Given how much I adored Saraban, I was really excited about getting my hands on the latest title from Greg & Lucky Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food.

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Whilst I was immediately taken by many of the recipes, one major problem with the book revealed itself very early on:

The typography and page layout may look modern and attractive but made the book very hard to read. With the exception of the recipe title and ingredients, the introduction and method are printed in pale grey on white paper. Combined with the small text size, this really had me struggling. I’ve not had this problem with any other recipe book, so it’s not a case of deteriorating eyesight.

Flicking through the book on the sofa, I tried to lift the book closer to my eyes, but it’s large size and weight made that impractical.

I can only suggest reading this one at the table, and making use of a sturdy book stand when in the kitchen. Or perhaps investing in a pair of magnifying reading glasses!

Reading problems aside, what about the book?

Whereas their previous books (Arabesque, Moorish, Saha, Turquoise and Saraban) are as much about sharing their journeys and creating, in words and pictures, a vivid mental image of the regions, peoples and traditions they experienced, this latest title is much more focused on food.

What you’ll find here is a compendium of over 300 Middle Eastern recipes, many of which have appeared in the Maloufs’ other books. There are also plenty of new recipes for fans who already have a Malouf library. I particularly like the larder section at the back which is a veritable encyclopaedia of recipes for spice blends and spice pastes, dressings, pickles, relishes, jams and preserves.

As is the Malouf style, the recipes in the book are not slavishly authentic but adapted to suit the modern global market which allows many of us to incorporate ingredients from all around the world into our cooking. So a recipe for a zucchini omelette includes provolone cheese, and a confit date ice cream uses Kahlua. As Greg explains in his introduction:

“My food would not be about reinventing classics – and nor, really, would it be about tradition. Instead, I was bursting with ideas for a new kind of Middle Eastern food: subjective and personal interpretations, yes, but dishes that would absolutely capture the essence of the Middle East, but express it in a fresher, more inventive – and even, perhaps, a more Western – manner.”

We chose to make two recipes: lamb kifta tagine with eggs and my favourite, kukiye sabzi (a soft herb omelette), which we’d made once before, as the recipe is also in Saraban, . By the way, the spectacular Persian Baked Yoghurt Rice with Chicken (Tahcheen-e morgh) that we so enjoyed previously is also included in this book.

Lamb Kifta Tagine With Eggs

This dish can best be described as lamb meatballs in a tomato-based sauce, with eggs baked on top.

Meatball ingredients
500 grams lamb, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
Sauce ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400 grams tinned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Other ingredients
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
6 free-range eggs
(optional) baby radish leaves and sage flowers to garnish

Note: We halved all amounts, above.
Note: We used regular salt instead of sea salt (since it was being used in a cooked dish).
Note: We used vegetable cooking oil instead of olive oil (for the same reason).
Note: We used chopped tinned tomatoes and included all the juices.

Method

  • To make meatballs, thoroughly mix all the ingredients, except for the oil, and with wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Heat the oil and brown the meatballs all over. Drain well on paper towel.

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  • For the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole dish and lightly sauté the onions and garlic until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Then add the water, stir again and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce, uncovered, for about thirty minutes, or until it has reduced to a very thick gravy.

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  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue cooking for a further 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley and coriander. Carefully break the eggs into the sauce, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the eggs are just set, which will take about 5 minutes.

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  • Serve at once, straight from the pot.

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  • Malouf suggests liberally garnishing with radish leaves and flowers, and serving with plenty of Arabic flatbread to mop up the runny egg yolks. Alternatively, he proposes accompanying the tagine with a dish of plain buttered couscous and a dollop of thick natural yoghurt.
  • He also adds a note that those who enjoy a more piquant dish may add one finely chopped bullet chilli whilst sautéing the onion and garlic.

We really enjoyed the dish, though found it a lot like a North Indian tomato-based curry in flavour. Reducing the volume of coriander leaves would probably alleviate this.

(Kuku-ye Sabzi) Soft Herb Omelette

Ingredients
2 tablespoons barberries, stems removed
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 cup chopped dill sprigs
1/2 cup snipped chives
50 ml olive oil
6-free range eggs
(optional) 2 tablespoons saffron liquid (a few strands of saffron soaked in a couple of tablespoons of boiling water)
1 tablespoon self-raising flour
(optional) 1/3 cup fenugreek leaves or 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note: we omitted the barberries, saffron liquid and fenugreek.
Note:
We halved all amounts, above.

Method

The first time we made this, we used a small frying pan, which was better suited to the halved amounts. The second time, we used a much larger pan, which resulted in a flatter finished omelette with raised sides, reminiscent of a Yorkshire pudding. Both tasted great and had a good texture, but the one made in the smaller pan was more in line with what the dish should look like.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C. Soak the barberries in cold water for 2 minutes, then drain and dry. Toss the herbs together and use paper towel or a clean tea towel to pat out as much moisture as you can.
  • Pour the oil into a non-stick oven-proof frying pan and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

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  • Whisk the eggs and saffron liquid, if using, until frothy. Whisk in the flour, fenugreek, salt and pepper, followed by the herbs and barberries.

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  • Pour the egg mixture into the hot oil. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until nearly set. Remove the cover and cook for a further 15 minutes to brown the surface.

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  • Cut into wedges and serve hot from the pan. Alternatively, drain on paper towel and cut into wedges when cold. Cold omelette is particularly good as a sandwich filling.

This dish became a favourite of mine at the now closed Aqua restaurant in North Finchley, so it’s great to have a simple, delicious recipe to make it at home.

With thanks to Hardie Grant for the review copy.


Published by Hardie Grant, New Middle Eastern Food by Greg & Lucy Malouf is currently available from Amazon for £19.84 (RRP £30).

 

It’s well over a year since I first went to Dishoom, London’s first Bombay Cafe, and I’ve been many times since then. I’m a big fan of the food, the interior design and the warm welcome. Find out more about the history of Bombay Cafes by following the link above).

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Winter nights darken; streets are gladdened by festive lights; shopping becomes more frantic; partying more hectic.

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And Dishoom put on their Christmas specials menu. I went along recently to sample its delights and can give it a big Thums Up!

The menu starts with a warming winter Pimms. Starters include the Dishoom bhel, which is satisfying authentic, but has a single modern addition of bright and beautiful pomegranate seeds. Also served is a dish of sweet crunchy calamari. Based on a traditional lamb raan, Dishoom have created a flaming turkey raan, a whole turkey leg cooked long and slow. Served with Bombay-style potatoes, masala greens and a phenomenally good spicy cranberry chutney, this is a whole new take on Christmas turkey! The house black daal is as rich and satisfying as ever. This comes with raita and your choice of breads. For dessert you could choose a refreshing ice gola but I’d recommend the mini chilli mince pies served with a gently spiced custard are just as good as I remembered from last year!

Dishoom Turkey Raan
image courtesy of Dishoom

Last year’s Cognac Chai went down well. This year the idea’s been expanded to offer a choice of four fantastic “Naughty Chais” starting with the original Cognac one, a Baileys one with floating cream top layer, a chocolate option with chai, dark chocolate syrup and a slug of bourbon and my personal favourite, the Chai Egg Nog, which combines egg nog, chai spices and a generous measure of dark rum. All four are wonderful but the Chai Egg Nog is like drinking clouds or downy pillows… I have been dreaming of it ever since and will no doubt make some excuses to drop in for a few between now and Christmas day!

 

Win!

Dishoom have offered a Christmas meal for two for another great Kavey Eats competition.

Your meal for two includes one cocktail each to start, the full Christmas menu for two, and a naughty chai each to finish.

How to enter

You can enter the competition in 2 ways.

Entry 1 – Answer the question
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
What are your Christmas dinner favourites, traditional British, Indian or otherwise?

Entry 2 – Tweet
Tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win Christmas dinner for two at @DishoomLondon from www.kaveyeats.com #KaveyEatsDishoom2011

Rules & Details

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Sunday 4 December 2011.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • One blog entry and one twitter entry per person.
  • The prize includes two cocktails, the full Dishoom Christmas menu for two and two naughty chais.
  • The meal can be enjoyed on any Sunday to Wednesday before 24 December. Early booking is recommended to secure a table on your preferred date.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered directly by Dishoom restaurant.
  • Valid entries must contain either an email address or twitter account, for contacting the winner.
  • The winner will be notified by email or twitter. If no response is received by the end of Tuesday 6 December, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?

Thanks to Dishoom for inviting me to preview their Christmas menu and for offering this prize.

 

I love the idea of giving homemade gifts for Christmas.

I’ve come across the mentality that homemade is second best; I know people who judge on monetary value and assume that shop-bought, established brands are always better than amateur efforts. Homemade to these folks is about thrift or stinginess or rose-tinted nostalgia, if they’re being generous.

But they’re wrong.

Let’s put pay to the first misapprehension straight away. Homemade gifts are not always about saving money. A bottle of decent quality shop-bought jam or chutney might set you back £2-3. But even the smaller producers, with pretty marketing images of small farms and country kitchens make far larger quantities than me. Buying ingredients and jars in bulk brings their costs down significantly. For us hobby preservers, the costs of jars and ingredients adds up pretty fast.

My homemade chocolate chip cookies of dreams cost far more than supermarket ones, even their posh ranges. Mine are stuffed full of high quality ingredients and a shockingly decadent amount of chocolate. They smell amazing coming out of the oven, and have the perfect texture too. The dough can be frozen, and baked straight from the freezer, so two ways to give them as a gift.

Of course, some people are time-rich and cash poor, but that doesn’t mean you should undervalue the gift they’ve given you by spending their time making something tasty especially for you.

My homemade spicy tomato ketchups (which I’ve made from ripe red tomatoes and unripe green ones) not only represent hours of effort in the kitchen but are usually made with tomatoes we’ve grown ourselves, nurturing them from seed to harvest.

If it’s not always about cost and it’s a huge investment of time, you might be asking why anyone bothers with homemade at all? The answer is that the results can be so very very good! And recipes can be tweaked and adapted (or made up completely, like my chutney above) to suit personal tastes, availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables and even allergies to specific commonly-used ingredients. (I’ve made an extra-hot chilli pickle because I know some of my friends are real chilli-heads!)

And, without blowing my own trumpet, I know that my homemade green tomato and raisin chutney is good, really good!

Of course, my examples above are all food but I have also been given homemade wines, ciders and liqueurs not to mention homemade scarves and other items of clothing. A friend is making me an apron with her own fair hands, at this very moment!

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Feeling as strongly as I do about homemade gifts I was very happy to be invited to Vanessa Kimbell’s Let’s Make Christmas blogger event at which we’ll swap homemade goodies over afternoon tea and chat.

I’m taking along three items I’ve made, one that I made very recently and two others which I made last year and the year before, so they’ve had time to mature properly. *

I thought I’d take this opportunity to go back through Kavey Eats and highlight some recipes for fabulous homemade goodies, that would make great gifts this Christmas:

Jams & Jellies

Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

Apricot Jam + Lychee & Rosewater Jam

Mango & Lime Jam

Plum Jelly

Pickles, Chutneys & Ketchups

Green Tomato & Raisin Chutney

Tamarind Ketchup

Hot, Sweet, Sour, Tangy Lemon Pickle *

Hot Chilli & Ginger Pickle *

Pear & Ginger Chutney *

Pickled Gherkins

Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Baked Goodies

Banana Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookies of Dreams

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Miscellaneous

Candied Citrus Peel

Strawberry Vodka Liqueur

I’d love to know about the favourite homemade food and drinks gifts you’ve been given by others and which of your own always go down the best with your friends and family.

 

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Several weeks ago I went to my first Christmas dinner, a banquet hosted by Green & Blacks and cooked by Micah Carr-Hill (who boasts the fabulous job title Head of Taste, and is in charge of product development) and William Leigh, Taste Assistant who works alongside Micah.

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Together, they developed a menu inspired by the Green & Blacks chocolate range. Not every dish featured chocolate, but all were delicious.

To my surprise, one of my favourite elements was the lentils served with the quail. To say that I’m not a fan of lentils is an understatement, so the fact I loved these was quite a revelation. William did reel off the recipe to me, but I didn’t take it in, so will have to grill him on it further.

I also loved the tiny white chocolate disks covered with a pile of salty black caviar. An odd combination but it worked! The milk chocolate disks with dried potato powder reminded me of unconstructed maltesers!

And there were small chocolate-rimmed cups of Marmite broth which even some of Marmite-haters appreciated.

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The other goal of the evening was to showcase some of their Christmas gift range, which as always, look very appealing.

Win!

So isn’t it lovely, that Green & Blacks have kindly offered some for me to share with readers of Kavey Eats?

And not just one prize, but three, so definitely lots of chocolate to go round!

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1st Prize – Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Collection (£14.99)

Green-and-Blacks-Tasting-Collection

2nd Prize – Green & Black’s Tasting Collection (£11.99)

Green-and-Blacks-Dark-Collection

3rd Prize – Green & Black’s Dark Miniatures (£5.49)


How to enter

You can enter the competition in 2 ways.

Entry 1 – Answer the question
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
Which flavour Green & Blacks bar comes in a purple wrapper?

Entry 2 – Tweet
Tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win Green & Blacks Christmas Chocolates from www.kaveyeats.com #kaveyeatsgreenblacks11

Rules & Details

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Tuesday 6 December 2011.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first one selected will win the 1st prize, the second selected will win the 2nd prize and the third selected will win the 3rd prize.
  • One blog entry and one twitter entry per person.
  • The prizes includes delivery, and can be delivered to UK mainland addresses only.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prizes are offered and will be delivered directly by Green & Blacks.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter asked to provide a delivery address. If no response is received by the end of Friday 9 December, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?

Thanks to Green & Blacks for inviting me to their Christmas banquet and for providing this lovely prize.

All banquet images courtesy of Tom Bowles.

Nov 232011
 

When challenged to create a dish with the theme of Whipped Heaven (cream/desserts) for week 2 of the Russell Hobbs Allure cookery challenge, one idea popped into my head straight away.

A cross between a pavlova and a fruit tart. I named my creation the pavlotart!

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Kavey’s Pavlotart

From the pavlova, I’m taking the meringue base, which is usually topped with fresh whipped cream and fruit. From the fruit tart, I’m taking (a quick and easy verion of) pastry cream and the idea of glazing the fruit.

Makes 2 medium or 1 large pavlotart

Meringue Ingredients
4 medium egg whites (approximately 120 grams by weight)
240 grams granulated sugar
Pastry Cream Ingredients
200 ml double cream
100 ml fresh custard
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Topping Ingredients
Mixed fresh fruit of your choice
3-4 tablespoons of fruit jelly or jam *

* I used homemade plum jelly, but apple jelly or apricot jam would also work well.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 150 C.
  • In a very clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down without them sliding out.
  • Add the sugar little by little, mixing them into the egg whites all the time. This should result in a thick, glossy meringue mixture.
  • Spread the meringue onto a baking sheet in one or two circles, taking care to create a “wall” around the edge, to hold the cream and fruit in. A piping bag may make this process easier.
  • Turn the oven down to 140 C and put the meringues into the oven.
  • Bake for an hour.
  • Leaving the door closed and the meringues in the oven, turn the oven off. The cooling oven will dry out the meringues a little more.

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  • After an hour or two, remove the meringues from the oven, and leave to cool further on a rack, if needed.
  • In a clean bowl, whip the double cream and the vanilla extract until the mixture becomes thick and stiff.
  • Fold in the custard.
  • Spoon the pastry cream mix onto the cold meringue base(s).
  • Wash the fruit, chop as necessary.
  • Heat the jelly or jam in the microwave for 20 seconds, or in a pan on low heat, till it’s become runny but is not bubbling hot.
  • Coat the fruit in the melted jelly or jam and arrange over the pastry cream.

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I folded my custard in a little too vigorously which made my patisserie cream a little softer than intended and spooned it onto the meringue when it was still slightly warm, which made it melt a little too!

  • If using dried fruit and nuts, coat in jelly or jam in the same way, and add to the pavlotart.

The glaze made the fruit look like jewels and the patisserie cream gave an extra flavour over plain whipped cream. I really liked the finish look and it tasted fantastic.

The next day, I topped the second meringue shell with the same pastry cream but as it was late and I wanted to be quick, I didn’t stop to glaze the raspberries, bananas and blueberries. It was a great combination of fruits and worked very well with the pastry cream but didn’t have quite the glistening beauty of the glazed fruit version from the previous day.

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I also considered adding some dried fruit and nuts to my fresh fruit toppings, and will try that out next time!

You can watch a (cringe-worthy) video of me making this dish over on the challenge’s Facebook page. And do stop and vote, for whichever recipes appeal the most, my fellow contestants are creative, talented and much better at presenting than I am!

 

Pausing for lunch on the road can be a hit and miss affair. Even the better service stations aren’t exactly thrilling and pubs on A roads aren’t always a better option.

But in the last year or so, we’ve made three stops at The Boot Inn in Barnard Gate and been rewarded with a delicious lunch and warm service, every time.

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This beautiful pub is just a 30 second diversion off the A40, about half way between London and Cheltenham. It’s also handy for those travelling to South Wales via the A40 route – we can’t be the only ones that sometimes choose a slightly longer journey over the monotony of the motorways?

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On our last visit, the starter I fancied was sold out, and others struck me as too heavy – I hankered after something light and fresh. I expressed interest in the pear, walnut and stilton salad listed as a main and was quickly offered a half portion as a starter. Perfect!

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My steak sandwich with sautéed onions came with crispy French fries and a really tasty, well dressed side salad, all for £7.95. Flavoursome meat, good quality bread… it was magnificent!

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Pete’s three egg omelette and fries (£7.50) was generous, filling and tasty.

On previous visits we’ve enjoyed The Boot Inn’s burger, which comes with bacon, smoked applewood cheese and fries, as well as a range of other dishes from the menu and the daily specials board.

There are tables outside, for when the weather is warmer, or you can stay warm and toasty inside. Reservations are accepted, so book in advance for busy weekends.

Do yourself a favour and swap your stale service station sandwich and dishwater coffee for a lovely pub lunch instead!

 

New cook books are great. New cookbooks I won by following the author on twitter are even better, especially as I hadn’t even realised there was a competition running!

I’m a real fan of a good stew.  Hearty and comforting, full of warmth and good flavours and often made from inexpensive ingredients. What’s not to like?

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Genevieve Taylor feels the same way and shares a wide range of recipes in her book Stew! released earlier this year.

Particularly appealing to those wanting inspiring yet frugal recipes, it didn’t take me long to decide which recipe to try first, though I have a feeling we’ll be trying quite a few through the cold winter months to come.

The recipe for lamb shanks with red wine and balsamic vinegar was very straightforward and the results were absolutely delicious. And it was just as frugal as promised, making use of a small pair of lamb shanks from Donald Russell, an inexpensive but perfectly drinkable red wine from Aldi, and an inexpensive bottle of balsamic vinegar from Waitrose.

This is definitely a recipe we’ll make again!

Enter my competition, below, to win your own copy of Stew!

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Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients
2 tablespoons plain flour
4-6 lamb shanks (or 1 kilo ox cheeks, see note below recipe)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 red onions, cut into wedges through the root
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
375 ml red wine
150 ml balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Note: We had 2 lamb shanks, so halved all amounts in the recipe above.
Note: We used regular vegetable oil in place of olive oil.

Method

  • Season the flour with salt and freshly ground black pepper. On a large plate dust the lamb shanks with the seasoned flour and toss to coat all over.

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  • Heat the cooking oil in a heavy-based pan, with a lid, and brown the lamb shanks on all sides. This will take a good few minutes so don’t rush it as the flavour will be greatly improved if the shanks are well browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

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  • Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, add the onions and allow to soften and colour a little at the edges. Then add the garlic and rosemary and cook for just a minute.

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  • Return the lamb shanks to the pan and pour over the red wine and balsamic vinegar.

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  • Bring up to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook very slowly for 2 – 2.5 hours. You want the lamb to be so soft it is coming away from the bone. Turn the shanks every now and then to baste them in the juices.

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  • Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with herby mash potatoes.

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Delicious…

Edit: The following week, I made this recipe again substituting a ox cheeks for the lamb shanks and it worked beautifully. I used a kilo of ox cheeks and the full amounts of everything else. I also allowed an extra hour for cooking, covered and then an additional half an hour uncovered to reduce the sauce a little further at the end. It was absolutely fantastic, just like the lamb shanks.

Win!

If that lovely recipe whet your appetite, why not enter my competition to win a copy of this marvellous book for yourself?

 

How to enter

You can enter the competition in 4 ways.
Please leave a separate comment on this post for entries 1 – 3. A separate comment is not needed for entry 4.

Entry 1 – Answer the question
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
Which vinegar gives its distinctive flavour to the lamb shank stew I cooked from Genevieve’s book?

Entry 2 – Become a Facebook fan of Kavey Eats
Go to the Kavey Eats Facebook page and click on the Like button. Leave a comment below once you’ve done so. If you’re already a Facebook fan, just say so in your comment. Please include your Facebook name.

Entry 3 – Follow Kavey on Twitter
Click through and follow @KaveyF on Twitter and leave a comment below once you’ve done so. If you already follow me, just say so in your comment. Please include your Twitter name.

Entry 4 – Tweet
Tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win a copy of Stew! by Genevieve Taylor from www.kaveyeats.com #KaveyEatsStew

Rules & Details

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Saturday 26 November 2011.
  • One entry per method per person.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The prize includes delivery, and can be delivered to UK mainland addresses only.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered and will be delivered directly by Absolute Press.
  • The winner will be notified by email or twitter asked to provide a delivery address. If no response is received by the end of November 2011, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?


 

This is a beautiful jelly, both in appearance and taste. The flavours of fruit and herb come through clearly, and a gentle aroma too.

As a preserving addict, I knew I wanted to make some apple jelly with the kilo of cooking apples from our allotment tree. We also had a small handful of Cox’ Orange Pippins left from the small tree we planted in the back garden last year. We’d enjoyed a few of these sweet, crisp, richly flavoured apples every night for some weeks after harvesting them, but the last few in the fruit bowl had started to wrinkle. To these we added 2 British apples from the supermarket, also past their best.

An interview with garden designer Robert Stoutsker, during a recent visit to London Syon Park hotel, resulted in his gifting me a generous bag of lemon verbena cuttings. A few of these Pete planted (and am pleased to see some of these growing successfully) but the rest I dried and stored in a bottle in my spice and herb rack.

I’ve been thinking of making mint jelly this way for the longest time, but the lemon verbena snuck in first.

Kavey’s Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

Ingredients
Apples
Sugar
Lemon verbena leaves
Water

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the apples down and strained the juice. For each litre of juice, you’ll need approximately 750 grams of sugar, adjusting to taste and according to how sharp your apples are.

Note: As apples are naturally high in pectin, an apple jelly doesn’t require any added pectin. If you adapt this recipe for other fruits you may need to add lemon juice or pectin to help achieve a set.

Method

  • Halve the smaller apples, chop the larger ones into quarters or eighths. You don’t need to peel or core them, as the skin and pips contain lots of pectin, which will help your jelly to set.

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  • Place chopped apples into a large pan and add water to about two thirds of the way up the apples.
  • Cook the apples on a medium heat until they disintegrate completely. Add more water if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
  • If some of the apples don’t break down, give them a helping hand. I used a potato masher towards the end of cooking, as some of the apples were firmer than the rest.
  • Pour the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or, as I did, place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.

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  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid. *
  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too thin and watery, boil to reduce volume. Mine was a fairly thick but easy pouring juice, similar in consistency to single cream.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use 750 grams of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.
  • Add lemon verbena leaves. If using fresh, add a small scattering of leaves and taste after the first few minutes of boiling, adding more if the flavour isn’t coming through. I had previously dried my lemon verbena leaves, reducing their potency greatly, so ended up adding over 100 shrivelled leaves, in order to impart my desired level of flavour.
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
  • Test for set. I put a plate into the freezer before I start cooking the jelly. When I reach the required temperature, I put a teaspoon of jelly onto the plate and pop it back into the freezer for 20 seconds. After I get it back out, I push my finger through it to see if it wrinkles. If so, the jelly is done. If not, I cook for longer.
  • Pour your hot jelly through a strainer, to remove the lemon verbena leaves. I ladle mine into a heat-resistant Pyrex jug and then pour into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.

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As apples are high in pectin, the jelly achieved a great set and is a beautiful colour, with tiny flecks of lemon verbena leaves suspended throughout.

I’m looking forward to enjoying this on breakfast toast, but as it has a lovely herby flavour, I may also try it as an alternative to mint jelly next time I have roast lamb.

* I hate waste, so once the cooked apple had finished dripping through the muslin, I set the clear juice aside and then pressed and squeezed the remaining pulp to release quite a bit more juice. This was much cloudier than the rest, so I used it to make a second batch of jelly in a smaller pan. To this one I added very hot chilli powder instead of lemon verbena. Although the single jar of chilli jelly is not as clear as the lemon verbena, it’s perfectly attractive and tastes great.

 

As you might expect from a modern hotel sited in such an expansive historical estate, the Waldorf Astoria London Syon Park is subtly themed to bring the outdoors inside and to help guests enjoy the peace and quiet of its serene, natural setting.

On a recent late autumn visit, we found it the perfect venue for a single night minibreak – close to home and yet a world away.

History of Syon Park

Syon Park is the home of the Duke of Northumberland, and has belonged to his family for over 400 years. Syon Park, the stately home (in which the Duke and Duchess still reside), was built in the mid 16th Century by the 1st Duke of Somerset but after his death, it changed hands a number of times before eventually being acquired by the 9th Earl of Northumberland in 1594. It has been passed down through the family ever since.

Syon House sits in 200 acres of gardens and parkland designed by famous landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, from the 1750s to 1770s. The 40 acres of garden are registered a Grade I landscape in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Importance in England and renowned for their collection of rare trees.

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image from Syon Park website

The crowning glory of the gardens must surely be the Great Conservatory, built by Charles Fowler in 1826, the first of it’s kind to be built out of gunmetal, Bath stone and glass.

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We caught wonderful glimpses of the Great Conservatory frequently during our stay at the Waldorf Astoria, and plan to tour the house and gardens of the estate next time we visit. Entry to the house, gardens and conservatory is £10 for adults. Entry to the gardens and conservatory only is £5 for adults.

I would guess it must be quite a challenge to afford the upkeep of such an estate in this day and age. However, it seems the Duchy has found additional ways to bring income into the estate.

Also in the grounds of Syon Park are a large and attractive garden centre, where we took lunch on the day of our arrival and a tropical zoo, which I understand is scheduled to move to another site, so do please check directly before planning a visit.

Red Bricks

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an accommodation block

The newly-built hotel (which opened in spring this year) has been built in a modern style, on the footprints of the old stable blocks that originally formed part of the estate. The outside, truth be told, is not very attractive. Neither boldly modern, nor pastiche historical, it strongly resembles a 1980s office block. That’s not the best look for a luxury hotel, so the good news is that it gets better – much better – inside.

The Garden designer (more of which later) has also taken steps recently to break up the expanse of red brick by creating tall narrow “living green wall” panels affixed to the brick exterior. The different shades of green ivy are just starting to mesh together into pretty vertical gardens.

Outside In

Inside the hotel, there are many design touches that refer to the natural environment outside.

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In the main reception hangs a starkly modern art installation – hundreds of white and black pieces of white card or plastic, folded to create sharp lines and angles. It’s only with prompting that we are directed to look at the shadow cast on the adjacent wall by the sunlight filtering through, and gasp at how it looks for all the world like the shadow of a real tree! Syon Park refer to this beautiful and clever piece as the Troika Tree Installation; it was created by London art collective, Troika.

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Also in the main lobby is a large glass butterfly house, though you wouldn’t know it to peer in – there are currently no butterflies inside! The glass house didn’t meet specifications on temperature and humidity, so the hotel made the decision not to risk live insects until they knew conditions would be perfect for them. Minor fixes proved not to do the trick, so it may be some months before a new glass house is in place. This is a shame, given that the hotel’s motif – visible on crockery, bath robes and stationery – is a butterfly, but definitely the right decision for an ethical business.

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Another aspect of the exterior spaces that I like is that there are quite a few of them. Not just one single outdoor seating area but a number of them, allowing guests to find their own peace and quiet. There’s the front patio, next to Brownies (where afternoon sweets are served), some large wooden relaxation stands, with huge comfy beanbags in them, and a variety of seating round the back, next to the herb garden.

Afternoon Brownies

I love the idea of a hotel sweet shop where one can buy sweet treats, ice cream sundaes and pastries.

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Unfortunately, the reality is a bit of a let down. Some of the ice creams needed to make the signature sundaes listed on the menu are out of stock. According to our waitress, few people want ice creams in October. My response is either to remove them from the menu (and make it seasonal) or ensure you have the ingredients in stock regardless of the weather.

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The Manhattan (£12), a boozy ice-cream sundae described as “the king of cocktails in an ice cream coupe” features a bourbon and pecan ice cream served with a sweet vermouth reduction and cider brandy, and macerated cherries. Though I should love it given my love of pecans, cider and cherries, it doesn’t really work for me.

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Pete’s lemon and dark brown sugar crepe (£6.75) arrives dressed with the largest raspberries we’ve ever seen. Sadly they’re the best thing in the dish, with not even a hint of lemon juice or brown sugar discernible in the well-cooked but exceedingly bland pancake.

For me, Brownies just doesn’t hit the spot, which is a shame given the attractive indoor and outdoor seating areas it enjoys.

Cocktails in Peacock Alley

Peacock Alley is named for the grand social promenade that connected the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels in New York, which jointly became The Waldorf-Astoria. Described as a martini bar, Syon Park’s Peacock Alley is much more than that, offering an unusual and appealing selection of cocktails not to mention what Pete tells me is an impressive range of whisky and bourbon.

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I find the space very attractive, with it’s mix of bright peacock colours – mustard yellow, hot pink, pretty purple, lime green and cool turquoise. Like the rest of the hotel, decor is a mix of traditional luxury and funky modern touches; there’s definitely a decent smattering of quirky. My only downer about the whole look is the carpet, which reminds me of the stuff we stripped out of our ’60s decorated house, and for good reason. It’s cheap motel chain on acid!

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Having ordered our cocktails, olives are served to our table and we enjoy watch the bartender mixing furiously.

Pete chooses a Divine Enchantment, in which rose and geranium are combined with fresh raspberries and rosé champagne. A little pretentious, but fun – when the cocktail is delivered, a puff of rose and geranium perfume is sprayed over the glass, to give an extra scent experience. It’s a delicious cocktail, fruity and flowery with the refreshing acid and bubbles of the champagne.

I go for a newer cocktail, called Cool as a Cucumber, based on some of my favourite ingredients – cucumber, pineapple juice, Midori and vodka. This is simple but deceptively good and I absolutely love, love, love the distinctive taste of cucumber mixed with one of my favourite liqueurs and that sweet sharp balance of pineapple. It’s brilliant, though packs a punch and slips down rather too easily!

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A touch I really like is the cordials or syrups that the bartenders of Peacock Alley make themselves and use in several of the cocktail recipes. As well as the rose and geranium one used in Pete’s cocktail (and the perfume bottle which you can see, above) there is an ale syrup made from Meantime pale ale (using beer instead water when making a sugar syrup), a highly scented and flavoured lavender syrup, and a range of spiced ones including star anise, cinnamon and a mixed spice syrup.

Signature cocktails are £14 each, classics (some of which have been tweaked a little, Waldorf-Astoria style) are £12.

Dining In

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image from hotel website

For me, The Capability restaurant is one of the highlights of a visit to the hotel, and is certainly proving popular not only with residential guests but also with diners coming in just for the food. I can understand why.

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image from hotel website

Last time we visited, we were fortunate to spend time with executive chef, Lee Stratton, who expressed his genuine commitment to using high quality, sustainable, British ingredients. Just like the rest of the hotel, he is keen to bring the outside in and also to grow and forage as much as possible within the hotel and estate grounds.

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To this end, the hotel have engaged landscape garden designer, Robert Stoutzker, who has worked closely with Lee to decide which fruits, vegetables and herbs can be used by the kitchen. Robert has created and planted the herb garden, a large vegetable garden behind the hotel (which will be expanding further in coming years), and a large and beautiful greenhouse which is used not only for growing produce, but is also a venue for intimate dinners, served at the enormous wooden table at one end. He has also taken on the rest of the hotel landscaping, and is responsible for the living green wall panels I mentioned earlier. He’s also replacing the somewhat pub-like bedroom balcony window boxes with more elegant ones that make use of stark black grasses and white flowers.

(I’ll be posting more about Robert’s thoughts over at A London Gardener in coming weeks).

Even though the hotel only opened this spring, the kitchen has been incorporating as much of their own produce as possible into regularly changing menus. This is set to increase in coming years as the gardens and orchards extend and mature.

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As always, we look for a red wine priced between £30 and £35. There are several listed, 3 that particularly appeal.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of high demand over recent weeks (and, perhaps poor stock control and delivery management?) the first three choices we requested are not available. That rules out the 2009 Saam Mountain Paarl Pinotage (£30.00), the 2009 Alamos Malbec (£31.00) and the 2009 Chateau L’Eglise Bordeaux (£32.00). Personally, after coming back to the table on three separate occasions to explain that our latest choice was also out of stock, had I been the sommelier I would have offered a more expensive bottle of something similar for the same price. Instead, we scrabble through the menu again and come up with a fourth option. Thankfully, the 2009 Cotes du Rhone Rouge Clocher Saint Michel Pierre Dorvin (£31.00) is in stock.

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Warm bread, freshly baked white sourdough I think, is excellent, served with butter and sea salt.

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An amuse bouche plays on the famous Waldorf Salad, first created in the late 19th Century at New York’s Waldorf Hotel. A mouthful of apple, celery and pickled walnut with a light dressing, it’s a refreshing start.

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I love the sweetness of the crab in my spider crab salad with quails eggs and mayonnaise (£14.50). The generous white crab meat is served on a thin layer of what I think might be brown crab meat with a little mustard mixed in, though I’m not sure. It’s nice, whatever it is! The quail eggs are superfluous, flavour wise, though they make the dish look pretty, as do the edible flowers, grown in the kitchen garden. I enjoy this dish very much.

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Pete’s chargrilled courgettes with Lancashire bomb and Heritage tomato relish (£9.25) is an enormous serving and exactly what is described in the menu. This is a simple dish, the kind that’s often described as “honest” (though I’m not sure that I’ve had many deceitful dishes to compare it to).

When it comes to mains, we both think we’re the winner.

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My hay baked Cornish mixed lamb with pan haggerty and green sauce (£24.75) includes slow baked belly, fried tongue, sweetbread, cutlet and kidney all of which are perfectly cooked, as is the cheesy, pan haggerty, something I’ve not had before. With my meal come two sauces, a fresh and vibrant green herb sauce and a sinfully rich reduced wine and stock sauce. Both work well with the different cuts of lamb. I always adore British lamb but this dish takes it to another level and I’m a very happy diner indeed.

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To counteract the lack of greens, I order a side of garlic spinach (£4.50), which is a nice foil for the heaviness of my meat and potatoes. I also give into the temptation of an order of Meantime beer battered onion rings (4.00) which are amongst the best onions rings I’ve had.

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Our friendly and well-informed waitress, Dayna, is very helpful when it comes to choosing between the Bannockburn rib eye and the Aberdeenshire sirloin, agreeing that the rib eye may win purely on flavour but pointing out that the sirloin would better suit Pete’s preference of medium-rare steak. The 400 gram Aberdeenshire sirloin is described as 28 day aged beef on the bone with bone marrow butter & chairman’s chips (£29.75) and is served with an excellent Béarnaise sauce, a green herb sauce, a pat of bone marrow butter and two herbed salts, rosemary and sage. That may sound overkill but it makes for a pleasant variety, and Pete enjoys his steak with the different sauces and salts in turn.

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Crème brûlée, or Trinity burnt cream with Dorset blueberries (£6.50), as it’s listed here, can be tricky to do well but the texture and flavour of the custard are perfect. The blueberry compote is not too sweet, making it an excellent foil to the burnt sugar topping, of which there is just the right amount.

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The raspberry Eton mess (£6.50) is served with a raspberry coulis on the side, which Pete quickly pours into the glass. Although first appearances suggest insufficient meringue to fruit and cream, on eating the ratios prove themselves well judged.

Far too full to squeeze in a savoury (I could choose Welsh rabbit, buck rabbit or Scotch woodcock, priced at £7.50 each) we dither over whether to have tea and coffee or retire to our room. Our waitress, on overhearing, kindly suggests that she send these to us via room service and they arrive not long afterwards, with some delicious chocolate truffles.

A wonderful evening meal indeed.

The prices are a little on the high side – our bill would have been approximately £140 plus tip – even given the provenance of the ingredients and standard of cooking. This is a factor of being within a high end hotel, I guess. But given how busy the restaurant was during our visit, especially during lunch and afternoon tea, it’s clearly a price point the local population are happy to pay.

Head Down

Most of the rooms at Syon Park are fairly similar. The standard Syon rooms are very slightly smaller than the rest, at 27 square metres. The Estate, Garden and Arboretum rooms are all described as 30 square metres, the difference lies in the views. Estate rooms look out onto the larger estate, garden ones give a view over the landscaped hotel gardens and so on. I’m guessing the standard ones have an outlook towards the car park, though the layout means they all look over grassy lawn first and foremost. After these categories are the junior suites, one bedroom suites and presidential suite.

The standard, Estate, Garden and Arboretum rooms all share the same design and features. My photos are all of our Estate room, which looked out over the greenhouse.

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I must make a mention of this quirky corridor which linked the farther accommodation block to the central building. Passing through, motion detectors trigger audio tracks of birdsong, horses hooves drumming along hard ground and snatches of strange poetry. More of that “outdoors in” theming which succeeded in making us giggle each and every time we walked through.

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How to describe the room styling? I’d say it’s traditional luxury applied with a firm nod to contemporary tastes.

I like the choice of furniture and bed linen and even the strange sculptural ceiling light.

I like the colours, which range from purples and blacks through to creams and pale browns.

I like the 42 inch HD TV with Apple TV, on which we play the latest LoveFilm DVD we popped into our luggage when we packed.

I like the large wardrobe with sufficient hangers for my clothes, that I can take out of the wardrobe to more easily use, and a light that comes on automatically whenever I open the doors (though I’m not so keen on the oversensitive sensor that switches the light on when I creep past to the bathroom during the night).

I like the sliding doors onto our own patio area with table and chairs. And I’m relieved to discover that, although we can see out clearly, with lots of sunshine flooding into the room, the glass is tinted such that the stream of passers-by walking along the path a short distance in front of our room can’t peep in.

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I love the spacious marble-lined bathroom with indulgent under-floor heating, walk-in monsoon shower and separate tub (with its own TV). I will be taking some inspiration from this bathroom for the makeover of the one at home.

The bed is huge and very comfortable, allowing for a restful sleep though I wish I’d thought to take advantage of the pillow menu, as the soft squishy default ones were far too soft and unsupportive for me.

I’d also advise you to take advantage of the “do not disturb” light when you’re in the room as housekeeping have a tendency to knock and barge into the room in a single fluid movement.

These are not rooms that will set the world on fire in terms of innovative design or experience. But they are attractive, comfortable and feel suitably indulgent, especially for the price.

A search for a Saturday night booking for 3-4 weeks time (at time of writing, in early November) came back with some great value rates such as £142.80 room only in a standard room, booked and paid for in advance, non-refundable, £258 for dinner, bed and breakfast in a standard room, which can be cancelled up to 4pm on date of arrival or £402 for advance purchase, non-refundable bed and breakfast in a luxurious junior suite.

Most Important Meal Of The Day

For someone who seldom has anything at all for breakfast at home, it’s amazing how hungry and eager I am to enjoy a hearty breakfast whenever I overnight at a nice hotel.

Initially tempted by the option of enjoying breakfast in our room (or on our private terrace, in warmer months) in the end I am swayed by my desire to check out the buffet and we traipse back to The Capability.

There are three choices when it comes to breakfast. One is to order from the appealing array of a la carte dishes, adding fruit juices and hot drinks as extras. The second is to fork out £22 per person for the breakfast buffet, which includes juices and hot drinks. The third is to spend £30 per person to enjoy your choice from both the buffet and the a la carte, drinks included.

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Of those two,I’d say the first and last are your best options. The buffet is underwhelming for the price, with a far smaller selection that I’d expect to see from a hotel at this level. You can see it in its entirety in the images above. It consists of a selection of cereals (with dried fruits and nuts), fresh fruit salad, fresh bread, a plate of smoked salmon and a very small choice of pastries.

Whilst I appreciate that the quality of the individual components is excellent, I do find it disappointing and have seen better choice in low and mid-range hotels.

The a la carte menu, on the other hand, is fantastic – a long list of appealing choices that we struggle to narrow down.

Prices are reasonable, though be warned, portions are on the small side.

In the end, we both go off piste. I order the fried Braddock’s white duck eggs on toasted sourdough with woodland mushrooms (£10.75) with a side of Streeton’s West London smoked salmon (which usually comes with scrambled eggs for £13.75 but is also part of the buffet) and Pete has a three egg omelette (£10.50) choosing cheese and tomatoes as his fillings and also an order of toasted crumpets with Marmite (£6.75).

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While we wait, toast, fruit juice and our hot drinks are served to the table. The jam and marmalade are particularly good.

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My egg, toast and mushrooms are decent (though I wish more care had been taken to brush the gritty dirt off the mushrooms). Streeton’s salmon is truly delicious.

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Pete’s omelette is of the heavy rather than fluffy variety, but well cooked and generous. The crumpets are home made but not freshly. His own are better!

Other options you might fancy for breakfast include the full English (£18.50), Eggs Benedict, Florentine or Royale (£8.50 for 1 egg £12.75 for 2), Orkney kippers with lemon (£10.50), crêpes with spicy sausage, potatoes and onion (£11.50), waffles with wild boar bacon and Syon Park honey (£7.75) and a variety of smaller items such as Organic porridge (£6.75), toasted bagel with cream cheese (£6.75) and croissants, pain au chocolat and muffins (£5.50).

Rest & Relaxation

Like any good luxury hotel, London Syon Park has a spa. Kallima Spa offers a large, modern pool, a sauna and steam room and a jacuzzi, which are open to guests from 6.30 am to 10 pm in the evening. There is also a well-equipped gym.

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All the facilities are in the basement, which means no natural light but the designers have incorporated the lack of light into the design, going for a dark and sultry space lit by candles and with bold wall textures and designs.

Instead of providing a list of treatments that guests can book, at Kallima you specify (and are charged by) the duration of treatment and only discuss what it is you’d like on arrival.

Whilst I do appreciate the simplicity this brings to the pricing (our one hour treatments were priced at £96 each) I’m not entirely convinced by the discussion that establishes what treatment might be most suitable. Being asked to describe “the outcome you desire” must surely elicit one of only a small range of answers – to relax, to release muscular tension or to improve the skin? I say I am hoping to release tension, but without knowing what the options are, I’m limited by my memory of treatments offered elsewhere, and forced to make stabs in the dark about what I might like.

Unsurprisingly, given this process, I plump for a bog-standard massage and acquiesce to the suggested oils from the Anne Sémonin range.

After being lead to the changing room and lockers, where I wish they had private changing cubicles rather than an open changing room, I’m shown to a (rather chilly) relaxation and waiting room until my individual therapist collects me. The massage itself is very good, as one would expect. Pete (who also ended up with a massage) says the same. Afterwards, we are invited to return to the relaxation or change and head back to our rooms.

Skilled, well-trained and friendly staff ensure that our experiences are positive but I’m sure we’re not alone in finding the lack of structured information about potential treatments off-putting.

Only when I ask for more information the next day am I regaled with different kinds of massage, seaweed wraps, facials and pedicures and more.

As the spa is also open to non-residents, I strongly recommend booking time slots as far ahead of your visit as possible, especially if you would like to enjoy your treatments simultaneously.

In Totality

I think there are small things that London Syon Park can do better: stock control of wine and food ingredients, a rethink of Brownies’ menu and a more structured presentation of available spa treatments would not go amiss. And the landscaping of the outdoor green spaces has a way to go, though I know it’s already in hand.

However, for a hotel that’s been open only a few short months, I’m surprised by how much is well-designed and well implemented. It’s young but anything but brash!

Rooms are comfortable cocoons for relaxing. The bar and restaurant are fantastic. The public spaces are sumptuously appealing.

After just a one night stay, we came home feeling like we’d had a proper holiday and felt spoiled and relaxed.

What’s certain is that next time I’m looking for somewhere local for a relaxing celebratory minibreak away from home I won’t forget the option of dinner, bed and breakfast at the London Syon Park.

Kavey Eats was a guest of London Syon Park.

 

London has been undergoing a food revolution in the last decade or two. Where once upon a time, gastronomes looked longingly towards France, or Japan or perhaps even New York, nowadays London is at least as good as anywhere else in the world when it comes to the quality, innovation and sheer breadth of great food available.

Part and parcel of the London scene is the growing numbers of truly world class chocolatiers, right here in on our own doorstep.

Over the last couple of years it’s been my pleasure and privilege to get to know Marc Demarquette, the creative force behind his eponymous business, established in 2005.

In just 6 years, Marc and business partner Kim Sauer, have not only won the hearts of many loyal customers but the excellence of their products has been recognised with repeated and numerous awards from The Academy of Chocolate and Great Taste.

Demarquette goodies can be purchased directly from the shop on Fulham Road in Kensington and Chelsea, or via their online shop.

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Born in London to a French father and Chinese mother, Marc grew up in London and Bath before moving to Brighton and back to London to attend university. He swiftly established a successful career as a Management Consultant working for high-profile international clients. But a serious accident made him re-evaluate his priorities in life and he decided to leave consultancy behind to pursue the lifelong passion he had for chocolate.

Having been introduced to truly great chocolate by his French grandmother, who would bring him chocolate made by Gaston LeNotre, whenever she visited him in London, it’s only fitting that Marc later trained under LeNotre in Paris, as well as a number of other Master Chocolatiers in France.

Demarquette chocolates are made by hand (in London) using traditional artisan techniques as Marc ardently believes that no machine can replace the art of a master craftsman.

For both the chocolate itself and the other ingredients such as fresh cream, fruit, flowers, honey, nuts… Marc seeks out the highest quality, ethically farmed and harvested. He only works with suppliers who adhere to high standards of social responsibility. I’ve spoken often to Marc about this and know that this isn’t a trendy marketing statement but a true commitment based on genuinely held values.

As you would imagine, there are no artificial flavourings or preservatives; it’s all about letting the natural tastes and textures speak for themselves.

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My personal favourites include Marc’s delicate English Garden Caramel Creams (with some of the herbs coming from his own garden and which, I confess, I refer to by an altogether different name), the Nutkeeper Caramels and Cornish Sea Salted Caramels, and oh my goodness, Marc’s nuts are fantastic, both the Hazelnut Pebbles and the Almond Pebbles. (I’ve not yet tried the pistachio ones but am betting I’ll find them just as addictive).

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Of course, Marc’s created a range of festive treats for Christmas including a chocolate tree bedecked with individual caramels, a Santa sack of chocolate marbles and a delicious ganache collection.

Win!

And now – the bit that some of you no doubt scrolled down for – the competition!

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Demarquette are kindly offering a box of their delicious Festive Reindeer Caramels to a reader of Kavey Eats. The box includes four each of Cranberry, Spiced Apple and Mixed Citrus caramels and can be posted anywhere in the UK.

I know they’re awfully good; I’ve been munching through a box over the last couple of days!

How to enter

Following the example of respected fellow bloggers, I’m increasing the number of ways you can enter a Kavey Eats competition. Please leave a separate comment on this post for each of entries 1-4. For entry 5 I’ll track the # hashtag.

Entry 1 – Answer the question

Leave a comment below, answering the following question:

Which of the Demarquette Christmas Caramel chocolates is a 2011 Great Taste award winner?

Entry 2 – Become a Facebook fan of Kavey Eats

Go to the Kavey Eats Facebook page and click on the Like button. Leave a comment below once you’ve done so. If you’re already a Facebook fan, just say so in your comment. Please include your Facebook name.

Entry 3 – Follow Kavey on Twitter

Click through and follow @KaveyF on Twitter and leave a comment below once you’ve done so. If you already follow me, just say so in your comment. Please include your Twitter name.

Entry 4 – Follow Demarquette on twitter

Click through and follow @DemarquetteChoc on twitter and leave a comment below once you’ve done so. If you already follow Demarquette, just say so in your comment. Please include your Twitter name.

Entry 5 – Tweet away

Tweet the (exact) sentence below:

I’d love to win a box of @DemarquetteChoc Festive Caramels from www.kaveyeats.com #kaveyeatsdemarquette


Rules & Details

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Tuesday 22 November 2011.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • One entry per method per person.
  • The prize includes delivery, and can be delivered to UK mainland addresses only.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered and will be delivered directly by Demarquette.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter asked to provide a delivery address. If no response is received by Saturday 26 November, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?

Thanks to Demarquette for inviting me to preview their Christmas 2011 collection and for providing this lovely prize.

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