Nadiya’s British Food Adventure (review, ep 1)

Anyone who followed this blog during Nadiya’s GBBO season will know how delightful I found her.  Her face was expressive to an almost lunatic degree; her choice of bakes (methods, ingredients, etc) always pushed things a little further but (unlike some) not just for the sake of pushing – because she wanted to know how it would work, she wanted to try a new taste. Her passion and love of food and baking was infectious.

Nadiya during GBBO

So I was thrilled when she won that season and thrilled again when the BBC sent her off on the two part Chronicles of Nadiya so she could explore (and we could go with her) the recipes that laid the foundation for that passion and love of food. She always came off as very natural, if a bit nervous (and who could blame her) on GBBO and her shift from contestant to cookery presenter did nothing to dim that naturalness.

And so last night, Nadiya returned with her second show, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure and I am happy to report that she is still as natural as can be, the face still as expressive as ever and her enthusiasm for her topics on full show.

Nadiya on her new show, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure on BBC Two

Continue reading “Nadiya’s British Food Adventure (review, ep 1)”

Armchair Travel for Foodies: A Bookshelf

I love to travel — well, not the airport part and increasingly not the airliner part. But the being there part. And I love to eat, learn about food, share what I’ve learned and then get up and do it all again the next day. These dual passions are very much at the heart of what I do. I write for both food and travel websites,  have a segment on the Jones on Food and Travel radio show, run the Fabulous Foodie blog as well as the Fabulous Foodie Facebook group and run a travel blog called Greater Gotham Going Global.

Sadly, like most people, I can’t always travel when I want (must try harder to win that lottery) and so I end up doing a lot of ‘armchair travel’ when not banking actual travel miles.

Luckily, there are a lot of other food and travel lovers with a passion and skill for writing who have shared their culinary wisdom. So there’s lots of material (travel guides, essays and memoirs, great cookbooks with a heavy helping of travel included, tv tie-ins, even inspirational fiction) to get us on our way – both in reality and virtually.

Continue reading “Armchair Travel for Foodies: A Bookshelf”

Pickled And Baked

It’s not what you think.  I’m not wallowing in wine or whacked out on weed. (At least not right now.) I do, however, have homemade bread baking in the oven, and I’ve just put up a bunch of pickles. Again, it’s not what you may think.

I haven’t joined a commune in Vermont, delved too far into the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, or taken up extreme right-wing ideologies and moved into a nuclear bunker in Tennessee. I’m just trying to stay hip. And for once, I’ve found I haven’t already aged out of the latest trends. Both baking and pickling are tres chic here in the UK. That runaway smash tv show The Great British Bakeoff has taken the nation by storm over the last few years.


Both baking and pickling are tres chic here in the UK. That runaway smash tv show The Great British Bakeoff has taken the nation by storm over the last few years. Continue reading “Pickled And Baked”

And the Winner Is … GBBO 2015

A slightly different format this week as it was THE BIG FINALE.


But a quick note:  I would so watch “Baking with Nadyia & Tamal” – someone make this happen. What is the point in having friends “in the biz” if they can’t make my dream shows happen? Seriously, they are hilarious and adorable and I want them to go on baking adventures together – him wise-cracking and her pulling faces and the baking being glorious. OK, back to business. Continue reading “And the Winner Is … GBBO 2015”

GBBO 2015: Episode 9 (Chocolate)

At last, at last! I am back from my travels and back to recapping Bake Off – and just in time too as we have reached the semi-finals!And it’s CHOCOLATE WEEK! I love chocolate week, not just because I love chocolate but because it is such a wonky thing to work with – whether baking, saucing and building with it – and in this episode, the 4 remaining bakers are asked to all of these things.

group_of_hosts Continue reading “GBBO 2015: Episode 9 (Chocolate)”

Checking Out Chocolate Week

It’s semi-finals week on Bake Off – and in preparation for tomorrow’s episode, I’ve been perusing the chocolate-y challenges that the bakers will have before them. Oh and yes, I know I missed recapping Victorian and Patisserie week. I was traveling and ONLY caught up on them last night.

Signature challenge: a return to pastry but this time around it is chocolate pastry. And in case that wasn’t enough for the chocoholics in the room, said pastry is for a chocolate tart. Helllllllloooo, sailor!

chco_tart Continue reading “Checking Out Chocolate Week”

GBBO 2015: Episode 4 (Desserts)

It might have been raining outside the tent but inside all was dry – and occasionally too crumbly. But never mind, it’s dessert week.


  • Signature Round: Crème brulee, a classic. But this is GBBO so classic must not equal boring. Yes, it needs to have the right wobble and a hard, crackable surface (the result of grilling, not blow-torching) but it needs to have a twist.
  • Technical Challenge: Spanische Windtorte – or, you prefer, Spanish Wind Cake. Or as I prefer to think of it – a pavlova that got all dolled up and has nowhere to go.
  • Showstopper: cheesecake. But not one, not two – THREE and they must be stacked. Cheesecake is not known for it’s structural integrity to this will no doubt be worth watching.

SANDY: Oh Sandy, I’m going to miss you so much. You were having so much fun and it was fun to watch you. Your wobbles, your sparkly shoes, your joy when things went right, your unwillingness to let things get you down. As I’ve said before, everyone can have an off day – and you weren’t alone this time, Alvin wasn’t having the best of weekends either. But your crème brulee didn’t set – Paul described it as soup and I have to admit, I was with Mary when she expressed doubts about the liquorice flavour. Your showstopper was two tiers and not three – not from lack of stacking effort on your part (and Tamal’s bless his helpful little heart) – but because the cakes were too heavy (the world’s thickest crust didn’t help there) and the bake time was off so the cheesecakes didn’t set. You said yourself – you should have followed your instincts. 🙁

Sandy, I will miss seeing you on next week’s show but by golly, you are a baking role model. I wanna bake with the same sense of fun as you.

IAN: DAMNED, Ian! Star Baker 3rd week in a row? I’d say that Ian is unstoppable but that would be both premature and wrong. After all, Richard Burr (the baking builder of last series with the sassy pencil behind his ear) got Star Baker 3 weeks in a row too. And did he win? he did not. Not that winning matters when it comes to post-GBBO longevity. Winners or not, the baking success and public popularity of contestants seems solely based on their personalities and willingness to continue baking in the public eye.

Ian’s taste combos continue to puzzle Mary and give her pause until she tastes them and then she can hardly shut up about them. Yes, Mary we KNOW no one has ever suggested tarragon and apple to you before but you love it – you’ve said it 4 or 5 times now. He knows tricks no one else seems to know – pre-caramelising the caramel? BRILLIANT and a great way to keep the grill time down! Nothing seems to rattle Ian – or maybe something would if he encountered a problem He seems to bake serenely and steadily, without incident. Surely at some point Ian will be in the middle of something that comes utterly unstuck and we will see the Dalai Lama’s official photographer lose his crackers. But this week – it was smooth sailing, from the creme brulees that Mary adored to the technical challenge that looked amazing and more importantly in this case correct – and finally to his showstopper cheesecakes.

As Paul Hollywood said, “The Ian train blows on, three Star Bakers on the bounce.” That said – it does make you wonder what someone is gonna have to do to beat Ian.

NADIYA: The queen of expressive faces was expressing away all hour – and impressing us not only with the end result on the showstopper cheesecake tower (super fun and super adorable) but also with the steps she made in preparation for it. Reducing 3 fizzy drinks down to syrup over 10 hours? Good gads, woman. And hello? the third meringue of the evening – Nadiya, having survived Swiss and French meringue during the technical challenge, uses Italian meringue for the “fizz” of her fizzy drink. I shall rename her the Marchioness of Meringue. I also note that her brulee is tea flavoured – she does like her tea notes doesn’t she? And adorably served in tea cups. Go, Nadiya! She also had one of the great lines from tonight: “I produced what they wanted, just the ugly version.” None of it was ugly, Nadiya. Stop being so hard on yourself.


FLORA: We were watching Flora this week and were trying to figure out what it is that makes 19 year old Flora so – well, un-19ish. I don’t mean she looks older than 19. I mean she has the confidence of someone much older at a guess, as was suggested by dungeekin, I’d say Flora grew up not only socializing with children her own age but also spent a lot of time hanging out with the adults as well. Also, she does rock a slightly retro look – which suits her. Interestingly though – she’s kinda firmly upper middle of the pack. She’s obviously a very informed baker, has done it since she was high enough to reach the top of the counter, researches what she wants to do etc … and while engaged in the act of baking, confident, well-spoken relaxed. When being judged she is all nail-biting and winces – and though it doesn’t happen often, when something goes wrong (even though it doesn’t go HIDEOUSLY wrong) she deflates. We know Flora is the eldest of a number of siblings and I suspect a type A child of type A parents.


PAUL 2: You know, I think Paul 2 just might finally be enjoying himself. Yes, the brulees puffed up too much despite all that practice but his technical challenge was top of the field and his showstopper won smiles all around. After that special commendation-winning lion, we want Paul 2 to stick around so we can see what he does next. His goal this week seemed to be “Get Mary drunk” what with the “adult” creme brulee and the booze soaked cheese cakes. It might have worked if Mary were judging alone but Paul H is made of sterner stuff. From a looks perspective by the by – I adored Paul 2’s cheesecake tower. Those berries were GORGEOUS.

TAMAL: Was very much, in my mind, up for Star Baker this week. Tamal, like Sandy, always keeps his sense of humour about him but unlike Sandy this week, also kept his head. His creme brulees were spot on and during the technical challenge he seemed to be the only person in the tent who KNEW what violets were supposed to look like. This no doubt helped balance out the fact that he only had ONE kind of piping on his Tarted Up Pavlova – sorry, Spanish Wind cake. He leapt in to help Sandy, was even more devastated than she was when her bake went flop but this in no way impacted on his results since his cheesecakes kicked ass from a taste and look perspective. While I have no issue with Ian winning Star Baker – I do think Tamal did JUST as well (if not a SMIDGE better) this week and he deserved it. But you know what? Tamal has been consistently top notch. He’ll get it at some point.


UGNE: Oh Ugne get your hair out of your eyes. You can’t bake if you can’t see. Also, I am beginning to think Ugne has a bit of a chocolate fixation. Not that this is a bad thing – I myself have one. I just note it and think MAYBE it’s gonna end up getting in the way for her. What becomes important as the episodes click by is showing a breadth of skills and bakes. If it’s chocolate and caramel, every single week someone’s gonna get bored (Paul quite likely) and they will call you out for being too one-note (Again, quite likely Paul but Mary might gently suggest a bit of variety would be welcome). Also, quit using things we’ve never heard of! What the hell is marula?

MAT: Thanks to Mat, we learned that Mary does not care for desiccated coconut. Actually, we learned that Mary has “come to enjoy coconut a bit more” – which translates to “Coconut? Ewwww.” Both of which she said to you, Mat during the first round. So what did you do in the third round? Used coconut. Mat, what I said last week about raising your game still stands. Oh and Mat – stop flirting with Ugne. “how do yours wobble? The brulees that is.” She’s a body builder and will break you in half, assuming Mrs Mat has not done so after the sassiness of last week. Also – Mat, you remember what I said last week about raising your game? Your custard was runny and your judge wasn’t happy. Get on that.

ALVIN: This week Alvin learned that to survive , you don’t have to be better than everyone – just be better than one. And this week, he was ever so slightly better off than Sandy. Well, according to Paul and Mary. I might have made a different decision – especially based on the results of the technical challenge. Both Alvin and Sandy had trouble getting things to set – custard and cheesecake but Alvin really screwed the pooch on the Spanish Wind Torte. There is a definite difference between French meringue and Swiss meringue. If the judges can’t tell the difference when judging, something has gone more than wrong. Another thing – Alvin doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes. More than once, Alvin has been kneecapped by fresh fruit making things too wet. Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Alvin – stop the insanity.

Next week: ‘Free-from’ baking. Yes, it is exactly what you think it is – recipes with no gluten, no sugar or no dairy. Hmmmm …

In the meantime, keep on dancin’ Sandy