Birmingham to welcome Primark’s largest store

Primark’s largest ever store will open in December 2018 at Birmingham Pavilions. Designed by 3DReid, the new store will showcase five floors of fashion spread across 14,864 sq m of retail space and will feature the latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s fashions including footwear, accessories, lingerie, beauty and homeware. This store will build on Primark’s latest contemporary shopfit, offering an enhanced customer experience with bespoke design areas, access to free wi-fi and customer ‘recharge’ seating areas for enjoyable and convenient shopping.

‘The new Primark in Birmingham will be the largest in the world, offering an even wider range of our amazing fashion at amazing prices, over five floors. We have a loyal customer base in Birmingham and are very excited to unveil the new store, which will be almost four times the size of our current city centre store,’ says a spokesperson for Primark.

The opening will create local employment opportunities, with almost 500 new jobs. The store will employ approximately 900 people in total, including 430 employees who will transfer from Primark’s current city centre location at Birmingham’s New Street.

Tesco shutting series of city centre stores

Thousands of Tesco jobs are thought to be at risk as Tesco begins closing a series of city centre stores.

According to a report from The Times, industry insiders believe Tesco is planning to close up to 30 poorly performing Metro stores and to convert a further 60, although Tesco has not confirmed those figures.

 

The move comes as Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis looks to cut costs to boost profit margins.

Lewis has set a target of improving margins up from 2.9 per cent last year to between 3.5 per cent and four per cent in 2020.

Staff at Metro outlets in Lancashire, Manchester and Liverpool have been told their stores are closing, with the average Metro employing 75 people.

The supermarket giant is just days away from unveiling its new discount player Jack’s, at Chatteris near Cambridge.

It’s thought former Tesco Metro stores will be converted into the new brand, enabling the supermarket to grow a value retail competitor at a much faster rate than establishing completely new stores.

What makes Argos the UK’s top multichannel retailer?

According to Retail Week, Argos is the UK’s best multichannel retailer, recently named number one in its ‘Top 30 multichannel retailers’ list.

But what exactly makes Argos so successful?

Here’s a look at its multichannel strategy, and how it offers customer a superior and seamless experience across all channels.

In-store experience

Retail Week reports that online sales account for a third of total sales on average for the top 30 multichannel retailers. This means that the rest is generated in stores.

For Argos, success in both areas has stemmed from heavily investing in store technology – notably replacing its famous laminated catalogues and mini pens with tablet devices.

Instead of the old system of writing out an order slip and queuing to pay a cashier, customers can now buy items much quicker via a digital kiosk before waiting for their collection to arrive.

Meanwhile, employees are also armed with portable devices to help find product and stock information quickly and easily, and warehouse staff use headsets to find out what tasks should be prioritised at that particular moment.

Another key area of online and offline alignment is click-and-collect – a feature that 72% of consumers are said to make use of if it is available. Argos’s ‘Fast Track’ service takes this up a notch, allowing customers to order and pick up from a store on the very same day.

Speed and convenience

This brings us to another important factor in Argos’s success – the aim of offering customers the fastest and most convenient option possible.

According to research, 17% of consumers would change their minds about a purchase if click and collect was not available, making it a highly effective way of reducing basket abandonment. What’s more, click and collect customers are reported to spend twice as much as regular shoppers.

Not only does Argos offer click and collect, but the addition of ‘Fast Track’ means that customers can pick up on the same day, as well as get same-day delivery on home orders placed before 6pm.

Effectively, this means that customers are no longer restricted to a retailer’s terms or operating hours, enjoying the freedom and choice to choose where and how they receive their items at their own convenience. Argos also allows customers to choose between four time slots or a two-hour delivery window in exchange for their mobile number – a way to banish that dreaded day-long wait indoors.

Apple’s Price Target Cut at RBC on iPhone Demand Woes

Apple Inc.’s price target was trimmed by RBC Capital Markets on Tuesday, the latest investment bank to cite concerns about weak demand for the company’s iPhone line, a factor that has pushed the technology bellwether into bear-market territory over the past several weeks.

“Given sustained data points around soft iPhone demand from supply-chain and others, we think it’s prudent to adjust estimates lower especially as it relates to March-quarter and beyond,” analyst Amit Daryanani wrote to clients. While the stock has already seen pronounced weakness on this issue, “we think investors will wait for data-points/noise level to stabilize before getting more positive on the name,” something Daryanani expects will happen in early 2019.

Daryanani cut his price target to $235 from $240, compared with the average of $228 as compiled by Bloomberg, and also trimmed his 2019 estimates on the Dow component. Yet RBC affirmed its outperform rating on Apple, saying it remains a “core large-cap tech holding” in an “increasingly ‘risk-off’ environment,” given the company’s strong balance sheet and “aggressive” buyback program.

Google Workers Sign Letter Seeking End to China Search Project

A group of Google employees have put their name to a public letter calling on the company to abandon its plans for a Chinese search product that censors results.

Project Dragonfly, as the initiative is known, would enable state surveillance at a time when the Chinese government is expanding controls over the population, according to the letter signed by at least 10 workers, predominately software engineers and researchers. The document also called on management to commit to transparency, be accountable and provide clear communication.

Ever since plans for Dragonfly emerged in August, Google parent Alphabet Inc. has been riven by internal dissent at the prospect of a search engine bending to Beijing’s censorship. It was that sort of government control that prompted co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to effectively pull out of China in 2010 when it decided to stop removing controversial links from web queries.

“We refuse to build technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the Google workers wrote in the letter. “Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.”

Re-entering China has been a key goal of Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai. In 2016 a small team that included Pichai began working on China-related projects, including Dragonfly, to bring Google’s search engine back into the country.

The decision was met with pushback from both Google engineers and executives. Alphabet Inc. Chairman John Hennessy has said he’s not confident Google will be better off bringing a censored search engine.

The signatories of the letter said they joined the company conscious of its previous position on Chinese censorship and Google’s willingness to place “values above its profits.”

Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja, a juicy and tender shredded beef stew, is braised in the most flavorful, umami-rich tomato based sauce.

Ropa Vieja

This recipe for ropa vieja couldn’t be easier to make – it’s a dump and go recipe, which is basically the best kind of recipe there is. There’s minimal prep too. The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for it to finish cooking. If you use a slow cooker, that’ll take all day, but if you cook it in an Instant Pot then you’ll only have to wait a couple hours. Good food takes time, y’all.

Ropa Vieja literally means “old clothes.” Kind of an odd name for a dish but if you squint, this big juicy pile of meat and colorful bell peppers does kind of look like a pile of laundry, right? I mean… if your wardrobe happens to include a lot of brown. I guess that’s probably not the imagery I should encourage here? Don’t worry y’all, this dish tastes nothing like laundry (and that’s something I never thought I’d write…).

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Ropa Vieja

While this Cuban dish typically calls for flank steak, I suggest using beef chuck roast instead because it has more fat, more flavor and most importantly it results in tender, juicy meat when cooked for a long period of time. I’d rather have melt-in-your-mouth shredded beef vs. tough and chewy shredded beef so if you agree, get the chuck roast please.

Ropa Vieja

Want to keep things authentic? Then serve this savory stew with white rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains. And don’t forget to top the ropa with something briney. I suggest pimento-stuffed green olives but if olives aren’t your thing, you can always use capers for a hit of briney tang.

Another tasty way to use all this meat: in tacos, a burrito bowl or enchiladas. Those are just a few ideas, of course.

My personal favorite way to eat ropa vieja is in a bowl, like stew, but with all the toppings! I top it with plenty of diced onion, diced jalapeños, avocado, chopped cilantro and a big squeeze of lime. I know that’s Mexican-style, but the flavors go so well together. Plus it keeps me from eating too much rice.

Also, this is sort of important but not crucial to the dish – do use different colored bell peppers if possible. Not only do they look great in the dish but yellow and red bell peppers are sweeter than green and that sweetness really compliments the whole stew.

Alright, go make this! While the stew simmers, go ahead and fold that laundry that’s lying around 😉

Ropa Vieja

Indian Onion Masala

I am on a mission to help you simplify Indian cooking! Grab your onions and tomatoes and get ready to make some Indian onion masala!

Indian Onion Masala

What is Indian Onion Masala?

Indian onion masala is a flavorful sauce made up of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and spices. It’s the base to a lot of Indian dishes and by preparing it in advance, you can significantly reduce the cook time for many Indian recipes.

Indian Onion Masala, also known as onion tomato gravy, is nothing new to those of us who cook Indian food on a daily basis. I have been watching my parents make onion masala for as long as I can remember. In the past, making this masala was a painstaking process but it doesn’t have to be anymore – especially if you have an Instant Pot. Having this onion tomato masala handy is an incredible time saver and makes it possible to eat authentic, healthy and delicious Indian meals everyday.

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Onions, tomatoes and ginger/garlic are what I like to consider the “trifecta” of Indian cooking (…er quadfecta?). But who has time to brown onions and cook down tomatoes every single day? No one.  That’s why a lot of Indian people spend one day a week or a month preparing Indian onion masala. It can take several hours to fry onions and cook down tomatoes but I have a faster way: use the Instant Pot. You prepare a big batch, freeze it then take it out whenever you need to make a quick meal.

I know everyone is all about “meal prep” these days. Well, this is how a lot of Indians meal prep. Once you’ve got this masala ready, you can literally prepare “dump and go” Indian recipes and they’ll end up having a lot of flavor.

Indian Onion Masala

As magical as an Instant Pot is, it’ll still take time to make this masala – just not as much. Plus you won’t have to babysit a pot on the stove for as long. It’s really up to you as to how brown you’d like to have your onions. I sometimes skip fully browning the onions and the masala still turns out just fine. The browner the onions, the sweeter the masala so if you can, be patient.

This is how brown your onions should look if you sauté them for 15-20 minutes first:

This masala lasts for months. When I first gave birth to Tony, my mom packed my freezer to the brim with this masala and literally one year later, I found some of it hiding in the back of the freezer… not gonna lie, I used it and it was still perfect. I’d probably suggest using it up within six months though (it normally doesn’t last us that long).

So forget peeling, chopping and cooking these basic ingredients every single day. That is exhausting and what makes Indian cooking seem unapproachable. Instead, make this onion masala and see how easy it really is to cook fresh Indian food every day.

Fresh Tomatoes or Canned Tomatoes?

You can use either fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes to make this onion masala and I’ll explain how to do that in the directions below.

When it comes to fresh tomatoes, I suggest using Roma tomatoes because they have less water content and so the masala will be thicker. If you use different tomatoes then you will likely need to boil off some of the water at the end.

If tomatoes are not in season where you live, then go for canned (or jarred). Yes, I realize fresh tomatoes are always preferable BUT canned tomatoes are packed at the peak of ripeness and ripe tomatoes are what will make your masala tasty. Sometimes canned tomato masala turns out to taste a bit better for this reason.

(Just an FYI: the photos in this blog post are of tomato masala made using fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes will give the masala a darker color).

Indian Onion Masala

How to Use Indian Onion Masala in Recipes:

Want to know how to use this onion masala in recipes? Then check out my Indian Onion Masala Blog Series where you’ll learn all about onion masala: how to store it, how to use it in recipes and recipes that call for exact amounts of this masala!

I’ll be sharing plenty of recipes during the month of February so get your masala ready!

By clicking on this graphic below, you’ll get to what I’m calling the

Indian Onion Masala Headquarters:

Here’s how this series works:

  1. Make the recipe below for Indian onion masala.
  2. Read this post about how to store onion masala.
  3. Check out this page for recipes. No need to guess how much masala to use – I’ll tell you the exact amount of masala needed.
  4. Take all of your onion masala knowledge and apply it to any Indian recipe calling for onions and tomatoes! Hooray!

Indian Onion Masala

Having this masala ready to go is the best way to meal prep when it comes to Indian Cuisine. In fact, I’d say it’s basically essential if you want to enjoy Indian food everyday. So go on and make this masala!

How to Store Onion Masala:

Here is a detailed post that you can read to learn how I freeze onion masala: How to Store and Use Indian Onion Masala

Indian Onion Masala

Basic Indian Onion Masala

Instant Pot Rajma

This recipe for rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry, is one of my favorite dishes! And it is so easy to make in an instant pot!

Instant Pot Rajma Indian Kidney Bean Curry

Instant Pot Rajma = Melt-in-your-Mouth Kidney Bean Curry

These melt-in-your-mouth kidney beans are coated in a thick masala gravy and loaded with flavor. Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of rajma chawal (rajma and rice)?

Rajma is a red kidney bean curry that’s typically served with basmati rice hence the words rajma chawal – for those of us who are Punjabi, these two words go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can also make it with brown basmati rice or an Indian flatbread like roti, naan or paleo naan if you prefer.

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Not only is this recipe extremely economical thanks to the dried kidney beans, it’s also great for those following a gluten-free or vegan diet. This recipe is so delicious though that you won’t feel like you’re on any special diet while eating it!

I’m Punjabi and so as a child, this dish was in our regular dinner rotation. The funny thing is that back then, I loathed rajma. It was nothing compared to butter chicken, my childhood dish of choice. But now, if you were to ask me to choose between the two I truthfully think I’d pick rajma (ugh, tough choice though). It’s a dish that makes me feel so nostalgic and I find is so, so delicious. I relish every bite.

It wasn’t until I left the house to go to college that I started to miss my mom’s rajma. I still remember the look of surprise on my mom’s face when I asked her to make it for me – not kidding when I say her jaw dropped. It’s funny how things you don’t care for as a child end up being dishes that you love. I feel the same way about bitter melon (karela) – hated it back in the day, absolutely love it now.

Instant Pot Rajma Indian Kidney Bean Curry

Should I Soak Kidney Beans?

This always seems to be a heated topic. I know a lot of people feel pretty strongly over whether or not to soak legumes but I think many Indian families soak beans/legumes prior to cooking. That’s what I do because that’s what my mom taught me and that’s what my grandmother taught her. I personally feel like it makes them easier to digest. You decide what is best for you but please know that if you’re not using pre-soaked beans then you will need to cook the kidney beans for longer than the recipe calls for. My method results in perfectly soft and tender kidney beans.

In addition to increasing the cook time – another thing to keep in mind if you decide not to soak the beans is that you’ll likely have to add more water to the recipe as soaked kidney beans absorb water. If you decide to use unsoaked kidney beans then let us know how it goes.

One last thing about kidney beans – they contain a high level of a toxin calledphytohaemagglutinin (yeah, that’s a mouthful) – this lectin is destroyed if you cook the beans long enough. Eating kidney beans that aren’t properly cooked can cause some pretty bad stomach/GI issues so – another reason to either soak the rajma or cook them longer.

Instant Pot Rajma Indian Kidney Bean Curry

If you love this Punjabi dish, then chances are you’ll love my recipe for Punjabi Chole too so give that a try next! And if you’re looking for more Instant Pot Indian recipes, then check out my cookbook: Indian Food Under Pressure.

Instant Pot Aloo Stuffed Karela

If you like karela (bitter melon), you will LOVE this aloo stuffed karela! It’s so easy to make in an instant pot!Aloo Stuffed Karela (Potato Stuffed Bitter Melon)

This recipe is also known as bharwa karela, which just means stuffed karela. You can stuff bitter melon with anything (onion masala, chutneys, etc) but today, I’m sharing a recipe that calls for a spiced potato filling!

Before I tell you about the dish though, there’s something you should know.

I have three other bitter melon recipes on my blog and in all posts, I share a warning with my readers: bitter melon is a love it/hate it kind of fruit. And chances are that if you didn’t grow up eating it or haven’t yet acquired a taste for it – that you’re going to be in the latter category.

If you’re feeling adventurous and still want to give bitter melon a try, then this is the recipe for potato stuffed bitter melon is the one to make. It’s a good “first time” karela recipe because it calls for potato which really helps to balance out the flavor of the bitter melon.

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The potato filling has what we call a “chatpata” flavor meaning that it’s pretty tangy. The tangy flavor in this filling is from amchur powder (dried green mango powder). This tart and salty filling really mellows out the bitterness of the melon. If there’s any chance of you liking bitter melon, then this is the recipe that’ll do it for you.

Now IF you are already a fan of bitter melon, then get ready for an incredible way to prepare it – because you are going to love this!

To make this recipe, first peel the bitter melon (save the peels for this chilke ki sabzi recipe), then make a slit on one side and remove all of the seeds. After that, stuff the melons then tie them up with kitchen twine. The twine helps to keep the stuffing inside when you shallow fry them at the end. You’ll first steam them in the Instant Pot, then fry them in there too. Everything in one pot = less dishes!

The photo below is of a different recipe: stuffed karela with an onion tomato masala but the process is basically the same:

Stuffed Karela (Bitter Melon) with Onion Masala

Why Eat Karela If It’s So Bitter?

Bitter melon is considered to be a very healthy fruit – one that Indian parents often insist upon their children for this very reason (I have first hand experience with this lol). I used to think eating bitter melon was some sort of punishment as a child but now I love it. I gave my toddler a tiny piece of my karela when I made it a few weeks ago and he immediately spat it out and gave me a look like “mom, what the heck did you just give me.” I am 100% certain I gave that same look to my parents – it makes me smile to think about that now 🙂 I probably won’t try giving him any more karela for awhile…

So what are the health benefits? First let me just say I am a FOOD BLOGGER and not in the medical field in any way – but it is said to help with diabetes, cancer, viral infections, and immune disorders. Some studies have shown that the properties in bitter melon indicate anticancer and antiviral effects. I obviously do not suggest trying to heal yourself without first talking to a doctor. There can also be adverse side effects to eating bitter melon – do not eat this fruit if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or might be expecting (read more about bitter melon here).

I really enjoy eating bitter melon and I personally think that’s a good enough reason – the potential health benefits are certainly a plus.

Now let’s be honest here, eating this stuffed karela with a potato filling probably isn’t the healthiest way to eat bitter melon so if you prefer a healthier version of stuffed karela then try this recipe instead which calls for an onion masala filling.

Aloo Stuffed Karela (Potato Stuffed Bitter Melon)

What’s Up with Mustard Oil?:

I like to shallow fry the stuffed karela in mustard oil because it has a very distinctive flavor that pairs nicely with bitter melon. You can find mustard oil in any Indian grocery store or on amazon (I like this brand of organic mustard oil)  Before I get into trouble with the US government here, you should know that in the US – mustard oil is sold for “external use only.” You’ll find that unsettling disclaimer in small words on the bottle but please know that Indian people use it all the time for frying their food. You can certainly use another type of oil if you’d like.

If you’re interested in learning more about mustard oil, here’s a study that was done in 2004 by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that the “use of mustard oil, which is rich in α-linolenic acid, was associated with a lower risk than was use of sunflower oil”and here is an interesting article by the NY Times. I am not a doctor or a scientist or anything other than a foodie so take from that what you will and make your own decisions.

If you try this dish, let me know what you think of it!

Aloo Stuffed Karela (Potato Stuffed Bitter Melon)

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

This vegetable-packed biryani is a one-pot dish that’s aromatic, flavorful and super tasty.

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

You are going to love this vegetarian biryani recipe because it is full of flavor. The aroma will have your mouth watering as it cooks! It’s loaded with veggies like: carrots, bell pepper, potatoes, corn and peas. It’s a vegan recipe too as long as you omit the ghee-coated cashews and raisins.

So… I think it’s official. I have a biryani problem.

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I already have several different types of biryani on my blog and you can expect several more varieties to come soon. I have so many biryani recipe ideas floating around in my head. And by floating, I mean dancing. All of these biryani ideas are basically doing bhangra in my mind. Biryani Bhangra.💃🏽 hoi! bruahhh!

Anyway… the point is that we have been eating biryani at least once a week lately (Biryani Fridays!) and I can’t wait to eventually share all of my biryani recipes with you.

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

This veggie dish is normally reserved for special occasions but thanks to the instant pot, it’s now simple enough to make on a busy weeknight. It’s easy and also impressive so this dish works for dinner parties too. In fact, if you’re looking for a fancy vegetarian recipe to serve your guests then look no further. Okay actually do consider making my vegetable korma too. You can serve both of these at a dinner party and your vegetarian/vegan friends will love you forever!

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

One last thing… when you’re making biryani, you should be using good biryani rice. I highly recommend using this brand of basmati rice in this dish and in all of my rice dishes. I love the extra long grains and in my opinion, no other basmati rice compares to it. I’m always open to learning about new varieties/brands though so leave a comment if there’s another one you prefer!

Enjoy this dish! And if you like it, be sure to check out one of my other biryani recipes 🙂

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani