Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Win Lots Of Easter Eggs!

If you need some help deciding which Easter eggs to buy this year, my recent Great Easter Egg Review should give you lots of chocolate for thought.

In the meantime, here's a competition to give you the chance to enjoy some Easter eggxcess of your own!

Many producers and retailers kindly supplied Easter eggs for the review. However, whereas most provided one of each type of egg (which was all we needed), Tesco sent vendor packs (with 6+ eggs in a box) for each of 9 different Easter eggs (I chose to include only five in the review).

My house was so full of Easter eggs, I could have opened a shop!

Thankfully, Tesco responded positively to my request to sell most of the extra eggs to raise funds for charity. I sold most of them at work, which raised £97.50 for Comic Relief. The rest I sold at Danny's Food Urchin Supper Club, which raised £37 for the Red Cross Japan fund. Thanks, Tesco, that's a lovely £134.50 to good causes!

We also agreed that I would put a few aside to share with readers of Kavey Eats.

I'm offering one each of 9 Tesco Finest chocolate Easter egg products, as pictured.

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As I'll be paying postage myself, this competition is open to UK mainland addresses only.

How to enter

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me about your favourite Easter chocolate memory. Please ensure you leave your email address* in the field provided or in the body of your comment. Entries without any means of contacting the winner will not be included in the draw.
  2. Enter on twitter by tweeting the following:
    I'd love to win lots of Easter eggs from www.kaveyeats.com #kaveyeatseastereggs

Details

  • One blog entry per person. One twitter entry per person.
  • The prize is a selection of 9 Tesco Finest Easter eggs, as pictured above. The prize cannot redeemed for cash.
  • The prize has been provided by Tesco and will be delivered by Kavey Eats.
  • The prize can be delivered to UK mainland addresses only.
  • The deadline for entries is midnight BST Saturday 2nd April 2011.
  • A winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The winner will be notified by email or twitter asked to provide a delivery address. If no response is received by Wednesday 6th April, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

*If you don't have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?

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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Güdness Gracious Me + Recipe for Fred & Jerome's Chocolate Gü-lash

Some months ago, I was asked if I'd like to attend a Chocolate Dinner cooked by Gü's head chef (who leads their product development team), Fred Ponnavoy. Of course, I screeched "yes, please" as fast as I could and also suggested my very chocolatey friend Dom to come too.

Until nearer the time, we had no idea what the occasion was, what the format of the meal might be, where it would be held or even how many of us were attending. Even when we found out it would be held at Meghan Farren (Senior Brand Manager and Marketing Controller)'s flat we had no idea what to expect. It was exciting!

The day arrived and Dom and I made our way to a gorgeous penthouse flat in West London.

There, we discovered there would be just six of us sharing the evening – Fred and his sous chef in development, Jerome, Meghan and her husband, Ben and Dom and I.

Güdness Gracious Me!

Meghan and Ben weren't yet home. Fred and Jerome, we quickly learned, had been there all afternoon, prepping and cooking the various elements for the meal!

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Of course, our first question was what the evening was about. And we were told about a challenge that Fred has been enjoying with his sous chef. Each came up with some challenge themes for meals they would then design and cook. Previous themes have included meals where everything had to be white, or raw. Hmmm!

When Gü's PR people found out about the chocolate themed meal that was next out of the challenge hat, they suggested asking a couple of bloggers along as guests. And that was that! No big marketing project, no carefully crafted media campaign, just an internal challenge that we lucky two bloggers got a glimpse into for this one fine evening!

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Before long, Ben arrived home, shortly followed by Meghan, and she was quickly put to work making the simple but delicious cocktails with which we started our meal. Equal measures of chilled vodka and Crème de Cacao were shaken together and served over baby cacao pods (for decoration).

Cocktails in hand we were invited to enjoy the canapés.

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We had foie gras, that had been prepared and preserved by Jerome's mother and kindly donated to our evening.

This was served with toast and an amazing spread made from caramelised shallots, passionfruit and milk chocolate.

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There were crunchy balls served on funky spoons – pistachio and hazelnut around a 70% ganache. A liberal pinch of salt meant this hit the perfect balance between sweet and savoury.

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How cute are these little cones?

Made from coriander seed, egg white and flour, they were filled with cocoa nibs at the bottom, then white chocolate and wasabi Chantilly cream, followed by a layer of tuna tartar and then topped with a tiny cocoa nib tuile.

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Our actual starter, after the generous round of canapés, was a lovely snail salad.

The snails were coated with a chocolate vinaigrette made with 85% Sao Tome chocolate, black rice vinegar, olive oil and seasoning. In the salad were roasted hazelnuts, bacon and mixed leaves and some wonderful pleurote du panicaut mushrooms, with a balsamic dressing.

I had not encountered this mushroom before, though I mistook it for a small cèpe , which it resembles. Its scientific name is Pleurotus eryngii but it's also known as Pleurote du panicaut, Argouane, Kräuter Seitling and Oreille de chardon,

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Next up was the wonderful chocolate goulash, or Gü-lash, as Fred and Jerome gigglingly called it! Served with the lightest, fluffiest potato gnocchi I've had, the goulash was mindblowingly good. Really, really, really good. Amazingly good. Suddenly, I regretted eating so much of Jerome's ma's foie gras, the cute cones and nutty ganache balls, that lovely salad (not the mention the enormous lunch I stupidly had earlier in the day). I could barely finish half of my generous portion. If I'd been able to do so without anyone seeing, I'd have scraped the leftovers into my handbag for a midnight snack or breakfast!

The good news is that Fred has shared the recipe (below) and it's one I shall be trying myself soon! In the original, he used dark Venezuelan criollo chocolate and Xocopili (tiny chilli and spiced pearls of chocolate by Valrhona) but he's substituted those with dark chocolate plus the relevant spices, which makes it easier to recreate at home.

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If you thought the meal was nearly over, think again. Each time we asked Fred how many courses were left, no matter when we asked during the evening, he'd always answer "two, just two left". The fibber!

Next came a kind of light soufflé of chocolate and whipped egg whites, served with Illy coffee ice-cream (straight out of the ice-cream churner, which lives in Meghan's bedroom, by the way, kinky, no?) and a chocolate sauce. Madagascan, if you're asking. I adore coffee ice-cream so I just loved this!

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Not a big dry wine drinker, I'd been steadily working my way through chocolate cocktails during the evening but couldn't help but grin delightedly when this bottle of Saint-Croix-du-Mont was served. This appellation is opposite Sauternes, on the other side of the Garonne river, next to another favourite of mine, Loupiac, yet I had not come across it before; it shares the characteristics of it's more famous neighbours with a wonderful balance of sweet and sharp. The colour was at the yellower end of the spectrum for dessert wines of the region – I don't know if that's a factor of age or simply individual vineyards.

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The next pudding was an assembly job and quite a work of art – a modern take on Poire Belle Helene. The pear was poached in beurre noisette (brown butter) and sugar syrup. Over the pear was a layer of cardamom and mascarpone cream. On that were some crunchy caramelised rice crispies. This was topped by a chocolate dome (made from 61% Togo chocolate). Once served, a hot chocolate sauce was poured over the dome to quickly melt it revealing the contents inside.

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Next came coffee and petits foursfinanciers (made with Peruvian chocolate), mini macarons (made with Ghanian chocolate) and some moulded miniature bars (of Madagascan chocolate). The financiers were the best – moist, delicious and with the solid bite of the chocolate disc on top. For me the macarons had the ratio of shell to filling wrong – too much filling to shell for my tastes. But of course, that's me being picky, they were still very nice!

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To cleanse the palate, a final course, and the only one without any chocolate – a granita of grapefruit, sharp and refreshing.

What I needed more than a palate cleanser, was a bovine-style second stomach! I was full to bursting!

It really was a wonderful meal and wonderful evening.

I hope to relive just a little of it soon by making the delicious chocolate goulash recipe that Fred and Jerome developed.


Fred & Jerome's Chocolate Gü-lash

Serves 4

Ingredients
1.2kg of diced beef (casserole)
3 sliced onions
2 sliced red pepper
2 sliced carrots
5 chopped garlic cloves
2 glass of red wine (strong like Merlot)
2 litre of beef stock
1 tsp. of hot paprika
2tsp of sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
4 tomatoes
3 tbsp. of flour
4 tbsp. of rapeseed oil
70g of dark chocolate (62%)
1 pinch of curry spice
1 pinch of chilli powder
1 pinch of ground cardamom

Method

  • Slowly cook in a pan the onions, garlic, red pepper & carrots together until they have softened using two tablespoon of oil, this should take approximately 15minutes. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
  • Pre heat the pan with the remaining oil and lightly caramelised the beef, add all the spices and the seasoning. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir well.
  • Add the red wine and reduce by 2/3, put the vegetables back in the pan & pour some of the beef stock to cover the meat.
  • Cook at the simmering point for at least 3 hours, if needed add more beef stock to keep the Gü-lash moist.
  • Check the seasoning and add the chocolate just before serving,stir well.
  • Enjoy with gnocchi & fresh parsley.

Thanks to Wild Card and for the invitation, to Fred, Jerome, Meghan and Ben for the wonderful evening and Dom at Chocablog for additional photographs.

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Baking Bread with Master Baker Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery

I love bread.

There's no need to elaborate on that, is there really? Because, I'm sure that most of you, if not quite all, feel the same. But I'm going to anyway!

Bread is a glorious thing.

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Freshly baked, with some salty butter and homemade jam. Bursting with delicious fillings of all kinds. Toasted and crunchy or covered in melted cheese. Eggy, dipped and fried. Filled with fruit and soaked in the juices for a pudding. Scooping up hummus, garlicky yoghurt and other dips. Made into pizza…

And it's not difficult to make your own!

As a young teenager, I went through a phase of making bread from scratch. I had a favourite book – part of the St Michael cookery library, I think – which guided me through making loaves and buns. I had great fun kneading and plaiting and shaping and baking but, as is the way with kids and interests, I moved on to something else after a time.

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Fast forward a few years… Pete got interested in baking after a visit to stay with a friend in Scotland. Sheila introduced us to butteries (which really ought to be called lardies, given the ingredients) and was determined to recreate them when we got home. Butteries lead to biscuits, and then resumed interest in cakes (which he'd learned from his mum) and, eventually to bread.

We soon got a bread maker with points from our credit card – remember those schemes? But we quickly grew frustrated with the sameyness of all the loaves it produced, not to mention pulling the paddle out of the arse of every loaf we made!

We found an American recipe book recommending using the bread maker to mix, knead and rise the dough and then shaping by hand and transferring to the oven to bake. This gave a definite improvement over baking in the machine, but the bread still wasn't as good as the best loaves to be found in good bakeries.

Pete moved on to making bread completely by hand, but was soon seduced by no-knead and low-knead techniques.

Dan said: "For years we used to say that it was important to knead in order to "develop the gluten", but we now know this isn't entirely true. High-speed dough mixing, the sort used in most commercial bakeries, or the ultra-high-speed Chorleywood process used to produce the well-known sliced brands, shows that the final elasticity and resilience in the dough can be increased by the amount of energy put into it. When dough is mixed relatively slowly by hand on a worktop, even by the most accomplished bakers, the changes that occur will be mostly due to the length of time since the water was first added, and the characteristics of and interactions between the ingredients. So you can knead the dough fast, slow, or even not at all, and end up with similar results."

Dan Lepard can be credited with getting many Brits baking their own bread and my mum swears by many of his recipes (which are far more varied than just bread). His book, The Handmade Loaf, is a really great resource.

But no-knead (or very little knead) bread left me unsatisfied. It's texture was too dense and it didn't make my heart sing, like really great bread somehow does.

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Interestingly, Dan Lepard commented recently that "we're all moving back towards slight kneading".

Which is good as I'd already started pushing traditional kneading recipes in Pete's direction.

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At just the right time, we received an invitation to review a 2-day bread-making course. Taught by Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery and held at Bedruthan Steps Hotel, older sister hotel to the Scarlet, which we visited a few months ago.

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Unlike the Scarlet, Bedruthan Steps is very much a family hotel. Rooms, public spaces, meals and activities are organised to help parents and children find their perfect balance of independence and family time and service is friendly and helpful.

Style-wise, Bedruthan isn't sleek and sophisticated like the (much newer) Scarlet – its unique original architecture and design features have been heavily disguised in a series of later changes, resulting in a rather muddled and dated look. And much of the interior needs some love and attention provided by a similarly gifted designer as did for the Scarlet.

But that doesn't take much away from the plus points such as a superb family swimming pool and spa area and an absolutely fabulous adult-only side with steam room, sauna and the biggest jacuzzi pool I've ever seen, all with views out to sea.

Bedruthan Steps has an old-fashioned charm which, coupled with an understanding of the needs of families (that has come from many, many years of experience), explains why it's so popular. Childless couple that we are, we'd pick the Scarlet first, but we found many thoughtful touches that we knew would appeal hugely to our many friends with kids.

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The course was held in the small kitchen attached to an upstairs conference area. 9 of us came to learn from Tom Herbert, amongst our number were two food bloggers (myself and Niamh), a number of baking enthusiasts from almost beginners to very experienced, another baker Tom who also runs baking courses, and one of the three sisters who owns and runs the two hotels.

Over the course of two days we learned and made white bread, soda bread, sourdough, pancakes, challah and hot cross buns.

If you don't think that sounds like very much for two days you'd be wrong!

Because, from the same white dough that we mixed and kneaded on starting the course we made plain white bread, seed bread, pita bread, pizza base, focaccia and small bread rolls. Our sourdoughs included plain, olive and fruit versions.

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In fact, one of the most important lessons we took away from the course was how extremely versatile the basic yeast dough and sourdough recipes could be when combined with a little imagination and experimentation.

The other key lesson, if you're asking, was the ability to recognise when dough has been kneaded enough. That change in texture and elasticity, in the look and feel of what is almost a surface skin stretched taut over the rest, is hard to describe but easy to recognise once you've seen it not just once or twice but several times in the space of two days.

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Everyone got stuck in mixing, kneading, shaping and finishing the various breads we made. It was a physical course, but a fun and rewarding one.

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Throughout, Tom shared countless tips that would help us achieve great results back at home.

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So dedicated was Tom to the cause, and so eager were we, that we even returned to the kitchen shortly before midnight on day 1 to shape the risen sourdough into loaves which we then left for a second rise before baking them the next morning!

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One of the nicest things about the course was regularly seeing our hard work transformed into bread throughout the two days.

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One of the recipes that was far simpler than I realised was foccacia, which we made from the basic white dough.

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Tom also demonstrated using the basic white dough to make pizza bases. To our amazement, there was no dough stuck to the ceiling after this exercise!

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Tom started mixing sourdough in huge quantities, on a large work surface, before cutting it into smaller pieces for all of us to work individually. We mixed some of it with a mix of dried fruits and some with whole green and black olives.

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Last time I made hot cross buns they were really not cross buns as I was too lazy to cross them. This time, we did them properly, crossing them once they'd risen and then glazing them once baked.

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Challah is a little like brioche. Tom showed us how to plait and glaze our breads before decorating with black poppy seeds. I went a bit mad and tried a five strand plait (with instructions from Tom on how to do so). The plaiting worked but my finished challah was too long and uneven in width so I formed it into a heart shape. It looked marvellous when baked, if I say so myself!

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We finished the course exhausted but elated by how much we'd learned and achieved.

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And not only did we get to take home some of our mountain of bread, Tom also invited us to take pots of sourdough starter home with us – it's a starter that's been in continuous use for 55 years. Ours is thriving, and we've named him Levi the Levain.

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Since the course, Pete's been making lots and lots of wonderful breads, both sourdoughs and yeast breads. They've been an absolute delight and we've been enjoying them plain, toasted, with cheese, with jam…

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Our next project is one Pete's been talking about for a few years now, and that's to grow our own wheat, harvest and mill it into flour and make it into bread. We always knew we'd only have space to grow enough wheat for a handful of loaves, though now we've got an allotment, we can expand that just a little.

To our surprise and delight, this long-held plan coincides with the Real Bread Campaign's Bake Your Lawn project, encouraging children to "grow it, mill it, bake it, eat it".

Wish us luck!


For more information about courses at Bedruthan Steps, contact the hotel directly.

Tom Herbert also runs courses at his family bakery, Hobbs House Bakery.

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