School of Wok’s Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken Recipe

I’ve attended many, many, many cookery classes over the years. I’ve enjoyed nearly all of them but a few have definitely stood out from the crowd, and those include every class I’ve ever taken at School of Wok. There is a great balance between fun and learning, with class sizes of 8-16 ensuring that everyone gets all the help they need throughout the class. Everyone is encouraged to relax and enjoy the experience but the tutors are very good at leading everyone through the class agenda and making sure that everything promised is covered and covered well. As well as basic knowledge such as knife skills and using a wok, the class works through several recipes – the tutors demonstrate first and the students have a go afterwards. After all the hard work, everyone is invited to have a drink while the staff clear up and set the table, ready for you to sit and eat all the delicious treats you have cooked.

The hands-on learning is so important and is what differentiates attending a class like this from reading a cookery book or watching a recipe video.

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This Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken had so much flavour and texture. The School of Wok Clock system of laying out ingredients on a plate in the order in which they are used made the wok cooking really easy to do.

You can win a School of Wok round-bottomed carbon steel wok and steel wok ring in my giveaway, here.

 

School of Wok’s Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken

Published with permission.

Ingredients
200g chicken thigh, or breast
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Sichuan pepper corns
1 Birdseye chilli
1 onion
1 pepper
2 spring onions
100g cashew nuts
The Marinade
Sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch Chinese 5 spice
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn flour
The Sauce
1 tsp chilli bean paste / chilli paste
1 tbsp hoi sin sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 capfuls rice wine
To finish
Sesame oil

Preparation

  • Cut the chicken into large slices and place in a medium sized prep bowl.
  • Finely chop the garlic and chilli and place in separate prep bowls.
  • Slice the onion & pepper and place in a prep bowl.
  • Throw all the marinade seasoning into the meat bowl and massage well ensuring you add the corn flour last.
  • Finely slice the spring onion and place in a small prep bowl.

Cooking

  • Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a wok to high heat.
  • Once smoking hot, add the onions & peppers and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  • Push the onions & peppers to the side of the wok and add an extra tbsp vegetable oil to the centre of the wok.
  • Bring oil to a high heat and add the crushed pepper corns, garlic and chicken. Stir-fry until chicken is golden brown.
  • Add the cashew nuts to the wok and stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Now add the chillies along with all ‘The Sauce’ ingredients to the wok. Continue to stir-fry on a high heat.
  • Add the spring onion and a drop of sesame oil to finish.

Note: If sauce is too thick, add a dash of hot water to the wok whilst cooking the meat through. If too thin, use corn flour paste to thicken.

  • Garnish with finely sliced spring onion before serving.

 

Kavey Eats attended a cookery class as a guest of School of Wok. This recipe is published with permission.

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School of Wok & Dexam Giveaway

As I mentioned in my post about a recent special event cooking class I attended, the School of Wok has recently launched its own branded range of cookware, utensils and accessories created in partnership with Dexam. The range includes woks, steamers, cooking utensils as well as branded aprons and tea-towels.

Jeremy advocates classic carbon steel woks over non-stick – though there are a few non-stick in the range for those who prefer them. It’s worth learning how to care for a carbon steel wok properly – you’ll need to season the new wok before use and then clean as instructed to keep it in good condition.

And if you’re looking for a great recipe to test your wok skills, try the School of Wok’s Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken.

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GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the launch of the new range, I’m giving away one 13” (33cm) School of Wok ‘Wok & Roll’ Round Bottom Wok as well as a Steel Wok Ring. The round bottomed wok makes it superbly easy to quickly move your food around the wok for even cooking and the ring allows you to properly balance the wok on your stove top. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment What is your favourite Chinese recipe to cook at home and why?

Entry 2 – Twitter Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I just entered the Kavey Eats giveaway of a @SchoolOfWok carbon steel round-bottomed wok +  wok ring. http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsSOW #KaveyEatsSOW
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid. Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 30th December 2016.
  • 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 one 13” School of Wok Carbon Steel Round Bottom Wok and one Steel Wok Ring.
  • The prize is provided by Dexam and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey at the time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winner will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats attended a launch event for the new School of Wok range as a guest of School of Wok. We were also given a wok and wok ring to take home.

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Wok & Roll At The School of Wok | Giveaway + Recipe

At the School of Wok you’ll not only learn to wok around the clock, you’ll become a bona fide wok star! Yes the puns come thick and fast but teaching is taken seriously, with a clear focus on students not only having fun (of which there is plenty) but also learning, learning, learning.

Over the last few years I’ve attended several classes at this excellent Asian-focused cookery school in central London and I’ve always come away with lots of new skills and the confidence to recreate what I’ve learned at home.

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Tonight’s class was a special event to launch the School of Wok’s own range of woks and cooking utensils, available to purchase at the school as well as from a range of other stockists. The school was already selling a range of cookware related to the classes. However, always keen to improve every detail of what the school offers, Jeremy Pang (School of Wok’s charismatic founder), has been working with Dexam to perfect a branded range that performs to his exacting specifications.

Dexam is a family company celebrating its 60th anniversary next year. Founded by two brothers who travelled the world discovering and importing great products for the domestic kitchen, they have built a successful business selling all manner of kitchen and home goods from tools and utensils to cookware and tableware, not to mention accessories such as aprons, table linen and storage products.

The Dexam School of Wok range includes woks, steamers, cooking utensils as well as branded aprons and tea-towels.

Our session was based on the school’s popular Understanding The Wok class. As well as learning and practicing basic knife skills, we were taught how to stuff and fold Jao Zi (dumplings), and how to cook Egg Fried Rice and a delicious Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken. After a demonstration, each pair of students took to the wok – there is nothing like hands on experience to cement learning!

Jeremy advocates classic carbon steel woks over non-stick – though there are a few non-stick in the range for those who prefer them – and our class also included a tutorial on how to season and clean our woks to keep them in good condition.

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To celebrate the launch of the new range, I’m giving away one 13” School of Wok ‘Wok & Roll’ Round Bottom Wok and a Steel Wok Ring that makes it easier to balance your wok on your stove top.

Click here to read more and to enter the giveaway.

For those interested in the food, check out the School of Wok Stir Fried Sichuan Chicken recipe here.

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Taking Part in The Young’s Seafood Bake Off

PARTNEREDPOSTI know many foodies pride themselves on cooking all of their meals from scratch and don’t make use of ready meals at all but that’s not how it is in our house. Of course, we do cook from scratch much of the time, but we also make use of ready meals and the occasional takeaway too – though far less than we used to when we first moved in together.

Probably the most regular choices for us include lasagne, chicken kievs and pies supplemented by oven chips or ready-made garlic bread sticks.

Recently, I was invited by Young’s Seafood to try their new Simply Bake range. As the UK’s leading supplier of frozen and chilled fish and seafood, Young’s are constantly innovating their product range to keep up with the changing tastes of consumers – did you know that as well as breaded and battered fish and seafood and seafood sticks, they also offer a variety of smoked fish and fish cakes in a range of marinades and glazes (branded as Funky Fish Kitchen), fish pies and other fish ready meals, rollmops and prawn cocktails. They make a lot of own-label products too; many supermarket own brand versions are made by the leading producers in that field. They’ve even expanded into chicken with their recently launched Chip Shop Special Orders range.

Simply Bake – their latest new addition – includes four oven-ready cod fillet bakes with delicious sauces and toppings. Mediterranean bake has a sundried tomato & mozzarella crust. Classic Florentine bake comes with a creamy Regatto cheese and spinach sauce. Broccoli Mornay is covered with a cheddar and broccoli sauce and then a crunchy onion chive crumble topping. Cheese & Leek bake features a rich cheese, mustard and leek sauce. Each box contains two generous 100% cod fillets with their respective toppings and takes less than 50 minutes to bake, straight from the freezer, so are perfect for midweek dinners.

The challenge that Young’s set me was to create a side dish that would make a great accompaniment to one or more of the Simply Bake products.

I chose the lovely Cheese & Leek Bake and came up with a Balsamic Roasted Tomato, Baby Spinach & Giant Couscous Salad (look out for my recipe, in the next post). I wanted to create a tasty delicious side that provided a little acidity to cut through the rich cheese sauce, and some bright colour on the plate and which is not too complicated or long-winded to make.

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The Bake Off was held at L’atelier des Chefs cookery school on Wigmore Street.

On arriving at the school, four tables in the kitchen area already set out with basic equipment and all the ingredients for our recipes. In the lobby area, tables were set up with a recipe card for each blogger’s side dish alongside a photo of the blogger. I had to laugh when I saw mine – the Young’s PR team used the profile photo from my twitter and instagram accounts, which was rather fitting – it was taken in Japan and I’m wearing a huge and hilarious fish-shaped hat!

On hand to help us in the kitchen was Young’s Development Chef, Serge Nollent. As we made the side dishes, he and his team baked all four of the Simply Bake cod mains, and once we finished, we tasted all of our dishes alongside their partner cod bake.

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What I really loved was how varied all four recipes were. Alongside my giant couscous salad was a wonderful sweet potato colcannon (mashed sweet potato with savoy cabbage), a quick and hearty panzanella (bread and tomato salad) and some beautifully piped sundried tomato duchesse potatoes.

It’s so easy to get into a rut when making side dishes to go with a main – boiled new potatoes, chips, maybe some peas or carrots or a run-of-the-mill side salad.

The evening was a great reminder of how much more interesting and delicious we can make our evening meals when we try something new.

Kavey Eats was commissioned by Young’s Seafood Limited to develop a recipe and participate in their Bake Off event. My photo collages contain a mix of my own images and those provided by Young’s.

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Beauty, Culture & Relaxation at Hoshinoya Karuizawa

If any one nation excels at skilfully enhancing an area of natural beauty to make it even more beautiful, it must surely be Japan?

Certainly, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting than HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, located in an area known colloquially as the Japanese Alps.

Karuizawa is not only one of the flagships of the Hoshino Resorts portfolio, it is also where the family business started over 100 years ago. As I mentioned in my post about an incredible dinner we enjoyed at Hoshinoya Kyoto, this family hospitality business was founded over a 100 years ago. After first setting up a forestry business in the area, Kuniji Hoshino decided to take advantage of the area’s increased popularity as a holiday resort by opening a ryokan and hot spring on his property in 1914. Today, fourth-generation family member Yoshiharu Hoshino is CEO of the company and has lead the business through two decades of transformation and expansion, modernising existing properties and purchasing several new ones.

Karuizawa has been hugely updated since Kuniji’s era. In 2005 the resort was completely rebuilt with all-new accommodation, absolutely stunning landscaping and a new meditation bath and spa building to match.

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Hoshinoya Karuizawa Resort

The residential area of the resort is laid out in a series of low rise buildings arranged around a lake and streams fed by the Yukawa River. The water twists and turns its way through the resort grounds – in slow languid loops paddled by contented ducks, racing over weirs in a bubbling rush, or tumbling delicately over a series of mini terraces in graceful waterfalls.

A few of the residences, like our Mizunami villa, house just one large guest suite but most rooms are grouped together in larger villas – these rooms can be booked individually or by groups of families, friends or colleagues. Many of the rooms have a view of the lake or streams. Some, slightly higher up the hillside enjoy views towards the mountains and a few have garden spaces that back onto the bird-rich forest below.

Our room (below) was airy and open with high ceilings, pretty pale green walls, and muted fabrics. Utterly gorgeous! The natural wood and stones are a nod to the more traditional Japanese inns but the design is very much a modern aesthetic. We loved the sense of space and calm, not to mention luxurious comfort – underfloor heating in the bathroom!

Every evening, shortly before dusk falls, two staff take a row boat out onto the lake and light, one by one, the tethered candles floating on the surface.

We watched them from our balcony, whilst enjoying hot tea and a delicious local delicacy – walnut-flavoured gyuhu mochi, a softer style of mochi sweets made by a local wagashi specialist to a traditional local recipe – served to us in our room shortly after we arrived by Mei, one of the Hoshino guest services team.

Looking out onto the lake as darkness fell and the candles twinkled and bobbed on the waters is one of the most peaceful and magical of memories.

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Our room, 110.

But sitting looking out at the view was not our only way to relax.

Within the resort area is a modern spa building which is open all night, closed for just a few hours in the middle of the day. At its heart are the gender-separated Meditation Baths. Each features a deeper-than-usual hot bath that opens out from a waterfall entrance area into Hikari – a bright high-ceilinged space where you can soak within the warm water and light. Hikari is connected by a passage way to Yami – a dark, low ceilinged bathing area, recommended for quiet meditation.

What we really appreciated was being able to use these whenever we wanted – early morning, afternoon, before dinner, after dinner… Dressed in our in-room yukata (robes) and outer jackets, with clog-like geta on our feet, we clip-clopped along paths lit with nightlights and across the modern suspension bridge to arrive at the spa building.

There are also a range of treatments available, from traditional health and beauty treatments to more unusual options such as facial acupressure, warming eye care and moxibustion workshops; never heard of moxibustion? No, neither had we but we spent a wonderful hour learning all about it, more of which below!

Also worth visiting is the original onsen (hot spring), Tombo-no-yu – a short walk from the residential area. Open to both residents and general visitors, but allowing exclusive access to Hoshino guests at certain times of the day, Tombo-no-yu offers a more traditional onsen experience with gender-separated bathing areas offering indoor and outdoor pools of the usual shallower proportions.

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These 4 images provided by Hoshino Resorts – Left: Meditation Spa; Right: Tombo-no-yu onsen

Another place we enjoyed is the Tsudoi building, overlooking a hillside landscaped into gentle terraces over which streams gently cascade. It houses the main reception, a small shop, a lounge library area and the Kasuke Japanese restaurant.

We watched in rapt delight as a male and female duck gingerly followed each other downwards over a couple of the little waterfalls, swimming along a length of stream before paddling out onto a patch of grass. Not long afterwards another young male tried to play the gooseberry and join the party but eventually realised he wasn’t welcome. He paddled away, playing it cool until he slipped accidentally over the lip of another waterfall, looking rather undignified as he landed clumsily before quickly swimming away!

The lounge is a lovely place to while away a little time, with a range of teas, coffee and chocolates available to help yourself. During the afternoon, guests are invited to try a more traditional confectionary served by Hoshino staff. Most of the books in the library are in Japanese, though we did enjoy a bilingual guide to Sushi that we spotted on one of the shelves.

At reception (or via phone from your room if you prefer), you can request one of the resorts cars to transfer you to any of the locations outside of the residential resort area. These include the restaurants of sister-hotel Bleston Court, local sites such as the Stone Church, the Kogen Church, the Picchio Visitors Centre (more on which later) or Hoshino’s Harunire Terrace (where you’ll find a range of restaurants and shops). Any of these will also call a car to collect you, when you are ready to head back to the resort.

Of course, you are welcome to walk if you like and there are also local walking paths in the area which Reception staff can tell you more about.

The Stone Church, also known as the Hoshino Chapel, was designed by American architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg. Built in 1988 to commemorate Uchimura Kanzo (a Japanese journalist, author, Christian evangelist and leader of the Non-Church Movement) the church is strikingly modern in design yet integrates beautifully into the landscape. Built of stark concrete and grey stone, the church is surprisingly warm and beautiful, especially the inside chapel with a living wall of green plants and beautifully carved wooden pews beneath soaring curved arches and windows above. I wish we’d given ourselves more time to explore and enjoy the avant-garde architecture and serene vibe; it’s really an incredible and quite unexpected place.

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The Stone Church

Nearby is the much older Kogen Church and this too traces its roots back to Uchimura Kanzo. Originally, it was not a church but a lecture hall, designated as a place of learning and enjoyment by Kanzo in 1921. After the second world war, it was renamed as the Karuizawa Kogen Church and is today both a place of worship and a venue for concerts and events. In the summer, a candle light festival is hugely popular, with the entire approach and church itself lit by many hundreds of candles. What a sight that must be!

What I most loved about Kogen was the display next door of wedding photos of couples who have married here, hundreds and hundreds of them displayed in frames or tucked into albums. Staff told us that many couples come back to celebrate their anniversaries and to show their children where they were wed.

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The Kogen Church

Guests at both Hoshinoya Karuizawa and Hotel Bleston Court have plenty of choice for dinner, both formal and casual.

Yukawatan, in Bleston Court, is a renowned French restaurant headed by Chef Noriyuki Hamada, the only Japanese chef to secure a coveted Bocuse d’Or medal. I would very much like to dine at Yukawatan on our next visit as Hamada’s cooking is reputed to be of an incredibly high level.

Nearby Harunire Terrace is the home to Il Sogno (Italian), Kisurin (Chinese), Kawakami-an (Soba noodle) and Cercle (French) restaurants plus a bakery, a gelateria and a traditional Japanese confectionery shop. There are other cafes and restaurants also in the vicinity.

Kasuke Japanese restaurant is a beautiful space, located in the Tsudoi building. The ceiling is high, high, high above the traditional foot-well tables that look out through floor to ceiling windows across the beautiful landscaped gardens. Breakfast can also be taken here but we visited for a traditional kaiseki dinner (images below), an excellent choice which we felt it was very reasonably priced at just 12,000 Yen per person (excluding tax and service), much less than meals of this calibre and style that we enjoyed elsewhere.

The feast of over ten courses – appetiser, soup, sashimi, a fried dish, charcoal-grilled vegetables, assorted small bites, a steak and salmon course, rice (with pickles and miso soup), fresh fruit, and finally tea and a Japanese sweet – were served by Mie. Mie was like a personal butler during our visit, she took us to our room on arrival, served us tea and wagashi to welcome us as she told us more about the resort and our itinerary and escorted us to many of our activities during our stay.

Highlights of the meal included many local woodland vegetables that we had not encountered before; the simple but utterly perfect grilled onion and udo (mountain asparagus) course served to our table by one of the chefs who carefully peeled the charred skins off the vegetables before portioning and serving them to us with a homemade sesame miso, salt and olive oil – their flesh was silky soft and sweet and with a hint of smokiness; the tokun strawberry (so named because it smells like a peach, and it really does!) and hyuganatsu citrus served for dessert alongside a Japanese version of affogato – kuromoji (a medicinal tea made from a native shrub) poured over a ball of fuki (giant butterbur) ice cream.

Another aspect that really wowed us was the matching drinks flight – a very clever mix of European red and white wines and traditional Japanese sakes, extremely well matched to the diverse ingredients, flavours and textures of all our courses – one of the best we’ve encountered.

Our only disappointments when it came to dining at the resort, were room-service dining, which we tried for both a breakfast and a dinner – really overpriced for what was served in both cases – and the breakfast we ate at Bleston Court’s No One’s Recipe – alternatively described as French and American, it wasn’t really either, offering a bizarre selection of no-choice galette plus a buffet of soups, lasagne, patés, salads and desserts. I would have preferred a typical French, American or traditional Japanese breakfast over this rather random and not very well-balanced offering.

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Traditional kaiseki dinner in Kasuke restaurant

Although we could happily have whiled away our time lazing in our room, soaking in the Meditation Baths and onsen hot springs, and exploring the resort and local area, we also took advantage of some of the activities on offer at Hoshinoya Karuizawa.

Knowing my interest in Japanese food, the resort suggeested a wonderful lesson in making Oyaki (sweet, bean-filled dumplings). One of the resort’s chefs, Chef Yamamoto Hidemasa was on hand to show us how these are made, though I let Pete do all the hard work!

Because of the time available, chef Yamamoto had already made the three different fillings for our dumplings – one of mashed roasted pumpkin, one of aubergine and miso and the last a simple azuki (red bean) paste – but gave me instructions on how to make these simple fillings at home.

Oyaki dough can be made with buckwheat or regular wheat flour, we used the latter. The first step was for Pete to make the dough, for which he combined flour, baking powder, cold water, sugar and a little salt  and knead it well. Needing to sit and rise overnight, chef Yamamoto switched the dough for one he’d made the previous day and showed Pete how to form and fill the dumplings and the two of them went ahead and made a few with each of the three fillings.

After the lesson, we headed to Kasuke where Mie served hot tea and a few minutes later, chef Yamamoto served the freshly cooked dumplings Pete had helped to make. He had steamed them for ten minutes before briefly frying to give them little golden caps.

The soft steamed texture of the dough and delicious fillings were utterly delicious and this is definitely a recipe we’re going to try and recreate at home!

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Oyaki lesson

Another activity the resort arranged for us was a Moxbustion workshop.

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicinal treatment that involves placing pieces of dried mugwort – an aromatic plant often used as a herb – on meridian points of the body and burning. Today, it is common for the mugwort to be processed into small stick-on moxa (named for the Japanese word for mugwort, mugosa) which can be easily attached to the skin and lit. A small padded disc protects the skin from any burn damage as the mugwort burns down.

The meridian points, also known as chi, are the same ones used for acupuncture and acupressure, so it may simply be the application of heat to those locations is what has an effect, rather than the properties of the mugwort itself.

Practitioners believe that moxibustion can improve blood circulation and metabolism, boost the immune system and reduce stress. As with acupuncture and acupressure, specific meridian points are also associated with different aspects of health.

Our tutor Mr Funada, with the aid of his colleague and a member of Hoshino’s staff to translate for us, introduced us to the treatment and applied several moxa to our wrist and feet meridians. He explained which points to use for stress relief and good sleep, for reduction of eyestrain and neck pain, for healing gastrointestinal and gynaelogical symptoms and more. I also asked for points specific to shoulder and back pain.

I used to be very cynical about alternative medicines, lumping ancient practices such as acupuncture and Ayurvedic remedies in with homeopathy and crystals (both of which I think are pure hokum). But I have come to realise through experience that many of the ancient Asian medicine techniques are effective and many are now being researched and recognised by Western medicine. Certainly acupuncture, applied by a professional physiotherapist, has relieved severe back and neck pain for me in the past and some of the (rather foul-tasting) Indian herb and spice remedies have also been helpful with joint pain.

Whether or not moxibustion works because of properties within the burning mugwort or via the application of heat to the body’s meridian points, I can’t tell but certainly the neck, shoulder and back pain I’d been suffering with for the previous few days eased following the workshop. Of course, that could also have been courtesy of the long soaks in the hot soothing waters of the Meditation Baths!

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Moxibustion workshop

One of the things that excited us about visiting Karuizawa was the chance to see local wildlife. Pete and I have spent many happy holidays travelling to watch wildlife in its native habitat, from East and Southern African safaris where we thrilled at the sightings of lions, elephants, cheetahs and more to Galapagos Island bird and reptile viewing all the way down to Antarctica for penguins, seals and albatrosses.

The Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel, known in Japan as musasabi, may not sound like a very exciting wildlife encounter but for us, it was thrilling!

Our tour was provided by Picchio, an ecotourism organisation established by Hoshino in 1992. Picchio offers a variety of nature tours in the local area and is also active in local conservation activities including the protection of Asian Wild Bears, found in the region.

Before we left the visitors’ centre, located just opposite the Tombo-no-yu onsen buildings, our guide Motoi Inoue gave us an introductory presentation about the animal we were hoping to see. Luckily for us, Inoue spoke fluent English, so he kindly repeated everything in both Japanese and English, allowing us to fully appreciate these fascinating little creatures. His enthusiasm was infectious! We learned about their physiology (including size – much bigger than most of us guessed), what they naturally eat and the variation in the size of their territories depending on the density of their chosen food source in a given area.

Best of all, we learned that our chances of seeing them on the evening’s tour were extremely high. Giant flying squirrels sleep in nests during the day, coming out at night to feed. Two things make Picchio’s squirrel observation tours so successful. Firstly, research has found that musasabi come out of their nest approximately 30 minutes after sunset, sticking to a pretty tight + /- 15 minutes of that time. Secondly, Picchio have created 14 nest boxes for the local musasabi to use, each of which have a camera inside. Unlike many animals, musasabi switch from nest to nest, often on a nightly basis and also show no qualms about using a nest that a different squirrel used the previous night. The video cameras allow Picchio staff to check during the day which of the boxes are in use allowing the guides to direct enthusiastic visitors to one of the boxes shortly ahead of the approximate exit time, based on the time of sunset that evening. There are no absolute guarantees, but their success rate is very high.

Fortune was smiling on us in many ways that evening. The box Inoue had selected was easily accessible, within 10 minutes walk of the visitors’ centre and nailed to a tree within a tarmacked parking area that had just two or three cars in a distant corner. Better still, Inoue carried with him a laptop screen and cables which allowed him to plug into a socket at the base of the tree and show us on screen the camera feed from inside. We quickly discovered that our nest box contained several bundles of squirming fur which Inoue identified as a mother, two very young pups and an older sibling from a previous litter.

Standing a respectful distance away from the nest, each of us furnished with loan binoculars, we watched the nest eagerly, the exit lit by red torchlight that neither disturbs the animals nor damages their night vision or eyesight.

Inoue warned us that it was unlikely the mother would leave the nest as the pups were still very young; she had not left during the previous nights since their birth. However it was almost certain that the older sibling to the pups would come out for a night feed. As the time approached, we saw him peek his head out of the nest a few times, and then, suddenly, he came all the way out, looked around him at the nearby trees around the car park, and scampered up to the top of the tree. Moments later he launched, all four limbs akimbo to create the wings that allow him to glide swiftly to another tree. Once landed, he scampered up to the top once again.

Initially, the plan had been to walk quietly towards the landing tree in the hopes of seeing a second flight, but Inoue quickly asked us to stay still, noticing that the mother had poked her head out of the nest to have a look around – we didn’t want to risk disturbing her. To our enormous delight and surprise, the mother chose this night to leave her pups for the first time, and we watched her speed up the tree before launching and gliding across to another. Not only were we elated to see a second flight from a second animal, we were also able to get a clearer camera view of the pups now that they were alone inside the nest.

Just as we thought our tour complete, Inoue’s assistant alerted us to the distinctive call of another musasabi – an adult male in a tree nearby. Using the red torchlight, the newcomer was located atop one of the tallest trees in the vicinity. Giddy with excitement, we watched him glide to a tree very close to where we stood and then onwards again right over our heads to a tree deeper in the forest!

As you can probably tell, we were utterly captivated by this experience, even more so given its location within the heart of the resort.

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Picchio Flying Squirrel Observation Tour

For us, the charm of HOSHINOYA Karuizawa lies in its offering of natural beauty and wildlife skilfully enhanced by delightful landscaping, the chance to immerse oneself in cultural activities and to explore the local area and sights, the opportunities to relax and recuperate and of course, the absolute joy of eating well.

Prices start at around 30,000 Yen per person for a twin or double room (without meals) though there are significant savings available for booking more than three months in advance (with prices dropping to 18,000 Yen per person). Our kaiseki dinner at Kasune was 12,000 Yen per person plus tax and service; menus and prices for other dining options are available online. Activities such as the moxibustion workshop we attended, and beauty treatments such as facial acupressure and onsen body work are priced at 2,000 Yen per person. The oyaki making activity is 8,000 Yen per group.

Kavey Eats were guests of Hoshino Resorts for one night of our two night stay at HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, the other night was paid by us at the full standard rate. We were also invited to review the kaiseki dinner at Kasuke restaurant and breakfast at No Ones Recipes. All other meals and drinks were covered by us. Our activities during the stay were organised by Hoshino Resorts.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa in Japan on Kavey Eats

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Cooking Colombian | Cartagena Braised Beef

I visited Colombia about thirty years ago on a family holiday that also took us to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Though I still have memories of Bogotá – I remember the statue of Simon Bolivar in Plaza de Bolivar, the flamboyant Iglesia del Carmen and being driven around the old town areas – there’s a gap when it comes to remembering the food.

Luckily, Proexport Colombia recently invited me to attend a Colombian Cooking Masterclass in the Ambassador’s beautiful residence in Chester Square.

We spent a happy hour in the small basement kitchen, where renowned Colombian chefs Juanita Umaña and Diana García talked to us about ingredients and demonstrated several dishes, inviting us to touch, smell, taste and to get involved. We ate Colombian specialities straight out of the fryer and scribbled down tips and tricks before taking our seats in the ambassador’s dining room for a multi-course feast.

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The snacks we made with Juanita and Diana both featured yuca (manioc) flour. Pasteles de yuca croquettes stuffed with a spicy beef and egg mixture. Arepas (corn cakes) were double-fried – dough was rolled out, cut into discs, fried for a few minutes, then a slit carefully so that an egg could be dropped inside before being fried again. Arepas are most commonly made quite large, but Juanita and Diana made individual ones using quails eggs before creating a larger one with a hen egg.

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For lunch we were served a variety of dishes, all traditional favourites in Colombia. My fellow diners were particularly taken with the Ajiaco Santafereño (chicken and potato soup) but my favourites were the mixed seafood en leche de coco (in coconut milk), the Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena braised beef), the dulce de leche crème brûlée and the sandwich of Oblea wafers and dulce de leche.

Recipe: Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena Braised Beef)

Serves 6

Ingredients
Posta

1 tail of rump or rump tip of 3lb with its fat
1.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon vinegar or 2 tablespoons bitter orange juice
Braising Liquid
3 tablespoons oil
4 sweet chili peppers, seeded and chopped
3 white onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste

Method

  • Place the meat in a bowl or pan and marinate with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar or bitter orange juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Heat the oil in a pot over high heat and brown the meat on all sides, starting with the fat, until obtaining a dark caramel colour all over.
  • Add sweet chili peppers, onion, and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and pour in enough hot water to cover a third of the meat.
  • Braise for 45 minutes over medium heat to medium doneness. If you want it done more, place in a 350° F (180 °C) oven for 40 minutes more, or depending on your preference.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and let sit for some minutes.
  • Cut it in thin slices.
  • Adjust seasoning. If the sauce formed in the pot has dried out, add some hot water and reduce a bit, for all the flavours to integrate and obtain a nice gravy.
  • Serve the meat with its gravy, fried coconut rice and salad on the side.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Proexport Colombia. The recipe for Cartagena Braised Beef, published with permission, is from Colombia Cocina de Regiones, edited and published by MNR Comunicaciones y Ediciones, an authoritative book on the recipes of Colombia, with contributions from Juanita Umaña and Diana García.

Yijo Restaurant: Authentic Korean Cooking & Super Cookery Classes

Pete and I have quickly become regular visitors to Yijo Restaurant since our first visit just a couple of months ago. Head chef Jun Pyo Kwon serves up a delicious, authentic and very reasonably priced menu in this unassuming neighbourhood restaurant, just by Central Finchley tube station. You may have tried Jun Pyo’s cooking before, as he developed the menu and launched Kimchee restaurant in Holborn; of course, its location dictated the need to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. During one of our many chats, Jun Pyo explained his desire to open up his own place, where he could offer customers his personal insight into Korean cooking.

The restaurant specialises in Korean barbecue – which I mentally think of as yakiniku even though that’s a Japanese term – but there is also a range of other delicious dishes, with more to come soon – Jun Pyo and restaurant manager Cindy Roberts are finalising a new menu which will be available shortly.

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first image from Google

Of course, the Korean barbecue is excellent. It’s such a sociable (not to mention delicious) dining experience cooking, talking, eating, cooking, talking, eating…

You can choose individual plates of meat or go for one of the mixed platters, which are excellent value and generous too.

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We’ve also tried several other dishes including jap chae (sweet potato glass noodles and vegetables stir fried), tteokbokki (squidgy rice cakes in a fiery sauce), chicken mari (rice paper chicken and vegetable wrapped rolls), bokkeumbap (stir fried rice) and of course, a variety of pickles and salads.

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Yijo Cooking Classes

We’ve also had great fun attending Yijo’s recently launched cooking classes, learning how to make kimchi in the first and making our own tofu (and several dishes using it) in the second. Both the classes we attended were held in the restaurant over a Saturday long lunch but Yijo are also offering classes in a central London cooking school.

In the kimchi class, Jun Pyo shares a wealth of information about the different varieties of kimchi enjoyed in Korea, and lots of tips about variations we can make to the recipe he shares with us. Each student makes their own kimchi to take home – one to ferment and age, the other to enjoy fresh. At the end of the class, we are served a traditional meal of tofu, kimchi and pork.

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In the tofu class, as the process is more time consuming, Jun Pyo explains how to soak the beans and then demonstrates how to grind and strain them to make soy milk. Then we work in pairs to cook pots of soy milk, which Cindy and Jun Pyo made earlier in the morning, adding coagulant and straining into tofu presses when ready. Again, Jun Pyo shares tips on how to achieve a richer almondy flavour and ideas on how to create flavoured tofu. This time, we go on to make three dishes using our fresh tofu – a stew made from the leftover ground soy beans, a simple salad of fresh tofu and dressing and a fried kimchi and tofu dish. We sit down to enjoy these together after the class.

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Each student is able to take a block of home made tofu away with them, plus a pot of the leftover ground beans. Pete and I coat ours in panko breadcrumbs and deep fry them for a quick and tasty lunch the next day.

These classes are a really wonderful way to learn more about Korean cuisine and the practical nature of the classes will give you the confidence to recreate the dishes at home. Check out all Yijo’s classes and events here.

 

Kavey Eats attended the cooking classes as guests of Yijo restaurant.
Yijo on Urbanspoon

Win an Olive It! Tapas Cooking Class with Jose Pizarro (Closed)

Olive It! is a European campaign to showcase that essential Mediterranean ingredient, the olive. By giving you lots of great ideas on how to incorporate them into your cooking the campaign aims to kick-start your love affair with olives and remind you that they are a versatile and tasty ingredient. Black olives are also rich in iron and Vitamin E, making them a great source of nutrition too.

Find out more about Olive it! at their website, follow @Oliveit_UK on twitter or like their Facebook page.

Olive it! Pizarro

COMPETITION

Olive It! are offering two Kavey Eats readers the chance to win two places each on an olive cooking course with fantastic Spanish chef, Jose Pizarro. As a huge fan of Jose’s cooking, recipes and warm personality I am sure this class will be an absolute blast as well as hugely informative.

Each winner, along with their guest, will be invited to attend the lunch time class on Friday 3rd October. During the class they will learn how to make delicious Spanish tapas before sitting down to enjoy a mouth watering feast of all the food prepared. The meal is accompanied by carefully selected wines.

The class runs from 12-3.30 pm and takes place in one of my favourite cookery schools, Food at 52 in Clerkenwell.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, describing your favourite Spanish tapas.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a Tapas cooking class with Jose Pizarro from @Oliveit_UK & Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/l7Zojq #KaveyEatsPizarroClass
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 26th September 2014.
  • The 2 winners 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.
  • Each prize is two places on an Olive It! Tapas Cooking Class by Jose Pizarro. The class takes place from 12.00 to 3.30 pm on Friday 3rd October at the Food at 52 Cooking School. Transport to and from the class is not included. Please note that no other dates or times are available, so if you are unable to attend, you will not be offered an alternative class or date.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Olive It!
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message.
  • Because of the imminent nature of the class, if no response is received from a winner within 3 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats will also attend an Olive It! cooking class as a guest of Olive It!

This competition is now closed. The winners, picked randomly, are @LeighAnneWalker and Jennifer Earle.

Holy Smoked Mackerel, Batman!

Four years ago a course at Billingsgate Seafood Training School changed my life.

If that seems like it might be an exaggeration, rest assured that it really isn’t because, in a roundabout kind of way, it lead to me finally making it to Japan, a country I’d long yearned to visit. That’s a story for another time, but probably goes some way to explaining why I was so keen to accept the school’s invitation to attend one of their newer evening classes.

Known as Every Which Way Techniques, there are a range of courses to choose from, each one based around a seasonal fish or seafood.  In July, crab was on the menu. In September, the theme was scallops. In October the focus will be on Lemon Sole and in November, on Seabass. Our August class was based on mackerel, a fish that’s at its best in late summer.

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Classes are £55 per person for a group of up to 12 people and start at 6.30 pm. During the next 2.5 hours you will learn a variety of skills to prepare and cook the chosen fish. At the end you have time to grab a stool and tuck in to your efforts.

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During the class, our tutor Eithne taught us how to gut and clean out our mackerels, how to fillet  them and what to do if we wanted to cook them whole. With her patient guidance, this seemed very straightforward and all of us mastered the techniques.

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The cooking focused on smoking using wood chip shavings and specialist domestic smokers, but Eithne made clear that we could adapt equipment we would likely already have in our kitchens just as well.

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We smoked fillets of salmon and whole mackerel and also oven cooked fillets of mackerel with a delicious marinade applied, which we mixed from recipes and ingredients provided.

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As an added bonus, when I removed the innards of one of my mackerel, I spotted an intact liver. Asking Eithne if she’d ever cooked one (she hadn’t) I decided to give it a go and see what it was like. Turns out it was delicious, so there’s a top tip for you – mackerel livers for the win!

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We also learned a simple smoked fish pate recipe that Pete and I made the next day with the whole smoked mackerel we brought home with us. It was simple, delicious and I shall definitely make it again.

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Kavey Eats attended the Smoked Mackerel Every Which Way Techniques class as a guest of Billingsgate Seafood Training School.

News: The school have just introduced gift vouchers. Wouldn’t these make a great Christmas gift? The lucky recipient recipient could book onto a course of their choice, on a date that works for them.

Norwegian Fish Soup Recipe

In December I was invited to a seafood cookery class hosted by my friend Signe Johansen (blogger, food writer and food anthropologist) on behalf of the Norwegian Seafood Council, to showcase the quality of Norwegian seafood and share some ideas for how to make the most of it. Having cooked several different dishes with the skrei they sent me last year – miso marinated cod, fish and egg pie, fish and chips and a cod and chive dish, I was keen to try some of the other seafood available.

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Signe and Hannah (her sous chef for the class)

Sig’s menu included prawn and crisp bread canapés, smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche, beetroot and pickled cucumbers, some deep fried cod fritters, a warming Norwegian seafood soup and a fantastic rice pudding with whipped cream and berry compote. There was warming gløgg too!

The recipe I’m sharing below is for the seafood soup, which Sig called a Norwegian chowder, in recognition of the American side of her family background. Unlike the American chowders I’ve had, it’s not thick – the soup is broth-like in consistency – but it does have a great depth of flavour and plenty of richness from the cream. Sig recommends serving with crisp bread but I enjoyed it with regular white bread to soak up the liquid.

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Signe’s Norwegian Fish Soup

Serves 6-7 as a starter, 3-4 as a main

Ingredients
For the chowder base
200g Norwegian cold water cooked prawns, shell on
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 small fennel, finely diced (keep the fronds for garnish)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
2 litres fish stock
2 star anise
2 parsley stalks
2 threads saffron
5 allspice berries
For the soup
500g Norwegian salmon, sliced into bite-size chunks
300g cooked new potatoes, sliced in half
300ml double cream
100ml good cooking brandy
1 large leek, thinly sliced
Chives for garnish
300ml crème fraîche to garnish at the end (optional)
Salmon roe to garnish (optional)

Note: We didn’t have any prawns on the day, so these were omitted (which meant we didn’t need to strain the stock-flavouring vegetables out). We used a mix of salmon and other fish. We didn’t garnish with crème fraiche or salmon roe.

Method

  • Start by making the chowder base. Sauté the onion, carrot and fennel in a skillet or frying pan over a low heat until soft and translucent. This should take about 5-10 minutes depending on the pan.
  • Peel the prawns and keep the shells, adding the latter to the pan with the sautéed vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes (keep the prawns to one side to add as garnish to the chowder).
  • Transfer this mixture over to a medium-large saucepan along with the fish stock, allspice berries, star anise, parsley stalks, bay leaf and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes until the stock turns a pale orange from the shells and saffron, and then sieve the stock into a slightly smaller saucepan. Throw away the prawn shells and other flavourings, as you don’t need these anymore.
  • Flambé the brandy or cook off the alcohol in a small saucepan and add this to the stock. Boil this soup base until it has reduced by half; if the base tastes bland at this stage, keep reducing until the flavour takes on a concentrated seafood note. Every fish stock is different, so judge to your taste.
  • Meanwhile sauté the leek in a little butter until soft and add to the stock, along with the double cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add all the salmon. Allow to cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the fish is pale pink and opaque.
  • Adjust the seasoning if necessary then add the cooked, sliced new potatoes, the prawns and serve while warm with a chive, fennel frond and salmon roe garnish. Rye bread complements this tasty chowder perfectly and a dollop of crème fraîche is an indulgent optional topping.

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Kavey Eats attended this cookery class as a guest of the Norwegian Seafood Council.