Well, it’s the first day of a brand new decade. It’s a sobering thought that we are now in the new 20s era. Personally, I’m hoping that this decade is better than the last one, and that all my plans and hopes pan out in a positive way.
With that, here’s the new look Champagne Twist YouTube Channel, the theme for this year being “New Vision”.
This year I’m starting with a bang food wise, with an easy and delicious recipe for Spiced Blueberry Pancakes. These pancakes don’t have any sugar as the sweetness is derived from the blueberries, the vanilla yogurt and just a drizzle of maple syrup. You can of course use a cheaper golden syrup, but I think the Maple syrup adds a unique spicy hit which compliments the mixed spices, so is for me worth the extra expense.
When combining fruit with spices, the usual go-to flavour pairing with blueberries is cinnamon. As it is still the Christmas season, I wanted to keep the festive flavours, but add a slight twist. So I plumped for a mixed spice blend, which does include cinnamon, as well as other spices – dill, coriander, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.
So here’s the recipe, let me know if you try this and what you think of it, it would be great to hear your considered opinions.
Here’s wishing everyone a peaceful, fun, healthy, happy and safe new year.
Spiced Blueberry Pancakes, with vanilla yogurt and maple syrup
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
knob of butter, melted
150g fresh blueberries
oil or butter for cooking
maple syrup and vanilla yogurt to serve
Mix together flour, baking powder and mixed spices in a large bowl.
In a separate, small bowl, beat the egg, then add the milk and melted butter and combine.
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dr, to form a smooth batter. Fold in the blueberries.
Heat a teaspoon of oil or butter in a non-stick frying pan.
Pour a small ladleful of batter into the pan.
Cook on each side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with vanilla yogurt for a healthy breakfast, and with maple syrup for a pudding or treat.
This is a quick and simple recipe for the festive season. You can use this recipe for mince pies, or as an ingredient for fruit cakes. A useful store cupboard standby.
Mince Pie Filling Recipe | Champagne Twist
100g glace cherry halves
400g jumbo raisin mix
200g dried cranberries
100g mixed citrus peel
1 tbsp of ground allspice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1 cup of brandy
1 cup of orange liquor
1 large bowl
1 spatula or spoon
1 large sterilised glass jar
Mix all the fruit and spices together in a bowl and then fill your sterilised glass jar, ensuring that you leave room for the alcohol.
In the same bowl or jug, mix together the vanilla and alcohol, then pour over the fruit mix in the glass jars.
Allow the mixture to steep for at least a week in a cool dark place. The longer you leave it, the better.
There you go – proper luxury mincemeat. Also serves as a lovely Christmas foodie gift. Just grab a label and some ribbon and you’re done! It’s also a good way to use up all those half empty bottles of alcohol.
Using apples from my recent fruit and veg shopping trip at the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden sale, I decided to make something healthy and delicious for breakfast, making a welcome change from the usual cereals and scrambled eggs.
Apple Oat Breakfast Muffins
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup medium stoneground oatmeal
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup of semi-skimmed cow’s or plant based milk (almond milk adds a lovely nutty flavour which compliments the apple)
2 large apples (approx 1 1/4 cups), peeled and diced
Preheat oven to 350 F/ 177 C/ Gas Mark 4, then line a 12-cup muffin baking tray with cup cake cases.
In a medium sized bowl sieve the flour, oats, baking powder and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, butter and milk.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, followed by the apple. Using a folding motion, combine all the ingredients gently together to form a thick batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. I used an old fashioned ice cream scoop, but a 1/4 cup measure can also be used.
Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 20 mins, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Allow the muffins to cool in the tray for 5 minutes, before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Serve warm for breakfast with a cup of your favourite brew, or for lunch with a cheese salad.
Let me know if you try this recipe, it would be lovely to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your baking.
Purchased at the National Tea Day event in Woking, East London earlier this year, Roqberry’s Coco & Joe is a fascinating blend of 3 of the world’s favourite hot beverages – Tea, Coco and Coffee. Usually, when I hear the mere mention of coffee, I run a mile. I maintain that coffee is the drink of the devil and should be cast aside in all instances in flavour of the elegance of a good cuppa. But apparently not everyone feels the same way as I do, so I reluctantly sampled this blend.
Perhaps I’m edging towards the dark side, but I found this tea to be delicious, enjoyable to drink and as it turned out, provides a great winter warming cuppa.
The tea is flavourful, the cocoa combining well with the black tea to provide a sweet, chocolatey taste. The coffee, is there, but in a supporting role boosting the cocoa flavour notes. It can be drunk with out milk, but I think it is best with, and I believe almond milk helps to bring out the nutty notes of the tea and coffee and compliments the cocoa.
I also found that when I was feeling very cold and low during the cold Autumn months, the tea helped to boost my spirits. If you are thinking about cutting out sugar in your tea, I suggest rather than going cold turkey, to switch to this blend, as you can enjoy the sweet flavours, without all the calories.
Retailing at £6 for a box of 18 pyramid bags, represents good value for money. It is recommend to use 1 bag per cup but you can get easily get away with 1 bag per 2 servings. The bags are also easy to dispose onto the compost heap.
I paired this tea with my Ultimate Banana and Chocolate Bread, recipe to be published soon, but this tea would go well with any tea, coffee. nut, fruit or chocolate based dessert. It is a tea that can be enjoyed on its own, and makes an ideal gift for tea lovers.
I don’t usually give full marks, but I can’t fault this tea at all. Even if it does contain coffee!
Today, I’m moving away from black based teas and tying out a more fruity and floral number. Twist Teas Strawberry and Rose tea is today’s subject tea for review.
Strawberry and Rose contains a list of delicious sounding ingredients – Chinese White tea, apple pieces, rose hip, hibiscus, freeze dried strawberry, elderflower, orange blossom, rose petals and orange peel.
This is a tea to be served without milk, but can be cold brewed as well as make a hot beverage.
Out the pack, the tea has a lovely aroma, and when hot brewed develops into a beautiful pink hue. I would serve this at an afternoon tea as an alternative to black tea.
Cold brewed ‘Strawberry and Rose’ makes a light and refreshing drink, ideal for a summer time soiree. I reckon made with sparkling water, with sliced fresh strawberries and a slice of lemon, it would make a great non-alcoholic drink.
With all the wonderful ingredients, I was surprised that I couldn’t detect any rose or strawberry during the taste test. It was more of a general fruity flavour, pleasant as it was, rather than a strawberry or floral blast.
Yesterday (Sunday 21st April 2019) was Easter Sunday and National Tea Day. A double celebration for those who, like me, love tea.
Today, I kick off a new blog series, called The Tea Twist Taste Test, where I taste and review a number of teas from new and established brands. Most of the brands I will feature, I discovered, or in some cases rediscovered, at the recent FesTeaVal event run by National Tea Day. The first brand in this series is Twist Teas (love the brand name already!), which has been producing a wide range of teas for 3 years. The first tea I’m taste testing is ‘Afternoon Perks’, from their Whole Leaf Tasting Menu.
Made with Indian Darjeeling and Sri Lankan black teas and Gotu Kola, ‘Afternoon Perks’ can be drunk with for without milk.
Gotu Kola is used for fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs.
I found the tea refreshing in both formats, although I slightly prefer the tea black, with maybe a lemon slice. Just as the ‘twisting notes’ on the tasting menu pack claimed, the tea was energy boosting, after a busy morning in the garden.
I like the idea of including Gotu Kola in the blend, as I feel it helped with my fatigue. I wonder, with prolonged use, if it would prove to be a good memory boosting aid. Regardless, the tea tastes lovely, and is ideal as a post- noon pick me up. I will certainly be adding this to my collection.
Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?
Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.
If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.
The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.
In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.
It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.
Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.
Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.
There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.
I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.
Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.
For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat. I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce. While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region. Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.
I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’. Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.
The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.
The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.
In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival. As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity. It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.
Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.
The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.
It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.
Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.
In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.
There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.
Traditionally enjoyed over the Christmas season in the West Indies, sorrel, fresh homemade sorrel that is, is a wonderful surprisingly fruity, spiced drink that is as refreshing as it is pretty in colour. Fill a glass with ice, pour the drink in, sit back and enjoy.
Which is why Semaj’s DIY pack version is such a disappointment. Firstly, the substitution of whole cloves, an essential ingredient in for sorrel, with fennel seeds is inexcusable. If you can’t trust the ingredients list printed on the packaging, it will be difficult to trust the end product. Fennel seeds also tend to be cheaper than cloves, so it also makes me question the ‘value’ of the value pack.
That said, the product was easy to make, and adding cloves from my own spice cupboard, as well as other flavours made a difference. But having to source the spices defeats the object of buying this product.
As a quick introduction to sorrel, this drink had potential as a mixer. However as a stand-alone product, especially with the errors in the ingredients list, this drink cannot be described as authentic and in no way compares favourably with the real sorrel drink.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, coconut milk lends itself to a multitude of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes and everything in between. Following are a few simple recipe ideas featuring coconut milk.
Elle’s coconut rice
1 cup of rice
1 1/4 cups of water or coconut water
3/4 coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt (optional)
After washing the rice, place it in a large saucepan, with the water or coconut water and coconut milk.
Add rest of the ingredients then bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked.
Serve immediately. You can also use as a base for rice salad or as a side.