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The Kavey Eats Pete Drinks Christmas Gin Guide

I came late to gin. Very late. In my early forties in fact.

For years and years (and years and years) I thought I didn’t like gin but it turns out I just don’t like tonic – or at least, not the big brand stuff that’s most prevalent. It wasn’t until I tried a Gin & Tonic made with one of the new generation of mixers that I had my revelation. I bloody love gin! And I like it even better neat – preferably chilled or served over ice.

I have a whopping twenty five ginless years to catch up on!

And catching up is exactly what I’ve been doing by going on a gin crusade to try as many brands of gin as I can. I’ve quickly come to favour many smaller brands – less focused on producing an appeal-to-the-masses product, they are more adventurous with the botanicals they use, their methods of production and even with their base spirit! In fact some of the bigger brands are now realising the appeal of more unusual flavours and producing some of their own small batch offerings.

Here, Pete and I share some of the great gins we’ve been tasting (and where you can find them). Please note that this post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Sacred Original, Christmas Pudding, Cardamom & Pink Grapefruit Gins

Sacred_Gin Sacred_Christmas_Pudding Sacred_Cardamom_Gin Sacred_Pink_Grapefruit_Gin

Sacred Gin are the very definition of a small batch craft gin brand. Made in their family home in Highgate (North London) by husband and wife team Ian and Hilary Whitney, Sacred is also our most local gin distillery! And I love the story behind the brand.

A keen gin enthusiast, Ian had long thought about creating his own London gin right in the heart of London and in 2008 he started experimenting. An interest in science lead him to turn traditional gin production on its head by using vacuum distillation rather than a traditional pot still. As vacuum distillation occurs at a much lower temperature (35-45°C) than pot distillation (85-95°C), the flavours from the distilled botanicals are much fresher and richer in flavour. Experimenting with different botanicals – some well known and others more obscure – Ian created recipe after recipe, which he shared with friends at a local pub. The enthusiasm for his 23rd experiment persuaded him that he’d found a winning recipe. Containing 12 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, nutmeg, it was the more unusual Boswellia Sacra (aka frankincense), that resulted in the distillery’s name. And it’s supplied by the Sultan of Oman, no less!

Ian continues to collect and experiment with unusual botanicals – such as buddleia, oak bark and lemon verbena – and has created a range of spirits including Spiced English Vermouth (made from English wine from Chapel Down in Kent plus 24 botanicals), Rosehip Cup (a fruity alternative to Campari) and Bottle-Aged Negroni.

However it’s the Sacred range of gins that interest us. As well as the original Sacred Gin (and an organic version), there are 7 additional gins focusing on a particular key botanical. So far we’ve tried the original Sacred Gin plus their, Cardamom Gin, Pink Grapefruit Gin and Orris Root Gin.

They also have a fantastic seasonal gin in the range that is absolutely perfect for Christmas – their Christmas Pudding Gin. This is not just a case of throwing in a few pudding ingredients, oh no! Ian makes a whopping 14 kilos of Christmas pudding (to his Great Aunt Nellie’s recipe) before macerated them with grain spirit and distilling them into a Christmas Pudding Gin. This is definitely the one to buy as an unusual Christmas gift for the gin lovers in your life.

Tasting Notes: Although we enjoyed all of the Sacred Gins we tasted, our favourite was definitely the Christmas Pudding Gin. From the moment you smell the enormously evocative Christmas pudding aroma, you know you are in for a treat. On the palate, Pete picked up sweet dried fruits and a touch of maltiness. For me it was a revelation to taste the pure flavours of Christmas pudding without any of the sweetness – I loved the brandy notes, dried fruits and nuts and a wonderful warm spiciness.

For cardamom lovers, the Cardamom gin offers a clean and very punchy hit of that most aromatic of spices. Pink Grapefruit provides a sweet and gentle citrus aroma and flavour, a mild juniper note and some peppery alcohol heat in the finish. Orris root is the choice for those who love their bitters – there’s an almost violet-like bitterness on the finish that works very well. The Original is also well worth trying – it has light citrus and lime on the nose and delicious fruitiness and juniper on the tongue. If you want to buy someone a gift set of gins from a single producer, this is a great choice though we wouldn’t say no to a bottle of their Christmas gin on its own!

Stockists: Buy from Sacred’s online shop. Also stocked by North Hill Food and Wine, Prohibition Wines in Fortis Green, and Gerry’s Wine and Spirits on Old Compton St in Soho.


Harrogate Tipple’s Harrogate Gin

Harrogate Gin and Bag

Harrogate Tipple founder Steven Green launched his Harrogate Gin just last month, naming it for its use of Harrogate spring water, botanicals from RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate and a wildflower honey also produced locally.  The gin itself was developed by Tom Nichol (formerly the master distiller for Tanqueray, and the recipient of a lifetime award by The Gin Guild) and once all the permits come through, it will be made in an old smokehouse in the centre of Harrogate, lovingly restored by Steven and wife Sally, to create a home for their new distillery.

Donnie the otter, who declares the bottle to be ‘otterly delicious’ was chosen as the mascot for Harrogate Tipple because the Greens wanted to highlight the plight of this increasingly rare animal; they also donate 5 pence from the sale of every bottle to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which encourages the growth of a healthy otter population by creating suitable habitats for them.

Tasting Notes: The inclusion of lavender and pink grapefruit in the botanicals gives Harrogate gin a lovely aroma which reminds Pete of breakfast grapefruit. It has a spiciness to the nose, and clear juniper aroma. On the palate I find it rich, sweet and herby and very smooth. We both note a lack of bitterness in the finish, making it an ideal gin for those who aren’t fond of bitter tipples.

Stockists: You can buy Harrogate Gin online here. For those living in or near Harrogate, you can also find the gin in Weetons.


Rocklands Colombo Seven

Colombo Gin Bottle

Like others below, Rockland’s Colombo Seven is a historical gin recipe revived, and I love the story behind it as much as the gin itself.

Back in the days of the British Raj, British Excise offers did not believe that a good quality London Gin could be produced outside of the UK. In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a young Asian distiller called Carl de Silva Wijeyeratne decided to prove them wrong. Having founded Rockland to produce arrak in 1924, he went ahead and developed a gin which was very well received. Indeed, new regulations were drafted to allow gin to be made in Ceylon for the first time, under the label of Ceylon Made Foreign Liquor.

During the second world war, it became difficult to obtain foreign-grown spices, so Carl created a new recipe focusing on ingredients that could be grown in Colombo’s Cinnamon Gardens with only juniper and angelica root brought in from overseas. However, once the war was over and trade routes reopened, this original recipe was abandoned for a return to a more traditional London dry gin.

Two years ago, Carl’s grandson Amal de Silva Wijeyeratne – the present day MD of Rockland – decided to revive that war time recipe as a new brand. Colombo Seven is that modern-day recreation of Carl’s uniquely Sri Lankan gin. The economy has made business in Sri Lanka very challenging in the last few decades, so this seems a lovely way to focus on past achievements and to celebrate his grandfather, mentor and greatest friend.

As the name suggests, Colombo Seven uses just seven botanicals; the primary four are juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica and liquorice root, with additional flavours from Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, curry leaves and ginger root. These last ingredients are what make the recipe uniquely Sri Lankan.

The label is decorated with a beautifully drawn gaja-singha – an ancient mythical beast with the head of an elephant to symbolise wisdom and the body of a lion to represent courage and strength. In the case of Colombo Seven, this echoes the wisdom of that original Ceylonese pioneer and his courage in using ingredients that were not the norm.

Tasting Notes: Both of us liked the wonderfully mellow and balanced aroma, nothing harsh, everything nicely melded together. On the palate Pete enjoyed lots of citrus and a pleasant fruitiness. For me I really liked the hint of cinnamon spice followed by a sweet and floral aftertaste. We both found this gin fabulously smooth making it a great choice for those who like their gin neat or on the rocks.

Stockists: You can buy Colombo Seven gin online from Amazon, Gin Box Shop, The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and others.


Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin


The first gin made in Yorkshire, Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin is a London Gin (distilled together with its botanicals). Like several in this gift guide, it has a lovely back story about how it came to be made.

A few years ago, Karl Mason sent his wife a message via Facebook asking her to have a G&T ready for him when he got home from work. In response to the post, other friends started sharing photos of themselves enjoying a G&T and thus a Facebook group was born – one which resonated with the wider public and had 10,000 followers within a year.

Before long, gin companies started to send Karl samples to promote to that audience. And he started to realise that many of the gins he was trying tasted the same. He wondered if he could create a new gin that tasted distinctly different from the rest. That question resulted in the development of Yorkshire’s first gin, launched on World Gin Day in 2013.

The Lavender Edition and the Tea Edition followed two years later, launched to coincide with Masons second birthday last June. For the first, Yorkshire-grown lavender is added to the classic Masons botanicals. For the second it’s Taylors of Harrogate’s finest loose leaf tea – I know at least one gin and tea lover for whom this would make the perfect gift!

Tasting Notes: All three Masons gins are bottled at 42% and a fiery kick of alcohol is evident in each one. The regular gin has a really wonderful complex aroma with citrus and juniper registering first, followed by warm sweet notes. On the palate we both pick up lots and lots of cardamom, sweet citrus, juniper and a peppery heat. In the tea gin, Pete finds it easier to pick out the aroma of a milky ‘builders tea’ than I do, and likewise on the palate, he detects the tannin of black tea. For both of us, the cardamom that’s front and forward in the regular gin comes through clearly in the tea version. The Lavender gin also has that cardamom aroma and flavour, joined by a lightly medicinal lavender that also brings some perfume aroma.

Stockists: Online you can buy 70cl bottles of all three Masons gins from Amazon, or both 70cl and 20cl from their website. They are also stocked by a range of stores, check their site for the full list.


55 Above Orange Gin

55 above orange_gin_70

Alan Gilchrist launched 55 Above in 2014 with a range of small batch vodkas distilled in a copper pot but it wasn’t long before he branched out to make gin. The brand name is a reflection of Alan’s Scottish heritage and refers to Scotland’s latitude above 55° North.

When I tasted the Orange Gin, I was blown away by the zingy hit of citrus. Alan combines juniper and other classic botanicals with tangerine, Seville orange and lemon zests plus coriander, bay leaf, and macadamia nuts, to create this punchy gin. I like it on it’s own but it’s also a winner in a classic G&T and would work superbly in a range of cocktails.

Tasting Notes: Pete and I really pick out different smells for this one – for me it’s sugar and citrus whereas for him it’s pith and peel. On the palate, it’s a huge and enjoyable citrus hit – neither sweet nor bitter, it’s a clean smooth orange flavour. It’s lovely on its own but we think it’d be an absolute cracker for gin cocktails too.

Stockists: Buy 55 Above Orange Gin from Amazon or directly from the 55 Above shop.


Zymurgorium Manchester Gin


This one scores on taste, brand name and the story behind it – all three make me smile.

Several years ago, when founder Aaron Darke went to uni in Aberystwyth he decided to undertake that classic student hobby – homebrewing. Unlike most students, the first drink he made wasn’t a boring beer but a Gorse flower mead. The hobby quickly became an obsession and Arron experimented with cider, beer, wine, sake as well as more mead. Next came the art of distillation. At this point, his brother Callum and their father came onboard, helping to create a still made from a pressure cooker and some copper piping.

After graduating from university, Aaron continued to make spirits and established his brand name as Zymurgorium – a portmanteau of zymurgy (the scientific study of brewing and distilling) and emporium. In 2014, Aaron won a competition for new entrepeneurs run by the Carnegie UK trust, resulting in a grant of  £10,000. This allowed the Darke brothers to take their business full time, since when they’ve created an ever-increasing portfolio of inventive and tasty drinks.

Their Original Manchester Gin is distilled from mead and takes additional flavour from over 20 botanicals including cardamom, ginger and bayleaf – earning it the nickname of the pilau rice gin! Indeed, it’s name reflects the concept of representing via the botanicals the wide culinary range of Manchester’s population. The bottle shape is based on a traditional genever bottle, glazed in black and adorned with a ‘retro-modern’ label.

Also worth trying are the range of gin liqueurs which are perfect for cocktails. The violet one is a must for lovers of Parma Violet sweets! For each one, a unique gin is distilled with its own blend of botanicals to balance with the headline flavour.

Tasting Notes: When we tasted this gin, neither of us had yet seen the reference to pilau rice, so it was quite a shock to given that my notes on the aroma of Manchester gin read ‘very punchy aromas, lots of spices, a hint of medicinal, kind of like pilau rice’! On the palate, that still holds true – the cardamom comes through clearly but the other spices are clearly present too – it’s a wonderfully rounded spice-heavy gin. For Pete, that cardamom makes it a less appealing choice, though he likes the almost menthol-like cooling effect on the tongue. Although the obvious suggestion is to pair this gin with Indian food, I suspect that would hide the amazing flavours. Try it neat over ice to appreciate the unusual flavour profile.

Stockists: Buy online at Amazon or the Zymurgorium shop. See here for additional stockists.


Gin Lane 1751 London Dry Gin

Gin Lane 1751 Royal Stength Dry Martini Gin Lane 1751 full range

Another relative newcomer to the market, Gin Lane 1751 launched last summer – a collaboration between Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers, and The Bloomsbury Club – a group of gin lovers and industry professionals. The brand is named to mark the Gin Act of 1751, which was somewhat motivated by reaction to artist William Hogarth’s depiction of Gin Lane, which painted gin as an addictive liquor drunk to excess by the working class. The act banned the sale of gin in prisons, workhouses and any shops selling everyday staples and thus gin became much harder to distribute and purchase. Ironically, this resulted in an increase in both price and quality, and by the Victorian era, gin was considered a respectable and desirable spirit.

Gin Lane 1751 offers four products, their classic London Dry (40% ABV), a London Dry Royal Strength (47% ABV), a rather pretty Victoria Pink Gin (40% ABV) and an Old Tom Gin (40% ABV).

The eight core botanicals are juniper, orris root, Seville orange, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander. The pink gin is infused with spiced bitters and the Old Tom with star anise and natural sugars.

Tasting Notes: The London Dry has far more aroma than many classic gins of the type. On the nose we both pick up a green leaf freshness, plus citrus (orange for me, lemon for Pete). The pine resin-like juniper comes through clearly too. The flavours are sweet and peppery to start with a lingering bitterness at the end. Pete picks up fleeting hints of satsuma and brown sugar sweetness at the start, replaced by a bitterness that comes through to the aftertaste. If you’re looking for a gin that has plenty of flavour, this is a good choice.

Stockists: Buy Gin Lane 1751 online from Amazon or thedrinkshop. Also stocked by Selfridges.


Brockmans Premium Gin

Brockmans 1 Brockmans 2

I love the Brockmans black glass bottle – yes I’m a sucker for packaging design. But of course, this gin delivers on taste too.

Brockmans combines many of the most commonly used botanicals with citrus and wild berries to give a fruitier flavour. They pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients, sourcing angelica from Belgium and Germany, bitter almonds from Spain, blueberries and blackberries from Northern Europe, cassia bark from Indo-China, citrus peels from Murcia and Valencia, coriander seed from Bulgaria, juniper from Italy, liquorice from China and orris root from Italy.

Tasting Notes: This is an unusual gin in both aroma and flavour. The nose talks to me of sunshine – sweet citrus fruits and the intense aroma of dried mango. For Pete, it’s all about blackcurrant Chewits (does everyone else remember those too?) and lots of sweet fruitiness. Both of us think immediately of blackcurrants when we taste it, almost cassis like but without any of the sugar or thickness of the blackcurrant liqueur. I particularly appreciate the lack of bitterness in this one. Pete admires how well balanced the flavour is. This one is a great all rounder – neat, with tonic or in cocktails.

Stockists: Online, you can find Brockmans on Amazon amongst other online retailers. They are also stocked by M&S, Harvey Nichols, Oddbins, Wine Rack and others.


Gin Nautilus via Portuguese Story

Portuguese Story gin-nautilus

I was introduced to Gin Nautilus by Portuguese Story, a business that represents and distributes Portuguese drinks in the UK. Their mission is to change peoples’ perceptions about Portuguese produce by showcasing locally made, unique and high quality products. Gin Nautilus is produced in Evora, a historical town in the southern region of Alentejo, in an artisan distillery called Officina de Espiritos. Joao Malhero and his team make their gin using a sugar cane alcohol, mixing in thirteen botanicals before the third distillation – these include coriander seed, citrus peel, root of angelica, and juniper. But the one that stands out is sea lettuce, an edible algae that is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The algae gives this gin a uniquely marine aroma and flavour, one that is an absolutely perfect match to enjoy with fresh oysters.

Tasting Notes: This gin is divisive! Pete hates the ‘slimy pond weed’ aroma and taste. But I adore the refreshing sea brine smell, it makes me think of rock pools and sea breezes and fresh oysters eaten right by the docks. Interestingly, I find that salty seaweed aroma much more subtle on the palate, where the key flavours that come through are citrus and juniper. I would absolutely serve this with an iced seafood platter, and I can imagine it working well in cocktails too.

Stockists: You can buy Gin Nautilus online here. It is also stocked by The Grocery, Fortnum & Mason and Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields.


Gin Nao via Portuguese Story

Portuguese Story _Gin_Nao_Portugus_Bom_Gourmet_Portugal

Also distributed in the UK by Portuguese Story (see Gin Nautilus) is the unusual Nao Gin. A London Dry Gin distilled in a London distillery, the gin then spends 4 months ageing in old Porto wine barrels in Porto during which time it takes on a distinctive flavour and tinge of colour. The name comes from 15th century multi-masted sailing ships known in Portuguese as nau; these ships travelled around the globe in that grand era of trade and discovery.

Tasting Notes: This is the gin that is not like a gin! For me it smells like brandy. Pete picks out citrus peel and a faint woodiness. When it comes to the taste, I’m put in mind of yet another spirit – whisky this time – and richly oaked too. Pete – a big whisky fan – agrees. He likes the combination of an underlying fruitiness with the unusual woody finish. If you want to buy a surprising and unusual gift for a whisky or brandy lover, this would be a perfect choice.

Stockists: You can buy Gin Nao online here or via Amazon. It is also stocked by The Grocery, Fortnum & Mason and Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields.



GVine bottle-floraison GVine bottle-nouaison

It’s no secret how much the French love their wine, and by extension, the vines themselves. Made in the Cognac-producing region of South West France, Maison Villevert’s wonderfully unconventional G’Vine gins are made from grape spirit (rather than grain). The spirit is distilled from the Ugni Blanc grape – known best as the base for Cognac. To this ten botanicals are added including juniper berries, green cardamom, nutmeg, cassia, root ginger and the exclusive vine flower. This is quite a feat as the flower blossoms just once a year in mid-June, for just a few days before it begins to form into a grape berry. G’Vine pick the flowers as soon as they bloom to capture the evocative fragrance and flavour.

G’Vine Gin comes in two expressions – Floraison (flowering) and Nouaison (setting). The first captures the splendour of spring, the second is an altogether more intense and spicy spirit capturing the metamorphosis from flower to berry.

Tasting Notes: The smell of Floraison put us both in mind of a sweet shop. For Pete it was lemon sherbert, for me bubblegum! On the palate, that candy aspect came through, balanced by just a hint of bitterness and some alcohol heat. The Nouaison was completely different, a much more classic gin aroma of lemon and juniper and much the same in taste, with a gentle fruitiness also present. These two gins are a fascinating experiment, the first I’ve tried based on grape spirit and the Floraison in particular is a really unusual result. For those who want to move on from the classic and try something a little different.

Stockists: G’Vine Floraison and G’Vine Nouaison are available online from Amazon. They are also available at Oddbins.


Boxer Gin

boxer gin2

Boxer Gin, created in 2013 by Mark Hill, is a classic London Dry Gin with a really punchy flavour. Wheat grain spirit is distilled in a 108 year old copper pot still with ten botanicals to create the core of the gin. This is then blended with distilled extract of Himalayan juniper berries (at source, to retain freshness of flavour), and cold-pressed citrus oil extracted from bergamot peel, to dial up the flavour.

The branding pays homage to 19th century boxer, Thomas King, also known as ‘The Fighting Sailor’. Thomas King was a sporting celebrity in gin’s golden era in the late 18th century, following the repeal of the Gin Act.

Tasting Notes: Although it’s only 40% this gin tastes stronger. The nose is classic lemon citrus, rather a lovely perfumey citrus. In the mouth, the citrus really explodes and the bergamot comes through clearly – and that hint of earl grey is just wonderful! It works beautifully against the other botanicals creating a very refreshing and punchy gin. We like this one neat but its also superb in a G&T.

Stockists: Available online from Amazon, the Whisky Exchange, Drinkshop and Master of Malt, and in stores including Selfridges.


The gins above are relatively recent launches, made by smaller producers, or producers that are not yet widely known.

Below are a few choices from some of the big guys, but which we think are worth seeking out. They are also more widely available in shops across the UK.

Whitley Neill, JJ Whitley London Dry Gin & Liverpool Gin

Whitley Neill Whitley London Dry Liverpool Gin

All three of the following gins are part of Halewood International’s portfolio, one of the UK’s leading drinks manufacturers and distributors.

Whitley Neill Gin is a unique recipe created by Johnny Neill, an eight generation descendant of Thomas Greenall, founder of Greenall’s Distillery back in 1762. Gin has always been part of his life, even before he was old enough to drink it! Keen to create his own gin, Johnny turned to his South African wife’s homeland for inspiration. There he experimented with over 25 uniquely African botanicals including the Protea flower, the hoodia cactus and various fynbos plants, but none of them gave the flavour profile he was looking for. He eventually found the perfect flavours in the cape gooseberry (also known as physalis) and the fruit of the baobob tree. Both, when distilled, create unique citrusy flavours that work beautifully in gin. The recipe was quickly perfected, and is now distilled in one of the UK’s oldest copper still pots, over a century in age.

J.J.Whitley London Dry Gin, on the other hand, is inspired by the British countryside and features eight classic botanicals including juniper, liquorice, coriander and sweet citrus peel.

Liverpool Gin is an organic gin blended with hand picked organic botanicals, a classic selection including juniper berries, corianders, angelica root and citrus fruit.

Tasting Notes: Whitley Neill first. This one has lots of citrus aroma and the juniper comes through too. The flavour is wonderfully rich, lots of fruit, a very nicely balanced sweetness and bitterness. I find it quite spicy too, though very smooth. For those who like gins with lots of flavour.

J.J.Whitley is a light and refreshing fin, a rather simple grapefruit and lemon aroma which comes through lightly on the palate but is overtaken by a strong juniper hit and bitterness in the finish.

Liverpool Gin is another gin that reminds us both of a sweet shop – sherbert, parma violets and lemon drops. I pick up cardamom too. That sweetness comes through in the mouth along with cardamom and other woody spices, citrus fruit zing and some unexpected floweriness. Definitely not your run of the mill gin, this has a lot of flavour and is a great all rounder.

Stockists: Online, find Whitley Neill, JJ Whitley London Dry and Liverpool Gin on Amazon. Also available at Sainsbury’s, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols amongst others.


Thomas Dakin Gin & Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin

thomas-dakin Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin Bottle on white

Thomas Dakin is an absolutely classic London Dry named for ‘the forefather of English gin’, who created his first gin in 1761. It is distilled in small batches in a traditional copper pot still, a revival of a recipe handed down through generations of Dakins. The selection of botanicals and creation of the gin are overseen by Joanne Moore, the master distiller at G&J Greenall Distillers. The recipe’s eleven botanicals include English coriander, horse radish (known as red cole in Thomas Dakin’s time), orange peel, and a properly punchy hit of juniper.

G&J Greenall’s Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is a London Dry Gin inspired by the ancient Spice Route along which merchants travelled long and slow, trading exotic spices and herbs from East to West. Botanicals include spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco. The name comes from a legendary region famed for its wealth and riches during the reign of King Solomon – its location is unknown but believed to be along the Spice Route.

Tasting Notes: The Thomas Dakin has a fabulous aroma! Lemon peel, a whack of punchy pine-resin juniper and some pleasing fruitiness, the smell positively races up out of the glass and floods your senses. It’s equally strong on the palate, with a medicinal savouriness that no doubt comes from the horse radish.

As its name implies, Opihr is one for the spice lovers amongst you. I really like the cardamom-heavy blend of spices that come through on both nose and palate but for Pete the cardamom is overwhelming. Like some of the other cardamom-heavy choices in our guide, this one would work beautifully in cocktails as the cardamom should still come through, along with black pepper and citrus.

Stockists: Thomas Dakin on Amazon | Opirh Gin on Amazon Both brands are widely available in supermarkets and off licenses across the UK.


Kavey Eats received product samples of some of the gins included in the guide, after initially discovering most of them at specialist food and drinks events. Not all gins sent for tasting made it into the guide, as they did not meet our criteria or taste preferences. Amazon links are affiliate links; please see my sidebar for more information.














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


Heston’s Triple-Cooked Chips

Popularised by Heston Blumenthal, triple-cooked chips (french fries for you North Americans) are very simple to make at home and not at all as faffy as they sound.

The first cooking is to parboil the chipped potatoes; the next is to fry the chips at a low-to-medium temperature and allow them to cool and dry; the third is to fry again at a higher temperature to finish. One of the handy aspects of this recipe is that it allows you to do the prep and first two stages of cooking in advance, so that you are left only with a quick hot fry to finish just before serving.

Says Heston, ‘The first secret is cooking the chips until they are almost falling apart as the cracks are what makes them so crispy. The second secret is allowing the chips to steam dry then sit in the freezer for an hour to get rid of as much moisture as possible. The final secret is to cook the chips in very hot oil for a crispy, glass-like crust.

Even without putting them in the freezer, following Heston’s method will result in very delicious chips indeed.

Heston Blumenthals Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats

Rather appropriately, we made our triple-cooked chips in the Smart Fryer designed by Heston Blumenthal for Sage Appliances. This is a fantastic step up from our last deep fat fryer which served us well for the last three years but is now falling apart, particularly the basket and the hinge of the lid. That was our first deep fat fryer and it was a great improvement over using a deep casserole dish on our gas hob. But it was heavy and unwieldy making it hard to empty the oil out of and a pain to clean.

Our new Sage Smart Fryer has an ingenious design – the entire fryer separates into five components: a heating element and control panel unit, the exterior shell of the fryer, a removable inner well, the frying basket and the lid. With the exception of the element and control panel unit, all the other components are dishwasher safe, which is very handy for cleaning. Being able to remove the inner well of the fryer also makes it so much easier to pour out the 4 litres of oil that the fryer holds. Other helpful design aspects include a double-walled exterior shell for insulation, a viewing window in the lid and a foldable handle on the fryer basket so it can be stored inside the basket when not in use.

In terms of cooking, you can set temperature and time manually in Custom mode or use one of the six preset Cook modes. These are Twice Fried Chips (that’s triple cooked chips in other words – the first cooking being the parboiling), Fish, Nuggets, Calamari, Doughnuts or (single fry) Chips. Choosing any of these Cook modes will display the preset time and temperature, which you can manually adjust if you wish. Once you’ve pressed the Start / Cancel button, just wait for the Heating message to disappear, then indicate whether you’re putting in Fresh or Frozen food, press the Timer button and lower the basket of food into the oil. When it’s finished, the fryer will beep. At this point you can either press the Timer and cook for an additional period, or press Start / Cancel to turn off the heating element. The Twice Fried Chips setting has an additional choice to make – whether you’re on the 1st Fry or the 2nd Fry. The Scroll / Select knob allows you to indicate this.

If you do not have a deep fat fryer you can fry the chips in a heavy-based casserole dish or pan on your hob, however you will need a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil.

sage the smart fryer 3 sage the smart fryer 1
images provided by Sage

Heston’s Triple Cooked Chips

Recipe method by Kavey Eats

Serves 4-6

1 kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chips
groundnut or grapeseed oil to fry
Salt, to serve

Note: Heston recommends traditional floury varieties such as Maris Piper, Desiree or King Edward and suggests cutting the chips chunky – 2 cm x 2 cm thick – but smaller is also fine.
Note: Keep the peeled potatoes in a bowl of cold water as you work, and likewise with the chips as you cut them. This will stop browning on exposure to the air.
Note: The v
olume of oil needed depends on the capacity of your deep fat fryer. Mine is 4 litres.


  • Place the chips into a large saucepan of cold water (making sure they are covered with water) and cook over a medium heat. Simmer until the chips are soft all the way through.
    [Pete’s technique is to bring the pan of cold water and chips to a boil, then turn off the heat and leave to soak for five minutes.]
  • Drain the chips and carefully spread them out on a cooling rack or baking tray to dry out. You can also place them into the freezer for an hour to remove more moisture, if you have space and time.

Heston Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats-181215 Heston Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats-181953

  • Heat the oil in your deep-fat fryer to 130 °C. Once it reaches temperature, fry the chips (in batches if need be) until they take on a pale yellow colouring. This takes at least 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the oil, drain and spread out to cool before the second frying. At this stage, if you don’t want to cook and serve the chips straight away you can refrigerate them for up to 3 days, if you wish.

Heston Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats-182528 Heston Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats-185401

  • Now heat your oil to 180 °C. Once it reaches temperature, fry the chips until golden brown, around 5-7 minutes.
  • Drain, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Note: If you are using the Smart Fryer’s Twice Fried setting, note that the recipe provided doesn’t include the parboiling stage, and therefore frying times are a little longer to cook the chips through to the centre. You can still use this mode to make Triple Cooked Chips but adjust the timer down by a couple of minutes for each fry.

Heston Triple Cooked Chips on Kavey Eats-185815

Kavey Eats received a Sage by Heston Blumenthal Smart Fryer for review. As always, I was not obliged to write a positive review; all opinions are my own and I recommend only products I truly believe in. This post contains affiliate links; please see my sidebar for further information.







Harumi Kurihara’s Green Beans with Minced Pork

A few days ago I shared my review of Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara. Kurihara is one of Japan’s most well known cookery book writers and TV cookery show presenters and also runs a chain of home ware shops and cafes, and publishes a quarterly recipe magazine. To write Everyday Harumi, she spent time living, shopping and cooking in England all the better to ensure that the recipes were achievable for British cooks.

We have made her delicious green beans with minced pork a few times and love the balance of flavours and textures. It’s quick and simple to cook and a small amount of meat goes a long way, so it’s perfect if you’re trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat.

Don’t forget, you can win a copy of the new paperback edition of Everyday Harumi in my latest giveaway.


Green Beans with Minced Pork

This dish is something of a tradition in my household. It is easy to prepare, only needing soy sauce for seasoning, and makes use of wonderful ingredients like ginger, garlic and Japanese leeks. It is a great dish that can be rustled up quickly if guests drop in unexpectedly. I usually serve it with white rice and if there are any leftovers, they don’t last long in our house.

Serves 4

500 g green beans
40 g leek
15 g fresh ginger, peeled
8 g garlic
Sunflower or vegetable oil – for frying
200 g minced pork
30–45 ml soy sauce
sliced fresh or dried red chillies – to taste
sesame oil – to taste


  • Prepare the green beans, lightly cook in boiling water, then rinse under cold running water.
  • Drain the beans, pat-dry and cut diagonally into easy-to-eat pieces.
  • Finely chop the leek, ginger and garlic.
  • Put a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the chopped leek, ginger and garlic, allowing the flavours to infuse in the oil, then add the minced pork and stir-fry.
  • Add the green beans, then add soy sauce and red chilli to taste.
  • Continue to cook until the beans have heated through. Add a little sesame oil to taste and serve with hot white rice.

Recipe extracted from Everyday Harumi with permission from Conran Octopus.

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback edition is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).






Win a Copy of Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

A few days ago I shared my review of Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara. Kurihara is one of Japan’s most well known cookery book writers and TV cookery show presenters and also runs a chain of home ware shops and cafes, and publishes a quarterly recipe magazine. To write Everyday Harumi, she spent time living, shopping and cooking in England all the better to ensure that the recipes were achievable for British cooks.

everyday harumi 2016 paperback cover


Publisher Conran Octopus are giving away two copies of the newly released paperback edition of Everyday Harumi 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 Japanese dish and what do you love most about 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 Everyday Harumi by Conran Octopus from Kavey Eats! #KaveyEatsHarumi
(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 29th July 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 the new paperback edition of Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara, published by Conran Octopus. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prizes are offered by Conran Octopusand 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.

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback edition is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

Homestyle Japanese Cooking | Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

With three trips to Japan under my belt, yet still dreaming about the next one, my interest in Japanese food shows no signs of fading. One of my favourite books on my cookbook shelf is Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara, first published in 2009. A new paperback edition ahs just been released, so to celebrate, here’s a review I wrote a couple of years ago and your chance to win a copy for yourself.

everyday harumi hardback cover everyday harumi 2016 paperback cover

Harumi Kurihara is to Japan what Martha Stewart is to Americans, Donna Hay is to Australians and Nigella and Delia are to us Brits – that is to say she’s a hugely successful cookery writer with over 20 bestselling cookbooks, a quarterly recipe magazine, popular television shows, a line of kitchenware and even a chain of shops, restaurants and cafés under her belt.

Despite her immense success, Kurihara, known affectionately by her fans as Harumi K, still sees herself first and foremost as a housewife – indeed she is fêted in Japan as a karisuma shufu (charisma housewife) – and is committed to cooking at home for her husband every day. Her cookery books are aimed squarely at helping others to prepare tasty and enjoyable food in the home.

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

After a foreword in which Kurihara talks a little about her background, how she came to write the book and how healthy and enjoyable a Japanese diet can be, the book begins with a list of store cupboard essentials. These are the ingredients Kurihara deems to be at the heart of Japanese home cooking and each one appears in many of the recipes in the book. This chapter introduces each ingredient in detail and includes instructions on cooking rice and making dashi stock; it also provides recipes for sauces and pastes such as ponzu, mentsuyu, sesame paste and miso paste that are referenced later in the book.

Recipes are grouped by key ingredient, such as; type of meat or fish, rice, noodles, eggs, tofu, miso, ginger, sesame and various vegetables.

Although her recipes are clearly Japanese, Kurihara is not a slave to authenticity for the sake of it; many of her dishes simplify ingredients and techniques and some blend washoku (traditional Japanese cooking) with yōshoku (Western cuisine). This is not a sop to her foreign audiences, however – in fact it reflects the reality of how many Japanese now cook at home, eagerly incorporating ingredients and influences from around the world. Above all, these dishes are very well suited to tasty mid-week evening meals, when speed and simplicity are a priority.

Flicking through the book between recipes such as Steak in a Miso Marinade, Tsukune with Teriyaki Sauce, Scallops with Nori Seaweed, Udon Noodles with a Minced Meat Miso Sauce, Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, Egg Drop Soup, Lightly Cooked Spinach with Soy Sauce, Japanese Coleslaw Salad and Aubergine in Spicy Sauce it becomes clear how much variety can be achieved by combining the essential ingredients in different ways.

Photographer Jason Lowe illustrates every recipe with bright and beautiful colour images. In each, the food is shown off in a wonderfully varied selection of crockery – Kurihara has a particular love of collecting unmatched pieces in which to serve her food. There are several cheery photographs of Kurihara cooking too. Recipe instructions are straightforward and easy to follow and it’s particularly gratifying that my own attempts turn out just like the pictures in the book.

Whether you are new to Japanese cooking or are looking for further inspiration, Everyday Harumi offers an immensely approachable and appealing range of simple Japanese dishes to enjoy with your family and friends.


I have two copies of the newly released paperback edition of Everyday Harumi to giveaway to readers; click here to enter.

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback version, published in 2009, is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

The original book review above was written in 2014 and first published in Good Things magazine. ©Kavita Favelle.






Pride and Pudding | Bakewell Pudding by Regula Ysewjin

A few days ago I shared my review of Regula Ysewjin’s Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings published by Murdoch Books. Click through to read more about this absolutely beautiful and fascinating book that shares a slice of Britain’s culinary history through the stories of its puddings and do enter my giveaway to win your own copy here.

Today I’m happy to share a recipe from the book, a historic Bakewell Pudding. I’ve also provided Regula’s puff pastry recipe, which is used in the pudding.


Regula Ysewjin’s Traditional Bakewell Pudding

Extracted with permission from Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings by Regula Ysewijn

All of the 1830s recipes for Bakewell pudding are quite different in character, which makes it hard to define the ‘real’ Bakewell pudding. There are also very strong similarities with a Sweet-meat Pudding from Eliza Smith’s book The Compleat Housewife (1737). Some Bakewell puddings have a layer of jam, others have a layer of candied peel and preserves as in the sweet-meat pudding. Some use bitter almonds, others do not. It leads me to believe that the Bakewell pudding wasn’t a pudding invented in an inn in Bakewell, as the popular myth likes people to believe; it was an existing pudding that was renamed thus to attract customers in the nineteenth century. And because it became famous in that locality, it disappeared in the rest of the country, making it a regional dish.

The version with just a layer of jam is the one that the Bakewell bakeries adopted as the true recipe. But if you would like to taste the earlier sweet-meat pudding version, here it is. I use powdered raw sugar, as early recipes often ask for loaf sugar, powdered, and it works better indeed. If you have a heatproof plate that will go into your oven, use that instead of a pie dish, as I believe this was the original vessel used to bake this pudding.

Makes 2 puddings in 23 cm (9 inch) shallow plates

25 g (1 oz) bitter apricot kernels
1 teaspoon rosewater
110 g (3¾ oz) clarified butter, melted
110 g (3¾ oz) raw sugar, powdered in a food processor
5 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 quantity puff pastry (see below)
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
50 g (1¾ oz) candied lemon peel, cut into strips


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • Blanch and skin the apricot kernels by pouring boiling water over them to make the skins come off. Rinse under cold water and dry them using a clean tea towel (dish towel) to rub off the last of the skins.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, pound up the blanched apricot kernels with the rosewater. This will prevent the apricot kernels from producing oil and also will add a heavenly scent. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the clarified butter and the sugar, whisking until creamy. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Don’t be alarmed if the filling seems runny to you, it is normal.
  • Line a pie dish or plate with the puff pastry rolled out as thin as you can manage and spread the raspberry jam over it, leaving a 2 cm (¾ inch) border that will become the rim. Neatly arrange strips of candied lemon peel over the jam, then gently pour in the filling mixture.
  • Bake in the bottom of the oven for 15 minutes, then move to the middle of the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.
  • Serve on its own or with fresh raspberries and maybe a little whipped cream.


Regula Ysewjin’s Puff Pastry

Extracted with permission from Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings by Regula Ysewijn

Makes enough for two 20 cm (8 inch) pies. It works better to make the whole recipe and freeze the remainder if you only need half the pastry.

225 g (8 oz/1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
240 g (83/4 oz) cold butter
130 ml (4¼ fl oz) ice-cold


  • Put the flour in a large bowl, or the bowl of a food processor, and put it in the fridge to get cold.
  • Meanwhile, cut the butter into small cubes and put it into the freezer with the water for a few minutes.
  • Put the flour into the food processor and toss in the butter. Before you start the processor, use a knife to stir the mixture so every cube of butter is covered in flour. Give two short pulses of about 1 second, then add half the water, pulse again for 3 short pulses, then add the rest of the water and pulse 6 times.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Don’t be alarmed if you think the dough is too crumbly; it’s supposed to be that way. Pat the dough into a sausage, then use a rolling pin to flatten it out to a rectangle. The dough should be quite rough and very marbled with butter. If it is barely holding together at the edges, this is normal.
  • Fold the right side of the rectangle to the middle and then do the same with the left side of the pastry. Flatten the dough slightly with the rolling pin, then fold up the bottom third of the dough,
  • followed by the top third, to make a small square of dough.
  • Again, flatten the dough slightly, wrap in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll out when needed and proceed as instructed in the recipe.


Kavey Eats received a review copy of this title from publisher Murdoch Books. Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings by Regula Ysewijn is currently available from Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20).





Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn

Isn’t it strange that sometimes those who are the most passionate and knowledgeable about a particular country or region’s food are not actually from that culture themselves?

The person I know who knows most about the food, food culture and cooking of the Indian subcontinent is, surprisingly, not Indian. Other than the normal smattering of Indian friends that is the norm for any Londoner in our multicultural city, Zoe has no personal connection that fuels her interest and yet her fascination with Indian food has been a constant, as opposed to briefer dabbles with other cuisines. Long, long before she’d even set foot on the subcontinent, she developed an enduring obsession which fuelled an on-going learning curve which has lead to real expertise in the subject matter.

So it is with Regula Ysewijn. Born and raised in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), she is a professional graphic designer, photographer and writer as well as a self-taught cook and a successful food blogger. Regula has been obsessed with Britain since she was a young child, after hearing a British nursery rhyme which caught her imagination. A few years later – her infatuation showing no signs of abating – her parents arranged a family holiday to Britain for her ninth birthday; she describes it as ‘to this day still the best gift my parents ever gave me’.

She began to read extensively about British history and culture, and her family spent many more holidays in Britain over the next few years. During a period when further travel wasn’t possible, Regula so missed the British food she’d come to love that she decided to make it herself. With no cookery books to hand, she came across Jamie’s Naked Chef series on TV, and by watching him cook and making notes, she learned to cook. She still cooks that way today, ‘on pure fingerspitzengefühl’; literally ‘fingertips feeling’, figuratively it means by instinct or intuition.

Her blog Miss Food Wise was initially intended as a personal database of where she went, what she saw, what she was reading and of course, what she cooked. Naturally, with her interest in British food and culture, this soon came to feature heavily. She explains that people often asked her ‘why [she] was so fond of Britain since the food was so crap. [She] decided it was [her] mission to show it wasn’t and to dedicate the blog to it.

Her blog soon won a loyal following of readers all around the world. It also became a learning curve for her writing and photography – indeed the design agency for whom she worked made her their in-house photographer on the back of her blog photography – and work from many agencies and magazines followed. When she was offered her book deal in 2013, Regula made the decision to leave her job to go freelance.

Pride and Pudding (mini)

Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings is not a cookbook. Regula describes it as ‘a book about a part of British food culture/ history with recipes. The recipes are all historical, and many are not to modern taste, but that doesn’t make them less important.’

From the start, her publisher Murdoch Books was completely on board with Regula’s vision. I ask her about the process and she happily recalls how they told her ‘the book has to be “you” so only you can create that 100%’ for which she is hugely grateful. They gave her free rein on what the book would be. More unusually but perfectly logical given her unique skillset, Regula not only wrote the book but designed it and did all the food styling and photography herself too.

bookpagesflowV2.33-crop bookpagesflowV4

As well as Regula’s distinctive food photography, Pride and Pudding features gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations (on the cover and to introduce each chapter). These were created by Regula’s husband, Bruno Vergauwen; ‘He knew my vision and spent months creating the illustrations that tell part of the story. He had to understand the history of pudding to be able to create these images. He had to see the antique equipment and evolution in how pudding was made, he had to see the dishes to give him inspiration. I’m really in awe about what he has created.


She may be in awe of Bruno’s illustrations (and they are very beautiful) but I am in awe of the book in its entirety. This rigorously researched culinary history of sweet and savoury puddings is a fascinating insight into many of the dishes we still eat today and how they evolved. I don’t use the word ‘rigorous’ lightly – I asked Regula how she approached such in-depth academic research.

To accurately understand the evolution of each pudding, Regula referenced her own collection of old books, accessed content from many specialist and online libraries and for rarer titles, contacted directly the great houses where she knew an original copy was available.

I didn’t take anything for granted, if a translation of Latin or Anglo Norman was given, I would check if the translation was correct. For Latin translations I had someone who could read the original as translations in the 17th century were often wrong. I tried to use as many primary sources as I could and when a more recent book mentioned a source, I would not copy that entry but look for that source and check it myself. There are mistakes which have been around for decades because authors sometimes don’t go back to check the source the book is mentioning.


Her collection of vintage cookware also played its part, giving her an insight into the methods of cooking and the vessels and equipment used. She also mentions how the characteristics of some the ingredients themselves have changed over time.

There were many challenges in recreating historical recipes using the equipment available in a modern kitchen, but without changing the nature of the recipe itself. But when her countless rounds of testing resulted in success, ‘it filled [her] heart with joy to see it.

To see how a medieval blancmange looked like and tasted, how blackpudding tasted in the 16th century. That’s just so bloody amazing. A taste of history.

The book is divided into chapters for Boiled and steamed Puddings; Baked puddings; Batter puddings; Bread puddings; Milk puddings, jellies and ices and Sauces, pastry etc.

These chapters are proceeded with a comprehensive and fascinating 20 page history of food in Britain, starting in prehistoric times and walking us through to modern times via the eras of the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, the Medieval centuries, the Reformation and on to Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian times before bringing us into the 20th and 21st centuries.

Each chapter tells its story by way of several carefully chosen puddings, some of which will be familiar to readers and some of which have virtually been lost in the mists of time. Flipping through the book, I recognise plum pudding, haggis, black and white blood puddings, jam roly poly, spotted dick, treacle sponge, bakewell pudding, toad-in-the-hole, apple charlotte, blancmange, trifle, fruit fools and posset. But I’d never before come across rice pudding in skins (rather like sausages), sambocada (a cheese curd tart flavoured with elderflowers), daryols (custard tarts in deep hand-raised pastry cups), tort de moy (a bone marrow egg tart), black caps (apples baked until the skin on top turned black) or almond flummery (an almond and apricot-kernel flavoured jelly).

Food history books can sometimes be dry and academic but Regula has a delightful way of writing that brings the culinary stories of each of these puddings to life without unnecessary stuffiness.

It’s a fascinating book and certainly the most beautifully written and produced book of its genre that I’ve ever seen.


Murdoch Books have given me three copies of this fabulous book to give away to readers of Kavey Eats. Click here to enter the giveaway.

I also have permission to share Regula’s Bakewell pudding recipe with you too; coming soon.

Kavey Eats received a review copy of this title from publisher Murdoch Books. Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings by Regula Ysewijn is currently available from Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20).




Mat Follas’ Vegetable Perfection

A few weeks ago, I shared my review of Mat Follas’ new Bramble Cafe & Deli in Dorchester’s elegant Poundbury estate. Today I want to talk about Mat’s latest cookbook, Vegetable Perfection.

When I first interviewed Mat back in 2009, shortly after he launched his first restaurant The Wild Garlic, I think it’s fair to say his attitude to vegetarian diets and recipes was in a state of evolution. During the planning phase and just ahead of opening the restaurant, Mat had many conversations with fellow foodlovers online, many of whom urged him to provide several veggie options on his menu. He said then that he understood their point of view but that, frankly, he didn’t agree with it. The previous evening, he’d had just one vegetarian customer in the restaurant, with the rest firmly focused on his fish and meat dishes. His aim, therefore, was to offer one great veggie dish on the menu, the kind of dish he as an omnivore would also enjoy eating; that day’s veggie choice was an enthusiastically described umami-rich fennel thyme gratin. He was also busy exploring ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, by first converting their parents, something he talked about at the Dorset County Show that year; and his interest in foraging leaves and vegetables was already well-established, with foraged ingredients featuring regularly in his cooking.

Just 6 years later, Mat has learned to love vegetables so much that he has released a cookbook of over 100 delicious vegetarian recipes, many of which are vegan or have vegan substitutes provided. In the introduction, Mat talks about overcoming the preconceptions of his upbringing in an era of a meal being ‘meat and two veg’. Indeed his initial plan for the cookbook was to make it vegetable-based but not ‘restricted by only using vegetable products’ and it was only when he started developing and testing recipes that he realised how little the recipes benefited from the use of meat, and that he ‘could always find vegetarian alternatives that were just as good to use, if not better’.

Writing the book has been ‘a journey of discovery to the amazing flavour combinations available when [he] stopped being mentally limited by the requirement of a meat product on every dish’ and the book is filled with vegetarian recipes Mat personally loves; vegetarian dishes he would choose to eat over a meat dish.

A bugbear of Mat’s, as it is for many vegetarians I know, is the prevalence of vegetable dishes that simply imitate meat; so instead of sharing a boring bean burger recipe he developed a crispy smoked potato rösti-like patty that he layers with grilled halloumi, mushroom and tomato for the ultimate vegetarian burger. Where he does use vegetables in place of meat, like the Mushroom Toad-in-the-hole recipe, he makes ‘the vegetable the star of the show – it’s not hidden or trying to imitate the flavour of meat’. Incidentally, that’s one of the recipes Pete and I made recently and to my surprise, the intensity of flavour of the juicy portobello mushroom really was just as delicious as sausages, even though it was an entirely different beast.

Vegetable Perfection Mat Follas

Vegetable Perfection: 100 tasty recipes for roots, bulbs, shoots and stems is divided into recipes according to which part of the vegetable is used or botanical groupings such as members of the Solanaceae family. After his Introduction, there’s a guide to vegetarian and vegan substitutions (helpful for those used to cooking with meat and fish ingredients), followed by chapters covering Vegetable juices; Roots; Brassicas and greens; Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines; Bulbs and alliums; Potatoes, squash and corn; Peas, beans and pulses; Stalks, stems and soft leaves and Fungi. At the end, a Store cupboard chapter covering sauces, dressings, ketchups, chutneys, pickles and oils.

Most recipes have photographs accompanying them, though where there are two short recipes to a page, only one is usually pictured. Styling is simple, homely and appealing – much like the recipes themselves – and plating is not at all faffy or cheffy. These dishes really are the kind of food you want to eat at home, making this a great cookbook to have on the shelf.

So far, we’ve made Mat’s (four cheese) Cauliflower cheese, Mushroom Toad-in-the-hole and Homemade baked beans, all of which have been delicious.

Bookmarked to make soon are Sprouting broccoli, hazelnuts and fondant potatoes, Red onion tarte tatin with goat’s cheese and dandelion sauce, Coddled eggs with creamed leeks, Courgette and gruyere soufflé and Sweet potato chips (which are tossed in a miso oil before baking).

Unlike some restaurant chef cookbooks, this one is firmly written for a domestic cook, using domestic kitchen equipment and as such, the instructions are easy to understand and to follow.

And if you fancy the sound of Mat’s four cheese cauliflower cheese recipe, here it is.


Publisher Ryland Peters & Small are giving away two copies of Vegetable Perfection 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 vegetarian or vegan dish, and what do you love most about 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 Mat Follas’ Vegetable Perfection cookbook from Kavey Eats! #KaveyEatsMatVeg
(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 22nd July 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 Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prizes are offered by Ryland Peters & Small 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.

The winners of the giveaway are Maxine G (blog entry) and @KeepCalmFannyOn (twitter entry).

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Vegetable Perfection from Ryland Peters & Small
Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas (photography by Steve Painter) is currently available from Amazon for £14.88 (RRP £16.99).



B is for Brownie | Interview, Review, Giveaway & Reader Code

I do love a good chocolate brownie and for me that means dense and gooey – none of this crumbly cake-like stuff – and redolent of top quality dark chocolate. I want the texture to be rich, fudge-like, just short of too sticky to hold and I want to taste the natural flavour of the cocoa bean from which the chocolate was made.

When such a brownie can be mine for twenty-odd quid and a day or two’s wait for it to made to order and sent to me by post, there’s absolutely no reason not to indulge from time to time. And of course, it means I can spread the love by sending lovely parcels of deliciousness to friends – for a birthday or anniversary, as a thank you gift, as a get well message or just because I know someone who will utterly adore them!

B is for Brownie offers such a service, selling handmade single origin chocolate brownies across the UK via an online shop.

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I recently tried their offering (see my review below) and had a chat to founder Lou Cox. I also have a box to giveaway to a lucky reader, and a reader discount code to share too.

B is for Brownie | Interview

When did you decide to launch a business selling your brownies to the public? And when did you launch?

My decision to go into brownie baking happened in the autumn of 2014. I was on a mission to produce the very best brownie that I could. There was lots of experimentation during which I discovered that you could taste the character of different origins of chocolate in the brownies and that seemed like the most obvious route for me to take. The online business launched in August 2015.

How did you come up with the name and brand design for B is for Brownie?

My partner came up with the name and it just sounded right. I worked on the brand design with a very talented web designer called Sarah Webb. I didn’t initially want a black and white design, but in the end the logo looked so clean and fresh and timeless that I went with it.

All your brownies are gluten free. Was that a conscious decision based on a personal need to avoid gluten, a desire to be suitable for gluten-free consumers or simply that your favourite brownie recipe happened to be gluten free?

During the development stage I decided to offer a wheat free version. When I baked with wheat free flour I was so impressed by the texture that I felt that the brownies actually benefited from being wheat free, so that’s the recipe I now use. I don’t shout about it, it just happened to be the best thing for my brownies.

Where do you source the chocolate for your single original chocolate brownies, and how do you select it?

I source by flavour, it must have plenty of character to shine through in the baked brownie. I prefer chocolate without vanilla and soya lecithin where possible.

For your Grenadan brownies, you actually make the chocolate yourself from the bean, before using it in your brownies! Why did you decide to take this approach? Can you tell me more about how you chose these Grenadan beans and how you make your chocolate?

I just wanted to take the whole process further and I enjoy experimenting. I have a science degree, and spent nearly six years working for Hotel Chocolat within the development team. So felt confident in my abilities to take brownie baking to the next level. I simply chose the Grenadan beans for their character and also from a practical point of view I am a very small business and cannot justify buying tens of kilos at a time. The bean to brownie is intended to be a limited edition brownie baked simply without any additional flavour to show case the cocoa bean. I intend to change the bean origin from time to time.

The process for making chocolate is very simple but a little time consuming. Basically you roast some beans, allow to cool remove the shell, grind to create small nibs then heat the nibs and add to a grinder and grind for 4 hours. [You can read more about Lou’s methods and equipment in Lou’s recent blog post, here.]

Which is your best seller?

The sea salted butterscotch without a doubt!

How do you develop new brownie flavours?

Firstly they need to be able to withstand the character of the chocolate, secondly I tend not to blend flavours through the brownie batter as this would mask the flavour of the single origin chocolate. I like the contrast or harmony between the topping and the chocolate. Sometimes you get more topping than brownie and sometimes more brownie!

Can you tell us about flavours currently in development and coming soon?

I’ve just developed The Hazelnut Gianduja Brownie for which I am making the gianduja myself – roasting and blending hazelnuts with chocolate and sea salt – before submerging chunks into a brownie slab just before baking.

I’m also looking at a Rum & Raisin brownie for summer / Father’s Day. I am soaking flame raisins in spiced rum before baking them into the brownie.

Sum up your brownies in 5 words or less.

Immensely dense, intensely good. Truffley (not really a word I know!)

B is for Brownie | Review

My brownies arrive securely packed in a sturdy box that should fit readily through most letterboxes. Inside, the brownies are beautifully wrapped in branded paper tied with ribbon, and also in parchment paper, so they arrive safe and sound.

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Lou hand-makes the brownies to order so they are freshly baked when posted and remain in good condition for about a week after arrival. You can also freeze some of the pieces if you like, to spread the enjoyment out; I froze a couple of mine, wrapped tightly in some of the parchment paper they arrived in, and can confirm that they freeze and defrost well.

The slab Lou made for me is single origin Madagascan chocolate and she created a mix of flavours so I could get a feel for her range. Fingers crossed that a similar assorted brownie slab will be available for order in her shop soon as I love the idea! From left tor right the flavours in my slab are Sea Salted Fudge, Raspberry, plain Madagascan and Hazelnut Gianduja [coming soon].

Unlike many flavoured brownies I’ve tried before, Lou doesn’t mix her flavourings into the batter as she is keen for the flavour of the single origin chocolate to shine through. Instead, she adds ingredients as toppings or – like the Hazelnut Gianduja – pushes a layer down inside the batter so it bakes into the middle. This tactic works really well and the flavourings complement rather than overwhelm the chocolate. And with chocolate this good, that’s a very good thing – the delicious red berry fruit notes typical of Madagascan chocolate sing on the palate.

I love all four that I try but I think my favourite is the raspberry jam – the fruit accentuates the natural flavours of the cacao so perfectly!

Most of the B is for Brownies range is priced between £18 and £23 per 500 gram slab. The Goldie is the outlier priced at £30, not unreasonable given the brilliant bling of 23 carat gold leaf that adorns it. Delivery is an additional £3.35 per box.

Hint: If ever you want to get in my good books, a box of Lou’s brownies would go a long way towards ensuring your place!

B is for Brownie | Giveaway


B is for Brownie are offering a box of single original brownies in their latest flavour, Hazelnut Gianduja, to a reader of Kavey Eats. The box will contain a 500 gram slab of handmade chocolate brownies and 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 new brownie flavour would you like to see B is for Brownie developing next?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow both @Kavey and @Bisforbrownie 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 box of single origin chocolate brownies by @Bisforbrownie from Kavey Eats! #KaveyEatsBIFB
(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 24th June 2016.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a B is for Brownie box of Hazelnut Gianduja brownies. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prize is offered by B is for Brownie 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 and @Bisforbrownie at the time of notification.
  • For Blog comment entries, entrants 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.

B is for Brownie | Reader Code

If you would like to order a box of single original chocolate brownies for yourself or a friend (and I’m telling you, you or the friend will love you for it!), B is for Brownie are offering 15% off to Kavey Eats readers. Enter KAVEY2016 on checkout; valid till 30th June 2016. Discount applies to contents of  cart; delivery cost remains the same.

Kavey Eats received a review box of chocolate brownies from B is for Brownie.

This giveaway is closed. The winner is twitter entry @bexyboo4000.