Events, News

    Quickly – Vote for Birmingham’s best take away

    curry_night_inI’m crap at playing favourites, I blame having one of those minds that overthink a lot, but really I think it’s because context is king…sometimes I’m willing to overlook crap service for great food, other times I just need alright food that does the job from kind staff and no washing up. So when the British Takeaway Awards asked me to nominate my favourite takeaway, I nominated a few.  Because I could. More about that later.

    First, I need you to go to and nominate your favourite takeaway in Birmingham. Or maybe Solihull, or Sandwell, wherever you live. Basically, I want to see us flying the flag for the B postcode. It’ll take you a minute or so (it’s really quick) and you’ll be in with a chance to win £1000 or some takeaway vouchers – and who doesn’t love free food?

    Here are a couple of the ones I’ve voted for…

    Cherry Reds – other
    I have a total soft spot for Cherry Reds – their fish finger sandwiches, but also the sausage sandwiches and their classic Diddy English breakfast. And anything involving halloumi. The Kings Heath cafe supplied the sustenance on a house move years ago, to which I will forever remain grateful, and the one in town provided many working lunches over the years – plus a bonus game of how high could I stack the cartons like a fort in the office.

    Original Patty Men – American (I guessed)
    Okay, confession time.  I’ve never actually ordered ‘to go’ from OPM, because frankly I’d only ever get as far as the kerb outside…who wants to wait to eat OPM’s glorious burgers?!  But take out they do, and the BTAs want to hear about take out, so nominate I must.

    Now, go go go nominate!

    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: chocolate caramel cornflake bars (no bake)

    tray bake and daffodilsSee those daffodils, that’ll give you an idea of how long this post has been sat in my drafts folder.  Why, you might ask, namely that I made these lovely caramel crispy squares, wrote down the recipe on a sticky-note and then promptly lost the note.  I stumbled across the sticky-note again recently, so I’m posting this before I lose it again, and also because I might re-make them and it’s easier than trying to find my recipe book (which was the problem in the first place),

    The story behind these goes that we put fruit and sweets out as snacks during our work-events and a bunch of the mini chocolate bars kept being left.  I maintain this was because the labels all looked a bit similar and when you’re listening to someone talk, it might be a bit hard to root around and avoid the chocolate you don’t like.  As they were starting to get a little battered about being moved from event to event, I took them home and decided to do something with them.  Effectively this recipe uses Sainsburys’ own-brand versions of Mars Bars, but they’d work too, as I expect would other own-brand versions.

    And to stick with the own-brand theme, I also used Sainsburys own-brand cornflakes, mainly because I don’t really eat cereal and I didn’t see the point of spending loads of money on flakes of corn that were going to be covered in buttery, caramel chocolate.  I was planning on making them with Rice Crispies or something similar, but got swayed by the cornflakes.

    Recipe: chocolate caramel cornflake bars (no bake)
    Prep time
    Total time
    A really simple no-bake dish to use up leftover chocolates.
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 20
    • 13 mini caramel and nougat chocolate bars (about 260g)
    • 200g cornflakes
    • 150g condensed milk
    • 55g butter
    1. Melt down the chocolate bars slowly - you could do this in a microwave, but I prefer to rest a glass bowl over some gently boiling water and melt them more slowly
    2. Once the bars have melted, add the condensed milk and butter and make sure everything is combined
    3. Take the glass bowl off the saucepan - be careful, it'll be hot.
    4. Add the cornflakes to the melted chocolate. You might want to do this in batches as it might be that you prefer your cornflakes squares to be stickier - alternatively you might want to add more if you think the melted chocolate can handle it.
    5. Once the cornflakes are properly coated, transfer into a greaseproof-lined tray - I used a brownie tray, but a roasting tray would work too.
    6. Spread the mixture out and pat everything down to make sure everything is nicely packed in.
    7. Transfer to the fridge and leave to cool and set - I left mine overnight, but a few hours would probably do it.

    Drinks, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Gin Festival, Digbeth

    holding-gin-webWe seem to be doing well at rainy Saturdays recently, don’t we?  Last weekend, the heavens opened for most of Saturday, which meant I spent a good chunk of the day wondering how a bit of rain can cause the roads around Solihull to become a giant car park.  Thankfully by the time the evening rolled round the roads and skies seemed to clear.  Which was just as well because I was meeting my friend Andrew (he’s modelling the gin glasses in the top photo) to head off to The Bond in Digbeth for the Gin Festival.

    The Bond is becoming a bit of a go-to place for drinks festivals, having hosted ones for beer and whisky already this year, and the Gin Festival had four bars; two for British gins, one for foreign gins and the final for sloe gins and liqueurs.  I won’t blather on about it too much here, as I did a write up over at the Gin Festival website, which you can read here.  But to end, here’s a photo of some of the botanicals that go into Sir Robin of Locksley gin.


    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Good Food Show summer 2016


    Okay, so I’ve been having a bit of a technological nightmare as of late; first my SD card decided it would be really fun to wipe about 500 photos.  I found something on the internet which managed to recover some of them, but it probably means I’ve signed over my soul to some maleficent hacker.  And then after that my antiquated macbook kept telling me my disc was full, so I couldn’t edit any of the photos I’d recovered.  Good news it I think everything is back up and running via an external drive, a new SD card and a weekly séance to the computer gods.

    floral_afternoon_teaIn that pile of photos, I managed to recover some from the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2016, which took place back in June at the NEC in Birmingham.  And technically as the last day of summer I can still claim this is relevant.  Unlike the Winter show, which is a real food and drink extravaganza, the summer show teams up with Gardener’s World Live.  Personally I quite like this, even though my approach to flowers is pretty much is it pretty and what colour is it, it’s quite nice to get out of the Sisyphean halls and look at some plants.  Seriously, there are walls of the stuff, including a pyramid of lilies, it was immense.  One of my favourites though, was unsurprisingly an afternoon tea themed get up.

    Talking of tea, I was determined to revisit Bluebird Tea Co who are Brighton based and do use the unfortunate phrase of tea mixologists in their marketing, but their tea range and flavours are so good I kind of forgive them for it.  This time round I bought so much tea I got a free tote bag and have been happily sipping on their delicious award-winning Nearly Nirvana white silver needle tea with spearmint and jasmine, which is a constant favourite (and something I’ve purchased several times).


    Although the BBC Good Food Shows aren’t necessarily local – after all, they also take place in Belfast, Glasgow and London, I always try and scope out some of the local flavours.  There is usually some local variety, if not at the Producer’s Village then usually amongst the stallholders.  Urban Herbs are a small, family-run, Birmingham-based business qho grow and source some delicious herbs and it’s always great to see them particularly at BBC Good Food Show Summer 2016 which makes so much sense with the gardening outside.  Another local producer, Gayani’s Kitchen HQ, were also there showing off their God Dust, an artisan Sri Lankan curry powder.


    I did actually wander around lots more food stalls, including Debbie & Andrew’s who do some really delicious, dairy and gluten free sausages and this Good Food Show they had some new products in the form of sweet chilli sausages and chicken & mango chipolatas.  As well as trying some at their stand, I took some home with me and used the chicken & mango chipolatas in a curry, which worked really well.  Unfortunately these were some of the photos lost to the computer gods.

    Anyone that’s been to a Good Food Show before can tell you that there’s usually a fair amount of alcohol stalls and this year there seemed to be plenty of gin stalls…never a bad thing in my eyes!  I stopped by the Bathtub Gin stall because they had some expressions there I’d not tried, but my recent-ish attempts at getting into beer meant my curiosity was spiked by the Crafty Devil Brewing Co.  I had a lovely chat with the lady manning the stall (my infamous inability to remember names strikes again) and she told me all about the history of this small Welsh brewery.  What I like most is that as well the quirky imagery, each of the beers has a recommended song to listen to whilst drinking.

    I’d spotted that Firefly BBQ were back and determined to hunt them out.  Last time I picked up some of their pig rub and Memphis sauce, which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t used yet, but mainly because I don’t really cook big chunks of meat but it’s nestled in my cupboard waiting for its day.  This time I noticed something new and special; hot sauces and rubs in a range called REAVERS! Now if you’re a fan of the marvellous Joss Whedon show Firefly you will totally get the name and if you’re not then stop reading this and watch the show now.  I’ve got some of the ghost chilli cajun seasoning rub which I’m yet to get round to using because frankly I’m a giant wimp.  But I did pick up some of their Cuban Mojo, although I’ve been sticking it in my turkey meatball recipe rather than as a rub and it’s superb.  Hopefully they’ll be at Good Food Show Winter 2016 and I’ll pick up some more.

    firefly_sauce_rangeAs ever I really enjoy wandering around looking, tasting and talking about food and drink, and the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2016 was a great excuse to do this…and see some plants too.  The BBC Good Food Show Winter is back at the NEC from 24 – 26th November and if you can already book tickets here

    Disclosure: I was given a complimentary ticket to the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2016 in exchange for a post but wasn’t obliged to be nice. “I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar” *sobs*

    Events, News

    Kings Heath Action For Refugees present Eat & Greet

    I’ve sort of stopped doing events notifications on here because there’s just so frigging many going on in Birmingham that I can’t keep up, but my friend is helping out with this one and it is for a really good cause.

    Eat & Greet is taking place on Saturday 20th August from midday to 5pm at the New Life Baptist Church on Kings Heath High Street (it’s pretty much opposite Asda, you can’t miss it).  It promises to be an exciting foodie experience, with contributions from some cracking local restaurants and eateries including Peel & Stone, Damascena, The Real Junk Food Project and more.  And if you fancy it, feel free to bring a dish of something delightful to share too.

    As well as some great food, there’s live music from the likes of Anna Palmer of local band Dorcha, Balsall Heath’s David Benjamin Blower and Amit Dattani.  And if you’re feeling a bit creative, there’s a craft corner – with activities for both children and adults; Paperdoll Handmade Market will be delivering a lovely crafty activity for children and for adults, the Birmingham Craftivists will be there with their subversive bunting…which is the best kind of bunting in my eyes.

    They’ve also got some great raffle prizes donated from the likes of PlayStation, Cosy Club,The Electric Cinema, Connolly’s Wines, 40 St Pauls, The Vegan Grindhouse, The Botanist, CircusMash and more.

    The whole shindig is in aid of raising money for Leros Solidarity Network, who support refugees fleeing conflict.  Leros is a small Greek island which has seen huge numbers of refugees from fleeing the brutal war in Syria.  LSN is funded purely through donations and provides critical initiatives to help provide a humanitarian response to the crisis.  There will be people from LSN, as well as volunteers who have spent time volunteering in refugee camps in Calais at Eat & Greet, but for more info on LSN head to;

    Tickets are £5 for adults and £2 for children over five, plus you can also buy a ticket for refugee and Asylum Seekers living in the city.  To purchase tickets, head to

    Drinks, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Cotteridge Wines 21st Birthday

    beer_burgerOkay, so this actually happened last month, but I popped into Cotteridge Wines at the weekend and ended up joining in with a conversation about their twenty-first birthday, and made me realise I hadn’t posted this yet.  I know, I know.

    Now for some reason Cotteridge Wines does not get the recognition it deserves in Birmingham.  I mean on one hand I think this is a good thing because it means I can pop in and wander round and pick up some excellent beer, but on the other hand every time I hear about how their biggest fanbase is mainly London-located it makes me sad for Brum.  Beer people of Birmingham, you are sorely missing out; Rate Beer have awarded them the UK’s Best Bottle Shop for three consecutive years running.  My journey to get into beer has been massively improved by them; I am always impressed by how well they remember what I’ve bought before, how they’ll save you beers if you tweet them nicely and the recommendations they make when you pop in are fab.  I mean really, they’re great.

    And if that’s not enough to convince you, then the beers on tap for their 21st Birthday should.  You see it’s not just their customers that think they’re awesome, some well respected breweries in the country do too, a testament to the relationship Jaz and Kal have built up with them.  So to celebrate their 21st Birthday, a bunch of breweries offered to make some special beers to mark the occasion and Cotteridge Wines threw open the doors to their tasting room to let their customers in on the fun – and Original Patty Men were around to make sure there was something to eat.


    I was lucky enough to bagsy a space on the Saturday evening session and above is a quick photo of the tap list for the night.  I’m still relatively new to this whole drinking beer thing but even I knew that was an impressive array.  Sadly I didn’t get to try all of them, but I started the night with Tropical Cannonball, a passionfruit IPA, by Magic Rock Brewing.  A personal favourite of the evening for me was Figgy Bastard by Mad Hatter Brewing Company, as even though this was the middle of summer the almond and fig flavours created the taste of Christmas – all I needed was a mince pie to go with it.  The Mango Lassi by Northern Alchemy was, to me, deceptively non-beery and thusly dangerously drinkable with sweet mango and cardamom flavours coming through.  I also tried Deep Breath by Cloudwater Brew Co, 21st Breakfast by Steel City Brewing and Yam Yam by Beavertown, all of which I enjoyed too.

    As well as some excellent beers, Original Patty Men were there to make sure we could get something to mop up the alcohol.  I bought a bacon cheese burger and it was glorious, as always.  Beers and burgers, what a great pairing right?

    That evening, I managed to bump into Bob (and Sarah) and Dave from the Midlands Beer Blog Collective who have written a really lovely write up of the Cotteridge Wines story to mark their 21st Birthday, so I shan’t regurgitate it here, but it’s worth a read.

    Happy (belated) 21st Birthday Cotteridge Wines, here’s to many more birthdays!

    Disclosure: I managed to bag an invite to the birthday celebrations but bought all my own beers (and burger). Any wildly improper comments about how the beers tasted are all my own, sorry.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Review: Brunch at Giraffe, Birmingham Grand Central

    Surf's Up Sarnie Giraffe

    There are plenty of reasons why I hold brunch to high ideals: mainly because it usually befits a lie-in, but still means you get to eat all the delectable options that a proper breakfasts provides.  Frankly if I can avoid it, I don’t want to get up early on a Saturday and I still have nightmares from when a café-that-shall-remain-nameless cruelly robbed me of a sausage sandwich because it designated them breakfast foods and stopped serving after 11am.  Brunch, brunch lets you have a lie in and a fry-up and that, my friends, is a pretty good start to the day in my books.

    Recently, I met my friend Erica in Birmingham Grand Central to check out Giraffe’s brunch offerings.  I’ve eaten lunch at the one in Solihull a few times and wondered why they’d never made it to Birmingham before now, but looks like Birmingham Grand Central is a pretty good spot.  There are a bunch of Giraffe restaurants around the country and they’re a sort of light, casual dining which is family-friendly but without feeling like a crèche.

    The menu has always interested me, because I can never quite work out what they’re going for.  The dishes span a range of cuisines from Turkish bread to Tuscan meatballs, Japanese gyoza to TexMex burritos but without getting too experimental.  It’s a sort of introduction to world food without the more ‘out there’ stuff, but all from sunny climates meaning the plate usually looks fairly colourful.


    For brunch I figured it only right and proper to try the Full Brunch, which comes with smoky bacon, herbed pork sausage, baked beans, eggs (fried or scrambled), potato wedges and sourdough toast.  As far as Full Brunches go it’s a good one, the bacon and sausage were both tasted like they were good quality and the sausage was suitably dense and meaty.  I was also pleased to see that the baked beans arrived in a separate dish, so as not to make everything else soggy.  The scrambled egg was delicious, but the presentation of them sat on top of the sourdough toast meant it was a little soft by the time I’d excavated it and this was a shame as the flavour was delicious.  The potato wedges were nice, but a little unnecessary; there was plenty of food that didn’t need bulking out by them, although mushrooms or more space for the toast would’ve been preferable.  But all in all, a good brunch.

    Erica went for the Surf’s Up Sarnie, which I half expected to be something with smoke salmon or fish fingers, but turned out to be smoky bacon, avocado, fried egg, baby gem, tomato and mustard mayo, nestled between sourdough toast.  It looked messy but Erica enjoyed it and that’s the main thing really.


    And because one brunch dish each isn’t enough, and they’d added a few new dishes onto the menu we also tried the Shakshouka, a classic Middle Eastern breakfast dish of spicy egg and tomato which is ideal for brunch.  It’s a relatively simple one pot dish, and Giraffe’s arrives in that said one-pot, which means it is made up fresh.  And it’s delicious; sweet tomatoes, slightly spicy with baked eggs whose yolks beg to be popped by the Turkish bread its served with.  It feels like a healthier brunch option, if that’s your thing – or you can add chorizo to it, which I think would be an entirely great idea.

    By this point Erica and I had sat nattering and eating too much food, so we thought we’d try out some of the cocktails Giraffe offers.  As someone that’s drunk too many cocktails to keep count of I’m always a bit wary of places that serve cocktails as an add on, as I tend to find the technical ability isn’t always there.  We had a couple of issues with the Mango Colada that Erica ordered, but I was impressed by how the staff handled it, replacing it with no fuss.  Actually, I’d been people watching whilst we were there and the staff seemed on point the entire time, which is refreshing to see as they were very busy.


    Overall it was a pleasant experience, one I’d be fine to return to.  I always think the food court at Birmingham Grand Central was an odd choice, design-wise, but sat in the booth at Giraffe it feels less like a canteen and the buzz of the shoppers gives a night background hum.  Sure I’m not sure it’s somewhere you’d want to go on a date, but for a brunch with friends, food with the family or a quick bite before your train home it works and it’s handy.

    Giraffe Restaurant, Dining Terrace, Birmingham Grand Central, Birmingham, B2 4XJ.

    Disclosure: I was invited down to check out the brunch offerings and the food was complimentary but this doesn’t affect my opinion.  Previous visits to Giraffe in Solihull were paid for by my mum, as compensation for dragging me round clothes shops.