Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

Category Archives: Interview

Change For Life Challenge- Sunday

Evening meal- Super Stew and Dumplings

I chose this recipe because it seemed perfect for a lazy cold Sunday. With just 2o minute preparation time but a long cooking time it’s a great one to do if you want minimal effort and you’re not going anywhere. You can just leave it simmering away while you get one with whatever you’re doing.

Ingredients for the stew

Ingredients for the stew

When I was making the dumplings I thought I’d got the measurements wrong because the dumplings were so tiny but I forgot how much they grow when they are cooking. I haven’t cooked dumplings for a long time but a slow cooked stew and dumplings is so comforting. I will definitely start cooking this kind of dish more often.

When making the dough for the dumplings, it’s tempting to add more water but persist with the 2 tablespoons if you can because it comes together in the end and you don’t want it to end up sticky.

Cooking and preparation time for this recipe were exactly as stated and it was a really easy dish to cook with plenty of variations that would be simple to do depending on your taste.

Even though you leave it to simmer for a long time, I would check often because you may need to add a little more water or stock. Apart from that, this involves very little effort once it’s bubbling away.

Perfect for a Sunday

Perfect for a Sunday

Recipe- serves 4

307 calories, 20 minutes prep time, 3 hours cooking time.

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil

280g lean braising steak, cut into chunks

450ml reduced-salt beef or vegetable stock

2 onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 large carrots, cut into chunks

2 celery sticks, sliced

1 bay leaf (optional)

250g closed cup mushrooms, halved

100g self-raising flour

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tsp mixed dried herbs

50g reduced fat spread

freshly ground black pepper

What to do:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large casserole dish or saucepan.

2. Add the beef and cook for 2-3 minutes over a high heat until it’s browned.

3. Pour the stock into the pan, adding the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaf and mushrooms. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and cook over a low heat for 1 hour. Add a little water if needed.

4. To make the dumplings, sift the flour into a bowl with the parsley and some black pepper. Add the reduced fat spread to the flour, then rub in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Add just enough cold water (about 2 tbsp) to make a soft dough. Knead the dough lightly for a moment, then form into 12 small dumplings.

5. add the dumplings into the stew, letting them sit on the surface. Cover and cook for another 25-30 minutes, until the dumplings are light and fluffy.

For this and many more recipes, sign up to Change4Life’s Food Smart Campaign and receive your free recipe booklet.

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An Interview with Fuschia Dunlop

Abergavenny Food Festival is undeniably a great day out. The whole town comes alive with exhibitors, masterclasses, tutorials and foraging walks. This year I signed up for a masterclass with Cook and Food Writer Fuschia Dunlop– Chinese Home Cooking.


Fuschia’s book, Sichuan Cookery is a firm favourite in my kitchen and I was keen to see Fuschia demonstrate some dishes from her new book, ‘Every Grain of Rice’.

Fuschia spoke casually and confidently as she took us through some simple healthy Chinese dishes with a tasting at the end. Following the festival,  I had the privilege of interviewing Fuschia about her new book and love for Chinese cooking.

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What made you decide to write your latest book ‘Every Grain Of Rice?’ What was your inspiration?

Many people in the West don’t realise that Chinese meals can be delicious, quick and easy. People think of Chinese food as either over complicated or unhealthy fried food that is often found in restaurants. Certainly, Chinese banquet cooking is complicated but that isn’t the sort of food that’s eaten on a daily basis. Chinese cooking can be extremely easy. It’s basically vegetables, a little meat or fish, served with rice or noodles. I wanted to inspire people in the West by introducing this simple way of cooking delicious food.

What sparked your interest in Chinese food, Sichuan in particular, as opposed to other cuisines?

I have always loved cooking from childhood and my interest in China started through a job. When I won a scholarship to study there, I had an amazing lunch in Sichuan and so that’s where I went. When I got there it completely exceeded my expectations. I learned to cook regional dishes and absolutely loved it.

Are you disappointed by this country’s perception of Chinese food based on the typical generic Chinese take away menu?

I think it’s changed a lot. 15-20 years ago people had a low opinion of Chinese food or their experience of it was limited to what they ate in their local Chinese restaurant but I think that’s changed now. There are better restaurants now, lots of the big cities have regional restaurants that are very good. Also, British people are travelling more and getting a glimpse of the great food they cook in China for themselves and bringing it back with them. I see the perception as more wide and diverse than it was.

What can we learn from Chinese cooking to better the British diet?

How to make vegetables taste so sensational that we don’t miss meat! The Chinese use fragrant ingredients such as soy sauce, chilli and black beans to give vegetables an amazing rich, savoury taste. In these times when people are thinking about health and environmental concerns, we can learn a lot from the Chinese. Chinese food offers a lot by way of addressing these concerns without losing the pleasure.

What 5 ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?

Sichuan chilli bean paste, soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, chilli oil and preserved Chinese vegetables.

What is your favourite Chinese inspired breakfast?

There are so many good ones! One to cook at home would be rice porridge with pickled vegetables, topped with fermented bean curd.

If you’d like to have a look at Fuschia Dunlop’s latest book ‘Every Grain of Rice’ you can purchase it from her website.

The Cheesiest Of All The Festivals

Summer time is food festival time! With so many to choose from, some good, some bad, one that I always do my best to visit is the The Great British Cheese Festival at Cardiff Castle. Cheese is my chocolate so to have so much cheese under one roof is heaven to me.

If you can bear the crowds and the scuffles to get to each stall through people fighting for their freebies, there were some lovely cheeses to be had this year. Here are my top five.

1. Strafton Blue Ewes Cheese fromThe Great British Cheese Shop– Strong, creamy and blue- perfect!)

2. Tunworth Cheese– This smelt and tasted like cabbage in the best possible way. I love a stinky cheese)

3. Coolea Matured– A delicious Irish hard cows milk cheddar.

4. Wild Gralic Cornish Yag (Lynher Dairies) Crumbly cheese with a strong taste of garlic

5. Blacksticks Blue– A well known one but still one of my favourites

As well as filling my fridge with cheese, this year I was also able to interview one of the exhibitors. Here is my interview with Tim from Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese.

What is the name of your company?

F.W.Read and Sons Ltd or Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese based in Lincolnshire

Where can we buy your products?

A large number good independent cheese shops and delis as well as Waitrose nationally.

What made you decide to become a cheese producer?

We started producing cheese in 1992 when Simon [Brother] came back from agricultural college and the farm was fully staffed so he had the time to go and research cheese production and set up  a small cheese dairy.

How did you decide on the name for your company?

Our father thought of the name and it is plagiarised from the old Lincolnshire Poacher song dating back several hundred years

What makes your cheese stand out above the rest? 

Firstly we only use our own milk which means we can control the diet of the cows, the health of the cows and the freshness of the milk. When the cows are milked in the morning the milk is immediately pumped into the vat for cheese making while it is still warm!

Are you planning to develop any new cheeses?

Not at the moment.  Our plan for the time being is to concentrate on making the one cheese as well as we possibly can.

What are your top three favourite cheeses?

Perroche (Neals Yard Creamery), Stichelton (Stichelton Dairy)and Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses)

 

 

 

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CUPCAKE WEEK: TUESDAY- An Interview With The Lady Behind Baked By Mel

As part of cupcake week, I thought it would be interesting to interview the passionate cake baking supreme that is Melanie Constantinou, the lady behind Baked By Mel.

I first met Mel when we got together for tea so I could review some of her cakes and I found her passion and excitement for baking inspiring. So, a few weeks ago, we met for yet more tea and cake and this time I took my pad and pen. Here’s what she had to say.

How long have you been baking? 

Along time for fun but a year ago last February, I went self-employed and started Baked By Mel.

What made you set up your cake business?

I have two young children and I wanted to work around them to avoid all the issues with childcare. I knew it had to be home based and I love cake! There are cakes everywhere at the moment and I was aware of the revival of grow your own and make your own so it seemed like a perfect fit.

What sparked your interest in baking?

My Mum is very enthusiastic about food. My Dad is Greek so the food we ate when I was young was really interesting and unusual. We’d have things like stuffed vine leaves, macaroni pie, all made from scratch. My Greek Nan used to make yogurt in the bathroom so I learnt a lot.

Food is really important in my background. My Grandad owned a butchers on Brick Lane in London and my Mum ran a small fruit and veg stall next door. When she met my Dad who is Greek, his Mum taught my Mum how to cook. My parents now run two cafes in Southend so food has always been an important part of my life.

What sets your cakes apart from others?

I’ve been wondering this. Apparently they look polished! They are simple but I like things to be symmetrical and made with care. I genuinely love my cakes! They look so lovely when I look through the oven door and see them all cooking together and when I ice them I get all excited! When I deliver them to people and they are pleased it’s so exciting and I get a really warm buzz, it’s great!

Call me strange but I think that love and passion can get into food. When I see my boys eating something I’ve made I get all maternal. I feel like I’m doing my job properly.

So I guess what I’m saying is, what sets my cakes apart is ‘me’. That’s how I feel anyway. I am the biggest secret ingredient! All my love and passion goes into everything I bake and I think that’s important. Oh, that and music. I always play music while I’m baking, it’s good for the cakes!

What is your greatest creation?

Last Christmas, I asked my partner what he wanted for desert on Christmas day. I thought he’d say cheesecake but no, he wanted Dutch apple pie, just like his Mum makes. Well this worried me, I would have to compete with fond memories!

I looked at some recipes and I needed a variety of apple that I couldn’t get over here so I used Granny Smith’s and the pastry was just so rich, I had no idea how I would roll it. I had a new oven that I had never used before so I wasn’t used to the settings but it turned out to be absolutely gorgeous!

The fluted edges were perfect, the apples were shiny with a brandy glaze, it looked like it should be in the window of a French Patisserie. He was delighted that I had cooked it for him and he even said it was better than his Mother’s but don’t tell her!

Where do you get your inspiration?

I look at a lot of recipes but I also base my cakes on flavours that inspire me. I might see an ingredient I like, like some nice fresh strawberries, then I think about what flavours might go with them. I look at turning large cakes into cupcakes and I like to experiment using flavours from cocktails. I’ll think of something and wonder how I’ll get it in a cake. For example, Pina Colada. I’d soak pineapple in the cake mix and I’d add coconut milk to the frosting.

Often I’ll see something like a cake wrapper or a gorgeous plate and think of flavours that would suit them. This often leads onto a whole range of things. A beautiful vintage plate might make me think of Earl Grey as a cake flavour which leads me to think of more tea related cakes I could create.

Aside from baking, what else do you like to cook?

I love baking! I love making soda bread but that’s still baking. Soup! I love making soup! It’s straight forward, nutritious and rewarding. I would NEVER have soup from a can. Once you have the basics I think it’s impossible to go wrong.

What is the best meal you’ve had recently?

It was at the Purple Poppadom in Cardiff. I had mussels to start in a coconut sauce with different naan breads. I love dipping bread in food, it reminds me of my time living in Sinai.

If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

….long pause. This is so hard! Hmmmm, it would have to be my Dad’s kebabs. They are so good! I have never tasted anything like it. He cooks it on real charcoal and infuses the meat for hours. It has to come with pitta and salad. Perfect!

Mel’s creations

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It was a pleasure to interview Mel. I totally agree, love and passion can get into food and you will definitely find them in Mel’s cakes. Have a look at her website to see what she can do.

                                                                                          

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