I’ve already attended a couple of cookery classes at Food at 52Flavours of Italy run by school founder John and Scandinavian Christmas Baking with Trine Hahnemann. Recently, I went back to attend another of Trine’s classes, Flavours of Scandinavia.

The class focuses on the kind of simple, healthy cooking that Scandinavians enjoy at home, using ingredients such as root vegetables, kale and rye grains.

Unlike my previous classes at the school, this one was less hands on. In the other classes, we worked in pairs to create most of the recipes ourselves and made just one or two as a whole group. This time, we made nearly everything as a group. In practice, that meant we discussed and watched a lot more, but there was still plenty of opportunity to handle the ingredients, to smell and touch and taste. Where we did get more hands on experience was in peeling and chopping vegetables, forming and frying frikadeller (Danish meatballs), making individual salad dressings and frying the mushroom and rye dish and the apple and onion dish.

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What was most valuable, for me, was the confirmation of how simple and achievable this cuisine can be when you focus on everyday cooking rather than the new modern approach of the famous Scandi restaurants.

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And though I’ve had it once before, at an Abergavenny Festival class by Trine and Signe Johansen, I had forgotten how very delicious celeriac root is when baked whole after rubbing with oil and salt. It has a wonderful earthy flavour and a soft fluffy texture, much like a properly baked potato.

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Even without the three day curing, Trine’s orange and lemon cured salmon was another hit for me – I had never imagined that orange would go so well with salmon, even though it’s second nature to pair the fish with lemon. We tried a few slices of the salmon after only a dew hours, and it was super.

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Roast root vegetables are always a winner and Trine encouraged us not to peel them, for added flavour and roughage. Tossed in oil and sprinkled with a restrained scattering of fennel seeds these beetroot, carrots and parsnips were very good indeed.

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Rye grains turned out to be much like spelt grains once cooked, and make another excellent alternative to rice.

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Trine brought along some of her home made rye bread too, which is always a treat.

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The chicken, potato, kale and almond salad was good, but I’m still not as much of a fan of kale as I am of other cabbages such as savoy. The dressing was much as I usually make – vinegar, mustard, honey and oil.

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On the other hand, the kale “pesto” was wonderfully green, lemony and light. Because it didn’t have the heaviness that cheese brings, it was also a good way to eat more of this nutritious winter vegetable.

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But my favourites were the frikadeller served with fried apple and onion. Similar in taste, but not in shape and size, to the Swedish köttbullar I fell in love with during many childhood trips to Sweden these were comfort food at its most comforting.

Making good frikadeller is all about the fars, or minced meat mix, so Trine made sure we all had the chance to feel it and understand the texture we should aim for. Then she showed us how to shape the balls with oiled spoons and we formed a rotating queue, shaping and dropping into the pan, shaping and dropping into the pan.

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After the cooking (and talking and laughing) we sat down to lunch (with more talking and laughing) and enjoyed the feast.

Thanks to Trine and Food at 52 for another lovely day.

 

Kavey Eats attended this class as a guest of Food at 52.

 

Cep aka porcini is such a prized mushroom that it is often showcased as the key ingredient in very simple dishes like the tagliatelle ai porcini I enjoyed in Parma a couple of years ago. It’s fêted in porcini festivals; there are recipe books dedicated to it; even children’s stories! But fresh porcini is expensive, and the main season (in Europe) runs only from late August to November. It hasn’t yet been successfully farmed so supply comes from the wild, hence the cost and the lack of availability.

But don’t despair! There are other mushrooms which are less expensive and more readily available and can be just as delicious when used well.

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The King Oyster (Pleurotus eryngii) – also known as the King Trumpet and the French Horn – is one such mushroom. In the wild, it can be found year round, though the high season is August to February. It’s also a variety that is successfully farmed, and hence it’s available a little more widely in supermarkets and markets, though still not as common as Chestnut, Button and Portobello mushrooms.

(Incidentally, did you realise that Portobello mushrooms are actually just large, mature Button mushrooms? No, me neither until I was looking up aliases for the King Oyster!)

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As it’s name suggests, the King Oyster is the grandest member of the Pleurotus genus, which also contains the regular oyster mushroom and the bright yellow golden oyster mushroom. Unlike many in the genus, which have minimal stems and wide, frilly caps the King Oyster has a thick white stem and a small pale brown cap. The texture is dense and meaty.

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Although the King Oyster doesn’t taste of much (or smell, for that matter) when raw, once cooked it’s delicious – it has a deep mushroom earthiness, a slightly sweet nuttiness and a silky firm texture. In fact, although “meaty” is a common description, I’d say its texture is perhaps more reminiscent of shellfish though don’t let that put you off trying it, if you’re not a fan. (Certainly, the shape of the cooked slices reminded Pete and I of little fishes!)

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We bought these mushrooms from the Turnips mushroom stall at Borough Market one Saturday in January. Four fat specimens cost under £6 and we picked up a tub of Hurdlebrook extra thick, natural and untreated cream to pair with them. (Hurdlebrook are based in Somerset, and produce beautiful dairy from their Guernsey cows).

I’m keeping the recipe very loose, as it’s very simple and the amounts can be adjusted easily to serve more or less people.

 

King Oyster Mushroom & Cream Pasta

Ingredients
2 King Oyster mushrooms per person
1 heaped tablespoon extra thick double cream per person
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil and butter, to cook
Pasta of your choice, amounts as per your usual portions

Method

  • Slice the mushrooms into four along their length. My slices were about a quarter of an inch thick.
  • Retain the two central slices from each mushroom and set aside.

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  • Finely chop the outer two slices from the mushrooms. I used a food processor.
  • If using dried pasta, put your pasta on to boil.
  • In one frying pan, heat a little oil and gently fry the finely chopped mushrooms over a low to medium heat.

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  • In a second pan, heat a little vegetable oil and butter and gently fry the sliced mushrooms over a low to medium heat.

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  • When the pasta is nearly cooked, and the mushrooms have taken on a nice golden colour, stir the cream into the chopped mushrooms until it’s heated through. Season to taste.
  • Drain the pasta thoroughly, and then mix into the chopped mushroom and cream sauce.
  • Serve with the fried mushroom slices.

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This was a super meal; we both commented repeatedly on just how enjoyable it was and so simple to make too.

Have you tried King Oyster mushrooms? What’s your favourite way to cook them? What mushrooms do you suggest I look out for next?

 

With thanks to Mark from Galloway Wild Foods for helping me clarify some mushroom facts via twitter. You may also enjoy this great post about mushrooms from my friend Urvashi.

 

Part 1 & Part 2.

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto

As the head Inari shrine, Fushimi Inari-taisha is large and grand. Inari is the kami (spirit) of fertility, rice and industry, amongst others and many pray for success with their harvests and in business.

A popular way to give thanks to Inari is to donate a torii to the shrine, and the trails behind the shrine are lined with many hundreds of torii of different sizes. Each one is inscribed with the name of the donator and the date the gate was given. The paths, rising up the mountainside, are known as senbon torii (thousands of gates) and there really are thousands of them. Painted bright red, as is the tradition, they are quite a sight!

As foxes are the messengers of Inari, there are also regal fox statues across the site.

As our visit was towards the end of the day, the sun was low in the sky and its golden light spilled between the pillars of the gates. The first senbon torii was crowded with tourists, but as we walked further back, we shared the paths with fewer fellow visitors.

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For Pete, with love in my heart…

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I posted recently about different methods of preserving food, with a particular focus on home canning.

My first experiment last year was salmon, new potatoes and shallots in olive oil but as I was only able to heat treat at 100°C, I’m not confident about having eradicated the risks of botulism, so will likely discard the results, even though they look great in the jars. I am hoping to buy a pressure canner soon, and will return to preserving fish and meat then.

In the mean time, 100°C is considered sufficient when canning products which contain a certain level of acid, such as apples. As I mentioned in my recent post about apple, date and ginger chutney, we have a lot of apples to use up!

There are 10 jars of chutney and 12 jars of apple jelly in the preserves cupboard. The freezer is already full. I decided to try canning apple pie filling. The advantage over freezing (quite aside from lack of available freezer space) is that it’s much quicker to make an apple pie. Buy or rustle up a portion of pastry, line the pie dish, pour in a jar of filling, lay on the pastry lid and bake!

I based my canning on several American recipes, many of which are very similar. They all call for canning into 1 quart (1 litre) jars but I opted for 750 litre jars for two reasons. Firstly, as there are only two of us, we don’t want to make really large pies. Secondly, these jars fit into the cauldron I’m currently using for the heat treatment whereas the 1 litre jars don’t!

 

How to Can Apple Pie Filling

Makes 6-7 x 750 ml jars

Ingredients
3 kilos apples, unpeeled weight *
800 grams sugar
250 grams corn flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 litres water
(Optional: extra lemon juice to stop apples from browning during preparation)

Note: I used half cooking apples and half eating apples.

Method

  • Sterilise jars, caps and lids. I oven sterilise the jars and boil caps and lids on the stove top. I always sterilise a couple of extra jars as when you cook with fresh produce, the amount you make will vary.
  • Peel, core and slice apples. I peel all the apples first, then core and quarter them all, and finally slice. I store the peeled apples in a large pan of water with a little lemon juice added to stop them from browning while I work).

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  • In a large stock pot combine the sugar, corn flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice and water and heat until the sugar fully dissolves, and the syrup thickens.

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  • Drain the sliced apples. Combine the syrup and apples together in a large pan. My 8.5 litre maslin pan from Lakeland was perfect.

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  • First transfer the apples into the sterilised jars up to the marked marked filling line. Use a spatula or spoon down the inside edge of the jars to wiggle the contents about a little and allow them to pack down further. You want to fit as many apples into each jar as you can without actually squashing them down.

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  • Next, pour the syrup into the jars, also up to the marked fill line.

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  • Wipe the rims clean, position the disc caps and screw the lids in place.

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  • Prepare your water bath and bring the water up to boiling. In my case, I used a large aluminium stock pot with a couple of thick tea towels on the base and additional tea towels pushed between and around the sides of the jars to separate them and keep them from touching the pan directly.
  • Carefully lower jars into the pan, ensuring that the water comes up at least two inches above the tops of the lids.
  • Boil the jars for half an hour. Check regularly to ensure that the water is still boiling and to top it up to the correct level, if necessary. (Do this from a boiled kettle so you don’t reduce the temperature).
  • Once processed, remove the jars and leave to cool.
  • The heat treatment should have created a vacuum seal.

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You will notice that the apples shrink during the heat treatment. When we made our first apple pie, we used some of the syrup in the pie and served the rest as a delicious sauce over the top.

The pie filling was fabulous, so I’m really looking forward to cracking open the other jars. However, I’m also very happy that they will last for at least a year or two in the store cupboard, should we wish.

To make your apple pie, simply line a pie dish with short crust pastry, spoon in your filling, lay a pastry lid over the top, crimp the sides, make a slit on top for the steam to vent and bake for about half an hour. I would suggest a 7-8 inch pie dish for a 750 ml jar and an 8-9 inch dish for a 100 ml jar.

You will likely have left over syrup that doesn’t fit into the jars. Either store in sterilised jars or keep in the fridge and use over the next week. It would make a great sauce to serve with pancakes or over ice cream, stir into a bowl of porridge or rice pudding, whisk into a salad dressing with oil and vinegar. I think it would also make a great apple cake, along the lines of lemon drizzle, pouring the apple syrup over a simple apple cake.

 

With thanks to Le Parfait for sending me some of their jars to play with.

 

I recently found myself with some beautiful fresh buffalo ricotta and a plump Amalfi lemon. Courtesy of The Sauce, they were part of a Campania taster box that also contained buffalo mozzarella, fennel salami, sopressata di Gioi (a cured pork sausage with a core of lard) and a Bagnoli truffle.

I wasn’t sure how best to use them but when Pete suggested a cheesecake, I was immediately excited. I had the remnants of a packet of digestive biscuits to use up and it’s the kind of recipe that I knew I could make up as I went.

The result was well balanced in both taste and texture and very quick and easy too.

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I opted to make 6 mini cheesecakes in individual glass ramekins but you could make one larger cheesecake if you prefer.

 

(No Bake) Mini Lemon Ricotta Cheesecakes

Ingredients
120 grams digestive biscuits
50 grams butter
240 grams ricotta
100 ml lemon juice (from 1 large lemon or two medium lemons)
75 grams icing sugar
Optional: lemon zest

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Method

  • Crush the digestive biscuits into crumbs. I use a clear bag (so I can see how I’m progressing) and a wooden rolling pin. Don’t be too aggressive or you’ll burst the bag and get biscuit crumbs everywhere!

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  • Melt the butter. I do this by heating in the microwave for 20-30 seconds but you can also use a saucepan on the stove.
  • Mix the melted butter into the digestive crumbs thoroughly.

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  • Divide the cheesecake base evenly between 6 individual ramekins and use the back of a spoon to press down and smooth evenly around the ramekin.

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  • Zest the lemon and then juice. I recommend using a finer grater than I did, to produce much smaller zest.

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  • In a large bowl combine the ricotta, lemon juice and icing sugar. You may prefer to hold some of the sugar back and add more after tasting.
  • Mix thoroughly until the ricotta has broken down completely and the ingredients have formed a thick cream. You may need to beat the mixture a little to make it smoother.
  • Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
  • Divide the mixture between the ramekins and tap to distribute evenly.
  • Sprinkle lemon zest over each dish.

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  • Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.

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  • The cheesecakes will last 2-3 days in the fridge.

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With thanks to The Sauce for my Campania tasting box.

I’m submitting this post to Tea Time Treats run by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.

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Part 1.

 

Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine, Kyoto

This temple wasn’t on our shortlist of those we really wanted to visit (there are so very many, especially in Kyoto) but it should have been. Instead, we stumbled across it when walking from Kennin-ji to Yasaka Pagoda. The entrance is in a quiet residental street, through a beautiful stone tori gate.

I was mesmerised watching a queue of young girls take their turns passing through a small hole in a paper-covered stone. Each one would wriggle through one way and then make her way back through the other.

Apparently, this is The Stone of Breaking and Bonding, also nicknamed The Divorce Stone, and is known for its power to end bad relationships and start new, positive ones. Supplicants purchase a paper charm, write their wish upon it, glue it onto the stone and pass through the hole. One direction asks the resident deities to breaks bonds, the other to make them.

The temple is also home to Kushi Matsuri, an annual festival offering thanks to hair combs, a key item in traditional Japanese women’s wear.

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Yasaka Koshin-do / Kongo-ji, Kyoto

Right by the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, we looked through a large red wooden doorway to spot this unusual temple within.

The temple is dedicated to Shomen Kongo, a guardian warrior, and to the three wise monkeys. Shomen Kongo’s nickname is Koshin-san, and Koshin is the faith represented here, incorporating elements from Taoism, Shintoism and Buddhism. Koshin-san is said help those who strive to be good (and to punish those who are bad).

The hut containing Koshin-san’s likeness is hung with kukurizaru – coloured balls of fabric in the form of good faith monkeys, with feet and hands bound. These represent control over playfulness and desire-driven behaviour. Instead of leaving ema or o-mikuji visitors make a wish by placing one of their (bad) desires into a kukurizaru and leaving it with Koshin-san. Koshin-san takes away the desire and grants the wish.

There are also wooden carvings of the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. Japanese folk beliefs regard monkeys as kind spirits that protect people and their homes against evil spirits.

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Kiyumizu Dera

Kiyumizu Dera is one of the main tourist attractions, but by the time we reached it, after meandering slowly from temple to temple, particularly slowly in the streets approaching the temple, thronging with excited people, I had such blinding pain in my head, neck and shoulders that it was all I could do to make it to the nearest taxi rank and retreat to our inn.

Next time we visit Kyoto, we shall go back for a proper visit.

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For Pete, with love in my heart…

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Even for those who are not religious, or who follow a different faith, it’s an uplifting and beautiful experience to visit Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples in Japan.

Before entering a shrine, visitors usually wash their hands and mouth with spring water. Shrines have a fresh spring water pool provided and bamboo ladles with which to pour it.

Visitors write their prayers or wishes and leave them for the kami (spirits or gods) to receive. Originally, actual horses were given as votives, to represent the divine steed, but over time, boxes painted with their image were given instead. These days, messages are written on wooden plaques called ema, which are hung onto hooks provided. Some ema are still painted with horses, but it’s common to find other designs available. Sales of ema help support the shrines financially. They cost a few hundred yen each. We bought some and left our own messages of health, happiness and love at some of the shrines we visited.

Visitors also make small payments in exchange for o-mikuji – paper slips revealing their fortune. At Yasaka Shrine, encouraged by the school girls who had explained to me what they were doing and how it worked, I shook a box until a numbered stick fell out before taking that number to the counter to purchase the associated fortune slip. The girls (and their English teacher) tried to translate for me, but all I really followed was that my fortune was a positive one rather than a curse. I do hope so! As instructed, I folded the paper into a strip before tying it into a knot on one of the walls of string provided.

Entrance into Shinto shrines is usually through a torii. The literal translation of torii is bird perch, though the word now refers to these traditional and distinctively shaped red gates. Large torii gates are usually an indication of a Shinto shrine, where they mark the transition from the profane to the sacred. These days, smaller torii are commonly found in Buddhist temples too. Inari shrines – Shinto shrines dedicated to the worship of Inari, the kami (spirit) of fertility, rice and industry – typically have many torii because worshippers who have been successful in business often donate a gate to show gratitude. Such is the case at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.

 

Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

This Shinto shrine in Kyoto is one of the best known. Indeed it is said that Gion’s prominence as a geisha entertainment district grew from humble beginnings servicing travellers to the shrine. It is located in Maruyama Park, close to our ryokan, Shiraume, which I’ll be posting about soon.

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If you wish to learn more about religion and religious sites in Japan, this site is a fantastic resource. Note that although the ema plaques and fortune slips are described as part of the Shinto tradition, they are commonly found at Buddhist temples too.

 

For Pete, with love in my heart…

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“YOU CAN’T USE THAT GRINDER FOR SPICES!

MY COFFEE WILL TASTE OF CURRY!” *

That desperate wail will be familiar to any of you who share your house with a coffee lover.

We used to have an old blender with a spice grinder attachment but it wasn’t very good so we threw it out years ago. We now have a burr grinder that Pete uses for his precious coffee beans (and occasionally, for grinding his home grown wheat).

It is not to be used for spices.

Even running a bagful of rice through afterwards doesn’t entirely remove the taint of spices, so I’m told. And masala coffee just doesn’t appeal, apparently, though I’m sure it’s the next big thing.

Time to look for a second grinder then, one of the bladed variety, to use for grinding spices, chopping nuts and anything else verboten. There are many models on the market, but I ruled most out. Some specify that they can be used for dry ingredients only, whereas I like the idea of being able to make somewhat sloppy spice pastes including ginger, garlic, lemon grass and even onion. Others are just too difficult to clean. Some have been reviewed by other customers as being too fiddly to use or having poor build quality and hence poor durability.

After spending a frankly ridiculous number of hours on internet research, the model at the top of my list was the Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder (SG20U), RRP £50. Luckily for me, Cuisinart have really connected with bloggers over the last few years, so I was able to obtain a review sample.

Why did I want this particular grinder?

Firstly, I have a bit of a thing for brushed stainless steel. The shiny chrome look leaves me cold but brushed metal… oh yes!

But actually, that’s not the main reason. (Obviously). What I really like is that this grinder comes with two (decent sized) detachable bowls, each provided with an airtight lid so freshly ground contents can be stored in the bowls. And – this is the best bit – they’re not only easy to clean, they are dishwasher safe!

Having two bowls means, if you don’t already have a hallowed coffee grinder, you can set one bowl aside for coffee and use the other for everything else. Or if you make a spice paste and only use half, you can leave the rest in the fridge for a few days, without losing use of your grinder.

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Review

It’s very easy to assemble. The bowl clicks in easily and the clear lid pops over that. I was worried I wouldn’t like the push down operation, having used and disliked a different make and model of that style, but actually it was very easy – press down to grind, release to stop.

For fine grinding of small volumes of spices, the grind is a little uneven, even if you continue to grind for longer. This is because the centrifugal action throws the light fragments up the sides of the bowl. Whether or not this is an issue depends on how fine and even you want the finished powder to be. When I made garam masala, I chose to sieve the powder with a tea strainer to remove larger fragments but I could have left them in – they were small enough not to be an issue.

The same goes for coffee – you’ll need to use a higher volume of coffee as the larger fragments won’t extract as effectively.

Where it comes into its own is for making spice pastes such as the Thai-inspired red curry paste we concocted. Lemongrass, onion, garlic, ginger, whole cumin seeds, powdered spices, soy sauce, dried chillis were quickly and effectively pulverised into a paste.

After being washed in the dishwasher, we couldn’t even tell which bowl had been used for coffee and which for the ground spices and spice paste, so there’s no danger of previous ingredients tainting the next.

For spices and pastes, this grinder is a great choice. I’ve not yet used it for nuts. It’s simple to use, feels robust and the two bowls with storage lids make so much sense.

For coffee drinkers, I’d suggest investing in a burr grinder so you can better control the exact size of the grind and ensure that the whole batch is evenly ground too.

 

Kavey Eats received an Electric Spice and Nut Grinder courtesy of Cuisinart.

* Actual words were more ferocious and peppered with choice expletives!

Feb 112013
 

Ice cream ain’t just for summer. Puppy dogs and panettone ain’t just for Christmas. And pancakes ain’t just for Shrove Tuesday!

In the United States, pancakes are enjoyed more often; a thick stack of fluffy discs served with maple syrup, butter and crispy bacon is a common breakfast both at home and the diner. In France, savoury galettes and sweet crêpes are a popular street food and Brittany seems to have almost as many crêperies as it does residents! In Holland (and elsewhere in Europe), thicker pannekoeken are served with both savoury and sweet toppings; enormous, hearty and filling. The smaller poffertjes we enjoyed in Amsterdam last year remind me a little of Scottish drop scones. During our recent Japan trip, we discovered just a few of the many variations of okonomiyaki, savoury pancakes made from a mix of batter and other ingredients, and often cooked and served on a teppan (hot plate) at the table. Southern Indian dosa, made from a fermented rice or lentil batter, are eaten with almost every meal. Likewise, the slightly sour and spongy Ethiopian injera are a regional staple. In China, steamed pancakes are wrapped around meat or vegetable fillings. Who can resist Russian blini with sour cream and caviar or smoked fish?

But here in England, with the exception of Crêpes Suzette, seen only rarely on retro restaurant menus, and the occasional crêperie, which always seems a little out of place once transplanted across the Channel, pancakes are often relegated to a once-a-year slot.

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (which I rather prefer!) is the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. Traditionally, Christians observed a strict fast for the 40 days of lent, and rich foods such as meat, eggs, milk and sugar were certainly excluded. Perishable goods had to be used up beforehand. The majority of the population most likely didn’t have meat often enough to keep any in store, but would not have wanted to waste milk and eggs. Shrove Tuesday therefore came to be associated with pancakes.

These days, most Christians who continue to observe Lent tend to give up one or two favourite items rather than follow a severe fast, but pancake day has become such a cultural tradition that it’s commonly observed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

I’m across the pond this week, so I’ll do my best to enjoy a steaming stack of thick, buttermilk beauties on Pancake day.

Here are my picks of ways to enjoy pancakes today, this week, this month and anytime throughout the year!

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I planned to make beetroot and lemon cured salmon for Christmas day.

I planned a great many things.

I planned to have a practice run a month or two in advance, trying out two different cures and choosing the one which worked best. No trial run happened. I planned to ask for more advice on recipe variations from expert friends. In the end I turned to recipes found on the internet and had a mild panic about which one to follow. I planned to order one enormous and gorgeous wild salmon fillet in advance. I failed to do so and went with what I could find in Waitrose at the last minute. But the wild Alaskan salmon they’d stocked a few weeks previously was nowhere to be seen, and the farmed salmon looked particularly insipid.

And that’s how I ended up buying two Loch Melfort trout fillets instead. The trout simply looked far more appealing and I decided, with no knowledge to back it up whatsoever, that it would work just as well as salmon for my purposes!

Having found a great many recipes for beetroot cured salmon online, I narrowed my choices down to Nigel, Jamie and Barney (from BBC Good Food).

All three offer fairly similar recipes and techniques featuring the salmon itself, salt, sugar and raw beetroot. Jamie and Nigel add citrus zest and vodka to theirs. Jamie and Barney include a little horseradish too. What varies most in their recipes are the proportions of beetroot, salt and sugar to salmon and how long to apply the cure. Jamie and Nigel both have almost the same salt to salmon ratio, but Nigel calls for more sugar and much more beetroot. Barney’s recipe calls for more sugar than salt and far less of everything against the salmon. Jamie recommends curing the fish for 48 hours, Nigel suggests 2 to 4 days and Barney stretches from 3 days up to a week.

I dithered between the three recipes for a frankly ridiculous number of hours before basing my ratios on the box size of salt I’d purchased, and what my trout and beetroot weighed!

I needn’t have worried so much. The finished trout was both beautiful and delicious. The purple-red and orange colours made it very festive for our Christmas day table but would also make this a lovely recipe to prepare for Valentine’s day.

 

Beetroot & Lemon Zest Home Cured Trout (or Salmon)

Ingredients
1.5 kg boned fillets of trout or salmon, skin on
350 grams coarse crystal sea salt
200 grams demerara sugar
900 grams raw beetroot
Zest of 2 lemons

Note: Scale the recipe up or down depending on the weight of your trout.

 

Method

  • Grate the raw beetroot; no need to remove the skin first. I used a food processor which seemed to release a lot of juice. If the beetroot is very wet, drain using a sieve, to remove excess liquid.

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  • Weigh the sugar and salt, and add the grated lemon zest. Combine with the grated beetroot and mix well.

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  • In a large dish, lay out a piece of cling film and spread a thin layer of the curing mix over it. Lay the fish, skin side down, on the cling film.

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  • Put a much thicker layer of the curing mix over the flesh side of the fillet, making sure all the flesh is covered. As I had two equally sized fillets, I laid the second one flesh side down over the first, and then added a last thin layer of curing mix over the skin of the second fillet. If you only have one fillet, divide your curing mix accordingly, using the majority on the flesh side of the fish.

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  • Wrap the cling film around the fish and add two or three further layers of cling film to ensure that the fish is securely wrapped.

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  • Weigh down the fish with a flat tray and something heavy on top and place in the fridge.

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  • Once a day, check the fish and pour away any liquid that has collected in the dish. You don’t need to unwrap the cling film – the liquid seems to find its way out. After draining, turn the fish over, replace the weights, and return to the fridge.
  • I allowed my fish to cure for 4 days. Based on Nigel, Jamie and Barney’s recipes for salmon, I’d imagine that a period of anywhere between 2 to 7 days would work.
  • Once the curing time is complete, unwrap the fish and scrape away the curing mix using your fingers and some (dry) kitchen towel.

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  • Once wiped clean, the final purple-red colouring of the cured trout will be revealed. Mine had a somewhat mottled effect where more or less colour from the beetroot had stained the flesh.

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  • Slice the fish just before serving. I did my best to cut reasonably thin and even slices, slicing the knife downwards at an angle and then along the skin.

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The beautiful purple-red staining had penetrated reasonably well into the flesh, and looked glorious against the bright orange.

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The trout was simply served with lemon wedges, sour cream and undressed rocket leaves.

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The second fillet, which was wiped clean at the same time of the first, then re-wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge for another day and a half, seemed to be even darker than the first, though they had both cured for the same length of time. Once back home, I removed the flesh from the skin in four pieces which were individually wrapped and frozen.

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I have wanted to cure my own fish for the longest time, but was always put off by worries of getting it wrong and ruining perfectly good fish. I’m glad that everyone I talked to about it encouraged me to have a go as it was very worthwhile and definitely rewarding. It was also far easier than I imagined!

Do have a go and let me know how you get on!

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