Me and my mum!
Lots of love,
Ever since Dom launched it, I’ve really enjoyed Belleau Kitchen’s Random Recipes challenge, where he invites fellow bloggers to use various techniques of random selection to choose a recipe from their collection of cookbooks and blog it. It often results in some rather unusual recipes, the ones you probably wouldn’t choose to make if you were flicking through the book and choosing normally. It’s a crapshoot, and I love it!
But I’ve never managed to take part, not least because I often have a pile of books waiting to be reviewed in order, and when I have the time and inclination to try a new recipe, I turn to that pile.
So when he posted this month’s challenge – to share some photos of our cookery books – I knew it was time to participate.
I adore books and I particularly adore cookery books. “Food porn” is an overused term, but it’s still good shorthand to describe the almost visceral feeling of satisfaction to be found in flicking through page after page of recipes that make your mouth water with anticipation. Isn’t that pretty much what porn does?
Having amassed far too many cookery books already, a couple of years back I agreed a moratorium on buying any more for at least a year. Of course, this coincided with the (lovely) situation of having publishers offer me review copies via the blog. So the collection continues to expand at vastly increased rate. I did send two large boxes of cookery books to two charity fundraising projects last year, but it’s definitely time for another round of thinning the cookery book shelf!
So here are my cookery book shelves, nooks and crannies.
The main unit (above) has books two deep. I have no idea what’s in there any more…
That hideous cushion is one I found in a samples sale at previous job, when I needed something for my back. Hey, it’s ugly but it only cost me 50p! I love the chair though, with it’s corduroy cover. We inherited it with the house…
Plus I have two other small collections of more recent additions – the one on the right is the “to review” set – which were both piles on the floor until our recent spate of de-cluttering and tidying.
Are you a book addict? Which are the favourites in your collection?
I’ve been interviewed by Zagat on their blog.
Today I’m celebrating three years since I launched Kavey Eats, on April 2 2009.
Sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that the archive goes right back to August 2006. That’s because I started the blog as I came to the realisation that I’d been stealth blogging (as I call it) for years… sharing my food thoughts in online chat rooms, on food discussion boards, at LiveJournal, via email and even in the comments sections on other peoples’ blogs! I wrote rambling restaurant reviews, thoughts on favourite ingredients, reports about food festivals I’d attended, notes about kitchen equipment we’d purchased, feedback on recipes we’d tried and enjoyed… much of the same kind of stuff I share on the blog today.
Despite that, when I started the blog, I feared I’d never keep it up, that I’d run out of things to say, that I’d get bored or that the enjoyment would simply fade away over time.
But three years on, I’m still loving my tiny corner of the web, still enjoying the act of recording my food thoughts and experiences both for myself and sharing with others, still getting a kick out of the relationships I continue to build and maintain with readers, fellow bloggers and people in the food and drinks industry. I’ve met so many wonderful people, and been given such wonderful opportunities, through writing this blog, I am very thankful.
I’m really happy about the new look too. How can I describe the pleasure of going from using a template, the same one used by so many bloggers all over the web, to a design that’s all my own and reflects me so well? Do you remember those strap-on roller skates that you used to buckle onto your regular shoes as a kid? Did you ever upgrade to proper roller boots, which quickly came to mould themselves to your feet, so the skates felt like an extension of your body? Or how about finally buying your very own home and stamping your identity on it, after living in magnolia rentals for years and years? Or finding the perfect fit of jeans after pair after pair with a slightly loose waist or thighs that pinch or legs that are an inch too short or long?
Somehow, even if it’s superficial, the new look makes Kavey Eats feel more like home and gives me even more motivation to keep going, not that I often run short of things to say!
Many thanks to all of you for reading, especially to those of you who take the time to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Here’s to the year to come!
My sister and I share the same birthday, three years apart. And five minutes, if you want to be precise.
When we were young, we’d have joint birthday parties at which we played all the usual games – musical statues, pin the tail on the donkey, pass the parcel…
We’d wear our favourite party clothes… I still remember the pale yellow lace dress with a wide ribbon tied at the back, which was handed down to my sister after I tearfully outgrew it. One year mum made us satin jumpsuits, mine was baby blue and my sister’s was pale pink.
Mum would make us fantastic themed birthday cakes such as fairy castles, ladybirds and trains.
And we would help mum make knickerbocker glories, to serve at the party.
A knickerbocker glory is essentially an ice cream sundae, served in a tall glass that is narrow at the bottom and flared at the top. There isn’t an exact recipe, but as far as I’m concerned, ice cream, jelly, tinned fruit and a syrupy sauce are essential. A cherry on the top is a classic decorative touch, and a little whipped cream doesn’t go amiss either!
One theory is that the name derives from knickerbockers – baggy, knee-length trousers worn by children, particularly boys. In the first half of the 20th Century, young boys traditionally wore shorts in summer and knickerbockers in winter, graduating to long trousers only once they older.
In my childhood, during the ’70s, we called those peddle pushers and I was particularly fond of my maroon velvet pair, which I thought very fetching indeed.
An alternative suggestion for the derivation of the name comes from America, where early settlers from Holland to New York, then known as Nieuw Amsterdam, were called knickerbockers.
In either case, there’s no obvious link between either the shorts or the Dutch immigrants and this ice cream sundae.
As kids, we’d build up the knickerbocker glories layer by layer, perhaps a layer of strawberry jelly with tinned mandarin segments, then a layer of vanilla ice cream, followed by a different coloured jelly…
The Gupta Family Knickerbocker Glory
Ingredients – your choice of:
Chocolate or fruit sauce
This is my own entry for the March Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream event.
If you’re in the UK and like watching food shows, you’ve probably already seen, or at least heard of, A Question of Taste.
It’s the pilot series of a new quiz show currently airing on BBC2 on Monday nights. Presented by Kirsty Wark, it seems loosely based on the format for A Question of Sport. In a nutshell, two teams of foodies compete for points but no prizes, by answering a range of questions on ingredients and cooking techniques, TV cookery shows and chefs, and even a little food history and science.
Yours truly is one of the contestants; my episode airs at 7.30 pm, Monday 30th January on BBC2.
Produced by Silver River, the company launched by successful producer Daisy Goodwin, I don’t think the show quite hits the mark and I’ll be surprised if the BBC commission another series, though you never know; food TV is still hot property and this is that rare entity – a family show for all ages, if they don’t get bored silly.
Kirsty Wark is a good presenter, I like her personality and her style, though I’d prefer to see her engage in a lot more banter with the contestants, and make the show more fun and lively. As it is, it feels stilted and dull! The torturous run-through of the rules before each round is… boring in the extreme! And I know I’m not alone in finding William Sitwell’s role in the Kitchen Corner particularly annoying and patronising, even more so having seen that he doesn’t know in real life the information he’s reading out as the resident “expert”. Ever since Countdown had a lexicographer on hand to provide alternative answers and extra information, it seems that other quiz shows feel they must follow suit, and here, it doesn’t seem to work.
That said, I did have a lot of fun participating!
I know I’m going to cringe my way through this, not least because the need to smile throughout filming was strongly impressed on us before we went on air. I’m convinced the result will be Danny and I gurning at each other, whilst Dan looks suavely on!
There’s also a point at which Kirsty miscalls us Three Like It Hot, which makes me giggle for some time. But after the quiz is finished, the crew have her run through a number of do-overs, including that segment… so the audience won’t understand just what I’m giggling at!
For me, it’s been great fun watching the series, as every episode has featured friends of mine, usually at least three people and in one episode, all six contestants!
Watch, enjoy, giggle with derision, but be gentle!
I’ve recently had two rather spiffing artworks created for or about me and I’m thrilled with both.
The first is by the truly talented irkafirka – Nick Hilditch and Chris Bell. Irkafirka take inspiration from the millions and millions of wonderfully random utterings on twitter, choosing one a day to illustrate in the unique and much loved irkafirka way.
I’ve been a huge fan of irkafirka for the longest time and have been hoping and hoping and hoping and hoping to be firked for just as long. Finally, my waiting is over!
And because I am a demanding individual (yes, I know I am, it’s OK, you can say it), the magnificent men at irkafirka HQ have now put on sale these marvellous Tea Ninja mugs (with the text removed so it could be any Tea Ninja, even your own). And prints too!
The idea is to send a picture of yourself, as well as some information about you – anything you like from a “list of your favorite cheeses, a tale about the ever-elusive Sasquatch, or a haiku about roller disco” – and FCP will assign one of their “terrible artists” to your commission and send you the result.
Here’s mine! Cute, no?
Did these get your creative juices going? Don’t forget I’m still searching for a new look for Kavey Eats, with a fabulous foodie prize for the winner!
I’ve really been enjoying other bloggers’ My 7 Links posts.
The idea, as explained by Tripbase, is “to unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavour to share lessons learned and create a bank of forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.”
Nominated by other bloggers, we are asked to share posts from our own blog, giving a link to one post for each of 7 categories. And to nominate 5 more bloggers to do the same.
I was nominated to take part by Nordic Nibbler, a Brit living in Oslo. His food blog is a great mix of Norwegian cooking and restaurants reviews, and London-based ones from his regular trips back to the UK.
So, without further ado, here are the posts I’m sharing with you as my most beautiful, most popular, most controversial, most helpful posts, the post whose success surprised me, the post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved and the post I’m proudest of.
My Most Beautiful Post: Food In The Falkland Islands
I’ve said before that I love travelling even more than I love good food, especially when it’s travelling to see wildlife in its natural habitat. So our month in the Falkland Islands was very special indeed. Food wasn’t at all the focus of this trip, but we did eat well.
I created this post to say thanks to our many hosts and to share lots of images from a very special trip.
My Most Popular Post: Going Pro For A Day
Not long after I started blogging, the opportunity arose to host my own stall at the Covent Garden Real Food Market. I don’t harbour any dreams of launching a food business but loved the idea of experiencing this as a one off, to see what it was like on the other side of the trestle table. Usually I’m the one browsing such markets!
People really enjoyed reading about how we found the day.
My Most Controversial Post: What’s Your Ultimate Burger?
Perhaps it’s a weakness that I don’t write much controversial content but I blog for enjoyment and what gives me pleasure is sharing positive food experiences. Whilst I did write a restaurant review that the new manager took exception to (emailing and then calling me about it directly), no one else took much interest.
So what to pick? It came down to two posts, one asking readers to tell me about their food and drink loves and hates at Christmas, and the other asking people to describe their ultimate burger. Lots of conflicting views, all good natured, of course!
Most Helpful Post: Food Styling & Photoghraphy Lessons
Although I’ve been a keen amateur photographer for decades, I’ve never really got excited about food photography (though I really do enjoy visiting blogs who do it well). But I did enjoy learning food photography and styling tips from Alastair Hendy, a respected professional in the field.
In this post I share Alastair’s key tips, my favourite images from the day and the challenges I experienced in creating them.
The Post Whose Success Surprised Me: Persian Baked Yoghurt Rice with Chicken
I fell in love with Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf; a book about travelling through Iran, learning about the country, its culture and its cooking.
When I posted Greg’s recipe for Persian baked yoghurt rice with chicken (marinated in saffron and orange blossom) it proved to be the most popular of all my recipe posts. Indeed, more people let me know directly that they made this dish and loved it, than any other recipe on the blog.
It’s delicious – try it!
A Post I Feel Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved: Talking Za’atar in Zawtar
Sometimes, it’s personal! I had such a truly wonderful day visiting Abu Kassem, that I wanted my readers to be just as excited about it as I was.
And many readers did enjoy the post, and left some kind comments about the photographs, some of which I’m particularly proud of. The post allows me to relive one of our many special experiences in Lebanon.
The Post I Am Most Proud Of: Remembrance Day
When I was invited to an event to celebrate the RAF, at which I’d also have the chance to meet some of today’s serving members, I was very pleased to attend.
My interest in history – which I studied at school, sixth form and university – arose from the WW2 experiences of some of our closest family friends. As soon as I started studying history in school, I was hooked. I always had a particular interest in the history of the late 19th century and all of the 20th century, because we could still see and experience in our current lives the effects of what had happened before.
I was very proud to write a post to commemorate and honour the RAF.
It wouldn’t be fair to draw attention to my 7 links without highlighting some of the posts my husband Pete has contributed, under the Pete Drinks category.
Pete Drinks – Most Popular: The Kernel Brewery Tour At Home – May also be the most beers featured in a single post!
Pete Drinks – The Post Whose Success Surprised: Finchley Ales IPA – Largely because it was an early, fairly brief post but the stats suggest it’s ranked pretty highly in views. Also the beer itself was surprisingly good considering how cheap it is!
Pete Drinks – Post Most Proud Of: The Marble Brewery Tour At Home – Simply because it lead me to this fun idea of doing the brewery tours at home, which is a great excuse to buy a whole collection of beers from a chosen brewery and then drink them all, pretending to be “doing research”.
Passing It On
I’m cheating a bit (so sue me!)… there are 10 blogs I’d like to nominate, rather than 5!
I’ve gone for a wide range from the many wonderful blogs I love reading:
If you would like to participate, just write your own post sharing your selected 7 links!
I love my mum. She (and Pops) gave my sister and I the most amazing childhood and a great start in life. From them we learned to appreciate ourselves and others, we learned the importance of education and self-improvement, we learned about the big wide world and the amazing diversity that can be found within it, we learned to socialise and spend wonderful times with dear friends, we learned to appreciate good food from around the world…
From mum specifically, we learned how to be strong, successful women, balancing impressive careers with balanced home lives, we learned about cooking and hospitality and putting people at ease, we learned how to nurture plants – mum gave us our own little areas in the garden and helped us to grow our chosen flowers and vegetables.
Of course, like all mums, my ma does drive me potty sometimes with plenty of nagging about my messy house and my excess weight… but, that doesn’t detract (too much) from the rest! Even now, with my 40th birthday only months away, she and Pop still look out for my sister and I and always have our best interests at heart.
So, I have a lot to thank my mum for when it comes to Mothering Sunday, which falls on April 3rd this year.
I’m calling on Interflora to help me say thank you and remind her that I love her very much.
Interflora needs little introduction to most of us; many of us have turned to the international brand to send flowers for birthdays and anniversaries, to wish friends well in new homes or jobs, to send the message that we hope they feel better soon or even just to cheer them up on a rainy day. And many of us will surely turn to them again to send mothers day flowers and mothers day gifts. I’d suggest you also check out their other categories, as some of my favourite bouquets aren’t included in the mothers day listings.
As well as flowers, don’t forget that Interflora also offer a wide range of hampers including food and drink selections, personalised biscuits and cupcakes and even jars of sweets. I tried one of their hampers a couple of years back and found it pretty decent for the price. Certainly there are more luxurious hampers from suppliers such as Fortnum & Mason and Forman & Field, but of course, these are correspondingly more expensive!
My mum has the proverbial green fingers and she’s a fruit lover so I’ve chosen a beautiful azalea plant and a basket of fresh fruit to send her.
To share the love with my readers, I’m offering one reader a beautiful Interflora prize which you can have sent to anyone you like (including yourself) though I’d like to suggest you send it to your mum.
The Amore Hamper (worth £55) comes in a wicker basket and includes a bottle of champagne, a milk chocolate love heart plaque, Belgian truffles, milk chocolate buttons and Scottish almond and vanilla biscuits.
How to enter
*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?
I’ve talked before about the times I spend in Lidköping, Sweden, as a child.
For several years, my dad took a busman’s holiday working as an anaesthetist in the local hospital there. Mum, my sister and I went with him and whiled away our days walking around town and along the river, visiting the local parks, playing in the little sandpits within our apartment complex, spending good times with the local friends we made over the years and generally enjoying our Lidköping home-from-home.
In that post I mentioned my memories of köttbullar (meatballs), punschrulle (little cakes traditionally made using leftover cake and cookie crumbs from the day’s baking, which is why they are also known as dammsugare or “vacuum cleaner”), surströmming (fermented herring) and skogsbär (fruits of the forest) yoghurt.
And I shared a recipe for Swedish Cheese Tart from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann. At the time, we didn’t have the Västerbotten cheese listed in the ingredients, so we substituted cheddar. It was still very delicious!
But now I have good news:
Västerbotten cheese has come to town!
It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese with teeny, tiny holes and is firm but with some give. And it’s one of the many things we grew to love in Sweden.
We’d miss it so much when we returned home that we’d insist mum tracked it down; the nearest she could find in the UK back then was Danish Havarti, which has similar little holes but an altogether softer texture and not quite the same flavour.
So, I was very happy to be sent some Västerbottensost (ost means cheese) for review, along with a packet of Leksands Knäckebröd (crispbread) and a jar of Felix lingonberry jam.
The cheese transported me immediately back to childhood. The appearance, the smell and above all, the taste created such a strong sense of happy nostalgia and familiarity, I almost launched into a rousing rendition of Dr Seuss (“You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes…”) but instead, concentrated on enjoying my cheese.
Incidentally, those Leksands crispbreads are rather good too; I’d forgotten how much I like this style of crispbread – the plain variety with a wonderful crunch and mild flavour.
I did wonder, for a moment, whether I was enjoying the cheese so much because of those childhood associations. But Pete said he really liked the cheese too.
It’s not just the cheese I like, but the story of how it came to be.
According to legend, it was accidentally created by cheese maker Eleonora Lindstrom who lived in Burtrask in the far north of Sweden. She was left alone to stir the curd of a traditional Swedish cheese but found herself becoming ‘distracted’ on several occasions by visits from her lover. As the fire went out each time Eleonora became side-tracked, the curd cooled, meaning it had to be reheated and then stirred again when her attention returned to it. Due to this unorthodox method of constant heating, cooling and stirring, the cheese didn’t make the usual grade so was placed on a shelf and left there for 12 months. When the cheese was eventually tested, the taste and texture was so unusual and delicious that Eleonora’s technique was replicated and Västerbotten cheese was born.
These days, it is aged for 14 months, known as Sweden’s King of Cheeses and emblazoned with the title, “By appointment to his Majesty the King of Sweden”.
Västerbottensost is currently celebrating it’s 100th year anniversary.
As part of a collaboration between Swedish Trade Council and John Lewis/ Waitrose the cheese is featuring in a 7 week celebration of Swedish food and drink at John Lewis Oxford Street and Waitrose Bluewater. The celebration runs to the end of February. Also available to try and buy at the celebration are the crispbread and lingonberry jam above plus a range of Swedish food and drink including breads, dairy products, condiments and meats.