I love home-made ketchup, and it’s even more satisfying making it from home-grown tomatoes.

In the past, I’ve made several batches with red tomatoes and a couple of batches with green ones but this is the first batch I’ve made with beautiful orange sungold tomatoes, a variety we’ve been growing for the last few years. Sungold is a cherry tomato variety and naturally super sweet, so a lot of the harvest doesn’t even make it indoors, or last long if it does. But our plants are giving us plenty this year, both those in the greenhouse and the ones outside. I was keen to see if I could preserve the vibrant colour in a ketchup to enjoy once the growing season is over.

SungoldTomatoKetchup- SungoldTomatoKetchup-2

I used my maternal grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup recipe – the same one I’ve used before. I had 940 grams of tomatoes, so I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to spices as well.

 

Spicy Sungold Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients
1 kg ripe sungold tomatoes
Half a small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Whole spices in fabric bag *
5-6 cloves
2 black cardamoms, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon whole black peppers, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
Ground Spices
Half teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
40 grams sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

* Instead of wrapping my whole spices in muslin tied with string, I use fill-your-own teabags for speed. These are easy to fish back out of the pot and throw away once used.

Method

  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in the oven, leaving them in until I’m ready to fill them.
  • If you like, you can cut the tomatoes in half, or just slash each one, which makes it easier for them to break down more quickly, but as the sungolds are small, I put them in the pan whole and squish occasionally with a wooden spoon as they cooked.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken half an hour. This time, I found the liquid was reasonably thick after 5 minutes boiling.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and bottles are still hot.
  • Seal immediately.
  • Once cooled, you can label and store in a dark cupboard.

Please note: As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and found it fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

 

How have you been preserving your garden or allotment harvests? I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas for tomatoes, apples and potatoes in particular!

 

Flavoured salts, also known as finishing salts, are a great way of adding flavour during cooking and, of course, when finishing a dish.

Whilst it’s true that salt is salt, most commercially sold salt contains about 2% of something else and that 2% is enough to make a huge difference to flavour (not to mention texture). Table salt contains anti-caking agents, and may also contain iodide, and whilst these aren’t really detectable (to me) when it’s used in cooking, they certainly can be when salt is used to finish a dish. Even for reasons of texture alone, it’s nicer to sprinkle some crystallised salt over freshly sliced tomatoes than table salt.

Some natural salts contain traces of the earth from which they were mined, which can give earthy mineral flavours as well as affect their texture. Likewise, sea salt often retains other elements that were dissolved in the water.

It’s also becoming increasingly popular to mix in additional flavourings such as herbs, citrus peel, mushrooms, chilli and other spices. Smoked salt is also widely available.

Steenbergs Organic is a North Yorkshire-based family-run business committed to “providing organic spices and organic cooking ingredients packed with flavour, aroma and provenance”.

SteenbergsSalts-1226

Steenbergs sell a range of salts including (naturally occuring) coloured salts, sea salts and finishing salts and salt blends.

They sent me a selection of their range to try and are also offering these same seven salts (pictured above) as a prize to a Kavey Eats reader.

SteenbergsSalts-1233

So far I’ve tried the Happy Hippy Flower Salt, which looks beautiful sprinkled over a plate of fresh, sliced tomatoes. It also gives a lovely crunch and a delightful floral flavour.

SteenbergsSalts-1229

The Smoked Sea Salt is gorgeous for anything you think would benefit from a hint of smoke. I like it sprinkled over courgettes grilled on the barbecue or onto a tasty steak after it’s cooked and rested.

SteenbergChicken-1477 SteenbergChicken-1481

The Salt & Herbs For Poultry brought our most recent roast chicken dinner to life. The mix is 83% salt with the balance made up of black pepper, chives, parsley and tarragon; a quick and delicious way to add a touch of flavour.

 

Of course, you can make your own salt blends, as many food bloggers have shown, and they also give great ideas for how to use such finishing salts in your kitchen.

Here are a selection of tips that particularly appeal to me:

  • Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums suggests sprinkling on chips and steamed vegetables, and incorporating in spreads, dips, sauces and dressings.
  • Jaden from Steamy Kitchen likes using colourful finishing salt not only on the food but also on the plate, where it’s shown off beautifully against white crockery.
  • Shaheen from Purple Foodie reckons they can be used to spruce up just about anything – soups, sandwiches, vegetables, seafood, side dishes, grilled meats and chips!
  • She Knows recommend using flavoured salts to season and finish grilled vegetables and meat.
  • Heidi from 101 Cookbooks agrees that flavoured salts are super on heirloom tomatoes. She also suggests using a citrus salt on home made sea salt caramels.
  • Lacey from Thyme On My Side likes to use flavoured salts to rim cocktail glasses. She also sprinkles her rosemary salt on fruit such as watermelon and on homemade chocolate truffles.
  • Ann from Eat Simply Eat Well uses her flavoured salts mixed with olive oil to flavour popcorn and also suggests using them in place of regular salt in chocolate chip cookies.
  • Debi from Life Currents sprinkles chilli salt over corn on the cob or over avocados for a simple and quick guacamole. She also likes it on fruit and sprinkled on eggs for breakfast.
  • Sue from The View From Great Island thinks finishing salts would be great on homemade focaccia bread. She also points out that using salt at the end means you may need less as you’ll taste it more directly.

 

COMPETITION

Steenbergs Organic is offering a set of seven salts to one Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite idea for using one of the Steenbergs Organic salts.

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

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a set of beautiful @Steenbergs Organics salts from Kavey
Eats! http://goo.gl/P65WHE #KaveyEatsSteenbergs
(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!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 4th October 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 seven Steenbergs Organic salts, 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 Steenbergs Organics.
  • If one or more of the salts is out of stock, Steenbergs reserve the right to substitute another salt 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 salts from Steenbergs Organic.

 

Quite a few recipes call for tying up flavouring ingredients such as herbs and whole spices inside muslin to add to the pot during cooking; this makes them easier to fish out once the flavours have infused, ensuring no one bites down on a clove, cardamom pod or piece of cinnamon stick when the dish is served.

teabagspice (1 of 1)

For years, I’ve been using a shortcut – instead of faffing about with muslin and string, I just pop my spices and herbs into little single-use pouches intended as home-made teabags.

I first found these in a Chinese grocery store but they are readily available from many suppliers, in a variety of different designs. Of course, I also use them to make handy teabags from my favourite loose leaf teas for taking in to work or when travelling.

The ones I usually buy are most like these pouches, with a lip that folds back over to seal them, much like a pillow case.

cropped-diyteabag1 cropped-diyteabag3
1, 2

1)  Tea Bag Filters 2) Tea Pockets

There are also several in this drawstring style:

cropped-diyteabag2 cropped-diyteabag4
cropped-diyteabag5
3, 4, 5

3) DIY Teabags 4) Tea Pockets 5) Fill Your Own Tea Bags

 

The ones I’ve shared above are all for sale on Amazon, either sold directly by Amazon or from one of the many other sellers with online shops there. I recommend checking delivery charges when comparing prices, as they vary wildly between products.

 

It was a bit of a Ready Steady Cook challenge. My ingredients consisted of a large sweet potato, a white onion and a bag of baby spinach plus tinned tomatoes and a can of coconut milk from my store cupboard and a wide selection of spices on the shelf. I also wanted to try the tubes of chilli, ginger and garlic I was sent by Just Add.

SweetPotatoCurry-0935

A sweet potato and spinach curry seemed to be the answer but as you can see from the photo below, I completely forgot to stir in the spinach! I only remembered when I saw the bag of spinach sitting forlornly on the worktop after dinner. Oops!

 

Sweet Potato (& Spinach) Curry

Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large, 4 small)
250 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
400 ml coconut milk
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated (or
3 cloves garlic (or 1 tablespoon fresh garlic puree)
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (or teaspoon chilli puree)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/5 teaspoons good quality garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to season
Optional: large bunch of spinach (baby leaves or larger, chopped)

Note: Cheaper brands of garam masala tend to bulk out more expensive spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with cheaper ones such as cumin and coriander. It’s easy to make your own garam masala – here’s my mum’s recipe.

Method

  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan and fry onion until soft.
  • Add ginger, garlic, chilli and spices and cook for another minute, stirring continuously so spices don’t catch.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk and mix well.
  • Once thoroughly combined, add the diced sweet potato and cook on a medium heat until the potato is cooked through; test with a skewer or fork after about 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from the heat, add the spinach and stir in until wilted.
  • Serve over basmati rice.

SweetPotatoCurry-0937

The curry was tasty – I really enjoyed the combination of sweet potatoes and Indian spices.

Because the Just Add purees only last 21 days, they’re not a product I’d buy as I don’t use ginger, garlic or chilli often enough to get through a tube before it spoils. That said, the quality and convenience were good.

 

Kavey Eats was sent sample products from Just Add.

 

Like quite a few dishes in Japan, katsu originated elsewhere in the world but, as with many so-called yōshoku (Western) foods, the Japanese made it their own. Based on a European breaded cutlet, it was originally called katsuretsu (a phonetic representation of “cutlet”) but was quickly shorted to katsu. Pork (ton)katsu is the most popular but chicken is also widely enjoyed.

Likewise, another yōshoku dish is curry rice, known in Japanese as karē raisu. This type of curry didn’t come to Japan from India (though Indian style curries can certainly be found in Japan) but from Britain, courtesy of the Royal Navy and is similar to anglicised versions of curry that were popular in Britain a few decades ago.

Indeed, when I started investigating recipes for the curry sauce, thinking to create my own spice mix from scratch, I quickly discovered that the Japanese rely on pre-purchased mixes. Restaurants buy this in powdered form, combining it with tomato, coconut milk and a few other ingredients. Home cooks often opt for the ready made blocks or granules which they simply cook with water, adding carrots and onions if they wish.

ChickenKatsuCurry-4901

Katsu-karē is the combination of both the above imports – breaded pork, chicken or beef are served with rice and a generous puddle of curry sauce.

Japanese rice is different to the varieties I’m most familiar with. It’s short grain and somewhat sticky but not the same as the glutinous varieties used in East Asian sticky rice dishes. When we’ve have none to hand, we’ve substituted fragrant basmati but I think Italian risotto types such as arborio would be closer. More recently we’ve stocked up on some Japanese rice at our local Japanese grocery store.

 

Chicken Katsu Curry Rice

Ingredients
For chicken
400 grams mini breast fillets, or chicken breasts cut into a few pieces
1 to 1.5 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup plain seasoned flour (salt and pepper)
1 large egg (may need a second egg)
For frying
Vegetable oil as per your deep fat fryer
For serving
Japanese rice (or basmati if Japanese rice not available)
Curry sauce made up from mix, available from Japanese grocery shops
Optional: onions and carrots, diced, to add to curry sauce

Note: It’s impossible to give exact measurements for egg, flour and breadcrumbs needed as it will depend on the exact size of your chicken pieces. I buy panko breadcrumbs in large bags so I can easily shake a little more into the bowl if needed.

ChickenKatsuCurry-4889 ChickenKatsuCurry-4888
Panko breadcrumbs and curry sauce nix

Instructions

  • Cook your rice while preparing and frying the chicken.
  • Likewise, make up your curry sauce according to the packet instructions, adding onions and carrots if you like.
  • To prepare the chicken, dip (and turn to coat evenly) a chicken fillet in the seasoned flour then dip (and turn to coat evenly) into beaten egg and then dip (and turn to coat evenly) into panko breadcrumbs.
  • Pre heat oil in fryer to 160 C.
  • Carefully lower chicken pieces into oil – don’t try and do too many together or they’ll clump and shake the basket a couple of times towards the beginning to help them separate.
  • They are ready when the breadcumb coating is a nice golden shade of brown, not too pale (or chicken is undercooked) and not too dark. We’ve found that the mini fillets we buy from our supermarket are just the right size to cook through perfectly in the time it takes the breadcrumbs to colour nicely.
  • Serve with rice and curry sauce.

ChickenKatsuCurry-4890 ChickenKatsuCurry-4892
ChickenKatsuCurry-4897 ChickenKatsuCurry-4899

Alternatively, you could enjoy your katsu chicken with kewpie mayonnaise (a richer, yolkier Japanese mayonnaise) and tonkatsu sauce, available Japanese grocery shops.

 

You may also enjoy reading my posts about our Japan trip last year.

 

SumacZaatarLamb-4782

Whilst there’s something to be said for leaving well alone when you know the quality of the meat is good, sometimes it’s nice to add a little extra flavour to a roast dinner. I made a very quick and simple za’atar and sumac rub for this beautiful half leg of organic Welsh lamb from Graig Farm. It worked very well, creating a spicy and robustly flavoured crust but allowing the flavour of the lamb to shine.

I still have lots of Abu Kassem’s za’atar from the trip we made to his farm in Lebanon back in 2011. Follow that link to read more about how he selectively bred from wild herbs and how he now produces za’atar that is sold across Lebanon, from his farm in the south of the country. The za’atar mix he sells includes the herb itself, dried sumac berries, toasted sesame seeds and salt.

I’m not sure of the identify of the green plant Abu Kassem calls za’atar. It’s often translated as wild thyme but the term refers to several herbaceous plants including different oreganos, savouries, marjorams and thymes. Of course, all of these herbs work well with lamb.

I added more sumac as I wanted to bring out the lemon-citrus flavour of this element of Abu Kassem’s blend.

 

Za’atar & Sumac Crusted Roast Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
1 kg half leg of lamb
2 tablespoons za’atar spice blend
1 tablespoon powdered sumac
2 tablespoons olive oil

Note: For larger or smaller legs of lamb, adjust the volume of the spice and oil rub accordingly.

Method

  • Combine the za’atar, sumac and oil and mix well.
  • Rub the spice and oil mix all over the surface of the lamb joint.
  • Roast according to your normal temperature times. (I roasted for half an hour per 500 grams in a fan oven pre-heated to 180 C and my lamb was cooked to medium).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.

SumacZaatarLamb-4783

 

Discount Code

Try Graig Farm organic Welsh lamb (or any other meat such as beef and pork) for yourself with a special discount code for Kavey Eats readers:

KAV222

The code gives you 20% off orders over £50 and also includes free delivery. It’s valid until June 30th 2013 and can be used three times per household. Of course, you can pass the code on to friends and family, if they’d like to place an order for themselves.

If you haven’t decided what to have for your Easter Sunday roast, get an order in fast for a superb joint of lamb. The boned rolled shoulder was gorgeous roasted with garlic and rosemary, and the leftovers made wonderful hoisin lettuce wraps and a delicious ragu with pasta.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box of organic lamb from Graig Farm.

 

With ever rising populations and land pressure, I’m not being controversial when I state that we need to reduce the amount of meat in our diets and increase the volume of grain and vegetables we eat.

But for those of us who love eating meat, this is easier said than done.

There are two ways to do this: the first is to use smaller portions of meat in each meal, such as a 50 grams of bacon used to give flavour and texture to a pasta dish or a fresh vegetable salad with a handful of leftover roast chicken or a stroganoff with lots of mushrooms and only a little steak; the second way is to balance a couple of meat-heavy meals a week with several vegetarian ones. I tend to waiver between these, and don’t eat as many vegetarian meals as I should, which is a shame as I adore tofu and enjoy cooking our home-grown vegetables.

If you opt for the second approach then, budget permitting, it makes a lot of sense to enjoy the best quality meat you can afford – a little of the good stuff rather than a lot of the mediocre.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Alex Renton says:

Lamb is a green dream: the most gentle, ecologically, of all the farmed meats we eat. There is no animal more naturally-raised – it’s all free range and the feed just grows at their feet. Sheep don’t need water in the vast quantities cattle require and farming them is in itself a form of recycling: they graze hills and marginal land, recovering nutrients from poor grass and weeds other livestock won’t eat.

The land that will support one cow and calf can take as many as seven ewes and their lambs. And the grassy downs of modern England look as they do largely because of grazing sheep.

The lamb we produce in Britain is spectacularly good. Our climate seems well suited, both in terms of landscape and weather and the resulting meat is a delight.

A couple of months ago, I was sent a selection box of organic Welsh lamb by Graig Farm. Based in Mochdre in Montgomeryshire, the farm has been run by the Rees family since the 1940’s and has been certified as organic since 1999. Jonathan Rees is committed to producing great food “without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, growth promoting drugs, routine use of antibiotics, and the large amount of additives often used in ‘non-organic’ methods”. Their sheep and cattle graze in grass, clover and herb pastures and their pigs are able to forage in the woods. Ten years ago, they built a processing plant on site, and do all the butchery and processing themselves at the farm.

GraigFarm-4710 GraigFarm-4711

Delivery was straightforward. The meat was neatly packed in a large polystyrene box and kept nicely cooled with ice packs, however I’d have preferred more ecologically-friendly packaging options such as the British sheep-wool insulation that Paganum use.

My box contained 2 half lamb legs, 2 lamb leg steaks, 4 lamb loin chops, 1 boned & rolled lamb shoulder, 2 lamb chump chops and 1 rack of lamb, all organic, of course. This box is priced at £89.

People often dismiss spending the extra on organic with complaints that organic produce tastes no difference to non-organic. In many cases, that’s true. But there are a host of other reasons to consider organic, including the environmental impact of pesticides and fertilisers, the fact that organic farms are far friendlier to wildlife and, on a more selfish note, the vastly reduced use of additives. And farmers who can’t resort to the easy option of pumping their animals full of drugs focus much more strongly on keeping them healthy by more natural means. That added care and attention often does make itself evident in the taste. Of course, there are regulated controls on feed too, which also have an impact on the final product.

Every cut of Graig Farm lamb we’ve eaten has been absolutely superb. The meat is tender but not mushy, the flavour is sweet and rich, and there’s enough fat running through to keep the meat moist as it cooks. I really could not be happier with the quality of the meat.

For the lamb loin chops, I made a very simple marinade and then cooked the chops in a hot oven for about 25 minutes.

 

Garam Masala Marinated Lamb Loin Chops

For the marinade, I first combined 4 bay leaves, a piece of cinnamon bark about an inch wide and long, 1 brown cardamom pod and a couple of small green ones, 6 peppercorns and 3 cloves. These were powdered using a spice grinder and then mixed into approximately two cups of full fat yoghurt. I marinated the chops for a couple of hours before cooking.

Cuisinart-4827 Cuisinart-4836GaramMasalaLambLoinChops-4846

 

Discount Code

Try Graig Farm organic Welsh lamb (or any other meat such as beef and pork) for yourself with a special discount code for Kavey Eats readers:

KAV222

The code gives you 20% off orders over £50 and also includes free delivery. It’s valid until June 30th 2013 and can be used three times per household. Of course, you can pass the code on to friends and family, if they’d like to place an order for themselves.

If you haven’t decided what to have for your Easter Sunday roast, get an order in fast for a superb joint of lamb. The boned rolled shoulder was gorgeous roasted with garlic and rosemary, and the leftovers made wonderful hoisin lettuce wraps and a delicious ragu with pasta.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box of organic lamb from Graig Farm.

 

“YOU CAN’T USE THAT GRINDER FOR SPICES!

MY COFFEE WILL TASTE OF CURRY!” *

That desperate wail will be familiar to any of you who share your house with a coffee lover.

We used to have an old blender with a spice grinder attachment but it wasn’t very good so we threw it out years ago. We now have a burr grinder that Pete uses for his precious coffee beans (and occasionally, for grinding his home grown wheat).

It is not to be used for spices.

Even running a bagful of rice through afterwards doesn’t entirely remove the taint of spices, so I’m told. And masala coffee just doesn’t appeal, apparently, though I’m sure it’s the next big thing.

Time to look for a second grinder then, one of the bladed variety, to use for grinding spices, chopping nuts and anything else verboten. There are many models on the market, but I ruled most out. Some specify that they can be used for dry ingredients only, whereas I like the idea of being able to make somewhat sloppy spice pastes including ginger, garlic, lemon grass and even onion. Others are just too difficult to clean. Some have been reviewed by other customers as being too fiddly to use or having poor build quality and hence poor durability.

After spending a frankly ridiculous number of hours on internet research, the model at the top of my list was the Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder (SG20U), RRP £50. Luckily for me, Cuisinart have really connected with bloggers over the last few years, so I was able to obtain a review sample.

Why did I want this particular grinder?

Firstly, I have a bit of a thing for brushed stainless steel. The shiny chrome look leaves me cold but brushed metal… oh yes!

But actually, that’s not the main reason. (Obviously). What I really like is that this grinder comes with two (decent sized) detachable bowls, each provided with an airtight lid so freshly ground contents can be stored in the bowls. And – this is the best bit – they’re not only easy to clean, they are dishwasher safe!

Having two bowls means, if you don’t already have a hallowed coffee grinder, you can set one bowl aside for coffee and use the other for everything else. Or if you make a spice paste and only use half, you can leave the rest in the fridge for a few days, without losing use of your grinder.

Cuisinart-4825 Cuisinart-4829Cuisinart-4832 Cuisinart-4834
Cuisinart-4836 Cuisinart-4842
Cuisinart-4831 GaramMasalaLambLoinChops-4846
CuisinartGrinder-4847 CuisinartGrinder-4848 CuisinartGrinder-4849CuisinartGrinder-4857 CuisinartGrinder-4859CuisinartGrinder-4861 CuisinartGrinder-4877

 

Review

It’s very easy to assemble. The bowl clicks in easily and the clear lid pops over that. I was worried I wouldn’t like the push down operation, having used and disliked a different make and model of that style, but actually it was very easy – press down to grind, release to stop.

For fine grinding of small volumes of spices, the grind is a little uneven, even if you continue to grind for longer. This is because the centrifugal action throws the light fragments up the sides of the bowl. Whether or not this is an issue depends on how fine and even you want the finished powder to be. When I made garam masala, I chose to sieve the powder with a tea strainer to remove larger fragments but I could have left them in – they were small enough not to be an issue.

The same goes for coffee – you’ll need to use a higher volume of coffee as the larger fragments won’t extract as effectively.

Where it comes into its own is for making spice pastes such as the Thai-inspired red curry paste we concocted. Lemongrass, onion, garlic, ginger, whole cumin seeds, powdered spices, soy sauce, dried chillis were quickly and effectively pulverised into a paste.

After being washed in the dishwasher, we couldn’t even tell which bowl had been used for coffee and which for the ground spices and spice paste, so there’s no danger of previous ingredients tainting the next.

For spices and pastes, this grinder is a great choice. I’ve not yet used it for nuts. It’s simple to use, feels robust and the two bowls with storage lids make so much sense.

For coffee drinkers, I’d suggest investing in a burr grinder so you can better control the exact size of the grind and ensure that the whole batch is evenly ground too.

 

Kavey Eats received an Electric Spice and Nut Grinder courtesy of Cuisinart.

* Actual words were more ferocious and peppered with choice expletives!

 

Whether you spell it speculoos (French and Flemish) or speculaas (Dutch), it’s utterly delicious and absolutely perfect for Christmas!

Speculoos are spiced shortcrust biscuits associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, they are a key taste of the Christmas season, though these days, they’re available all year round.

A few years ago, speculoos spread came into the market – all the familiar flavours of speculoos biscuits in a spreadable form. The texture is much like Nutella, the much-loved chocolate hazelnut spread; the best way to imagine the flavour, if you aren’t already familiar with speculoos biscuits, is caramel toffee with Christmas spices added.

When Abra-Ca-Debora got in touch to ask if I’d like to sample their ready-made Dutch pancakes, I knew immediately that I wanted to combine them with the jar of speculoos spread I brought back from our trip to Amsterdam earlier this year. To cut through the speculoos sweetness but not the richness, I chose mascarpone, which is equally rich and decadent.

PancakeCake-4326 PancakeCake-4330

The good news is that speculoos spread (known as Biscoff in North America) is now more readily available in the UK. Waitrose are currently stocking it, though it helps to know that they list it on their website as Lotus Biscuit Spread and the jars are labelled Caramelised Biscuit Spread, with no reference to speculoos.

The pancakes come in a sweet or savoury version, in packs of 6 and can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks, or frozen to store them longer term. They’re thicker than French crêpes but thinner than American and Scottish ones, perhaps 3 mm thick or thereabouts.

Ever since I first enjoyed a layered crêpe cake back in 2004 (in a tiny husband-and-wife restaurant in Knysna, South Africa, of all places) I’ve thought about making one myself. But whilst I can make crêpes, I only seem to do so once a year (can you guess the occasion?) and the thought of making the 30 or so evenly sized crêpes I’d need resulted in crêpe cakes being shelved every time the idea popped back into my head.

Not only would the Abra-Ca-Debora pancakes make such a dessert much quicker to make, I figured, they also looked more robust than their crêpe cousins, making them easier to spread and layer without tearing.

In the approach to Christmas, even more than other times of the year, I’m on the look out for dishes that are quick and delicious but impressive too. I think this one definitely fits the bill. All you need for my Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake are ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes, a jar of speculoos spread, two tubs of fresh mascarpone and a little icing sugar.

Although it’ll take a little time to spread and layer the pancakes, it’s simple to do and the result is, if I say so myself, magnificent!

 

Quick & Easy Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake

Ingredients
24 (4 packs) ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes
1 x 400 gram jar speculoos spread
500 grams fresh mascarpone
About 2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar, sieved

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Method

  • Beat the mascarpone vigorously with a fork to loosen, and then beat in about two heaped tablespoons of sieved icing sugar. The aim is to add only enough to remove the savoury edge from the mascarpone, but not enough to properly sweeten it, as the speculoos spread is very sweet.

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  • The speculoos spread is too solid to spread onto the pancakes straight out of the jar so spoon some into a mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a fork to loosen. Repeat this as and when you need more speculoos spread.

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  • Evenly spread a thin layer of speculoos spread over a pancake and transfer onto a large flat plate, spread-side up. I found it easiest to spread onto the paler side of the Abra-Ca-Deborah pancakes, as it was more evenly smooth.

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  • On the next pancake, spread a layer of sweetened mascarpone, and place the pancake carefully on top of the previous one. Take care, as the speculoos spread is sticky, so it’s difficult to lift and re-lay the pancake if you place it incorrectly.

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  • Repeat in alternating layers to build up the cake.

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  • Top the finished stack with a plain pancake, prettiest side up. Eagle-eyed pancake-counters will realise that, as I finished with a mascarpone pancake topped by a plain one, I only used 23 pancakes, not 24! Yes, I ate one whilst working. :-)

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  • Before serving, sieve some icing sugar over the top.I cut out a star shape from paper and placed it on top before sprinkling but because it wasn’t flat to the pancake, when I lifted it away, the outline was fuzzy, so I gave up on the idea and filled in the space with more sugar. And don’t sprinkle the sugar in advance of serving, as it melts into the surface of the pancake and disappears, as we discovered after carrying the cake with us to a friend’s place!

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  • Use a large sharp knife to cut into thin wedges to serve.The cake is very dense and rich (and delicious), so a small slice per person is plenty. We ate a quarter of it between four adults (after a generous dinner). The whole cake would feed 10-15 people, easily.

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Pete’s driving was non-too gentle – not completely his fault, to be fair, as there were some real morons on the road that evening – so the top half of the cake had slid to one side during the journey. It wasn’t difficult to push and pull it back upright again, though it wasn’t quite as neat as before. If you want to transport it, it may be worth finding a cake tin of similar diameter, and placing it upside down over the pancake cake.

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Do you think using ready-made pancakes is a cheat too far? What fillings would you choose for a pancake cake? And what are your favourite speculoos spread recipes?

 

As Speculoos is all about delicious Christmas spices, I’m submitting this post to the We Should Cocoa Christmas Special (Cinnamon) challenge on Chocolate Log Blog and Alphabakes December challenge on The More Than Occasional Baker… S for Speculoos! As I ate the leftovers for a very satisfying breakfast, I’ve also been asked to add it to Breakfast Club, which has a theme of brunch (this would be great for a late coffee morning breakfast) and is hosted by Bangers & Mash.

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Kavey Eats received a sample of pancakes from Abra-Ca-Deborah.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to film a video recipe for Vouchercodes.co.uk. They were looking for alternative ideas and twists for the Christmas day dinner. I made my mum Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb, which can be served with all the normal roast dinner trimmings, as we do in our house, or as the central dish to an Indian feast.

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My video recipe is now live on their site, as are other delicious ideas from fellow bloggers. Check them out too!

Here’s the shorter edit that Vouchercodes.co.uk are sharing. I have a longer version that I’ll share with you soon.

Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
Leg of lamb, approximately 2 kg
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and 2 halved
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons besan (gram) flour (leave out if not available)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
A few strands of saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
3-4 bay leaves
1 inch stick of cinnamon
3-4 cardamoms
6-7 black pepper corns
5-6 cloves
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons good quality oil
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 small carton of creamy, natural yoghurt
Salt to taste

Note: You can replace the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamoms, black pepper corns and cloves with 1 tablespoon of good quality garam masala. Home made is best, as cheap ready made ones are bulked out with other, cheaper spices.

Method

  1. Make slits in the leg of lamb, insert a few halved cloves of garlic into a few of the slits, and set lamb aside.
  2. Optional: Grind the whole spices (see Hints & Tips).
  3. Place all ingredients except yoghurt into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  4. Transfer paste to a bowl, add yoghurt and mix well.
  5. Taste and adjust spices. Remember that the spice paste has to give enough flavour to 2 kg of meat, so it has to taste a little over-salted and over-spiced at this stage.
  6. Spread the spice paste over the lamb, ensuring that some is worked into the slits.
  7. Leave to marinade at least overnight. For best results, 24 to 36 hours.
  8. Place on a baking tray and cover with aluminium foil.
  9. Cook at 375 F, 190C for 1 1/2 hours for pink meat (or 2 hours for well-done meat).
  10. Baste from time to time and leave uncovered for last half hour, so that the spices and meat turn brown.

Hints & Tips

Ingredients

  • Make sure you use full fat yoghurt for this recipe as low fat yoghurt often splits when heat is applied. Thick Greek-style yoghurt works well.
  • If using frozen lamb, defrost thoroughly and drain resulting liquids before applying marinade.
  • Instead of buying tiny jars of spices from the supermarket, it’s more economical to buy in slightly larger quantities from Asian grocery shops. However, spices fade over time, so if you don’t use them up quickly, they’ll lose their intensity of flavour. I’d recommend storing a small amount of each one in easy-to-access spice jars, keeping the rest in your freezer and replenishing as and when you need to.
  • Fresh ingredients such as ginger, coriander and other key ingredients for Indian cooking are also often cheaper in Asian and other ethnic grocery shops. If you don’t have an Indian or Pakistani shop near you, look in stores specialising in Chinese or Caribbean food, as there are many cross-over ingredients.

Tips

  • If your food processor or blender is not very powerful, grind the whole spices in a spice or coffee grinder first, before combining them with the other ingredients. If you have a powerful food processor or blender, add the whole spices with the other ingredients and grind in one step.

Alternatives

  • You can use this marinade recipe on any meat or fish from larger joints or whole chickens, to smaller cuts such as lamb shanks or individual portions of chicken. It also works well on whole fish, though will need far less marinating time.

Serve with

  • We love this tandoori roast lamb with traditional British trimmings – roast potatoes and parsnips, carrot and swede mash, savoy cabbage and gravy. We serve it with either a mint raita or mint jelly. For Christmas, we add chipolatas and stuffing and brussel sprouts for my sister who adores them…
  • Of course, the lamb leg also works as the centrepiece for an extravagant Indian feast. I recommend my favourites such as chicken curry, stuffed aubergines, an additional vegetable dish such as cauliflower and potatoes, a daal or red kidney bean curry, some chapatis and rice on the side. To start, maybe pakoras or samosas and afterwards, a vermicelli kheer, similar to rice pudding but made with vermicelli pasta. Recipes for these dishes can be found on my mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

Leftovers

  • Use leftovers just as you would with those from a plain lamb roast – make shepherd’s pie, lamb hot pot, a simple lamb curry, lamb and potato cakes or enjoy it sliced cold in sandwiches or wraps, with some of the minted cucumber and onion raita.

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The introductory segment was filmed right at the end and it was after 11 pm by then, so I’m blaming my odd bounciness in that bit on my tiredness, but the rest is not as cringe-worthy as I feared! In fact, although I’ve long felt I have a face for radio, I’m really happy with it! Really hoping I can work with Voucher Codes on more of these in the future.

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