Raise a Glass to Tipple Box | Review Giveaway

This decade is the decade that food and drink subscription services took off. Whether it’s British charcuterie, recipe meal kits or cheese toasties through the post, the selection of fantastic treats now available to buy online for delivery direct to your door has never been so wide and it continues to proliferate with new ideas and brands popping up every month.

Tipple Box is one such service, sending monthly craft cocktail boxes featuring spirits, mixers, extras and recipes for you to make two delicious cocktails each month.

Launched by Sonny Charles in December 2014, I first tried Tipple Box at the beginning of 2015. Back then, I thought it was promising but needed a few tweaks. I wanted to see small batch spirits by indies (rather than the big brands I could readily find in my supermarket) plus higher quality mixers and custom-made extras such as flavoured syrups, bitters or salts. I also suggested dropping the jam jar to focus solely on ingredients, and making sure the recipes worked flawlessly and deliciously every time.

All these suggestions have been taken on board, and Sonny’s latest box is a far more professional and appealing proposition.

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There is more focus on smaller brands now – the kind I may not readily find in my local supermarket – and Tipple Box also work directly with small producers to provide own brand ingredients.

All cocktail boxes include at least four 5cl bottles of spirits plus any other ingredients you will need. Recipe cards are clear and easy to follow.

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French Martini

My box contains two recipes – a French Martini and a Bloody Mary. For the French Martini, pictured above, I have Ruby Blue Vodka, Tipple Box Raspberry Vodka Liqueur, Strawberry Sugar Syrup and Frobishers Pineapple Juice. Egg white is listed as an optional extra, though I made my cocktail without it. The Bloody Mary ingredients are the same Ruby Blue Vodka plus a Chilli Pepper Vodka and a bottle of Isle of Wight Tomato Juice.

The cocktails are delicious, and there’s enough to make at least two of each, with some ingredients left over to experiment with further.

Tipple Box also offer a Batch Spirits subscription of three 5cl bottles from a different producer each month.

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The craft cocktail box is priced at £24 (including delivery) for a one off, with the price per box dropping for 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions. For the batch spirits box, it’s £15 for a one off, with similar discounting for subscriptions. There are also a range of tasting sets and cocktail boxes available to select and buy from the site’s online shop.

GIVEAWAY

Sonny is giving away one Kavey Eats reader a three month subscription to the Tipple Box monthly craft cocktail box (RRP £69). The prize includes delivery to a UK address.

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 cocktail and what do you love most about it?

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’d love to win @TippleBoxUK craft cocktail boxes by mail from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsTippleBox16 #KaveyEatsTippleBox
(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

  • You must be over 18 to enter this giveaway.
  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 2nd September 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 a three month subscription to Tipple Box’s craft cocktail box, one box per month. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prize is offered by Tipple Box UK 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 winners 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 received a review sample from Tipple Box.
The winner of this giveaway is Sandra Henderson, who entered via a blog comment.

Tipple Box (2016) on Kavey Eats (tall)

Gatti’s Italian Restaurant | City Point

Last week I was invited to a blogger dinner at Gatti’s, an Italian restaurant that’s recently moved to a new City Point location close to Moorgate station. The restaurant, which opened in Broadgate in 1989, is believed to have been named in honour of Luigi Gatti, a successful London front of house restaurant manager who was appointed by White Star Lines to run their exclusive Ritz Restaurant for first class passengers of the Titanic. Only 3 of nearly 70 staff working for the restaurant survived the sinking of the great ship.

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Owner Jenny Carpenter took over the restaurant in 2013 but learned shortly afterwards that the building was earmarked for destruction. So she decided to move the restaurant to a new location just half a kilometer away, that move being completed earlier this year. In honour of the move, she has launched new and old set menus, one to celebrate the traditional classic dishes and the other to showcase more contemporary twists on Italian cuisine.

The restaurant has a partnership with Veuve Cliquot which features on both menus so we started the evening with a tasting of the famous champagne house’s new Veuve Cliquot Rich, a sweeter offering developed for use in cocktails. Most of my dining companions found it too sweet on its own but enjoyed it in cocktails. With my sweet tooth, I preferred it plain. That said I’d not pay the high price point for it myself.

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An amuse bouche of parmesan sabayon with black truffle and a parmesan shaving was a deliciously rich start to our meal and I appreciated having the fresh truffles shown to the table as we ate.

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My friend and I split two starters so we didn’t have to choose between them. Grilled scallops, asparagus, ginger, garlic and fresh chilli dressing with crispy Parma ham was a large plate of three generously-sized fat scallops with the coral still attached – this makes me happy as it’s so rarely served and so full of flavour. The asparagus was a touch overcooked for me, very soft with no vegetable bite remaining. The dressing was delicious though the ginger rather subtle, and no sign of the chilli whatsoever; I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it worked well as it was.

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Tempura di Mare was enormous for a starter, a dinner plate piled high with battered prawns, scampi and calamari. Served with a tartar sauce, I’m not sure why this was labelled tempura rather than fritto but it was a good dish, either way. My only complaint here was the inclusion of unshelled butterflied king prawns, the shells far too thick to be edible and quite a pain to extract from the batter and shell.

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A palate cleanser of lemon and prosseco sorbet was superb, well balanced between sweet and sharp, and a good antidote to the buttery dressing on the scallops and the tempura batter.

Linguine All’ Aragosta (linguine with lobster and fresh tomatoes) proved true to the pattern, an enormous serving – more pasta than we cook for two of us at home. Once again, a generous amount of lobster meat made this very classic dish feel rather decadent .

Other mains on the table included ravioli of confit duck leg and porcini mushrooms with grated foie gras – this was not a success with clumsily thick pasta and a dense and dry filling dominated by the porcini rather than the duck. Scottata di Tonno, a large fried tuna steak with sesame seeds and pistachio pesto looked wonderful, and perfectly cooked tuna too. The Scottish beef fillet was also cooked beautifully and the port wine reduction looked right up my street, though the person who ordered it found it a touch sweet.

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One of the things I really loved seeing was the Gatti’s old-fashioned meat trolley – with a different roast served every day, this is fabulously retro! We tried small tasters of the day’s roast beef and it was superb, very good flavour and cooked perfectly rare with an outrageously beefy gravy generously poured over the plate. However, my Yorkshire pudding was really overcooked; burnt rather than pleasantly browned. I left it uneaten.

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We were given a taster of three desserts, though if I go again I’ll choose from the desserts trolley – a wonderful throwback to a bygone era. The passion fruit panna cotta was OK, a little too much gelatin gave it a hard and bouncy set rather than the lovely light wobble of a good example. Chocolate mousse was a disaster, the pleasant chocolate orange flavour altogether cancelled out by a very grainy texture – perhaps the chocolate seized or the eggs cooked and curdled – whatever caused it, it’s a shame the kitchen didn’t notice and make a fresh batch. Best of the three was the tiramisu, light, full of flavour and a satisfying finish.

Overall, Gatti’s is a mixed bag. Some superb dishes, made with good quality ingredients, cooked well and full of flavour. Others that missed the mark and let the side down. A generosity of spirit in the portions, including the more expensive ingredients such as truffle and lobster, certainly make for a feeling of goodwill and hospitality; this is echoed by enthusiastic kitchen and front of house teams. Value is very good, with both set menus priced at just £34.99 for three courses plus a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne. This would be a fun place to come with a group, especially for fussy eaters – I think Italian is one of those cuisines that nearly everyone enjoys.

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Gatti’s restaurant.

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Hatchetts Restaurant & Bar

Hatchetts Restaurant in Shepherd Market has quite the back story and to make a nice change, it’s a real one rather than a marketing fairy tale (albeit with no direct link to the new business). Built in 1703, Hatchett’s Hotel (with the White Horse Cellar pub in the basement below) was a popular stopover for cross-country travellers catching a horse-drawn coach to or from the West Country. Dickens mentioned it in his Pickwick Papers and the traffic jams caused by the flurry of mail and passenger coaches earned it the local nickname of Piccadilly Nuisance. For well over two centuries it ran as a hotel and pub, but the business failed in the 1950s. A few years later it was bought by an entrepreneur who turned it into a glitzy nightclub, music venue and restaurant (known as Hatchetts without the apostrophe); a glamorous hub for celebrities and party animals in the sixties and seventies.

This month, Hatchetts Restaurant and Bar has opened at nearby 5 White Horse Street (the street name no doubt being the tie in to the historic hotel and bar). It offers a small ground floor bar serving cocktails and small plates and an 80-seat downstairs restaurant offering modern British cooking. Owned, designed and run by Duncan Watson-Steward, an experienced pub restaurateur, the kitchen is run by Chef Andrew Evans who’s worked alongside many of the UK’s top chefs including Hix, Ramsay, Wareing, Hartnett and Henderson.

On a warm summer evening, with windows and doors flung open, the upstairs bar was full of boisterous customers but the basement restaurant was very quiet with just the two of us, and later one more couple. I imagine the too-loud music was an attempt to provide some ambience but I’d have been happier without it; I’m sure that will improve as the restaurant becomes better known and more popular.

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The menu is enormously appealing, making it really hard to choose – we skipped the small plates and salads and ordered from the more traditional starters, mains and desserts.

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While we were enjoying the fresh bread (with Netherend Farm butter), a lovely amuse bouche was served. Described as Modern Greek Salad, this sounded deceptively simple but delivered such intensity of flavours, it was quite a revelation. The fresh ripe tomatoes were, as expected, each distinct in flavour but it was the combination of whipped feta (with a texture like yoghurt), little cubes of pickled cucumber and powerful black olive tapenade that really made this dish shine – each one balancing so beautifully with the star-of-the-show tomatoes.

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My starter of Devonshire Crab & Nectarine Salad, Brown Crab Mayo, Cucumber, Samphire & Borage (£11.5) was another winner. I couldn’t imagine in my head quite how the combination of very thinly nectarine and crab mayonnaise would work but it did – the sweetness and texture of the ripe fruit complementing rather than disguising white crab meat mixed into a brown crab meat mayonnaise. On the side, a pretty salad of samphire, cubes of pickled cucumber, tiny rolls of fresh cucumber and lovely borage flowers and leaves. I sometimes find that unusual cheffy pairings of ingredients don’t work – there’s damn good reason they aren’t a classic combo – but this peachy crab duo was spectacularly successful.

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Pete’s Scorched Mackerel, Apple & Fennel Purée, Mackerel Tartare (£7) was quickly polished off too. The scorch-blackened  fillet was nicely cooked – crispy skin and silky soft flesh in every bite. Apple and fennel puree balanced the oily fish and the tartare on top added a welcome freshness.

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When ordering my starter I dithered between the crab and the Spiced Lamb Sweetbreads, Minted Peas & Beans, Lamb Jus (£8.5) so the chef kindly sent out a little sample of the sweetbreads for me to try. Sweetbreads, when cooked well, are a thing of beauty and these were sublime, meltingly soft with a deep rich flavour further enhanced by a rich gravy. Peas and pea shoots were a great foil, the slightly woolly broad beans less so.

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I could not resist the 12oz Shorthorn Ribeye on the Bone, Lyonaisse Potatoes & Bone Marrow Gravy (£24) and wasn’t disappointed. Shorthorn beef, dry-aged for 35 days, the steak was full of flavour and perfectly cooked to my requested medium despite the thin cut – I go medium rare for most cuts but prefer the extra cooking to melt the fat in a rib-eye. The Lyonnaise potatoes were delicious, finished in butter and mixed with properly caramelised onions, I ate far too many! A deep, rich chicken stock gravy and a pile of watercress finished the dish. When you serve a simple classic, it must be done flawlessly and for me, this was.

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The first thing I want to applaud about the Caramelised Onion Tart, Roasted Baby Beets, Braised Courgette & Watercress, Rosary Ash Goats Cheese (£11) is the price – how often are vegetarian dishes ludicrously overpriced to be in line with the meat and fish? Very refreshing to see prices reflective of the cost of ingredients! As for the dish itself – crisp and crumbly shortcrust pastry filled with caramelised onion and rich cream and cheese, though the filling was far sloppier in texture than expected. In the side salad, salty Ash goats cheese balanced sweet roastd baby beets, tossed together with braised courgettes and mixed green leaves. A really lovely summery dish with lots of flavour.

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Desserts were too much of a temptation, even though we were fairly full. My Dark Chocolate Marquis, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Cherry Glaze & Cherry Sorbet (£7) was decent – rich dense dark chocolate base, light milk chocolate mousse and a really punchy morello cherry sorbet – a new take on the flavours of black forest cake.

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Pete’s Buttermilk Pudding & Poached Rhubarb, Rhubarb & Hisbiscus Sorbet (£7) put a smile on his face. The wibbly-wobbly rectangular buttermilk pudding layered with poached rhubarb was panna cotta-like in texture, and nicely complemented by a ball of rhubarb and hibiscus sorbet. Also on the plate, little blocks of gin and tonic jelly, wild hibiscus flowers poached in rose tea syrup and some freeze dried yuzu. Attractive and unusual without being outlandish, this was a pretty and well balanced pudd.

Through all of the dishes we tried, the combination of flavours and textures and the skilful way everything was cooked were a delight. I’m certainly keen to go again in a few months and see what chef Evans does with autumn and winter seasonal ingredients.

I’m not a fan of noisy shouting-filled restaurants, but the ambiance and low-level buzz of more customers will certainly improve the experience, and that shouldn’t take long. I am sure it’ll be busier a few more weeks into business.

Be aware that, like many basement restaurants in historical buildings, there is no disabled access, nor would any but the narrowest of wheelchairs be able to access the ground floor facilities. There are (long term) plans to install a lift, but no ETA on that for the moment.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Hatchetts Restaurant.

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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!

Karuizawa
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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Shaking the Shakshuka at Cafe Loren, Camden

A dish from the Middle East that’s become increasingly popular in recent years, shakshuka is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner – a delicious bowl of eggs braised in a spiced tomato sauce, usually served with freshly baked bread. Cafe Loren owner Lee Penn is a huge fan which is why his Camden-based restaurant specialises in this one dish. He first learned to make the dish from his grandmother, who cooked it for the family often. But he soon branched out to innovate many variations, running his own shakshuka restaurant in Israel before moving to London and launching Cafe Loren.

Just under the bridge by Camden Lock, several small tables are nestled in the space beneath one of the arches, right at the heart of Camden’s best shopping and eating. It’s a cosy little space, warm and welcoming.

Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-132400 Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-

The menu is short and sweet; eight different shakshukas plus a seasonal special that changes daily and a few sharing plates that make a great shared starter or a handy lunch for one on their own. There are also a few sweet treats if you want to pop in for a quick coffee break rather than a full meal.

Not all the shakshuka options include tomato – there’s a Green Shakshuka (£8.70) featuring spinach, leeks, green peppers, avocado and basil and a White Shakshuka (£8.60) that combines onions, mushrooms, feta and cream cheese.

Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-132807 Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-8731

We start with the Mediterranean Plate (£5.50) of challah bread, homemade hummus, cheese burakas and olives. Also on the board are sharp salty olives, some crunchy slices of cucumber and a glossy pot of tahini. The hummus is delicious, fresh and with great texture and flavour. The cheese buraka is lifted by the properly tangy mature cheese within and the challah bread is wonderfully fresh and soft.

Lee explains that he buys the bread in fresh every day from a local specialist bakery.

Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-8733

Red Shakshuka (£8.50) is a classic combination of eggs poached in a tomato, onion, red pepper, girl and harissa mix. It comes with olives, tahini and a delicious plump pitta bread. I find the sauce a little light and liquidy – I prefer my shakshuka sauce to be richer and more cooked down, but the flavours are delicious and wonderful with the pitta.

Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-8737 Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-133836

The Green Shakshuka (£8.70) is likewise quite wet, though that works well for dipping chunks of the seeded brown roll. It comes with a tangy garlic sauce and I add a tiny pot of smoked salmon on the side (80p). I love this idea of a green shakshuka and the basil flavour of the sauce is delightful.

 Cafe Loren in Camden London on Kavey Eats-8728

Drinks include the usual hot teas, coffees and Hot chocolate (£2.85) plus a selection of freshly made fruit and vegetable smoothies and a list of iced coffees for summer.

Open a year this week, Cafe Loren has already built up a loyal customer base who drop by regularly for a tasty meal at any time of the day.  Open from 8.00 am to 8.30 pm, this is a lovely addition to the food options around Camden Lock.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Cafe Loren.

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Homestyle Japanese Cooking | Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

With three trips to Japan under my belt, yet still dreaming about the next one, my interest in Japanese food shows no signs of fading. One of my favourite books on my cookbook shelf is Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara, first published in 2009. A new paperback edition ahs just been released, so to celebrate, here’s a review I wrote a couple of years ago and your chance to win a copy for yourself.

everyday harumi hardback cover everyday harumi 2016 paperback cover

Harumi Kurihara is to Japan what Martha Stewart is to Americans, Donna Hay is to Australians and Nigella and Delia are to us Brits – that is to say she’s a hugely successful cookery writer with over 20 bestselling cookbooks, a quarterly recipe magazine, popular television shows, a line of kitchenware and even a chain of shops, restaurants and cafés under her belt.

Despite her immense success, Kurihara, known affectionately by her fans as Harumi K, still sees herself first and foremost as a housewife – indeed she is fêted in Japan as a karisuma shufu (charisma housewife) – and is committed to cooking at home for her husband every day. Her cookery books are aimed squarely at helping others to prepare tasty and enjoyable food in the home.

Everyday Harumi is the third of Kurihara’s books to be published in English but it’s the first book she has researched and written in England; she wanted to understand the British way of shopping, eating and cooking to ensure that her recipes were realistic and accessible for non-Japanese cooks.

After a foreword in which Kurihara talks a little about her background, how she came to write the book and how healthy and enjoyable a Japanese diet can be, the book begins with a list of store cupboard essentials. These are the ingredients Kurihara deems to be at the heart of Japanese home cooking and each one appears in many of the recipes in the book. This chapter introduces each ingredient in detail and includes instructions on cooking rice and making dashi stock; it also provides recipes for sauces and pastes such as ponzu, mentsuyu, sesame paste and miso paste that are referenced later in the book.

Recipes are grouped by key ingredient, such as; type of meat or fish, rice, noodles, eggs, tofu, miso, ginger, sesame and various vegetables.

Although her recipes are clearly Japanese, Kurihara is not a slave to authenticity for the sake of it; many of her dishes simplify ingredients and techniques and some blend washoku (traditional Japanese cooking) with yōshoku (Western cuisine). This is not a sop to her foreign audiences, however – in fact it reflects the reality of how many Japanese now cook at home, eagerly incorporating ingredients and influences from around the world. Above all, these dishes are very well suited to tasty mid-week evening meals, when speed and simplicity are a priority.

Flicking through the book between recipes such as Steak in a Miso Marinade, Tsukune with Teriyaki Sauce, Scallops with Nori Seaweed, Udon Noodles with a Minced Meat Miso Sauce, Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, Egg Drop Soup, Lightly Cooked Spinach with Soy Sauce, Japanese Coleslaw Salad and Aubergine in Spicy Sauce it becomes clear how much variety can be achieved by combining the essential ingredients in different ways.

Photographer Jason Lowe illustrates every recipe with bright and beautiful colour images. In each, the food is shown off in a wonderfully varied selection of crockery – Kurihara has a particular love of collecting unmatched pieces in which to serve her food. There are several cheery photographs of Kurihara cooking too. Recipe instructions are straightforward and easy to follow and it’s particularly gratifying that my own attempts turn out just like the pictures in the book.

Whether you are new to Japanese cooking or are looking for further inspiration, Everyday Harumi offers an immensely approachable and appealing range of simple Japanese dishes to enjoy with your family and friends.

 

I have two copies of the newly released paperback edition of Everyday Harumi to giveaway to readers; click here to enter.

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback version, published in 2009, is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

The original book review above was written in 2014 and first published in Good Things magazine. ©Kavita Favelle.

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Smoke & Salt in Residence at The Chapel Bar, Islington

Residencies are the latest evolution of the London dining scene. A venue with a spare kitchen and dining room rents it out on a short to medium term basis and the menu, cooking and service is handled by the resident(s).

In some instances, a residency is a step forward from the humble supperclub, a path into the catering profession for once-amateur cooks such as Asma Khan whose Darjeeling Express supperclub moved from her living room to The Sun & 13 Cantons Pub and Restaurant in Soho for 9 months. This gave Asma the opportunity to develop a much larger customer-base, many of whom are ready and waiting for whatever she does next and also helped her to hone the business skills needed to manage a project of this scale.

In the case of Smoke & Salt, a residency is a way for young blood chefs to get their cooking out to the public without the full expense of funding their own permanent restaurant, an enormously expensive endeavour.

Smoke and Salt Residency June 2016 on Kavey Eats-8715

Remi Williams and Aaron Webster are the duo behind Smoke & Salt, which they created after meeting a few years ago when both were working in the same London restaurant kitchen. After a series of pop ups during the last couple of years, they have signed the lease on the upstairs space within The Chapel Bar and are offering a £38 tasting menu (available Monday to Thursday evenings) that showcases their interest in techniques such as curing, smoking and preserving, and their commitment to high quality British produce. They also offer a brunch menu on Sundays.

The drinks menu is provided by the landlords who run both the downstairs and upstairs bars and includes a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, wines and soft drinks.

The tasting menu changes monthly, according to what’s in season. We visited in June.

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These Guinness-glazed pretzels served warm with with whipped olive oil butter were a superb start. Beautifully textured and great flavour and a little different to the usual bread offerings.

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Listed on the menu only as “Table Treats”, these consisted of a bowl of Smoke & Salt dry-rubbed mixed nuts, some house-cured biltong with a lovely kick to the spice and little pastries that we were told were thyme panelles made from chickpea and topped with roasted red pepper ketchup. We enjoyed all three snacks but both agreed that we’d swap the serving order, having these served to the table on arrival, to enjoy with drinks and then moving on to the bread as a start to the meal proper.

Smoke and Salt Residency June 2016 on Kavey Eats-8707

The starter, called BLT, was a beautiful bowl of ricotta cavatelli (a small curled pasta shape), heritage tomatoes, grilled lettuce, bacon dashi, crispy bacon, sourdough and lettuce gremolata. It was a pretty dish to look at and enjoyable to eat, particularly the tomatoes and bacon, both of which were delicious.

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A ‘surprise’ mid-course of (Scottish) Wagyu Skirt Tartare was served next with pickled carrots and what was described as home-made marmite. The overwhelming flavour of the dressing was balsamic vinegar, indeed it was hard to taste anything else including the beef itself. The texture of the beef was great but I think the dressing needs work, as does the balance of how much is used for the small portion of beef.

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The main course was a real winner. Spring lamb cooked two ways – a few slices of perfectly grilled leg of lamb, served pink, and a crepinette of lamb reminiscent of a beef faggot. These worked well with a vivid and robust green garlic sauce, pickled okra and chewy roasted sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) which were also served raw in very thin slices – they were crunchy like radish and a great contrast.

Smoke and Salt Residency June 2016 on Kavey Eats-8723

Both my friend and I weren’t sure whether we’d like the dessert, as neither of us are fans of grapefruit but actually we both loved it, in fact I’d describe it as my dish of the meal. Pink grapefruit segments with a little charring, pink grapefruit curd, pink grapefruit gel, pink grapefruit sorbet, and candied grapefruit zest balanced with a lovely elderflower yoghurt and small chunks of pound cake. Full as I was, if they’d offered me a second bowl I’d absolutely have licked it clean!

Smoke and Salt Residency June 2016 on Kavey Eats-8724

To finish, petit fours – a buttermilk fudge with buttermilk gel on top and coconut macaroons with (English) strawberries. The fudge was gorgeous but that sharp buttermilk on top didn’t work for either of us. The macaroons were delightful.

Remi and Aaron have forged a great partnership with both bringing different skills and ideas to the table, resulting in a very enjoyable meal. Overall I found the cooking very good, the inventiveness of the dishes and presentation intriguing and delicious and the ingredients were clearly of excellent quality.

For me, the pricing is a touch high and I’d rather see the ‘surprise’ course dropped in favour of reducing that headline price by a few pounds. Better still, make the table snacks an optional extra and bring the main menu price down another couple of quid. Including tea or coffee with the petit fours would also give a stronger impression of great value and potentially help bring people to the table.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Smoke & Salt.

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Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn

Isn’t it strange that sometimes those who are the most passionate and knowledgeable about a particular country or region’s food are not actually from that culture themselves?

The person I know who knows most about the food, food culture and cooking of the Indian subcontinent is, surprisingly, not Indian. Other than the normal smattering of Indian friends that is the norm for any Londoner in our multicultural city, Zoe has no personal connection that fuels her interest and yet her fascination with Indian food has been a constant, as opposed to briefer dabbles with other cuisines. Long, long before she’d even set foot on the subcontinent, she developed an enduring obsession which fuelled an on-going learning curve which has lead to real expertise in the subject matter.

So it is with Regula Ysewijn. Born and raised in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), she is a professional graphic designer, photographer and writer as well as a self-taught cook and a successful food blogger. Regula has been obsessed with Britain since she was a young child, after hearing a British nursery rhyme which caught her imagination. A few years later – her infatuation showing no signs of abating – her parents arranged a family holiday to Britain for her ninth birthday; she describes it as ‘to this day still the best gift my parents ever gave me’.

She began to read extensively about British history and culture, and her family spent many more holidays in Britain over the next few years. During a period when further travel wasn’t possible, Regula so missed the British food she’d come to love that she decided to make it herself. With no cookery books to hand, she came across Jamie’s Naked Chef series on TV, and by watching him cook and making notes, she learned to cook. She still cooks that way today, ‘on pure fingerspitzengefühl’; literally ‘fingertips feeling’, figuratively it means by instinct or intuition.

Her blog Miss Food Wise was initially intended as a personal database of where she went, what she saw, what she was reading and of course, what she cooked. Naturally, with her interest in British food and culture, this soon came to feature heavily. She explains that people often asked her ‘why [she] was so fond of Britain since the food was so crap. [She] decided it was [her] mission to show it wasn’t and to dedicate the blog to it.

Her blog soon won a loyal following of readers all around the world. It also became a learning curve for her writing and photography – indeed the design agency for whom she worked made her their in-house photographer on the back of her blog photography – and work from many agencies and magazines followed. When she was offered her book deal in 2013, Regula made the decision to leave her job to go freelance.

Pride and Pudding (mini)

Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings is not a cookbook. Regula describes it as ‘a book about a part of British food culture/ history with recipes. The recipes are all historical, and many are not to modern taste, but that doesn’t make them less important.’

From the start, her publisher Murdoch Books was completely on board with Regula’s vision. I ask her about the process and she happily recalls how they told her ‘the book has to be “you” so only you can create that 100%’ for which she is hugely grateful. They gave her free rein on what the book would be. More unusually but perfectly logical given her unique skillset, Regula not only wrote the book but designed it and did all the food styling and photography herself too.

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As well as Regula’s distinctive food photography, Pride and Pudding features gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations (on the cover and to introduce each chapter). These were created by Regula’s husband, Bruno Vergauwen; ‘He knew my vision and spent months creating the illustrations that tell part of the story. He had to understand the history of pudding to be able to create these images. He had to see the antique equipment and evolution in how pudding was made, he had to see the dishes to give him inspiration. I’m really in awe about what he has created.

P&Pbk.Baked

She may be in awe of Bruno’s illustrations (and they are very beautiful) but I am in awe of the book in its entirety. This rigorously researched culinary history of sweet and savoury puddings is a fascinating insight into many of the dishes we still eat today and how they evolved. I don’t use the word ‘rigorous’ lightly – I asked Regula how she approached such in-depth academic research.

To accurately understand the evolution of each pudding, Regula referenced her own collection of old books, accessed content from many specialist and online libraries and for rarer titles, contacted directly the great houses where she knew an original copy was available.

I didn’t take anything for granted, if a translation of Latin or Anglo Norman was given, I would check if the translation was correct. For Latin translations I had someone who could read the original as translations in the 17th century were often wrong. I tried to use as many primary sources as I could and when a more recent book mentioned a source, I would not copy that entry but look for that source and check it myself. There are mistakes which have been around for decades because authors sometimes don’t go back to check the source the book is mentioning.

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Her collection of vintage cookware also played its part, giving her an insight into the methods of cooking and the vessels and equipment used. She also mentions how the characteristics of some the ingredients themselves have changed over time.

There were many challenges in recreating historical recipes using the equipment available in a modern kitchen, but without changing the nature of the recipe itself. But when her countless rounds of testing resulted in success, ‘it filled [her] heart with joy to see it.

To see how a medieval blancmange looked like and tasted, how blackpudding tasted in the 16th century. That’s just so bloody amazing. A taste of history.

The book is divided into chapters for Boiled and steamed Puddings; Baked puddings; Batter puddings; Bread puddings; Milk puddings, jellies and ices and Sauces, pastry etc.

These chapters are proceeded with a comprehensive and fascinating 20 page history of food in Britain, starting in prehistoric times and walking us through to modern times via the eras of the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, the Medieval centuries, the Reformation and on to Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian times before bringing us into the 20th and 21st centuries.

Each chapter tells its story by way of several carefully chosen puddings, some of which will be familiar to readers and some of which have virtually been lost in the mists of time. Flipping through the book, I recognise plum pudding, haggis, black and white blood puddings, jam roly poly, spotted dick, treacle sponge, bakewell pudding, toad-in-the-hole, apple charlotte, blancmange, trifle, fruit fools and posset. But I’d never before come across rice pudding in skins (rather like sausages), sambocada (a cheese curd tart flavoured with elderflowers), daryols (custard tarts in deep hand-raised pastry cups), tort de moy (a bone marrow egg tart), black caps (apples baked until the skin on top turned black) or almond flummery (an almond and apricot-kernel flavoured jelly).

Food history books can sometimes be dry and academic but Regula has a delightful way of writing that brings the culinary stories of each of these puddings to life without unnecessary stuffiness.

It’s a fascinating book and certainly the most beautifully written and produced book of its genre that I’ve ever seen.

 

Murdoch Books have given me three copies of this fabulous book to give away to readers of Kavey Eats. Click here to enter the giveaway.

I also have permission to share Regula’s Bakewell pudding recipe with you too; coming soon.

Kavey Eats received a review copy of this title from publisher Murdoch Books. Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings by Regula Ysewijn is currently available from Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20).

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Mat Follas’ Vegetable Perfection

A few weeks ago, I shared my review of Mat Follas’ new Bramble Cafe & Deli in Dorchester’s elegant Poundbury estate. Today I want to talk about Mat’s latest cookbook, Vegetable Perfection.

When I first interviewed Mat back in 2009, shortly after he launched his first restaurant The Wild Garlic, I think it’s fair to say his attitude to vegetarian diets and recipes was in a state of evolution. During the planning phase and just ahead of opening the restaurant, Mat had many conversations with fellow foodlovers online, many of whom urged him to provide several veggie options on his menu. He said then that he understood their point of view but that, frankly, he didn’t agree with it. The previous evening, he’d had just one vegetarian customer in the restaurant, with the rest firmly focused on his fish and meat dishes. His aim, therefore, was to offer one great veggie dish on the menu, the kind of dish he as an omnivore would also enjoy eating; that day’s veggie choice was an enthusiastically described umami-rich fennel thyme gratin. He was also busy exploring ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, by first converting their parents, something he talked about at the Dorset County Show that year; and his interest in foraging leaves and vegetables was already well-established, with foraged ingredients featuring regularly in his cooking.

Just 6 years later, Mat has learned to love vegetables so much that he has released a cookbook of over 100 delicious vegetarian recipes, many of which are vegan or have vegan substitutes provided. In the introduction, Mat talks about overcoming the preconceptions of his upbringing in an era of a meal being ‘meat and two veg’. Indeed his initial plan for the cookbook was to make it vegetable-based but not ‘restricted by only using vegetable products’ and it was only when he started developing and testing recipes that he realised how little the recipes benefited from the use of meat, and that he ‘could always find vegetarian alternatives that were just as good to use, if not better’.

Writing the book has been ‘a journey of discovery to the amazing flavour combinations available when [he] stopped being mentally limited by the requirement of a meat product on every dish’ and the book is filled with vegetarian recipes Mat personally loves; vegetarian dishes he would choose to eat over a meat dish.

A bugbear of Mat’s, as it is for many vegetarians I know, is the prevalence of vegetable dishes that simply imitate meat; so instead of sharing a boring bean burger recipe he developed a crispy smoked potato rösti-like patty that he layers with grilled halloumi, mushroom and tomato for the ultimate vegetarian burger. Where he does use vegetables in place of meat, like the Mushroom Toad-in-the-hole recipe, he makes ‘the vegetable the star of the show – it’s not hidden or trying to imitate the flavour of meat’. Incidentally, that’s one of the recipes Pete and I made recently and to my surprise, the intensity of flavour of the juicy portobello mushroom really was just as delicious as sausages, even though it was an entirely different beast.

Vegetable Perfection Mat Follas

Vegetable Perfection: 100 tasty recipes for roots, bulbs, shoots and stems is divided into recipes according to which part of the vegetable is used or botanical groupings such as members of the Solanaceae family. After his Introduction, there’s a guide to vegetarian and vegan substitutions (helpful for those used to cooking with meat and fish ingredients), followed by chapters covering Vegetable juices; Roots; Brassicas and greens; Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines; Bulbs and alliums; Potatoes, squash and corn; Peas, beans and pulses; Stalks, stems and soft leaves and Fungi. At the end, a Store cupboard chapter covering sauces, dressings, ketchups, chutneys, pickles and oils.

Most recipes have photographs accompanying them, though where there are two short recipes to a page, only one is usually pictured. Styling is simple, homely and appealing – much like the recipes themselves – and plating is not at all faffy or cheffy. These dishes really are the kind of food you want to eat at home, making this a great cookbook to have on the shelf.

So far, we’ve made Mat’s (four cheese) Cauliflower cheese, Mushroom Toad-in-the-hole and Homemade baked beans, all of which have been delicious.

Bookmarked to make soon are Sprouting broccoli, hazelnuts and fondant potatoes, Red onion tarte tatin with goat’s cheese and dandelion sauce, Coddled eggs with creamed leeks, Courgette and gruyere soufflé and Sweet potato chips (which are tossed in a miso oil before baking).

Unlike some restaurant chef cookbooks, this one is firmly written for a domestic cook, using domestic kitchen equipment and as such, the instructions are easy to understand and to follow.

And if you fancy the sound of Mat’s four cheese cauliflower cheese recipe, here it is.

GIVEAWAY

Publisher Ryland Peters & Small are giving away two copies of Vegetable Perfection to readers of Kavey Eats. Each prize includes delivery to a UK address.

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 vegetarian or vegan dish, and what do you love most about it?

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’d love to win a copy of Mat Follas’ Vegetable Perfection cookbook from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsMatVeg #KaveyEatsMatVeg
(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 22nd July 2016.
  • The two 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 a copy of Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prizes are offered by Ryland Peters & Small 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.
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The winners of the giveaway are Maxine G (blog entry) and @KeepCalmFannyOn (twitter entry).

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Vegetable Perfection from Ryland Peters & Small
Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas (photography by Steve Painter) is currently available from Amazon for £14.88 (RRP £16.99).

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Giraffe’s Summer Menu | Guest Review

If you judged the nation’s eating habits from the contents of food blogs alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking we hardly visit restaurant chains at all. In reality most of my non-blogger friends, just like the wider population – especially those with young children – often favour chains, the best of which offer familiarity, family-friendly menus, a comfortable and pleasant environment, consistency (and hopefully good quality) of food and service, all at a known price point. And the truth is that us food bloggers visit chain restaurants too even if you don’t see it on our blogs very often; my personal favourites include Byron Hamburgers and Ask Italian, and I had an excellent meal at Jamie’s Italian last year. It’s just that it’s so much easier to write about (and let’s face it, more interesting and potentially more delicious to visit) one of the many exciting independent restaurants – and us Londoners are certainly spoiled for choice; our city has more restaurants than we could visit in a lifetime!

Today Kavey Eats is visiting Giraffe, a 60-strong nationwide chain currently owned by Tesco’s (but perhaps for not much longer, according to reports that they’re looking to sell).

Guest blogger Janine Marsh visited Giraffe’s London Spitalfields branch to check out some of their new summer dishes and cocktails, as well as a few menu stalwarts. An excellent writer with attention for detail and a nice turn of phrase, this is Janine’s first foray into restaurant reviews, and I think she’s done a great job of bringing the experience to life.

Over to Janine:

My lasting impressions of Giraffe were formulated from a trip once with a (now) ex-boyfriend who had decided that vegan was the best way forward for our relationship and for the ease of cooking. I would eat vegan at home (his not mine) and have non vegan food whilst eating out. This resulted in the exotic dish of Huevos Rancheros full of richness of eggs and cheese that turned me upside down and inside out and left me with a traumatic memory. Thinking it may have been food poisoning but actually now putting it down to my ex and his simple living ways, I have now returned to Giraffe a few years later as a newly reformed non vegan both at home and out and about, hoping to seek pleasure and comfort in a new summer menu.

It was early evening and the branch in Spitalfields was not very busy. Sometimes I have found this can make staff more lax in their service however it was the complete opposite during this evening service. The staff were welcoming and attentive right from the moment we walked in. I noticed everyone was keeping themselves busy cleaning, sorting and attending to the customers with a frequency that was not enough to overstrain anyone’s sense of personal space.

Grapefruit and Vanilla Daiquiri - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 2 Mango Colada - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 1

My friend (a fellow foodie) and I started with a cocktails from the summer menu and decided to taste one each of the Grapefruit and Vanilla Daiquiri (£6.75) and Mango Colada (6.75). The Daiquiri had an immediate kick to it although you couldn’t taste the vanilla. The grapefruit was really refreshing and summery with sour notes. It was sophisticated and easy drinkable and as a result of its deliciousness, finished rather quickly. In contrast, the Mango Colada was more watery than creamy, with a strong pineapple undercurrent and absolutely no taste of mango. It’s been a while since I had one but let’s say it didn’t take me back to the paradise that I had it in. It slightly changed taste when sipped with the starter of Prawn Saganaki and became a little more intense but still not something I wanted to finish.

Prawn Saganaki - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 4

There’s nothing to say about the Prawn Saganaki (£6.50) other than ‘bring me more please!’ From the minute you put the first prawn in your mouth which was succulent and full of flavour, the tomato sauce was simmered to perfection in a full flavoured and mildly spicy way. The feta cheese provided an amazing creamy contrast and depth to the tomatoes. The Tuscan bread was a little dry and not very flavoursome but worked well for finishing the juices off. I would eat that again and again!

Salt and Pepper Squid - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 5

My friend counts herself as a semi officiado of Salt and Pepper Squid (£4.95 and for sharing £8.95) and has eaten a lot of this dish from the antipodean lands of her husband’s birth to the variety of Vietnamese restaurants up the road from this Spitalfields branch, in Hoxton. It’s unusual to have the chilli sauce as a dip and the batter was a bit heavy but the squid was cooked well and it had a nice peppery kick but not very salty although with today’s health warnings, the chef may have been thinking of the customer’s tickers. The portion size was perfect for one.

Tuscan Lamb Meatballs - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 3

We also shared the Tuscan Lamb Meatballs (£6.25). I have had a love affair with meatballs since the heady days of the 90’s as a twenty one year old in Little Italy in NYC. It’s now one of my dinner party dishes and I pack a lot of flavour in when I cook them. With these though, there was not a huge amount of flavour. The lemon yoghurt granita topping overpowered a flavour that should have been there if there was anything to counterbalance. It definitely needed to up the amount of seasoning in the dish. More parsley, thyme, and maybe some evidence of pancetta needed to make it authentically Tuscan? It would give it something worth eating for.

Wet wipe - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 6

During the starters, there were eagerly awaiting for our humble fingers, a couple of those Lemon fronted ‘FRESHER PACKET FOR CLEANSING’ sachets. My first thought is, we are definitely not flying first class. Please bring back finger bowls and lemon slices? Hot towels? Nothing at all? The ladies toilets were out of order so we had to form an orderly queue but very happy to refresh my hands using the normal soap and Dyson high speed dryer which is a pre-requisite for most establishments now considering everyone is always in a twenty first century rush.

Whisky Cooler - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 7 El Diablo - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 8

For the mains, the waitress suggested we try another of the new cocktails and also her personal favourite the Whisky Cooler (£6.95). We found during the evening that she was very well informed and knew her food and what was the best on the menu. Woah! A straight up your nose fizzy, fruity, whisky with a rounded flavour, passion fruit seeds (like bubble tea but less work) wonderful summer drink! The Whisky Cooler. Finished.

The El Diablo (£6.95) with ginger beer, lime juice, cassis and Tequila, according to my friend was both sweet and sour and refreshing, similar to that of an adult ice lolly. The Tequila gave a sourness and the ginger beer its fizz. Like fangtastic Haribos she said!

Bombay Chicken Dahl - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 9

So to the Bombay Chicken Dahl (available from 12-5, Monday – Friday, for £7.95 as part of lunch menu). A plate of Dahl. You lost me at Plate! For someone who regularly eats out with a dining club called the #EATUPCREW based mainly of South Indian food experts, this was Dahl with an identity complex. Black bean, chickpea, butternut squash (hard and watery), chicken (watery), (I hate anything watery) this should be labelled curry but even that is at a push. The tastiest part was the Pink onions on the salad. Salad? Where was the rice? This dahl really doesn’t really know what it is yet in terms of evolution. I felt sorry for it. I now know that I should never go for curries in a non-authentic environment.

Scandi Salad - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 12

The Scandi Salad (£11.95) however was love at first taste! No celery or cucumber for those whose reflux is of a delicate nature. This salad was packed full of fresh dill, crunchy lettuce, slightly crushed potato, a scattering of salty capers and a vinegary sharpness. It was like the best potato salad you have ever eaten but better as it was topped with a substantial portion of a lightly fragrant poached salmon. It was summery, moreish, light and hearty all at once. It was ‘forks at dawn’ for my friend and I. Never normally going for a main course salad, this was massively substantial and has changed my mind. I would go back for it in an instant!

Bowl for the Soul - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 11

We decided to try a vegetarian option in homage to my previous life and Bowl for the Soul (£7.50) came recommended although the waitress said this was not a popular choice with customers but one she had tasted and loved. The dish was vegetarian only because the lack of chicken or prawns which was an extra you could add from the menu. I think that they should think of something hearty like tofu to add texture but the overall dish was exactly what it describes itself as. A comforting Bowl for the Soul. Oozy fried egg with crunchy edges that gave a lovely sauce, fresh coriander, a nice hit of chilli, peppers, French beans that felt like they had been lovingly bubbled in a steamy sauna to crunchy fresh perfection. It reminded me of my first taste of Nasi Goreng in Kuala Lumpar. There could have been an option of soy sauce in the condiments basket but we settled for a splash of tabasco instead.

Sweet Potato Fries with chipotle mayo - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 10

There was also a small cheeky side dish of Sweet Potato Fries with chipotle mayo (£3.95) which was crunchy soft and definitely moreish.

Banana Waffle Split - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 13 White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Cheesecake - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 14

For pudding I ordered the White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Cheesecake (£5.50) and my friend, the Banana Waffle Split (£5.50). I was a bit confused when ice cream sundae spoons were placed next to a fresh napkin. I couldn’t taste the white chocolate and the unusually chocolatey base was crumbly but not very flavoursome. The passionfruit overpowered everything. More flavour in the cheesecake was needed. Give me a good vanilla cheesecake done well any day. Another fall back from my days in NYC.

My friend’s reaction to the first mouthful of the Banana Split Waffle was ‘Oh that’s good’! With a banana gooey caramel taste, chocolate sauce and caramel. There were different textures in one mouthful alongside the sweet crunchy waffle which maybe, on second taste could have been a little lighter on the batter but apart from that it was a waffly good dessert. Could also be good for breakfast, was a suggestion.

Giraffe Moroccan Mint tea - Giraffe Summer 2016 by Janine Marsh for Kavey Eats - 15

My usual Giraffe Moroccan Mint Tea (£1.95), which was missing its normal sprig of mint in the glass, ended the meal whilst my friend’s chosen ending, a Flat White (£2.55) was too milky but that’s coming from someone whose husband’s antipodean roots invented the drink so she knows her coffee.

In conclusion, I think it’s ambitious to put yourself out there as a World Café. It doesn’t always work when you are selling a wide variety of dishes. I would say stick to simpler dishes that don’t take too long to create stronger flavours. Curries always need a lot of love and attention if they are to have the authentic taste. Make them authentic and bubble them for days, serve dahl in a bowl with a spoon. Be bold! That never to be mentioned again dahl had never even had a curry leaf wafted near it let alone in it.

There are certain world foods that could be created for the mainstream taste like Mexican although Wahaca has changed those flavour combos for me and constantly rocks my world. I will go back to Giraffe for the Prawn Saganaki, Bowl for the Soul (but for breakfast), my usual Mint tea and Halloumi Falafel Burger (a previous favourite) and of course breakfasts (my fave meal of the day) but until next time, I will dream of that Scandi salad. Did I mention that Scandi salad?

Kavey Eats reviewer Janine dined as a guest of Giraffe.