Ice cream isn’t the most obvious thing to be making when it’s cold and dark outside and tthere’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground for much of the month. But a few committed ice cream lovers joined me anyway and shared their recipes using dried fruit or nuts.

Claire

Claire from Under The Blue Gum Tree always comes up with something different. For her Pineapple, Coconut & Chocolate Rippe Frozen Yoghurt she’s used dried pineapple rings that she purchased on a recent holiday in St Lucia. Having been to this part of Kwa-Zulu Natal myself on holiday, I know that this region produces fantastic fruit. Claire’s ice cream sounds decadent, but using low fat yoghurt makes it a really healthy dessert.

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I dithered over what to make. My original plan was to puree some delicious Iranian dates and use them as a ripple in a toffee ice cream. But after I used them all up in my apple, date and ginger chutney, I turned to walnuts instead. Sometimes, making things up entirely from scratch can be a disaster, but this time, it worked a treat. The Coffee, Rum & Walnut Brittle Ice Cream is one of the best I’ve ever made. Even if you don’t make the ice cream, I recommend you make the walnut brittle which is incredible quick and easy!

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Alicia the Foodycat found herself with lots of Fererro Rocher chocolates leftover from Christmas. This never happens in my house, as they somehow disappear all too quickly! She took inspiration from their chocolate and hazelnut combination and made a Nutella Frozen Yoghurt. She lined a bowl with halved Fererro Rochers before filling the inside of the ice cream bombe with her froyo mixture. Although the flavours were good, she concluded that the ratio of chocolates to froyo was a little high and would create a gala-pie like sliced loaf next time.

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It’s not the first time I’ve described The Little Loaf as the Queen of Ice Cream and it probably won’t be the last. Her Banana Ice Cream with Cocoa Nib Freckles & Toasted Maple Walnuts sounds absolutely fantastic! Her recipe includes instructions on making the maple walnuts and then incorporating them into a rich banana ice cream made with cream cheese, double cream, sugar, honey and vanilla, to name just some of the ingredients. The walnuts and cocoa nibs are layered with the churned ice cream before freezing again.

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Deb from Supper and Scribbles doesn’t adhere to the panicked rush to diet and exercise that so many turn to in January, after a gluttonous December. Instead, she finds that it’s a month where she needs the warmth that good comfort food and sweet treats can provide. As it’s also her birthday month, austerity is definitely out of place. Hence her decadent and delicious-sounding Peanut butter Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Sauce and Salted Peanut Brittle! Like me, she made her own brittle, but unlike me, she also made her peanut butter ice cream from scratch, not to mention her chocolate sauce. Bravo!

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I was visiting Helly from Fuss Free Flavours when she made this quick and delicious treat and we played with her new photography props to take the photo above. A local market sells big bags of bananas for £1 so she buys in bulk, peeling and freezing several for later use in smoothies, baking projects or this Food Processor Banana Ice Cream. Often known as cheats ice cream, it’s simply a case of blending frozen banana until smooth and creamy, and eating quickly before it has time to defrost. Helly added caramel jam for flavour, and sprinkled dehydrated strawberries and flaked almonds over the top.

 

See? Ice cream is not just for summer!

IceCreamChallenge mini

Jan 292013
 

A picture post today.

I came across these Scandinavian biscuit photos whilst sorting through my photo drive. They are vanilla cookies from Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas book. I formed all the dough into rings but then sprinkled half with some cinnamon sugar from a different recipe. These were baked last November, during a visit to my friend’s place, Orchard Cottage. I love the bright sunlight and the happy feel of the images, so I’m sharing them with you today.

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Ready to go into the oven, above.

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Fresh out of the oven.

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Ready to eat!

 

The two apple trees on our allotment gave us a whopping 55 kilos of apples this year; 34 kilos of cookers and 22 kilos of eating apples. And that’s just what we picked – we left some cookers on the tree for our plot neighbour to enjoy.

Some of them we processed at the time, making several variations of apple jelly. Some we made into apple pie. Some we peeled, prepped and froze in large bagfuls. But the majority were carefully washed, individually wrapped and then boxed according to grade – perfect, slightly blemished and those to use first… a labour of love by Pete.

Since then, they’ve been sat in their polystyrene boxes in the garden shed waiting to be used.

I’m conscious that we really need to use and process the rest, so a large batch of chutney seemed to be a good option.

As I had some fabulous dates leftover from Christmas, I decided to use these too. A web search revealed so many different recipes with such vastly differing ratios of apple, dried fruits, vinegar and sugar that I gave up on following any of them and created my own recipe according to the amounts of apples and dates I had to hand, and sugar and vinegar to my own taste. Ginger powder and chilli powder added a kick and additional depth of flavour.

I allowed my apples to cook down until they were really soft but if you prefer them more solid, you may need to reduce the amount of vinegar and sugar you add.

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Kavey’s Apple, Date & Ginger Chutney

Makes approximately 4.5 kilos chutney

Ingredients
2.5 – 3 kilos cooking apples (unpeeled weight)
500 grams of super soft dates (weight including stones)
500 grams onions (unpeeled weight)
350 grams muscovado sugar
650 grams granulated or caster sugar
600 ml malt vinegar
3 heaped teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon of extra hot chilli powder
1 tablespoon salt

Note: My apples weighed 3.1 kilos before peeling, coring and dicing but many of them were unusually small, and some had a little spoilage, so the weight loss during preparation was higher than usual. I’d estimate that I used the equivalent of about 2.5 kilos of regularly sized cooking apples in good condition.

Note: My chilli powder is some of the hottest I’ve come across. Mix in, taste and add enough to give a warming kick.

Method

  • Stone and roughly chop dates.
  • Peel and dice onions.
  • Peel, core and chop apples into a large pan of cold water. Drain well just before cooking.

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  • Measure all ingredients into a large saucepan or stock pot and mix well. Cook on a medium heat until apples soften and liquid thickens.

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  • Transfer the hot finished chutney into hot sterilised jars (I sterilise mine in the oven and boil the lids on the stove top) and seal.
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  • Leave to mature for at least 3 months.
 

One of the (many) pleasures of staying in a Japanese ryokan is the wonderful traditional food served for both breakfast and dinner.

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Kaiseki ryori is a traditional multi-course meal consisting of a succession of seasonal, local and beautifully presented little dishes. Although its origins are in the simple dishes served as part of a traditional tea ceremony, it has evolved over centuries into a more elaborate dining style now served in ryokan and specialised restaurants.

Such meals usually have a prescribed order to what is served, though each chef takes pride in designing and presenting their own menus based on local delicacies, seasonal ingredients and traditional techniques combined with their personal style. You can expect a selection of appetisers, sushi or sashimi, a stew of seafood, meat or vegetables, grilled fish or meat, deep fried items, steamed items, rice, miso soup, at least one pickle but usually an assortment of different ones and fresh fruit or sweets.

Traditionally, the meals are served in guests’ rooms, at the low tables provided. After the meal, ryokan staff push the tables aside and make up the futon beds in their place, though some of the larger guest rooms have separate areas for dining and sleeping.

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We stayed just one night in the beautiful Ryokan Kankaso, in Nara but would happily have stayed another – we found our time there so peaceful and relaxing.

The ryokan enjoys a fantastic location at the heart of Nara Park, just a moment’s meander from the famous Todaiji Temple’s Nandaimon (Great Southern Gate). Walking through the entrance to Kankaso is like entering an oasis of calm in the chaos of tourists and deer that are Nara Park. A lovely touch is the planks hanging at the entrance, showing the names of arriving and departing guests.

The core of the ryokan is over 1200 years old and it was once used as a sub-temple to Todaiji. Although most elements have been mended or  rebuilt over time, at least one of the beams has been in place for 12 centuries. Although facilities are very well maintained, there is a beautiful patina of age to much of the ryokan.

As the only guests staying that night, we were assigned a stunning room surrounded by an expansive moss garden on three sides. With a small raised walkway to reach the room, it was essentially detached from the central area of the ryokan and felt like a secret hideaway.

Our room had an en suite bathroom with small but deep wooden tub and a wall-mounted shower, complete with traditional tiny wooden stool and bucket. But we were also invited to use one of the three beautiful shared bathrooms; the two larger ones are usually assigned to men or women only but since there were no other guests, we were able to share one privately. Soaking in the searingly hot bath, looking out onto the garden through the large fogged picture window, we felt like we were in a different era.

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Because of my hip pain, I’d asked in advance whether we might be able to eat at a higher table so our hostess, Aya-san showed us to a large room in the central building, where a table had been set up for us. Like our own room, this one was decorated with beautiful artworks such as the painted screen and hanging tapestry to one side and two statues of Buddha and a vase of flowers to the other.

Aya-san was a charming hostess. Though she spoke very little English at all, she was adept at the use of charades and smiles, and when she realised my interest in knowing more about each element of the meal, she used a small electronic Japanese-English dictionary to translate the chef’s explanations of ingredients and techniques. Her enthusiasm and her delight at our own made this a truly memorable evening quite apart from the food.

And the food was terrific. Though it had a lot of competition, I’d say it was the best meal of the trip.

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We started by ordering drinks. Sake for me and beer for Pete.

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Our first dish was an ikura (salmon roe) salad with radish and a salty dressing – a simple combination of fresh flavours and textures to cleanse the palate and start the meal.

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This selection of starters included a hollowed yuzu (citrus) filled with salad, figs with a nutty paste (which may have been chestnuts) and uni (sea urchin) roe sprinkled on top, two pieces of nigiri sushi with pickled mackerel, what looked like a candied fruit but was actually a sweet, preserved egg yolk and lastly, a cube of steamed fish and rice paste with what Aya described as baby potatoes and which I think were mukago. Mukago are often called mountain yams or wild potatoes, though these tiny potato-like bulbils grow on a bush and not underground, like yam and potato tubers.

This small plate represented an incredible range of textures and tastes.

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After serving the tea pots, Aya showed us that the top lid served as a bowl and the inner lid could be used to set the lime upon. She instructed us to squeeze some lime into the broth before pouring some broth into the bowl to drink. We used our chopsticks to fish out mushroom, prawns and white fish pieces which had been cooked in the hot liquid.

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The sashimi selection, served in a bamboo tray over ice, was superb. Prawns included the crunchy head and the soft tail; tuna was beautiful in colour and flavour; a small mound of bream was delicate and astoundingly fresh. Served alongside was some of the best wasabi I’ve tried, a deep dark soy sauce, daikon (white radish) and a shiso leaf.

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We were not only enjoying the food itself but also the beautiful preparation and presentation of the food and the delightful range of dishes in which it was served.

This beautiful purple lidded bowl opened to reveal a tofu and mushroom dumpling, which had been fried, then served in a viscous soup. Over the top were sprinkled green herbs and tiny yellow flower petals and inside was a hidden centre of eel. This was one of my favourite courses of the meal; quite unlike anything I’d had before.

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Described as “harvest fish” the next course was served with crispy fried daikon and pickled onion with a garnish of a bright green gingko acorn skewered onto a pine needle. A wedge of yuzu was provided, to squeeze over the top.

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The tempura course was simple but beautifully decorated with a couple of stems of rice, briefly grilled so that some of the grains popped. There were two types of tempura – one was a parcel of conger eel, pea and mushroom and the other fresh green pepper on its own. Delicious!

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For our next course, Aya carefully lit a tiny ceramic heater for each of us, so we could enjoy a sukiyaki – this popular dish allows diners to cook the ingredients to their liking before removing them from the bubbling broth. Ours contained beautifully marbled beef, enoki mushrooms, onions and mizuna leaves in a delicious sweet and salty cooking liquid. The fat content made the beef marvellously soft and silky, with the most wonderful flavour.

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As is traditional, we finished with rice, miso soup and pickles. The fried rice with fish was gently savoury, but not overpowering in flavour. The miso was intensely umami and rich, with the teeniest tiniest discs of spring onion floating within it. The pickles were Nara specialities and included uri (squash) which was a rich, sweet pickle and daikon and cucumber, which were lighter and fresher.

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To finish we enjoyed fresh pear, grapes and pomegranate seeds in a gelatinous sweet sauce, served with tea.

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We had enjoyed our leisurely meal so much that we popped through to the kitchen area to give our thanks to the chef before retiring back to our rooms for the night, where our futons had been laid out for us in our absence.

After one of the most peaceful nights’ sleep I can remember, we woke up full of joy to slide back the blinds and enjoy our views of the beautiful ryokan gardens.

We returned to the same room as the previous night, for breakfast. Unlike dinner, breakfast dishes were all served together, so we could enjoy the various elements in whichever order we chose.

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The little heaters came out again, this time topped with beautiful lidded bowls in which the very freshest soft tofu simmered, alongside enoki mushrooms, nori (seaweed) and onions. We were given a netted implement with which to scoop out the cooked items, and a rich black sauce in which to dip the tofu.

In addition we had local pickles, a crunchy green salad with a fabulous sesame dressing, slices of tamago (omelette) served with tiny fish and grated daikon, grilled salmon and nori with more pickles and the requisite rice and miso soup. Big mugs of tea were also very welcome. As a counter to the savoury items, some sweet fresh persimmon was a lovely dish to end on.

Ahead of the trip, Pete had wondered whether he’d enjoy eating this kind of breakfast in place of his usual toast and Marmite. He’s fairly adventurous about trying things, but somehow eating unusual dishes for breakfast feels further out of the comfort zone than trying those same things for lunch or dinner. I don’t know whether the wonderful dinner we’d had the evening before had helped set his expectations, or whether he was just in the right frame of mind to go with the flow, but I was very pleased that both of us enjoyed this breakfast equally.

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After a last shower and soak in our gorgeous private bathroom, with its own views out to the garden, we finally packed up our things and reluctantly said our goodbyes to both the ryokan and to Aya, wishing we’d booked a second night in this peaceful retreat.

Next, Kyoto…

 

Sometimes being a blogger is a hard life! OK, stop laughing, I was kidding! There are some bloody marvellous invitations…

In the biting cold of early January I made my way to John Salt in Angel to attend a test and review evening by chef Neil Rankin, two nights before he opened to the public. As it was a test night, I won’t do a full review as dishes may be tweaked a little in the first few weeks. (But I hope they aren’t tweaked much as I thought they were bloody fantastic!)

Instead, here’s an appallingly badly photographed run through the menu that my fellow lucky bastard diners and I were treated to.

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Deep fried oysters with beef fat mayo

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Crab and fennel on pork skin – yes, beautifully fresh crab on a large slab of puffy crunchy crackling, and one of the most popular dishes of the evening.

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Raw bass, apple and bergamot – one of the only dishes that wasn’t universally loved on the night, the bergamot flavour was too overpowering for some but I loved how it was the first thing to hit followed by chilli heat and finishing with the sesame, though I understand comments that it masked the bass itself a little.

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Raw beef, pear and sesame – this was another very popular dish; based on Korean yukhoe (beef tartare), the simple flavours allowed the quality of the ingredients to shine.

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Pork floss, popcorn, bay and smoked loin – one of my favourites; though it sounded a bit “cheffy” when Neil described it, the moment I tasted it I wanted to grab the plate to me and keep it all to myself.

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Grilled salad – who knew grilled vegetables could have such texture and flavour?

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Frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese – meaty, fermented cabbage goodness!

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Scallops with peanut and shrimp – served in a superbly refreshing ponzu dressing.

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Half or whole coal baked crab with bisque – fresh, fresh crab simply grilled, lifted further by the most phenomenal thick, rich and very intense crab bisque sauce to dip.

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Chicken skin hash – billed as a side this was comfort food for the win; lots of carbs, lots of flavour and an oozy egg yolk for extra richness.

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Skirt steak with kimchi hollandaise – there are other places in London making a big deal of their £10 steaks but I’d be amazed if the quality of their beef could rival this Cornish beauty, set off to perfection by the spicy hollandaise.

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Whole megrim sole in bone sauce – I was so incredibly full by the time this arrived, all I could do was taste one bite. The sauce was rich and the fish tender, but I was too full to give it fair attention.

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Bacon panna cotta – somehow I found my second (or perhaps third or fourth) wind when this came along; a rich, greasy savoury cream full of sweet crunchy bacon; it sounds utterly revolting but it was absolutely addictive.

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The banana dog – a banana coated in corndog batter, served I think with brown butter ice cream. Good but the batter was a little soggy on ours.

And lastly, without a photo, an Old fashioned trifle with clementines which was full of boozy cream and rich fruit.

 

Hopefully you have a good impression, in spite of my appalling images, of just how excellent Neil’s food is. Describing it on the night to a friend who wasn’t there, I said it was “innovative without being wanky” and I think that’s a very good summary; it’s all about great ingredients presented simply but with Neil’s own twists and style.

Pricing is very reasonable, in fact much of the menu is an absolute steal.

And it can only get better and better. So go, soon! I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can!

For far better photos of both the space itself and the food, do look at Paul Winch-Furness’ portfolio. His images are sharp, colourful, lively and beautiful… and actually do justice to the feast.

 

Kavey Eats attended the test night as a guest of John Salt.

(It’s not common to write about a test night so I did check with Neil before sharing this quick overview of the menu).

 

My walnut brittle was so delicious it’s a miracle I managed to set some aside to make ice cream as planned!

Once again, I opted to use fresh ready made vanilla custard as my base, adding coffee, rum and walnut brittle. Because Pete isn’t a huge fan of nuts, I made the coffee and rum ice cream first, and then stirred 100 grams walnut brittle pieces into half of it, leaving the other half nut free. To make a full batch, simply add 200 grams of walnut brittle into the ice cream during churning.

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Coffee, Rum & Walnut Brittle Ice Cream

Ingredients
500 grams fresh vanilla custard
30 ml rum
3 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
200 grams walnut brittle, broken into pieces

Method

  • Combine the custard, rum and coffee and transfer to your ice cream machine. Pour in the walnut brittle pieces. Freeze according to the instructions for your machine.

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  • If your ice cream machine produces slightly soft ice cream, transfer into a container and freeze for 20 minutes to solidify further.

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

IceCreamChallenge

Jan 172013
 

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My original plan for January’s BSFIC challenge was a date ice cream, swirling date puree through Pedro Ximinez ice cream… I had these fabulous meltingly soft dates that I picked up from my local Turkish shop before Christmas and I knew they’d be perfect in ice cream. But I made an enormous batch of apple, date and ginger chutney earlier in the month (recipe coming soon) and, half way through cooking, decided it needed more dates, so ended up using the entire box. I know I could have bought another box especially for the ice cream, and in fact, I probably will buy some more while they’re available because they’re so bloody gorgeous. But in my mind, the spirit of this month’s BSFIC is about using leftover dried fruits or nuts, and whilst I don’t mind if others do that or buy them in especially, I wanted to use fruit or nuts I had in the house.

So Pete reminded me about the bag of French walnuts sitting in the airing cupboard, gathered from the grounds in my friend Ian’s Corrèze home, dried in the sun and delivered to me as a very kind gift last year. (Even better was the year we visited and gathered the precious nuts ourselves).

I asked friends for ideas on ice cream  recipes using walnuts and was bombarded with delicious ideas including @TangoRaindrop’s Ben & Jerry inspired chunky monkey with frozen banana, double cream, chocolate and chopped walnuts and date and @Josordoni’s walnut ice cream. But my instant favourite was @Palate4Hire’s suggestion of candied walnuts and coffee. Since I adore coffee and walnut cake, this really made me salivate and had the benefit of sounding very simple to make too. A slug of rum from the drinks cupboard would complete the combination perfectly.

First step, make walnut brittle. Or candied walnuts. Whatever! The difference, as far as I can tell, is that for a brittle the nuts are not only enveloped in hard caramel, they are held together by it in a slab. Candied walnuts are also coated in melted sugar, but are loose from each other. And candied walnuts more often have other flavourings added too, I think.

Rather than following a recipe for walnut brittle, I decided to simply wing it, and to my delight, the results were perfect. I’m relieved that I wrote down the amounts I used so I can make it just the same next time.

 

How To Make Walnut Brittle

Ingredients
230 grams shelled walnuts
460 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Note: You can adapt this to the weight of walnuts you have available. Weight your nuts, use double that amount of sugar, and adjust the amount of salt accordingly.

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Method

  • Line a baking tray with a silicon baking sheet or a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Break the walnuts into small pieces, though take care not to crush them as you’re not trying to make powdered walnut!

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  • In a large, heavy-based pan dry fry the walnut pieces for a minute or two to give them a slightly toasted flavour. Take care not to burn them. Remove to a bowl and set to one side.
  • Wipe the pan clean of walnut skin and then spread the sugar and salt evenly over the surface and heat over a medium flame. Don’t stir the sugar, just leave it alone to melt. Stirring tends to result in clumps that don’t melt evenly, as I remember all too well from previous caramelising efforts!
  • As soon as the sugar melts and takes on a rich golden brown colour, remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts. Work really quickly as the mixture will cool and harden fast and you need to distribute the walnuts evenly throughout the caramel.

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  • Transfer the mixture onto your lined baking tray and spread it out quickly.
  • Leave it to harden.
  • Once set, break intro manageable pieces and store in an airtight container.

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  • You may like to ask someone to hide the box from you so that you don’t eat the lot in one sitting.

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Coming next, Coffee Rum & Walnut Brittle Ice Cream!

 

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Abisko is located in Northern Sweden, right up at the top of Swedish Lapland and well within the Arctic circle. With very little light pollution and prevalent weather patterns which usually keep skies clear of clouds, it’s considered to be one of the best places to see the Northern Lights.

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Whilst we were unlucky with the Northern Lights during our visit at the end of December, we did enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounded our lodgings at the Abisko Turiststation.

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At this time of year the sun never rises above the horizon, but it’s not completely dark. In fact, for a few hours, it’s actually fairly bright, albeit the light has a very distinctly blue tone. Of course, it’s also dark for much of the day and night. I found it difficult to handle the lack of real, yellow sunlight and can readily understand why depression is a common complaint in polar populations. On the plus side, London, when we returned, felt positively brimming with sunlight!

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Although weather stopped us on the first night, a two night stay meant we were able to ascend to the Aurora Sky Station up on one of the peaks of the Skanderna (Scandinavian Mountains). Of course, when the weather conditions are right and the aurora borealis is putting on a show, the Sky Station gives an unparalleled view.

But even without the lightshow, it’s still a wonderful place to visit.

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The chairlift doesn’t operate during the day, so an evening visit is the only option. That means ascending in the dark and descending in the dark. We’d booked to have dinner at the Sky Station so went up when the chairlift opened at 6pm. Non-dining visitors are invited to ascend two hours later.

The trip took about 20 minutes and it was pretty scary dangling over the barely visible snow-covered landscape below, especially each time the chairlift stopped to let other passengers on or off, and we were left bouncing gently up and down, peering into the gloom, straining to hear anything in the silence. For someone who is scared of heights, it was doubly terrifying!

Abisko in December is bitterly, bitterly, bitterly cold.

Even the clothing we already had (from two wonderful holidays to the Antarctic and a third to the Falkland Islands) was not enough to insulate us from the chill. The chairlift base station provides all-in-one suits but even with several layers beneath, double gloves and socks, scarves and padded hats, our extremities were starting to feel numb towards the end of the journey.

Near the top, we ascended into the clouds and it reminded me of movie representations of purgatory, with characters surrounded by white nothingness on all sides. Or perhaps just a rather chilly sensory deprivation floatation tank.

Luckily, the Sky Station is warm, colourful and a buzz of activity as all the diners arrive and get settled in.

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The station is actually quite small. In the main room, the dining tables take up half the space, with a tiny kitchenette in the corner; there’s casual sofa seating at the other side and a very welcome wood burning fire. A small Aurora room has pictures and panels on science and stories about the Northern Lights. A cloak room at the entrance provides hooks for all the outerwear.

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And there’s an outdoor balcony from which you can see the twinkling lights of the Turiststation and small town below. Of course, it’s cold cold cold, so I didn’t stay out there very long!

On arrival, we were given a welcome warm drink of mulled lingonberry juice and took turns to defrost by the fire before being invited to take our places in the dining area.

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Dinner was cooked and served by charming and friendly staff and was rather delicious.

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The starter was a creamy cauliflower soup with truffle oil. On the side was a slice of sourdough bread and your choice of bleak roe or dried reindeer meat or pickled mushroom with lemon cream and red onion. Both the soup and accompaniments were very enjoyable, though the soup would have benefited from being served hot rather than lukewarm.

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Our meal choices were made in advance. For our main most of us chose roasted reindeer with a red wine and lingonberry sauce, served with potato puree and green pea stomp. The reindeer was fabulously tender, like a fillet of beef, with wonderful flavour. It was just perfect with the lingonberry and red wine sauce. Super mash too!

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Mum, being a pescetarian, opted for the Arctic char and horseradish, served with the same potato puree and pea stomp and what I think were large caper berries on their stems. I didn’t taste it but she enjoyed it. A goat’s cheese and beetroot dish was also available for vegetarians.

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Dessert was a simple smooth vanilla pudding with blueberries and cloudberries.

A small selection of beers, wines and soft drinks were also available.

Oh but be warned – the toilets are outside!

Stepping outside, the cold wind buffeted me immediately, and I had to take care not to lose my footing. And yes, the toilets were bloody cold! It’s a toss up as to whether it’s worth it putting on your outerwear again to make the short outside walk more bearable – doing so also means you’ll spend longer wriggling out and back into your clothing in the tight, cold space of the toilets. I decided not to bother with my outerwear onesie and was nearly frozen solid when both toilets were occupied and I had to wait for what seemed like an eternity.

Take heed if you’re planning a Sky Station visit and considering celebrating with another drink!

Sadly, the skies remained covered by cloud and the wind whipped snow to obscure the views even further. Still, it was a lovely evening and I’d certainly recommend Abisko to those looking for a non-Santa Lapland experience with the possibility of Northern Lights.

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Thanks to my mum for photo of my sister on the chair lift.

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Mitarashi Dango is a popular snack in Takayama. Sold by larger shops and tiny stalls, available hot or cold, this tasty skewered snack consists of sweet glutinous dumplings made from mochiko (rice flour) and basted in a sweet soy glaze. Miso and green tea versions are available, but the soy glazed one seemed most prevalent in Takayama.

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These large, evenly-glazed beauties were just 100 Yen per skewer from a shop on Kokubunji Dori, just east of Kaji-bashi (bridge) and only a short stroll from our ryokan.

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Even cheaper were smaller hot grilled skewers from the many stalls within the preserved historic districts of the old town area, though the cold ones here were probably my favourite. The staff at this shop were very friendly and helpful, explaining their many products. I also bought some delicious local pickles here, after tasting a sample.

 

Billy Law will already be familiar to those of you who follow his very popular food blog, A Table For Two. He also made it into the top 7 on Aussie Masterchef 2011. Born in Malaysia, he moved to Australia in the mid ‘90s to further his studies and has lived there ever since. On his blog, he explains that it was only when he moved, and missed the home-cooked dishes of Malaysia, that he took up cooking himself. These days, he cooks not only the cuisine of his native country but a wide range of Eastern and Western treats and there are plenty of both in his first cookbook, Have You Eaten?

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My book has the cover on the left, I think the other may be an Australian edition

The book is named for the common Malaysian greeting – not “How are you?” but “Have you eaten yet?”, which shows a commendable focus on the importance of food in the culture. This appeals to me!

One of the things I’ve long enjoyed about Billy’s blog is the beautiful food photography, which really shows off all his dishes so temptingly so it’s great news that he did the styling and photography for his book himself, bringing his trademark rich and warm style to the book. Recipes are easy to read and the whole book is a true feast for the eyes.

Dishes are divided into sections called Snack Attack, On The Side, Easy Peasy, Over The Top, Rice & Noodles Sugar Hit and Dress For Success, most of which I found self-explanatory except for the last one, which was obvious once I looked – it covers dressings, of course!

There are lots of recipes which appeal, from Guinness battered prawns to Pandan chicken, from Deep-fried salt and pepper tofu to Watermelon, baby tomato, chevre and candied walnut salad, from Breakfast pie to Ayam pongteh (braised potato chicken, from Beef Cheeks Bourgignon (using my favourite, Pedro Ximinez) to Burnt butter lobster tail with apple and salmon roe, from Claypot chicken and mushroom rice to Curry laksa, from Popcorn and salted caramel macarons to Gingerbread ice cream, from Wasabi mayonnaise to Chilli onion jam. And that’s just two from each section, there are many, many more that sound delicious.

The recipe we decided to make first was Billy’s Cola Chilli Chicken, as I’ve been reading about savoury recipes featuring Coca Cola for such a long time.

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We skipped the cashews, as Pete’s not a fan, but otherwise followed the recipe as it was. We did find it needed quite a bit longer for the liquid to reduce down, but that may also be a factor of the size and shape of our wok and the heat we cooked over. Otherwise, it was very straightforward.

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The finished dish was absolutely delicious. The sauce wasn’t sickly sweet but beautifully balanced. Given how easy it was to cook, this is likely to be something we make again.

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And it makes me even more excited to try many of the other recipes in the book.

 

Billy Law’s Have You Eaten? is currently available from Amazon UK for £16 (RRP £25).

Kavey Eats received a review copy from Hardie Grant Books.

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