The Video | Great Blogger Breakfast Off | Amanda Holden | Alpen

Monday, July 27, 2015

Last month I participated in Alpen's Great Blogger Breakfast Off with Amanda Holden (you can read more about it here).

At long last, the video is now live!

I'm a bit gutted they only announced who ranked first (because I was miraculously placed 2nd, haha).

You can find my recipe here and Amanda's morning tips here.


What Glass Should You Drink Your Beer From?

Monday, July 27, 2015

After visiting the Friends of Glass stand at Taste of London a few weeks ago, I've finally gotten round to writing up some more information I learnt during their food and wine pairing masterclass.

Though some beer novices believe the vast majority of glassware is just for marketing, this couldn't be further from the truth.

Scientific studies show that the shape of glassware will impact head development and retention. The foam created by pouring a beer acts as a net for many of the volatiles in a beer (volatiles are the compounds that evaporate from beer to create its aroma and all kinds of yeast fermentation byproducts like alcohol, fusels and fruity esters, spices or other additions). Therefore a glass that creates a healthy foam head may enhance the trapping of certain volatiles, meaning the beer is able to hold onto its fruity notes, aroma or alcohol content.

I've listed a quick guide below to help you choose which glass is best for you beer:

These are wide rimmed bowls on a long stem. The design allows a big foamy head and complex aromas to develop, and encourages sipping which means that the beer hits the front of the tongue where sweet and fruit flavours register.

Dimpled Barrel
A thick dimpled glass mug with a handle. The mouth is larger than the base and this releases the aroma. English Pint This style has a wider mouth than base and this releases the aroma in the beer and the beer is sloshed onto the tongue so makes contact with all taste buds.

A tall, narrow, delicate elegant glass on a long stem. The tapered rim pours the liquid towards the back of the tongue enhancing effervescence, and acidity.

Footed Pilsener
Tall and tapered like an inverted isosceles triangle narrower at the bottom than the top. It shows off the colour and carbonation of the beer and as the vessel’s mouth is not too wide it maintains a beer head.
This style is sometimes called a balloon due to its shape - bulbous and narrowing to the top. They sit
on a stem and a foot and make the drinking of beer into an elegant ritual. The shape makes it easy to swirl the beer to release the aromas.

This has a bulbous bottom on a stem and foot. The flared mouth retains a foamy head, and the beer is easy to swirl so the aromas are released.


These squat glasses are functional rather than graceful with gently sloping straight sides and a wide mouth that promotes a sip rather than a glug. Sipping the beer means that it hits the front of the tongue first so any sweetness in the beer will register.

A German style that is tall, slender and flared at the top ideal for accentuating the cloudy appearance of a wheat beer and for a voluptuous head formation.

Wine Glass

An ideal wine glass for beer is one with a tapered mouth that releases aromas.

TGI Friday's Meet Your Match Menu launch

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TGI Friday's has just launched its biggest menu revamp in 8 years and trust me, their new 'Meet your Match' menu serves up big bold flavours. 

Last week I was invited to an exclusive event in Piccadilly Circus to try the new dishes and was presently surprised at the standard of the service, food, cocktails and overall ambience. 

I'll be honest, TGI Friday's wouldn't be my venue of choice for 'date night'. In fact, Russell and I hadn't been to the restaurant in years, so had some seriously catching up to do. 

We were greeted by a very talented bar tender who made us drinks based on our favourite colour - a nice touch I must say. 

Once seated we were shown the new menu - both visually in presentation boxes and on paper. 

I can only describe the new menu as indulgent comfort food - if you're counting calories this isn't for you. 

My favourite dish of the evening was the new smoked bruschetta. Containing basil leaves deep fried in balsamic vinegar and smoked Maldon sea salt flaked over heritage tomatoes, I was really surprised by the quality of the ingredients. 

I also enjoyed the sticky barbequed pork belly smothered in a Jack Daniel’s® glaze, the meat melted in your mouth whilst the coleslaw gave a fresh, crips finish to every bite. 

I usually hate eating meat off the bone, however the Bucket of Bones Russell ordered was a juicy, laid-back dish that is great to share (if you can get a look in). It contains tender slow cooked pork ribs and chicken wings tossed in Jack Daniel’s® glaze, toasted sesame seeds and chili flakes, topped with Texan toothpicks. It's seriously addictive eating - I lapped up the last of the sauce with fries (classy I know). 

Unfortunately after all of that food I couldn't fit in the dish I was most looking forward to: the chicken BLT waffle. Containing crispy chicken breast served in a sweet waffle with gooey melted cheese, rocket, fresh tomato, succulent crispy bacon and Honey Mustard mayo, it's my idea of heaven. I'll be going back later this month to enjoy one (or two). 

The new menu also includes a range of five hot dogs layered with flavours inspired by New York’s best loved street eats. 

If you’re not hot for ‘dogs, the gigantic new Warrior Burger will not disappoint, if you dare to take it on. Featuring two 7oz burgers piled high with Mozzarella fingers, Colby cheese, crispy bacon, American cheese, caramelized onions and Fridays® mayo served with crispy fries and onion rings. Glory awaits those who can take it on.

Other dishes include double layered cheesy nachos and Tostada stacks - crispy flour tortillas packed with melted cheese and Cajun-spiced rice. 

Named ‘Best Big Company to Work for in the UK’ in this year’s Sunday Times, it's pretty apparent the staff are extremely proud and happy. The waitresses were very attentive and helpful - our glasses were never empty and they knew the cocktail menu off-by-heart (which includes over 500 drinks). 

Overall the atmosphere, friendly staff, killer cocktail list and finger lickin' food really impressed us. Having not been to TGI Friday's for such a long time, we're really surprised at the quality of the restaurant (and the cost of the food) compared to other indulgent London eats. 

Would we go back? Absolutely - I have a waffle burger to try! 

Great Blogger Breakfast Off | Amanda Holden | Alpen

Monday, July 20, 2015

By now you may have seen Amanda Holden's new advert with Alpen, encouraging the nation to try something new in the morning as part of Alpen's '21 Ways To Start Your Day' campaign
To celebrate everything breakfast related, a few weeks ago I joined Amanda and the Alpen team to compete in the Great Blogger Breakfast Off.
Facing three other bloggers, I was challenged to create a new breakfast treat using Alpen. I decided upon Morning Muesli Muffins, which went down well - however I won't reveal where I come in the competition until the video is release (eeek!).

In the morning I'm always too blurry eyed to measure exact measurements, however if you'd like to recreate my recipe (for 12 muffins) you'll need:
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • A good drizzle of honey
  • 100g of your favourite Alpen
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g natural yogurt
  • 5tbspn sunflower or vegetable oil
  • Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6.
  • Line a muffin tray with 12 cases.
  • Sift the flour, Alpen and baking powder into a large bowl.
  • In another bowl combine all the remaining ingredients until well combined.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  • Divide the mixture between the muffin cases.
  • Bake for 20 mins or until golden and well risen.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
  • Decorate with a spoonful of natural yogurt and a sprinkle of Alpen.

Amanda's morning tips are available to view here.

From Sushi and Beyond: Michael Booth Interview

Monday, July 20, 2015

Michael Booth is a food and travel writer who unexpectedly became a cultural phenomenon in Japan, by writing about Japanese food when traveling the length of the country with his young family. Surprisingly the Japanese were so fascinated with Michael that they turned his book 'Sushi and Beyond' into a anime TV show (who would have thought the Japeneese would be such big fan's of Britiain's dry sense of humour?). 
I had the opporunity to ask Michael a few questions, so I picked his brain about Japan, food and family:

You described Japan as your favourite country – what do you love most about the country (other than food)?
What hooked me from the start was that, even just walking down the street for a few yards, I would always find something to arrest my attention. Everything is different, Japanese solutions are fascinating. Plus, having travelled in some not so pleasant places, going to a country where no one is trying to steal from you or cheat you is wonderful. On a basic level, it is clean and safe and everything functions amazingly well, but Japan has everything else - the greatest cities in the world, mountains, gorgeous beaches, nature etc. And then you discover how genuinely kind the Japanese are, and how generous they are as hosts. And they have a great sense of humour.

Why did you decide to write “Sushi and Beyond” - why Japan?
I had spent three years living and eating in Paris, where I had moved with my family to train to become a chef for another book, Sacré Cordon Bleu. Frankly, I was a little fat, and when a friend presented me with a book, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji, I 'discovered' a traditional cuisine which seemed incredibly modern: low fat, lots of fish and vegetables, not so much cooking, little meat, no dairy, less sugar, and so on. It seemed to be the opposite of the classical French food I had been learning about and eating, and that really appealed.

Why did you decide to take your family along on your adventure?
When you travel with kids, you see places differently, you interact with people differently. It gives another perspective to your travels. Plus I quite like my family, so don't like to be away from them for too long. That's tricky (and expensive) with the kind of immersive books I write.

What do you think your children took away from the experience? (we take it they're not fussy eaters!)
Like all kids, they baulk at new foods sometimes, but we have 'try everything once' policy, which they have been brilliant at (I admit, I did risk their trust when I got them to try fermented squid guts one time). They actually love Japan and Japanese food. They always want to go back to Japan.

Any plans to release a similar book focusing on another country?
I did a similar-isn book on India a few years ago, Eat, Pray, Eat. My latest book, however, has nothing about food in it: The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle - it's a kind of popular anthropology/travel book about Scandinavia, where I now live.

We heard your family’s foodie tour of Japan has become an anime film and manga comic – how did you first react when you heard the news? Are you happy with how you look/sound in cartoon form? How does your wife/children feel about it?
As a writer and journalist, I often get approached by TV people and usually the projects come to nothing. But in this case, two executives from NHK actually came to my home in Denmark to talk about this project. That was when I realised they were serious! I was still skeptical but then I saw their initial drawings and they really made me laugh. My family had the same reaction and now, as we are seeing the episodes, we love it more and more. It is a deeply surreal turn of events, to be turned into a cartoon, but what I love most about the series is that they have turned the volume up on the fantasy aspect. It's bonkers. My children love it. I think they are very proud but also a little bewildered. My wife is the only one who isn't so crazy about it: her character has been rather 'toned down'.

Since writing your book do you believe Japanese cuisine is gaining popularity? 
What would you like to see as the next 'big' import from Japan (the 90's saw sushi, the 00's ramen, etc)
True, we've had ramen and sushi, and also Japanese whisky is having a moment, but there is such huge potential for many more types of Japanese food and drink to conquer the world. Udon, soba, okonimiyaki, kushikatsu, tako yaki, yakitori, shabu shabu, wagashi, mochi, yuba, tofu - the list is endless. Plus, of course, sake, the many types of tea and shochu.

Out of all the dining experiences you wrote about, which one was your most memorable? Is there anything you wouldn't eat again?
I keep trying to acquire a taste for natto, but I'm not there yet. Ground yam is something I try and avoid too - those kind of snotty-textured foods are a bit of a challenge. Every time I go to Japan, I have very special dining experiences. The latest was a kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, called Maeda. Beautiful, clever, simple, complex delicious seasonal food.

Animated series Sushi and Beyond is on NHK WORLD Sundays at 5:10pm and 9:10pm (BST) click here for more info.

NHK WORLD TV is available on Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media, TV Player and the NHK WORLD TV app. For more details click here.