As I begin uploading another picture of my evening dinner I jokingly said to my partner Josh that I should change my Instagram Bio to something like ‘Beer Blogger and Foodie’ and as I scanned through my posting history I realised that this might not be a bad idea. During this lockdown, as we’ve been told to ‘Stay at Home’, I have found that I have been getting more involved in cooking our meals, sharing it on my social media, and often pairing it with a beer. I’ve noticed that I am beginning to enjoy learning how to prepare more food but this hasn’t always been the case.
Growing up I was never particularly interested in food. I used to be an incredibly fussy eater and really only ate foods that felt ‘safe’ to me. I very rarely ate a vegetable and I stayed away from spicy foods. I was also not very interested in cooking, and hated doing Food Tech at school as I was quite a nervous cook. I struggled with trying new foods, a habit that came back as I began my beer journey and I found it hard to go out of my comfort zone (I wrote about this in an earlier post you can read here). As I was going through my teenage years certain experiences encouraged me to eat more foods but I didn’t find pleasure in what I was eating. I hit a turning point when I met my partner Josh who is a very keen foodie and an amazing home cook. With his help and patience I started learning how to cook and gained some confidence in the kitchen. He also helped open my eyes to good food and I started to enjoy it.
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I’ve always been more of a fan of baking rather than cooking and my earliest memories in the kitchen have been spending time with my mum baking cakes and sweet treats. I enjoy the precision of baking, the direct instructions, something my partner Josh doesn’t understand. As a great home cook he is used to his own creative flair and adapting recipes with a pinch of this and a splash of that, things that are unnatural to me with baking. Perhaps thats what makes us such a great team in the kitchen. During the lockdown its become a sort of tradition that we make homemade pizzas at the weekends so I am very much in charge of the pizza dough bases whilst I leave Josh to sort out the sauce and toppings.
We hit a bit of a snag with our weekly pizza nights as national food shortages have meant that my local supermarkets have run out of yeast and theres been no luck at any of the smaller convenience shops. I then began looking into the idea of sourdough starters and after coming across a step-by-step guide in the Good Food Magazine this month I decided to give it a go. For my first try I practiced on using some wholemeal flour that we found in the back of the cupboard, so as not to use up all the strong white bread flour, something else that had become a rare commodity around here. By day three and realising the wholemeal flour was 10 years old I was worried it wouldn’t work so decided to start again, this time with the white bread flour seeing as our last trip to the shop had proved successful. This starter looked much more active from day two and I found myself watching it every day, checking to see how much it had grown. As soon as I felt it was ready I decided to test the starter out before ‘hibernating’ it in the fridge alongside the spare wholemeal starter. Next was a two day process of feeding and folding before finally being able to bake my first ever sourdough loaf. I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome especially as it was such a labour of love making it. Not bad considering it was a project that I was sure wouldn’t work and it has certainly boosted my confidence in baking.
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During this lockdown period I’ve noticed I have been thinking more about what beers would work well with the food we have been cooking, using some knowledge I’ve picked up from my beer sommelier training courses. I’ve found that as I have been moving along my beer journey my confidence with trying new foods and beers has grown since I started going to more beer festivals. With the range of food now being served at beer festivals I am now just as excited to look which food vendors will be there as well as looking over the list of breweries and beers being poured. I am also enjoying the range of food you can now find in brewery tap rooms. The days of the dodgy burger vans or hotdog stands have been replaced with a wave of new and exciting street food. When I go to a tap room I’m always interested to see which street food stall is there as its a great opportunity to try something new.
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In November, last year, I was sitting in the Unity tap room whilst my partner Josh and his parents were getting ready to head off the Southampton FC game. As they are season ticket holders I wasn’t going with them but instead decided I would continue to have a few drinks at Unity and then move on somewhere in the city centre, where I could meet them after. “Are you going to have some lunch? You could always eat here?” Josh said to me as he was leaving, in the knowledge that he will be having a Piglet’s Pantry pie at the football ground. As I looked at the menu on the table I saw that Roots Vegan Street Food were serving up food in the tap room that day. As an avid carnivore I’ve struggled generally with all vegetarian or vegan menus but after having visited Bundobus in Manchester and Leeds in the last few years, I’ve become more open to veggie meals so I thought I would give this a try. The vegan Mac & Cheese served with Nachos caught my eye, which I know isn’t adventurously vegan but I should mention at this stage that I never used to be a big cheese lover either, and as more people sat around me with their food orders I was feeling hungry. The Mac & Cheese was so creamy, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that the cheese was vegan, and was sprinkled with spring onions for freshness on top. I enjoyed it so much that I considered ordering another portion but it was time for me to head back into the city centre.
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As I have been adding more food posts to my Instagram page I found that to my surprise last month that my version of a Hot Shot Parmo had been entered into Parm Star’s #ratemyparmo competition, inspired by peoples efforts to try to recreate their signature Parmo at home.
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I had first tried Parm Stars OG Parmo at Grub after I’d overindulged in the previous nights session at Indy man Beer Con in 2017. When we arrived at Grub the weather was a bit overcast and was threatening to rain so I found us some seats under an awning whilst Josh went to the bar. That morning I was feeling particularly hungover and turned a shade of green once Josh had placed a beer in front of me. I was struggling, that was until I went to collect our Parmo order. As I tucked in I felt my nausea dissipate and a bit more colour came back to my cheeks. The breaded chicken of the Parmo was so crispy underneath the unctuous cheesy blanket that covered it. The fries dipped in the creamy garlic mayo was like heaven to me and the coleslaw helped cut through the richness. This was healing food and I was ready for another session at Indy Man. Since then Parmos have been my go to for serious comfort food, something I really craved one night this year in January.
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“What would you like for dinner today?” Josh asks me on a cold and miserable day in January. I already knew the answer as there was only one thing I was really craving that day, a chicken Parmo. Unfortunately living in the South West means we don’t exactly have easy access to the real thing so Josh and I had no choice but to recreate one in our own style. This was my first Hot Shot Parmo, with an extra dash of The Rib Man Holy Fuck Sauce and paired with Donzoko’s Big Foam, but little did I know it would be entered into a competition.
Parm Star’s #ratemyparmo turned out to be a big hit and every time I opened up Instagram my feed was flooded with other peoples homemade Parmos, and it made me so hungry that I had to make another Parmo that week! It was really great to be acknowledged by Parm Star themselves for our homemade effort and despite being beaten in the quarter finals I felt really proud as I didn’t think I would ever get recognition for food I’ve cooked.
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“Do you want to get a picture of this before I serve it? Josh asks me as he patiently waits for me to find the right camera angle and take several snaps of our food on the stove. My stomach is rumbling and I am feeling a great sense of pride that I helped make that meal, whether its recreating a chicken Parmo or our Friday Ploughman’s lunch served with my home made Sourdough bread. Although I have found lockdown difficult and feeling a bit redundant by being stuck at home, I’ve really enjoyed having more time to gain some confidence in the kitchen as well as spending it with Josh who is definitely a patient teacher!
On reflection of these experiences I can probably officially change my Instagram Bio but I think I’ll just go with ‘Beer Blogger and Newbie Foodie’ … for now anyway!