Capsicana | Chilli Cook Sauces

Today’s product review is a guest post by Debbie Burgess.

A high quality product which is easy to use, quick and absolutely delicious, this new range of chilli based cook sauces from Capsicana is suitable for all occasions and certainly good enough to serve to guests.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-IMG_8627-1

There are four sauces in all from the Latin Flavours range. All are suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial colours or flavourings. This is not a powdered mix, paste or a jar of slushy sauce to just pour over meat/fish and serve, but a 100g portion of a thick sauce with intense flavour and plenty to serve 2 persons once prepared. Each are labelled either hot, medium or mild and there is no need to add any additional seasoning. There are recipes on the outside of each pack which are identical and simply require the addition of chicken or fish, an onion and pepper of any colour. Each is easy to prepare with a cooking time of no more than 20 minutes, to be served with rice, tortillas or nachos. Inside each pack there is a different recipe, these are just ideas and you can experiment and just do your own thing! I decided to follow the basic recipe printed on the back for two of the sauces and the recipe on the inside of the packs for the remaining two.

Chilli & Garlic

A Mexican style sauce, hot and full of intense flavour and this one uses Manzano chillies. I followed the basic recipe and intended to use a green pepper however due to a shopping mishap had to substitute that for green beans, I served this dish with rice however I can see it would be equally great with tortillas. There was a satisfying linger to the heat but no unpleasant burn or aftertaste; the garlic is a background flavour and not overpowering; it also contains mustard. There was no need to add anything extra to the dish as the chicken and vegetables were evenly coated, for a more liquid sauce you could add some water if desired.

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Chilli & Coconut

A Brazilian style sauce, hot and pungent with a fruity chilli hit using Frutescens chillies, tomato and a hint of coconut. The pack labels this as medium heat although I found it was hot. I used the recipe on the inside of the pack for this one to make ‘Moqueca’ a Brazilian style stew using King Prawns which I served with rice. This recipe uses the addition of 400ml of water to provide a thinner stew like sauce, personally I prefer thicker sauces and when I make it again (as I surely will!) I will add less water. However the flavour of the sauce was fantastic and the taste was not impaired in any way by the addition of the water.

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Chilli & Honey

A Mexican style sauce, with a medium heat coming from the Ancho Poblano and Chipotle chillies. Although my palate could not detect the specific honey taste, this along with the tomato flavours added to the overall deep richness and colour. I followed the basic recipe on the back of the pack with the addition of 100ml of water to provide a little more sauce to suit my preference and served with rice. If I had to pick a favourite of the four sauces, this would be it!

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Chilli & Lemon

A Peruvian style sauce, which uses Amarillo chillies with a hint of lemon. I followed the recipe from the inside of the pack and used it as a marinade on chicken drumsticks. The pack labels this as a medium heat sauce however I found it to be the mildest of the range, as it was light in both colour and flavour with just a hint of the lemon fruit flavour which accentuated the chicken rather than add a strong flavour.

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Debbie received review samples from Capsicana on behalf of Kavey Eats. Chilli Cook Sauces cost £1.95 each and are available from Capsicana’s online store or specialist food retailer, Sous Chef. Many thanks to Debbie for her guest review.

Bringing Iceland Home | Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs with Crunchy Onions & Remoulade


Icelanders love their hot dogs! Who knew?

Well, anyone who’s spent any time in Iceland, that’s who; recommendations to seek out Icelandic pylsa abound and I’m adding one more to the pile!

An Icelandic pylsa is much like a hot dog anywhere in the world… with a few little touches that make it a little different. Firstly, if you order your hot dog með öllu (with everything) you’ll get crispy fried onions – usually the kind you can buy ready made from the supermarket – and finely diced crunchy raw onions, both spread along the roll underneath the frankfurter. You can skip the raw onions if you must by ordering með öllu nema hráum (with everything except raw) but why would you? On top you’ll get ketchup and mustard, as you might expect, plus another condiment you might not; remúlaði. Remoulade is a mayonnaise-based sauce most commonly served with fish but in Iceland (and Denmark too) it’s become a key hot dog condiment as well.

The most famous hot dog vendor in Iceland is probably Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, sold out of two mobile vans in Reykjavik. Their sausages are made by Sláturfélag Suðurlands, a food-producing cooperative owned by farmers from southern and western regions of Iceland. I’m curious as to why these are named vinarpylsa, which I think translates to ’friend sausages’. Anyone?

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I liked my Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog a lot but personally I was just as happy with the hot dogs I ate elsewhere in Iceland at tourist sites and in petrol station restaurants. My favourite was the bacon-wrapped example from an Olis petrol station’s Grill 66 fast food restaurant.


The remoulade served with hot dogs in Iceland is pale yellow but my recipe (below) is green as I’ve upped the quantity of parsley. I’ve also skipped the mustard since mustard is one of the other condiments to be squirted on anyway. By all means, adjust your remoulade recipe to better match the Icelandic style.

Icelandic Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog

Ingredients per hot dog
1 frankfurter sausage
1 rasher of streaky bacon, smoked or unsmoked
1 hot dog bun
(Optional) 1-2 tablespoons finely diced raw white onion
1-2 tablespoons crispy fried onions
Squirt of ketchup
Squirt of sweet mustard
Squirt of remoulade sauce (see below)

  • Wrap a rasher of streaky bacon around each frankfurter. Fry gently in a pan until the bacon is cooked and has taken on a little colour.
  • Slice the hotdog bun from the top, without cutting all the way through.
  • Open the bun and add a layer of raw onion (if using) and a layer of crispy onion.
  • Top with the bacon-wrapped frankfurter.
  • Add ketchup, sweet mustard and remoulade over the top and serve immediately.
    Tip: I spooned some remoulade into a freezer bag and snipped off a tiny corner, in an attempt to make it easier to pipe, but I still made quite a mess. If you have an empty nozzled squeezy bottle, that would be perfect.

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Icelandic Remoulade Sauce

Makes a small jar, can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

120 ml mayo
2-3 tablespoons flat parsley leaves
2 medium spring onions
2 medium pickled gherkins
1 tablespoon pickled gherkin brine or cider vinegar
Optional: 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Optional: 1 teaspoon mustard

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or a grinder that can handle wet ingredients.
  • Blend until smooth.

Of course, there’s more to Icelandic cuisine than hot dogs. I’ll be sharing more from our trip soon!

Tom Tastes Tabasco Sauce & Marinade Collection

It’s not often I start a new job and discover fellow foodies in my team; more often new colleagues find my interest (they tend to use the term obsession) surprising, beyond their comprehension, even weird. Of course, they tend to come around when the chocolate review samples make it into the office…

TomCoxMiniWhich means it was nice to start my current contract and find that several of my teammates are pretty keen on food too. One told me about cookery classes he’s attended recently. Another discussed her weekend addiction to burgers (though she’s veggie during the week). And one talked animatedly about the forest of chilli plants he’s nurturing and the various cookery books which are most popular in his house at the moment.

It didn’t take long for me to invite Tom Cox to write content for Kavey Eats. He’s not only keen on eating out and cooking at home, he also loves reviewing stuff and writing about it!

Over to Tom for his feedback on Tabasco’s Sauces & Marinade collection.


Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon (Mild) 3.5*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces, Scotch and Bourbon Whiskies

This had a nice smoky flavour, quite like a smoky barbeque sauce with just a hint of spice and a relish-like hit. Perfect on burgers or ribs (as the back of the bottle suggests and very rightly so). It is however quite sweet (although it has nothing on chipotle and cola) and I can’t really detect any sign of a Bourbon-y taste, more like smoky, ever-so-slightly spicy barbeque. We tried to use this as a marinade for some chicken we were doing on the barbeque but unlike the back of the bottle says, this isn’t suitable for use as a marinade on its own and may need mixing with some oil to avoid it sticking and stripping all the skin and sauce off.

Sweet Chipotle and Cola (Mild) 1.5*

A sweet sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces and cola flavoured soft drink

We had really high expectations for this one, me being a fan of all the weird and wonderful things I can possibly find to eat (this is pretty tame but appealed). However, this was our least favourite. The problem was it was far too sweet and I swear even had a very mild foamy banana taste (the ones you get from the pick and mix, not a banana that had the misfortune of catching fruit rabies). It did however have a nice mild warmth and I’m sure if you like mildly spicy and very sweet then this would do it for you.

Peppery Deep South Creole (Medium) 4*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauce

A nice mild heat and this is the one you definitely want at your barbeque. A nice blend of ketchup-like sweetness and tomato-tartness with a lovely medium heat and sweet peppery flavours. This would be absolutely perfect on your burger or an addition to a chilli for a chilli dog. A really great take on a barbeque classic.

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Fruity and Fiery Hot Habanero (Hot) 4*

This was the most interesting; the first 2 seemed like jumped up ketchup/ barbeque sauce (don’t get me wrong I’m all for making those two things a little more exciting) but this one was a little different. It had a nice manageable heat for people that like heat and had a really exotic flavour – like a fruity, spicy Indian piccalilli but a little less tart (owing to the mango and papaya I would guess). Again I would agree with the back of the bottle on this one – it would be nice in a stir fry as the main event but I feel it might be a bit out of place at your summer barbeque.


Overall I like that Tabasco are trying new things other than a scorching sauce that is useful only for supposedly encouraging growth of so far virtually non-existent hairs on my chest (I like to think of it more as highly evolved). They’ve managed to put a new, more flavoursome and spicy spin on some otherwise quite dull table condiments and hopefully we’ll see a lot more new and exciting innovation from this capsaicin crazed company.


Kavey Eats received sample products from Tabasco.

Opies: A Family Business, A Colourful Salad & A Competition

I’ve been aware of the Opies brand for several years, having bought and really enjoyed a number of their preserved fruit products during that period. What I didn’t know was that this family-run business has been going since 1880, making it one of the oldest private family-owned food companies in the UK.

Company OutingsOpies Workers

In 1880, young Cornishman Bennett Opie set off to make his fortune in London with just a few pounds in his pocket. He started out by selling eggs and bacon, and gradually expanded his business, with the help of his two brothers. In 1912 he was joined by his son William, at which time he founded Bennett Opie Limited. When supplies of fresh eggs were limited during the first world war, William recognised the opportunity to manufacture and supply liquid eggs to the bakery trade. Later, he decided to diversify into preserving cherries, keen to provide a less expensive alternative to popular but pricy French brands. At that point, in 1929, the company relocated to Sittingbourne, Kent – the heart of Kent’s cherry-growing region. The site is close to natural springs; the water from which is still used by Opies today. This move marked the start of Opie’s growing range in preserves and pickles. William’s sons Tony and Derek continued to build the business through the second world war and their efforts were rewarded with a Royal Warrant in 1962 (though Opies doesn’t hold one currently).

Today, Opies is run by Bennett’s great grandsons, Philip and William, who divide the company’s focus between their traditional products, such as pickled walnuts and cocktail cherries, and creating new products in line with modern trends. I’ve been assured that the next eager generation of Opies is waiting in the wings!

Learning more about Opies, I’m particularly happy to learn about their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. As well as recycling all water used in their production cooling processes, 90% of their packaging is recyclable and they recycle cardboard and other materials used in the manufacturing process. Their delivery vehicles are selected with a view to minimising emissions and they always maximise loads to reduce unnecessary journeys. They also focus strongly on sourcing ingredients locally.

Indeed, when I asked whether traditional recipes for their longer-standing products had changed over the years, they explained that they strive to keep flavours and textures traditional, but have tweaked recipes over the years as more natural (and local) alternatives to original ingredients become available. Of course, they run regular quality and tasting checks on all the lines they produce.

Inspiration for new product lines comes from global travel, food exhibitions and suggestions by their trusted suppliers. It can be a challenge launching new products – obtaining listings and shelf space is tough and it’s always hard to predict exactly what consumers will love; a new recipe for spiced pears in vinegar didn’t catch on and supermarkets just didn’t get the idea of a ginger spread with 60% ginger.

However, there’s plenty of love for both their traditional and new product ranges and I have been enjoying working my way through a selection of alcohol-preserved fruit, pickled quail eggs, fruit compotes, cocktail cherries and gherkins, a variety of pickled vegetables and relishes and their recently launched hickory barbeque sauce, which is naturally smoked in a traditional smokehouse. That gives a far lovelier flavour than the artificial smoke flavourings used by some brands.

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Loosely inspired by Ben Spalding’s 30 Ingredient Salad, I decided to create my own “cacophony of colours, textures and tastes” (as I described it) using some of my Opies samples and some additional salad ingredients from the supermarket.


I used Opies Rhubarb & Redcurrant Compote, Opies Pickled Baby Beetroot, Comte cheese, Opies Pickled Quails Eggs, Salami, English Honey, Opies English Cucumber Relish, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, an Cox’ Orange Pippin apple and Greek basil leaves.


The ingredients were the kind of selection we might enjoy for a cold lunch, the sort of buffet you might set up as a coffee table picnic on a sunny afternoon. The only difference here was in presenting all the elements together as a single pretty plate. I was delighted with the result, even though it wasn’t a patch on Spalding’s incredible feast for the senses!



Opies is generously offering the same selection they sent me (above) to one Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.



You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your suggestions for an incredible salad featuring one or more Opies products.

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

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kaveyfollow on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win delicious @BennettOpie treats from Kavey Eats! #KaveyEatsOpies
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)



  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 15th November 2013.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The 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.
  • The prize is a set of Opies products, as shown above, with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Bennett Opie Limited.
  • If one or more of the items is out of stock, Bennett Opie Limited reserve the right to substitute a similar item from their range, of same or higher value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.


Kavey Eats received a sample set of products from Bennett Opie Limited.

Picanha (Rump Cap) Steaks with Port & Stilton Cream Sauce


Ask an Argentinian or Brazilian to recommend their favourite cut of beef and there’s a good chance they’ll choose picanha. Most commonly it’s barbequed or grilled, and is a core churrascaria menu item. With it’s thick layer of fat comes lots of flavour, and it’s tender too.

Yet this prized South American cut is one we haven’t really cottoned on to in the UK. We call it the rump cap but it’s seldom offered as a distinct cut; more often the rump is simply sold whole. It’s not completely unheard of in Europe though – in the region that once formed the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the rump cap is boiled in broth and served with horseradish, a traditional dish called Tafelspitz.

When invited to review some samples by Farmison, I asked for some picanha steaks to be included in the mix.


Farmison was set up by two restaurateurs, John Pallagi and Lee Simmonds, who wanted to make quality British produce from small specialist suppliers more readily available to the regular consumer. For customers, it means being able to select items from a range of suppliers and have them delivered in a single parcel. I really like being able to shop in the online store, browsing and selecting by meat and then cut; then on each product page, the individual farmers are clearly listed (alongside information on breed and maturation), allowing me to choose which farmer’s produce I buy.

My picanha steaks were from Highland breed cattle, produced by Snowdrop Villa Farm in Cumbria.

Although I initially considered roasting, I really wasn’t confident on timings, so I decided to fry them, the same as I usually do with steak. Alongside, we enjoyed roast potatoes, baby spinach and a port and stilton cream sauce.


Picanha Steaks

Serves 2

2 x 250 gram picanha steaks
Vegetable oil, for cooking
Salt, to season

Note: If you can’t get picanha, substitute rump, or whichever cut you like.


  • Put a heavy-bottomed pan on the hob to heat.
  • Pour a little vegetable oil into your hands and rub all over the steaks, making sure they are nicely oiled all over.
  • When the pan is really hot, sprinkle a little salt over the steaks and put them straight into the pan, fat side down.
  • Don’t move the steaks around, just leave them where they are.
  • Because of the thick layer of fat, the oil will probably spit so pop a lid on if need be, but offset it on the pan so that the steam can still escape.
  • Once the steaks are well cooked on the first side, turn them over and again, avoid the temptation to move them around.


  • Giving exact timings is difficult, as it depends on the thickness of your steaks, the exact temperature of your pan and even the cut of beef itself. Ours had several minutes on the first side and about half that on the second side, for medium rare. I always wing it, using the finger test and feeling the meat to gauge when it’s ready. It always works for me.
  • When cooked, set the steaks aside to rest for about 10 minutes, during which time, make your sauce.


Port & Stilton Cream Sauce

Serves 2

Approximately 75 ml port
Approximately 100 grams Stilton, diced or crumbled
Approximately 150 ml double cream

Note: You can substitute any blue cheese of your choice.


  • Pour any excess oil out of the pan but don’t clean.
  • Pour the port into the hot pan and quickly stir to incorporate the caramelised, meaty juices. Cook on high heat for 30 seconds to a minute, stirring constantly, until the port has reduced and become a little syrupy.


  • Reduce the heat and stir in the double cream.
  • Once the cream has warmed through, add the blue cheese and continue to stir until the cheese has completely melted into the sauce.


  • Once the steaks have rested, serve with your choice of vegetables and the delicious port and stilton cream sauce.

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So, how were the steaks? Absolutely delicious, the tastiest we’ve had for a while. I’d thoroughly recommend them and at approximately £11 for 2 (current price, prices may change), they’re a lovely treat.

Here’s a little snapshot from my phone camera giving a glimpse of the inside.



Another recipe I made with some of my Farmison delivery was this delicious butter, sage and lemon roast chicken.

With thanks to Farmison for the selection of samples.

African Volcano Peri Peri Sauce & Marinade

I am a chilli wuss. For someone of Indian descent, this can be quite embarrassing. People are constantly surprised by my inability to tolerate chilli heat and even my mum has to tone down the heat a little when cooking for me. And North Indian cuisine isn’t that hot to begin with!

It’s not that I don’t like chillies at all – the wide variety of flavours can be wonderful. But anything too hot burns my taste buds and lips so badly that not only am I in genuine pain but I’m also quite unable to taste any of the other flavours of the dish in question.

So I’ve been left pretty cold by the current craze for extremely hot sauces.

I do use chillies in my own cooking, where I can carefully control the heat levels, and have enjoyed experimenting with dried Mexican dried chillies.

But ready-made hot sauces? I’ve steered clear of those!

I met Grant Hawthorne, highly talented and experienced master chef, when he lead the enormous brigade of chefs for the Kai We Care charity dinner last year. Grant hails from Cape Town but has been living and working in the UK for 12 years. He’s one of those people you can’t help but warm to – hugely knowledgeable and talented yet quiet, thoughtful and unassuming in mannerism, with a genuine warmth and concern for others that is heart warming.

Grant has recently developed and launched a brand new product, his African Volcano Peri Peri sauces and marinades.


Peri Peri (also known as piri piri and pili pili) is a marinade and seasoning sauce of Portuguese origin and is particularly popular in parts of Southern Africa (presumably as a result of the culinary diaspora that occurred during the centuries of European empires). It’s usually made from chillies, onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a mix of spices and herbs.

Grant’s version uses a variety of chillies including Scotch Bonnet and Dorset Naga. All are sourced from Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire. The good news for me is that Grant, like me, is not a fan of extreme chilli heat. So he’s developed his peri peri products to give flavour first, which lingers pleasantly in the mouth, and then a gentle heat that warms rather than burns the mouth.

Since South African chain Nando’s opened in the UK, in the mid ’90s, peri peri chicken has become far better known here than it used to be. What you may not know is that Nando’s originated within the Mozambiquan Portuguese community in South Africa, as Mozambique was part of Portugal’s East African empire.

Grant originally learned how to make a great peri peri from a Mozambique-born woman who fled the revolution in Mozambique and settled in Cape Town. Since then, he’s modified the recipe gradually over the years, resulting in today’s African Volcano.

The sauce (which is a cooked version of the marinade) we use on its own straight out of the bottle and, as long as I don’t dip too generously, the level of heat is just within my comfort zone. Good with nachos or home made chips.

The marinade does just what a good marinade should do – imbues the meat with wonderful, deeply delicious flavours.

Note: don’t worry if the oil separates from the rest of the ingredients a little during storage. This is a natural product and a vigorous shake will emulsify the oil back into the rest of the sauce very quickly.

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Breast fillets in neat African Volcano marinade; boned chicken thighs in full fat crème fraiche and African Volcano marinade

As Pete can tolerate more heat than I, we use the African Volcano marinade neat on his preferred chicken breast fillets. For me, I mix it with either full fat natural yoghurt or crème fraiche and liberally coat my preferred chicken thighs.

Both are either grilled or baked in a hot oven.

This time, I doubled up portions, so we could enjoy the rest with a salad the next day.

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You could grill or barbeque the meat, but so far, we’ve baked it in the oven, which has worked very well. The meat remains incredibly moist (even the breast fillet, which is a dryer cut) and the flavours are just wonderful.

Please don’t think I’m recommending African Volcano to you because Grant has become a personal friend over the last year. He has, but, as he and other friends know very well, I’m always honest about what I like and don’t like, and that’s probably even more so when it comes to products and services offered by friends and family rather than by strangers.

If I didn’t genuinely love African Volcano Peri Peri, I would not be suggesting you buy some for yourself. And in case it’s not clear, I am!

And if that weren’t reason enough already, Grant is donating 30 pence from every bottle sold to support the work of Habitat for Humanity, a South African charity that encourages those with money and skills to work alongside members of South Africa’s poorest communities, providing capital and co-workers in building affordable housing.

To buy your own African Volcano Peri Peri, either visit Grant at his stall in Maltby Street Market on Saturdays, or purchase from one of his retail stockists. You can also drop him an email via his website, to organise mail order.

Learning to Cook Japanese + Hashi Cooking’s Recipe for Beef Tataki & Creamy Sesame Sauce

I first learned of Reiko Hashimoto-Lambert’s Japanese cookery lessons, held in the spacious kitchen of her Wimbledon Park home, by way of Luiz, the London Foodie’s blog post last year. Luiz has attended most of Reiko’s Hashi Cooking classes during the last 3 years and often puts what he’s learned to good practice, much to the delight of lucky dinner guests.


I, on the other hand, have always felt quite nervous about attempting Japanese cooking at home and have no experience of it whatsoever. So I was absolutely delighted when Luiz invited me to attend a special blogger session he and Reiko put together to show us what Hashi Cooking is all about. Yes, please, count in me for that!

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Tamarind & Thyme, Gourmet Chick, Greedy Diva, Gastrogeek, The Wine Sleuth and myself duly arrived to a warm welcome from Reiko and Luiz, who was playing the part of Reiko’s class assistant for the evening.


Usually, Reiko offers four different evening courses, each of which run across four sessions – these are Beginners, Home Cooking, Gourmet and Master Chef. In each course, students are taken through four dishes (plus countless techniques and tips) during each of the four sessions. At the end of each session, students enjoy the dishes prepared and Reiko also provides tips on presentation and traditional table manners. Also available are her single session Saturday Sushi & Sashimi classes.


For our special blogger session, Reiko took two dishes from her beginners course and two from the gourmet to give us a great overview of her wide repertoire, a range of ingredients, lots of different techniques and a great insight into her relaxed but meticulous teaching style.

The four dishes we learned during the evening were beef tataki with creamy sesame sauce, gyoza dumplings, grilled scallops on sushi rice with creamy spicy sauce and cold soba noodles with spicy aubergine.

On arrival, our places were set with folders containing all four recipes as well as a handy glossary and a suppliers list of stores where we could find the more esoteric ingredients. I appreciated having these in advance so I could scribble extra tips and notes onto the pages throughout the evening.

In order not to waste precious teaching time, Reiko prepares all the basic ingredients in advance. This means the entire session can be devoted to the interesting stuff allowing us to cover four dishes without feeling rushed in the slightest.

As some dishes needed resting, marinating or cooling time, we switched between the dishes during the evening, but each of the recipes remained really clear and straightforward.

The class provided a mix of demonstration (for which we all had a great view – the advantage of small class sizes around a large central island) and hands-on so we could properly get to grips with the tricky knack of correctly folding gyoza. I made a few I was proud of but some of mine looked rather ungainly next to those made by the nimblest fingers!

Anytime any of us had a question, Reiko took time to answer it fully and all the extra information and tips she crammed in made this single session very rich in terms of what we learned.

It was also a pleasure to learn about Reiko’s background as an air stewardess, during which time she really learned about good food, travelling the world and eating out wherever she went and also preparing high quality food during her time in the first class cabin. From this start, it was a natural progression for Reiko to share her passion with food and she began teaching Japanese cooking to the foreign community in Tokyo before moving to the UK, where she has been teaching for over ten years.

What’s next for Reiko? A project I’m rather excited about as I can’t wait to read it; Reiko is working on a cookery book featuring many of her tried, tested and much-loved recipes which should be coming out next year.

Find out more about the classes at Hashi Cooking’s website or call Reiko on 020 8944 1918. The Saturday sushi and sashimi class costs £120. The evening classes cost from £240 to £280 for four sessions.

The first dish we learned – seared fillet of beef served on a bed of onion and radish with a creamy sesame sauce and deep fried garlic chips – was definitely my favourite of the evening though I really enjoyed all four. It’s the first one I’ll be trying at home!

Reiko’s Beef Tataki with Creamy Sesame Sauce

400 gram beef fillet
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
¼ daikon (mooli radish), very thinly sliced

For garlic chips:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

For the sesame sauce:
4 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon water (optional, depending on thickness of tahini paste)

Note: Beef fillet is usually quite thick, so Reiko usually cuts it into quarters along it’s length.


  • First make the garlic chips. Heat oil in a small frying pan, add the thinly sliced garlic and fry gently over a low heat, for about 5-6 minutes. Once the garlic begins to colour, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Be careful not to cook until golden as they will continue to cook after draining.
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  • Soak the thinly sliced onion and radish in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Then rinse well and squeeze the water out completely.
  • Heat a frying pan until hot. Brush the beef with the oil (use your hands!) and cook in the hot pan until browned all over. It is important to seal the beef all over, including the ends, first and then continue cooking to desired level.

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  • Once the beef is cooked to the level you wish, remove from the pan and marinade in a mixture of soy sauce and mirin, which will be re-used for the sesame sauce later. Make sure all the juices from the pan go into the soy sauce mixture as well.
  • Set the beef aside for at least 30 minutes. This makes it easier to slice and also allows it to absorb flavours from the sauce.
  • To make the sesame sauce, remove the beef from the soy and mirin sauce (and set aside). Add the tahini paste, sugar and water and mix well. (Reiko warned us that the sauce may split initially but if you keep mixing, it will re-combine into a smooth creamy sauce).


  • Slice the beef (about 5mm thick).
  • Plate the dish with mounds of onion and radish, a slice of beef, a generous spoon of the sesame sauce and a sprinkle of the garlic chips.

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Here are some pictures from the other 3 dishes we learned:

Gyoza Dumplings

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Grilled Scallops on Sushi Rice with Creamy Spicy Sauce

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Cold Soba Noodles with Spicy Aubergine

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Cuisinier Gascon: Braised Ox Cheek Bordelaise

I’ve been desperate to cook some of the delectably tempting recipes in Cuisinier Gascon by Pascal Aussignac since I got my mitts on it just before leaving for the Falklands.

It’s a really, really beautiful book, full of mouth-watering recipes and beautiful images, not just of some of the dishes but also of life in Gascony. And I find it’s pretty (hard back) cover and thick pages very appealing. Inside, as well as recipes, it gives some helpful advice about some of the ingredients used – buying and preparing foie gras, for instance and the different classifications of Armagnac. There are sweet little passages about traditional life, farming and cooking in the region at the start of each chapter. And I like how the recipes are divided – we have la route de sel which Aussignac translates as “snackings”. Then a chapter about cooking with produce from le potager (the kitchen garden), followed by one on rivière et océan. After these come prés et pâturages (fields and pastures, which are the landscapes Aussignac associates with duck, geese, game plus pork, lamb, beef and veal) and forêt et prairie (forest and meadow, which represents mushrooms, truffles, eggs, snails and cheese). Finally, there is a chapter called gourmandises full of wonderful sweet treats.

As usual, as soon as I sat and looked through the book, I started depositing liberal numbers of my sticky note bookmarks, identifying the recipes that grabbed me the most.

I quickly got it into my head that I wanted to start with the Braised Ox Cheeks Bordelaise recipe and once I’m set on something I really put on my tête de mule!

But it took a little time to settle back in from our holiday, especially as our first focus was on some urgent DIY so that our new fitted bedroom could be installed just a few days after our return. After that, however, it was time to turn to the ox cheeks!

Note: I’m not really sure why cheeks and tails are still referred to with the ox- prefix rather than simply beef, but rest assured, ox cheeks = beef cheeks!

Finding ox cheeks isn’t that easy. Whilst pig cheeks have recently made it into a few supermarkets, ox cheeks seem harder to find. I’ve often lamented the lack of a decent local butcher here in North Finchley, and this search of mine drove that home to me once again.

I do have a most wonderful online source for good British meat now, but my freezer was too full to fit in a minimum order from Paganum this time, so I turned to a new twitter friend who makes weekly visits to Smithfields and Billingsgate to pick up choice meat and fish for trade customers.

Before too long, I finally had 2 kilos of meaty ox cheeks in my mitts. I used half to make this recipe, which serves 4.

I made my beef stock night before, roasting some beef bones before popping them in the slow cooker overnight with a couple of bay leaves, a small onion, a carrot (both halved) and water. The stock was strained and reduced in the morning, resulting in a wonderfully deep beef flavour.

Braised Ox Cheek Bordelaise
800 grams ox cheeks (I used 1 kilo)
a little olive oil
2 tablespoons plain flour
100 grams sugar
1 x 75cl bottle red wine
500 ml fresh beef stock
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper (I used table salt)
500 grams shallots, sliced lengthways (I used round shallows cut in half)
4 marrow bones (optional), soaked in cold water for 2-3 hours (I used 2)


  • In a saucepan (large enough to hold the cheeks, stock and wine), fry the ox cheeks in the oil until nicely caramelised and brown.


  • Mix in the flour and sugar.
  • Pour in the red wine and beef stock. Though the recipe doesn’t specify, I chose a Bordeaux, as I felt it fitting to use a wine from the region!
  • Add the herbs, one of the garlic cloves and some seasoning.
  • Bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for about 4 hours, until the meat is tender.
  • Once the meat is tender, strain a ladle of the cooking liquid into another saucepan and cook the shallots and remaining garlic until the shallots are soft and the liquid has reduced to a syrupy glaze.
  • Drain and steam the marrowbones, leave to cool before scooping out the marrow. Chop and set aside.
  • To serve, slice the ox cheeks, and serve with shallot glaze and the chopped marrow scattered on top.

We didn’t make too much effort with presentation as, having got back late from lunch out, it wasn’t ready until about 9pm and, having smelled the tantalising cooking aromas all afternoon, we were ravenous. So the various elements went onto the plate in somewhat haphazard distribution!

On the same page, the book provides a recipe for parsnip and white chocolate puree, to serve with the cheeks, but as that didn’t appeal, we didn’t make it.

The ox cheeks were incredibly tender and moist, absolutely gorgeous, though quite subtle in flavour. The shallots and glaze were superb.

The recipe leaves you with a lot of leftover cooking liquid . As we’d cooked enough for 2 meals, we kept the liquid in a second box in the fridge, with half the meat and the shallots in a first box. The next night, as well as re-heating the meat and shallots, we reduced lots more of the cooking liquid to make a beautifully unctuous, very richly flavoured sauce. This gave the meat an added punch of flavour, alongside the shallots, and next time I make this, I shall definitely do the same as it really lifted the dish another level.

On visiting a friend a couple of months ago, we were treated to a dessert of camembert with spiced tarte tatin apples, also from the book. Utterly delicious and I think it would be a lovely dessert after the ox cheeks.

Cuisinier Gascon is usually £25 but is currently available on Amazon (at time of posting) for just £14.90.

My thanks to Absolute Press for the review copy.

This was my first time cooking with ox cheeks and I am already thinking about recipes for the kilo left in the freezer.

Do you have any great ox cheek recipes?

Please do share them with me in the comments below or provide a link if they are available online. Thank you so much!

Michel Roux’s Sauces

I love a good sauce. Even the most beautiful, flavoursome, delicious meat can be lifted by a good sauce. So I’ve been keen to get my hands on Michel Roux’s Sauces.

Michelin-starred Roux first wrote his compendium of savoury and sweet sauce recipes back in 1996. Quadrille have now published a new and revised edition of his comprehensive collection in which many recipes have been updated for today’s lighter, healthier tastes. Roux has also added 20 new recipes, not to mention many new photographs.

With two fabulous Paganum rib eye steaks in our possession, we opted to make the sauce suprême with sherry and mushrooms. Like many of the recipes in the book, this is based on another recipe, so we first made up the velouté sauce. (This in turn refers to Roux’s recipes for chicken stock or vegetable stock, also in the book, but instead we used some chicken stock we’d made and frozen a few weeks earlier.)

I say “we” opted to make… Actually, Pete was the chef, I just hovered around the kitchen, taking photos and making a nuisance of myself! (I did, at least, sort out the potatoes!)

The steps were easy to follow:

  • For the velouté, first make a roux before adding chicken stock and cooking for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • For the sauce suprême, take your velouté, add cream and mushrooms, simmer for 10 minutes. If you’re following the recipe, strain to remove the mushrooms before whisking in some butter and finally adding in some dry sherry. Voilà!

As Pete was making the sauce, I cooked the steaks.

Our only mishap with the sauce is that Pete got it to an absolutely perfect, creamy consistency before adding the sherry. We hadn’t realised how much the sherry would thin the sauce, so our final sauce was thinner than we intended. We’ll remember next time to ensure that the sauce is a little thicker than we’d like it to be before adding the alcohol.

We also decided to leave the mushrooms in, rather than strain and discard as per the recipe.

The sauce was absolutely delicious. Really, really, really tasty!

Much of it’s flavour comes from the stock so I would strongly recommend making your own or buying a top quality fresh one rather than using a concentrate or cube. We make our chicken stock in a slow cooker, overnight, using the carcass from a roast chicken, the giblets (minus liver which I’ll have enjoyed as a pre-dinner snack), onions or leeks, depending on what’s in the fridge, carrots, a bay leaf or two and water to cover. In the morning, it’s ready!

There are several more recipes that we want to try from the book so I’ll be sure to blog those too.

Many thanks to Quadrille for the review copy.

The list price for Sauces: Savoury and Sweet is £14.99 but it’s currently available from Amazon at just £8.97, an absolute bargain!

Off The Cuff Port, Shropshire Blue and Cream Sauce

Just thought I’d share a very simple steak sauce I made on Saturday night … I made it up as I went but it came out very well.

I used a flat-bottomed and heavy-based cast aluminium pan that I allowed to get really hot before cooking the rump steaks (oiled the meat not the pan) to medium-rare (which was pure guess work but spot on).

The steaks were then put aside in covered dish to rest.

Turned the heat down to low.

With the pan still hot from the higher heat I’d been using for the steaks, I sloshed in a generous glug of sweet red port which bubbled fiercely and immediately reduced. Within 30 seconds I had a thick, sticky reduction.

To that I added a very generous glug of double cream and stirred the two together to create a beautiful pink sauce.

Into that I threw a generous handful of crumbled Shropshire Blue (had been thinking of Stilton when deciding what to eat a few hours earlier but remembered I had a chunk of this that I bought back from Wales with me). Stirred until the cheese melted in.

Pete was, in the meantime, making a creamy mash (with home-grown potatoes) which he served onto the plate along with the steaks. I mixed the juices that had come out of the meat during resting into the sauce before serving.

It was GORGEOUS! Far better than I expected having so completely made it up! And we’ve not had steaks come out so well before either!