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  • FoodCycle Social Impact Report

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    This week, we were invited by FoodCycle (our charity partner) to attend their 2023 Social Impact Report launch in London.

    It was great to hear from Sophie Tebbetts (CEO Foodcycle) about the amazing work that FoodCycle is doing in the community, at a time when they are needed more than ever. We also heard a heartwarming story from Pearl Humphrey on her stories from being a Foodcycle Project Leader on the ground in Walthamstow.

    Some of the headline stats include:
    – Serving up over 120,000 meals to communities across the UK
    – 22 new projects opened in 2023
    – Saving 229 tonnes of food that would’ve gone to waste, equating to 140,000kg of CO2 emissions had it gone to landfill

    And what about the human impact?
    – 72% of guests feel lonely
    – 69% eat most or all of their meals on their own
    – 46% live on their own

    As a result of coming to FoodCycle projects…
    – 88% of guests say that it makes them feel part of their community
    – 92% of guests said they feel happier
    – 93% of guests said they feel well fed

    This is just a snapshot of the essential work that FoodCycle is doing in the communities up and down the country.  We left the event feeling overawed by the work that the FoodCycle team puts in to help others. Many business-charity partnerships can feel forced or contrived, but there is such a natural fit between Foodcycle and Tastesmiths, and we can’t think of a better organisation to work with. We both believe that not only does food have the unique power to bring people together, but food waste is something we can all help to reduce.

    Thank you to FoodCycle team for inviting us along to hear about the journey so far, as well as the plans for the future. We can’t wait to see how we can work more closely together in 2024.

    🥳 Happy 15th Birthday FoodCycle!

    The full report can be found here.

  • Being a Flexitarian and the Benefits – brought to you in partnership with Pure Heavenly Chocolate

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    Question number 1: What is a flexitarian diet? Well, it is simply, someone who has a flexible diet. The main aspect of their diet is mainly vegetarian, which means they mainly enjoy a diet of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains but they occasionally still enjoy meat and fish as part of their diet. The main reason people take up this diet is to decrease the amount of meat in their diet. This can be for both environmental and physical reasons.

    A plus of becoming a flexitarian is you’ll save some money on your weekly shop. You will be switching one of the most expensive parts of your meal, with something more cost-effective. Why not try switching your usual chicken curry for a tasty paneer and veggie curry, an easy swap for something that is just as tasty? One thing we have been craving in our home lately (especially with this chilly weather) is freshly made tomato soup, made simply from tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, and some herbs and spices. An easy recipe that can be enjoyed by itself or with a cheeky cheese toasty for dipping.  Flexitarian diets don’t rely on special, or hard ingredients to find, they usually consist of things you would include in your typical weekly shop. You wouldn’t have to add anything else to the trolly, just simply double up on a couple of things that you’ve already put in.

    A lot of people get concerned that they won’t feel full after eating a vegetarian meal. This simply isn’t something to worry about – if you are filling your bowl with lots of nutritional goodness you will feel full in no time. And if that doesn’t cut it, you can always go back for seconds. The easiest way to make sure you are consuming enough is to try and make sure you are eating your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. One of the biggest benefits to eating your five portions of fruit and vegetables is that you will be consuming more nutrient-dense foods, which is a great thing for your body and health. Nutrient-dense foods are the ones that pack in lots of GREAT nutrients, with a relatively small number of calories.

    Another reason to try a flexitarian lifestyle is it helps with the environment too. When you eat a mostly meat-based diet, it does produce a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, and going vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan is something small that can help you reduce your carbon footprint. Make sure to try and buy your fruit and vegetables that are produced in the UK, it is great for the British farmers and a little something we can do to look after our planet. If you are going to enjoy meat; we would say to avoid processed meat including sausages, bacon, ham, salami, and hot dogs. There are a lot of health and environmental reasons to try and keep the amount of processed meat down to a minimum in your diet.

    As we’ve said the best part of the flexitarian lifestyle is being able to eat what you want and it’s easy to follow, there are no hard rules; it’s just making a small tweak to your lifestyle. Even if you try to cut out meat Monday to Thursday you can still enjoy your Friday night treat food and your Sunday roast with your family and friends.

    Pure Heavenly Vegan, Low Sugar, Dairy Free Chocolate and Gift Boxes

  • FoodCycle x Tastesmiths

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    At Tastesmiths HQ, we believe that food is the best thing to bring people and communities together. Whether it’s inviting your friends round, trying something new for the first time, or sharing your favourite dish with loved ones, food has the unique ability to break down all barriers and differences.

    Did you know:

    • Since the Covid-19 lockdown, 41% of UK adults report feeling lonelier and one third of UK adults are concerned that their loneliness will get worse (Source: British Red Cross).
    • In June 2023, 17.0% of households in the UK were ‘food insecure’ (ate less or went a day without eating because they couldn’t access or afford food), up from 8.8% in January 2022 and 7.4% in January 2021 (Source: Food Foundation).
    • 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK, of which households contribute 70% (Source: WRAP).

    Foodcycle’s vision is to make food poverty, loneliness and food waste a thing of the past for every community. They connect communities and reduce loneliness and food poverty by working with thousands of volunteers and surplus food to help everyone who needs them. By creating welcoming spaces for people from all walks of life to meet, eat and have conversations, and by offering a weekly telephone Check-in and Chat, FoodCycle is supporting people’s health and mental wellbeing.

    We’re proud to be collaborating with FoodCycle to promote the great work that they do, and encourage more people to volunteer at a FoodCycle centre near them. Watch this space for more activities we’ll be working on!

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    For more information about FoodCycle, please visit them at https://foodcycle.org.uk/

     

  • You Are What You Eat; Say No to Preservatives!

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    Have you ever wondered how pre-made curry bases are able to have such an extensive shelf-life? The answer is simple…preservatives and additives. These ingredients may keep your jar of sauce in the cupboard for longer, but at what cost to your health?

    Tastesmiths has compiled a list of a few of these nasties found in your supermarket curry, how they can affect your health and some alternative options:

    1) Flavour enhancers/yeast extract

    Food found in cans and jars often has added flavour enhancers to emphasise the desired flavour. A common flavour enhancer is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). There is evidence that a small subset of people do have negative reactions that are directly due to glutamate, but the science to date shows that is likely to be a rare phenomenon. More important than this, however, is the placebo effect related to MSG, which has a measurable impact on those that try to actively remove it from their diets.

    To avoid MSG some companies replace it with yeast extract, food colourings, benzoates, nitrates and sulphite preservatives as well as artificial sweeteners. All of which allows the companies to maintain the pre-determined flavour they have designated to each of the different curries.

    One of the major benefits of using a Tastesmiths kit is that you determine the flavour of the curry without any added preservatives. All our flavours come from the fresh ingredients themselves, whether you decide to add meat or vegetables to your dish, how much chilli you add and the freshly ground spice packs that are included.

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    Top Tip 1: When using the whole spices and bay leaves, letting them cook for a bit longer really brings out the natural oils and flavours of the spices, which give the curry its authentic taste. The smell of the spices coming through is an extra bonus, especially with the cassia bark*!

    *If you don’t know what cassia bark is and the benefits of this spice, you can read more about it in our “Add a (health) kick to your curry” blog, here.

    Top Tip 2: Slow cooking the onions draws out the sweetness from them. So if you have some extra time while cooking why not try for yourself?

    2) Sugar and dried glucose

    Although some jarred curries may have no artificial preservatives or colouring, there may still be excess ingredients for flavouring that are, ultimately, not healthy in large doses. One common ingredient for this is sugar. Since sugar is not an artificial flavour, companies promote the fact there are no artificial preservatives but leave out that this has been replaced with sugar. If the first ingredient listed is sugar, this means that this is the most abundant ingredient in the sauce.  You may also see glucose listed separately, which is just more sugar.

     

    As we all know, excess amounts of sugar can pose a health risk. Some of these risks include high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

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    Top Tip 3: Tastesmiths’ kits are sugar-free, giving you the option to add a little if you wish. A teaspoon of sugar is a great way to counteract the acidity of tomatoes when cooking.

    3) Citric Acid / Acidity Regulators

    Citric Acid is another common ingredient found in supermarket curry bases, but what exactly is it used for? There are two types: the natural citric acid found in foods such as lemons and limes, and manufactured citric acid. The latter is commonly found in jarred and canned foods.

    Citric acid is used to keep food fresh for a longer duration of time, thicken food and also give a slightly sour taste.

    Manufactured citric acid has been reported to have some negative health effects such as joint pain with swelling and stiffness, muscular and stomach pain, and shortness of breath.

    In Tastesmiths kits, where a citric flavour is required,  we use dried lime, as found in our Persian Koresh. Fresh Citric acid from dried lime has many health benefits. It is known to be a good disinfectant against a number of bacteria and viruses,  enhances nutrient absorption and may also protect against kidney stones. (Add images of the dried lime)

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    Top Tip 4: If you like your food a little sour, why not try squeezing half a lemon into your dish towards the end of cooking?

    4) High Sodium Levels

    Salt is added to foods as a flavour enhancer, but in the large doses found in supermarket curries, this can cause health issues.  The most common health issue caused by high sodium intake is increased blood pressure.

    In our meal kits, there is no added salt, other than the salt you add yourself.  This way you can monitor your intake as well as make the flavours to best suit you.

    Top Tip 5: Cooking your sauce for longer (an hour or two) can bring out the natural flavours of the fresh ingredients, meaning you might not need to add as much salt.

    5) Saturated Fat

    Many foods include saturated fats, and jarred curries are one of them. You may sometimes see a separation of oil and paste in these curry jars, that oil is saturated fat. Saturated fat can cause high cholesterol in large doses, which then increases the risk of heart and circulatory disease.

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    With Tastesmiths meal kits you are able to monitor and control the type of oil you are using to avoid unnecessary amounts of saturated fat.

    Top Tip 6: Coconut oil is a healthy and tasty oil that can be added to your curries – especially ones that already have a coconut flavour! Olive oil and avocado oils are also excellent to use for cooking and have amazing health benefits.

    Although these preservatives and additives may not be obvious at first sight they are always there and carry risks associated with your health. To become one step closer to being in control of what you put in your body make a fresh, authentic Tastesmiths curry. There are a number of curries to choose from and each of them contains fresh ingredients, as well as a quick and easy to follow instruction card that allows you to enjoy the process of cooking. If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can try cooking the curries with a range of different meats, vegetables and plant-based proteins.

     

     

  • Curry Pie!

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    This is a good one. Not to blow our own trumpet, but it is really, really good.

    Pick your meal kit, we went with the Balti Masala.

    Follow the step by step instructions, included with your meal kit.

    Simmer – We cook this down a little longer, around 30 mins on low heat, at the end in order to thicken the sauce up. We don’t want a soggy pie base!

    Enjoyed cooking your meal kit? Here’s some extra fun… The pastry.

    We cheated (a little) and bought a pack of premade pastry from the supermarket.

    Butter your pie dishes to help stop the pastry sticking, we found 4.5″ dishes made a good-sized pie for one adult. Line the dish with the pastry and trim around the top. To make the lid use either a single cut circle or make yourself a series of lengths and create a lattice, tricky to get it pretty, but rewarding. If you go with the simple option – poke a hole in the middle for the steam to escape.

    Bake your pie at 200 degrees for half an hour, or until a dark golden brown.

    Accompany with mash, rice or some steamed veggies.

  • Guinness Curry… It Works (Really!)

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    We stumbled across this when thinking of something for St. Patricks Day.

    Apparently quite common, we’d never heard of it so decided to give it a go!

    Starting off with our Tikka Masala Meal Kit (Madras or Rogan Josh will work well too), following the instructions as normal. We chose to do ours in the slow cooker, with chunky beef and potatoes (‘extra Irish’).

    If you’ve not done one of our kits in the slow cooker before, it’s really easy… Prepare your curry. Pour it in. Add 250(ish)ml of water, and leave. 8 hours is perfect, but anything over four on the low heat of the slow cooker really gets those flavours into your choice of protein.

    If you’re using a slow cooker, substitute your water with… You guessed it… Guinness.

    If you’re using the traditional ‘pan method’ simply pour your Guinness in at the end, turn the heat to low, put the lid on and simmer gently for up to an hour.

    With either option, check in on your meal midway to ensure nothing is drying out!

     

     

     

  • Holy Moly: Home Made Guacamole

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    We know your love for our Tex Mex Chilli Con Carne Meal Kit.

    One of our more flexible kits, we see it in burritos, tacos, classically served with rice. Loaded with mince, chunks of steak, chicken thighs or done vegan voluptuous veggies or proteins.

    So, you’ve taken the time to scratch-cook, maybe slow-cook your Tex Mex. How about setting aside another 15 minutes to take it to the next level and make yourself some guacamole.

    It’s super simple, and will blow away those store-bought imposters!

    Here’s what you need and how to do it… (Enough for four people to dig into)

    • Three avocados
    • Half a regular-sized red onion
    • One lemon
    • Handful of coriander
    • 500g fresh tomatoes

    De-stone and scoop out the avocados and mash. Finely chop the tomatoes, onion and coriander. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze over the lemon. Mix in a large bowl.

    SO easy. SO tasty. The hardest part will be not eating it all before it gets to meet your Chilli!

     

     

     

  • International Women’s Day 2022

    Ahead of International Women’s Day 2022, we spoke to the Tastesmiths team about inspirational women who’ve had an impact on their lives, below are four women whose stories empower and inspire. We’d love to hear from you too, share your stories of women who drive change over on our socials “@Tastesmiths”.

    Asma Khan

    Asma Khan: 'I learnt to cook late in life, at 22. I first learnt jeera aloo, a foolproof potato dish' | Financial Times

    “One of the brightest stars of London’s restaurant scene, Asma Khan stands tall as an inspirational figure in food, astounding diners with sumptuous Indian cookery from her own Darjeeling Express and relentlessly pushing the boundaries as an advocate for social change. But things were not always so easy – Asma’s journey to the top has had its fair share of twists and turns.”

    Read more on Asma’s life and find a selection of recipes from her at Great British Chefs, here.

    Find Asma on Instagram here.

    Monica Galetti

    Monica Galetti: 'My goal was to be a chef, it wasn't to be on TV' | Chefs | The Guardian

    “Born in Samoa and brought up in New Zealand, Chef Monica Galetti moved to Britain in 1999 to work alongside Michel Roux Jnr at Le Gavroche in London. She became a household name in 2008 when she joined the BBC2 team as a judge on Masterchef: The Professionals and has gone on to co-present BBC2’s Amazing Hotels – Life Beyond the Lobby.

    She is the author of two books: Monica’s Kitchen and The Skills.”

    There’s an abundance of material online about Monica, but we especially enjoy The Guardian’s 2021 interview, here.

    For a peek into Monica’s restaurant life at Mere, find her Instagram here.

    Ifeyinwa Frederick

    Ifeyinwa Frederick

    “Ifeyinwa Frederick is a writer and entrepreneur. Writing alongside her full-time job as co-founder of the world’s first Nigerian tapas restaurant, she has been featured in Forbes’ list of 100 Women Founders in Europe. As a writer, her debut play The Hoes was shortlisted for the Tony Craze Award (2017) and Character 7 Award (2017) and longlisted for the Verity Bargate Award (2017). Fuelled by a childlike curiosity and fascination with people, her stories explore the intricacies of people and the dichotomy between how we really are and how society or we portray ourselves to be.”

    You can find Ifeyinwa’s website here, and Instagram here.

    Kaushy Patel

    “Kaushy learned to cook as a child on her grandmother’s farm in northern India, coming to live in the UK in the 1960s. The success of the deli in Bradford she ran for 22 years with her husband led to the opening of Prashad, the restaurant, serving authentic Gujarati cuisine. Award-winning Prashad has now become a destination for food lovers and fans of vegetarian cooking. Last year saw the launch of a new venture: Bundobust, in Leeds, championing traditional Indian street food dishes with craft beers. Kaushy’s skills both as a professional chef and as a home cook, and her wide knowledge and enthusiasm will inspire you to get into the kitchen!”

    Find out more here, and follow Prashad on Instagram, here.

  • How To Throw a Successful Dinner Party!

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    Assorted Indian ethnic food buffet on rustic concrete table from above: curry, fried samosa, rice biryani, dal, paneer, chapatti, naan, chicken tikka masala, traditional dishes of India for dinner

    There are lots of reasons you may want to throw a dinner party. Perhaps you’re living out your ‘Come Dine With Me’ fantasy or you love to cook and share recipes with those close to you. You could just want to get together with your friends over some good food and catch up.

    Whatever your reason, there’s no doubt that you’ll want the night to go as smoothly as possible. Fortunately for you, Tastesmiths has created some tips to help you prepare an amazing night.

    Step 1: Decide What You Want To Cook

    Arguably, the most important part of your dinner party will be the dinner! Be mindful of any food intolerances and allergies of your guests and prepare your menu accordingly. For dinner parties, it is best to keep it simple but tasty. Tastesmiths curry kits are authentic tasting and use all fresh ingredients. They are also relatively easy to prepare as the spices are pre-mixed and instructions are easy to follow, leaving almost no room for error!

    Step 2: Entertainment

    A dinner party doesn’t end after dinner! Once your guests have enjoyed their delicious meal, it’s time for the entertainment. Sometimes, this can seem like the most daunting part of the dinner party and there can be a lot of pressure to keep guests entertained.

    Karaoke is a fun way to let loose and be silly with friends, especially after a few drinks! Alternatively, for the quieter types, a game of monopoly or charades is always good fun.

    Step 3: Keep The Drinks Flowing

    Make sure you know your guests’ drink of choice and have these ready on the night! A glass of their favourite drink along with some good food and good company will ensure your guests enjoy their evening. If you’re preparing a Tastesmiths curry, why not try our artisan beers? They’re made to compliment the range of curries that Tastesmiths has and are entirely vegan too. You can’t go wrong…

    Step 4: Ambiance

    Now that you’ve planned what your guests will eat and drink and how to keep them entertained for the evening, the only thing left to do is create a nice ambience to make your guests feel relaxed. Choose soft music to play in the background, but be weary of playing it too loud! There’s nothing worse than trying to talk over loud music. Soft lighting and candles help to make the atmosphere feel warm and inviting and the candles will also send pleasant smells through the air.

    With these tips, you will be set to host an epic dinner party! Good vibes and good food are the recipes for a great night surrounded by friends or family.

    Our Craft Beer and Curry Kit bundle is the perfect platform on which to build any dinner party around and is great value at £39 find it here.

  • Minus-The-Meat-Marinades…

    Our marinade collection is SUPER flexible. It’s that simple. Use it how you please, to re-create your favourites, liven up leftovers or level up the simplest of dishes.

    In this blog, we’ve created a vegan option for each, but these creations will work just as well with your favourite cut of meat!

    Whether you’re visiting the butcher or the grocer, make sure you’ve got a Tastesmiths Marinade waiting at home for you!

    Jamaican Jerk Tofu

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    Easy, peasy, lime squeezy this one!

    Prepare your Jamaican Jerk Marinade by following our instructions, dice up your tofu (we used TofooCo’s in this example, always absorbs the flavour well), then leave to soak in a Tupperware or covered bowl overnight. We sometimes like some diced new potatoes at this stage too…

    When it’s food time, fry your tofu with spring onions, courgettes, and anything else you fancy. Serve with basmati rice and a squeeze of lime to taste.

    ‘What The Cluck’ Fajitas

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    Classic fajitas featuring The Vegetarian Butcher’s chicken-style chunks.

    Follow those included marinade instructions then pan-fry your ‘chunks’ with sliced onion, red pepper and your marinade mixture.

    We filled our wraps with rice, vegan cheese and loads of homemade guacamole (more on that soon).

    Piri Piri Carrot Soup

    Piri Piri Carrot & Pepper Soup

    A little more involved this one, but worth it for a slightly unusual way to sneak a whole load of veg into your diet…

    Prepare your marinade as per the instructions.

    You’ll also need:

    1 large yellow onion, sliced

    6 large red bell peppers, sliced

    0.5kg carrots, grated

    1l vegetable stock

    In a large pot add oil, brown your onion (5mins), cook through the peppers until softened (10mins), then add carrots and vegetable stock. Simmer for around 20 minutes and add your marinade mixture. With a stick blender, whizz the mixture until smooth.

    Serve with crusty bread and a sprinkling of grated vegan cheese for maximum smugness.

    Tikka Cauli Steaks

    Tikka Cauli Steaks

    You’ve guessed it, prepare the marinade as directed on the pack.

    Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

    Remove the leaves from around the cauliflower, but don’t remove the bulb at the bottom, as this is what will keep your steaks intact. Halve the cauliflower and, working from the cut side out, slice each steak around 1½ cm thick… You will probably only get two full steaks from each half but you can roast the remaining florets in the same way.

    Generously brush the steaks with the marinade. If you want to do this ahead of time, you can leave them to marinate in the fridge until you need them.

    Place the steaks on a roasting tray and loosely cover with foil. Roast for 15–20 minutes before removing the foil for a further 10 minutes, turning once.

    We accompanied ours with mixed veg and couscous.

    Find concise videos of each dish either on Tiktok or Instagram Reels.