I just can’t resist sharing the cartoon Pete made me this morning, over on Facebook!
(Hey, cake is food; this is a food blog!)
When I was approached about reviewing the shiny new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone I was a little hesitant.
I never blogged about it but twitter followers might remember how much I disliked the Nokia Lumia 800 (Windows) phone I was given to review last year. Genuinely keen to develop a fondness for it given its sleek hardware design and high end phone camera with Zeiss lens, I tried really hard but I just couldn’t get on with it at all. Nothing about it fit the way I wanted to use my phone, access my email and calendar, engage with social media… and so many aspects of navigation and app design seemed ill-conceived to me. When I went back to the official campaign team to ask for answers, most suggestions were that I adapt to the tool, rather than it to me, and one “solution” even pointed me towards an amateur hack to fool a secondary provider into thinking it was an iPhone. Colour me unimpressed. After 3 or 4 weeks, ready to jump up and down on it until it shattered into a 100 pieces, I went back to my HTC Wildfire – less fancy, less slick but with an interface and set of tools that worked far better for me.
But the Samsung Galaxy S4 struck me as a much better option, even on paper. It’s predecessor, the S3, has proved hugely popular and early reviews of the S4 suggested it would fare just as well. The upgrades from S3 to S4 sounded intriguing. And, most significantly for me, it was an Android phone, just like my HTC.
No need to change the way I work to fit the phone, this time around!
I recently replaced my damaged HTC Wildfire with an HTC Desire (and was very disappointed to discover that a model more than three full years newer than the Wildfire performed far less well, with camera functionality amongst others severely pared back). So within months, I began mulling over replacing it again and Samsung Galaxy phones were very much on my radar. The only thing making me hesitate was the price, and with a new job under my belt, I was coming around on that too.
But serendipity stepped in and Samsung got in touch asking me to review. I accepted, hopeful of a better experience.
They arranged for me to meet British-Mauritian MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo, and for us both to be given our new phones together. To my delight, Shelina picked Lahore Karahi in Tooting Broadway, an old favourite from when I worked around the corner for a few months and used to visit regularly with colleagues. Together, we opened our phones, already fully charged for us, and started playing with them.
Within 24 hours, I was hooked.
In that time, I had already found navigation familiar and instinctive for an existing Android user. I’d been wowed by the quality of the beautiful large screen and the high resolution display. Even more appealing once I replaced the cringe-worthy “Life Companion” slogan with “Kavey’s Phone”! And I was blown away by the sharpness of the camera and especially impressed at its focusing range on the macro end of the scale.
Don’t get me wrong, the Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t perfect.
Although I’ve come to appreciate Air View (touch-free scrolling) – helpful when reading from an open website whilst cooking or eating, when my hands are too mucky to touch the phone without smearing food on it – I do wish it was available in all apps as I’d particularly like to use it whilst browsing twitter or Pinterest, whilst eating my lunch.
The Settings interface is confusing and poorly structured. The user manual is worse than useless and often the only way I can learn how to change a given setting is to Google for an article on a helpful tech blog.
The Gallery app that seemed clever at first glance is actually rather intrusive and also earned top place in my bad books by automatically creating album after album after album of hundreds of photos it pulled across from an old blog, my email accounts and even a few ancient Picasa albums. More web searching to find a way of removing all of those, as the Gallery menu and settings certainly didn’t offer any obvious way to turn this feature off. I managed it, eventually!
The camera was the first function to wow me when I first switched on the phone. It continues to be the one that pleases me most. In good light, it’s super sharp and as high resolution as my point and shoot camera (13 megapixels). It’s almost macro-like in how close to the subject it can still focus, which is great for food photography. All the images above, from our recent holiday in Scotland, were taken on the S4, and have been (very lightly) post-processed, same as I do for photos taken on my other cameras.
That said, it’s really not a great performer in low light, especially when there’s a strong light source also in shot, as below (which has been post-processed much more heavily to recover detail and reduce some of the noise) so won’t be as useful in restaurants as I’d hoped. It offers reasonably good control and a few useful modes including an image and sound option that lets you record 10 seconds of sound annotation after taking a picture. One control I’m missing though is flash exposure – I like to use a dialled down flash fill-in when taking portraits, and this is one area where the S4’s phone falls behind my point and shoot camera.
I love the completely daft dual camera mode which takes simultaneous pictures with both outward and inward facing cameras, allowing you to include a little thumbnail (which you can move) of the photographer in the scene captured by the main camera. It’s gloriously kitsch, even though it needs more concentration than I can muster after a strong cocktail! Of course, the dual camera also means the S4 is great for video-enabled skype calls too, making international calls cheap if one has free wi-fi available.
Drama Shot is another fun mode to play with – when activated, it takes a fast series of images of a moving subject and then auto-selects a few of them to create a collage. You can manually adjust the choices it’s made before saving the final image too, but it’s actually pretty good at selecting the best ones, going for ones which don’t overlap. It does struggle to pick out the moving subject if too close or too far from the phone, and sometimes only manages to take a single image instead of a series, but it’s a fun toy nonetheless.
On a more serious note, I have had a little play with the S Translator, Samsung’s nifty text and speech translation app. I’ve spoken to it in French and Japanese (the two languages I’m familiar with, to varying degrees) and the translation back into English has been good enough. Not perfect, but good enough. Likewise, the other way around from English to Japanese and French. I’ve tried the written text translation too, though not the image scan function. The main weakness for me is that it’s an online-only app whereas to use it while travelling, offline would be more cost-effective and convenient.
I’ve not really used the Smart Pause eye-control feature. The idea is that it’ll pause a video or movie automatically when it detects you looking away from it, but even with the S4’s great screen, video isn’t the kind of content I’d access via my phone. I have a tablet, laptop and PC for that.
Overall, I am delighted with the phone. It’s not perfect, as you can see from my feedback above, but it’s very very good and I love it!
Next task – finding a proper case for it instead of one of Pete’s socks!
Addendum: Compared to the HTC smartphones I’ve used until now, the gorilla glass screen of the S4 breaks much more easily. Although it’s certainly scratch resistant, as you’d expect from gorilla glass, the problem is that it’s also very hard and brittle, which means it is prone to shattering. A few weeks after getting the phone, I dropped it from my back pocket, in its case, from a height of less than 1.5 feet (No it didn’t fall into the loo and yes I did feel like an idiot anyway). The screen shattered very badly indeed and I actually got a glass splinter when I next typed something in using the swipe typing method. Given that the screen doesn’t extend right to the edges, but is lipped by a narrow metal band, and was further protected by a (cheap) case this was an enormous surprise. Samsung have very kindly replaced my screen, but not commented on whether this is an inherent weakness of the S4 design.
Kavey Eats received a review Galaxy S4 phone from Samsung.
I’m always cheered by the arrival of spring, no more so than when the trees burst into bloom, their boughs heavy with blossom.
I often feel inspired to take quick snaps on my phone camera; the quality of the images doesn’t do justice to the beauty but I wanted to share.
I hope you’ve been enjoying spring too!
A few months ago, I talked about the way we organise the contents of our freezer.
Next, it was the turn of the larder – a large under-the-stairs cupboard which stays relatively cool year round thanks to an air brick through the outer wall.
Before we re-organised, all the shelves looked a bit like this one. Although items were roughly grouped together, they were often moved when trying to find things or to fit in new things. Lots of items were stacked on top of each other, as the shelves are deep and tall.
A few inexpensive shelf inserts were all it took to make the space more usable and then it was simply a case of grouping items logically – preserves are at the top; sugar and sweet baking items are next along with a few other sweet items such as tinned fruit, speculoos spread and cereals; below that is a shelf full of savoury foods including staples such as flour, pasta and rice as well as olives and a couple of pasta sauces. The bottom two shelves are set aside for drinks and the door shelf units hold shorter term snacks such as biscuits.
The cupboard was reorganised a few months ago and so far, it’s proved to be fairly easy to keep it orderly.
The next improvement will be a list on the inside of the door to list the contents of each shelf. However as there are many more items than in the freezer, I think our freezer whiteboard solution won’t work. Any ideas?
The two apple trees on our allotment gave us a whopping 55 kilos of apples this year; 34 kilos of cookers and 22 kilos of eating apples. And that’s just what we picked – we left some cookers on the tree for our plot neighbour to enjoy.
Some of them we processed at the time, making several variations of apple jelly. Some we made into apple pie. Some we peeled, prepped and froze in large bagfuls. But the majority were carefully washed, individually wrapped and then boxed according to grade – perfect, slightly blemished and those to use first… a labour of love by Pete.
Since then, they’ve been sat in their polystyrene boxes in the garden shed waiting to be used.
I’m conscious that we really need to use and process the rest, so a large batch of chutney seemed to be a good option.
As I had some fabulous dates leftover from Christmas, I decided to use these too. A web search revealed so many different recipes with such vastly differing ratios of apple, dried fruits, vinegar and sugar that I gave up on following any of them and created my own recipe according to the amounts of apples and dates I had to hand, and sugar and vinegar to my own taste. Ginger powder and chilli powder added a kick and additional depth of flavour.
I allowed my apples to cook down until they were really soft but if you prefer them more solid, you may need to reduce the amount of vinegar and sugar you add.
Makes approximately 4.5 kilos chutney
2.5 – 3 kilos cooking apples (unpeeled weight)
500 grams of super soft dates (weight including stones)
500 grams onions (unpeeled weight)
350 grams muscovado sugar
650 grams granulated or caster sugar
600 ml malt vinegar
3 heaped teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon of extra hot chilli powder
1 tablespoon salt
Note: My apples weighed 3.1 kilos before peeling, coring and dicing but many of them were unusually small, and some had a little spoilage, so the weight loss during preparation was higher than usual. I’d estimate that I used the equivalent of about 2.5 kilos of regularly sized cooking apples in good condition.
Note: My chilli powder is some of the hottest I’ve come across. Mix in, taste and add enough to give a warming kick.
2012 has been busy for Kavey Eats, with over two hundred posts shared over the last year!
Here’s my pick of posts from each month:
The year started sweetly, with several tasty cookie, cake and dessert recipes. A cracker was the Confit Clementines and Lemon Posset I made for the previous year’s Christmas day lunch.
The savoury eating had a good start too, with my review of a magical celebratory meal with my sister at The Fat Duck.
I also had the pleasure of cringing at myself on the telly when the BBC food quiz, A Question of Taste aired.
Still in the grips of winter, I shared my recipe for Beef Cheeks Bourguignon, a hearty classic with a Kavey Eats twist.
But the recipe which garnered far more attention was these Bacon Pancakes, an idea I picked up from American food bloggers and had to try myself.
Towards the end of the month, I re-launched Kavey Eats, having moved from Blogspot to WordPress and created a completely new look and layout.
March saw me post another hearty recipe, this time my culinary handshake between America and Britain – Boston Baked Beans and British Bangers.
A Clafoutis Black Cherry Pudding made a great winter warmer dessert.
Pete and I amused ourselves by Making Triangular Omelettes in a Sandwich Maker, just to see if we could!
We had fun checking out the new Hawksmoor Spitalfield Bar.
I got wrapped up in the history of the loss of the Titanic, after a tasting at Berry Bros & Rudd.
Chicken Savoyarde was utterly delicious, though not very photogenic!
I was bowled over by Satong Sumbat (baby squid stuffed with spiced minced chicken) and other dishes at Umami Restaurant, all the more surprising given that it’s a hotel restaurant.
Pete and I had a fantastic weekend in Amsterdam during which we did nothing but eat and drink our way around the city. I shared a comprehensive list of local specialities to look out for, some delicious places to find Coffee, Cake and Snacks in Amsterdam and lastly our tips for Amsterdam Restaurants & Bars.
Several eager panellists joined me to carefully cogitate over as many brands of Jaffa Cakes as I could find, which resulted in the Great Jaffa Cake Taste Test. The winner surprised all of us as it was neither the best known brand nor the most expensive, by a long shot!
I shared a non-food project I was very proud of – a collage of heart-shaped maps of our significant places, which I made for Pete as a gift for our 20th anniversary of being a couple.
I was a very proud wife when Pete won Saveur magazine’s Best Wine or Beer Blog 2012 after only 6 months blogging at his own site. Go visit, have a look around, leave a comment or three and add him to your RSS reader!
I learned and shared a recipe for Easy Dauphinoise Potatoes. They’re delicious and have become a regular feature in our house!
Pete and I went to Dublin’s Bloom In The Park, and encountered many wonderful Irish food and drink producers.
We tried Club Gascon’s amazing Marmite Royale & Toasts shortly before it was launched at Taste London.
Pete made the most delicious Cobnut Bread. The recipe would also work well for hazelnuts or walnuts.
We enjoyed a superb dinner at Paul Merrett’s pub, The Victoria in East Sheen.
I had fantastic fun attending The Flavours of Italy cookery class at the new Food at 52 cookery school.
Discovering how easy and tasty the condensed milk and double cream no churn ice cream base recipe is has made it even easier to make ice cream at home. This honeycomb ice cream was fabulous.
I gorged myself on crawfish at Bea’s Crawfish Boil.
This year I enjoyed visiting many more Indian restaurants, including Cinnamon Soho, for a family Sunday brunch.
My genius came to the forefront (or so I maintain) when I came up with the idea for these Pickleback Ice Lollies – yes, that’s bourbon mixed with pickled gherkin brine and frozen!
The view and the food were both pretty amazing when we attended Claude Bosi at The Cube, located on top of Royal Festival Hall.
I may have confused redcurrants and cranberries, but my home-made Redcurrant and Port Jelly made an appearance on Christmas day, regardless!
I talked about my tips for organising the freezer.
After attending two wonderful fish and seafood cooking classes with Lee Groves, I posted an interview and his recipe for Ray Wings In Pepper Brown Butter Sauce.
I was thrilled with how well this Sichuan Pepper Ice Cream came out. Delicious!
I’m not one for hero worship but I have long admired Atul Kochhar so I was delighted to not only meet him but attend a mini cooking class in his restaurant kitchen, before sitting down to a lovely meal in the dining room.
After another great visit to Abergavenny Food Festival, I enthused about my favourite exhibitors.
I enjoyed getting my chops around a Tongue n Cheek ox heart burger.
This Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with a Stout Honey Glaze was absolutely fantastic. It’s long past due for another outing!
A residual memory from summer came to the surface when I shared the photos from our day at a Kentish Hop Farm.
In October, Pete and I spent a truly wonderful 2.5 weeks in Japan. In November, I started writing up our experiences – there are so very many I want to share. First, an introduction, itinerary and resources list. On to eating, I posted about the challenges of Japanese vending machines, a delicious meal at Tempura Tsunahachi Honten and being intimated by Piss Alley before finding delicious Ramen for dinner.
Probably the post that garnered most attention was my Guide to Staying in a Japanese Ryokan.
Mum and I were very excited to finally see Leon Book 4 because we contributed a few recipes to it, not to mention some photos from the Gupta family album!
I enthused about one of my favourite cookbooks of the year, Jekka’s Herb Cookbook.
This year, I’ve discovered some fantastic teas. I reviewed my favourites for my Fantastic Teas 2012 Great Gift Guide.
After an eye-opening (not to mention palate-opening) visit to the Kelly Bronze Turkey Farm, I wrote about the history of turkeys in the UK and about the difference between intensively raised white birds and Kelly’s bronze ones.
For once, this dessert-wine drinker was given matching wines for all courses, at The Vineyard in Stockcross.
And there you have it! Believe it or not, that’s only a small selection of what I’ve posted on Kavey Eats this year. I hope you enjoyed my monthly picks. Happy New Year and see you in 2013!
When I was a kid, mum had an enormous chest freezer. I have strong memories of being asked to go and fetch something and having to move half the contents around in order to find something right at the bottom, not to mention my fear of falling in and freezing to death!
So we don’t have a chest freezer.
Instead, we have an under-counter fridge (with no space wasted with tiny box freezer compartment) and a separate upright freezer with drawers. It’s fairly old now, but – touch wood – it’s still working fine.
The main challenge over the years has been to remember what we have in it, and which drawer everything is in.
Previously, we’d periodically take everything out into cool boxes and re-sort the contents back into themed drawers, one for meat, one for frozen ingredients such as vegetables and stock, another for frozen meals… but the problem was that, over time, new items were inevitably shoved in wherever we could find space, items were moved around and the system fell apart.
This is what I came up with a few years ago:
It might not be the most attractive appliance, but our kitchen wouldn’t be featured in any home design magazine anyway! And it works very well for us.
What do you think?
Do you have any tips to share for better kitchen organisation?
Note: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been sitting in the scheduled posts queue since then. Some of you will have seen my anguished tweets a couple of days ago when we returned home from a couple of days in Kent to discover that our freezer was switched off. (One of us must have knocked the power switch, accidentally). Having the information on the front allowed us to more quickly check the status of the contents without keeping the freezer open very long. We discovered that the top shelf and the lower two drawers, both less densely packed, had suffered most but that the contents of the meat drawer, chock full and with other drawers above and below, were still frozen solid.
As some of you will know, my husband Pete started blogging about beer as a guest writer here on Kavey Eats back in June 2010. A year later, he was writing so regularly that it became obvious that he should launch a blog of his own. Pete Drinks went live in October 2011 with the Great Alcoholic Ginger Beer Taste Test.
That was just 6 months ago!
I know I’m biased… but I think his blog is pretty good, so when I saw Saveur magazine invite nominations for their 2012 blog awards, I went ahead and nominated Pete Drinks. The magazine received nearly 40,000 submissions across its 16 award categories before narrowing the field down to just 6 finalists in each category. Just being in those 96 is a great achievement!
For those who don’t know Saveur, it’s an internationally renowned food publication, written and produced in New York, but with a global focus. The content is informative, interesting and well-written and I have been enjoying the online site for quite a while.
So, late one evening, just as we’re about to go to bed, Pete turned to me and asked me, “Have you heard of a save-you-er dot com? I wonder if this is spam, they’ve just tweeted me about some award voting thing…”
“Whaaaaaaaaat?!”, I squealed in disbelief and ridiculous excitement. And proceeded to tell him exactly who Saveur are, just how amazing this was and that yeah, in my opinion, it’s a pretty big deal to be selected as a finalist! It was a few hours before I calmed down enough to sleep!
To view all the finalists in all the categories, do visit the site, and of course, add your votes. You will need to register with the website, but it’s a very quick process and doesn’t require the normal rigmarole of waiting for a confirmation email, clicking on the link and so on.
Check out all six finalists in the Best Wine or Beer Blog category, and if you think Pete deserves your vote, so much the better!
Voting closes on the 26th April so if you’re planning to participate, do get your votes in soon.
I was chatting to a fellow blogger recently and she mentioned how amusing she found my occasional tweets on weird search terms people have used to reach Kavey Eats.
Every now and then, when I’m procrastinating and putting off things I really ought to be doing, I open my Google Analytics page and scroll through the keyword terms, looking for the odd, the unusual, the curious and the downright bizarre.
A listing in my Analytics page doesn’t only mean that my blog come up in the search results for the given keywords but that the searcher also clicked and visited my blog through the link provided! At some, my mind really does boggle!
Here are a few from recent weeks.
The first one that surprised me was "le cock ring special offer", I can’t even begin to imagine what page on my blog might relate to that, let alone be of interest to the person searching. And no, I’m not going to repeat the search to find out!
I feel the pain of the person looking for "avoiding addiction of hard drinks" but doubt anything I write could help them with their problem.
I can’t work out what was actually the objective of a search for "best beautiful sweets house visiting card jalebi" but I’m certainly curious.
Two related searches gave me cause for confusion and concern – "christian gravestone rip" and "gravestone alcoholic".
I’m glad my blog didn’t help the person trying to cheat an answer for their home work or an exam. They were far too specific when they asked Google to help them find a page that would "describe a cold canape that could be made from chicken liver pate leftover from a function on previous night". By all means, use Google to find ideas, but have the gumption to do more than just type the question in verbatim!
I confess, when I saw "favelle restaurant new york", I did try the same search myself, curious if a namesake owned a restaurant in NY, as it’s not a particularly common surname. All I could find was a large company making cranes used in the building industry!
I’m not sure whether the user who typed "i eat 3 ryvitas a day" was searching for information or wanting Google to know his or her eating habits.
It’s a bit nasty, this one but I really hope that no one is actually planning to "kill penguin chick".
I wonder if an answer to why "wild birds fly into a home and eat and leave" was ever found?
I’ve learned to make bread from master baker Tom Herbert but can’t provide any naked tushy photos to the person hoping to find "masterbaker porno" on Kavey Eats!
I’ve never heard of "lardy liquid chocolate" but I’m intrigued. Lard. Chocolate. Liquid. Could work!
And I’m happy for the person who needed to share that "my chickens love marmite on toast".
Of course, along with the odd searches above were a number of straight forward ones, and I do have content that can help:
There were many variations of searches looking for the recipe for "Leon’s Mamta’s pea and squash curry". This post gives the low down on how mum’s curry came to be on the Leon menu and contains a link to the basic curry sauce recipe on which it is based.
I have previously shared the making of lychee and rosewater jam, which may suit the person looking for a "lychee rose jam recipe".
I definitely have a "recipe for ginger & chilli pickle" based on my mum’s recipe, and it’s hot hot hot!
Until recently, my chicken liver pate always included port, but it seems I wasn’t the only person looking for a "non alcoholic chicken liver pate". My chicken liver and apricot pate fits the bill.
Someone wanted to know "what does paturages on a french menu mean". My review of a meal at Club Gascon reveals the answer.
To the person looking for "pear cartoon character weevil and bob" you might want to note that the characters are egg shaped, not pears, their names are Weebl & Bob. And they love pie.
And in answer to:
"can i use tinned fruit for making ice cream" – Yes you can!
"can u make fruit tartlets with ready roll pastry" – Yes you can!
"can u use tin cherries in clafoutis" – Yes you can!
"can wild garlic be frozen" – Yes it can!
"how do i make strawberry liqueur" – Like this!
"how to pickle/preserve gherkins" – Like this!
All keywords taken from Google Analytics date covering the period 24th February to 25th March 2012.