Oct 292013
 

I love autumn – the early half, when the leaves on the trees create a riot of my favourite colours and there is still a good chance of sunny days that are chilly but not freezing cold. And it’s apple season too. As I discovered recently, the apple isn’t a native fruit, but it’s become so much a part of our agricultural and gardening landscape that it’s hard not to think of it as a quintessentially British fruit.

Last year, we had such an outrageously enormous harvest from just two trees on our allotment that I spent several days preserving apples in chutneys, jellies and apple pie filling.

This year’s harvest wasn’t quite as overwhelming but I’ve still been enjoying a little more preserving, not to mention apple (and foraged blackberry) crumbles and more apple pies.

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When we’re making a pie fresh, rather than using canned apple pie filling, the recipe we use for the filling is a very simple one taken from Angela Nilsen’s Ultimate Apple Pie. Rather than using her pastry recipe, we usually buy ready-made shortcrust pastry from the supermarket. Pete preps the apples, rolls the pastry and lays the base and lid. I make the filling mix and do the pie decorations. A team effort though I have the easier tasks!

I like to use a mix of cooking and eating apples so that there are differences in the texture and flavour of the fruit, once cooked. This pie was made with four different types of apples; most were from our allotment and garden with an additional one from the shops.

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Last 2 images by Jason Ng, thanks Jason!

Classic Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients
500 grams shortcrust pastry, chilled
1 kg mixed apples, peeled and cored weight
Optional: large bowl of cold water and squirt of lemon juice
150g caster sugar + extra for sprinkling
0.5 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg white, very loosely beaten

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170 C (fan).
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. You can keep the prepped apples fresh in a bowl of cold water with a squirt of lemon juice added but do drain them well and quickly pat them dry before continuing with recipe.
  • Toss the apples in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix with your hands to make sure the coating is evenly distributed.
  • Divide the pastry, setting aside two thirds for the base and one third for the lid. Roll out the base and lay into a reasonably deep pie dish.
  • Pile the apples inside, heaping them towards the centre.
  • Roll the pastry for the lid, brush a little water over the edges of the base and position the lid on top. Use a sharp knife to trim away excess pastry and then press down with fingers or a fork to ensure a good seal and make a pretty edge.
  • Roll out the leftover pastry and use a small round pastry cutter to cut out three circles. Use your finger to make a dent in each one, so they look more apple-like. Use the same pastry cutter to cut three simple leaf shapes. Roll or cut tiny fragments to use as stems. Use water to moisten and stick the pieces onto the pie lid.
  • Loosely beat the egg white and brush over the entire pie and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
  • Cut a  few slashes or crosses to allow steam to escape during cooking.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully golden.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to sit and rest for 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle a little more caster sugar over the top.
  • Serve with custard, vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, double cream or a delicious clotted cream ice cream my friend found in Waitrose.

 

Apple pie is such a classic and yet there are many variations. What recipe or style of apple pie do you prefer and what do you like to serve it with?

 

On a Saturday lunchtime, as I make my way from tube station to The Courtesan restaurant, Brixton is buzzing. I love walking down the long curve of Atlantic Road, peering at all the fish mongers, butchers and grocers, particularly fascinated by the number of items on sale that I don’t recognise and can’t identify. Only a short walk past the food shops, market and ever-vibrant Brixton Village, I find what I’m looking for.

Named for the Lady of the Court, the restaurant offers “modern dim sum” alongside selected teas, wines and cocktails.

Owner Hammant Patel Villa, a professional industrial designer with a passion for oriental food, was captivated by the stories and traditions of the original Chinese courtesan (and is at pains to dismiss the crasser modern meaning that the word has taken on). Originally, courtiers and courtesans were simply those who were regularly in attendance at the royal court. Many were nobles, but there were also members of the clergy, soldiers, business men and agents and even clerks and secretaries. Political lobbyists are perhaps the closest modern-day equivalent.

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For Hammant, the Lady Courtesan is a figure of mystery and elegance, power and knowledge, perhaps also a little romance and sadness. Her portrait hangs at one end of the main room and the decor of the restaurant pays homage; he points to a patterned wallpaper – he chose it to represent the tears of the courtesan, he explains. There is much dark wood, some a little worn with the patina of age, and the space is hung with elegant light fittings. The Birdcage bar is appropriately themed, with shelving units designed to mimic the real cages displayed above. Downstairs is the “Boudoir”, a dark and intimate space with its own bar, used for special events and available to book.

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I am really impressed by the drinks menu. For wine drinkers, nearly all the wines listed can be ordered by the glass or the bottle. There are three “desert wine” [sic] listings, though one is a plum wine and one a very dry sherry, so this section needs more attention. The beer list is short but more interesting than many, with a regular Brew, IPA and Chocolate Porter from Chapel Down Winery’s Curious beer brand and Imperial Lager and Cerne Dark Lager by Krusovice in the Czech Republic. There are champagnes and proseccos and a long list of inventive mixers for them. The usual comprehensive list of spirits, liqueurs, etc. is available. There’s even a sake. Soft drinks include a better range of juices than normal, though none are specified as fresh. The choice of teas is pleasing, ranging from Jasmine, Chamomile and White Peony & Rosebuds to Pu Erh, Lapsang Souchong and Iron Goddess of Mercy (£4.90), which I enjoy with my meal.

The cocktail list is particularly appealing; instead of following the same clichéd path of bitters this and vermouth that it offers more unusual creations such as China Ghost (£7.90, Wyborowa Vodka, Rose Liqueur, Lychee, Rose Peony) and Wang Zhaojun (£8.80, Violet Liqueur, Jasmine Tea, Beefeater 24 Gin, Wyborowa Vodka). Hammant says he likes to think of these as flavours the Courtesan might like, but that are also “ethereal, life and death in the same glass”. Both are utterly delightful!

I’m pleased both by the inclusion of tea in some of the cocktails and the pleasant change of there being some sweeter combinations for those of us that aren’t so keen on sour or bitter. There are also a few non-alcoholic cocktails, based mainly on the tea menu.

Once drinks have been ordered, the dim sum starts to arrive.

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Char Siu Puff (£3.90) are decent in texture but the pork is a little under-flavoured.

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings (£4.20) are excellent. The filling is juicy and very delicious, wrapped in a thin skin which is soft in places, crispy in others.

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Trio of Steamed Dumplings (£5.80) include one each of Prawn & Crab Dumpling, Wasabi King Prawn Dumpling and Scallop & Shrimp Dumpling. The wasabi nearly blows my head off, it’s incredibly potent, but once my eyes stop streaming, I enjoy the set.

Cheung Fun Tri (£5.20) comes with one each of Roast Pork, Prawn with Beancurd and Vegetables With Beancurd. Surprisingly, the vegetarian one is my favourite, with a perfect balance of tastes and textures.

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Char Siu Buns (£4.20) have an unusual style of dough, but are enjoyable nonetheless.

I ask for an order of Taro Croquettes (£3.90), one of my dim sum stalwarts and a good judge of a kitchen, I think. They are tasty, but the inner casing is far thicker than usual, leaving less room inside for the pork filling.

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Peanut Celery Salad (£3.50) is served warm. I hate celery, but do try the peanuts and love how they are soft rather than crunchy. Others enjoy the dish as a whole.

Stormy Seaweed (£3.90) is doused in a fiery dressing, a touch too fierce for me, but simple and a good match with the seaweed.

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Described as “spare pork ribs, first braised, then fried with Szechuan batter”, the Szechuan Style Ribs (£6.50) are fabulous. I’m not sure I’ve had spare ribs that have been breaded and fried before, but it works superbly well. Again, these are fairly hot on the chilli front, as I expected from the name.

Hot Frogs Legs (£7.20) are also utterly delicious, served hot out of the fryer. But beware – Hammant instructed his chef that he wanted the frogs to kick hard, so the chilli quotient is not for the faint hearted.

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I’ve always loved Black Sesame Balls (£4.50) but order them only rarely; they are so rich I can’t eat more than one and few of my friends like them. So it is a pleasure to have them here. The soft glutinous coat around a gooey black filling is spot on.

At the end comes Rose Peony Chocolate Truffles (£4.70). The ganache is made from cream infused with the white peony and rosebud tea. They are rich and dark and perfect to have with coffee, though the tea flavour hasn’t permeated much, that I can detect.

 

I am pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of the dim sum, having wondered ahead of my visit whether a design-lead space with a strong drinks focus would really do justice to the food. But I needn’t have worried, the dim sum is, in the main part, very good. Prices are reasonable too, especially for the cocktails list which is great value.

My visit also reminds me how easy it is to get down to Brixton, and a visit to those fish mongers, butchers and grocers is on the cards soon.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The Courtesan.

Courtesan Dim Sum Bar on Urbanspoon

 

I’ll be telling you all about Omar Allibhoy – the wonderfully talented chef behind Tapas Revolution – in an upcoming post (and reviewing his recently launched cookery book too). But in the meantime, let me urge you to visit one of his two restaurants; you won’t regret it! There you can fill up on dish after dish of Spanish treats, washed down with a glass or two of something wonderful. The original branch is located in Westfield shopping centre (near Shepherd’s Bush, London) and the second branch is in Bluewater shopping centre (in Greenhithe, Kent).

Pete and I visited the Westfield site to interview Omar (about how he came to cooking, about the restaurant, about his motorbike tour of Britain and the cookbook); during our chat the three of us ate our way through a wide swathe of the menu.

The restaurant is bright, light and open to the public, with a small and tidy open kitchen at its heart. Customers perch on stools around the surrounding counter, though there are some nearby tables and chairs available if you prefer. The menu is a delight; a tight list of dishes that appeal to a wide audience but also give a true picture of Spanish tapas. We watched people stop by for a quick coffee, do fork battle over a plate of octopus, greedily grab fatty slices of cured pork with their fingers and order hot, fresh churros to takeaway.

Customers can also buy a selection of specialist ingredients, should they be inspired to have a go themselves; certainly, Omar’s book makes tapas very achievable for home cooks.

Omar is certainly planning to expand the fledgling chain further afield, so non-Londoners, keep your fingers crossed for a branch to open near you.

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I love good food and was very excited to try so many of the listed dishes. And yet, one of the most exciting aspects of the menu for me was the excellent list of soft drinks. It’s hard not to feel a little deflated when restaurants put such great effort into their wine lists (and, lately, their beer lists too) but let themselves down by sticking to long life fruit juice and fizzy drinks for their non-alcoholic offering. That is not the case at Tapas Revolution!

Limonada casera (£2.25), described as homemade lemonade with a touch of saffron, is a full on explosion of flavour; it’s simultaneously sweet, very sharp and intensely citrus and takes on just a hint of earthiness (as well as vibrant colour) from the saffron. This one will definitely wake you up, if eating too much tapas is making you sleepy.

Horchata (£2) is a classic Spanish drink made from tigernuts, the tuber of a plant in the sedge family, distantly related to water chestnuts. The nuts are ground with sugar and water to make a milk-like liquid which is served ice cold as a summer thirst-quencher. Elsewhere in Europe, similar drinks are made from barley, almonds and even sesame seeds but the Spanish preference for tigernuts was introduced by the Moorish presence in Valencia many centuries ago. It’s a distinct flavour and not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it very much.

Mosto (£2) is a sweet red grape juice that is not for the light-hearted. It’s almost syrupy in it’s sweetness, and is best enjoyed chilled. With my sweet tooth, I adore this.

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A board of Jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham) de Guijuelo (£8.95) is the perfect balance of sweet, salty, fatty meat and, for the price, the serving is generous.

Pan con tomate (£2.95) is a classic, and something Omar tells us he enjoys for breakfast several times a week, advising us to rub garlic underneath and tomato on top of the bread. Somehow this dish of bread, garlic, tomato and oliveoil is so much more than the sum of its parts and we cannot resist a second order…

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An order of Pulpo a la Gallega (£6.25) brings us a dish of tender steamed octopus with potatoes and pimentón paprika. Juicy pieces of seafood have a strong enough flavour to stand up to the paprika. Great balance.

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The menu warns that the fried Pimientos de Padrón (£4.95) are sweet but that some can be quite spicy too! I love the charred flavour against the sweet pepper flesh.

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Calamares fritos (£4.75), when done well, are a thing of beauty but are so disappointing when they’re not. But these deep-fried baby squid are just perfect, served piping hot straight out of the fryer, the batter is crunchy and the squid inside soft and tasty. Spot on.

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The crisp-crumbed exterior of these Croquetas de jamón (£4.50) give way to hot, gooey bechamel studded with porky goodness. Perfect examples of Spanish ham croquettes. Give them a few moments to cool from the fryer, if you want to avoid the monkey-like, burnt-mouth noises my impatience had me squealing!

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Pinchos morunos con mojo picón (£6.50) is beyond my elementary Spanish skills; luckily the menu explains that this dish consists of marinated beef skewers with a spicy dipping sauce. Whilst the beef is cooked properly, the spices in the marinade taste raw and harsh to me, and it’s the only dish of the day that isn’t a runaway success. The spicy dipping sauce, though, is fabulous.

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I seldom bother to order Tortilla de patatas (£3.95) because I’m seduced by other more exciting options and an omelette made with potato and onion doesn’t leap off the page. But one mouthful of Omar’s tortilla and I am converted – there’s a depth of flavour from the sweet onions that I hadn’t expected, which is perfect with the very thin slices of soft potato and egg binding. It’s actually amazing!

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If you’re looking for comfort food, look no further than Fabada Asturiana, a  white bean stew with pork and chorizo that is the very definition of “hearty”.

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This innocuous looking dish is Quesada con Frutos Rojos (£3.50), a fresh cheese cake with red fruit, baked (much like a New York cheesecake but without a base, the juices of the fruits leak into the cheesecake as it cooks). Delicious but very filling, if you’ve already eaten as much as we have!

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I don’t know why Churros con chocolate (£3.50 to eat in, £2.95 to takeaway) fill me with such childish glee? Perhaps it’s the wonderfully winding shapes that remind of me of the black snake fireworks I loved when I was little. Or maybe it’s just the hot fried doughnut dough, with ridges that are perfect for cinnamon sugar to adhere to and the glass of tasty hot dipping chocolate they are served with.

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We ordered twelve dishes between the three of us, and I was so full I could hardly make my way back to the car. Two dishes per person is plenty for a light lunch, three per person if you’re feeling hungrier.

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Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Tapas Revolution.

Tapas Revolution on Urbanspoon

 

I’ve been aware of the Opies brand for several years, having bought and really enjoyed a number of their preserved fruit products during that period. What I didn’t know was that this family-run business has been going since 1880, making it one of the oldest private family-owned food companies in the UK.

Company OutingsOpies Workers

In 1880, young Cornishman Bennett Opie set off to make his fortune in London with just a few pounds in his pocket. He started out by selling eggs and bacon, and gradually expanded his business, with the help of his two brothers. In 1912 he was joined by his son William, at which time he founded Bennett Opie Limited. When supplies of fresh eggs were limited during the first world war, William recognised the opportunity to manufacture and supply liquid eggs to the bakery trade. Later, he decided to diversify into preserving cherries, keen to provide a less expensive alternative to popular but pricy French brands. At that point, in 1929, the company relocated to Sittingbourne, Kent – the heart of Kent’s cherry-growing region. The site is close to natural springs; the water from which is still used by Opies today. This move marked the start of Opie’s growing range in preserves and pickles. William’s sons Tony and Derek continued to build the business through the second world war and their efforts were rewarded with a Royal Warrant in 1962 (though Opies doesn’t hold one currently).

Today, Opies is run by Bennett’s great grandsons, Philip and William, who divide the company’s focus between their traditional products, such as pickled walnuts and cocktail cherries, and creating new products in line with modern trends. I’ve been assured that the next eager generation of Opies is waiting in the wings!

Learning more about Opies, I’m particularly happy to learn about their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. As well as recycling all water used in their production cooling processes, 90% of their packaging is recyclable and they recycle cardboard and other materials used in the manufacturing process. Their delivery vehicles are selected with a view to minimising emissions and they always maximise loads to reduce unnecessary journeys. They also focus strongly on sourcing ingredients locally.

Indeed, when I asked whether traditional recipes for their longer-standing products had changed over the years, they explained that they strive to keep flavours and textures traditional, but have tweaked recipes over the years as more natural (and local) alternatives to original ingredients become available. Of course, they run regular quality and tasting checks on all the lines they produce.

Inspiration for new product lines comes from global travel, food exhibitions and suggestions by their trusted suppliers. It can be a challenge launching new products – obtaining listings and shelf space is tough and it’s always hard to predict exactly what consumers will love; a new recipe for spiced pears in vinegar didn’t catch on and supermarkets just didn’t get the idea of a ginger spread with 60% ginger.

However, there’s plenty of love for both their traditional and new product ranges and I have been enjoying working my way through a selection of alcohol-preserved fruit, pickled quail eggs, fruit compotes, cocktail cherries and gherkins, a variety of pickled vegetables and relishes and their recently launched hickory barbeque sauce, which is naturally smoked in a traditional smokehouse. That gives a far lovelier flavour than the artificial smoke flavourings used by some brands.

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Loosely inspired by Ben Spalding’s 30 Ingredient Salad, I decided to create my own “cacophony of colours, textures and tastes” (as I described it) using some of my Opies samples and some additional salad ingredients from the supermarket.

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I used Opies Rhubarb & Redcurrant Compote, Opies Pickled Baby Beetroot, Comte cheese, Opies Pickled Quails Eggs, Salami, English Honey, Opies English Cucumber Relish, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, an Cox’ Orange Pippin apple and Greek basil leaves.

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The ingredients were the kind of selection we might enjoy for a cold lunch, the sort of buffet you might set up as a coffee table picnic on a sunny afternoon. The only difference here was in presenting all the elements together as a single pretty plate. I was delighted with the result, even though it wasn’t a patch on Spalding’s incredible feast for the senses!

 

COMPETITION

Opies is generously offering the same selection they sent me (above) to one Kavey Eats reader. 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, sharing your suggestions for an incredible salad featuring one or more Opies products.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook pagefollow and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kaveyfollow on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win delicious @BennettOpie treats from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/ou85CQ #KaveyEatsOpies
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. 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 15th November 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 is a set of Opies products, as shown above, with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Bennett Opie Limited.
  • If one or more of the items is out of stock, Bennett Opie Limited reserve the right to substitute a similar item from their range, of same or higher value.
  • 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 a sample set of products from Bennett Opie Limited.

 

Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

 

To celebrate their fiftieth year in the UK, kitchen appliances brand Miele commissioned a trend forecasting agency Trendstop, to predict what technology we might be using in the production and cooking of our food and drink, another fifty years in the future.

Trendstop CEO Jaana Jatyri handed over a report with a list of suggestions including scanners that monitor a variety of measures of health and dictate changes to our diet to improve and maintain good health. Personally, I think we already have most of the knowledge we need to improve our diets, and this particular prediction may also require a sea change in societal values to put a greater emphasis on health over hedonistic enjoyment. I’m certainly not clamouring for a little machine that will warn me every time I’m eating something deleterious to my health!

Another prediction foretells of living walls of green in our home to increase the production of oxygen and hydroponic technology to let us grow more fruit and veg at home too; this is something I love the sound of, and have bookmarked several examples of people creating these in their kitchens right now. It’s also likely that we’ll want to reduce the energy wasted in transporting food from farm to store to home even further; the report’s talk of advanced technologies that work on cellular and atomic rather than mechanical levels” immediately made me think of the Star Trek replicators that can synthesise anything that’s been analysed and entered into the database. “Earl Grey tea, hot!”, anyone?

Whilst I can’t imagine we’ll see replicators in my lifetime, I’m already amazed by current advances in agricultural methods that turn centuries, even millennia, of traditional growing methods on their heads. I saw an exhibit demonstrating how to grow plants without any soil at all, at one garden show I attended last year!

Edible food packaging sounded like a laudable idea, though I wondered if it would too susceptible to bruising during transit, and the grime accumulated during the journey would need to be very thoroughly washed away before I’d be willing to add it to my cooking pot.

Insects becoming a standard source of protein is something I do think will happen. It’s already the norm in many other parts of the world, and it’s really just a cultural aversion to the idea that stops many Europeans from giving it more credence even today.

To bring some these ideas to life, Miele asked chef Ben Spalding to create a Feast To The Future, with a menu of dishes he anticipated might be popular in 2063. He noted the prediction for food cocktails – single drinks or dishes that contain all the essential vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients people need to survive. “Five-a-day will be old hat, and-10-a-day juice drinks will be the new craze.” And he was excited about all the new flavours people would have available; there are plants that don’t suit current farming methods but which might come to the fore in a world of home-growing; and just as now, there would be new super foods from all around the world, such as the jamblung fruit he had us try and, in my case, spit straight back out again!

Like my friend Rejina, the dish that blew me away most of all was Spalding’s 30 ingredient salad; the plate a cacophony of colours, textures and tastes that was utterly compelling. Every mouthful was exciting, the entire table were animated with excitement, calling out questions to Spalding about the various ingredients we were encountering as we ate.

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One of the elements was cress that Spalding had grown in a prototype Evogro Farmino, a machine which uses LED lighting and hydroponics, controlled by specially written software, to create and maintain optimum growing conditions with very low energy requirements.

MieleSpalding Collage

Taking a note from the current love affair for East Asian fermented products, we started with a fermented elderflower and apple drink.

Puffed pork skin was dusted with paprika.

Dark malt bread toasts came with crisp shards of chicken skin, butter creamed together with sugar and crunchy chewy rice cakes.

Next we tried shrivelled jamblang fruit; far too sharp for me but some loved the complex flavours.

Cucumber and vodka was served on our hands, to be licked off, for a more interactive experience!

The brains dish worried a few diners, but most of us loved the Asian-style steamed veal brain and kimchi dumpling served in individual bamboo steamers. It was paired with a ten-a-day cocktail including ingredients such as bramley apple juice, green tea, carrots, tonka bean, lime zest, horseradish salt and a slick of tune mayonnaise puree around the lip of the glass. Odd!

After the 30 ingredient salad came a tiny spoon of intense caviar oil, enjoyed by those of us with a taste for fishiness.

Pork belly cooked in a steam oven with a sweet, sticky glaze was served with equally sticky rice. Delicious!

Then came a microwave cake served crumbled with lemon thyme ice, a fruit jam and muscovado custard.

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Another prediction from Trendstop was that socialising in the future might be courtesy of holographic technology; we would get together with our friends in real life much less often. Does this mean that dinner with our mates will become a think of the past? I hope not!

Do you have any predictions on where our eating and cooking might be in fifty years time?

 

Kavey Eats attended Feast To The Future as a guest of Miele.

 

In just 20 years, American restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has grown from a single store in Denver, Colorado to a cross-country and international chain of over 1500 stores.

Founder and CEO Steve Ells spent some time in San Francisco (working at the highly respected Stars restaurant), during which he came to love the little taquerías he frequented in the city’s Mission district. These Mexican taco shops fascinated Ells; in the video on the company’s American website he explains how taken he was by the freshly-made burritos with a range of ingredients (rice, meat, beans, sauces) wrapped up inside a giant tortilla; he’d never seen anything like these before. He decided this was the kind of restaurant he wanted to open himself, using authentic ingredients and adding his own style to the setting. Of course, he also took note of the model of service in these little stores, where a small team of staff working along the length of a counter were able to serve a high volume of customers quickly and efficiently, understanding instinctively that it was a very economical way of running a restaurant.

He opened his first branch in 1993, with the second branch following less than two years later and the business has grown and grown and grown ever since. In 2010, the company came to the UK and now has 6 stores in London. (Note that only two of the six branches here currently make all the menu items at their own site, Charing Cross Road and Baker Street. The chain plans to convert the other stores to operate full kitchens in 2014)

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I was introduced to the brand early this summer, when asked if I’d like to visit Edible Ornamentals, the Bedfordshire chilli nursery who grow fresh tomatillos for Chipotle. (When they aren’t in season in the UK, Chipotle import from Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, and Mexico). Tomatillos are a key ingredient to authentic Mexican salsa but not an ingredient commonly grown in Europe, so Chipotle were very happy when Edible Ornamentals agreed they could grow and provide a UK supply. Pete and I loved visiting the nursery (and have since harvested lots of tomatillos from the pair of plants gifted to us by Joanna). Some months later, once British-grown tomatillos were finally in season and available on the Chipotle menu, we made our visit to the restaurant itself.

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Manager Anna Czigany showed me around and her enthusiasm, not just for the product but for the company as an employer, was very genuine. She is very proud that the company values staff retention, gives on-the-job training and encourages career progression. She started as “crew” three years ago; likewise, many of her colleagues have been in the company for a 2 or more years and similarly appreciate advancement opportunities. After we ate, she took me round the kitchen, explaining where and how the various menu items were made. She pointed out that because every item on the menu is made by the small team of staff that run the branch, everyone knows just how each item should taste and they are more invested in making sure everything is as it should be; it’s not just a case of serving some food but taking pride in serving food they have created.

Anna also told us about the company’s commitment to sourcing quality ingredients that are selected with the environment, animal welfare and customer health in mind. To this end, they use only Freedom Foods chicken, Farm Assured beef and Free range pork and buy vegetables and other produce from local farmers where possible.

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Another key part of the success story is in offering a limited menu and focusing on doing it well. Customers can order a burrito, burrito bowl, tacos or salad. That’s it. But they can ring the changes by choosing their fillings. They have a choice of four meat and one vegetarian mains plus a range of sides such as pinto or black beans, salsas, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce and rice. It’s perfectly OK to ask for a combination, which is especially popular when ordering the tacos, which come in threes. Speaking of the tacos, you can choose whether to have soft flour tortillas or crispy corn shells…

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We tried both the burrito and a portion of tortilla tacos (with a different filling in each), which allowed us to try all four meat options. The chicken (£6.70 regardless of which format you choose) is marinated in adobo before being grilled and diced; it had a good flavour and was deftly cooked so it wasn’t dry; it also had the advantage of being less messy than the braised beef or pork. Steak (£6.95) is treated much like the chicken and was perfectly decent. Beef Barbacoa (£6.95) is braised and then shredded to create a delicious, sloppy mess; it was very good, though rather spicy for me, being the hottest of the four. And lastly, Pork Carnitas (£6.95) is also braised and shredded and is not disimilar to the beef, but has the advantage (for me) of less chilli heat; a winner! (The vegetarian option, which we didn’t try, is also priced at £6.50 for burrito, bowl, tacos or salad).

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The burritos are enormous, by the way, so they are the best value for a quick and filling meal.

Also on the menu are tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole and a short drinks list including Margaritas (£4.35), Beer (£3.65 with Brooklyn, Modelo, Negra Modelo, Pacifico and Corona available) and a selection of soft drinks (from £1.15 to £2).

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I probably wouldn’t have thought to visit this fast food Mexican chain had I not been invited to learn more about tomatillos and how they are used in authentic Mexican Salsas. However, now that I’ve tried them, they are on my list of places I know I can grab a quick, tasty and filling meal.

By the way, I genuinely love this recent Chipotle advertising video, called The Scarecrow, I came across it via Facebook. It’s twee, yes but I still think it’s wonderful!

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Chipotle Mexican Restaurant.

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Like many of you, I pick up ideas from other blogs, TV and Pinterest all the time. It’s wonderful to have so many sources of inspiration!

The idea of forming bacon into little cups in which to bake eggs is one I’ve encountered so often I can no longer recall where I saw it first but it’s a very simple thing to do and a way to present the same old ingredients a little differently.

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Bacon Baked Eggs

Ingredients
1 slice of back bacon or 1.5 slices streaky bacon per egg
Eggs
Salt and pepper

  • Arrange your bacon slices into a muffin tray to make cups, pushing firmly where the pieces overlap, to make a better seal. Using back bacon, we found it easiest to cut each slice into two pieces first, and use the large end at the bottom of the compartment.

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  • Crack an egg into each compartment and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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  • Bake in a preheated (180 C, fan) oven until the egg whites have set, approximately 10-15 minutes.

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  • The bacon baked eggs should pop out of the tin easily, as the bacon fat will have naturally greased the compartments as they cooked.

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  • Serve hot, with fresh bread and perhaps some silky home-made Hollandaise.

Next time, I may add some baby spinach leaves under the eggs, or grate some aged Comte over the top before baking.

 

As usual, time ran away with us down at the allotment and the thickly sown rows of beetroot never did get thinned out or weeded. That resulted in a harvest of lots of teeny tiny beetroots which we were determined to use, as they were our very first home-grown.

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Pete roasted them in their skins before laboriously peeling each one. I heated some white wine vinegar with whole black peppercorns, powdered mixed spice and some Demerara sugar.

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We bottled them in a (sterilised) hinged Le Parfait jar and poured the hot pickling liquid in before sealing.

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No idea what they’re like, but hoping they are good enough to motivate us to make a better job at the allotment next year!

 

With thanks to Le Parfait for sample preserving jars.

 

For 7 months this year, I was working a contract in central Watford. Since I last worked for the same client a couple of years ago, their business has expanded quite a bit and staff are now split across three different buildings along the same road; meaning I was no longer 30 seconds away from the staff canteen in the original office building. This proved to be a good thing, as it forced me out of the office every day (and the canteen was never very good in any case).

But although the office is right by the shopping centre, Watford isn’t blessed with many decent, quick and affordable lunch options. The addition of a branch of Pret a Manger helps – I went through a a phase of rotating between their meatball wrap and bang bang chicken baguette for weeks on end. But there’s little else that appealed and it didn’t take long for me to bore of their offerings.

A few weeks in, a colleague mentioned a “great sushi place” inside the Watford Market and insisted I should go. Aware of my interest in food and relatively recent obsession with Japan, he was confident I’d like it. I put it off for a few more weeks; my memories of Watford Market were anything but positive and I couldn’t imagine finding great food within its walls. But when I finally checked it out, I was immediately hooked and visited at least twice a week every week for the rest of my contract! (Keep in mind it’s only open 3 weekdays per week…)

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Watford Market has changed over the last year or two; one end has been cleared out and space assigned to a mini-food court with three stalls – the Japanese plus an Indian and a Caribbean (which are looked over by a butcher, two fishmongers and a Turkish sweets and olives shop). The Japanese place has high stool-chairs at the counter and handful of regular tables just opposite; during the months I visited, this little business became more and more popular, and soon we made sure to head over at noon to be in with a hope of getting a seat. They are only open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday lunch times and if you can’t get a seat, they do takeaway too from a small fridge next to the till area – the sushi selections are far tastier, more generous and much less expensive than supermarket or sandwich chain offerings.

The sign above the kitchen reads Sushi No Mai (“Sushi Dance”), which is expanded to Sushi-no-Mai Japanese Grandpa’s Sushi Takeaway Shop on their business cards.

Grandpa, in this case, is Chef N Shimo and a framed document proudly declares his recognition by Sanchokai, the Japan Sushi Association. I believe he used to be a chef at Harrods before launching his his own business here in Watford. Throughout service, he quietly mans the sushi counter, occasionally querying an order or nodding greetings to a customer. His daughter (I think) cooks and plates tempura and teriyaki orders behind him. Two or three additional staff look after customer orders, payments and service.

Not only is the food delicious, it’s also extremely good value.

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Tempura don (£5) includes two or three prawns (depending on size), two or three pieces of fish (white fish and salmon), a slice of sweet potato, a fan of aubergine, slices of sweet pepper and a seasonal green vegetable such as courgette, green beans or asparagus. A generous dressed side salad is also included.

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Pork teriyaki don (£5) comes with salad and a boiled egg and plenty of sauce. The pork is tender, fatty and full of flavour. Salmon teriyaki don is similarly good.

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A sushi and sashimi platter called Scent of Scotland (£4.80) includes four pieces of salmon nigiri sushi and four of salmon sashimi. I’ve added a sweet omelette nigiri (£1) to my order, above. The fish is super fresh.

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The Edomae Set (£5.80) is one of the best value dishes on the menu, containing several pieces of nigiri sushi (including eel, salmon, tuna, prawn and seabream) as well as four large rolls labelled as Watford sushi which include both tuna and salmon as well as a selection of crunchy vegetables. Again, a generous salad is included.

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Chirashi Sushi is a couple of pounds more expensive but includes scallop sashimi and sweet omelette as well as the other types of fish already mentioned.

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Sometimes, if feeling extra hungry, I’d add a tuna roll to my order, for less than £2 this is another bargain and, like the rest of the sushi, comes with wasabi and pickled ginger. Soy sauce is already on every table.

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The only dish I don’t rate very highly is the ramen (£5), which I shied away from anyway, given my propensity to spill food all over myself and the need to go back to work looking half-way respectable! But when I did order it, it didn’t blow me away, perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the recent openings of great ramen restaurant in central London.

Green tea and soft drinks are £1 each.

 

Please note, a few of the prices have gone up (very marginally) since my last visit.

Sushi-No-Mai, Watford Market, Charter Place.

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