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    Product reviews

    Review: Propercorn

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    There’s a real nostalgia attached to popcorn for me.  Growing up, there was always popcorn going spare at my best friend’s house round the corner – freshly made and with a modest sprinkling of salt.  And then of course there’s cinema popcorn, sticky and sweet which feels like a real treat, even now I’m (supposedly) grown up.  So when I came across Propercorn, I was a little sceptical as to where this would fit in my fond memories of popcorn.

    Recently I’ve tried two flavours; Sweet Coconut & Vanilla and Sweet & Salty, although there are five in total.  Billed as being guilt-free, with the calories contents proudly displayed, they’re going for the healthy snack label that my best friend’s mum went for when we were kids.

    Sweet Coconut & Vanilla

    I was given this bag free at a bloggers meet a while back and if they hadn’t been free I don’t think I’d initially have picked them up.  The pink packaging, the calorie contents, flavourings that sound like a body lotion…it all seemed a forced.  But when I was moving house and had nothing in the fridge I gave them a go – and I’m glad I did.  The flavours of vanilla and sweet coconut with a touch of sea salt were really well balanced and managed to taste light, flavoursome and sweet.  Initial worries about them being sickly soon evaporated; the flavours were so well done they never became overbearing.

    Sweet & Salty

    Another lunchtime, another meal deal I wanted something a little lighter than crisps and when I spotted Propercorn’s Sweet & Salty, I thought it was worth a go.  Usually I refuse to buy salted popcorn, it feels like such a waste when I know I can make it at home, but the contrast of sweet and salt really worked…again without being overpowering, just really lovely.  And these ones are suitable for vegans, so another dairy-free snack will keep my lactose intolerance content.  Big win.

    I was initially sceptical about Propercorn, but needn’t have been.  With interesting flavours which work well together but never overpower the senses, they are a delicious and light, yet filling, snack which are delicious – whether you’re looking for something guilt-free or not.

    http://www.propercorn.com/

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Film Food Club: Harold and Maude

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    I love films almost as much as I love food, so I’ve been looking for an excuse to go to the Film Food Club at the Electric for as long as I’ve heard about it.  When I realised that, as part of the Shock & Gore festival, they were teaming up with Conjurer’s Kitchen for a showing of Harold and Maude, I bought tickets immediately – afterall, the film has been on my ‘to watch’ pile for ages.

    On arrival at The Electric we were handed edible ticket stubs, not all that dissimilar to the ones the Electric give out.  Then after a quick stop at the concessions counter for drinks we headed up to screen two where we were given a lunchbox of goodies containing; a syrupy concoction in a test tube, a scented mask, a wafer pot filled with edible soil & sugar daisy, and a foil bag with popping candy in it.  Curiouser and curiouser.

    photo 2Once sat Annabel, of Conjurors Kitchen, explained that each piece related to a certain part of the film and she would wave a placard to let us know when to unwrap the item, all carefully explained on a menu in case we forgot.

    And so it was on with the film.  IMBD sums it up rather well “Self-destructive and needy but wealthy teenager Harold is obsessed with death and spends his leisure time attending funerals, watching the demolition of buildings, visiting junkyards, simulating suicides trying to get the attention of his indifferent, snobbish and egocentric mother, and having sessions with his psychologist. When Harold meets the anarchic seventy-nine-year-old Maude at a funeral, they become friends and the old lady discloses other perspectives of the cycle of life for him. ”

    photo 5aAnd without giving too much away, the courses throughout the film were fantastically playful.  The red wine, Chambord, cranberry and chocolate reduction when Harold’s mother walks in on a particularly bloody set up, snow masks when Maude brings out a machine which recreates the scent of snow, an edible pot plant, plus cherry popping candy for when…well Harold pops his cherry.  All wonderfully done and made what was an interesting film even more so.  Oh and we got to go home with a gingerbread hearse cookie for afters!

    Fantastic work by Annabel / Conjurer’s Kitchen and the teams at The Electric and Shock & Gore for a quirky and unusual event.  More please!

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen July event

    I think I’ve just about recovered from the food extravaganza that was Two Cats Roaming Kitchen last month.

    If you read my June review you’ll know I was pretty blown away by the experience…but this was on another level entirely.  In a brilliant case of quality AND quantity, we were treated to eleven different courses, ranging from vodka & gooseberry, sea urchin, and lumpfish roe to build your own dessert and candles made from butter.  Chef Nick Astley and his partner Diana took a modernist culinary approach that leaped away from the ordinary and created a fantastic experience as well as great food.

    At this point it would feel a little ridiculous to try and go through each dish and comment, but suffice to say that hopefully my terrible smartphone photos give you some indication as to what a fantastic array of food was on offer.  Even items seen on the menu the month before were given new life and once again the monkfish was a particular favourite.  I was also grateful that my lactose intolerance was taken into account and some dairy-heavy dishes were swapped, but at no point did I ever feel like I was missing out.

    Two Cats Roaming are taking a break in August, but will be back in the autumn.  Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for details of any upcoming events and book some tickets.  You won’t be disappointed.

     

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    Cafe News, Drinks

    Coffee tax and Birmingham

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    Fellow Brummie Jon Hickman has written a really interesting article over on Contributoria about tax, coffee shops and Birmingham.

    It’s well worth a read – and not just because I’m quoted in it.  But it looks at issues which have affected both Cafe Blend and very recently Ashton Levi, both well loved coffee shops sadly forced to close.

    I’m a big fan of independent coffee shops, I think they offer a great deal to the city both in quality of products (although I have a giant soft spot for Costa’s gingerbread soya lattes) and the willingness to open up their space for book clubs, exhibitions and spoken word.  The article gives a really interesting insight into the issues affecting independent businesses and the people behind them.

    Read the article here.

    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: Blondies / White Chocolate Brownies

    I love this recipe, although I’m never really sure what to call them; white chocolate brownies sounds a bit silly, but blondies seem to require explanation.  Either way if you’re a fan of white chocolate these are delicious.  Below is the basic recipe for the blondies, but feel free to experiment; I’ve made this recipe adding 100g of cranberries or with a delicious Spanish liqueur, Licor 43.

    blondiesBlondies

    300g quality white chocolate, chopped

    200g butter

    3 medium eggs

    150g caster sugar

    ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

    200g plain flour, sifted

     

    Method
    1. Heat the oven to 180°C or equivalent.  Line a baking tin (18x28cm size is recommended) with greaseproof paper – trust me, this is a lot less messy than greasing a tin and trying to get the baked goods out later.
    2. Boil some water and then allow it to simmer.  In a bowl over the pan of simmering water, melt butter with 150g of the chocolate.  Once it’s all melted leave it to cool (trust me) and then give it a good, quick stir to combine it.
    3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until combined and the mixture looks pale.
    4. Beat in the melted white chocolate mixture, making sure everything comes together.
    5. Chop the remaining 150g into chunks (I tend to attack mine with a rolling pin) and sprinkle the chunks into the mixture.  If you’re adding fruit (cranberries work well), add this now.
    6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or  until the top is firm but the insiders are still a bit soft.
    7. Leave to cool and cut into squares.

     

    Round ups

    July round up

    Wow, what a month July was.  Oddly, considering I managed to blog much more this month, it was also the month I seemed to end up in a lot of other cities with a weekend away in York and trips to Leamington Spa and London (no blogposts about them though).  I’ve varied some of the posts in July too, adding product reviews in among the usual reviews, recipes and round ups.

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    A bit of naughty and nice with just two recipes this month; one for a blueberry balsamic glaze which really added the finishing touch to my rainbow salad, and a recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate and Cointreau Cake .

    Reviews

    It was a great month for pop up food events, as I went to one of Brum Yum Yum’s Lunch Market where 63 Islands and the Cake Doctor were selling their wares for the afternoon.  I also made it along to the Colmore Business District’s annual Food Festival – their best yet.  And not forgetting my first visit to Two Cats Roaming Kitchen, a north-eastern European fine dining pop up and well worth seeking out.

    Plus I visited one of the most hidden away cafes in the city – so hidden I didn’t even know it existed until I went for lunch!

    Product reviewschocolatebombe

    I decided to add in some reviews of more unusual food items I came across, the first being Beanies gingerbread flavour instant coffee, after developing a bit of a habit for gingerbread soya lattes.  I also stumbled across Tyrrell’s Vegetable Crisps when looking for something a bit more interesting in my lunchtime sandwich meal deal, and finally a Selfridges salted almond and crunchy toffee Bombe I found in the sale…I know, chocolate in the sale!

    Coming up in August I have reviews from Two Cats’ July event, the recipe for my favourite blondies, mojito chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, The Electric’s Food Film Club and much much more!

    Events, Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Summer Food Events

    Summer is traditionally a bit of a quiet time for pop-ups as everyone seems to be off festivaling it up.  But not this year, this year there’s a whole pile of delightful food adventures to get your teeth stuck into.  Below is a list of a few of them – as much to remind me as help promote some great food vendors!

    Hare & Hounds Summer Kitchen Takeover

    Clarke and Lee are back with their Asian soul food at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath on Thursday 31 July at 6.45pm.  The menu includes: Fried Capeling, Sriracha Mayo; Radish, Watermelon, Coriander Oil, Black Sesame; Lamb Rendang, Nasi Lemak, Sambal Ikan Bilis; Kaffir lime granite; and Green Tea and Red Bean Falooda.  Tickets cost £22.50 (plus booking fee) and are available TicketSellers.

    As part of the kitchen takeover season at the Hare & Hounds, Pop Up Dosa will be there on Thursday 7 August for some authentic Kerala delights.  Pop Up Dosa are a firm favourite at Full to the Brum as is their Gunpowder chutney, so we’d really recommend this one.  Tickets for a 3 course meal for just £12 are available from TicketSellers.

    I’ve not experienced Alan ‘Fingy’ Thomson’s Peruvian and Latin food but if he’s teaming up with Pip’s Hot Sauce we know it’ll be good.  They’re at the Hare on Thursday 14 August from 7.30pm, with £15 for 3 courses and tickets available from TicketSellers.

    http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/

    Pika Pika

    I’ve caught Pika Pika a few times when they’ve been at Cherry Reds in Kings Heath, but they’re down the road at Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath this time round, with a pop-up event on Wednesday 30 July from 6pm.  Booking can be done by calling Josie at Ort on 07845083322.

    http://wearepikapika.tumblr.com/

    LunchMarket

    Brum Yum Yum’s Lunch Market is running until August which means this Friday lunchtime you have one more chance to catch it at the Square in Birmingham City Centre.  But fear not, Brum Yum Yum will be popping up at its usual monthly spot in Kings Heath.

    http://www.brumyumyum.com/

    Kitchen School’s Supper Club

    Based in Edgbaston, the Kitchen Cookery School’s supper club starts on Friday 8 August with a seasonal experience where they reinvent the unloved marrow.  Three courses, including all wines, are £50 and dinner starts at 7.30pm.  On the night you’ll be talked through the menu and have some interesting aspects of the cooking process demonstrated to you (Sous Vide, foam making, and molecular gastronomy insights, as examples).  It sounds like a fantastic experience for food enthusiasts and we’re looking forward to trying one in the future.

    http://www.kitchenschool.co.uk/events/supperclub-august/

    The Church’s Crayfish Boil

    After the success of the last few it’s easy to see why the guys and gals at The Church are bringing back their Crayfish Boil on 25 August for the Bank Holiday weekend.  For £15 you’ll be severed up a bowl of fresh crayfish served in a cajun broth with sweetcorn, potatoes and lemon, plus a Soul Food Brownie for afters.  Food is served from 4pm and tickets are available here.

    http://www.churchjq.co.uk/