and understanding. So here I am writing a post I’d rather nobody who knows me reads, and yet in some strange way my tears were in part relief.  Relief that I have finally made my mind up to just do it.

So I am having a clear out of my old books. I am keeping the two Rosmary Conely Books, and the Fat girl Slim .. but the others might inspire someone else, so I am going to give the following books away.

The Dukan Diet
Japanese Women don’t get old or Fat
The Paleao Diet
Neris and India’s Idiot proof Diet
Atkins for Life


Please see competition Rules before entering. This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address.  The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on 1st February 2012 You need to have a profile the allow me to get back in touch however please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.

There is one main way to enter and there are 3 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted. 

For a chance to win one of these books please comment and tell me your top diet tip

For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and you MUST comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.

For a third chance to win please follow @VanessaKimbell on Twitter and comment below to tell me you have done so.

Please say which book you’d like in your comment!

Each comment counts and an entrance you can make one comment per follow and details of what your top tips are and you may tweet this article daily.  The winners will be picked using a randomizing website.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Kenilworth castle

Well Christmas is over.  the tree has been put outside to be recycled and I’ve made a real effort  to get out.  Outside  in the fresh air  .. it seems to be what gets me through these cold grey days .. that and hot chocolate.  It's easy to bunker down in January, the budget is spent and the days are short and grey  .. but we live in a country rich in heritage so we challenged ourselves to get out anyway and we went to Kenilworth Castle at the weekend. 

It was fabulous, although I do find the buildings with their window’s rather eerie .. like a person with no soul.  The windows are vacant and there is a haunted look about it even with three noisy children, husband and puppy!   You can see and imagine how magnificent it once was. The medieval fortress of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire is set in vast grounds perfect for exploring.  It is one of the largest historic visitor attractions in the West Midlands and is just one of the most spectacular castle ruins in England.

The ruins are best known as the home of Robert Dudley, the great love of Queen Elizabeth I. Dudley created an ornate palace here to impress his beloved Queen in 1575. There is also a  newly re-created Elizabethan Garden, which was lost for over 400 years ..
I loved the Victorian graffiti in the sandstone walls, and we had an amazing day out.  Fresh air, some good old fashioned war stories made the perfect winter afternoon out.

I’d highly recommend a visit, although I forgot to take a flask.  I always take a cake and a flask of hot chocolate, so when we stopped in the cafĂ©, which was light, airy and clean to order tot chocolate and cakes for the five of us I nearly fainted at paying over £20.  It has been years since I’ve bought a drink out and oh boy have a had a reminder of why I take my own.  The cakes were average, and the hot chocolate if I am honest was mediocre  .. really I should have made my own coco with cardamom and made nice big chocolate cake. It would have been far cheaper and much much tastier!

Lesson learned !

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New Years Resolutions

There is a safety level writing a blog. It’s easy to paint a picture that comes over as quite candy flossy and whilst I hate to be anything other than positive there are times that are hard .. and then there is the questions about how much you actually reveal about yourself?

So if I am honest about things I’m not really good in January. It’s not helped by stepping back from a person I love in my life who misinterprets me.  I have no idea how to stop the cycle around this relationship .. and the weather doesn’t help. It is bleak; as I look out of my window the trees dark branches are stark against the sky.  Clouds threaten, the wind whistles around the house like a 70’s horror move soundtrack and I am watching the rooks black silhouettes hunched like old women clinging on their perches for all they are worth.  Grey January.. how I long for spring.

Whilst it seems everyone else makes new years resolutions I look back and get a sense of failure wave over me as I realise that I’ve been making the same resolution every year and I have never ever ever achieved it. It’s got to the point where internally I just feel ridiculous. This year I will loose weight I say.  This is going to be the year I do it .. no matter what.  Except I never do.

So this year .. * Deep breath* I am going to make a different resolution   .. I am going to find out about Buddhism, and investigate an Ayuverdic lifestyle. Don’t worry I won’t be preaching or tweeting Buddhist saying every two minutes, but I feel drawn to find out more.  

There is an internal dilemma though. I have to admit it’s taken my sister to push me to write about my personal feelings, rather than another “I love this product post,” ( thanks @FleurDelicia) but I tend to run a mile from anyone who is  actually really religious.  Alarm bells go off. I’m not sure why.  Well  .. now I’ve written that I realise that’s not true. .. actually it’s because I watched my deputy head of school preach love, kindness. compassion and charity in the name of Jesus Christ every morning in assembly before she spent he rest of the day making Cruella de Ville look like saint. 

Evil old bat.

I guess that is why I am deeply suspicious of pushy vocal religious people, and of course there are the Bible bashing wanna convert you lovelies that come and knock on my door every few weeks, always smiling and very sweet but always just before a deadline.  Fruitcakes!  Lovely phrase .. I wonder where did that originate from? 

Still I guess is suits the bohemian in me. I never felt so at home than with the idea’s and philosophy of Buddhism than when I was in Vietnam, which is where my little Buddha is from.  So far it seems to answer questions in a way that makes sense to me, and far more so that my normal once a year C of E does.  It’s been almost two years since I decided to find out more . but before I commit I want to investigate  fully. As luck would have it there is a course starting nearby on the 7th February  .. so I have signed up for it, and I’m still looking into Ayuverdic diets .. so watch this space!

In the meantime  .. where did I put that Rosemary Conley book? 

Monday, 2 January 2012

David Austin Christmas Roses

I want to share one of the highlights of this Christmas ..   these beautiful roses from David Austin Roses.  They lasted all through Christmas and look utterly beautiful.  I like to move my roses every couple of days in the house, that way I notice them more, but what you can't tell from a photo is the fabulous smell.  They are quite simply the most beautiful roses you can get