Blogs from Thinking-Cooking.com

Variety not the spice of life at the BBC Good Food Show

So I decided to brave the crowds and head for the BBC Good Food Show at Birmingham's NEC, primarily to be nosy... and see what other people were up to.

Everyone has their guilty pleasures on TV. Something you know you shouldn't watch but do. And for me, it's Masterchef. I don't know why... at least half the stuff they cook sounds revolting to me, and I certainly wouldn't categorise myself as a vaguely talented chef, never mind a Masterchef...

But watch it I do. And Masterchef forms an integral part of the BBC Good Food Show experience, with a demonstration area, masterclasses and a 'Masterchef restaurant'.

It's credit to the BBC that they don't go overboard, and saturate the brand. After all, a stand selling Masterchef merchandise would probably have done a roaring trade. But Masterchef is all about class - and class doesn't mean crass commercialisation. So BBC Masterchef team, give yourselves a huge pat on the back.

What I would say, however, is that if you're going to run a Masterchef restaurant, the service has to be good. I decided to eat there - I was entitled to a lunch break after all, especially as I was spending my day on my feet - and was left with very mixed feelings about the whole experience.

The food - it has to be said - was beautiful. A starter inspired by last year's winner, using traditional Mauritian street dishes, was simply stunning. And the main course, a kind-of deconstructed chicken burger dish, was very good. But 50 minutes between course.... well, for me that's simply not good enough.

The waitress simply said 'sorry, we're busy'. Well of course you're busy, you're the Masterchef restaurant at the BBC Good Food Show, what we're you expecting? A trickle of customers wandering up saying' this sounds nice, shall we try here?' Someone somewhere messed up...

Anyway, rant over. What else was worth knowing. Perhaps my favourite stall was Panjaban - www.panjaban.co.uk - a stall selling the bases for traditional Punjabi dishes. The flavours were incredible, and I loved the backstory... a boy who went to university and missed his mother's cooking so much she started sending it up. Gradually the amount she was sending increased, until he finally admitted that he was selling it around campus at a handsome profit. A business was born.

Another great find was Pepper and Stew - www.pepperandstew.co.uk - which despite the name (or maybe I'm showing my ignorance here?) is out of Africa..... some amazing base sauces from West Africa  (Ghana if memory serves correct) which would make a change from curry when you fancy something a little spicy.

And it was nice to see a Shropshire favourite - Cooper's Gourmet Sausage Rolls - doing a roaring trade.

All in all, a very pleasant day out. I was a little disappointed by the variety - lots of sausages, curries, cheese, olives, fudge and cakes but other than the African sauces nothing that I'd truly never tried before. Variety would be the spice of life at a show like this, but perhaps the variety just isn't out there...

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

 

A wander round the Farm-Shop & Deli Show

Thinking-Cooking recently packed up its kitchen and headed for the Farm-Shop & Deli Show at the NEC. It proved a real eye-opener.

For one thing, when I headed down the M54 on Tuesday I didn't think I would see a man in a spaceman suit and a man who could only be described as some sort of spandex-clad chilli-eating superhero performing the Harlem Shake with other be-suited sales executives. But then anything goes over the 'border' in the National Convenience Show. 

Back in the Farm-Shop & Deli Show it was all a bit more traditional... copious amounts of relishes and sauces, biscuits and hams. I sat for a while next to the Farm Shop & Deli Live stage waiting for the various butchers, bakers and breadstick makers to film Gangnam Style - but it never happened.

There were some absolute gems in there. I like a nice curry, in fact I love a nice curry. And the curry sauces from Kumar's Curries were simple incredible. Apparently they fly all their ingredients in from the Indian sub-continent, so it is 100% authentic. The flavours were simple incredible.

I'd been given a Thai Green Curry sauce, so last night added some Tiger Prawns and dived in. I felt like the guy on Masterchef who waxes lyrical about the flavours coming through... now I confess until I looked at the packed I didn't know what many of the flavours were, but they were amazing.

Now these guys make sauces. You just add your own meat and eat... and the Thinking-Cooking Si-bag Meal-Maker would actually be perfect with this kind of sauce. Fish, sauce, three minutes in the microwave... perfect. I'm seeing the future of dinner times in my house and I like it...

So what else stood out? Lottie Shaw's Yorkshire parkin was amazing. And despite being a proud Yorkshireman I don't even like parkin that much. Or maybe my Grandma just wasn't very good at making it. What else... well when your stall's called Ooh! CHOCOLATA you're bound to be on to a winner.

But all in all a good few days... especially in the Farm Shop & Deli Show.

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING 

Share your recipes with other parents...

MY children are now at school. Well strictly speaking they're probably currently being walked from school to after-school club in the rain but what I mean is they are no longer babies or even toddlers. So now, I don't struggle when it comes to feeding them. They're brilliant eaters, and will try anything, so barring food that's too spicy they have what we're having.

But it was not always like that. I still have flashbacks to the days when I had to cook a meal for a toddler and would just stare blankly into the fridge. Does she eat carrots? What about butternut squash? And if she does, what the hell do I do with a vegetable that looks like a mushroom has mated with a pumpkin?

And as my wife told me regularly, there's only so many days in a row you can feed a child beans on toast or scrambled egg. They actually need a more varied diet. Apparently.

So, if you're a Baby & Toddler Meal-Pouch user you could do people like me (albeit a few years too late) a favour, and share some tried and tested recipes. We'll post the best ones online and share them on the Baby & Toddler Meal-Pouch Facebook page - and if we choose yours we'll send you a few free packs to say thank you.

Email your recipes to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

Just the faintest whiff of spring in the air

IT'S probably tempting fate. But I'm going to say it anyway.... spring is in the air. There. I've said it. No wisecracks please about how actually I only wrote it, which technically speaking is correct. For how do you good people know that I didn't just holler it at the top of my voice across the office.

A few things have led me to this startling if not groundbreaking conclusion. 1) I no longer need a coat on just to walk to my car. 2) We've thrown open the office windows. 3) It's March, and the last time I checked March ushered in spring, and 4) There's a year's supply of Creme Eggs in my local Co-op.

Mind you, the Creme Eggs have been there since about mid January, so scrub number 4.

So March 1st and what have we learnt. We've learnt that beef might not always be beef and that the Pope does not always have to be the Pope. He can actually resign. It's one step from God writing a letter of resignation, but apparently it's allowed. Whereas beef should always be beef - and by that I mean made from a cow...

As scandals go it's been truly scandalous in an underwhelming way. True, when we bought our beef lasagne from (insert name of supermarket here, I don't want to libel anyone), we had a reasonable expectation that the said lasagne was made from beef. But hand on heart, who can say that they honestly believed that a lasagne that feeds a family of four and cost just 99p was made from the finest quality Angus beef mince?

The real eye-opener for me was the journey that meat was taking even before it ended up in the UK. From a Romanian slaughterhouse (with a giant picture of a horse outside, they weren't hiding it people), the prime beef/horse meat was re-enacting National Lampoons European Vacation before it finally smelt the bechamel sauce. Whichever way you dress it up, that can't be necessary... I live in the countryside, there's plenty of cows around, I see them daily!

Why was meat ever been shipped on such farcical journeys? 

The big winner here, and it's a long time since this has been the case, could be the UK farming industry and local butchers. The clamour for certified UK produce will be beginning about now. Supermarkets may be forced to display the origins of their food much more clearly. And the High Street butcher could be the true winner - he can probably not only tell the customer exactly where the meat came from, but in many cases even name the animal. "400g beef from Daisy the Limousin, yes madam!"...

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

Feedback is important, so don't be shy...

No-one covers every base, every time, and gets things 100% first time. So while we think our products are amazing, if you find that you'd like them to be a bit bigger, or a bit smaller, a bit wider or a bit fatter, don't hesitate to get in touch and let us know - feedback from customers is vital.

We know how we use the products - but other people may have other ideas. Would you like to see the Fat-Trap slightly smaller perhaps? Would you like to see the Si-bag Meal-Maker made bigger, so you can get more in it? Or is there a product that you think we could make that we don't? Do you have a visionary idea?....

Any comments can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - please get in touch, as we really do value your opinions.

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

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