Equipment, books, gifts, all things shopping.

 

Like many in the UK, I celebrate Christmas as a purely cultural tradition. Although I am interested in the origins of the ways we celebrate, it’s about history rather than religious significance for me.

On a religious level, Advent is a period of anticipation; indeed the word itself comes from adventus; Latin for “coming” and marks the weeks of preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus and looking ahead to his second coming. It is also the beginning of the liturgical year – that is the Christian calendar that determines the dates of various feast and fast days, celebrations of Saints and other observances.

For me, a nostalgia-loving Humanist, Advent is all about Advent calendars, and the ones I love best are chocolate ones! Who can resist the nearly-month-long ritual of finding the right number, carefully opening the door and revealing that day’s chocolate inside?

Twenty years ago, I was happy with a really cheap version; a couple of quid in Woollies (RIP) and I was sorted. But over the last couple of decades, my chocolate tastes have changed enormously and the really cheap stuff – more sugar and vegetable fat than actual cocoa content – just doesn’t cut it. The first time I bought a Hotel Chocolat advent some years ago, it felt outrageously expensive (and compared to my Woollies ones it was!). But nowadays, I’m happier to spend more on quality chocolate and I’ve also realised that £12.50 for a box of 24 tasty chocolates is actually perfectly reasonable.

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Hotel Chocolat’s Advent Calendar to Share (£26) is a rather charming way of sharing the advent fun without having to share the chocolate treat. I think of it as a Couple’s Advent Calendar but of course, it would work for siblings or friends too, as long as they don’t mind taking turns to open the door! Behind each window are two baby truffles and there are a range of flavours to find including simple milk and dark truffles, salted caramel, gingerbread, almond and nutmeg, cinnamon, raspberry and hibiscus, and mulled wine.

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For those who don’t want to share, Hotel Chocolat’s one-person Advent Calendars (£12.50) come in dark, milk or white chocolate versions. Behind each door is a cute moulded chocolate sculpture.

COMPETITION

I have two prizes to giveaway to Kavey Eats readers!

  • First prize is a Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar to Share.
  • Second prize is a Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar.
  • Each prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite way of enjoying chocolate at Christmas.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win @HotelChocolat Advent Calendars from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/80jVag #KaveyEatsHCAdvent
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Share an image of your favourite Christmas Tree decoration via your Instagram feed. In the caption include my username @Kaveyf and the hashtag #KaveyEatsHCAdvent.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 14th November, 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 2 winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize.
  • 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.
  • First prize is a Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar to Share and second prize is a Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar. Free delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Instagram entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @Kaveyf at the 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 Instagram so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. 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.

Kavey Eats attended the Hotel Chocolat Christmas preview event and received samples of items in the range.

 

It’s funny what can upset you, isn’t it? Funny odd not funny ha ha.

The attachments we form to inanimate – and frankly insignificant – objects can verge on the ridiculous.

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Like many kids, my sister and I helped mum in the kitchen and developed a love of food and cooking from an early age. Mostly, we cooked from mum’s collection of cookery books but when I was 12, my interest was re-galvanised by cookery lessons at school and I decided I wanted to learn more about baking. I bought my very first cookery book, one of the Marks & Spencer’s St Michael series; Good Home Baking by Mary Cadogan was newly published in 1983 and I loved cooking from it. I have strong and quite distinct memories of making the individually shaped Vienna bread rolls and some of the biscuit recipes many times, as I strove to improve my skills.

Fast forward a few years and I left for university, but failed to take the book with me. When I next came home and tried to find it I discovered, to my enormous upset, that mum had given it away! Had it been any of the other books we cooked from, it wouldn’t have been a big deal but this was my book, my first cookery book and I wanted it back! It was one I had learned and loved cooking from and I felt its loss far more keenly than my rather chagrined mum had anticipated. Of course, she offered to buy me another copy but it was no longer readily available and eventually I stopped sulking and let it go.

But actually, several times in the years since then, I’ve found myself thinking about that one cookery book and wistfully wishing I still had it. It’s not that I feel I need those recipes to make bread rolls or biscuits. Maybe it’s just nostalgia? For years, I’ve browsed charity shop shelves in the hope of spotting it. Others in the St Michael series have popped up now and then and I’ve bought all kinds of other fabulous finds. But I never spotted my book.

Of course, there’s one thing we have at our fingertips now that we didn’t have back when mum gave my precious book away: the internet! A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly decided to try and track down the book on the web. To my delight, it took all of ten minutes to find several second-hand copies on sale via Amazon Marketplace and a few days later my “used very good” copy arrived.

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As soon as I started flicking through the pages, I recognised many of the photographs.

But what to make first? Should it be Coffee Kisses or Glazed Nut Loaf or Tea Brack or Sticky Gingerbread, all of which I remember making?

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In the end, the decision was easy. I cast my eye over the box of product samples waiting to be reviewed and settled quickly on a selection of Nutural World Nut Butters. Made by the delightfully named Mordechai Chachamu (I genuinely think his might be the single most charming name I’ve ever encountered), these nut and seed butters are 100% natural with just one ingredient each. Mordechai gently roasts the nuts and seeds to bring out their flavour, then processes them to smooth or crunchy. The regular jars hold 170 grams and range in price from just £1.98 for the Sunflower Butter to £5.60 for the Macadamia Nut Butter. Also in the range are Cashew Nut, Pumpkin Seed, Hazelnut, Brazil Nut, White and Brown Almond, Pecan and Pistachio.

You can buy these from the Nutural World website, at Broadway and Camden markets and on eBay and I urge you to give them a try. They’re absolutely delicious and a wonderful alternative to their better known cousin, peanut butter.

Which is why I chose a classic peanut butter recipe from Good Home Baking to put some of Nutural World’s nut butters to the test – Peanut Biscuits.

Because I wanted to try three different variations, we first mixed up the biscuit dough without any nut butter, divided it into three and then added a different nut butter to each portion. Of course, you can make a single batch and add whichever nut butter you choose to your mix.

As we’re not fans of margarine, we also switched margarine to butter and we adapted the method to use our food processor. Of course, you can mix by hand.

These biscuits are what I’d call old fashioned in style – they’re crunchy and crumbly rather than soft and chewy and the flavours are subtle rather than smack-in-the-face. They’re perfect with a big mug of tea.

Old Fashioned Nut Butter Biscuits

Adapted from Mary Cadogan’s Peanut Biscuits
Makes about 24 biscuits

Ingredients
275 grams plain flour
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams butter
225 grams soft light brown sugar
100 grams crunchy nut butter of your choice
2 eggs

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Process flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the sugar and eggs. If using a single nut butter, add this in too.
  • Process until the mixture comes together as soft sticky dough, with the ingredients thoroughly combined.

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Our dough divided into three portions; adding Nutural World Macadamia Nut, Cashew and Brazil Nut butters

  • If making a variety of nut butter biscuits, scrape the dough out of the processor, divide into portions, add nut butter and beat in thoroughly using a fork or spoon.

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  • On a baking tray lined with either a silicon mat or baking paper, spoon out dollops of biscuit dough and use a fork to pat each dollop down and create criss-cross lines on the surface.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

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  • Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely.

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Kavey Eats received nut butter samples from Nutural World.

 

TomCoxMini

Guest Post by Tom Cox.

 

 

 

A while ago now Kavey invited me to review a cook book on her blog. Me and my girlfriend Nat often do our share of the cooking in the household (currently living with her parents and brother) and I decided this would be a great opportunity to try something new. So after reeling over the dozens of cook books available on the list Kavey provided me, with it being world cup time and my particular penchant towards the new and interesting, I eventually decided on the extremely colourful Brazilian Food by Thiago Castanho.

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First impressions were great, it had loads of really interesting looking chapters with really rich interesting pictures and a short excerpt from a review by Michael Palin (a personal favourite of mine). I decided we were definitely onto a winner.

The one thing that I really liked about the book is that it’s not just a cook book, it’s a tome on Brazilian cooking and culture with tidbits of history about Brazilian cuisine and history, quotes from anthropologists and all in all you really get a taste of the culture that cultivated this cuisine. However, this blessing is also a bit of a curse as it’s not the most accommodating of cook books with a lot of ingredients you’d struggle to find at your local supermarket and although there are a couple of tips about visiting an African/ Asian food shop there is some stuff I’m pretty sure has simply never made it to our shores (a bold claim I know but seriously try and find annatto oil). Some of the recipes had some pretty advanced cooking skills and weren’t altogether clear at times.

In short unless you’re a professional chef or some sort of super foodie (I consider myself a pretty good cook) then I reckon you’ll struggle with quite a few of the recipes.

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Ultimately I decided to go for one of the simpler looking recipes Galinha Caipira, or for those of us who’s Brazilian Portugese is a little rusty, Braised Chicken. This recipe, Thiago notes, was one of his grandmother’s and I hoped it would give us a good example of real wholesome Brazilian cooking. This recipe had very few of the really difficult to source ingredients apart from annatto oil, annatto now being a plant that I’ve developed somewhat of a disliking for after trying desperately to find in every random foodie looking shop I could find. I did discover that annatto oil is also known as achiote oil, but in the end I substituted oil, paprika and turmeric.

The recipe was quite simple but the picture was somewhat misleading and had a few ingredients in the picture that weren’t present. Although it called for both red and white onion in the ingredients, it made no mention of when to use one or the other in the method of so I went with my best judgement.

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We decided to serve this with Coconut rice (as opposed to the serving suggestion of Brazilian-style white rice) which I think was a fantastic choice in the end as what the main lacked in flavour the coconut rice made up for by being a real treat! The taste of the chicken dish was a little dull and didn’t really have anything distinctive about it; this should have been pretty predictable from the list of ingredients but I thought I’d give the book the benefit of the doubt, somewhat to our disappointment.

In summary if you have a good couple of days to source, prepare and cook a meal then I’d say go for it this book is a real visual treat and gives you bucket loads of really great insight into the vibrant country in which the food was developed.

I’m sure if I’d had the time to dedicate to one of the more complicated recipes I’d have enjoyed it more but for the average cook I’m not so sure it suits. It’ll stay on my book shelf more as an interesting insight into Brazilian food and culture as opposed to something I’ll be trying to cook from again.

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Brazilian Food from Octopus Books. Brazilian Food is currently (at time of writing) available on Amazon for £20.40 (RRP £30).

 

I guess I’m like a kid with a new toy at the moment. Here’s another power blender recipe for you, made once again in my Froothie Optimum 9400 blender.

We’re in the midst of a courgette glut (something I’m very happy about as I love them and feel rather sad in those occasional years when our harvest fails). This quick and tasty soup recipe is a great way to use courgettes. It’s also the perfect choice for the courgettes you failed to spot and which grew a bit larger than you intended; of course, you can make it with smaller courgettes too!

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Quick Courgette & Blue Cheese Soup | Made in a Power Blender

Serves 2

Ingredients
850 grams roughly diced courgette (weight after removing ends and scooping out seeds)
75-100 grams strong blue cheese
30-50 ml double cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  • Place courgette into blender jug. Pulse until courgette has been liquidised. You may need to pause between pulsing once or twice to shake the jug, and help distribute the courgette to within the blade’s reach. Don’t be tempted to add water, as it’s not necessary (and you don’t want to water down the flavour of your finished soup).
  • Once the courgette has been liquidised, add the blue cheese and cream and switch on the blender, ramping it up to the highest speed.
  • Leave it running for 6-7 minutes until the soup is piping hot.
  • Taste and add seasoning, blend for another few seconds and taste again.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Great with fresh bread or toast.

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Check out these posts for more great power blender soup recipes:

 

Kavey Eats received an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie. Kavey Eats is a member of the Froothie brand ambassador programme, but under no obligation to share positive reviews. All opinions published on Kavey Eats are 100% honest feedback.

Special Offer: For an additional 2 years warranty free of charge on any Optimum appliance purchased, follow this link, choose your Optimum product and enter coupon code “Special Ambassador Offer” on checkout.

 

It’s not often I start a new job and discover fellow foodies in my team; more often new colleagues find my interest (they tend to use the term obsession) surprising, beyond their comprehension, even weird. Of course, they tend to come around when the chocolate review samples make it into the office…

TomCoxMiniWhich means it was nice to start my current contract and find that several of my teammates are pretty keen on food too. One told me about cookery classes he’s attended recently. Another discussed her weekend addiction to burgers (though she’s veggie during the week). And one talked animatedly about the forest of chilli plants he’s nurturing and the various cookery books which are most popular in his house at the moment.

It didn’t take long for me to invite Tom Cox to write content for Kavey Eats. He’s not only keen on eating out and cooking at home, he also loves reviewing stuff and writing about it!

Over to Tom for his feedback on Tabasco’s Sauces & Marinade collection.

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Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon (Mild) 3.5*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces, Scotch and Bourbon Whiskies

This had a nice smoky flavour, quite like a smoky barbeque sauce with just a hint of spice and a relish-like hit. Perfect on burgers or ribs (as the back of the bottle suggests and very rightly so). It is however quite sweet (although it has nothing on chipotle and cola) and I can’t really detect any sign of a Bourbon-y taste, more like smoky, ever-so-slightly spicy barbeque. We tried to use this as a marinade for some chicken we were doing on the barbeque but unlike the back of the bottle says, this isn’t suitable for use as a marinade on its own and may need mixing with some oil to avoid it sticking and stripping all the skin and sauce off.

Sweet Chipotle and Cola (Mild) 1.5*

A sweet sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces and cola flavoured soft drink

We had really high expectations for this one, me being a fan of all the weird and wonderful things I can possibly find to eat (this is pretty tame but appealed). However, this was our least favourite. The problem was it was far too sweet and I swear even had a very mild foamy banana taste (the ones you get from the pick and mix, not a banana that had the misfortune of catching fruit rabies). It did however have a nice mild warmth and I’m sure if you like mildly spicy and very sweet then this would do it for you.

Peppery Deep South Creole (Medium) 4*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauce

A nice mild heat and this is the one you definitely want at your barbeque. A nice blend of ketchup-like sweetness and tomato-tartness with a lovely medium heat and sweet peppery flavours. This would be absolutely perfect on your burger or an addition to a chilli for a chilli dog. A really great take on a barbeque classic.

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Fruity and Fiery Hot Habanero (Hot) 4*

This was the most interesting; the first 2 seemed like jumped up ketchup/ barbeque sauce (don’t get me wrong I’m all for making those two things a little more exciting) but this one was a little different. It had a nice manageable heat for people that like heat and had a really exotic flavour – like a fruity, spicy Indian piccalilli but a little less tart (owing to the mango and papaya I would guess). Again I would agree with the back of the bottle on this one – it would be nice in a stir fry as the main event but I feel it might be a bit out of place at your summer barbeque.

 

Overall I like that Tabasco are trying new things other than a scorching sauce that is useful only for supposedly encouraging growth of so far virtually non-existent hairs on my chest (I like to think of it more as highly evolved). They’ve managed to put a new, more flavoursome and spicy spin on some otherwise quite dull table condiments and hopefully we’ll see a lot more new and exciting innovation from this capsaicin crazed company.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Tabasco.

 

When it comes to tourism in Belgium, Brussels gets a bad rap.

Go to Bruges, they say, for the picturesque canals and mediaeval centre.
Go to Antwerp, they say, for world class art and hipster fashion.
Go to Ghent, they say, for more of the same plus cycling too.
Go to Ypres, they say, for WW1 history.

But Brussels? Brussels is often dismissed as little more than a hub for politicians and lobbyists.

Of course, there’s much more to Brussels than politics! Yes, Brussels is the home of the European Union, NATO and the United Nation’s European office…

…but it is also the capital of a country of two halves – the Dutch-speaking Flemish region of Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia in the South. Multicultural Brussels, the third region of the country, is bilingual though French is now more prevalent than Dutch. These days English is widely spoken as well as many other languages, indeed it’s said that as much as half the population speak neither French nor Dutch as their native tongue.

As a Londoner, one of the things I find most appealing about Brussels is this sense of multiculturalism. Although the issue of language is still a hot potato for many Belgians, especially when it comes to education and cultural identity, Brussels is a city that is very open to the world.  Indeed, we chat to Pierre from the local tourist board who tells us that the people of Brussels refer to themselves as zinneke (bastard dogs), wearing their mongrel heritage with pride. Pierre is himself the perfect example – his mother is gipsy, his father Walloon and Flemish, his wife Brazilian and his sisters are married to a German, a Frenchman and a Czech, respectively!

Brussels is a vibrant city with a historic heart and a modern outlook. And the Eurostar service takes you from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi-Zuid in less than two and a half hours!

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When it comes to sightseeing, you still can’t beat a good old-fashioned guide book, or the website equivalent. I won’t try to recreate that here but suggest that as well as the popular Gothic and baroque buildings of the Grand Place and surrounding narrow cobbled streets, the shiny Atomium housing a variety of exhibitions and the incomprehensibly mobbed corner where the Mannekin Pis resides you might want to look up Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis – the squatting female and doggie equivalents of Mannekin, the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (and the Comic Strip walk that takes you past comics painted on the walls of a number of buildings), an amazing array of grand buildings such as the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula, the Bourse (stock exchange), the Royal Palace, the Basilique du Sacré Coeur and the architecture of art nouveau architect Victor Horta. Lovers of literature, art, history and even cars, will also appreciate several excellent museums in Brussels.

Instead, I’m going to share my tips for some great places to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

 

Chocolates and Patisserie

Brussels is awash with shops selling chocolate, but much of what’s on sale is cheap, bulk-manufactured products that are hardly worth wasting suitcase space for. Here are the ones that are worth seeking out.

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Laurent Gerbaud is one of Belgium’s rising chocolatiers and is fighting an uphill battle to move Belgians on from the idea of “Belgian chocolate” to an understanding of the actual origins and varieties available.

Like several chocolatiers I’ve met, Laurent was a chef first; he came to chocolate via chocolate sculpture with an artist friend, and that lead, eventually, to his current career. As a child, he developed an interest in China, perhaps because of several friendships he had with Chinese and Taiwanese families. He worked in Chinese restaurants, took courses in Chinese and, after a university degree in history, finally moved to China for a couple of years. There, he discovered that the Chinese don’t have as sweet a tooth as Europeans and he lost his taste for high sugar sweets. When he came back to Belgium, he had the obvious thought of bringing his experiences in China into his chocolate making but realised he wasn’t inspired by fusion flavours. Instead, he focused on quality ingredients, including some sourced from Asia.

Today, the Chinese influences is perhaps most evident in his logo which is an artistic interpretation of the Chinese hanzi characters for “chocolate” and his name.

Laurent is keen to make chocolate that people love to eat; he says “one of my purposes is to make junk food – you eat one and you want another because it’s really good”. Judging by the chocolates we tasted, he’s nailed it – I could have eaten a whole box of the chocolates made with dried figs from Turkey and candied oranges from Italy. His shop on Rue Ravenstein is also a boutique tea room, with plans to extend the service to offer a savoury menu too.

Tip: Of course, you can visit his shop just to buy some of his excellent chocolate, but for a more personal experience, book a chocolate tasting or chocolate making workshop.

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Pierre Marcolini is one of the few Belgian chocolatiers to make chocolate from bar to bean, before then using it to make a range of chocolates. His chocolate shop at 2 Rue de Minimes is certainly full of temptation but what I recommend above the chocolate is a visit to the address around the corner at 39 Grote Zavel, where his spectacular patisserie is sold. I found the macarons surprisingly disappointing but a glossy strawberry patisserie was a winner.

Other famous chocolate brands in Brussels include Wittamer (a long standing bakery and chocolate business) and Frederic Blondeel (a chef turned chocolatier who also makes chocolate from bean to bar).

 

Speculoos Biscuits

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Speculoos, hailing from Belgium and The Netherlands, are spiced shortcrust biscuits that were originally associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with a spice mix that usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, these days they are popular and available all year round.

Maison Dandoy, established in 1829, makes a range of sweet bakery products but is best known for its traditional speculoos and gingerbread biscuits. These days, it has a handful of shops in Brussels, but its worth making a trip to its oldest remaining store at 31 Rue au Beurre, to admire the beautiful wooden biscuit moulds lining the shelves. The Tea Room on Rue Charles Buls (also known as Karel Bulsstraat) is larger, offering the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of biscuits, pastries and drinks inside. There are an additional four shops in Brussels, plus one in nearby Waterloo.

Having tried several supermarket brands of speculoos biscuit, I was surprised to discover that it’s not just a case of fancy shops and branding – the Maison Dandoy speculoos biscuits are definitely superior!

We also tried Dandoy’s pain à la Grecque, a crunchy bread-cum-biscuit coated with pearled sugar crystals. I was more fascinated by the origins of the name than the biscuit itself – over two centuries ago, the monks of a local Augustine abbey used to support the city’s destitute by giving them bread. The abbey was located near a place known as Wolvengracht (Wolves Ditch); the gracht pronounced grecht in local dialect. Over time, pain a la grecht morphed into pain à la Grecque, confusing generations of shoppers with its erroneous suggestion of a Greek origin.

Tip: If you’re as huge a fan of speculoos biscuits as we are, make a quick visit to a supermarket to pick up a couple of extra large packs of mass-produced biscuits as well. There’s a mini supermarket in Brussels Midi Station.

 

Cuberdons

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I first fell for cuberdons over two decades ago, and if anything, I love them even more today. A purply-dark red colour and conical in shape, the cuberdon is a raspberry-flavoured gummy sweet, firm on the outside with an oozing interior. In Dutch, it’s known as a neus (nose), in French it’s called a chapeau-de-curé or chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

You can find cuberdons in quite a few sweet shops in Brussels, several of which sell multiple colours and flavours, a relatively recent phenomenon. But we’ve found that the best prices for regular raspberry cuberdons is from the Cric-Crac sweet shop inside Brussels Midi station, which sells by weight.

Tip: These sweets are best eaten within a couple of weeks of purchase, as the liquid centre can crystallise and harden if left for too long.

 

Waffles

Belgian Waffles fall into two types.

Firm, rich and chewy Gaufre de Liège (Liège Waffle) are made from an adapted brioche-dough and work well both hot and cold. These are usually oval in shape and have a slightly crunchy exterior from the crystallised sugar that has caramelised against the waffle iron. They’re great for eating on the hoof as they’re traditionally eaten plain (though you can buy them with toppings too if you prefer).

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Rectangular Brussels Waffles are made with a leavened batter, resulting in a much lighter and airier texture and are definitely at their best enjoyed hot, fresh from the waffle iron. Traditionally, Brussels waffles are served with a dusting of icing sugar but these days you can choose from a wide selection of toppings including ice cream, chocolate sauce and fruits. But I suggest you ignore all of those and ask for your waffle with a generous dollop of speculoos paste. With a texture much like smooth peanut butter, this sweet spread is the same flavour as the famous biscuit and melts wonderfully into the indentations of a freshly-cooked hot waffle.

Tip: You’ll find waffles on sale all over Brussels, often from hole-in-the wall vendors, but if you want to sit down and eat, try Maison Dandoy’s Tearoom.

 

Beer & Bars

Belgium is world famous for its beers and rightly so, with a rich tradition that goes back many, many centuries. The range of beers produced by Belgian breweries is impressive, including pale, golden, amber, red and dark ales, dubbels and tripels, Flemish sour brown, Champagne beers (which receive a second fermentation using the method now most strongly associated with Champagne), wheat beers and lambics (spontaneously fermented with wild yeasts that are native to the brewery, as opposed to the addition of cultivated yeasts).

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Both Pete and I absolutely love what owner Jean Hummler is offering at his two bars, Moeder Lambic and Moeder Lambic Fontainas, located at 68 rue de Savoie and 8 place Fontainas, respectively. He started the first bar less than five years ago, after a career working for industrial food businesses in France.

He starts off by telling us why he wanted to do something different; “most places are not very selective, they sell coca cola and junk food” and their beer selection is not very inspiring either. He is committed to selling only quality produce and that applies to the beers, the food and even the soft drinks. He has two key criteria, the way a product is made and how it tastes. “Making money and brewing great beer are often not the same job”, he laughs. He looks for products that are made by hand, adding that he doesn’t want “industrial anything”. For a beer to be selected it must be made with craft and it must pass the taste test – it must taste good! Right now, he has approximately 150 beers on the menu of which 46 are on tap. These include beers from around the world, including a number from the UK.

The same principles apply to his sourcing of cheeses and charcuterie (which form the main thrust of the simple menu) and the non-beer drinks menu (which includes some delicious farmhouse apple juice, for those less interested in the beers).

The cheese selection (€12.5) is utterly wonderful; all are raw milk cheeses and range from soft and mild to fantastically pungent, each one a genuine delight. In the centre of the serving board is a bowl of pottekees – a blend of fresh white cheese, onion, pepper and lambic beer. Just as excellent is the meat selection (€12.5) which includes garlic sausage, French sausage, paté made with geuze beer, hâte levée – pork cooked slowly in bouillon with garlic and spices, Tierenteyn mustard, Belgian pickles (which are a lot like piccalilli). Both plates are served with a basket of bread and a superb raw milk butter.

As he introduces each item on the plates, his enthusiasm for the producers and their products is self-evident; “The idea is to offer another selection, another quality, another explanation that most people don’t know exists”.

Two other key policies for Hummler are ensuring that all his staff know and love the product range, and establishing strong relationships with each supplier – and one (of many) ways he furthers both is the Moeder Fucker series of beers brewed by Le Paradis microbrewery not far from Nancy, in France. For each beer he sends two of his staff to the brewery to help make it; they decide which style of beer to make and work with the brewery team to create their vision. During our visit, Moeder Fucker IV was on tap.

As we talked, Pete tried five beers, guided by Hummler through the staggering range available. He drank Taras Boulba by local Brasserie de la Senne (Belgium), Moeder Fucker IV by Le Paradis (France), Mozaic Black by Mont Saleve (France), Cuvée De Ranke by Ranke (Belgium) and Fièvre de Cacao by Thiriez (France).

In the end, Hummler is a man after my own heart. “We all have to decide. Each citizen has to decide what they want to do with their life. I decided for myself that I wanted to eat very good food. I eat less and less meat, maybe once a week but what I eat is very good, like the chicken that is aged 120 days on a small farm. Taste is very important to me.

Tip: Ask staff for guidance in selecting beers for your own beer flight.

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Small and traditional pub La Fleur en Papier Doré was the perfect place to meet local friends for an evening drink. At 55 Rue des Alexiens, it was very close to our bed and breakfast, and also easy to reach by local bus. The menu shares a little of the history of the bar, housed in a small maisonette that dates from the mid 18th century. In the past it housed a convent, which moved to a new home in the middle of the 20th century. As a pub, it became the favoured meeting place of the Surrealist cultural movement with regulars including René Magritte; a few decades later it was a focus point for the Cobra (avant-garde) movement, creators of experimental art and philosophy. Mementos of both remain on the well-worn walls of the cosy pub, protected (along with the façade, the ground floor rooms and some of the furniture) by the local government which has decreed them of historical value.

Stop for a few beers (and some charcuterie) or for a simple meal.

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The Cantillon Brewery welcomes visitors for brewery tours (7 Euros including a beer) or to buy beer. You can buy to drink in or takeaway; lovers of lambic will particularly enjoy a visit. The address at 56 Rue Gheude is only a short walk from the central tourist district.

 

Lunch Stops

My first recommendation for a light lunch is the cheese plate and charcuterie selection at Moeder Lambic, above. Super quality, and each provides a generous portion for the price.

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Another great option is recently opened Peck 47 (amusingly named for its address at 47 Rue Marche Aux Poulets). This all day cafe offers a short menu of home made sandwiches, salads, soups, cakes, fresh juices, smoothies and a small selection of local beers. For just €8, my poached eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and homemade relish was far more generous than I expected and all the items were of excellent quality. The eggs were perfectly poached, the salad nicely dressed and the home made relish very good indeed. Pete’s sandwich – roast chicken, rocket, lemon and basil mayo and slow roasted tomatoes – also impressed, for €5.

Tip: A particularly nice touch is that the free tap water is stored in the drinks fridge in large bottles stuffed with mint. Ask for some!

 

A Traditional Dinner

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I have to say from the off – don’t go to Restobieres if you’re looking for great service. The three staff on duty ranged from friendly but incompetent through utterly disinterested to downright sullen. That usually stops me from recommending a place but Restobieres is a good option if you’re keen to try traditional Belgian dishes alongside a range of Belgian beers.

Herve Cheese Croquets (€10) were a tasty comfort food, served hot and freshly fried. Homemade paté with Rochefort and foie gras  (€12) was a generous slab; light on the foie gras but tasty nonetheless. My calf’s liver with shallots and Chouffe  (€20) was decent; I really liked the beer and shallot sauce. Pete had satisfactory steak and chips with another good sauce and a generous well-dressed salad. The star of the mains was our friend’s bloempanch blood pudding (€12) which was both tasty and generously portioned for the price.

The only duff note (with the exception of the service) was a scoop of speculoos biscuit ice cream (€4) which we decided could only possibly have been made by a chef who’d never tasted speculoos (and not bothered to look up a recipe for the spices usually used). The texture was unpleasantly gritty too.

Located at 9 rue des Renards, not far from the Jeu de Balle flea market.

 

Brussel’s Modern Dining Scene

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I already explained how much we liked the multicultural vibe in Brussels. This goes equally for the food scene, which has some great restaurants to explore. One such place launched just a few weeks before our visit; located along very trendy Rue de Flandre in the Sainte Catherine district, Gramm is a restaurant offering bold, inventive and modern food. It’s headed up by Chef Erwan Kenzo Nakata, who grew up in Brittany to a French father and Japanese mother, thus explaining some of the eclectic Japanese touches to otherwise modern French cooking.

The evening offering is a fixed tasting menu, 6 courses for €38. Although the courses are individually quite small, we felt very satisfied at the end of our meal, having enjoyed the array of tastes, textures and colours in Nakata’s self-assured dishes.

While I felt the food was good value, I was less impressed with the drinks pricing, for wines, beers and soft drinks (which were served in shockingly tiny glasses) so if you’re on a fixed budget, keep an eye on your drinks orders to avoid a shock at the end of the evening. Also, do set aside plenty of time. Service is very warm and friendly but the wait between courses, even in a nearly empty restaurant, is a little longer than ideal.

Tip: Don’t be shy about asking for more of the excellent bread and butter, by the way, it’s great for mopping up some of the juices and sauces!

 

The Marolles Flea Market

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Usually, I’m not much of a shopper but offer me the chance to browse a car boot sale or flea market and I’m instantly excited, so I was very keen to return to the famous Marolles Flea Market held daily in the Place du Jeu de Balle. On sale is a charming mix of cheap tat and more expensive “antiques”; it’s definitely a case of one man’s rubbish being another man’s treasure. With my love of retro kitchenware, I was in heaven as there’s plenty of it here, at very bargainous prices. It’s actually a miracle I came away with only a couple of ornate old teaspoons and two Nestle branded cups and saucers in amber glass – there was, I think, a complete set of six in the box but most were too chicken-shit-and-feather covered to assess very well, so I just bought the two cleanest ones for a whopping €1!

The market runs every day of the year. Official start times state that it starts at 6 am and finishes at 2pm on weekdays, 3pm on weekends.

Tip: Take lots of small change with you and of course, be prepared to haggle!

Brussels has many more markets to visit including markets for art, food, flowers and vintage clothes.

 

An Elegant Pillow

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X2B Brussels is a family run luxury bed and breakfast in the heart of Brussels, just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place. The three guest bedrooms are each on a different floor – we booked the first floor double and were delighted to discover a vast room with soaringly high ceilings, simple and elegant furnishings and a very generous en-suite bathroom. Do note that none of the rooms have step-free access and, as you’d expect in a private home, there is no lift. Guests are welcomed either by owner Xavier or his mother Monique, who sit down with guests on arrival to share tips for visiting Brussels, personalised to their guests’ interests. Breakfast is excellent: a basket of fresh bread and pastries with an enormous selection of jams and spreads, cheese and cold hams, yoghurt, eggs however you’d like them, rounded off by coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. The hot freshly made raisin bread pain perdu is a lovely touch. Free wifi is also a boon, for those of us who like to stay connected. From £160 a night including breakfast.

Tip: make sure you jot down the house number as well as the street name; there’s no obvious sign on the outside so we walked up and down the same stretch of road several times, eventually identifying the B&B only by peering at the tiny labels for individual doorbells.

 

Getting Around

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In terms of getting around, the key sites in Brussels are within a fairly small area and its certainly possible to walk. But you can also make use of the metro and tram network, as well as local buses. The Brussels Card gives unlimited use of public transport, free entry into some attractions, discounted entry into many more and discounts in shops and restaurants too. You will also be given a free city map. Available for 24, 48 or 72 hours for 24€, 36€ or 43€.

 

With thanks to Eurostar for the complimentary return tickets between London and Brussels and thanks to the Brussels Tourist Board for their assistance in planning some of our sightseeing highlights and their insight into historic and modern Brussels.

Jul 282014
 

Did you know that Jelly Belly do sweets other than jelly beans? I didn’t!

The good news is that the Jelly Belly Candy range is as tasty as their jelly beans. Pete and I have been ripping open bag after bag these last few weeks and I have to confess, none of them have lasted very long. Pete’s favourites are probably the Sunkist Fruit Gems – large soft fruit jelly discs. I’m torn between those and the Raspberries and Blackberries – these have a soft centre coated in crunchy candy “seeds”. There are also gummy bears (regular and hot cinnamon), chocolate Dutch mints, a liquorice “bridge mix” and American stalwart, candy corn.

Although I try not to buy sweets too often, the nostalgic pull of a bag of sweets is hard to resist and takes me straight back to ye olde Woollies pick and mix. What helps temper temptation is my increasing dissatisfaction with some of the cheaper sweets, full of jarringly artificial flavours and often far too sweet. These Jelly Belly candies are undeniably pricier but so much better that they’re absolutely worth the extra, in my opinion.

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The quintessentially American Candy Corn is now joined by Gummi Bears, Licorice Bridge Mix, Chocolate Dutch Mints, Raspberries & Blackberries, Sunkist Fruit Gems and Unbearably Hot Cinnamon Bears and the bags are priced at £6.62 each.

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COMPETITION

One Kavey Eats reader will win a set of all seven of Jelly Belly’s candy range, as pictured in the bags above. The prize includes delivery in the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite childhood memory of eating sweets.

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 a set of @JellyBellyUK’s new candy range from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/Nymaog #KaveyEatsJBCandies
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 22nd August, 2014.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • 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 winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Where prizes are 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 Jelly Belly candies, as listed above, and includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Jelly Belly.
  • 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 @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 from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received samples from Jelly Belly.

Jul 212014
 

Safari

I love safari! Pete and I are fortunate to have been on several over the last two decades and have particular soft spots for the wildlife parks of Botswana, Kenya and South Africa, to name a few.

tomboy (c) Africa 2008-bbb

There’s something utterly captivating about observing birds and animals in their natural habitats, up close and personal. Of course, there are the poster animals – sleek and powerful lions and leopards, lithe and speedy cheetahs, elegant-necked loping giraffes, portly hippos, grinning hyenas, wild dogs, buffalo, zebras, wildebeest – all of which are a delight to see.

But we find just as much joy in the smaller or lesser known wildlife – a family of silver-backed jackal pups playing in the dawn light under the watchful gaze of their parents, colourful lilac-breasted rollers or malachite kingfishers taking to the wing in a flash of colour, a fighting gaggle of vultures competing fiercely over the remnants of the latest unfortunate, a sniffling porcupine shuffling through the grass with quills-a-quivering, two bat-eared foxes cautiously poking their heads up from the entrance of their den, blinking bush-babies sitting high in a tree watching us watch them, a dung beetle laboriously rolling his ball of dung along the ground, the shimmer of sunlight against the iridescent plume of a glossy starling or ibis, the striking facial patterns and horns of the mighty oryx, the tight grip of a tiny reed frog clinging to a tall stem jutting out of the waters in the Okavango Delta… There is even excitement to be found in the footprints of animals long since departed, imprinted into the earth and now a challenge to our skills of identification – elephants and lions are much easier than the many ungulates!

Someone once declared that if you’d seen one wrinkly grey elephant’s arse you’d seen them all and he couldn’t see the point of going on more than one safari in one’s life. To say that I was flabbergasted is an understatement!

There are many ways to safari, from budget self-drive to remote luxury camps with private guides. We’ve done and loved both – each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Luxury safari camps are places of such beauty – gorgeous full height canvas tents with comfortable furniture, en-suite bathrooms and open air dining rooms where guests and guides come together for delicious meals. Of course, the focus is the wildlife viewing activities but we certainly enjoy the catering and accommodations in between!

Jungle Juice Memories

It was at one such safari camp that I was first offered Jungle Juice, a jolly name for a mixed fruit smoothie. Usually featuring a banana base with a range of additional fruits depending on what was available, this quickly became a favourite for me, especially as I’m not a wine or beer drinker. Indeed, when we later visited camps that didn’t offer anything similar, I was happy to describe Jungle Juice, and they would kindly rustle some up for me. (In the same way, I have introduced more African safari guides to shandy than I care to think about!)

Of course, as Jungle Juice is simply a mixed fruit no-dairy smoothie, it’s a drink many people make and enjoy.

Jungle Juice Sorbet

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Recently, I was sent an Optimum 9400 Blender by Australian brand Froothie. It’s a super powerful blender, with a very sharp blade which means that as well as making quick work of smoothies and sauces, it can also grind nuts and seeds and crush ice. The powerful motor even allows it to knead dough, and because the blade turns at 48,000 rpm it can generate enough heat to make piping hot soups as well. I’m yet to try these functions, and will report back as I do.

What I can tell you is that the motor and blade make quick work of chunks of frozen fruit and the advantage of blending them straight from frozen is that Jungle Juice becomes Jungle Juice Sorbet!

I make Jungle Juice Sorbet with nothing but fruit – no honey or sugar, no dairy, no oats – so it’s a very healthy alternative to dairy ice creams and sugar-laden sorbets.

For the first few moments, I thought the frozen chunks of banana, pineapple and mango I had thrown into the jug were simply too solid for the blade to handle but after a few tens of seconds more, the blade started to reduce the fruit to a thick cold paste. Pete used the tamper tool provided to push the chunks at the top down nearer the blades and a few minutes later, the sorbet was done.

Of course, you’ll want to eat the sorbet the moment it’s ready, so be prepared and have your bowls, spoons and eager diners ready and waiting.

As there is no added sugar or preservatives, this sorbet is best eaten fresh.

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Jungle Juice Sorbet

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1-2 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen
200-300 grams mixed fruits, peeled and chopped (if necessary) and frozen

Note: So that you can make smoothies and sorbets quickly whenever you feel like it, I recommend you keep chunks of frozen fruit ready to hand in your freezer. Banana is best frozen already peeled and chopped, likewise larger fruit such as pineapple and mango. Berries can simply be washed, hulled and frozen as they are. Make sure they’re fairly dry when you put them into the freezer, so the liquid doesn’t cause them to freeze into a solid block.

Method

  • Place your chosen fruit chunks straight from the freezer into your blender. (You’ll need a really robust blender to handle this. Alternatively, a high quality food processor will also work).
  • Blend until the fruit has been broken down into a thick, creamy puree. Pause once or twice to push solid chunks down closer to the blades if necessary.
  • Serve immediately.

This is my entry for July’s #BSFIC challenge – frozen treats inspired by Holiday Memories.

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Kavey Eats received an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie. Kavey Eats is a member of the Froothie brand ambassador programme, but under no obligation to share positive reviews. All opinions published on Kavey Eats are 100% honest feedback.

Special Offer: For an additional 2 years warranty free of charge on any Optimum appliance purchased, follow this link, choose your Optimum product and enter coupon code “Special Ambassador Offer” on checkout.

 

I have too many cookery books. There, I’ve said it.

Despite two major clear outs in the last couple of years, when lots and lots of cookery books were given away to charity shops and fundraisers, the assigned shelves are overflowing. Books are stacked two deep, with extra ones squeezed on their side above the others. Others sit in stacks on the dining room floor, living room coffee table, and even lost amongst the papers on my desk.

I’m aware my collection is tiny compared to some, numbering at only 150 or so against the many hundreds some of my friends and acquaintances report.

And yet there is still an argument to be made that I have too many. There are many that I’ve cooked from only once or twice; some that I’ve never cooked from at all. Often, I don’t even remember that I have a particular title, only to exclaim in excitement at its rediscovery during yet another session of tidying. Surely, a cookery book exists to cook from – or at the very least, to inspire and inform one’s cooking? If I consistently forget about the book, do I really need it at all?

Of course, that’s my rational head talking rather than my emotional heart, which clutches these books to itself with all the fervour of an addict, wild-eyed in distress at the thought of parting with favourite tomes, regardless of their practical use (or not) in my life.

My emotional heart says I certainly do not have too many cookery books, thank you very much!

Still, it’s true that I haven’t been making great use of my collection.

Eat Your Books

So…

  • What if there were a way of making my collection more accessible to me?
  • What if there were a way of reminding me easily about all the books that I have, and better still, of all the recipes contained within them?
  • What if there were a way of flicking through recipes by book, author or ingredient without the need to pull every single book off the shelf?

That was just the kind of thinking that occurred to sisters Jane and Fiona a few years ago. Jane came up with the core idea for Eat Your Books after realising that, despite owning a lot of cookbooks, she would go online when she wanted to find a recipe quickly. She goes on to explain, “It made me wish I had a searchable index of all my cookbooks.  I seriously considered creating my own database then realised there must be lots of people like me around the world who feel they don’t use their cookbooks enough as it takes so long to find recipes.” So she talked through her idea with sister Fiona, who has a technology background and the pair decided they had the makings of a good business.

So that is Eat Your Books: a fantastic online service offering exactly what I describe above – a way of making my collection of cookery books more accessible and therefore more useful to me.

Bookshelf

Launched in 2010, Eat Your Books is already hugely popular with many tens of thousands of users around the world. It’s particularly successful in US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and is growing its user base here in the UK.

Eat Your Books allows you to create a virtual bookshelf of all the (English-language) cookery books you own.

Once that’s been created, it’s a matter of a few clicks to search through all the recipes in all the books on your virtual bookshelf by whatever keyword you like. All the matching recipes are listed, and when you find one you like, you know exactly which book to retrieve from your real bookshelf in order to read the recipe.

In order for the search tool to be useful, every book must be indexed by hand so that recipes are keyworded only for the ingredients, techniques and descriptions that are key to each recipe and likely to be used to find them. Auto-index tools tend to list too many false positives in their search results – a search on chicken might include every recipe that uses chicken stock, for example – and are therefore not an option when creating a truly user-friendly database.

New books are being added all the time, with a focus on adding the big sellers as quickly as possible.

OlderTitles

Although I first joined a couple of years ago, it was only a couple of months ago that I finally invested the time to go through my entire real life bookshelf and add the titles to my personal Eat Your Books account. I had expected to find many of my titles missing from Eat Your Books’ database, but actually there were only a tiny handful that I couldn’t find, and they are pretty obscure titles. Judging from my collection, the database seems pretty comprehensive for books released during the last 30 to 40 years, at least.

Search

When building your bookshelf, searching can be a little tricky for some titles but most are very easy to find. For some books, searching by author or title works best; for others, I entered the book’s ISBN. For certain books, Eat Your Books lists multiple editions, so you might need to check the front cover image or ISBN number of those listed in the search results, to make sure you add the right one.

There’s also an Import Books feature (available to paid members only) which lets you enter a list of up to 500 ISBN codes in one step. You can generate this list by way of a barcode scanner app on your smartphone.


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cod potatoes 2

After populating my own bookshelf, I was keen to start searching through my recipes.

You might remember a recipe post (for cod baked with chorizo and potatoes) in which I mentioned an error that resulted a delivery of 4 kilos (rather than 4 small pieces) of beautiful Norwegian cod, much of which is still sitting in my freezer. After entering all my books onto My Bookshelf, I was delighted to discover that I have 78 recipes for cod contained within the cookery books I own, many of which I’d never have thought to turn to when seeking a recipe.

Results can be sorted by title, author, publication date and user rating. To see whether a recipe suits what you’re looking for, click the title to see a list of the main ingredients and any notes that have been added.

The more books you have, the more recipes will be listed but you can filter your search results by ingredient (very handy if you have an allergy to cater for), recipe type or course and ethnicity. I’ve filtered below to exclude salt cod, baby food, sauces and dips, and pies and pastries, to bring my list of cod recipes down from 78 to 31.

Additionally, you can also create your own bookmarks with which to tag books and recipes, to help you further categorise them above and beyond the filter definitions. I’ve created a “Made” bookmark to record recipes I’ve already cooked and another called “Shortlist” to identify those I’m keen to make soon.

Filtered search

Just this service alone would, quite frankly, be worthwhile –  for me and for anyone who owns an unwieldy collection of cookery books which they don’t make the best use of.

There are also a number of other services on Eat Your Books which are deserving of mention.

There are currently 73 food blogs (of which I’m delighted to be one) listed, with recipes indexed and searchable in exactly the same way as published cookbooks.

If you subscribe to a popular food magazine, the title can be added to your bookshelf too, giving you a quick way to search through the recipes in each issue. New issues will automatically be included in your future searches and you can add any past issues you’ve kept too.

In addition, there is a huge library of online recipes you can access, even if you don’t own the books. These are recipes that publishers and authors have officially permitted to be published online, and Eat Your Books indexes them and provides a direct link to the content.

On the rare occasions you own a book that isn’t already indexed, you can index it yourself. Though this is quite a big task, it does make your virtual bookshelf more complete, and also benefits the wider Eat Your Books community.

There is a shopping list function, but it’s not currently advanced enough to be useful as recipe indexing doesn’t currently list amounts. If developed further, I can see this becoming a valuable tool within the site.

So the next big question is how much does it cost?

The answer depends on how much of the functionality you want to access.

Some some parts of the site can be accessed without registering and if you create a non-paying account you can access quite a lot of the site.

Full functionality is reserved for those who buy premium membership, which is priced at US$25 a year or US$2.50 a month; (at today’s exchange rates that’s £15 / £1.50). Before you dismiss the idea of paying for an online service, let’s just pause to put that into perspective – £15 is the cost of a single cookery book a year and if you make proper use of the service, will help you maximise the benefit of owning all the books you already have.

  • Anyone can search the recipe database. Don’t forget that, for books and magazines, the actual recipes are not reproduced on the site – rather Eat Your Books is a sophisticated personal catalogue and search system. But users can filter the results to show only those recipes which are fully available online, linked via the site.
  • Anyone can read the blog, and subscribe to it using RSS.
  • Non-paying members can add up to five books and five magazines to their bookshelves (and self index as many additional books as they like, provided the titles are not already available on the site).
  • Paid members can add as many books and magazines as they like (and self index as well). Paid members may also use the Import Book function to add large collections of books more quickly.
  • All members can add unlimited blogs and online recipes to their bookshelves.
  • All members can upload their personal recipes to the site.
  • All members can create bookmarks (with which to tag items on their bookshelves) and can add notes to recipes and books (including personal notes).
  • All members can make use of the EYB discussion forum.
  • Paid members will not be shown advertising when visiting the site. These adverts are a way for EYB to subsidise the cost of non-paying users.

I asked Jane to tell me a little about the first few years of creating Eat Your Books and what they are planning for the service, next.

It has been a huge amount of work but we feel we now have a really valuable website.  We have indexed over a million recipes from cookbooks, magazines and blogs.  Members can add any online recipe they see and also index their own personal recipes.  There is no other place in the world where you can have a searchable index of all your recipes.  I think for anyone who loves cooking, EYB is the best tool for organizing your recipe collection.  For the future, there are lots of new features we plan to add.  We also want to improve our mobile site and add an app.  Our biggest issue, as a small company, is getting ourselves better known – so thank you Kavey for spreading the word.

 

COMPETITION

Eat Your Books are offering a truly fantastic prize to one of my readers – a lifetime premium membership to Eat Your Books. That’s right, not just a single year’s subscription but an account that lasts a lifetime.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me which cookery book is your favourite and why.

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 love cookery books! So I’d love to win a lifetime subscription to @
EatYourBooks from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/RTA24E #KaveyEatsEYB
(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 Saturday 6th July 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 winner 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 lifetime premium membership subscription to Eat Your Books.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Eat Your Books.
  • 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 @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 from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

Kavey Eats received a complimentary subscription from Eat Your Books.

 

Do you drink a variety of teas? Black, green, white? Oolong? {whispers} Herbal or fruit? {stops whispering}

How do you make yours?

Do you boil the kettle, pour boiling water over the tea bag or leaves and stir impatiently to make the tea brew faster?

Do you brew directly in the mug?

AdagioTeas-3719 AdagioTeas-3725

I use loose leaf tea in a mug.

I don’t really miss a teapot as I rarely drink more than a mug of tea at a time (and never the same tea as Pete chooses to drink). Tea leaves go into a fine mesh strainer that can easily be lowered into my mug. I reuse the same leaves for at least another brew, often two or three, depending on the tea.

But I am guilty of using boiling water straight from the kettle.

And, as any fule kno, many teas are not at their best when brewed in boiling water.

Black tea (and herbal or fruit infusions, which I snootily don’t consider to be tea) are better suited to brewing at 100°C.

But oolong, green and white teas benefit from lower temperatures.

Flavour-providing amino acids and natural sugars dissolve into water at relatively low temperatures, releasing sweetness as well as a range of rich and complex flavours. Higher water temperatures extract more tannins resulting in bitterness that can easily overwhelm the key flavours of these types of teas.

Good quality tea should be treated with respect.

I really ought to know better, having benefited from the wonderful expertise of many a top tea master over the years. I have tasted exquisite teas from China to Japan, Taiwan to Korea, India to East Africa and enjoyed them at their optimum. And yet the best I’ve managed when making tea at home is to leave the kettle for a few minutes after boiling, to allow the temperature of the water to drop a little. Of course, I never have any idea of just how much it’s dropped.

It’s criminal really, given that I happily spend money on excellent tea. My current favourite is still Momo Cha Fine Teas’ High Mountain Oolong, but I’m also enjoying a delicious genmai-cha from The East India Company and an elderly but surprisingly well preserved oolong from Teanamu (my fault: I found it, forgotten, at the bottom of a box of tea).

For over a year, I’ve loosely been investigating smart kettles – the kind that allow you to heat the water to a number of different temperatures. A friend of mine has one and I’ve been coveting my own but I never get farther than an idle internet browse. I’ve not even made a shortlist, let alone picked a winner and placed an order.

sage by heston tea maker 2

Lucky day, then, when Sage by Heston Blumenthal asked me if I’d be interested in trying their Tea Maker, a specialist kettle with tea making function built in. The Tea Maker has a number of pre-sets and the option to use customised settings too. You can use it simply as a kettle, heating the water to your desired temperature. It also offers a brewing function: place tea leaves into the basket provided and the Tea Maker will lower the leaves into the heating water for a specific amount of time, dependent again on the type of tea. Lastly, the Tea Maker can keep the tea (or water) warm for up to an hour.

I probably won’t use the brewing function very often, as it’s recommended for a larger volume of water than I’d want to brew at a time. But the adjustable brewing temperature is an easy way for me to enjoy my favourite teas at their very best.

 

You can find more information about the Sage by Heston Blumenthal Tea Maker here, including a video of Heston explaining how it works. To hear Heston talk in more detail about tea, see this #TalkTeaWithHeston Youtube video.

Kavey Eats received a sample Tea Maker from Sage by Heston Blumenthal. All opinions expressed are my own.

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