October News from Ren – Small Bites #1

Sugared Orange
Sugared Orange by Beata Zagorska Tabula Books

I hope you’ve all braved the storm if you are reading from the UK. With the windy weather coinciding with the start of half-term for us, we’ve found it to be the perfect excuse to stay indoors, wrap up warm and make hot chocolate and cheesecake. Although things may have seemed very quite here on the blog recently (after a spate of Seattle #IFBC posts) I can assure you there has been lots going on behind the scenes. I’ve decided to start a new series of round-up posts, which will be tagged with#SmallBites so that I can remind myself of everything that has been happening and hopefully also point you in the direction of some good finds, reviews and other goings on around the web.

Blog News

Firstly, there has been lots going on behind the scenes with the blog itself. More ‘umming and aahing’ as to my blog name, although I think I’ve been averted from yet another name change by some straight-talking foodie friends. I’m working once more with a very talented young lady called Shay Bocks, who will be installing her very own new theme on my site called Foodie, with more functionality and up-to-date coding. I’ll also have a new recipe index, a refresh on my categories to make posts easier to find and a little refresh on the general look and feel of the blog. Hopefully the changes won’t be too drastic (with minimal disruption) and I’ll look forward to hearing all of your thoughts.

Eating Out

I’ve enjoyed a few really tasty meals out recently, both in St Albans and further afield in London. We were invited to a private birthday dinner at the Corinthia Hotel, London in The Northall Room and I have to say, as London hotels go, this was probably one of the swankiest hotels I’ve visited in a long time. If you are looking for a luxurious destination, The Nothall Bar was simply stunning and I also spotted a cosy cocktail bar called Bassoon, which I’d love to visit in the future. Since we were dining as part of a large party, we all had a pre-chosen set menu and I was too busy chatting to take any proper photos!


Closer to home in St Albans, I enjoyed a tasty lunch and an editorial brainstorm of upcoming posts for my blog at JamieOliver.com at Jamie’s Italian, The Bell with Jamie’s editor, Jim. The restaurant will soon to be expanding into retail space next door to offer an Italian deli and a larger selection of Jamie Oliver treats. The is already a deli in the Bath and Greenwich branches, so I think St Albans could be the third destination to get one. We tucked into some dishes from the new autumn menu, including a cured meat plank, the three-cheese gnocchi special of the day, baked chestnut mushrooms with “music bread” – one of my favourite JI starters – followed by the 30-day matured prime rib steak with truffle cream and the slow-cooked British porchetta.  No desserts – we were too full! I’ve been invited back to Jamie’s HQ in a couple of week’s time, which is something I can’t wait to be able to write about again and share with you.

Good Food Channel/UKTV Food Christmas Recipes

In October I was also commissioned by the Good Food Channel/UKTV Food to create, style and photograph seven Christmas recipes. Some of them are already up on the site, the rest will follow over the next few of days. I’ll be featuring some of the photos from the shoot in the lead up to Christmas. In the meantime, here’s a link to one of my favourite festive recipes – Nut Free Mince Pies – it’s never to early to start making your mincemeat!

Nut Free Mince Pies

Blog & Twitter Finds

A recent addition to my feed-reader is the collaborative site Blogger School: Knowledge, Skills and Ethics – written  by some of the UK’s most established food bloggers. The posts are quick to read, informative and thought-provoking – with topics covered such as Pitch Analysis, Disclosure and and template suggestions and replies for requests for material. Blogger School says:

If there is anything that you would like to know, have answered on the site or if you have any suggestions to make then please leave a comment below, or e-mail us at professor@blogger-school.com. All submissions / questions will be treated in the strictest confidence and we keep any published questions anonymous if you ask us to.

A great new blog find – Rachel Phipps – An online food lover’s diary. I stumbled across Rachel’s blog this morning and was very inspired by her photography and food recommendations. Whilst perusing her old posts, I also followed a link to a post called Photography – Get to know Your DSLR by Carrie at Wish, Wish, Wish – and I’m consequently off to explore the Nikkor 35mm lens that she recommends.

After my first visit this weekend to Borough Market (shocking, since I live within a hour of London Bridge) I’ll be following Rachel’s weekly Borough Market Challenge. I’ll also hopefully find some time in the not too distant future to pop back again for a less-crowded mooch. It very much reminded me of the time I was hooked in watching Market Kitchen every day with Matt Tebbutt and Diana Henry.  As a final aside, Diana Hery has recently joined Twitter and her tweets are lovely to read and interesting to follow – @DianaHenryFood

As mentioned about the Blogger School team are on Twitter, too – @Blogger_School


October Foodie Reads

Within my #SmallBites section I also hope to mention any new cookery and food books I’m reading. There are two this month – quite opposite in their approach.

The first is a beautiful new cookery book called Sugared Orange: Recipes and Stories from a Winter in Poland by Polish-Australian author Beata Zagorska. It’s a sequel to her first book, Rose Petal Jam. There are around 47 winter-inspired Polish recipes within the book, most of them are already very familiar to me. I’ll look forward to sharing some of my experiences of cooking from this book with you in the coming weeks.

Sugared Orange

The second is pretty much the polar opposite to the carb-centric Polish cook book above and is called Grain Brain: The Surprising truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar by David Perlmutter. If you read or enjoyed any of my posts around the book It Starts With Food, you’ll like this book, too. To cut a long story short, I am finding it an incredibly compelling read and I’m going to embark on a process of eliminating gluten. I’ll be documenting the impact and hoping that we’ll see some positive improvements to our diet as a family.

That’s all for October, I can’t imagine November will be any less busy with more recipes for UKTV Food and the always-hectic lead up to Christmas.

I hope you are all keeping warm and well. If you’ve any links you’d like me to visit or explore, please leave me a note in the comments section and I’ll pop round!

Non-affiliate links – all thoughts and opinions my own.

Recipes commission by Good Food Channel/UKTV Food and blog posts for JamieOliver.com reflect paid content. 


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  1. lovely to hear your news. I have to say blogs always demand thought and tinkering and having restyled mine I am now looking at the foodie WP style thinking hmmm..

    1. Ren Behan says:

      It’s like having plastic surgery! Once you start tweaking, you can’t stop! I hope I’m done now for a good while. Yours is looking great, lots of lovely features x

  2. I love food blogs and just found you and “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. When I find one I like, I follow it. I will tell everyone to check you out and check out “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. I just “Liked” his page. Happy Holidays. Jean

  3. The weather was the perfect excuse to have hot chocolate almost everyday! I have stopped now though as it is officially winter, will have to limit it to once a week 🙁

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gozde, hope you manage to sneak in a few extra hot chocolates when its super cold!

  4. Can’t wait to see the rest of your Christmas recipes! I have the very same little jug that you photographed with the mince pies! You can’t buy mincemeat in Italy so I’ll definitely be trying your recipe out on my Italian friends!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Beth. My sister lives in Italy, too. The Italians have lovely candied peel, as used in Panettone, so that would work really nicely with the mixed, dried fruit! x

  5. Interesting links – re a 35mm lens for food, I always thought this was not recommended. I have one and use it for landscapes so off to read more – good to have an alternative view. I wrote up my visit to Borough recently – you’ve made me want to return 🙂

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Hi Sally, that’s interesting that you already have it. I’m likely to get it as the price is right. This is another review –
      “I switch between two fixes lenses for food photography: my old Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens and my new Nikon 35mm f1.8. I generally prefer the 35mm because it produces sharper photos and is easier to use for overhead photos of food on my table. My food photos prior to July 2012 were taken with the 50mm lens and most photos since have been taken with my 35mm lens.”

      1. Hmmmm – worth trying for overhead shots….it’s such a good value lens…I’d recommend getting it for other shots alone.
        PS Love the new, new look 🙂

  6. Thanks so much for the blog love, and I’m glad you enjoyed stumbling across my site today x

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Rachel x

  7. Great addition to your burgeoning food writing empire, Ren. I wish I had your energy to pursue so many interesting foodie avenues but I will content myself with reading your posts and living vicariously through you 😀 Super well done btw on the GFC commissions. Seriously impressive!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Kellie, always so kind with your words. Simple and in Season is coming back, too. I’m just putting together a new badge. I wonder if I’m spreading myself a bit too thin with much less time to focus on the blog!

  8. I fancy hooking up for a Borough Market sesh if you fancy it in the coming months? Great round-up post Ren, love little nuggets of info and sounds like you’ve been having an interesting time of things. Can’t wait to see all the site improvements and the rest of your Christmas stuff for the Good Food Channel!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Ooh yes I’d love to. On Wednesdays they have a full market, too which will be less busy than a Saturday x

  9. Mmm, Borough Market — the challenge looks fun. I like your “small bites” approach. And that sernik looks delicious — Ukraine has a similar cheesecake, “syrnyk.”

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you so much for your comment Tammela, I’d love to try the Ukrainian cheesecake Syrnyk x

  10. Hi Ren,

    Many thanks for the mention. We are delighted that you are finding the site useful!

    1. Ren Behan says:

      Thank you Blogger School, keep up the good work!

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