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My initial plan, when Choclette and I set our joint #WeShouldBSFIC challenge for January, was an ice cream sandwich. I wanted to make chewy chocolate chip cookies and sandwich white chocolate vanilla ice cream between them. But every time I started scribbling potential recipe notes, my thoughts turned instead to a chocolate ice cream recipe I shared back in the summer of 2012; a rich, dense and wonderfully dark chocolate ice cream. I still remember the richness of that ice cream!

Like many no-churn recipes, it has a base of condensed milk and double cream (plus regular milk). Unlike most no-churn recipes, it’s not simply a case of folding together whipped condensed milk and cream, adding flavouring and popping into the freezer. It needs the milks and cream to be boiled, the chocolate (and other flavourings) to be melted and thoroughly mixed in, and then a flour thickener added before the mixture is cooked further until it’s so thick you can only just pour it from the pan to a plastic box.

I was keen to see if I could adapt the recipe to make it in my Froothie Optimum 9400. This power blender has such a jet engine of a motor that it not only blends but heats too – there’s no heating element but the friction of the blades at top speed will generate enough heat to make your mixture piping hot. Having already made an ice cream custard base in the Optimum 9400, for my silky smooth white chocolate vanilla ice cream, I was hopeful my adaptation would work.

When I took the ice cream out of the freezer,  I belatedly remembered how dense this ice cream is and how hard it is to scoop. We ended up popping the entire block out of the plastic box and cutting a slice off the end with a knife. It doesn’t look pretty, as the photographed side shows where it slid out of the box and the other side looked even stranger, from where the knife pushed through it.

That’s when I realised this recipe would  be utterly perfect for individual chocolate ice cream lollies, or fudgesicles as Americans call them. As soon as you cut into the ice cream with a spoon, it reveals it’s beautiful smooth texture, utterly silky in the mouth and with a hint of chewiness that reminds of the wonderful mastic ice creams of the Middle East. I took a bite straight out of the slice and oh yes indeed, this would be perfect on a lolly stick! Too bad I didn’t think of that 24 hours ago!

So please use your imagination to see past my appalling photo and trust me when I tell you that you should give this recipe a try.

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Rich, Dense & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream | Made in a Power Blender

Ingredients
200 grams sweetened condensed milk
100 grams whole milk
100 grams double cream
100 grams very dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped*
0.5 scant teaspoon instant coffee granules or powder
1 scant teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
Small pinch fine sea salt
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cold water

* Note: To save on washing up, use your power blender to “grate” the chocolate, then pour/ scrape it out of the jug and set it aside.

Method

  • Into the jug, pour the condensed milk, whole milk and double cream. Blend on high power until the mixture is steaming hot.
  • Add the chocolate, instant coffee, vanilla bean paste and salt. Blend on high power again until the chocolate melts and is fully mixed into the cream and milk.
  • In a small bowl, mix the flour and water into a smooth paste, then add to the blender.
  • Blend on high power for 4-5 minutes. The mixture should be thick and glossy.
  • Pour / scrape into a shallow freezer container, or better still, into individual lolly moulds or small paper cups, with lolly sticks inserted.
  • Transfer to the freezer overnight or until solid.
  • To serve, take out of the freezer 10 minutes ahead of scooping (or slicing).

This is my entry for the joint Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream and We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by myself and Choclette.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I was given my Optimum 9400 along with the opportunity to be an ambassador for the Australian brand, as it breaks into the UK market. Hand on hearts, Pete and I have been enormously impressed with the blender, especially given the price when you compare it to market leaders like Vitamix; (you can read a comparison of the two, here). We’ve made super quick frozen fruit sorbets, delicious vegetable soups (which are blended and heated so quickly that they retain the fresh taste of the vegetables, an unexpected bonus), quick custards (both to enjoy as they are and freeze into ice cream), and we’ve also used it to grate, puree and blend. And yet we’re only at the start of our learning about all that it can do. I’ll continue to share my favourite Optimum 9400 recipes with you here on Kavey Eats. You can access them all via my Froothie tag.

Like this recipe? Here are a few more power blender recipes from fellow bloggers that caught my eye:

Kavey Eats received a review Optimum 9400 power blender from Froothie. Please see the right side bar for a special offer on buying the Optimum with an extended warranty via my affiliate link.

 

I lied. I’m not offering you a partridge in a pear tree. That’s coming soon. But today I am in the business of sharing some fine game birds, namely partridges and pheasants.

Courtesy of the Wild Meat Company I’ve just taken delivery of their Poachers Delight Game Bird Box.

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Inside eco-friendly wool insulation, nestled between a couple of ice packs, are 4 whole pheasants, 2 packs of 2 pheasant fillets, 4 whole red-legged partridges and 2 packs of 4 partridge fillets. The whole birds are oven ready – after hanging for 3 to 7 days they are dry plucked, waxed and eviscerated by hand before being wrapped ready for delivery. The fillets are skinned, prepped and vacuum packed, ready to cook.

I first learned about dry plucking and waxing versus wet plucking on a visit to Kelly Bronze Turkey Farm a couple of years ago. The key benefits of dry plucking are the reduction in damage to the skin and flesh of the bird, a less clammy texture and smell to the skin and an increased shelf life – the heat and moisture of wet plucking can accelerate the growth of bacteria.

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With the exception of one stuffed and boned pheasant from Borough Market last Christmas, I’ve never cooked game birds before, so I turned to friends for cooking recommendations. As usual they came up trumps and the recipe below was delicious (though not very photogenic). I’ll be sharing it soon.

Even though I’m a novice game bird cook, I’ve eaten my fair share over the years and can confirm that the quality of produce from the Wild Meat Company is excellent. The birds arrived in perfect condition, on time as promised and with nothing to do but choose a recipe and get cooking.

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Pheasant braised in cider with pancetta, shallots and thyme (recipe coming soon)

 

COMPETITION

The Wild Meat Company are offering one reader of Kavey Eats a Poachers Delight Game Bird Box, with free delivery within the UK.

DISCOUNT CODE

Enter promotional code KAVEY10 to get 10% off all partridge and pheasant products until 28 February 2015. Please note that, as it’s coming up to the end of game bird season, orders for game birds placed after 9 February 2015 will receive frozen not fresh produce.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me how you’d cook the contents of the box.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey and @WildMeatCompany on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win a @WildMeatCompany Poachers Delight Game Bird Box from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/gamebirds #KaveyEatsGameBirds
(Do not add the @Kavey 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 6th February 2015.
  • 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 (across blog and twitter) 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 Poachers Delight Game Bird Box, as described above. The prize includes delivery within the UK Mainland.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by the Wild Meat Company.
  • As the British game bird season is coming to a close, the latest date the box can be sent out fresh is the 14 February. If the winner prefers a later delivery, they will receive frozen rather than fresh game birds.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @WildMeatCompany 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 3 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a sample box from the Wild Meat Company.

 

With the exception of long-ago childhood excitement (mingled with dread) about whether (or not) I would receive a card from a secret admirer, I’ve never been a particularly gung-ho participator in Valentine’s day. I guess I’m one of those who tend to prefer the little everyday demonstrations of love and romance over the idea of a societally assigned day of cliché. I have dearly appreciated the romance of an electric foot warmer over flowers, I am thankful for the lovingly made soft-boiled eggs with neatly buttered and cut soldiers when I’ve come home hungry after a late night event and I prefer daily kisses, cuddles and kind words to a showy profession by way of a girly necklace or glittery ring,

I’m particularly glad Pete isn’t given to ostentatiously public displays; gaudy (and visibly expensive) bouquets sent to the office rather than given in person strike me as little more than showing off or worse, proprietarily staking a claim. Since when did romance require grabbing the attention of anyone other than the object of one’s affections?

That’s not to say I don’t like flowers; it’s simply that the unexpected bunch of bright yellow daffodils for no particular occasion is a far bigger delight than scentless red roses on the 14th February.

All that said and done, we never entirely bypass Valentine’s day because of a little addiction of mine. Hey, it’s not a problem, I’m not hurting anyone, I can stop anytime I want, I am totally in control!

Who am I fooling? I’m addicted to greeting cards. Yes, those little folded rectangles of card with cutesie images and anodyne statements;  I adore them. I love buying cards, I love sending cards and I am joyous to receive cards. (In seriousness, I have reined in my habit by agreeing not to buy more if my allocated greeting card drawer is already full. This is more challenging to stick to than you might imagine). So, there must always be cards, on Valentine’s day and through the rest of the year as well.

What else? Let’s take a look at a couple of offerings that have caught my eye.

Chocolate

We both adore chocolate so it’s often part of our birthday, Christmas and anytime gifts to each other. We seldom buy boxes of chocolates (it’s usually bars, far better value), and very rarely on Valentine’s day. But I confess I would be more than happy to be given this big chocolate Hotel Chocolat Love Birds chocolate heart! Featuring a very pretty love birds design, half is salted caramel chocolate and the other half 50% milk praline. (£26; 650 grams).

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Better still, Hotel Chocolat are kindly giving away one beautiful Love Birds chocolate heart to a Kavey Eats reader. Click here to enter.

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Other products that have caught my eye in this year’s Hotel Chocolat Valentine’s range include:

  • The Valentines Goody Bag (containing chocolate and passion fruit truffles; a pack of caramel sweethearts; two 50g milk chocolate Mellow Heart slabs; Champagne Truffles; and a Valentine’s truffle duo of Caramel Gianduja and a Strawberry Cheesecake; £18).
  • This bottle of Cocoa Gin made in small batches in traditional copper-pot stills; roasted cocoa shells contribute to the rich flavour. (£15, 250ml).
  • A box of six balsamic caramel hearts (£3.75).

Drinking In

The last two years have seen a surge of specialist food and drink subscription services (such as the Carnivore Club cured meat and Beer 52 craft beer boxes I reviewed previously).

The latest to come to my attention is Tipple Box, a monthly cocktail subscription created by founder Sonny Charles. After launching just last month with the help of crowd-funding, Sonny is now ready for cocktail lovers to sign up. Each month, he sends out two cocktail recipes with ingredients (spirits, mixers and anything else in the recipe) and mixing jar. All you need to add is the ice.

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Pete and I enjoyed the two cocktails in our Tipple Box, one a combination of gin, marmalade and mixer, the other a blend of vodka, strawberry jam and mixer, though it’s a shame the two recipes were so similar. I’d like to see a little more creativity in future boxes (small batch spirits and mixers, rather than mainstream brands, and the addition of intriguing bitters, fruit and herb syrups and cordials, flavoured salts and sugars – the kinds of things a keen cocktail maker might not readily be able to source themselves in the supermarket).

But it’s a great start for a new business, very nicely presented and a rather lovely idea for an intimate night in making and drinking cocktails together. Of course, you can buy this to give to your loved one in person but I think it would also be a charming gift to send via the post to a LDR lover, ready and waiting to make cocktails the next time you get together.

One box costs £24 including delivery in the UK, with reductions in price for longer subscriptions.

Better still, Sonny is kindly giving away a one month Tipple Box to a Kavey Eats reader. Click here to enter.

Whether you win the competition or not, all readers can make use of discount code KAVEY10 for 10% off the monthly subscription price, valid until end of March 2015.

Eating Out

I can’t think of much worse (in terms of Valentine’s day celebrations) than booking a typical table for two on Valentine’s day. I know, I know, you already thought I was a killjoy when you read my introduction, now you are convinced I’m utterly heartless. But let me explain myself…

The idea of wasting money to order from a limited-choice, overpriced “special” Valentine’s menu, often laden down with so-called aphrodisiac ingredients at the expense of coherence and tastiness… sitting amongst a sea of couples, many of them looking like startled rabbits when suddenly faced with the prospect of actually spending an entire evening talking to their chosen “loved one”, some of them singularly failing to say a word… service rushed as waiters struggle to handle a higher volume of finicky small tables, customers even more demanding than usual as they claw for the evening to live up to their unrealistic expectations… uugh, it really doesn’t bear thinking about!

Our usual habit is to cook a tasty meal at home, settle down on the sofa to watch a good film, or to read our kindles in companiable and comfortable silence.

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Image courtesy of Nick Gibson, used with permission

This year, we shall be making our way with friends to The Drapers Arms, a wonderful pub in Islington. Not only are we guaranteed good food and a merry time, landlord Nick Gibson is once again donating 100% of the night’s takings to Refuge, a charity helping women in need of support. Read his eloquent post on why he’s doing this and book for a non-valentiney Valentine’s dinner with your partner or friends.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Hotel Chocolate and Tipple Box.

Jan 092015
 

Back in November, I was invited to a Secret Supperclub dinner by Miele. Taking place in a “secret location” that would be revealed only when our cars delivered us to the address, all I knew was that the meal would showcase what could be achieved with Miele’s steam ovens.

The location turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, being in the Miele kitchen showroom in Cavendish Place – I’ve attended events there several times before, and assumed from the hush-hush secretiveness, that the venue would be somewhere more exciting.

Still, a large dining table at the back of the showroom was beautifully decked out in a Christmassy theme and we quickly learned that our chef for the evening was Martyn Meid of INK restaurant. Our hosts were welcoming and it was a jovial evening.

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Hailing from Klaipeda, a small port town in Lithuania, Martyn grew up in a culinary culture that had access to superb fresh fish. In order to enjoy fish during winter months, it was preserved in different ways, and Martyn developed skills in pickling, curing and smoking fish and other produce. Today he is known for showcasing a very stripped back Nordic style of cooking, with strong reference to the preserving techniques of his youth. He focuses on fresh ingredients, simplicity and precision.

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Salmon roe on a two-week rye sourdough. I loved the burst and salty fish flavour of the caviar against the rich and dense rye bread.

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Cured mackerel with betroot and hay ash, served with a shot of dill vodka. The ash was a common element in several of the dishes.

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Next up was my dish of the evening – raw seabass cured in lime, pickled ginger, served on on burnt chicory, with apple vinegar. Martyn mentioned that he’d used a whopping 2 kg of butter to cook the chicory! This dish was all the more surprising for me as I’m not usually a fan of chicory, but here the buttery cooking brought out a wonderful sweetness.

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Sadly, this was my least favourite dish of the meal and indeed many of us had the same issue. Described as a salted egg yolk on a bed of potato, with morel mushrooms, the egg yolk was shockingly salty; even a tiny piece of yolk in a full spoon of potato was too salty to enjoy.

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The presentation won me over before I’d even tasted it! Crab, razor clam, langoustine, crunchy cucumber balls, grilled onions and cucumber emulsion. Marvellous!

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Next was 12 hour salted cod with textures of tomato. I enjoyed this, though not as much as the seabass and chicory or crab and onion dishes, but for my friend Gary, this was his dish of the night.

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To finish, a bread panna cotta with raw milk chocolate.

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Images of Martyn and his team at work, courtesy of Miele

We did, on occasion, get up to watch Martyn and his team at work, preparing the dishes using the show kitchen equipment just by our table. However, they were very focused (as you’d expect) and too busy to be able to talk us through what they were doing. I was frustrated by my resulting lack of understanding about how the specialist Miele steam oven technology was used and what difference it made to the cooking of the various elements of the dishes.

The ovens (and other items in the showroom, such as the zoneless induction hobs and integrated induction woks) looked amazing, but it was hard to tell for sure without actually cooking on them. As our oven at home is on its very last legs, we’ll be in the market for a new one soon, and I’d hoped to get a better feel for the advantages of a steam oven over other models, but I’m still in the dark on that front.

However, I’m grateful to Miele for giving me the chance to experience Martyn’s cooking at this intimate private event.

Kavey Eats attended the Miele secret supperclub as a guest of Miele. Additional images (any without copyright text) provided courtesy of Miele.

 

There’s something very indulgent about taking a mini city break in your own city of residence.

Holidays at home (or staycations, in the American vernacular) usually involve heading out of town; a shorter journey than heading abroad, perhaps, but further afield than the place you live. On the rare occasions we allocate leisure time to our local area, we tend to day trip, returning home to our own beds overnight. But booking a night in a hotel in your own city transforms a couple of day trips into what feels more like a proper holiday. It’s so much fun! Added bonuses: the travel is easy, and you don’t need to take much luggage.

Pete and I recently spent a night in the Citizen M Bankside hotel, within easy reach of Borough Market and Maltby Street Market, as well as other local attractions.

Read on for my personal guide to the area, plus a review of the hotel.

Borough Market

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Borough Market needs little introduction from me; a food market much loved by locals and tourists alike.

I love to come and shop here; browsing through the huge array of fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, vegetables – and a vast selection of other food items; bread, cakes, biscuits and doughnuts, charcuterie, cheese (oh my, such wonderful cheese), honey, truffles, coffee and tea, fresh filled pasta, beers and wines…

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Some of my favourite stops include:

  • Neal’s Yard Dairy is an Aladdin’s cave of cheese – all kinds and all in perfect condition – served by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who are happy to guide you and give a few tasters as you make your choices; I always buy some delicious Coolea plus an oozer and a goats cheese as well and often a piece of Stichelton.

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Neal’s Yard Dairy

  • Jumi is the outlet of a small and young cheese producer from Switzerland, I recommend their marvellously pungent Murgu (blue) and the creamy soft La Bouse – don’t be put off by the cowdung translation!
  • Cheese lovers will also love The French Comte stall, selling not only the cheese but other items from La Franche-Comté. And there are many more cheese vendors besides these.
  • Utobeer has a fantastic selection of bottled beers, making it a great place to buy gifts for beer lovers.
  • Turnips is one of the larger stalls at Borough, almost a mini-section of the market on its own and has a fabulous range of produce. I often find the fruit and vegetables a little pricy but I do make a beeline for their mushroom stall; there’s a fabulous selection, in very good condition and fairly priced. I can recommend the king oyster mushrooms in particular, but have bought many different mushrooms over the years.
  • Visit The Tomato Stall for full-of-flavour tomatoes and juices from Arreton Valley, on the Isle of Wight.
  • Bread Ahead Bakery has created quite a stir, most notably for their doughnuts, the creation of baker Justin Gellatly. I’ve been unlucky the previous two visits to their stall, once I was too late and the doughnuts had run out and the next visit was over Easter, and they had replaced them with hot cross buns. When I finally got to try them on this visit, I loved them so much I went back for more the very next morning! Of course, do try their other baked products as well.
  • I first discovered Caroline’s Free From Bakehouse after I met her through blogging and social media. She’s won many awards for her gluten-free range and also offers some dairy free and sugar free items in her range.
  • Tartufaia Truffles sell fresh truffles as well as truffle-infused products, including a very tasty truffle honey.
  • If you love charcuterie, you’ll be spoiled by Borough Market, as there are many stalls and shops to choose from, offering British and European charcuterie of different types. I don’t have a single favourite, but have enjoyed items from several stalls over the years.
  • Although you can sometimes now find Chegworth Valley fruit juices in supermarkets and farm shops, you’ll find an impressively wide range here, plus fruit from their farm too.
  • For fish lovers, there are several fresh fish mongers (Furness and Shellseekers are two from whom I’ve bought good quality seafood), I’d suggest checking all of them to see what appeals on the day. You’ll also often find high quality smoked fish and eel on sale; House of Sverre and Muirenn Smokehouse are two such vendors.
  • Meat is readily available too. I’ve loved the game birds and venison I’ve bought from Furness, and the bacon, sausages and various cuts of met from the Ginger Pig. There are also several butchers selling meat directly from the farm, including Rhug Farm, Sillfield Farm, Northfield Farm, Hillhead Farm Wild Beef, Wyndham House Poultry and many others. For those looking for camel, ostrich, zebra, crocodile and various antelope, try The Exotic Meat Company.
  • There are a number of stalls selling products from France, so do explore. I tend to head to Le Marché du Quartier as my first port of call.
  • Indeed, it’s not just France that’s represented at Borough Market; there are stalls selling produce from Argentina, Croatia, Grenada, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey… a lovely way to travel the world without leaving London!
  • I’ve only recently discovered Spice Mountain, but want to explore further, as based on my brief initial visit, they offer a really wide range of spices, including a selection of spice blends.

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There are also an ever-increasing number of street food vendors, selling hot and cold food to eat there and then. I’m not a huge fan of eating on the hoof, so I’ve not paid much attention to these, but there are plenty to choose from.

For more information on traders and opening times, visit the Borough Market website.

 

Cheers!

I’ve already mentioned Utobeer within the market (and there are a number of wine vendors too).

Take a very short detour out of the market proper to Laithwaite’s Wine, at the north end of Stoney Street. It’s a great shop in its own right, with a wide range of wine and helpful staff. But in the Favelle household, it’s better known as the easiest way to reach The Whisky Exchange (the other way in being through Vinopolis); a small shop space housing a truly impressive selection of whiskies from around the world.

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The Whisky Exchange

Back to beer lovers, there are several breweries to visit in the area around Borough, Maltby Street and Bermondsey Street. Look up Anspach & Hobday, Brew by Numbers, Bullfinch, Four Pure, Hiver, Kernel, Southwark Brewing Company, Partizan

Local pubs include The Rake, a favourite with lovers of real ale but frustratingly tiny inside, so best visited during warmer months or very quiet times of the day.

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Umbrella art installation just outside; Brew Wharf

Another great place to stop for a pint or two is Brew Wharf, within the larger Vinopolis complex, which offers a range of beers from London, the rest of the UK and international breweries. They also brew on site in their own microbrewery.

Wine Wharf, just in front, is the wine lovers option; another lovely space in which to enjoy a drink is Bedales Wine Bar and Shop, within the market area.

 

A Warming Pit Stop

I love to stop regularly for coffee or hot chocolate, especially during the colder months, but let’s be honest, I find excuses in the summer too.

The Rabot 1745 cafe sells a tasty selection of hot chocolates; their salted caramel is my current favourite.

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Monmouth Coffee is the best known caffeine option, but I’ve only once been able to find an inside space to sit in all the many visits I’ve made to Borough Market over the years; I’m not one for drinking on the go, nor do the benches outside appeal. The coffee is, of course, super.

Round the corner, Gelateria 3Bis offers coffee, ice cream and hot chocolate and has the advantage that there’s usually a couple of spaces free at the tables and staff are friendly.

For those who don’t mind drinking and walking, there are also a number of takeway coffee vendors within the market.

 

Maltby Street Market

About twenty minutes walk from Borough Market is the much smaller but altogether funkier Maltby Street Ropewalk Market. You might think it’s not worth the walk, since Borough is so much bigger, but you’d be missing out. The small selection of stalls, tucked under the arches or along the narrow alley are charming, and most are not duplicated over at Borough. I don’t think the vendors list on the website is up to date, but there is always a good range of high quality produce, some to buy and take home and some to enjoy on site.

My picks include African Volcano for the best peri peri sauce and delicious hot food made with the same (the sauce itself is a must-buy ingredient but save space to order Grant’s pulled pork in a bun, peri peri prawns or peri peri burger are), Monty’s Deli for pastrami and salt beef sandwiches, Hansen & Lydersen for smoked salmon, St John’s Bakery for doughnuts. There are usually also a range of beer, wine and cocktails on sale from various of the stalls and arches such as Bar Tozino, which also sells fantastic jamón and other tasty Spanish snacks. Next time I visit, I’m keen to try Gosnell’s London Mead.

Open on weekends only, and do check dates as can vary during winter.

If you enjoy rooting through architectural salvage, a rummage in LASSCO is in order, at 41 Maltby Street.

 

Bermondsey Street

Bermondsey Street is the trendy hub of a local community that clearly values good food, a relaxed vibe and quirkiness. Where once it might be have been described as up and coming, it’s now firmly “upped and comed”; gentrified but still rather hip. Deserving of a post in its own right, I’ll simply point you towards Pizzaro (and older sibling Jose) and Zucca and suggest you explore this neighbourhood on your own. Do share your favourite finds with me, though!

 

Tourist Attractions

Southwark Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, dating mainly from 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction. All are welcome to attend services. Visitors may also enter to admire the cathedral, unless it is closed for an event. Do be mindful not to disturb those at worship.

HMS Belfast is a floating naval museum within a warship permanently moored alongside Tower Bridge. Adult entry is £15.50.

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I can’t believe I’ve not yet been inside The Shard, though I’d love to enjoy the views from the higher floors and I’m keen to try Hutong and Lang for high end Chinese and afternoon tea, respectively. You can buy tickets to access the Viewing Gallery online, though be warned, it’s £24.95 for an adult ticket.
 

Eating Out

If I offered a list of every good restaurant within the area, this would soon turn into a book!

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Breakfast at Rabot 1745

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Elliot’s Cafe

Favourites in 2014 include two meals at Rabot 1745 (which offers a great breakfast menu, as well as their regular lunch and dinner offerings), some delicious dishes at Elliot’s Cafe (I did feel a few dishes were much pricier than justified; then again they’re always full!), a simple, tasty and reasonably priced menu at Hixter Bankside (but we had some frustrating issues with service which were eventually resolved by managers but not reflected in the bill), and I’ve always enjoyed Brindisa for a snack or light meal.

 

Hotel Citizen M Bankside

My first encounter with a Citizen M hotel was up in Glasgow; it was the perfect option for an overnight stop en route to Islay and had vastly more positive online reviews than other budget chains I considered. The Bankside property offers much the same and is less than a 10 minute walk from Borough Market.

The immediate vicinity is the focus of a lot of recent development, with several new restaurant and cafe openings along the short stretch between the Blue Fin Building and Citizen M.

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Exterior and internal garden area, images courtesy of CitizenM

Check in is meant to be self-service, with a bank of check in computers provided just by the entrance. It’s very straightforward, so we find it a little disconcerting that there are always at least two members of staff to assist, and they tend to step forward immediately, rather than allow guests to self-service first. It’s friendly, but somewhat negates the point of self-service over a traditional check in desk.

Lifts to residential floors can only be operated by those with a room key card, which is good as the open-plan ground-floor lobby is enormously busy throughout the day and evening.

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Rooms are small but have been very cleverly designed to maximise space, and a lot of thought has been given to convenience and comfort; these are too often overlooked in favour of funky design. Beds are huge and very comfortable (though rather high off the ground, and it’s a bit of a clamber for whoever gets the window side). Storage is minimal but sufficient for a one or two night stay. Keeping the sink outside of the bathroom cubicle makes both seem more generous; the shower is much larger than the cruise-ship-style pods often used by budget chains. Much appreciated touches include a large TV with a good selection of films available on demand (and without extra charge), power sockets that cater for various international plugs, a USB charging point and a funky lighting system that allows you to set mood with coloured lighting; I particularly appreciated the ability to keep an unobtrusive red light on in the bathroom pod overnight. Despite the small size, I find the Citizen M rooms more comfortable and appealing than many poorly designed larger rooms I’ve stayed in over the years.

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Another thing I enjoy about Citizen M hotels is the very bright, colourful and quirky design. The public spaces are a sensory overload of funky lighting and Vitra furniture, and all kinds of artwork and random objects to add interest. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it, and very much enjoyed wandering around peering at all the things.

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Ground floor spaces

The lobby is cleverly divided into areas for lounging around reading or chatting, for working (power sockets provided), for eating breakfast, for relaxing. The only slight issue is that, as it’s open to non-residents too, it can be hard to find space during busier times.

You may decide not to eat at the hotel, surrounded as you are by so many fantastic food options, but the hotel does provide breakfast and dinner. The former is in the form of a breakfast buffet; you can either include it when you book or pay on the day, as you prefer. The quality is better than I’ve experienced at far more expensive hotels, the pain au chocolat was superb, and the sausages and bacon good quality. For dinner there are just a handful of choices, but again, what I tried was tasty and decent value too. You are also permitted to bring food in from outside, so go ahead and buy yourself a picnic from Borough Market or order a takeaway from a local restaurant.

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Top row, breakfast; bottom row, dinner

In another nice change from other budget chains I’ve stayed in (and indeed, higher end places in the UK too), service is friendly and helpful to everyone, something we noticed at the Glasgow property as well.

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View into the internal atrium area from the corridor to our room

I’ve also now signed up for the free-to-join Citizen M club which gives me 15% off the best available rate when booking future rooms at any of the Citizen M hotels.

 

Kavey Eats were guests of Citizen M Bankside hotel.

 

I shared my pick of books already. Here’s the rest of my Christmas Gift Guide 2014.

Bordallo Pinheiro Melon Bowls

These gorgeously shaped and coloured Melon bowls, designed by Portuguese artist, Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro, are available in two sizes, 15 cm and 25 cm (£18.50 / £36.50). Bordallo’s pumpkin and orange designs are also lovely, but the melon ones are my favourite. Buy from Divertimenti.

 

Sous Chef Gift Sets

SC World Pepper SC Sakura Sake Set
SC Chinese Mooncake SC Fig Mostarda

It’s too hard to narrow down to just one; Sous Chef offer so many tempting gift sets which are just ideal for food and drink lovers this Christmas. My picks are the World Pepper Selection (£19.50), the Deluxe Sakura Sake Set (£39.50), the Chinese Mooncake Recipe Kit (£15) [why hasn’t anyone bought me this????] and a jar of fig mostarda (£8.50).

And don’t forget this Korean yuzu tea (£3.50), from which I made the most incredible (and easy) yuzu ice cream.

 

Lakeland Thermospatula

Thermospatula

I was ridiculously excited when I saw this at Lakeland’s preview show this summer. The Thermospatula is a silicone spatula and digital thermometer combined; no more awkwardness stirring the jam without dislodging the metal jam thermometer clipped insecurely to the side of the pan. The thermometer can be slipped out of the spatula and used on its own too – doubly handy. It’s really such a simple idea and one that’s utterly brilliant! I use mine to make jams and chutneys but it will also be very useful for those of you who temper chocolate at home. Buy Lakeland’s Thermospatula (£14.99), here.

 

Porto Sippers

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At one of the feast dinners that are a highlight of the Oxford Food Symposium I sat next to a gentleman who delighted in showing us his nifty little sipper glass, designed to let you drink from the bottom of the glass where the fuller flavours are unchanged by the oxidisation on the surface. I don’t know how much of a difference this makes, but it was were certainly a talking point and I imagine the tulip shape collects the aromas affectively too. Drinkstuff sell a Decanter and Sippers set (currently £19.99) or a pair of sippers (currently £7.50).

 

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender

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I’ve fallen hard for my fabulous new power blender and it’s been getting a lot of use during the last few months. We’ve made delicious soups, the smoothest custard bases for ice cream and quick fresh-fruit sorbets and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. The Vitamix brand is better known in the UK, but this Australian power blender has a more powerful motor (which gives it a higher top RPM), a super sharp 6 blade assembly, a single jug for wet and dry, runs more quietly and is just a little over half the price of the Vitamix Pro 500. I hope it goes without saying that I would never recommend a product I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in; freebies don’t change that. I genuinely love my Optimum 9400 and can’t imagine making soups, custards or smoothies without it! As part of the ambassador campaign, I am able to offer readers an additional 2 years warranty free of charge on any Optimum appliance purchased via this (affiliate) link, and using the coupon code “Special Ambassador Offer” on checkout.

 

Straw Salt and Pepper Shakers

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I like the elegant simplicity of these straw-shaped salt and pepper shakers, £24 from Hidden Art. They can be propped up in a glass, laid flat alongside the cutlery and easily stored away in a drawer.

 

Star Wars Lookalites

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These officially licensed “Stumpy Stormtrooper” and “Dumpy Darth Vader” table lamps are £19.99 each from Firebox. I know quite a few adults who’d love these as much as the kids might!

 

Carluccio’s

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Carluccio’s always tempt me with their sweet Christmas treats. This year, my favourites are the Meringhe di Gianduja (£9.95), Fichi al Rhum (£6.95), Ricciarelli almond cakes (£9.95), Lunettes d’Arancia (£6.95), Pistachio torrone (£6.95) and sponge cakes in Limoncello syrup (£6.95).

 

Tetris Cookie Cutters

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Also from Firebox are these Tetris cookie cutters. I first came across the idea on an American custom cookie maker website but they were too expensive, so I was happy to spot that this set is just £6.99.

 

Nutural World Nut Butters

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I met Mordechai Chachamu earlier this year and have been hugely impressed by his range of all-natural nut butters, which he sells under his brand Nutural World. The nuts and seeds are lightly toasted to bring out their flavours before being processed and bottled – no additives at all. Gorgeous flavours. Buy online at Nutural World.

 

Bananagrams

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The perfect word game for any age group, Bananagrams (£10.59 from Amazon) comes in a handy pouch for travelling.

 

Nesting Babushkups

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These three matryoshka-decorated glass cups nest, like a Russian doll set. £12.50 from CubicUK.

 

Adagio Teas Samurai Sampler Set

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Check out my recent post on Adagio’s Sampler Sets, a lovely way to try a range of teas and the perfect gift for tea lovers. I recommend the Samurai Sampler Set at £9.

 

Let’s Cook Okonomiyaki

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Japan Centre has lots of food kits for anyone with an interest in Japanese food. This okonomiyaki kit is £16 and includes okonomiyaki flour, powdered seaweed, kewpie mayonnaise, pancake sauce, tempura flakes, pickled ginger and a recipe.

 

Fabulous Pong Cheese

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I’ve been sharing Pong Cheese with readers for a while now. How can anyone resist the allure of top quality cheese available by online order? Their Pong Christmas Explorer Box is £29.95, and of course you can browse their other collections or choose cheeses individually. Enter PONGKAVEY10 into the Discount Code box during checkout for 10% off your order (excluding delivery); valid till December 31st 2014.

 

T-Rex Meat Cuts

Trex

I can’t find this fabulous art print by Victor Calahan for sale via a UK website, but here it is for US $19 from Society6 in California, and the website is currently offering (at time of writing) free international shipping!

 

Master of Malt

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I love Master Of Malt and have bought a fair few gifts for Pete over the years, as have family and friends. Their Drinks by the Dram Christmas Crackers are available from their own site or from Amazon. Despite the name, Master of Malt are not just about whisky either – check out this History of Gin Tasting Set (£18.95) and this Premium Rum Tasting Set (£22.95).

 

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Range

Christmas Collection-2 Mini Stocking Truffle Xmas Tree
HC Butterscotch puddles HC Mulled Sultanas HC-mini-hazelnut-buche

I’ve already shared some of my favourites from this year’s Hotel Chocolat Christmas range, in my annual competition (closed) in which I gave away The Christmas Collection (£35), The Christmas Truffle Tree (£26) and the Dinky Christmas Stocking (£10). I can also recommend the mulled wine sultanas in chocolate (£8), the butterscotch puddles (£5.50) and the mini hazelnut yule logs (£3).

 

Lakeland Flare Pans

Flare Pan Flare Pot

I was drawn to these as soon as I saw them – on an aesthetic level alone they are absolutely beautiful; however, this new range have been developed for much more than their sleek sci-fi looks. The unusual flared ridges adorning the sides of the pans are designed specifically for use on a gas hob; they distribute the heat evenly across the base and up the sides which heats up the contents of the pan more quickly. Designed by Oxford Professor Dr. Thomas Povey whose expertise is thermodynamics applied to advanced jet engine design, the pans are formed from cast aluminium with stainless steel handles. They can be used on electric, ceramic and halogen hobs too, but you won’t get the faster cooking that they provide on gas. I love my Flare 20 cm saucepan (£64.99) but I’ve yet to do side-by-side comparisons with a regular pan to put this “fin-x” technology to the test. Regardless, it’s a gorgeous thing.

 

Moby Picks

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Yes, I admit, I picked these purely for the punny name! Moby Picks, £12.90 from CubicUK.

 

Niederegger Marzipan

Niederegger fruits niederegger lovers box

This is another gift I hope to see under my tree every single year. Niederegger is the king of marzipan and whether you pick up this box of pretty marzipan fruits (£6.99 from Lakeland, or from Amazon) or a collection of different flavoured marzipans (500 grams £19.99 from Lakeland, 400 grams £18.99 from Amazon)

 

Melamine Children’s Plates

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Yellow_Robot_Plate Princess_Green_Plate Green_Monster_Plate

How cute are these melamine plates by French Bull, available for £5 each from Designed in Colour?

 

Snow Globe Salt and Pepper Shakers

gamagosnowglobeSP cactus shakers

These white and black bear snow globe salt and pepper shakers look so much fun! £10.99 from Amazon or £9.99 from LazyboneUK. Or how about hot and cold climate pine tree and cactus shakers, £14.99 from CubicUK?

 

Doki Ramen Bowls

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doki3 doki4

I love Doki’s range of Japanese tableware. Choose from their great selection of ramen bowls and other products.

 

Drinks List

leffe nectar kingsginger appleicewine harveys-pedro-ximenez-30-year-old-sherry
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Last but not least, here’s a selection of delicious drinks to warm you up this Christmas.

As if that weren’t enough, many of the gifts I suggested last year are still available, including the mammoth selection of tea towels!
Likewise, you may find inspiration in 2012’s gift guide too.
The same goes for my guide to tasty alcoholic tipples for the sweet-toothed.

My gift guide does not include any sponsored suggestions – I list only items that appeal to me personally. I came across some items at Christmas preview events and have also been provided review samples to test a few. The rest I found while browsing online stores. Links to Amazon, Froothie, Lakeland and Master of Malt are affiliate links. Please see affiliate box in sidebar.

 

Regular readers will know that I’m married to a beer enthusiast. Pete loves to drink beer, to talk about beer and to brew beer. He even grows his own hops! Although supermarkets are getting a little better at stocking a wider range of interesting beers, Pete often buys his beer online, from the growing number of beer specialists that offer a far better choice.

We recently came across Beer52, an online beer retailer founded last year by James Brown after his epic motorcycle craft beer road trip round Europe. His discovery that there were more than 12,000 microbreweries in the world inspired him to create a business in which his team handpick eight different beers to share with subscribers each month; the selection is delivered to your door for £24 a box. Beer52 are often able to source exclusive, small batch beers from small and experimental breweries around the world – not the kind of beers a supermarket is ever likely to stock.

Pete put a recent box to the taste test. Whilst he didn’t love all eight beers in the selection, what he did like was the opportunity to try beers he’d have been unlikely to come across otherwise.

Also in the box is a copy of Beer52’s in-house magazine, Ferment, sharing more information about the beers they feature. Our boxes also had a couple of extra gifts including an edition of Craft Beer Rising magazine, some crisps, a little bar of chocolate and some product leaflets.

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Review

Barcelona Beer Company, 5%
A father golden, big billowing white head. Sweet, slightly biscuit aroma, some background hops. Flavour is – surprisingly – deeply bitter which overwhelms the residual sweetness.

Cerveza Mica, 4.7%
One of the most explosive gushers I’ve seen for a while! Golden, flat white head. Honey nose, with a slight mustiness. Flavour is a little bland, slightly sweet, boring.

Charles Wells DNA, 4.5%
Copper, little head, “new world IPA”. Nose is mostly mallet, very little floral hops. Flavour is just as unremarkable – slightly fudge sweet, insipid.

Freigeist Bierkulture Hoppeditz, 7.5%
A dark reddish brown coloured beer, thin white fine bubbled head. Aroma is treacle sweet, flavour is similar, sweet, slightly bitter burnt sugar, resinous hops and dark fruit. Very nice, but not as big on the hop front as I was expecting. Over time, actually it is pretty damn hoppy, nice lingering bitterness!

Kaapse Brouwers Karel American Bitter, 4.9%
BIG white fluffy head that takes a long time to go away, deep golden colour. Aroma has nice floral hops, mineral barley. Over fizzy in the mouth, honey with quite a harsh bitterness at the back of the mouth. Average at best.

Media Biere Blanche, 5%
Golden, big but fleeting white open head. Wheat aroma, grassy with a hint of metallic. Foamy in the mouth, softly sweet and more wheat grain. Not bad, unremarkable.

Microbrasserie de la Principaute Curtius, 7%
Belgian triple, golden with a thin white head. Typical belgian yeast aroma, spic and slightly fruity. Champagne foam texture, with a slightly sour background, metallic. Tasty triple, but maybe a touch turned?

Oppigards Indian Tribute, 6.6%
Copper, mid sized fine head. Floral hop aroma, sweet and slightly toffee flavour, with fruity flavours and a nice building resinous hop kick at the end. Yum.

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COMPETITION

Beer52 have offered us two cases of beer to giveaway and we’ve set up an unusual joint competition for you between Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks. Each winner will receive a box of eight beers selected by Beer52. The prize includes free delivery to UK Mainland addresses.

Running the competition across both blogs gives you 6 chances to enter, all of which go into one big list from which two winners will be drawn randomly.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways via Kavey Eats and another 3 ways via Pete Drinks – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite bottled beer.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey, @PeteDrinks and @Beer52HQ on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a box of craft beers from @Beer52HQ and Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/ke-beer52 #KaveyEatsBeer52
(Do not add the @Kavey twitter handle into the tweet; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Follow @KaveyF, @PeteDrinks and @Beer52HQ on Instagram. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Share an image of a bottle of your favourite beer via your Instagram feed. In the caption include the name of the beer, instagram usernames @KaveyF, @PeteDrinks and @Beer52HQ, and the hashtag #KaveyEatsBeer52

Entries 4-6 – PeteDrinks.com

Visit PeteDrinks.com for instructions.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Wednesday 24th December 2014.
  • Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks reserve the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page and the related page on PeteDrinks.com.
  • The two winner will be selected from all valid entries (across both blogs, both twitter hashtags and both instagram hashtags) 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 and Pete Drinks accept no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Both prizes are one box of 8 craft beers selected by Beer52 and and include delivery within the UK Mainland.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Beer52.
  • Only one Kavey Eats blog entry per person. Only one Twitter #KaveyEatsBeer52 per person. Only one Instagram #KaveyEatsBeer52 per person. Only one Pete Drinks blog entry per person. Only one Twitter #PeteDrinksBeer52 per person. Only one Instagram #PeteDrinksBeer52 per person. You may enter all six ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey, @PeteDrinks and @Beer52HQ at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @KaveyF, @PeteDrinks and @Beer52HQ 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 14 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

DISCOUNT OFFER

As well as the competition, Beer52 have also set up a special discount code for our readers. Use special code KAVEYPETE10 to take advantage of a £10 reduction on any subscription, including the gift subscription. Use KAVEYPETE30 for £30 off the £48.99 gift box (which adds a book and wooden bottle opener to the usual selection of 8 beers).

Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks received product samples from Beer52.

Winners: Ashleigh Allan (Kavey Eats blog entry) and @One2CulinaryStew (Pete Drinks instagram entry).

 

I’ve been a little slow in assembling my Christmas Gift Guide this year, so I’ll share it in instalments. Here’s the first; for lovers of books.

Noodle! by MiMi Aye

Noodle!

I’ll preface this recommendation with the statement that the author, MiMi Aye, is a friend of mine so, of course, I wish her book to do well. Especially as it may result in a second book deal that allows her to share all her fabulous Burmese recipes, which would be a real treat for all of us. But I’m recommending her book because it’s a corker – it’s absolutely full of very delicious noodle recipes, all of them clearly written and easy to follow. Everyone who’s cooked from it agrees, including BigSpud who’s worked his way through 30 of them already!

I reviewed the book for my regular Worth Its Salt column in Good Things magazine and asked MiMi for a few recommendations. To impress guests she suggested Tonkotsu Ramen (“looks amazing and tastes wonderful”); she recommended Spicy Lemongrass Beef Noodles for those feeling poorly; for a quick supper Ham, Pea and Pea Shoot Noodles is ready in minutes; for comfort food she chose Coconut Chicken Noodles (“a hug in a bowl!”); and if you’re stuck in the house she noted that her Persian Noodle Soup can be made with store cupboard ingredients.

The book should appeal to both novice and advanced cooks alike. For the former, Teriyaki Salmon Noodles and Pork Patties with Noodles & Herbs are both simple and straightforward. For those ready to take on more, recipes like Cheung Fun and Vegetable Soup with Hand-pulled Noodles involve making noodles from scratch.

You can buy a personalised, signed copy of Noodle! directly from MiMi here or purchase from Amazon, here.

 

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

Worth-it-Salt-Everday-Harumi

This book was published back in 2009 but I didn’t get a copy until last year (though it was on my Christmas wishlist back in 2012!) Harumi Kurihara is one of Japan’s foremost culinary authors and has created a hugely successful business in Japan selling not only cookery books but also magazines, TV shows, a line of kitchenware and she even has a chain of shops, restaurants and cafés.

Everyday Harumi is the third of Kurihara’s books to be published in English but it’s the first book she has researched and written in England; she wanted to understand the British way of shopping, eating and cooking to ensure that her recipes were realistic and accessible for non-Japanese cooks.

Harumi starts by introducing the store cupboard essentials, the ingredients she feels are at the heart of Japanese home cooking. Most of them appears in multiple recipes; indeed one of the things I love about the book is realising how much variety can be achieved by combining the essential ingredients in different ways. Next are instructions to cook rice, make dashi stock and some recipes for sauces and pastes referenced later in the book. And then come the recipes… Steak in a Miso Marinade, Tsukune with Teriyaki Sauce, Scallops with Nori Seaweed, Udon Noodles with a Minced Meat Miso Sauce, Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, Egg Drop Soup, Lightly Cooked Spinach with Soy Sauce, Japanese Coleslaw Salad and Aubergine in Spicy Sauce.

One of the big pluses of the book for me is that most of the dishes are really well suited to tasty mid-week evening meals, when speed and simplicity are a priority.

You can buy Everyday Harumi from Amazon, here

 

Plenty & Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

ottolenghi plenty ottolenghi plentymore

I’m late to the party when it comes to Ottolenghi. Of course, I’ve been aware of his cooking for some time, and Plenty has been on my wishlist since it was first published. Recently, I got my hands on both Plenty and follow-up title Plenty More and can’t wait to start cooking from both. I’ve been poring through both books in the last few weeks and bookmarking a frankly ridiculous number of recipes to try as soon as I’ve some free time in the kitchen.

I’ll be sharing a proper review in the months to come, but in the meantime, here are Amazon links to buy Plenty and Plenty More.

 

Do-Head Christmas by James Ramsden

doaheadchristmas

We’re having a lazy Christmas this year, just us and one of Pete’s sisters and we’ve agreed to enjoy a simple but tasty roast dinner, lots of shop-bought snacks, and sitting around under blankets on the sofa watching telly or reading. So I might save James’ Do-Ahead Christmas for next year, when I need clever ways to prepare some of the Christmas feasting in advance.

Having attended James’ popular supperclub, I know he’s had plenty of practice working out all the best tricks when catering to a large group in a domestic setting.

Buy Do-Ahead Christmas from Amazon, here.

 

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

japanesecooking

This book has been on my personal wishlist for a few years, since the publication of the 25th anniversary edition in 2012. I finally bought it this year and am so pleased I did; it’s a fabulous reference book – the definitive reference book, I’d say. If you have an interest in traditional Japanese cooking, this book should be on your bookshelf. Full review to come, next year.

Buy Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art from Amazon, here

 

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne

tea

One that’s currently on my own wishlist (hint, hint!) is the recently published second edition of this book about the history and varieties of tea.

It’s available on Amazon, here.

 

Slow Cooked by Miss South

slowcooked

Another book by a friend and another genuine recommendation. We love our slow cooker but I’m the first to acknowledge that we aren’t very adventurous when it comes to what we cook in it. Beyond curries, stews, jacket potatoes and overnight chicken stock, we need a bit of inspiration to make better use of it. In this book, Miss South, author of successful blog North South Food, shares over 200 slow cooker recipes for all kinds of dishes.

Read my review, here. Buy the book on Amazon, here.

 

You can also find some great gift ideas in my previous guides, though of course, some items may no longer be available:

The Amazon links above are affiliate links. This means that I receive a tiny commission for purchases via the links.

Dec 062014
 

The world of tea is a vast one. For those happy with basic black tea in teabags (or loose) it’s pretty straightforward; every supermarket in the country stocks black tea teabags and loose leaf English Breakfast, Assam and Darjeeling are just as easy to find; Earl Grey (black tea with the addition of essential oil extracted from bergamot orange) is also universally available.

But what if you discover that oolong or green tea are more to your taste? Perhaps you hear about yellow and white teas, aged pu-erh (dark fermented tea made in China’s Yunnan province), genmaicha (Japanese green tea with roasted rice)? You’ve read that matcha and sencha are both green teas but aren’t sure how they differ? How do you learn more about them, and more importantly, how can you sample a wide range to help you narrow down which styles of tea you personally enjoy the most?

Finding out about the different teas is not too complicated. It’s a topic that wikipedia is very useful on – just search for wiki oolong, wiki matcha, wiki sencha… you get the idea. And obviously, many online tea retailers also have guides to the teas on their websites. There are specialist blogs aplenty and if you become really keen, you can buy a specialist book or two. I’ve been eyeing up this one, Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, published earlier this year.

Regular readers know I have been exploring the world of teas for some years, and I have a particular fondness for oolongs and green teas. You can look back through my many tea posts, or take a look at my Christmas tea gift guide from 2012. In that post, I mentioned Adagio Teas, a US company that started to also sell in Europe a few years ago, amongst others.

Adagio Teas offer an extensive selection, covering the range of tea styles.

They’re a great option for those looking to expand their tea repertoire – not only can you pick and choose your own selection, they also provide 9 Tea Samplers, each box containing small packets of four different teas.

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9650
Emperor Sampler Set

The Samplers include Silk Road (Chinese black teas), Raja (Indian and Sri Lankan black teas), Chai (teas blended with a variety of spices and herbs), Tropical (teas blended with fruit), Formosa (Taiwanese green and dark oolongs), Samurai (Japanese green teas), Emperor (top quality green teas) and two more that cover herbal infusions, Garden and Rooibos.

I put three of the Samplers to the test along with two individual teas chosen from the full range.

 

Emperor Sampler Set

The Emperor Sampler Set is £13. Note that the two of four teas currently listed differ from those in my set, delivered a few months ago.

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9652 Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9655
From left to right: Silver Sprout, Dragonwell, Gyokuro, Jasmine Yin Hao, The gyokuro brews to an

Silver Sprout brews to a pretty amber and has a rich sweet aroma that reminds me of rice pudding. The taste is mild, smoky and more like an oolong than a typical green tea.

Dragonwell brews to a greeny yellow and smells like a typical green tea – it has rich intense grass, hay notes. On the palate, the grassy taste comes through, but so too does a mild dairy umami that wasn’t obvious to the nose. It’s rich but refreshingly vegetal at the same time.

Gyokuro brews bright yellow and has an uncomplicated green vegetal aroma. The flavours are gentle, a soft grassiness with a mere hint of umami savouriness.

Jasmine Yin Hao is a jasmine-infused silver tip tea – “tip” in this context refers to tiny unfurled buds, given only the lightest of processing. It brews orangey yellow and the only aroma I can detect is a strong floral scent of jasmine. On the palate too, jasmine dominates. This is a lovely floral tea, but be aware that the green tea beneath doesn’t come through very clearly.

 

Samurai Sampler Set

The Samurai Sampler Set is £9.

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9659 Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9664
From left to right: Genmaicha, Kukicha, Sencha Overture, Hojicha

Genmaicha is a popular tea in Japan; a combination of green tea and toasted rice. This one brews to a greeny yellow and has a fabulous aroma of roasted rice, like popcorn and marshmallows. It tastes as you’d expect, the rich roasted rice flavours and underneath, the clean vegetal notes of green tea. It’s rich, savoury and very comforting.

Kukicha is a blend of tea leaves and tea leaf stems. It brews to a similar greeny yellow as the genmaicha but could not be more different. The smell is lemon citrus and freshly cut grass. The citrus is on the nose only, the taste is a very light green tea. The umami savouriness is very muted, there’s no bitterness at all, this is a much lighter green than most.

Sencha Overture is a delicious green tea, and a good introduction to the style; sencha is harvested in spring and early summer and steamed rather than sun dried, which results in a clean but rich vegetal flavour. This one brews pale yellow. On the nose, it delivers a really intense sweetness, like caramelised milk and a mild vegetal scent. On the palate the green vegetable taste comes through clearly.

Sencha is produced in spring and early summer. After that, the full summer harvest creates bancha. Roasting these bancha tea leaves creates Hojicha. Adagio’s hojicha brews a dark red brown. The smell is smoky and woody. On the palate it’s rich, smoky and with hints of tobacco and wood. Very much like a well-flavoured black tea, I find.

 

Formosa Sampler Set + Hsinchu Oriental Beauty + Formosa Ali Shan

The Formosa Sampler Set is £9. A 12 gram box of Hsinchu Oriental Beauty is £9. A 34 gram box of Formosa Ali Shan is £9.

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-8398 Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-8409

I find the Formosa oolong (sampler set) disappointing. It’s smoky, one-dimensional black tea, with no richness or complexity of flavour. I don’t get any hint of the raisins or ripe fruits in Adagio’s description.

The Formosa Bai Hao (sampler set) brews to a paler amber than the oolong. It has a slightly more interesting aroma, milky with a little smoke. On the palate it’s a little lighter and sweeter in flavour, with a hint of milky umami. But it’s still not very complex, rich or interesting.

The Hsinchu Oriental Beauty is a world apart from the two above. It’s a highly oxidised premium grade bai hao from Taiwan’s Hsinchu county it is made up of white, green, yellow, red and brown leaves. The colour when brewed is a pale greeny brown and the aroma is amazing, a burst of floral, fruitiness. The taste is even more phenomenal than the smell with intense fruits, flowers and honeyed sweetness. I don’t have the vocabulary to do justice to the roundness of flavours, it seems to satisfy more of my tastebuds than the other teas.

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-8448 Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-8450 Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-8452

Jade oolong (sampler set) brews yellowy green and has a grassy aroma and smells like sweet milk. The taste – vegetal grassiness and the hint of umami savouriness – is a more typical of a green tea than an oolong; it’s the lighter side of the oolong style.

Pouchong (sampler set) is another lightly oxidised oolong that brews to a yellow green. The smell is intense, much sweeter, like semolina halwa with a hint of vanilla. The taste is less complex than the smell lead me to expect, in fact it’s a disappointly mild and light.

Like the pouchong, the Formosa ali shan has an intense sweet flavour, the same semolina and vanilla – I even took both cups into different rooms to check the scent of one wasn’t influencing the other! This time, the promise of the aromas comes through on the palate. It’s rich, fruity, a little sweet and with the merest hint of green grass, and it fills the palate, much like the Hsinchu bai hao.

 

To recap, the samplers provide a great way to try lots of teas without breaking the bank. Of the ones I tried, the Samurai was my clear favourite. Or, of course, buy any of the teas individually.

Adagio are currently running a pre-Christmas offer of free standard UK delivery on orders over £20 (usually it’s a £30 minimum spend to qualify for free shipping). This offer is available on their website till December 14th!

Kavey Eats received product samples from Adagio Teas.

 

It’s no secret that I adore cheese. I’ve even been known to spend more on cheese for Christmas day than on presents for the husband. What? He eats it too!

Most often I buy my cheese in person, both from the supermarket and cheesemongers like Neal’s Yard Dairy. But I’ve also bought online, especially when I’ve fancied sending cheese as a gift.

I live in hope that friends will take the hint and send (good quality) cheese back to me, but I’m still waiting…

My online cheese shop of choice is Pong, who I first encountered back in 2009, when they (like Kavey Eats) were a young start-up. Indeed, I gave them the idea for both their Ultimate Pong Box and their New Mum’s Box (for mum’s desperate for their favourite stinky unpasteurised cheeses after a long nine without), both of which, they have said, are enormously popular. Kudos, me! I’ve enjoyed their cheese many times since then and it’s always impressed me as tasty, tasty cheese.

PongCheeseXmas2014-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9604 PongCheeseXmas2014-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9608
my happy delivery

Today, I’m bringing you their Pong Christmas Explorer Box, a super selection for your seasonal cheese board. (Try saying that fast after a glass or two of port!)

For £29.95 + delivery, this box provides over a kilo of fabulous cheese in the form of Langres AOC, Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, St Maure de Touraine, Lincolnshire Poacher and Wyfe of Bath. Yep, sounds bloody marvellous to me too!

PONGxmasexplora1
from Pong’s website

COMPETITION

Pong are offering one reader of Kavey Eats a Pong Christmas Explorer Box of delicious cheese, including UK Mainland delivery.

OFFER

In addition to the competition, we’ve created a code to give you all a tasty 10% off your orders (excluding delivery).  Enter PONGKAVEY10 into the Discount Code box during checkout. Active through December 31st 2014.

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, telling me which three cheeses you’d pick for your seasonal cheese board.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey and @PongCheese on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a @PongCheese Christmas Explorer Box from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/n0D0Ut #KaveyEatsPongCheese
(Do not add the @Kavey 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 a tasty piece of cheese via your Instagram feed. In the caption include the instagram usernames @KaveyF and @PongCheeseUK and both hashtags #KaveyEatsPongCheese and #PongChristmas.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Wednesday 10th December 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 (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 Pong Cheese’s Christmas Explorer Box and includes delivery within the UK Mainland.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Pong Cheese.
  • Pong Cheese will do their best to deliver before 25th December, but please note that this is not guaranteed.
  • 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 and @PongCheese at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @KaveyF and @PongCheeseUK 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 received review products from Pong Cheese.

The winner of this competition is Mark Hampton (blog entry).

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