Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 – Review​ | Champagne​ Twist

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 Review

Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?

Caribbean food month, August 2018, Champagne Twist

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.

 

Bernie Spain Gardens Southbank - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

JFB Jerk Grill - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Jerk Hot sauces - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Grace Foods stall - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Chef Solomon Smith, Brixton Soup Kitchen Charity - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist
Chef Solomon Smith with host Nicola, Caribbean Food Week Festival, Bernie Spain Gardens, South Bank, London

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.

Picnic Bench - Caribbean Food Week Festival | Champagne Twist

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.

Brixton Soup Kitchen charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Brixton Soup Kitchen - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Brixton Soup Kitchen Chef Solomon Smith charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

bean bags green black yellow Jamaica - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

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.

Grace Food products - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

 

 

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Caribbean Food Month – Dunn’s River Coconut Milk review | Champagne​ Twist

Wow, how come it’s Friday already?

coconut milk Dunn's River champagnetwist

Hello,

For day 3 of Caribbean Food Month, it’s time for a review.  Coconut milk is one of the stables when it comes to Caribbean cookery. This versatile ingredient can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and lends itself to a multitude of international culinary treats. It also serves as an alternative to dairy.

Dunn’s River Coconut Milk has a thick, smooth texture with a light coconut flavour, meaning that it will work well with tea and coffee. It doesn’t have that sometimes clawy aftertaste when sampled on its own, although it does have a tendency to separate. But a quick stir with a spoon soon resolves that issue.

Dunn's River coconut milk champagnetwist.com

As a product in its own right, I can’t find much to fault it.  As the saying goes, it say’s exactly what it is on the tin. As an ingredient, it works well without any problems, responding to heat well. It’s a great product to have in your pantry.

Coconut milk champagnetwist.com

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Tomorrow’s blog includes recipe ideas featuring Dunn’s River Coconut Milk. Please return to find out more. Thanks for reading and if you’re in the UK or Spain – try to stay cool. I adore the sun, but 38 degrees is my limit. The thought of having to work in potentially 48 degree heat, makes the mind boggle. Best of luck!

The national dish of Barbados, Cou Cou and Flying Fish

August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist

August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist

August. The 8th month of the year, the summer holidays are in full swing and the temperatures, for once, rival that of many a West Indian island.

So, in celebration of the new month, summer and the relaunch of the Champagne Twist website, August has been designated Caribbean Food Month.

Vegan Jerk seasoned vegetable medley | Champagne Twist
Vegan Jerk seasoned vegetable medley | Champagne Twist

Caribbean Cuisine despite its popularity amongst holidaymakers, has been omitted from the fashionable culinary radar in the UK. Elements have on occasion had it’s 15 minutes of fame, such as ‘Jerk Chicken’, ‘Jerk Pork’ and ‘Jerk just about everything else’, but it hardly matches the success of other culinary greats such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Indian food.

When attempts have been made to delve into the genre of Caribbean food, the results have been misleading at best.  Adding coconut or pineapple to fish and chips doesn’t make a dish traditional West Indian fare. Nor does eating rice and peas with everything constitute Caribbean style.

The national dish of Barbados, Cou Cou and Flying Fish
A modern take on Cou Cou and Flying Fish, the Barbadian National Dish

So in an attempt to put this right, over the next few weeks there will be new recipes, product reviews and a few surprises, in celebration of this undervalued cuisine.

All starting from tomorrow, here on Champagne Twist.

5 Food and Drink You Should Look Out For in Spring/Summer 2018 | Champagne Twist

The Beast from the East may be making a snowy return, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking forward to the super hot summer weather* and the delicious foodie treats that will be heading their merry way to an eatery near you.

*May not be strictly true, but we can dream.

1 Mocktails.

pexels-photo-613037.jpeg

As diners steer more and more from alcoholic drinks and seek healthier alternatives to sugar-laden soft drinks, mocktails are fast becoming the trendsetter in the drinks industry.  Using colourful and unusual fruits and vegetables as the base, drinks are set to be not only healthy but fun too.

2 Caribbean cuisine.

IMG_20180225_113740

There are been so many dawns and false starts with this culinary masterpiece, but 2018 is set to be the year, finally, for West Indian food and drink.  This oft-overlooked cuisine is making a mark this year as the food to look out for. And it’s not all coconut-based either.

3 Tea.

pexels-photo-220069.jpeg

Yes, of course, I was going to add this one, it’s my favourite after all. But tea as we know it is going to have a serious makeover in 2018 and not before time too. Herbal teas, fruit tea and even iced tea will all be on trend this summer.

4 Plant-based food.

pexels-photo-533360.jpeg

The trend for Vegan and Vegetarian food shows no sign of abating, as increasing numbers are seeking alternatives to meat-based diets. Who would have thought 10 years ago that beige food would be referred to meat pie!

5 Floral flavours.

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Elderflower, lavender, rose, chive blossoms, violet, hibiscus and pansy. Prepare to see these floral favourites and more, everywhere, from cakes to teas, from cocktails to salads.

 

 

Freaks of Nature: Cocoa Loco – Review | Champagne Twist

This is the last of the trio of vegan approved desserts from Freaks of Nature I have taste tested. As it turns out, I left the best till last.
3 freaks

Like Zingy Thingy and Mango Fandango, the fun titled Cocoa Loco is gluten, dairy, egg and soya free.

cocoa loco fon

The creamy textured chocolate ganache is smooth, flavourful, with just the right level of sweetness.

Cocoa Loco Close up

Provided in their own sealed off selection to help keep their crisp, crunchy freshness, the chopped caramelised roasted hazelnuts are a perfect match for this pudding.

f of n cocoa loco

Of all the 3 puddings, I think the Cocoa Loco is my flavourite. Zingy Thingy for me could have benefitted with a little more lemon zest, and the Mango Fandango could have done with a little more vanilla bean seeds.  But the Cocoa Loco was simply perfect – lovely, rich chocolate flavour, creamy smooth texture and the delicious nutty crunch from the hazelnuts. The added bonus that such a luxurious dessert is gluten, dairy, soya and egg free – only plant based ingredients are included in these desserts.

These puddings represent clear examples that you don’t have to miss out if your diet  has exclusions. Nor do you need high amounts of sugar, salt or high fat ingredients to produce a delicious dessert.

I have mentioned the packaging before, and again state that I’m very impressed that such minimum packaging has been used to great effect. I’m also pleased to say that I have now found a home for all 3 of the pots in my sewing kit. I’m sure you could easily find a use for your DIY and crafting storage.

Freak of Nature - recycling container | Champagne Twist

Freaks of Nature have a new fan, and I will be following their progress as they develop new products. If these 3 are anything to go by, the future will be very bright for them, and delicious and healthier for me!

For more information about Freaks of Nature, please visit their website.

Thanks for reading,

Signature

Disclaimer:  I was gifted 3 different items from Freaks of Nature, which I have decided to review. This post is not sponsored and I have not been remunerated in any way. The opinions featured are my own.

 

Lavender sugar recipe for baking

Lavender sugar – recipe | Champagne Twist

Hello,

Now that we’re deep into summer, the lavender plants are yielding their flowers in a glorious hue of blues and purples. Try to save the essence of summer, by preserving the flower heads for use in the cold winter months to come.

Lavender sugar is surprisingly versatile but expensive to purchase. The last time I checked, Waitrose sold small jars for £5 each.  Yet it is so easy to make yourself, and if you grow lavender, it costs next to nothing. Try this simple recipe and save yourself some time and money.

ideas for using lavender flowers in food recipes
recipe for lavender flower sugar

Lavender Sugar – recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Lavender flowers – dried food grade
  • 500g Golden Caster Sugar – you can use white caster sugar if you prefer

You will also need a lidded jar, large enough to contain the sugar.

Method:

  1. Add the lavender and sugar in the jar. Secure the lid and shake until well combined.
  2. Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Leave for at least a week before use.

For a gift idea, you can decorate the jar with a gift tag and ribbon.

You can use lavender sugar for many recipes, try lavender sugar cookies, blueberry and lavender cheesecake or lemon lavender cake.

Let me know if you try these recipes, and how they worked out for you.

Thanks for reading, please subscribe for more.

 

Pip and Nut Chocolate, Coconut and Hazelnut Butter – Limited Edition – Review

It took me a while to get my mits on these, and nearly resorted to ordering a crate direct from Pip and Nuts online store. But then they sold out … argh!!!!

But thanks to Ocado, who currently have the butter on special offer, I scooped up 3 of the the beauties.

pip and nut trio

The Pip & Nut Limited Edition Chocolate, Coconut and Hazelnut butter. The very sound of it is delicious. But sadly the name is better than reality.

There have been a couple of disappointments – 1 being that the jar size is now a smaller 225g reduced from 250g, which is a bit sneaky. The offer price at £3.19 is high, making the RRP at £3.99 pretty pricy, especially as other butters in the range are around the £2 mark.

Taste wise, it’s not bad. I can’t eat this by the spoonful – believe me, I tried – as the coconut flavour is a little too prominent for me and contributes to an odd ‘fatty’ aftertaste.  But on toast, it is delicious. The butter has a good consistency and is great melted as a sauce for fresh fruit, pancakes or breakfast cereals.  I had planned to use the butter as a baking ingredient. Due to it’s cost and reduced size however, I can’t justify using 2 jars for a 1 cake. Why, oh why did they make the jars smaller?

I did try mixing a teaspoon of the butter with 2 heaped tablespoons of coconut yogurt. I added a few black raspberries harvested from the garden, and made a quick pudding. I later added a teaspoon of caramel sauce, as it helped to cut down the fatty aftertaste from the coconut butter.

fruit pip & nut yogurt

yogurt with black raspberries

As a treat, this is fab, I particularly like the fact that there is no trace of palm oil, which is where Nutella fails. The difference however is that I can easily eat Nutella by the spoonful, and at £5 for a 1kg jar, it is more economical.

Overall, I’m glad I got my 3 jars and am happy to use this product, sparingly. Unfortunately the search for a healthier, viable sub for Nutella continues.

Rating:

3-star


Edit – 23rd July

With regret, I’m going to have to take off another 2 points. I tried another jar of this butter and found that it tasted over salty. There’s no justification for salt in this product that I can think of, let alone in such high amounts.

I decided to try baking with it, and sadly with a too high levels of coconut oil coupled with hardly any chocolate or hazelnut flavour, the chocolate brownie I baked came out tasting mostly of salt and poor quality coconut oil. Bitterly disappointed with what should have been the perfect blend of 3 of my favourite flavours.

Revised Rating:

1-star

 

#COYOPops ice lolly

Coyo Yogurt Ice Lolly – review

Hello,

Yesterday, I mentioned how the audience were invited to sample COYO lollies at the Culture Cloud – Lulu Guinness wellness event in Covent Garden. As promised here is a review of the lollies.

Created especially for Lulu Guinness’ in store Picnic Pop-Up, the COYO Pops‬ yoghurt ice lollies are, available exclusively at the Covent Garden shop until late July.

Picnic Pop-Up Lulu Guinness COYO
Lulu Guinness Picnic Pop-Up Limited edition lollies made with CO-YO coconut milk alternative Picture source: https://twitter.com/palm_pr

I tried the Skinny Dip Chocolate Ice lolly, and have to say, it was delicious.

The texture was beautifully creamy, yet the flavour wasn’t the expected sickly, sugary sweet, tongue tieing affair. It was simply a tasty coconut lolly, covered with a good quality chocolate covering. Chocolate and coconut are a natural combination, but if you’re thinking this was a frozen Bounty on a stick, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is truly one of the best lollies I’ve ever had, and I’m going to make a special trip to try the other flavours.

#COYOPops ice lolly
COYO Pops ice Lolly, Lulu Guinness Picnic Pop-UP Picture source: Francesca Hodge via instagram 

Yes, I’m going to make a special trip just for a couple of lollies, they are that good!If you’re in the area, and would like an healthy alternative to regular ice lollies or ice cream, you could do a lot worse than to visit the temporary pop up venue.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Picnic Pop-Up is running until 22nd July, at the Lulu Guinness Covent Garden store. The other flavours, which I didn’t taste, are Sunny Salted Caramel and Very Vanilla. Cost £3.

COYO coconut yogurt alternative is on sale in most supermarkets. I’m going to find some and create some recipes using this product.

 

 

COYO Coconut Yoghurt Alternative
COYO Coconut Yoghurt Alternative Natural

Have you tried any of the COYO products? What did you think? Why not comment below. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe if you would like more from Champagne Twist.

Thanks for reading, see you soon 🙂