Rosecoco (borlotti) beans curry

rosecoco

Rosecoco Beans (also called borlotti beans) are normally found in their dried form.  Their deep pink colour skin is flecked with beige and brown spots. They need to be soaked overnight and cooked until soft. Once cooked, they look very similar to peanuts.  Cooking them in a pressure cooker saves time.  If you are in a hurry, you can get these pre boiled in cans in some supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups of boiled Rosecoco (or borlotti) beans (note that this is the cooked/boiled amount.  you will need only one cup which when soaked will double).
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes/canned tomato or passata (I used a mixture of fresh tomatoes and passata)
  • 2 tsbls oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 small sticks of cinnamon
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbls jaggery
  • 1-2 fresh green chillies
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  •  small bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 tbls lemon juice
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic

Method:

1.  Once the rosecoco beans have boiled in plenty of water- drain and  rinse out the water as it will be discoloured.  Allow them to cool.

 

2.  Heat the oil and add in the mustard, cinnamon and cloves.  As soon as they stop popping, add the tomatoes.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, make sure that you remove the outer skin.  To do this, make a slit in the tomatoes and cook them for a couple of minutes in boiling water.  This will loosen the skin. Immerse the cooked tomatoes in cold water and peel off the skin.  Then chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Once they are added to the oil, stir them and cook until soft. Now add all the spices – salt, turmeric, chili powder, jaggery, lemon juice, half the coriander, ginger, garlic and green chillies.  Add half a cup of water.

3.  Once it is simmering, add the boiled rosecoco beans and stir. If your gravy feels too thick you can add some water.  If the gravy feels too watery, you can add blend a teaspoon of chick pea flour (besan) with the gravy in a cup and add it to the curry.  This will thicken the gravy.

4.  Garnish the curry with coriander or fresh green chillies.  Serve this hot with any rice.  We cooked saffron rice. rosecoco

 

How do you cook your Rosecoco or borlotti  beans? Do share your recipes.

Mirrors, Shakers and Manhattans

It’s been quiet on the invite side. I would put this down to the busy holiday season. Saying that I’ve still been invited to a couple of shindigs this week.

The week started with a couple of drinks at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. I usually frequent the Mirror Bar with the charming Bar Manager Salvatore. I have taken many a friend here to impress, to date or even to meet new friends!

Mirror Bar at Landmark Hotel

The bar is very small but adequate.  The list includes classics such as Negroni’s, Manhattans, Martini’s and of course Salvatore will prepare a bespoke cocktail to your needs and desires at the time. I usually swear by the Landmark martini with a lemon twist which never fails to deliver. If you prefer something a little sweeter this can be accommodated with a fruit twist or maybe a passionfruit martini (another favourite) I also like to be offered bar snacks and there is always a decent selection of nuts/crackers/snacky bits.

The sushi platter is also excellent: a plate of salmon and tuna sashimi rolled beautifully, chicken satay and delicious tapas.

Salvatore also offers cocktail masterclasses which need to be booked in advance. They are for a complete beginner and usually include background to cocktails, theory and actual practise. These are becoming very popular for alternative birthday bashes, hen do’s or just generally for something different. You can almost pretend you are an expert mixologist.

Mixologist at Shaker & Company

My other favourite place in town is a wonderful bar called Shaker & Company just off the Euston Road. This is in the style of a speakeasy/Saloon bar and these bars are becoming increasingly popular. The Nightjar is another example of a speakeasy (Old Street roundabout).  Shaker & Company was originally a training school for bartenders and has reared some well known cocktail shakers and makers in the industry.  It continues with the bar school but also has the bar and what a fine bar it is. Just downstairs is a small function room which has been known to host “pop ups” such as Four Roses Bourbon, Ketel One featuring an Amsterdam exhibition and more to come.

The drinks are excellent with all the modern classics again but specialities are whiskies and bourbons. Ask the bartenders for recommendations as they know their stuff and take a nice group of friends.

I was invited to an event hosted by a quirky whisky company called Monkey Shoulder.  Cool name too.  It is part of a monthly event whereby you have a different theme each month such as Manhattan followed by Old Fashioned, Whiskey Punch and others.   This week featured “Manhattan” and featured cardboard cutouts of Manhattan strangely enough  with a makeshift Statue of Liberty as you entered, cardboard cutout taxis to wear (yes very unusual)   As we entered a Monkey signed us in…

We were then given a handful of American dollars to spend at the four bars that were dotted around the room. Once at the bar we were given a brief description of the whisky, cocktails such as a Manhattan – the one with the maraschino twist was delicious and option to even double up for more cocktails with a “banker” who was walking around.

I am quite a whisky fan so this was most enjoyable.  After sampling a few of the cocktails it was then time for the Monkey Shoulder organisers to usher us out of the warehouse by being chased out by their monkey King Kong and they did this with an extinguisher and out we were again.  This event will be running monthly in secret locations so have a look at the website for Monkey Shoulder.

Images reproduced from landmarklondon.co.uk, designmynight.com and Alexandra Abrahams

Paneer and mixed vegetables stir fry

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Lately, I have been using paneer in a lot of curries.  This recipe is slightly different from my usual curries as the curry is dry and can be used to eat on its own, or inside a wrap like a sandwich.

Ingredients for 3-4 servings:

  • 2 cups of cubed paneer
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (I used cauliflower, broccolli, carrots, peas)
  • 2-3 tbls Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbls dhana jeeru ( a mixture of coriander and cumin powder)
  • 2 tbls juice of fresh lemon or lime

Method:

  1.  Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds.  Once the seeds go dark, add the paneer and stir it so that the oil coats the paneer. Lightly cook it stirring gently to avoid breaking the paneer cubes. Just allow them to brown ever so lightly.

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2. Now all the prepared vegetables to the paneer and sprinkle the salt, turmeric, chili powder and dhana jeeru.  Mix it well and allow to cook on a low heat with the lid on. If the curry feels too dry, add half a cup of boiling water to it.

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3.  Once the vegetables soften, add the lemon juice, take the wok off the heat and leave it covered for 5 minutes- to allow all the vegetables to continue  cooking in their steam.

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4.  The curry is ready to serve with chappatis or rice.  We like to have this as a filling for tortilla wraps.

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Baby corn and Broccoli Rice

 

Baby corn and Broccoli Rice 1c

Preparation time-5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Serves 2

Delicious Chinese style rice that is easy to make and perfect accompaniment to any curry.

Ingredients:

240 g cold boiled rice

6 broccoli florets cut into smaller florets

8 baby corn cut into small one cm rounds

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon soya sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green chilli cut into thin slices

1 red onion cut into thin slices

1 clove garlic cut finely chopped

Method:

1. In a wok add the oil and heat it up.

2. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for a minute.

3. Add the broccoli florets and baby corn and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables take on a little colour but are still crisp.

4. Add the salt, pepper, green chillies and soya sauce and stir fry for another 30 seconds.

5. Add the cooked rice and toss all the ingredients together until the rice is mixed with the vegetables and is warmed through.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot.

 

TIP- You can replace broccoli with cauliflower florets.

5 Reasons You Need Desiccated Coconut in Your Dishes

Are you always on the lookout for new menu ideas? Do you like the idea of combining interesting tastes and textures in your food creations? If so, you may have overlooked one classic and creative ingredient. Desiccated coconut is the unsung hero in sweet and savoury concoctions. You may have seen it on the shelf, but do you know how to use it? And what exactly does “desiccated” mean?

Desiccated coconut suppliers give you the info on desiccated coconut. Find out how to use this versatile ingredient and learn about desiccated coconut’s health benefits.

What is Desiccated Coconut?

Many people think desiccated means shredded. The meaning is closer to “removing moisture”. It does not necessarily need to be shredded, but it is dried. Desiccated coconut is the grated flesh of the nut which is dried in hot air. A lot of desiccated coconut is finely grated. You can also find flakes, shreds and chips of desiccated coconut.

1. Desiccated Coconut Adds Sweetness Without Calories

Coconut is high in fat. You need to eat it in moderation, but as an addition to a meal – sprinkled over breakfast cereal, or added to a granola bar, for example – you add sweetness without empty calories from added sugar. Refined sugar and synthetic sweeteners don’t add any nutritional value to a dish. Coconut does, and it also provides other nutrients to benefit health. 

2. Plenty of Dietary Fibre

Dietary fibre is essential for promoting healthy digestion and it can even help you lose weight. Desiccated coconut provides beneficial levels of this nutrient. Fibre slows down your metabolism. It promotes the slow release of food into the stomach. It helps keep you feeling full, for longer, which reduces food cravings and over-consumption. Good levels of fibre in your body also help promote a diverse gut bacteria colony. This lowers the risk of heart disease and can protect against diabetes.

3. High Iron Content

Coconuts are high in iron. And iron is an essential element, which many people lack. The mineral helps to carry oxygen via red blood cells. This keeps organs functioning correctly. A lack of iron causes fatigue and anaemia. Eat a balanced diet to avoid anaemia, including desiccated coconut as a beneficial source of this vital nutrient.

4. Helps Prevent Osteoporosis and Arthritis

Desiccated coconut contains fatty acids that help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Coconuts also contain antioxidants and act as anti-inflammatory agents to reduce pain and promote joint movement.

5. Provides Hard-to-Find Nutrients

Desiccated coconut is an important source of the minerals manganese and copper. Both nutrients are not usually found in foods. Manganese is vital for spine and bone health. Copper helps treat chronic health conditions like Parkinson’s disease and cancer. It is not easy to find copper or manganese in foodstuffs, which is why desiccated coconut is such an important source.

Desiccated coconut is delicious and healthful, but it is important to eat this food in moderation. It contains fat, and consuming high levels of fat can lead to weight gain. But as an addition to a balanced meal, coconut is highly advantageous.

Street Food Recipe: Egyptian Koshary

There was a general consensus in the press that as we headed into 2018, street food was going to get a lot more sophisticated. We’re not sure we ever agreed with that; the whole point of street food is that it’s simple, unrefined, easy to understand and easy to eat. What we have seen, though, is that the variety of street food on offer has become more diverse and eclectic.

What you visualize when you think of street food will depend on who you are, where you grew up and what your palette is. It might mean jerk chicken. It might mean rice and noodles. It might even mean a plain old hot dog. We’d like to give you something else to consider; Egyptian koshary.

Koshary, if you’re not familiar, is as fundamental a part of the Egyptian national identity as the Pyramids themselves. It’s eaten morning, noon and night, and on every street corner in every major town and city within the nation’s borders. Eating koshary should transport you within your mind to the sights and sounds of the Egypt of old. It is to the Egyptians what fish and chips is to the British.

If all this talk of Egypt is making you pine for the place, there are a few things you could do about it. You could watch an Egyptian themed movie, for example. ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ would be a good choice, or ‘Death on the Nile’. You could visit Egyptian themed online casino such as egyptslots.com and play any one of their Egyptian themed slot games; many of which are based around historical Egyptian characters, and feature authentic Egyptian music. Is there a better way to explore history than doing it in a manner you might win money from, after all? Cleopatra and Tutankhamun both have their own dedicated slot games there. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether she looks better in the game or in the movie!

If neither of those options are speaking to you, why not have a go at making Egyptian koshary yourself at home? We have all the information you need right here, and it’s not that hard to make!

What You’ll Need:

In order to make koshary Egyptian style, you’ll need the following ingredients:-

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil; 4 tablespoons of salt; 2 cups of white rice (uncooked), 3 cups of water; 3 tablespoons of white vinegar; 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper; 2.5 teaspoons of ground cumin; 0.25 teaspoons of cayenne pepper; 1 packet of macaroni; 1 cup of soaked lentils; half a cup of tomato paste; 2 minced cloves of garlic; 5 minced onions and 4 diced tomatoes.

Preparation time will be approximately one hour. Cooking takes around an hour and fifteen minutes, and you should come out with enough koshary for 12 servings.

How To Make Koshary

Step One

Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan, on high heat. Stir in the rice, taking time to ensure they’re all coated in oil. That should take a couple of minutes. When you’re happy the rice is properly coated, add in all your cups of water, and one teaspoon’s worth of salt. Bring the whole thing to boil, and as soon as it starts, turn the heat back down to a low setting and cover the pan.

Now, leave the pan to simmer for a further 25 minutes; by which time the rice should be tender, and all of the liquid should have been absorbed. Check that this is the case before continuing. If it isn’t, allow more time.

Step Two

Put the macaroni into another pot or pan, add water and half a teaspoon of salt, and boil it for somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes to taste. The pasta should be al dente when you’re done. Strain the pasta, put it back in its pot, cover it and put it aside.

Step Three 

Put the lentils in water and let them soak for half an hour. Drain them and rinse them thoroughly. Measure out two more cups of water, put them in a pot with the lentils, and boil the lentils. Once boiling, lower the heat back down again and allow to simmer for approximately twenty minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add another half teaspoon of salt in for seasoning.

Step Four

Take a large frying pan, add your remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil into it, and heat it up. When it’s warmed up, pour on your onions and cook on high heat until the onions begin to brown. This should take no more than ten minutes. Once they’ve begun to brown, add in the garlic, and cook for one more minute before draining the mixture onto a paper towel.

Step Five

Take exactly the mixture you created in Step Four, put it into another saucepan, and add in the tomatoes, the tomato paste, the vinegar, the pepper, the remaining salt, the cumin and the cayenne pepper. Be careful with the cayenne pepper. Although cayenne is considered to be quite a mild spice in Egypt, it’s still pretty hot by Western standards. The Egyptian palette is a little better trained at dealing with spice heat than ours is! If spice doesn’t sit well with you, don’t allow your meal to be ruined by adding too much; or any at all; into the mixture. If in doubt, go with too little rather than too much! When everything’s in there, bring it to boiling point. If everything has gone to plan, the mixture should now have a thick consistency, like sauce. If it seems closer to a paste than a sauce, add in half a cup of boiling water to dilute it down. When you’re happy, reduce the heat down to low, and let it simmer for a further fifteen minutes.

Serving Time!

The suggested way to serve an individual portion of koshary is to take a small bowl, and layer in the food. That means one serving spoon of rice, followed by one serving spoon of macaroni, then one serving spoon of lentils, followed by the rest of your mixture. Some people also add tomato sauce to taste.

Enjoy!

Marriott Hotel – Manhattan Grill

As my last meeting of the day was in Canary Wharf I decided to take a short walk towards the quayside and sample the menu at Manhattan Grill. Friday night was a beautiful Summer’s evening and other workers had congregated outside all the bars on the way to Manhattan Grill. Although the hustle and bustle added a beautiful lively feel to the evening I was looking forward to leaving the Millenials behind and enjoying a refined dinner for two where I did not have to elevate my voice just to be heard.

As I approached Manhattan Grill you could already tell it is a cut above the majority of its neighbours. We were welcomed by Imran who showed us to our table with a beautiful view of the quayside. The Manhattan Grill has floor to ceiling windows covering a large stretch of its position on the quayside. Natural light fills the room. The décor is crisp, clean, comfortable and fresh with just the right amount of air conditioning to remind you it’s Summer but be thankfully you are indoors. Quiet acoustic music piped gently through the speakers creating a background ambience without interfering with conversation.

Cocktails

The menu is short, clear and concise however we ordered a strawberry mojito and hazelnut martini to start while contemplating what to choose. The strawberry mojito was absolutely fresh and it showed. The puree base is made in-house and is so fruity that you could trick yourself into believing that this cocktail is as healthy as a fruit juice, which unfortunately it is not. They do other flavours including passionfruit however I was directed to the raspberry mojito which is supposedly as fresh and delectable as the strawberry. I have made a note to try it next time.

Manhattan Grill Cocktails

The hazelnut martini was a completely different style of cocktail garnished with star anise and a hint of cinnamon, which was served in an elegant and unusual martini glass which was a cut above the standard. Manhattan Grill was already exceeding expectations and raising the bar with their attention to detail.

Appetisers

Having gone for a mixed starter we were able to try five of their appetisers. I started with the Seared Black Pearl Scallops which again were beautifully fresh, perfectly soft, slightly less cooked than other restaurants which for me is perfection. The chorizo was crispy adding a tantalising contrast to the delectable softness of the scallop. The pea puree was a beautiful garnish but to me didn’t detract from the flavour which was already perfectly balanced. The King Prawns confirmed that this restaurant knows how to do seafood. Fresh, succulent, garlic king prawns with other flavours bursting through garnished the plate and were gone in record time. Wipes were provided however the sauce did not make too much mess to warrant a finger bowl.

The Devonshire Pork Belly complemented by a delicious apple sauce is a dish which can be hard to get right, so often the belly flesh has to be compromised to get the right crisp on the cracking. Manhattan Grill, as with much of their cooking, served a juicy soft pork belly however in doing so the crackling was slightly undercooked and therefore the fat slightly more noticeable. Although I prefer this as I cut away the fat anyway, those who enjoy crackling crispy may wish to notify the chefs who are very accommodating or choose another dish.

Manhattan Grill

The penultimate starter was the Clam Chowder. Although authentic and tasty it couldn’t compare to the exquisite competition on the rest of the plate. Saving the best until last, I was delighted when the Baked Blue Swimmer Crab Cake exceeded my expectations by a mile. Full of flavour, extremely authentic with a very high crab content and noticeable long chunks of Blue Swimmer Crab combined with subtle flavours and a not so secret ingredient – Old Bay Spice from Maryland. This was by far my favourite and I highly recommend them.

Mains

Everywhere has a unique selling point and if the starters are anything to go by, Manhattan Grill doesn’t need any gimmicks, however they do provide a wine tasting before the main course to help you decide which wine will best complement your meal. Manhattan Grill houses a beautiful selection of wine with a fair proportion from Baron Philippe De Rothschild’s estate which with the help of an enomatic machine they can even serve by the glass. These top end wines are rarely associated with the hangover headaches of much cheaper wines which allows you to partake in more than one glass should you so choose without disruption to your weekend plans. The enomatic machine can be seen in Selfridges but has not yet graced the halls of Harrods and I believe is a state of the art extremely expensive wine pressure system which regulates such pressures so as to not lose the flavours and subtleties in the wine. There is no obligation to buy any of the wines you choose although they are reasonable priced especially given the quality. In the end we chose a Australian Reisling from the Barossa Valley to complement the Roasted Black Cod which again was cooked to perfection. The flavours were subtle and hit you at different times exciting the taste buds. The only criticism was that it was served with too much rice which had been placed rather than shaped on the plate. Such a quantity of rice really needed to be flavoured with the lovely miso-mirin sauce or reduced in quantity.

I chose the Rib Eye Steak although I normally prefer fillet but I wanted to taste the flavours of marbled fat through my steak cooked in a Montague Broiler at 650 degrees I ordered my steak medium rare and although served as ordered the quality of meat definitely allows you to take it down a notch and served more rare. Again attention to detail was carried out in the provision of Laguiole steak knives which added colour to the table and French elegance. The sides of Seared Mushrooms and Asparagus were served with a slight al dente bite. The Sweet Potato Fries were beautifully crispy on the outside with a softness in the middle. The Manhattan Onion Rings were clearly homemade and stood out as such. My favourite side was the Mac ‘N’ Cheese with Lobster which was extremely reasonable for the £8 price tag but I wish it had a little more lobster.

Desserts

I can honestly say I didn’t have to season any dish not even once and I sent my genuine compliments to the chef at the other end in the show style kitchen. With such generous portions I was hard pushed to find room for dessert however Imran and I had been talking about the Double Chocolate Cake, a chocolate fondant filled with caramel topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and served warm. I couldn’t resist. This is one dessert I would highly recommend for any chocolate lover and is large enough to share.

Manhattan Grill Dessert

My dining companion had the Pecan Pie which although hit the spot did not stop him stealing a bite or two of my delicious chocolate dessert. I complemented my dessert with a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Concha Y Toro dessert wine as recommended and my dining companion opted for a vintage port, Taylor’s of course. For those who do not know their wines or dessert wines, the staff are easily on hand to help point you in the right direction. I found their recommendations to be right on the nose.

My only criticism of Manhattan Grill is that with such attention to detail and high standard of service I would have been pleasantly surprised with a similar attention in pouring the wine. I note the staff aren’t trained to pull chairs out for guests or adorn their lap with napkins which given the standard of this restaurant I think such behaviour would put the finishing touch on the finesse already displayed throughout the evening.

¡Que rico! Tapas

A review of Cambridge-based ¡Que rico! Tapas

Two years ago, Estefania Led Ramos left Spain and made what she planned to be a temporary move to Cambridge to improve her English.

Deciding she rather liked the city, however, she gave up a career in journalism and communications to set up a catering business, ¡Que rico! Tapas.

As any foodie worth their manchego will know, tapas are small plates of simple, often finger food traditionally served in Andalusian bodegas - a little something to snack on with your copita of sherry.

¡Que rico! translates as “delicious” and is generally applied to food, but can also be used of people – in the same way that we talk of “yummy mummies”.

The business idea behind ¡Que rico! Tapas is three-fold:

– an at-home catering service

– catering for meetings and business lunches

– cooking events.

Estefania invited the CWB household to try her at-home service and turned up one evening with a Mary Poppins bag full of goodies and a handful of printed menus. After half an hour in our kitchen, she called up to say that dinner was ready.

I did not have any sherries to hand, but dug out a selection of southern Rhône wines from the newly-renamed appellation of Grignan-Les-Adhemar to see how they would match.

We started with an appropriately autumnal chestnut soup and mushrooms.

The first time I have had chestnuts in a soup, this was thick, rich and creamy – and disappeared very quickly; the mushrooms (sourced from Cambridge market) were also delicious, adding a contrast of flavour.

Next was a more well-known favorite – Spanish omelette with bread and olive oil.

Not so much an omelette in the familiar sense, this was more a potato cake, sweetened with onions, held together with egg and cooked to toasty perfection on both sides; pure comfort food for autumn.

Chicken croquetas were little pieces of chicken in a sauce, coated with batter and deep fried, reflecting the origins of tapas as often a way to use up left-overs.

The wine for all the lighter tapas was a Viognier from Domaine de Montine – citrussy and zesty with some sweet spice and floral honey aromas, it stood up well to the rich sweetness of the dishes.

The meatballs in almond sauce was exactly as described – hand-made, lean meatballs with a sauce made from oloroso sherry and nibbed almonds.

The two reds struggled a little with this dish – it is not quite either white-wine or red-wine food, but would have matched perfectly with a dry oloroso.

Traditional Spanish food is big on meat, but the final savoury course was Piquillo’s peppers stuffed with mushrooms and served with a sour-cream sauce – sweet, concentrated peppers, earthy mushrooms and a creamy sauce.

Estefania explained that the peppers are first roasted over an open fire, then peeled and stuffed with mushrooms held together with a flour-and-milk paste.

After five generous courses of delicious food, a refreshing lemon sorbet to finsh was the perfect way to end the meal – it came with a gin and tonic gelatine and juniper berries.

To match with this refreshing and slightly bitter dish, I pulled out a bottle of well-chilled Rutherglen Muscat from Stanton and Killeen. I had found the wine a little syrupy and overpowering with mince pies, but well-chilled and faced with the bitterness of the juniper berries, it came into its own.

¡Que rico! Tapas is the latest in a series of innovative food businesses to set up in Cambridge – as the growth of the Mill Road Winter Fair, Eat Cambridge and Cambridge Food and Wine Society have shown, there is definitely a burgeoning interest in superior food in the city and ¡Que rico! Tapas deserves to do well.

Estefania’s food was one of the best meals I have had in a long time – the dishes are simple and traditional and do not aspire to the sort of achingly-hip, knowingly-ironic cleverness that you may find in some of Cambridge’s more edgy restaurants.

For there is only so much too-cool-for-school food that I can take; a diet of foamed vegetables and trios of deconstructed whatevers may have an initial wow factor, but for me becomes tedious – like a day of back-to-back motivational speakers.

And, after a busy weekend day of various fairs and ferrying children to activities, to be served six courses of simple but perfectly-judged, utterly faultless and delicious food in the comfort of our own home by an enthusiastic, accomplished (and very child-friendly) chef was a delight.

If and when Cambridge gets its first sherry bar, I just hope someone approaches ¡Que rico! Tapas to provide the food.

Other related articles

Hidalgo Sherry Dinner With Cambridge Wine Merchants at The Punter

Inder’s Kitchen

Pavitt’s Pies

Links

¡Que rico! Tapas – website, twitter, facebook

Gentilini Wines, Kefalonia – Greece

Kefalonia’s Gentilini family, originally from Italy, traces its arrival on the Greek island back to the 1520s; several centuries later, in the early 20th century, the last Gentilini married a Kosmetatos and the name died out.

Marianna Kosmetatos, a direct descendent of the Gentilini-Kosmetatos line, is the current owner and manager of the Gentilini winery with husband Petros.

Both are returned expats of a sort – Marianna’s father left the country after a coup and had his daughters educated in the UK, whilst Petros’ family went to Australia.

Kefalonia, one of the largest and less overtly touristy Greek islands has a European, rather than Turkish, heritage that included civilised society, gilded furniture and balls but 7,000 years of history were destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1953.

Of more interest to would-be winemakers is that the island is cooled by winds from the north and is composed almost entirely of pure white limestone which reaches over 1,600m at its highest point.

The island has three PDOs – for Robola, sweet Mavrodaphne and sweet Muscat.

The Gentilini winery is just 30 years old and dates from when father Kosmetatos returned from a self-imposed exile – a man with artistic tendencies, he designed and built a house on a cliff edge with 180-degree panoramic views.

Behind it stands the vineyard, winery and tasting area. Early plantings of Chardonnay were not a great success and the focus of the vineyard is, increasingly, indigenous varieties including Mavrodaphne (made dry) and Tsaoussi.

The winery – all organic and gravity-fed (easily done on the steep hillsides) – also buys in grapes from growers both on the island and from the mainland, around 40 tons annually to make a range of red, white and rose wines of increasing quality and complexity.

Each year a number of experimental wines are made – last year was a late-harvest dessert wines, this year, with a new winemaker arrived most recently from the UK’s sparkling wine industry, they are trying out a traditional-method fizz based on early-picked grapes.

I first tried Gentilini’s Classic Robola at a presentation of Greek wines by Konstantinos Lazarakis MW for the Circle of Wine Writers earlier this year. Staying at the Gentilini Retreat – a 20ha olive grove with rooms and a pool, run by sister Eleni Kosmetatos – I was invited down to the winery for a tasting by Marianna.

With lots of temperature-controlled stainless steel and small oak barrels, quality is high – and this is reflected in the prices which start in double figures for the entry-levels wines and will push, or possibly hit, three figures for magnums of the top Reserve red.

The whites have a minerality and precise purity that reminds me somewhat of Austria much further to the north; the reds, from traditionally-sweet Mavrodaphne and fulsome, bosomy Agiorgitiko have a more crowd-pleasing fruit-forward softness, but with plenty of stuffing, too.

All wines are 2012 in bottle, except where noted, and we accompanied the tasting with some Gentilini olive oil and local graviera cheese, the name apparently taken from Gruyere.

Notes – the entry-level Gentilini wine, often sold as unlabelled house-wine by local restaurants; good, straightforward and pleasant; fresh and citrussy.

Aspro – Tsaoussi, Muscat and SB blend; low in alcohol and acidity, Tsaoussi is not a great grape for making wine and needs the support of the other grapes here. Nonetheless, the result is crisp, toastiness, white flowers, persistence, aromatic herbs.

Classic Robola – 50/50 whole bunch (for elegance) and de-stemmed (for fruit); flinty, mineral nose; crisp and mineral, persistence – incredible freshness, grown at over 500m on pebbles over limestone (tank fermented). Good.

Cellar Selection Robola – 20% barrel fermented (2 weeks plus 1 month lees stirring) harvested 2 weeks later – bigger, fuller, more texture and depth, touch of oaky toastiness on the finish, maybe needs some time for the new oak to settle down. Good.

Rose – Moschofilero & Agiorgitiko blend (red, white & pink berries); cranberry red, bubblegum nose & red fruits (but no carbonic maceration) very crisp & mineral, quite tannic – needs food (not at all a provencal rose).

Unique Blend Red – Agiorgitiko (plus some Syrah); soft and fruit-forward, bramble with pepperiness

Eclipse 2011 – chocolatey, spicey, leathery liquorice and gaminess, fresh acidity, ripe bramble fruit, depth and persistence, minerality. Good.

Eclipse 2012 (barrel sample) more concentrated than the 2011. Very Good.

Eclipse Reserve 2012 (barrel sample) another step up again. Very Good Indeed.

Syrah 2009 - some Mavrodaphne (18m in barrel) minty, spicy, dark fruit, complex nose – soft velvety texture, pepperiness, dense structure and concentrated firmness, ripe tannins, muscular. Good.

Dessert wine (283 half-bottles made as an experiment, air-dried SB & Muscat) 12% alcohol, peachy nectarine, roasted skins, fresh acidity, savouriness and depth -  more intense than elegant. Not made commercially – which is a pity. Good.

The Robola is imported into the UK by Eclectic Wines of London SW6 3RA (mary@eclecticwines.com).

Links

Gentilini Winery – website

Gentilini Retreat – website

Corkers: Rock & Roll Crisps in Space

The press pack for these Corkers Crisps tells me they are made from a unique variety of potato (Naturalo, apparently), are sliced thinner for a better texture, are made locally and sustainably in Cambridgeshire, are served on BA, at Kew Gardens and The British Library, have been on television and even travelled to space.

That’s quite a series of achievements for a company that is only 4 years old and was dreamt up on a ski lift.

Founded in 2009 by friends Ross Taylor and Rod Garnham, the entire business is based at the Taylor family farm just outside Cambridge, meaning that everything is done in one place, so visitors can dig their own spud and see it made into crisps in under an hour.

All of this would be for nought, however, if the crisps were not any good. But they are actually some of the best I’ve ever had.

Where mass-market branded crisps tend to be greasy, overly salted and rather harsh, these feel like they have been made with real attention to detail; not at all greasy, with good, well-balanced flavours, they are very good crisps.

The CWB children were naturally keen to help out with a tasting so we opened up all six packets and got to work.

The quality of all varieties was uniformly high and choices for best crisp really just came down to personal preference.

For me, the more traditional flavours worked best – the Sea Salt was fine, the Sea Salt and Black Pepper had a lovely kick of aromatic black pepper whilst the Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar was nicely sweet-sharp and salty.

The more ambitious flavours of Sweet Thai Chili, Red Leicester and Caramelised Onion plus Pork Sausage and English Mustard I found a bit less convincing overall and rather sweeter, but from equally well-made base materials.

Corkers Crisps 40g bags are priced around 75p each.

Buyers Guide: First Class Cuppa

The Stamp Collection is the chic creation of Gift Republic, a multi award-winning gift company who produce mugs bearing designs using iconic Royal Mail stamps. This is the ideal gift if you’re looking for something quirky and unusual for a friend or loved one. They look so beautiful that it’ll be hard to resist treating yourself to one as well.

The stylish bone china mugs are hand finished in the UK. They don’t just look good but are also fully dishwasher and microwave safe. The range has the Royal seal of approval as it is officially licensed by Royal Mail Ltd and the British Postal Museum & Archive.

A popular design is the Sent With Love mug shown below. Designs are based on the familiar red first class stamp or the blue second class. There are also a range of multicoloured designs which will add style to every cuppa.

Other designs in the range are tailored for a First Class mum, dad, brother, sister or friend. There are also tongue-in-cheek designs called “I Rule” and “Queen of Everything”!

A Stamp Collection mug will add a bit of posh to every tea or coffee break. They are generously sized and made to a very high quality. The mugs look very tasteful on your desk or dining table. Who would have thought that stamp collecting could be so stylish?!

Gift Republic also sells a range of other stylish gifts on their website.

Images reproduced from Gift Republic

Buyers Guide: Kumar’s Curry & Bumbu Sauces

New to the UK is the most amazing range of curry sauces that are like nothing you will have ever tasted before. Kumar’s curry sauces and bumbu’s will give you the true taste of South Asian cuisine in convenient ready-to-use pots that are now available in the UK for home delivery. “Bumbu” is the Indonesian word for spice or seasoning. Bumbu commonly appears in the names of spice mixtures, sauces and seasoning pastes from countries within Southern Asia.

Kumar’s range of 13 fresh curry sauces and bumbu’s take you right back to the literal “roots” of many familiar sounding, and some less well-known curry dishes, originating from southern India, Thailand and Indonesia. The curries and bumbu’s eaten by the people of Southern Asia are typically a much dryer dish than the anglicised versions of curry we are familiar with in the UK and these authentic dishes also contain many fresh ingredients that simply cannot be bought locally over here.

For those who want a more authentic taste experience, help is at hand from Suresh Kumar who is a talented Malaysian chef working for the Verstegen food group. Suresh knows nothing about the fake anglicised curries the British have suffered over the years. He bases his recipes purely on his own knowledge of ingredients from Southern Asia which he combines with the expertise necessary to carefully blend and balance the many complex flavours contained within every Kumar’s sauce and bumbu paste.

These ready-to-use sauces are very thick and paste-like when you first open the pots. Kumar’s sauces are not runny or full of oil like those that we have become accustomed to using. Preparing a curry at home couldn’t be simpler with the help of Suresh’s delicious and easy-to-use sauces. Just add the entire pot of sauce to 500g of seared meat, fish or vegetables, stir well, and simmer. You can always add a little water to the sauce to thin out the consistency or add plain yoghurt if you want a milder flavour.

Kumar’s sauces are nothing like the sickly sweet, creamy, violently coloured, flavour enhanced imposters being sold under the name of curry sauces in Britain today. Be warned that your palate could be pleasantly surprised by the unfamiliar spicy sensations you experience the first time you taste the curries, especially with the ones you think you are already familiar with.  The Kumar range includes Korma, Madras, Tikka Masala and Vindaloo sauces as well as some special Indonesian varieties and they are all available for home delivery.

Making the effort to cook with the more unfamiliar sauces from Indonesia is highly recommended for a new taste sensation. Use Kumar’s Rendang Sauce to make a classic Indonesian Beef Rendang curry . Chicken goes very well with Kumar’s Bumbu Bali Sauce. Slow-cooked pork is delicious cooked in Kumar’s Babi Ketjap Sauce. For a tasty duck curry, use Kumar’s Besengek Sauce to make an authentic Indonesian dish known as Bebek Besengek.

Suresh Kumar shares his great passion for south Asian cuisine with a growing customer following here in the UK. His aim is to blend inspiration, generations of knowledge and fresh ingredients together in perfect balance, leading you to new experiences, lasting memories and most importantly, flavoursome authentic South East Asian cooking that you will truly love to prepare and enjoy with friends and family for many years to come.

Kumar’s sauces are available by mail order from Verstegen Direct. Each 350g tub costs £3.99 plus P&P. Check out their website today for the special introductory offer of any 6 varieties from the Kumar’s range for only £19.98 with free UK delivery.

Images reproduced from verstegen-direct.co.uk