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Cooking and Eating

    Birmingham, Cooking and Eating

    Where have I been?

    I haven’t been posting on here as often as I’d like, as I’ve been concentrating on my food and drinks blog.

    fulltothebrum_wFull to the Brum is a Birmingham-based blog which celebrates the exciting food and drinks scene in the city.  Since I restarted it in June I’ve been focusing much more on the personal experience side of it – restaurant, cafe and bar reviews as well as product reviews, news and info about events and even the occasional recipe.  I wanted to celebrate the great food and drink adventures I found in and around Birmingham.

    This means that Ants in Her Pants has taken a bit of a back seat, but I’m hoping to update more often on all the other adventures I’ve been on – and maybe even occasionally mentioning some of the stuff from Full to the Brum too.

    http://fulltothebrum.co.uk/

    Birmingham, Cooking and Eating

    A trip to the Secret Dining Society (Pop)

    Turn up to a random location to be led to a “dining experience” sounds like the beginnings of some kind of horror film, so the fact that my trip to the Secret Dining Society was focused around cinema food seemed fairly apt. (spoiler – it had a happy ending)

    After pitching up to the Old Crown in Digbeth and finding some equally looking confused people we were rounded up and taken to the Custard Factory wherein we were offered some delicious chilli popcorn and nachos.  Usually at the cinema I’m a bucket of Diet Coke and a sack of sweet popcorn kind of girl, so made-on-demand popcorn with a deliciously spicy edge could have me persuaded.   And the nachos; the bready, creamy cheese sauce was just delicious.  Plus there were drinks a-plenty, soft drinks or something a little stronger with a nice range of beers and wine.

    Candy floss

    We were then shepherded into the Custard Factory’s very own cinema and treated to some clips of some of the best food related clips from films – from When Harry Met Sally to Hook.  Afterwards it was time for more popcorn, nachos…and CANDY FLOSS.  I’ve never had candy floss in a cinema which is probably a good thing because part of the fun is ripping the clouds.  Still having candy floss during the break was ace and even better they’ve managed to marry sweet spun sugar with savoury flavours.  Perfect.  We were then back in to round off the food clips before heading out for the main attraction.

    Hot Dogs…with bacon bits and mustard and ketchup and salad and, if you wanted, hot sauce.  And then seconds.  The sausages were nice a meaty and there was proper mustard, plus plenty of salad.  I ended up having to pull off half my toppings, so it was almost like eating twice.

    A loaded hotdog from the event

    Almost as though the food clips before were trailers, we settled down for the main show; a rather odd Japanese film called Tampopo.  To be honest trying to explain this film would be rather miss the point of its oddness (although Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the plot if you really want to know), but coupled with some scoops of specially-made ice cream from local ice cream parlour Entices, it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

    There has been some criticism of the event as not being entirely food focused and I think this either missed the point of the event or showed the lack of imagination in the audience.  Personally I was going for an experience with the promise of some good food, I never expected to be stuffed full like some sort of foie gras duck.  What I got was some delicious food which is miles better than anything I’ve ever had at a cinema, watch a film I’d never normally have the chance to and a different way to spend a Sunday afternoon all focused on food.  I’m not sure what was not to like.

    The next Secret Dining Society is entitled Fire and is on the 18th August and tickets are available here.  I’m in London that day otherwise I would go.

    Birmingham, Cooking and Eating

    Blogpost for Dine Birmingham

     I like reading about food almost as much as I like eating the stuff, so writing about it was a bit of a given.  I really ought to blog about food more, but I’m really glad when other people give me the opportunity to do so.  Brum’s very own guide to where and what to eat, Dine Birmingham, recently did this and I reviewed the rather fantastic Blue Ginger in Kings Heath.

    Head over there to read my blogpost…

    Birmingham, Cooking and Eating

    Birmingham + food + magazine = Edible Brum

    Birmingham has been getting some food press recently about its foodie exploits, so the launch of a new magazine celebrating this seemed fairly apt.

    Edible Brum is a darling of a magazine created by the team behind the Warehouse Cafe (a fab veggie restaurant in town) and features an array of articles from local food heros.  It’s got an interesting collection of articles, from one by Loaf‘s Tom Baker (whose Bread Basics course I went on a few years ago and would highly recommend) on the state of bread and where to get a good loaf from, to an exploration of indie coffee shops (including two of my favourites and one I’ve been meaning to try for a while), interviews with top chefs and a host of other articles.  Oh and there’s an article by a certain bar showing you how to make your own seasonal rhubarb cocktail too.  I was around when this was being created and its pretty delicious – sloe gin and rhubarb liqueur, of course it would be!

    I’ve already made a mental list of things mentioned in there I need to seek out and I’m already looking forward to the summer edition.  Have a read of the first issue below…

     

    Cooking and Eating

    Blogging about baking (and alcohol)

    I know it looks like I’ve abandoned this blog, given the amount of time it’s taken me to post something but that’s not the case – honest!  I have, however, been writing for another blog I set up on a new project I’m working on.

    Half Cut Cakes is my new blog looking at alcohol and cake.  Having worked for a pub and a bar (and soon to be a steak and ale house too) I figured it was about time I learnt more about alcohol.  So as well as attending some of the training sessions, rum clubs and asking a lot of questions, I thought I’d combine it with another hobby – baking!

    At the moment it’s a cross between using found recipes and making up my own, but please take a look.  And if I can help tempt you, here’s my recipe for Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky.

    Ingredients for Whisky Cake
    175g Caster sugar
    185g Self raising flour
    175g Butter
    3 Eggs
    1/2tsp Vanilla extract
    75ml Whisky (I used the Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch whisky)
    1/4tsp cinnamon
    30ml freshly brewed coffee (I used Ethiopian Mocha coffee)
    Icing
    75g Butter
    175g Icing sugar
    25ml Whisky
    1/4tsp Orange liqueur

    Method
    Pre-heat the oven to 180c
    Cream in the butter and sugar
    Add the eggs one by one, making sure they’re combined
    Add the cinnamon, whisky, vanilla extract and coffee
    Sieve in the flour and fold in
    Bake for about 45mins-1hr, then leave to cool.
    The icing is a basic buttercream; cream in all the ingredients and ice the cake once it has cooled fully.

    Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal with a slight orange and whisky buttercream icing

    Cooking and Eating

    Baking vegan cupcakes

    I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes recently.  The last few batches have been made from recipes from the Primrose Bakery, but I was invited to an ex-vegan-now-vegetarian friend’s birthday and thought I’d finally have a go at making vegan cupcakes.

    I’ve always shied away from vegan cupcakes because a lot of them seemed to involve adding things that just seemed odd to have in cake.  Admittedly since eating beetroot and courgette cakes I’ve relaxed a bit on that, but we’ve never had tofu in the house and it seems odd to start now.

    Thankfully I found a recipe on The Vegan Society website where the weirdest ingredients are oil and vinegar.  That’s okay; we have those in the house (well we didn’t have vinegar, but we needed it).

    8floz (230ml) soya milk
    1 tsp vinegar
    5oz (140g) caster sugar
    3floz (90ml) vegetable oil
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    4oz (125g) plain flour
    1 1/2 oz (45g) cocoa powder
    3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C/gas mark 4 and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
    2. Whisk together soya milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add sugar, oil and vanilla extract and beat until foamy.
    3. In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
    4. Pour into liners, filling three quarters of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack. Eat while still warm or allow to cool completely and ice with chocolate ‘buttercream’ .

    From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by I C Moskowitz & T H Romero (www.theppk.com) with thanks. Makes 12.

     

    I couldn’t get the soya milk and vinegar to curdle and I replaced the vegetable oil with sunflower as we had it in the house, but everything seemed to turn out fine.  My housemate did say that the batter looked like melted chocolate and once baked they did look pretty dark with chocolate, but actually they weren’t too sickly.  Even with a load of vegan chocolate buttercream icing on top.

    I’m not a huge fan of baking chocolate cake, but these were easy enough to do, didn’t really require anything too odd and apart from an issue with the silicone cupcake cases (silicone ones went wonky, paper cases were fine) they weren’t really any different to regular cupcakes.  Definitely a recipe for the binder.

    Birmingham, Cooking and Eating, Internet and social media

    Co-working venues: Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    On the back of the success of the first co-working venue review that I did alongside my friend Liz – and inspired others to do the same, we thought we’d chance a second.  We ended up picking another venue quite close to the other one, more out of ease for us, but at some point we will venture further a’field.

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, York Road, Kings Heath


    The KGC can pretty much be summed up as a hidden oasis off a busy High St.  Part garden shop, party cafe it’s really got this quaint, magical quality to it.  Artwork for sale adorning the walls, a programme of live folk and craft in the evenings, a play area for children and an environment of quirky it’s really very cute and a bit of a hidden gem – though thankfully fairly well known amongst locals.

    I met Liz there around 11am, who bumped into a friend who was already working there.  The cafe has a reasonable number of tables, but does get very busy.  We sat in the back of the cafe, in order to find a plug for charging the laptops (note to anyone thinking about co-working anywhere, generally it’s wise to charge up before you go) and there were plenty.  Unfortunately this is also the area with the toys for children.

    Internet

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    Kinda hard to judge this one as I’ve been a few times and so my computer picked up the net no problem.  Then again, even if you’ve not been before they usually have little slips of paper with the internet password freely available.  And it’s your standard way of finding the network, enter the password and away you go.  No complaints from me.

    Food and drink
    Food wise, the KGC is a little pricer than your usual cafe, but then again this is because the food is freshly made on site (from the counter you can just about see into the kitchen) and where possible they use seasonal, fairly-traded, local and/or organic food.  And there’s a notable level of quality to the food because of it.

    A while ago they removed sausage sandwiches from the all day menu and I never really forgave them for it (though they are on the breakfast menu served to midday), so I couldn’t tell you what breakfast or dinner at the KGC is like, but lunch wise its pretty good.  This time I had the Home-made Haddock Fish Finger Sandwich which at £5.95 is pretty pricey for a sandwich, but the fresh battered fish is delicious and in all fairness I rarely feel it needs another side – although I have ordered a side of chips with it before.  It’s the kind of sandwich which is just so delightful that I never really mind the fact that its £6, it kinda feels worth it.

    General atmosphere
    The KGC really is a delightful place.  Unfortunately it isn’t great for co-working.  Why?  Easy answer is children.  It’s an incredibly child-friendly place, which is fine if you’re there for food and a catch up, but if you’re planning on working there it can be problematic (particularly when kids are crying for periods of time, but cafe etiquette is another blogpost).  Generally I can work through most noise, but if you plan on taking any calls it just won’t work.  I had to go outside to call anyone and whilst I could leave my laptop with Liz, it was a pain and whilst there’s a very safe, comfortably atmosphere to the KGC its not exactly recommend behaviour leaving your stuff.  The music is a little louder than it needs to be too.

    I love the KGC for lazy lunches, tea and cake, folk on a Sunday and somewhere to show off when friends come to visit the city.  But for co-working, it just doesn’t really feel like its really up to it.

    Check out what Liz thought here.