You can take the girl out of Luton…

Smack in the middle of the eighties – which I still hold to be the best decade, musically and fashion-wise (though I admit to harbouring some bias on this) – I did a German Language Exchange Trip through my secondary school. Luton and Hamburg were an odd pairing; the kids of that rather attractive northern German river port city must surely have been a tad disappointed when they discovered that the attractions of Luton amounted to little more than a biscuit-shaped pincushion in the local museum and a pink flamingos fountain in the Arndale shopping centre.

The (frankly marvellous) pink flamingos have long since gone, which is a huge shame as they were one of Luton’s best (if not only) attractions.

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Worried I might be imagining the biscuit-shaped pincushion (though my little sister remembers it too), I made a call to the museum last week and was delighted to hear back from one of their specialist curators that they do indeed have a biscuit-shaped pincushion in their collection (though it’s not currently on display). It dates from around 1870 and was produced as an advertising product by Huntley, Albert & Palmers. I should add at this point that the museum did, of course, have a great deal more on display than the biscuit-shaped pincushion, including no-doubt-excellent exhibits about the local hat- and lace-making industries for which Luton was, once upon a time, quite famous. It’s just that, as a teenager, little of this captured my attention; I’d probably appreciate it much more today!

And, by the way, did you know that the expression ‘mad as a hatter’ originated in Luton?

Anyway, back to Germany…

I’d actually already dropped German from my curriculum by the time the trip came around. We signed up for the exchange in our second year but travelled in our third by which time, having mastered only ‘ich liebe dich’ and ‘du bist eine dumme ganz’, I decided to focus on French, which I found immeasurably easier. I added one more phrase to my German knowledge some years later, by the way; even today I still like to point at random plants and declare ‘das is kein gummebaum’ (that is not a rubber plant) – a very useful phrase, I’m sure you’ll agree?

Luckily, the majority of people I met in Germany spoke superb English, so I got along just fine.

My host family showed me around Hamburg, of course. It’s an attractive city and the views from the revolving restaurant up in the Heinrich-Hertz-Turm comms tower were beautiful. I also spent a few days visiting German Schleswig – a school trip within a school trip – with my exchange partner’s class.

One of the days I remember most fondly was a family outing to nearby Lübeck, just an hour’s drive away or 45 minutes by train.

Situated on the River Trave, Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, and a major port in the area. For several centuries it was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, a commercial confederation of merchant guilds and market downs that dominated trade in Northern Europe, stretching along the coast from the Baltic to the North Sea. The Old Town, on an island enclosed by the Trave, is famous for its extensive brick gothic architecture and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Images of Lubeck from Shutterstock.com

Niederegger Marzipan

It was not just the beauty of Lübeck that won my heart, oh no! Lübeck is also famous for its marzipan. And I really, really love marzipan!

A local legend suggests that marzipan was first made in the city in response to either a military siege or a local famine. The story goes that the town ran out of all foodstuffs except stored almonds and sugar, and these were combined to make loaves of marzipan “bread”.

In reality, marzipan is believed to have been invented far earlier, most likely in Persia though historians are undecided between a Persian and an Iberian origin.

Niederegger have been making marzipan in Lübeck for over two centuries, and relate the story from the perspective of founder Johann Georg Niederegger.

Our marzipan was invented far away, where almonds and sugar are grown. Rhazes, a Persian doctor who lived from 850 to 923, wrote a book in which he praised the curative qualities of almond and sugar paste. When the crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought with them a host of spices and Oriental secrets. In 13th century Venice, Naples and Sicily, spices and confectionery were generally traded  in tiny boxes. The enchanting word “Mataban” (box) gradually came to be used for the contents of the box:  Mazapane (Italian), Massepain (French) and Marzipan (German). Did you know that even back in the 13th century, the renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating Marzipan? In his doctrinal teaching, he reassures enquiring and anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.” In his stories, the great novelist Boccaccio clearly describes the correlation between passion and marzipan. In those days, marzipan was topped with gold leaf to crown the sweet temptation. Great Hanseatic merchant boats brought spices and other prized ingredients to the North. Initially, however, only apothecaries were allowed to trade sugar and spices. Not until confectionary became a trade in its own right were so-called ‘canditors’ allowed to produce marzipan. The first Europeans to indulge in marzipan were kings and rich people. It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth I of England, who lived from 1533 to 1603, was addicted to all things sweet.  The saying ‘regal enjoyment’ was coined. Later, at the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s sumptuous feasts, huge tables laden with marzipan were the order of the day. Marzipan reproductions of all sorts of fruits, poultry and game were created – anything you desired could be made. In the first half of  the general population were now able to sample the almond delicacy to their heart’s content in coffee houses. Now that sugar could be extracted from sugar beet, the costly luxury became slightly more affordable. Marzipan was also particularly popular and prized in Lübeck. I would now like to tell you something about my life: as a young man, I left my home town of Ulm to become apprenticed to a confectioner, Maret, in Lübeck. In 1806 I was able to open up my own shop. I supplied my wares to kings and tsars. From then on, my reputation grew thanks to excellent quality. My recipe for marzipan – as many almonds as possible, as little sugar as necessary – is secret, and has been passed on from generation to generation since my death. That way, Niederegger Marzipan remains what it has always been: a delicious speciality made from the very best almonds. New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, a sweetmeat goes on tour … Niederegger stands for “marzipan of world renown”.

The quality of Niederegger marzipan is certainly renowned, as is that of slightly younger Lübeck marzipan manufacturer Carstens (founded in 1845, 39 years after Niederegger).

At its core, marzipan consists of nothing more than ground almonds mixed with either sugar or honey. These days, a wide range of marzipan is available; many commercial versions contain a comparatively low volume of almonds; instead they contain more sugar with the flavour boosted by almond oils and extracts or even cheaper synthetic almond flavourings. They are often sickly sweet.

Niederegger marzipan is the very good stuff. With a high ratio of almonds to sugar, the flavour is subtle and natural and the sweetness is not overwhelming.

Germany grades marzipan according to the following ratios:

  • Marzipanrohmasse (raw marzipan) contains 65% ground almonds and 35% sugar. When you see a label of 100:0 or 100%, it means 100% raw marzipan with no additional sugar added, not that there is no sugar at all.
  • Niederegger Marzipan is raw marzipan, made to the 65:35 almond to sugar ration and labelled as 100:0 (100% raw marzipan).
  • Lübecker Edelmarzipan (Lübeck fine marzipan) is described as 90:10. That means it’s 90% raw marzipan mixed with an extra 10% sugar. Don’t forget, that 90% is not 90% almonds but a mix of almonds and sugar. More sugar is added to that raw marzipan paste. That means the ratio of almond to sugar falls to around 58:42 (58% almonds, 42% sugar).
    Lübeck marzipan has a PDO (protected designation of origin) and the label can only be used for marzipan manufactured in the region to the 90:10 ratio.
  • Gütemarzipan (quality marzipan) must be 80:20. It’s made of 80% raw marzipan and 20% sugar. Almond makes up 62% of the total and sugar the other 28%.
  • Edelmarzipan (fine marzipan) is described as 70:30. It’s made of 70% raw marzipan and 30% sugar. The almond now makes up only 45% of the total and sugar the other 55%.
  • Gewöhnliches marzipan  (ordinary or consumer marzipan) is described as 50:50, so is half raw marzipan and half sugar. That means only a third of the total content is almond and two thirds is sugar.
  • There are also other designations such as Königsberger marzipan, which is no longer associated with place of manufacture but describes a style of marzipan that usually contains almonds, sugar, egg white and lemon juice and has a distinctive golden brown colour.

For anyone looking for high quality marzipan, you can buy Niederegger here in the UK – I’ve seen different products from their range on sale in John Lewis, Waitrose and Tesco and of course, you can buy online (from the same stores plus Chocolatesdirect.co.uk, Ocado and Amazon, to name a few).

Probably the most common Niederegger product  is marzipan coated in dark-chocolate, which is always wrapped in red foil. Blue foil denotes a milk chocolate coating and other colours of foil indicate flavoured marzipans such as apple, caramel, espresso, orange and pistachio – the latter being one of my personal favourites. There is also a liqueur range available.

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GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to join  with Niederegger in giving away two hampers worth £25 each to readers of Kavey Eats!

Each hamper contains:-

  • 1 x Milk chocolate marzipan bar
  • 1 x Dark chocolate marzipan bar
  • 1 x 125g Marzipan loaf
  • 1 x 200g 16 Piece mini loaves assortment
  • 1 x 100g 8 Piece mini loaves classic
  • 1 x 40g Marzipan stick
  • 6 x Mini Loaves
  • 1 x Gift hamper box
  • Free delivery within the UK

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment sharing a memory of language lessons at school, when you were a kid.

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 marzipan hamper from @niederegger_uk and Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsMarzipan #KaveyEatsMarzipan
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle at the beginning of the tweet and please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES & DETAILS
  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 1st May 2015.
  • The 2 winners will be selected from all valid entries (across blog, twitter and instagram) 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 hamper of Niederegger produts, as detailed above and includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Niederegger .
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. 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 sample products from Niederegger.

 

I wrote recently about why I (and many others) love our microwaves, and also about how we’ve been getting on with our new Heston for Sage Quick Touch.

To put it through it’s paces, we’ve not only been defrosting, softening, melting, reheating, sterilising, steaming… we’ve been pushing it a little further and seeing how else we can use it. These fabulously easy microwave salted caramels can certainly be made on the stove, but we found the microwave method very quick and straightforward and they turned out absolutely perfectly.

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The recipe I’ve used is adapted from a number of American ones I found on the web; I’ve amended the amounts, partly because of what I had available in the stock cupboard and partly because I prefer to work in (metric) weight measurements rather than (cup) volume ones. One of the sugars this recipe calls for is corn syrup, which is far more prevalent in the US than here in the UK. From what I’ve read, I think the inverted sugar helps to form a smooth and glossy finish.

I had some corn syrup that I bought recently in the US so I didn’t need to substitute, however as corn syrup is difficult to find in the UK, my understanding is that you can substitute glucose syrup (which can be made from corn, potatoes, wheat or even rice) – this is sometimes labelled as liquid glucose or confectioner’s syrup.

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The thermospatula!

Some recipes advise cooking until the caramel reaches soft ball stage, which means the caramel solidifies into a coherent ball when a spoonful is dropped into cold water. I find that really difficult to judge, so I prefer to use a thermometer to make sure the mixture gets hot enough. For the last few months, I’ve been using my new thermospatula from Lakeland – it’s much easier than using my old traditional metal jam thermometer clipped to the side of the pan which made it difficult to stir – now the stirring spoon is the thermometer!)

This recipe produces a soft chewy caramel with a delicious buttery flavour. I’ll be a little more generous when I sprinkle sea salt on top next time, as the crunch and flavour of those little white flakes is gorgeous.

Easy Microwave Salted Caramels

Makes approximately 50

Ingredients

For the caramel:
Butter for greasing
120 grams butter
180 grams light corn syrup (or glucose syrup)
200 grams Demerara sugar or light brown sugar*
200 ml condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 0.5 tsp vanilla extract)
For sprinkling:
2-3 generous pinches sea salt

* You can substitute regular (white) sugar if you don’t have light brown.

Note: Since this recipe is for salted caramels, I went ahead and used lightly salted butter as that’s what we always have in our fridge. Use unsalted if you prefer.

Note: Make sure the bowl you use is heatproof to a high temperature (we used Pyrex). The mixture boils and expands enormously during cooking so the bowl also needs to be at least three or four times as large as the initial volume of all the ingredients.

Method

  • Grease a baking dish or roasting pan with butter and set aside.
  • In a large heatproof mixing bowl, melt the butter, then add all the other caramel ingredients and mix well.
  • Microwave on full power until mixture reaches a temperature of 115 °C (240 °F). We started checking after 5 minutes and returned the bowl to cook further in 30 second bursts. Full power on our microwave is 1100 watts, and our mixture took 7.5 minutes. If your microwave is less powerful, you may need to cook for a few more minutes. The mixture will start boiling and expanding long before it is ready; you need to keep cooking until you reach temperature or your caramel won’t set when it cools back down.
  • Once it’s ready, pour into prepared baking dish. It should naturally spread out such that the surface is flat.
  • After it’s cooled for a couple of minutes, sprinkle sea salt generously across the surface.
  • Leave to cool for at least an hour.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut into squares or rectangles and wrap individually in squares of parchment paper.
  • Store in the fridge, especially in warm weather.

If you try this recipe, please come back and let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear from you!

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave and a thermospatula for review. The Lakeland link is an affiliate link, please see sidebar for more information.

 

A lot of foodies scorn microwaves. They proudly announce that they don’t, and never would, have one in their kitchen and I can’t help but wonder if they imagine all those who have one subsist on microwave ready meals and reheated takeaways. I always feel a little sorry for them, honestly; their conviction that real foodies never microwave means they miss out on one of the great modern tools of the domestic kitchen.

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My latest microwave experiment, I’ll be sharing the recipe soon

Even before you consider recipes that can be made in the microwave, there are many little heating tasks at which they excel:

  • Melting butter
  • Melting chocolate without a bain marie
  • Poaching eggs
  • Steaming vegetables
  • Cooking rice
  • Reheating dishes that would tend to dry out in the oven or overly reduce on the stove top
  • Briefly heating a lemon or lime before juicing (to make it easier to juice)
  • Heating a mug of milk for a quick latte or hot chocolate
  • Decrystallising honey
  • Sterilising kitchen washcloths and sponges
  • Heating wheat packs for muscle pain relief

I’ve also heard of people using a microwave to speed proof yeasted doughs, to roast a head of garlic and to par cook jacket potatoes before finishing them in the oven. The latter we now cook in the slow cooker, and I’m yet to try the first two; let me know if you have!

It won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve always had a microwave. My parents had one through most of my childhood, they kindly bought me a small, cheap one for my student house when I was at uni, and Pete and I have had one in our kitchen for the last two decades.

Last year, I reviewed a couple of appliances designed by Heston for Sage, including my lovely Smartscoop ice cream machine (review post here).

This month I’ve been putting my Heston for Sage Quick Touch microwave to the test.

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  • Because the water content in different foods varies so wildly, it can be tricky to guestimate how long different foods need in the microwave; chocolate contains only 3% water whereas most vegetables contain 95%!. Sensors in the Quick Touch microwave sense the amount of humidity released from food and automatically adjust the power level and the cooking time accordingly.
  • There is a shortcut panel (of pre-sets) for common tasks such as melting chocolate, softening butter and heating baked beans (a personal favourite of Heston’s, apparently) – all you need to do is input the weight and touch the relevant button.
  • Of course, the Quick Touch has normal microwave functions as well – you can manually input your power (with 10 levels from 10% to 100%) and the amount of time. The maximum power is 1100 watts so it’s pretty versatile. (Older consumer microwaves often topped out at 800 watts).
  • Pete’s a big fan of the fact that the timer defaults to 30 seconds and if you don’t press any other button or enter a time, will simply start at full power as soon as you close the door. There’s also a cute A Bit More button when something is nearly done but not quite.
  • So far, we’ve been very impressed with the melting butter, melting chocolate and sensor cook functions – perfectly cooked carrots and broccoli courtesy of the latter.
  • Reheating leftovers works fine, as do all the other regular tasks I listed above. Heating seems to be even throughout a plate of food, rather than spots of scalding hot and still cold.
  • It’s a heavy beast, so best for kitchens where it won’t need to be moved regularly.
  • The price tag (around £250-270 depending on retailer) is high, especially as this microwave doesn’t have convection cooking or grilling functionality.

By the way, if you caught a glimpse of the green writing on the front of the freezer in one of the images above, you may be interested in my post on how to organise the contents of a large freezer.

I’ve also been talking to other food bloggers and writers about how they use their microwaves.

Celia Brooks, cook and cookery book author, loves her microwave. She reminds us that “it’s not an oven but a tool to vibrate water molecules” and is therefore “especially good for veggies” with their high water content. As Celia’s main food group is vegetables, it’s an essential tool in her kitchen. She loves to steam vegetables in it, and she cooks aubergine chunks or slices with a little salt before adding them to a ratatouille or moussaka – they absorb less oil if cooked a little first. She likes to “fill flat mushroom caps with cream cheese and herbs”; cooking these in the microwave forms “a luscious sauce”. She also warms milk, makes porridge and heats single portions of dishes like lasagne, for which heating the regular oven would be wasteful.

Helen Best-Shaw, food blogger and recipe developer, mainly uses hers for reheating, defrosting and cooking vegetables and grains. She says she nearly always cooks brown rice in it, which is “perfectly cooked in 14 minutes”. She also partially cooks baked potatoes before finishing in the oven.

Urvashi Roe, food blogger and baker, uses her most days, mainly for defrosting and reheating. She also uses it to melt chocolate, and for “emergency baking” when she has chocolate cake cravings. She finds it particularly useful on days she’s running late, needs to feed the children and can simply take a batch-cooked soup or dhal out of the freezer, defrost, heat and serve.

MiMi Aye, food blogger and cookery book author, loves the convenience of her microwave. She uses it to heat leftovers, cook vegetables like courgettes, warm soup and baked beans, cook ready meals and make microwave popcorn. Like Urvashi, she likes batch cooking meals and freezing them in portions. She reminds me that the microwave is also the easiest way to sterilise baby bottles. And she sent me this rather mesmerising video of blowing up Peeps (American marshmallow birds) in the microwave!

Alicia Fourie, food blogger and keen cook, uses her microwave for warming milk and reheating leftovers. She also loves it for cooking asparagus and corn on the cob, finding it “much easier than boiling” and less faff than lighting the barbecue.

Miss South, food blogger and cookery book author, originally got a microwave because, although she’s a “freezer fiend”, she lacks the organisation to take things out in time to defrost. She also loves using it to cut down on cooking times, pointing out that “microwaving takes less time and costs less than turning [her] electric cooker”. These days, she also uses the microwave to back up her slow cooker, by “batch cooking 3-4 portions of something lovely” and freezing the rest; being able to defrost and blast these home made ready meals in the microwave stops her “tiring of staples” and is also a boon when she’s ill or really busy. She is also a fan of microwaveable rice, which she pimps into fried rice with the addition of frozen peas and an egg.

Of course, a microwave isn’t a substitute for other cooking appliances. I love my gas stove top and electric oven and I regularly use my slow cooker, sous vide cooker and power blender (which can cook soups and custards).

The key is to understand a microwave’s strengths  and put it to use accordingly.

Do you have a microwave? How do you use it? And what’s the one thing you use it for that you’d hate to do without?

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave for review. Lakeland links are affiliate links, please see sidebar for more information.

 

When it comes to tourism in Belgium, Brussels gets a bad rap.

Go to Bruges, they say, for the picturesque canals and mediaeval centre.
Go to Antwerp, they say, for world class art and hipster fashion.
Go to Ghent, they say, for more of the same plus cycling too.
Go to Ypres, they say, for WW1 history.

But Brussels? Brussels is often dismissed as little more than a hub for politicians and lobbyists.

Of course, there’s much more to Brussels than politics! Yes, Brussels is the home of the European Union, NATO and the United Nation’s European office…

…but it is also the capital of a country of two halves – the Dutch-speaking Flemish region of Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia in the South. Multicultural Brussels, the third region of the country, is bilingual though French is now more prevalent than Dutch. These days English is widely spoken as well as many other languages, indeed it’s said that as much as half the population speak neither French nor Dutch as their native tongue.

As a Londoner, one of the things I find most appealing about Brussels is this sense of multiculturalism. Although the issue of language is still a hot potato for many Belgians, especially when it comes to education and cultural identity, Brussels is a city that is very open to the world.  Indeed, we chat to Pierre from the local tourist board who tells us that the people of Brussels refer to themselves as zinneke (bastard dogs), wearing their mongrel heritage with pride. Pierre is himself the perfect example – his mother is gipsy, his father Walloon and Flemish, his wife Brazilian and his sisters are married to a German, a Frenchman and a Czech, respectively!

Brussels is a vibrant city with a historic heart and a modern outlook. And the Eurostar service takes you from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi-Zuid in less than two and a half hours!

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When it comes to sightseeing, you still can’t beat a good old-fashioned guide book, or the website equivalent. I won’t try to recreate that here but suggest that as well as the popular Gothic and baroque buildings of the Grand Place and surrounding narrow cobbled streets, the shiny Atomium housing a variety of exhibitions and the incomprehensibly mobbed corner where the Mannekin Pis resides you might want to look up Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis – the squatting female and doggie equivalents of Mannekin, the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (and the Comic Strip walk that takes you past comics painted on the walls of a number of buildings), an amazing array of grand buildings such as the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula, the Bourse (stock exchange), the Royal Palace, the Basilique du Sacré Coeur and the architecture of art nouveau architect Victor Horta. Lovers of literature, art, history and even cars, will also appreciate several excellent museums in Brussels.

Instead, I’m going to share my tips for some great places to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

 

Chocolates and Patisserie

Brussels is awash with shops selling chocolate, but much of what’s on sale is cheap, bulk-manufactured products that are hardly worth wasting suitcase space for. Here are the ones that are worth seeking out.

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Laurent Gerbaud is one of Belgium’s rising chocolatiers and is fighting an uphill battle to move Belgians on from the idea of “Belgian chocolate” to an understanding of the actual origins and varieties available.

Like several chocolatiers I’ve met, Laurent was a chef first; he came to chocolate via chocolate sculpture with an artist friend, and that lead, eventually, to his current career. As a child, he developed an interest in China, perhaps because of several friendships he had with Chinese and Taiwanese families. He worked in Chinese restaurants, took courses in Chinese and, after a university degree in history, finally moved to China for a couple of years. There, he discovered that the Chinese don’t have as sweet a tooth as Europeans and he lost his taste for high sugar sweets. When he came back to Belgium, he had the obvious thought of bringing his experiences in China into his chocolate making but realised he wasn’t inspired by fusion flavours. Instead, he focused on quality ingredients, including some sourced from Asia.

Today, the Chinese influences is perhaps most evident in his logo which is an artistic interpretation of the Chinese hanzi characters for “chocolate” and his name.

Laurent is keen to make chocolate that people love to eat; he says “one of my purposes is to make junk food – you eat one and you want another because it’s really good”. Judging by the chocolates we tasted, he’s nailed it – I could have eaten a whole box of the chocolates made with dried figs from Turkey and candied oranges from Italy. His shop on Rue Ravenstein is also a boutique tea room, with plans to extend the service to offer a savoury menu too.

Tip: Of course, you can visit his shop just to buy some of his excellent chocolate, but for a more personal experience, book a chocolate tasting or chocolate making workshop.

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Pierre Marcolini is one of the few Belgian chocolatiers to make chocolate from bar to bean, before then using it to make a range of chocolates. His chocolate shop at 2 Rue de Minimes is certainly full of temptation but what I recommend above the chocolate is a visit to the address around the corner at 39 Grote Zavel, where his spectacular patisserie is sold. I found the macarons surprisingly disappointing but a glossy strawberry patisserie was a winner.

Other famous chocolate brands in Brussels include Wittamer (a long standing bakery and chocolate business) and Frederic Blondeel (a chef turned chocolatier who also makes chocolate from bean to bar).

 

Speculoos Biscuits

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Speculoos, hailing from Belgium and The Netherlands, are spiced shortcrust biscuits that were originally associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with a spice mix that usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, these days they are popular and available all year round.

Maison Dandoy, established in 1829, makes a range of sweet bakery products but is best known for its traditional speculoos and gingerbread biscuits. These days, it has a handful of shops in Brussels, but its worth making a trip to its oldest remaining store at 31 Rue au Beurre, to admire the beautiful wooden biscuit moulds lining the shelves. The Tea Room on Rue Charles Buls (also known as Karel Bulsstraat) is larger, offering the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of biscuits, pastries and drinks inside. There are an additional four shops in Brussels, plus one in nearby Waterloo.

Having tried several supermarket brands of speculoos biscuit, I was surprised to discover that it’s not just a case of fancy shops and branding – the Maison Dandoy speculoos biscuits are definitely superior!

We also tried Dandoy’s pain à la Grecque, a crunchy bread-cum-biscuit coated with pearled sugar crystals. I was more fascinated by the origins of the name than the biscuit itself – over two centuries ago, the monks of a local Augustine abbey used to support the city’s destitute by giving them bread. The abbey was located near a place known as Wolvengracht (Wolves Ditch); the gracht pronounced grecht in local dialect. Over time, pain a la grecht morphed into pain à la Grecque, confusing generations of shoppers with its erroneous suggestion of a Greek origin.

Tip: If you’re as huge a fan of speculoos biscuits as we are, make a quick visit to a supermarket to pick up a couple of extra large packs of mass-produced biscuits as well. There’s a mini supermarket in Brussels Midi Station.

 

Cuberdons

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I first fell for cuberdons over two decades ago, and if anything, I love them even more today. A purply-dark red colour and conical in shape, the cuberdon is a raspberry-flavoured gummy sweet, firm on the outside with an oozing interior. In Dutch, it’s known as a neus (nose), in French it’s called a chapeau-de-curé or chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

You can find cuberdons in quite a few sweet shops in Brussels, several of which sell multiple colours and flavours, a relatively recent phenomenon. But we’ve found that the best prices for regular raspberry cuberdons is from the Cric-Crac sweet shop inside Brussels Midi station, which sells by weight.

Tip: These sweets are best eaten within a couple of weeks of purchase, as the liquid centre can crystallise and harden if left for too long.

 

Waffles

Belgian Waffles fall into two types.

Firm, rich and chewy Gaufre de Liège (Liège Waffle) are made from an adapted brioche-dough and work well both hot and cold. These are usually oval in shape and have a slightly crunchy exterior from the crystallised sugar that has caramelised against the waffle iron. They’re great for eating on the hoof as they’re traditionally eaten plain (though you can buy them with toppings too if you prefer).

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Rectangular Brussels Waffles are made with a leavened batter, resulting in a much lighter and airier texture and are definitely at their best enjoyed hot, fresh from the waffle iron. Traditionally, Brussels waffles are served with a dusting of icing sugar but these days you can choose from a wide selection of toppings including ice cream, chocolate sauce and fruits. But I suggest you ignore all of those and ask for your waffle with a generous dollop of speculoos paste. With a texture much like smooth peanut butter, this sweet spread is the same flavour as the famous biscuit and melts wonderfully into the indentations of a freshly-cooked hot waffle.

Tip: You’ll find waffles on sale all over Brussels, often from hole-in-the wall vendors, but if you want to sit down and eat, try Maison Dandoy’s Tearoom.

 

Beer & Bars

Belgium is world famous for its beers and rightly so, with a rich tradition that goes back many, many centuries. The range of beers produced by Belgian breweries is impressive, including pale, golden, amber, red and dark ales, dubbels and tripels, Flemish sour brown, Champagne beers (which receive a second fermentation using the method now most strongly associated with Champagne), wheat beers and lambics (spontaneously fermented with wild yeasts that are native to the brewery, as opposed to the addition of cultivated yeasts).

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Both Pete and I absolutely love what owner Jean Hummler is offering at his two bars, Moeder Lambic and Moeder Lambic Fontainas, located at 68 rue de Savoie and 8 place Fontainas, respectively. He started the first bar less than five years ago, after a career working for industrial food businesses in France.

He starts off by telling us why he wanted to do something different; “most places are not very selective, they sell coca cola and junk food” and their beer selection is not very inspiring either. He is committed to selling only quality produce and that applies to the beers, the food and even the soft drinks. He has two key criteria, the way a product is made and how it tastes. “Making money and brewing great beer are often not the same job”, he laughs. He looks for products that are made by hand, adding that he doesn’t want “industrial anything”. For a beer to be selected it must be made with craft and it must pass the taste test – it must taste good! Right now, he has approximately 150 beers on the menu of which 46 are on tap. These include beers from around the world, including a number from the UK.

The same principles apply to his sourcing of cheeses and charcuterie (which form the main thrust of the simple menu) and the non-beer drinks menu (which includes some delicious farmhouse apple juice, for those less interested in the beers).

The cheese selection (€12.5) is utterly wonderful; all are raw milk cheeses and range from soft and mild to fantastically pungent, each one a genuine delight. In the centre of the serving board is a bowl of pottekees – a blend of fresh white cheese, onion, pepper and lambic beer. Just as excellent is the meat selection (€12.5) which includes garlic sausage, French sausage, paté made with geuze beer, hâte levée – pork cooked slowly in bouillon with garlic and spices, Tierenteyn mustard, Belgian pickles (which are a lot like piccalilli). Both plates are served with a basket of bread and a superb raw milk butter.

As he introduces each item on the plates, his enthusiasm for the producers and their products is self-evident; “The idea is to offer another selection, another quality, another explanation that most people don’t know exists”.

Two other key policies for Hummler are ensuring that all his staff know and love the product range, and establishing strong relationships with each supplier – and one (of many) ways he furthers both is the Moeder Fucker series of beers brewed by Le Paradis microbrewery not far from Nancy, in France. For each beer he sends two of his staff to the brewery to help make it; they decide which style of beer to make and work with the brewery team to create their vision. During our visit, Moeder Fucker IV was on tap.

As we talked, Pete tried five beers, guided by Hummler through the staggering range available. He drank Taras Boulba by local Brasserie de la Senne (Belgium), Moeder Fucker IV by Le Paradis (France), Mozaic Black by Mont Saleve (France), Cuvée De Ranke by Ranke (Belgium) and Fièvre de Cacao by Thiriez (France).

In the end, Hummler is a man after my own heart. “We all have to decide. Each citizen has to decide what they want to do with their life. I decided for myself that I wanted to eat very good food. I eat less and less meat, maybe once a week but what I eat is very good, like the chicken that is aged 120 days on a small farm. Taste is very important to me.

Tip: Ask staff for guidance in selecting beers for your own beer flight.

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Small and traditional pub La Fleur en Papier Doré was the perfect place to meet local friends for an evening drink. At 55 Rue des Alexiens, it was very close to our bed and breakfast, and also easy to reach by local bus. The menu shares a little of the history of the bar, housed in a small maisonette that dates from the mid 18th century. In the past it housed a convent, which moved to a new home in the middle of the 20th century. As a pub, it became the favoured meeting place of the Surrealist cultural movement with regulars including René Magritte; a few decades later it was a focus point for the Cobra (avant-garde) movement, creators of experimental art and philosophy. Mementos of both remain on the well-worn walls of the cosy pub, protected (along with the façade, the ground floor rooms and some of the furniture) by the local government which has decreed them of historical value.

Stop for a few beers (and some charcuterie) or for a simple meal.

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The Cantillon Brewery welcomes visitors for brewery tours (7 Euros including a beer) or to buy beer. You can buy to drink in or takeaway; lovers of lambic will particularly enjoy a visit. The address at 56 Rue Gheude is only a short walk from the central tourist district.

 

Lunch Stops

My first recommendation for a light lunch is the cheese plate and charcuterie selection at Moeder Lambic, above. Super quality, and each provides a generous portion for the price.

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Another great option is recently opened Peck 47 (amusingly named for its address at 47 Rue Marche Aux Poulets). This all day cafe offers a short menu of home made sandwiches, salads, soups, cakes, fresh juices, smoothies and a small selection of local beers. For just €8, my poached eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and homemade relish was far more generous than I expected and all the items were of excellent quality. The eggs were perfectly poached, the salad nicely dressed and the home made relish very good indeed. Pete’s sandwich – roast chicken, rocket, lemon and basil mayo and slow roasted tomatoes – also impressed, for €5.

Tip: A particularly nice touch is that the free tap water is stored in the drinks fridge in large bottles stuffed with mint. Ask for some!

 

A Traditional Dinner

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I have to say from the off – don’t go to Restobieres if you’re looking for great service. The three staff on duty ranged from friendly but incompetent through utterly disinterested to downright sullen. That usually stops me from recommending a place but Restobieres is a good option if you’re keen to try traditional Belgian dishes alongside a range of Belgian beers.

Herve Cheese Croquets (€10) were a tasty comfort food, served hot and freshly fried. Homemade paté with Rochefort and foie gras  (€12) was a generous slab; light on the foie gras but tasty nonetheless. My calf’s liver with shallots and Chouffe  (€20) was decent; I really liked the beer and shallot sauce. Pete had satisfactory steak and chips with another good sauce and a generous well-dressed salad. The star of the mains was our friend’s bloempanch blood pudding (€12) which was both tasty and generously portioned for the price.

The only duff note (with the exception of the service) was a scoop of speculoos biscuit ice cream (€4) which we decided could only possibly have been made by a chef who’d never tasted speculoos (and not bothered to look up a recipe for the spices usually used). The texture was unpleasantly gritty too.

Located at 9 rue des Renards, not far from the Jeu de Balle flea market.

 

Brussel’s Modern Dining Scene

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I already explained how much we liked the multicultural vibe in Brussels. This goes equally for the food scene, which has some great restaurants to explore. One such place launched just a few weeks before our visit; located along very trendy Rue de Flandre in the Sainte Catherine district, Gramm is a restaurant offering bold, inventive and modern food. It’s headed up by Chef Erwan Kenzo Nakata, who grew up in Brittany to a French father and Japanese mother, thus explaining some of the eclectic Japanese touches to otherwise modern French cooking.

The evening offering is a fixed tasting menu, 6 courses for €38. Although the courses are individually quite small, we felt very satisfied at the end of our meal, having enjoyed the array of tastes, textures and colours in Nakata’s self-assured dishes.

While I felt the food was good value, I was less impressed with the drinks pricing, for wines, beers and soft drinks (which were served in shockingly tiny glasses) so if you’re on a fixed budget, keep an eye on your drinks orders to avoid a shock at the end of the evening. Also, do set aside plenty of time. Service is very warm and friendly but the wait between courses, even in a nearly empty restaurant, is a little longer than ideal.

Tip: Don’t be shy about asking for more of the excellent bread and butter, by the way, it’s great for mopping up some of the juices and sauces!

 

The Marolles Flea Market

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Usually, I’m not much of a shopper but offer me the chance to browse a car boot sale or flea market and I’m instantly excited, so I was very keen to return to the famous Marolles Flea Market held daily in the Place du Jeu de Balle. On sale is a charming mix of cheap tat and more expensive “antiques”; it’s definitely a case of one man’s rubbish being another man’s treasure. With my love of retro kitchenware, I was in heaven as there’s plenty of it here, at very bargainous prices. It’s actually a miracle I came away with only a couple of ornate old teaspoons and two Nestle branded cups and saucers in amber glass – there was, I think, a complete set of six in the box but most were too chicken-shit-and-feather covered to assess very well, so I just bought the two cleanest ones for a whopping €1!

The market runs every day of the year. Official start times state that it starts at 6 am and finishes at 2pm on weekdays, 3pm on weekends.

Tip: Take lots of small change with you and of course, be prepared to haggle!

Brussels has many more markets to visit including markets for art, food, flowers and vintage clothes.

 

An Elegant Pillow

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X2B Brussels is a family run luxury bed and breakfast in the heart of Brussels, just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place. The three guest bedrooms are each on a different floor – we booked the first floor double and were delighted to discover a vast room with soaringly high ceilings, simple and elegant furnishings and a very generous en-suite bathroom. Do note that none of the rooms have step-free access and, as you’d expect in a private home, there is no lift. Guests are welcomed either by owner Xavier or his mother Monique, who sit down with guests on arrival to share tips for visiting Brussels, personalised to their guests’ interests. Breakfast is excellent: a basket of fresh bread and pastries with an enormous selection of jams and spreads, cheese and cold hams, yoghurt, eggs however you’d like them, rounded off by coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. The hot freshly made raisin bread pain perdu is a lovely touch. Free wifi is also a boon, for those of us who like to stay connected. From £160 a night including breakfast.

Tip: make sure you jot down the house number as well as the street name; there’s no obvious sign on the outside so we walked up and down the same stretch of road several times, eventually identifying the B&B only by peering at the tiny labels for individual doorbells.

 

Getting Around

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In terms of getting around, the key sites in Brussels are within a fairly small area and its certainly possible to walk. But you can also make use of the metro and tram network, as well as local buses. The Brussels Card gives unlimited use of public transport, free entry into some attractions, discounted entry into many more and discounts in shops and restaurants too. You will also be given a free city map. Available for 24, 48 or 72 hours for 24€, 36€ or 43€.

 

With thanks to Eurostar for the complimentary return tickets between London and Brussels and thanks to the Brussels Tourist Board for their assistance in planning some of our sightseeing highlights and their insight into historic and modern Brussels.

Jul 282014
 

Did you know that Jelly Belly do sweets other than jelly beans? I didn’t!

The good news is that the Jelly Belly Candy range is as tasty as their jelly beans. Pete and I have been ripping open bag after bag these last few weeks and I have to confess, none of them have lasted very long. Pete’s favourites are probably the Sunkist Fruit Gems – large soft fruit jelly discs. I’m torn between those and the Raspberries and Blackberries – these have a soft centre coated in crunchy candy “seeds”. There are also gummy bears (regular and hot cinnamon), chocolate Dutch mints, a liquorice “bridge mix” and American stalwart, candy corn.

Although I try not to buy sweets too often, the nostalgic pull of a bag of sweets is hard to resist and takes me straight back to ye olde Woollies pick and mix. What helps temper temptation is my increasing dissatisfaction with some of the cheaper sweets, full of jarringly artificial flavours and often far too sweet. These Jelly Belly candies are undeniably pricier but so much better that they’re absolutely worth the extra, in my opinion.

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The quintessentially American Candy Corn is now joined by Gummi Bears, Licorice Bridge Mix, Chocolate Dutch Mints, Raspberries & Blackberries, Sunkist Fruit Gems and Unbearably Hot Cinnamon Bears and the bags are priced at £6.62 each.

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COMPETITION

One Kavey Eats reader will win a set of all seven of Jelly Belly’s candy range, as pictured in the bags above. The prize includes delivery in the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite childhood memory of eating sweets.

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 @JellyBellyUK’s new candy range from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/Nymaog #KaveyEatsJBCandies
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 22nd August, 2014.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • 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 winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Where prizes are 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 Jelly Belly candies, as listed above, and includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Jelly Belly.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. 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 from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received samples from Jelly Belly.

 

It’s rare for us to make cakes the traditional way any more; creaming together butter and sugar, beating in the eggs and folding in the dry ingredients by hand is not only time-consuming but tiring on the arms too. Instead, for the last several years we’ve mixed most cake batters directly in our food processor, which has a permanent home on the kitchen work surface.

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The ingredients are tipped into the bowl, sometimes all together as in my favourite banana cake recipe, sometimes in two or three batches. The blade is very sharp so a few seconds blending is usually all it takes to bring everything together into a batter. Sometimes we need to remove the lid and scrape the sides down once, before a final quick pulse to finish.

The batter is then poured or spooned straight into the cake tin(s) and baked.

Easy peasy and very quick!

Challenged to create a few Brazilian recipes that make good use of my new Magimix 4200 XL, Pete and I made these tasty individual orange and lime cakes, more commonly made as a single larger cake. My previous post was an equally easy recipe for Brazilian Brigadeiro Chocolate Bonbons. For the basic cake batter recipe, we used a recipe by Marian Blazes, an American who has lived and travelled extensively in South America. As it was such a success for the Marzipan Cakes we made over Easter, we made individual cakes rather than one big one, and skipped the glaze altogether.

These are delightful little cakes with a refreshing and vibrant hit of citrus and, as Marian has found, very versatile – you could serve them for breakfast, elevenses, as a packed lunch treat or for afternoon tea.

Usually known as bolo de laranja, orange cake is apparently a popular cake in Brazil. I really like Marian’s combination of orange and lime, and wanted to reflect the use of two citrus fruits in the name. My friend Rosana helped me with translations.

 

Little Orange & Lime Cakes from Brazil | Bolinhos de Laranja e Limão

Makes 10 to 15 individual cakes, depending on size

Ingredients
2 oranges
1 lime
3 eggs (we used large eggs)
60 ml vegetable oil
125 grams butter, melted
300 grams plain white flour
100 grams ground almonds
350 grams sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon salt

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Liberally butter your muffin tins and then sprinkle a little flour over the buttered surfaces.
  • Zest the lime and the oranges.
  • Peel and section the orange, discarding the skin, pitch and membranes between segments. (You could candy the peel if you wish).
  • Juice the lime.
  • Place zest, orange flesh and lime juice into the food processor bowl and blend briefly until smooth.
  • Add the eggs, vegetable oil and melted butter to the processor and blend again until well mixed.
  • Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ground almonds to the processor and blend until the batter is smooth. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend again briefly, if necessary.

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  • Spoon or pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin tins. The smaller cakes took 25 minutes, the larger ones needed another 5 minutes.
  • Test using a skewer (it should come out clean) or press the surface lightly (it should spring back).

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  • When nicely risen, golden brown on top and cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool for several minutes in the tins.

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  • Remove from the tins and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.

Whatever time of day you choose to eat these bright little cakes, I hope you enjoy them!

Our new Magimix 4200 XL is very similar to our older 5200 – the key differences for us are the XL, which denotes the extra wide feed tube, and a slightly smaller footprint. The 4200 XL also comes with a BlenderMix attachment for smoothies and batters, which we’ve yet to try. Like the 5200, it comes with large, medium and mini bowls, a very sharp blade, an egg whisk attachment, a dough hook attachment and a couple of slicing and grating discs.

Other Brazilian recipes which make use of a food processor:

Pão o de Queijo (cheese bread) and Churrasco steak with salsa and rice
Cucumber Caipirinha Cocktail

Kavey Eats received a Magimix 4200 XL from Magimix.

 

During the long Easter weekend, my friend Lisa made almond cake, using a Nigella Lawson recipe featuring marzipan as a key ingredient. How fabulous does that sound? She cunningly poured the batter into a muffin mould to make individual cakes instead of one large cake.

I loved both the sound of the recipe and Lisa’s idea for miniature cakes, so on Easter Sunday, Pete and I followed suit.

We decided to halve the amounts. I also took note of Lisa’s feedback that the recipe produces a really wet and sloppy batter and we reduced the eggs by a third. The batter was perfect.

The resulting cakes were utterly delicious, with a beautiful even texture. They were also very easy to make, since all the ingredients are simply combined using a food processor. They stored well in an airtight box for a few days so they would be a great choice when you need a quick make-ahead recipe for sweet treats.

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Individual Marzipan Cakes

Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe
Makes 4-6 depending on your moulds

Ingredients
125 grams unsalted butter
125 grams marzipan (almond paste)
75 grams caster sugar
2-3 drops teaspoon almond extract
2-3 drops of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
75 grams self-raising flour

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160°C (fan).
  • Liberally butter and flour the muffin mould and set to one side.
  • Cube the butter and marzipan, and either leave out of fridge for an hour or use the microwave to soften a little.
  • Place butter, marzipan and caster sugar into a food processor (with the blade attachment) and process until smooth.
  • Add the almond extract and vanilla bean paste and blitz again, briefly.
  • Add the eggs and process until properly combined.
  • Add the flour and process again until you have a smooth cake batter.
  • Pour batter into muffin mould. We have a bendy rubber spatula that is perfect for making sure no batter is wasted.
  • Bake for half an hour, but start checking after 25 minutes. When the cake looks golden and cooked, check using a fine skewer. If it comes out cleanish, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out and cooling further on a wire rack.

The cakes are tasty served straight away, but develop an added moistness after a day and store well for up to a week.

Nigella suggests serving with raspberries, pureed or stewed apples or creme fraiche and toasted flaked almonds but we thought they were wonderful just as they were.

 

Also, please join me in wishing my lovely Pete and the gorgeous Lisa a very happy birthday, today!

 

“I love Jelly Belly Jelly Beans!”

That’s exactly how I started a post last year, in which I shared my recipe for a simple no-churn jelly bean ice cream. If you are interested in the history of this well known brand, I talk about it in the same post.

Today is National Jelly Bean Day (in the US and the UK, anyway) and we’re celebrating by giving you the chance to win this wonderful Jelly Belly Bean Machine and a kilo of beans to fill it! Read on to find out how to enter, and for some interesting facts about Jelly Belly.

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  • Jelly Belly first created jelly beans in 1976 and their beans were the first to be sold in single flavours and come with a flavour menu.
  • The original eight flavours of Jelly Belly beans were Very Cherry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Lemon, Liquorice and Grape.
  • There are currently over 100 different flavours!
  • Each Jelly Belly jelly bean contains just 4 calories.
  • Jelly Belly jelly beans are free from fat, wheat, nuts, gluten, dairy and  gelatine. (They are also certified OU Kosher and suitable for vegetarians).
  • Jelly Belly is now available in over 63 countries worldwide. Each one has their favourite flavours and they’re all different. The reigning number one flavour in the UK is Strawberry Cheesecake.
  • Juicy Pear costs more to create than any other Jelly Belly flavour because special D’Anjou Pears are shipped in especially from France.
  • Jelly Belly beans were the first jelly beans in outer space when President Reagan sent them on the 1983 flight of the space shuttle Challenger.
  • As well as eating Jelly Belly beans one at a time, to savour the flavors, aficionados also combine them to create recipes. Add your own to the UK Jelly Belly recipe database.

 

COMPETITION

Jelly Belly are offering one Kavey Eats reader this retrotastic Jelly Belly Bean Machine and a kilo bag of jelly beans with which to fill it. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me what flavour you think would make a tasty new Jelly Belly jelly bean.

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 @JellyBellyUK Jelly Bean Machine from Kavey Eats!
http://goo.gl/HZQT21 #KaveyEatsJellyBelly
(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 9 May 2014.
  • 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 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 Jelly Belly Bean Machine and a kilo of Jelly Belly jelly beans and includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Jelly Belly.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. 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 from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Jelly Belly.

This competition was won by Laura Banks.

 

Suizenji Joju-en Park

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Suizenji Joju-en is a beautiful park in Kumamoto. When we visited at the end of October last year, it was still lush and green; the autumn colours still to descend.

Daimyo (feudal lord) Hosokawa Tadatoshi originally built a temple, Suizenji, on the site in 1632 but just four years later he replaced it with a tea house, designating the new surrounding gardens a tea retreat; he believed the natural spring-fed water (from nearby Mount Aso) made excellent tea. Tadatoshi named the garden Joju-en for a character in a poem by 4th century Chinese poet Tao Yuanming. Both titles form part of the full name of the park today.

The garden took subsequent generations of the family a further 80 years to develop and represents, in miniature form, the 53 post stations of Tokaido, the road that connected Tokyo with Kyoto during the Edo Period. The largest of the many rounded tsukiyama (artificial hills) represents Mount Fuji.

It is typical of the Momoyama period of garden design – a central lake is bordered by artfully arranged boulders and pebbles and there are stepping stones within. Paths wind through the gardens, showcasing landscapes designed to be admired from a distance; they are connected by low stone bridges over the lake.

The Izumi (Inari) Shinto Shrine was built in 1878 as a memorial to the Hosokawa rulers and the garden became a public park in 1879. The impressively thatched tea room, Kokin-Denju-no-Ma, was originally in Kyoto’s Imperial Palace but was moved to the park in 1912.

With the sun shining, we took our time to walk around, pausing to admire the view along the route and resting on benches beneath the trees. I was particularly mesmerised by the park gardeners, mowing the tsukiyama in ever-ascending circles, around and around and around…

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Inside the park, there were also a few souvenir and produce shops, including one selling “Kumamoto Banpeiyu” fruit. As far as I can tell, it’s a Japanese cross between a yellow-fleshed pomelo and a red-fleshed grapefruit.

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Sweet Potato Dumplings

Sweet potatoes – both yellow and purple varieties – are very popular in Japan. In Kumamoto, the purple kind feature in a variety of local sweets.

One type, is imokoi; imo means potato and koi can mean either love or a dark colour, so it’s either “dark colour potato” or “potato love”, I’m not sure which! And I love that the local name is ikinari dango which means “all of a sudden sweet round dumpling”, so-called because it’s said to be a treat one can make very quickly for unexpected visitors. Inside a glutinous rice wrapper is a layer of sweet potato and another of sweet azuki (red bean) paste.

Another plainer dumpling contains a sweet potato filling within a glutinous rice wrapper.

This stall outside the entrance to Suizenji Joju-en Park was selling the simpler dumplings for just ¥ 85 (56 pence) each. There were also whole sweet potatoes available, but no ikinari dango on sale, though they were shown on a laminated picture list of products. When I asked if I could take some photographs, the owner nodded, pointing out the large poster portraits hanging behind her and her colleagues; I gather her shop had been featured in a documentary or magazine.

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Entrance to Suizenji Joju-en Park is ¥ 400.

Want to read more about Japan?

 

When Gloucestershire company Selsley sent me some of their syrups to try, I was keen to think of some different ways to use them.

I played it safe with the mulling syrup, using it to create warming winter drinks. It combines beautifully not only with red wine but with apple juice, cider and even beer. And because the flavours are already infused into the syrup you can either mix and serve cold or heat gently and quickly. The vanilla syrup is lovely in coffee. I want to try it in a fruit smoothie too and in a rich ice-cream based milkshake.

Although the ginger syrup with lemongrass works wonders in a whisky toddy, I wanted to use its delicious flavour in a dessert. As I’ve never made panna cotta before, this seemed a great opportunity to give it a go.

Selsey Ginger Lemongras Panna Cotta-4491

This very simple ginger and lemongrass panna cotta came out beautifully, the syrup giving a distinct but not overpowering flavour to the panna cotta. I love a properly wibbly wobbly panna cotta in which the flavouring doesn’t overwhelm the subtle taste of the cream. The balance here was good!

Of course, you can use this recipe with other flavoured syrups, keeping the ratio of liquid to gelatine the same and varying the flavours.

I served some of these with candied baby tangerines (made in the same way as these confit clementines). I think fresh tart berries, such as blueberries or raspberries, would also work nicely.

 

Ginger & Lemongrass Panna Cotta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3 gelatine leaves
small dish of cold water
240 ml (1 cup) milk
240 ml (1 cup) double cream
30 ml (2 tablespoons) Selsley ginger syrup with lemongrass

Note: If you don’t have Selsley syrup, substitute with 30 ml of syrup from a jar of stem ginger and infuse panna cotta with a little fresh lemongrass or lemon zest while heating, straining as you pour the cooked cream into the dishes.

Method

  • Place gelatine leaves in cold water to rehydrate.
  • Gently heat milk, double cream and syrup in a pan, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a simmer (with small bubbles appearing on the surface).
  • Lift gelatine leaves out of water and squeeze to remove excess liquid.
  • Remove pan from the heat and stir in the gelatin leaves until completely dissolved.
  • Pour mixture into ramekins, small bowls or small cups and leave to cool.
  • Once cool, refrigerate until set (about 1-2 hours).

Selsey Ginger Lemongras Panna Cotta-4487 Selsey Ginger Lemongras Panna Cotta-4488

  • Either serve in the cups or turn out onto plates. Warm the cups in a shallow dish of hot water for a few moments to help them slip out more easily.

As you can see, a wrinkly skin formed on the panna cotta as it set. This wasn’t a problem when we served these turned out onto a plate, and the skin wasn’t unpleasant in the mouth. But if you want to serve your panna cotta in the cup, you may like a more attractive flat surface. Once you’ve poured the cream into the cups, carefully lay a piece of cling film over each one so that it’s touching the surface, and leave to set. This should stop a skin from forming.

Kavey Eats received sample products for review from Selsley Foods.

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