A photo album of Pete and I enjoying Japan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!