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.

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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!)

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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.

Brazilian-Orange-Lime-Cakes-KaveyEats-KFavelle

  • 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).

Brazilian-Orange-Lime-Cakes-KaveyEats-KFavelle-4 Brazilian-Orange-Lime-Cakes-KaveyEats-KFavelle-5

  • 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.

IMG_20140420_121428 Individual Marzipan Cakes
IMG_20140420_135215 IMG_20140421_181042

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.

Jelly Belly Bean Machine B

  • 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.

Japan2013-Suizenji Imo-5675

 

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.

Japan2013-Suizenji Imo-5604 Japan2013-Suizenji Imo-5602
Japan2013-Suizenji Imo-5596 Japan2013-Suizenji Imo-5595

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.

 

Sometimes I fall behind in writing about cookery books I’ve accepted for review. There is always a stack of books waiting for my attention, and I often feel vaguely guilty that I have already covered books that came in more recently than books that have been waiting a while. So I was delighted when a new friend agreed to take one from the pile and write a guest review about how she got on cooking from it. She chose French Food Safari by Maeve O’Meara and Guillaume Brahimi. Over to Tara Dean and her friend Dawn.

HGB FFS COVER v03.ai FrenchFoodSafariMG-19

I met Kavey through a friend when we needed somewhere to crash for the weekend whilst we went to Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park. I had heard much about Kavey, it was a delight to eventually meet both Kavey who eats and Pete who drinks. I live in Bristol and keep myself very busy. I work for an international sexual health company, run my own sports massage business and am studying for my Masters in Occupational Psychology which I will complete early next year. In my spare time I do Bikram yoga, go to the gym and spend time with my amazing friends.

Whilst at Kavey’s I raided her sweet and chocolate box, as a blogger she gets sent lots of samples and so I had a great time, we inevitably got to talking about food and blogging. Kavey had been sent a recipe book to review and was finding her time limited, I was excited and up for the challenge so she asked me to take the book, cook, eat and review. So here we are, I hope you enjoy reading about my experience.

I have a wonderful friend called Dawn who writes the dessert part of this review, we met a few years ago as we both started out our studies in Psychology. As a fellow northerner, she’s from the east I’m from the west, we both love good homely food that fills your belly and makes you feel nice and warm inside. I take my food seriously and don’t like to eat too much junk food. I am known in the office for my interesting concoctions, when I work late on a Thursday my manager stops by the kitchen specifically to inspect what I’m eating. I’ve often been asked at work if I’m vegetarian even when there is meat in the dish because I am eating something homemade which contains vegetables. People are taken aback when I start work at 8am and I have managed to cook a curry or soup for my lunch before arriving. Life’s too short to eat food that does not taste good. I pride myself in making quick, inexpensive and healthy meals. Now that’s not quite how things happen when you cook from a French cooking book. My point is I can relate to people taking food seriously.

I cooked the main and thankfully Dawn did the dessert. We both thought we had picked a fairly easy none complicated dessert for her. One of the phrases I remember from the evening was from her husband Marc when she asked him to help her with the puff pastry. His reply was ‘No. I’ve made puff pastry once’. He meant you only ever made fresh puff pastry once, learn your lesson, and then buy pre-made ready to roll forever more. Knowing that, there are far more fun and less stressful ways you can spend your Saturday afternoon.

FrenchFoodSafariMG-18

Lamb Navarin

I chose the Lamb Navarin recipe which in our terms is a French Lamb Stew. First stop was the butchers. The recipe calls for 1kg boned lamb shoulder and 1kg forequarter lamb racks, cut between every second rib. After showing my butcher the recipe book we decided it would be half the price, more meat and much easier to have 2 kg of lamb shoulder which he boned and then I could dice. This was very simple to cut and led to a much less messy eating experience and left me with more money to spend on red wine which fits into my northern values. The recipe says to use chicken stock for which it provides a recipe for – ain’t no one got time for that – or water – I compromised and used stock cubes which I do not think took any flavour away. I had never heard of Kipfler potatoes and neither had the assistant at my local greengrocers. I did a quick internet search and up popped a picture of a long nobbly potato. We ended up with Anya potatoes which hopefully did not take anything away.

I found the recipe well written and easy to follow other than wrestling with Dawn for page viewing. There is a point in the recipe which instructs you to strain the sauce through a fine sieve. I really did not see the point of this and as I was cooking in a piping hot, very heavy, cast iron casserole dish I declined to follow. The result was a beautiful navarin with succulent meat and flavoursome sauce. The celeriac puree containing almost a full pack of butter was the perfect accompaniment. As much as the guests enjoyed the navarin the puree enjoyed the most praise. One guest commented that if I made it again he would like to be on the guest list.

Along with preparation you are looking at a good 3 hours to make this meal. That is without an dessert or starter. The recipe claims this dish can serve 8 – 10 people. We had 7 people to feed, no one behaved like a piglet and overfilled their plate and we had very little in the way of leftovers. I think the writer has been overly optimistic. Unless in France they have extremely small portions to allow for the many courses you would normally expect at a dinner party, which of course is entirely possible, however as a northerner I would like my main course to feel like a main. We did serve cheese between the main and the dessert. Although I have always experienced cheese to be served after dessert the author of French Food Safari says any French person knows that the cheese is served before dessert. Not wanting to appear as amateurs we stuck to tradition.

The book itself is well presented and inviting. There are sections on cheeses, meat, and very fancy desserts which you need specialist equipment to attempt. The recipes do look very inviting and I’m looking forward to trying some more…….. maybe for the next dinner party!

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Tarte Tatin by Dawn

A super friend of mine called Tara invited me to do a joint review of the new ‘French Food Safari’ and with the chitchat of good friends it was quickly decided: there would be a dinner party and it would be held in my kitchen. I offered to make dessert since this is a dish I always feel I do in a hurry when I have a dinner party. The idea of oodles of time without distraction from other dishes to prepare, felt like finally, without neglect, I was in a position to consider this dessert’s every need!

The dessert? Tarte Tatin…The perfect antidote to the autumn air. This is a dish I have enjoyed without fail on numerous occasions during my time spent living in France as a student in the 90’s. My husband is part French and always holds a certain nostalgia for this dessert since his French grandmother would often make it.

On first sight, the recipe seemed fairly straightforward. I have, on several occasions baked a Tarte Tatin so thought it near impossible that I should find myself in troubled waters. Oh how I was wrong! The recipe required me to make puff pastry. Although I have experience of making shortcrust pastry I knew straightaway that to make puff pastry you need inherent qualities such as patience, determination and time. With a flick of my hair I decided I had time on my side and should not focus on the aforementioned qualities!

Some points regarding the recipe quantities: the pastry recipe required 500ml water, 250 ml of which needed to be ice-cold. After 250ml water I found my dough to be all pasty and did not even dare to add the next vat of water. I became a little disheartened at this and wondered how on earth I could possibly inject more water into it, considering all my quantities again-had I put too little flour in? All the quantities were right so with deep breath and without further ado I made a pledge to move on and get cracking with peeling the apples. With an eye on the time and my pastry in mind, I looked forward to what I thought had to be the more straightforward part of the recipe.

After peeling, de-seeding and coring the apples I made the caramel. On the previous occasions I’ve made Tarte Tatin I have added the sugar and butter to the fruit at the time of cooking so i was a little surprised that the caramel was made separately but appreciated trying out new methods! I know that you have to e very attentive to a caramel to stop it burning so I gave it my full attention despite the knowledge my pastry was going to be crying out for affection in the fridge before long. Unfortunately what I found is that there was not enough direction in the instructions. i was starting to feel concerned about the caramel bubbling away for 8 mins with apples and then being turned up to full heat until the apples became caramelised. I was also using a cast-iron pan which does, of course, retain a lot of heat in comparison to other materials.

The apples looked golden and caramelised and picture-perfect. Time to return to the pastry again…

I started to become aware of time: with guests arriving at 8pm I was not going to have this dessert done and dusted before their arrival even though I had started at around 5:15pm. I estimated that by 8:15pm the Tarte, pastry in tow, would be ready to put in the oven. One aspect which would have really helped in making this pastry… photos. There weren’t enough photos of the various contortions this pastry required during the rolls. A picture of all four corners folded in would have been welcomed with open arms.

Three hours and 15 minutes later saw the birth of my Tarte Tatin. It looked amazing.

The taste was disappointing. Everyone agreed it tasted a little burned. A slightly burned caramel sullied the whole dish and those melt in your mouth apples were suddenly left without a plan B. The pastry was ok but nothing special, not quite what I’d expect from having toiled and troubled over it for hours… I kicked myself for not buying ready-made pastry. At least I would have had an easier time coming to terms with a burnt caramel not to mention extra time to prepare for guests.

With more handholding I could have tackled this dessert. I cook and bake a great deal with 2 small children and a husband to feed but this recipe needed a chef (as well as more photos, directions and bags of time) and that, I hasten to add, I am definitely not.

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FrenchFoodSafariMG-23

 

With thanks to Tara and Dean for their review, and to Hardie Grant for review copy of French Food Safari.

Oct 292013
 

I love autumn – the early half, when the leaves on the trees create a riot of my favourite colours and there is still a good chance of sunny days that are chilly but not freezing cold. And it’s apple season too. As I discovered recently, the apple isn’t a native fruit, but it’s become so much a part of our agricultural and gardening landscape that it’s hard not to think of it as a quintessentially British fruit.

Last year, we had such an outrageously enormous harvest from just two trees on our allotment that I spent several days preserving apples in chutneys, jellies and apple pie filling.

This year’s harvest wasn’t quite as overwhelming but I’ve still been enjoying a little more preserving, not to mention apple (and foraged blackberry) crumbles and more apple pies.

ApplePie-172823

When we’re making a pie fresh, rather than using canned apple pie filling, the recipe we use for the filling is a very simple one taken from Angela Nilsen’s Ultimate Apple Pie. Rather than using her pastry recipe, we usually buy ready-made shortcrust pastry from the supermarket. Pete preps the apples, rolls the pastry and lays the base and lid. I make the filling mix and do the pie decorations. A team effort though I have the easier tasks!

I like to use a mix of cooking and eating apples so that there are differences in the texture and flavour of the fruit, once cooked. This pie was made with four different types of apples; most were from our allotment and garden with an additional one from the shops.

ApplePie-2021 ApplePie-2023
ApplePie-2 ApplePie-1
Last 2 images by Jason Ng, thanks Jason!

Classic Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients
500 grams shortcrust pastry, chilled
1 kg mixed apples, peeled and cored weight
Optional: large bowl of cold water and squirt of lemon juice
150g caster sugar + extra for sprinkling
0.5 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg white, very loosely beaten

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170 C (fan).
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. You can keep the prepped apples fresh in a bowl of cold water with a squirt of lemon juice added but do drain them well and quickly pat them dry before continuing with recipe.
  • Toss the apples in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix with your hands to make sure the coating is evenly distributed.
  • Divide the pastry, setting aside two thirds for the base and one third for the lid. Roll out the base and lay into a reasonably deep pie dish.
  • Pile the apples inside, heaping them towards the centre.
  • Roll the pastry for the lid, brush a little water over the edges of the base and position the lid on top. Use a sharp knife to trim away excess pastry and then press down with fingers or a fork to ensure a good seal and make a pretty edge.
  • Roll out the leftover pastry and use a small round pastry cutter to cut out three circles. Use your finger to make a dent in each one, so they look more apple-like. Use the same pastry cutter to cut three simple leaf shapes. Roll or cut tiny fragments to use as stems. Use water to moisten and stick the pieces onto the pie lid.
  • Loosely beat the egg white and brush over the entire pie and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
  • Cut a  few slashes or crosses to allow steam to escape during cooking.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully golden.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to sit and rest for 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle a little more caster sugar over the top.
  • Serve with custard, vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, double cream or a delicious clotted cream ice cream my friend found in Waitrose.

 

Apple pie is such a classic and yet there are many variations. What recipe or style of apple pie do you prefer and what do you like to serve it with?

 

I adore flat peaches.

As I’ve written before, they’re also known as doughnut peaches, saturn peaches and even UFO peaches, because of their flattened disc-like shape. Usually they’re superbly sweet and impossible to eat without dribbling copious sticky juice down chin and arms. In recent years, I’ve found them easier than ever to find; my local grocery shops usually sell them very cheaply throughout their season. I also buy flat nectarines, which are the same fruit but with smooth rather than furry skins.

PeachTarteTatin-1370

I’ve been wanting to make a Tarte Tatin for years. Traditionally made with apples, this French sweet is an upside down caramelised fruit tart made by making caramel in a heavy based pan, adding the fruit over the caramel, covering with pastry and then transferring to the oven to bake. It’s flipped back over to serve.

I finally decided to give the technique a go after buying a large bowl of giant flat nectarines that were so ripe I knew they wouldn’t last long. As is my usual won’t, I read a frankly ridiculous number of recipes on the web, decided on the general approach I liked best and then winged it to make my own version. Even traditionalists seem undecided between shortcrust and flaky pastry. I went for the latter.

The result was so good I made it again the weekend after, using smaller flat peaches the second time around. On the second occasion, I decided to see what happened if I made more caramel but found the result too liquidy – I think it essentially poached the peaches rather than baking them and didn’t allow the butter and sugar to thicken further during baking. So I’m giving you the recipe with the amounts I used the first time, which created a thicker, stickier caramel.

PeachTarteTatin-1364

 

Upside Down Caramelised Flat Peach Tart aka Flat Peach Tarte Tatin

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3-6 ripe flat peaches or nectarines, depending on size
60 grams salted butter
100 grams sugar
1 roll ready made puff pastry
Optional: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 C (fan).
  • Wash the peaches, half them horizontally and carefully scoop or cut out the stone.

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  • If you’re adding the cinnamon, mix it thoroughly into the sugar.
  • In a large, heavy-based, oven-proof frying pan melt the butter, then sprinkle the sugar evenly across the pan.

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  • Once the sugar has melted and the mixture starts to brown a little, add the flat peaches, cut-side down.

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  • If your peaches are a little hard, you may want to cook them in the caramel for a few minutes; I bought mine soft and ripe, so they cooked only as long as it took me to get the pastry out of the fridge and cut it.
  • Cut a square from the puff pastry sheet and lay it over the peaches. Use a knife to cut the pastry corners away and tuck the edges down around the fruit.

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  • Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

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  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Shake the pan to see if the tart will come away from the base. If not, heat the pan for 10 seconds on the hob to melt the surface of the caramel and try again.
  • Place a large plate over the pan, grasp both together and flip over. My tarts (and all the fruit pieces) came away cleanly from the pan both times.

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  • Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream, custard or cream.

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I also want to tell you about a new business that got in touch with me recently to ask if I’d like to try their products. Cinnamon Hill import fresh cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam; true cinnamon from the former and cassia bark from the latter. They also sell a cinnamon grater with a specially designed metal grate and gorgeous oak handle; it comes with a pretty hand-made ceramic cup in which to store it. The grater worked very well indeed and the cinnamon was certainly intensely fragrant and had a lovely flavour. It does come at a price though, at £12 and £8 respectively for just 5 sticks of Sri Lankan or Vietnamese cinnamon and £50 for the grater (which includes £20 of cinnamon).

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Kavey Eats received product samples from Cinnamon Hill.

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