I don’t know if it’s because of the unrelenting heat these last several weeks, making us yearn for cooling ice creams and sorbets, or because the June & July BSFIC theme of herbs really resonated with you or just that I gave you two months instead of one to send me your posts but I’ve loved the surge of BSFIC entries and am delighted to share this wonderful round up of of posts today. Indeed, some of you have created and blogged not just one herby frozen delight but two… most impressive!

 

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FoodyCat Alicia has never been afraid of creativity, which is how she comes up with ideas like this Goats Cheese, Thyme and Honey Semifreddo. Her recipes seem to be a cunning combination of instinct about what flavours might complement each other and a nod to what’s already in the store cupboard. This unusual ice cream is definitely encouragement to let your imagination run wild and then give it a try!

 

mintchoc julia

Julia prefers her sweets to be sweet and her savouries to be savoury so she went for a traditional combination of Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream, which she made without an ice cream machine. Referencing my easy triple mint choc chip recipe from last year she combined fresh mint with Bendicks in her delicious version.

 

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Elizabeth also went for mint choc chip but her hers was in the form of Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. As can often be the case when you develop your own recipes, finished volumes are hard to judge. Elizabeth made too little of her first batch, for which she used a custard base, for the whole family to share, so she quickly made a second batch using a condensed milk and cream base as well. The first needs and ice cream machine, the second doesn’t. Two recipes for the price of one!

 

rosana

Rosanna’s Thyme and Orange Blossom Ice Cream sounds right up my street. A classic custard base with gentle flavours that remind me of our trip to Lebanon a couple of years ago. In her post she also gives a serving suggestion, pairing her ice cream with meringues and chocolate sauce in an exotic sundae. The meringue recipe (provided) is also a great way to use egg whites leftover from the custard recipe.

 

hannah

Hannah starts her post with a hilarious rant about the downsides of summer festivals. The worst of her ire is reserved for one offender – warm drinks! Her Lemon & Thyme Granita, garnished so beautifully with pretty thyme flowers, uses the same classic flavour combination as my later entry (and I almost switched ideas when I saw her post but decided our approaches were different and to just go ahead). Granitas have such a distinct texture compared to sorbets, I must try one myself soon.

 

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Most of us hadn’t even made our frozen concoctions by the time Alicia had sprung into action for a second time with her Mojito Sorbet. This is a dream ticket sorbet for me, as I love mojitos and can readily imagine how well they translate into a frozen version. I love this idea for a simple adults-only frozen cocktail.

 

lemon vodka

Citrus is definitely a thirst quencher in the heat, few more so than lemon. Claire shares her recipe for Lemon, Basil and Vodka Sorbet which she came up with after reading recipes for lemon and basil cake and blackcurrant and vodka sorbet by fellow bloggers. I particularly love her colourful photographs that illustrate her post.

 

Rhubarb Ripple

Choclette dropped me a note to ask whether I considered rose to be a herb for the purpose of the challenge. Although the technical definition specifies herbs as the leaves of plants, I’m with Choclette on this one – I feel that rose fits better within the category of herbs than spices. Our everyday categorisations are so arbitrary anyway… thinking of fruits, vegetables, tomatoes and avocados… Choclette discovered the no-churn condensed milk and cream ice cream base when I ran my condensed milk challenge last year and like me, has become very fond of it. She uses it to great effect here with her pretty Rhubarb, Rose and White Chocolate Ice Cream.

 

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Jerryfishbiscuits has been on a bit of a themed kick of his own lately, sharing recipes for retro biscuit ice creams. Since his previous entries have used a custard base, a condensed milk base and an Angel Delight base, for his Viscount Biscuit Ice Cream he decided to try frozen yoghurt, combining it with buttermilk and a minted sugar syrup. At the last minute, some melted After Eights added a second hit of mint and chocolate.

 

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Christian wants to encourage people to think outside of the box, not only in terms of when they can enjoy ice cream but also what flavours of ice cream they can make. His Lavender & Chocolate Semifreddo is an unusual combination, but lavender has long been used as a flavouring for desserts, and I can imagine it working very well with the creamy custard base.

 

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Next up is my own entry, a Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme Sorbet. Like Hannah I chose the classic lemon and thyme combination but went for a sorbet instead of a granita and added a healthy dose of lemon liqueur to make this an adult-only thirst quencher. The recipe is straightforward, combining a herb-infused sugar syrup with lemon juice and Limoncello and then churning in an ice cream machine to produce a very smooth and aerated sorbet. In the extreme heat, it melted fast, so I just had time to scoop some into my prepared lemon skins and shoot a few photographs before it melted… into my mouth!

 

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Another second entry, this time from Elizabeth with her innovative Green Tea & Shetland Seaweed Ice Cream. Again, one could ask whether green tea and seaweed are actually herbs but given that they’re both the product of plant leaves and used for flavouring and seasoning, I’d definitely say so. Elizabeth’s first try with a condensed milk base wasn’t what she was aiming for, but her second attempt with a custard base was perfect. She also recommends soaking the seaweed before incorporating it.

 

lemoncurd

Last but not least is Julia’s Lemon Curd Ripple Ice Cream with Lemon and Basil Syrup. She found the condensed milk and cream base perfect for this, swirling in thick ripples of lemon curd into the whipped base. She then added a lovely herb accent with her lemon and basil syrup (made with home grown basil), which she drizzled over the ice cream before serving.

 

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I promised to send some herb seeds from my seed box to my favourite posts. Every single entry is great but I’ve picked out two that I really love. Rosanna’s Thyme and Orange Blossom Ice Cream and Elizabeth’s Green Tea & Shetland Seaweed Ice Cream. Ladies, can you email me your postal addresses so I can send you some seeds?

I’ll be posting the next theme shortly. As always, all bloggers (food, lifestyle, personal diarists) are welcome to join in. You don’t have to be an ice cream guru, just have a go and share your ideas and experiences with the rest of us!

 

It was a bit of a Ready Steady Cook challenge. My ingredients consisted of a large sweet potato, a white onion and a bag of baby spinach plus tinned tomatoes and a can of coconut milk from my store cupboard and a wide selection of spices on the shelf. I also wanted to try the tubes of chilli, ginger and garlic I was sent by Just Add.

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A sweet potato and spinach curry seemed to be the answer but as you can see from the photo below, I completely forgot to stir in the spinach! I only remembered when I saw the bag of spinach sitting forlornly on the worktop after dinner. Oops!

 

Sweet Potato (& Spinach) Curry

Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large, 4 small)
250 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
400 ml coconut milk
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated (or
3 cloves garlic (or 1 tablespoon fresh garlic puree)
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (or teaspoon chilli puree)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/5 teaspoons good quality garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to season
Optional: large bunch of spinach (baby leaves or larger, chopped)

Note: Cheaper brands of garam masala tend to bulk out more expensive spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with cheaper ones such as cumin and coriander. It’s easy to make your own garam masala – here’s my mum’s recipe.

Method

  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan and fry onion until soft.
  • Add ginger, garlic, chilli and spices and cook for another minute, stirring continuously so spices don’t catch.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk and mix well.
  • Once thoroughly combined, add the diced sweet potato and cook on a medium heat until the potato is cooked through; test with a skewer or fork after about 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from the heat, add the spinach and stir in until wilted.
  • Serve over basmati rice.

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The curry was tasty – I really enjoyed the combination of sweet potatoes and Indian spices.

Because the Just Add purees only last 21 days, they’re not a product I’d buy as I don’t use ginger, garlic or chilli often enough to get through a tube before it spoils. That said, the quality and convenience were good.

 

Kavey Eats was sent sample products from Just Add.

 

Serendipity and silver linings. That’s how Edible Ornamentals came into being.

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Joanna Plumb, who runs the business with her husband Shawn, told us the story. Many years ago, her parents (who were commercial cucumber farmers) were approached by a national DIY store to grow 3000 chilli plants for their shops. Unfortunately, the DIY company pulled out of the deal leaving Joanna’s parents with 3000 unwanted chilli plants and the headache of watering and nurturing them with no buyer in sight. Just before her dad decided to compost the lot, Joanna (who was studying for a horticultural qualification at the time) stepped in and devised a plan to sell them at car boot sales. She quickly expanded to include local farmers markets and was happy to find that the chilli plants were hugely popular and sold well.

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Shawn and Joanna set up their chilli growing business in 2001. In 2007 they purchased Cherwood Nursery, a disused flower nursery Chawston, Bedfordshire, and Edible Ornamentals finally had space to grow. Since then they’ve added several new polytunnels, a staff room, a shop-cum-cafe and a proper kitchen unit. At the time of our visit they building a new outdoor seating area to expand the cafe and provide a pleasant space for visitors to sit and enjoy.

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Back in the 1990s the couple lived for a few years in Antonio Texas, where they developed a love of chillis and began growing some of the locally popular varieties. When they returned to the UK they brought back with them an abiding love for chillis and a wide range of Tex-Mex recipes. These recipes gave them a great basis to expand their business into making bottled sauces, jams and relishes which they sell onsite and online. In fact, Joanna was a walking chilli-recipe database and rattled off lots of suggestions as she walked us around the polytunnels and greenhouses full of plants, picking and telling us about different varieties of chillis as she went.

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As well as chillis, Shawn and Joanna also grow tomatillos which is how we’d come to visit in the first place. Already supplying their specialist chillies to the catering industry, when Chipotle Mexican Grill were unable to find fresh tomatillos in the UK, Edible Ornamentals were able to help. They were already very familiar with tomatillos, which are a popular ingredient in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. Chipotle got in touch with me asking if we’d like to visit the farm with MD Jacob but sadly we were not able to make the proposed date. They kindly arranged for us to visit on our own in June. We’ll also be visiting the restaurant later this summer to taste their tomatillo dishes for ourselves.

Like tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, chillis and peppers, tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family but they fall within the physalis genus. Native to Mexico, they are similar to and part of the same genus as cape gooseberries (which we know here as physalis) and and which originated in Peru, Columbia and Ecuador. They have the same lantern-like papery husk surrounding a smooth round fruit. Joanna told us how they’re the key ingredient for green salsa amongst many other dishes.

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As we know from our own allotment and garden experiences, everything has been a bit late this year and in June the tomatillos weren’t yet ready for harvest, though there were plenty of pretty lanterns containing growing fruits within. To our delight, Joanna kindly gave us two tomatillo plants (they don’t self-pollinate so you need a minimum of two for them to set fruit) so we’ll hopefully be able to harvest our own later this summer.

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Joanna also gave us a collection of pimento de padron, jalapeño, serrano and poblano chillis to take home – I’ll be sharing some recipes soon.

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Joanna’s Chilli Growing Tips

I asked Joanna for her key tips for growing chillis at home. We have grown several types from seeds as well as purchased and been given the occasional plants and love the satisfaction of harvesting colourful fresh chillis throughout the summer and autumn.

  • Don’t Overwater! Chillis originate in hot climates, so are used to being a little parched.
  • Use good quality multi-purpose compost.
  • Pick chillis from your plant regularly – don’t wait till they’re all red to pick. Removing fruits encourages the plants to create more, so you’ll get a much bigger harvest overall.
  • Chillis aren’t just about heat. Find a variety that has a flavour you really enjoy.

I asked her to suggest three varieties she loves and recommends.

  • Jalapeño – a milder chilli that works well stuffed with cream cheese and either wrapped in bacon or breadcrumbs and grilled or fried.
  • Pimento de padron – a great medium heat chilli that is beautiful grilled or barbecued and served as tapas.
  • Dorset Naga – a super hot chilli that has a beautifully aromatic flavour. Use a tiny sliver in a curry or in red onion marmalade. Joanne used a single chilli in a 30 jar batch and it was plenty!

 

So there you have it. Do you have any great chilli growing tips or recipes or stories to share? I’d love to read them!

With thanks to Edible Ornamentals for the lovely tour, chillis and tomatillo plants and to Chipotle Mexican Grill for organising our visit.

 

A picture tells a thousand words, so here are a selection from a lunch we had back in May. We’d done a few hours at the allotment that morning and went back to continue our efforts once fortified by a delicious lunch at Pera Ocakbasi.

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We ordered starters of garlic mushrooms and a selection of mixed hot meze and shared a main of halep – pieces of minced lamb kebab and cubed bread in a tomato sauce. Olives, pickles and bread were served on arrival and the main came with a large side salad and an onion side dish. Nearly everything was superb, especially the mushrooms, fresh bread and kebab, with the only let down being the use of very stale oil to fry the bread pieces used in the halep.

 

When I set the latest Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream as herbs, I knew already that I wanted to do a lemon and limoncello sorbet with a herb.

I was recently sent a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus, in which I looked up herbs that might be a good match for lemon. The book was alright… To be honest, I already thought of the obvious pairings before I read it – lemon and thyme, lemon and lavender, lemon and mint, lemon and rosemary. Perhaps it’ll prove more useful when I’m trying to find matches for more unusual ingredients.

I fancied something with an element of savoury to it, so went for Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme.

All the lemon sorbet recipes I could find online are essentially a variation of the same technique (juice the lemons, make a sugar syrup, mix together and freeze) but with wildly differing ratios of each ingredient. So I made up my own recipe according to what felt and tasted right.

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The basic recipe is a doddle so I’ll likely make it again to see how I like the other flavour pairings.

I like the idea of lime, mint and rum Mojito sorbet. And lemon and lavender could be lovely on a hot summer afternoon.

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Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme Sorbet

Ingredients
250 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
150 grams sugar
200 ml water
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme. plus extra for garnish
50 ml limoncello liqueur

Note: I haven’t specified an exact number of lemons, since the amount of juice you’ll get from each will vary. My 6 small lemons gave me 250 ml of juice.

Method

  • Juice your lemons, reserving the discarded skins. (Tip: I find rolling the lemons firmly on a hard surface before cutting makes it easier to release the juice.)

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  • Gently heat the sugar, water and thyme together until the sugar is fully dissolved.

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  • Add the limoncello to the lemon juice.
  • Add your flavoured sugar syrup to the lemon juice in batches, and taste for sweetness as you go. If you’ve added all the syrup and your mixture is still too sharp, make up some more syrup using the same 3:4 ratio of sugar to water. (It’s hard to judge since some lemons are sweeter and some are much sharper).

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  • If you are happy with the thyme flavour, remove the sprigs of thyme now. Otherwise, leave them in the mix and refrigerate to cool. (If it’s going to be quite some time before you can churn the mixture, you may wish to taste it now and again and remove the thyme when it has infused sufficiently for your tastes).
  • Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine. (Alternatively, you can freeze, removing from the freezer and mixing with a fork at regular intervals).

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  • In the meantime, use a pair of scissors to snip and scrape as much of the membranes from the lemon skins as possible and slice off the very tips to make a flat base so the halves can stand, like cups.

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  • Once the sorbet is churned, you may need to transfer to the freezer for it to solidify a little further.
  • I used the lemon peel cups to serve, with a sprig of fresh thyme as garnish.

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In the heat of my kitchen, it melted fast! But it was a great reward and I was very happy with how it came out.

This is my entry for the June July BSFIC challenge.

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You still have time to enter, so please do join in!

 

Husband and wife team Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi are well known for their eponymous Italian restaurant and caffe in London, their second restaurant in Bray and their London cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, at which Katie is the principal. The couple also starred in a BBC series called Return to Tuscany, about the cookery school they ran in Italy until 2009 and have appeared on many other food shows since then.

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The Amalfi Coast is their second joint book, following The Italian Mama’s Kitchen (2008). Whereas Katie’s solo book, The Italian Cookery Course (released at about the same time as The Amalfi Coast) covers recipes from across the entire country, The Amalfi Coast focuses on the food of the sunshine-drenched Italian Riviera. Full of sumptuous images of local scenery and food, it’s an evocative cookery book following the route of their exploration, between Positano and Ravello.

Flicking through it takes me back to a long ago holiday… winding and rather exhilarating coastal roads… tiny villages clinging to vertiginous cliffs… views down to sparkling seas with bobbing boats tied at the marina… groves of lemon trees, bright and colourful like the limoncello served in every restaurant and cafe… smartly dressed locals enjoying a pre-dinner stroll to see and be seen… and long and leisurely lunches that last so long they morph into dinner…

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We decided to make the Caldesis’ Gnocchi Ripieni (smoked cheese gnocchi) recipe mainly because we already had smoked cheddar in the fridge after making Gastrogeek’s (Amazing) Roasted Aubergine Macaroni Cheese recipe. We loved the gnocchi so much we have made it more than once and no doubt it will become a regular. (Same goes for the macaroni cheese recipe too!)

The gnocchi are so incredibly soft and light that they melt as soon as you pop them into your mouth; it’s a wonder they don’t disintegrate before you can eat them! The recipe introduction explains that the way the centres melt is what gives the impression they are stuffed with cheese, hence the Italian name – ripieni means “stuffed”. They are quite unlike potato gnocchi, by the way.

The flavour is beautifully balanced and not too strong; they match superbly with a simple tomato sauce. We’ve used posh ready-made and made fresh using another recipe in the book.

And best of all, they’re very easy to make. A winner all round!

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Giancarlo & Katie Caldesi’s Smoked Cheese Gnocchi

Serves 4 (makes 12-20 gnocchi)

Ingredients
250 grams ricotta drained
1 egg
35 grams plain flour
50 grams parmesan finely grated
25 grams smoked cheese finely grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
basil leaves (to serve)
parmesan shavings (to serve)
tomato sauce of your choice (to serve)

Note: The recipe also includes 50 grams semolina, used to coat the gnocchi, which we omitted.

Method

  • Mix the gnocchi ingredients together in a bowl, using an electric whisk or mixer to achieve a smooth texture.

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  • To shape the gnocchi use two spoons and make quenelles – take a spoonful of mixture and use the second spoon to shape it, squeezing and transferring it between the two spoons one or more times to finish the shape.

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  • The recipe calls for rolling the finished shapes in semolina before cooking. However, we decided to drop each gnocchi into a pan of boiling water as soon as it was shaped, without the semolina.

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  • The gnocchi are cooked when they float to the surface, having dropped down to the bottom of the pan initially. Remove them carefully from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer them to the pan of pre-heated tomato sauce to stay warm until the rest are ready. Ideally, this needs two people working together, one to shape and drop the gnocchi and the other to scoop them from the water as soon as they are cooked.

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  • Very gently mix the cooked gnocchi into the sauce, taking care not to break them.
  • Garnish with fresh basil and shavings of parmesan to serve.

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The book contains little you wouldn’t find in many Italian cookery books, and most of the dishes are familiar, but for me that’s much of the appeal. Recipes such as paccheri alla Genovese (pasta tubes with sweet onion and beef sauce), polpettine di carne al sugo di pomodore (meatballs in tomato sauce), pollo al limone (lemon chicken), zucchine scapece (fried courgettes with mint and vinegar), torta di ricotta & pere (pear and ricotta tart) and sorbetto o granita al limone (limoncello sorbet or granita) are the kind of food that fit my kind of cooking.

Nearly every recipe has a photograph, and there are more in between of the landscapes and people of the region. It’s an attractive book, a pleasure to look at.

The Amalfi Coast is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £16 (RRP £25).

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Amalfi Coast from publisher Hardie Grant.

 

Mac n cheese sushi style”?

Er… what the hell is that?

Well, for one thing, it’s a menu item guaranteed to cause sharp intake of breath amongst those convinced that classics must never be meddled with and that twists and fusions are an abomination… But I think life’s too short to be too narrow-minded and proscriptive about food so I was very intrigued by this dish and many others on the menu.

When a journalist and blogger friend tweeted that he was dining in Watford’s self-described “best restaurant”, I confess I stifled a giggle. I’m actually a big fan of Watford but in my (not exhaustive) experience, much of the culinary landscape consists of boring chains, ranging from the awful through to the mediocre and acceptable but seldom showcasing greatness. The independents aren’t a great deal better on the whole, though there are exceptions such as the gem that is Grandpa’s Sushi in Watford Market (review soon) and Taste of Lahore on the High Street.

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Details soon emerged and I was even more surprised to learn that my friend was talking about Rodell’s, just a minute’s walk from my previous office and maybe 2 or 3 from my current one. Not surprised because I’d been there myself or because I’d heard anything about it (good or bad) but because I didn’t even realise it was a restaurant!

It turns out that Rodell’s has had quite a varied history: Back in the 1960’s, two business partners named their new haberdashery shop by combining their family names, Rodriguez and Martell. José Rodriguez was current owner Mario Tavares’ uncle and the property passed to Mario via his mother who took over in the 1970s. She diversified Rodell’s into a general corner shop to sell groceries, cigarettes and confectionery. Her daughter, Mario’s sister, helped evolve the business again by introducing sandwiches and catering for local offices.

In 2004 it was Mario’s turn. After an exciting and successful career spanning both performance and production of music, TV, arts and digital animation, Mario wanted to focus instead on his love of great food and cooking, especially the many cuisines he’d picked up travelling the world for work and pleasure.

Mario converted Rodell’s into an organic deli, serving breakfast and lunch to the local area. His simple no-menu approach was ahead of its time — think how popular no-choice menus have become today, both in underground restaurants and commercial ones. With the lack of menus and signs in the window, and it being closed when I passed by early morning and at the end of the working day, I had no inkling that the shop was actually a hive of activity during the day!

However, as many business owners found, the recession started to bite and in 2009 Mario closed shop. It was not until 2011 that he re-launched, this time as a bar and restaurant, with the intention of creating a vibrant and friendly community hub.

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Downstairs, a bar sits to one side of the small room, exposed brick and wooden floors creating a warm inviting little space. Particularly popular are the two draft taps, not for beer but for Prosecco! Mario was one of the first in the UK to install these.

Staff are friendly and the three we chatted to during the evening clearly share our love for great food and drink.

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Upstairs are two dining rooms, also simply styled. Pale wooden tables and walls make the most of the light flooding in from huge windows. A mix of old and modern furnishings and knick knacks give a touch of homeliness. Mario’s favourite films are projected onto one wall – Hairspray and Pink Panther during our meal. Also playing is a music tape, quite unrelated to the films, which makes for some surreal moments.

Mario explains that he’s not a trained chef but has learned from many different sources and in many different places. His menu is essentially a very eclectic and constantly changing mix of sharing plates and he is not constrained by notions of what goes with what. Instead he makes what he likes to cook and eat, confident that others will too.

A born host, Mario tells us how he wants his customers to help him shape what Rodell’s is to them. In return, customers quickly become regulars; some from just around the corner and some from further afield.

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He’s one of those genuine happy people it’s impossible not to warm to immediately. His giggle actually is infectious, clichéd though that may sound.

A childhood in the Philippines meant he learned to love great food at a young age. Since then he’s lived and travelled all around the world and found more delicousness in each place.

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So, what about the food?

I can see how some might be alarmed by the way the menu meanders right around the world from dish to dish. Surely Malaysian should be served with Malaysian, Chinese with Chinese, Spanish with Spanish? Bah humbug to that suggestion – I relish the eccentric menu and am happy to trot the globe with my palate.

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Savoury bread and butter pudding (£4.50) is served with a small cup of thin soup. The soup is OK but the pudding is magnificent – imagine crispy light layered puff pastry top and bottom, around a melting savoury cheesy custard interior, with a little pesto slathered on top. Yeah!

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Dry spicy Cajun ribs (£8) are so big I wonder if they come from a dino-pig. The quality of the pork is evident as they are tender, tasty and with a beautiful thick layer of fat. The cajun spice rub has a kick!

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Fritto misto (£6) is the weakest dish, for me. I’m just not convinced that it works with such tiny pieces of seafood and I definitely don’t like mussels served this way, though I like them in other recipes. I’d also suggest serving it with aioli alongside, such as the one served with the chicken.

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Spanish pollo ajillo (£6) (garlic chicken) wings are served piping hot, superbly tender and juicy on the inside with a crisp exterior; perfect dipped in the aioli provided.

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Lemon prosecco risotto (£6) divides us. We both agree it has great flavour, but I find it far too dry and stodgy. Pete likes it but I much prefer a looser, more liquid risotto.

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Malay beef rending (£8) is fantastic! It has a superb balance of flavours, the meat is as soft as you could hope for and the heat is enough to make itself known but not so hot it masks the rest. My only comment would be that for £8 the portion is small given that no rice or bread comes alongside. A flaky roti canai would go down a treat and make it better value too.

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And finally I want to tell you about that mac n cheese sushi style (£8). Macaroni tubes are neatly (dare I say obsessively?) arranged and glued together by a cheese sauce, then breadcrumbed, fried and served in slices that resemble rolled sushi. To my surprise, the cheese sauce is liquidy soft and melting – I can’t imagine how the slices don’t disintegrate into a slop on the plate! I often hear people claiming that there is nothing new under the sun and that any real twist to a classic worth trying has been tried already. This dish proves them wrong because it’s bloody genius and even if I hadn’t fallen for any other dish I’d go back for this alone.

You can see we ordered seven dishes between us but five or six would have been plenty, as we started hungry but finished so full we could hardly roll ourselves back down the stairs.

As well as the prosecco there’s a nice range of fairly priced soft and alcoholic drinks. And Mario’s just converted some outside space into a little drinking and eating deck, perfect in the current heatwave.

What do you think, abomination or genius? Or do you need to try it for yourself to decide?

 

Kavey Eats were guests of Rodell’s.

 

In my last post, I shared our adventures at Bettys HQ in Harrogate, where Pete and I spent a wonderful day touring the bakery, attending a private class in the cookery school, enjoying a tasty lunch in the Cafe Tea Rooms and buying ourselves some tasty treats before heading for home.

Today, it’s time to give you the chance to win a taste of Bettys yourself!

Fondant Fancy Party Cake

 

COMPETITION

Bettys are offering one lucky Kavey Eats reader their absolutely gorgeous Fondant Fancy Party Cake. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite baked afternoon treat.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a Fondant Fancy Party Cake from Kavey Eats and @Bettys1919! http://goo.gl/th5Nw #KaveyEatsBettysFancy
You don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet.

Entry 3 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 2nd August 2013.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize for is a Bettys of Harrogate Fondant Fancy Party Cake, with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Bettys of Harrogate.
  • 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.

With thanks again to Bettys for our lovely day out.

The winner of this competition is Mark Maplethorpe.

 

This Easter I ran a competition to win a Bettys chocolate badger and was overwhelmed by the popularity of the giveaway! I loved reading the responses to my entry question of which woodland animal people wanted to see similarly immortalised in chocolate. Following the competition, I arranged with Kelly Young (Engagement Manager for Bettys) for Pete and I to pay them a visit on the way back from our holiday in Islay.

After overnighting with friends in beautiful Kirby Malham (and visiting their newly acquired farm shop in Airton) we made our way through beautiful countryside to Bettys attractive HQ near central Harrogate.

As I explained in that previous post, Bettys is a family business founded back in 1919 by a young Swiss man, Frederick Belmont. Today, the business is still run by his descendants and they have kept alive strong links to the country of his birth. Indeed current chairman Lesley Wild ensures that several Swiss-inspired recipes are offered on the menus in the Cafe Tea Rooms as well as a selection of Swiss wines. These sit comfortably side by side with the many local Yorkshire specialities that Bettys is also known for.

HQ is situated in a spacious, purpose-built estate in Plumpton Park with several Swiss-chalet inspired low-rise buildings. Even the parking areas impressed me, with pretty trees giving shade to most spaces and gardeners busily tending the green spaces when we arrived.

Signed in, we quickly donned our white coats and attractive hair nets (see below) before setting off on a genuinely fascinating tour of the bakery; it’s here that they make the baked goods sold in Bettys’ six Cafe Tea Rooms and online shop.

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To my surprise, virtually everything is made just like it would be in a home kitchen (but on a bigger scale). Aside from a couple of larger-than-usual stand mixers, cakes are iced and decorated, biscuit dough is rolled and cut, pastries are filled and assembled, bread is shaped into loaves, macarons are piped … by hand. Indeed, the two machines they use to cut shortbread biscuits into even flat circles and mille feuille pastry into perfect rectangles, are a rare contrast to the rest of the bakery’s old school methods.

Mostly we just watched, listening to Peter Hartley – one of the bakery managers – explain the various sections and methods used, but I was delighted to have a go at foil-wrapping a large chocolate coin wearing the special gloves used to achieve a smooth and lustrous finish.

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The bakery isn’t averse to modern technology where it’s useful and doesn’t compromise the product, such as their vast ovens with rotating racks inside, but I couldn’t help but fall for the modern-build old-design wood-fired oven in which they bake traditional breads.

After the bakery tour, we thought our agenda had us taking a quick peek around the Bettys Cookery School, located on the same site. With no courses scheduled on a Monday, we knew there wouldn’t be much going on.

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But to our surprise and delight, Kelly had secretly arranged for senior tutor Lisa Bennison to run a private class just for us, to give us a taster of the cookery school in action.

Lisa taught us two dishes during our class: Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle (often written as spaetzle in languages without the umlaut). The first is thinly sliced veal in a sauce of mushrooms, cream, white and onions and the second is little egg noodles shaped by pushing a thick batter into boiling water through small holes – Bettys use a specialist pan. In this recipe, the freshly boiled spaetzle were fried in butter before serving.

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We loved Lisa’s enthusiastic, humorous but tip-packed teaching style and there were plenty of giggles to go round as Pete mixed batter, boiled and fried his spaetzle under Lisa’s watchful eye. The proof was in the tasting and the whole dish tasted very good indeed.

You can find the Bettys cookery school recipes for Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle here.

BettysHarrogate
image courtesy of Bettys

After our wonderful class in the cookery school, Kelly had one more treat in store for us – lunch at the nearest Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in central Harrogate. The interior is spacious and beautiful, full of gorgeous original features. There’s a cafe on the ground floor and the slightly more formal Montpellier downstairs.

Although many fellow diners were enjoying an early afternoon tea, we all chose from the delicious menu of savoury dishes, many with a strong Swiss influence.

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Pete’s Original Yorkshire Rarebit was made with mature Cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and Yorkshire ale. Swimming in cheese, it was a rich and heavy dish, but tasty.

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My Swiss Rosti was topped with chicken and cheese. It was a delicious combination of caramelised potatoes on the surface and soft, almost steamed potatoes in the centre.

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Kelly went for a beautifully summery pea and spinach ravioli which looked very attractive on the plate and certainly earned smiles of appreciation as she ate.

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Afterwards, we enjoyed desserts from the cake trolley. Beautiful!

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Last, a quick dash around the shop for me to buy some sweet treats to bring home and we finally made our way back to London, regretful that Bettys local ethos makes it unlikely that we’ll see a branch open near us anytime soon.

Coming next, a competition to win some Bettys deliciousness for yourself…

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bettys bakery, cookery school and cafe tea room.

Jul 052013
 

When we headed up to Islay for a week’s holiday recently, I took along a jar of my home-made apple pie filling, canned a few months ago using apples from our allotment trees. The plan was to make a pie for dessert one evening. A fruitless supermarket search for ready-made short crust pastry (and a realistic acknowledgement that none of us were in the mood to make some from scratch) lead to the decision to switch to a crumble instead.

But earlier in the day, we’d made cookies (magnificent 3D safari cookies, as it happens) and had a generous portion of cookie dough leftover.

In a eureka moment I decided that cookie dough would be an even quicker option and set Pete to work on grating it. It’s best to grate the dough when it’s cold and hard out of the fridge. In fact, frozen would probably be even better, as the dough gets warm the longer you hold it, and consequently harder to grate.

Spread in a thick even layer over the pie filling and baked until the filling was piping hot and the topping golden brown, we discovered that the cookie dough made a wonderful, crunchy-chewy lid which worked very well indeed.

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The recipe we used for the cookie dough is given below, but I can’t provide exact quantities as I’m not sure exactly how much we used for the cookies… at least half, perhaps two thirds or even more? So you probably only need somewhere between a quarter to a half of the recipe below if you’re using it as pie topping, assuming a similarly sized pie dish.

Or why not make the full amount and make some cookies too? Rolled about half a centimetre thick they take about 10 minutes at 180 C (check after 8 and bake until golden brown) and last well in an airtight book. They make slightly chewy cookies which hold their shape well and are very tasty.

 

Sugar Cookie Dough for Cookie Dough Crumble

Ingredients
225 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
225 grams sugar
2 large eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
600 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

Method

  • Cream butter and sugar. If using to make shaped cookies, don’t over beat – too much air incorporated will cause the dough to spread more during baking.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix in.
  • Mix in dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Mix into smooth dough. Again, don’t over work.
  • Refrigerate for at least half an hour before using.

 

Have you had any wonderful eureka moments when adapting cooking plans to ingredients at hand and laziness levels? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

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