Pete and I and a couple of friends spent the weekend feasting with Uyen Luu. And she wasn’t even there!

Instead, we cooked up a storm from her beautiful cookery book, My Vietnamese Kitchen. Over the weekend we made a dessert for our first dinner, another recipe for breakfast, one more for the next dinner and yet another for Sunday lunch. While the rain and wind lashed outside, we stayed warm and busy cooking and eating – what better way to spend a weekend with dear friends?

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Uyen Luu was born in Vietnam into a close-knit, food-loving family – her maternal grandmother opened a noodle soup shop in her front room to help make ends meet during the tough times following the Vietnam War, and some of Uyen’s earliest memories are of her grandmother making and serving her fragrant bún bò huế to customers. Times were very tough during that period and Uyen’s parents made the decision to emigrate to London. Here, her mother continued to raise her family on a traditional Vietnamese diet, as best she could with the ingredients available here.

I came to know Uyen’s story and her cooking via her food and travel blog, where she shares a mixture of old and new memories and tasty recipes, all beautifully illustrated by her creative photography and styling. Since moving to the UK, she has returned to Vietnam often, and her travel journal posts are a particular pleasure to read.

Uyen and I met in person several years ago via her supperclub – she is one of the pioneers of the UK supper club phenomenon – and I couldn’t fail to be captivated as much by her gentle and complex character as by her food; she’s shy but riotous (and occasionally fiery), vulnerable but strong, superbly creative but genuinely modest, a social butterfly but also quite private. I love to sit in her kitchen, following her instructions to stir the stock, chop some vegetables, rub salt and oil onto the meat, and talk about life, the universe and everything. She has a knack for bringing out a protective feeling in me, and I’m always so happy to learn of her successes and joys.

So I was delighted when she announced her book deal, which resulted in this truly beautiful book. Her food is authentic, delicious and achievable and she’s taught many, many people how to make it during the cookery classes she also runs out of her East London home. Those numbers include greats like Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver, who are quick to acknowledge not only her skill with flavours but also her ability to teach those skills to others.

I was one of the many friends who helped Uyen with recipe testing when she was still writing the book, and when I saw the finished book, I felt very proud to have played a (very very tiny) part in it.

As I always knew it would be, the book is a visual feast. The team she worked with to style and photograph the book have captured Uyen’s very personal and quirky style amazingly well. First and foremost, the images showcase the food itself, but they also create a very warm and rich tapestry that tells Uyen’s story beautifully.

My Vietnamese Kitchen starts with an introduction to key ingredients. The recipe chapters are then divided into Breakfast, Soups, Snacks, Noodles, Lunch & Dinner and Sweets. Many of the recipes need only what you can find in a well-stocked UK supermarket, but of course there are some that require specialist ingredients. In this era of online shopping, these are no longer difficult to source.

Here is Uyen’s recipe for Caramelised Sardines in Coconut Water (cá mòi kho). As we couldn’t get sardines, we switched to mackerel as a similarly oily fish; we also doubled the recipe (given in its original quantities, below). It was beautifully simple, worked perfectly and we all really loved it! I’m already planning on making this one again and again.

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Recipe: Caramelised Sardines in Coconut Water (cá mòi kho)

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Half a red onion, finely chopped
350 grams whole sardines, scaled and gutted
150 ml coconut water (or use fresh water plus one teaspoon sugar)
1 Bird’s Eye chilli
1 pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon coconut caramel (see note)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
cooked rice, to serve

Note: As we didn’t have any coconut caramel, we followed Uyen’s tip to melt and caramelise some brown sugar instead. Make sure you let the sugar get reasonably dark so it can add colour, sweetness and bitterness to the dish.

Method

  • Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the onion until browned.
  • Add the sardines to the pan and fry for about 2 minutes per side.
  • Add the coconut water, chilli, pepper, coconut caramel, sugar, fish sauce and vegetable oil. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with cooked rice, or a palate-cleansing soup and fried greens.

As you can see from the images, we served this with a simple egg and peas fried rice made by following my friend Diana’s tutorial on quick and easy egg fried rice and a salad from another of my current favourite books, Everyday Harumi.

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Other dishes we made from Uyen’s book during the weekend were:

  • Frozen Yoghurt (kem da-ua) – an outrageously simple recipe combining tangy natural yoghurt with condensed milk before churning in an ice cream machine. We had this with a clafoutis of whisky-soaked dates and the match was excellent. I loved the balance of tart and sweet and will definitely make this again.
  • Omelette Baguette (bánh mì trứng ốp lết) – we switched baguette for other home made loaves but we loved the core recipe for sweet sharp pickled shredded carrot and herby omelette. The chillis we added were so hot that my eyes watered, my lips were still tingling ages later!
  • Fresh Rolls with Mackerel Ceviche (gỏi cuốn cá thu sống đầu phộng ớt) – rice paper summer rolls filled with herbs, beansprouts, a pineapple dipping sauce, rice vermicelli noodles and mackerel ceviche and we also added leftover pickled shredded carrot. This was our least favourite of the dishes we made with the texture of the rice paper wrappers and the ceviche cited as difficult textures / tastes.

I’ve also made the Tofu and Tomatoes in Fish Sauce (đầu phụ sốt cà chua), which I first had at Uyen’s house, so it was a great test of whether I could achieve the same flavours and textures by following her recipe. I could and I liked it just as much the second time around.

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Frozen Yoghurt with whisky-soaked dates clafoutis

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Omelette Sandwiches

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Fresh Rolls with Mackerel Ceviche; A game of Carcassone

Kavey Eats was sent a review copy of My Vietnamese Kitchen by publisher Ryland Peters. As I’ve made clear, Uyen Luu is a friend, but all of us genuinely enjoyed cooking and eating from her book and I recommend the book wholeheartedly.

Thanks to Monica for additional images, as per copyright text. And cheers to Monica, Marie and Pete for another fabulous weekend!

 

Sometimes I fall behind in writing about cookery books I’ve accepted for review. There is always a stack of books waiting for my attention, and I often feel vaguely guilty that I have already covered books that came in more recently than books that have been waiting a while. So I was delighted when a new friend agreed to take one from the pile and write a guest review about how she got on cooking from it. She chose French Food Safari by Maeve O’Meara and Guillaume Brahimi. Over to Tara Dean and her friend Dawn.

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I met Kavey through a friend when we needed somewhere to crash for the weekend whilst we went to Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park. I had heard much about Kavey, it was a delight to eventually meet both Kavey who eats and Pete who drinks. I live in Bristol and keep myself very busy. I work for an international sexual health company, run my own sports massage business and am studying for my Masters in Occupational Psychology which I will complete early next year. In my spare time I do Bikram yoga, go to the gym and spend time with my amazing friends.

Whilst at Kavey’s I raided her sweet and chocolate box, as a blogger she gets sent lots of samples and so I had a great time, we inevitably got to talking about food and blogging. Kavey had been sent a recipe book to review and was finding her time limited, I was excited and up for the challenge so she asked me to take the book, cook, eat and review. So here we are, I hope you enjoy reading about my experience.

I have a wonderful friend called Dawn who writes the dessert part of this review, we met a few years ago as we both started out our studies in Psychology. As a fellow northerner, she’s from the east I’m from the west, we both love good homely food that fills your belly and makes you feel nice and warm inside. I take my food seriously and don’t like to eat too much junk food. I am known in the office for my interesting concoctions, when I work late on a Thursday my manager stops by the kitchen specifically to inspect what I’m eating. I’ve often been asked at work if I’m vegetarian even when there is meat in the dish because I am eating something homemade which contains vegetables. People are taken aback when I start work at 8am and I have managed to cook a curry or soup for my lunch before arriving. Life’s too short to eat food that does not taste good. I pride myself in making quick, inexpensive and healthy meals. Now that’s not quite how things happen when you cook from a French cooking book. My point is I can relate to people taking food seriously.

I cooked the main and thankfully Dawn did the dessert. We both thought we had picked a fairly easy none complicated dessert for her. One of the phrases I remember from the evening was from her husband Marc when she asked him to help her with the puff pastry. His reply was ‘No. I’ve made puff pastry once’. He meant you only ever made fresh puff pastry once, learn your lesson, and then buy pre-made ready to roll forever more. Knowing that, there are far more fun and less stressful ways you can spend your Saturday afternoon.

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Lamb Navarin

I chose the Lamb Navarin recipe which in our terms is a French Lamb Stew. First stop was the butchers. The recipe calls for 1kg boned lamb shoulder and 1kg forequarter lamb racks, cut between every second rib. After showing my butcher the recipe book we decided it would be half the price, more meat and much easier to have 2 kg of lamb shoulder which he boned and then I could dice. This was very simple to cut and led to a much less messy eating experience and left me with more money to spend on red wine which fits into my northern values. The recipe says to use chicken stock for which it provides a recipe for – ain’t no one got time for that – or water – I compromised and used stock cubes which I do not think took any flavour away. I had never heard of Kipfler potatoes and neither had the assistant at my local greengrocers. I did a quick internet search and up popped a picture of a long nobbly potato. We ended up with Anya potatoes which hopefully did not take anything away.

I found the recipe well written and easy to follow other than wrestling with Dawn for page viewing. There is a point in the recipe which instructs you to strain the sauce through a fine sieve. I really did not see the point of this and as I was cooking in a piping hot, very heavy, cast iron casserole dish I declined to follow. The result was a beautiful navarin with succulent meat and flavoursome sauce. The celeriac puree containing almost a full pack of butter was the perfect accompaniment. As much as the guests enjoyed the navarin the puree enjoyed the most praise. One guest commented that if I made it again he would like to be on the guest list.

Along with preparation you are looking at a good 3 hours to make this meal. That is without an dessert or starter. The recipe claims this dish can serve 8 – 10 people. We had 7 people to feed, no one behaved like a piglet and overfilled their plate and we had very little in the way of leftovers. I think the writer has been overly optimistic. Unless in France they have extremely small portions to allow for the many courses you would normally expect at a dinner party, which of course is entirely possible, however as a northerner I would like my main course to feel like a main. We did serve cheese between the main and the dessert. Although I have always experienced cheese to be served after dessert the author of French Food Safari says any French person knows that the cheese is served before dessert. Not wanting to appear as amateurs we stuck to tradition.

The book itself is well presented and inviting. There are sections on cheeses, meat, and very fancy desserts which you need specialist equipment to attempt. The recipes do look very inviting and I’m looking forward to trying some more…….. maybe for the next dinner party!

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Tarte Tatin by Dawn

A super friend of mine called Tara invited me to do a joint review of the new ‘French Food Safari’ and with the chitchat of good friends it was quickly decided: there would be a dinner party and it would be held in my kitchen. I offered to make dessert since this is a dish I always feel I do in a hurry when I have a dinner party. The idea of oodles of time without distraction from other dishes to prepare, felt like finally, without neglect, I was in a position to consider this dessert’s every need!

The dessert? Tarte Tatin…The perfect antidote to the autumn air. This is a dish I have enjoyed without fail on numerous occasions during my time spent living in France as a student in the 90′s. My husband is part French and always holds a certain nostalgia for this dessert since his French grandmother would often make it.

On first sight, the recipe seemed fairly straightforward. I have, on several occasions baked a Tarte Tatin so thought it near impossible that I should find myself in troubled waters. Oh how I was wrong! The recipe required me to make puff pastry. Although I have experience of making shortcrust pastry I knew straightaway that to make puff pastry you need inherent qualities such as patience, determination and time. With a flick of my hair I decided I had time on my side and should not focus on the aforementioned qualities!

Some points regarding the recipe quantities: the pastry recipe required 500ml water, 250 ml of which needed to be ice-cold. After 250ml water I found my dough to be all pasty and did not even dare to add the next vat of water. I became a little disheartened at this and wondered how on earth I could possibly inject more water into it, considering all my quantities again-had I put too little flour in? All the quantities were right so with deep breath and without further ado I made a pledge to move on and get cracking with peeling the apples. With an eye on the time and my pastry in mind, I looked forward to what I thought had to be the more straightforward part of the recipe.

After peeling, de-seeding and coring the apples I made the caramel. On the previous occasions I’ve made Tarte Tatin I have added the sugar and butter to the fruit at the time of cooking so i was a little surprised that the caramel was made separately but appreciated trying out new methods! I know that you have to e very attentive to a caramel to stop it burning so I gave it my full attention despite the knowledge my pastry was going to be crying out for affection in the fridge before long. Unfortunately what I found is that there was not enough direction in the instructions. i was starting to feel concerned about the caramel bubbling away for 8 mins with apples and then being turned up to full heat until the apples became caramelised. I was also using a cast-iron pan which does, of course, retain a lot of heat in comparison to other materials.

The apples looked golden and caramelised and picture-perfect. Time to return to the pastry again…

I started to become aware of time: with guests arriving at 8pm I was not going to have this dessert done and dusted before their arrival even though I had started at around 5:15pm. I estimated that by 8:15pm the Tarte, pastry in tow, would be ready to put in the oven. One aspect which would have really helped in making this pastry… photos. There weren’t enough photos of the various contortions this pastry required during the rolls. A picture of all four corners folded in would have been welcomed with open arms.

Three hours and 15 minutes later saw the birth of my Tarte Tatin. It looked amazing.

The taste was disappointing. Everyone agreed it tasted a little burned. A slightly burned caramel sullied the whole dish and those melt in your mouth apples were suddenly left without a plan B. The pastry was ok but nothing special, not quite what I’d expect from having toiled and troubled over it for hours… I kicked myself for not buying ready-made pastry. At least I would have had an easier time coming to terms with a burnt caramel not to mention extra time to prepare for guests.

With more handholding I could have tackled this dessert. I cook and bake a great deal with 2 small children and a husband to feed but this recipe needed a chef (as well as more photos, directions and bags of time) and that, I hasten to add, I am definitely not.

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With thanks to Tara and Dean for their review, and to Hardie Grant for review copy of French Food Safari.

 

Camilla Stephens began her culinary career developing food for (UK-based) coffee chain, the Seattle Coffee Company. When it was bought out by Starbucks, she stayed on board creating tasty treats to be sold across the chain throughout the day. Somewhere along the way, she learned to make really tasty pies. Fast forward several years to 2003 when Camilla and husband James created Higgidy, selling beautiful handmade pies – even though the business has grown phenomenally in its first decade, every single pie is still shaped and filled by hand and the product range now includes a variety of quiches too. There are more traditional recipes such as beef, stilton and ale in a shortcrust pastry case and bacon and cheddar quiche, as well as more inventive recipes like sweet potato and feta pie with pumpkin seeds.

Pete and I aren’t averse to buying ready made meals so we’ve enjoyed Higgidy products at home a number of times. The key to their success is that they really do taste home made.

So we had high hopes for Camilla’s recently-released Higgidy Cookbook, promising “100 Recipes for Pies and More”. We were not disappointed and it didn’t take long for me to bookmark a slew of recipes that appealed: chicken and chorizo with spiced paprika crumble, chinese spiced beef pies, no-nonsense steak and ale pie, giant gruyere and ham sandwich, melt-in-the-middle pesto chicken (filo parcels), hot-smoked salmon gougère (scuppered, on the first attempt, by our inability to find hot-smoked salmon in our local shops), rösti-topped chicken and pancetta pie, wintry quiche with walnutty pastry, smoked haddock frying-pan pie, cheddar ploughman tartlets, cherry tomato tarte tatin, sticky ginger and apple tarte tatin, pear and whisky tart, oaty treacle tart, chocolate snowflake tart and sticky onions!

Of course, many of these recipes are wonderfully hearty and perfect winter warmers at this this cold, dark and wet time of year.

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Pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust; lamb hotpot

So far, Pete’s made two recipes from the book and we have been delighted with both. The hearty lamb hotpot was a classic; simple to make, tasty and warming to eat. The pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust was fantastic. Oddly enough, after making (and blogging) an apple pie with an almost identical design on top (which I made before having seen the Higgidy pie photograph) I had been chatting on twitter about trying apple pie with a cheddar crust, so finding this recipe soon afterwards was serendipitous! It didn’t disappoint.

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Higgidy Pork and Apple Stroganoff Pie with Cheddar Crust

Equipment
1 x 1.4 litre ovenproof pie dish

Ingredients
For the cheddar pastry

230 grams plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
0.5 teaspoon salt
125 grams butter, chilled and diced
40 grams mature cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the filling
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A good knob of butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, thinly slievd
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600 grams pork tenderloin, cut into 2-3 cm pieces
2 eating apples, such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into small wedges
2 tablespoons plain flour
200 ml cider
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
150 ml full-fat soured cream
150 ml hot chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Note: We skipped the egg-wash, so our pie didn’t have the pretty glossy appearance of Camilla’s.

Method

  • To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese, then add the ice-cold water, just enough to bring the pastry together. Shape into a round disc, wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a tablespoon of oil with the butter in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onion and leek, and cook gently for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Spoon into your pie dish.
  • Increase the heat, add a splash more oil, then fry the pork for a couple of minutes only, just enough to brown the meat. Spoon into the pie dish.

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  • Keep the pan on a high heat and fry the apple pieces in the remaining fat, until lightly browned and Beginning to soften. Transfer to the pie dish. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir well, to evenly combine.

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  • Pour the cider into the empty pan and bubble until reduced by half. Lower the heat, add the mustard, soured cream and stock and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and immediately pour over the meat in the pie dish. Give it all a good stir and set aside to cook completely.

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  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / fan 180 C / gas mark 6. Brush the edges of the pie dish with beaten egg.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and drape it over the top of the filling. Crimp the edges to seal. Cut a steam hole in the middle.
  • Decorate the top of the pastry with your pastry trimmings (cut into apple shapes or leaves) and brush the pie all over with beaten egg.

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  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with wilted kale.

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The Higgidy Cookbook published by Quercus, is currently available (at time of posting) on Amazon for a very bargainous £7 (RRP £16.99).

Kavey Eats was sent a review copy of the book by Higgidy.

 

I remember very clearly when the all new Sainsbury’s magazine was launched back in May 1993. Back then, supermarket magazines were pretty wretched; thin and cheaply produced with a dearth of compelling content.

The Sainsbury’s magazine pumped oxygen into a stagnant pond and I loved it from the get go! Delia Smith and husband Michael Wynn-Jones were at its helm and commissioned great content, assembling a team of talented food writers, cooks and chefs. Some were at the start of their careers and others already well established; together they produced a rich collection of material for every single issue. And for just £1 it was excellent value, even in those days!

One of the strengths of the magazine was the reliability of the recipes featured. They were always properly tested and clearly written so those of us who made them did so with confidence.

Fast forward 20 years and while the quality of the field has definitely improved (and dropped again, as in the case of Waitrose Food Illustrated when it changed to Waitrose Kitchen), Sainsbury’s magazine is still going strong.

To mark its 20th anniversary, Sainsbury’s has produced a celebratory cookbook featuring over 100 recipes chosen from an extensive archive.

Unlike some glossier and trendier recipe books I’ve flicked through lately, what I love about this collection is how many of them I want to make (and feel confident that I can make).

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The good news is that I have one copy of the book to give away to a lucky reader.

But first, let me share the first recipe we made from the book, Brian Glover’s pea, new potato and feta frittata.

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Frittata is such a versatile dish – it can be enjoyed both hot and cold, it’s ideal for lunch or dinner, for picnics or packed lunch boxes and it’s very simple to make.

We took Brian’s suggestion to substitute the feta for goat’s cheese, as we much prefer it.

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Pea, New Potato & Goat’s Cheese Frittata

Serves 4

Ingredients
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
500 grams new potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped or 0.5 teaspoon dried
200 grams frozen peas*
a good knob of butter
6 large eggs, beaten
100 grams goat’s cheese (or feta), crumbled
optional: a handful of peashoots

*The original recipe specifies podded peas, but we bought fresh pods and discovered enormous, tough-skinned, tasteless peas within so we substituted with sweet little frozen peas instead. We weighed them frozen, then left them in a bowl of tepid water for a few minutes before draining and using. The recipe calls for boiling the podded fresh peas for 4 minutes before adding to the frittata pan.

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Method

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 23-25 cm non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and 2-3 pinches of salt, and stir. Cover, turn down the heat and sweat the onions for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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  • Add the potatoes and thyme to the pan and cook, still covered, for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender, adding the extra oil if they are drying out.

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  • Uncover the pan and turn up the heat until the potatoes start to colour.

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  • Add the butter and, when melted, add the peas, Season the eggs and pour into the pan, stirring in the cheese and pea shoots. Preheat the grill.

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  • Cook the frittata over a medium heat, drawing in the edge with a spatula until the base sets. After 4-5 minutes, when the underside has browned, put the pan under the grill for 2-3 minutes to just set the top.

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  • Place a large plate over the pan and turn over plate and pan together, to remove the frittata from the pan.

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We really enjoyed the frittata, both hot out of the pan for dinner and cold for lunch the next day.

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COMPETITION

Sainsbury’s have offered a copy of their 20th anniversary Sainsbury’s Magazine Cookbook to one of my readers. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about one of your family’s favourite recipes.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win the 20th anniversary @sainsburysPR Magazine Cookbook from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/im02D9 #KaveyEatsSainsburysCookbook
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hashtag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 6th September 2013.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a copy of the 20th Anniversary Sainsbury’s Magazine Cookbook, with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

Kavey Eats was sent a review copy of the Sainsbury’s Magazine Cookbook.

This competition is closed. The randomly selected winner was Tracy Nixon.

 

Husband and wife team Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi are well known for their eponymous Italian restaurant and caffe in London, their second restaurant in Bray and their London cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, at which Katie is the principal. The couple also starred in a BBC series called Return to Tuscany, about the cookery school they ran in Italy until 2009 and have appeared on many other food shows since then.

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The Amalfi Coast is their second joint book, following The Italian Mama’s Kitchen (2008). Whereas Katie’s solo book, The Italian Cookery Course (released at about the same time as The Amalfi Coast) covers recipes from across the entire country, The Amalfi Coast focuses on the food of the sunshine-drenched Italian Riviera. Full of sumptuous images of local scenery and food, it’s an evocative cookery book following the route of their exploration, between Positano and Ravello.

Flicking through it takes me back to a long ago holiday… winding and rather exhilarating coastal roads… tiny villages clinging to vertiginous cliffs… views down to sparkling seas with bobbing boats tied at the marina… groves of lemon trees, bright and colourful like the limoncello served in every restaurant and cafe… smartly dressed locals enjoying a pre-dinner stroll to see and be seen… and long and leisurely lunches that last so long they morph into dinner…

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We decided to make the Caldesis’ Gnocchi Ripieni (smoked cheese gnocchi) recipe mainly because we already had smoked cheddar in the fridge after making Gastrogeek’s (Amazing) Roasted Aubergine Macaroni Cheese recipe. We loved the gnocchi so much we have made it more than once and no doubt it will become a regular. (Same goes for the macaroni cheese recipe too!)

The gnocchi are so incredibly soft and light that they melt as soon as you pop them into your mouth; it’s a wonder they don’t disintegrate before you can eat them! The recipe introduction explains that the way the centres melt is what gives the impression they are stuffed with cheese, hence the Italian name – ripieni means “stuffed”. They are quite unlike potato gnocchi, by the way.

The flavour is beautifully balanced and not too strong; they match superbly with a simple tomato sauce. We’ve used posh ready-made and made fresh using another recipe in the book.

And best of all, they’re very easy to make. A winner all round!

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Giancarlo & Katie Caldesi’s Smoked Cheese Gnocchi

Serves 4 (makes 12-20 gnocchi)

Ingredients
250 grams ricotta drained
1 egg
35 grams plain flour
50 grams parmesan finely grated
25 grams smoked cheese finely grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
basil leaves (to serve)
parmesan shavings (to serve)
tomato sauce of your choice (to serve)

Note: The recipe also includes 50 grams semolina, used to coat the gnocchi, which we omitted.

Method

  • Mix the gnocchi ingredients together in a bowl, using an electric whisk or mixer to achieve a smooth texture.

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  • To shape the gnocchi use two spoons and make quenelles – take a spoonful of mixture and use the second spoon to shape it, squeezing and transferring it between the two spoons one or more times to finish the shape.

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  • The recipe calls for rolling the finished shapes in semolina before cooking. However, we decided to drop each gnocchi into a pan of boiling water as soon as it was shaped, without the semolina.

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  • The gnocchi are cooked when they float to the surface, having dropped down to the bottom of the pan initially. Remove them carefully from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer them to the pan of pre-heated tomato sauce to stay warm until the rest are ready. Ideally, this needs two people working together, one to shape and drop the gnocchi and the other to scoop them from the water as soon as they are cooked.

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  • Very gently mix the cooked gnocchi into the sauce, taking care not to break them.
  • Garnish with fresh basil and shavings of parmesan to serve.

CaldesiCheeseGnocchi-0151 CaldesiCheeseGnocchi-0273

The book contains little you wouldn’t find in many Italian cookery books, and most of the dishes are familiar, but for me that’s much of the appeal. Recipes such as paccheri alla Genovese (pasta tubes with sweet onion and beef sauce), polpettine di carne al sugo di pomodore (meatballs in tomato sauce), pollo al limone (lemon chicken), zucchine scapece (fried courgettes with mint and vinegar), torta di ricotta & pere (pear and ricotta tart) and sorbetto o granita al limone (limoncello sorbet or granita) are the kind of food that fit my kind of cooking.

Nearly every recipe has a photograph, and there are more in between of the landscapes and people of the region. It’s an attractive book, a pleasure to look at.

The Amalfi Coast is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £16 (RRP £25).

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Amalfi Coast from publisher Hardie Grant.

 

Guest Post by my friend Monica Shaw.

book

Arthur Potts Dawson has a really big heart. Sustainable. Seasonal. Responsible. He ticks all the right boxes, and has done some fantastic things for London by creating two sustainably aware urban restaurants, Acorn House and Water House, which exemplify the diversity of the city and London’s, what he calls, "environmental salutations". He also recently wrote a cookbook, Eat Your Veg, which has a great premise: how to cook vegetables seasonally and sustainably. What’s not to like? Well…

Let’s first say that I really wanted to love this cookbook. It’s not vegetarian, but rather, a book about vegetables, beautifully photographed, and I love the design. Just look at the cover: pink and yellow in perfect harmony, brought together by one of my favourite things: beetroot. And the pages inside are just as inviting. This cookbook makes you want to cook with vegetables, which is half the battle for many folks who know they should eat more veg but aren’t really inspired to cook with it. Even for those of us who don’t find vegetables a challenge, it’s always nice to find inspiration and ideas to try.

And that’s exactly what we were looking for – "we" being me, Pete and Kavey on a recent weekend at Orchard Cottage, an occasion that typically involves lots of cooking together and feasting (perhaps one of the highest forms of social engagement ever in the world). We settled on a few recipes…

  • Penne with garlic, rosemary and mascarpone for its simplicity and because it used lemon juice and Kavey likes lemons
  • Samphire with spinach and lettuce as a salad to go with our fish course
  • Pea and mint iced lollies because the idea was just so weird that it had to be tested

We ran into a few hitches on the way to "Eating Our Veg". The penne was so overwhelmingly lemony that none of the other flavours came through. It was hard to re-establish the balance of flavour and save the dish. So we moved on…

lemonpasta

The samphire with spinach and lettuce seemed unnecessarily fiddly and a bit strange. First, he calls for three pans of salted water for each of the vegetables. First of all, why three pans? That seems like a lot of unnecessary clean-up. Second, why salted water with samphire which is plenty salty in itself? And third, why are we boiling wonderful crisp gem lettuces? So, we skipped the salt…and the three pans. We cooked the samphire then tossed it with the spinach to wilt the spinach, then added our still crispy lettuces and dressed it in lemon and oil as directed. It was fine (and by fine I mean edible), but needed something more. A drizzle of balsamic helped immeasurably. Would we make it again? No.

samphiresalad

By this point I felt this strange determination to make Arthur Potts Dawson recipes all the time, as if I were possessed with an insane curiosity: surely some of these recipes must work? Or, to quote one of my favourite television programmes, "I want to believe."

Given my resolve, it was perhaps unwise to choose the pea and mint iced lollies as our next experiment. But I couldn’t resist, and I had a bag of peas. And so it was: peas, shallots, butter, cream and mint, cooked and pulverised and stuffed into lolly moulds then frozen. Sounds weird? Yeah, because it is. Why a lolly? The mix was far better not frozen, but warm, as a dip for corn chips! (And really, do shallots ever have a place in an iced lolly? Discuss.)

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At that point I decided to take a break from "Eat Your Veg".

I later came back to it and found much better luck with his grilled aubergine, cooked in a way that was a bit of a revelation: the aubergine is sliced thick, grilled with no added oil until the very end, at which point you smear it with chermoula. The aubergine stays wonderfully moist, almost creamy.

aubergine

His house dressing is also good, but I mean, it’s just a Dijon vinaigrette, which you can find in most cookbooks. (Though I did enjoy this one in particular with a salad of apple, celery and walnuts.)

There might other recipes in this cookbook that are real gems like the aubergine. But when you’ve tried a few recipes that seem like they haven’t been thoroughly tested or sense checked, you start to lose faith. Worse, you start to lose the inspiration to cook with vegetables, the thing that led us to this cookbook in the first place.

I might dip into this book again, perhaps for some more of that house vinaigrette, and who knows, maybe that’ll lead me to his other pages. I think I won’t push my luck with the "parsnip and shiitake salad". But surely you can’t go wrong with "new potato salad nicoise", or "French onion soup" or "ratatouille". Surely, right?

 

With thanks to Monica for text and images. Read more on her blog Smarter Fitter.

Eat Your Veg by Arthur Potts Dawson is currently available on Amazon (UK) for £16 (RRP £25).

 

A nice, fresh but rather small fillet of fresh Norwegian skrei cod we were sent recently necessitated a recipe that could stretch it into a filling meal for two. Pete remembered the cookery book we bought after our day at The Billingsgate Seafood Training School and sure enough, their fish pie, bulked out with eggs and leeks, fit the bill.

Skrei FishPie-5071 Skrei FishPie-5069

The fish is first poached in milk, with a bay leaf. The strained milk is set aside and the skin and any pin bones are removed from the fish. Sliced leek is cooked in butter to soften before flour, cayenne, nutmeg and mustard are added. The reserved milk is added and the sauce cooked until it has thickened. Hard boiled eggs, herbs and the fish (in pieces) are stirred into the sauce and the mixture is transferred into a large oven dish. Potatoes are mashed and blended with butter and milk before being spread over the filling. Some grated cheese is sprinkled over before the pie is baked until golden brown.

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This is a great recipe to make a piece of fish go a little further and is a comforting and warming dish.

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With thanks to the Norwegian Seafood Council for the Norwegian skrei (cod) sample.

 

Fellow blogger and food writer Rejina is a friend of mine, and one I’ve long thought deserved a cookery book deal, so I was delighted to be sent a review copy of her first title, Gastrogeek (What to eat when you’re in a hurry, hungry or hard up). Her blog of the same name has been a source of great ideas for the last four years – indeed she launched her blog just weeks before I started mine.

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Having talked to Rejina, I can understand why her innovative pitch instantly caught her publisher’s attention – she proposed (and showcased) a photographic comic-book style approach based on her memory of teenage magazines from her childhood. Just as the illustrated stories in those magazines did for teenage love dramas, her aim with this book was to provide solutions to common kitchen dilemmas such as creating restorative meals after shitty days at work, conjuring up meals from the store cupboard when cash is tight, cooking up a storm to impress guests and feeding a hangover in the best possible way.

gastrogeek

There are some disappointments about the book, and I know Rejina will forgive me for being honest about them. In my opinion, the publishers haven’t done a great job on the book design. Too focused on Rejina’s clever theme, they seem to have fallen under the impression that the audience for the book must be the same teenagers those magazines were aimed at and the design feels a bit childish as a result. And whoever thought teal green was the right colour for the cover of a cookery book or that a font suspiciously similar to Comic Sans was right for the text inside ought to be ashamed of themselves. I also found many of the photographs far too dark, especially the black and white ones – I’ve no idea whether the fault lies in the image processing or the printing but it makes the pages look far drabber than they should.

The good news, however, is that the quality of Rejina’s content shines through regardless and is why I recommend you purchase this book even if the appearance puts you off at first glance.

In a few of the dishes, Rejina’s British-Bengali background comes through – she shares her Dahl of Dreams, Curried Roast Bone Marrow (which reminds me of my own bone marrow curry) and Duck Egg, Spinach and Coconut Curry, amongst others. But the majority of the recipes are a wide-ranging and eclectic mix with influences from all around the world – just the way many of us cook these days. Rejina lived in Japan for a while, and her love of umami (and a few key Japanese ingredients) comes through too. I’ve bookmarked Miso Butter Roasted Chicken, Mini Chicken & Mushroom Pies, BBQ Ribs in Dr Pepper and Teriyaki Rice Burgers to name just a few.

Recently Pete and I made her Roasted Aubergine Macaroni Cheese and to say we liked it is an understatement. Not only did the textures and flavours of the dish come together to create a whole that was far more impressive than its simple ingredients suggested, the instructions were also spot on and very straightforward to follow. That last bit should be a given, shouldn’t it, but it’s not uncommon to find yourself adjusting cooking times and amounts to achieve the consistency and results described by the author. In this case, the recipe worked like clockwork.

What made this macaroni cheese shine were the smokey flavours from the smoked paprika, aubergine and smoked cheddar.

 

Gastrogeek’s Amazing Roasted Aubergine Macaroni Cheese

Serves 4 (or 2 very greedy people)

Ingredients
1 aubergine
300 grams dried macaroni
35 grams butter
25 grams plain flour
300 ml whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly grated nutmeg, to season
0.5 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
90 grams smoked Cheddar cheese, grated plus some for sprinkling
100 ml double cream
1 garlic clove, crushed

Method

  • Roast the aubergine in a hot oven (220 C) for 20-25 minutes. Carefully peel and mash the creamy innards.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions. Drain and transfer to a 25 x 20 cm greased baking dish, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pan and stir in the flour. Cook the roux over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly and then gradually add the milk, still stirring constantly.
  • Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, paprika, salt, pepper and cheese and stir until melted.
  • Stir in the aubergine flesh, cream and garlic, along with a little reserved pasta cooking water (to adjust the consistency if required).
  • Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and mix well. Sprinkle generously with extra grated cheese.
  • Bake at 180 C for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

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There is absolutely no question whatsoever that we will be making this again, and soon. I recommend that you do too!

 

Gastrogeek by Rejina Sabur-Cross is currently available on Amazon UK for £10.23 (RRP £15.99).

 

When you think of foods that benefit from deep frying, what springs to mind?

For me, the list was long…

Fried chicken, battered fish, proper chips, pakoras, tempura, tortilla chips, sesame prawn toasts, whitebait, crisps – not just potato but courgette, parsnip and beetroot, fried tofu, onion rings, samosas, calamari, gulab jamon, even deep fried mars bars…

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But before all those came doughnuts! So when we were sent a Judge Cookware Multi Basket deep fat fryer to review (coming soon), the very first thing we made just had to be doughnuts.

Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

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With a pile of cookery books also awaiting review, we flicked through Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever and chose her Glazed Vanilla Bean Doughnuts recipe to try.

Published by Quirk Books, a young American publishing company based in Philadelphia, Pure Vanilla has been written primarily for the US market, which means you’ll need to make a little effort to translate aspects of the recipes. Fahrenheit cooking temperatures and cup measurements are easy as conversion charts are handily provided inside the back cover. You’ll also need to parse ingredients such as all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and sticks of butter, but in the era of Google, that’s not too onerous.

Often, single ingredient cookery books can be a little too gimmicky, adding the chosen ingredient to recipes in which it doesn’t really belong or contribute much just to shoe-horn them into the book. But I really like the kind of recipes Sever has included in her collection – I’m drawn to Light, Crisp Vanilla Waffles, Vanilla Cloud Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Vanilla Snaps, Vanilla Biscotti, Vanilla Bean Marshmallows and Vanilla Mojito, amongst others.

There are some weaknesses with the book too:  the index is truly appalling – it lists over a third of the recipes under “vanilla”, which is surely a given in every single recipe in the book and should have been excluded!

Not all recipes have accompanying photographs, which is a shame as those which do instantly appeal more strongly.

The recipe we made was straightforward to follow and came out beautifully. The colour of our finished doughnuts appeared a touch dark, and we worried we’d overcooked them but they were perfect in both taste and texture, with a light and fluffy interior and a perfectly judged vanilla flavour – it came through clearly, made a definite contribution but didn’t overwhelm.

As we made half the amounts given, I’m sharing the amounts we used rather than those in the original recipe.

 

Glazed Vanilla Bean Doughnuts

Makes 6 doughnuts

Ingredients
For the doughnuts:
1.5 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 tablespoons (30 ml) warm water
3 heaped teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
120 ml whole fat milk, at room temperature
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract (not essence)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 egg yolks
30 grams unsalted butter
225 grams plain flour, plus a little extra for kneading
0.5 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
For the glaze:
100 grams icing sugar
1 tablespoon whole fat milk
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Note: Vanilla bean paste is a thick paste full of actual vanilla seeds and is a great alternative to scraping a real vanilla pod. I used Nielsen-Massey’s paste, which I think is excellent. If you can’t find this product, either use the seeds from a quarter of a vanilla pod or an extra teaspoon of extract instead.

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Method

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together yeast, warm water and one teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Leave to stand until it foams, about 5 minutes.
  • Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, at low speed, mix in the remaining granulated sugar, milk, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, egg yolks and butter.
  • Add the flour and salt and mix for a further 3 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand, briefly, dusting with flour if you need to.

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  • Place in a large bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. Ours took a couple of hours; you can also leave in the fridge to rise more slowly overnight).

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  • Turn the dough out onto baking parchment and divide into 6 equal portions.

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  • Roll into balls, flatten and cut a whole out from the centre of each one. We used an icing nozzle, as we didn’t have a suitably small cookie cutter. We also combined the dough from the four holes into two small round doughnuts.

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  • Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • Make the glaze by whisking together the icing sugar, milk, salt and vanilla bean paste.

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  • Heat oil to about 180 C and fry doughnuts, in batches, until golden brown – about 2-3 minutes per side. Sever warns against turning too often, as this can result in greasy doughnuts.

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  • Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Spoon the glaze over the doughnuts whilst they are still warm, so it melts and trickles down the sides.

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With thanks to Quirk Books for the review copy of Pure Vanilla and to Judge Cookware for the multi basket deep fat fryer.

 

Billy Law will already be familiar to those of you who follow his very popular food blog, A Table For Two. He also made it into the top 7 on Aussie Masterchef 2011. Born in Malaysia, he moved to Australia in the mid ‘90s to further his studies and has lived there ever since. On his blog, he explains that it was only when he moved, and missed the home-cooked dishes of Malaysia, that he took up cooking himself. These days, he cooks not only the cuisine of his native country but a wide range of Eastern and Western treats and there are plenty of both in his first cookbook, Have You Eaten?

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My book has the cover on the left, I think the other may be an Australian edition

The book is named for the common Malaysian greeting – not “How are you?” but “Have you eaten yet?”, which shows a commendable focus on the importance of food in the culture. This appeals to me!

One of the things I’ve long enjoyed about Billy’s blog is the beautiful food photography, which really shows off all his dishes so temptingly so it’s great news that he did the styling and photography for his book himself, bringing his trademark rich and warm style to the book. Recipes are easy to read and the whole book is a true feast for the eyes.

Dishes are divided into sections called Snack Attack, On The Side, Easy Peasy, Over The Top, Rice & Noodles Sugar Hit and Dress For Success, most of which I found self-explanatory except for the last one, which was obvious once I looked – it covers dressings, of course!

There are lots of recipes which appeal, from Guinness battered prawns to Pandan chicken, from Deep-fried salt and pepper tofu to Watermelon, baby tomato, chevre and candied walnut salad, from Breakfast pie to Ayam pongteh (braised potato chicken, from Beef Cheeks Bourgignon (using my favourite, Pedro Ximinez) to Burnt butter lobster tail with apple and salmon roe, from Claypot chicken and mushroom rice to Curry laksa, from Popcorn and salted caramel macarons to Gingerbread ice cream, from Wasabi mayonnaise to Chilli onion jam. And that’s just two from each section, there are many, many more that sound delicious.

The recipe we decided to make first was Billy’s Cola Chilli Chicken, as I’ve been reading about savoury recipes featuring Coca Cola for such a long time.

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We skipped the cashews, as Pete’s not a fan, but otherwise followed the recipe as it was. We did find it needed quite a bit longer for the liquid to reduce down, but that may also be a factor of the size and shape of our wok and the heat we cooked over. Otherwise, it was very straightforward.

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The finished dish was absolutely delicious. The sauce wasn’t sickly sweet but beautifully balanced. Given how easy it was to cook, this is likely to be something we make again.

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And it makes me even more excited to try many of the other recipes in the book.

 

Billy Law’s Have You Eaten? is currently available from Amazon UK for £16 (RRP £25).

Kavey Eats received a review copy from Hardie Grant Books.

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