Hooray, it’s a new year and Foodie Penpals is back. If you haven’t come across this fabulousness yet, then I encourage you to join as one of your new year resolutions for 2014. Take a little wander over to This is Rock Salt to find out more.
So this month I was paired up with two bloggers! I have never sent a parcel to a blogger and had it written about before, so it’s exciting – and nervewrecking – to know that something is going to be written about what I sent.
The person paired up to send goodies to me was Claire over at The Black Cat Kitchen, a blog I have been following for some time, being as cats and kitchens are two of my favourite things. I explained to Claire that I would be heading off on holiday towards the end of the month, and she very kindly organised her package super quickly so I received it not only well in advance of the holiday, but also with plenty of time to sample everything and write about it before jetting off into the sunshine.
She really put together a beautifully thought out parcel of deliciousness – a great mixture of things she knew I would like (having read this blog) and things she wanted to share from her own region up North! First out of the box was a jar of apple and cinnamon butter handmade by Claire and written about here. She explained in her letter to me that it is perfect on cinnamon and raisin bagels, and as I happened to have one in the freezer, of course I had to give her recommendation a go. And yes, it was perfect. The butter is tart from the apples and so doesn’t fight with the sweetness given by the raisins in the bagel. I think it would also be lovely stirred into porridge, and I will be giving that a go tomorrow morning.
She also included a bottle of Edinburgh raspberry gin from her local gin shop – how fabulous is that? I did some research and discovered that it is a bit like sloe gin, and you can drink it on its own or as a base topped up with soda water or champagne. I am saving it for when I return from my holidays and need a little treat to cheer me up. I also discovered you can buy it from John Lewis, so if it is as nice as I think it is going to be, that is what I will be doing! And of course to accompany the gin I also have some nibbles – roquefort cheese puffs produced locally to Claire. I adore blue cheese and I am convinced the little puffs will be perfect to go with my gin aperitif.
Claire said in our email exchange that she had briefly toyed with the idea of a healthy parcel but then decided that everyone needs treats, and so she proceeded to fill my parcel with old fashioned sweets from her local sweet shop (I am saving them for the plane), Reese’s peanut butter cups (devoured) and a peanut butter bar (its days are numbered), and a teracotta pot of fudge that you can heat up to make a deliciously decadent fondue. Claire may have suggested that it would make the perfect girls night in treat, but honestly – does she really think I am going to share it with anyone? I’ll be clearing that dish out with a spoon, and then probably my fingers.
But it wasn’t all sweet – Claire finished off the box with a bottle of chilli infused oil, and a package of jasmine pearls which are used to make jasmine tea (or can be used to infuse gin apparently). I love jasmine tea and I can’t wait to try some, especially as Claire purchased hers in India, but I want to treat myself to one of those clear tea cups where you can see the jasmine flowers unfurl has they soak up and infuse the boiling water.
I really appreciate what a great effort Claire made with the parcel, and I hope she gets an equally wonderful one.
The penpal who I was sending to in January was Carol from Corpulent Capers, a much more professional website and blog than my little project. It turns out that Carol lives in South Wales, in the same town that my Grandmother was born in, and very nearby to where Andrew grew up. Carol said that whilst she ate pretty much anything and everything, that’s exactly what she had been doing over Christmas and she was actually hoping for a healthy box to help her maintain her restraint for the first few weeks of the year.
My intentions were as good as hers, but sadly I quickly deteriorated into gluttony as I hoovered up the last of the Christmas biscuits and chocolates, so I admired her efforts at staying well behaved. For me, one of the best ways to get taste into a healthy dish is to rely on the flavours of South East Asia particularly, and so I decided to look towards that part of the world when putting together her package. I sent her:
- Umami paste – I have no idea if this is any good, but it seemed intriguing and as Carol seems to be quite an adventurous cook, I though it could be a good ingredient for her.
- Coconut milk powder – my Sri Lankan friend Niasha introduced me to this, and I find it an excellent way to introduce the coconut milk flavour into curries without the fat, as you can make it up with water to reduce calories.
- Rice pancakes – I love these Vietnamese pancakes which you soak in water for a few moments and then fill with beansprouts, coriander and prawns to make healthy and fresh summer rolls, or fill with veg, noodles and minced pork and then fry to make delicious spring rolls. Not so healthy, but really tasty.
- Rice noodles – I generally always use rice noodles instead of egg noodles when cooking Asian food, as I find them to be more substantial and filling, for relatively few calories.
- Fish sauce – perfect to mix with lime juice and sugar to make a vietnamese dipping sauce to have with your summer rolls! But, as I recently discovered, you can also add it to pasta.
- Sweet chilli rice crackers – well, even if you are on a diet you need a few treats, don’t you.
- Spices – I raided by spice cupboard and packaged up a few of my favourites for Carol: star anise, szechuan peppers and dried chillis.
I hope she likes her box as much as I liked mine, and if you want to join in, speak to Carol-Anne at This is Rock Salt for information about how to join Foodie Penpals.