Festivals, shows and other events.

 

Two months ago, I spent an afternoon at Somerset House with Heston Blumenthal. I was one of the lucky group invited to his grand chocolate box restaurant, which meant a few happy hours giggling with delight as we tasted one clever creation after another. Most of the audience were chocolate specialists (producers, artisan chocolatiers, retailers…) so I was very fortunate indeed to be there. That was thanks to my dear friend Jen who couldn’t attend but responded to the researcher’s request to recommend others who might fit the bill. The fact I’d written a fair bit about chocolate here on Kavey Eats won the day and I was given my golden ticket.

After an hour or two waiting in a nearby hotel lobby we were finally walked into the grounds of Somerset House, where a giant Black Magic-style chocolate box awaited. It slowly opened out to reveal a small bar and stage in front of which tables, chairs, linen, cutlery and menus were quickly laid out, within a roped-off area. There were pretty plants in pots; there was even a Maitre d’s stand at the entrance. Shown to our seats, we spent the next few hours enjoying the Heston experience.

We were served chocolate-themed drinks – my favourite was the black forest gâteau hot chocolate with a cloud of “chocolate essence” squirted into the glass but we also sampled a gin cocktail, sweet chocolate wine and a chocolate stout. A beautifully painted edible chocolate box with pretty chocolates inside was delivered to each table. And we were fascinated by Heston’s Moos Bar, a beefy version of a Mars-Twix-Milkyway combo. I wish the beef taste was less subtle – I would have liked more evident beefiness!

Lastly, the tables were cleared away and a vast chocolate bar arrived. Each piece had been made by different companies, from mainstream brands to artisan chocolatiers, before being assembled onto a giant bar by Heston’s chefs. With chisels and mallets, Heston and his team broke into the chocolate, piece by piece, and we had a crazy feast, trying the many different fillings.

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The giant chocolate box, opening out, to reveal Heston’s House of Chocolate, BFG hot chocolate, Moos bar advert, Heston’s team, Heston telling us about his Moos bar, the Moos bars being delivered to our table, a Moos bar, me tasting the Moos bar and declaring “More cow, more cow!”, our reaction to the edible chocolate box, the giant chocolate bar arriving on a forklift, us reacting to the giant chocolate bar, Heston breaking into the first piece, his staff taking over the job, the crowd enjoying the chocolate, me at the end saying “it’s the best one ever – it’s chocolate, and it’s fantastic and it’s in a magical box!”, Heston summing up at the end

If you missed this episode, or the rest of the series, you can catch it on 4OD for a few weeks, here.

 

With enormous thanks to production company Betty for letting me be part of this wonderful experience.

 

Call myself a foodie* and never been to the home of the pork pie? Shame on me!

Luckily, an invitation to attend the Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton Mowbray gave me the chance to fix this oversight and Pete and I made our way North on the first Saturday in May.

Held in the Cattle Market, which itself is in the heart of this ancient market town, the Artisan Cheese Fair is now in its fourth year and bigger and better than ever. We spoke to organiser Matthew O’Callaghan about how he came to create the event.

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Unlike other cheese festivals we’ve attended, entrance is just £1 and there are no hidden costs to worry about. Free on site car parking is available and the various talks and musical entertainment don’t require additional payment.

The majority of the stalls were given over to cheese, as you’d expect, though of course, the famous local pork pie was represented by a couple of producers, as was locally produced beer. There were also a few non-cheese stalls selling fudge, cakes, bread and other bakery goods, a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks, ice cream, jam and samosas (though, surprisingly, no paneer-filled ones!)

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Hunt Cake and Pork Pies at Dickinson & Morris aka Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe – I can recommend both!

As Matthew said, over 50 British cheese makers were represented, most of them showcasing multiple cheeses. We spent a few hours at the Fair so I was able to sample at least one cheese from nearly all of them. Here are my top picks.

Kavey’s Favourites From The 2014 Artisan Cheese Fair

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Quickes Oak Smoked Cheddar & Goat Cheddar

Smoked with oak chips from their own woodland and made with milk from their own dairy, the Quickes oak smoked cheddar had a beautifully natural smoke flavour which was perfectly balanced with the cheese itself – in so many smoked cheeses, the only flavour is the smoke itself. The texture of the cheese was lovely with a pleasing creaminess from the fat content and I liked the level of salty sharpness.

The Goat Cheddar was also fantastic, indeed it’s one of three cheeses I purchased to bring home.

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Cote Hill Blue

Mary Davenport’s family have been dairy farmers in Lincolnshire for 40 years, but turned to making cheese 9 years ago when the falling price of milk made running the business solely as a dairy less viable.

I loved Cote Hill’s soft mild blue cheese made in particular; though the cheese is mild, the blue flavour comes through clearly and the rind is lovely. The Cote Hill Reserve was also delicious – a semi-hard washed-rind cheese which uses Tom Wood Beers’ Bomber County to add flavour to the rind.

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Cheesemakers of Canterbury’s Canterbury Cobble

This stand had a wider range of cheeses on display than most exhibitors, as well as butter and biscuits. It was their Canterbury Cobble that appealed the most. Cheesemaker Jane Bowyer explained that it is made like a brie but then matured into a hard cheese. It was creamy but sharp, with a lovely hint of lemony citrus.

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Belvoir Ridge Rutland Slipcote

Jane and Alan Hewson from Belvoir Ridge Creamery were showcasing a new soft curd cheese called Colwick, having recently revived an old 17th century recipe. It was perfectly pleasant but it was the oozing Rutland Slipcote that stole my attention, and was another cheese I purchased to bring home. Slipcote is a white mould-ripened cheese and is delightfully pungent and gooey when ripe. The Hewsons make their cheeses with milk from their rare breed Red Poll & Blue Albion cattle.

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Hafod Welsh Organic Cheddar

As she cut me a sample, Rachel Holden explained that her father Patrick (who was busy cutting and wrapping cheese) looks after the family dairy while she and brother Sam make cheese. The milk from their brown and white Ayshire cows produces a creamy nutty cheddar with a distinct brassica flavour. It’s the kind of cheese you could accidentally eat far too much of!

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Thimble Little Anne & Dorothy

I confess I ended up spending ages chatting to cheese maker Paul Thomas and his wife Hannah Roche. The couple have been in the cheese industry for many years and Paul is also the head cheese maker for Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers. Their own cheese making business is in its first year and currently has just two adorable little cheeses called Little Anne and Dorothy. Little Anne is a fresh lactic cheese and Dorothy is a soft washed-rind cheese; both are made from unpasteurised raw cow’s milk.

Paul also teaches cheese making classes at the The School of Artisan Food.

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Hampshire Cheeses Tunworth

I almost didn’t stop at the HC stall, as I’m already so familiar with Tunworth – it’s a cheese a buy nearly every time I visit Neal’s Yard Dairy. But I saw a window of opportunity when the stall was miraculously free of fellow visitors and took the chance to chat with cheese maker Stacey Hedges.

Of course, the Tunworth was delicious as always, but I was particularly excited by Stacey’s news that they started making a new cheese last year. Called Winslade, the new cheese is wrapped in a band of spruce bark, which adds flavour to the rind. It’s currently produced in limited volume, but she told me to look out for it in Neal’s Yard Dairy.

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Whitelake’s Goddess

I didn’t mean to make cheese maker Peter Humphries blush when I asked if one of his cheeses was named for someone in particular but his embarrassed expression as he said “yes” was utterly charming. As too was his cheese. It was the oozing yellow centre making a break for it that drew me to the stall – the cheese is (commercially) known as Goddess and is produced (for musician-cum-cheeseman Alex James). Made from Guernsey milk, this is a delicious mild and creamy soft cheese.

Ticklemore Harbourne Blue (no photo)

Ticklemore had three cheeses on sale – Devon Blue (made from cow’s milk), Beenliegh Blue (made from sheep’s milk) and Harbourne Blue (made from goat’s milk). The Devon was a bit plain and the Beenliegh too acidic but the Harbourne Blue was a wonderfully tasty cheese. The balance between sweet, salty and blue was delicious and the rich full fat creaminess was a real delight. This was another of the cheeses I bought to bring home.

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Sparkenhoe Red Leicester

I wasn’t able to chat to anyone at this busy stall as they were busy selling cheese but did taste both their hand made Red Leicester and a mild and chalky blue cheese.

 

Talks & Entertainment

Luckily, we learned a lot about the history of Red Leicester (and exactly how anatto came to be used to give it that distinctive bright colour) by attending one of the free talks, An Unusual History of Cheese. In this entertaining and hugely informative talk, Matthew O’Callaghan shared a light-hearted history of cheese that was perfectly pitched to convey lots of information in a very engaging way. His abiding love for cheese itself and for local and national history was self evident!

Outside, visitors were entertained by the Melstrum Ukulele Band and the New St Georges Morris Dancers.

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I was drawn to a recreation of an old milking parlour, set up in an open-sided trailer.

 

The Melton Cheeseboard

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A special thank you to Tim Brown of The Melton Cheeseboard, a local shop specialising in a wide range of British cheeses and local specialities, for his very warm welcome and the generous selection of cheeses and local products he gave us. His shop is located in the heart of Melton Mowbray at 8 Windsor Street and is open 6 days a week.

 

* Actually, I’m more likely to refer to myself as a greedy glutton than a foodie, but you catch my drift…

Kavey Eats was a guest of the Artisan Cheese Fair. Thanks to Matthew, Lin, Rachel and Tim.

 

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

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

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

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

There will be live music to enjoy too.

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Individual images from previous events provided by Foodies Festival

 

COMPETITION

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

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

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

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

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win tickets to Marble Hill House or Kenwood House @foodiesfestival from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/ZNlYuX #KaveyEatsFF

(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 2nd May 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The five winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • There are five prizes, each of which is a pair of standard adult tickets to attend either the Kenwood House or Marble Hill House Foodies Festival 2014, date to be chosen by the winner. The prize does not include delivery; tickets will be available for collection at the entrance to the shows.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Foodies Festival.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kaveyat the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

TICKET OFFER

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

 

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

The winners for this competition are: Sue Cole, Stokey Sue, Chris Bull, FoodycatAlicia, Alexjttwick.

 

I’ve written before about my addiction to Pinterest. I think it’s a super tool – fun to use and hugely useful too. Recently, Pinterest UK have formed a community of keen UK pinners and have been busy facilitating discussions and organising events to engage with the group.

Recently, I attended a delightful evening with Paul A Young, one of my favourite chocolatiers, organised by Pinterest and Great British Chefs. The event was not only fun but also informative and hands on. Paul taught us his signature Port & Stilton Truffle recipe, making it in front of us from scratch so we could see just how achievable it is. Once the filling was made, everyone was invited to roll and dip to finish the truffles and of course, to taste!

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Here’s an old post featuring a fun video interview I did with Paul back in 2011, just after he opened his Soho shop. Do watch the video, it’s wonderful to see creative forces like Paul talk about what they do – he just lights up as he talks.

Kavey Eats attended this event as a guest of Pinterest UK.

 

How to bring a little Kyoto spirituality home from your travels…

With a staggering two thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, City of Temples is an apt epithet for Japan’s former imperial capital. One of the delights of a trip to Kyoto is not only visiting the famous ones in all the tourist guides but stumbling unexpectedly across so many others as you explore the city and surrounding prefecture.

But don’t worry about becoming “templed out” – not only are these places of worship and prayer compellingly beautiful, they are also hugely varied, endlessly fascinating and an excellent way to gain an insight into Japanese culture. For many Japanese, religious practices are as much about tradition and custom as they are about worship. It’s not uncommon for Japanese people to practice both Buddhism and Shintoism, for which they visit both temples and shrines on special occasions, to remember their ancestors, and to ask for help in specific matters. For a first-time visitor, it takes a little knowledge to distinguish the temples from the shrines.

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Shinto shrines are sacred places in which to pray to one or more of thousands of different kami (spirits). Created as sanctuaries for the kami, the shrines are designed to blend in with their natural surroundings. Many are associated with specific spirits; worshippers often seek out kami that can help with particular issues they are experiencing. There are shrines for pregnant women wanting a safe delivery, shrines where one can pray for a good harvest, shrines for requesting success and wealth in business, shrines to ward off evil spirits and even shrines dedicated to relationships and sexual gratification. A particular highlight of our first visit to Kyoto was a visit to Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine, where we watched a long line of young girls pass through a hole in an enormous paper-covered boulder known as The Stone of Breaking and Bonding. Wriggling through in one direction breaks bad relationships and crawling back in the other direction creates new, positive ones.

Simple thatched wooden buildings echo the design of storehouses and prehistoric dwellings and are usually surrounded by a sacred grove of trees. Thick ropes hung with shimenawa (tassles) and gohei (white paper) cordon off sacred corners – they are often tied around a sacred sakaki tree known as the heart post. Entrances to Shinto shrines is usually through a torii (gate) which marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. They are often guarded by statues of lions or dogs, though at Fushimi Inari-taisha, you will find messenger foxes. This shrine is also famous for its senbon torii, paths of hundreds of torii gates snaking up the hillside, one after another. Painted bright red, they are individually paid for and donated by worshippers praying to Inari, the kami of fertility, rice and industry. Visit at sunset for the most spectacular play of light and shadow between the gates’ red pillars. The first stop for worshippers is the chozuya (water basin) to purify hands and mouths, using the long-handled ladles provided, before proceeding to the haiden (main shrine). There, a front porch features a rope, a bell and a collection box; visitors usually clap, ring the bell and make their prayers.

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It is also common to write prayers or messages for the kami. Originally, horses were given as votives, to represent the divine steed, but over time, boxes painted with their image were given instead. Nowadays, these have been replaced with wooden plaques called ema, on which personal messages are written before they are hung onto hooks provided. Ema come in different shapes – though rectangular ones are most common, we also spotted octagon, heart, rice-paddle, torii and ruler shaped plaques – the designs are varied; often colourful, intriguing and occasionally even startling! Sales of ema help support the shrines financially, so staff are very happy for visitors to buy ema as souvenirs to take home with them. They cost from 300-1000 Yen each (£2-7) and each shrine has its own designs to choose from. Shrine visitors also make small payments in exchange for o-mikuji – paper slips revealing their fortune. These can either be tied to walls of strings provided, for the resident kami to influence, or taken home.

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Buddhist temples are devoted to worshipping Buddha and the many gods within the Buddhist pantheon. As well as a main hall, where one or more statues of Buddha are located, some temples feature impressive multi-storied pagodas, a few of which – such as Yasaka Pagoda – permit public entry to the upper levels. Temples may also have kodo halls, where monks study and chant, and kyozo depositories, where sacred texts are stored. In the grounds, the many groupings of Jizo statues are impossible to ignore. Jizo is the patron of travellers and children and is most strongly associated with helping the souls of babies ­who were aborted, died during birth or as young children. Depicting a short, round, bald man the simplistically styled statues are often decorated with bibs and woolly hats in red and white. Some temples have a dedicated graveyard with family gravestones, many in the traditional gorinto (five ringed tower) form. You may also spot an enormous bell, rung to mark the New Year and other occasions. Outer and inner gates to the temple are usually guarded by an array of fierce animals, warriors or gods who ward off evil spirits. Some Buddhist temples also have torii, but these are usually smaller and less prevalent than in Shinto shrines. Visitors pray by making monetary offerings (thrown into a saisen-bako box), lighting incense and candles and leaving food and drink offerings. Like Shinto shrines, ema and o-mikuji are often on sale for leaving messages and discerning one’s fortune.

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During my two trips to Kyoto, I have amassed a beautiful collection of ema from many different temples and shrines. The pale wood, red and white cords and colourful images (also featuring lots of red) make unusual and memory-laden tree ornaments, and look lovely shown off against the green branches of a traditional tree or hung onto a more modern metal spiral one.  I’m delighted at how well they have helped me bring a little Kyoto magic into my home this winter.

 

This piece was written for Good Things Magazine, a new food, travel and lifestyle magazine launching to consumers in Spring 2014. Content will be available via the website soon, or follow @GoodThingsUK for the latest news.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puffed pork skin was dusted with paprika.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

It’s been a long time since we had a war that really touched ordinary Brits; a war that threatened us on our home ground. More than 60 years, in fact.  So perhaps it’s easier now than it was back then for people to feel disconnected to our armed forces; out of sight is out of mind. The arenas of war in which our military fight now are far removed and unfamiliar; we see them daily on the TV and in the papers, but it’s hard to really understand what our soldiers are doing, why they are doing it and what they are going through, on our behalf.

But whatever you think about the rights, wrongs or justifications of any given military action; what you think the role of our military ought to be; your opinions on the global socio-economic-political environment in which we (and our military) operate and the best ways to make the world a safer place… none of this should stop you from being thankful to the men and women who put their lives on the line because our country asks them to.

I can’t imagine the life of a soldier, in combat or not.

Nor can I imagine what it’s like, for both serving and retired soldiers (and their families), to discover that your country is unwilling or unable to give you all the support you need during and after your time of service.

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ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is there to fill that gap, whether it’s financial assistance when in need; help in organising and funding training, education and support to secure employment after leaving the army; practical (and emotional) help in adapting to physical disability, including modifications to homes and transport; top up grants to cover the costs of care homes for elderly veterans…

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Great Hall, Royal Hospital Chelsea; Dan, with whom we shared a wonderful chat over lunch

Last month, I was privileged to attend an event to launch ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Big Curry, the charity’s now annual fundraising campaign which invites supporters to host their own Big Curry events across the UK, to help raise money for the charity. The launch event saw an eclectic group of professional chefs, food writers, bloggers and random celebrities attend a wonderful Big Curry lunch with the Chelsea Pensioners. Cooked by Gurkha master chef Pemba Lama (author of The Ultimate Nepalese Cookbook), the feast was served in the Great Hall at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It was an enormous pleasure to take our places amongst the pensioners and join them for this lunch. I was also delighted to meet Pemba Lama and his publisher Annie Watsham, having posted a review of The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book, sales of which support the Gurkha Welfare Trust .

The Soldiers’ Charity has been supporting our soldiers and their families since 1944. If you’d like to step forward and help them with their work, read more about how you can contribute, here.

If you’re thinking of cooking a big curry feast at home, here are some menu planning tips from Mamta’s Kitchen.

 

Hyper. Adjective: Obsessively concerned; fanatical; rabid (about a given item, idea or activity). Prefix: a loanword from Greek, usually implying excess or exaggeration. Noun (American, informal): a person who promotes or publicizes events, especially one who uses flamboyant methods.

Japan: An island nation in East Asia. An archipelago of 6,582 islands of which the four largest are are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, hence Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. A country with a long and rich history, a unique culture and cuisine and one of the world’s strongest economies.

HyperJapan: Self styled as the “UK’s biggest J-culture event“, “dedicated to bringing you cute, cool and contemporary about today’s Japan.” Aimed at those who are hyper about Japan, obviously!

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Pete and I went along to this year’s summer event. Our interests are more towards the traditional cultural exhibitors and the food and drink, though we enjoyed sharing the event with eager otaku – cosplay, anime, manga, karaoke and gaming geeks obsessed with various elements of Japanese pop culture. As expected from the event’s publicity materials, much of the event was given over to these pop culture themes with huge areas for karaoke and gaming and large numbers of stalls selling an enormous variety of merchandise – costumes, jewellery, toys, models, artwork, swords, books, specialist food and drink and much more. There were also cookery demonstrations on one stage and singing, dancing and other performance entertainment on others.

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There were lots of people in great costumes – entertainers, stall-holders and many of the visitors themselves.

A major highlight for us was the Sake Awards, in which we made our way round stalls manned by 11 Japanese sake breweries, each one of which told us about their business and products and guided us through tastings of 2-3 sakes each. The quality and variety was amazing.

I was also ridiculously thrilled to make my own pair of chopsticks using a small plane and fine sandpaper, at the Kyoto Nantan City stand.

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We had planned to taste sushi made by the finalists in the Sushi Awards but queues were slow moving for the all-too-brief first session and we left before the afternoon one started.

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The general food stalls were a bit of a let-down; several served food that had been cooked in advance to handle the volumes of customers; the downside to that was that the food was often tepid and a little soggy. Of course, I didn’t try all of the stalls by any stretch (though I did take tasters where offered) and there were no doubt several gems I missed. I had wanted to get some takoyaki (octopus and batter balls) but queues were just too long. I did enjoy my roast oolong bubble tea very much.

As is always the way at Earl’s Court, there was far too little seating for the visitor numbers. Many squatted on the floor right around the walls of the event space.

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And speaking of visitor numbers, my lasting impression is that HyperJapan sold far more tickets than the venue could accommodate. When we left in the early afternoon (after nearly 4 hours inside), an enormously long queue snaked away from the entrance and I later spoke to ticket holders who waited two hours without gaining entry, before giving up and going home. When I put this to HyperJapan’s organisers, they responded as follows: “we can assure you that we didn’t oversell the advance tickets and what you heard about overselling should have been a rumour. We have warned on the HYPER JAPAN website that you should plan ahead and allow enough time as it may be necessary to wait to gain entry during busy time even though you have purchased advanced tickets. On the day, as we feel for the people waiting on the queue under the sun, we offered free water to those people then. We are currently investigating the real cause of the queue issue.” But I’m not convinced by their answer. Once the venue reached capacity, a ‘one out one in’ policy was in operation and since those inside showed no inclination to leave, those outside were stuck outside. For some shows, organisers can safely sell far more tickets than the venue’s capacity, secure in the knowledge that most visitors will stay just a couple of hours before making way for others. For pop culture events like this, it’s obvious that a large number of visitors will stay a lot longer, so ticket sales need to be proportionately lower.

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With a second trip to Japan in the planning in the offing (and easy access to Japanese groceries from my neighbourhood branch of Atari-ya or from Japan Centre) I didn’t bother buying specialist ingredients or trinkets but I indulged in some dorayaki from Wagashi Bakery and bought a lovely calligraphy T-shirt for Pete, designed by artist Yasunobu Shidami. And I drooled over the latest range from ceramics specialists Doki, but resisted as I already have some of their lovely pieces at home.

Although I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, it’s only since our first visit that I have become more focused on learning more about the country, cuisine and culture. HyperJapan was a fun way to gain an insight into the pop culture side of Japan.

Kavey Eats attended HyperJapan courtesy of organisers, Cross Media.

 

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Curry for Change is a fundraising and awareness campaign by charity Find Your Feet.

Find Your Feet is a small organisation currently working in the most remote areas of India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They help poor rural families improve their agricultural practices so they can grow enough food; support them in finding their voice so they are better able to speak up for themselves when it comes to defending their rights, dealing with injustice and corruption and claiming any meagre grants or benefits that might be available; and help them to create income streams which allow them to find their feet.

The Curry for Change campaign aims to raise awareness of the charity’s projects in India, through a celebration of Indian cuisine and by doing so, hopes to raise £10,000 towards it’s projects in all four countries.

 

The Indian project office is based in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, which is where my mum grew up and where most of her family still live. She had the great fortune to be born into a family that lived in comfort, ate well and could afford to educate all their children to university level and give them the best start in life.

But many in the state don’t share that good luck and live lives of hardship, poor health, grinding poverty, prejudice and injustice.

Find Your Feet, through their Curry For Change campaign, are asking you to help them improve the lives and prospects of communities that are isolated, marginalised and struggling to survive

 

There are two prongs to the campaign:

 

Dine Out

A number of Indian restaurants (including charity patron Atul Kochhar’s restaurants) have committed to asking diners throughout the month of June to add donations to their bills. Visit any of the partner restaurants any time in June, enjoy a wonderful meal and contribute to Curry For Change at the same time.

Other restaurants on the list for 2013 Atul Kochhar’s Benares and Indian Essence, Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice as well as Roti Chai and Regency Club. Hopefully, that list will be even bigger by the time June 1st rolls around.

 

Cook a Curry

Find Your Feet is calling on you to organise your own Curry for Change event to raise funds for their many projects.

Bring your family and friends together, ask them to buy tickets or donate during the evening and see how much you can raise.

It’s much easier than you think to cook a fabulous Indian feast at home and share with it family and friends.

When you register online, you’ll receive a bag of Indian spices, some great recipes from Atul Kochhar and Anjali Pathak, invitations and thank you notes for your guests, and a donation form and envelopes to collect contributions. And everyone who hosts a Curry for Change event will be entered into a prize draw for a personal cookery class with Anjali Pathak.

Mum and I have put together some Mamta’s Kitchen menu suggestions for you here. Or you can put your own selection of dishes together, we have hundreds and hundreds at mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

You have until November 30th to take part, so plenty of time to plan, invite, host and return the donations.

 

I’m posting today to give you a heads up and encourage you to get involved, either by visiting one of the partner restaurants during June, or hosting a fundraising curry night between June and November. Thanks for reading!

 

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My friend Jenn is the founder of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, a company dedicated to helping people enjoy great chocolate.

She (and a team of dedicated guides) run chocolate-themed walking tours in Mayfair and Chelsea during which they lead the (small) group between a number of carefully picked specialists. During the tour, you learn more about how chocolate is made, the different types available and how to taste chocolate properly. At each shop you are treated to some specialities ranging from hot chocolate to frozen yoghurt, filled chocolates, plain bars and even macarons.

Jenn has also negotiated discounts in many of the shops, so you can buy your favourites for a little less.

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A nice extra touch is that as a history enthusiast, Jenn is able to share many fascinating stories about the history of London, as you walk from place to place.

My ticket was a very thoughtful birthday gift and I must say, these tours are a fantastic gift idea for those who enjoy chocolate, especially those who are hard to buy for as they have all the socks, vases, books, games, jumpers, posh chutney they need!

Thanks to Jenn for a wonderful day!

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