kaveyeats

 

I’ve been trying to nail Southern Fried Chicken for quite some time.

Some recipes call for the chicken to be brined before cooking. Others marinade the meat in buttermilk instead. Some recipes don’t feature brine or marinade at all. Some cooks coat the chicken with nothing but flour and spices; others use buttermilk or an egg-and-milk mix to help the flour and spices adhere to the chicken. And of course, I’ve come across countless online recipes claiming to have cracked the secret spice blend for a KFC copycat, if that’s what you’re after…

The key problem for us has been in ensuring the chicken is cooked all the way through without overcooking the crispy coating. Of course, setting the right oil temperature helps a lot with that, as does the size of chicken pieces. But it’s remained my main point of difficulty.

When we received our Sous Vide Supreme, we poached chicken in it as one of our first experiments in getting a feel for how it worked and where the strengths of the technique lie. (For the record, the chicken was moist and evenly cooked, but no more so than if we’d poached it in our slow cooker).

But that experiment made it occur to me that we could sous vide the chicken first, to ensure that it was cooked right the way through and then apply the coating and deep fry.

Bingo! No more worries about the chicken being cooked at the core…

Of course, if you don’t have a sous vide machine, you can seal the chicken into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

The next question is one of flavourings. The previous times I’ve made Southern Fried Chicken, I’ve blended my own spice mix in which I’ve included dried oregano, dried sage, dried rosemary, garlic powder, paprika, chilli powder, ground black pepper and salt. Of those, I’d say the core ingredients are oregano, paprika, chilli powder and garlic powder.

But this time I realised I had the perfect ready-made seasoning mix sitting in front of me – a tub of African Volcano Seasoning Rub (Medium). In case you can’t get hold of this, I’ve provided an alternative blend in the recipe below.

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Southern Fried Chicken | Making Use of Sous Vide

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
6 boneless chicken thighs
150-200 ml (about 1 cup) buttermilk
150-200 grams (about 1 cup) plain flour
2-3 tablespoons African Volcano Seasoning Rub (or see note, below)
Salt and pepper

Note: You can substitute African Volcano Seasoning Rub with 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon chilli powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

Method

  • Pre-heat your sous vide machine to 66 °C (151 °F).
  • Open out the chicken thighs and cut them into two or three pieces each.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of buttermilk to the chicken and coat all the pieces.
  • Spread the chicken out flat in a food-grade plastic pouch and seal with a vacuum sealer.
  • Cook for two hours in the sous vide machine.
    Note: If you don’t have a sous vide machine, seal the chicken and buttermilk into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach in water at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

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  • Before removing chicken from the water bath, prepare the plates of coating ready to dip and switch on your deep fat fryer to pre-heat to 170-175 °C.
  • Pour half a cup of buttermilk into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, spice blend and salt and pepper. Have an empty plate ready for floured chicken pieces.
  • Remove the chicken from the water bath, open the pouch, discard the juices and remove chicken pieces onto a plate or dish.
    Note: you don’t want the chicken to cool down in the centre, as you won’t be deep frying it for as long as usual, so allow it to cool for just a couple of minutes before continuing with the recipe.
  • As soon as the chicken has cooled enough to handle, dip each piece into the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour, ensuring that plenty of flour has adhered to all surfaces of the chicken.

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  • Repeat for the rest of the chicken, adding more buttermilk to the dipping bowl as and when required.
    Ideally, if there are two of you, one person can fry the first batch while the second person dips and flours the remaining chicken.

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  • Fry in small batches, depending on the size of your deep fat fryer.
  • Ours took 5 minutes for the coating to crisp and brown. Increase cooking time if necessary, to achieve the necessary colour and texture.
  • Drain on to a paper towel and serve hot.

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Although that’s shop-bought coleslaw in the photographs, this southern fried chicken is even better served with my smoky paprika coleslaw, which can be made beforehand. Do give it a try.

 

Kavey Eats received a SousVide Supreme and vacuum sealer in exchange for sharing my experiences using the equipment.

 

Although I first read about A Wong on the (sadly now defunct) Eat Love Noodles blog back in spring 2013, it wasn’t until this year that I finally visited, in the company of Mr Noodles himself, as well as fellow blogger, the Insatiable Eater and his partner. It was the innovative dim sum that I was so keen to try, as it’s rare to see the dim sum classics so cleverly modernised.

We met at the restaurant one sunny Saturday lunch time at the beginning of March, buoyed by the earliness of spring sunshine and with empty bellies at the ready.

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One of the things I really appreciate about A Wong’s dim sum menu is that items are priced (and ordered) individually, making it easy to order the required number whether you’re dining alone or in a group. The usual multiples of three makes it difficult to order for parties of two or four, but here, we simply ordered 4 pieces of most of the dim sum on the menu. In addition, we ordered a couple of items from the snacks section and, later, some noodles and dessert.

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On the table, chilli oils and goji berries (respectively, too fiery and too sharp for me) but I think my friends enjoyed the chilli.

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First to arrive was the smoked duck and jellyfish and pork crackling salad (£4.95), a beautifully balanced blend of textures and tastes. This perfectly whetted our appetite for what was still to come, and didn’t last long at all!

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Pickled cucumber (£2) was less immediately exciting but I loved the freshness of cooling crisp cucumber against the heat of the chilli and the sesame dressing.

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I’ve never come across Shanxi province honeycomb noodles with coriander and chilli dip (£4.50) before; I was fascinated by the presentation, for which sheets of pasta had carefully been folded into tubes and arranged within the confines of a bamboo steamer. For me, the noodles themselves were a little dry and chewy, but the dipping sauce was a genuine highlight.

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Quail egg croquette puffs (£1.75 each) feature the familiar delicate wrapping of a taro croquette (one of my default orders for any dim sum meal). Here, the lacy coat surrounded a perfectly soft-boiled quail egg, providing another superb taste and texture combination. The ginger and spring onion dipping sauce was a winner too.

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Time for sui mai, another dim sum classic, this time updated with a crispy curl of crackling. The pork and prawn dumplings, pork crackling (£1.30 each) were pleasant enough, but for me, it was not feasible to eat the dumpling and crackling in a single mouthful. I’d prefer plain sui mai and a bowl of crackling as a side dish.

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Baked roasted pork buns with a sugared coating (£1.50 each) were a riff on pork puff pastries and crunchy-topped bolo bao (pineapple buns). They were OK, but the pork inside lacked depth of flavour; I’d rather have the regular barbecue puff pastry version or a steamed char sui bao.

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Crab, seafood and beancurd cannelloni, pickled cockles were £3.50 each but our waiter advised us to order two portions, as each one is served cut into two pieces. These looked pretty but I found them a little bland compared to many of the other dim sum.

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Har gau (shrimp dumplings) are another regular dim sum order for me. These clear shrimp dumplings, sweet chilli sauce, citrus foam (£1.30) arrived wearing bubble bath robes – pretty as a picture but the foam didn’t add much to the eating experience. Still, the "oooh" moment when the bubbles caught the sunlight was fun!

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Probably one of the most striking dishes, visually, was the scallop puff with XO sauce (£2). These vibrant orange blooms were super crunchy, and the XO sauce packed a punch, though I’m not sure I could detect much of the scallop flavour inside. Still, its silky texture was much in evidence. I enjoyed these!

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I didn’t know what to expect of foie gras sticky sesame dumplings (£2 each) so I was very happy to discover they were essentially small jin doy, a sweet pastry treat that I often buy from Chinese bakeries. The spherical shell is a sticky, chewy delight and there’s usually a pellet of sweet red bean paste inside; in this case, the red bean paste was replaced by a (sadly very tiny) piece of foie gras. I liked the aesthetic impact of using both black and white sesame seeds but the foie gras was too small to give much flavour against the glutinous rice wrapper.

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There were two variations of sui long bao on the menu – Shanghai steamed dumplings, ginger infused vinegar (£1.50 each) and Yunnan mushroom, pork and truffle dumplings (£1.75 each). All of us audibly sighed in appreciation at the heady aromas of truffle that wafted across the table as soon as the latter were delivered. With very careful lifting, I managed to retain the broth inside mine, though the wonderfully thin wrappers meant this was a challenge not all of us passed. The dumplings were utterly delicious, one of the best of the meal. The ginger vinegar dumplings were pleasant but I’m a overly sensitive to sharper flavours, so personally, I’d have preferred the vinegar relegated to a dipping sauce.

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This rather alienesque little number is the deep fried prawn ball with abalone and chilli vinaigrette (£1.75 each). These are deeply savoury, bouncy balls of protein that, once again, contrast nicely with the texture of the crunchy threads around them.

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By this stage, I was thoroughly stuffed, and had I been sensible, I would have stopped there. But I was far too easily persuaded by my eager companions, that we should continue on to some noodles and dessert. Well.. they didn’t have to twist my arm too hard!

Mr. Mak’s tossed noodles with oyster sauce and shrimp roe (£8) came with a pipette of sauce and a side dish of broth. While I enjoyed the shrimp roe flavours, I found the noodles a bit dry and the accompanying broth quite bland.

The noodles in the won ton noodle soup (£8) were better, but again, I found the dish a little lacking in depth of flavour. I would have liked more greens and wontons, both.

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Beijing yoghurt with chilli barbecued pineapple and sichuan pepper ice cream (£6.50) came with a certificate of authentication for the yoghurt, which is apparently a very highly respected brand in China. The yoghurt was OK, though I didn’t find it anything special to justify the hype (or import). But the barbecued pineapple was delicious; it paired superbly with the sichuan pepper ice cream, but what a shame the portion of ice cream was so tiny! Even if we hadn’t been sharing desserts, I’d have been disappointed in this tiny pellet.

(Incidentally, if you like the sound of sichuan pepper ice cream, here’s my own recipe for it, from last summer).

Our second dessert was tobacco smoked banana, nut crumble, chocolate, soy caramel (£6.50). This was presented with pomp, the hot caramel sauce poured onto a chocolate sphere from great height, until its warmth melted through the chocolate shell to reveal the ice cream within, Bob Bob Ricard style. For me, the overall taste was far too sweet; cloyingly, tooth-achingly so. Having enjoyed tobacco chocolates from Artisan du Chocolat, I was also disappointed that the flavour and kick of tobacco didn’t come through more clearly. Still, it was eagerly eaten by my friends, so it’s a matter of personal taste.

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Stuffed to bursting, we finally requested the bill, noticing that the previously packed-to-the-rafters dining room was virtually empty by the time we finished our long and leisurely lunch. With service, the bill came to just under £32 per person. Dropping noodles and desserts from our order (which would still have left me comfortable satiated) would bring that down to £23.50 per person.

Finally, a great and reasonably-priced dining choice in the vicinity of Victoria station!

Although I’ve expressed minor reservations about some aspects of a few of the items we ordered, in the main part, I found the meal very enjoyable indeed. The dim sum was as innovative, exciting and delicious as I’d been promised and I’m keen to visit for more soon. Based on the two noodle dishes, I’m curious about how well the rest of the menu performs; if you’ve been for dinner, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

A. Wong on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Surely it’s impossible not to love soda bread! Not only is it soft and delicious, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to make.

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When I talk about soda bread, I am using the term to cover any bread where bicarbonate of soda is the rising agent, rather than yeast.

This type of bread making is thought to have originated in the Americas, where European settlers and indigenous peoples used potash to leaven quick breads. Recipes began to appear in American cookbooks from the last few years of the 18th century onwards. The technique didn’t really appear in Europe until the middle of the 19th century, when bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) first became available here.

Regardless of the origins, for me Ireland is the spiritual home of soda bread where it’s widely enjoyed, much loved and considered a classic, perhaps even a staple.

Soda bread can be made with wholemeal or white flour, or a combination of both. In Ireland, only versions made from white flour are commonly called soda bread. In Northern Ireland, wholemeal varieties are known as wheaten bread (and are often a little sweetened); in Éire, wholemeal versions are simply called brown bread.

With the exception of buttermilk, the ingredients are all long-life store cupboard essentials, so you can knock up a loaf at short notice. Even if you don’t have buttermilk, which is used in most traditional recipes, natural yoghurt or acidulated milk can be substituted in its place (see recipe). The key is to include an acidic element to activate the bicarbonate of soda.

Indeed, this recipe came about when Pete and I fancied some warm, freshly-baked home bread for lunch but weren’t prepared to wait the several hours a yeasted loaf would have taken.

I have a trusted recipe for soda bread but this time we decided to replace the whole meal flour with spelt – spelt flour is better suited to soda bread than yeasted recipes, as its gluten doesn’t readily form the elasticity required to stretch and trap the air bubbles created by yeast.

We also added malt extract, to give a little more flavour.

Some recipes use a higher proportion of oats to flour than ours, but we find this can make the texture a little too dense and heavy for our liking. Here, we used Mornflake medium oatmeal. Mornflake has been milling oats in South Chesire since 1675 and is still family-owned and managed by the descendants of the original miller, William Lea. The company contracts farms throughout the UK to supply it with grain and now sells both milled oats and a range of breakfast cereals.

We used Sharpham Park white spelt flour, grown on an organic farm in Somerset. We are also huge fans of their pearled spelt, which we use regularly in recipes like this chicken and pea farotto, a risotto-like dish in which spelt takes the place of rice.

 

Malted Spelt Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients
175g spelt flour (wholegrain or white)
75g strong white flour
25g medium oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon malt extract
250-300ml buttermilk

Note: The spelt flour in this recipe can be replaced with regular wholemeal flour.
Note: If you don’t have any buttermilk, you can use plain (natural) yoghurt thinned down with a little milk or sour 250 ml of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Note: This recipe can be doubled up to make a larger loaf, but you’ll need to increase baking time accordingly.

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 210 C (fan).
  • Combine flours, oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt and malt extract together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half the buttermilk and mix with the dry ingredients to start forming a dough, then add the remaining buttermilk a little at a time – you may not need the full 300 ml and adding too much results in a very stick dough that’s hard to handle. There’s is no need to knead the dough; simply mix quickly until everything is properly combined and avoid over-working.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in the centre of a baking tray lined with baking parchment or a silicon liner.
  • Pat down to flatten into a disc, about an inch deep. For a traditionally shaped loaf, press the blunt edge of a knife down into the dough twice to form a cross-shaped indent.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Check the bread at 20 minutes by tapping the bottom – the crust should be firm; the sound should be a dull thwack – if not, return to the oven for a few more minutes before checking again.
  • Once done, leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Break into pieces along the indentation lines and enjoy warm with salted butter and your favourite sweet or savoury topping.

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Kavey Eats received product samples from Mornflake Cereals. We have previously received samples from Sharpham Park.

 

Given how much I enjoy coleslaw – it’s a must-have accompaniment to breaded chicken fillets, deep fried chicken and chicken burgers – it’s a little surprising to me that I’d never made my own; It’s not exactly complicated to shred some raw vegetables and toss in a home-made dressing, after all.

I was finally prompted to do so by my desire to road test two food slicer appliances I was sent for review.

But I couldn’t decide which recipe to use for the dressing. I found many recipes for mayonnaise sweetened with a little sugar or tarted up with horseradish or mustard. I found yoghurt-based recipes and recipes for buttermilk with maple syrup. I found recipes for dairy-free vinaigrette versions. I even found a recipe for a flour-based roux “mayonnaise” that looked like no mayonnaise I’ve ever heard of!

But when I asked friends for tried and tested suggestions, one recommendation immediately stood out:

My friend Jaxie told me about  her partner’s condensed milk and vinegar dressing, assuring me that although it “sounds insane”, actually, “it’s bloody delicious”. As I love condensed milk in coffee, there’s always some in our house, so I just had to give this unusual coleslaw dressing a try.

She advised that TS adds mustard powder for extra flavour, but I had a eureka moment and decided to use some wonderfully smoky sweet paprika I bought from a Spanish market in London last May. I chose cider vinegar to pair with the condensed milk as I love the gentle fruitiness it provides.

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All I can say is “Wow” – this was definitely a winner!

The tart vinegar balances out the intensely sweet condensed milk. The smoky paprika gives a fabulously earthy flavour that brings to mind the smoky aromas of a summer barbecue.

For me, an equal amount of cider vinegar and condensed milk created just the right balance, but you can adjust the ratio to create a sweeter or sharper dressing if you prefer.

Although I’ve provided approximate amounts for the salad vegetables, I suggest you grate as much or little coleslaw as you like, mix up a batch of dressing and mix it in a little at a time until you have a ratio of salad to dressing that works best for you.

You can always mix up another batch of dressing if you need more.

Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe

Ingredients
For the salad

100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) white cabbage
100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) red cabbage
100-150 grams (about 1 medium) carrot
For the dressing
3 tablespoons condensed milk
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Half teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

Note: The salad ingredients are, to my mind, the three core choices for a traditional coleslaw. You might also like to add red or white onion or sliced spring onion greens.
Note: Make sure you use sweet smoked paprika rather than the hot kind. The smokiness is key to the flavour of this dressing and sweet paprika gives a pleasing but mild kick.

Method

  • Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add a little more vinegar or condensed milk if you would like the dressing to be a touch tarter or sweeter. Taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.

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  • Remove any damaged or tough outer cabbage leaves. Wash your vegetables. Top, tail and peel the carrot.
  • Grate your vegetables using a food processor or finely shred by hand. Mix together in a large bowl.

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  • Add the dressing to the salad and combine thoroughly. If you prefer lightly dressed coleslaw, you can add the dressing in batches, mix well and add more as required.

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  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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I absolutely love the simple combination of condensed milk and cider vinegar, and will definitely make this again, not just for coleslaw but as a general salad dressing.

The addition of a generous amount of smoky sweet paprika provided a very distinctive flavour for my coleslaw but you could stick to TS’s original suggestion of mustard powder or try other spices and herbs, to ring the changes.

 

I’m entering this recipe into Helen and Michelle’s Extra Veg Blog Challenge.

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Coming soon… a side-by-side review of the two food slicers pictured.

 

Recently, I asked my friends “The Mapes” to review Five Valleys Cordials for Kavey Eats. There are seven cordials in the range, made from natural ingredients with no artificial flavours, sweeteners, colourings or preservatives. They are available from Waitrose and Ocado, as well as a number of Gloucestershire retailers.

Over to “Daddy Mape”, Mark:

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When we received the cordials we decided to make a game of trying them with our children. Each new bottle was chosen at random and the label kept hidden. We then made up glasses of the cordial and tried to guess what the cordial was. Between us we always got the main ingredient and about half of the time we got the second ingredient.

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We used some of the cordials with our SodaStream and ice lolly maker.

Reviews

Cherry & Beetroot

Nice cherry flavour, strongly reminiscent of cherry flavoured cough remedies (which L found slightly off putting) but if that’s the flavour of cough sweets that you’d choose, we would highly recommend.
3/5

Apricot and Ginger

The bottle wasn’t big enough and was emptied very quickly! If not drunk quickly it separates into two drinks – a really refreshing apricot followed by delicious ginger; this is not necessarily a bad thing but makes for an interesting experience.
5/5

Lemon & Mint

Very minty, not a preferred choice as we never quite worked out the best way to drink it. If you like mint drinks or have a favourite mint cocktail would highly recommend.
2/5

Sloe & Raspberry

Disappeared quickly (too quickly to try the serving suggestion of drinking it hot). Very reminiscent of a posh Vimto.
5/5

Coconut and Kaffir Lime

Confession time – only one of the 4 of us likes coconut! All of us tried it but it was too coconutty for three of us. L found it really refreshing and it would be a great drink on a summers evening.
1/5 or 4/5

Peach and Lychee

Sweet as you’d expect, in fact too sweet for us. We could smell the lychees more than taste them.
1/5
Made good lollies 3/5

Rose and Pomegranate

Turkish delight in a glass, what’s not to like? You could use the smell to scent your room.
5/5

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Summary

The cordials on a whole were really good and we’d drink most of them again. For us they’re not for everyday use but we’d happily buy for a summer party or if we wanted cocktail mixers.

 

With thanks to Five Valleys Cordials for their review samples and to “The Mapes” for their review.

 

After two trips to Japan in two years, I’ve fallen even more in love with Japanese food. Both holidays gave us plenty of opportunities to enjoy traditional washoku cuisine, particularly in the multi-course kaiseki ryori meals we enjoyed at a number of ryokans.

While sushi is increasingly popular in the UK, the many, many other dishes that make up this tasty cuisine have been less widely available. But in the last few years, particularly in London, Japanese food is growing its fan base and more and more Japanese restaurants are opening their doors. It’s not that we didn’t have Japanese restaurants before, but they certainly weren’t (and still aren’t) as ubiquitous as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai…

I’ve written previously about London’s ramen awakening; after Wagamama popularised a simplified version, authentic ramen is now coming into its own.

Sushi remains a lunch-time favourite, sold by supermarkets and sandwich chains across the country, but Chef Toru Takahashi of Sushi Tetsu is one of a new generation bringing the higher end experience to the UK. I’ve not yet been, but it’s very high on my wish list!

Even kaiseki ryori is now available in London – another place that I’m enormously keen to visit is The Shiori, where Chef Takashi Takagi recreates a Kyoto-style kaiseki experience for enthusiastic London diners.

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I learned about Chisou Japanese Restaurant during a chance encounter at a United Ramen pop-up I went to in January. A fellow diner told me about it, having recently taken up a job with them. Recently, he extended an invitation to visit and try their Japanese menu for myself. There are actually three restaurants in this mini-chain – the original Mayfair branch which opened in 2002, the Knightsbridge location I visited, which opened in 2010, and the newest one out in Chiswick, which opened in 2012.

Each restaurant has its own head chef – at Knightsbridge, Chef Ryota Tsuji is at the helm. The core menu is common to all three restaurants, but each head chef also offers a selection of their own specialities as well.

On the website, Chisou describe themselves as closer to an izakaya (casual Japanese bars that also serve food) than to a formal kaiseki restaurant, though I’d place the Knightsbridge restaurant somewhere between the two. It’s definitely more upmarket than most izakaya but not as rarefied as a traditional Kyoto kaiseki restaurant. The website is not great – clicking on Food (in the hope of seeing the menu) takes you to a long passage about private hire, which would be far better given its own section of the menu. Scroll down, down, down past all of that to eventually find the menu, laid out in sections you have to read one at a time. Use the sub-menu on the left to navigate between these. Frustratingly, prices are not listed – one of my pet hates; a complete website revamp would be a great investment!

Still, the menu has many appealing dishes including several that I haven’t much encountered in the UK.

I take friend and fellow Japanophile MiMi with me to review.

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We are warmly greeted by general manager (and sommelier) John who is a little disappointed that we’re not wine drinkers, and that we also turn down the offer of sake, but cheers up when we ask for umeshu (plum liqueur) instead. It’s lovely to be served our sweet Ozeki Kanjuku Umeshu (£6.50 glass) with a whole alcohol-pickled plum in each glass, which I greedily eat after finishing my drink.

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Chewy, slightly fishy strands of seaweed with sesame seeds are a tasty nibble, placed on the table soon after we arrive. Edamame beans (£4.50) are served simply, in salt.

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Horenso salad (£9.90), described as “ baby spinach topped with spicy prawns and sweet carrot, drizzled in yuzu vinaigrette” is artfully presented, though a little fussy. I’d like just a few more prawns, given the price tag, but the flavours are excellent. And the yuzu comes through loud and clear, which is good news since we both love it. When the dish arrives, we’ve forgotten the mention of sweet carrot on the menu, and wonder what the strange  orange fibres are made of – their flavour doesn’t clue us in to their carrot nature but they do add an interesting texture.

Hotate Carpaccio Yuzukosho Salt (£11.95) is described as wild-caught Alaskan scallop carpaccio served with yuzukosho and ponzu sauce. The scallops are delicious, served in thin sashimi slices. I can’t detect the yuzukosho (a salty spicy condiment made from yuzu citrus) very well but the dressing, rich in sesame, is refreshing.

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Yakitori (£4.90) is disappointing. It’s offered coated in chef’s “special sauce” or lightly salted, and we choose the latter but find the yakitori woefully under seasoned. The chicken meat has very little flavour and these are a bland, chewy let-down.

Tempura Moriawase (£13.90) is another dish that I think is over-priced for the portion. The quality of the ingredients is good and the tempura is excellent – a lovely light batter cooked to a perfect crisp and not at all oily – but a plate of three prawns, one small piece of fish and a small number vegetables is not enough for the price.

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Chawan Mushi (£7.50) is an absolute winner of a dish, one of the best of the night. Within the delicately flavoured savoury custard (that has just the right wobble and silken texture) are prawns, chicken and mushrooms. It immediately transports me back to the delicious chawan mushi I enjoyed in Japan and both MiMi and I agree we’d come back to Chisou for this dish in a heartbeat.

 Chisou-5299

The menu offers lots of choice on sashimi and sushi, but we decide to leave it in the hands of the chef, and order Sanpin Sashimi (£19.90). The chef selects three different types of fish from the catch of the day and three pieces of each are served. Knowing what I pay for excellent quality fresh sashimi at Atari-ya, the mark-up seems a touch high once again, but the quality of fish is decent.

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Eel; Salmon belly

After asking about two pork belly dishes, we choose one of them along with Unagi Kabayaki (£25.80) and Aburi Sake Toro (£7.20), plus a bowl of plain boiled rice (£3) and Konomono (assorted pickles) (£4.10). In the end, we are eventually told that neither pork belly dish is available, but we have plenty with our two fish choices, so don’t bother choosing a replacement.

The unagi (eel) is beautifully cooked, coated with a traditional sweet barbecue sauce; the flesh is almost jelly like and full of flavour.

Likewise, the aburi sake toro (seared salmon belly), served with a yuzu soy sauce, is delicious and suitably fatty, as the cut suggests. Visually, they look similar, but flavours are quite distinct.

The pickles are very good: four contrasting colours, tastes and textures.

Chisou-5308

I don’t think either of us intend to have dessert but once we glance at the menu, we can’t resist the ice creams and sorbets; two scoops (£4.90).

My yuzu sorbet is the essence of yuzu, just as MiMi’s lychee sorbet is nothing but pure fruit flavour. Her green tea ice cream is decent (though not the best I’ve tasted). My soy and brown sugar ice cream is alright but the soy doesn’t come through at all, which is a shame – I had hoped for the classic flavour of soy and sugar combined, like the glaze on mitarashi dango. I am a little surprised at presentation of the ice creams – thus far in the meal, plates have been so carefully arranged but here the scoops are sloppily shaped and my bowl is actually quite messy.

Overall, our meal has been good, with some real highlights – the spinach and prawn salad, chawan mushi, pickles and unagi. Pricing is a little variable, with some dishes providing far better value than others. Including our two glasses of umeshu and a green tea, our bill would be approximately £70 a head – a lot even given the number of dishes we ordered. Judicious ordering would reduce that – swap out the sashimi and the unagi for three or four additional small dishes and you could bring that down by at least a tenner per person. That’s still at the top edge of what I’d pay. Then again, the restaurants is within a stone’s throw of Harrods and the multi-million-pound mansions of the very wealthy, so perhaps it is simply targeting its locale clientele.

Certainly there are many more dishes I’d like to try, including Buta Bara Kimuchi (£5.90) – belly pork stir fried with garlic and kimchi, Kani Karaage (£13.50) – deep fried soft shell crab with a ponzu dip, Kodako Nanban Age (£8.20) – deep fried and marinated baby octopus, Saikyo Yaki (£12.50) – grilled black cod in white miso, Wagyu Steak & Foie Gras Truffle Teriyaki (£24.50) – featuring 50 grams of Chilean wagyu rib eye, and Sake Chazuke (£4.90/£7.20) – plain rice served in a hot soup and sprinkled with flakes of salmon.

So yes, it’s expensive but the range of dishes and the quality of most of them means it’s worthy of consideration for a little taste of traditional Japanese washoku in London.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Chisou Restaurant.

Chisou Japanese Restaurant Knightsbridge on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Foodies Festival run events across the UK. This summer they’ll be bringing their food and drink show back to London at Marble Hill House near Richmond (May Bank Holiday – Saturday 24, Sunday 25 and Monday 26 May) and Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath (Friday 30 May, Saturday 31st May and Sunday June 1st).

The festival will feature a Chef’s Theatre (where you can attend demos), a new Chocolate, Cake, Bake and Preserves Theatre and an opportunity for kids to learn too in the Children’s Cookery Theatre. There are plenty of places to try and buy food and drink from the producers, including a Chilli Food Market, a new BBQ arena, the Vintage Tea Tent amongst others.

Our friend, the well-known beer expert Melissa Cole will be hosting the Drinks Theatre, where you can taste a selection of beers and ales. There’s also a Real Ale and Cider Farm. And those who prefer cocktails can learn and try concoctions made by the resident mixologists.

As well as buying goodies to take home, you can eat at the festival in the restaurant arena or in the new Feasting Tent, where food will be served at communal feasting tables. Or perhaps a wander down Street Food Avenue for something more casual.

There will be live music to enjoy too.

FoodiesFestival2014 Collage
Individual images from previous events provided by Foodies Festival

 

COMPETITION

Foodies Festival are offering five pairs of (standard adult) tickets to readers of Kavey Eats. Each winner of a pair of tickets will be asked to specify Kenwood House or Marble Hill House, and their preferred date of attendance. The tickets will be available for collection at the entrance to the festival.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me what you’re most looking forward to at Foodies Festival.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page 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 tickets to Marble Hill House or Kenwood House @foodiesfestival from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/ZNlYuX #KaveyEatsFF

(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 2nd May 2014.
  • 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 five 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.
  • There are five prizes, each of which is a pair of standard adult tickets to attend either the Kenwood House or Marble Hill House Foodies Festival 2014, date to be chosen by the winner. The prize does not include delivery; tickets will be available for collection at the entrance to the shows.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Foodies Festival.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kaveyat 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 from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

TICKET OFFER

For those who prefer to buy their tickets now, the code “FOODIES241″ gives you two tickets for the price of one. This applies for adult and concession tickets, is valid for all festivals and expires 26th August 2014.

 

Kavey Eats is attending the Foodies Festival as a guest of Foodies Festival.

 

We’ve been blessed with a fair bit of warm and sunny weather these last few weeks, and even though we’ll no doubt have another cold snap or two, spring has definitely sprung. Hardy Brits everywhere have already enjoyed their first barbecue of the year; the rest of us will no doubt follow soon. Surely it won’t be long before we’re filling paddling pools in the back garden and picnicking and sunbathing in the parks – indeed anywhere we can find a patch of sunshine.

It seems the right time to resurrect BSFIC – time to join together with fellow bloggers in making and sharing frozen treats, with a different theme to challenge us every month.

I’m returning to the last challenge I proposed last year, to kick things off.

IceCreamVan-Creative-Commons-attribu
Image by Kenjonbro, used under Creative Commons license (attribution, non commercial)

Many of us have an almost Pavlovian response to the music of the ice cream van; a collective memory leading to a shared reaction…

First we catch the distinctive trill far in the distance. Suddenly alert, our ears strain to work out the direction of travel. Each time the music stops, we enviously envisage kids – other kids in some other street – jostling at the van’s window. Eventually, the music’s increasing volume announces the van’s approach; our turn has come. It’s time to beg money from parents and race out into the street to wait the last few moments… expectantly, eagerly, impatiently. Finally, the ice cream van trundles into sight, greeted by excited whoops and shouted exclamations about which ice creams we want. When our turn at the window comes, we must urgently narrow down our potential choices and settle on just one. Flake 99, Screwball, Orange Split, Funny Feet, Cornetto, Twister, Rocket, Mini Milk, Fab, Calippo, Lemonade Lolly or, in later years, Solero, Feast, Magnum… Order placed, money handed over, we grasp our frozen treasure and walk carefully away, mindful of the time we dropped our bounty and watched it melt forlornly on the pavement. In minutes, we wolf it down and, satiated, return to our play.

Chasing The Ice Cream Van

So here’s the challenge – take inspiration from your favourite ice cream van treats for your BSFIC entry this month.

Whether you choose to recreate the original faithfully or simply use ice cream van staples  as a starting point for your own creative twists is completely up to you.

Of course, I’ve listed British favourites in my nostalgic prose above, but I want you to draw on your own experiences and memories. Tell me what ice cream vans (or trucks or bikes or carts) were like where you grew up. What did you love to order? How do your memories play into what you have chosen to make?

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How To Take Part In BSFIC

  • Create and blog a recipe that fits the challenge by the 28th of April.
  • In your post, mention and link to this Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post.
  • In your post, include the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream badge (below).
  • Email me (by the 28th of April) with your first name or nickname (as you prefer), the link to your post and an image for my roundup, sized to no larger than 500 pixels on the longest side.

You are welcome to submit your post to as many blogger challenge events as you like.

If the recipe is not your own, please be aware of copyright issues. Email me if you would like to discuss this.

If you like, tweet about your post using the hashtag #BSFIC. I’ll retweet any I see. You are also welcome to share the links to your posts on the Kavey Eats Facebook page.

I’ll post a round up of all the entries at the end of the month.

IceCreamChallenge_thumb

For more ideas, check out my my Pinterest ice cream board and past BSFIC Entries board.

If you have any questions at all, please get in touch!

 

Today is Kavey Eats’ 5th Birthday! Where did the time go? Over 800 posts shared, and I’m still learning, still bubbling with ideas, still enjoying the process and still feeling like a newbie in so many ways. Thank you for visiting, for reading, for commenting and for sharing my content with your friends. I am so grateful!

To celebrate, I thought I’d share some Favourite Fives with you. Click on the links to go straight to any section or settle in for a long scroll down!

Five Favourite Kavey Eats Recipes
Five Favourite Travel Posts
Five Favourite Cookery Book Reviews
Five Favourite Lessons on the History of Food
Five Favourite Recipes by Pete
Five Favourite Hotel Stays
Five Favourite Random Lessons
Five Favourite Restaurant Reviews
Five Favourite Gardening & Allotment Moments
Five Favourite Cookery Classes
Three Favourite History Lessons

 

Five Favourite Kavey Eats Recipes

Many of the recipes I blog are by way of reviewing a cookery book, but here are five of my own that I’m particularly proud of:

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A chicken tarragon pasta bake that turns leftover roast or poached chicken into something special.

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Candying (confit) clementines is surprisingly easy, as is making rich, sharp-sweet lemon posset.

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Although I love boston baked beans, Pete was never keen on the belly pork that is a common accompaniment. I created a culinary handshake between America and Britain with these British Bangers & Boston Baked Beans. Leave soupy or cook longer to reduce to a thicker, stickier mass.

AppleDateGingerChutney-0076 AppleDateGingerChutney-0080

I won first prize for chutneys in our local allotment show with this apple, date, ginger and chilli chutney so I’m very proud of it, especially as I had to be encouraged to enter by an allotment friend!

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I adored my stout (beer) and salty roasted peanut ice cream – the representation of a pub in a sweet frozen treat. I wrote this as a guest post for my husband’s blog, Pete Drinks.

Other recipes I really like are my chicken liver and port pâté, these fun bacon pancakes, coffee and rum walnut brittle ice cream featuring home made walnut brittle, and a home made strawberry vodka liqueur that turned out wonderfully thick, sweet and fruity.

 

Five Favourite Travel Posts

I love to travel, especially when there’s also great food involved!

Lebanon AbuKasem-7454 Lebanon AbuKasem-7493

The day we spent talking za’atar with Abu Kassem was a highlight of our trip to Lebanon.

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We had great fun spending a weekend eating and drinking our way around Amsterdam. There was so much to eat, so little time!

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I can’t pretend the Falklands Islands are a dream foodie destination but we ate well and spent lots of time appreciating the local wildlife.

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Our latest visit to Islay for the Islay Whisky Festival 2013 saw me eating fabulous fresh seafood as often as I could, which turned out to be every day!

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It’s been so hard to pick just one of my many Japan posts to include here, but I’ve chosen a little place in Kyoto selling Japanese specialities, amazake and warabi mochi.

Also in my shortlist was a really old introduction to eating in Morocco, that I originally wrote for a short-lived travel blog I abandoned almost as soon as I started!

 

Five Favourite Cookery Book Reviews

I own far far far too many cookery books!

LeonBook4-3751 LeonBook4-3756

The book I was probably the most excited to see was Leon Book 4, featuring three of mum’s recipes, photos of mum with her parents and with baby me, and an explanation of how Mamta’s Kitchen came into existence.

SarabanBook-6259 SarabanBook-6266

Saraban, by Greg and Lucy Malouf, is enchantingly beautiful. The recipe I shared, Tahcheen-e morgh, proved very popular, and more recently it inspired my Persian Peri Peri Fusion version.

NilsenQuicheLorraine-4700

I’m a big fan of Angela Nilsen’s approach of taking a classic recipe, researching it, sourcing tips from a range of experts and then creating the ultimate recipe and she shares 50 such recipes in this book. Here, I make her Ultimate Quiche Lorraine.

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My friend Uyen Luu’s book is a visual feast, full of beautiful images, evocative writing and delicious recipes. We made several recipes, including her Caramelised Sardines in Coconut Water.

Vareniki-6136 Vareniki-6140

My last choice is a book I wish I had on my own shelves, the wonderfully named Please To The Table, full of Russian recipes. Pete made Cheese Vareniki and Meat Pelmeni and they were mighty fine!

A few that didn’t quite make the top five but offer tasty treats include a fabulous smoked cheese gnocchi from The Amalfi Coast, Gastrogeek’s Roasted Aubergine Macarone Cheese and Billy Law’s Coca Cola Chicken.

 

Five Favourite Lessons On The History of Food

Sometimes a topic really catches my attention; when that happens, I love to read as much as I can to learn all about it and then pull everything together into an essay-like post!

BrogdaleNFC-1482 BrogdaleNFC-1506

Our visit to the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale last year was fascinating. We learned a great deal about the history of the collections from our super guide, Mike, and I was inspired to do more research about the history of the apple in the UK, when I got home.

KellyBronze-3995 KellyBronze-4013

These days, turkey is relegated to little more than a Christmas staple, but a visit to the Kelly Bronze farm prompted me to look more closely into the history of turkey eating and breeding in the UK.

Japan2013-3234 Japan2013-3226

This post had been simmering for several months, the majority of it written after our first trip to Japan in autumn 2012 but not completed until after our second trip in 2013. I only just got round to posting it! It gives a history of yakiniku in Japanese cuisine.

Parma-8226 Parma-8499

A press trip to Parma allowed me to discover the origins and methods of making parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan cheese) and prosciutto de Parma (Parma ham).

 

Five Favourite Recipes by Pete

Pete does so much of the cooking in our house. Here are five of my favourite recipes he’s created.

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I’m always begging Pete to make his Chocolate & Porter Cake. Most recently, he made it for an afternoon tea, and it went down very well!

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Pete’s Cheesey Potato Bake is simplicity itself but so very tasty. It’s also a great way of using up the remnants of a varied cheeseboard.

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Home made bread is one of Pete’s fortes and I loved this Cobnut Bread he made using British cobnuts and oil.

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I dubbed this invention of Pete’s Courgette-Saka, in a reference to Moussaka, though I’ve come across similar dishes called courgette lasagne. It’s made by layering ragu, slices of courgette and bechamel before baking.

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Pete’s Crumpet recipe is a winner. Nothing like hot, freshly made crumpets oozing with melted butter for a fantastic weekend breakfast!

 

Five Favourite Hotel Stays

I guess this could come under travel, but in these posts I’m focusing on the beautiful places we stayed.

Japan2012-2600 Japan2012-2527

We stayed in Ryokan Kankaso in Nara on our first trip to Japan and it remains one of my favourite experiences in Japan. They served us an amazing kaiseki ryori feast.

ScarletHotel-4828 ScarletHotel-6336

Sometimes when you visit a place, it seems to have been designed with your personal tastes in mind. So it was at The Scarlet in Cornwall.

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London’s Syon Park Hotel is shiny and new, and the exterior isn’t particularly attractive, but I really appreciated what it offers inside.

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I didn’t particularly love our hotel in Abisko in Sweden’s Lappland but its location and the surrounding views were spectacular!

Japan2012-2533 Japan2012-3001

Yes, two ryokans make it into the list – we also had a wonderful stay at Shiraume Ryokan in Kyoto’s historic Gion district.

 

Five Favourite Random Lessons

A little mix-bag of miscellaneous topics!

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I had a great time attending a food styling photography workshop by one of the best in the business, Alastair Hendy. I’ve shared lots of his tips in my post.

KaveyHeartMapProject-0819 KaveyHeartMapProject-0825

In a rare departure from the food and travel content I usually post, I created a framed artwork of heart shaped maps of places that hold special meaning to Pete and I. Here’s the tutorial on how to make your own digital heart maps collage.

ApplePieFillingCanning-0026 ApplePieFillingCanning-0034

I’ve been happily making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and ketchups and storing them long term in sterilised jam jars and glass bottles. But before I embarked on my first canning project (where the food is heat treated inside the jar) I did some research on the various methods of preserving food at home. This post shares what I learned and was followed by my instructions on how to can apple pie filling.

Japan2012-2154 Japan2012-3168

I found the temples and shrines in Kyoto and across Japan utterly fascinating and wrote this article to help visitors to identify a Buddhist temple from a Shinto shrine and to understand and appreciate what they are seeing. Here too are 6 earlier posts in which I shared information and images from several shrines and temples we visited.

UKFBA stall-9582 UKFBA stall-9573

This one isn’t so much a lesson as our experiences running a food market stall for just one day, in Covent Garden’s Real Food Market.

 

Five Favourite Restaurant Reviews

I love to eat in and I love to eat out. Here are restaurants I particularly enjoyed.

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It’s probably not a huge surprise that one of the most memorable meals I’ve written about is Heston’s Fat Duck. My sister took me there for my 40th (and her 37th) and it was a great experience.

ClubGascon-9976 ClubGascon-9955

Given the distinction of being the only place I’ve written about where we ordered one of the dishes a second time during one meal, I must mention Club Gascon, which we visited when they were offering a special menu to celebrate their thirteenth birthday.

LauncPlaceTasting-3909 LauncPlaceTasting-3928

Tristan Welch is no longer at the helm of Launceston Place, but he and his team made another birthday very special for me and my friend Chaundra

Dishoom-3455 Dishoom-3465 Dishoom-3470

History was always one of my favourite subjects at school (and indeed I studied it at uni too) so I was happy that my added content covering the history of Bombay Cafes and Thums Up Cola were of such interest to readers in my post about Dishoom.

TheSportsmanKent-1964 TheSportsmanKent-1985

The Sportsman in Kent reminds me of myself, but is altogether far tastier!

This was probably the hardest category to narrow down to five! I wanted to share Hida Beef, Tempura, Yuba and Yakiniku from Japan, enjoying a Nutter Genius’ kitchen table, crying over the loss of the Oriental City Food Court, my addiction to Kookoo Sabzi, the wonderous oddity of mac’n’cheese sushi style and a most wondrous meal at Pierre Koffmann’s rooftop popup.

 

Five Favourite Gardening & Allotment Moments

We’ve been growing our own fruit and vegetables in the back garden and, for the last three years, at a nearby allotment too.

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We spotted this fox fast asleep one morning, nestled amongst the tomatillos and gourds in the back garden. He woke after we’d admired him for a while.

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I’ve never been a fan of regular broccoli but discovered that I do really like purple sprouting broccoli varieties.

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Wanting to make the most of the yellow raspberries and blackberries from our allotment, I made a fruit tart. It features my homemade plum jelly, made from allotment plums, too!

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Some confusion on my part lead me to make this redcurrant and port jelly but it turned out so well (despite being a little runny because of too much port) that I’ve since been eking out the remainder!

SungoldTomatoKetchup- SungoldTomatoKetchup-2

Tomatoes are one of my favourite things to grow. I adore the sweet taste and beautiful colour of Sungolds, and decided to preserve some in this lovely spicy yellow tomato ketchup.

 

Five Favourite Cookery Classes

It’s always a pleasure to learn new skills.

Billingsgate-7513 Billingsgate-7573

The impact of our single cookery class at Billingsgate Seafood Training School cannot be underestimated! Not so much in the frequency with which we cook fish at home, but in the way it’s helped to change Pete’s eating habits to the extent he will now happily eat fish on the bone! That increase in his fish eating habits helped give me the confidence to finally book our first trip to Japan!

HerbertBread-6732 HerbertBread-6557 HerbertBread-6598

Pete’s the bread baker in our house but we both hugely enjoyed this comprehensive two day course from Master Baker Tom Herbert, held at the Bethruthan Steps Hotel in Cornwall.

Foodat52Italian-0460 Foodat52Italian-0508 Foodat52Italian-0562

I love the warm, friendly and very hands on nature of cookery classes at Food at 52, and this Flavours of Italy class was no exception.

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To celebrate ten years of running Mamta’s Kitchen (back in 2011), we decided to run some Mamta’s Kitchen Cookery Classes, to raise funds for various charities. Feedback was super and the experience was very rewarding.

HashiCooking-1544 HashiCooking-1585 HashiCooking-1632

I’ve grown ever more interested in Japanese food over the last few years and have now attended a few of Reiko’s Japanese sessions, which showcase traditional dishes with a modern twist.

 

Just Three Favourite History Lessons

I always loved studying history, and with these three posts, I took a little step back to my academic days.

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At school, college and university I studied history, with a focus on the 20th century. For Remembrance Day 2010, I shared a history of the Battle of Britain.

650 pixTitanicpostcard

More history, this time in the sinking of the Titanic, and the stories of some of those aboard.

eic-logo eastindia

When The East India Company name was resurrected, I wrote a piece explaining the history of the original East India Company.

 

Oh and for those eagle-eyed readers who’ve noticed that the archive dates back to 2006; after I started the blog in 2009 I copied across bits and pieces I’d written and shared via email and online discussion boards in the previous few years. That’s the time I describe as my “stealth blogging” period – I had the enthusiasm you’d expect from a blogger to record my thoughts about food, cooking, restaurants, equipment but no actual blog!

Thanks for joining me on my slow stroll down memory lane!

 

Recently I started thinking more about ready meals, about other people’s cooking and eating habits and about our own thoughts on ready meals. Usually we have ready meals or ready-made components about once a week. I started musing on whether we could do 7 days in a row eating only ready meals each evening.

I decided to restrict our choices to a single range within one supermarket – Sainsbury’s were kind enough to step up and I chose their Taste The Difference Bistro range to put to the test.

Most of the meals within the Bistro range are priced at £7 (and serve two people); the lasagne costs £6. Some of the meals have felt better value at that price point than others.

For the last several weeks, the Bistro main meals have been part of a £10 meal deal which allows you to choose one main, one Bistro dessert and a bottle of wine. If you fancy dessert, and drink wine, I’d say it’s a fair offer, since the desserts are usually £3.50 and the wines around £5 a bottle.  You’ll have to do the legwork though; in our local store the shelves where the meal deal is promoted never have any wine displayed and my husband has to head to the wine section and root out the wines included in the deal. We took advantage of the meal deal twice. Without the meal deal, these are a little pricy, in my opinion.

Also, be aware that not all branches will stock the full range of Bistro meals or desserts. We generally found only 3 of the meals readily available each time we visited, with another 2 very occasionally in stock. None of the others are sold by our branch and I turned to the team at Sainsbury’s to help me source the rest.

In the end, availability issues (both in terms of us having a fully clear week and the lack of stock in our local branch) meant we weren’t able to stick to my plan to eat the ready meals back to back in a single week. We also ended up trying eight rather than seven items from the range.

We ate these ready meals below spread over a few weeks.

Bistro Chicken with Cider Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

This was a great start. The chicken remained moist during cooking, the creamy cider sauce was tasty and the roasted baby potatoes had a good texture and taste. The onions on top veered towards burnt, but overall, flavours were excellent. I would possibly buy this again, though there are other ready meals I’d choose in preference.

SainsburysBistro-4571 SainsburysBistro-4574
SainsburysBistro-4577 SainsburysBistro-4580

 

Bistro Wiltshire Ham Gratin (£7, 800 grams)

Ham, green beans, cheddar cheese, potatoes and breadcrumbs – what’s not to like? We found this delicious and would be happy to buy this again.

SainsburysBistro-4587 SainsburysBistro-4590
SainsburysBistro-4592 SainsburysBistro-4597

 

Bistro Lasagne Al Forno With Slow Cooked Beef (£6, 710 grams)

The Bistro lasagne didn’t stack up at all well against premium lasagnes we’ve tried from other supermarkets. Although the ragu had a good flavour, it was lacking in moisture and it didn’t stand out well against the hard, chewy pasta. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed this was from a premium range and it’s definitely not worth £6.

SainsburysBistro-4644 SainsburysBistro-4645
SainsburysBistro-4647 SainsburysBistro-4650

 

Bistro Catalan Chicken (£7, 800 grams)

For us, this was definitely the weakest in the range. The chicken meat didn’t remain moist but that was a minor detail. The “Catalan” sauce was really unpleasant, with a horrible flavour reminiscent of a really cheap bottle sauce. There were also a couple of larger pieces of potato that remained a little hard, because they had not cooked sufficiently in the time.

SainsburysBistro-4877 SainsburysBistro-4885

 

Bistro Chicken with a Red Wine, Madeira & Mushroom Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

The cooking was split into two for this meal – part way through, a packet of sauce provided was poured over the chicken and the tray returned to the oven. Sadly, the sauce wasn’t great and didn’t live up to expectations on flavour. Onions and mushrooms didn’t benefit from being baked, with mushrooms turning out rubbery and dry and onions ending up a little burnt. The chicken breast wrapped in bacon was decent, but the so-so sauce was the dominant taste. By the time it was the turn of this dish, we were already bored of skin-on roasted new potatoes, though at least the small and size meant they did cook through properly.  I would not buy this again.

SainsburysBistro-4983 SainsburysBistro-4985 SainsburysBistro-4988
SainsburysBistro-4989 SainsburysBistro-4990 SainsburysBistro-4996

 

Bistro Chicken with Brie, Bacon & Cream Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

Yep, you guessed it – more skin-on roasted new potatoes. Like the previous dish, the sauce was poured over the vegetables part way through the cooking time. The cheese and bacon kept the chicken reasonably moist. The sauce was tasty though I didn’t feel it went very well with the choice of vegetables, and the vegetables didn’t suit the cooking method very well. The potatoes were properly cooked through. This meal tasted reasonably good but didn’t strike us as a particularly coherent plate.

SainsburysBistro-5221 SainsburysBistro-5223
SainsburysBistro-5224 SainsburysBistro-5226
SainsburysBistro-5228 SainsburysBistro-5232

 

Beef Bourguignon (£7, 800 grams)

When we picked this meal up we did start to wonder if the product development team were unaware of other ways to cook potatoes – peeled steamed potatoes would work better here, as would a good creamy mash. Skin-on roasted new potatoes, not so much! The flavours in the Bourguignon itself were good; if the stew were sold on its own, I’d consider buying it (though I’ve made my own previously), but as a complete meal with new potatoes, I wouldn’t buy it again.

SainsburysBistro-5242 SainsburysBistro-5243
SainsburysBistro-5247 SainsburysBistro-5249

 

Bistro Creamy Ham Hock & Chicken Pie (£7, 600 grams)

I think this would more accurately be called a gratin rather than a pie, as there’s no pastry in sight. Again, presentation was pretty poor here – it’s clear Sainsbury’s aren’t going for the dinner party demographic! At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much ham or chicken, but as soon as we dug under the surface, there was plenty there. This was a very tasty meal and I’d happily eat this again.

SainsburysBistro-5254 SainsburysBistro-5255
SainsburysBistro-5257 SainsburysBistro-5262

 

So the hit rate for great meals in the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bistro range was quite a bit lower than I expected, especially as chance meant we started strongly with two good choices. We tried eight meals in the range.

There were only three that I’d be happy to have again – the chicken with cider sauce, the Wiltshire ham gratin and the creamy ham hock and chicken “pie”.

Two were good in parts – the choice of potatoes let down the beef bourguignon and the side vegetables did the same for the chicken with brie, bacon and cream Sauce.

The lasagne, Catalan chicken and chicken with red wine, madeira and mushroom sauce were disappointing.

 

Our main supermarket is Waitrose; as we live a couple of minute’s walk away we are able to shop every couple of days rather than do a large weekly shop. We have had a far better hit rate with the ready meals we’ve bought there over the last several years. I’d hoped that the Sainsbury’s meals would hold up well, given that the price point is the same, but it wasn’t the case.

I’m hoping to do similar reviews of other premium ready meal ranges from some of the other supermarkets in coming months. Please let me know if there are any you particularly recommend I try (or avoid)!

 

With thanks to Sainsbury’s for providing the above ready meals for review.

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