Events, News

    Birmingham Chilli Festival returns

    chillifestival2014The weather today might be a bit drizzly but thankfully Brindley Place’s Birmingham Chilli Festival is back again to put some fire in your belly!

    Themed ‘Celebrating Chillies around the World’ the Birmingham Chilli Festival takes place from 11am – 6pm, today and tomorrow (aka Friday 19 and Saturday 20 September).  In association with Sketts, the event will feature a number of stalls selling chilli plants, pickles, pastes and jellies, as well as some streetfood vendors selling chilli influenced dishes.

    In terms of entertainment, there will be live cooking demonstrations from Cafe Rouge, Thai Edge and David Colcombe from Café Opus, as well as a Chilli Eating Competition.  During the contest, each participant will be challenged to eat a selection of chilli varieties including Naga, Scotch Bonnet, Thai Red and Poblano, until only two are left to face the final chilli-off.

    The event schedule for the two days is listed below.  For more information, visit


    FRIDAY 19th SEPTEMBER 2014       11.00am – 6.00pm

    11.00am Chilli Festival Opens
    11.00am – 11.30am Chilli Chat – Introduction to the world of Chillies
    11.30pm – 12.00pm Kitchen School making an Italian-inspired Chilli dish
    12.00pm – 2.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Synergy Live (Mediterranean)
    2.00pm – 2.30pm Café Opus at IKON making a British-inspired Chilli dish
    3.00pm – 3.30pm Café Rouge making a French-inspired Chilli dish
    4.30pm – 5.00pm Afia’s Samosa Shop making an Indian-inspired Chilli dish
    5.00pm – 5.30pm ENTERTAINMENT: Eternal Taal Bhangra Entertainments Team
    5.30pm – 6.00pm Bank vs. Piccolino – Cocktails at dawn (well 5.30pm…)
    6.00pm Chilli Market Closes


    SATURDAY 20th SEPTEMBER 2014       11.00am – 6.00pm

    11.00am Chilli Market Opens
    11.00am – 11.30am ENTERTAINMENT: Someone at the Door Samba Band
    11.30am – 12.00pm Coast2Coast making an American-inspired (Louisiana) Chilli dish
    12.30pm – 1.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Latin Motion, offering free Latino dance lessons
    1.00pm – 1.30pm City Cafe making a Moroccan-inspired Chilli dish
    1.30pm – 2.00pm Thai Edge making a Thai-inspired Chilli dish
    2.30pm – 3.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Fire Eaters, Stilt Jumpers & Eternal Taal Bhangra Entertainments Team
    4.00pm – 4.30pm Sharian’s Cuisine making a Caribbean-inspired Chilli dish
    4.30pm – 6.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Rudie & The Revolvers (Caribbean)
    Product reviews

    Moms Home Cooking*

    All this dining out is all well and good, but some times I miss the call of a home cooked meal with no airs and graces. Enter Moms Home Cooking, a sort of meals-on-wheels for the student and/or professional. That’s to say they’ll deliver five days worth of home-cooked dinner for £10, which works out cheaper than a take out. Umar, the man behind Moms home Cooking, got in contact and asked if I wanted to give the delivery service a try, so of course I said yes.


    I was given the vegetarian Indian option to try, as they were looking to expand their offerings. Umar duly delivered individually portioned sets of Aloo (Bombay potatoes), Rajma (red kidney beans), Gobi (spicy cabbage) and Maash Daal (yellow lentil) .  Each dish is also served with the sort of fluffy plain rice that you find in restaurants that I just cannot recreate at home, no matter how much I try.  The portions all come in their own metal take-out container, which is perfect for popping into the oven to cook when you get home from a busy day, or transfer into a dish and stick in the microwave. The week I tried them was a busy one, so I took a few to work for lunch and they traveled well.

    All of the dishes felt like they were on the medium-hot scale of spiciness.  Ordinarily, I’d probably go for something a touch milder, but I enjoyed having my taste buds challenged and once I got used to it the heat was quite pleasant – probably helped by the cold spell we were having at the time.  A particular favourite was the Maash Daal, which uncooked resembled a sort of paste, but once heated and stirred through the rice to make a lovely sticky rice full of flavour. I’m not usually a fan of double carbs in my dinner (sorry chip butty fans), but even the Aloo and rice worked well, with a nice bite to the potato which prevented it being a big pile of fluffy carbs.

    DSC_2389I’m not aware of anything similar to Moms Home Cooking, but it’s a great idea and seems unusual I haven’t stumbled across something similar. Moms Home Cooking offers food which is flavoursome but isn’t dripping in the over-indulgence from the local curry house; it’s the sort of food you could imagine your mum cooking (or at least if my mum was Pakistani and not the daughter of Irish immigrants). And it’s good value at £10 for five meals, each of which is different – something which would be hard to recreate at home, unless you wanted a freezer full of extra portions.

    The ordering system is also pretty simple – order by Thursday and the following Monday a week’s worth of food will be delivered.

    Moms Home Cooking are expanding their offerings, so as well as the Indian cuisine option there is also British and Caribbean offerings. If, like me, you tend to be busy during the week and not always in enough to justify cooking, else risk reheating the same meal for days in a row, then this is a cost-effective way to make sure that you eat something decent without resorting to microwave meals. Being versatile enough that it also works as an alternative lunch, Mom’s Home Cooking is worth ordering if you’re expecting a busy week and don’t want the indulgence of consecutive nights of take out.

    <p style=”font-size: x-small;”>Disclosure: I was given a selection of dishes for free in exchange for a review.  I wasn’t obliged to give a positive review, all opinions (and photos) are my own.

    Events, News

    New Optimists present Food Futures

    The New Optimists, supported by Arts Council England, are hosting an interesting new art exhibition at the mac on Saturday 27 September, at 7.30pm.

    Four talented young artists are presenting a work in progress performance which aims to offer some possible futures for food to consider, question, embrace and challenge the audience.

    This performance is inspired by the scientific findings of the Birmingham 2050 Scenarios Project, where over 70 people, including 40+ regional scientists, took part in a two-year scenario planning exercise about possible food futures for Birmingham.

    There will also be a post show discussion, which will include the creative team, the audience and eminent scientists working in Birmingham.

    To book tickets, or for more information, visit


    Recipe: Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    I’m a big fan of this recipe for several reasons: it’s simple and easy to make; can be made with store-cupboard ingredients and whatever veg you have knocking around, and its origin.  Whilst looking for something my then-housemate and I would both eat and enjoy, I stumbled across Thug Kitchen – an expletive-ridden food blog which is mainly vegan, but doesn’t feel preachy.

    The original recipe is for Roasted Chickpea & Broccoli Burrito, and the first time I had it that’s what we did.  But this time round I decided to ‘pimp’ the recipe, and added more vegetables and doubled the spice mix.  It was already enough to make 6-8 healthy portions of burritos, but in an effort to get more veg into my diet I added mushrooms, aubergine and yellow courgette too – the latter of which was because a kind neighbour was giving them away for free.  The result is enough to eat as a decent lunch without the wraps…although I will warn you this is kinda spicy.  If that’s not your thing, maybe tone down the chilli powder or add a pinch of sugar.

    Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    2 cans of cooked chickpeas, drained
    1 large onion
    1 red pepper
    1 large broccoli
    1 small yellow courgette
    1 aubergine
    8 medium sized button mushrooms
    4 cloves of garlic
    1 lime
    Wraps and condiments to serve
    Spice mix:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    You’ll also need a roasting tin – the sort of one you use for roast chicken is ideal


    1. Heat the oven to about 200c
    2. Chop the onion, pepper, courgette, aubergine and broccoli so it’s fairly small – you don’t want it to be too much bigger than the chickpeas
    3. In a bowl add all the ingredients for the spice mix and combine.
    4. Add the spice mix to the vegetables and give it a good stir, it should give them all a reddish coating.
    5. Put everything in the roasting tin, if they’re not already, and roast in the oven for 20minutes.
    6. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, chop the garlic into small pieces and quarter the mushrooms…I’ve said about 8 but use however many you feel is best.
    7. Take the vegetables out of the oven, add the garlic and mushrooms, give it a good stir and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
    8. Once everything is cooked, juice half a lime over the mixture for some extra zing.  The vegetables should still have some bite to them, but the broccoli might look a little burnt.


    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: Revolution Birmingham’s new food menu

    Broad St wouldn’t be my first thought for a food destination in the city.  With its heavy concentration of pubs and bars, I can see why a lot of people head to it at weekends to drink and dance the night away, so when I was invited to Revolution Birmingham to check out their new food menu I was curious.

    photo 1 (1)The new menu has been developed by executive chef, Mark Rush and his team, and has an Americana inspiration, which is evident when you look at the menu – there’s burgers, nachos, burritos and pizzas, diner food meets Tex-Mex.  They’ve also upped the amount of food that can be easily shared – sliders, a selection of small plates and three types of chicken sharers (fried, on the bone, and grilled).

    After quizzing our waiter on the new menu, I opted for the Sliders.  My housemate, who’s American and therefore surely qualified to judge the authenticity of Tex-Mex food, went for the Chicken Burrito.  We also ordered a portion of skinny fries and on recommendation, fat chips with chorizo ketchup.

    photo 2

    I was a little surprised by the presentation of the sliders.  The buns looked liked they’d been cut out of larger ones, which was certainly rustic but didn’t offer a great first impression.  The meat patties looked homemade, which is a plus, and though crispier on the outside that I’ve have liked they were juicy.  One slider was topped with pulled pork, which was moist and had a lovely light sweet-BBQ taste.  The skinny fries were as all skinny fries are, perfectly adequate.  My housemate said the chicken burrito was warming, tasty and filling, although the spicy red rice was a little too much and could’ve done with some more salsa to balance it out.  We both agreed the fat chips and chorizo sauce were delicious – the sauce had a smoky tasty which would’ve gone equally well with nachos, and the chips were crunchy yet fluffy, definitely the best choice for chips on the menu.

    photo 3

    Although quite full, I was curious by the Chocolate & Blueberry Fluffwhich – think a sort of eggy bread sandwich stuffed with chocolate sauce and marshmallow fluff, with a blueberry sauce dip.  Our waiter cautioned us to give the blueberry sauce a try before pouring it over our fluffwich, and he was right to do so, it was tart and contrasted the creaminess of the chocolate and marshmallow, which I enjoyed but I could easily see this being off-putting for chocoholics.  Though described as a sweet batter, it didn’t weigh the dough down and had a sort of eggy bread thing going for it, which really worked.

    With bars up and down the country, it’s clear Revolution have hit upon a concept which allows people move from dining to drinking with ease.  Whilst Broad St might not be a destination spot for me, Revolution would be a good place to start your night off there and line your stomach…and I might even be tempted to forgo the popcorn at the nearby cinema and pop in for a fluffwich instead.

    Disclosure: My meal was provided for free by Revolution bar. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

    Product reviews, Reviews

    Review: Twining’s Salted Caramel Indulgence Green Tea

    I’d heard about these on Twitter and have been on the look out for them ever since.  And by look out, I mean I had to visit three supermarkets before I found a sole, slightly battered box of Twining’s Salted Caramel Indulgence Green Tea in Tesco on Colmore Row.

    Salted Caramel was a big thing for a while and seemed to be appearing in everything, so it seems fairly reasonable there’s now a tea with it.  Twining’s have described them as “Sweet but somehow slightly salty. Fresh tasting, yet somehow rich and warming. This tea is simply full of contradictions – accompanied by the most irresistibly indulgent notes of caramel. If you love the idea of green tea, but also like the sweeter side of life, this may be the blend for you.”  Twinings have also added Gingerbread Green Tea and Caramel Apple Green Tea to their range, although I didn’t spot these…if I did, the Gingerbread Green Tea would definitely be in my shopping basket.

    I quite like green tea; I find much of the bitterness is due to not leaving them to brew for long enough although I can see how if you’re a milk-and-two-sugars tea drinker you might still find it a bit bitter.  The Salted Caramel Green Tea though, does actually counter that bitterness well.  There’s a lovely lightness to the tea and a there’s a good caramel smell which is lightly echoed in the taste and masks some of the bitterness.  I didn’t find much saltiness, just a touch, which is a bit of a shame but they’re still rather lovely.

    It’s worth mentioning that these aren’t cheap for tea, even compared to other Twinings products – £2.49 for 20 teabags.  They’re definitely more of an indulgence than a drink everyday kind of tea (that’s currently Twinings Jasmine Green Tea), but definitely worth treating yourself.



    Have you spotted us in Area Guide?

    Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 20.08.54I love giving recommendations to people on places to go eat and drink – I get asked so often it was part of the reason I started the blog, so when Area Guide asked if any food bloggers were interested in writing a piece for their food and drinks themed issue, I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted to make it something a bit more interesting, so I went with five places in the city you can go for an after work drink that aren’t pubs – or Not a Normal Nightcap, to give it a bit more of a punchy title.

    Area Guide‘s food and drinks themed issue, to tie in with the Independent Food and Drinks Festival is available to read here.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list, but five seemed like a good number (there’s nothing wrong with going to the pub for an after work drink either, but that seemed a bit obvious to include in the article).  I’m also thinking of doing a few more ‘Five places…’ posts, so watch this space!