It’s not often I start a new job and discover fellow foodies in my team; more often new colleagues find my interest (they tend to use the term obsession) surprising, beyond their comprehension, even weird. Of course, they tend to come around when the chocolate review samples make it into the office…

TomCoxMiniWhich means it was nice to start my current contract and find that several of my teammates are pretty keen on food too. One told me about cookery classes he’s attended recently. Another discussed her weekend addiction to burgers (though she’s veggie during the week). And one talked animatedly about the forest of chilli plants he’s nurturing and the various cookery books which are most popular in his house at the moment.

It didn’t take long for me to invite Tom Cox to write content for Kavey Eats. He’s not only keen on eating out and cooking at home, he also loves reviewing stuff and writing about it!

Over to Tom for his feedback on Tabasco’s Sauces & Marinade collection.

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Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon (Mild) 3.5*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces, Scotch and Bourbon Whiskies

This had a nice smoky flavour, quite like a smoky barbeque sauce with just a hint of spice and a relish-like hit. Perfect on burgers or ribs (as the back of the bottle suggests and very rightly so). It is however quite sweet (although it has nothing on chipotle and cola) and I can’t really detect any sign of a Bourbon-y taste, more like smoky, ever-so-slightly spicy barbeque. We tried to use this as a marinade for some chicken we were doing on the barbeque but unlike the back of the bottle says, this isn’t suitable for use as a marinade on its own and may need mixing with some oil to avoid it sticking and stripping all the skin and sauce off.

Sweet Chipotle and Cola (Mild) 1.5*

A sweet sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces and cola flavoured soft drink

We had really high expectations for this one, me being a fan of all the weird and wonderful things I can possibly find to eat (this is pretty tame but appealed). However, this was our least favourite. The problem was it was far too sweet and I swear even had a very mild foamy banana taste (the ones you get from the pick and mix, not a banana that had the misfortune of catching fruit rabies). It did however have a nice mild warmth and I’m sure if you like mildly spicy and very sweet then this would do it for you.

Peppery Deep South Creole (Medium) 4*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauce

A nice mild heat and this is the one you definitely want at your barbeque. A nice blend of ketchup-like sweetness and tomato-tartness with a lovely medium heat and sweet peppery flavours. This would be absolutely perfect on your burger or an addition to a chilli for a chilli dog. A really great take on a barbeque classic.

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Fruity and Fiery Hot Habanero (Hot) 4*

This was the most interesting; the first 2 seemed like jumped up ketchup/ barbeque sauce (don’t get me wrong I’m all for making those two things a little more exciting) but this one was a little different. It had a nice manageable heat for people that like heat and had a really exotic flavour – like a fruity, spicy Indian piccalilli but a little less tart (owing to the mango and papaya I would guess). Again I would agree with the back of the bottle on this one – it would be nice in a stir fry as the main event but I feel it might be a bit out of place at your summer barbeque.

 

Overall I like that Tabasco are trying new things other than a scorching sauce that is useful only for supposedly encouraging growth of so far virtually non-existent hairs on my chest (I like to think of it more as highly evolved). They’ve managed to put a new, more flavoursome and spicy spin on some otherwise quite dull table condiments and hopefully we’ll see a lot more new and exciting innovation from this capsaicin crazed company.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Tabasco.

 

I love home-made ketchup, and it’s even more satisfying making it from home-grown tomatoes.

In the past, I’ve made several batches with red tomatoes and a couple of batches with green ones but this is the first batch I’ve made with beautiful orange sungold tomatoes, a variety we’ve been growing for the last few years. Sungold is a cherry tomato variety and naturally super sweet, so a lot of the harvest doesn’t even make it indoors, or last long if it does. But our plants are giving us plenty this year, both those in the greenhouse and the ones outside. I was keen to see if I could preserve the vibrant colour in a ketchup to enjoy once the growing season is over.

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I used my maternal grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup recipe – the same one I’ve used before. I had 940 grams of tomatoes, so I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to spices as well.

 

Spicy Sungold Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients
1 kg ripe sungold tomatoes
Half a small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Whole spices in fabric bag *
5-6 cloves
2 black cardamoms, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon whole black peppers, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
Ground Spices
Half teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
40 grams sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

* Instead of wrapping my whole spices in muslin tied with string, I use fill-your-own teabags for speed. These are easy to fish back out of the pot and throw away once used.

Method

  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in the oven, leaving them in until I’m ready to fill them.
  • If you like, you can cut the tomatoes in half, or just slash each one, which makes it easier for them to break down more quickly, but as the sungolds are small, I put them in the pan whole and squish occasionally with a wooden spoon as they cooked.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken half an hour. This time, I found the liquid was reasonably thick after 5 minutes boiling.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and bottles are still hot.
  • Seal immediately.
  • Once cooled, you can label and store in a dark cupboard.

Please note: As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and found it fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

 

How have you been preserving your garden or allotment harvests? I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas for tomatoes, apples and potatoes in particular!

 

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When I was invited to take part in the Grey Poupon cooking challenge, I immediately remembered the intriguing recipe for Cackalacky Spare Ribs that I’d read in my recently acquired book, The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers.

As Grey Poupon was originally an American-owned brand (born back in 1777) Cackalacky seemed doubly appropriate. (These days Grey Poupon UK is a separate entity, their mustard still produced in Dijon, the spiritual home of mustard).

With Google at my fingertips, I quickly learned that Cackalacky is a nickname for Carolina, USA and for many things originating in the two states, North and South, though the origins of the word are a mystery.

In food terms, Cackalacky is a condiment variously described as a “hot mustard sauce”, a “mustard BBQ sauce” or simply a “spice sauce”. Recipes vary hugely, but what they all have at their core is the use of yellow mustard. Many recipes also include sweet potato; for acidity there’s a choice of cider vinegar or lime juice; for sweetness some recipes turn to molasses, others to honey and still others to brown sugar; some add onions and garlic, some don’t; and then there’s a whole range of spices.

Although I took the book as my original inspiration, I had some way to go in developing my own recipe.

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For a start, I wanted to switch from pork spare ribs to beautiful British beef. I decided on a bone in rib of Hereford beef, to be roasted whole. This was first rubbed with a sugar spice mix based on Summers’ rib rub, a few hours before cooking. I also took her advice to baste the beef with some of my Cackalacky sauce five minutes before the end of its cooking time.

However, when it came to the recipe for Cackalacky sauce, I struck out on my own, taking elements from several very varied recipes I found, and hoping my own creation would work. Instead of sweet potato, I decided to use apples, still seasonal in the UK. Of course, Grey Poupon mustard would have a starring role. And I decided on my own combination and amounts of sugar, honey, herbs, spices and vinegar.

I recently enjoyed a lovely potato and parsnip mash when eating out, and felt the soft, sweet and earthy flavours would be perfect against the spiced beef and sweet-sour mustard sauce. Again, very seasonal for a British winter.

Lastly, one of my favourite winter greens, some Savoy cabbage, just shredded and lightly boiled.

I’m not very experienced at developing my own recipes, it’s something I’m still very nervous about. So I was truly delighted when my Cackalacky and accompaniments came together beautifully. This is definitely a recipe I’ll make again.

Feel free to try this with other meats too – my swap from pork ribs to a roasting joint of beef worked really well.

 

Kavey’s Cackalacky Roast Rib of Beef

Ingredients
Bone in rib of beef
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
1 cup Cackalacky sauce (see below)

Note: My rib of beef was a single rib join weighing 1.3 kilos. Adjust volumes of spice rub if your joint is significantly larger or smaller.

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  • Combine sugar and spice ingredients thoroughly and rub into the surface of the meat. Use your hands!

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  • Leave the meat in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

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  • Roast the meat according to your preferred temperature and times and the size of the joint. Set your alarm for 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.I tried a new method, pre-heating the oven to 230 C, cooking the beef at that temperature for 15 minutes and then turning down to 190 C for the rest of the cooking time. However, the result was cooked more than we prefer, and next time we’ll stick to our normal temperatures and times, for medium rare.

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  • Five minutes before the beef is due to finish cooking, take it out of the oven and baste generously on all surfaces with Cackalacky sauce. Return to the oven.

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  • After the final five minutes, remove from the oven, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for 10-20 minutes.

 

Kavey’s Cackalacky BBQ Sauce

Ingredients
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon cooking oil
6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
4 heaped tablespoons Grey Poupon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Note: As I was combining elements from several different recipes to create my own, I wasn’t sure how much sauce to make. I initially made exactly half the above amount, realising as soon as I’d finished that I hadn’t made enough to both baste the beef and serve as a condiment. I immediately made the recipe again, exactly the same way. The amounts above are for the total volume I made.

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  • Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the diced apples. Cook until the apples start to take on a little colour.

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  • Add the dark muscovado sugar and stir on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and coats the apples.

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  • Add the cider vinegar and water and bring to a simmer.

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  • After a few minutes test the softness of the apples. I used a potato masher to break them down more quickly.

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  • Add the oregano, thyme, black pepper and cayenne pepper and stir, then cover and cook on a medium heat.

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  • Once the apples have softened completely, stir in the mustard.

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  • Add the honey and mix in well.

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  • Transfer the mixture to a blender and blitz until smooth.
  • Season with salt and check for taste. At this stage, you could adjust sweetness or acidity by adding a little honey or vinegar, if you wish. I was happy with the taste, so didn’t adjust mine.

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Parsnip & Potato Puree

Ingredients
Equal quantities of potatoes and parsnips, by weight
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
A splash of double cream, to loosen

  • Peel and chop the potatoes and parsnips and boil till soft.
  • Transfer to a food processor.
  • Add salt and pepper and a splash of cream.

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  • Blitz until smooth. Adjust seasoning and add more cream if required.

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Although the beef was cooked medium-well rather than my intended medium-rare, the quality of the beef meant it was still delicious and I loved the combination of flavours from the spice rub and the Cackalacky sauce. The mellow sweetness of the parsnip and potato puree worked very well against the sharp mustardy flavours. And the cabbage, carefully not overcooked, gave a lovely freshness and crunch to the plate.

This is very different to anything else in my normal cooking repertoire but has been a fun and successful exploration. If you try making it yourself, do let me know how you get on!

 

I love the idea of giving homemade gifts for Christmas.

I’ve come across the mentality that homemade is second best; I know people who judge on monetary value and assume that shop-bought, established brands are always better than amateur efforts. Homemade to these folks is about thrift or stinginess or rose-tinted nostalgia, if they’re being generous.

But they’re wrong.

Let’s put pay to the first misapprehension straight away. Homemade gifts are not always about saving money. A bottle of decent quality shop-bought jam or chutney might set you back £2-3. But even the smaller producers, with pretty marketing images of small farms and country kitchens make far larger quantities than me. Buying ingredients and jars in bulk brings their costs down significantly. For us hobby preservers, the costs of jars and ingredients adds up pretty fast.

My homemade chocolate chip cookies of dreams cost far more than supermarket ones, even their posh ranges. Mine are stuffed full of high quality ingredients and a shockingly decadent amount of chocolate. They smell amazing coming out of the oven, and have the perfect texture too. The dough can be frozen, and baked straight from the freezer, so two ways to give them as a gift.

Of course, some people are time-rich and cash poor, but that doesn’t mean you should undervalue the gift they’ve given you by spending their time making something tasty especially for you.

My homemade spicy tomato ketchups (which I’ve made from ripe red tomatoes and unripe green ones) not only represent hours of effort in the kitchen but are usually made with tomatoes we’ve grown ourselves, nurturing them from seed to harvest.

If it’s not always about cost and it’s a huge investment of time, you might be asking why anyone bothers with homemade at all? The answer is that the results can be so very very good! And recipes can be tweaked and adapted (or made up completely, like my chutney above) to suit personal tastes, availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables and even allergies to specific commonly-used ingredients. (I’ve made an extra-hot chilli pickle because I know some of my friends are real chilli-heads!)

And, without blowing my own trumpet, I know that my homemade green tomato and raisin chutney is good, really good!

Of course, my examples above are all food but I have also been given homemade wines, ciders and liqueurs not to mention homemade scarves and other items of clothing. A friend is making me an apron with her own fair hands, at this very moment!

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Feeling as strongly as I do about homemade gifts I was very happy to be invited to Vanessa Kimbell’s Let’s Make Christmas blogger event at which we’ll swap homemade goodies over afternoon tea and chat.

I’m taking along three items I’ve made, one that I made very recently and two others which I made last year and the year before, so they’ve had time to mature properly. *

I thought I’d take this opportunity to go back through Kavey Eats and highlight some recipes for fabulous homemade goodies, that would make great gifts this Christmas:

Jams & Jellies

Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

Apricot Jam + Lychee & Rosewater Jam

Mango & Lime Jam

Plum Jelly

Pickles, Chutneys & Ketchups

Green Tomato & Raisin Chutney

Tamarind Ketchup

Hot, Sweet, Sour, Tangy Lemon Pickle *

Hot Chilli & Ginger Pickle *

Pear & Ginger Chutney *

Pickled Gherkins

Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Baked Goodies

Banana Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookies of Dreams

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Miscellaneous

Candied Citrus Peel

Strawberry Vodka Liqueur

I’d love to know about the favourite homemade food and drinks gifts you’ve been given by others and which of your own always go down the best with your friends and family.

 

There’s something deeply satisfying about making a meal of ingredients foraged directly from the earth, not by some faceless stranger who’s sold his lucrative hedgerow hoard to a restaurant chef, but by your own hands.

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Common mallow

Of course, there’s the thrifty delight in a free meal. £3 for a bundle of asparagus or marsh samphire for free? £2.50 for a punnet of raspberries or blackberries for free? A few quid’s worth of leeks or wild garlic for free? £2 for a bag of spinach and rocket leaves or black mustard and sorrel leaves for free? You get the idea!

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

In today’s society of plastic-wrapped supermarket shopping, there’s a joy in reconnecting with nature as you search, pluck and pick wild food directly from the land.

Of course, across much of Europe and indeed, the rest of the world, wild food is still very much a regular part of the diet and entrenched in traditional food cultures. In my mind’s eye is an image of little old ladies across a hundred different landscapes, carefully guarding and passing on their hard-won knowledge of where to find abundant crops of mushrooms, the juiciest wild fennel, a wide array of herbs, fruits and nuts…

Here in Britain, where is this is the exception not the rule, there’s more than a little romance in that image.

 

Foraging and Cooking

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Caroline and Simon

Simon Day, founder of unearthed, has discovered during his travels around Europe, that many areas still have a thriving wild food culture. Indeed, he has found that many producers of local and regional food specialities, of the type he seeks for unearthed, are very much aware of what the land around them has to offer.

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A few weeks ago, Simon invited a small group of food writers and bloggers to join him on a special foraging and cooking day organised and run by Caroline Davey. Caroline is the founder of the Fat Hen Wild Food Foraging And Cooking School, a few miles from Land’s End in Cornwall.

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When you learn about Caroline’s life, it seems almost inevitable that she should be doing what she does now. Much of Caroline’s childhood was spent living in the Far East, Africa and England; everywhere she made a deep and lasting connection with nature. Whether tramping around in the British countryside picking mushrooms, berries and chestnuts or eating lotus seeds in the early morning mists of Kashmir with Mr Marvellous, the flower seller, Caroline developed a fascination with wildlife and wild food. In addition, her Welsh  mother passed on a love of good food, cooking and entertaining that was very much a part of family life. Studying and qualifying in Zoology and Environmental Impact Assessment lead to a 12 year career as an Ecological Consultant, most of it in Cornwall, where Caroline visited many of the county’s wildest corners to record and document habitats and species. She honed her plant identification skills and developed a deep understanding of natural ecosystems, the impact of farming methods and local wildlife conversation issues. But Caroline felt she needed a more interactive relationship with nature than merely recording and reporting on it. As she taught herself about the plants around us, she wanted to know what they meant to us and how we could best use them. After a year as a freelance forager, during which Caroline became intimately familiar with what could be foraged where and when during the year, she started offering foraging courses a few years ago.

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Our day with Caroline was hugely enjoyable. Waterproof coats and shoes protected us from the rain as we took a walk in the local countryside, learning how to identify a wide range of wild plants and how best to collect them, tasting and collecting as we went. Even in the rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm as Caroline brought nature’s larder alive for us.

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We returned back to the warmth of Fat Hen, located in a converted goat barn and the family farm house kitchen.

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There, Caroline and Simon had arranged for local chef and teacher Mark Devonshire to give us a demonstration of how to use the wild food we’d foraged, in conjunction with some delicious unearthed products such as rillettes and chorizo.

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Simon and Mark

Mark spent 17 years working for Rick Stein at The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, the last 8 of which were as head lecturer at the Padstow Seafood School. These days he teaches at Cornwall College where he shares the joys of food with eager youngsters. His latest class were due to graduate just after we attended the course, and his pride in their success and hope for their future was very clear. We sat around the beautiful big table smelling and tasting the tidbits Mark and Caroline prepared and offered.

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After the cooking class, we enjoyed a delicious meal that made full use of locally foraged ingredients.

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Pork Rillettes with Pickled Rock Samphire Served on Soda Bread Toast

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Ingredients
Pork rillettes
Toasted soda bread
Large handful rock samphire, washed and patted dry
300 ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Pickling Spices
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Method

  • Heat up the cider vinegar with the pickling spices in a saucepan until boiling, take off the heat, add the rock samphire and transfer to a sterilised glass jar. Seal and leave for at least a month before eating.
  • Serve the pork rillettes on top of soda bread toast with pickled rock samphire laid on top.

 

Rules for Foraging Safely and Responsibly

Caroline was keen to stress to us a number of key rules for foraging, some of which I’ve paraphrased below.

  • Only pick something that you are 100% positive you have identified correctly. As we saw during the day, many plants are easy to confuse and some are deadly. It’s not worth taking chances.
  • Leave enough for the plants to grow back and use a scissor or knife to cut cleanly.
  • Don’t deplete rare species. There are plenty of common plants that grow in abundance.
  • The exception to the above is invasive plants such as three cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum), which originated in the Mediterranean. Three cornered garlic is a different plant to our native wild garlic (Allium ursinum); both can be foraged and used in cooking, but you can also dig up the bulb of the former without worry.
  • Be aware of pollution. Find out if fields have been sprayed, avoid picking along heavily trafficked roads and next to any paths where dogs are commonly walked.
  • Get permission from landowners before foraging on private land.

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Green & Black’s Head of Taste, Micah Carr-Hill, is looking for a Taste Assistant.

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The winning candidate will support Micah in the development of new Green & Black’s products – sourcing ingredients from all around the world, working with marketing on the development of ideas, developing kitchen samples, scaling small trials to factory scale and even getting involved with technical and sales aspects.

For many food and chocolate lovers, if Micah’s job is the best job in the world, this is a close second!

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To find just the right person, Micah isn’t planning your normal run-of-the-mill interviews. Oh no! He’s running a series of challenges designed to find a candidate with an excellent palate and the creativity to put it to good use.

To give his unorthodox interview challenges a road test, Green & Blacks got together with Miele and invited a group of bloggers to have a go at those same challenges.

And somehow, Green & Black’s Community Manager, Gail Haslam, talked me into participating in the 15:15 challenge. We had £15 and 15 minutes with which to create a dish which showed our skills in balancing flavours. Eek!

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I nervously hauled my chosen ingredients to the Miele London showroom and, after a cup of restorative tea, quickly got stuck into the wonderful cocktails being made by Drinks Fusion.

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Before the cook-off we were welcomed by Micah and then enjoyed a talk by Frutarom‘s flavourist Matthew Stokes. It was fascinating to learn about the complexities of flavours in chocolate (and coffee too, actually) and to discuss the differences, pros and cons of natural versus artificial (synthetic) flavourings. During the talk, we were passed sniff sticks dipped into various flavourings including a rather disgusting butyric acid. Gag!

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All too soon it was time for the first round of 15:15 contestants to get cooking. I held my nerves together, despite some giggling visits from blogger friends and produced my very simple dish – four individual cheese toasts (Cheddar, Stilton, a goat’s cheese log and Epoisses) served with a fresh pear and ginger chutney. (Scroll down for the chutney recipe; it’s a good one so do make some yourself!)

It was all I could do to complete this in the time so I was blown away by the talent of my 4 fellow competitors when we took our finished plates to the judging station. I quickly stroked goodbye to the beautiful red kitchen aid that was the first prize!

Round two resulted in another 4 stunning efforts. Very impressive indeed!

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Once Micah had finished tasting, the rest of us dug in and tasted each dish.

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Three stood out for me: Luiz’s quails cooked with chocolate, cinnamon, pistachio and rose, Simon‘s duck breast with a quince and red peppercorn sauce, cassoulet, green beans and edamane in a light basil emulsion and Meems’ pasta dish featuring brown beech mushrooms, dashi, soy, mirin, salmon roe, shiso leaves and spring onions.

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Other challenges during the evening were the two taste tests – a cocktail one, where we had to guess the ingredients in two specially designed cocktails by by Drinks Fusion and a chocolate one, for which Micah created two different chocolate ganaches and asked us to identify the flavourings he’d added.

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The well-deserved winners were Jennifer (cocktail taste test), Meems (chocolate taste test) and Meems again for the 15:15 challenge. Her dish was a really clever and tasty balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to watch her teary emotions as she was announced as the winner of the cookery challenge. It was lovely!

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During the evening, we were also treated to some delicious sweet and savoury canapés, not to mention more cocktails! In fact, Pepe, the handsome barman, designed a cocktail especially for me featuring freshly squeezed clementine juice, double cream and crème de mure. Delicious!

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At the end of an already wonderful evening, we were also given gorgeous boxes full of Green & Blacks goodness to take home.

Many thanks to Green & Blacks for one of the best events and evenings I’ve attended for a long time and best of luck to Micah in his search for his new Taste Assistant!

Kavey’s Pear & Ginger Chutney

Ingredients
2-3 Conference (or other hard) pears – peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion – peeled and finely diced
3-4 chunks of stem ginger (the kind one buys in syrup) – very finely chopped
100 ml cider vinegar
Approximately 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons of ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)
half teaspoon powdered all spice

PearGingerChutney-4662

Method

  • Peel and dice the onion and throw into a pan with the cider vinegar.
  • As the onion is cooking, peel and dice the pear and add to the pan.
  • Next add the brown sugar, syrup from the stem ginger jar and the all spice and stir.
  • Continue to cook on a medium heat.
  • Lastly, finely chop the stem ginger pieces and add to the chutney.
  • In the challenge, I cooked the chutney for as long as I had available. However, when I made a second batch the next day, with my leftover ingredients, I gave it longer to cook – about 15 minutes after I’d added the last ingredients. Aim for soft onions but some bite left in the pears.
  • About 5 minutes before the chutney is finished, have a taste and adjust sugar and vinegar to achieve your preferred balance of sweet and tart. If you add more sugar, it will need those 5 minutes to dissolve and mix into the chutney.
  • When finished, serve as is or preserve in sterilised jam jars to mature further.

PearGingerChutney-4666 PearGingerChutney-4665
PearGingerChutney-4667

I’m really, really happy with this chutney recipe. It’s completely my own invention as I couldn’t find any suitable recipes to use as a guideline. It seems that my growing love of preserving over the last 18 months has paid off as I think this chutney has a lovely balance of autumnal flavours. I hope you enjoy it too!

 

I have known Ann Busby for some years now, as a fellow member of the BBC Food chat board and more recently, the Wildfood forums.

Just over three years ago, Ann’s husband complained about the quality of piccalilli on sale in supermarkets. His comments prompted Ann to make her own, using her mum’s recipe. A box scheme starting locally at the same time and Ann asked them to sell some of the jars she’d made.

That was the start of her Simply Relish business through which she now sells home made chutneys, relishes and jams to an appreciative audience.

Her products have been recognised in the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards for three years in a row!

Ann is keen to be as green as possible and now grows a lot of her own ingredients, composts all her peelings and sources the rest of her ingredients locally and seasonally as much as she can.

I was so pleased when she agreed to write a guest post sharing one of her fantastic recipes with Kavey Eats readers.

Scroll to the bottom to win some of Ann’s goodies for yourself!

Over to Ann:


I am an award-winning artisan chutney and relish creator and sell my produce at local farmers’ markets and farm shops. This gives me the flexibility to use seasonal and local produce to its full potential. Luckily I’m well known in the village and it’s not unusual to return home to find bags sitting on the doorstep bursting with apples, plums and pears, all of which are turned into chutneys and jellies.

sunshine in a jar

I just love using our native wild apples! From sunshiny crab apples to the tiny green ones, they are all rich in pectin at this time of year and set readily into sparkling clear jellies. This one is made in the traditional way, using some contemporary ingredients.

It’s getting a little late in the season for Crab apples, so I’ve mixed the few I managed to pick (asking the land owner’s permission first) with other native apples. The colour of the jelly may not be a vibrant pink, but the taste will be sublime!

wild apples

Before you start, ensure you have got enough jars, (I filled 12 x 110ml jars, using the quantity of apples below) lids and a large pan. Other useful, but not essential, equipment includes a jam thermometer, a funnel and a jelly straining bag, all available from good cook shops.

This is not a quick jelly to make – you’ll also need time and patience!

Simply Relish’ Wild Apple Jelly with Chillies and Lemongrass

Ingredients:
1.5 kilos mixed apples
White granulated sugar (more about that later!)
2 deseeded fat red chillies, minced – or more if you like it hot!
2 stalks of finely diced lemongrass; remove the outer leaves and discard. Use only the bottom third of the remaining stalk.

Method:

  • The pectin is richest in the skin and pips, so all you need to do is wash and roughly chop the apples, discarding any that are bruised or rotten. Pop them in a pan and cover them with about 1.2 litres of cold water; bring to the boil and let them simmer until they’re soft and pulpy. You can help them to break down by stirring with a wooden spoon. This stage takes up to 45 minutes.
  • Now comes the most traditional part – straining them. Great Grandma would probably have done this every autumn to maximise nature’s bounty. She would have used muslin, but you can use a straining bag or even a clean stocking! The liquid needs to drip slowly into a clean receptacle; don’t be tempted to help it along by squeezing, as you’ll get a cloudy jelly. Leave it overnight, if possible, or at least 6 hours.
  • Discard the dried out apple solids – you can compost these. You’ll be left with a rather dull, cloudy juice, but nature is an alchemist and, as long as you haven’t squeezed, prodded or poked the dripping apples, you can look forward to seeing the amazing change that will (trust me!) occur.

apple juice

  • There are a few things to do before you start the next stage. If you don’t have a jam thermometer, pop a saucer or small dish in your freezer – this will help you determine when your jelly has reached setting point. You’ll also need to wash, drain and sterilise your jars; leave them in a warm oven (approx 130 Celsius) for 20 minutes. Boil the lids in a small pan and drain thoroughly. You don’t want any water in the jars, once sealed.
  • Prepare your chillies and lemongrass now. I’m used to handling chillies, but you may want to wear gloves; remember to wash your hands well afterwards! If you prefer a hot jelly, add a bird’s eye chilli or two.
  • Remove the outer leaves from two stalks of lemon grass and finely dice the lower part. Put to one side.

chilli & lemongrass

  • On with the exciting bit! You need to measure the juice and calculate how much sugar you need to add.
  • I use this simple formula: to each 100ml of juice, add 80g of sugar if you want a tart jelly or 90g if you want a sweeter one. This batch yielded 965ml, so I added 870 grams of sugar.
  • Put the sugar and juice into a large pan – you can use the bottom part of a pressure cooker, if you have one. Bring it to the boil – the jelly will rise and, if the pan isn’t big enough, it will boil over, so you will need to keep an eye on it.
  • Using a slotted spoon, skim any scum from the mixture.
  • You’ll see the juice turn from cloudy to clear and its transformation is almost complete! Water now needs to be driven from the jelly; you’ll need that patience again! While it’s still on a ‘good rolling boil’, add the chillies and lemongrass, so they cook well. Keep checking it if you have a thermometer – it should reach 105 Celsius for a good set.
  • If you don’t have a jam thermometer, drop a small amount on the saucer you popped in the freezer earlier and leave it to cool a little. If it wrinkles when pushed, it’s reached its setting point. If not, keep boiling and repeat the procedure until it does.
  • When you’re satisfied that it’s set, leave it for a few minutes. This cooling should ensure an even distribution of ‘solids’. Using a funnel, ladle the jelly into jars, lid and place where it won’t be disturbed until it’s cooled and set. I love to put it on the windowsill, where the light can shine through.

ready for market

  • Once cold, label and put in a cool place.

It goes particularly well with poultry and pork, but I also love it in a Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese sandwich. It’ll keep quite happily, unopened, for a few months. Of course, I should tell you to keep it in the fridge, once opened, but this is a traditionally made jelly – and Great Grandma didn’t have a fridge!

The jars make lovely presents, too – if you can bear to part with them! This little lot are off to market!


Doesn’t that look absolutely delicious? Thank you, Ann, for sharing your recipe and tips!

To win a jar of Ann’s Simply Relish Sizzling Sweet Chilli Sauce and one of her Simply Relish Hot Sweet and Sour Sauce, please leave a comment about what you might serve with either one, before 15th November midnight GMT. Open to UK residents only. Please leave your email contact in your comment. A winner will be drawn using a random number generator.

 

I have always loved pickled gherkins. Many’s the time I’ve come to the chagrined realisation, as I munch one straight from the jar, then another and then one more, that I have eaten an entire jar in one sitting!

Over the last several years, Pete and I have gradually converted our back garden into what we refer to as our home lottie (but which should, more accurately, be called a kitchen garden). Each year we’ve added a few more vegetables and fruits to the mix.

This year, for the first time, we’re growing gherkins.

It’s a confusing word, is gherkin.

The cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is thought to have originated in foothills of Himalayas, possibly from wild cucumbers (Cucumis hardwickii). Certainly, it’s been cultivated in India for more than 3000 years and also known in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and China. of course, it’s now found worldwide.

There is also the West Indian gherkin (Cucumis anguria), a related but different species.

But usually when we talk about gherkins in Europe, we’re not talking about Cucumis anguria but about a set of cultivars of Cucumis sativus (cucumber).

To make it more confusing still, as it has long been common to preserve gherkin cultivars by pickling them in vinegar, the word gherkin has become synonymous with any type of pickled cucumber – gherkin cultivar or not.

I’ve even had some people insist that there’s no such thing as a gherkin, that it’s just a term for pickled cucumbers!

So, what is a cultivar? A cultivar is simply a variety of a plant that, over time, has been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics – for example, there are several thousand varieties of tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes and varying hugely in taste, disease resistance, yield.

Cucumbers come in many shapes and sizes too, from spherical yellow ones to long, slender ones with thick dark green skins. Some are juicy and full of seeds, others are virtually seedless. Some have bumpy, ridged skins, others are smoothly lustrous. Some taste quite bitter whilst others have a mild, almost sweet flavour, similar to that of melons, which are also part of the Cucurbitaceae family (as are gourds, marrows, squashes and pumpkins).

The gherkins we are growing are a cultivar of cucumber (Cucumis sativus) called ‘Diamant’ F1 Hybrid.

Gherkins are well suited for pickling.

And the first four picked just had to be pickled, didn’t they? Oh, yes!

PickledGherkins1-2468

But which recipe to use? There are so many variations, from sharp to sweet, with dill or without, nothing but gherkin or with some onion and garlic thrown in, not to mention the choice of spices…

The majority of the recipes I found use a ready-bought pickling spice but I decided to make my own.

I simply combined a few whole spices, crushed them a little to let the flavours escape more readily, popped them into one of those make-your-own-teabags pouches before steeping them in malt vinegar. (Malt vinegar because I have lots left over from when I made lemon pickle).

PickledGherkins1-2474 PickledGherkins1-2480

The gherkins I sliced into halves or quarters and salted overnight in the fridge, before pouring off the resulting liquid, washing them gently and patting them dry.

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Into my pickling vinegar I dissolved sugar (to taste) before pouring it into my (sterilised) jar full of gherkins (and a couple of garlic cloves).

PickledGherkins1-2482 PickledGherkins1-2484

I made these on the 18 June and want to leave them at least a couple of months before I crack open the jar.

I made a second batch on the 11 July. This time, instead of salting the gherkins on a plate, I poured lightly salted boiling water over them in a bowl, let it cool down and then put it into the fridge overnight. I also added a higher volume of sugar to the vinegar (which I’d steeped with the same pickling spice teabag for several hours). The cucumber pieces were put into hot sterilised jars and the hot vinegar poured over.

Gherkins2-8072

I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Recipe for Pickling Spice Mix

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon powdered allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (measure after removing from pods)
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 small pieces cassia bark

  • Crush whole spices, leaves and bark and combine with the ground spices.

Addendum: We opened the jars of gherkins in May/June 2011. Both worked well, but I preferred the texture and higher sugar content of the second batch. I shall be making these again if we get a decent yield of cucumbers in coming months!

 

Gareth Groves is an ex-Chef turned wine merchant who is now Communications Manager at Bibendum. His best man once described him as a man who uses breakfast as an opportunity to think about lunch. Part of his job is to manage social media for Bibendum, so he spends a bit of time on twitter, where it’s clear to all that he feels a real passion for food and drink.

Given my recent condiment craze, nay obsession, I was more than a little intrigued when he tweeted that he was cooking up his annual batch of mango, date and chilli chutney. Sounds quite a tasty treat doesn’t it? Especially given that Gareth stipulates proper tasty mangoes!

box 1

Rather liking the sound of that, I invited Gareth to share the recipe (and it’s history) with readers of my blog and, to my delight, he agreed.

Over to Gareth:


I’ve been making this chutney for something approaching ten years. I first came across the recipe in a cookbook celebrating the chefs of the town of Noosa on Australia’s Gold Coast, when I was cooking in a Edinburgh fusion restaurant (God bless the 1990s).

We used to serve it with anything and everything: goats’ cheese tarts, grilled tiger prawns, Isle of Mull cheddar – you name it, it probably came with a small red dish of this chutney. It was our staple condiment: it is easy to make, reads well on a menu and, most importantly, is absolutely delicious.

Since giving up the professional cooking lark for the wine trade and moving to London, I’ve made this chutney every summer when the Indian and Pakistani mangoes have been in season on Tooting High Street.

Mango, Date & Chilli Chutney

Ingredients (makes 6-8 jars):
3 boxes of golden Pakistani mangoes (about 15-18 mangoes)
500ml cider vinegar
500ml demerara sugar
6-8 hot chillies
250g root ginger peeled or scraped
325g pitted dates

ingredients

Method:

  • Chop the mango flesh into a big pan.
  • Boil the vinegar and sugar to make a light syrup.
  • Blitz the chillies (seeds and all), ginger and dates up to make a thick paste. Add a bit of water to the blender if necessary – it will boil off in the final cooking.
  • Add the vinegar syrup and chilli mixture to the mango.
  • Heat and simmer gently until thick and a dark burnished gold. This can take a few hours. Sunday’s batch took about 3 and half hours. Take care the chutney doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom of the pan.
pots
  • When ready, jar up in sterilised jars.
finished jar
  • Wait.

How long do you have to wait? In truth, not that long. You can eat this chutney almost immediately and it will be hot, sweet and fruity. With time, it mellows and becomes more rounded with a deeper flavour. We’ve just finished our last jar of the 2009 vintage one year on and it was delicious.

And what should you serve it with? Almost anything you like. Cheese and cold meats are obvious choices but it also shines in fish fingers sandwiches. A favourite at our house is to make quite a plain dhal and serve it with rice and this chutney: perfect comfort food.

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My family call this sauce imli (tamarind) chutney. The word chutney comes from the Hindi chaatni which describes a tangy condiment that makes you lick your lips at it’s flavour! Although the verb chaatna means to lick I think lipsmacking is the most appropriate translation in this case!

I refer to it as a ketchup or sauce because I’ve found that most people in the UK think of chutneys as condiments with chunks of fruit and vegetables in them rather than smooth sauces like this one.

Traditionally, it is used in chaat dishes – snacks which again make you want to lick your lips (and your fingers) clean of every last morsel! They are often sold as street food – though many families enjoy them at home too – and are usually hot, spicy, tangy and with a contrasting mix of textures.

The chaat dishes I’m most familiar with usually include a dough-based element such as gole-gappa (crisp puffed-up fried breads) or maybe something like vadas (lentil dumplings) plus natural yoghurt, tamarind chutney (or ketchup, as I’m calling it), a combination of spices and herbs and perhaps also some boiled potatoes, chickpeas, salad items and green mango coriander chutney. I like for there to be something crunchy in the mix against the softer potatos and chickpeas, myself.

Oh and my parents also like an accompaniment called jal-jeera (fire-water) which I reckon is an acquired taste and one I’ll never acquire!

Recipes for all these dishes can be found on our family recipe website, Mamta’s Kitchen. (Mamta is my mum).

But the sweet sour spicy flavour of tamarind ketchup should not be restricted to such a small niche – I also like it as an alternative to regular tomato ketchup with anything from burgers and chops to chicken fritters and if you mix it with yoghurt it makes a lovely dip!

Mamta’s Kitchen Tamarind Ketchup

Ingredients
400 gram packet of dry tamarind pulp, with stones/skins intact
Approximately 1 litre hot water
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A large pinch of asafoetida powder
6-7 teaspoons salt. *
100 grams jaggery or brown sugar or muscovado sugar *
1 teaspoon chilli powder *
2 teaspoons roasted cumin powder
1-2 teaspoons garam masala

*The quantity of these ingredients should be adjusted during cooking, according to taste. The tarter the tamarind, the more salt and sugar it will need.

Method


Dried tamarind block, broken into pieces
  • Break the tamarind block up as best you can and soak in hot water for an hour or longer. This will soften up the dry tamarind. It should be squishy.
  •  Massage the pulp to help separate seeds and skins. I follow my mum’s advice to wear rubber gloves as tamarind is quite acidic.

 

As I’m making a large quantity here I’m doing the mashing and squeezing while a friend is pushing the resulting liquid through a sieve to remove any rough bits
  •  Mash and squeeze the pulp to release a thick liquid of the flesh and water. Mum usually uses a colander or sieve to squeeze the pulp against for this step however the most recent time I made the ketchup, I was at a friends and found her steaming set a great help – a large pan with small colander-sized holes in the base that fits snugly on top of a large saucepan – much more stable than mashing into a colander or sieve balanced in a pan or bowl!

More mashing and squeezing
  • Depending on how well you’ve extracted flesh from the seeds and skins, you might want to re-soak the remnants in a smaller volume of hot water and make a second pass of mashing and squeezing. I do usually do this.
  • You should end up with a large quantity of thick liquid.

Sieving the liquid to remove any remaining bits of skin and fibre
  • If you used a colander for the previous step, you may wish to strain the liquid through a sieve to get rid of any remaining lumps of skin or seed but if the liquid looks smooth and lump-free, don’t bother.

Discard seeds and skin
  • Discard the seeds, skins etc.
  • In a large pan heat the oil.
  • Add the cumin seeds and asafoetida powder. When the seeds splutter, pour in the tamarind liquid and all the other ingredients except the garam masala.
  • Allow it to boil briskly, stirring from time to time.
  • Taste and adjust salt, jaggery/sugar and chillies to reach your preferred balance of sweetness, acidity and heat.
  • If the liquid is too thin continue to heat to reduce volume and thicken up. Note, this ketchup is not intended to be really thick and gloopy but of a pouring consistency.
  • Add garam masala and stir in.
  • Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Bottled
  • Pour into sterilised, airtight bottles or jam jars.

The ketchup will last well in the fridge for a few months. Jars can also be kept in a freezer, indefinitely.

 

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