Dec 302012
 

2012 has been busy for Kavey Eats, with over two hundred posts shared over the last year!

Here’s my pick of posts from each month:

 

January

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The year started sweetly, with several tasty cookie, cake and dessert recipes. A cracker was the Confit Clementines and Lemon Posset I made for the previous year’s Christmas day lunch.

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The savoury eating had a good start too, with my review of a magical celebratory meal with my sister at The Fat Duck.

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I also had the pleasure of cringing at myself on the telly when the BBC food quiz, A Question of Taste aired.

 

February

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Still in the grips of winter, I shared my recipe for Beef Cheeks Bourguignon, a hearty classic with a Kavey Eats twist.

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But the recipe which garnered far more attention was these Bacon Pancakes, an idea I picked up from American food bloggers and had to try myself.

Towards the end of the month, I re-launched Kavey Eats, having moved from Blogspot to WordPress and created a completely new look and layout.

 

March

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March saw me post another hearty recipe, this time my culinary handshake between America and Britain – Boston Baked Beans and British Bangers.

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A Clafoutis Black Cherry Pudding made a great winter warmer dessert.

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Memories (and photos) of childhood abounded when I made Knicker Bocker Glories as part of my second ever BSFIC challenge.

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Pete and I amused ourselves by Making Triangular Omelettes in a Sandwich Maker, just to see if we could!

 

April

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We had fun checking out the new Hawksmoor Spitalfield Bar.

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I got wrapped up in the history of the loss of the Titanic, after a tasting at Berry Bros & Rudd.

Chicken Savoyarde was utterly delicious, though not very photogenic!

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I was bowled over by Satong Sumbat (baby squid stuffed with spiced minced chicken) and other dishes at Umami Restaurant, all the more surprising given that it’s a hotel restaurant.

 

May

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Pete and I had a fantastic weekend in Amsterdam during which we did nothing but eat and drink our way around the city. I shared a comprehensive list of local specialities to look out for, some delicious places to find Coffee, Cake and Snacks in Amsterdam and lastly our tips for Amsterdam Restaurants & Bars.

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Several eager panellists joined me to carefully cogitate over as many brands of Jaffa Cakes as I could find, which resulted in the Great Jaffa Cake Taste Test. The winner surprised all of us as it was neither the best known brand nor the most expensive, by a long shot!

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I shared a non-food project I was very proud of – a collage of heart-shaped maps of our significant places, which I made for Pete as a gift for our 20th anniversary of being a couple.

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I was a very proud wife when Pete won Saveur magazine’s Best Wine or Beer Blog 2012 after only 6 months blogging at his own site. Go visit, have a look around, leave a comment or three and add him to your RSS reader!

 

June

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I learned and shared a recipe for Easy Dauphinoise Potatoes. They’re delicious and have become a regular feature in our house!

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Pete and I went to Dublin’s Bloom In The Park, and encountered many wonderful Irish food and drink producers.

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We tried Club Gascon’s amazing Marmite Royale & Toasts shortly before it was launched at Taste London.

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Pete made the most delicious Cobnut Bread. The recipe would also work well for hazelnuts or walnuts.

 

July

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We enjoyed a superb dinner at Paul Merrett’s pub, The Victoria in East Sheen.

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I had fantastic fun attending The Flavours of Italy cookery class at the new Food at 52 cookery school.

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Discovering how easy and tasty the condensed milk and double cream no churn ice cream base recipe is has made it even easier to make ice cream at home. This honeycomb ice cream was fabulous.

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I gorged myself on crawfish at Bea’s Crawfish Boil.

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This year I enjoyed visiting many more Indian restaurants, including Cinnamon Soho, for a family Sunday brunch.

 

August

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My genius came to the forefront (or so I maintain) when I came up with the idea for these Pickleback Ice Lollies – yes, that’s bourbon mixed with pickled gherkin brine and frozen!

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The view and the food were both pretty amazing when we attended Claude Bosi at The Cube, located on top of Royal Festival Hall.

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I may have confused redcurrants and cranberries, but my home-made Redcurrant and Port Jelly made an appearance on Christmas day, regardless!

 

September

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I talked about my tips for organising the freezer.

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After attending two wonderful fish and seafood cooking classes with Lee Groves, I posted an interview and his recipe for Ray Wings In Pepper Brown Butter Sauce.

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I was thrilled with how well this Sichuan Pepper Ice Cream came out. Delicious!

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I’m not one for hero worship but I have long admired Atul Kochhar so I was delighted to not only meet him but attend a mini cooking class in his restaurant kitchen, before sitting down to a lovely meal in the dining room.

 

October

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After another great visit to Abergavenny Food Festival, I enthused about my favourite exhibitors.

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I enjoyed getting my chops around a Tongue n Cheek ox heart burger.

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This Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with a Stout Honey Glaze was absolutely fantastic. It’s long past due for another outing!

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A residual memory from summer came to the surface when I shared the photos from our day at a Kentish Hop Farm.

November

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In October, Pete and I spent a truly wonderful 2.5 weeks in Japan. In November, I started writing up our experiences – there are so very many I want to share. First, an introduction, itinerary and resources list. On to eating, I posted about the challenges of Japanese vending machines, a delicious meal at Tempura Tsunahachi Honten and being intimated by Piss Alley before finding delicious Ramen for dinner.

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Probably the post that garnered most attention was my Guide to Staying in a Japanese Ryokan.

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Mum and I were very excited to finally see Leon Book 4 because we contributed a few recipes to it, not to mention some photos from the Gupta family album!

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I enthused about one of my favourite cookbooks of the year, Jekka’s Herb Cookbook.

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This year, I’ve discovered some fantastic teas. I reviewed my favourites for my Fantastic Teas 2012 Great Gift Guide.

 

December

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After an eye-opening (not to mention palate-opening) visit to the Kelly Bronze Turkey Farm, I wrote about the history of turkeys in the UK and about the difference between intensively raised white birds and Kelly’s bronze ones.

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For once, this dessert-wine drinker was given matching wines for all courses, at The Vineyard in Stockcross.

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Ever keen on quick and easy recipes I shared two this month. The first was for Chocolate, Amaretto and Amaretti Ice Cream. The second was an impressive Speculoos and Mascarpone Pancake Cake.

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More from Japan, in the form of Hida Beef and Owara Tamaten and a very photo-heavy meander through one of Takayama’s morning markets.

And there you have it! Believe it or not, that’s only a small selection of what I’ve posted on Kavey Eats this year. I hope you enjoyed my monthly picks. Happy New Year and see you in 2013!

 

Back in summer I shared my Pickleback Ice Lollies with the world. The reaction was mixed, with some readers horrified by the very idea but one of those who came down firmly on the “genius” side was Nicola Swift, Creative Food Director at The Ginger Pig.

To cut a fairly short story even shorter, we agreed on an exchange. I’d take in a bottle of (unfrozen) pickleback ice lolly and The Ginger Pig would help me create a custom burger mix for a burger to accompany the lollies. And they kindly offered to throw in a few other samples as well!

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At the Moxon Street branch, in Marylebone, one of the butchers showed me how to break down a side of beautifully aged beef into a variety of cuts.

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For my burger, I chose to combine chuck steak and fat, picanha and bone marrow.

I’ve come across picanha only through Brazilian steak restaurants, where it is a much prized cut. Not mentioned often here, the cut is called rump cap, also referred to as top sirloin or culotte in the US.

Beefy chuck was the main body of my burger mix, a cut that is affordable and good in flavour. Picanha is tender, juicy and gave more excellent flavour. Moistness in the finished burger was provided by the inclusion of bone marrow and added fat.

Once my cuts were finalised, the butcher passed them through the mincer twice to ensure they were not only properly minced but also well combined.

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With such a large volume of burger mince, I divided the mince into portions when I got home. We had the first burgers plain with freshly dug Yukon gold potatoes and butter. The flavour of the burgers was phenomenal! Moist and with just the right texture, they tasted absolutely fantastic!

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The next batch we had as burgers. For the buns, Pete used this trusty Tom Herbert recipe.

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Buns, pickled gherkins, raw red onion, fresh tomato and some mustard ketchup was all the beautiful patties needed.

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Fantastic burgers and definitely better than any single-cut burger mince we’ve used before.

Of course, the pickleback ice lolly I had afterwards hit the spot too, though Pete continues to insist they’re crazy rather than genius!

 

With thanks to The Ginger Pig for the custom burger mix and other samples.Hope you enjoyed the lollies, but am sure I got the best end of the swap!

 

There are two morning markets in Takayama, the Jinya-Mae Market near Takayama Jinya (a historic building, dating from the 17th century, that served as a regional government office during the Edo period) and the Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River. The latter runs North from the centre of the old town, in the direction of the Hachiman Shrine.

We visited Takayama for the Hachiman Autumn Festival so, as well as the normal morning market, there was a street food market extension. Happy day!

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Strange pot-bellied man-beasts on Kaji-bashi (bridge).

Miyagawa Market  is arranged along a short stretch of road less than 350 metres in length, between Kaji-bashi and Yayoi-bashi (bridges). I hadn’t expected it would take us very long to meander through its entirety but there were so many fascinating stalls and shops selling fresh produce, pickles, traditional snacks and sweets and even traditional crafts, that we whiled away most of the morning here.

And then we moved seamlessly on to the street food market for the next hour!

Like most places in Japan, Takayama and the surrounding area have many products which are unique to the region, not least their style of pickles. We saw and tried a great many and failed to identify most, though there were a few more familiar ingredients such as red turnips and ginger and I think the first picture may be fiddlehead ferns.

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One of the dishes we most enjoyed, in the expansive breakfast we were served each morning at Ryokan Tanabe, was hoba misomiso with mushrooms and spring onions heated on a ho (magnolia) leaf set atop a shichirin (charcoal grill). We mixed it into our rice, and found it delicious. There were a number of shops and stalls selling different types of miso, ready-wrapped in leaves, pre-bagged or available to buy by weight.

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In some of the kaiseki ryori multi-course meals we were served in various ryokan, one of the tiny components of the intricate starter plates was a small pale dense cube studded with dark-skinned circular fruit or vegetables. It didn’t taste of much, actually. One of our hosts told us it it was made from rice flour and had tiny baby potatoes in it. Knowledgeable web friends have suggested that it may have contained mukago, which are described as mountain yams, though these tiny potato-like bulbils grow on a bush and not underground. They’re definitely in season during October. However, it’s commonly made with black soy beans, in which case it’s known as mame mochi.

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Genkotsu ame, which translates as fist candy, is another regional speciality and is a very popular sweet in the area, as was evident from the fact that we encountered three different vendors making and selling it along the short stretch of the morning market. Also known as genkotsu kikako, it is made by mixing kinako (soybean powder) with mizuame. Mizuame itself translates to water candy and is a starch-based liquid sweetener much like corn syrup. Once mixed, the dough is kneaded, dusted with roasted soybean powder, rolled into a thin sausage shape and chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Not only did it taste great, it was almost heart-stopping entertainment watching the knife skills of the men making them, as they cut the pieces so fast, their knives seemed to blur in front of my eyes!

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Watch this video of one of  the genkotsu ame makers to marvel at his knife skills.

There were many different types of fish sold pickled or preserved in different ways. Some were for taking home. Others were definitely street food.

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Speaking of street snacks, I’ve already posted about owara tamaten but can’t resist sharing again this photo of the gentleman cooking the sweet marshmallow delicacies.

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Shichimi or shichimi togarashi is a seven spice mix which can be readily found throughout Japan. Togarashi means chilli, which it commonly contains along with sichuan pepper, sesame seeds, ground ginger, orange peel, nori and a variety of other spices. This lady sold her own pre-mixed shichimi as well as a few individual spices and other mixes.

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Senbei (rice cakes) were another popular snack. Most stalls had bags ready to go but you could also watch them grilling a fresh batch, if you passed by at the right time.

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There were many varieties of sweets on sale, some boxed up to make pretty gifts but most in small packs ready to rip open and dig in. My favourites were ones featuring sesame seeds.

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One stall sold a range of dried nuts, fruits and seeds.

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Much of the market was given over to local produce. There were many familiar fruits, vegetables and mushrooms and a few unfamiliar ones too!

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There were also a few craft shops including one which sold incense and hand-made candles. The candlemaker sat cross legged outside, in front of the shop. As he made the candles, he beckoned passers by closer and told us more about what he was doing. The wax was made from a local nut or berry and he applied it to the wicks by dipping one hand into a bowl of warm melted wax and using the other to roll three or four candles on sticks against the liquid wax.

Before we moved on, he gave us each a small gift containing one of his small, hand-made candles, and a sheet with more information, which I wish I could find!

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I resisted these pretty doll cans containing green tea and genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice).

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And lastly, some views of the river and houses on the other side.

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With thanks to Akiko Tanabe at Ryokan Tanabe, Takayama for her kind help identifying genkotsu ame.

 

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Carved detail on Hachiman Festival Float, Takayama, Japan

 

2012 is the year of ramen in London, it seems.

Tonkotsu and Ittenbari both opened this summer. Bone Daddies and Shoryu opened last month. All four are in or at the edges of Soho and you could do a ramen crawl with just a half mile wander, should such noodle soup excess appeal to you! If you want to add a fifth, Nagomi in Mayfair is only another half mile away and offers two ramen dishes.

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Click to view at larger size

Ramen, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a Japanese noodle soup of Chinese origins. It’s a dish the Japanese have truly taken to heart and is ubiquitous across the country. At its core, ramen is simply a bowl of noodles served in a meat or fish broth with toppings such as sliced barbeque pork, nori (dried seaweed) and spring onions. Often an egg is added too.

There are many regional variations covering each element.

Sapporo is known for it’s miso ramen topped with sweetcorn, butter, beansprouts, garlic and chopped pork. Hakodate prefers a salty ramen. In Asahikawa, soy flavoured ramen is popular. Kitikata, as I wrote about recently, goes for thick and curly noodles in a pork and niboshi (dried fish) broth. In Tokyo, noodles are curly but thinner and commonly served in a chicken and soy broth. Dashi is often added and typical toppings include spring onion, menma (fermented bamboo shoot), pork, kamaboko (processed fish products), egg, nori and spinach. Hakata ramen has a rich tonkotsu pork bone broth and thin, straight noodles.

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Shoryu, launched by Tak Tokumine, the founder and owner of the wonderful Japan Centre, offers a menu centred on Hakata ramen, coming as it does from the region where Tak grew up.

Inside, the space is modern and clean with only a few design touches that reference Japan. An enormous paper lantern hangs at the back of the room; the same logo adorns a large wall near the front. On entering, staff bang a traditional drum to welcome each customer in. I thought I’d find it annoying but didn’t even notice it after a while and it’s nice to have a little tradition, even in a modern place. However, one aspect of design does set it apart from Japanese counterparts, and that is the lack of any counter style seating, which is so well suited to solo diners. At Shoryu, so I hear from other diners, you may be doubled up on a table facing a complete stranger. Given the messy slurping that ramen necessitates, this may not be the ideal time to make new friends!

My visit is an invitation from Tak and he is on hand to talk me through the menu and explain a little about his philosophy.

“My concept is simple – healthy food and nothing else. I treat you like my own children.”

As he talks further about his ingredients, I come to realise the lengths he has gone to in order secure only the very best. Of his green tea, he explains that he flies it in on a regular basis because even when it’s packed in vacuum-sealed bags, the small volume of air that remains inside will still have an impact and change the flavour. I assume this is a slight exaggeration until I try some of his matcha (which he grinds himself from the leaves) and gawp like a fish in surprise at the incredible strength and freshness of its flavour.

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He invites me to try a premium sake. Horin is made by Gekkeikan, sake brewers to the Imperial Household. It’s classed as junmai daiginjo – the highest grade of sake. I had long assumed I was not a fan of sake until relatively recently but having tried some top quality examples, I realise that I’m simply not a fan of cheap sake! Ridiculously smooth and cool, it has a subtle hint of sweetness, though it’s actually quite dry, and a complete lack of that raw alcohol taste that much cheap sake seems to have. The flavour is fresh and fruity and it slips down disarmingly quickly. (£8 / 150 ml)

The drinks menu also offers umeshu plum wines, including a yuzu (citrus) flavour, shochu alcohol made from sweet potatoes and rice and a selection of Japanese and London beers as well as a couple of red and white table wines.

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To start, we share some Edamame beans (£3.50). These are lifted hugely by a sprinkling of pungent yuzu powder and sea salt.

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Most of the ramen options are based on tonkotsu, the pork bone broth that is popular in Tak’s home town.

I opt for the plain Hakata Tonkotsu (£9) which comes with pork, nitamago (a marinated soft boiled egg), kikurage mushrooms (also known as the cloud ear or tree jellyfish mushroom), red ginger, nori, bean sprouts, spring onion and sesame seeds. The broth is delicious – rich and full of flavour but light in texture. The texture and tastes of the various toppings work well together, and I’m a particular fan of the kikurage mushrooms and red ginger. Tak switched to thin noodles following feedback from early customers and I’d guess the thinner ones are more authentic to this style of ramen. I’d actually like thicker ones, but that’s just a personal preference. I am disappointed by the pork and egg; the pork is simply too lean a cut and is therefore dry and lacking in flavour and the egg is overcooked and similarly bland. I think back to Tak’s comments about health and wonder if flavour has been sacrificed to reduce fat content?

As is normal in Japanese ramen restaurants, you can order additional portions to add to your bowl – extra noodles, pork, menma, kimchi, nitamago and takana (pickled mustard leaves), (£1.50 to £2.50 each).

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My fellow guests order the Piri Piri Tonkotsu (£9.90), similar to mine but with a spicier broth, the Tokyo Shoyu (£8), with a clear soy broth and naruto kamaboko fish cakes and the Natural (£8), a vegetarian option with a shiitake mushroom and konbu (kelp) soy broth with delicious cubes of tofu.

Everyone is happy with their choices, but I like mine best of the four.

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Sides are good. I love Kimchi on Kinugoshi Tofu (£4.50) – a generous portion of London-made tofu topped with pungent kimchi. The Chuka Wakame (£2.50) seaweed salad is such a winner I’d happily eat a larger portion on its own for lunch. Pork and vegetable Gyoza Dumplings (£5) are decent, though don’t match the best I’ve encountered.

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We share two desserts between us. Dorayaki (£4) azuki (red bean) pancakes would be better were they not still frozen solid inside. Matcha Ice Cream (£3.90 / 2 scoops) is made from the same green tea that blew me away earlier and is similarly astoundingly good. I’m sure I eat far more than my fair share…

Service is a little muddled, though I’m not sure if that’s down to the restaurant still being relatively new or the staff being slightly flustered by the presence of the big boss. Still, it’s service with a genuine smile, which always goes a long way.

 

My meal at Shoryu really made me long to be back in Japan. Perhaps it’s time for that ramen crawl… anyone want to join me?

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Tak Tokumine and the Japan Centre.

My visit was in late November. Shoryu have been very proactive about responding to customer feedback to improve their offering further, and after writing this post, I was happy to see a message on the 17th December that they were switching to a fattier and more flavoursome cut of belly pork.

 

Whether you spell it speculoos (French and Flemish) or speculaas (Dutch), it’s utterly delicious and absolutely perfect for Christmas!

Speculoos are spiced shortcrust biscuits associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, they are a key taste of the Christmas season, though these days, they’re available all year round.

A few years ago, speculoos spread came into the market – all the familiar flavours of speculoos biscuits in a spreadable form. The texture is much like Nutella, the much-loved chocolate hazelnut spread; the best way to imagine the flavour, if you aren’t already familiar with speculoos biscuits, is caramel toffee with Christmas spices added.

When Abra-Ca-Debora got in touch to ask if I’d like to sample their ready-made Dutch pancakes, I knew immediately that I wanted to combine them with the jar of speculoos spread I brought back from our trip to Amsterdam earlier this year. To cut through the speculoos sweetness but not the richness, I chose mascarpone, which is equally rich and decadent.

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The good news is that speculoos spread (known as Biscoff in North America) is now more readily available in the UK. Waitrose are currently stocking it, though it helps to know that they list it on their website as Lotus Biscuit Spread and the jars are labelled Caramelised Biscuit Spread, with no reference to speculoos.

The pancakes come in a sweet or savoury version, in packs of 6 and can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks, or frozen to store them longer term. They’re thicker than French crêpes but thinner than American and Scottish ones, perhaps 3 mm thick or thereabouts.

Ever since I first enjoyed a layered crêpe cake back in 2004 (in a tiny husband-and-wife restaurant in Knysna, South Africa, of all places) I’ve thought about making one myself. But whilst I can make crêpes, I only seem to do so once a year (can you guess the occasion?) and the thought of making the 30 or so evenly sized crêpes I’d need resulted in crêpe cakes being shelved every time the idea popped back into my head.

Not only would the Abra-Ca-Debora pancakes make such a dessert much quicker to make, I figured, they also looked more robust than their crêpe cousins, making them easier to spread and layer without tearing.

In the approach to Christmas, even more than other times of the year, I’m on the look out for dishes that are quick and delicious but impressive too. I think this one definitely fits the bill. All you need for my Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake are ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes, a jar of speculoos spread, two tubs of fresh mascarpone and a little icing sugar.

Although it’ll take a little time to spread and layer the pancakes, it’s simple to do and the result is, if I say so myself, magnificent!

 

Quick & Easy Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake

Ingredients
24 (4 packs) ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes
1 x 400 gram jar speculoos spread
500 grams fresh mascarpone
About 2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar, sieved

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Method

  • Beat the mascarpone vigorously with a fork to loosen, and then beat in about two heaped tablespoons of sieved icing sugar. The aim is to add only enough to remove the savoury edge from the mascarpone, but not enough to properly sweeten it, as the speculoos spread is very sweet.

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  • The speculoos spread is too solid to spread onto the pancakes straight out of the jar so spoon some into a mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a fork to loosen. Repeat this as and when you need more speculoos spread.

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  • Evenly spread a thin layer of speculoos spread over a pancake and transfer onto a large flat plate, spread-side up. I found it easiest to spread onto the paler side of the Abra-Ca-Deborah pancakes, as it was more evenly smooth.

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  • On the next pancake, spread a layer of sweetened mascarpone, and place the pancake carefully on top of the previous one. Take care, as the speculoos spread is sticky, so it’s difficult to lift and re-lay the pancake if you place it incorrectly.

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  • Repeat in alternating layers to build up the cake.

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  • Top the finished stack with a plain pancake, prettiest side up. Eagle-eyed pancake-counters will realise that, as I finished with a mascarpone pancake topped by a plain one, I only used 23 pancakes, not 24! Yes, I ate one whilst working. :-)

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  • Before serving, sieve some icing sugar over the top.I cut out a star shape from paper and placed it on top before sprinkling but because it wasn’t flat to the pancake, when I lifted it away, the outline was fuzzy, so I gave up on the idea and filled in the space with more sugar. And don’t sprinkle the sugar in advance of serving, as it melts into the surface of the pancake and disappears, as we discovered after carrying the cake with us to a friend’s place!

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  • Use a large sharp knife to cut into thin wedges to serve.The cake is very dense and rich (and delicious), so a small slice per person is plenty. We ate a quarter of it between four adults (after a generous dinner). The whole cake would feed 10-15 people, easily.

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Pete’s driving was non-too gentle – not completely his fault, to be fair, as there were some real morons on the road that evening – so the top half of the cake had slid to one side during the journey. It wasn’t difficult to push and pull it back upright again, though it wasn’t quite as neat as before. If you want to transport it, it may be worth finding a cake tin of similar diameter, and placing it upside down over the pancake cake.

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Do you think using ready-made pancakes is a cheat too far? What fillings would you choose for a pancake cake? And what are your favourite speculoos spread recipes?

 

As Speculoos is all about delicious Christmas spices, I’m submitting this post to the We Should Cocoa Christmas Special (Cinnamon) challenge on Chocolate Log Blog and Alphabakes December challenge on The More Than Occasional Baker… S for Speculoos! As I ate the leftovers for a very satisfying breakfast, I’ve also been asked to add it to Breakfast Club, which has a theme of brunch (this would be great for a late coffee morning breakfast) and is hosted by Bangers & Mash.

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Kavey Eats received a sample of pancakes from Abra-Ca-Deborah.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to film a video recipe for Vouchercodes.co.uk. They were looking for alternative ideas and twists for the Christmas day dinner. I made my mum Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb, which can be served with all the normal roast dinner trimmings, as we do in our house, or as the central dish to an Indian feast.

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My video recipe is now live on their site, as are other delicious ideas from fellow bloggers. Check them out too!

Here’s the shorter edit that Vouchercodes.co.uk are sharing. I have a longer version that I’ll share with you soon.

Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
Leg of lamb, approximately 2 kg
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and 2 halved
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons besan (gram) flour (leave out if not available)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
A few strands of saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
3-4 bay leaves
1 inch stick of cinnamon
3-4 cardamoms
6-7 black pepper corns
5-6 cloves
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons good quality oil
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 small carton of creamy, natural yoghurt
Salt to taste

Note: You can replace the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamoms, black pepper corns and cloves with 1 tablespoon of good quality garam masala. Home made is best, as cheap ready made ones are bulked out with other, cheaper spices.

Method

  1. Make slits in the leg of lamb, insert a few halved cloves of garlic into a few of the slits, and set lamb aside.
  2. Optional: Grind the whole spices (see Hints & Tips).
  3. Place all ingredients except yoghurt into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  4. Transfer paste to a bowl, add yoghurt and mix well.
  5. Taste and adjust spices. Remember that the spice paste has to give enough flavour to 2 kg of meat, so it has to taste a little over-salted and over-spiced at this stage.
  6. Spread the spice paste over the lamb, ensuring that some is worked into the slits.
  7. Leave to marinade at least overnight. For best results, 24 to 36 hours.
  8. Place on a baking tray and cover with aluminium foil.
  9. Cook at 375 F, 190C for 1 1/2 hours for pink meat (or 2 hours for well-done meat).
  10. Baste from time to time and leave uncovered for last half hour, so that the spices and meat turn brown.

Hints & Tips

Ingredients

  • Make sure you use full fat yoghurt for this recipe as low fat yoghurt often splits when heat is applied. Thick Greek-style yoghurt works well.
  • If using frozen lamb, defrost thoroughly and drain resulting liquids before applying marinade.
  • Instead of buying tiny jars of spices from the supermarket, it’s more economical to buy in slightly larger quantities from Asian grocery shops. However, spices fade over time, so if you don’t use them up quickly, they’ll lose their intensity of flavour. I’d recommend storing a small amount of each one in easy-to-access spice jars, keeping the rest in your freezer and replenishing as and when you need to.
  • Fresh ingredients such as ginger, coriander and other key ingredients for Indian cooking are also often cheaper in Asian and other ethnic grocery shops. If you don’t have an Indian or Pakistani shop near you, look in stores specialising in Chinese or Caribbean food, as there are many cross-over ingredients.

Tips

  • If your food processor or blender is not very powerful, grind the whole spices in a spice or coffee grinder first, before combining them with the other ingredients. If you have a powerful food processor or blender, add the whole spices with the other ingredients and grind in one step.

Alternatives

  • You can use this marinade recipe on any meat or fish from larger joints or whole chickens, to smaller cuts such as lamb shanks or individual portions of chicken. It also works well on whole fish, though will need far less marinating time.

Serve with

  • We love this tandoori roast lamb with traditional British trimmings – roast potatoes and parsnips, carrot and swede mash, savoy cabbage and gravy. We serve it with either a mint raita or mint jelly. For Christmas, we add chipolatas and stuffing and brussel sprouts for my sister who adores them…
  • Of course, the lamb leg also works as the centrepiece for an extravagant Indian feast. I recommend my favourites such as chicken curry, stuffed aubergines, an additional vegetable dish such as cauliflower and potatoes, a daal or red kidney bean curry, some chapatis and rice on the side. To start, maybe pakoras or samosas and afterwards, a vermicelli kheer, similar to rice pudding but made with vermicelli pasta. Recipes for these dishes can be found on my mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

Leftovers

  • Use leftovers just as you would with those from a plain lamb roast – make shepherd’s pie, lamb hot pot, a simple lamb curry, lamb and potato cakes or enjoy it sliced cold in sandwiches or wraps, with some of the minted cucumber and onion raita.

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The introductory segment was filmed right at the end and it was after 11 pm by then, so I’m blaming my odd bounciness in that bit on my tiredness, but the rest is not as cringe-worthy as I feared! In fact, although I’ve long felt I have a face for radio, I’m really happy with it! Really hoping I can work with Voucher Codes on more of these in the future.

 

When I attended a Lakeland product preview event this summer, the products that excited me most were the components that, together, form a cheese making kit. Sold separately, the recommended items are a large stainless steel maslin pan (though any similar large pan would be fine), a digital thermometer, two different cheese moulds, vegetarian rennet and some muslin squares. Lakeland also sell a recipe book called How To Make Soft Cheese.

We recently received samples of the above items and Pete got to work making some cheese.

Over to Pete:

 

Halloumi

Not knowing anything about making cheese, I was initially drawn to by the Halloumi recipe, largely on the grounds that it sounded so simple. The ingredient list was pleasantly short too – milk and vinegar.

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The recipe instructed me to heat the milk to 95 degrees, add the vinegar and give the curd a few minutes to form before skimming off.  This first part was painless; the measures marked on the inside of the maslin pan made it easy to pour in the right quantity of milk without using a measuring jug and and the temperature probe, easily clipped to the side, worked like a dream.

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The curds themselves were wet, but easy enough to transfer to a colander lined with a muslin square. But the Lakeland’s muslin squares are the smallest I’ve ever seen and about half the size I’d like them to be. I’d suggest you buy larger pieces of muslin from another supplier, such as this Kitchen Craft Butter Muslin from Amazon.

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Once drained, the I spooned the curds into the mould – although the recipe ended up making slightly more curd than expected, so both moulds were pressed into service.

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I’d hoped, after all that, to be left with lovely, rubbery, aching-to-be-fried Halloumi, right? Wrong!

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What I’d made was crumbly cream cheese – perfectly tasty, but absolutely nothing like Halloumi.

Clearly I’d done something seriously wrong, so a-Googling I went. It turns out that Halloumi is a not only more complicated than the recipe suggests (with additional heating steps that are entirely missing in the recipe), it’s also, and I’m quoting from Wikipedia here, “unusual in that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used”.

Halloumi is made using rennet, not vinegar, and is heated a second time after the curds have formed.

However the recipe in the book does have a lot in common with paneer cheese, as do the results. Paneer is usually made using vinegar or lemon juice in place of rennet and is strained and pressed once the curd has separated.

 

Mozzarella

Thinking perhaps that the recipe had simply been mis-titled, the next one I attempted was mozzarella, with Kavey there to assist.

Once again the milk was heated – to only 32 degrees this time – before lemon juice and rennet were added.

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After 30 minutes, the curd had set reasonably firm and was ready to be cut and drained.

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A portion of the drained curd was then placed in a bowl and microwaved – the aim was to bring it up to 60 degrees, at which temperature it should magically have transformed into shiny, stretchy mozzarella which could then be kneaded and patted into shape.

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Well, no such luck for us.

We tried heating it, re-heating it, overheating it and swearing at it.

Despite our best efforts, all we achieved were soft, mushy, slightly grainy balls which tasted overwhelmingly of lemon juice.

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The whole exercise was fairly demoralising, especially as we measured the ingredients and followed the instructions on temperature scrupulously, before then trying to apply additional heat and still failing.

Again, we looked up other mozzarella recipes on the web afterwards and discovered that key elements of the method were missing from the recipe in the book; namely the second stage of heating the curds, still in the whey, before the last stage of heating as per the book.

 

The actual kit, with the exception of the overly small muslin squares, is fantastic and very well made. The maslin pan, with internal measurements marked, is a delight and the digital thermometer quick and easy to use.

The book, however, makes me wonder if anyone actually tried any of these recipes before it was published and is the one product I’d discourage you from buying. Assemble a kit of large pan, accurate and quick thermometer, rennet, moulds and muslin and source your recipes from the internet instead.

Despite our lack of success, we haven’t been put off cheese making and will be trying again with other recipes, very soon.

 

Kavey Eats received samples of the cheese making equipment above from Lakeland.

 

Christmas shopping should be such a pleasure – finding the ideal gifts for your loved ones and anticipating their pleasure in them – but the reality is often far more stressful with time, budget and practical constraints that often get in the way.

The response to last year’s gift guide was wonderful so here once again are my favourite picks for 2012.

See my 2012 top tea recommendations here and browse last year’s epic gift guide here. Many of 2010’s suggestions are also still available as are 2010’s cookery book ideas.

You’ll notice a strong Japanese influence to my selection this time, though there are plenty of other ideas too.

Enjoy!

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At the John Lewis Christmas preview this summer, my favourite products were the five Kokeshi Doll Japanese tree ornaments (£3.50 each). The Origami Kimono ornaments (£4 each) and Chinese Lucky Cat ornaments (£3.50 each) are also cute. They all remind me of the charms I bought in Japan, for attaching to mobile phones or handbags.

 

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How cute are these Koziol Kasimir Cheese Graters (£9), available in red or black from John Lewis?

 

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Amazon has a huge array of titles on Japan, from personalised accounts of life and culture to alternative travel guides to cookery books, here’s my wishlist selection. (I’ve used affiliate links).

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How can I not love these penguin salt and pepper shakers (£20) from Culture Label, given the trips south I’ve taken to visit my penguin friends?

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We considered buying a couple of the moulded plastic models of food that restaurants display in their windows during our visit to Tokyo’s Kappabashi Dori but found them too expensive. These Iwako Food Erasers from the Japan Centre are far more affordable and a fun stocking filler for adults and children alike. Each set is £4.99 each, with some currently reduced to £4.49. There’s a Kokeshi Dolls and Cats set too.

 

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Is it a pie or a plate? It’s a Pie Plate (£29.50) from Culture Label.

 

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Having reviewed several books this year, these are the ones I recommend above the rest:

 

sushimug

This is very similar to the one I bought myself as a tacky but fun souvenir from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. From Japan Centre, £8.90.

 

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One of the few chocolates Pete and I both enjoy over Christmas are Lindt Lindor balls so we really liked their Christmas Maxi Ball (a clear plastic ball containing over 40 individual Lindor truffles), which I was given at their Christmas preview over summer. Priced at £14.99 from Tesco or directly from Lindt’s website. Pete also likes two of the alternative Lindor flavours, Stracciatella and White Chocolate. I am happier with Hazelnut ones or the original. You can also get Dark and Irish Cream flavours.

 

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Yuzu citrus has a very distinctive taste, and one that reminds me very strongly of childhood, which is strange as I hadn’t been to Japan until this year, and wasn’t exposed to Japanese food until adulthood. I wonder if it’s an Indian citrus that it reminds me of? Regardless, it’s completely different from regular lemons and limes and is a flavour I really adore. Here’s a round up of yuzu products from Japan Centre.

 

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I came across Joe and Sephs flavoured popcorns at this year’s BBC Good Food Show, inspired by trips to the US where Joseph Sopher became increasingly fond of gourmet popcorn. Since then, he’s perfected his own technique for applying a caramel coating to popcorn, and created a range of familiar and more unusual flavours many of which have been recognised by the Great Taste Awards. Most pouches are 80 or 90 grams and you can choose any 3 for £12 or 6 for £19.95.

 

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For a Japanese influence in the garden, how about a beautiful Japanese maple or Japanese cherry tree? The Garden Centre Group have a wide range on offer and have stores nationwide.

 

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Do you love lego? I do, though I have friends who love it even more. I am sure they’d appreciate this Lego Drinking Bottle (£6.80), also available in other colours. It’s made from plastic, and Amazon reviews suggest built quality is not great, so it may not last long, but would make a fun stocking filler gift for a lego fiend.

 

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Sous Chef is a new online cookware, ingredients and books vendor launched by a food enthusiast I originally met on twitter and have since come to know as a friend. Nicola and husband Nick have collated a fabulously desirable selection of treats from simple but specialist ingredients to ones more commonly used by molecular gastronomists, from good quality knives to obscure but exciting equipment and recipe books too. Here are my recommendations, for Japanese and non-Japanese items, though I suggest you have a jolly good browse of the entire site:

 

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Lazybone have a fun selection of mugs including two versions of Camera Lens Mugs (£14.99 each), which appeal to my inner camera geek, the Dr Who Tardis Mug (£13.99), which is super cool and the Twitter Mug (£9.99), which makes me smile.

 

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We had a great visit to the Yamazaki Distillery during our trip to Japan. You can read about the Yamazaki whisky library on Pete’s blog.

Master of Malt offer a Japanese whisky tasting set (£34.45), which is a great gift for someone who wants to start drinking Japanese whisky. Alternatively, you can buy whole bottles. Pete suggests the Hibiki 17 Year old, for which he tasted the component whiskies as well as the finished blend.

 

bladerunnerglass deckard

And if you do buy some whisky, how about a Bladerunner glass to drink it in? It’s one of my all time favourite films, so this whisky glass from Firebox really appeals. I’m less enamoured with the £54.99 price tag!

 

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For a great selection of Japanese tableware, visit Doki, now located in Harrow Weald. I used to love browsing when they had a shop in Oriental City, but found the Wembley Pacific Plaza location less convenient. They’ve now moved again to Middlesex. The online store has a very limited selection to best so visit the shop in person.

 

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Also from Firebox is this OCD Chef Chopping Board (£19.99), marked to help finicky foodies be more precise.

 

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This Pig Cutting Board (£24.40) is rather fun, sold by MyDeco and designed by Catherine Fouchard for Cocobohème.

 

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Image by Kake Pugh, used with permission under non-commercial sharealike Creative Commons licence

I’ve already mentioned Japan Centre and Sous Chef. Another great source for specialist Japanese ingredients is Atari-ya which has several shops in London but doesn’t offer online shopping or mail order. The store in North Finchley is fantastic!

 

our_products_quick_pop_maker ginger maxims JC-cherry JC-peppermill

At least half the Lakeland catalogue appeals to many cooking enthusiasts, myself included. I’ll be blogging separately about the cheese making kit items soon but in the meantime, am tempted by Mrs Bridges Ginger Gift Set (£14.99), Maxims Pistachio Macaroon Dessert Chocolates (£5.99) and the Anthon Berg Cherry in Rum Marzipan Chocolates (£5.49). I had lots of fun this summer with the Zoku Quick Ice Pop (Lolly) Maker (£39.99) I was sent to review; I can recommend it! I can also recommend the Cuisinart Electric Pepper Mill (£19.99), which I own and like but haven’t yet reviewed.

 

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I absolutely love these funky bird jars by Swedish designer, Camilla Engdahl. Available from MyDeco Family Little Rose consists of several members, priced between £47 and £80 each, including delivery from Sweden. The more bird-like Chicken Container is £37.60. And the Wagtail Bird Jars are £28.20 each.

 

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Recently I cracked open a bottle of one of my favourite tipples – Pedro Ximénez . This bottle was a gift for my 40th last year, and is particularly excellent. Look out for Harveys Pedro Ximénez VORS; VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry. At just £21 a bottle, I think this is seriously good value for a seriously delicious drink and you can find it at Waitrose and Ocado, on Amazon, and other online retailers. Drink as it is or serve over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

bbqdonutboat

Lastly, I leave you with the BBQ Donut Boat, which seats up to 10 around a central BBQ grill, has storage under the seats and a sun shade above and has an outboard engine that can run for several hours. A snip at just £20,000!

 

Merry Christmas!

Dec 122012
 

The reason I decided to accept an invitation to review Balans in Soho was the very same one that initially made me think twice about it. With a menu that wanders across the globe from Egypt to France to Greece to Italy to Malaysia to Mexico to Thailand to the USA, the phrase that sprang to mind was “jack of all trades, master of none”.

But actually, sometimes it’s not about finding the most authentic cuisine from any of those countries but about enjoying a tasty meal with friends in a restaurant that offers a sufficiently wide range of dishes that you know everyone in the group will find something to suit their fancy.

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Launched in 1993 by Anglo-Indian entrepreneur Prady Balan (which makes me wonder if there was ever an apostrophe in the name), the Compton Street branch was the first in what has now become a small chain with seven locations in London and a further five in Miami.

From the start, Balan courted the pink pound. During a time when many businesses were either openly hostile or merely indifferent, and those which were neither were often seedy, this was a novel approach that worked very well. In a 1999 interview, Balan explained that he had chosen to capitalise on the gay market rather than discriminating. Defining his restaurant he said, “it’s nice, it’s trendy, it’s modern – and gay” and he explained, “If I can do well with the gay community, which is far more finicky – they know exactly what they want in terms of presentation, food, quality, service, layout, decor – I can keep everybody happy."

Today is a different era but still the warm welcome, long opening hours, international comfort food menu and cocktails list appeal not only to the gay community but to all of society.

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Neither of us in the mood for wine, my friend and I started with a cocktail each. The nutcracker (£8.95) is a frozen combination of rum, butterscotch schnapps, double cream, hazelnut syrup, honey and coconut cream. Fig’s Kiss (£8.35) purports to be fresh fig, honey , rum, pineapple juice and lemon juices. Confusingly, they were served the wrong way round with the tall glass declared to be The Nutcracker and the martini glass one served as Fig’s Kiss, though we worked it out eventually. Both were strongly alcoholic (as they should be) and we stuck to tap water hereafter. It was lunch time, after all!

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Our first starter was the woodland mushroom bruschetta with fried duck egg and sherry vinaigrette (£6.95). This was not only rather generous but tasted excellent, with flavoursome (and properly cleaned) mushrooms, crunchy toast, soft-yolked egg and a well judged dressing.

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Our second starter was the seared scallops and pork bell with a orange sweet soy glaze (£7.75). A smaller portion this time, though perfectly reasonable – the mushrooms would be plenty for a light lunch on their own – this was also delicious. The scallops had less flavour than the extremely excellent ones I enjoyed at The Vineyard recently, but they cost a lot less too and they were perfectly decent. The belly pork beneath was fantastic, cooked so that some of the fat melted in the mouth, whilst the rest gave just a hint of crunch. We both loved the sweet salty glaze, though it might be too sweet for some palates.

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From the salads and sandwiches section of the menu, my friend chose a seared tuna nicoise with mixed greens, black olives, egg, tomato, potatoes, onions, peppers, green beans and a citrus dressing (£9.50). What arrived was an absolutely enormous serving; it was actually rather overwhelming; a huge pile of salad topped with two large thick tuna steaks. The salad was pretty good, but we felt bad that we didn’t finish even half of it. Perhaps a menu choice between a small / large portion would be worthwhile?

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My pan fried sea bass with crushed new potatoes and spinach and a chive butter sauce (£15.95) was far more manageable. Nicely cooked, the flavours were decent. I appreciated the crispy skin on the fish and the generous pool of sauce, though not the towering presentation. Whilst it might not have blown me away, this was solidly enjoyable and perfect brasserie style fare.

Service is friendly and attentive, to all customers. I’ll probably get shouted at if I recall that our waiters were also gloriously easy on the eye. But they were! Also, friendly, professional and helpful with menu indecisions and questions.

Balans Soho won’t win any awards for the best food in the capital but I can see why it’s a popular Soho stalwart, offering enjoyable food at very reasonable prices for such a central location. The extensive opening hours mean it’s also one of the few places that’s open from early breakfast, through brunch, lunch, afternoon breaks and dinner to drinks and snacks in the early hours.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Balans.

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