BREWDOG’S NEW VENTURE – DOGTAP ELLON

Ordinarily when I sit down to write a restaurant review, the first part of the process is a wee intro to the brand; a little ‘get to know you’ time, but today’s post comes from a brand that really need no introduction. Aberdeen born craft beer giant Brewdog is now one of the biggest success stories to come out of the North East since…well, I dunno, Butteries? The self sealing envelope..? Short of the queen of pop and funky hair-doos Annie Lennox, Brewdog basically takes the crown when it comes to most famous exports from around these parts.

Not only now a national treasure with over FIFTY venues in the UK alone, Brewdog is now also storming the globe with four breweries worldwide and a trail of bars from Barcelona to Tokyo. Pretty impressive stuff right?

Now known and visited just as much for their tasty food offerings as their incredible selection of tempting and rebellious craft beers, I’ve come to expect the need to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow after a foodie trip to Brewdog. On the menus you’ll find classic pub grub type offerings to pair perfectly with a nice cold beer, the likes of burgers and pizza’s, but always piled high and with a kick-ass Brewdog twist. With an extensive veggie and vegan offering, I’m never stuck for choice which is awesome. Classic ‘beer’ paired food tends to be pretty meat heavy so it’s always a boost to have so much variety in meat-free options; and for anyone that’s tasted their beyond legendary buffalo seitan wings before, you’ll agree with me when I say who the hell needs meat anyway!

Pint of Lost Lager at Brewdog Dogtap Ellen

Just a short half hour bus strip from the city centre, I was excited for a change of scenery, because let’s face it, going anywhere outwith a five mile radius of your own home is like a trip to the bloody Spanish Med at this point.

Approaching the building, the sheer aesthetic of the place blows you away before even setting foot in the building. Seriously impressive hand painted murals by artist Craig Fisher cover the walls from top to bottom in an array of neon colours, with depictions of fantastical sea creatures, it’s quite the sight to behold.

Given the current restrictions, we arrived early to be able to enjoy a few beers outside ahead of our meal, because let’s face it, it would have been a bloody travesty not to enjoy a pint or two when it’s as fresh as it gets from the on site brewery. With plenty of outdoor seating all complete with outdoor heaters, we were still able to enjoy a few beers despite the chilliness of the day. There are firepit tables for those extra chilly nights and even an ‘igloo’ type dome with seating and blankets for those who really can’t brave the elements.

Last week when I was invited to a preview day at the new and massively improved Dogtap venue in Ellon, I jumped at the chance to go check it out. Never having actually visited either the original or Overworks brewery location, I was full of anticipation to see how the newly revamped site with fresh eyes.

The beer…

In need of something crisp and refreshing after our journey, I started started with a pint of crowd-pleaser and favourite of mine, Lost Lager (4.7%). Citrusy and bright, this is one of my favourite thirst quenchers from Brewdog. Not wanting to venture in to anything too heavy with a full lunch still to take on, I finished with a Hazy Jane (5%) before heading indoors. This punchy IPA delivers zesty, fruity notes and a delicious tart aftertaste.

Interior view of Brewdog Dogtap bar in Ellon

Now with rumbling bellies and let’s be honest, feeling a little bit boozy (don’t drink beer for breakfast kids), we headed indoors to finally sample some scran. You can’t help but be struck by the stunning design of the bar and restaurant. With all of the classic industrial features found in Brewdog bars, blended with the cosiness of built in fire pits and warm lighting, and even a giant shark suspended from the ceiling, you instantly recognise the typical Brewdog quirk, but this venue really has a ‘next generation’ feel about it.

the food…

Featuring a few of the classics that we all know and love, you’ll also find a bunch of new and exclusive offerings at Dogtap, such as a full sourdough pizza menu and a selection of oak fired chicken that would tempt even the most stringent vegetarian, there’s something for all the family here – even a ‘Hoppy Meal’ option for the little ones.

With a burger craving hitting hard, I opted for the Temple of Seitan burger.

“temple of seitan fillet, crispy kale, sun-blushed tomato chutney & hummus served on a vegan beetroot brioche bun”. (Ve. £9.50)

Pimping my burger with extra cheese and completing it with a side of crisp salty fries and an order of blue cheese dip (the burger may be vegan but I am definitely not!), this was just what the doctor ordered. Forever baffled (but grateful) for how realistic the crispy coated ‘chicken’ fillet is, it’s always a go-to for me. With sweetness from the vibrant beetroot brioche and tangy chutney, and delicious crunch from the kale which magically kept it’s crispness to the last bite, this tasty burger delivered everything that I hoped it would. IT’s a 10/10 from me!

Predictably, Grant went for the Beyond Meat Burger, and why wouldn’t he, because those things are frickin’ delicious.

“beyond meat patty, vegan chipotle slaw, vegan gouda cheese, roasted red peppers, baby gem & pickles served on a vegan beetroot brioche bun” (Ve. £9.50)

Obviously stealing a bite to check it out for myself, this burger also hit a 10 on the tasty scale. How in the blue f**k Beyond Meat create these burgers to be so, well, meaty is beyond me – they’re just that damn good. With crunchy home made slaw and a slice of melty, oozy vegan gouda, and some nice acidic pickles, this provided classically served cheeseburger goodness that you just need sometimes.

Also sampled by our group were the Spicy Meaty sourdough pizza (‘nduja, pepperoni, chilli flakes, fresh red chillies, smashed napoli tomatoes, Scottish mozzarella – £11.50) and the Whole Oak Fired Chicken, (details not yet available online) for which you’re going to have to take our meat-eating pals word for on this, but the reviews were that it was pretty flippin’ tasty. Judging by the look and smell of that pizza though, you can bet your ass I’ll be ordering one from the veggie selection on my next visit, just look at that crisp crust and bubbling mozzarella…

It’s not often that you can make a day trip/family day out of a trip to the pub, but given that Dogtap is so much more than just your average a pub, that’s exactly what you can do here. The awesome building which is entirely carbon negative, features a separate beer school room, a games area with cool old school arcade games on the upper floor and a viewing platform into the packaging side of the brewery so that you can see the freshest cans of Punk IPA flying along the conveyor belt right before your eyes.

There’s even a sizeable beer museum for you hardcore craft beer nuts to get a wee bit of the Brewdog story firsthand.

Whether you’re in it for the beer, the food, or the element of being a tourist in your own city for the day, I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Dogtap to check it out for yourself. I can’t wait for my next visit already. Dogtap in now open to the public, and you’ll find all of the awesome regular food deals such as 2-4-1 veggie/vegan Mondays too!

Have you been to visit Dogtap yet? Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought!

Until next time,

B x

*We were invited to this preview day with no obligation to post, so as always all views are my own.

New menu at The New Greentrees [Ad]

Over the last few years The GreenTrees pub has become something of a regular haunt, mainly due to the fact that the BF worked there for many years, and so we often pop back so that he can catch up with friends and regulars.

A favourite of many Dyce inhabitants, the Greentrees is one of those good old fashioned locals, with a bar, lounge, restaurant and function room all in one. While it’s always an enjoyable visit, sinking a pint or five over a few games of pool, I’d be lying if I said that it was the food menu that kept us coming back time after time when in the mood for a bit of gastronomy; it’s always been good hearty pub-grub. For many years now, the menu has been exactly what you’d expect from a traditional bar such as this, with classic crowd-pleasers such as fish and chips, steak and ale pie and lasagne, and the ever popular carvery on a Sunday, so when I was invited along to try out the newly revamped menu, I wasn’t expecting major transformation, but boy was I wrong!

Vegetarian food at The New Greentrees Aberdeen

With the promise of an expansive new vegan and vegetarian menu, I was more than a little intrigued to see what was in store for us. For me the test of any good eatery is always the merit of their, usually solitary and often bland as hell, veggie option, but thankfully it looked like we were going to be spoiled for choice here.

The new menu comes courtesy of Argentinian head chef Javier who has taken charge and dreamed up a more exotic and varied menu featuring dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in a high end restaurant, mixing British ghastro pub classics with dishes from around the continent. You can tell instantly that this is a man who is truly passionate about food, and has travelled the world to learn his trade. Having lived on a vegan diet himself for some time, I’m delighted to say that the vegans/veggies out there have been well and truly taken care of.

Javier has also made it a top priority of his to source as many ingredients as possible locally, tracking down top quality beef from Aberdeenshire, and veg from local suppliers. He understands the importance of supporting local businesses, but also the incredible quality of foods home grown in Scotland.

Even the bar snacks menu is seriously impressive, with a selection of baskets on offer, featuring the likes of ‘Battered scallops with chips and garlic mayo’ (drool!) and ‘pate with pickles and bread and butter’. They have seriously elevated the standard greasy and usually beige bar snack!

The food…

It’s safe to say that we were thoroughly spoiled with our trip to the Greentrees, getting to sample not just a couple, but SIX different dishes to allow us to fully explore the menu – and yes, I had to be rolled home afterwards…

Of course we we went entirely veggie; it was an absolute treat to have so many genuinely enticing meat-free options on offer, but the rest of the menu sounds equally delicious, with dishes likes of ‘Chicken Shnitzel with wild mushroom sauce’ and ‘Scottish lamb cutlets with mustard and rosemary mash’ on offer.

Here’s what we thought about each and every fabulous bite.

Vegan & Vegetarian food at The New Greentrees Aberdeen

To get our bellies warmed up for the main event, we began with the soup of the day, a delicious and aromatic sweet potato, coconut and chilli soup.

Subtly spiced and silky smooth, this was the perfect introduction to the feast that lay ahead of us.

We could hardly believe our eyes when shortly afterwards, three stunning plates of food arrived in front of us – this was going to be a challenge alright, but one that I was going to do my bloody best to rise to! Straight away I was struck by the artistic presentation, these were some seriously gorgeous plates of food that sang of careful consideration and pride of plating.

Vegetable Grill Stack

This artfully arranged stack of gorgeous grilled aubergine, courgette and baby potatoes layered with oozy melted brie and drizzled with a tangy tomato compote really hit the spot. Bursting with flavour thanks to the herb oil and balsamic glaze garnish, this dish wouldn’t have been out of place in a high end restaurant. It was almost too pretty to eat…but not quite, and boy was I glad I ate it! With dishes as flavoursome as this, it’s easy to forget that meat was ever on the menu.

Grilled Goats Cheese Salad

Though simplistic in nature, this salad was possibly my favourite dish of the night. The generous round of freshly baked goats cheese was perfectly offset by the sweet delicious pear and tart raspberry dressing, with none of that more-ish goats cheese going to waste thanks to the soft brown bread served alongside it. This really is a dish that I could eat over and over again.

Wild Mushroom and Pea Risotto

I’d like to take a moment here to just say YUM.

All to often risotto’s are the easy way out when it comes to imagining a veggie option, but this one arrived here with a purpose. With the fully present earthy woody flavours of wild mushrooms and the sumptuous texture of a lovingly prepared risotto all pulled together with spot-on seasoning, this dish is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Elevated comfort food at it’s finest. Can I eat this all over again please?

Greentrees Halloumi Burger with Chilli Sauce

No sooner than we had just about managed to polish off the first four dishes (diet absolutely starts Monday…) Javier appeared once again brandishing a lethal looking halloumi burger, insisting that we just HAD to try it. Well, it would have been rude not to, right?

With a more than generous hunk of halloumi grilled to perfection between a sweet brioche, it was crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy in the middle, just the way it should be. The chilli sauce was sticky and sweet, with a decent kick, and offset the salty savoury halloumi perfectly. Complete with the classic burger serve of homemade slaw, fries and salad, this was a triumph of a burger offering, and one I’ll be ordering time and time again when we next visit.

For all of the non veggies out there, the beef burger is sure to satisfy, hailing from Inverness and 28 days hung it’s bound to be super tasty, and offers a variety of awesome toppings to choose from.

Churros.

Need I say any more? I mean just Churros – if you’re not a fan then we need to have serious words.

Actually I do need to say more, because not only was this sweet, doughy, crisp Argentinian classic fried to perfection and drizzled with delicious chocolate sauce, there was also chocolate INSIDE the churros. I don’t know what kind of voodoo this is, but I’m 100% here for it.

The New Greentrees have seriously outdone themselves with this new menu thanks to Javier’s inspired input, so for all us city dwellers looking for somewhere different to dine out now and then, the short trip to Dyce to check out ‘The Trees’ as it’s usually referred to by locals is well and truly worth it. Family friendly and with something for everyone, there really is no excuse not to pay a visit and try out the incredible new menu.

Head to the facebook page to check out the full menu for yourself by clicking HERE or give them a call on 01224 799990 to book a table.

Serious thanks once again to The GreenTrees for inviting us to try out their fabulous new fare, we’ll be back again soon for sure!

Until next time,

B x

*** EDIT – this meal was gifted pre-lockdown, so menus and menu items may now be different to those shown in the review, check out the facebook page or get in touch with The Green Trees directly for any queries! As always, all views are my own.

COOKING WITH FRESH MEX [Ad]

Serious question time – is there anything better than Mexican food?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always be a lifelong pizza gal (I’m not forgetting about you boo), and generally I’m a fan of most cuisines from around the world because let’s face it, I just really like FOOD, but there really is just something fabulous about Mexican food. For me it’s all about the super fresh produce, layers of deep smokey flavours, and of course, a good old whack of belly-warming spice.

When it comes to comfort food it just doesn’t get better than a good burrito or a big old pot of chilli, and one of my favourite places to get my tortilla wrapped fix is Fresh Mex in Aberdeen. Since 2015 they’ve been working their asses off to rightly assume their throne as the head honchos of Tex-Mex food, serving ‘nacho’ average grub to the masses from their burrito bar in central Schoolhill, Deliveroo, and more recently also from the Adams bar on Holburn Street.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that since the start of this crazy Lockdown, all of our fave restaurants and diners have been putting their heads together to come up with amazing and inventive ways for us to be able to enjoy their dining experiences and amazing products at home, and not one to miss out on the trend, Fresh Mex have come up with a pretty fabulous way for you to have some fun in the kitchen and create some awesome Tex-Mex recipes of your own at home. Enter Fresh Mex Seasoning Kits!

The kits…

Fresh Mex have taken all of the classic seasonings and spices that they use in their flavoursome recipes and created these incredible and easy to use aromatic kits that can lend themselves to just about any Tex-Mex recipe, so when they got in touch and asked me to have a go at creating some of my own recipes at home, the answer was a resounding , , sí!

Here are the two seasoning kits and what they’re all about:

TEX RUB – SWEET & SMOKEY SEASONING KIT – £2.50/50g

‘Bring the authentic taste of Texas to your table with our quick & easy to use Tex Rub! Just add our seasoning mix to meat or vegetables to create a dish that’s bursting with FRESH, sweet and smokey flavour.’

MEX RUB – SWEET & MILD SEASONING KIT – £2.50/50g

‘Bring flavour inspired by the bustling streets of Mexico to your kitchen with our quick and easy to use Mex Rub. Just add our seasoning mix to meat or vegetables to create a dish that’s bursting with FRESH fiesta flavour!

Both kits are free of artificial flavours and preservatives, and are vegan friendly, hurray! The possibilities are endless with these expertly assembled mixes, but for me it there was only ever going to be one option…BRUNCH! The meal that combines two of my favourite eating experiences, breakfast and lunch, made all the better with some smokey and spicy paprika filled goodness, and washed down with a Fresh Mex Lime Lager, this was going to be a pretty perfect Sunday.

Now of course these rubs are going to be insanely good for meat and fish dishes, but as always it’ll be veggie all the way for me, and it’ll just just as bloody good, I guarantee it 😉

The recipes…

HUEVOS RANCHEROS (V)

If you ask me, Huevos Rancheros (or ‘ranchers eggs’) is about as close as it gets to perfection when it comes to a delicious Sunday brunch. Traditionally eaten for breakfast by Mexican farmers, this is a hearty dish designed to keep you fuelled up for a hard days work – but is equally good for if you plan on doing nothing more than sitting on your ass sipping a few cold beers on a sunny afternoon – we don’t judge.

This is an incredibly flavoursome baked egg dish consisting of a rustic tomato and bean base, usually served on a tortilla, but for the purposes of this recipe I’ve skipped the tortilla in favour of a side of tasty AF sweetcorn fritters (stay tuned for the recipe for those!).

Preparation time – 5 mins

Cooking time – 30-35 mins

Serves – 4

Ingredients

Flatlay of ingredients needed to make Huevos Rancheros using the Fresh Mex Sweet and Smokey Tex Rub
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • FRESH MEX Tex Rub
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (or passata if it’s all you had in the cupboard like me!)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 tin of mixed/black beans (any will work!)
  • fresh coriander
  • 1/2 lime
  • 4 large eggs
  • To Garnish – 1 medium avocado, 1 spring onion, coriander, sharp cheddar cheese

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C
  2. Bring a couple of spoons of vegetable oil to a medium heat in a large pan. Finely dice the onion, garlic and chilli and add to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is nice and soft.
  3. Chop the fresh tomato and yellow pepper in to roughly 1cm pieces and add to the pan along with a decent whack of roughly chopped coriander. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Time to get the Tex Rub involved! We went with about 1 1/2 tbsps because I love a lot of flavour, but this is a powerful mix so start small and taste as you go along if you’re not feeling too brave,
  5. Add tinned tomatoes and your drained and rinsed beans along with a fat squeeze of lime and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer your tasty mix to an ovenproof dish, crack your eggs on top with even spaces between them (i.e one per quarter if you’re using a square dish). Season eggs with salt and pepper and whack the whole lot in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes (just check that your eggs are cooked – they should still be a little runny!)
  7. Once cooked, garnish with slices of fresh avo, chopped spring onion, grated cheddar and more fresh coriander, plus an extra sprinkling of your Tex Rub for good measure and serve immediately!

SPICY SWEETCORN FRITTERS (Vg)

One of my all time favourite brekkies is a stack of golden sweetcorn fritters topped with avo and a poached egg with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, you just can’t beat it. It’s sweet, it’s savoury, and it’s just flippin’ delicious. When it came to dreaming up my perfect Tex-Mex Brunch, I knew that these tasty little cakes of goodness were going to be the perfect accompaniment – with a Fresh Mex twist of course!

Get to work on these guys while your Huevos are baking away in the oven.

Preparation time – 5 mins

Cooking time – 6 minutes

Serves – 4 (or two if you’re extra hungry!)

Ingredients

Flatlay of ingredients needed to make sweetcorn fritter recipe using Fresh Mex Sweet & Mild Mex Rub
  • 200g sweetcorn
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • coriander
  • Dairyfree (or regular!) milk
  • plain flour
  • salt & pepper
  • FRESH MEX Mex Rub
  • To garnish – lambs lettuce, cherry tomatoes, coriander, lime wedges
  • To drizzle (optional, but tasty!) – mayo & yogurt (vegan or regular), lime, Mex Rub.

Method

  1. Finely dice the chilli and spring onion and crush the garlic. Roughly chop a small bunch of coriander and add everything to the sweetcorn in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, make a batter mix by adding about 50mls milk to about 100g seived flour and mix until smooth. Season with salt & pepper and about 1 tbsp of your Fresh Mex Mex Rub and mix again.
  3. Add the batter mix to your fresh ingredients a few spoons at a time – (my ‘measurements’ are rough as hell so better to start slow and judge it as you go along!) Your mixture should be thick enough to hold together without being too runny or sloppy.
  4. Bring about 1cm of vegetable oil to a high heat in a large flat pan, and when hot, carefully spoon your mix in to the pan, evenly spaced apart. Your fritters should be about 12cm in diameter.
  5. Fry for about 3 minutes on the first side until golden then flip and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes on the other side. Remove and allow to sit on some kitchen roll for another minute before serving.

Optional but awesome… While your fritters are sitting, scatter some lambs lettuce and some sliced cherry toms on to a serving platter. Serve the fritters on top. In a small bowl, mix a spoon of light mayo, a spoon of low fat yogurt, a large squeeze of lime and 1 tsp of your Smokey Tex Rub and mix well. Drizzle over the fritters, add a couple of lime wedges and go to town on those bad boys!

As a wee extra (because I love me an excessive amount of food lube!) we whipped up a delicious Avocado and lime dip to serve alongside everything. Just add 1 medium avo, about 100mls low fat greek yogurt, two garlic cloves, the juice of a whole lime, a small bunch of coriander and some salt and pepper to a blender and job’s a good ‘un! Oh and don’t forget to sprinkle a little of your fave Fresh Mex spice rub to serve 😉

Now all that’s left to do is gather your crew round the table, crack open a cold Lime Lager, dig in and enjoy! This really is the perfect brunch for sharing with friends or family, so get stuck in and have a good time.

Recipes cooked using Fresh Mex seasoning kits. Huevos Rancheros, Mexican spiced Sweetcorn Fritters, avocado and lime dip.

If you want to give creating your own Fresh Mex recipe a go, you can pick up the seasoning kits, either by ordering online, or you can pick them up at a whole host of locations by clicking HERE. You can even order the super refreshing Lime Lager here too!

If you give this recipe a try or come up with some of your own, I’d love to know so don’t forget to leave a comment.

Until next time

B x

Note – the products in this post were gifted, but the opinions and recipes are my own!

RHUBARB, PEAR & GINGER JAM

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. It seems like the stuff is everywhere you look right now – one of the wonderful things about this time of year. Is it just me or is it one of the most underrated veg (yup – not a fruit!) out there when it comes to comfort food. Think crumbles, pies, cakes, anything that you want to smother with custard (or ice cream if you’re a weird custard hater like me) on a rainy afternoon. Even those delicious rhubarb and custard sweets that I had a mild obsession with as a child, it’s one of those nostalgic flavours, and let’s face it, it’s just bloody tasty stuff.

Homemade rhubarb pear and ginger jam in a jar. Bowl off granola topped with yogurt and cereal.

Recently I drank a bottle of the most delicious Rhubarb and Ginger gin liqueur – YES I DRANK THE WHOLE BOTTLE DON’T JUDGE ME. In fact if you must know, I drank it for breakfast the weekend on my birthday, turning thirty-three is hard ok?!

Anyway… it got me to thinking about this huge rhubarb patch in our garden which I’m ashamed to say has gone neglected for the last few years since we’ve lived here – shocking I know! I suppose it’s one of those things where I’ve always had good intentions of harvesting a batch and whipping up all manner of delicious desserts, but never quite got round to it and next thing you know it’s always become overrun with snails and eventually withered away. Whoops!

Well not this year. Since I’ve spent about ninety-six hours watching cooking shows in the last month alone and and this colourful and easily foraged treat seems to pop up in every other dessert at the moment, I decided not to let it go to waste this time around, I decided to cook some bloody rhubarb!

Hand holding a bunch of fresh rhubarb picked from a garden

Just a bunch of GIGANTIC rhubarb freshly picked from the garden – all snails gently removed…

Make sure you fully remove the leafs as they are actually toxic, and will definitely not make for a yummy pie.

Rhubarb is at it’s peak in April and May, so if you still have any in the garden, get it while it’s still good!

Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here – I am no Mary Berry, so my first attempt at rhubarb cookery had to be something simple, and you can’t go wrong with a good old fashioned jam…right? Read on for my ‘recipe’ – a term I use very loosely as let’s face it, I don’t actually have a clue what I’m talking about and I can’t be arsed to use proper measurements, so if you do feel like giving this a bash, I’d recommend tightly crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

The Recipe…

Preparation time – 15 mins

Cooking time – 45 mins (ish!)

Ingredients

  • Three large rhubarb stalks ( I told you I don’t measure shit so don’t be asking for grams!)
  • Two small pears
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup water

Method

  • After removing the leaves, wash the stalks thoroughly and chop in to 2cm(ish) chunks. Now at this point if you were following a proper recipe, you’d coat in the sugar and leave for a couple of hours, but since we’re following the patented Becca Walker ‘can’t be arsed’ method, I didn’t bother pissing around with that, so it’s your call if you do or not. If not go ahead and chuck in to a pan!
  • Chop the pears in to large chunks (they’ll take break down much quicker than the rhubarb).
  • Add the sugar, lemon juice and ginger. I used the lazy stuff out of a jar – do you see a theme developing here? Heat until the sugar dissolves and is boiling gently. I should probably mention that you should be using about twice the amount of sugar, and that it should in fact be proper jam sugar which contains pectin (a thickening agent), however in an attempt to make this recipe ‘low sugar’, my logic determined that if I used half the sugar, added water and just cooked it for about three times as long it would turn out just fine. Probably.
  • Add the water and boil gently, stirring often for 30-40 minutes – or until thick and sticky!
  • Ladle in to a jar, allow to cool fully any enjoy!

Moroccan style bowl filled with granola topped with yogurt and homemade rhubarb jam

So there you have it, an idiots version of a half arsed rhubarb, pear and ginger jam, but if there’s one thing I do know it’s that this stuff tastes bloody fantastic! It’s great on pretty much anything, but my particular fave is to top any kind of granola (I used apple and cinnamon) with some natural yogurt and a nice big dollop of jam as a delicious and healthy breakfast.

Maybe I’ll learn to follow proper recipes one day, but until then I’ll just keep winging it, and I sincerely hope that they might work for some of you guys too!

Until next time,

B x

ROSEMARY & SEA SALT FOCACCIA WITH CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that home baking has become the new cool thing to do during lockdown, with everyone trying their hand at producing home made delicious treats to stuff our idle faces with to our hearts content, if only to pass the time away; Myself included.

So much so that in the first two weeks of lockdown I had whipped up no less than about six different kinds of breads/cakes/bakes – anything that I could shovel in to my increasingly large belly, or punt off on to Grant as a ‘treat for work’ to make sure that if I was going to get good and plump, I wasn’t going to do it alone.

Baking has become like sickly sweet crack to the masses, we all can’t get enough of this wholesome and gratifying activity – if you can actually find any flour that is, right now there’s more chance of spotting a fucking yeti taking a stroll through the park to get his daily exercise.

Since showing off a few successful recipe attempts on Instagram (because if it didn’t make the grid, did I even really bake it..?), some of you have asked me to share my baking ‘expertise’, and even though I’ve ripped most of them straight from Google, I figured why not. I’ll indulge my smug Delia Smith charade and dish out my recipes like hot cakes. Or bread. Whatever.

While I am far from achieving master baker status (ahem…), I like to think that I know a fair bit about food, stemming from ingesting impressive, if not alarming amounts of the stuff like a pro for many years now, so I suppose it makes sense to take a step from my usual role of reviewing culinary offerings in to proving that I can actually produce something not entirely crap myself.

So here it is, my first recipe blog, for anyone who cares. Starting with a pairing that is delicious, savoury and simple, and one that you’ll find yourself returning to for ‘just one more snack!’ all day long.

NB. I take absolutely no responsibility for the amount of calories that may be ingested subsequent to recreating these recipes. I’ve enough to worry about with the state of my own currently gargantuan arse at the moment, let alone anyone else’s.

ROSEMARY AND SEA SALT FOCCACIA

Preparation time – about 30 minutes if you’re as slow as shit like me.

Cooking time – 1 to 2 hours (plenty of time to have a snack while you wait for it to prove and cook).

Serves – I’ll leave that up to you. There will be no judgement here.

homemade sea salt and rosemary focaccia bread

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour, aka gold dust, plus extra for dusting. Or gold dusting. (I’ll get my coat…)
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (got to get those calories in)
  • 150-250ml of warm water
  • vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • fresh rosemary
  • sea salt

Method

  1. Dust a large flat baking tray with flour.
  2. Chuck the flour into a big old bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil, plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. If it’s sticking to your hands like treacle then you’re doing it wrong. Go easy on the water, adding a bit at a time. If you pour it in faster than the first post lockdown pint down your gullet, it may appear to be fucked, but you can fix this. Gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.
  3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until your puny weak arms feel like they’re going to fall off, on a lightly floured work surface. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, (pardon me vicar…) give it a good poke (no more than a ¼in). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer.
  4. Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
  6. Leave the dough in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. Then flour up that index finger again and poke holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart, in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Shove some sprigs of the rosemary into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and bung in the top of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, pale golden-brown and looks tasty as hell.
  7. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil in a wanky/artistic manner and leave to cool on the baking tray. (DON’T SHOVE IT IN TO YOUR GOB RIGHT AWAY OR YOU’LL BURN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH OFF YOU GREEDY PIGGY).

*Adapted recipe, originally from BBC Good Food.

CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

Preparation time – 5 minutes

Cooking time – 1 hour 30 (ish)

Serves – who the hell cares, it’s chutney FFS. This made a jars worth for me.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp chilli & garlic oil (or olive oil, or butter – whatever you have to be honest).
  • 3 big fat onions, thinly sliced ( I used white, red would work too)
  • 150g brown sugar – or muscovado if you want to be a prick about it.
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • salt
  • 150mls white wine vinegar (would probably be better with red but white was all I had so fuck it)
  • A fat glug of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Sprinkle of dried rosemary (technical terms…).

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onions over a medium-low heat for 25-30 mins stirring regularly, until gloriously gooey and awesome. DO NOT LET THEM BROWN/BURN OR IT WILL TASTE LIKE CRAP. They should reduce by about half.
  2. Chuck in half the sugar, crank up the heat a bit , and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just starting to colour. Lower the heat, then add the remaining sugar, a pinch of salt and all the other ingredients.
  3. Simmer, until bubbling away nicely on a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chutney has reduced and thickened to a dark caramel colour, stirring occasionally to check it isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan and completely buggered. If it’s turned to tar too soon, add a little water and leave to reduce again. To test if the chutney is ready, drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan – it should take a few seconds for the juices to re-cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spoon the hot chutney into a jar, let it cool fully then bung in to the fridge.

*Actually my own recipe and not one ripped off of someone else for once.

Slices of home made rosemary and sea salt focaccia with a jar of caramelised onion chutney

So there you have it! Freshly baked delicious crisp focaccia with sweet and sticky chutney. Add a chunk of whatever kind of cheese you fancy (but brie is especially good…) in to the equation and that is one happy little snackcident right there. Also try topping a burger or hotdog with the onion chutney at your next back yard isolation bbq for a bit of a taste sensation. You will not regret it!

Happy home cooking folks, and don’t even think about blaming me if you totally screw any of these up.

See you all on the other side when we’re all ready to apply for the next season of Masterchef.

B x