28 October 2015

Food Blogger Connect - Blogger Tips and Hotel Review


Food Blogger Connect, the international food bloggers conference, was held in Chiskwick House in London this year. Well when I say Chiskwick House, I actually mean in the gardens. We were super lucky it was dry. Strangely enough the dog show was inside that beautiful building and we were outside. There's something not quite right there.


I usually post a few write-ups about the event, but as I'm so late in posting this I thought I'd do it all in a oner. First I'd like to share the rather fab hotel we stayed in and then I'll move down to blogger tips and some of the new products I tried and we'll finish with a few of the lovely bloggers who were there.

HOTEL


Stuart (Cakeyboi), Sarah (Maison Cupcake), Lisa (United Cakedom), Luca (Chestnut and Truffles) and myself all stayed in Ibis Shepherds Bush.

We were mightily impressed. Sarah stays in Ibis a lot, but this was a first for me.

We were greeted by a cheery receptionist and all delighted with our rooms. They were modern, sleek, very clean and had everything we needed. Plenty of storage, plug points, a tv, power shower and a comfy bed.

Luca thought it was really reasonably priced for London too.


 

We were really impressed by breakfast too. There was so much to choose from. Cooked breakfasts, fruit, yoghurt, cereals, muesli, a range of fresh breads and rolls, preserves, cheeses, salad, fruit salad, dried fruit, muffins, croissants, yoghurt drinks, smoothies................

I'll definitely stay in Ibis hotels in future.


BLOGGER TIPS


Sophie Grigson
Food and Recipe Writing Lab



Sophie was lovely. Stuart and I were lucky enough to arrive at the same time as her and had a wander round the grounds with her and a chat. Her session was up first and whizzed by. She set us all to work writing recipes for cheese on toast. Yes, there's more to it than you would think.

Here are some of her recipe writing tips:
  • Lure people in with a good recipe title.
  • Add clear instructions, but add a bit of your own voice.
  • What makes the recipe special? Think about this for the title, don't just list the ingredients.
  • When stating servings be as helpful as possible. It may feed 6 hungry people or two as a light lunch (obviously not the same recipe).
  • The list of ingredients should be the same order they are added to create the dish.
  • Make sure all ingredients listed are used in the method and the other way around too, make sure all the ingredients mentioned in the method are in the ingredient list.
  • Spoons should be level,  rounded or heaped (this especially makes a difference when baking).
  • Think about the weight of fruit, is it the weight before or after the stones are removed?
  • A long method can scare readers off. If you want to add notes, why not add them in the paragraph above the recipe.
  • Use correct terminology ie, boiling, simmering, sauteed or fried.
  • All cookers are different, use about in times, so people can check their dish as it cooks. Manufacturers say 10 degrees either way is ok. (WHAT!!!!!!)
Sarah (Maison Cupcake), Lisa (United Cakedom) and Ceri (Natural Kitchen Adventures)
Katie (Feeding Boys), Helene (Croque Maman), Luca (Chestnut and Truffles) & Stuart (Cakeyboi)
 
Lizzie Sibley
Marketing Manager Pinterest UK

Pinterest 101
  • 85% of Pinterest Traffic is from mobiles
  • Use portrait shots, landscape shots disappear on Pinterest
  • You can't have too many boards or too many pins
  • People don't tend to look at your profile page, they find you through search
  • Focus on good board descriptions and pin descriptions so people can find you through search
  • Go back through your boards and make the description more detailed
  • Don't use hashtags, they don't work on Pinterest. Use good descriptions instead
  • You can use long descriptions on pins, give as much information as possible
  • If you have a blog sign up for a business account for the analytics
  • Install the official ‘Pin It’ button on your website to make it Pinterest friendly, you’re helping your readers share and distribute your content on your behalf.
  • See what people are pinning from your site. Go to pinterest.com/source/yourblogurl  


follow me




Me and Kate from The Veg Space


Monica (Smarter Fitter) giving a talk on analytics


David Frenkiel
Green Kitchen Stories

Developing Workflow Habits

Well there wasn't much in the way of worflow tips, but I did enough the talk. Here are some of the tips I picked up.
  • Styling - Check with companies that sell wood, tiles and stone, find out what they are using and get it cheap
  • While you are cooking a dish, plan in your head what plates you will use to display it and what else you will use in the photo. Plan ahead and take less photos
  • Find a good window and take your shots there
  • Have a stock of plates and props near your photo area
  • Use a reflector
  • Take one shot from above and one from the side
  • Limit your shots and cut down the time it takes you to decide and edit
  • Keep all photos organised in folders. In each folder there should be sub-folders
    • Subfolders
      • 1 - Raw photos
      • 2 - High Res photos edited and saved as TIFFs
      • 3 - Edited Photos saved as 800px jpgs
      • 4 - Square shots or shots for social media
  •  Keep secret Pinterest boards to store ideas

Kevin (The Crafty Larder), Nazima (Franglais Kitchen) & Jen (Jen's Food)


FILO

Filo is a new way to recommend products. It works with Amazon, requires zero integration, and is completely free. It's iPhone based.

Information Snacking
  • Mobiles are where it's at. People are waiting for the buzz and checking their phones all day.
  • People average 150 sessions a day.
  • Instagram is easy to snack on, it's like French fries.
  • Before mobiles everything was platformed based. You had to switch on your pc, load a browser, a website and work on a platform, mobile has changed all that.
  • Each platform has different readers.
  • Remember email is a platform too, send out newsletters.
  • Here's the share on mobiles
    • Facebook 64%
    • Twitter 10%
    • Pinterest 10% 
    • Other 16%
Becca (Amuse your Bouche), Sarah (Taming Twins), Jo (Jo's Kitchen), Helen (Fuss Free Flavours)  Kate (Veggie Desserts)


FOOD


Duke of Delhi - The most fabulous flavoursome chocolate. We all know chocolate can be good with a little salt, imagine chocolate with little bites of spice. I was wowed! They also gave me a shot of bombay mix with chocolate in it. You have to try it. Flavour bomb sensation!

Crazy for Pasta - These cheery chappies kindly made us fresh pasta to fuel our brains over the weekend. I loved their pasta machine. It was mesmerising! Great pasta too!






Oh My Dogs - Oh my I enjoyed my tofu dog. So, so good. I'll have to figure out how to make these. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Mamasitas - Traditional Mexican corn tacos filled with veg and topped with pickles and dressing. Tasty!!!


Churros Garcia - Who could say no to some freshly made churros tossed in cinnamon sugar and served with warm melted chocolate? I couldn't!

Massis Tea - I hate tea. Have I told you that before? Well I was lured in by the pretty flowers and a charming young man persuaded me to try this Iced Tea with Ginger and Honey.  It was so refreshing. I can't believe I liked it. Shocker!

Outsider Tart - See that slice there? Stuart, Lisa and Luca went off campus in search of Outsider Tart and I'm so glad they did because Stuart brought back that slice. A moist biscuit base, topped with a brownie layer and topped with M&Ms and cookie. It was heavenly, but also huge, so I shared it round.


SUMMING UP

I really enjoyed my trip to FBC this year. As usual there was good and bad. Everyone was freezing, although to this Scots lass it was gorgeous sunny weather.

Some of the sessions were great and others not so good. There was a rather loud-mouthed fashion blogger (why?) who dominated several talks. Did she share anything useful? Nope! It was just me, me, me, aren't I wonderful. That annoyed a lot of people.

There were some great sessions too. The ones I've spoken about, a tax session, one on Lightroom, a talk by Claudia Roden which was interesting, but went on too long and Monica's analytics.

The best part of the weekend as ever was meeting up with all the bloggers I spend so much time chatting to online. It's nice to meet up again with old friends and to make new friends too.



Disclosure: Ibis were kind enough to provide me with a hotel room and breakfast over the weekend. I was not expected to write a positive review, but I had a great stay there and will definitely stay in Ibis again.

26 October 2015

Meat Free Mondays - 7 Recipes for the Week Ahead (26 October 2015)


I don't know about you, but time just flies for me. Weeks just whizz past.

Cooper's been on school holidays the last couple of weeks and that went quick too. We did manage a wee mini break to Edinburgh, just the two of us (Daddy was working). We had a blast! We spent time in Princes Street Gardens, we went around the National Galleries of Scotland, spent an afternoon at Camera Obscura, a whole day at the National Museum of Scotland and travelled on trains and trams. I can't wait for our next escape.


video



Until then I get back to day-to-day life and as it's Monday I have some glorious veggie and vegan recipes to share with you for Meat Free Mondays.


MONDAY

 

Letty's Kitchen 





TUESDAY


A Virtual Vegan




WEDNESDAY


Tinned Tomatoes




THURSDAY


Thinly Spread




FRIDAY


The Tofu Diaries





SATURDAY


Natural Kitchen Adventures




SUNDAY


The Veg Space



Refried Beam Burritos
And some bonus recipes:




Thanks to everyone who contributed a recipe.


If you're a blogger and would like to be featured next week. Link up your veggie or vegan (main course) recipe to this post and add your post to the linky below (one per blog). If you're a reader, tune in next Monday for another seven delicious veggie and vegan recipes to help you plan your week.

21 October 2015

Jamie Oliver's Baked Eggs in Popped Beans and Cherry Tomatoes for the Perfect Vegetarian Breakfast


 Jamie Oliver's Baked Eggs in Popped Beans and Cherry Tomatoes for the Perfect Vegetarian Breakfast


One of the things that really impressed me about the new Jamie Oliver cookbook Everyday Super Food was the breakfast ideas and especially these baked eggs in popped beans and cherry tomatoes with ricotta on toast.

For Graham (my vegan hubby) I'd leave out the egg, spread vegan cream cheese on the toast and add a little more chilli sauce. An easy adjustment. For Cooper I'd stick to beans on toast. He really doesn't like cherry tomatoes and likes his beans on the toast. He would enjoy an egg too, but probably on a separate plate or in an egg cup with dippy soldiers. Small boys *sigh*.


Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver

To be honest, I'm not great at eating breakfast during the week. I prefer to drink a freshly made smoothie, but at the weekend when I have more time I like to make a bit more effort. Cooper and I might make Scotch pancakes or I might make a traditional vegetarian breakfast with tattie scones, beans, vegan sausages, fried mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. 

An easy recipes for Scotch panckes with chocolate chips, raisins and maple syrup

Just in case you're thinking what a bad mum I am, I can assure you I do make sure Cooper has breakfast every morning as well as his smoothie. Weekday breakfasts are just not my thing. I'm usually too tired and it's too early for me to face eating anything. I much prefer my later and more leisurely breakfasts at the weekend.  

What about you? 

Are you a morning person who loves breakfast?

This Jamie recipe was a revelation for me. I'd never have thought of putting this combination together and serving it with ricotta on toast. It hits a lot of nutritional boxes and it's tasty too. I do hope you give it a go.


print recipe

Baked Eggs in Popped Beans and Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta on Toast
A nutritious vegetarian breakfast from Jamie Oliver's cookbook Everyday Super Food.
Ingredients
  • 250g mixed-colour ripe cherry tomatoes
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • a good pinch fennel seeds
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 2 slices seeded wholemeal bread
  • 2 heaped tsp ricotta cheese
  • a good drizzle thick balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • a good drizzle hot chilli sauce (optional)
Instructions
1. Halve the tomatoes, place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of oil and a pinch of sea salt. Pick, tear and toss in the basil leaves (reserving the smaller ones for garnish), then leave aside to macerate for a few minutes. 2. Meanwhile, place a large non-stick frying pan on a high heat. Drain the beans and put into the hot pan with the fennel seeds and a pinch of black pepper. Leave for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally – you want them to char and pop open, bursting their skins. Pour the macerated tomatoes into the pan with 100ml of water, season, then leave to bubble away vigorously for 1 minute.3. Crack in an egg on each side, then cover with a lid, plate or tin foil, reduce to a medium-low heat and slow-cook for 3 to 4 minutes for nice soft eggs, or longer if you prefer. Meanwhile, toast the bread. 4. Divide the ricotta and spread over the two pieces of hot toast, then serve on the side of the baked eggs in beans. Sprinkle the reserved baby basil leaves over the top and tuck right in. Nice finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and/or a drizzle of hot chilli sauce. Delicious.5. Enjoy!
Details
Total time:
Yield: Serves 2


19 October 2015

Meat Free Mondays - 7 Recipes for the Week Ahead (19 October 2015)

 


Another week has flown in. A chocolate filled week. Did you know last week was Chocolate Week? I was remarkably restrained and didn't tuck in until the end of the week.

Cooper was also on holiday from school last week, he had a couple of days with his childminder, a couple of days with me (we made cupcakes, played with cars and went on a long walk with friends, children and dogs) and a long weekend with his Nana and Grandad. A grand week in his opinion.

This week, I have a bit more time with him, so I think we may take off in the train somewhere and stay overnight as daddy is working. A little mini adventure of our own. I better start thinking up some ideas fast.

So you'll be wanting some veggie inspiration now, since it's Monday. Am I right?

Your wish is my command!


MONDAY


Toaster Oven Love




TUESDAY


Natural Kitchen Adventures




WEDNESDAY


Cadry's Kitchen 





THURSDAY


Maison Cupcake 




FRIDAY


Cook Style




SATURDAY


Tinned Tomatoes




SUNDAY


The Garden Grazer

And a few bonus recipes: 



Thanks to everyone who contributed a recipe. 
 


If you're a blogger and would like to be featured next week. Link up your veggie or vegan (main course) recipe to this post and add your post to the linky below (one per blog). If you're a reader, tune in next Monday for another seven delicious veggie and vegan recipes to help you plan your week.

 

15 October 2015

Eat lots of Chocolate, it's Chocolate Week


I love chocolate!

I try to limit myself. It's sad but true. I bet you do too. However it's Chocolate Week, so I'm giving us permission to eat lots of chocolate. Just this week mind, we need to rein ourselves in again next week. You'll noticed I've waited until the end of the week to post this for damage limitation purposes.

So which chocolate to eat?

Here are my favourites:



£22  Hotel Chocolat

My ultimate box of chocolates (hopefully Graham will take note) is The Exuberantly Fruity Sleekster (345g) from Hotel Chocolat. I love fruity chocolates and fruit creams, so it doesn't get better than this for me. Dark, milk and white chocolate filled with tangy and zesty fruit flavours.

Eton Mess, Strawberry, Raspberry Smoothie, Passion Fruit, Lime, Mango, Blackcurrant, Strawberry Cheesecake, Raspberry Pannacotta, Apple Strudel, Lemon Cheesecake, Orange Wafer and Coconut & Coconut.

It's too hard to pick a favourite, but I can say I eat the Lemon Cheesecake first and then move on to the Passion Fruit and the Mango.  Mmmmmmmmmm!


Hotel Chocolat make really superior chocolate. I bought my cousin Jeanette a box recently and the first thing she did was warn her husband not to touch them. Yes, they're hard to share.



If you'd like a smaller treat, I'd also recommend their fruity slabs. They have an offer just now, you can choose 3 or more slabs for £3.15 each.




£12 (on sale just now £6) Thorntons


I visit my local Thorntons for fruit creams, yes I know you're seeing a trend here, but sometimes you need something a bit more special. I'm going to buy a box of these while they're on sale to put out for guests at Christmas. It's full of flavours like candyfloss, toffee apple caramel and toasted marshmallow. All suitable for vegetarians too.





I really like Green & Black's miniature bars, I often pick up one of the mini bars of the Dark Chocolate Maya Gold from my local health food shop to keep in my handbag as a wee treat. These are even better if you are trying to be good, they are diddy little 15g bars. Perfect for a chocolate hit without many calories. You'll notice as well as organic, these bars are fairtrade too, which is an added bonus.





£4 each

I tried a few flavours of this chocolate when I was down at the Food Blogger Connect conference. It's amazing. 

Think good quality chocolate mixed with the salty spiciness of bombay mix. If you see these bars, be sure to buy some or order from the website.




£4.00 Sainsbury's

I couldn't have this chocolate post without some ice cream and unless you're making your own, you don't get better than Haagen-Dazs. My favourite is Strawberry Cheesecake, but when I need a chocolate hit it has to be the Chocolate Salted Caramel or the Belgian Chocolate at a push. 



A few chocolate recipes to end with:

Happy Chocolate Week
Go on, indulge!


Disclosure: I was sent some of this chocolate to try and bought some, but I've only included my favourites with you after trying them. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.