My Roman Affair- Pizza and Gelato Top Spots

I’ve become disastrously negligent with my blog of late, so I’m going to attempt something a bit quicker in the hopes that it will happen more often. Here you have it: more pictures, more info’, less fluff.

When it comes to second homes Spain, and Catalonia in particular, has been my great love for years….. but right now I feel rather like I’m having an affair, I just can’t get enough of Rome. It all kicked off with a couple of visits, in my Queen of Beans role, to the United Nations FAO last year, although what really ignited the passion was Rachel Roddy’s cookbook, (and it’s so much more than a cookbook), Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome. If you’re planning a trip to Rome or just want to bring a bit of Rome into your home you just have to own this book or, at the very least, read Rachel’s weekly column in the Guardian Cook. I spent a morning making pizza bianca with Rachel and fabulous son Luca and if you’d like to spend some time cooking with her she’s one of an inspiring trio who run the fabulous ” Market to Table” classes in Trastevere.

Testaccio is where you’ll most likely end up if you’ve become as obsessed with Rachel’s writing as I have (I’d like to point out that this post will be as much of a surprise to R as it may be to you – it’s just that I’ve become her number-one fan/bordering on stalker). The rather hazy picture below, snapped from an EasyJet window shows Testaccio in the bottom left corner. You can actually see our fab’ Airbnb (familiar washing-line view from the door) situated between the triangular and square piazzas in Testaccio. I’m sure that I’d be able to do an “X” marks the spot if I was more techy. It’s a perfect neighbourhood; walking distance from all the top spots yet a million miles away from all the touristy tat stalls and over priced gelato.

Testaccio market is a proper, buzzy, local business with luscious piles of fruit and veg’, butchers with plenty of offal, fishmongers, cheesemongers, hardware stalls, shoe shops and a seemingly limitless array of underwear and aprons on offer too. Don’t miss one of   Sergio Esposito‘s famous allesso (boiled beef) and cicoria sandwiches.

I’m not much of a fine diner (can’t afford to be either, if I’m honest) and holidaying with our daughter Imi made it a perfect excuse to focus predominantly on vast quantities of pizza and gelato. I can’t claim to have discovered any of these great establishments (with just 4 days in a place you haven’t t got time to make the wrong choices)  I turned to info’ from Rachel ( Roddy of course), Katie Parla, A Diana Henry piece for The Telegraph  and gleaned valuable snap shots from Dan Vaux-Nobes’ Instagram (@essexeating).

So, in short, Pizza we loved:
Bonci Pizzarium, Via della Meloria, 43, ( walking distance from The Vatican or Cipro Metro station) This is pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) which is fab’ as you can taste so many different types – favourite was probably broccoli, hazelnut, potato and mozzarella or perhaps the n’duja with burrata

Pizzeria Remo, Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44, Testaccio. Real favourite with the locals + tourists in the know. Often a queue outside, great classic pizza, wonderful fried suppli di riso and also the best beans imaginable (and I know my beans)

Trappizino, Via Giovanni Branca, 88, Testaccio. Can barely be termed a pizza at all, more like pizza corners stuffed with traditional Roman dishes such as aubergine parmigiana, chicken cacciatora or beef tongue with salsa verde. Heaven, really heaven and fantastic local craft beers on offer in their little bar next door.

Tavernaccia Da Bruno Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese, 63, Much more than a pizzeria  –  had the most spectacularly good wood-roast porchetta and pigeon, sautéed cicoria to die for, and Imi declared that her Pizza Margherita was the best in Rome.

Favourite Gelato (the difference in price between the historic centre and less touristy areas was HUGE)

Gelateria La Romana, Via Ostiense 48, Testaccio (quite a big chain but extremely good nevertheless, you’ll find other branches) Panna cotta with fruti di bosco and toasted pine kernels was sublime. Love the fact that we had to queue at 10pm on a chilly night in April.

Panna & Co, Marmorata 115, Testaccio. Our “local”, we had a few! Imi The Gelato Queen’s favourite gelateria of the trip with pistachio meringue coming in as the top flavour.

One to strike off: I marched Mims and Peter half way across Rome for the famed Carapina gelato – it’s closed down! May be about to spring up elsewhere but do check. Otherwise Come il Latte gets great reviews but we never quite made it.

Top Coffee:

Pasticceria Barberini, Via Marmorata, 41,TestaccioMorning coffee and pastries here became the daily ritual. Love the way the locals down their espressos in a matter of moments and then get on with their day. Spectacular range of cakes- everything we tasted was ridiculously good.

Caffe Sant’ Eustachio, Piazza di S. Eustachio, 82 ( near the Pantheon) The BEST coffee ever. Reputedly down to own roast beans and water from an ancient aqueduct. Be sure to stand at the bar, its what all the locals do and they’ll sting you if you sit down outside.

We ate in plenty of other places but these were the faves. Also, for me, one of the joys of renting a flat is being able to cook/cobble together something yourself. Testaccio market and then the very exclusive but amazing Volpetti (a delicatessen like you’ve never experienced before – also in Testaccio) are great places to stock up. We had a picnic too but that’s another story and another blog post, along with a crostata recipe and news of Rachel Roddy’s next book.

Thanks to “With Mustard” for requesting this little list (I’d not have got around to it otherwise)

 

Kids, Cups and Head Recipes

Getting children into the kitchen is something I’m absolutely passionate about. There’s no doubt about it, cooking works on so many levels……… knife skills are perfect for developing fine motor skills, adapting quantities and weighing ingredients can be used to test mathematical proficiency whilst keeping on top of the mess and the timings calls for good organisation. Then, most importantly, there’s the opportunity to develop a love for,  and an understanding of, good ingredients and real food that will set up good eating habits for a lifetime.

Sometimes it’s great to have a recipe that really challenges, whilst at others a familiar and extraordinarily simple combination is wonderful for building confidence and creativity. There’s something really empowering about making something without even turning to a book. An omelette is a perfect example; once they’ve mastered the egg cracking a kid can decide between herbs, grated cheese, sliced spring onion, sweetcorn and a multitude of other bits that you find in the fridge. You will probably want to stand by as they fry depending on their age and ability but it really can be a meal in minutes.

American-style pancakes (Scotch pancakes or drop scones) are a fabulous “head recipe”  especially when you use measuring cups – most people use these in the U.S. and Down Under although I have to admit that I’d rather weigh if I’m looking for precision. However the beauty of cup measuring for simpler combinations such as the pancake batter is the speed and ease with which you can work and, even better, how easy it is to remember the recipe. There are plenty of cutesy cup measures around the shops nowadays or you can just stick with the basics.

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So, assuming that the child can remember the   1+1+1 recipe, they can head into the kitchen, have a cupboard/fridge forage (with your permission) and make any number of different combinations.

American- style Pancakes
– Serves 4  (about 12-16 pancakes)

The basic recipe

1 cup self raising white flour/ self raising wholemeal flour or a mixture of both.
pinch of salt
1 medium egg
1 cup milk
For the Frying: 2 tsp butter + 2 tsp vegetable oil

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

Add the egg and milk and whisk everything together until just combined Don’t worry about a few lumps, over whisking will make your pancakes tough.

Add 1/2 a teaspoon of butter and 1/2 tsp oil to a large frying pan and set the pan over a high heat. !!!!! Once the butter has melted, carefully add dessert spoonfuls of pancake batter to the pan. You can cook them 4 or 5 at a time.

If the pan begins to smoke turn down the heat.

Once the top of the pancakes are bubbly and the sides begin to firm it’s time to turn them over using a fish slice drawing or metal palette knife drawing

Cook for another minute or two, until golden and then place on a warm plate.

These are scrumptious eaten straight away but you can cover them with foil to keep warm until you have used all the mixture.

Add another teaspoon of butter to the pan, wait for it to melt and spoon in your next batch of pancakes.

Serve with bacon and maple syrup or a fruit salad with honey and yoghurt.

Jenny Chandler Cool Kids CookFruity Pancakes
Add 1 grated apple or pear (peel and all) to the pancake batter when you stir it all together. Great with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Or
Stir 1 mashed banana and the zest of 1 lime into the pancake mix and serve sprinkled with toasted coconut chips,  a pinch of brown sugar and lime juice.
Or
Add blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries to the pancakes as soon as you have spooned the mixture into the pan. About 3 0r 4 fruits per pancake will be plenty. Serve with honey.

 

Go Savoury
Stir 50 g grated cheddar cheese into the batter with a tablespoon of chopped chives.
Or
Stir 100 g sweetcorn kernels and 2 chopped spring onions into the batter. So, so good served with a dollop of guacamole!
Or
Make the pancake batter with wholemeal flour, a tablespoon of chives and chopped dill. Serve with smoked salmon and a blob of sour cream.

 

& the good news ……….I gave a presentation to Year 5 at Bristol Grammar School last week and we played around with some variations on these pancakes. When it came to tasting, more of the kids plumped for the savoury than sweet options……. RESULT!

Images are by Deirdre Rooney from my book Cool Kids Cook ( Pavilion 2016) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life as “The Bean Queen” at Borough Market and Beyond

You may have noticed that there has been very little activity on this blog for quite a while now. My “Bean Queen” duties have taken me out and about and there’s been little time for writing. In fact this post will be a bit of a cheat too, as I’m just about to link you to the wonderful Borough Market website.

Photo credit Borough Market

Continue reading

Festival Season – Spilling the Beans

No sooner is the summer music festival season over than the flurry of food festivals begins. It’s harvest, the perfect time to get excited about all of our local fare and artisan producers, and to indulge too (you’ve got months before all those irritating people begin shouting about detoxes and beach bodies). This year I’ve been blowing the trumpet for pulses, as many of you are already well aware.

First stop was beautiful Ludlow, one of the original food festivals ,that started out in 1995. The main festival venue is the castle but there are events all over the town, and what a stunning town it is. Sorry, I only managed a few snaps whilst I did some speedy sightseeing before making my appearance on the stage. I managed to gather some fabulous bits from the stalls too – plates to die for from Sytch Farm Studios, chorizo and saucissons from Charcutierltd , Ludlow Blue cheese from Ludlow Food Centre and then the most divine custard tart, that I ate straight away, from the fabulous Harp Lane deli’ right off the market square. Now if you’ve been clicking on all those links it’s a miracle you’re still here, so well done.

I cooked up my favourite green pea fritters (here’s the recipe).I did put some fabulous local chorizo on top this time, delicious cooked up with some red onions and a splash of Herefordshire cider. The second dish was a freekah and butterbean number with roasted cauliflower (here’s a red rice version but do use freekah instead – just boil in lightly salted water until tender and drain.)

On my way home, as I drove from Ludlow to Bristol through some of England’s most stunning countryside, I got all excited. I’ve now made a pact with myself that whenever I’m on a long journey I’ll turn off up a random lane and stop for a few minutes just to breathe and take in the scene. First stop Ocle Pychard, who could resist? And just look what I found!

The next weekend it was off to Abergavenny, to work with kids cooking up some British baked beans. I’m a firm believer that getting children in the kitchen is a great way to encourage adventurous eating and invaluable life skills. We used Hodmedod’s red haricots to make our beans with fried onions, carrot, celery and garlic and a tin of chopped tomatoes. With a little seasoning and a dash of local cider vinegar those beans put the supermarket beans-in-gloop to shame. There’s a recipe in Cool Kids Cook. We added a little chilli and lime juice to our beans and toasted them in a wrap – hey presto! Quesadillas! I’ll get Imi on the case to give you a demo’ very soon.unspecified-2

Now I have to admit that I was so taken up (in a good way) with the kid’s workshops that I only had a couple hours flying around the amazing festival, I managed to squeeze in one of Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company ‘s lobster and seaweed butter rolls. One day I’ll make it to their original beach shack, Café Môr, in Pembrokeshire, in the meantime I’ll sniff them out at every possible festival opportunity. Random stop this time was overlooking the Usk valley just a few miles outside Abergavenny: plenty of sheep, very green hills and blackberry brambles for some opportunistic picking.

Next up Bradford, The World Curry Festival, a long train journey but so worth it; part of a week-long festival celebrating curries of the world with chefs such as Ken Hom and the broadcaster /comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli. I was giving a dal demo, I did worry that I might be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs and so I pulled all the stops out with this magic Sambar recipe. For any of you who came to the demo you’ll find the chickpea Sundal Accra recipe here and the simple Tarka Dal recipe here

DSC_1625.jpgSouthern Indian Vegetables with Dal  – Sambar

Sambar is a southern Indian staple. It’s essentially a dal cooked with whatever vegetables are in season, so don’t worry about the long ingredient list, just use what you have to hand..
Traditional sambar has a very loose and almost soup-like consistancy and is served alongside rice, dosa or flatbreads. I like to make mine a little thicker.
For the curry – (serves 6 with rice or flatbread)
100 g red lentils (or more authentically  toor dal) well rinsed and drained
1 tsp turmeric
2 onions, sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 aubergine, diced
100g pumpkin or squash
a handful of french beans
3-4 tbsp tamarind paste
salt
For the spice paste
1 tbsp oil
3 shallots, diced
100 g dessicated coconut (unsweetened please)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried chillis
For the Tarka
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10-15 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Put the lentils in a large pan with the turmeric and cover with 600 ml/1 pint of water.
Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are soft ( you may need to add a dash more water). Add the onions, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and pumpkin and cook, stirring from time to time, until tender. 
Meanwhile take a small frying pan and heat up the oil. Fry the shallot until soft and then add the coconut, coriander, cumin and chillis. As soon as the mixture is aromatic and golden remove it from the heat. Make a fine paste using a pestle and mortar, a spice grinder or small processor.
Add the green beans, tamarind paste and spice paste to the lentils, stir and cook until the beans are tender. Do add more water if you like the traditional, soupier consistancy
Re-use the frying pan and make the tarka. Heat the oil and cook the mustard seeds until they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves and chilli, stir once and then tip over the sambar.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little diary of events, more like a newsletter this month, I assumed you’d jump to the recipe if you got bored! Next stop on my “Pulsathon” is Brussels and then on 22nd October you can find me at The Dartmouth Food Festival. I’ll be cooking with kids and also doing a beany demo’ too. Come along, I’d love to see you.

 

 

Iced Lemonade & Hot Green Peas

Warm August days and there’s really no better place to be than Britain. I did wonder a few weeks ago, whether I would regret our decision not to go abroad this summer. Right now, having looked after a friend’s glorious garden just down the road in Clifton (with cabin – see the amazing pic’s below) for a couple of weeks, and with a little sortie to see my sis’ in Devon planned, I’m very happy.

Fresh lemonade is always a winner and a really simple thing for children to knock up. This picture of Imi and fabulous friend Alpha (who also appears in the Cool Kids Cook book) was taken by  John Holdship for the Borough Market Magazine (you can find the original honey and rosemary lemonade on the market site here). Today I’ll give you the simplest of recipes.

lemonade 3

Iced Lemonade                                       Serves 6-8

The most thirst quenching drink imaginable, as long as it’s not too sweet.

6 large, juicy lemons (ideally unwaxed)
5 tbsp sugar
250ml water
Plenty of ice and cold water to top up.

Peel the zest from 2 lemons (avoiding too much bitter white pith) and place in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. (If your lemons are waxy and shiny it’s worth dropping them into boiling water for a couple of minutes and then wiping away as much of the sticky wax as possible with some paper towel before zesting)

Heat up the pan to boiling point and then leave it to steep whilst you squeeze the lemons. People talk about microwaving lemons to make the juicing easier, I just roll the whole lemons around on the work surface , pressing and squashing as I go, to loosen up the flesh.

Pour the fresh juice into a jug and, once it is cool, add the steeped syrup from the pan,  along with a few pieces of the pared zest. Top up to taste with plenty of ice (don’t forget that this will dilute the lemonade as it melts) and some cool water.

Lemons vary in size and acidity so I’d have a couple of extras standing by, in case you need to sharpen this up a little.

& Hot Green Peas

The fact is, when it is really, really hot in the UK, we just aren’t prepared for it. Last month I went to Westminster for a parliamentary event to mark The U.N. International Year of Pulses. It just happened to be the hottest day of the year, sweltering in fact. The aim of this gathering of M.P’s, Peers, farmers, traders and campaigners was to raise British pulse awareness. You can take a look here if you don’t know why we’re all shouting about legumes this year; if you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months then you’ll have all this info’ down pat so feel free to move on. FAO-Infographic-IYP2016-FoodSecurity-en

The extraordinarily British element of this day was that, despite the excruciating heat of  Westminster’s Jubilee Room, two particularly dedicated members of The British Edible  Pulse Association still slipped into their lycra pea outfits (talk about boil in a bag).

 

And…………. on the subject of peas, if you feel like making a wonderfully simple and very, very good pea soup then try this Pea, Lime and Lemongrass Soup from the fabulous Diana Henry.

 

 

 

 

Imi Bassett’s Guest Post – Cool Kids Cook

Hi i’m Imi Bassett and here’s my guest post on my mum’s BLOG!

Last Friday I decided to cook a three coursed meal for four people (Mum, Dad, Spare Granny Sasha and ME!)

I started off with a Spanish dish called Pan con tomate (bread with tomato in Spanish). This is a nice and easy dish all you need is tasty sourdough bread, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and a pinch of salt. All you need to do is toast a slice of bread. Then whilst it is still warm rub a clove of garlic on it. After that squeeze the tomato on the bread and dispose the skins. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top. Take a pinch of salt and sprinkle over the bread. HEY PRESTO!
YUM YOUR DONE!!!!

The next course is my signature dish! Corn chowder, it’s a lovely soup. The main ingredients are bacon, potatoes, corn, milk and, if you want it, smoked fish. My favourite corn chowder recipe is the one from my mum’s book! (MUM DID NOT MAKE ME WRITE THAT!)

The first time I made jellies I used Mum’s recipe but nowadays I play around with the flavours! This time it was tropical! I served it with frozen mango kebabs and home made smoothie!

Thanks Imi for your lovely post – here are a couple of the recipes for the pudding .

Imi’s Tropical Jelly  (6-8)

5 sheets of gelatine
500 ml of whatever juice you like – Imi used a mango, banana, passionfruit juice (not too much pineapple in the mix or it won’t set properly)

Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water, they will go soft and silky.

Make your smoothie or select your juice. It should taste sweeter than you would usually drink it because you will be serving it chilled.

Heat up about a 1/4 of the juice in a large saucepan, you don’t want it boiling – just hot. Remove the pan from the heat

Squeeze the cold water from the sheets of gelatine and drop them into the hot juice in the pan. Stir until the gelatine completely dissolves and disappears. Magic! Add the rest of the juice to the pan and give it all a stir.

Now, you choose, you can pour the jelly into moulds (metal are the best for turning out)  to turn out later or simply serve this from glasses. Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours and then serve.

Turning out your jellies

Carefully dip the jellies into a bowl of hot water, one at a time, taking care that the water doesn’t go in the jelly. The idea is to melt the very outside of the jelly. Turn the mould upside down on to a plate and WOBBLE it. If it won’t come out try dipping again.

Imi put some of her jelly into silicone fairy cake cases and served them straight from these, the jellies she turned out were in metal dariole moulds.

Tropical Banana Smoothie

1 mango  (expertly peeled and chopped) + 1/4 banana + 1 cup pineapple chunks + pineapple juice to cover.

Whizz in the blender (we were borrowing a Nutribullet that worked brilliantly- may have to invest)

Imi did add 1 tsp honey as the pineapple was not quite sweet enough.

Imi’s “mango kebabs” – skewer cubes of mango onto cocktail sticks and freeze for about 2 hours.

Highlights:
Imi’s sense of achievement, a fantastic supper and her comment…….
When I’m a student I expect everyone will be saying “let’s go to Imi Bassett’s room for a chowder”

 

 

All Hail The Great British Pea

We might not be able to grow peaches, aubergines, watermelons or mangoes, but in Britain we do have the perfect climate for peas. As a child I used to love the early summer when you could hide away in the vegetable patch scoffing fresh peas straight from the pod, I still love them raw in a salad, and the fresh pea shoots too. Britain produces 160,000 tons of frozen peas each year and there are certain dishes such as shepherd’s pie that I couldn’t contemplate eating without a pile of barely-cooked petit pois and a hint of fresh mint. But today I’m talking dried peas, the rather unglamorous forefathers of the ubiquitous green pea.

It’s easy to forget that historically, peas were grown to be dried, stored and eaten at a later date. “Pease” were a British staple from the Middle Ages right through to the mid 20th century. You only have to think back to the old nursery rhyme to realise that dried peas were once a key source of protein in our diets, pushed aside in more recent times by meat.

Pease pudding hot,  Pease Pudding cold
Pease pudding in the pot nine-days old

Today with ever-growing sustainability, animal welfare, health and obesity concerns many of us are looking towards a more plant-based diet and so I say “All Hail the Great British Pea”.

We’ve cooked dried yellow and green peas in comforting, wintery soups for centuries.  Whilst it’s possible to buy whole peas, split peas are much quicker and easier to cook, since they have lost their thick skins and don’t need any soaking. It may not be quite the season for it but pea and ham soup is a British classic (it’s other name London Particular harks back to the pea-souper fogs that used to engulf the capital) You will find my recipe here on The Borough Market website Split peas are a great store cupboard standby; they make wonderful dal  and Greek Fava purée too.

My latest discovery is green pea flour (quite literally ground, dried green peas). I’m happy to eat gluten, but for any of you cutting it out, this pea flour could be very handy. I’ve written about farinata (socca before) and this recipe is just a variation on the chickpea flour (gram flour) pancake eaten on the Mediterranean Rivieras. The colour is a glorious Kermit green and it tastes amazing too.

Pea Fritters with Ricotta and Honey

Pea fritters(makes about 16 individual or 2-3 larger pancakes)

100 g green pea flour
180 ml water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying.

75 g ricotta cheese (I found some local, fresh goat’s milk ricotta)
a couple of tablespoons of delicate honey
black pepper
a few fresh mint leaves

Pour the pea flour into a jug and add about half the water. Stir until you have a thick , smooth paste and then add the remaining water, oil and salt. Leave to rest for at least an hour (for the starch to swell) – I’ve left it for a day too and it was fine.

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a frying pan until searing hot and then spoon in small pools of the mixture for individual pancakes or cover the pan with about 1 cm of mixture for a whole cake. Fry until set underneath but still slightly slimy on the top. Flip the small pancakes over with a palette knife or turn the large cake over on a large plate. Add a dash more oil and fry the underside.

Serve warm topped with ricotta, honey, black pepper and mint (and in this case a slice of fresh apricot)

Pea pancakes also make a marvellous savoury dish. Here are a couple of my instagram snaps of suppers past: pancakes topped with chicken, parmesan and lemon and then on another occasion with treacle lardons from Charcutierltd and a soft egg.

And some other peas………

If you read my blog at all you’re sure to have come across my favourite Black Badgers aka Carlin Peas – here’s the recipe for a super tasty (and just happens to be healthy )salad and in a few days time I’ll post the recipe for “Grey Peas” (not a particularly alluring name, I agree) that I cooked for the Radio 4 Food Programme.

And ....If you’re after pea flour Hodmedods sell it by mail order and in many health food shops, grocers etc. Someone did ask me the other day if I work for Hodmedods – the answer is no, thus far I’ve never written a sponsored blog of any kind. I just happen to love what Hodmedods do and sell.

Lastly a confession: as a Pulse Ambassador, I’m ashamed to admit that I just can’t get excited about marrowfat peas, even mushy peas have never really done it for me. Go on, do try to convert me. Nigella’s avocado and marrowfat pea purée is pretty good but I’d still rather eat guacamole.

The Radio 4 Food Programme about Pulses is no longer being broadcast this weekend (there was a reshuffle after a very fast turnaround programme last weekend about the Brexit effect on our food – really worth a listen on podcast) I’ll keep you updated.