Equipment, books, gifts, all things shopping.

 

Lizzie Mabbott is a prodigious cook and a prodigious eater!

I’ve been following her cooking and eating exploits on the web for many years, first on the now-defunct BBC food discussion boards and since 2008 on her well-known blog, Hollowlegs. If she isn’t eating she may well be cooking, if she isn’t cooking she might be shopping for ingredients, and if she isn’t doing either of those things, there’s a good chance she’s pondering on what to eat or cook next!

When I learned that she had secured a book deal I was not surprised in the slightest as her delicious personal twists on classic British, European, Chinese and other South East Asian dishes have long made many readers salivate, myself included.

154155-Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Spagbol - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle

In Chinatown Kitchen she draws upon her amazing heritage; Lizzie is Anglo-Chinese, born in Hong Kong where she spent her formative years growing up not only on Chinese food but also exposed to the many cuisines of South East Asia. At 13 she was transplanted to England, where she has been ever since – albeit with some judicious globetrotting to feed those hollow legs!

To describe the book as simply another tome on South East Asian cooking is to put it into a box that it doesn’t neatly fit into. It’s much more than Chinese – or even South East Asian – food made easy; rather it’s a very personal collection of recipes that represent Lizzie’s personal food story. There are classic Chinese and South East Asian dishes, sure, but there are also a fair few of Lizzie’s own inventions including some excellent mashups such as this Chinese Spag Bol recipe and an Udon Carbonara.

Most recipes are illustrated with colourful and appealing photographs, styled but not overly fussy and with the focus firmly on the food.

At the heart of the book is the idea of seeking out ingredients in the food shops of your nearest Chinatown – or indeed any oriental supermarkets or groceries you can find – and putting them to delicious use. To that end, the book is not just a set of recipes but also a shopping and ingredient guide. Add to that an introduction to key equipment and techniques and you are all set to get cooking.

I tried hard not to bookmark every single recipe on my first pass, when trying to narrow down the list of what to make first. I ended up with 23 recipes bookmarked: Deep-Fried Whole Fish in Chilli, Bean Sauce, Japanese Spinach and Cucumber Salad, Grilled Aubergines with Nuoc Cham, Korean Rice Cakes with Chorizo and Greens, Sesame and Peanut Noodle Salad, Cabbage in Vinegar Sauce, Chinese Chive Breads, Griddled Teriyaki King Oyster Mushrooms, Banana Rotis, Poached Pears in Lemon Grass Syrup, Braised Egg Tofu with Pork and Aubergine, Spicy Peanut and Tofu Puff Salad, Fish Paste-Stuffed Aubergine, Mu Shu Pork, Steamed Egg Custard with Century and Salted Eggs, Cola Chicken Wings, Red-Braised Ox Cheek, Xinjiang Lamb Skewers, Red Bean Ice Lollies and Black Sesame Ice Cream with Black and White Sesame Honeycomb, plus the two I’ve already mentioned!

So far, we’ve made two recipes, Chinese Spag Bol and Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken. We’ve loved both and will certainly be working out way through the rest of my “short” list over coming weeks and months.

Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Spagbol - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle overlay

Lizzie Mabbott’s Chinese Spag Bol

As Lizzie explains, this recipe has little in common with the bastardised ragu we call Spag Bol in Britain – there are no tomatoes, nor red wine for a start – but it is made by simmering minced meat in a sauce and dressing noodles with the results. The predominant flavour comes from yellow bean sauce, with additional notes from soy sauce, hoisin and Shaoxing wine. Lizzie servies it with fresh vegetables and finely sliced omelette.

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 free range eggs
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 spring onions, white parts finely chopped, green parts sliced into rings
5 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tsp peeled and very finely chopped fresh root ginger
400 g (14 ox) fatty minced pork
3 tbsp yellow bean paste
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
100 ml (3.5 fl oz) water
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 carrot, peeled
Half cucumber
300 g fresh Shanghai noodles

Method

  • Firstly, beat the eggs. Heat 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil in a wok, or a nonstick frying pan, until shimmering, add the beaten eggs and cook them over a medium heat until set to make a thin omelette. Remove to a plate and set to one side.
  • Heat up the rest of the oil in the wok over a medium heat, add the spring onion whites, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Then add the minced pork, breaking up any clumps with your hands, and cook until browned. Add the yellow bean paste, soy sauces and hoi sin sauce with the water and Shaoxing rice wine and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s looking a little dry, add a touch more water.
  • Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and cucumber and set aside. Roll the omelette up and slice finely.
  • Cook the noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for a minute, then drain and place in a big serving bowl. Pour the meat sauce on top, then add the vegetables and omelette and stir to combine. Garnish with the greens of the spring onion and serve.

191929-Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Spag Bol - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle

 

Lizzie Mabbott’s Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken

9332-Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Roast Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle overlay 9339-Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Roast Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle notext

The Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken is a slightly more involved dish requiring the chicken to be marinated overnight (in a marinade that includes red fermented tofu and oyster sauce, amongst other ingredients) and the sticky rice filling to be made ahead ready to stuff inside the chicken before roasting. I made the wrong call to substitute a black sticky rice I had in my larder for the white sticky rice Lizzie’s recipe stipulates, and I’m sure that was the reason my mandarin peel and Chinese sausage-studded rice wasn’t sufficiently cooked through, but I do want try again with the right rice, as the flavours were fabulous. What’s more, the marinade on its own was super easy and amazingly delicious; even if we don’t have time to do the rice stuffing every time, I know the marinade will be used again and again.

 

Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham is currently available on Amazon UK for £10 (RRP £20). Kavey Eats received a review copy from publisher Mitchell Beazley. Recipe text reproduced with permission from Mitchell Beazley.

 

One of my food and drink goals in recent years (and certainly for the next few too) is to learn more about sake. Not just how it’s made (which I understand pretty well now) and the different categories of sake (which I finally have downpat) but – most importantly of all – working out what I like best in the hope of reliably being able to buy sake that I love.

Here, I share what I’ve learned over the last few years plus some of my favourites at this year’s HyperJapan Sake Experience.

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Images from shutterstock.com

What is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcohol made from rice.

Although it is referred to in English as rice wine, it is often pointed out that the process is more akin to brewing beer, where one converts the starch to sugar and the resulting sugar to alcohol. In wine making, it is a simpler process of converting the sugars that are already present in the fruit. Of course, it’s not entirely like beer making either as the sake production process is quite distinct.

Wine is typically around 10-15% ABV. Beer is usually lower, with most beers coming in between 3-8%, though there’s been a trend towards ever stronger beers lately. Sake is brewed to around 18-20%, but often diluted to around 15% for bottling.

Until a few years ago I’d only ever encountered cheap sake served warm and was not a huge fan. However, since trying higher quality sakes served chilled, I’m an absolute convert.

In terms of typical flavours, my vocabulary is woefully lacking, but for me the core flavour is a subtly floral one – perhaps this is intrinsic to the rice and rice mould? The balance of sweetness and acidity varies though classic sake is not super sweet. Sometimes it is fruity and sometimes it has a more umami (savoury) taste. I am often able to detect clear differences on the palate but unable to define these in words – clearly I need to drink more sake!

 

How is Sake made?

Sake is made from rice, but usually from varieties with a larger, stronger grain with lower levels of protein than the rice varieties that are typically eaten.

The starch sits within the centre of the rice grain, surrounded by a layer of bran, so rice is usually polished to remove the outer layer before being made into sake. The more the rice is polished, the higher the percentage of starchy centre remains, but of course this is more expensive as it needs far more rice to produce the same volume of alcohol.

After polishing and being set aside to rest, the rice is washed, soaked and steamed. kōji rice mould (Aspergillus oryzae) is sprinkled over the rice which is left to ferment for several days. This mould helps to develop the amylase enzyme necessary to convert starch to sugar. Next, water and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are added and the mixture allowed to incubate. Water and yeast are added multiple times during the process. The resulting mash then ferments at 15-20 °C for a few weeks.

After fermentation, the mixture is filtered to extract the liquid, and the solids are often pressed to extract a fuller range of flavours.

In cheaper sakes, varying amounts of brewer’s alcohol are added to increase the volume.

Sake is usually filtered again and then pasteurised before resting and maturing, then dilution with water before being bottled.

These days you can also find unpasteurised sake and sake in which the finer lees (sediment) are left in. I’ve even had some very thick and cloudy sakes where more of the solids have been pureed and mixed in to the final drink.

 

What are the different categories of Sake?

Because the most desirable bit of the rice is the core of the grain, the amount of polishing is highly relevant. Labels must indicate the seimai-buai (remaining percentage) of the original grain.

Daiginjo means that at least 50% of the original rice grain must be polished away (so that 50% or less remains) and that the ginjo-tsukuri method – fermenting at cooler temperatures – has been used. There are additional regulations on which varieties of rice and types of yeast may be used and other production method restrictions.

Ginjo is pretty much the same but stipulates that only 40% of the original rice is removed by polishing (so that up to 60% remains).

Pure sake – that is sake made only from rice, rice mould and water – is labelled as Junmai. If it doesn’t state junmai on the label, it is likely that additional alcohol has been added.

So Junmai daiginjo is the highest grade in terms of percentage of rice polished and being pure sake with no brewer’s alcohol added.

Coming down the scale a little quality wise, Tokubetsu means that the sake is still classed as ‘special quality’. Tokebetsu junmai means it’s pure rice, rice mould and water whereas Tokebetsu honjozu means the sake has had alcohol added, but is still considered a decent quality. In both cases, up to 60% of the original rice grain may remain after milling.

Honjozo on its own means that the sake is still rated above ordinary sake – ordinary sake can be considered the equivalent of ‘table wine’ in France.

Other terms that are useful to know:

Namazake is unpasteurised sake.

Genshu is undiluted sake; I have not come across this yet.

Muroka has been pressed and separated from the lees as usual but has not been carbon filtered. It is clear in appearance.

Nigorizake is cloudy rather than clear – the sake is passed only through a loose mesh to separate the liquid from the mash and is not filtered. There is usually a lot of sediment remaining and it is normal to shake the bottle to mix it back into the liquid before serving.

Taruzake is aged in wooden barrels or casks made from sugi, sometimes called Japanese cedar. The wood imparts quite a strong flavour so premium sake is not commonly used for taruzake.

Kuroshu is made from completely unpolished brown rice grains. I’ve not tried it but apparently it’s more like Chinese rice wine than Japanese sake.

I wrote about Amazake in this post, after we enjoyed trying some in Kyoto during our first visit to Japan. Amazake can be low- or no-alcohol depending on the recipe. It is often made by adding rice mould to whole cooked rice, allowing the mould to break down the rice starch into sugars and mixing with water. Another method is to mix the sake solids left over from sake production with water – additional sugar can be added to enhance the sweetness. Amazake is served hot or cold; the hot version with a little grated ginger to mix in to taste.

 

HyperJapan’s Sake Experience

Last month I tasted a great range of sake products in the space of an hour’s focused drinking as I made my way around Sake Experience in which 11 Japanese sake breweries shared 30 classic sakes and other sake products.

Once again, this was my personal highlight of HyperJapan show.

For an extra £15 on top of the show entrance ticket, one can visit stalls of 11 Japanese sake breweries, each of whom will offer tastings of 2 or 3 of their product range. You can learn about the background of their brewery, listen to them tell you about the characteristics of their product and of course, make up your own mind about each one.

One reason I love this is because tasting a wide range of sakes side by side really helps me notice the enormous differences between them and get a better understanding of what I like best.

A large leaflet is provided as you enter, which lists every sake being offered by the breweries. A shop at the exit (also open to those not doing the Sake Experience) allows you to purchase favourites, though not every single sake in the Sake Experience is available for sale.

HyperJapan 2015 - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-110415

 

Kavey’s Sake Experience 2015 Picks

My Favourite Regular Sakes

Umenoyado’s Junmai Daiginjo is made using yamadanishiki rice and bottled at 16% ABV. The natural sweetness is much to my taste and the flavour is wonderfully rich with fruity overtones, and a spicy sharp piquancy that provides balance.

Ichiniokura’s Junmai Daiginjo Kuranohana is made with kuranohana rice and bottled at 15-16% ABV. This one is super fruity; the brewery team explained that they use a different yeast whch creates a different kind of flavour. There is less acidity than usual, which emphasises the sweetness.

Nihonsakari’s Junmai Ginjo Cho-Tokusen Souhana is made with yamadanishiki rice and bottled at 15-16% ABV. To me, this Junmai Ginjo represents the absolutely classic style of sake; it has a hint of dairy to the aroma and a typical sake flavour, subtly floral and very crisp.

My Favourite Barrel-Aged Sake

Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura’s Taruzake is barrel-aged and bottled at 15% ABV. The wood flavour comes through clearly, though it’s not overpowering – this is a clean, dry style of sake with a hint of greenery. Although it’s not hugely complex, it’s well worth a try.

My Favourite Sparkling Sakes

Ichinokura’s Premium Sparkling Sake Suzune Wabi is made with Toyonishiki and Shunyo rice varieties and bottled at 5% ABV. Unlike some sparkling sakes on the market that are carbonated artificially, the gas is 100% natural, produced during a second fermentation. This sake is sweet but not super sweet, with a fruity aroma balanced by gentle acidity. If I understood them correctly, the brewery team claimed that they were the first to develop sparkling sake, 8 years ago. Certainly, it’s a very recent development but one that’s become hugely popular, a way for breweries to reconnect with younger markets who had been turning away from sake as their drink of choice.

Shirataki Shuzo’s Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi Sparkling Sake is made with Gohyakumangoku rice and bottled at 11-12% ABV. Although most sparkling sakes are sweet, this one breaks the kōji (mould, kōji, get it?) as it’s a much dryer style, though not brut by any means. I can see this working very well with food.

For the more typical girly sparkling sakes, Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura’s Mio and Ozeki’s Jana Awaka are both sweet, tasty and affordable.

My Favourite Yuzu Sake

Some of the yuzu sakes I tried were perfectly tasty but very one dimensional, just a blast of yuzu and nothing else. One was a yuzu honey concoction and the honey totally overwhelmed the citrus.

Nihonsakari’s Yuzu Liqueur is bottled at 8-9%. The yuzu flavour is exceptional, yet beautifully rounded and in harmony with the sake itself. It’s not as viscous as some of the yuzu liqueurs certainly but has some creaminess to the texture. Be warned, this is one for the sweet-toothed!

My Favourite Umeshus

Learn more here about umeshu, a fruit liqueur made from Japanese stone fruits. Umeshu can be made from sake or shochu, but those at the Sake Experience were, of course, sake-based.

Urakasumi’s Umeshu is bottled at 12% ABV. Made with fruit and sake only, no added sugar, it’s a far lighter texture than many umeshu and has an absolutely beautiful flavour, well balanced between the sweetness and sharpness of the ume fruit. Because it’s so light, I think this would work well with food, whereas traditional thicker umeshu is better enjoyed on its own.

Umenoyado’s Aragoshi Umeshu is bottled at 12% ABV. A complete contrast from the previous one, this umeshu is super thick, in large part because the ume fruit, after steeping in sake and sugar, are grated and blended and mixed back in to the liqueur. The flavour is terrific and I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of this one to bring home.

My Favourite Surprise Sake

Ozeki’s Sparkling Jelly Sake Peach comes in a can and is 5% ABV. The lightly carbonated fruity liqueur has had jelly added, and the staff recommended chilling for a few hours, shaking really hard before opening and pouring the jellied drink out to serve. The flavour is lovely and I’d serve this as a grown up but fun dessert, especially as it’s not very expensive at £3 a can. I bought a few of these home with me!

 

HyperJapan in Images

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Kavey Eats attended the event as a guest of HyperJapan.

 

Today’s product review is a guest post by Debbie Burgess.

A high quality product which is easy to use, quick and absolutely delicious, this new range of chilli based cook sauces from Capsicana is suitable for all occasions and certainly good enough to serve to guests.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-IMG_8627-1

There are four sauces in all from the Latin Flavours range. All are suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial colours or flavourings. This is not a powdered mix, paste or a jar of slushy sauce to just pour over meat/fish and serve, but a 100g portion of a thick sauce with intense flavour and plenty to serve 2 persons once prepared. Each are labelled either hot, medium or mild and there is no need to add any additional seasoning. There are recipes on the outside of each pack which are identical and simply require the addition of chicken or fish, an onion and pepper of any colour. Each is easy to prepare with a cooking time of no more than 20 minutes, to be served with rice, tortillas or nachos. Inside each pack there is a different recipe, these are just ideas and you can experiment and just do your own thing! I decided to follow the basic recipe printed on the back for two of the sauces and the recipe on the inside of the packs for the remaining two.

Chilli & Garlic

A Mexican style sauce, hot and full of intense flavour and this one uses Manzano chillies. I followed the basic recipe and intended to use a green pepper however due to a shopping mishap had to substitute that for green beans, I served this dish with rice however I can see it would be equally great with tortillas. There was a satisfying linger to the heat but no unpleasant burn or aftertaste; the garlic is a background flavour and not overpowering; it also contains mustard. There was no need to add anything extra to the dish as the chicken and vegetables were evenly coated, for a more liquid sauce you could add some water if desired.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-Chilli and Garlic-2

Chilli & Coconut

A Brazilian style sauce, hot and pungent with a fruity chilli hit using Frutescens chillies, tomato and a hint of coconut. The pack labels this as medium heat although I found it was hot. I used the recipe on the inside of the pack for this one to make ‘Moqueca’ a Brazilian style stew using King Prawns which I served with rice. This recipe uses the addition of 400ml of water to provide a thinner stew like sauce, personally I prefer thicker sauces and when I make it again (as I surely will!) I will add less water. However the flavour of the sauce was fantastic and the taste was not impaired in any way by the addition of the water.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-Chilli and coconut 2-1

Chilli & Honey

A Mexican style sauce, with a medium heat coming from the Ancho Poblano and Chipotle chillies. Although my palate could not detect the specific honey taste, this along with the tomato flavours added to the overall deep richness and colour. I followed the basic recipe on the back of the pack with the addition of 100ml of water to provide a little more sauce to suit my preference and served with rice. If I had to pick a favourite of the four sauces, this would be it!

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-Chilli and honey 2-3

Chilli & Lemon

A Peruvian style sauce, which uses Amarillo chillies with a hint of lemon. I followed the recipe from the inside of the pack and used it as a marinade on chicken drumsticks. The pack labels this as a medium heat sauce however I found it to be the mildest of the range, as it was light in both colour and flavour with just a hint of the lemon fruit flavour which accentuated the chicken rather than add a strong flavour.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-Chilli and lemon 1-4

Debbie received review samples from Capsicana on behalf of Kavey Eats. Chilli Cook Sauces cost £1.95 each and are available from Capsicana’s online store or specialist food retailer, Sous Chef. Many thanks to Debbie for her guest review.

 

The Chemex Coffeemaker is an iconic design; a beautiful narrow-waisted glass jug with polished wooden collar and simple leather tie. The sleek coffee apparatus is so timeless you could be forgiven for assuming the Chemex is a recent creation but it was invented in 1941 by German inventor Peter Schlumbohm.

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle - 9093 withtext

Schlumbohm’s Most Famous Invention

Conscripted into the army during World War II, Schlumbohm returned from fighting in France unwilling to take on the reigns of his father’s successful paint and chemical business, as was expected of him. Instead he signed away his rights to inherit in return for the family’s financial support to keep him in education for as long as he wished to study. Alongside chemistry, he studied psychology, keen to understand what had lead to “the mess of a war”, his experiences on the battlefield inciting him to call for the abolition of the military and a technocratic leadership for Germany.

After graduating in chemistry Schlumbohm became an inventor, specialising in vacuum and refrigeration, the former being a key component in the latter. After visiting the United States in the early 1930s to market some of his inventions he eventually moved there, filing thousands of patents during his lifetime for a variety of chemical, mechanical and engineering breakthroughs.

For Schlumbohm, the Chemex – which he originally patented in 1939 as a laboratory ‘filtering device’ – held far less promise than the refrigeration device he exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and which he believed would make his fortune. Looking for financial investment to take the refrigerator prototype into production, he raised capital by selling a minority interest in the filtering device, setting up The Chemex Corporation to produce and market it as a coffeemaker later that same year. It was the Chemex that became Schlumbohm’s most successful and enduring invention.

Within a couple of years, Schlumbohm had simplified the design , eliminating the spout and handle in favour of a simple pouring groove. The classic Chemex design was born.

Launching in the wartime years was a challenge, requiring approval from the War Production Board for allocation of materials and production, which was eventually undertaken by the Corning Glass Works. The lack of metals in the product meant no competition over supplies with armament producers and other core industries.

The Chemex tapped perfectly into the design sensibilities of the era, which valued functional objects with a simplicity of shape and construction; indeed it complimented perfectly the influential Bauhaus aesthetic, bringing together creative design with practicality of form and skill of manufacture. It was quickly lauded by the Museum of Modern Art, cementing its place as a design classic.

In subsequent years, Schlumbohm focused on building the public profile of the Chemex by way of trade shows, prominent advertising and strategically gifting products to those in a position of influence – artists, politicians, authors and film-makers.

Today the Chemex is much loved across the world and has experienced a renaissance in recent decades, as coffee lovers around the world rekindle their love-affair with pour-over filter coffee.

How To Make Pour-Over Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker

To use the Chemex you will need:

  • Chemex Coffeemaker (mine is the 10 cup size, which equates to approximately 1.4 litres)
  • Chemex filters *
  • A set of scales, accurate to within a gram or two
  • Whole beans coffee ^ + a coffee grinder with adjustable grind setting
  • Filtered water ~
  • A measuring jug or pouring kettle
  • A timer / stopwatch

* Chemex filters are much thicker than standard filters for regular coffee machines. The thicker paper traps sediment more effectively, and removes a higher volume of coffee oils, resulting in a unique taste when compared with coffee brewed using other methods. It also has an impact on how quickly the water drips through.

^ If using pre-ground coffee, look for coffee that has been ground fairly coarsely, usually labelled for use in cafetières and filter coffee machines. Espresso grind is much too fine.

~ Filtering water before using it to make your coffee (or tea, for that matter) removes unwanted substances that are present in most tap water supplies. This has a significant positive impact on the clarity and taste of your finished coffee.  You can either use a filter jug to clean your water before boiling or use a kettle with a Brita filter incorporated into the design to filter and boil in one step.

How Much Coffee To Use

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9071 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9072

The ideal ratio for Chemex coffeemakers is between 55 grams and 65 grams of coffee per litre of water.

Simply scale those ratios up or down depending on how much coffee you want to make. For 500 ml of water, use 27.5 to 32.5 grams of coffee, and so on.

The exact amount of coffee will vary according to the variety and roasting levels of the coffee you choose, the grind you’ve applied and your personal preferences in how you like your coffee. Heavy roasting not only intensifies the flavour of a coffee bean, it also makes it lighter in weight, so 50 grams in weight equals many more heavily roasted coffee beans than lightly roasted ones. Don’t be afraid to adjust each time you switch to a new coffee – the ratios are just a starting point.

How To Assess The Grind

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9079 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9088

Do a test run. Weigh and grind your coffee, noting down the grind setting used.

Make your coffee following the instructions below, timing the process from the moment you pour hot water onto the coffee to the moment it pretty much stops dripping through.

It should take around 3.5 minutes for the water to drip through.

If it takes significantly longer, the grind may be too fine – water takes longer to work its way through finer grounds as they naturally pack more tightly within the filter, and so extracts a lot more from the grinds as it passes through. You may find the resulting coffee too strong and bitter. Adjust your grinder to achieve a coarser grind and try again.

If your water makes its way through much faster than 3.5 minutes, the grind may be too coarse – the resulting coffee may taste weak and insipid. Adjust your grinder to achieve a finer grind and try again.

Keep in mind that the outcome will also be affected by the individual coffee – dark roasts result in stronger, more bitter brews than light roasts and the variety, origin, growing conditions and many other factors affect the taste.

The 3.5 minutes is a guide to make adjustments again, not a fixed rule.

How To Make Pour-Over Coffee

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9084 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9076

Weigh and grind the coffee beans.

Place a Chemex filter paper into the funnel of the Chemex, with the triple folded side centred against the pouring groove.

Filter your water in a filter jug, or use a filtering kettle to boil sufficient water for the amount of coffee you want to make, plus a little extra.

Pour a little hot water into the filter to wet the paper. Pour this water out of the Chemex jug and discard.

Place your ground coffee into the dampened filter paper.

Measure 500 ml of boiled water and start pouring slowly and steadily into the Chemex, starting the timer as you start to pour. Rather than pouring only into the centre of the coffee, use circular movements to distribute the water across the surface area of the coffee. Pause during pouring if you need to, to keep the level of water a couple of centimetres below the lip of the Chemex.

Stop the timer once the coffee pretty much stops dripping through.

Gather the top edges of the coffee filter together, pick it up and quickly set it aside in a mug or on a plate. The paper and coffee grounds can be composted, if you have a compost bin.

Your coffee is now ready to pour and enjoy!

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle - 9066 withtext

 

Kavey Eats attended a Chemex coffee making class run by the DunneFrankowski Creative Coffee Consultancy at The Gentlemen Baristas coffee shop as part of Brita’s #BetterWithBrita campaign. Kavey Eats received a Chemex coffee-making kit, Brita filter jug and Morphy Richards Brita Water Filter Kettle from Brita.

 

Every once in a while, I encounter a food or drink product that is so damn good it makes me giggle with delight.

Bonieri is one such brand, which I first encountered at The Chocolate Show last October. Launched in 2013, Bonieri was founded by Amber Rust to bring chocolates and other sweet specialities originating in Italy’s Piedmont region to UK consumers. She fell in love with these products while living and working in Turin many years ago and wanted Brits to have access to the superb quality chocolates made by master chocolatiers of the region.

Today you can buy Bonieri in both Selfridges and Harrods, as well as via their website.

At the heart of their range is the ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’ hazelnut grown in Piedmont, which features in Bonieri’s traditional gianduja products. The local story goes that gianduja was first invented in Turin during Napoleonic times, when cocoa (imported from South America) was expensive and scarce. Local chocolatiers looking to stretch the precious cocoa further combined cocoa and sugar with roasted and ground hazelnuts, and the resulting spread quickly became very popular. The individual chocolates, known as gianduiotti, were created a few decades later.

Bonieri 1 Bonieri 4

Products include the cuboid Cremini – a layer of pure hazelnut cream sandwiched by two of gianduja cream – and traditional gianduiotti. The intensity of hazelnut flavour in both of these products is utterly amazing, and the texture of the pralines is wonderfully silky too. Bonieri also make praline-style chocolates featuring pistachio and coffee flavours, which I adore. Unsurprisingly, the Cremini praline was recognised with a Gold in last year’s Great Taste Awards.

Probably the biggest surprise in the parcel of samples Bonieri sent me (since I hadn’t already tasted it at The Chocolate Show) was their chocolate-covered nougat which, hand on heart, is the tastiest I’ve ever had. I’ve since learned that the nougat (known in Italy as ‘torrone’) is worked by hand rather than a machine and is made using fresh egg whites, those delicious Piedmont hazelnuts and a clear honey from the local area, known as ‘millefiori’. The nougat is steamed for several hours, shaped by hand into moulds, then cut and left to cool before it’s coated in high quality dark chocolate. It has a wonderful almost-crunchy texture but still the chew you’d expect from nougat and the flavour is utterly wonderful.

Another one to try is Bonieri’s Gianduja Spread, which goes in Italy by the wonderful term gianduja spalmabile! It’s miles beyond that high street brand and well deserving of it’s Great Taste Awards gold star. A generous dollop in hot milk makes a decadent hot chocolate or just eat it with a spoon straight from the jar!

Bonieri 2 Bonieri 3

GIVEAWAY

Bonieri are giving away a wonderful prize to one lucky reader of Kavey Eats.

  • A bag of Chocolate Hazelnut Nougat (250 grams, £14.95)
  • The Bella Box Gianduja (250 grams, £23.95)
  • A jar of Gianduja Spread (200 grams, £9.95)

The prize includes free delivery in the UK.

Entry to the giveaway is via Rafflecopter and we’ve provided lots of ways to gain extra entries and increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCOUNT CODE

And if you don’t win (or if you’re feeling greedy for great gianduja right now) Bonieri are offering 20% off to Kavey Eats readers. Enter KAVEY20 on checkout; valid till 31st August 2015.

 

Kavey Eats received review samples from Bonieri.

 

I love raw salmon – I don’t think there’s enough salmon sashimi in this world to sate me. And I love cured and smoked salmon – both the hot and cold smoked varieties… utterly gorgeous.

But although I’ve had lovely cooked salmon plenty of times, I’ve also been served some hideously overcooked salmon; so much so that I no longer order it when eating out. Salmon is a fish that doesn’t forgive overcooking and the gap between perfectly cooked and woaaah there, Nelly, you’ve turned it into a fishy rusk covered in unsightly streaks of white albumin seems to be about 5 seconds!

The advantage of sous vide cooking is that you can take a piece of salmon (or steak or an egg or whatever you like) up to the exact temperature that will change its texture to just cooked but leaving it in an extra few minutes won’t make a bit of difference. Heck, you could leave it in an extra 30 minutes and it’d be just fine. Click here to understand more about how sous vide works.

So sous vide salmon has been on my list to try at home for the longest time. (Yes, I know, I’ve had a sous vide machine for 18 months… what the heck took me so long? how the heck can I call myself a food blogger? blah blah blah…)

The texture is just gorgeous. Silky, silky soft with the gentle wobble of just-cooked fish – it’s a wonderful way to enjoy salmon!

Sous Vide Salmon with Lime Butter - Kavey Eats - (c) Kavita Favelle - 9040

What prompted me to finally give it a go was getting our Codlo, a super nifty space-saving device that turns your regular slow cooker or rice cooker into a sous vide water bath. Read my original review of the Codlo, here.

I’m genuinely an enormous fan of this device – we’ve enjoyed the results of our Sous Vide Supreme for over a year but struggled with storage, as it’s really quite large. The Codlo takes hardly any space, indeed it’s small enough that we can store it inside our slow cooker!

When we tested the two devices in a side by side comparison, we couldn’t tell any difference in the results, making Codlo a very viable alternative, not to mention significantly less expensive too.

codlo book 2[3]

The accompanying book, Codlo Sous-Vide Guide & Recipes written by Codlo creator Grace Lee, is packed with instructions about sous vide cooking techniques plus temperatures and times for different types of foods and lots of tempting recipes.

We followed Grace’s instructions for cooking salmon, but served it with a very simple lime butter instead of the parsley sauce suggested.

As the salmon needs a brief brine bath before cooking, start this recipe about an hour before you wish to serve.

Sous Vide Salmon with Lime Butter - Kavey Eats - (c) Kavita Favelle - 9035 Sous Vide Salmon with Lime Butter - Kavey Eats - (c) Kavita Favelle - 9038

Sous Vide Salmon With Lime Butter

Serves 2

Ingredients
– For the brine

500 ml (2 cups) water
50 grams (3 tablespoons) salt
– For cooking the salmon
2 fresh salmon fillets
30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
– For the butter
25 grams butter, softened
Juice of half a lime, freshly squeezed
– Vegetables
As you prefer, we chose baby new potatoes and peas

Note: You will also need sealable bags in which to vacuum-pack the salmon. Use a vacuum sealing machine with specialist bags provided or food-safe ziplock bags and the water displacement method.

Method

  • Fill your slow cooker or rice cooker with water, plug in the Codlo, set the temperature to 50 °C (122 °F) and allow to come up to temperature.
  • In a large bowl dissolve the brine salt in the water. Place the salmon fillets in the brine solution so that they are completely submerged and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the salmon from the brine and place into your sous vide bag with the olive oil. Remove the air from the bag and seal securely.
  • Once your Codlo-controlled water bath is up to temperature, set the timer for 20 minutes and submerge your bagged salmon in the heated water.
  • Use these 20 minutes to cook your chosen vegetables and make the lime butter.
  • To make the lime butter, mix the lime juice into the softened butter; you might prefer to add half the juice first and taste before adding more, to balance the acidity to your taste.
  • Once the cooking time is up, remove the salmon from the water bath, open the bag and carefully slide the fillets onto plates. Be gentle as they are quite fragile once cooked.
  • Spoon lime butter over the fish (and the potatoes too, in our case).
  • Serve immediately.

Sous Vide Salmon with Lime Butter - Kavey Eats

Kavey Eats received a Codlo for review purposes. All opinions are genuine and 100% honest, as always.  Codlo is currently priced at £119, available here; given how much I love the product, I accepted an invitation to become an affiliate, please see blog sidebar for further information.

 

I don’t often gravitate towards cookery books focusing on a single ingredient as they so often have a core of fabulous recipes padded out with a bunch of weak page fillers.

But Diana Henry’s A Bird In The Hand is a wonderful exception, chock – or should that be chook? – full of appealing recipes for simple, tasty chicken dinners.

A-bird-in-the-hand Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-withtext

In the UK we purchase and eat a lot of chicken. It’s so good roasted, grilled or barbequed, fried (pan or deep), poached, cooked in a stew or casserole… and well-suited to flavours from all around the world – a wonderfully versatile meat.

In this book Diana Henry shares a collection of over 100 chicken recipes that range from quick and casual to impressive and celebratory. I am tempted by nearly all of them! Some, like Baked Chicken with Tarragon and Dijon Mustard, Chicken Forestière, Thai Chicken Burgers, Soothing North Indian Curry and Japanese Negima Yakitori are similar to recipes we have made and enjoyed before; a good reminder to make them again soon.

Others are dishes we’ve not thought to try ourselves. My copy of the book is frilled along the top edge with little scraps of paper bookmarking those I want to try soon – Spanish Chicken, Morcilla and Sherry, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Chicken, Bourbon and Marmalade-glazed Drumsticks, Chicken with Shaoxing Wine, Crisp Radishes and Pickled Ginger, Tagine of Chicken, Caramelised Onion and Pears, Chicken Legs in Pinot Noir with Sour Cherries and Parsnip Purée, Roast chicken stuffed with black pudding and apple and mustard sauce, Ginger beer can chicken, Chicken Pot-Roasted in Milk, Bay and Nutmeg, Pot-Roast Chicken with Figs.

They all sound so good, don’t they?

Diana Henry's Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1 Diana Henry's Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-3

Both dishes we have made so far have been enormously comforting, delicious and likely to be repeated again and again. Though there are only two of us, we felt the Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella was best made in a large quantity; we scaled it down to make two thirds and that served us both for two meals, plus a generous portion for my lunchbox one day too. Warm, comforting, tasty and not complicated to make.

The Chicken with Pumpkin, Cream and Gruyère actually blew me away. As you can see, it’s such a simple recipe and yet I would never have thought to combine chicken and pumpkin, nor to cook the combination so simply in cream flavoured with garlic and grated cheese. Be warned, this is a rich dish, so small portions will be plenty. A crisp vinaigrette-dressed green salad is my perfect accompaniment.

Again, we scaled the recipe down by half. We used chicken thighs (which I much prefer to breasts) and butternut squash and switched the two hard cheeses for close cousins we had on hand. We also decided to cut the thighs into three pieces before frying, rather than after as in the recipe.

Full, original recipe provided below.

Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1

Diana Henry’s Chicken with Pumpkin, Cream and Gruyère

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pumpkin or butternut squash (unprepared weight)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
400 ml (14 fl oz) double cream
1 garlic clove, crushed
25 g (scant 1 oz) grated Gruyère
25 g (scant 1 oz) grated Parmesan

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F. Peel and deseed the pumpkin and cut it into wedges. Put the wedges into a roasting tin, brush with olive oil, season and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until completely tender (and even slightly caramelised). Now put the squash into a gratin or other ovenproof dish, one that is big enough to accommodate the chicken too.

Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Simply season it all over, heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the chicken on both sides until golden and cooked through, eight to ten minutes. Cut each piece into three. Add the chicken to the pumpkin.

Heat the cream with the garlic until it’s boiling, take off the heat, season and pour over the chicken and pumpkin. Sprinkle on both cheeses and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The dish should be bubbling and golden. Serve. You need something to cut the richness so a salad of bitter leaves is good. Children like it with pasta, but I prefer brown rice or another nutty whole grain.

Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1 Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-2 Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-3

You may also enjoy:

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry is available from Amazon for £9.99 (RRP £20). Published by Mitchell Beazley. Kavey Eats received a review copy from the publisher.

 

As a child of the seventies, I have strong memories of walking to the local newsagents with my pocket money and choosing sweets.

Oh, the excitement!

Tiny white chocolate teddy bears were a particular bargain at 2 for half a penny, but I also had a penchant for drumstick lollipops, fruit salad chews, pineapple and cola cubes, strawberry and lemon bonbons, sherbet pips, pear drops, sherbet dip dabs, gobstoppers, foam shrimps and bananas, tubes of love hearts, refreshers and parma voilets, candy necklaces and bracelets, plastic-bound whistles and lipsticks and those white cigarettes with the ends painted red…

Today, there is quite a demand for the retro sweets of my childhood and many that were once discontinued are available once again.

Scoff Club is the latest in a long line of food subscription services – sign up and a box of sweets will be posted out to you once a month. Choose from 2 tubs (approx. 500 grams), 3 tubs (approx. 750 grams) or 4 tubs (approx. 1 kilo) priced at £9.99, £11.99 and £13.99 per month respectively, delivery included.

Scoff Box - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-120703
One of our 3 tub Scoff Boxes

As is the norm with such subscriptions, you don’t get a choice on what your box will contain. For many, that element of surprise is very much part of the fun, and it’s also ideal if you are buying a subscription as a gift for someone else. I found it a little frustrating as one of our boxes had half a tub of liquorice sweets in it, which both of us hate. That said, we have enjoyed the majority of the contents.

The good news is that Scoff have recently introduced a preference centre so you can let them know whether you hate, like or love Jelly & Gums, Sour/Fizzy, Chocolate, Hard/Boiled, Chewy, Sherbet and Lollies. Unfortunately for us, there’s no category for liquorice and given that I’d mark Chewy as Love, I have no way of banning liquorice from my box.

The overall range across my trial of the 3 tub box has been decent, though I have found individual boxes a little lacking on variety – each tub holds only one or two types of sweets in it, plus there are a few extra loose items in the box. The box shown above was a little disappointing, whereas the box with lots of different chews was much better!

Because of the tub format, the boxes are too large to fit through the letterbox so you’ll need to retrieve them from your local Royal Mail depot if you’re not usually home during the day. I’d vastly prefer flatter boxes that could easily fit through the letterbox, which should certainly be possible for the volumes we’re talking about about here.

I’d also like the option of specifying from the start how long my subscription will run – one month, three months, six months and a year. As it stands, it’s an open-ended subscription and you have to remember to cancel when you’ve reached the duration/ budget you had in mind.

That said, this is a fun addition to the subscription trend and a nice gift idea for those with a sweet tooth.

GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to join  with Scoff Box in giving away a three month subscription for the 3 tub Scoff Box to one lucky reader of Kavey Eats! The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment sharing a memory of buying or eating sweets when you were a child.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win a @ScoffBox subscription from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsScoffBox #KaveyEatsScoffBox
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle at the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid. Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 5th June 2015.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries (across blog, twitter and instagram) 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 three month Scoff Box subscription to the three tub box and includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Scoff Box.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey 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 or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

DISCOUNT CODE

New subscribers are offered 50% off their first box. Enter discount code SCOFF50 on ordering.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Scoff Box.

May 042015
 

Since my first smartphone, I’ve been a loyal Android girl. Having worked extensively with Apple macs in a professional capacity I was never as bowled over by their alleged coolness as many of my contemporaries, nor willing to pay the premium. I started with an HTC Wildfire which didn’t disappoint; I quickly became used to checking and responding to emails and social media, navigating via Google Maps and accessing the full extent of the web.

In 2012 I was given a Nokia Lumia 800 to review but quickly discovered that despite loving the physical design I absolutely hated the Windows platform. With a vengeance. I switched back to my HTC before the Lumia and I came to blows. When I eventually looked to upgrade the Wildfire I stayed loyal to the brand – that proved to be a mistake; the entry level HTC Desire was three years newer and yet slower, with poorer battery life, than the Wildfire it was intended to replace.

I was reluctant to blow the big bucks when I’d only just upgraded but was seriously considering it… when along came an offer to review the brand new Samsung Galaxy S4. I totally clicked with my S4 phone and have been using it happily for two years now.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-165511 Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-164435
Out of the box; after a few weeks

My latest review item is a Huawei Ascend G7, launched in the UK late in April.

The Ascend G7 is an Android smartphone with large screen size, smart, slim, metal casing, 4G capable and an attractive midrange price point – currently around £200.

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of Huawei, here’s the cheat sheet: Huawei is a global Chinese company specialising in telecomms networking and equipment; one of the largest manufacturers in the world. You may well have encountered their products before, as a large part of their business is making white-label products for other brands. Now they are promoting their own brand mobile handsets across Europe.

I’ve now been using the G7 for a few weeks. There are a few aspects I really like, but quite a bit that I find frustrating – I haven’t yet made a decision on whether I’ll be stick with the G7 or switch back to my S4.

 

MY THOUGHTS ON THE HUAWEI ASCEND G7

Physical phone

The slim form metal case is attractive, there’s no denying this is a good looking phone.

But bigger isn’t always better – I’ve come to realise that the size is just that little bit too large for my hands; the extra 7 mm width means I can’t comfortably use the G7 one-handed without quickly feeling muscle strain. That’s a personal issue, of course, and not a criticism of the G7 and it will suit those who are looking for a larger screen.

 

Image & Sound Quality

Sound quality seems pretty similar on the S4 an the G7, certainly I’ve not found myself thinking the G7 is better or worse than the S4. In fact, I just played the same music video on both phones and I’d say the sound is definitely comparable.

Officially, the resolution of the S4 is much higher (441 ppi against the G7’s 267 ppi) but I think the G7 does a fantastic job of harnessing those pixels – everything looks good and sharp, with nice colour definition and,to my surprise, I haven’t felt a step down from the S4.

However the (impressively large) screen shows every fingerprint and smear in a way that my Galaxy S4’s screen doesn’t. The smears are really intrusive in bright light, and I’m constantly rubbing the phone against my trouser leg trying to clear up that display.

Likewise, I struggle to see the screen in bright light, making outdoor photography and general phone use rather tricky when the sun is shining.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-164306

 

Phone Manager & Battery Life

Hands down my favourite feature of the G7 is this clever app management (and security) software which allows me to easily and quickly close apps and clear trash files, thereby hugely extending battery life. I can choose myself which apps will never be closed by the Phone Manager and can manually override on an individual basis.

There are a number of power save settings available, which will likely come in useful for those occasional times when I am not able to plug the phone in for a charge overnight.

Apparently there is also a harassment filter which can be used to block nuisance calls or messages from specified numbers and even a Do Not Disturb mode which blocks all calls save those from your personal Allowed list.

And by the way, battery life is phenomenal – I’ve never come close to draining the phone, even on a really heavy-use day.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-58 Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-15
Before running the optimisation and after

 

Missing Apps Tray

In their infinite wisdom (I hope you can hear the sarcasm in my words, even in the written format?) Huawei have done away with the Apps Tray which means that every single app you install, plus all the ones they’ve preloaded the phone with (including quite a few useless ones), are crowded into your five home screen pages.

Having an Apps Tray (a standard part of the Android platform) means that all apps are automatically listed in alphabetical order, which makes it very easy to find those I only need to access very rarely. I can therefore create shortcuts on my home screen pages only for those apps I use on a regular basis, creating a layout that is customised to my needs.

On the G7, every time I install a new app it randomly inserts itself into one of the few free spaces in one of my home screen pages, and I have to waste several minutes moving several other app shortcuts around (rather fiddly) in order to position the new app in alphabetical order. This is utterly nuts and a really stupid decision on Huawei’s part, no doubt an attempt to emulate the iPhone platform.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-26
My customised home screen centre page

 

App Names & Icons

Speaking of icons and shortcuts, I’ve quickly discarded Huawei’s own Calendar and SMS Messaging apps – they just aren’t very good – and unfortunately, when I install my preferred Google Calendar and the standard Android SMS, the G7 doesn’t pull through the relevant icons, using instead the same ones as it’s own label versions. Very confusing. I’ve had to hide the Huawei versions away in a dumping ground apps folder in order to keep them out of the way. (Yes, still missing the Apps Tray, here).

 

Camera

The camera really failed to impress for the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t understand why my images were so frequently out of focus until I eventually realised that it seemed to be back-focusing. Since social media is a key reason I use a smartphone, a camera that didn’t work for me was an immediate deal breaker.

Thank goodness, Pete suggested trying some other camera apps to assess whether it was the camera hardware itself at fault or just a poorly-written camera app.

I’m currently using the Google Camera app, which is much much better and gives me handy exposure compensation controls, which I appreciate. Certainly I’m not having any trouble with focus / sharp images anymore. Unfortunately, this app plays an annoying shutter click sound even when my phone is in silent mode and there’s no setting I can find to override that. That said, it has at least proved to me that the camera hardware itself is fine, which is a huge relief.

I’m keen to find a better solution and am considering Camera FV-5, but the free trial version restricts me to very low res images which are hard to assess properly. If you have any experience of Camera FV-5 or other good Android phone apps, please leave me a comment – I’d be hugely grateful for your suggestions!

For number crunchers, the G7 has a 13 MP main camera with f2.0 aperture and LED flash. The front (selfie) camera is 5 MP. (Virtually the same as my trusty S4, the only difference is a f2.2 aperture).

I’ve not explored the G7’s camera software features much as I so quickly gave up on using Huawei’s camera app but the app boasts HDR, panorama settings (on both front and rear cameras) and a facial-enhancement feature called Beauty Mode. An intriguing All-Focus mode allows you to take a photo and then select the focus later, blurring the foreground or background appropriately to create shallow depth of field after the fact – weird but it does work, should you want it!

 

File & Image Folders

Samsung’s Gallery feature was irritating as hell but once I worked out how to turn it off, I was happy with image organisation and could easily create folders and move / copy images between them.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible to create folders and sort content within the G7 File Manager, and that applies to image files too. Irritating!

 

Notifications, Shortcuts & Settings

Both Push Notifications and Shortcuts to key settings are accessed by swiping down the top menu. Unfortunately, the Huawei skin hasn’t made this user friendly.

On my S4, the first swipe down immediately lists notifications, and then a tap on either of the two icons provided will take me to either Shortcuts or to full Settings. On the G7, swiping down gives me access to either Notifications or Shortcuts, seldom the one I want at the time, and I have to switch between them.

Furthermore, the Shortcuts list is truncated and there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell it to always display in full; given that you can’t customise which settings are shown in the list, and that all the ones listed fit easily on screen, this seems a pointless extra step.

The main Settings panel has also been reskinned for no good reason, making everything that little bit trickier to find, but not offering a single advantage over the Android standard.

Although I’m open to innovations that provide a benefit, I’m really not a fan of change for change’s sake.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-41 Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-48
Shortcuts shown as they first come up, and expanded

 

Performance

I remember from my brief switch to the HTC Desire (before I got my S4) the frustration of slow performance when I was used to fast.

Although the tech review sites have highlighted laggy performance in their G7 reviews, I can’t say this is something I’ve noticed at all and I’m very happy with the phone’s performance.

 

Other Niggles

I nearly always set my phone to Vibration mode (zero volume, buzzing for incoming calls and notifications) and it’s easy enough to select that option. Unfortunately, time and time and time again (several times a day) I discover that the G7 has switched into completely Silent mode, without vibration. This is driving me crazy, so if anyone has an answer to how it keeps happening, or better still, a way to stop it, I’m listening!

And speaking of Vibration mode, the vibration is really weak. Perhaps that contributes to the excellent battery life but I’d sure like a way to pump it up a little. (Hey, get your mind out of the gutter, yes you!)

Like most of Huawei’s in-house software, the Phone Dialler must surely also have been written by people who just don’t use phones very much! I can work out how to call a number from my Contacts and I can see how to type a number in myself. What I can’t readily do is paste in a phone number that I’ve copied from an email or tweet – the only way I’ve found is to start typing a number in to the Diallier, paste my copied number in and then go back and delete the number I typed in to bring the field up in the first place.

 

In conclusion

Although my review isn’t altogether positive, the Phone Manager / battery life are such strong additions to the Pros column that they do go a long way to balancing the Cons. And if Huawei gave up their insistence on replacing perfectly good default functionality with crappy in-house versions, most of the Cons could be crossed off the list.

Let me end with a few photos taken on the G7 (and posted to instagram):

IMG_20150503_194234 IMG_20150503_141646 IMG_20150502_132250 IMG_20150502_131956 IMG_20150502_092030
IMG_20150501_210539 IMG_20150501_144335 IMG_20150501_135718 IMG_20150427_130339 IMG_20150425_111804
IMG_20150424_201734 IMG_20150423_145903 IMG_20150423_125706 IMG_20150419_201134 IMG_20150419_200029
IMG_20150419_194334 IMG_20150419_144036 IMG_20150418_220209 IMG_20150418_215705 IMG_20150418_174305
IMG_20150418_133028 IMG_20150416_080708 IMG_20150414_184322 IMG_20150412_131644 IMG_20150411_151708
IMG_20150408_160848 IMG_20150406_190831 IMG_20150404_221009 IMG_20150403_130801 IMG_20150402_173133

Kavey Eats was provided a Huawei Ascend G7 for review purposes.

 

I’ve been reading about black garlic for the last few years. I’ve even tried a product made with black garlic – my friend Dave made some striking black garlic cheese which I used in a delicious seasonal butternut squash and cheese bake.

But until this week, I’d never actually tried the stuff as it comes, nor used it in cooking.

If you haven’t come across black garlic, you might be wondering what it is? Well, it’s not a new or different variety of the plant we love and know. Simply put, it’s very caramelised garlic. Sold in whole bulbs, it can be (peeled and) eaten as is or used as an ingredient in cooking.

The process to make it is occasionally (and erroneously) referred to as fermentation – but there is no microbial action involved. Black garlic is made by gently heating whole bulbs of ordinary garlic for a long period of time, until the cloves inside caramelise. Just like roasting garlic brings out a wonderfully mellow sweetness, so too does this process for making black garlic. The key differences are that black garlic remains (marginally) firmer than roasted garlic, and there is a hint of acidity to the flavour of black garlic that is rather like molasses or reduced balsamic vinegar. In both cases, the fiery nature of raw garlic is completely tamed.

Apparently the idea originated in East Asia – possibly Korea – where black garlic is commonly marketed as a health product. It started gaining popularity in the USA less than a decade ago and quickly crossed to the UK, initially as an import. It is now produced here from British-grown garlic by a number of brands. The one I’m using below has just rebranded to Balsajo, so packaging may look a little different if you seek it out in the supermarket. Mine is from Sainsbury’s.

Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-8542 Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-8546

The packet contains just one bulb (and mine was a fairly small one) so I wanted to use it in a way that would show off the flavour. A simple pasta dish seemed just the ticket, with mushrooms to balance the sweetness and cream to make it more decadent.

 

Black Garlic, Mushroom & Cream Penne Pasta

Serves 2 (could easily stretch to 3)

Ingredients

Penne pasta, amounts as per your usual portions – we use 50 grams dried per person
1 bulb black garlic
Small splash of vegetable oil
500 grams cup mushrooms, halved and sliced
150 ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Put the pasta on to boil.
  • In a large frying pan, fry mushrooms in a small splash of vegetable oil until they have released their juices. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated / been reabsorbed by the mushrooms and they take on a little golden colour.

Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-8549 Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-8552

  • While the mushrooms are frying, gently peel and slice the black garlic and set aside.

Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-8556

  • When the pasta is nearly cooked, reduce the heat under the frying pan, stir in the double cream and add the black garlic.
  • Stir to distribute the black garlic evenly through the mushrooms and give the cream and black garlic time to heat through.
  • Season to taste.
  • Drain the pasta thoroughly.
  • Either combine pasta with the sauce in the pan or divide pasta into bowls and spoon sauce over the top.

Black Garlic Mushroom and Cream Penne Pasta KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle textoverlay

I love the sweet flavour of black garlic! It’s a lot like sweet and sticky caramelised onion, but with that familiar garlic flavour, mellowed as it is when roasted. Utterly gorgeous and well worth seeking out!

For more inspiration on how to use black garlic, check out:

Kavey Eats received a sample of black garlic, plus a small contribution towards ingredients, from Sainsbury’s. Current price per packet is £1.50.

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