In & Out Of My Kitchen

I can’t believe two months have flown by since my last In & Out Of My Kitchen post!

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In early September we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a lovely lunch at Hutong in the Shard. Marvellous views, good food and friendly service.

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One of my favourite lunch options near my office was Ju Mak, I always ordered lunch bowl number 1 – with sweet fried belly pork slices, kimchi, spring onions and a fried egg over rice. Sadly, when I went last week, the place was closed and I can’t tell whether it’s being refurbished and will reopen as the same restaurant, or whether Ju Mak is gone and a new place will open. Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to enjoy this tasty lunch again soon.

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Schwartz’ Deli, Timbits from Tim Hortons, Notre Dame Basilica, Restaurant Lemeac

In early September I headed to Canada for a really fantastic press trip. I’ve started sharing some of that with you already, but there are many, many more posts to come. My first stop was Montreal, a fantastically foodie city with a delightful mix of old and new districts, a really varied food scene and an incredible food market I fell head-over-aubergines for!

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Next stop was Quebec City which started with a driving tour around the gorgeous Île d’Orléans. Much of the island is farmland and I loved the farmgate shops selling fresh fruit and vegetables.

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Quebec City was a French food lover’s delight – had the best sweetbreads there I’ve eaten for a long time. And it’s also where I had my first real poutine, in the very place that is said to have invented them!

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One of the most fascinating experiences for me was my visit to the Huron-Wendat Museum – a museum, hotel and restaurant dedicated to sharing first nation tradition with visitors. I loved chatting to executive chef Martin Gagné about the traditional ingredients he uses in the modern restaurant.

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After my time in Quebec I flew down to Ontario and made my way to Niagara-on-the-Lake for an incredible few days hosted by Michael and Anna Olson. Not only did they take us to their favourite local vineyards, restaurants, delis and farms, they also invited us into their home for dinner and breakfast, teaching us some of their delicious recipes before we sat down to eat.

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I adored the farmgate shops, especially the large one at Whitty Farms, where our group tasted our first Canadian Butter Tarts – an utter delight!

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I was particularly excited about this segment of my trip because it included visits to several local vineyards that make (amongst other types of wine) the famous local ice wine. This stunning dessert wine is a regional speciality and as a lover of dessert wines, I was absolutely in my element! I bought two bottles home with me but wish I could have carried back an entire suitcase!

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No visit to this beautiful region would be complete without a visit to the Niagara Falls and we enjoyed both a boat cruise and a spectacular helicopter ride over the falls, before being flown straight to our next destination – another wonderful vineyard for a very delicious lunch!

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I think what made the biggest impression on me about this area of Ontario was the locally grown produce. The variety was amazing (thanks to a very varied local geography that gives rise to a wide range of microclimates) and the quality absolutely superb. Of course, I bought some maple syrup (from both Quebec and Ontario) back home with me! Recipes featuring this gorgeous ingredient to come soon!

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My last stop was Toronto, a world class city that I absolutely loved exploring. After a zip around the eclectic wares of Tap Phong in China Town, and a phenomenal dim sum lunch at Luckee’s, we said goodbye to our hosts and to the lovely Diane, the tour manager who had looked after us so well for the preceding days. I stayed on in Toronto, returning first to China Town for a more in depth wander – the red bean bun I had in Hong Kong Island Bakery was one of the best such buns I’ve ever tasted!

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I also loved Kensington Market, a small but hip area with another fruit and vegetable market, and lots of small hip restaurants, cafes and ethnic groceries full of tempting ingredients and speciality foods.

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Once again, there were wonderful historical buildings and areas amongst more modern Toronto. And oh my goodness, just look at that view from my hotel room!

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When I got home, autumn had kicked in, though weather was still warmer than expected. We harvested lots of delicious plums from our allotment, and a handful of very tart but pretty red apples from our two youngest apple trees.

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Missing Canada, the first thing I cooked on the weekend following my return home was an adaptation of Anna Olson’s sticky buns, a recipe she taught us during our visit to her home. You can find the original recipe, and my variations, here.

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One late September weekend I visited Food Blogger Connect, grateful that the rain stayed away given the unexpectedly outdoor nature of the venue. The street food stalls included treats from The Athenian (fantastic, delicious and generously sized wraps), Crazy for Pasta (who not only cooked but made their pasta fresh for every customer), The Pandan Bakery (who kindly introduced us to a variety of Malaysian treats) and Churros Garcia (which I confess I visited three times!)

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I was treated to some delicious foie gras products courtesy of Foie Gras Gourmet, an online mail order service specialising in high quality products from the Perigord.

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A lovely lunch at what I am certain is the best Lebanese in London reminded us that we should go much, much more often.

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Lunch is nearly always a mad rush out for a local takeaway and back to eat it within my half hour lunch break. Recent lunches include pork katsu don and a sushi box from Ohaio (affectionately known as the hole in the wall, located in New Malden Station), chicken katsu curry from Noodle Express, a mixed box of beef, rice and sweet and sour chicken from Do Bento, a huge jacket potato with bolognese and cheese from Village Cafe and a lamb wrap from somewhere at the other end of the high street, that one of my colleagues kindly collected on behalf of several of us for Shawarma Day!

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I will never ever get bored of eggs and toast!

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I went into China Town with a friend to review Viet Food, during which we popped into Cinnabon for some weekend treats and enjoyed the lanterns left up after the Moon Festival.

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A dear friend visited London and we caught up over a lovely lunch at Portrait Restaurant in the National Portrait Gallery. Lovely views, good food and warm and attentive service. Would go again!

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Absolutely loved reviewing the latest food subscription service – Cheese Posties. Each delivery contains everything you need to make a delicious cheese toastie, with innovative flavour and ingredient combinations that make it lots of fun.

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What greater way to spend a weekend lunch than with friends over dim sum at Pearl Liang?

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Another recipe I really must share with you soon is the quick beef rendang we learned to make on a cookery class we attended earlier this year. This delicious recipe is a one pot meal (everything goes in together) and takes just a few hours rather than the traditional 12-18!

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Lastly, please let me share some work I’m really proud of: It’s not unusual these days for food bloggers to take beautifully styled and photographed images of their recipes that are every bit as professional as tempting as those you find in glossy food magazines. But I’ve very rarely styled the food I post on Kavey Eats, snapping a few super quick grabshots before we tuck in to dinner; my ability to produce a planned and styled shot has remained pretty much untested. So I was really, really pleased with the recipes and photos I created for two recent commissioned posts, one for Quick Golden-Baked Peri Peri Chicken, Yoghurt & Rice Cake and the other for my Potato Rösti Pizza Base – I call it the Röstizza!

That’s an exhausting (but by no means exhaustive) meander through some of my food experiences during the last two months.

Thanks for reading!

And a warm wave at fellow In My Kitchen posters this month.

I’m submitting this post to Celia’s In My Kitchen series. Cheers, Celia!

Finding the Joy in Life

By most measures, I have a good life.

I have a husband I adore, a loving family and wonderful friends. I am self-employed in IT and enjoy my job. Our house is utter chaos but at least it’s ours and, hey, it’s lived in!

I have a smile on my face most of the time.

Of course, life isn’t always a bed of roses. Health issues result in regular pain and that sometimes turns into frustration and moping. Here are some of my favourite ways to find joy when life conspires to get me down or I’m feeling frazzled by the mundane.

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Image by David Steele

Writing

Putting words onto paper (or screen) gives me great pleasure. I love the way it helps me tease my jumbled thoughts into order and it’s great fun to share an experience, an idea, a recipe or a place with others. It’s also a lovely way to connect with people around the world with the same interests. I invest several hours every week into my blog, Kavey Eats, and over the years it’s become one of my favourite hobbies. Through that, I’ve also become a regular contributor to a food and travel magazine, giving me a way of sharing my words with a wider audience.

Writing doesn’t have to be about an audience, of course. Some say that the key element is to express themselves, even if it’s in the confines of a private diary. Whether you want to talk about food and cooking, politics and current affairs, the trials and tribulations of bringing up a family or your thoughts about last night’s TV, grab a notebook or create a diary or personal website and start writing.

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Food & drink

Being a food blogger, it’s no surprise that I love food and it’s something I can find enormous pleasure in. When I’m looking for comfort, I turn to a familiar and nostalgia-inducing favourite. When I’m feeling creative, I try and develop a new recipe. For a more sociable experience, I love eating out and there are just so many fabulous restaurants to choose from. And there’s also great pleasure in discovering a new treat, whether it’s a bar of top quality chocolate, a jar of British honey or a beautifully marbled steak.

Travelling

As a contractor, I’m able to take a fair bit of time off – it’s one of the reasons I went freelance in the first place – and I love to travel and explore the rest of the world. Of course, I can’t be travelling all the time, so when I’m at home I spend lots of time reading trip reports from other travellers, and researching my next big adventure. Honestly, I get as much pleasure from planning a trip as I do from the trip itself; anticipation of pleasures to come is a powerful happiness generator!

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Gardening

My husband and I have grown our own vegetables in our small suburban back garden for many years. A few years ago we also took on an allotment plot, giving us lots of extra space to grow a wider range of produce. Sometimes, the harvest for one or more crops is disappointing but there’s always something that gives us a plentiful bounty and there’s a lot of joy in the process itself. My husband much prefers it to a gym and it’s far cheaper too!

We always grow at least one new fruit or vegetable a year, alongside our trusty favourites. This year we enjoyed our first physalis, butternut squashes and red apples. Last year, the new tomatillos did very well.

Art

A friend of mine once said many years ago that he didn’t think of himself as creative; creative was a word he associated with other people. Regardless of that thought, he pursued an interest in photography and realised that creativity isn’t always something innate; it can be nurtured through practice and determination. Today he’s a successful and talented photographer who shares his skills with others.

I, too, love photography and have always found it a great way of emptying my mind of everyday worries while I focus on capturing the image I want. I also find it a powerful tool for making me stop, look and appreciate the subject more closely, whether it’s a building or landscape, a person or animal or even a worn park bench!

I believe this applies equally to other artforms so if you’ve always liked the idea of painting, pottery, crochet or origami, stop worrying about not being any good at it and just have a go!

This article on my top tips for finding (and creating) joy in your life was commissioned by Thorntons.

Japan Snapshots: Pete & Kavey

A photo album of Pete and I enjoying Japan.

 

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Pete loved his vending machine coffee and got antsy if he couldn’t find his favourite brands; Pete buying ramen

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Pete feasting on gyoza, katsu don, beef don and yakinuku

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Us enjoying okonimiyaki in Kyoto

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Us, feasting again

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Pete with coffee and beer

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Pete on the bus, local train, tram and shinkansen

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Pete enjoying ice cream; Pete buying doughnuts

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Kavey in the tower; Kavey with Kumamoto Castle

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Kavey with Hello Kitty, zebra and giraffe, Tanuki-san, Snoopy, Daruma-san and as a Samurai

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Pete as a Samurai (with amused schoolboys) at Kumamoto Castle; Pete with tiger bag, in a Tokyo shop

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Pete with Kumamon, with his hand up a pink sheep, behind a stone pagoda and with another Kumamon

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Pete trying (and failing) to win chocolate in an arcade; Pete in front of street art shutters

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Pete at various temples and shrines

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Pete placing a stone on a torii, throwing a coin and admiring lilies at Umi Jigoku

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Us at Umi Jigoku

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Pete ringing the large bell at a temple in Usuki; Pete admiring Takachiho Gorge

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Views of Kyushu, as Pete drives

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Pete outside the entrance and Kavey in our private outdoor onsen at Sanga ryokan

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Us at Mount Aso

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Pete being a chicken, Us outside a Kyoto coffee shop

Marzipan Fruits & Memories

My sister and I were definitely Blue Peter girls.

We loved making the many craft projects shown on the programme. I remember spending weeks making a cardboard dolls house with lots of furniture inside: instructions for additional items taught across a series of episodes; one week a chest of drawers made from matchboxes with split pins for handles; another week a table lamb using the fancy lid from a common brand of shampoo or bubble bath bottle. We made 3D greeting cards, witches’ hats and face masks from empty cereal boxes. There was a large castle made from a cardboard box, with toilet-roll holder turrets.  And I can no longer recall whether it was an empty jam jar or washing up liquid bottle inside the cotton wool-covered snowman. Oh and I thought my home-made personal organiser was the epitome of sophistication! There were hundreds more I’ve forgotten, of course, as we were pretty prolific. We improvised, of course – to this day I don’t think I’ve ever even seen sticky backed plastic and how many times was there an empty box or bottle just when you needed one?

We also loved to make a mess in the kitchen. We did enjoy proper cooking but it was also fun to make simple things we could do on our own like peppermint creams, coconut ice and marzipan fruits. Making marzipan fruits kept us occupied for hours, so I suspect it was a favourite with our parents too!

As well as a block or two of shop-bought marzipan we assembled our tools – various items of cutlery to make indents and marks of different shapes, such as teaspoons, toothpicks, tiny crab forks and a large grater to help pattern citrus peel; food colouring and some water to dilute it as needed and water colour paintbrushes with which we carefully blushed red over green for apples and orange over yellow for apricots. We usually kneaded the base food colouring into the actual marzipan and then painted the secondary colours over the top. We used cloves as stalks, stuck in one way for citrus fruits and the other for apples and pears. Leaves were too complicated so we either skipped them or used real ones from the garden.

Oddly, I have no memories of eating our finished creations – just of sitting in the kitchen sculpting away!

 

When I spotted some large marzipan fruits in Carluccio’s Christmas range, they bought those childhood memories straight back. For comparison purposes, I also picked up boxes from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I had hoped to include Niederegger marzipan fruits, as I love the quality of their marzipan, but discovered that these are no longer available. I was not able to pick up products from other supermarkets.

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Carluccio’s hand painted Sicilian Frutta di Marzapane (£16.95 for 400 grams) were certainly visually impressive and would be the prettiest of the three sets if you want to make a table display, although I wasn’t convinced by the plastic stalks and greenery. The fruits were very large – especially the tomato, lemon, fig and orange – which would also make them harder to share and hard to eat a whole one at once. Sadly, I was disappointed by the taste and dry mealy texture of the marzipan itself.

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Waitrose marzipan fruits (£4.99 for 170 grams) were a much better match for the ones my sister and I used to make and less heavily coloured too. All the fruits were about the same size, just right for enjoying in one or two bites. But I was disappointed by the flat bottoms – the fruits were shaped only on the top, rather than all the way around. On the plus side, the taste and texture of the marzipan was, surprisingly, far better than Carluccio’s.

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At just £3 (for 150 grams), Sainsbury’s marzipan fruits were the most keenly priced. Like the Waitrose box, each fruit was evenly sized and this time they were shaped all the way around. That said, the moulding was poorly aligned and the colouring and detail far less attractive than the others. The texture was pleasantly soft and smooth, but the flavour wasn’t as good as the Waitrose ones.

 

My pick of the three are the Waitrose marzipan fruits which provide the best combination of good looks, great taste and a reasonable price.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box from Carluccio’s and purchased the other two samples directly from local supermarkets.

Books Books Books

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!

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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…

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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.

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Are you a book addict? Which are the favourites in your collection?

Kavey Eats 3 Today!

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.

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for those who’ve been asking for a picture of me without the specs, post eye lasering

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!

The Glories of Knickers & Bockers

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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…

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Check out the train cake! And the party hats! And mum’s hair!

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.

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Red pop! My younger sister wearing the yellow lace dress! Mum watching me blow out the candles!

Mum would make us fantastic themed birthday cakes such as fairy castles, ladybirds and trains.

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Me in the baby blue satin jumpsuit! Sister in the pink one!

 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:
Tinned fruits
Fresh fruits
Jelly
Broken meringue
Ice cream
Whipped Cream
Chocolate or fruit sauce
Cherries

Method

  • Start with fruit and one of the jellies, and leave to set in the fridge.
  • Add additional meringue, fruit and jelly layers as you like.
  • Add ice cream, whipped cream, sauce and cherries just before serving.

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This is my own entry for the March Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream event.