Posts Tagged ‘food’

Now Cook It with Co-op

 

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I recently came home from work to discover a box full of ingredients on my doorstep. Intriguing, right? Further investigation revealed that it was from Co-op, who had sent me everything I needed to make a Roasted Vegetable Couscous. I have to say, though I like eating (a lot), I don’t do an awful lot of cooking. I’m really lazy, though I am trying harder lately, and this came just at the right time to give me a kick up the bum!

Co-op have teamed up with SORTEDfood to create #nowcookit, an online cooking course that is looking to ‘tackle the cooking skills gap’ that they identified among millennials. Now I totally count as a millennial, even though I’m a little older than the 16-24 year olds mentioned in the research. I have an interest in learning to cook, I just never seem to find the time. #nowcookit is designed to show that you don’t need loads of time, or loads of fancy equipment, and the Roasted Vegetable Couscous showed me that tasty, healthy food isn’t that hard! Something I should have learned before now, I know.

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As well as being available in a full text version, the recipes are also available as videos, from the team at SORTEDfood. This is a fun and engaging video, though it would be entirely possible for the whole thing to come across as cheesy, it doesn’t, and having watched it, I was eager to try my hand at the cooking!

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Anyone who regularly cooks would think that this was a walk in the park – it was literally just chopping up some veg and throwing it into a roasting dish, and then adding the lemon and garlic to give the whole thing some flavour. Cooking the couscous was easy too, and then it all just gets thrown together. The recipe calls for adding some cucumber, tomatoes and Greek yoghurt as an additional salad, but I went without that and just took the whole thing to work the next day for my lunch.

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In all honesty, courgette is not my favourite vegetable. In fact, I have issues with all cooked vegetables (I will eat all vegetables raw but am picky when they are cooked!). But this was so flavoursome that I got over my initial misgivings and enjoyed it very much! The lemon and garlic add so much depth to the vegetables that it was really tasty, and it was so easy.

You can find the Now Cook It course here; there are tips for cooking skills and techniques, and if you sign up for the course, you can earn status and awards. It’s a great source of inspiration, and there are loads of recipes to choose from. Even if you’re a little more adventurous in the kitchen than me!

*Co-op sent me the ingredients for this dish but as always, all views and opinions are my own.

Ultimate Comforts at Pizza Express

January isn’t traditionally the best of months, so popping along to Pizza Express to try out their new Ultimate Comforts menu was a welcome bright spot in a bleak month! The range of comforting and warming dishes has been launched to help us all get through the winter months with a treat.

I headed along to Pizza Express in Colchester; I took advantage of a day off after a long weekend of working hard, and took Hannah along with me (she had spent all weekend working hard too!). The new menu actually features dishes that have all previously appeared on the main menu, but are making a comeback due to customer demand.

Ultimate Comforts Pizza ExpressThe only starter on the Ultimate Comforts menu is Pennette Formaggi, a Pizza Express take on Mac & Cheese. As delicious as this looked, for me, it’s a little too much for a starter, so I opted for the old favourite of Dough Balls. You can also order the pasta starter as a  main, but when I go to Pizza Express, I want pizza!

 

I chose the Barbacoa Pizza – pulled Barbacoa beef, spicy chipotle salsa, garlic oil, mozzarella and tomato. It was quite spicy, but really tasty. it was huge though – I couldn’t manage it all!

Barbacoa Pizza - Pizza Express

As a vegan, unfortunately there wasn’t anything on the special menu for Hannah to have, so she went for her tried and trusted Pizza Express pizza – the Pianta. It’s a cheeseless pizza, and comes with spinach, mushrooms, artichoke, rocket and pine kernels.

Vegan Pianta Pizza - Pizza Express

Despite vague intentions to participate in Dry January (and maybe dry 2017), I ended up ordering an alcoholic drink, because I couldn’t resist the lure of Sloe Prosecco.

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The dessert option on the Ultimate Comforts menu is a delicious Chocolate Fondant. Three courses might seem a bit decadent, but when the food is this good, it’s necessary! Again, there wasn’t a vegan option on the dessert menu for Hannah, so unfortunately she had to sit and watch me eat.

Chocolate Fondant Pizza Express

Now that we’ve finally made it to January payday, if you’re still feeling that post-Christmas slump, get yourself to Pizza Express!

This meal at Pizza Express was provided free of charge. This does not affect the integrity of my review, all opinions are my own. 

 

Book Review ~ Eat Like a Gilmore by Kristi Carlson

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With the recent revival, all things Gilmore Girls have been very much en vogue recently, and so when I spotted the Eat Like a Gilmore cookbook, I was rather intriuged!

There’s no denying that when you think of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, one of the first things that springs to mind is just how much food they eat. They manage to stay fabulously slim, but between Friday Night Dinners, meals at the diner, eating Sookie’s incredible food, and the various takeaways that they partake in on a regular basis, they eat a LOT of food.

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This cookbook takes inspiration from all of those places, with Sookie’s Kitchen, Luke’s Diner, Emily’s House and Town Favourites all being given as categories for the different recipes.

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Fans will spot favourites such as The Birthday Girl (a cocktail created for Rory’s 21st birthday – ‘it’s very pink’), the Candy Cane hot chocolate that Lorelai doesn’t actually get to have in the Season 7 episode ‘Santa’s Secret Stuff’, and plenty more.

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Of course, as well as being a gimmick to tie in with the return of the television series, this is also an actual cookbook, so there’s plenty of inspiration for meals and snacks and drinks. I’d just venture a word of caution: real-life calories are not the same as television calories – if you eat like those Gilmore girls, you will probably die.

It’s an unofficial companion piece, sure, but this is a fun book for any fan of the series, and I’m looking forward to making some things out of it!

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Eat Like a Gilmore by Kristi Carlson
First published: October 2016
ISBN: 9781510717343
Sky Pony Press
Provided by publisher

Lights Camera Currys: Food Photography with Nikon

As the daughter of a professional photographer, I wish I could say I was a little better with the visual side of blogging. Sadly, I’m not; I snap a quick photo on my phone or on a basic point-and-shoot camera, and move on. But I do want to be better, so when I was invited along to the Nikon School of Photography for a class on food photography, I was thrilled. Even my dad says how difficult food photography can be to get right, and he’s been wielding a camera for over forty years.

I have featured food on Is That You Darling before, but always with the caveat that the photography isn’t great. Getting the chance to learn from some experts (and to play with a nice expensive camera) wasn’t one I was going to let pass, and so I headed to Margaret Street for the evening a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I learnt some great stuff, and I had a lot of fun, but the first thing of note that I simply have to share is this fact: I ate my first ever macaron at this event. I know you’re wondering how I’ve been masquerading as a blogger for all this time without getting one of the most fundamental blogger basics under my belt, but it’s true. And I wasn’t disappointed. I now understand why everyone raves about them. Thanks to Nikon, Currys and Joe Blogs for helping me pop my macaron cherry!

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As you may be able to tell; this photo was snapped before we started to learn anything, with my phone, in the low light. Hopefully you’ll be able to notice a difference with the later photos!

We were taken through the basics by a fabulous member of the Nikon team, who thankfully didn’t assume that any of us were experts. I was given the loan of a Nikon D750 to use for the evening, as I don’t have a DLSR to call my own. It’s a very nice camera that felt fabulous in my hands; it’s easy to feel like you know what you’re doing when you’re holding expensive equipment!

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Some tips I learnt from the class:

  • Cameras basically just want to let as much light in as possible, so if you are using your camera in automatic mode, that’s what it’s going to do, at the expense of some of the other settings that will actually allow you some control over the way your photos look.
  • Your shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open for; when it comes to food, if not using a tripod, it needs to be at a minimum of 1/60 to avoid that shaky, unwanted blur.
  • Changing your aperture setting will allow you to play with your depth of field. This basically means that you can choose to focus on one specific part of the frame, and leave the rest of the image blurred – this is a shallow depth of field, achieved with a low aperture. This is good for food photography, because you can focus on the one thing you want to show off, and leave the rest blurred.
  • When working with artificial lighting, adjusting your white balance is really important, and will make all the difference with your photography. Our teacher was explaining this to various members of the group, and I eavesdropped enough to just about work out how to do it, but I think if I’d had the nerve to actually ask for advice, I could have taken some much better pictures. My inherent shyness got in the way yet again!

Having been given all of the information, it was time to get down to business, and we were encouraged to wander around the room and take photos of various fruit vegetables set up under some lights.

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These two photos are a good example of changing the white balance. While I don’t think the second photo is a great one, by any stretch, changing the white balance really shows, making the white surface actually appear white.

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These peppers became an obsession for me; I really wanted to try and get some good photos of them! I think I managed a couple, as shown here. They are definitely better than anything I could have achieved before I went to the class.

There is still much to learn, and until I have saved enough to buy myself a nice DSLR, it will have to be on borrowed cameras. But it’s nice to have a basic knowledge of how these settings work, so at least when I’m changing them, I know why!

Thanks again to Joe Blogs for inviting me along (they really do put on some amazing events), and to Currys and Nikon for arranging such an enlightening lesson (and for providing me with the chance to eat my first macaron). You can read some more about the evening on the Currys blog, and check out #lightscameracurrys on Instagram for more photos from the other bloggers I was too shy to chat to!

Sourced Locally Fortnight

Sourced Locally Fortnight is a two-week celebration at the East of England Co-op that does exactly what you think it does: it celebrates locally sourced food and drink The aim is to show how amazing local farmers, butchers, brewers and bakers are, and to make buying local food as easy as possible. At a time when many people are concerned with their carbon footprint and where their food comes from, it’s good to know that there is a place where you can shop and worry less about that sort of thing (if you’re in the East of England, that is!).

I was provided with some vouchers so I could shop at an East of England Co-op, and sample some of the local produce that was on offer. I never do a ‘big’ shop at a Co-op, as I find it a bit more expensive than the other supermarkets, so it was fun to take a look and see what I was missing!

I shopped in the middle of the Sourced Locally fortnight, so there were a couple of displays in store with a great selection of food and drink. I hadn’t realised what a selection there would be, to be honest, expecting it to be mainly fruit and vegetables. On the display as soon as I entered the store, there was jam, pasta, apple juice, tea, coffee, cakes, cookies – so much stuff! I had to be careful not to spend everything I had just on this display!

In the end, I was pretty pleased with my selection. I got pasta, pasta sauce, ice cream, vinegar, tomato sauce, strawberries, jam, salt, steak, coleslaw, potatoes and loads more! I really wanted to get some Wilkins & Sons jam, because Tiptree Jam Factory is a favourite, and I also wanted some Maldon Sea Salt, because I spend so much time in Maldon. Everything else was very local, of course – the potatoes were from a farm that is very, very close to where I work!

Because I had all this yumminess, I had to make something nice for dinner, so I had steak, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and sweetcorn. The steak and potatoes were the Sourced Locally items, and they were just delicious! And then I just had to eat some Rossi’s ice cream for dessert. That was never going to last long in my freezer.

I’m really pleased with everything I got with my voucers, but I have to say that ultimately, I can’t afford to shop like this for myself. The items are good quality, and taste amazing, and the price refelcts that. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to regularly shop at those prices, but I’m pleased that I’ve had my eyes opened to the vast range of food and drink that are available from local sources, and I think I’ll be going back to stock up on certain things (the steak for a start!).

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