Food and drink are two of the most important things in life, and I think they are much better when they aren’t taken too seriously. I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting foods, so here’s a roundup of the fun food related things I found this month.
If you want to find absurd cooking gadgets then Lakeland is the best place to visit. The baking section is my favourite area with its twee silicon moulds, decorations and varied baking trays. Usually the cutters just tend to be the generic heart and stars shape, but this weekend I found hipster cookie glasses.
They actually call themselves shade cookie cutters, and “ideal” for the summer. Mostly it makes me happy that Lakeland stocks bizarre goods so items like this can exist.
Every now and again products which for whatever reason vanished from the shelves are brought back. The most recent comebacks are Coca Cola Vanilla and BN biscuits.
I don’t remember Vanilla Coca Cola being so popular, but at the moment every other post on Twitter or Facebook is someone excitedly buying a can of the stuff. The drink is as sweet as I remember and you have to really concentrate to taste the vanilla flavour, but it’s fun.
The BN biscuits comeback is far more exciting though. The French biscuits haven’t been sold in the UK for the past 13 years, but they are back and with a rebrand. They are only available in chocolate and vanilla for the time being, but they taste just as I remember. I used to have the biscuits in my packed lunch at school and with one bite I was transported back to the lunch hall.
It might have been years since the BN adverts have been shown, but admit it you occasionally find yourself singing that advert.
Everyone, join in.
Sometimes I am amazed at how susceptible I am to television. The Great British Sewing Bee started on BBC Two soon after Easter. The show is similar to the Great British Bake Off, but instead of best bakes they are looking for Britain’s top amateur sewer.
The contestants have a number of challenges to show the judges, May Martin and Patrick Grant, that they have a good grasp of working with different techniques and materials.
The programme advocates making your own wardrobe rather than just buying off the rack. It’s really impressive to see people whipping together dresses, blouses and trousers and enjoying it. To get the audience joining in this sewing revolution they set little projects to try out.
Over on my television review blog, TV Talk, I mentioned that this was the weakest part of the show. There was an expectation that most homes have a sewing machine hidden away. It skipped the step from an interest in sewing to a person who had all the equipment and some basic knowledge.
Despite this I decided to make a smaller version of a laundry bag that was on the programme. You can find the pattern on the Radio Times website.
I got a little Zoom recorder as a birthday present last year, it’s really handy to stick in my bag when interviewing people. However, there is all sorts in my bag so I thought about making a little bag for it as protection. And actually the laundry bag design looked perfect.
I don’t have a sewing machine but I do have a little sewing kit that my Mum put together for me to take to university. A few nights this week were spent stitching together pieces of fabric by hand hoping that it was going to end up looking vaguely like a bag soon. It’s oddly satisfying when something starts coming together and looking like it should.
The most complicated bit was the drawstring top, which took me a while to get my head round, and I still don’t think I got it quite right. By this point there was a lot of fabric too so my stitches started to get a bit big which I can gloss over for now but will have to sort out eventually.
The most important thing is my Zoom does fit in the bag.
This is what it looks like finished.
Now I’m starting to think if I should do another project. I want it to be something that I would actually use, so I don’t want to practice by making hundreds of cushion covers. So any ideas of things for beginners to make?
Paul Hollywood likes to stare. It’s a wonder he manages to make any bread in between all the staring. Yet he does, and he now has his own BBC cookery show to tell us how to make bread too.
Each week Hollywood offers up a different slice of bread history and culture. In the first episode Hollywood explored the bread classics: bloomers, ploughman’s and malt loaf. He occasionally flirts with meat and cake recipes, but the series is predominantly, as the title suggests, about bread.
This week his focus was on flat breads. They might be really interesting but it looks like making them will be more effort and hard work than my little kitchen could handle. He started by visiting different restaurant kitchens to learn how to make impressive looking flat breads.
It was all very educational but then Hollywood began to act like he was in his own episode of “The Generation Game” all about bread. He would see the experts doing it and then decide that he could do it better. Annoyingly Hollywood didn’t end up plating up some rubbish, like Generation Game contestants normally would.
Hollywood has landed this series after showing off his baking skills on “The Great British Bake Off”, playing the bad guy to Mary Berry’s comforting figure. Innocently it makes sense that Hollywood, a keen and knowledgeable baker, wants to get the nation making their own bread, as he says: “I can’t just be beaten by a piece of dough, it ain’t going to happen.”
Not so innocently, the Hollywood stare seems to have caught some people’s attention. Nicknamed the ‘Silver Fox’ he seems to be a bit of a sex symbol. Looks aside, he does end up playing up to his reputation. He likes to get his hands messy, demonstrating how he likes to use his hand as a mixer. He also started to pound his dough roughly against the table, instead of just rolling out his flat breads. He isn’t doing himself any favours.
The important test for any cookery show is does it make people want to cook. Hollywood surely knows that he has a battle on his hands. Any person watching a heavenly chocolate cake being made on the telly would surely try making it themselves? You show someone how to do meat, potatoes and veg a bit differently then someone will give it a go. But even if you show how amazing it is to make your own bread, then almost everyone will say: “That’s nice but it costs about £1 in the shop.”
However, he does make it look simple and that’s encouraging. Make your own judgement and watch “Bread” on BBC iPlayer.
I record the show on a Tuesday evening and had arranged the interview on a Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as when I arrived my interviewee was ill and at home. Hopefully we’ll be able to rearrange the interview soon. As a result the show ended up being a bit rushed. Luckily I have lots of interviews which I like to reuse every now and again.
I also realised that it’s almost Easter so I should try making something. There are recipes for creme egg brownies on Facebook and thought I should give it a go. So the brownies get reviewed on the show too.
You can listen here:
Easter hasn’t arrived until you have had a creme egg. There may be bigger eggs or better chocolate but nothing compares to the childlike wonder of a creme egg. There’s something very Heston Blumenthal about them.
I, perhaps foolishly, decided that they could be made better with cake. I admit this recipe is not mine, I found one on the internet here and then tweaked it according to what I like.
If you would like to try them out I made a video recipe guide. And if you do try them out then let me know how they went.
I had good intentions, like all people who make resolutions. I vowed to do something and then promptly forgot. I have no excuses because my challenge was even written down. So here two weeks later and I am spending the day with Radio 2.
I freelance meaning there are parts of the day where I am by myself. I was starting to feel a bit lonely, and remembered when I used to listen to the radio on a daily basis. It was back when I was working in an office, but we weren’t supposed to get distracted. Eventually the silence became too much and I found myself regularly tuning into Radio 2. Since I left that job I have missed Steve Wright in the Afternoon, so I decided to have a listen and see how he was getting on.
A lot is made of radio listening being a relationship. Jeremy Vine, who also has a Radio 2 show, says in his book ‘Its All News To Me’: “Television is impact, radio is intimate. TV is all about creating a splash, radio is all about forming a relationship”. I have to agree and, frankly, it was a relief that Steve Wright sounded the same. Instantly I felt like I had some company to help me through the afternoon.
The strangest thing was when I had real human company again it did feel like I was getting two friends that you know won’t really get on try to have an awkward chat.
Aside from my reunion with the station, I was drawn in by their Comic Relief activities. Over the past week in the lead up to Red Nose Day the comedian Miranda Hart has been given ‘mad’ challenges. Her charitable attempts were nicely woven into the day’s shows. In the morning Miranda found out what was in store for her from Chris Evans, then updated listeners throughout the day on the other programmes. It was cleverly done and was interesting from a Red Nose perspective but also inviting me to carry on listening.
Of course this is Radio 2 so there are some odd songs, although Toto’s Africa was a genuine highlight. A few years ago BBC Trust said the age of the average listener should not drop below 50. Therefore the station is a comfortable listen, but that is no bad thing. It also meant it was really easy to transition from show to show and from presenter to presenter. The mix of a variety of topics yet with a reliable and trusty feel meant it was a great listen. The programming feels almost like the ideal way radio should sound.
According to the latest RAJAR figures, audience listening figures, Radio 2 has over 15 million listeners. Therefore I cannot pretend to have discovered anything new. But if you listen to any radio that you would recommend others to listen to then let me know in the comments.
There’s been a bit of a delay in Food for Thought recently. To sound dramatic I had a really bad cold. When I have colds I am particularly pathetic and this time as well as sneezing every five seconds I lost my voice. This doesn’t help when presenting a radio show. This week I bravely struggled on. I still sound a bit odd but hopefully it isn’t too distracting.
On this week’s show it is a celebration of the Electric Bar and Restaurant. They have been open a year so held a lavish party at their Brayford based restaurant. Also on this week’s programme I find out more about brunch. The Stokes cafe at The Collection have started to serve the mid-morning meal on Sundays and I wanted to find out how it is different.
You can listen to this week’s show via the player below:
Electric Bar’s birthday
It seems hard to believe that the Electric Bar, with its awe inspiring elevator and beautiful views of the Brayford, is only a year old. The restaurant is on top of the Doubletree Hotel and has had quite an impact on the local area.
To find out how the food, the bar and the hotel have developed over the last year I chatted to the general manager, Philip Walker, and head chef, Phil Henson.
You can listen to the interviews below.
Their party saw flash cars on the waterfront and was a chance to showcase the Electric Bar’s food and cocktails. Here are some pictures from the evening.
Most of us know what brunch is, but how many of you have had it done well? Stokes cafe at The Collection is now serving pancakes, waffles and crepes as a great Sunday roast alternative. Jean Sebastian Braen, the general manager of the High Bridge and The Collection cafes, knows more about brunch than others. He is originally from Canada and has helped to create this menu. He hopes to introduce the idea of brunch to Lincoln.
Listen to the interview with Jean Sebastian here:
If you have enjoyed this blog post then why don’t you try listening to Food for Thought live on Siren FM? It goes out on Wednesdays at 2pm and you can listen online.