For July’s #BSFIC I asked you to take inspiration from holiday memories.

Here are the delicious ideas you came up with:

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Jo at Comfort Bites took inspiration for her grown up Coffee and Cinnamon Ice Cream from a holiday in Argentina.

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Kate, blogger behind What Kate Baked, considered lots of ideas before settling on this USA-inspired Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough No Churn Ice Cream.

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Sarah at The School of Balance created a Monkey Nut Dairy Free Vegan Ice Cream after a visit to the New York ice cream shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary.

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Stephen at All Things Speculaas has shared his wife Debbie’s Speculaas Ice Cream, based on the flavours of a biscuit traditionally enjoyed during the Christmas holidays.

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Corina at Searching For Spice remembered childhood holidays to Spain when creating her wonderfully vibrant Blackcurrant Frozen Yoghurt.

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Kate, the Gluten Free Alchemist, created these rather impressive Raspberry Ripple-White Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice-Cream Bars & Bites, thinking back to childhood summer holidays.

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My own entry was a Jungle Juice Sorbet inspired by a Jungle Juice Smoothie I encountered on safari holidays in Southern Africa.

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Amy, who writes Cooking, Cakes & Children, has made this beautiful Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Roll in homage to memories of eating Arctic roll in the back garden during the summer holidays.

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Cheeky Dom at Belleau Kitchen didn’t make the Buffalo Milk Ice Cream he shared in his post about a very recent trip to Italy but he did enjoy it!

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Hannah, who’s just saying goodbye to the Corner Cottage Baker, harked back to childhood holidays with her grown up Boozy Ice Cream Floats.

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Shaheen, who writes A Seasonal Veg Table, made this bright Raw Vegan Raspberry Ice-Cream with vibrant Scottish raspberries.

Choclette, author of Chocolate Log Blog, remembered childhood visits to Switzerland when she made this Chocolate Sundae Royale.

 

A great round up, I hope you’ll agree.

August’s #BSFIC is joining forces with the Belleau Kitchen Random Recipes challenge – check it out and do join in!

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June’s fruity #BSFIC round up will be a little late, as I’m currently away on holiday. As soon as I’m back, I’ll get the round up finished and posted.

In the mean time, I’m throwing this month’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge wide open by asking you to create an ice cream inspired by a holiday memory.

Do you remember your first trip abroad and the unfamiliar thrill of each new ingredient or dish? Where did you go on your last holiday and what tastes have stuck in your mind? Or are you more of a home body, enjoying your leisure time nearer to home? Whether you think back to those long summer breaks from school as a child or what you did during your most break at home or away, it’s the flavour memories of your holiday that I’m most interested in.

Please don’t feel constrained to recreate a specific ice cream treat – the holiday memory theme is merely a trigger for your imagination.

Downed more than your fair share of Caipirinhas in Brazil, Kir Royales in France, Mojitos in Cuba, Negronis in Italy, Pisco Sours in Peru, Sangrias in Spain? Maybe the flavours would work for a grown up ice lolly or granita?

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Images of cocktails from Shutterstock

Intrigued by an exotic ingredient such as Chinese glutinous black rice, red bean paste or Sichuan peppercorns (check out this ice cream I made last year), Indian cardamom, cassia bark or jackfruit, Japanese miso, matcha or sakura (cherry blossoms), Lebanese carob molasses, Mexican chillies including ancho, guajillo and poblano, Northern European juniper berries, lingonberries, sea buckthorn or cloudberries, Persian sumac or saffron, Peruvian purple potatoes, Syrian verjuice, Thai galangal or West African melegueta pepper aka grains of paradise? How might you incorporate it into a frozen dessert?

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Images of ingredients from Shutterstock

Perhaps you still can’t stop thinking about an indulgent dessert that could translate well into a frozen version?

And of course, you are always welcome to recreate an actual ice cream, gelato, sorbet, granita, shaved ice, slushy or other icy treat that reminds you of a cherished holiday – there’s no obligation to create something exotic or unusual!

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Images of frozen treats from Shutterstock

How To Take Part In BSFIC

  • Create and blog a recipe that fits the challenge by the 28th of this month.
  • In your post, mention and link to this Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post.
  • Include the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream badge (below).
  • Email me (by the 28th of the month) with your first name or nickname (as you prefer), the link to your post and an image for my roundup, sized to no larger than 500 pixels on the longest side.

You are welcome to submit your post to as many blogger challenge events as you like.

If the recipe is not your own, please be aware of copyright issues. Email me if you would like to discuss this.

If you like, tweet about your post using the hashtag #BSFIC. I’ll retweet any I see. You are also welcome to share the links to your posts on the Kavey Eats Facebook page.

I’ll post a round up of all the entries at the end of the month.

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For more ideas, check out my my Pinterest ice cream board and past BSFIC Entries board.

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Summer is here and with it a bounty of delicious fruit. Not only is home-grown fruit fantastic at this time of year, imported tropical delights are also available. Although I’m still in mourning over the ban on import of fresh alphonso mangoes, I shall certainly make the most of the abundance all around me.

And so this month’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge is to make a tasty ice cream, sorbet, granita, semi freddo, slushy or ice lolly featuring your favourite fruit!

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Images of fruit ice cream, sorbet and granita from Shutterstock

 How To Take Part In BSFIC

  • Create and blog a recipe that fits the challenge by the end of June.
  • In your post, mention and link to this Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post.
  • Include the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream badge (below).
  • Email me (by the 1st of July) with your first name or nickname (as you prefer), the link to your post and an image for my roundup, sized to no larger than 500 pixels on the longest side.

You are welcome to submit your post to as many blogger challenge events as you like.

If the recipe is not your own, please be aware of copyright issues. Email me if you would like to discuss this.

If you like, tweet about your post using the hashtag #BSFIC. I’ll retweet any I see. You are also welcome to share the links to your posts on the Kavey Eats Facebook page.

I’ll post a round up of all the entries at the end of the month.

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For more ideas, check out my my Pinterest ice cream board and past BSFIC Entries board. You may also enjoy looking through the entries from the last Fruit-themed BSFIC.

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Images of fruit ice cream, sorbet and granita from Shutterstock

 

For May’s #BSFIC I set the challenge of making an ice cream (or any other frozen treat) inspired by a hot drink.

As always, those who took part showed great creativity and came up with these inventive and fun ideas on the theme.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

Michael, author of Me My Food & I, thought I was a mind reader when I announced the challenge theme just a day after he’d shared his recipe for Earl Grey Ice Cream. Of course, I was happy to bend the entry rules by a day, so he could include his creation as our first entry. Like me, he usually drinks his tea black, but enjoyed the addition of milk and cream in ice cream form.

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It’s no secret that I’m in love with Japanese food – two recent trips to Japan leave me longing for more. So it was a no brainer for me to use matcha in my own entry for BSFIC. Ever the lazy cook, I made a super Quick & Easy Matcha Ice Cream using ready made custard and it worked wonderfully well!

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For Gary aka Big Spud, the hot drinks ice cream theme got him thinking about affogato but rather than taking an easy option, he turned affogato on its head by creating his Inside Out Affogato consisting of coffee ice cream scattered with vanilla-flavoured Italian meringue. He reckons its one of the best ice creams he’s ever eaten, which is high praise indeed!

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Phil is, as always, In Search Of Heston, and what better way than to use Heston’s dry ice technique to make a Heston-Style Earl Grey Dry Ice Ice Cream? If you’ve ever wanted to know more about adapting the dry ice technique to try at home, do read Phil’s blog for more on his fire extinguisher method which works a treat.

Luchia of Luchia Cooks chose one of my favourite hot drinks as her inspiration – delicious hot chocolate. Her Chocolate & Marshmallow No Churn Ice Cream is a perfect example of the no churn technique many of us used when I ran a Condensed Milk BSFIC a couple of years ago. Her addition of chocolate liqueur makes this a grown up treat, and no doubt helps to keep it beautifully soft.

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Appropriately, given the name of her blog is Something Missing, I had completely forgotten about hot malted drinks like Horlicks and Ovaltine until Julia posted her challenge entry. She made a Dairy Free Malted Milk Ice Cream using an almond milk base with cocoa powder and malt extract for flavour.

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FoodyCat Alicia is a regular contributor to BSFIC, enjoying the challenge of coming up with new ideas to fit each theme. But this time she’s outdone herself by creating not one but two different entries. Her first idea was a Mulled Wine Granita, featuring red wine, apple juice and mulling spices. She liked the result but when Paul dismissed it as tasting like cough syrup she decided to make a second recipe. That was a cream based Frozen Caffè Latte in individual glasses, made with both instant and Camp coffee and a slug of kirsch too.

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Hannah from Corner Cottage Bakery let her handbag decide what to make for this month’s BSFIC – yes you heard that right, her handbag! A delve into its depths revealed a sachet of instant coffee and a turkish delight bar and lo! her idea was born. She created a Coffee and Turkish Delight Granita that puts me in mind of the end of a wonderful meal in a Turkish restaurant – a lovely combination!

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Monica from Smarter Fitter made a Coffee Ice Cream using whole Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans, which she infused into sugar, milk and cream over heat. That resulted in a rich, complex flavour and an attractive pale ice cream, since the recipe doesn’t include brewed coffee.

 

My Pete (who writes Pete Drinks) muttered about making a Hot Toddy inspired ice cream featuring whisky and stem ginger in the no-churn base and lemon curd rippled through it before freezing. Sadly, he realised it was very similar to a Whisky Mac Ice Cream he made previously, and I couldn’t persuade him to go ahead and make it anyway, though I think it would have been utterly delicious!

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As always, thank you to everyone who entered.

If you’re reading, and you’re a blogger, do please join in with an upcoming challenge. June’s theme will be up very soon!

 

Two months ago, I spent an afternoon at Somerset House with Heston Blumenthal. I was one of the lucky group invited to his grand chocolate box restaurant, which meant a few happy hours giggling with delight as we tasted one clever creation after another. Most of the audience were chocolate specialists (producers, artisan chocolatiers, retailers…) so I was very fortunate indeed to be there. That was thanks to my dear friend Jen who couldn’t attend but responded to the researcher’s request to recommend others who might fit the bill. The fact I’d written a fair bit about chocolate here on Kavey Eats won the day and I was given my golden ticket.

After an hour or two waiting in a nearby hotel lobby we were finally walked into the grounds of Somerset House, where a giant Black Magic-style chocolate box awaited. It slowly opened out to reveal a small bar and stage in front of which tables, chairs, linen, cutlery and menus were quickly laid out, within a roped-off area. There were pretty plants in pots; there was even a Maitre d’s stand at the entrance. Shown to our seats, we spent the next few hours enjoying the Heston experience.

We were served chocolate-themed drinks – my favourite was the black forest gâteau hot chocolate with a cloud of “chocolate essence” squirted into the glass but we also sampled a gin cocktail, sweet chocolate wine and a chocolate stout. A beautifully painted edible chocolate box with pretty chocolates inside was delivered to each table. And we were fascinated by Heston’s Moos Bar, a beefy version of a Mars-Twix-Milkyway combo. I wish the beef taste was less subtle – I would have liked more evident beefiness!

Lastly, the tables were cleared away and a vast chocolate bar arrived. Each piece had been made by different companies, from mainstream brands to artisan chocolatiers, before being assembled onto a giant bar by Heston’s chefs. With chisels and mallets, Heston and his team broke into the chocolate, piece by piece, and we had a crazy feast, trying the many different fillings.

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The giant chocolate box, opening out, to reveal Heston’s House of Chocolate, BFG hot chocolate, Moos bar advert, Heston’s team, Heston telling us about his Moos bar, the Moos bars being delivered to our table, a Moos bar, me tasting the Moos bar and declaring “More cow, more cow!”, our reaction to the edible chocolate box, the giant chocolate bar arriving on a forklift, us reacting to the giant chocolate bar, Heston breaking into the first piece, his staff taking over the job, the crowd enjoying the chocolate, me at the end saying “it’s the best one ever – it’s chocolate, and it’s fantastic and it’s in a magical box!”, Heston summing up at the end

If you missed this episode, or the rest of the series, you can catch it on 4OD for a few weeks, here.

 

With enormous thanks to production company Betty for letting me be part of this wonderful experience.

 

Call myself a foodie* and never been to the home of the pork pie? Shame on me!

Luckily, an invitation to attend the Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton Mowbray gave me the chance to fix this oversight and Pete and I made our way North on the first Saturday in May.

Held in the Cattle Market, which itself is in the heart of this ancient market town, the Artisan Cheese Fair is now in its fourth year and bigger and better than ever. We spoke to organiser Matthew O’Callaghan about how he came to create the event.

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Unlike other cheese festivals we’ve attended, entrance is just £1 and there are no hidden costs to worry about. Free on site car parking is available and the various talks and musical entertainment don’t require additional payment.

The majority of the stalls were given over to cheese, as you’d expect, though of course, the famous local pork pie was represented by a couple of producers, as was locally produced beer. There were also a few non-cheese stalls selling fudge, cakes, bread and other bakery goods, a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks, ice cream, jam and samosas (though, surprisingly, no paneer-filled ones!)

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Hunt Cake and Pork Pies at Dickinson & Morris aka Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe – I can recommend both!

As Matthew said, over 50 British cheese makers were represented, most of them showcasing multiple cheeses. We spent a few hours at the Fair so I was able to sample at least one cheese from nearly all of them. Here are my top picks.

Kavey’s Favourites From The 2014 Artisan Cheese Fair

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Quickes Oak Smoked Cheddar & Goat Cheddar

Smoked with oak chips from their own woodland and made with milk from their own dairy, the Quickes oak smoked cheddar had a beautifully natural smoke flavour which was perfectly balanced with the cheese itself – in so many smoked cheeses, the only flavour is the smoke itself. The texture of the cheese was lovely with a pleasing creaminess from the fat content and I liked the level of salty sharpness.

The Goat Cheddar was also fantastic, indeed it’s one of three cheeses I purchased to bring home.

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Cote Hill Blue

Mary Davenport’s family have been dairy farmers in Lincolnshire for 40 years, but turned to making cheese 9 years ago when the falling price of milk made running the business solely as a dairy less viable.

I loved Cote Hill’s soft mild blue cheese made in particular; though the cheese is mild, the blue flavour comes through clearly and the rind is lovely. The Cote Hill Reserve was also delicious – a semi-hard washed-rind cheese which uses Tom Wood Beers’ Bomber County to add flavour to the rind.

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Cheesemakers of Canterbury’s Canterbury Cobble

This stand had a wider range of cheeses on display than most exhibitors, as well as butter and biscuits. It was their Canterbury Cobble that appealed the most. Cheesemaker Jane Bowyer explained that it is made like a brie but then matured into a hard cheese. It was creamy but sharp, with a lovely hint of lemony citrus.

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Belvoir Ridge Rutland Slipcote

Jane and Alan Hewson from Belvoir Ridge Creamery were showcasing a new soft curd cheese called Colwick, having recently revived an old 17th century recipe. It was perfectly pleasant but it was the oozing Rutland Slipcote that stole my attention, and was another cheese I purchased to bring home. Slipcote is a white mould-ripened cheese and is delightfully pungent and gooey when ripe. The Hewsons make their cheeses with milk from their rare breed Red Poll & Blue Albion cattle.

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Hafod Welsh Organic Cheddar

As she cut me a sample, Rachel Holden explained that her father Patrick (who was busy cutting and wrapping cheese) looks after the family dairy while she and brother Sam make cheese. The milk from their brown and white Ayshire cows produces a creamy nutty cheddar with a distinct brassica flavour. It’s the kind of cheese you could accidentally eat far too much of!

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Thimble Little Anne & Dorothy

I confess I ended up spending ages chatting to cheese maker Paul Thomas and his wife Hannah Roche. The couple have been in the cheese industry for many years and Paul is also the head cheese maker for Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers. Their own cheese making business is in its first year and currently has just two adorable little cheeses called Little Anne and Dorothy. Little Anne is a fresh lactic cheese and Dorothy is a soft washed-rind cheese; both are made from unpasteurised raw cow’s milk.

Paul also teaches cheese making classes at the The School of Artisan Food.

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Hampshire Cheeses Tunworth

I almost didn’t stop at the HC stall, as I’m already so familiar with Tunworth – it’s a cheese a buy nearly every time I visit Neal’s Yard Dairy. But I saw a window of opportunity when the stall was miraculously free of fellow visitors and took the chance to chat with cheese maker Stacey Hedges.

Of course, the Tunworth was delicious as always, but I was particularly excited by Stacey’s news that they started making a new cheese last year. Called Winslade, the new cheese is wrapped in a band of spruce bark, which adds flavour to the rind. It’s currently produced in limited volume, but she told me to look out for it in Neal’s Yard Dairy.

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Whitelake’s Goddess

I didn’t mean to make cheese maker Peter Humphries blush when I asked if one of his cheeses was named for someone in particular but his embarrassed expression as he said “yes” was utterly charming. As too was his cheese. It was the oozing yellow centre making a break for it that drew me to the stall – the cheese is (commercially) known as Goddess and is produced (for musician-cum-cheeseman Alex James). Made from Guernsey milk, this is a delicious mild and creamy soft cheese.

Ticklemore Harbourne Blue (no photo)

Ticklemore had three cheeses on sale – Devon Blue (made from cow’s milk), Beenliegh Blue (made from sheep’s milk) and Harbourne Blue (made from goat’s milk). The Devon was a bit plain and the Beenliegh too acidic but the Harbourne Blue was a wonderfully tasty cheese. The balance between sweet, salty and blue was delicious and the rich full fat creaminess was a real delight. This was another of the cheeses I bought to bring home.

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Sparkenhoe Red Leicester

I wasn’t able to chat to anyone at this busy stall as they were busy selling cheese but did taste both their hand made Red Leicester and a mild and chalky blue cheese.

 

Talks & Entertainment

Luckily, we learned a lot about the history of Red Leicester (and exactly how anatto came to be used to give it that distinctive bright colour) by attending one of the free talks, An Unusual History of Cheese. In this entertaining and hugely informative talk, Matthew O’Callaghan shared a light-hearted history of cheese that was perfectly pitched to convey lots of information in a very engaging way. His abiding love for cheese itself and for local and national history was self evident!

Outside, visitors were entertained by the Melstrum Ukulele Band and the New St Georges Morris Dancers.

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I was drawn to a recreation of an old milking parlour, set up in an open-sided trailer.

 

The Melton Cheeseboard

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A special thank you to Tim Brown of The Melton Cheeseboard, a local shop specialising in a wide range of British cheeses and local specialities, for his very warm welcome and the generous selection of cheeses and local products he gave us. His shop is located in the heart of Melton Mowbray at 8 Windsor Street and is open 6 days a week.

 

* Actually, I’m more likely to refer to myself as a greedy glutton than a foodie, but you catch my drift…

Kavey Eats was a guest of the Artisan Cheese Fair. Thanks to Matthew, Lin, Rachel and Tim.

 

I’ve written before about my addiction to Pinterest. I think it’s a super tool – fun to use and hugely useful too. Recently, Pinterest UK have formed a community of keen UK pinners and have been busy facilitating discussions and organising events to engage with the group.

Recently, I attended a delightful evening with Paul A Young, one of my favourite chocolatiers, organised by Pinterest and Great British Chefs. The event was not only fun but also informative and hands on. Paul taught us his signature Port & Stilton Truffle recipe, making it in front of us from scratch so we could see just how achievable it is. Once the filling was made, everyone was invited to roll and dip to finish the truffles and of course, to taste!

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Here’s an old post featuring a fun video interview I did with Paul back in 2011, just after he opened his Soho shop. Do watch the video, it’s wonderful to see creative forces like Paul talk about what they do – he just lights up as he talks.

Kavey Eats attended this event as a guest of Pinterest UK.

 

Guest post by Diana Chan.

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Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which this year is on the 31st of January. In Cantonese-speaking Chinese communities everywhere, people greet each other with a hearty Kung Hei Fat Choy! to bring prosperity to the new year.

Chinese New Year is the most intensely celebrated festival in the lunar calendar. It is important that the year starts right, as the beginning of the year influences what comes next. Kung Hei Fat Choy! 恭喜發財literally means wishing you to make a fortune. While I think the English greeting Happy New Year contains the essence of all good wishes and is an excellent example of less is more – happiness is ultimately what matters most – the Cantonese prefer to be more specific.

Kung Hei Fat Choy! can be followed by good wishes that are relevant to the recipient, and there are dozens of commonly used ones to choose from. Just like receiving gifts that have been thoughtfully chosen, receiving a good wish for a desired thing is a joyful feeling indeed.

A Chinese New Year greeting for women: may you be forever young 青春常駐; a greeting for the career ambitious: may you have unobstructed ascent to the very top 平歩青雲.

The first time that we see children in the new year – one’s own children whatever their age, and the unmarried offspring of family and close friends – we give them small red envelopes with money inside for good luck. There are wishes for them too – be healthy 快高長大for the very young and do very well 步步高升for the others.

Desirable things are not only wished to others. Good wishes written in brush and ink calligraphy or neatly printed on pieces of red paper would be prominently displayed around the home to bring the desired blessings to the family. Red is the colour of celebration and good luck.

Cantonese new year customs are a practice in the power of positive thinking and the belief that more is more. In addition to saying, hearing, seeing and giving – good wishes are also delivered via food. An ingredient with a name that sounds like something desirable is used to increase the chances of achieving the hoped-for outcome. Because it is a monosyllabic language, many Chinese words have the same or similar pronunciation. This is a feature that allows much play on words, although not across dialects. For example, two words might have the same pronunciation in Cantonese but not in Mandarin.

Many Cantonese restaurants offer a celebration menu throughout the new year period. When a dish is brought to the table, a well-trained server announces its fortune-bearing name to the guests. Banquets to celebrate the new year are held throughout the first month of the lunar new year, especially for business entertaining. Dishes typically include expensive ingredients, not only as a sign of respect for the guests but also because it is important to the host – being lavish in entertaining encourages prosperity to continue.

Families that enjoy celebrating the new year in traditional ways eat food with names intended to bring blessings of good health, success, prosperity, happiness, togetherness and harmony.

Here is an example of a Chinese New Year dinner in a Cantonese family. Literal translations of the names of the dishes will not convey their meanings so I will not attempt it, except for the key word that associates the name with the key ingredient. The association of a blessing-bearing name with a dish is completely at the discretion of the cook. If you have the occasion or the interest to make such a dinner, you do not need to prepare these same dishes; as long as you use the same key ingredient, you can give the same name to your own creation.

I would like to convey my wishes to you, too, via this virtual celebration meal.

May you have:

美景生輝 Fantastic opportunities to show off your talents

Soup of ox tail, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onion, dried tangerine peel, ginger

Key word: 美, beautiful. Key ingredient: tail 尾

A Cantonese family meal on any important occasion such as new year, mid-autumn festival or a birthday includes a soup that takes hours to simmer. These soups are believed to have health-enhancing properties. The addition of dried tangerine peel and ginger is what makes this ox tail soup Cantonese.

Diana CNY-oxtail soup

 

龍馬精神 Abundant energy and good spirits

Lobster in a ginger, spring onion, garlic, and black bean sauce

Key word: 龍, dragon. Key ingredient: lobster 龍蝦

Lobster in Chinese literally means dragon prawn. The dragon symbolises power and vitality. The name of this dish can be used in any preparation that contains lobster.

Diana CNY-lobster

 

喜氣洋洋 Many celebrations and joyful occasions

Filet of lamb stir fried with leek, garnished with red chilli

Key word: 洋, abundant. Key ingredient: lamb 羊

This is an everyday dish given a festive name. It does not require any special ingredients and is super easy to make – see Diana’s Stir Fry 1-2-3 for how-to. If you would like to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year but not cook Chinese food, then you can give the same name to roast leg of lamb, grilled lamb chops or any dish with lamb.

Diana CNY-lamb

 

金玉滿堂 Money money money

Chicken stew with lily buds, hair moss, dried mushrooms on a bed of silver fungus and lettuce

Key word: 金, gold. Key ingredient: lily buds 金針

If I was unable to make a special trip to a Chinese grocery store to buy lily buds, silver fungus and hair moss, all three of which have names associated with money, I could make a stew of chicken and pumpkin 金瓜 instead. Lettuce 生菜 is also a fortune-bearing ingredient in this dish; it rhymes with money grows 生財.

Diana CNY-chicken

 

花開富貴 More and more money

Broccoli with a sauce of crab and salmon roe

Key word: 花, flower. Key ingredient: broccoli 西籣花

The name of this dish literally means blossoms and wealth. It is customary to have colourful fresh flowers in the home during Chinese New Year. While the crab sauce is delicious, white is not a celebratory colour and something red is needed as a garnish. When it is not possible to get crab with red roe, I scatter salmon roe over the sauce instead.

Diana CNY-broccoli

 

幸福團圓 Many blessings and harmony in the family

Sweet dumplings with sesame filling in a brown sugar and ginger broth

Key word: 圓, round. Key ingredient: round dumplings 湯圓

A circle symbolizes completeness and perfection and such a dessert is associated with a sweet life. It is customary to eat this kind of dumpling on the evening of the first full moon of the new lunar year, when couples celebrate being together.

The new lunar year’s first full moon happens to be on 14th February, Valentine’s Day. What a good occasion to offer and share a variety of chocolate truffles!

Diana CNY-dumplings

 

If you like the idea of consuming a blessing-bearing dinner but find the logistics of preparing a six-course Cantonese meal daunting, try combining two or more key ingredients in the same dish and get the same outcome with much less work. Here is an example of a three-course menu:

龍馬精神 美景生輝 Abundant energy and fantastic opportunities: a starter of lobster tail

花開富貴 喜氣洋洋 Prosperity and numerous joyful occasions: a main course of broccoli and lamb

幸福團圓 Blessings and harmony: a dessert of a perfectly round scoop of ice cream

 

May you have all of the above in a Happy Chinese New Year: good health, good luck, success, prosperity and harmony.

Nov 272013
 

Twenty one and a half years ago, Pete and I started dating. A few months later, I went down to Beckenham to meet my future in-laws. Of course, I had no reason to be, but I was pretty nervous all the same. Not only was I meeting his parents but three of his siblings and two of their offspring too. *gulp*

Baby Sam was about 6 weeks old. I remember how pleased I was when this tiny crying bundle calmed down and stopped crying as soon as I took him into my arms. That felt like a welcome, right there! Of course, the entire family was enormously welcoming and it was a lovely day. But the person who calmed me down the most was little Rosie. She was a two year old whirlwind of excitement and affection and from the first time we met, we were firm friends.

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Here she is (with me) a couple of years later, at our wedding. That’s the date she and Sam (and a few months later, their younger sister Jennifer) officially became my nieces and nephews and I have loved being Aunty Kavey ever since.

Rosie has always been an active partner in keeping the relationship close, sending us cards and letters and calling on the phone. As soon as she was old enough, she came to stay with us for the weekend every few months. At first, Rosie’s mum Kate (Pete’s middle sister) would come with her on the train to Waterloo, I’d meet them at the platform for a handover and Rosie and I would hop onto the tube to our place. As she got older, she’d do the train journey on her own, mum dropping her off at one end and me meeting her off the train at the other.

We spent the weekends cooking together at home; eating out, introducing her to some of our favourite foods; talking about books all three of us had enjoyed reading – she’s a bookworm, like us, and loves science-fiction too; taking her clothes shopping, which was such a pleasure because she’s the complete opposite to the “me me me I want I want” generation.

I think she was about 13 when we took her to Paris. She’s a warm, friendly girl but rather shy, so I pushed her just a tiny bit into using her basic French skills to order her meals and ask for a carafe of water, in restaurants. I can still remember her genuine pride and delight when she did so, and the restaurant staff nodding in understanding and smiling encouragement.

These days, we share a fondness for trawling through charity shops, giggling at some of the outfits she tries on in her hunt for potential LARPing costumes and congratulating each other on our fabulous bargains.

She’s very clever too, did I mention that? All grown up now, she studied at Imperial College London for her bachelors degree in Biology and went on to do a Masters of Science in Ecological Applications. She’s also kind, generous, friendly, loyal and cares for the world around her.

The reason I’m telling you about my lovely niece is that Thorntons approached me recently with an offer I couldn’t refuse. They asked if I’d like to send a gift box of chocolates to someone who deserved them. Did I know someone who needed cheering up and spoiling? Well, yes I did, actually.

These last two years have been hard for Rosie. Last year, after a period of remission, her mum’s cancer came back and this time it was terminal. Rosie moved back home to help and spend time with her mum and younger sister. It wasn’t an easy few months. Kate wanted to die at home, so a bed was set up in the living room; she used the time to put everything in order, to organise her funeral, to sort out her will and decide what would happen to her various animals. This time was bittersweet too – we visited every week that Kate remained with us and enjoyed some of the best conversations we’d ever had, full of reminiscence and laughter and frankness and occasional seriousness. How unfair to lose her at the peak of her life! The months after losing Kate were difficult for everyone, her three children most of all, of course.

Rosie’s had a lot of other tough things to deal with too, since then. I won’t talk about them here, because you don’t need to know. What I do want to do is send a message to Rosie and let her know that everything will turn out OK, she will land on her feet and she will have a good and happy life, even though things feel like a struggle at the moment.

Rosie, my lovely niece, I hope this little parcel from Thortons put a smile on your face. I love you and I’m so proud of you. Chin up!

 

With thanks to Thortons for inviting me to take part in their Christmas Hero campaign.

Here’s a snap Rosie sent me of the goodies she was sent.

RosieThorntonsChristmasHero

 

Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

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