Little Kitchen, Bristol

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Little Kitchen in Bristol is a specialist cookery school providing an array of different workshops and courses. The courses are run by Madeleine and Claire, who invite you into their kitchen and clearly know their stuff.

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We enrolled ourselves onto the Indian cookery class where you get to learn to make a naan bread, an aromatic dhal and a Sri Lankan chicken curry all in two hours.

The whole experience was really relaxed, so it’s good fun as well as helping gain confidence and learning new skills in the kitchen.

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To kick things off we made up the dough for the naan.

We added strong bread flour, yeast, salt and sugar together. Along with some yogurt, water and melted butter.

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You mix that into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes. If you press into the dough and it springs back, you’re good to go.

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We placed the dough into a bowl, lightly coating it with oil and then covering the bowl with cling film and leaving in a warm place.

After about an hour proving, the dough had almost doubled in size. We preheated the grill to its highest heat setting and started rolling out the dough to about 1/2 cm thick.

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Placing the dough onto a piece of tin foil allows you to easily move it, and spraying with water gives it that authentic chewiness.

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We grilled each side for approximately 3 minutes and once satisified we had created something naan-like, brushed with melted garlic butter.

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Next up, the aromatic dahl. We added the lentils to a saucepan, some water, tumeric, ground cloves and ground cinnamon.

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We allowed the lentils to absorb water until they were tender. In the meantime we chopped up some garlic and onions, cooking them in oil in a frying pan with some mustard seeds and cumin seeds.

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Then adding them to the lentils. Dhal is done, easy as that.

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Last up was the Sri Lankan Chicken Curry. We started by finely chopping up an onion, root ginger and creamed coconut.

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Frying the onions in oil and adding ground cloves, ground coriander, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, seeds from 1 cardamom pod and fenugreek seeds.

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Once combined we removed from the pan and browned the chicken thigh all over.

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We then stirred the onions back in along with the ginger, creamed coconut, some chilli powder (or a lot in my case) and water.

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We left the chicken to cook for about 35-40 minutes on the hob, letting it soak up all those spices.

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Once cooked we plated up and tucked in. What’s lovely is at the end, the worktop is turned into a dining table and you sit around and enjoy your culinary masterpiece together.

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I’m especially chuffed I can now recreate an authentic naan bread at home and don’t have to put up with the supermarket versions. I can highly recommend trying out a cookery course at Little Kitchen. You can find out about all their courses here.

Food Connections: Surplus Food Banquet

Bristols Food Connections is a week long citywide food festival full of foodie events. It’s a great opportunity to discover local eateries and learn about the culture Bristol has adopted towards food.

My week off work couldn’t have been timed better.

I went along to three of the events and first up was the Surplus Food Banquet. In connection with FareShare South West who are passionate about reducing fit-for purpose fresh and long-life food going to waste and instead deliver it to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

All the food we were presented was within date and would have gone to waste.

The banquet was held in a unique setting inside their warehouse and it looked great.

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The menu was designed by chef and broadcaster Richard Fox. We were treated to three courses of beautifully presented and delicious food including a fish starter, succulent lamb done three ways for the main and one of my favourites, bread and butter pudding to end things on a high.

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A lot of the food FareShare South West collect is no longer required by supermarkets for various reason, for example, it been associated with an event that has run it’s course such as Comic Relief. The food is perfectly acceptable but is removed from the shelves due to it’s promotional connection.

Once we’d enjoyed our wonderful meal we had talks from a panel of experts who were all clearly passionate about what FareShare South West are doing.

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Having worked in a supermarket during my university days I have seen first hand the amount of food that gets chucked away and I was fully in agreement with the idea that there should be stricter rules in place to deter them from doing this.

FareShare South West are doing an amazing thing to help put a stop to food wastage and food poverty in the community. The event provided some great food but was also a real eye-opener.

You can find out more on their website here.

Turtle Bay, Cheltenham

Working in Bristol I’d already been lucky enough to experience a few lunches at Turtle Bay, as well as some evening cocktails. So when I heard Cheltenham was in for some caribbean goodness I couldn’t have been happier.

In the perfect location in the centre of town, making it hugely popular at the weekend and the evenings. My friend and I popped along on a Thursday night, sadly just missing the 241 cocktail offer but pleased to be able to get a table.

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The decor is fun and reflects the style of cooking. A vibrant kitchen and bar area but more intimate lighting for each individual table. I love all the fairy lights dotted across the ceiling. Then again who doesn’t like fairy lights?

We were seated against this crazy stereo wall. Luckily no sound was coming from them.

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There is a great choice of food with burgers, wraps, curries, salads, barbequed meats etc. We both took forever and a day trying to decide what to have. In the end we were both sold by the Street Burger; a beef burger with spicy pulled jerk pork, sweet onion chutney and herb mayonaise, encased in a brioche bun.

The cocktail menu also needs a little time to peruse. Especially if you get there in time for the 241 offer, being indecisive may cause some problems the next time I visit.

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Coming to a conclusion on the burger was easy though – we both agreed Turtle Bay nailed the balance of beef patty vs pulled pork perfectly. The sweet potato fries helped ease the guilt of doubling up on meats as well as tasting delish.

I’d like to say we stopped there but I made the mistake of checking out the puddings early on in the evening. It wouldn’t really be a fair review if I didn’t try at least one of them.

So we got two and shared them.

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We opted for the Rum and Raisin Bread pudding and the Banana and Toffee cheesecake. The bread pudding was moist without the rum being overpowering – some may see this as a bad thing, I didn’t.

The cheesecake was almost a twist on banoffee pie; creamy, rich with a great crunch. I’m all about the biscuit base cheesecakes.

Good food at a good price, fun, laidback atmosphere and a great addition for Cheltenham. I’m looking forward to returning and ticking a few more things off the menu.

Book review: Farfetch Curates Food

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If I had to pick the top four things I was passionate about I’d go with food, travel, fashion and photography. Luckily for me the people at Farfetch have gone and published a book that encompasses all of this.

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The idea behind Farfetch Curates Food is to give an insight into what is happening in the world of food and drink right now, taking us on a journey and exploring places like New York, London, Singapore and Sydney. Yet still retaining that fashion viewpoint by talking to Farfetch boutique owners as well as local chefs.

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The book is split up into different meal times with sections from food and fashion bloggers, including recipes, trendy places to eat and what people are eating in specific countries. One of the first chapters, The Breakfast Club, gives recommendations on the most delectable breaksfasts from around the world. It makes you want to grab a backpack and go out and try them all.

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One of my favourite parts of the book are the Healthy measures vs. Guilty pleasures pages. There is one for Breakfast, Lunch and After Dinner, identifying the choices between a healthy option or a not so healthy option. I like to think as long as you keep the balance right you can indulge in a bit of both – that’s my moto anyway!

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The book has the most stunning vibrant photography that draws your eye to the most tantilizing food. It inspires you to get into the kitchen and cook up something pretty. It exemplifies how beautiful food really can be and that the people that create these dishes are not just chefs but artists.

The illustrations dotted throughout are quirky and a nice added feature too.

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Farfetch Curates Food is a great little read for those like me who have a passion for trying new foods, exploring the globe whilst still maintaining a bit of style.

You can purchase the book here.

FallowFields, Oxford

I always forget how much I appreciate the extra days off we get over the Easter holidays, along with the copious amounts of chocolate. I got two easter eggs this year, I demolished them both by the end of Easter Monday – two reasons: it’s totally acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Easter Sunday, secondly I need them out of my life so I can pretend I never ate them and get back to healthy(ish) eating.

A couple of days before I ate my weight in chocolate I took the extended weekend as an excuse to get away for a few days. The decided destination was Oxford, not too far from home but a nice change of scenery and a chance to relax.

Relaxing was definitely ticked off the list with the hotel offering spa facilities and booking ourselves in for a back, neck and shoulder massage. Incredible food was also achieved on the first night when we took a visit to FallowFields, just outside the centre of Oxford in Kingston Bagpuize. A fine country house, restaurant and hotel that prides itself on serving the freshest ingredients and upholding to a ‘field to fork’ regime.

The house is enclosed and set just off the main road, we drove down a small driveway and parked up outside the front.

We walked through to reception where we were given a warm welcome and shown into the lounge. We sunk into a sofa and picked out a couple of cocktails; just how I like to start an evening.

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Whilst sipping our cocktails we were given some menus to peruse. There is a tasting menu on offer, which proved popular in the dining room however we decided to go with our own options. With my indecisiveness that can take a while, luckily some amuse-bouche appeared before us to stop my dining partner eating their own hand.

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Once I’d come to a decision and we had enjoyed our first taster of the standard of food we were going to indulge in we were taken through to the dining room and shown to our table.

The room is open with large windows to look out across the grounds. The setting is formal but the general feel is relaxed, the staff are professional but friendly so as you don’t feel intimidated – which can be the case with some fine dining experiences.

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A selection of homemade breads was added to the table accompanied by butter, salt and seaweed butter.

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Whilst we tucked into the freshly baked goods, the waitress brought over an artichoke palate cleanser in preparation for our starters.

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Having already been impressed with what had been served, I had high expectations for the rest of the meal.

For starters we went for the Fallowfields quail and the beef and onion risotto.

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The quail dish took elements from a full english breakfast with a gorgeous sweet sauce covering the quail. The beef and onion risotto was made up of braised flank, oat groat risotto, roasted onions and wild garlic. The beef melted in your mouth and all the textures complimented each other perfectly.

Next up were our mains; we had opted for the cornish cod and the marlborough estate venison.

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Their pride in the food is made apparent through the presentation of all the dishes. The venison was paired up with parsnip, vanilla and pear – a winning combination. The cod was a delight, with cauliflower, glazed cheek and muscat grapes.

Having enjoyed two exquisite courses, we’d be foolish to not check if the puddings lived up to the same standard. As I sipped away at my wine we decided on the cheesecake and the chocolate and nut options.

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The cheesecake with salt baked pineapple, coconut and mascarpone ice cream went down a little too easily. The chocolate and nut dish with chocolate delice, peanut mousse and barley ice cream was also a big hit.

We retired back to the lounge to wash it all down with a cup of green tea and were even offered a selection of homemade chocolates – being Easter it’d be silly to turn down chocolate.

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All of the added extras show how much thought and attention has gone into making sure you have the perfect dining experience. The joining of flavours and ingredients highlights the passion for food in the kitchen. From the moment you arrive you know you are in for some exceptional food and it did not disappoint.

A highlight of the trip to Oxford and would highly recommend a visit.

Find out more here.

Jamie’s Italian, Cheltenham

A couple of weeks ago I was very kindly invited along to Jamie’s Italian in Cheltenham. I had visited before but not for a while so jumped at the chance.

The restaurant has quite a unique setting inside a former county court in the centre of town. There are two floors for eating where you’ll find original features including the press box, the jury box and the judges’ table. The toilets are situated in the basement, formerly where you would have found the cells. Is it just me that enjoys checking out an establishment’s toilets?

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I took my sister, Nat along for the ride. We don’t always get to spend that much time together so it was a real treat to enjoy her company, accompanied by good food and drink.

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We were seated in a prime spot, with a great view of the rest of the restaurant and one of the kitchens. Before delving into the menu, the staff were on hand to tell us about the specials they had on that day.

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Nat was sold by two of the specials – a Risotto to start and the Lamb Ragu for mains. I went for the Italian Nachos, followed by the Italian Steak Frites.

The seating was especially perfect for Nat, she loves to people watch so whilst we waited for our food she had a good old nose around whilst I sipped on my rosé.

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Before she got too engrossed in the daily going-ons of the table next to us our starters arrived.

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Nat’s risotto was a great choice, smooth and creamy with some texture coming from the peas and pieces of fennel. I didn’t know what to expect with my Italian Nachos but they came up trumps too. Soft, cheesy ravioli squares with crunchy edges and a spicy sauce for dipping.

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Next up were our mains. The lamb had been cooked perfectly, on top of a generous sized portion of pasta and a sprinkling of crunchy breadcrumbs. My steak had been marinated with some incredible flavours, the kale and pickles slaw was a nice accompaniment – I felt it cancelled out some of the chips I was gorging on.

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Finally, for pudding I opted for the Lemon Meringue Cheesecake and Nat had the Cherry Frangipan. I didn’t try the Frangipan as I’m not a fan but Nat managed to wipe the plate clean, so I’d say it was a hit. I loved my Cheesecake, suitably creamy with the added dimension of the meringue on top and a sour sauce made for a great balanced pud.

A splendid meal, in great surroundings with attentive staff – definitely worth a visit sometime soon! If you want to find out more check out the Jamie’s Italian website here.

Darker experiences in Budapest

Our final full day in Budapest we visited a couple of museums. First of which was the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to various historical terror regimes, illustrating the decades of Nazi and Communist suppression.

The building was once the headquarters for the secret police of both the Nazi and Communist governments. The words ‘Terror’ protrude from the building so that when the sun shines on them, it symbolises the terror that was inflicted on Hungarians.

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You can’t take photographs but it’s a must-see if you’re in the city. Some of the videos are quite distressing to watch and the prison cells in the basement are a real eye-opener. The design of the museum and music played in each of the rooms adds to the experience too.

You could easily spend the entire day there however as it was our final full day we wanted to make sure we saw as much of the city as we could. We took the tram (this time with a ticket) to the food market where we picked up some souvenirs and checked out what the locals were eating.

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Instead of having anything from the food market, we opted for a small cafe selling Kurtoskalacs – Hungary’s oldest pastry.

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They are cooked over an open fire and are similar to a pretzel, perhaps not as doughie with a crispy outer shell. You can have several different toppings like walnuts, almonds, cinnamon or go simple with vanilla.

Better yet, on the Thursday after Shrove Tuesday Hungarians regard this as ‘Fat Thursday’ and offer 50% off at a lot of restaurants. My kind of country!

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The next exhibition was a completely new experience for all of us. The city houses an exhibition dedicated to the blind called the Invisible Exhibition.

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For one hour you are able to experience what it is like to live without one of your most vital senses, your sight.

You are guided by a blind person through several rooms in complete darkness, there are smells and noises in each of the rooms so you have to rely on your other senses to make your way through. Using voices and feeling the surroundings help guide you through but the feeling of vulnerability is exposed.

The concept completely takes you by surprise and is only a brief taste of how a blind person lives. It can feel a little claustrophobic at times but when you step back into the light, you can’t help but appreciate the gift of sight.

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Our last night in Budapest deserved another nice meal so we returned to the hotel and all did some Googling on where to go. Rob won the race and found a winner that was within walking distance.

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Food and drink in Budapest was amazingly cheap, even in the fancier places. My meal on the last night cost just over 1990 huf (£4), the cocktails that you’d usually pay £7 for were only 1300 huf (£3).

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An exceptional meal that came to under £100 in total. With several courses, alcohol flowing you can’t argue with that. If Hungary can do it, why can’t the UK?

We did a bit of shopping on the morning of our last day in Budapest before flying home. The boys found the perfect clothes shop for when the metabolisms finally come to a halt.

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Thanks for a great trip Rob. Where are you taking us next year?