Family travel with flair

Texas: The best ice pops in Fort Worth

Tweet When we visited Fort Worth last August we went to some great places to eat. One of the most whimsical was Steel City Pops, which makes gourmet popsicles. Gourmet popsicles, right?  Sounds a little precious — until you look at the list of flavours: Blackberry, Cranberry Orange, Hibiscus, Mango, Peanut Butter, Blueberry Cream, Avocado, Vanilla Bean, Pistachio…. I wanted to eat every one of them. Steel City Pops has an interesting backstory: a man’s lifelong dream of owning a restaurant, inspiration from a chance discovery of a shop selling Mexican ice pops, and a first shopfront in Homewood, Alabama. Now Steel City Pops has 7 locations, 5 in Alabama and 2 in Texas — one is in Dallas and the other is in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth shop is also conveniently located just a street or two away from Rodeo Goat, acknowledged as one of the best places in town to have a burger. That’s worth a visit too. After enjoying burgers and cheese fries there, we walked over in punishing 35° Celsius heat (95° Fahrenheit) and arrived ready for something delicious and frozen.       The shop has windows on one side in front of counter seating, where you can watch them make the pops, but apparently they were all finished for the day because the area was empty, all the machinery sitting clean and gleaming. It’s too bad, because the process of receiving a gourmet ice has none of the ritual or anticipation of, say, gourmet ice cream. There are no little taster spoons, no choice of portion size, no moment when the attendant rolls up the ice cream into a little ball with a metal scoop and presses it onto a cone. We ordered, and the young women waiting on us reached into the freezers and handed us prewrapped ice pops. That was it. Which is not to say it wasn’t worth it. The flavours were vibrant and clean. My husband had Blood Orange (a seasonal flavour), my stepson Coconut, and my daughter Watermelon. I had the Lemonade, which was both astringent and sweet, but I switched with my daughter, who liked it better than hers. I liked both; hers had a concentrated Watermelon taste, perfect for summer. For kids, the simpler straightforward fruity flavours will likely appeal more than the more sophisticated and exotic versions, if our children are anything to go by. We sat inside to eat them, in a small space which was buzzing as people came and went, licking...

Summer in London: Wahaca on the Southbank

Tweet   There are those moments when I’m reminded how much I love living in cities and how much I love living in London. Tonight was a glorious summer evening on the Southbank, the Summer of Love festival is going on, people were drinking and relaxing on the terrace and I met Selena from Oh, the Places We Will Go at the Wahaca Southbank Experience. Wahaca really is one of the best places to get — we can’t call it Tex-Mex but at least some kind of Mex — in the UK. It’s fresh, delicious, colourful. (As every Tex-Mex lover will know, true Tex-Mex tends to be all brown, served in a soupy mess and is absolutely gorgeously delectable.) This location looks out over the South Bank urban beach and is constructed out of shipping containers, a concept that’s caught on as a hallmark of with-it architecture even if it’s not necessarily as green as it first appears. (You can watch the video of how they built the pop-up.) But when you’re holding a watermelon margarita, eating creamy guacamole and people watching on a sunny London day, it feels like there’s no better place to be.     Tell me, what’s your favourite British summer activity or something you’ve done lately with the kids or on your own that makes you love this time of year? Post a link or share a comment below!   The details The Wahaca Southbank Experience Queen Elizabeth Hall Southbank Centre Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX +44 (0) 207 928 1876 Twitter: @Wahaca Want to find out about other cool London activities? Here’s some inspiration: Urban Explorer: A resource for family activities in London 10 things not to do in London     Subscribe to Jenography to get occasional updates Email Address...

Budget picnic food: ‘Red Sea’ sandwiches

TweetWe all know that eating oily fish is great for all of us, and is especially good for children — it helps brain developments and reduces the risk of things like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. (Admittedly, my 10-year-old doesn’t have this yet, but we have the 11+ exams next year so everyone’s blood pressure will be going up.) However, like a lot of kids, my daughter only really likes oily fish when it’s pulled fresh from the ocean and grilled over an open fire on the beach. It’s hard to do that in South London. So I devised this quick and easy sandwich that combines oily fish with a staple kid food — ketchup — and it’s become a firm favourite. It’s a nice change from the usual ham or tuna options for park outings and it’s one less thing I have to worry about getting into her diet. You can use pilchards, mackerel, sardines or other oily fish. I was prompted to share this recipe not only because it’s a great addition to the picnic basket that only costs pence, but it also corresponds to our #MorrisonsMum Challenge featuring items that have undergone a big price cut at the supermarket. This recipe include pilchards, which have been slashed from 69p to 45p per tin and Heinz tomato ketchup (the real deal, the only ketchup), formerly £2.39, now £1.99. (You can check out the great prices with Morrisons price checker tool. My recipe falls into the Picnic Favourites category. Jenography’s healthy “Red Sea” sandwich for kids Ingredients 1 tin of pilchards or other oily fish (in tomato sauce or in oil — either works) Heinz tomato ketchup Sandwich bread with the crusts cut off Method Gently mash a portion of the pilchards in a bowl with the back of a fork. Add a healthy dollop of ketchup depending on the existing amount of tomato sauce that came with the fish. In our family we like these sandwiches quite wet as the sauce soaks into the bread. Spread onto bread (we like with white bread or a seedy loaf with soya and linseeds). This goes well with a leafy salad or blanched broccoli trees and visually the red and green look great on a plate. As BritMums co-founder I can’t enter the Summer Recipe eBook Challenge, but you still can. Winners not only get £50 in Morrisons shopping vouchers, they will also be included in an official Morrisons recipe ebook (kudos!). Here is the staple disclosure: “This...

Cotswolds: Delicious food at the Upton Smokery

Tweet  One of the delights of the English countryside is farm shops. Countless times we’ve followed modest signs pointing to discover gustatorial Aladdin’s caves, full of luscious cheeses, tempting meats, fruits so beguiling they’re a little bit obscene. Often I’ll also pick up some bowls or interesting kitchen knickknack as a gift. When we visited the Uptom Smokery (@Uptonsmokery), I wanted to take everything home.   My in-laws got us hooked on the idea of visiting when they pulled out a package of smoked salmon they’d acquired there. “Look at that,” my husband said, eyes glittering as he looked at the slightly coral-coloured wedge of fish. “You can just tell that’s going to be good.” And it was. Delicious, full of flavour. You could discern from its shape before cutting that it had actually been part of a fish — so far from the uniform packaged slabs at the supermarket. We had it in scrambled eggs, then on brown bread, then the next day in rice salad. “I want to visit that smokery,” my husband said several times over the next 12 hours, each time as if the idea had just occurred. So what did we do? We put on our shoes on and drove to the smokery.     Upton Smokery is just outside Burford, a few short steps off the A40. The actual smokery is closed on the weekend so we couldn’t see it in action. So we visited the farm shop. The spring day was bright. As we walked in, it took our eyes a moment to adjust. Somebody appeared at our elbow and offered us fresh coffee, served in a ceramic cup. Then we ooh’ed at a panoply of goods that could tempt you to spend this month’s mortgage. Let me loose in a place like this and I can’t control myself. I run from section to section, caressing the packages, reading the “story” of how they make whatever it is out of virgin’s tears and fresh-dug fairy root, how it is massaged into deliciousness, by hand, using traditional methods. “Look, look!” I cry to my husband. Olive wood cutting boards! Tubs of sour cherries! Smoked duck confit! Biscuits made by small producers! Cherry tomatoes with the stems on! We were lucky to get off as lightly as we did.       We left with a package of 5 smoked chicken breasts (really, you must eat them, you must eat them now, and they were a relatively modest £12.95 for 5); 2 packets of...

A very British family meal: Kedgeree

Tweet One of the unexpected pleasures of moving to London has been eating British food. Cue jokes about deep fried Mars bars and grey boiled meat, but the truth is that I’ve discovered not just new dishes but an appreciation for particularly British delights. One of our favourite weekly meals is kedgeree, thought to be brought back to the UK from India by British colonials, and often eaten at breakfast in Victorian times. I’d never even heard of such a dish in America, but it’s now a staple midweek meal for us. Fish, rice, eggs, peas, all fried up and eaten with a generous dollop of lime pickle. (It’s shown here with The Spice Tailor’s Mama’s Lime Chilli Pickle, which I was sent to sample and which is UH-maz-ing.) Here is my husband’s tried-and-true recipe, just in time for the #shortcuteggsperts Linky Challenge we’re running on BritMums. The Linky celebrates quick main meal egg recipes for the family — my daughter loves it. It’s perfect for me as well, as I’m always telling my husband to increase the number of eggs. I can’t enter to win one of the £100 supermarket vouchers, but you can! Check it out and in the meantime, pick up some haddock and cod and make a British classic. Make Jenography’s Easy Kedgeree Serves 4-6 Ingredients 1 cup basmati rice 500g smoked haddock or cod (this can be the kind that’s dyed yellow or natural, according to your preference) Milk Knob of butter, plus some for frying 3 eggs 150g frozen peas Glug of olive or rapeseed oil for frying   Method Wash rice in cold water Cook rice – Bring to boil in pan of cold water, add salt, simmer covered for 6 mins or til al dente. In a flat pan, cover the fish with milk and add a knob of butter. Simmer for 10 mins. While the fish is simmering, hard boil the eggs — 7 to 8 mins in salted water. Peel and slice the eggs. Remove fish from pan, discard milk and peel off skin from the fish. Roughly chop or separate with your fingers, removing any tiny bones as you go. Heat some vegetable oil and a bit of butter in large frying pan. Heat rice and add frozen peas. When peas cooked through (5-6 mins), add fish and sliced eggs. Heat for 5 mins. Raise heat if you want crispy bits and fry for extra 3 mins. Season and add knob of butter at end. Serve with lime...

Your Instagram pictures on marshmallows

Tweet One of the vexing things about Instagram is that you take all these GOR-geous pics and while you can share them hither and yon online, it’s harder to get them into the real world. Now you can not only get them into the real world, you can get them floating in your hot chocolate or melting in your mouth. Boomf is a UK company that will print your Instagram photos on marshmallows. And they’re actually tasty edible marshmallows. The process is quick and easy — you click through on the Boomf site and connect with your Instagram, choose 9 images and they are delivered to your door. They come plastic wrapped in a flat box with a card that shows your original images. I’m a little bit in love with these because the idea is so simple and the finished product so cool. Judging from my Boomfs (if that’s the correct term), lighter images with bold simple designs work best. One of my favourites is a picture of me with my BritMums cofounder Susanna and Marco Pierre White — something you can really sink your teeth into. They would be great party favours, a good gift for an avid Iger or a fun tidbit to serve with coffee at dinner parties. But be forewarned: You’ll have to order in advance — their popularity means they can take a week or two to ship. Boomf £12 for a box of 9 separate images Follow Boomf on Instagram Disclosure: I tried Boomf free of charge. All opinions are my own....

The tastiest sausages for Christmas

Tweet A few weeks ago a woman arrived at my door with a big box of meat. I wish this kind of thing happened more often, frankly, especially when the meat comes from a place like Todenham Manor Farm. The story behind Todenham Manor Farm is lovely, if a bit odd. Irayne was a London mum with a 5-year-old and a baby when she and her husband bought a rundown farm in Gloucestershire along with the surrounding land and, er, started farming cattle. Soon after they added pigs. And after Irayne visited the local abbattoir to understand the process of butchering animals, her husband built her a butchery. As you do. This all might sound a bit twee. But when you talk to Irayne, like I was able to, you understand that for this regular London mum, raising animals so they have a nice life and producing quality food to eat is something that she’s become passionate about. The pigs live outdoors all year round so they can root and forage. “I know the names of the animals that go into our steaks and sausages,” she told me. Irayne bought me a selection of their award-winning outdoor-reared pork sausages, home-cured bacon and 28-day aged pedigree beef. (They won 6 Great Taste Awards in 2013.) Raymond Blanc has called their products “stunning”. The meats are available in Todenham Manor’s newly launched Christmas boxes, in combinations featuring gammon joint, beef joint, streaky bacon, and sausages. And oh what sausages! The beef was mouthwatering (we had it with a green peppercorn sauce). My husband loved the back bacon (I prefer the kind without rind). But for me it was the sausages wot done it. When I lived in the U.S. I never really liked sausages all that much. Americans don’t really embrace them the way we do over here, perhaps because in the US we’re less likely to be exposed to the great small producers of quality sausages like we get here in the UK. Even so, Todenham Manor’s sausages were some of the most delicious I’ve tasted. They’re 80% pork and wonderfully seasoned. Irayne & Co. make them themselves. If you’re anticipating serving up a joint, or a turkey draped in bacon or sausages for Christmas morning, take a look at Todenham Manor’s Christmas boxes. Some of Irayne’s animals just might do the trick. I received a sample box of meat from the farm. All the opinions in this post are my own. Boxes are available to feed 6 or 12;...

Friday daydreamin’: My favourite city

TweetI started thinking about which city I would write about in joining the Friday daydreamin’ linky by R We There Yet Mom? and realised it’s a tricky question. How do you chose just one? I’ve had to rule out American cities — the ones I like the best also have such a personal connection that they have an unfair advantage. Besides, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some amazing places lately. It’s still a close call but at the top of the list for me right now is Kyoto. We went there during a whirlwind tour of Japan. I’m embarrassed to say we only slept there one night. But in that time we were introduced to some of the exceptional elements of life in Japan. Some of the best hospitality I’ve ever experienced We stayed at Hotel Kanra, which I would urge anyone visiting the city to book. When we checked in we mentioned that we’d love a recommendation for dinner. Tabita sat with us for a good 45 minutes going over options, calling restaurants and seeing if they had availability, then discussing the differences. Then it was up to the room. We stayed in a superior room, which featured a sitting area with tatami mats and a cypress Japanese bath. It was beautiful and serene. Food that makes eating dinner a transcendent experience That evening we went to Sakura, a kaiseki restaurant. They spoke almost no English — the wonderful Tabita at the hotel had arranged it all and prepped them for our arrival. After a taxi dropped us in the vicinity, we had a drink at a local bar…then the bartender thankfully walked us over to the entrance to the small road, not much more than an alleyway, down which stood Sakura. When we walked in they greeted us like old friends and ushered us to the bar seating area, where we could watch the staff work. Kaiseki focuses on the taste, appearance, and seasonality of the food, which is presented in small courses like a tasting menu, although that is an overly simplified explanation. Each dish set in front of us was exquisite in looks and taste. It makes Heston Blumenthal’s tantalizing creations seem like child’s play. While we sat at the bar, the owner came out and talked with us, pulling a young kitchen worker out — she’d spent a month in Australia — to act as translator. The atmosphere was convivial and humorous, with him telling us stories of how they prepared the food,...

They don’t eat horses, do they?

TweetThe news of beef burgers in several big supermarkets around the UK and in Ireland being contaminated with horse meat is all over the headlines today. It reminded me of this picture that I took in Brenham, Texas, last summer. At the time, I was surprised to see it — I’d never heard of horsemeat being an issue in Texas. I knew from living in France and visiting other countries that people do eat horse but always thought of it as an issue of personal taste and social custom. When I researched the issue after returning to London, I found out that slaughtering horses had become a heated debate. Slaughterhouses in Texas exported the meat to Asia and Europe and many Texans were against it, based either on the belief that the animals suffered unduly or that these creatures — because of our attachment to them as pets and companions — aren’t the kind of animal you should eat. It’s strongly tied to identity, as my picture shows: We aren’t the kind of people to eat horse. In 2007, Texas slaughterhouses were shut down, and some activitists kept fighting the sale and transport of Texas horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico. But there are also some America politicians promoting horsemeat, as detailed in this Houston Post blog. Of course, the issue for the beef burgers here is slightly different: something was in the burgers that shouldn’t have been and that wasn’t divulged to consumers. That has to be rectified. But the stories highlight our discomfort both in the US and the UK about eating horses. We think of them as beautiful animals to ride, race and own. We still have the problem of a few unscrupulous owners who mistreat their animals. But whatever you do, the consensus seems, don’t put them on our plate....

Silent Sunday

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