The lamb we were sent by Graig Farm is truly fabulous. The joints in particular have been a joy; one lamb leg roasted with za’atar and sumac and the other roasted plain. The lamb is as tender as could be, yet full of flavour too.

GraigLambRoast-4914

When it came to the turn of the enormous shoulder of lamb, we decided to keep it classic and pair the lamb with garlic and rosemary. This lamb has such wonderful flavour that we knew it would stand up to the two strong flavours without being overwhelmed.

 

Garlic & Rosemary Shoulder of Lamb

Ingredients
1 x 1.6 kilo shoulder of lamb
3-4 heads of garlic
4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Note: Adjust quantities for smaller joints.

Method

GraigLambRoast-4902

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.

GraigLambRoast-4910

  • Cut the tops off 3 heads of garlic.
  • Retain the main part of the garlic heads and wrap each one in foil, sealed at the top.
  • Retrieve the pieces of garlic from the tops of the 3 heads and break open the remaining head of garlic and peel all the cloves.

GraigLambRoast-4907

  • Cut deep slits into the lamb.
  • Push the large chunks of garlic deep into the slits.

GraigLambRoast-4908

  • Tie the rosemary over the joint.
  • Place the foil-wrapped garlic heads in the roasting dish, around the lamb joint.

GraigLambRoast-4911

  • Pop the lamb into the oven to roast. For medium, I give 25 minutes per half kilo plus 25 minutes; for this 1.6 kilo joint, I roasted it for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  • Take the lamb out of the oven, cover loosely with a sheet of foil and leave to rest for about 20 minutes. (We crank up the heat on the roast potatoes for those last 20 minutes).

GraigLambRoast-4920

  • Cook your veg, make your gravy and serve.

Tip: Keep the sweet, sweet roasted garlic from the foil-wrapped garlic heads aside to enjoy smeared over toast the next day, stir the roasted garlic into your gravy, or just serve a head per guest and let them squeeze it out and enjoy it with the lamb.

GraigLambRoast-4918

A classic roast dinner that is hard to beat!

Coming up soon, a great recipe for leftover lamb…

 

Discount Code

Try Graig Farm organic Welsh lamb (or any other meat such as beef and pork) yourself with a special discount code for Kavey Eats readers:

KAV222

The code gives you 20% off orders over £50 and also includes free delivery. It’s valid until June 30th 2013 and can be used three times per household. Of course, you can pass the code on to friends and family, if they’d like to place an order for themselves.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box of organic lamb from Graig Farm.

 

When I’m feeling poorly I always long for the foods of my childhood. Suddenly the familiar holds a much stronger appeal; there’s deep comfort to be found in the things we’ve loved the longest, and that applies tenfold to food.

My shortlist is an assortment of my mum’s home-cooked Indian food, typical English school-dinner comfort stodge and big brand ready-made favourites. A good example of the latter is a steaming hot bowl of Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup with buttered slices of pappy processed white bread.

But surely a home-made version, made from home-grown tomatoes and served with home-baked bread (and really good butter), would be even better?

Having grown our own tomatoes for many years, I set Pete the challenge of creating a soup in the Heinz style, but made with a shorter, simpler set of ingredients. Heinz’ soup contains modified corn flour, dried skimmed milk, milk proteins… nothing particularly scary but not ingredients we’d use at home either.

Tom Soup-0168

To my delight, Pete nailed his home-made version on the first try! He completely failed to write down the recipe back then, but when he made it again recently (with the last frozen batch of last year’s tomatoes), I insisted he keep a record.

His delicious soup consisted of tomatoes, onions, fresh cream, home-made chicken stock and seasoning. That’s it.

I have never been a huge soup lover, usually preferring something more solid. And it’s rare I lose my appetite, even when poorly. But occasionally I yearn for a light meal, something simple, something tasty and fresh, something comfortingly familiar, something warming that soothes a sore throat as well as a fractious soul…

For those occasions, I can thoroughly recommend Pete’s Home-made Cream of Tomato Soup.

 

Pete’s Home-made Cream of Tomato Soup

Ingredients
1 medium onion, finely diced
600 grams whole tomatoes
800 ml chicken stock
100 ml double cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for cooking

Method

  • Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onion until golden.
  • Add the tomatoes, peeled if you have the patience and fry until they break down.
  • Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour to reduce.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Blitz in a blender or food processor and sieve to remove seeds and skin.
  • Warm through again on a gentle heat, stir in cream and continue to warm until piping hot.
  • Taste, season and serve with fresh bread and butter.

 

What are the foods you long for when you’re feeling poorly or sad? Do you turn to childhood favourites too?

May 242013
 

I’ve blogged about wild garlic aka ramsons aka allium ursinum aka bear’s garlic before. A wild relative of chive with a strong garlic flavour, it’s native across Europe and Asia. The ursine botanical name and nickname come from the brown bear’s love of the pungent bulbs, though there are no such bears in my favourite foraging spots!

WildGarlicMash-0303 WildGarlicMash-0305

This year, we need go no further than our back garden, having transplanted a few plants from my friend FoodUrchin’s backgarden. He has become the ramsons-pimp of the South East.

WildGarlicMash-0310

A simple way to enjoy some of your wild garlic harvest is to make a seasonal mashed potato; it’s a little like Irish colcannon. Just add chopped or torn wild garlic leaves (and chopped flower stems too, if your plant is flowering – they have the strongest flavour) to your normal mashed potato recipe. We add butter, milk and a little seasoning to ours.

If you have a generous supply, here’s a simple way of preserving wild garlic for use all year round.

 

It’s one month into my quest to learn Japanese using Rosetta Stone’s TotalE online solution.

Here’s an update on how the system works and how I’ve been getting on with it.

 

Finding Time

I’ve spent 15 to 30 minutes almost every morning working through one or more lessons, as they vary in complexity and duration needed. To my surprise, staying focused has not proven difficult, nor has dedicating the daily time slot. During the week, I set my alarm clock half an hour earlier than it needs to be for work and once I’m showered, dressed and fully awake, hit the “books” before heading to work. On weekends, I’m more relaxed about when I start, but still prefer to learn in the mornings when my concentration is at its best. In one month, I’ve missed only a handful of days, a couple when we’ve been out of town and a couple more when poorly.

In that time, I’ve worked through Level 1 Units 1-4 at a fairly steady pace.

 

How Rosetta Stone Works

Described by its makers as an immersive way of learning, somewhat like the way children learn their first language, Rosetta Stone is loosely based on Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis which postulates that comprehensible input is the key to language learning, that understanding the spoken and written word is far more important than speaking and writing (as far as learning is concerned) and that learning success is heavily dependent on the mood and motivation of the learner. (Note: Krashen himself disputes that the input provided by Rosetta Stone is sufficiently compelling to really fit his hypothesis). Of course, it’s based on far more research than that, and they have invested heavily in research and design to create their unique learning system.

So how do the lessons work?

RS 1 RS 2

Essentially, the lessons are all image based.

For each step of a lesson, a number of photographs are displayed. Words or sentences are spoken and the learner picks the matching image to indicate comprehension.

Different lessons focus on vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, grammar and writing.

The written text of the words and sentences are displayed too, usually after you indicate the answer. For Japanese lessons, you can choose whether to see the written word in kanji, hiragana and katakana or romaji (our roman alphabet).

In the pronunciation lessons, you must speak the answer. Rosetta Stone incorporates powerful voice recognition software, and I’ve had no trouble with this aspect at all. In the earliest lessons, you are required to pronounce each syllable of a word in turn before pronouncing the word; it’s just a matter of repeating what is said. But before long, some example sentences are spoken, along with appropriate images, and then you are required to work out (and say) the sentence for the next image.

Because the tool is designed to be immersive (and perhaps also so a single version can be sold to learners worldwide, with a native-language dashboard applied to the front end), there is absolutely no information within the lessons in your native language.

 

Group Sessions

Rosetta Stone is not a cheap option and many baulk at paying so much.

One aspect of the new TotalE subscription that makes the price far more of a great deal is the inclusion of live group sessions lead by tutors who are native speakers of the language you are learning.

Details seem to vary according to language but for Japanese, sessions are 25 minutes long and the maximum group size is 5 students.

 

Non-Lesson Learning

RS 3

There are also a few learning games provided, many of which are best played with another learner. At the times I’ve been logged on and learning, I’ve never been able to find another learner at the same level also looking to play the games with me.

Additionally, there are some stories provided for reading out loud.

 

Positives & Frustrations

I’ve learned a pretty decent amount of vocabulary, and a few very simple sentences, and it definitely feels like it’s sticking. I don’t have to struggle to recall it at all.

That said, thus far there’s very little of much use in that. I still can’t ask someone’s name or tell them mine, say where I’m from, ask for directions or how much something costs or request the menu or bill in a restaurant… I’m starting to wonder when we’ll move away from the kind of vocabulary that’s of interest to a small child and on to more useful content.

I am not sure that the reading and writing is very well integrated, for Japanese learners. Firstly, I have found myself asked to identify a written phrase at a point when I’ve only learned a handful of hiragana characters. Secondly, I don’t see the point of including writing lessons based on a roman alphabet keyboard, for non romaji learners.

Because of the lack of explanation or help in English, when I don’t understand the lesson or what I’m asked to do, there’s no way within the tool to find out what that lesson is trying to teach me. Sometimes I’m so completely and utterly stuck that I am forced to Google for answers, and hope someone else has asked the same question.

Support material in my own language, even in a printed or PDF document provided alongside, would be very welcome now and again.

Likewise, I would like a way to reference back what I’ve already covered, but reviewing previous lessons is impossible unless I want to actually take an entire lesson again all the way through.

It’s possible to cheat, unintentionally. When learning numbers, I couldn’t understand the words for the numbers, but chose the right answers because I knew the word for the items in the images, such as 3 eggs, 1 ball, 2 cups, 4 chairs. If the images had all been the same item, I’d have been forced to focus on the actual numbers themselves. This was further complicated by the fact that Japanese has several different versions of each number, the choice dependent on the type of object being described. Rosetta Stone fell down in this area, and this was another instance when I had to look for information outside the tool to understand.

The 3 group sessions I’ve been able to take with a tutor have been really great and really allowed me to see where my gaps are as well as see that I am making progress. The tutors are helpful and encouraging. The sessions follow the same material and use the same images as the core lessons.

However, scheduling these sessions is proving very difficult indeed. Firstly, for Japanese learners, sessions are offered only for every 2 units rather than at every unit level like with some languages. Secondly, there are not very many slots available, especially that are suitable for learners in European time zones. Thirdly, whilst I’m happy with the restriction to only be able to book 2 sessions ahead at a time, the additional restriction that I can’t have 2 for the same unit booked at the same time doesn’t make sense. Rosetta Stone is happy for me to take as many sessions at any given level as I like, but not to let me have 2 scheduled as such. So by the time I can book another session, I usually find nothing available for a date and time I can manage.

 

Progress

Spending a small amount of time every day has allowed me to progress fairly quickly. With the proviso that I’ve had to Google when I’ve been completely stuck a few times, I’ve found the majority of the lessons very easy and have found progress straightforward.

Despite my frustrations above, I find the interface fairly easy to use and am delighted that it’s enabling me to learn Japanese!

 

With thanks to Rosetta Stone for my online subscription.

 

Thanks to a sample of Skrei from the Norwegian Seafood Council, we’ve been enjoying more fish, specifically cod, of late. One portion was stir-fried with mirin and chives, another was battered and deep fried and one smaller portion was stretched into a filling fish, leek and egg pie.

Next on the list was miso cod.

A signature dish for many restaurants all around the world, it’s probably most strongly associated with Nobu Matsuhisa who makes his recipe with black cod.

Black cod is part of the Notothenia genus whereas the species we’re more familiar with, such as Atlantic, Pacific or Greenland cod are from the Gadus genus. To confuse things further, Sablefish, an unrelated species, is often colloquially called black cod, as is Maori rockcod. If you are keen to recreate the Nobu black cod version of this dish, make sure you buy the right fish (Notothenia microlepidota) and be aware that it’s fattier and more fragile than Gadus cod.

Matsuhisa steeps the black cod in his marinade for a few days before cooking, but for my Skrei fillets, I was happy to make a far quicker version – mixing a simple marinade, smearing it generously over my cod fillets and grilling straight away, until the fish was cooked through and the miso marinade bubbling and charred.

MisoCod-0176

Miso is a key seasoning and ingredient in Japanese cooking. Produced by fermenting soybeans, grains and salt with a mould fungus, the result is a thick, intensely savoury paste which is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals.

There are many types of miso available in Japan, the most common two being red and white. Both are made with soybeans and rice, though white miso has a higher percentage of rice than its red counterpart. There are also other types that are made with different grains such as barley, buckwheat or rye. Miso also becomes darker with age, with some vintage red misos turning almost black in colour.

 

Simple Miso Cod

Serves 2

Ingredients
2 fillets of fresh cod (please buy sustainable fish)
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons sugar

Note: White miso has a slightly sweeter and milder flavour than the red version, which suits this recipe well. However, you can use red miso instead if you wish; you may want to use a touch less, in that case.

Method

  • Preheat your grill to a medium hot setting.
  • Heat the mirin, white miso paste and sugar in a small saucepan, over a gentle heat, until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Place the fillets of fish skin side down on a piece of foil.
  • Spread the paste generously over the surface of the fish, top side only.
  • Grill until the fish is cooked through and the paste is bubbling and starting to char. For these fairly thin fillets, this took about 4 minutes; for the thicker fillets we did the second time, they needed 7.

MisoCod-0169 MisoCod-0171

Sesame Pak Choi

Serves 2

Ingredients
2 medium sized heads of pak choi
2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil

Note: Last time we made this we added a handful of wild garlic leaves into the stir fry too.

Method

  • Carefully pull all the leaves from the pak choi and wash thoroughly.
  • As you put your fish under the grill, heat some sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan.
  • Stir fry the pak choi for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dark green leaves have wilted and the harder stems have softened just a little.

 

I love this simple miso marinade – an earthy savoury flavour balanced with a touch of sweetness. And the same marinade can also be used on vegetables – indeed the popular dish, nasu dengaku, is made by spreading it onto halved aubergines, though you usually need to grill them a little first, before applying the marinade and grilling again.

Both the fish and the pak choi need minimal preparation, and take only a few minutes to cook, so this is an ideal dish to make when cooking time is short. If you keep miso paste, mirin and sesame oil in your store cupboard, you just need to pick up fresh fish and pak choi on the way home.

These days, many supermarkets stock both miso paste and mirin, but if you can’t find them, try online suppliers such as Japan Centre and Sous Chef.

 

With thanks to the Norwegian Seafood Council for the Norwegian skrei (cod) sample.

May 172013
 

Bookmarking Ninja

I’m a prolific bookmarker.

The hierarchical directory structure I’ve created for my Internet browser bookmark folders is a thing of beauty, even if I say so myself. It’s not visually attractive, of course, but it’s sufficiently well designed that I can quickly find what I’m looking for, whether it’s the link to the hotel we stayed in when we last visited the Loire Valley or the collection of best websites to find cheap train tickets or the folder of shortcuts to national newspapers’ travel sections or the enormous collection of recipes I might someday try to make. Because I have such diverse interests, the structure has many levels, but it works for me, it does the job. And it’s that ease of use that gives it beauty in my eyes.

Where it falls down is when I can’t remember the name or details of what I’m looking for, even though I know I’ve definitely saved it, so can’t think what I might have called the shortcut or which folder it’s in.

What is Pinterest?

In many cases, the memory I have of a web page I’ve saved is purely visual – biscuits made in the shape of buttons and tied up with ribbon; fruit trees shaped into espalier forms; a great example of how to arrange lots of different sized picture frames on a wall in a pleasing way; a low-tech way of making tiny spheres of coffee to decorate desserts; a gorgeous eco-camp in the midst of an expansive desert of red dunes; topiaries shaped like elephants; a website full of pretty Moroccan-style tadelakt and tiled bathrooms; the nifty idea for a folding cupboard-cum-picnic table for an outdoor garden wall; a bacon-wrapped meatloaf recipe, a crêpe cake recipe, a pull-apart cheese bread recipe…

Those examples (and hundreds more) are why I jumped on Pinterest over a year ago.

In a nutshell, Pinterest is an image-based bookmarking system, which allows you to “pin” images onto virtual pin boards; as many boards as you wish. When the images are pinned from websites, they retain a direct link back to the page in question. It’s easy to follow other people’s boards, so you can re-pin anything that catches your eye, and likewise, other people can follow and pin your content. Click on any pin to visit the original source article.

I have a whole slew of boards for food and drink from a board showcasing entries to my Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge to ones for potatoes, cheese, bacon, sweet baking, savoury baking, deep fried treats, hot drinks and many more.

I have almost as many for craft and DIY including ideas for home-made artwork, clothes, jewellery and bags, greeting cards, furniture, lighting and even a board for nothing but hooks!

I have a board for gardening tips and ideas, one for favourite words of inspiration and quotes, another for places I’ve loved or would like to visit, beautiful photographs of wildlife and flora, a collection of ideas for my dream bathroom and dream kitchen, and even a window shopping board!

PinterestBoards

Creating Content

Whilst some use Pinterest as a virtual scrapbook, or to create mood boards, I use mine to collate visual bookmarks, all of which have links through to relevant content, whether it’s recipes and tutorials on how to cook or make something, travel guides to appealing destinations, or more information about an artist and their work.

I am an avid reader of many blogs and websites, and often pin articles directly, when I come across great content I want to revisit and enjoy later.

Pinterest also lets me follow my friends’ Pinterest activity, so I can see all their latest pins on my home page. And for those occasions where they have boards I’m really not interested in (shoes, weddings, kid stuff, work topics…) I can follow and unfollow individual boards rather than an entire user profile.

It’s also fun to browse pins from all Pinterest users, by category. I not only find some great content this way, but often find new boards to follow, created by people I don’t know but whose interests and tastes I clearly share. I regularly find new blogs to read too, and have added many more to my RSS reader since I started using Pinterest.

Because I believe in respecting content creators, I choose not to re-pin links to pages which have simply lifted a pretty picture from its original source, with neither permission sought nor credit given. Indeed, sometimes I end up investing a fair bit of time Googling to find an original source, and then create a fresh pin directly to it. If I can’t find such a source, I just don’t pin, regardless of how much I like the picture. As a content creator myself, I think that’s only fair.

Sharing Content

As a blogger, I make sure I pin my own blog posts too and I always appreciate it when other users choose to pin any of them to their own boards for future reference. It’s not simply about driving traffic to the blog, though that’s a lovely benefit, but about finding another way of sharing one’s interests with a new community.

I make it easy for other Pinterest users who visit my site to Pin my content themselves, if they wish, by providing a Pin It button at the bottom of every post.

Like a comment left here on the blog, a pin of one of my posts tells me someone appreciated what I posted, and that’s a welcome pat on the back.

Registration for Brits

This month, Pinterest are inviting Brits to register on Pinterest, create their own boards and get pinning.

Why don’t you go ahead and register? And of course, follow me and my boards!

 

Do you ever envisage a new dish in your head, hoping it will be as delicious as you imagine? And when you make it, it’s even better? I can’t pretend it’s something that happens often – more often there are tweaks to be made… or rarely, the idea is quietly binned and never mentioned again – but now and again success strikes and makes me insufferably chuffed with myself.

So it was with this Chicken Tarragon Pasta Bake.

ChickenTarragonPastaBake-0160

In my mind were a number of recipes we enjoy, from macaroni cheese to chicken savoyarde to the penne al forno at my local Italian.

Once the idea for my new dish popped into my head, all we needed was to enjoy a roast chicken dinner (oh, the hardship) and follow that, as usual, by stripping the leftover meat off the carcass and popping the remaining skin, bones and tendons into the slow cooker with water overnight to make stock.

 

Kavey’s Chicken Tarragon Pasta Bake

Serves 4

Ingredients
250 grams dried macaroni-style pasta
50 grams white breadcrumbs (we used Panko)
300 grams leftover roast chicken meat, chopped small
50 grams butter
40 grams plain flour
600 ml chicken stock, slightly warmed
175 ml double cream
50 grams Parmesan or other strong hard cheese, grated
2 heaped teaspoons French mustard
2 level teaspoons dried tarragon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Note: For the pasta, choose any of the small hollow tube shapes. We chose chifferi rigati by De Cecco, which are short ridged elbow-shaped tubes.

Note: We like the tarragon flavour to be understated. If you like it strong, add an extra teaspoon or two of dried tarragon.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200 C (390 F).
  • Put the pasta on to cook. When ready, drain, rinse and set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce:
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Keep the heat low to medium, to avoid browning.
  • Add the chicken stock and cream and stir thoroughly.
  • Add the cheese, mustard and tarragon. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Cook for a further 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens a little.
  • Once the sauce is ready, add the chicken and the drained pasta and stir thoroughly.
  • Transfer into an oven-proof casserole dish.

ChickenTarragonPastaBake-0155 ChickenTarragonPastaBake-0156

  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over the surface.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumbs on top are golden brown.

Serve hot with a crispy green salad.

ChickenTarragonPastaBake-0161 ChickenTarragonPastaBake-0162

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Do let me know how you like it!

May 142013
 

I’m always cheered by the arrival of spring, no more so than when the trees burst into bloom, their boughs heavy with blossom.

I often feel inspired to take quick snaps on my phone camera; the quality of the images doesn’t do justice to the beauty but I wanted to share.

Blossom2013-Apr-23-0407 Blossom2013-Apr-23-0408 Blossom2013-Apr-23-0411 Blossom2013-Apr-23-0410
April – Home (and car)

Blossom2013May2-0434 Blossom2013May2-0436 Blossom2013May2-0437
May – Work, Near Office

Blossom2013May2-0438 Blossom2013May2-0439 Blossom2013May2-0440
May – Visiting a friend

Blossom 2013May11-0494
May – View from mother-in-law’s flat window

I hope you’ve been enjoying spring too!

 

As a chocolate lover, I’ve come across single origin chocolate, made with cocoa from a single country or region. And I’ve come across single estate chocolate which, as the name suggests, is produced by one cocoa plantation.

But I’ve never before come across “single côte” chocolate such as Hotel Chocolat’s new Rabot Estate Marcial 70% Dark.

Instead of blending all the cocoa grown across their property in Soufriere, Saint Lucia, Hotel Chocolat have picked and processed the cocoa from each plot of land within the estate separately. The Marcial plot is described as “mix of grizzled 80-100 year-old trees and fresh new four-year-old trees planted as seedlings” near the Rabot lake.

HotelChocolat Marcial Image 335

Hotel Chocolat refer to the cocoa variety grown in Marcial as Trinitarios, a “rare bean unique to the Rabot Estate”. I assume it to be a variant of Trinitario, a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. (Criollo makes up only 5% of the world’s cocoa crops. It demands high prices because it’s difficult to grow and yields are low. Forastero, on the other hand, makes up the bulk of the crop, being far easier to grow and harvest. However, it’s described as bland and lacking in complexity of flavour. Trinitario is said to combine aspects of both parents, and represents around 15% of cocoa grown).

Flavour wise, the marketing blurb for the bar says it has “notes of shiraz wine, antique oak, roasted cocoa and
stewed spiced plums
”.

Personally, I don’t pick up wine, oak or stewed plums but the chocolate has a wonderful fruitiness that is reminiscent of cocoa from Madagascar, which is a favourite of mine. It’s nicely balanced with a hint of acidity that reminds me of balsamic vinegar in flavour. The roast is well judged too, enough to taste but not enough to make the chocolate too strongly bitter. It’s a lovely bar indeed.

Marcial 70% Dark is one of 18 chocolates that make up the Rabot 1745 range, a collection of chocolate made with cocoa from the world’s top cocoa growing regions. The batch label on each bar will not only tell you where the cocoa was grown but also the length of time it was roasted and conched, the name of the individual chocolatier who created it and the year of harvest.

It’s a great way of learning about the characteristics of chocolate from different parts of the world and narrowing down your personal preferences.

Currently in the collection are bars made with cocoa from Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Java, Madagascar, Peru, St Lucia, Trinidad, Venezuala and Vietnam.

 

COMPETITION

Hotel Chocolat have generously offered a set of all 18 bars (35 grams each) in their Rabot 1745 collection to one lucky Kavey Eats reader. The prize is worth over £60 and includes free delivery anywhere in the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me which Rabot 1745 bar you are most looking forward to trying, and why.

Entry 2 – Facebook

Like the Kavey Eats Facebook and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win the @HotelChocolat Rabot 1745 Collection from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/HJ2Go #KaveyEatsHotelChocolat
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the hashtag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 7th June 2013.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • The prize is a set of eighteen 35 gram bars of Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot 1745 collection and includes free delivery anywhere in the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 Kavey Eats received sample bars from the Rabot 1745 collection.

The winner of this competition was Steve (blog commenter 5).

 

Not much can beat a sunny day spent wandering from temple to temple in Kyoto’s beautiful Gion and Higashimaya districts. Although we’d recently paused to enjoy freshly made yuba, that didn’t reduce our enthusiasm to find Bunnosuke-jaya, an amazake specialist listed in Diane Durston’s Old Kyoto book.

She explains that amazake is a sweet drink that was traditionally made from sake lees and served to weary travellers as they walked between Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Although it smells like sake Durston credits its invention to Buddhist nuns and says it contains no alcohol.

Japan2012-3096 Japan2012-3095Japan2012-3083 Japan2012-3081
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Taking a seat on the benches in the pretty garden, we are handed a laminated menu sheet.

At Bunnosuke-jaya, the menu describes amazake as low (rather than no) alcohol and tells us it’s made “the old-fashioned way, using only rice and not a single granule of sugar”. In this method, kōji (a fungal mould) is added to cooked rice, causing the carbohydrates to break down into sugars. Water is added to serve amazake as a drink.

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We are given a choice of enjoying our amazake hot or cold and decide to have one of each, adding a portion of warabi-mochi dumplings to share.

When our order arrives, we are told that the ginger on top of the lid is to mix in (to taste) with the thick hot amazake within. The cold version is served with ice and has a thinner consistency. The flavour is sweet and milky with a lovely almost fruity flavour. The ginger works well with the warm one.

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Warabi-mochi are sweet dumplings made from warabiko (bracken fern starch). In this region of Japan, they are generously coated with kinako (roasted soybean flour, known locally as yellow flour). Elsewhere, they are served warm with hot sugar syrup. Just like the more familiar glutinous rice mochi, warabi-mochi are sweet, soft and chewy, and the kinako gives them a wonderfully nutty taste.

The tiny mugs of black tea served alongside the rest of the order are a nice touch to round off our first taste of two Japanese specialities.

I pop inside to settle the bill and enjoy peering around the shop – Durston describes this “eclectic spot” as “one of the most bizarre collections of art and trivia in Japan”. She’s probably right, but I don’t linger long to examine it, drawn once again to exploring the bustle outside the gates.

 

More posts from our trip to Japan.

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