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.


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.


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


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


  • 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.


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


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


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.


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!)


  • 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.


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.

Feb 062014

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

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.


  • 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.


I’ve already attended a couple of cookery classes at Food at 52Flavours of Italy run by school founder John and Scandinavian Christmas Baking with Trine Hahnemann. Recently, I went back to attend another of Trine’s classes, Flavours of Scandinavia.

The class focuses on the kind of simple, healthy cooking that Scandinavians enjoy at home, using ingredients such as root vegetables, kale and rye grains.

Unlike my previous classes at the school, this one was less hands on. In the other classes, we worked in pairs to create most of the recipes ourselves and made just one or two as a whole group. This time, we made nearly everything as a group. In practice, that meant we discussed and watched a lot more, but there was still plenty of opportunity to handle the ingredients, to smell and touch and taste. Where we did get more hands on experience was in peeling and chopping vegetables, forming and frying frikadeller (Danish meatballs), making individual salad dressings and frying the mushroom and rye dish and the apple and onion dish.

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What was most valuable, for me, was the confirmation of how simple and achievable this cuisine can be when you focus on everyday cooking rather than the new modern approach of the famous Scandi restaurants.

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And though I’ve had it once before, at an Abergavenny Festival class by Trine and Signe Johansen, I had forgotten how very delicious celeriac root is when baked whole after rubbing with oil and salt. It has a wonderful earthy flavour and a soft fluffy texture, much like a properly baked potato.

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Even without the three day curing, Trine’s orange and lemon cured salmon was another hit for me – I had never imagined that orange would go so well with salmon, even though it’s second nature to pair the fish with lemon. We tried a few slices of the salmon after only a dew hours, and it was super.

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Roast root vegetables are always a winner and Trine encouraged us not to peel them, for added flavour and roughage. Tossed in oil and sprinkled with a restrained scattering of fennel seeds these beetroot, carrots and parsnips were very good indeed.

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Rye grains turned out to be much like spelt grains once cooked, and make another excellent alternative to rice.


Trine brought along some of her home made rye bread too, which is always a treat.

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The chicken, potato, kale and almond salad was good, but I’m still not as much of a fan of kale as I am of other cabbages such as savoy. The dressing was much as I usually make – vinegar, mustard, honey and oil.

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On the other hand, the kale “pesto” was wonderfully green, lemony and light. Because it didn’t have the heaviness that cheese brings, it was also a good way to eat more of this nutritious winter vegetable.

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But my favourites were the frikadeller served with fried apple and onion. Similar in taste, but not in shape and size, to the Swedish köttbullar I fell in love with during many childhood trips to Sweden these were comfort food at its most comforting.

Making good frikadeller is all about the fars, or minced meat mix, so Trine made sure we all had the chance to feel it and understand the texture we should aim for. Then she showed us how to shape the balls with oiled spoons and we formed a rotating queue, shaping and dropping into the pan, shaping and dropping into the pan.


After the cooking (and talking and laughing) we sat down to lunch (with more talking and laughing) and enjoyed the feast.

Thanks to Trine and Food at 52 for another lovely day.


Kavey Eats attended this class as a guest of Food at 52.


Earlier this year, I had a great time reviewing the Italian cookery class at Food at 52. I loved how much we covered and that it was all hands on; I really appreciated class tutor John’s friendly, knowledgeable and encouraging approach and I loved the home-style feel of the basement classroom.

I also had a fun evening baking afternoon treats there, more recently.

This time, I was back to learn from Trine Hahnemann, the Danish cooking legend who runs a hugely successful catering business, has appeared as a regular guest chef on Danish cookery programmes and is the author of three books on Nordic and Scandinavian cooking.

Here’s my review of Trine’s second book, The Scandinavian Cookbook, and her recipe for Swedish cheese tart.


The Scandinavian Christmas Baking class invited us to get a head start on our Christmas baking the Scandinavian way.

During the class, we made recipes from Trine’s latest book Scandinavian Christmas, including Christmas Danish pastries, Lucia saffron bread, kransekage aka almond biscuits, cinnamon biscuits, vanilla biscuits and brune kager aka brown cakes, actually another type of spiced biscuit.

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Working in pairs, I teamed up with lovely Michelle and we measured, mixed, shaped and tasted our way through the recipes, under Trine’s watchful guidance and instruction.

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Although we made most of the recipes ourselves, Trine had mixed together the dough for the Christmas Danish pastry ahead of time. She showed us how to laminate the dough (with a wonderfully outrageous volume of butter) and once it was sliced and laid on the dough, all of us took turns to roll and fold it throughout the day, popping it into the fridge between each folding.

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When the dough was eventually ready, Trine cut it into pieces and showed us how to fold it into balls, pinching them closed on the underside.

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Once out of the oven, we scarcely allowed the pastries to cool before diving in.


Although Trine felt the pastries had not risen as much as normal, I thought they were absolutely divine! Essentially, they were like softer, richer hot cross buns and it was that softness that made me fall in love with them.

That said, during the day, one of the pieces of information Trine shared was that baked goods with oil or butter are very much best enjoyed on the day they are baked as they go stale far more quickly than items without fats. Whilst these were still very tasty the next day, the pillowy-soft texture had gone.

One of the simplest recipes we made was also one of my favourites: the kransekage (almond biscuits). Made with marzipan, Trine warned us against the cheap marzipan that is prevalent in the supermarkets; indeed she carried several logs of top quality marzipan with her from Denmark when she last visited. We used a 200 gram log in each batch of biscuits, you can see the batch Michelle and I made, below.

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These were so quick to make using a food processor and I loved the chewy marzipan with the crunch from the walnut pieces on top.

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In order for it to have time to rise, Trine had also mixed the dough for the Lucia saffron bread. After showing us the traditional shapes, the dough pieces were shared out and we were let loose to make our own buns.

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These soft buns were somewhat like brioche, an egg-rich dough with a gentle sweetness.

At this stage, in the middle of the day, it was time to stop for lunch. This was an absolute treat. With dense, rich slices of Trine’s homemade rye bread and soft fluffy poppy seed buns, we had some fantastic Danish salmon that Trine had brought across from Denmark on her latest visit. A side salad and cheeseboard were also welcome, as were fish and mushroom pates and the most fabulous pickled marrow, in a sweet sharp brine that I absolutely loved.

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Wine was enjoyed by those who fancied it (and coffee and water throughout the day).

After lunch, it was back to the baking.

The brune kager or brown biscuits need a few days in the fridge for the flavours to meld and mature. Each pair of students made up a batch of dough, which we divided and took home with us.

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I baked mine some of mine after a week in the fridge (transferring the rest to the freezer) and the combination of spices, candied citrus and almonds was just wonderful.


For the vanilla biscuits and the cinnamon biscuits, we divided the class into two. Half the pairs made the vanilla dough, and half made the cinnamon. At the end, we cooked just a small batch of each to try, and the rest of the dough we divided so that each student took a generous piece of each home with them.

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Michelle and I made vanilla biscuits.

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The traditional shape for the vanilla biscuits is cute little rings, made by rolling small pieces of dough into sausages before pinching the ends together to form a circle.

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The cinnamon biscuit dough looked very similar to the vanilla one, though on close examination, we could see the dark specks of the vanilla seeds in one.

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After being rolled thinly between two sheets of parchment paper, the cinnamon biscuits were cut into shapes with cookie cutters, brushed with egg and sprinkled with a demerara sugar and cinnamon mix.


As seems to be the standard for Food at 52 courses, we packed so much into our time and the hands on experience makes me feel confident that I can reproduce these treats at home.

Alongside recipes and techniques, the stories and traditions of Christmas and personal anecdotes that Trine shared with us throughout the day made this a really fun and enjoyable experience.


The recipes we made can be found in Trine’s latest book, alongside savoury dishes, mulled wine and cocktails, sweets, cakes and chutneys. Scandinavian Christmas is currently available from Amazon for £7.65 (RRP £16.99). (Buying via my referral link earns me a tiny fee from Amazon, thank you).

Kavey Eats attended as a guest of Food at 52.


One of the things that’s been most pleasing about the last several months is that I’ve focused on going to more of London’s Indian restaurants than ever before.

Whilst I don’t consider myself any kind of authority on Indian food, I did, of course, develop a taste for the Indian food my mum, family friends and relatives cooked during my childhood and ever since. I run Mamta’s Kitchen with my mum (and Pete) and the flavours of Northern Indian food feature strongly in my comfort food list. So visiting more of London’s Indian restaurants is high on my agenda.

Recently, I was invited by La Porte des Indes to attend a cookery masterclass by head chef Mehernosh Mody, followed by lunch.

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Restaurant manager Sherin Alexander-Mody greets us with an introduction to the restaurant, its food, the history of the building and some of the details of the interior design.

Established in 1996, La Porte des Indes is so named because the core of its menu is inspired by the cuisine of Pondicherry, a former French colony which has assimilated many French touches into its native dishes, what Mehernosh and Sherin describe as French-Creole. The rest of its menu features dishes from other Indian regions and cooking styles.


The restaurant takes up two floors in a grade listed building that was once a former ballroom. Sherin talks about the decor the sources of some of the materials chosen by the architect. It’s a huge space and he’s gone for quite a grand old-school look. The dining spaces are more formal, whilst the bar is a cosy colonial design.

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A tour of the kitchen is next, fascinating mostly for the chance to peer more closely into the three tandoors; two are charcoal and one gas powered, the latter allowing for more accurate temperature control for the cooking of breads. A skewer of lamb chops is removed from one as we watch, and hung to cool ahead of a second immersion before serving. One brave class member thrusts a disc of dough into the oven, pressing it carefully against the hot wall. Shortly afterwards, eating naan fresh out of the tandoor is a delight.

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Really, the group is a little too large for the narrow confines of a restaurant kitchen, and it’s hard to remain close enough to Sherin to catch all of what she says, animatedly sharing insights into spice grinding and mixing and telling us about some of the dishes being made while we are there.

Afterwards, we are invited to take our seats for the demonstration by Chef Mody and his sous chef, Rohit. Again, the large group size means we’re somewhat distant from the action, sat behind a row of tables that distance us from the ingredients and cooking work surface. I wish we could ditch the tables and pull our chairs up close to see everything more clearly.


I’ve met very few people who are as full of energy as Mody, indeed he moves around so quickly I struggle to capture anything but superhero-style motion blurs on my camera!

Having not caught her full name during our initial introductions, it’s only later that I become aware that Sherin and Mehernosh are husband and wife; Mehernosh hired fellow chef Sherin as his assistant a decade before La Porte des Indes opened its doors. Now, the dynamic couple are clearly the joint force behind the restaurant, and indeed they researched and wrote the restaurant’s cookbook together.


During the masterclass, Mody and Rohit make chard and water chestnut pakoras, bombay potatoes and Assadh prawns. The pakoras are unusually light, with wonderful crunch from the chestnuts; the prawns are perfectly cooked and their sauce an absolute winner.

We enjoy a taster of all of the masterclass dishes, matched with various wines for those who wish to indulge, before heading to the main dining area to enjoy the restaurant’s set lunch menu.

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As I order a rose lassi to drink, a small shot of warm vegetable soup is also provided.

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Starters served on a platter – seekh kebab, chicken samosa and little chaat puris, served with lovely condiments – are a great introduction.

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For our mains, we have poulet rouge in a creamy sauce; monkfish in a similarly creamy but much hotter sauce, too hot for a number of us, though we suck desperately at our lassis and eat it anyway; and a simple spinach and mushroom dish. Rice, naan and raita sides are provided too.

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For dessert, individual tasting plates featuring a rich chocolate mousse, a mini chocolate and walnut samosa, a thick mango and yoghurt cream and a rose phirni (rice pudding). The samosa and the rice pudding are my favourites, but all are good.


Whilst the course isn’t hands on we still pick up lots of tips and ideas. For just £45 per person for the kitchen tour, master class, a delicious lunch and a copy of the restaurant cookbook, I think it’s good value. It usually runs on the last Friday of each month; contact the restaurant directly to check dates and availability.


Kavey Eats was a guest of La Porte des Indes.

La Porte Des Indes on Urbanspoon


I’m often asked ‘what is Indian food?’“, says chef Atul Kochhar. His usual answer? “I don’t know!

He explains that with so many regions and so many different religions (each with their own cooking practices), there is no one answer to that question.


India, much like England, has absorbed so many culinary influences and ingredients over time.

Everything that has come to India, India has been amazing at adapting it.

Take, for example, that “quintessentially Indian dish, tandoori chicken … the mighty tandoor doesn’t belong to India, it belongs to the Persians!” Chilli, an ingredient often considered intrinsic to Indian cooking, was incorporated only a few hundred years ago; “before that, we had pepper“. And “omelettes… we had eggs but not omelettes“, now popular and everyday.

When any cuisine is taken to another country it changes“, he states, moving on to talk about Indian food here in the UK.

No one has the right to say our Indian food in the UK is a bastardisation; this is how we like it!” Smiling to soften the message, he hammers the point home, “no one comes to my house and tells me what I should eat!

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He tells us about how he cooks Indian food in the UK. Presenting his own modern Indian cuisine, he uses local ingredients as far as possible, and follows the local seasons. “Whatever comes, it’s on our menu, that’s how it is“, he says, making it all sound so simple.

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We are talking in the kitchen of Benares in London’s Mayfair, Atul Kochhar’s Michelin starred Indian restaurant which opened nearly 10 years ago and has been lauded ever since.

As he talks, Kochhar demonstrates a couple of dishes from his current seasonal menu – a tandoori scallop served over a lentil salad and crispy soft shell crab with crab salad and saffron mayonnaise.


Working quickly, he talks us through each step, with tips along the way.

Ginger garlic paste is always made fresh; he says of the supermarket ready made pastes that he doesn’t know what they might add to keep them fresh. He uses mustard oil in his cooking, though it’s often labelled for external use only when sold in the UK. For those who prefer not to use it, he advises substituting Dijon mustard or any good mustard paste.

For his lentil salad, he likes a mix of channa dal and urad dal. He laughs when he tells us that he always salts the lentils during cooking, as many European chefs recommend against this, insisting the lentils will become tough. “In India, we would never cook them without salt as lentils pick up salt in cooking only“. I can attest that his lentils certainly aren’t tough and are perfectly seasoned.

Like my mum’s, his tandoori marinades are never bright red. When tandoori meats first gained popularity in the UK, kashmiri chillies, which give a distinctive red colour, were easy to get. Now they are more expensive, they are used more rarely, and many UK Indian restaurants took to adding cochineal to achieve the expected red colour. He doesn’t, of course! As he mixes the marinade he explains that, since he’s applying it to fish, 10 minutes will be plenty of time, though meat needs longer.

Moving on to the soft shell crab results in a discussion on the crabs themselves. Whilst species of crabs that are known as soft shell species are not found in UK waters, our local species are soft enough to be cooked in the same way if we happen to catch them within two weeks of them moulting their shells. Otherwise, it’s a case of buying the soft shell breeds from the Far East or Maryland, USA. He tells us, with some wonder in his voice, about a recent visit to a fish market, where he picked up a lobster that had just shed its shell: “It’s skin was really squeaky, slimy.” Soft shell lobster, anyone?

Listing the spices as he adds them to one of the elements of the dish, I ask about chaat masala. He laughs coyly; “Two things I don’t like to discuss – recipes for chaat masala and garam masala – I could start world war three!

As each dish is finished, spoons at the ready we dive in. Amidst appreciative noises, our small group quickly polishes off each dish, throwing extra questions in Kochhar’s direction as we do. We are intrigued by the tiny yellow fruits served with the crab; they are the size and shape of cherries, but we’re amazed to learn they are crab apples, preserved whole to be used as a delicious garnish for this dish.

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Tamazzo (rose, gin and champagne) on arrival, watching the kitchen through the glass window of the chef’s table

We reluctantly leave the kitchen to enjoy dinner from the a la carte menu. Our group is slightly larger than planned, so we eat in the main dining room, instead of the chef’s table as originally intended. A shame, as the view through the large glass window is compelling viewing.


Mini poppadoms are served with pineapple, tomato and ginger chutneys.


The amuse bouche is a Mango Pana, usually a drink but here served as a thicker liquid. It’s made with raw green mango, cumin and jaggery, and had crunchy toasted peanuts sprinkled on top. Tart, sweet, crunchy, this is an intriguing couple of mouthfuls.


For my starter, I choose the Tandoori Ratan, featuring a fennel lamb chop, a chicken seekh kebab and a basil king prawn. All beautifully cooked, with well balanced flavours, soft in texture and a nice selection, served together.

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Dithering over the mains, I finally settle on the Konju Moilee. What arrives is a generous serving of Scottish lobster over okra and mango, with a jug of rich moilee sauce and a side dish of lemon couscous. With the exception of the couscous, I love all of it, even the okra which I’m not usually so keen on. The flavours in the coconut-based sauce are wonderful, robust and yet don’t overpower the lobster.


A selection of sides are ordered for the table; all are good. Of special note are the Palak Paneer, Aloo Jeera, yellow dal, red dal and several different breads.


For my dessert, I can’t resist the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tube, Jaggery Cake, Cumin Marshmallow and Sugar Cane Ice-Cream. More than the other courses, this really shows Kochhar’s commitment to bringing modern techniques and ideas to his cooking, combining Indian flavours and ingredients with European ones. I love the peanut butter filling, though the chocolate tube shell is a little hard to break into. Likewise, the jaggery cake I find a little tough. I do enjoy the cumin marshmallow, weird though it is and like the oreo cookie “soil” and sugar cane ice-cream.

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Others in the group are just as impressed with their choices which include the Chicken Tikka Pie, beautifully presented with its topping of black and white sesame seeds, Mackerel Ki Kathi, mackerel cooked Kolkata style and served on a crispy naan bread with peppers and egg, Tawa Gosht Aur Suhnari Kahsta, a lamb dish served with purple potatoes so delicious they almost bring tears to the eyes of the dish’s owner and Samudri Khazana Do Pyazaa, a seafood dish featuring king prawns almost as large as the lobsters!

Service, as you’d expect in a restaurant of this calibre, is knowledgeable and helpful and the pace of the meal well judged. Unlike some other high-end restaurants, I’m glad we are not constrained by the kind of hushed atmosphere that stifles friendly chatter at the table, both ours and many others.


Kavey Eats attended the cookery workshop and meal as a guest of Atul Kochhar and Benares restaurant.

Benares on Urbanspoon


In a recent post, I shared our cooking class with chef Lee Groves, during a seafood holiday to Cornwall.

Lee has kindly given this interview for Kavey Eats, and shares his recipe for Ray Wings in a Pepper Butter Sauce, below.


Can you give us a little potted bio of chef Lee Groves? How did you get into cooking? What path has your career taken? How did you get to where you are now? And I remember you telling me that your 2010 Masterchef experience was hugely important to you because it came at a time when you were reevaluating where you were at and where you wanted to be. Can you tell us more about the experience itself and how it shaped what came next?

I always wanted to be a chef, i remember telling a friend at infants school!

I never sat on my Gran’s knee podding peas, or fly fished with my Grandfather, no one else in my family is in the trade, just something I always wanted to do. After 2 years at college, my first job cooking(age 17) was in the local pub, at which I had been working on the bar. But, I knew scampi, gammon and frozen lasagne wasn’t me! Then I was lucky enough to land a job at The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny, under the highly acclaimed Franco Taruschio, one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was my building block. Three years later, after stints at Gidleigh Park and Gary Rhodes, I returned to Wales. It didn’t last long and at the age of 23 I landed my first Head Chef job in a busy seaside pub just outside Exeter, (I say landed, blagged morelike!).

After a couple of years, a new restaurant was looking for a Head Chef, in the same area…my first proper role in high end fine dining. Even though the accolades came in very soon, the restaurant wasn’t making enough money. That took me to Oxford, where I gained lots of recognition within prestigious guides, it was here I won my first Chef of the Year competition, and then I got the bug. After many competitions, and winning, I knew for definite the sky was the limit.

A few years later, and more accolades later, I found myself out of work, temping here and there was o.k., I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to continue cheffing and nearly left the industry, but I wanted to get my teeth into something. Then I watched Masterchef 2009, The Professionals, and thought to myself I can do that! So applied online, not knowing what to expect……Then the call came, I had been chosen for the last 36 to be filmed, (out of 10,000), and thought oh! here we go!

4 months later, after alot of blood, sweat, tears and overnight travelling, the fire was back! And I wanted to be better than ever.

Having found Scott & Julia on an advertising website, they were looking for a head chef in St. Ives, the rest as they say is history. After only being open for 18 months now we have won many accoldes and taken St. Ives by storm.

What is your cooking ethos and style?

My cooking ethos is use fresh, don’t accept rubbish ingredients, and half the battle is won. Alot of chefs mask the main ingredients with many sauces and flavours, yes be creative but have confidence in what you are using.

What’s your favourite comfort food or meal?

My favourite comfort food/meal, can vary, from a Fray Bentos pie, to a lovely roast dinner with all the trimmings, fish and chips or a good hot homemade curry.

And what would you cook for a special occasional meal, at home not in the restaurant?

At home I tend to experiment, but for a special meal, it would have to be game, in season, (can’t wait for my first Grouse next week, and the first Partridge in a couple of months time), or a piece of fresh Seabass.

I loved everything you showed us during our cookery classes. But as you know, I was particularly blown away by the ray wings in a pepper and brown butter sauce. Could you give me your recipe and any tips and tricks to achieve the best results?

There isn’t an exact recipe, it’s all about feeling and understanding the ingredients, flame control is very important too, as you don’t want that lovely buttery sauce to split.

So pan fry the freshest ray wing in hot olive oil, season, it should be golden brown, so about 4 minutes either side, add a spoonful of capers or soft mixed peppercorns, reduce the heat, add a good slug of balsamic vinegar, add 3 or 4 nuts of cold unsalted butter, and gently stir in and around the fish to form a glossy piquant dressing, the fish should still be slightly pink on the bone so it peels off into the lovely, meaty strands.

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Our visit to Cornwall was part of a week-long South West Tour courtesy of The Food Travel Company (and Riverford Organic Farms). They are a new company offering specialist trips for food (and drink) lovers, with group departures and customised itineraries available.

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