When I set September’s BSFIC theme as Spices I thought people would find it easy to think of ideas. Not onlyis vanilla the queen of ice cream spices, there’s also anise, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon, ginger, mustard, paprika, pepper and saffron, to name just a few!

To my surprise, people said they found it hard to decide what to make!

And yet every entry looks delicious!

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My own entry for the challenge was this delicioius Sichuan Pepper Ice Cream which I made with the help of my friend Monica during a weekend visit to her beautiful rural cottage. Having taken along a jar of my homemade candied clementines, I wanted to make an ice cream that would complement them well. Sichuan is part of the citrus family, and when you infuse it in custard, it releases a wonderful and unique citrus flavour. It was really wonderful and one I’d definitely make again.

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Milliepaw, who writes Kitchen Princess Diaries, has always loved aniseed, from childhood memories of aniseed balls to adult ones of Pernod shots! She made a subtle but lovely Star Anise Ice Cream which she served with pears poached in dessert wine with a butter caramel, flambéed with Pernod!

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Laura, author of How To Cook Good Food, loves spices so much she found it hard to decide which ones to use. In the end, a supermarket punnet of plums helped her settle on her final recipe, a Roasted Plum, Strawberry & Five Spice Ice Cream. It’s a great one for those who don’t like making custard as it involves pureeing the fruit and combining with cream before churning.

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Having already been present when I made the Sichuan pepper ice cream, Monica of Smarter Fitter went all out to make a delicious ice cream inspired by the fruits of the orchard just outside her front door. Her Apple Pie Ice Cream with Stem Ginger features an apple puree spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and stem ginger and a crunchy crumble churned into a classic vanilla custard.

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Alicia aka Foodycat says ice cream is her favourite dessert. Judging by her Triple Ginger & Nectarine Ice Cream I can see why! She used an egg, mascarpone and cream base that she’s already discovers gives a very rich finish, not too sweet and with a lovely texture. Keen to combine ginger and seasonal fruit, she decided on nectarines when she found some beautiful white ones on sale. The ginger comes in the form of ground ginger, crystallised ginger and King’s Ginger Liqueur.

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Claire cooks in her kitchen Under The Blue Gum Tree. For her entry she took inspiration from a classic South African dessert, and made a Milk Tart Ice Cream. Alongside the traditional cinnamon, Claire added cardamom and nutmeg to enrich the flavours. To give a contrasting texture, she made some cinnamon and nutmeg pastry twists to serve alongside.

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The Little Loaf blog is well known for making readers salivate and Kate has done it again with her latest post. To go with her sticky cider pecan cakes, she made some Cinnamon Ice Cream (and a salted caramel sauce). Her aim was to lift the cupcake from a clichéd little cake covered in "teeth-itchingly sweet icing". I think she definitely succeeded!

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This is Maria’s first entry into BSFIC, posted on her blog Box of Stolen Socks. It’s a good one; her Saffron & Cardamom Ice Cream has a delicate and exotic taste and an added crunch from pistachios. Like the condensed milk challenge in July, this recipe neither requires making a custard, nor churning, so is a great choice for anyone looking for a simple method that delivers great flavours.

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She sneaked in just before the deadline again! Having won a Zoku machine in August’s BSFIC, Jennie from All The Things I Eat must have had lollies on the brain. She made not one but two "spicecreams" including Saffron Yoghurt Lollies and Strawberry & Black Pepper Lollies.

 

Edit: I just want to share the link to Donna’s Apple Pie Ice Cream. She missed the deadline, but it’s another great post so I want you to see it. I also love that my two American friends have both gone down a similar path in their thought processes!

 

 

WINNER

As is so often the case, I really struggled to pick a winner this month.

I’m awarding first prize to Claire (Under The Blue Gum Tree) as I really liked the way she took inspiration from her traditional milk tart recipe, a popular South African dessert and turned those flavours into an ice cream. Send me your address by email, Claire and I’ll ask Reaktion Books to get your copy of Laura Weiss’ Ice Cream: A Global History out to you as soon as possible.

I’ve also decided to give a second prize to Monica (Smarter Fitter) as her apple, ginger and crumble concoction really made me salivate. I also really liked all the photos in her post, which showed the ingredients, the apple puree and crumble and the finished ice cream. So Monica, I’m going to send you my copy of the book, as I’ve now read it and enjoyed it and am happy to pass it onwards.

Well done to both of you, thanks again to all who entered and keep your eyes open for October’s theme, coming soon!

 

Pork from happy pigs tastes better. It really does!

That was certainly the case for the feast of Dingley Dell pork served up at the Leather Bottle, during one of their Flying Visits.

The pub’s huge garden was decked out in bunting, with rows of picnic tables laid out ready for eager pork eaters to take their seats. We were in one of the chalet huts towards one side of the garden, from where we could look out over the main dining area. The BBQ and kitchen were set up near the top of the garden.

We watched a butchery demonstration from a very charming and experienced butcher, who deftly broke down a side of pig. There were short introductory talks by Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward, who told us about his farm, his pigs and his pork. We enjoyed live entertainment from Suffolk band The Broadside Boys during the evening.

Here are some images from the event, followed by the menu.

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The garden chalet tables

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Setting up tables ready for happy feasters

Mark Hayward, Dingley Dell
Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward

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Butchery demonstration

The Whole Hog Board ­Air dried pork leg_ crispy pig¹s ears_ potted brawn_ mini hot dogs_ black pudding trotter fritters Gooseberry chutney_ purple basil jam and Young¹s beer bread DingleyDell-1707
The whole hog board

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Pig cheeks, jelly and peas

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Mark’s whole spitted hog

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18 hr cooked pulled pork

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St Louis pork ribs

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The team behind the feast

 

Whole Hog Board: potted brawn, crispy pigs ears, black pudding trotter fritters and mini hot dogs served with gooseberry chutney and purple basil jam – cooked by Stephen Bushnell and Chris Knights of Youngs Pubs.

Apple smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree – cooked by Paul Sowden of The Elk Bar in Fulham.

The three mains, to come next, were served with a selection of sides including fantastic sweet potato fries, a root coleslaw and a green salad with heritage tomatoes.

Whole spitted hog, brined with Aspall’s apple juice and cider, then rubbed, marinated, mopped and sauced – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

18 hr cooked pulled pork shoulder cooked with herbs and infused with hickory – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

St Louis pork ribs cherry smoked with a BBQ and black treacle glaze served with individual terracotta pot bread – cooked by 3 times British BBQ champion and 5 times World finalist Andy Annat.

There was also a pork inspired dessert from Stephen and Chris, which I missed as I had a long journey home.

Meantime and Aspall’s provided drinks matches for each course, though I can’t comment on these as I stuck to soft drinks.

 

My favourites were the mini hot dogs, black pudding trotter fritters and potted brawn from the whole hog board, and the pork ribs and the sweet potato fries from the mains. I also liked the smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree better than most on our table, though I agreed with others that serving it in a half pint mug made it impossible to eat easily, resulting in a first few mouthfuls of (unnecessarily copious) leaves, then the pea puree and finally the cheeks and jelly. I did like the combination of cheeks, jelly and peas but would rather have been given them on a regular plate.

 

This feast was priced at just £25 per person, and given that it included matching drinks throughout, I think that’s a terrific deal. I also really liked the pub itself, though we spent little time inside. For those living locally, I’d imagine it’s a lovely place for drinks or dinner.

 

Many thanks to the Leather Bottle and Saffron Powell (from We Love Food) for additional images.

Kavey Eats attended Dingley Dell’s Flying Visit as a guest.

 

Last month, I was invited to help the ETM Group judge their annual chefs competition, in which they invite all the chefs working in any of their restaurants to submit their best dish using wild Scottish salmon from Cruden Bay. Owners Tom and Ed Martin had already narrowed down the entries to 6, to be cooked by their creators for us to judge and choose a winner.

My fellow judges were Tom Martin, Andre Compton (ETM’s biggest regular), Bridget Croft (Group Operations Manager), Jessica Dahlin (Group Events & Marketing Manager) and Stuart Singer (ETM PR).

We gathered in the spacious cellar room under The Jugged Hare and, whilst we waited for the first dish to be presented, agreed our judging criteria. Each of us awarded a mark out of 10 for presentation, originality of idea and, of course, taste. Our total scores out of 30 for each dish were then added together to rank the 6 dishes.

Here are the 6 dishes in the order they were served:

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Mark Fines, Head Chef at The Gun served “pan fried fillet of wild salmon glazed Jersey royals and baby turnips, semi dried cherry tomatoes, wild garlic and Vermouth velouté”, and there was also an olive and anchovy tapenade on the plate.

I thought this looked attractive on the plate. The salmon was nicely cooked. The potatoes didn’t taste of much, regardless of their glaze. The tomatoes had a lovely balance of sweet sharp. To my surprise, the tapenade didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the salmon. The velouté gave a nice flavour too, though I’d not have been able to identify it if asked. Again, it didn’t overwhelm the salmon, nor clash with the other elements.

My score 22/ 30

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Paul Roman, Group Relief Chef entered a dish of “pan fried fillet of wild Scottish salmon, baby fennel, spring peas, asparagus and radish salad, horseradish chantilly”. A small pot of double chicken stock was poured into the dish at the table. As Paul wasn’t able to attend on the day, his dish was cooked for him by Mark Fines.

I really liked the classic combination of salmon and horseradish. The fresh crunchy vegetables underneath worked nicely, like a warm summer salad. Again, the fish itself was cooked perfectly with nice crisp skin. The intense chicken stock was delicious, but I’m not sure it was the ideal choice to pair with the fish.

My score 18/ 30

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Nick Butler, Sous Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms served “pan fried fillet of wild Scottish salmon, foie gras, English samphire and apple salad, apple and vanilla purée” and also mentioned a vanilla and lemon oil.

It’s fair to say this dish was the most controversial, with four of us not convinced by the combination of salmon and foie gras, one undecided and one very keen indeed!

As previously, the salmon was beautifully cooked, with crispy skin. The samphire added a very nice crunchy salty note. But whilst I liked the foie gras, apple and vanilla they simply didn’t work at all with the salmon for me. In fact, this felt to me like two separate dishes on the same plate. I’d be delighted to have the foie gras, apple and vanilla as a starter and the salmon and samphire as a fish course. The rich, meaty, fatty foie gras totally disguised the flavour of the salmon and this dish could just have well been made with a bland white fish, to similar but less expensive effect.

My score 16/ 30

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Faruk Shalaku, Head Chef at The Well served “pan fried fillet of Scottish salmon, spring vegetable, pea shoot salad, chive butter sauce”.

This dish really did look beautiful on the plate, with the vibrant green of peas, beans and shoots against the pink of the fish. Fish was beautifully cooked again. The sauce was weak on flavour though the vegetables made up for that to an extent. I gave this one good marks for presentation, and fair marks for taste, but marked it down for originality. Nothing wrong with a classic, and that’s what we agreed this dish is, but it didn’t feel like a particularly exciting or original idea to enter into a competition.

My score 19/ 30

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Richard O’Connell, Head Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and The Jugged Hare served “confit of wild salmon, tarragon and Alexander crust, foraged sea beet, Herefordshire rhubarb, lemon crème fraiche, langoustine mousse”.

I loved the appearance of this dish, with the lovely colours from the pink fish and langoustine, the vibrant red rhubarb, the green of the herb crust and the darker green sea beet. It was a really unusual and original combination and yet every single element worked beautifully together on the palate. Not a single element was superfluous. And I was doubly impressed that Richard had been able to present rhubarb, a vegetable I’m not very keen on, in a way that I enjoyed so much.

My score 27/ 30

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Philip Kane, Senior Sous Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms stepped in at the last minute when one of the original finalists was unable to attend. He came up with his idea for a dish very much at the last minute and according to what ingredients he found available!

He presented “butter poached wild salmon, langoustine, rainbow chard and smoked haddock cream”.

The salmon was super soft, and the butter made it even richer. The flavours here were big, with a subtle but pleasant hint of star anise in the fishy cream. The langoustine added a hint of sweetness, the chard a pleasant crunch and mineral flavour and the artichoke pieces (if we identified them correctly) gave a nice texture and taste too.

My score 26/ 30

 

Our aggregated scores revealed Richard O’Connell as the winner and Philip Kane in second place.

As their scores were so close, and Philip had pulled it out of the bag at late notice, Tom decided that both would be awarded the prize of a paid visit to Cruden Bay in Scotland, where the wild salmon is caught.

Congratulations to both and well done to all the chefs; I enjoyed tasting all of your dishes very much.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The ETM Group.

Sep 242012
 

Throughout the summer I enjoyed lots and lots and lots of wonderful fruit. Some are fruits I have long known and loved, but there have been a few new ones too.

 

Flat Peaches & Nectarines

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Also known as flat peaches, doughnut peaches, saturn peaches and even UFO peaches these disk-like fruit are, at their best, incredibly sweet and juicy. I’ve been enjoying them for years, when I could get them.

This year a small local newsagent-cum-grocer’s sold Valencian ones for several weeks, a much longer season than I’ve seen before, so I really gorged myself. They have a pale, very intensely flavoured flesh. One week they were absolutely enormous in size, but the rest of the time, they’ve been much of a muchness.

One week, I came across flat nectarines, which was a first, though they were slightly past their best when I bought them, they tasted the same as their fuzzy-downed siblings.

 

Lychees

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I’ve always loved lychees, though Pete still insists they feel like eyeballs and smell like old lady perfume!

A local Turkish shop got some particularly great ones in this summer – big and sweet and juicy and intensely flavoured. A bag never last long!

 

Rambutans

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I don’t see rambutans on sale very often so I picked this packet up in China Town some weeks ago. The last time I had rambutan was some years ago!

The name derives from the Malay for “hairy”, and you can see why; with their bright red skin and green spines, they look like small hairy aliens! I’ve seen them with red spines too. From the same plant family as lychees, the fruits are somewhat similar in shape and texture, though the taste is a little different and also more subtle.

 

Fresh Dates

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Like many Brits, I adore dried dates with their sticky, chewy texture and toffee-sweet flavour. But I’d never even thought about what a fresh date might look like, let alone tried one. Indeed, when I saw these in my local Turkish shop, I had no idea what they were, and asked one of the staff members. When she told me they were fresh dates and could be eaten as they were, I immediately bought some to try.

They were quite a revelation, with more than a hint of the familiar flavour of their dried counterpart but an altogether different and lighter texture and juiciness. I shall look out for these again!

 

Indian and Pakistani Mangoes

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I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t greedily enjoy as many Indian and Pakistani mangoes as I could get my hands on during their season. This year started slowly but I caught up in the end!

 

Guavas

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I love guavas! I have fond memories of visiting family in India and climbing into a guava tree with my cousins.

However, when I’ve found these fruits on sale in the UK in the past, I’ve always been so disappointed. The scent has always been the familiar one, just like the fruit in India, but they haven’t tasted of anything at all.

Having been so happy with the rest of the fruit I’ve bought from the local Turkish shop, I decided to take a chance when I saw these on sale in August. To my delight, the flavour matched the beautiful smell and I was transported…

 

Prickly Pears

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Again, when I saw these on sale in the Turkish shop, I had no idea what they were and had to ask; there are hand written labels tacked to the shelves but seldom near the fruit they belong to.

I took these with me when visiting a friend who is equally excited about trying new things. On cutting into them, we discovered a vivid red flesh packed full of hard knobbly seeds. The seeds were so well distributed in the flesh it was impossible to cut them out, so eating involved sucking the fruit off the seeds and spitting them out. Sadly, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Whilst these were super sweet and juicy, there was no discernable flavour at all other than plain sweet.

Please forgive the awful photo – my mobile phone camera is really not very good.

 

Fresh Cobnuts

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More crappy phone camera photos, sorry!

Cobnuts, a British variety of hazelnut, are enjoying a renaissance, with new orchards being planted and old ones brought back to peak condition. I’ve enjoyed dried and roasted cobnuts before but had never tried freshly harvested ones, still in their green leafy outer coat. They are quite different to the dried ones, with a really juicy crunch and mild flavour. They remind me a lot of water chestnuts and I’m thinking they might work well in a East Asian-inspired curry.

 

What fruit have you been enjoying this year?

 

I loved the day I spent learning to cook Italian at Food at 52.

So I didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation from Tesco to an evening of baking sweet afternoon tea treats there.

The special class was organised as an introduction to the Tesco Real Food Baking Challenge, which invites home bakers to submit their favourite recipes for the chance to win a bread machine. (Personally, I think you can make great bread easily and quickly without a machine, and it’s usually much nicer, but your mileage may vary).

It was a pleasure to return to this quirky and welcoming school and to say hello again to owners John and Emily, class assistant Jacqui and that crazy suit of armour in the upstairs living room!

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The nine invited bloggers were split into two groups, each group making three recipes together, which we then shared around the huge table afterwards.

Our group made scones, mini bakewell tarts and a Victoria sponge. All were simple, straightforward and so much more delicious than shop-bought. Novice home cooks are often scared of baking but even with recent price rises, ingredients aren’t that expensive and it doesn’t take much practice to gain skills and confidence.

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Kavey Eats attended the afternoon tea baking class at Food at 52 as a guest of Tesco Real Food.

All images provided by Tesco Real Food.

Sep 212012
 

We don’t go to Hackney often, as it’s not the easiest journey for us on public transport, but we were invited by Justina, founder of The Craft Beer Social Club to attend one of her beer and food pairing events at new brewpub, Duke’s Brew & Cue and were keen to give both the social club and the brewpub a try.

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Founded by Byron Knight and Logan Plant (fab names, no?), the brewery is called Beavertown (after an nickname for the area, honest!) and it supplies both the pub itself and a handful of other outlets with an interesting mix of mainly American-inspired craft beers. Like our local favourite, The Bull in Highgate, the brewery is squeezed into a corner of the kitchen – you can see it if you peer in.

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The setting is rough and ready, what I’m starting to think of as dive bar chic, so prevalent has it become lately. But it looks good, and the place was absolutely buzzing on the Tuesday night of our visit.

Although we had a nice chat with Byron, his partner Logan, who looks after the brewery, wasn’t around. However, cellar master Hannah did an amazing job of introducing the beers and telling us all about them. In fact, her knowledge and huge personality was a big part of the attraction of the place, for me.

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Food wise, it was a mixed bag. The chef had laid on a special menu for the tasting.

Garlic bruschetta, and two goat’s cheese nibbles were mediocre. They were bland rather than offensive but I was disappointed.

The next dish, Sweet Spicy Miso Cod turned things around. Fantastically flavoured, succulent and simply presented with pak choi, this was just delightful and I could have eaten three plates of it in a row! The only sad news is that’s not a normal menu item, so it’s unlikely I (or you) would be able to order it on a future visit.

Next came absolutely enormous Succulent Smoked Beef Ribs. These were great, served with coleslaw and pickled gherkin though I’d have liked a portion of chips along side. These definitely brought out the cave man in everyone, and were good a match for the feel of the place and the wide range of beers on offer.

Dessert was another let down, with a dry and overly sweet chocolate brownie served with candied espresso beans and caramel ice cream. The espresso beans were good and the caramel ice cream pleasant enough, but the brownie was a crime against chocolate.

The normal menu is short and sweet, with pulled pork sliders, pork ribs and beef ribs, a range of steaks, a couple of American salads and a lone veggie burger. Sides include fried pickles and okra with ranch dressing, pit smoked baked beans and pork, seasoned fries, creamed spinach and macaroni cheese. Solidly American and popular with the local crowd.

I’d like to go back and try more of this, as those beef ribs were tasty!

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Read more about the beer in Pete’s review.

 

The Craft Beer Social Club runs beer tasting and brewer events around London. Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks were their guests for the evening.

 

Scroll down for Easy Caramelised Onion Potato & Dauphinoise Recipe and Competition.

 

Review: Oxo Mandoline Slicer & Angled Measuring Jug

I was recently invited to review some products from The Oxo Good Grips range.

I’ve used and purchased some of the kitchen utensils before, and really like the well-designed handles, which are both easy to grip and ergonomically comfortable to hold.

One tool I’ve never used before is a mandoline slicer. I love the idea of slicing fruit and vegetables quickly and evenly but I’ve always been scared of the sharp blades, and the thought of slicing my fingers right along with the fruit and veg. Given how easy and safe I’ve found their other tools, I decided that if I was going to give a mandoline a chance, the Oxo Good Grips one would be a good one to try.

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Larger than I expected, it’s a sturdy device; once the non-slip legs are folded into place it feels reassuringly robust, with no worrying wobbles. A handle at one side makes it easy to hold too, though actually, I found it didn’t have any tendency to move during operation anyway. There are curvy and straight blades for slicing as well as julienne blades for cutting sticks; the blades are easy to insert (and remove) and you can adjust how thick you would like your slices. The food holder does a good job of holding fruit and vegetables securely and keeping your hands well away from the blades. To my delight, I found it really easy to use, not at all scary as I’d imagined, and quick to dismantle and wash too. (The blades need to be hand washed but the main body of the slicer, and the food holder are both dishwasher safe). As it’s quite bulky, it will take up a fair bit of space in storage, even with the legs folded flat, but it’s definitely earned its place for the moment.

Oxo’s website lists it at £61.30 but you’ll easily be able to find it for £50 or less.

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image from Oxo website

The other item I chose was an angled measuring jug. Mine holds 1 litre but they are also available in smaller sizes from 1 cup to half a litre. The plastic jug has a comfortable, soft, non-slip handle and is dishwasher safe. But the clever bit is the angled measuring units. Usually I find myself setting a measuring jug onto the work surface and then bending down low to read the units on the side, as I carefully pour in the contents. The angled measurement units let me pour contents in whilst being able to easily read the volume from above. No more bending is definitely better for my back.

 

Easy Caramelised Onion & Potato Dauphinoise Recipe

When I shared the Waitrose cookery school’s recipe for Easy Potato Dauphinoise a number of people suggested variations including the addition of onions.

More recently, I came across an Alex Mackay adaptation of tartiflette, incorporating caramelised onion alongside potatoes and bacon. His recipe includes instructions on caramelising onions. That’s not a complicated task, by any means, though it does take time and patience.

But I’ve had a jar of Asda Extra Special Caramelised Onion Chutney in the larder (from a goodie bag given to me at an Asda Leith’s blogger event) and knew it would be the perfect shortcut.

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Ingredients
3-4 tablespoons sweet and sticky well-caramelised onions (or Asda’s ES caramelised onion chutney)
500-600 grams peeled large waxy potato such as Desiree
200 ml double cream
200 ml full fat milk
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

  • In a large sauce pan place the double cream, milk, garlic, salt and pepper on a gentle heat.

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  • Peel and slice the potatoes, about 3mm thick. I used the mandoline slicer this time, but sliced by hand previously.
  • Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  • Add the potato slices into the cream and milk and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potato slices have softened a little.

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  • Use a slatted spoon to transfer about a third of the potatoes into an oven dish, arranging them so they’re reasonably flat. You don’t need to be too neat.

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  • Spread the caramelised onions evenly across the potatoes.

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  • Cover with the remaining slices of potatoes. Pour or spoon the remainder of the thickened cream and milk over the potatoes.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • Check if done by inserting a knife into the dish; the potatoes should feel soft all the way through.

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  • The dish will stay hot for several minutes before serving, if you need time to finish other elements of the fish.

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COMPETITION

Oxo Good Grips are generously offering both the above products as prizes for a Kavey Eats competition.

  • The first prize is the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer.
  • The second prize is an Oxo Good Grips 1 litre Angled Measuring Jug.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
What’s your favourite recipe featuring sliced fruits or vegetables?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @KaveyF on twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win Oxo Good Grips prizes from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/NM5FI #KaveyEatsOxoGoodGrips

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 28th September 2012.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The first prize is an Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer. The second prize is an Oxo Good Grips 1 litre Angled Measuring Jug. Both prizes include delivery to a UK address. Prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and to be provided directly by Oxo Good Grips.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following @KaveyF at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter (for twitter entries). If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

This competition is now closed. First prize winner = Esther Lewis (entry via blog). Second prize winner = @novasilence (entry via twitter).

 

I’m often asked ‘what is Indian food?’“, says chef Atul Kochhar. His usual answer? “I don’t know!

He explains that with so many regions and so many different religions (each with their own cooking practices), there is no one answer to that question.

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India, much like England, has absorbed so many culinary influences and ingredients over time.

Everything that has come to India, India has been amazing at adapting it.

Take, for example, that “quintessentially Indian dish, tandoori chicken … the mighty tandoor doesn’t belong to India, it belongs to the Persians!” Chilli, an ingredient often considered intrinsic to Indian cooking, was incorporated only a few hundred years ago; “before that, we had pepper“. And “omelettes… we had eggs but not omelettes“, now popular and everyday.

When any cuisine is taken to another country it changes“, he states, moving on to talk about Indian food here in the UK.

No one has the right to say our Indian food in the UK is a bastardisation; this is how we like it!” Smiling to soften the message, he hammers the point home, “no one comes to my house and tells me what I should eat!

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He tells us about how he cooks Indian food in the UK. Presenting his own modern Indian cuisine, he uses local ingredients as far as possible, and follows the local seasons. “Whatever comes, it’s on our menu, that’s how it is“, he says, making it all sound so simple.

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We are talking in the kitchen of Benares in London’s Mayfair, Atul Kochhar’s Michelin starred Indian restaurant which opened nearly 10 years ago and has been lauded ever since.

As he talks, Kochhar demonstrates a couple of dishes from his current seasonal menu – a tandoori scallop served over a lentil salad and crispy soft shell crab with crab salad and saffron mayonnaise.

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Working quickly, he talks us through each step, with tips along the way.

Ginger garlic paste is always made fresh; he says of the supermarket ready made pastes that he doesn’t know what they might add to keep them fresh. He uses mustard oil in his cooking, though it’s often labelled for external use only when sold in the UK. For those who prefer not to use it, he advises substituting Dijon mustard or any good mustard paste.

For his lentil salad, he likes a mix of channa dal and urad dal. He laughs when he tells us that he always salts the lentils during cooking, as many European chefs recommend against this, insisting the lentils will become tough. “In India, we would never cook them without salt as lentils pick up salt in cooking only“. I can attest that his lentils certainly aren’t tough and are perfectly seasoned.

Like my mum’s, his tandoori marinades are never bright red. When tandoori meats first gained popularity in the UK, kashmiri chillies, which give a distinctive red colour, were easy to get. Now they are more expensive, they are used more rarely, and many UK Indian restaurants took to adding cochineal to achieve the expected red colour. He doesn’t, of course! As he mixes the marinade he explains that, since he’s applying it to fish, 10 minutes will be plenty of time, though meat needs longer.

Moving on to the soft shell crab results in a discussion on the crabs themselves. Whilst species of crabs that are known as soft shell species are not found in UK waters, our local species are soft enough to be cooked in the same way if we happen to catch them within two weeks of them moulting their shells. Otherwise, it’s a case of buying the soft shell breeds from the Far East or Maryland, USA. He tells us, with some wonder in his voice, about a recent visit to a fish market, where he picked up a lobster that had just shed its shell: “It’s skin was really squeaky, slimy.” Soft shell lobster, anyone?

Listing the spices as he adds them to one of the elements of the dish, I ask about chaat masala. He laughs coyly; “Two things I don’t like to discuss – recipes for chaat masala and garam masala – I could start world war three!

As each dish is finished, spoons at the ready we dive in. Amidst appreciative noises, our small group quickly polishes off each dish, throwing extra questions in Kochhar’s direction as we do. We are intrigued by the tiny yellow fruits served with the crab; they are the size and shape of cherries, but we’re amazed to learn they are crab apples, preserved whole to be used as a delicious garnish for this dish.

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Tamazzo (rose, gin and champagne) on arrival, watching the kitchen through the glass window of the chef’s table

We reluctantly leave the kitchen to enjoy dinner from the a la carte menu. Our group is slightly larger than planned, so we eat in the main dining room, instead of the chef’s table as originally intended. A shame, as the view through the large glass window is compelling viewing.

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Mini poppadoms are served with pineapple, tomato and ginger chutneys.

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The amuse bouche is a Mango Pana, usually a drink but here served as a thicker liquid. It’s made with raw green mango, cumin and jaggery, and had crunchy toasted peanuts sprinkled on top. Tart, sweet, crunchy, this is an intriguing couple of mouthfuls.

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For my starter, I choose the Tandoori Ratan, featuring a fennel lamb chop, a chicken seekh kebab and a basil king prawn. All beautifully cooked, with well balanced flavours, soft in texture and a nice selection, served together.

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Dithering over the mains, I finally settle on the Konju Moilee. What arrives is a generous serving of Scottish lobster over okra and mango, with a jug of rich moilee sauce and a side dish of lemon couscous. With the exception of the couscous, I love all of it, even the okra which I’m not usually so keen on. The flavours in the coconut-based sauce are wonderful, robust and yet don’t overpower the lobster.

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A selection of sides are ordered for the table; all are good. Of special note are the Palak Paneer, Aloo Jeera, yellow dal, red dal and several different breads.

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For my dessert, I can’t resist the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tube, Jaggery Cake, Cumin Marshmallow and Sugar Cane Ice-Cream. More than the other courses, this really shows Kochhar’s commitment to bringing modern techniques and ideas to his cooking, combining Indian flavours and ingredients with European ones. I love the peanut butter filling, though the chocolate tube shell is a little hard to break into. Likewise, the jaggery cake I find a little tough. I do enjoy the cumin marshmallow, weird though it is and like the oreo cookie “soil” and sugar cane ice-cream.

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Others in the group are just as impressed with their choices which include the Chicken Tikka Pie, beautifully presented with its topping of black and white sesame seeds, Mackerel Ki Kathi, mackerel cooked Kolkata style and served on a crispy naan bread with peppers and egg, Tawa Gosht Aur Suhnari Kahsta, a lamb dish served with purple potatoes so delicious they almost bring tears to the eyes of the dish’s owner and Samudri Khazana Do Pyazaa, a seafood dish featuring king prawns almost as large as the lobsters!

Service, as you’d expect in a restaurant of this calibre, is knowledgeable and helpful and the pace of the meal well judged. Unlike some other high-end restaurants, I’m glad we are not constrained by the kind of hushed atmosphere that stifles friendly chatter at the table, both ours and many others.

 

Kavey Eats attended the cookery workshop and meal as a guest of Atul Kochhar and Benares restaurant.

Benares on Urbanspoon

 

Monica and I riffed off each other when it came to deciding on this ice cream. We were gathered at her home, Orchard Cottage, for a weekend of relaxing, cooking and eating together; four friends who met this summer enjoying a reunion.

I’d taken along a large kilner jar of my candied whole clementines and the plan was to create an ice cream to go with them for dessert. As I’d already decided September’s BSFIC theme would be Spices, that was also one of our criteria.

Monica suggested we look through her copy of David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop for inspiration.

I flicked through and found a recipe for black pepper ice cream. “Wait,” I said, “do you think it would work if we changed this to sichuan pepper? I had a great sichuan pepper dessert by Claude Bosi recently, and it had a wonderful citrus flavour”.

Having a look through the book a few moments later, Monica spotted a different recipe, for orange and sichuan pepper ice cream, “so we know sichuan pepper will go with your oranges. Let’s do it!”

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Decision made and a quick shopping trip to pick up the ingredients.

Sichuan pepper is a spice commonly used in Asian cuisine. Despite it’s name and appearance when dried, it’s not related to either black peppers or chilli peppers but is part of the Rutacae (citrus) family alongside oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats and grapefruits. Finely ground, the seed husks are one of the components of five-spice, but the husks are also used whole. The seeds are usually discarded, because of their gritty texture. Sichuan pepper has a delicate citrus flavour, and is noted for the tingling, numbing sensation it creates on the tongue.

Whilst Monica got busy making a fabulous rosemary bread from Jekka’s Herb Cookbook (review coming soon) I started on the ice cream. Mr Lebovitz’ recipe called for infusing the peppers into a rich custard base. His recipe was straightforward and, as we expected from the ice cream king, it delivered on texture and taste..

The distinctive citrus flavour of the sichuan peppers came through loud and strong, though the numbing sensation wasn’t obvious, perhaps disguised by the effects of the cold ice cream. The ice cream worked superbly well with the candied clementines and was a very fitting dessert after a superb dinner.

Monica and I even worked together to style some photographs, Monica behind the camera, having carefully arranged ice cream and halved clementine in a bowl, and me repositioning the jar of clementines behind, to make use of depth of field, and shoving David’s book into the shots at different angles and height. Team work rocks!

 

Sichuan Pepper Ice Cream

Based on David Lebovitz‘ black pepper ice cream recipe

Ingredients
1.5 tablespoon sichuan peppers
125 ml whole milk
65 grams sugar
250 ml double cream (divided)
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt

Method

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  • Lightly crush the sichuan peppers.

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  • Add the sichuan peppers into milk, sugar, salt and half the double cream, and heat, gently.
  • Once the sugar has fully dissolved, remove from the heat, cover and set aside for an hour to steep.
  • Pour the remaining double cream into a large bowl, with a sieve over the top, and set aside for later.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  • Re-heat the milk, sugar and cream. Slowly pour this into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once it’s all combined, pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Pour the thick custard through the sieve into the double cream. Discard the sichuan peppers, and stir to combine the custard and cream.
  • Set aside to cool and then chill in the fridge.

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  • Churn in an ice cream machine, then transfer to a suitable container to further solidify in the freezer before serving.

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This is my entry into this month’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge.

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Thanks, Monica, for letting me use the photos!

 

All a bit last minute, but I was asked on Monday whether I’d be willing to host a bloggers breakfast event at this weekend’s Abergavenny Food Festival. Once we agreed it would be an informal event, more of a chat room than a convention, and with no organised material required in advance, I happily agreed.

Rude Health are setting up a marquee in Linda Vista Gardens, from which they’ll be offering breakfasts to early festival visitors. Our Bloggers Chat Room will run there, from 10:00 to 11:00 am.

And the first 20 to sign up by email will receive a free Rude Health breakfast and cup of tea!

As it’s informal, you are welcome to drop in just to meet some other bloggers, and have a social chat. Or we can get some conversations going about issues of interest from dealing with PRs, to issues about writing style, content and length to accepting and disclosing freebies or anything else you are eager to discuss.

Click here for full details.

I went to the festival for the first time last year and wished I’d gone all the years previously when I’d thought about it but not managed to get organised. It was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait for the weekend.

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