Monday, 3 August 2015

Roast Spanish Suckling Pig with Basque Cider and a day in Barcelona

Good timing, serindipity, fate - call it what you will. We'd just returned from a fortnights holiday in Spain, the post holiday blues had kicked in, the pile of laundry was endless and my inbox was overflowing. But in amongst the spam and junk emails was one offering Spanish and Basque food for review. A ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy day. Grey's Fine Foods import the very best traditional Spanish foods and wines for you to buy online. I pondered over Iberico Pork cheeks and Milk-fed lamb Leg but plumped for Boneless Suckling Pig washed down with Bereziartua Natural Basque Cider. 






Our fortnights holiday took us to the Costa Dorada, well placed for sunny beaches, Port Aventura theme and water parks and a day trip to Barcelona. The cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia is one of my favourite cities. We took the train into the city centre and hopped onto one of the tour buses and headed first to Montjuic home of the 1992 Olympic Stadium (cue much Freddie Mercury style singing of Barcelona) and a trip on a cablecar.


At the bottom of La Ramblas we finally managed to fulfil Foodie Loon's desire to visit the top of the Columbus Monument. This had been closed on the two previous occasions he tried. A tiny lift takes you to spectacular views from the top. For lunch we headed to La Boqueria, this amazing market is filled with wonderful sights, sounds and smells of fabulous fresh food. We grazed our way round enjoying seafood, fruit, meats and colourful pastries.  



Next stop was Gaudi's Sagrada Familia where we were very disappointed to discover that all the the slots for the day had already been booked and it would have been 8pm before we could have visited. Somewhat downhearted we had a wander around the perimeter and jumped back on the Bus Touristic to head to Park Guell. Alas no luck their either as unlike on our previous visits you now have to pay for entry to the central area of the park and once again all times slots for the day were already fully booked. Lots of disappointed and upset people at both attractions so a heads up for anyone heading to Barcelona and wishing to visit either of these to be sure to book ahead. I'm still kicking myself for not having checked beforehand.



There will no doubt be more tales to tell of our Spanish holiday in blog posts to come but for now back to the suckling pig. To my knowledge we never came across it on the menu on our travels but apparently its a speciality of the region. The piglets have only been breast feed for 21 days as a maximum which gives their meat great flavour and taste. The quantity of food eaten by this tiny animal is very small which gives the nickname of cochinillo (small suckling pig). The finished dish was indeed wonderful and the crackling was absolutely divine. Here's how I cooked my little cochinillo.



Roast Spanish Suckling Pig with Basque Cider
Serves 12
Recipe adapted from Grey's Fine Foods website and reproduced with permission.

2.5 Kg Boneless Suckling Pig
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
1 Large Bulb of Garlic
1 Carrot, roughly chopped
1 Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 Leek, roughly chopped
1 bottle Bereziartua Natural Basque Cider or 300ml chicken stock

Pre-heat your oven to 250°C
Cut the garlic bulb in half round its diameter and lightly rub the skin of the suckling pig. Place the suckling pig in a large roasting tin (I had to cut mine in half to fit!) with the garlic and chopped vegetables.
Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt.
Roast the joint for 20 minutes at 250°C top get the skin of the piglet going.
Turn the heat down to 200°C and roast for a further 50 minutes, after 25 mins remove the garlic and add a good splash of the Cider into the roasting tin.
Increase the oven temperature to 250°C once again and roast for a final 25 to 30 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.
Remove the piglet from the oven and take it out of the roasting tin onto a serving platter.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into the vegetable mixture and scrape it all into a saucepan.
Add the remaining cider and bring to gravy to the boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
Pass the gravy through a fine sieve and serve it with the roast suckling pig.



For further Spanish recipe inspiration have a look at these fab recipes from fellow food bloggers. No Tapas this time but I'll be focusing on that in an upcoming post.


Paella de Carne from Farmersgirl Kitchen
Spanish Chorizo and Rabbit Stew from Natural Kitchen Adventures
Pa amb tomàquet, Potaje and Sobao Pasiego from It's Not Easy Being Greedy
Spanish Tortilla with Jersey Royals & Spring Greens from The Veg Space

Spanish Omelette - Tortilla de Patatas from Little Sunny Kitchen



Grey's Fine Foods have provided two bottles of Berenziartua Basque Cider (Regular rrp £9.25 and Gourmet rrp £10.75) as a giveaway for readers of Foodie Quine. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. To enter, let me know in a comment "What's your favourite Spanish food or drink?" For additional bonus entries you can follow me on Twitter, Tweet about the Giveaway or like me on Facebook. Giveaway ends 17th August 2015 12:00am. Good Luck!




Disclosure - Greys Fine Foods provided pork and cider for the recipe and the prize for the giveaway. All views expressed are my own. This is not a paid post.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Foodie Parcels in the Post - July 2015 & AnySharp Giveaway

The last day of July, which also happens to be my son's birthday. This year he turns 13. Where has my baby boy gone? Time is just flying past so fast. I must be getting old! And now we're heading into August and we haven't even had a summer. Plenty of parcels being delivered over the past 4 weeks containing a real assortment of foodie goodies. I've also got a giveaway this month of two products that I've been really impressed with. More of that and details of how to enter at the end of this post.




Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. We all know that but hands up those who admit to rushing out the door on an empty stomach?! I find breakfast biscuits a really useful grab and go option on days where time is tight. McVities have recently launched a couple of new additions to their range which now comprises of Breakfast Biscuits, Oaty Breaks and Fruit & Oat Breaks. The biscuits are pretty much on par with others I've tried and the Fruit & Oat Breaks remind me somewhat of Garabaldi biscuits. However the big hit for me are the Oaty Bakes. I just can't get enough of these. Loved the Raisin and Cinnamon so much that I was reluctant to try the Porridge Oats and Golden Syrup variant but it's just as good. Crunchy, crumbly and almost granola like. Snapable fingers without the guilt of them being chocolate ones. I've been enjoying them washed down with a homemade breakfast smoothie. My one of choice at the moment is Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water.


Thankfully I took a quick snap of The Foodie by James Steen before I packed it in my holiday suitcase. It's now suffering a wee bit with water damage, sand and suncream stains! Its author James is an award-winning journalist and food writer who has ghost written the autobiographies of Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc and Keith Floyd. "The Foodie" comprises curiosities, stories and expert tips from the culinary world alongside anecdotes from celebrity chefs. The book is easy reading for a foodie like myself, full of interesting snippets and food history. It contains a mishmash of fascinating facts, some of which were new to me and others that I'd already picked up along the way. Rather than read cover to cover I dipped in and out and will hang onto it as a reference book but not for the preparation advice on how to eat garden snails. 
Published by Icon Books, £8.99 paperback, £6.99 ebook.


My next parcel is a sneaky peek at a new gadget from Zyliss which I'm going to be using in a recipe development project for them. It's an EasyPull Manual Food Processor. I think it's going to be really useful for camping and my outdoor foodie and foraging events. So far I've used it for making salsa and breadcrumbs and its great for onion chopping without tears. Perfect for those small jobs that you don't want the hassle of pulling out and washing up a full sized electric food processor for. Watch this space for the full review to come and my commissioned recipe. 
rrp £24.99


These bags of snacks from Nothing But have the crunch of crisps with nothing but freeze dried fruit and vegetables. Low calorie snacking (26 - 76 cals per bag) and each bag is one of your five a day. The fruit and vegetables are quickly frozen to lock in the nutrients then sliced into bite sized pieces before the ice crystals are removed by freeze drying. I love the pineapple, girl can't get enough of the grapes and the strawberries taste like fizzy sherbet! The vegetable variants really weren't my thing, I liked the almost foamy/polystyrene texture of the fruit - almost like space food - but prefer my veggies fresh. 3 fruit and 3 vegetable varieties, rrp £1.25 per bag.


Postal subscription services for food boxes have really taken off in recent years both as as gift options or as a monthly treat for yourself. Carnivore Club UK is a monthly delivery service of British Artisan Charcuterie. The meats in the box change every month and the featured supplier the the first box I received was The Real Boar Company. In my parcel were wild boar cigars, duck and plum salami and wild boar and venison salami. Within the selection of cigars my absolute stand out favourite was the Game Salami. The price point for the box is definitely that of a luxury product and it does enable you to explore different charcuterie that you many not have otherwise discovered on your own. However I felt the quantity in terms of product weight was a bit lacking on this occasion but there was no mistaking the quality. I've got another box still to come and look forward to tasting its contents.
Get 20% off your first purchase at www.carnivoreclub.co with code Foodiequine20
£32 for one box or £29 if you commit to the monthly subscription (Subscriptions can be monthly, bimonthly or quarterly)


The letterbox snack folk at graze.com have recently launched a new range of mini snack boxes. There's a mix of sweet and savoury within the dozen now available and my particular favourites were the Smokehouse BBQ Crunch (BBQ peas, corn chips and jumbo chilli corn) and the Salted Fudge and Peanut Cookie (St. Ives Cornish vanilla fudge with mini chocolate cookies, redskin and salted peanuts). Over the last 7 years millions of online ratings have been gathered by graze about what people love to snack on and now their snacking expertise is available on the high street as well as online. Some packs count as one of your 5 a day, others are natural sources of protein and none contain any artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. rrp £1.19-£1.49 Sainsbury's, Boots and WH Smith Travel.


Green cleaning company Ecover have launched a new and improved washing up liquid and sent me some to try out as part of their #greenandclean challenge. I knew of the brand but hadn't used their products in my home although we do always use their hand wash at our outdoor Mud Pies & Foodie Quine events. The new formulation claims to wash up to 40% more plates and perform just as well as conventional cleaners. I set it the hard task of washing all the dishes from a day in the woods with 80 people making pancakes, blaeberry jam and toasting marshmallows. It handled the challenging task really well ably assisted by a recycled washing up brush. I absolutely loved the natural Lemon and Aloe Vera scent. 
rrp £1.60 for 500ml



And now to my final parcel of the month which contained a Multi 5-in-1 Scissors and Knife Sharpener Pro from AnySharp. When I posted about these on my Facebook Page I got lots of comments from people who already had one or the other and loved them. Always a good sign. Also picked up a couple of tips about their usage. Wash knives after sharpening to remove shards of metal and don't put the scissors in the dishwasher as it stiffens them. Time for me to try them out for myself.


The first thing that impressed me with the sharpener is that it can be used for serrated blades as well as standard knives. None of my serrated knives have ever been sharpened. I've got a steel which I do use for sharpening my knives but I'm never sure if I've got the angle right. With AnySharp all the guess work is removed. Attach it to any smooth surface with its suction cup base, gently draw the blade through 3 or 4 times and sharpness is restored.

Is it possible to get excited about scissors? I didn't think it was but the Smart Scissors are already proving to be very useful in the kitchen. I haven't tried them in all 5 ways but they can open a bottle and cut trough almost anything with ease. \Meat, bones and an old sim card. Birthday Boy has confirmed they work well if you are left handed. Don't be put off by their rather odd looking shape as they are really comfortable to use. 

Anysharp have provided both items (Knife Sharpener Pro RRP £17.49 and Multi 5-in-1 Scissors RRP £14.99) as a giveaway for readers of Foodie Quine. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. To enter, let me know in a comment "What's your most used kitchen utensil?" For additional bonus entries you can follow me on Twitter, Tweet about the Giveaway or like me on Facebook. Giveaway ends 14th August 2015  12:00am.  Good Luck!


Disclosure : Thanks to McVities, Icon Books, Zyliss, Nothing But, Carnivore Club, graze, Ecover and AnySharp for providing the above products. I was not obliged to review positively in return. All views expressed are my own. This is not a paid post. 

If you're a brand who'd like to have your product featured here, please do get in touch claire@foodiequine.co.uk

Friday, 24 July 2015

Campfire Banana Boats, Marshmallows, S'mores & Mud Pies

I've been out in the woods again with my friend Mandy from Mud Pie Adventures. For the first of our summer events we headed to Aberdeen's Hazelhead Park for two days with 160 big and little kids to indulge in Banana Boats, S'mores, Campfire Coffee and Mud Pies.




The main event was of course the Campfire Banana Boats. For these, and as many of our other ingredients as we could, we opted for Fairtrade products. Filter coffee, bananas, tea, instant coffee, sugar, chocolate and charcoal all carried the Fairtrade mark. At the Monday afternoon session we had a very special visitor. FT Banana the mascot of Aberdeen's Fairtrade group. Please be assured that he was not roasted in his skin, split open and filled with chocolate, marshmallows, honey and cream. But lots of his friends were! 


We met up with our young explorers and their grown ups and dished out buckets for them to collect sticks for our campfire - child labour at its best. On the way to base camp we kept our eyes and ears open and spotted caterpillars in cocoons, heard baby kestrels and smelt elderflowers. Sticks were sorted into sizes, rules about fires were discussed to keep everyone safe and the campfire was lit with flint, steel and cotton wool.


Whilst waiting for the fire to get hot enough for cooking there was plenty to keep everyone occupied. Hammocks to swing in, chalk to draw on trees and stones, teddies and dinosaurs to play with, dens to build, mountains to climb, and mudpies to make. It was only after the event that we found out that our second day coincided with National Hammock Day on 22nd July.


CAMPFIRE BANANA BOATS

Fairtrade Bananas
Chocolate Buttons (the giant ones work particularly well)
Mini Marshmallows
Squirty Cream
Honey

This will work on a BBQ or campfire, you could even make them in the oven.
Get the fire nice and hot, we used charcoal as a base.
Let the flames die down a bit and snuggle the bananas into the coals.
Cook for 8-10 minutes until the skins go black. Turn over half way through cooking time.
Remove with tongs and slit each banana lengthwise through the peel, making sure not to cut all the way through to the other side. 
Stuff the bananas with chocolate buttons. Briefly close them together to melt the chocolate.
Add mini marshmallows, honey and squirty cream to taste.
Grab a spoon, scoop and enjoy!

Variations
For adults try adding a splash of Baileys or Rum!
Additional filling suggestions - peanut butter, nuts, caramel sauce, desiccated coconut, glace cherries, cinnamon, sprinkles, M&M's, brown sugar.


You can't have a campfire without marshmallows and it was time to get toasting. Foodie Loon had received an awesome marshmallow toasting tree for Father's Day and let us borrow it. Don't you just love when you a buy a pressie for someone that's really for yourself?! Rustic campfire coffee was brewed up in an enamel coffee pot and tasted so much better than the stuff from bigbucks coffee shops. 


Time to introduce S'mores. Two digestives, three giant chocolate buttons and one toasted marshmallow made an awesome sandwich which just like their name left everyone wanting some more! Over the two days we got through dozens of bananas, 28 bags of giant chocolate buttons, multiple packets of digestives and several kilogrammes of marshmallows. No wonder I get strange looks in the supermarket.


We're back in the woods next week for 4 more events for 2-12 year olds. This time at Countesswells where we'll be on a Blaeberry Bash cooking up jam, pancakes, marshmallows and mudpies. Book places and sign up for our mailing list at www.mudpieadventures.co.uk to be kept informed of future events.


For further campfire cooking inspiration take a look at the following recipes:
Chocolate Orange Camp-Fire Cake by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Chilli Spam & Eggs by Fab Food 4 All

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water Smoothie and the Scottish Berry Trail

2015 is the Scottish Year of Food and Drink and the monthly theme for July is Summer Berries and Soft fruits. On 1st July Scotland's Berry Trail was launched, celebrating and promoting more than 33 berry farmers throughout the country, during their short but sweet growing season. I've got some berries of my own in the garden - Strawberries, Blackcurrants and Raspberries. It's our first year of Rasps so I'm not expecting too much, my Strawberries have just started to form but my Blackcurrants are already looking fantastic! Time to start making use of them in a delicious breakfast berry smoothie. 

Foodie Quine Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water Smoothie

I absolutely love all things coconut but had never actually got round to trying any of the coconut water which seems to have become a bit of a celebrity trend of late. Coconut water is the clear, fat free liquid found in young green coconuts. It is hailed for its health benefits being naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, low in calories and high in electrolytes. I received some to review and turns out that it's definitely not for me. To my palate its more sweaty flip flop than a refreshing taste of the Caribbean. What else to do with it than drink on its own? The answer seem to be to disguise it in soups, salad dressings, marinades, ice lollies and smoothies. 

Foodie Quine Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water Smoothie

STRAWBERRY, BLACKCURRANT & COCONUT WATER SMOOTHIE

10 medium Strawberries
3 handfuls of Blackcurrants
2 Tablespoons Runny Honey
300ml Coconut Water

The quantities for this are somewhat arbitrary and but those I've given will give you a good starting point and you can adjust to suit your own palate.
Hull the strawberries and remove the stalks from the blackcurrants, give them a quick wash before popping them in a blender. Pour over the coconut water, add honey to taste and blitz until smooth. This will give you enough for one tall glass or two short tumblers. 
Best enjoyed drunk through a red and white striped straw. 

Foodie Quine Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water Smoothie
Foodie Quine Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Coconut Water Smoothie

Back to the berries. If you don't have them growing in your garden you can track down Scottish growers via the Scottish Berry Trail Leaflet which is available at VisitScotland Information Centres and other relevant outlets, as well as online at www.thinklocalscotland.co.uk. Scotland's berry growers have a reputation for producing the tastiest seasonal fruits around. From the traditional sweetness of strawberries and raspberries to the more tart blackcurrants and redcurrants. Scotland's most northerly blueberries are grown in Aberdeenshire and the new 'superfood' aronia is grown in Angus. These berries provide an array of health benefits, as well as being a delicious and attractive addition to any meal. Whether you want to buy your berries direct from the farmer, pick your own, or sit down and have a cup of tea with a Strawberry Tart, Scotland's Berry Trail will point you in the right direction.


I asked my fellow food bloggers for some more recipes to use the glut of blackcurrants from my garden and they came up with plenty of inspiration. Scottish bloggers also shared the best of their recipes for summer fruits along with one from top Scottish Chef Mark Greenaway . Enjoy these seasonal berries while you can.

Blackcurrant Trifle by Lancashire Food 
Devils Food Cake with Blackcurrant Puree by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Blackcurrant Focaccia by Baking Queen 74
No Bake Summer Fruit Cheesecake by Shetland blog Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Chocolate & Berry Pavlova by Southwest Scotland blog Farmersgirl Kitchen
Raspberry Gin by Edinburgh blog The Usual Saucepans
Blueberry Scones by Dundee Blog Tinned Tomatoes
Pimm's Summer Salad by Aberdeenshire blog Foodie Quine
Marinated Strawberries, White Chocolate Cheesecake by Edinburgh Chef Mark Greenaway
Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - Food Year Linkup

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Wild Rose Escapes, Prehistoric Cookery - Day 2

The second day of our Prehistoric Cookery Course at Wild Rose Escapes. Read my first post here for day one with Pit Roasting, Pot Boiling and more. Sunday morning, the sun was shining on the Highlands and we headed down to the riverside to do a wee bit of foraging for spring greens. Could there possibly be a more idyllic setting?



Our main meal was to be Clay Baked Mackerel. This was stuffed with our foraged sorrel, garlic, butter and seasoning before being wrapped in hay and reeds. 


Then came the messy (and fun) bit. Covering it all up with clay. Much trickier than you would imagine. It would have made a wonderful Generation Game challenge.


Our parcels of fish were placed on stones around the fireside where we kept an eye on them and turned them around every so often to ensure even cooking. 


Time for a mid morning snack. Foraged flowers this time. Gorse and Violet combined with honey, flour, eggs and milk to make beautiful looking and tasting pancakes.


Flatbreads with Wood Sorrel were also cooked on the hot stones around the fire. A precarious balancing act to get them close enough to the heat without falling into the ashes.


Throughout our weekend, in addition to forming friendships with Rosie and Alex, their daughter Thora and baby Martha we also bonded with their menagerie of animals. An honourable mention has to go to Mary a rather special - in all senses of the word - chicken. 


Time to crack open the clay and reveal our Sunday lunch. In addition to the clay baked mackerel we'd also cooked some up on a cast iron pot with bulgar wheat and greens. This was served up in the roundhouse along with our flatbread and Nettle Beer to wash it all down.


Such a wonderful setting for Sunday lunch complete with candles burning above us in the candelabra. Our plates were scraped clean before being thrown in the fire along with our fish bones.


All too soon it was time to say goodbye. We had had an absolutely fantastic weekend, learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed the whole prehistoric experience from start to finish. Rosie and Alex were passionate, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and the perfect hosts. We left armed with a info pack of recipes and information on fire lighting, edible wild plants and how to build a pit oven. But most of all we left with wonderful memories and new found friends.