Monthly Archives: November 2012

BBC Good Food Show – Olympia


I went to the BBC Good Food Show on Friday. I went good and early because I hate having to squish through crowds and I had the feeling that this would be a really popular exhibition.

I had tickets for the 10am session in the “Supertheatre” – this was Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff. It was billed as a master class and we got to see Mary mix a cake and Paul do his 8-strand plaited loaf, but not a huge amount of teaching went on. It was entertainment. Slightly under-rehearsed entertainment at that, when Mary couldn’t find a sieve and someone had put the butter in a little jar for some reason. But it was the first show of the first day and it gave Paul a chance for some banter with Mary, as he pretended that she’d been in a darts match the night before. It was fluff, but entertaining fluff.

Now, Olympia has food outlets around the outside of the hall that don’t change from event to event, but the Good Food Show has it’s own food court – The Restaurant Experience. Can you spot the veggie option on that menu list? No, neither could I. Maybe one from Chutney Mary – the Tokri Chaat – but only because it doesn’t mention a dead animal in the description. Come on guys, would it have killed you to put a ‘V’ on there somewhere? To eat at the place you have to change your money for ‘Dining Currency’ tokens. I decided that was too much effort for one possible veggie option when I didn’t feel like curry anyway. If they don’t want to make an effort to attract my custom, I’m not going to make the effort to spend money with them.

Having said that, I really have no complaints about the show as a whole from the vegetarian perspective. Essentially what you have is a big farmer’s market without the farmers, really. There were stalls of speciality products and, apart from a handful, they were all non-meat/fish products. There were a lot of stalls selling chilli products and pressed oils of various flavours. There were several cheese stalls and, if they didn’t have any signs saying the cheese was vegetarian, they knew the answer when I asked and why I was asking. That’s encouraging. I think I’ve found a veggie replacement for Roquefort at the Cornish Cheese stall.

There were as many African spicy sauce stalls as there were Indian curry sauce stalls, which I found interesting. Kudos to the lady on the Bims Kitchen stall, who told me without prompting that all their products were vegetarian and vegan, apart from one which had honey in it. That’s what we want! Show organisers please take note!

As well as the produce stalls there were gadgets, although not as many as I thought there would be. Among the cutters and graters the winner of the Two Fat Vegetarians’ Slightly Missing the Point Award goes to the Stirr, which automatically stirs saucepans for you. Someone should tell them that stirring saucepans is one of the great pleasures of cooking, you don’t get to do it half as much as you’d like.

The most intriguing ingredient I found was dried, ground seaweed from Mara. I bought a packet of their dulse which has deep, sea taste like anchovy. I think it’ll be brilliant in dressings for mediterranean salads and the like. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it.

I’d had a good look round the stalls by lunchtime and it was starting to fill up so I left. I hate shuffling round places not able to look at anything without elbowing people out of the way. That’s why I went on the Friday. I shudder to think what the place was like on Saturday.

I had fun, it’ll be good to go again next year.


Recipe: Chickpea and red pepper stew with harissa


This is from Nigel Slater’s Dish of the Day programme. It needs the lift of the lemon juice at the end. Another time I might put a bit of lemon zest into the stew as it cooks.

Chickpea & pepper stew with harissa

2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp harissa paste
400g tin cooked chickpeas in water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
handful chopped coriander

Dry fry the peppers in a saucepan on a high heat until most of the pieces have a few charred specks on them. You’re not trying to burn them, just add a little roast pepper flavour to the stew.
Turn the heat down and add the tomatoes.
Stir for a couple of minutes as they release their juices.
Add the harissa paste and stir to coat the peppers and tomatoes.
Pour in the chickpeas including their water.
Cover and cook for 15 minutes, then cook for 15 more minutes with the lid off.
Pour in the lemon juice and stir in the chopped coriander.
Season. It will take quite a lot of salt.
Serve with cooked rice, couscous, quinoa or another grain.

Serves 2

Slimming World syns – According to the Food Optimising book, harissa paste is free on green. I am suspicious about that as the paste I used had a lot of oil in it. I would say this gets about 2 syns for the oil in the paste. Otherwise this is free on green.

Quick bites: Heston Blumenthal’s cauliflower truffle macaroni cheese


Macaroni cheese is my ultimate comfort food. I never make it for myself, as I rarely have milk in the house – and my white sauces are lamentable. And nothing will ever measure up to my mother’s recipe, with a mustardy cheese sauce that you could stand a fork up in, and a thick covering of crunchy breadcrumbs.

So in the spirit of research for the blog, I thought I’d try Heston Blumenthal’s cauliflower truffle macaroni cheese which he’s developed for Waitrose. The celebrity chef has come up with a range of food for the supermarket, including lasagne and shepherd’s pie (both for carnivores), and some side dishes including carrots and mashed potatoes.

The packet said to cook it on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. After 35 minutes on blast furnace setting, it was barely cooked. I can only assume, in keeping with most of Blumenthal’s creations, that it needed to be reheated for 48 hours at gas mark 29, with a welding torch to finish it off …

When it finally slid onto a plate, I spotted two still-crunchy bits of cauliflower cowering in there. And it should be renamed truffle surprise, as I’d be bloody surprised if there was any truffle oil in it. The cheese sauce tasted vaguely of cheese, but was also very watery.

The lingering impression of it was overwhelming blandness – and certainly not worth the £4.89 and the bazillion Slimming World syns it will have cost me.

Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower with Lemons


My veg box this week contained a treasure. A romanesco cauliflower. In anybody’s world it’s a stunningly beautiful object.

Romanesco cauliflower

It looks like it’s from another planet. You can do maths with it. It’s fractal and it’s made up of Fibonacci spirals. And it’s delicious. What more do you want from a vegetable?

I came by this recipe via Abel & Cole and they got it from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day cookbook. I added some sumac to the mix, basically because I don’t get a chance to use it that often, but just use more paprika if you don’t have it. Don’t make this without the lemon, though. You don’t eat them, but the sweet-sour roasted tang of their juice really makes this dish special. And, of course, any kind of cauliflower will do. I ate it as a main course with crumbled feta and a few black olives and I can’t wait to make it again.

Roasted cauliflower with lemons

1 medium cauliflower
1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 220C.
Break the cauliflower into florets and put in a roasting tray.
Cut the lemon lengthways into segments.
Splosh a little olive oil over the cauliflower and lemons.
Sprinkle over the sumac and the paprika, season with salt and pepper.
Toss the cauliflower and lemons in the oil and spices until they’re all coated in the mix.
Put into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked and browned a little at the edges.
Serve with the roasted lemon wedges to squeeze over the cauliflower.

Serves 2 as a main course with some crusty bread.