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Tips from a Professional Food Stylist

Today’s post is a rare foray into blogging about blogging ; specifically, one of the more useful skills for a food blogger today – Food Styling.

I recently attended a session in which professional food photographer and stylist Carole Poirot shared her tips with a group of bloggers. First, an Atelier des Chef class instructor showed us how to make a hazelnut torte, which each group diligently made too. Then, in our groups, we put Carole’s tips into practice by styling our own cake using a few seasonal props provided.

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle (2)
This was my team’s efforts, after watching Carole’s demonstration, below

Carole Poirot’s Professional Food Styling Tips

  • Decorate the item itself, the plate or dish its on (or in) and the space around it.
  • Arrange the dish and props to create a balanced layout, using items of different sizes, colours and textures. Take into consideration the height of items, how far forward or back they are from your shooting point, and how each item relates to the ones next to it. Non symmetrical compositions are often more pleasing to the eye.
  • Use seasonal props, not just in terms of a recipe’s ingredients but by adding seasonal flowers and foliage.
  • Vary your images by adjusting how close or wide you shoot. Close ups can show details such as flowers, an individual ingredient or part of the dish.
  • Depending on the mood you are trying to capture, adding movement to the image may be beneficial – perhaps a hand doing something relevant such as picking up an ingredient or a forkful of food. Another way to add movement is to drape lots of fabric, which also serves to soften the setting.
  • Some colour combinations can be jarring to the eye, so use a colour wheel to help pick two or three main colours that work well together. Analogous colours (those that are adjacent to each other on the wheel) create a gentle palette, while complementary colours (those that are opposite to each other ) are more dynamic. That said, if colours are found together in nature, then you can use them together regardless of whether the colour wheel agrees – Carole’s rule is that ‘if nature says it goes, it goes.
  • Tell the story of the food by using ingredients and tools used to make the dish – egg shells, leftover ingredients, extra garnishes, specialist cutlery.

 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9253 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9260

I like to take photographs that show the making of a recipe, not just the finished dish. Here, a bowl of hazelnuts (a key ingredient in the cake) and our filling neatly arranged over the bottom layer, before the second layer was placed over the top; you can just about make out a bowl of apples in the background.

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9263 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9268
Carole Poirot showing her food styling tips in action

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle (1)
Carole Poirot’s demonstration on Food Styling

This Baked In Style event was hosted by Currys (in partnership with Neff) and held at Atelier des Chefs St Paul’s location.







A Taste For… Miso | Japanese-Style Miso Cod

Are you familiar with umami? Discovered (and named) by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda back in 1908 and known as the fifth taste group (alongside sweet, sour, bitter and salty), umami is most commonly translated as ‘savoury’ or ‘meaty’ and is a flavour profile that most of us enjoy in our food, whether or not we could name or identify it. Although it occurs naturally in many foods – including mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, chinese cabbage, asparagus, sweetcorn and shellfish – many cultures have become adept at creating umami-rich foods by cooking, curing and fermenting; these include cheese, green tea, fish sauce and yeast extract.

Miso is one such umami-bomb – an ingredient at the core of Japanese cuisine.

Miso Cod on Kavey Eats (overlay)

Made by fermenting soybeans, salt and additional grains such as rice or barley with a mould fungus known in Japanese as kōji-kin, the result is a thick, salty and intensely savoury paste used as a seasoning throughout Japanese cooking.

There are many different varieties available in Japan, often broadly divided by their colour. The most common misos are red and white, made with soybeans and rice. White has a higher percentage of rice than its red counterpart and is the mildest and sweetest. Red, aged for longer, is stronger and saltier and darkens with age through red into brown. Some vintage misos are almost black in colour.

There are other types that are made with different grains such as barley, buckwheat, rye or millet.

Regional differences also play a part; in Sendai the locals prefer their miso slightly chunkier, so the soybeans are coarsely mashed rather than ground; in parts of Chubu and Kansai there’s a preference for darker, saltier and more astringent miso. In Eastern Japan, mild and sweet pale misos are the favourites.

Fermentation of foods has been prevalent in East Asia since ancient times. Grains and fish were fermented in the Neolithic era and there are records describing the use of Aspergillus moulds in China as far back as 300. BC Fermented soybean products may have been introduced to Japan from China at the same time as Buddhism in the 6th Century CE.

Until the late 19th century, Japan’s population ate mainly fish and vegetables. Since miso is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, it became an important nutritional element of the Japanese diet, especially for Buddhists following a strictly vegetarian regimen.

In Japan, miso is obviously a key ingredient in miso soup (for which it is combined with dashi stock) but it also features in sauces, marinades, pickles and dressings (such as the tofu, sesame and miso dressing for green bean salad that we shared in our last issue). It is even used in sweet dishes; miso mochi – chewy dumplings made from rice flour – offer a delightful balance of sweet, salty and savoury.

Miso also lends itself to fusion cooking, offering a great way to add saltiness and savouriness to your dishes. Combine with honey, mustard and oil for a salad dressing; whip into butter and spread on fresh bread or melt over steamed vegetables; thin with water and brush onto meat before grilling or barbequing; stir half a teaspoon into porridge instead of salt; or add to a bean casserole for extra flavour. Whenever you need a kick of umami, miso is the perfect ingredient.

Miso | image via

Japanese-Style Miso Cod

This simple marinade works beautifully with cod but can also be used with other fish such as salmon. It’s also delicious on aubergine or firm tofu.

Serves 2

2 tbsp white miso paste
2 tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
2 tbsp sugar
2 fillets of sustainable fresh cod, skin on

Note: White miso has a slightly sweeter and milder flavour than the red version, which suits this recipe well. However, you can use red miso paste instead; use a touch less in that case.


  • Preheat your grill to a medium-hot setting.
  • Heat the mirin, white miso paste and sugar in a small saucepan, over a gentle heat, until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Place the fish fillets skin side down on a piece of foil.
  • Spread the paste generously over the surface of the fish, top side only.
  • Grill until the fish is cooked through and the paste is bubbling and starting to char. Depending on the thickness of your fillets, this will take 5-8 minutes.
  • Serve with rice and green vegetables.

Miso Cod on Kavey Eats-0176

Where to buy miso

Search the major supermarkets. Most now offer miso pastes in their speciality ingredients ranges (though these may not be available in every branch). Do check the ingredients – some products are actually ready made marinades or soup blends (with additional ingredients added to the miso). For use in recipes, you need a plain miso.

If you have an oriental supermarket within reach, you’ll usually find a decent selection at lower prices. Online stores also offer a wide choice.

Try (organic),,, and


This piece was written in 2014 and first published in Good Things magazine. ©Kavita Favelle.





Visiting The Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum

Have you heard of kamaboko? It’s a type of surimi fishcake from Japan. Surimi is made by creating a paste of pureed white fish paste that is flavoured, formed into different shapes and steamed to cook. In Japan there are many surimi products which are sold both fresh and dried for consumers to add to their soups, hotpots and other dishes. You may already be familiar with one surimi product that is consumed around the world – imitation crabsticks, made from coloured and flavoured fish paste.

Kamaboko is a large loaf-shaped surimi fishcake that is cooked whole, most commonly by steaming, but it can also be fried, grilled or poached. It us usually served sliced, either on its own or within other dishes.

Suzihiro, a traditional manufacturer of kamaboko, have created a centre where visitors can learn more about the history and manufacture of kamaboko. Originally a retailer of fresh fish and seafood, Suzihiro began making kamaboko in 1865, expanding their local customer base to Tokyo during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Tokyo customers would purchase Suzihiro kamaboko on their journeys to Hakone’s onsen (hot spring bath) resorts.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-105223 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-105551

The Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum is located in the Kazamatsuri district of Odawara City, in Kanagawa Prefecture. Visitors heading to Hakone from Tokyo can easily make a stop at the museum, which is right next to Kazamatsuri Station, on the Hakone Tozan Line between Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103836 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103223

As you exit the station, the path from the exit will lead you straight to a large modern building which houses the Suzunari Market, an indoor food market selling a wide range of food including plenty of fishcake products as well as other local delicacies. There are a few eateries within the space, plus plenty of takeaway food to enjoy fresh. There are also products to take home, some of which are designed as omiyage – the customary gifts that Japanese travellers bring home for friends and colleagues.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103957 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104537
Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104358 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104203

A coffee shop overlooks the station, with a small garden area between. To one side is a store showcasing and selling ornate Suzihiro kamaboko products. If you exit the market building onto the main road and turn right, the next building along houses the Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103051

Admission is free. There are also paid activities to try your hand at making simple surimi products. These run at set times; contact the museum to reserve in advance if you want to participate.

There is very little information in English so having a good translation app on your phone will make it easier to understand the exhibits detailing the history and manufacturing process.

Best of all though is the opportunity to watch, through enormous glass windows, skilled workmen and women crafting kamoboko in the large factory kitchen.


Thanks to Robb at WhereInTokyo for his tip to visit the museum. You can see more photos of the museum exhibits on his site.

You may also enjoy my previous posts about my travels to Japan.







Kimchi Biscuits | Ferment Pickle Dry

I recently reviewed new cookery book release, Ferment Pickle Dry. This lovely book by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley shares a wide selection of recipes for preserving food by fermenting, pickling and drying. More unusually, the book also provides ‘partner recipes’ that showcase how the preserves can best be put to use in your cooking.

Two lucky readers can win their own copy of Ferment Pickly Dry in my giveaway but everyone can enjoy these delicious kimchi recipes from the book, which publishers Frances Lincoln have given me permission to share with you.

Ferment Pickle Dry cover Ferment Pickly Dry - Kimchi biscuits (small)
Book cover, kimchi biscuits made with different kimchis – image by Kim Lightbody

Kimchi Biscuits

Extracted from Ferment Pickle Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley

These moist, almost cake-like savoury biscuits are a brilliantly healthy and filling snack. They have the same satisfying bite of a falafel, but with a spicy kick. You can make these recipes with napa cabbage kimchi, fermented pink turnips, carrot kimchi or baby courgette kimchi for a variety in colour and flavour.

Makes 10-12 of each biscuit

100g/3½oz/¾ cup wholewheat flour, plus extra for dusting
50g/1¾oz/½ cup quinoa flour 50g/1¾oz/½ cup buckwheat flour
150g/5½oz/²⁄³ cup butter, softened 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
clip_image001100g/3½oz of fermented pink turnip cut into small pieces
100g/3½oz napa kimchi

Note: Replace the napa kimchi and pink turnip with the same quantities of carrot kimchi or courgette kimchi for biscuits with different flavour and hue.

If you make the courgette kimchi biscuits, try adding 2 tablespoons spirulina powder for a vivid green colour and health boost.


  • Preheat the oven to 230°C/425°F/ gas mark 7. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
  • Process the flours, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture starts to turn into a dough, then remove half of the mixture and set aside.
  • Add the pink turnip to the remaining mixture in the food processor and process until all the ingredients are well combined, about 2 minutes. Remove the turnip dough from the food processor and set aside on a floured work surface.
  • Return the remaining half of the flour and butter mixture to the food processor, add the napa kimchi and process until all the ingredients are well combined, about 2 minutes. Remove the kimchi dough from the food processor and set aside on a floured work surface.
  • Roll out the turnip dough on the floured surface into a 15cm/6in long, thick sausage, then cut into 2cm/¾in- long pieces.
  • Roll each of these pieces into balls and place on the prepared baking tray. Use the bottom of a glass to gently press the balls into discs about 5mm/¼in thick.
  • Repeat this process with the other kimchi dough.
  • Place both baking trays in the oven and bake for 12–15 minutes.
  • The biscuits won’t go hard, but will crisp up slightly on the top


This recipe extract was published with permission from Frances Lincoln. Ferment Pickle Dry is currently available from Amazon UK for £16.59 (RRP £20).

Pumpkin Kimchi Recipe | Ferment Pickle Dry

I recently reviewed new cookery book release, Ferment Pickle Dry. This lovely book by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley shares a wide selection of recipes for preserving food by fermenting, pickling and drying. More unusually, the book also provides ‘partner recipes’ that showcase how the preserves can best be put to use in your cooking.

Two lucky readers can win their own copy of Ferment Pickly Dry in my giveaway but everyone can enjoy these delicious kimchi recipes from the book, which publishers Frances Lincoln have given me permission to share with you.

Ferment Pickle Dry cover Ferment Pickle Dry Baby Courgette and Pumpkin Kimchis

Book cover, carrot kimchi (left) and baby courgette kimchi (right) – images by Kim Lightbody

Pumpkin Kimchi

Extracted from Ferment Pickle Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley

Prep 15 minutes + 3-day process Ready 10–14 days
Makes approx 500ml/18fl oz jar

400g/14oz pumpkin
10 tbsp (100g/3½oz) coarse sea salt
1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean hot chilli flakes)
2 large leaves napa (Chinese) cabbage, chopped
50g/1¾oz (10cm/4in long piece) large leek or ½ bunch of spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
10 large garlic cloves, grated
2.5 cm/1in piece (25g) piece of ginger, skin scraped and grated
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp white miso paste (optional)


Day 1

  • Peel, deseed and cut the pumpkin into rough squares and rectangles of no more than 1cm/½in thick and place in a large bowl.
  • Add the salt and mix together until the pumpkin is coated. Cover and leave to stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 2

  • Rinse the pumpkin well, washing off all the salt.
  • Place all the ingredients for the paste in a blender and blitz until smooth. Add the paste to the pumpkin and mix until it is coated.
  • Place the pumpkin in a large sterilised jar P12, seal with the lid and leave to stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 3

  • Place the jar in the fridge and leave to chill for 10 days, then taste to check if it has fermented enough for your liking.
  • It can be stored in the fridge for 3–5 weeks. The flavour will become stronger over time.

This recipe extract was published with permission from Frances Lincoln. Ferment Pickle Dry is currently available from Amazon UK for £16.59 (RRP £20).

Baby Courgette Kimchi Recipe | Ferment Pickle Dry

I recently reviewed new cookery book release, Ferment Pickle Dry. This lovely book by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley shares a wide selection of recipes for preserving food by fermenting, pickling and drying. More unusually, the book also provides ‘partner recipes’ that showcase how the preserves can best be put to use in your cooking.

Two lucky readers can win their own copy of Ferment Pickly Dry in my giveaway but everyone can enjoy these delicious kimchi recipes from the book, which publishers Frances Lincoln have given me permission to share with you.

Ferment Pickle Dry cover  Ferment Pickle Dry Baby Courgette Kimchi

Book cover, carrot kimchi (left) and baby courgette kimchi (right) – images by Kim Lightbody

Baby Courgette (Zucchini) Kimchi

Extracted from Ferment Pickle Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley

Prep 20 min
Ready 3–4 days
Makes approx 500ml/18fl oz jar

8–9 baby courgettes (zucchini)
60g/2¼oz/¼ cup coarse sea salt (pure, without iodine or anti-caking agent)
1½ bunches spring onions (scallions) or 1 leek, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1cm/½in piece of ginger, skin scraped off and grated (1 tsp)
7 tbsp gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) or dried chilli flakes
1-2 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar


  • Cut the courgettes lengthways 3–4 times, but don’t cut them all the way through. Rub the salt into the cuts.
  • Place the courgettes in a bowl and pour in enough water to cover.
  • Leave to soak for about 1 hour, then rinse them well.
  • Place all the ingredients for the paste in a bowl and mix with a fork.
  • Work the paste into the cuts in the courgettes, then pack the courgettes upright into a large sterilised jar and seal with the lid
  • Leave to stand at room temperature overnight, then transfer to the fridge and leave to chill for 2–3 days before eating.
  • This can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.


This recipe extract was published with permission from Frances Lincoln. Ferment Pickle Dry is currently available from Amazon UK for £16.59 (RRP £20).


Ancient Methods, Modern Meals | Ferment Pickle Dry

There is something deeply satisfying about preserving, especially when you have grown the produce yourself.

In today’s modern world of fridges and freezers, and the availability of almost everything at almost anytime of the year, it may seem an unnecessary skill and yet I’ve seen a steady increase of interest in preserving. The move away from preserving in the last few decades is not surprising – a generation who had no choice but to preserve fresh produce when in season no doubt felt liberated when new technology liberated them from that chore, and the availability of produce flown or shipped in from around the world made seasonality less relevant.

What this stole from the generations to follow was the pleasure that comes with eating seasonally. I don’t imagine any of us would want to go back to an era where we could eat only that which was grown locally during any given month – supplementing these with staples and imports is no bad thing when it comes to pleasurable variety – but at the same time, I know that I get much joy from anticipating and then enjoying British-grown produce such as fresh asparagus, early sprouting broccoli, strawberries, sweetcorn, tomatoes, winter squashes and much more when they are at their peak. I miss them when they are gone, but that makes the pleasure next year all the greater.

Being contrary creatures, now that we no longer need to preserve many of us have voluntarily returned to it. Perhaps it gives a more personal connection to how food is produced, not to mention a connection to our ancestors of many, many, many millenia.

There are many books on the market for those who want to preserve, but I’m particularly excited about Ferment Pickle Dry: Ancient methods, Modern meals by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley, published this month by Frances Lincoln.

Ferment Pickle Dry cover

The authors are passionate about growing, preserving and cooking using traditional techniques which they share and teach at their Walthamstow workshop, The Fermentarium.

What I love about the book is the way it’s organised and presented. As the title suggests, the book is divided into three broad methods of preservation, fermenting, pickling and drying.

Fermentation involves a metabolic change that converts sugars to acids, gases or alcohol. Many of the fermented foods you are familiar with have a distinctive sour taste that is down to the lactic acid produced by fermentation – foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. Most of us enjoy the fermentation of sugar to alcohol that creates beer, cider and wine.

Pickling uses an acid solution to preserve the produce within it by killing or vastly inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that cause food to spoil. In some cases, pickles are also partially fermented, and salt also contributes to the preservation process.

Drying foods simply means removing moisture, either by use of the sun, or man made heating. Since most of the bacteria and yeast that cause food to spoil or change thrive in moisture, dried foods discourage such spoilage.

In each section, you will find a very varied selection of recipes taking inspiration from the preserving traditions of countries all around the world. For each of these recipes, the authors also provide ‘partner recipes’ which offer clever and delicious dishes making use of the various preserves.

This is the aspect that excited me most about the book – I’m a great one for making preserves but often lacking in ideas and inspiration for how best to make use of them.

In the Ferment section, plain live yoghurt is used in blackcurrant yoghurt ice cream, fermented gherkins & grapes are used in a sour grape pickletini and in fermented gherkin & nasturtium caponata, long-fermented pizza dough is used to make peppe rosso 10-inch pizza onto which several fermented toppings are also used, cabbage & apple sauerkraut is used in sauerkraut bubble & squeak, preserved lemons feature in preserved lemon cous-cous and amazake is used in drunken rice pudding. Of course, this section also includes guidance on sourdough starters followed by a selection of sourdough bread recipes.

The Pickle section includes a vast array of pickled fruits and vegetables. Pickled cherry tomatoes feature in a Greek salad, pickled plums are used to great effect on a pickled plum flammekueche, pickled oranges lift a dish called pickled oranges, spice cuttlefish & squid ink linguine. I’m particularly drawn to honey-pickled garlic and the subsequent pulled pork with swede mash, grilled nectarines & honey-pickled garlic. We’re too late this year but next year I’m keen to use our pickle our homegrown French beans and use them to make pickled bean falafel. As a huge fan of Japanese miso, I love the sound of miso pickled mushrooms and miso pickled eggs both of which are used in misozuke and soba noodle salad. There are also herrings pickled in a variety of different ways. Whilst most recipes in this section are savoury, there are also dried fruit pickled in brandy which can be used in a decadent coffee meringue cake.

The Dry section includes funghi, vegetables and fruit. I will be using my dehydrator (more on that soon) to make dried wild mushrooms for use in both wild porcini soup and dried mushroom sauce. I’m utterly intrigued by the various vegetable ‘barks’ such as sweet potato crackling which then features in a potato crackling fritata. A honey-glazed Chinese beef jerky strikes me as an unusually delicious flavour of dried beef. Many dried herbs are used to great effect in a variety of infusions and teas. And dried fruit are used in a delicious and healthy nutty fruit bar.

Ferment Pickly Dry - Kimchi images
A double page spread from the book showing some of the kimchi recipes in the Ferment section, image by Kim Lightbody

Note that not every recipe has an accompanying photo, but a fair number do. My only minor negative about the book is the photography; the dishes are very small on vast empty backgrounds – I appreciate negative space as a design tool but here it seems to have been taken too far and leaves me peering intently at the dishes wishing I could zoom in to make out more detail.

Preceding the recipes, the introductory chapters of the book provide suggestions for basic equipment that you will need, a guide on how to sterilise and seal correctly and an introduction to a few key ingredients. These, together with the straightforward recipes, make this a suitable book for those new to preserving, as well as those who simply want to expand their repertoire.


The publishers are allowing to me share a couple of recipes extracted from the book with you; check back here in a few days for some fantastic kimchi recipes plus a very unusual recipe for how to use them.

I also have two copies of the book to giveaway.

Kavey Eats received a review copy from Frances Lincoln.
Ferment, Pickle, Dry (RRP £20) is currently available from Amazon UK for £16.59


Win A Copy of Ferment Pickle Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley

Check out my review of new release, Ferment Pickle Dry. This lovely cookery book by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley shares a wide selection of recipes for preserving food by fermenting, pickling and drying. More unusually, the book also provides ‘partner recipes’ that showcase how the preserves can best be put to use in your cooking.

Ferment Pickle Dry cover


Publisher Frances Lincoln are giving away two copies of the newly released Ferment Pickle Dry: Ancient methods, Modern meals by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley to readers of Kavey Eats. Each prize includes delivery to a UK address.


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

Entry 1 – Blog Comment What is your favourite fermented, pickled or dried item and how do you like to use it?

Entry 2 – Twitter Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win a copy of Ferment Pickle Dry by @thefermentarium and @QuartoCooks from Kavey Eats. #KaveyEatsFPD
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid. Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)


  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 7th October 2016.
  • The two 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.
  • Each prize is a copy of Ferment Pickle Dry published by Frances Lincoln. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prizes are offered by Frances Lincoln and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • 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 each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey at the time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Ferment Pickle Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinksa-Poffley is published by Frances Lincoln. RRP £20, currently available from Amazon UK for £16.59 (at time of publication).

The winners for this giveaway are Elisa and NickyB (both blog entries).


A Taste For… Garam Masala

When cooks from the Indian subcontinent talk of garam masala, they talk of whole or ground.

In his seminal and encyclopaedic book, McGee on Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains that a greater surface area (from cracking or grinding spices) allows flavour molecules to escape more rapidly into the dish. This is why whole spices can be added at early stages of cooking, giving them plenty of time to release their flavours slowly, whereas supplemental spicing, added at the end of cooking, is best ground.

Chef proprietor of successful restaurant Café Spice Namasté, author of several Indian cookery books and celebrity television presenter, Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL shares his thoughts, ‘whole garam masala should always be delicate and fragrant; ground garam masala, if used incorrectly, can alter the flavour and taste profile of a dish beyond repair’. He adds that garam masala is not a ‘fix for all seasons’, in a gentle admonishment to those who add it where it doesn’t belong.

My mum Mamta Gupta, the home cook behind, has been sharing Indian recipes and cooking tips online for 15 years. She explains ‘although garam means hot, this masala (spice mixture) doesn’t include chilli; the warmth comes from black peppercorns’.

Her standard garam masala recipe consists of black peppercorns, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon or cassia bark and bay leaves. Although she will occasionally add cumin, nutmeg, or mace, she prefers not to include too many spices in her basic blend; ‘some people add star anise and fennel – I’ve even seen pomegranate seeds added. But I prefer to store them separately and add them individually to specific dishes.

Both Cyrus and Mamta warn that cheaper ready-made garam masalas are often bulked up with cumin and coriander seeds, as both are less expensive than the core spices both recommend. Yet another reason to make your own, and in small quantities so that the flavours don’t fade before use.

Indeed, Cyrus is keen to remind us ‘we all have different palates’ and that all of us smell and taste differently – ‘you make your own recipe as you go along, with trial and error – use your imagination!’ Although he talks through his most common garam masala ingredients (green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon or cassia bark, star anise, nutmeg or mace, black peppercorns and cumin), he also advises you to skip an ingredient if you can’t get hold of it and ‘don’t waste your time thinking you will not get a good masala’.

The biggest debate concerning garam masala is whether or not to roast the spices before grinding – as with much of Indian cooking, there is no one right or wrong answer. As Cyrus points out, ‘ground garam masala has a million recipes I should think, and a million thoughts towards it.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Mamta seldom roasts her garam masala spices prior to grinding as she feels that ‘the flavour is released and then lost before using’. She likes to make garam masala in small batches, so it’s still fresh when used and then ‘sprinkle it on top of the cooked dish while still hot, close the lid and let the flavours infuse’.

Cyrus, on the other hand, advocates careful roasting in a clean oven, free of smelly fat deposits. He bakes his whole spices on a tray for 20 to 30 minutes at gradually decreasing temperatures from 160°C down to 120°C. Once they are completely cooled, he grinds and sieves before storing the finished garam masala in a clean jar. To use, he suggests adding just half a teaspoon at a time, tasting and adding more if desired.

At the end of the day’ says Mamta, ‘there are no rigid rules for garam masala. Do what suits you and the recipe best.’

Mamtas Garam Masala Recipe on Kavey Eats (text)-1

Mamta’s Ground Garam Masala

Reproduced from, with permission

Garam masala is used to add flavour to many Indian dishes. Mum’s recipe is based on how she saw her mother making it; the choice of spices and amounts of each spice vary from family to family. This version is quite strong so use only a little at a time; mum’s recipes usually specify less garam masala than is generally recommended because hers is quite intense and fresh. As spices lose some of their most volatile flavour molecules on grinding, it is better to make small amounts at a time, use within a few weeks, and make more as needed. As it is often cheaper to buy larger bags of whole spices, these can be stored in the freezer to retain freshness.

1 tbsp black pepper corns
1 tsp whole cloves
4-5 large, whole, brown cardamoms
4-5 dry bay leaves
3 inch cinnamon stick or equivalent amount of cassia bark
4-5 whole green cardamoms
Half a nutmeg, freshly grated or 2 tsp ground mace
1-2 tbsp cumin seeds


  • Grind all ingredients together.
  • Sieve to remove coarse particles, fibres and husks.
  • Store in a clean airtight jar.

Mamtas Garam Masala Recipe on Kavey Eats (text)-2


This piece was written in 2014 and first published in Good Things magazine. ©Kavita Favelle.



Beauty, Culture & Relaxation at Hoshinoya Karuizawa

If any one nation excels at skilfully enhancing an area of natural beauty to make it even more beautiful, it must surely be Japan?

Certainly, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting than HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, located in an area known colloquially as the Japanese Alps.

Karuizawa is not only one of the flagships of the Hoshino Resorts portfolio, it is also where the family business started over 100 years ago. As I mentioned in my post about an incredible dinner we enjoyed at Hoshinoya Kyoto, this family hospitality business was founded over a 100 years ago. After first setting up a forestry business in the area, Kuniji Hoshino decided to take advantage of the area’s increased popularity as a holiday resort by opening a ryokan and hot spring on his property in 1914. Today, fourth-generation family member Yoshiharu Hoshino is CEO of the company and has lead the business through two decades of transformation and expansion, modernising existing properties and purchasing several new ones.

Karuizawa has been hugely updated since Kuniji’s era. In 2005 the resort was completely rebuilt with all-new accommodation, absolutely stunning landscaping and a new meditation bath and spa building to match.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa Resort

The residential area of the resort is laid out in a series of low rise buildings arranged around a lake and streams fed by the Yukawa River. The water twists and turns its way through the resort grounds – in slow languid loops paddled by contented ducks, racing over weirs in a bubbling rush, or tumbling delicately over a series of mini terraces in graceful waterfalls.

A few of the residences, like our Mizunami villa, house just one large guest suite but most rooms are grouped together in larger villas – these rooms can be booked individually or by groups of families, friends or colleagues. Many of the rooms have a view of the lake or streams. Some, slightly higher up the hillside enjoy views towards the mountains and a few have garden spaces that back onto the bird-rich forest below.

Our room (below) was airy and open with high ceilings, pretty pale green walls, and muted fabrics. Utterly gorgeous! The natural wood and stones are a nod to the more traditional Japanese inns but the design is very much a modern aesthetic. We loved the sense of space and calm, not to mention luxurious comfort – underfloor heating in the bathroom!

Every evening, shortly before dusk falls, two staff take a row boat out onto the lake and light, one by one, the tethered candles floating on the surface.

We watched them from our balcony, whilst enjoying hot tea and a delicious local delicacy – walnut-flavoured gyuhu mochi, a softer style of mochi sweets made by a local wagashi specialist to a traditional local recipe – served to us in our room shortly after we arrived by Mei, one of the Hoshino guest services team.

Looking out onto the lake as darkness fell and the candles twinkled and bobbed on the waters is one of the most peaceful and magical of memories.

Our room, 110.

But sitting looking out at the view was not our only way to relax.

Within the resort area is a modern spa building which is open all night, closed for just a few hours in the middle of the day. At its heart are the gender-separated Meditation Baths. Each features a deeper-than-usual hot bath that opens out from a waterfall entrance area into Hikari – a bright high-ceilinged space where you can soak within the warm water and light. Hikari is connected by a passage way to Yami – a dark, low ceilinged bathing area, recommended for quiet meditation.

What we really appreciated was being able to use these whenever we wanted – early morning, afternoon, before dinner, after dinner… Dressed in our in-room yukata (robes) and outer jackets, with clog-like geta on our feet, we clip-clopped along paths lit with nightlights and across the modern suspension bridge to arrive at the spa building.

There are also a range of treatments available, from traditional health and beauty treatments to more unusual options such as facial acupressure, warming eye care and moxibustion workshops; never heard of moxibustion? No, neither had we but we spent a wonderful hour learning all about it, more of which below!

Also worth visiting is the original onsen (hot spring), Tombo-no-yu – a short walk from the residential area. Open to both residents and general visitors, but allowing exclusive access to Hoshino guests at certain times of the day, Tombo-no-yu offers a more traditional onsen experience with gender-separated bathing areas offering indoor and outdoor pools of the usual shallower proportions.

These 4 images provided by Hoshino Resorts – Left: Meditation Spa; Right: Tombo-no-yu onsen

Another place we enjoyed is the Tsudoi building, overlooking a hillside landscaped into gentle terraces over which streams gently cascade. It houses the main reception, a small shop, a lounge library area and the Kasuke Japanese restaurant.

We watched in rapt delight as a male and female duck gingerly followed each other downwards over a couple of the little waterfalls, swimming along a length of stream before paddling out onto a patch of grass. Not long afterwards another young male tried to play the gooseberry and join the party but eventually realised he wasn’t welcome. He paddled away, playing it cool until he slipped accidentally over the lip of another waterfall, looking rather undignified as he landed clumsily before quickly swimming away!

The lounge is a lovely place to while away a little time, with a range of teas, coffee and chocolates available to help yourself. During the afternoon, guests are invited to try a more traditional confectionary served by Hoshino staff. Most of the books in the library are in Japanese, though we did enjoy a bilingual guide to Sushi that we spotted on one of the shelves.

At reception (or via phone from your room if you prefer), you can request one of the resorts cars to transfer you to any of the locations outside of the residential resort area. These include the restaurants of sister-hotel Bleston Court, local sites such as the Stone Church, the Kogen Church, the Picchio Visitors Centre (more on which later) or Hoshino’s Harunire Terrace (where you’ll find a range of restaurants and shops). Any of these will also call a car to collect you, when you are ready to head back to the resort.

Of course, you are welcome to walk if you like and there are also local walking paths in the area which Reception staff can tell you more about.

The Stone Church, also known as the Hoshino Chapel, was designed by American architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg. Built in 1988 to commemorate Uchimura Kanzo (a Japanese journalist, author, Christian evangelist and leader of the Non-Church Movement) the church is strikingly modern in design yet integrates beautifully into the landscape. Built of stark concrete and grey stone, the church is surprisingly warm and beautiful, especially the inside chapel with a living wall of green plants and beautifully carved wooden pews beneath soaring curved arches and windows above. I wish we’d given ourselves more time to explore and enjoy the avant-garde architecture and serene vibe; it’s really an incredible and quite unexpected place.

The Stone Church

Nearby is the much older Kogen Church and this too traces its roots back to Uchimura Kanzo. Originally, it was not a church but a lecture hall, designated as a place of learning and enjoyment by Kanzo in 1921. After the second world war, it was renamed as the Karuizawa Kogen Church and is today both a place of worship and a venue for concerts and events. In the summer, a candle light festival is hugely popular, with the entire approach and church itself lit by many hundreds of candles. What a sight that must be!

What I most loved about Kogen was the display next door of wedding photos of couples who have married here, hundreds and hundreds of them displayed in frames or tucked into albums. Staff told us that many couples come back to celebrate their anniversaries and to show their children where they were wed.

The Kogen Church

Guests at both Hoshinoya Karuizawa and Hotel Bleston Court have plenty of choice for dinner, both formal and casual.

Yukawatan, in Bleston Court, is a renowned French restaurant headed by Chef Noriyuki Hamada, the only Japanese chef to secure a coveted Bocuse d’Or medal. I would very much like to dine at Yukawatan on our next visit as Hamada’s cooking is reputed to be of an incredibly high level.

Nearby Harunire Terrace is the home to Il Sogno (Italian), Kisurin (Chinese), Kawakami-an (Soba noodle) and Cercle (French) restaurants plus a bakery, a gelateria and a traditional Japanese confectionery shop. There are other cafes and restaurants also in the vicinity.

Kasuke Japanese restaurant is a beautiful space, located in the Tsudoi building. The ceiling is high, high, high above the traditional foot-well tables that look out through floor to ceiling windows across the beautiful landscaped gardens. Breakfast can also be taken here but we visited for a traditional kaiseki dinner (images below), an excellent choice which we felt it was very reasonably priced at just 12,000 Yen per person (excluding tax and service), much less than meals of this calibre and style that we enjoyed elsewhere.

The feast of over ten courses – appetiser, soup, sashimi, a fried dish, charcoal-grilled vegetables, assorted small bites, a steak and salmon course, rice (with pickles and miso soup), fresh fruit, and finally tea and a Japanese sweet – were served by Mie. Mie was like a personal butler during our visit, she took us to our room on arrival, served us tea and wagashi to welcome us as she told us more about the resort and our itinerary and escorted us to many of our activities during our stay.

Highlights of the meal included many local woodland vegetables that we had not encountered before; the simple but utterly perfect grilled onion and udo (mountain asparagus) course served to our table by one of the chefs who carefully peeled the charred skins off the vegetables before portioning and serving them to us with a homemade sesame miso, salt and olive oil – their flesh was silky soft and sweet and with a hint of smokiness; the tokun strawberry (so named because it smells like a peach, and it really does!) and hyuganatsu citrus served for dessert alongside a Japanese version of affogato – kuromoji (a medicinal tea made from a native shrub) poured over a ball of fuki (giant butterbur) ice cream.

Another aspect that really wowed us was the matching drinks flight – a very clever mix of European red and white wines and traditional Japanese sakes, extremely well matched to the diverse ingredients, flavours and textures of all our courses – one of the best we’ve encountered.

Our only disappointments when it came to dining at the resort, were room-service dining, which we tried for both a breakfast and a dinner – really overpriced for what was served in both cases – and the breakfast we ate at Bleston Court’s No One’s Recipe – alternatively described as French and American, it wasn’t really either, offering a bizarre selection of no-choice galette plus a buffet of soups, lasagne, patés, salads and desserts. I would have preferred a typical French, American or traditional Japanese breakfast over this rather random and not very well-balanced offering.

Traditional kaiseki dinner in Kasuke restaurant

Although we could happily have whiled away our time lazing in our room, soaking in the Meditation Baths and onsen hot springs, and exploring the resort and local area, we also took advantage of some of the activities on offer at Hoshinoya Karuizawa.

Knowing my interest in Japanese food, the resort suggeested a wonderful lesson in making Oyaki (sweet, bean-filled dumplings). One of the resort’s chefs, Chef Yamamoto Hidemasa was on hand to show us how these are made, though I let Pete do all the hard work!

Because of the time available, chef Yamamoto had already made the three different fillings for our dumplings – one of mashed roasted pumpkin, one of aubergine and miso and the last a simple azuki (red bean) paste – but gave me instructions on how to make these simple fillings at home.

Oyaki dough can be made with buckwheat or regular wheat flour, we used the latter. The first step was for Pete to make the dough, for which he combined flour, baking powder, cold water, sugar and a little salt  and knead it well. Needing to sit and rise overnight, chef Yamamoto switched the dough for one he’d made the previous day and showed Pete how to form and fill the dumplings and the two of them went ahead and made a few with each of the three fillings.

After the lesson, we headed to Kasuke where Mie served hot tea and a few minutes later, chef Yamamoto served the freshly cooked dumplings Pete had helped to make. He had steamed them for ten minutes before briefly frying to give them little golden caps.

The soft steamed texture of the dough and delicious fillings were utterly delicious and this is definitely a recipe we’re going to try and recreate at home!

Oyaki lesson

Another activity the resort arranged for us was a Moxbustion workshop.

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicinal treatment that involves placing pieces of dried mugwort – an aromatic plant often used as a herb – on meridian points of the body and burning. Today, it is common for the mugwort to be processed into small stick-on moxa (named for the Japanese word for mugwort, mugosa) which can be easily attached to the skin and lit. A small padded disc protects the skin from any burn damage as the mugwort burns down.

The meridian points, also known as chi, are the same ones used for acupuncture and acupressure, so it may simply be the application of heat to those locations is what has an effect, rather than the properties of the mugwort itself.

Practitioners believe that moxibustion can improve blood circulation and metabolism, boost the immune system and reduce stress. As with acupuncture and acupressure, specific meridian points are also associated with different aspects of health.

Our tutor Mr Funada, with the aid of his colleague and a member of Hoshino’s staff to translate for us, introduced us to the treatment and applied several moxa to our wrist and feet meridians. He explained which points to use for stress relief and good sleep, for reduction of eyestrain and neck pain, for healing gastrointestinal and gynaelogical symptoms and more. I also asked for points specific to shoulder and back pain.

I used to be very cynical about alternative medicines, lumping ancient practices such as acupuncture and Ayurvedic remedies in with homeopathy and crystals (both of which I think are pure hokum). But I have come to realise through experience that many of the ancient Asian medicine techniques are effective and many are now being researched and recognised by Western medicine. Certainly acupuncture, applied by a professional physiotherapist, has relieved severe back and neck pain for me in the past and some of the (rather foul-tasting) Indian herb and spice remedies have also been helpful with joint pain.

Whether or not moxibustion works because of properties within the burning mugwort or via the application of heat to the body’s meridian points, I can’t tell but certainly the neck, shoulder and back pain I’d been suffering with for the previous few days eased following the workshop. Of course, that could also have been courtesy of the long soaks in the hot soothing waters of the Meditation Baths!

Moxibustion workshop

One of the things that excited us about visiting Karuizawa was the chance to see local wildlife. Pete and I have spent many happy holidays travelling to watch wildlife in its native habitat, from East and Southern African safaris where we thrilled at the sightings of lions, elephants, cheetahs and more to Galapagos Island bird and reptile viewing all the way down to Antarctica for penguins, seals and albatrosses.

The Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel, known in Japan as musasabi, may not sound like a very exciting wildlife encounter but for us, it was thrilling!

Our tour was provided by Picchio, an ecotourism organisation established by Hoshino in 1992. Picchio offers a variety of nature tours in the local area and is also active in local conservation activities including the protection of Asian Wild Bears, found in the region.

Before we left the visitors’ centre, located just opposite the Tombo-no-yu onsen buildings, our guide Motoi Inoue gave us an introductory presentation about the animal we were hoping to see. Luckily for us, Inoue spoke fluent English, so he kindly repeated everything in both Japanese and English, allowing us to fully appreciate these fascinating little creatures. His enthusiasm was infectious! We learned about their physiology (including size – much bigger than most of us guessed), what they naturally eat and the variation in the size of their territories depending on the density of their chosen food source in a given area.

Best of all, we learned that our chances of seeing them on the evening’s tour were extremely high. Giant flying squirrels sleep in nests during the day, coming out at night to feed. Two things make Picchio’s squirrel observation tours so successful. Firstly, research has found that musasabi come out of their nest approximately 30 minutes after sunset, sticking to a pretty tight + /- 15 minutes of that time. Secondly, Picchio have created 14 nest boxes for the local musasabi to use, each of which have a camera inside. Unlike many animals, musasabi switch from nest to nest, often on a nightly basis and also show no qualms about using a nest that a different squirrel used the previous night. The video cameras allow Picchio staff to check during the day which of the boxes are in use allowing the guides to direct enthusiastic visitors to one of the boxes shortly ahead of the approximate exit time, based on the time of sunset that evening. There are no absolute guarantees, but their success rate is very high.

Fortune was smiling on us in many ways that evening. The box Inoue had selected was easily accessible, within 10 minutes walk of the visitors’ centre and nailed to a tree within a tarmacked parking area that had just two or three cars in a distant corner. Better still, Inoue carried with him a laptop screen and cables which allowed him to plug into a socket at the base of the tree and show us on screen the camera feed from inside. We quickly discovered that our nest box contained several bundles of squirming fur which Inoue identified as a mother, two very young pups and an older sibling from a previous litter.

Standing a respectful distance away from the nest, each of us furnished with loan binoculars, we watched the nest eagerly, the exit lit by red torchlight that neither disturbs the animals nor damages their night vision or eyesight.

Inoue warned us that it was unlikely the mother would leave the nest as the pups were still very young; she had not left during the previous nights since their birth. However it was almost certain that the older sibling to the pups would come out for a night feed. As the time approached, we saw him peek his head out of the nest a few times, and then, suddenly, he came all the way out, looked around him at the nearby trees around the car park, and scampered up to the top of the tree. Moments later he launched, all four limbs akimbo to create the wings that allow him to glide swiftly to another tree. Once landed, he scampered up to the top once again.

Initially, the plan had been to walk quietly towards the landing tree in the hopes of seeing a second flight, but Inoue quickly asked us to stay still, noticing that the mother had poked her head out of the nest to have a look around – we didn’t want to risk disturbing her. To our enormous delight and surprise, the mother chose this night to leave her pups for the first time, and we watched her speed up the tree before launching and gliding across to another. Not only were we elated to see a second flight from a second animal, we were also able to get a clearer camera view of the pups now that they were alone inside the nest.

Just as we thought our tour complete, Inoue’s assistant alerted us to the distinctive call of another musasabi – an adult male in a tree nearby. Using the red torchlight, the newcomer was located atop one of the tallest trees in the vicinity. Giddy with excitement, we watched him glide to a tree very close to where we stood and then onwards again right over our heads to a tree deeper in the forest!

As you can probably tell, we were utterly captivated by this experience, even more so given its location within the heart of the resort.

Picchio Flying Squirrel Observation Tour

For us, the charm of HOSHINOYA Karuizawa lies in its offering of natural beauty and wildlife skilfully enhanced by delightful landscaping, the chance to immerse oneself in cultural activities and to explore the local area and sights, the opportunities to relax and recuperate and of course, the absolute joy of eating well.

Prices start at around 30,000 Yen per person for a twin or double room (without meals) though there are significant savings available for booking more than three months in advance (with prices dropping to 18,000 Yen per person). Our kaiseki dinner at Kasune was 12,000 Yen per person plus tax and service; menus and prices for other dining options are available online. Activities such as the moxibustion workshop we attended, and beauty treatments such as facial acupressure and onsen body work are priced at 2,000 Yen per person. The oyaki making activity is 8,000 Yen per group.

Kavey Eats were guests of Hoshino Resorts for one night of our two night stay at HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, the other night was paid by us at the full standard rate. We were also invited to review the kaiseki dinner at Kasuke restaurant and breakfast at No Ones Recipes. All other meals and drinks were covered by us. Our activities during the stay were organised by Hoshino Resorts.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa in Japan on Kavey Eats