Monday, 29 April 2013

Gujarati Kadhi - Yoghurt 'Sauce'

It is very hard to describe what kadhi exactly it, it is basically a yoghurt and gram flour based sauce/soup/gravy for rice. You can also add it to dry curry dishes, like potato. I blogged Kitchri a little while ago, a soothing lentil rice dish gently spiced with turmeric and garlic - kadhi is the best companion for kitchri. You can also have kadhi with plain boiled basmati rice.

Kitri and Kadhi is wonderful when you are sick, it is simple, soothing and comforting - I think it has medicinal qualities similar to chicken soup! I got it together to make this on a weekend when we were both ill with a horrible cold virus thing that caught as at the end of a long winter, it is very easy to make and gentle on a tummy that has been punished by too many Hall's Soothers and Paracetmol pills.

Gujarati Kadhi
makes 4 portions, keeps well in the fridge for a few days

250ml natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons of gram flour / chickpea flour
about 1cm of grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp sugar
750ml cold water

for tempering:
1-2 dried red chillies - depending on how hot you want it
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
vegetable or sunflower oil

1. Whisk together the yoghurt, chickpeas, ginger, water in a bowl.
2. Heat the oil and add all the tempering ingredients once the oil is hot.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop add in the yoghurt mixture and then water and salt.
3. Bring to the boil, be careful it doesn't bubble over the top. Then let simmer gently for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally to stop any lumps.
4. Taste and season again if you need to, and then add the fresh coriander.

Serve with kitchri or plain basmati rice.
The traditional way to serve it is in a small cup and let each person add the kadhi to their rice as they eat. I sometimes like to drown my rice in it, but at other times add a little to make it drier, it all depends!

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

#CamShopLocal - So how did it go?

If you read my recent blog post or are one of my Twitter followers you will know that I was taking part in #CamShopLocal - a week without chains, shopping at independents only. So I bet you are wondering if I made it?

Well I did and I didn't. I started off with the most excellent intentions, and the arrival of a four day weekend just before it started meant that I could plan ahead by shopping over the weekend. I got a veg box from Cambridge Organic Food Co., I bought meat and cheese from Gog Magog Shop along with baking ingredients. So by Monday I was raring to go, I had a meal plan too!

The biggest challenge came once I was back at work on Tuesday - there are some options nearby but fitting in lunch, a trip to the Post Office (to send my jewellery orders) and then food shopping is hard to achieve in 1 hour! Most of these shops close at 6pm which leaves me not much time since I finish work at 5.30pm.

I managed really well with what we had in the house until Friday when a long week and a frazzled brain meant that a bottle of wine from Tesco, on the way home, was what we both needed. Then I fell in Waitrose on the last Monday - I had been away all weekend mostly and I just needed to get things for dinner!

Here is what I bought, and ate, over the week:

Gog Magog Shop - lamb for Easter Sunday, merguez sausages, eggs, butter, flour, sugar

Cup of local tea - Kandula Tea

Last Cam Shop Local Dinner  - ravioli from Limoncello (Mill Road), homemade pesto (basil from the grocers on Mill Road, Hilary's). Cheeky bit of Morrison's bread from the freezer!

Jigsaw Bakery - Linton. Beautiful bakery run by Matthew Whitby - sourdough bread, sweet loaves, brownies, shortbread, so many wonderful things, plus great coffee. A lovely local business that has just started - we got a sourdough loaf and a currant loaf which were both excellent and served us well over the week and weekend. 

Sourdough (nibbled) from Jigsaw Bakery

Currant loaf from Jigsaw Bakery

Supplies from Al Amin - we visited on Bank Holiday Monday after a visit to Hot Numbers...
Naan, yoghurt, halloumi and aforementioned ravioli from Limoncello

Hot Numbers Flat White - bank holiday Monday coffee outing

Veg box Parsnip soup - Friday lunch with a chorizo roll from Norfolk Street bakery

Wobbly bottom goat's cheese (from Teacake in Shepreth), Winter Purslane (from COFCO via Wild Co Organics) and Sourdough bread from Jigsaw bakery - Easter Saturday lunch!

Oops. Last day of Cam Shop Local. Finished work at 6pm, where to go? Good old Waitrose I'm afraid. 

Overall I enjoyed finding some new shops and trying some new produce - things like the salad leaves from COFCO were fantastic as was the ravioli from Limoncello. I definitely see a difference in quality when shopping for locally sourced foods and I think this is the key to why you should shop local. 
In all honesty, I think it is pointless searching around for local shops selling laundry liquid, toilet roll, cat food and petrol because it is all much of a muchness - you are still buying from big brands, Persil, Andrex, Felix or Shell in the end aren't you? 

If you support a local food producer then you are getting salad leaves grown 5 miles from your house, meat reared to high standards at a local farm, bread baked fresh that day by the owner or goat's cheese made from milk from goat's nibbling on grass in the field next to the dairy. That kind of thing. 

I'm always on the look out for local producers as it is, so this just upped my game a little more than normal. I was lucky that week in that I had to be in Cambridge city centre more often than I would be normally, usually I only visit once a week at most - so I had a chance to visit Mill Road shops for local produce, and grab a coffee at Hot Numbers, and finally visit the lovely Norfolk Street Bakery.

Without going on too much, I'll try to sum up! I love local producers and the interesting things they are doing and I will search them out if they are doing something a bit different. I also like what the supermarkets are doing, there are some brilliant small brands being stocked such as the Collective Dairy (yoghurts), Peanut Butter Co, Lily's Kitchen (pet food) to name a few. They are also making great strides in stocking more world foods and also more interesting fruit and vegetables - have you seen some of the new style Morrison's fresh section lately? It is pretty great - not many supermarkets sell fresh turmeric root, purple potatoes, samphire and 15 different kinds of herbs. There are obviously things they are doing wrong like squeezing the price of dairy and meat so farmers continue to go out of business by the day along with opening massive stores and spoiling previously nice areas. 

I think for me I will continue to support both - I need supermarkets for convenience but I need locals for interest, quality and being part of the foodie community. 

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Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Nutribox Review - March

After feeling a little bit like I was made up of 50% butter after too much excessive dessert eating I decided I'd give The Nutribox ago. I spotted a discount on Laura's blog for 50% off a box so I decided that I needed to ditch the snickers and start snacking a bit better.

My compact box arrived in the post a week or so after ordering (they ship them at the same time each month) the boxes are letterbox friendly so no traipsing to the post office with your 'sorry you were out' card. For £12.95 you get a selection of 8-10 snacks in their 'mini box' - you can also order a large box which is 16-20 snacks for £25.00. And you can get 25% off your first box.

I've just received my April minibox, but as I've not eaten my way through it yet here is my review of the March box, which I very much enjoyed - I gave Mr a chance to try some too although only sparingly ;)

The box came with two raw chocolate 'Om Bars,' a Bounce Ball, a Braw Apple & Pear bar, some dried fruit and nuts from the Ludlow Nut Company (who are awesomely called Ludlow Nutters on Twitter), Raw Cacao Crisp Energy Bomb and a Mrs Wallflower Candy energy bar.

The bounce ball was my favourite! I think this is because it isn't a raw product, I don't mind raw but aren't things so much better when they are toasted? It had cashew and pecan along with brown rice malts (nicer than it sounds), grape juice, sesame seeds and a little sea salt. It was nutty and sweet enough with some nice toastiness - I think some chocolate would make it taste like a ferrero rocher!

The Pulsin' Energy Bomb was second on my list of favourites- it was a raw chocoalte chewy bar with crispy rice inside, which made it feel like a real treat, like a proper chocolate bar. I didn't get one in my April box so I'll be buying separately. 

I quite like Nakd bars but not usually the fruit ones, I prefer the cocoa ones (being the chocoholic I am) so I wasn't too sure about this Apple & Pear Braw bar - but it was surprisingly good. It was oaty so it was a little like cereal bar, and it was quite sweet which was perfect for my sweet tooth. I've got a blackcurrant one and a chocolate orange one in my April box!

The nuts and fruit from Ludlow Nut Company were, well, nuts and fruit, good for a nibble at my desk. I can't say much about them really! I have a goji berry mix (yuk, can't stand goji berries) and an all nut mix this month. I have noticed the Ludlow Nutters also sell muesli, porridge mixes and cereal bars so they look a little more interesting - maybe you get these in the bigger nutribox?

The Om Bars were nice, I have had 'raw chocolate' before and it can be a little powdery or too squidgy, but the Om Bars are less so. They are very intense, being dairy and sugar free, but give you that chocolate hit which is what I am certainly often looking for!

Overall I really like the Nutribox, it was a good mix of simple things for a health food beginner and more adventurous treats for the die hard health food 'enthusiast.' I used to get Graze boxes but stopped due to the fruit and nuts being a little boring but the other more interesting items being unhealthy (foccaccia, flapjacks etc). Items in the Nutribox is all good healthy food (although despite being health food you should take heed that the protein bars might be more calorific) and it also means you find lots of interesting new small brands. 

I'll be enjoying my next April box, I've already eaten the Bounce Ball (carob and walnuts this time, and it was great) and the chilli cashews.

You can get 25% off your first Nutribox - Join Here. 

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea with Miss Sue Flay & William Hanson

Last Saturday on a sunny Spring day I enjoyed a very civilised afternoon taking tea and learning about the history and etiquette of the much loved British tradition of Afternoon Tea. Hosted by afternoon tea expert Miss Sue Flay with William Hanson, etiquette consultant, taking us through the Do's and Don't's, we sipped on tea, nibbled on scones and minded our P's and Q's.

I've heard lots about Sue & Williams' workshops - the first afternoon tea workshop last September and the recent 'Dine Like Downton' event as part of Eat Cambridge - and the intricacies of etiquette fascinate me.

Etiquette still has its place today, mainly as part of the Royal family, but also in more modern situations where it is part of good manners. Historically it is really interesting to see why you should do certain things, they aren't just there 'because' and William's knowledge is encyclopaedic.

The afternoon tea was held at the Hotel du Vin, a luxurious hotel with a gorgeous library where we all convened before going through to a dining room to have our high tea - we were told by William that it was a 'high tea' because the tea was served at a high dining table rather than a lower coffee table.

First, the food, we were served 3 different kinds of tea - English Breakfast, Chinese Rose Petal and the Royal Blend - 2 parts English Breakfast to 1 part Earl Grey. The latter was my favourite, I like Earl Grey but it can be a little strong, the Royal Blend is very light and refreshing. We nibbled first on finger sandwiches - cucumber, salmon & cream cheese, ham and lastly egg & cress. Our tiers were then brought out, with much oohing, they consisted of tall fruit scones, fluffy vanilla marshmallows, a fortified fruit cake, mini fruit and custard tarts and slightly too fluorescent cupcakes. Of course the scones were also served with luscious clotted cream and the traditional strawberry jam. Everything was delicious, except for those lurid cupcakes!

We were told that tea should be stirred in a 6/12 motion so as to coat the sugar cube (if you are partaking) and help it dissolve and also so you won't tap the spoon on the edge of the cup too much, causing too much noise. Your teaspoon should then be placed behind the cup, furthest away from you.

We were taught that some people have milk in first, traditionally this was because the lower classes would have clay cups - which would crack if hot tea was poured in first so milk was added to cool the tea before it reached the bottom of the cup. The upper classes would use bone china so therefore hot tea wouldn't crack their cups.

Napkin etiquette was discussed along with the plethora of sizes required for different meals - smaller for lunches and much larger for a formal dinner. Then onto jam then cream / cream then jam (I'm the latter),   how to make conversation at the table (talk to your left hand companion first, then right when the first course is over), pouring tea and how to break into a scone (not with a knife, but breaking it open with your hands - this can only be done with a well risen scone).

William took us through where afternoon tea began, at Woburn Abbey where the lady of the manor craved something in between her meals and so asked her maids to bring her something savoury, something sweet and tea around 3pm to see her through til dinner. You can see Miss Sue Flay talking about this on TV, no less, when she appeared on Escape to the Country. 

The whole workshop was extremely interesting and a lot of fun. Etiquette can be seen as stuffy, but with William's way of approaching the subject with humour it is a lighthearted afternoon with lots of laughs and sharing of anecdotes.

I left feeling like my manners were actually pretty good and I am quite a respectable member of society! But maybe boasting about such things is bad manners too though?

Do keep an eye on Miss Sue Flay's blog where I'm sure she'll be announcing more etiquette events for the future. You can find out more about William Hanson and his escapades in trying to make the country, and maybe even the world, a more well mannered place on his website, he also records brilliant videos on his YouTube channel.  

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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Homemade hot cross buns are one of the best things you'll make and are nothing like the flabby supermarket ones. I shouldn't have left it so long until I made them again, the last time I baked them was 4 Easters ago

I watched the Great British Bake Off Easter Masterclass a few days before the Easter weekend and because I am very easily influenced I decided that I absolutely had to revisit them and bake them over the long weekend.

Incidentally, I was going to name this blog post "Paul Hollywood's Buns'' and I wondered if this would drive lots of traffic to my blog, but I couldn't do it. I don't get the Paul Hollywood thing, is he a dish? Maybe I am a little young to see it (ha). Anyway back to the buns, hot cross ones.

Yes it is not Easter anymore, but I made these over the Easter weekend and they were lovely, so I decided to tell you about them. And you know, it is ok to make them after Easter, Jesus won't be mad. And it might make a nice change from the mounds chocolate eggs you have in your kitchen.

A few notes on the recipe, I used only mixed fruit instead of mixed peel & sultanas, I had a pear so I used that instead of an apple - both worked fine. I think the fruit would benefit from being soaked before baking, maybe in some tea, to stop it blackening whilst baking, and for a little more juiciness.
Also, I used honey thinned with a bit of water instead of apricot jam, to glaze, which worked a treat.

Hot Cross Buns - recipe by Paul Hollywood

300ml milk
500g strong white flour
75g caster sugar
1tsp salt
1 sachet (7g) fast action yeast
50g butter, softened
1 egg
125g mixed fruit
1 pear (or apple) cored and chopped (no need to peel)
zest of 1 orange
1tsp cinnamon

Extra flour and water for piping crosses
1tbsp of honey, for glazing

1. Boil the milk and then leave to cool until lukewarm
2. Mix flour, sugar, salt, yeast (keep salt and yeast apart on different sides of the bowl, so as not to kill the yeast), egg and softened cubed butter in a bowl. Slowly add cooled milk, mixing at first with a fork and then your hands to form a soft and sticky dough
3. Add orange zest, pear/apple, mixed fruit and cinnamon. Knead for about 5 minutes to form a soft springy dough.
4. Leave the dough in a warm place, to prove, in an oiled bowl covered with oiled cling film, for one hour, til doubled in size.
5. When proved place the dough back onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 even pieces. Transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover again with oiled cling film and and leave to prove for another hour. The buns can be close together as it is ok if they stick together during baking.
6. Heat oven to 225c / Gas mark 7.
7. For the crosses, put 5 tablespoons of flour in a bowl and then slowly add cold water to form a thick paste. Put into a piping bag with a narrow nozzle (I used a wider one and it came out a bit more like a splodge!) and pipe crosses on to the buns when they are proved.
8. Bake for 20 -25 minutes til golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Glaze with honey when they come out of the oven and leave to cool.

I learnt a good tip from Paul Hollywood on his Bread programme, bread should be left to cool when it is finished baking, so that the inside cooks with the residual heat - something which explains the doughy insides I have been suffering with! I did this with the hot cross buns, for as long as I could, and they came out perfect inside.

Enjoy spread with butter and a large cup of tea.

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Monday, 1 April 2013

#CamShopLocal - One Week, Independent Shopping in Cambridgeshire

I've been chatting on Twitter, and this always leads to some kind of plan taking place - usually visiting a new cafe or trying a new recipe, but this time the challenge is much greater. Fresh from the EAT Cambridge food festival, the foodies in the area are buzzing with enthusiasm about what our local Cambridge producers and suppliers can offer us. So with that, a group of us are challenging ourselves to shop locally and with independents for 1 week, from the 2nd April - 7th April.

No supermarkets or chains for 1 week. Supporting the little guy or girl, whether that be visiting the local butcher, baker, farm shop, clothing shop, restaurant or cafe. I am not going to lie, it is going to be hard and it will be interesting to see how my opinions change.

At the moment, I love independents and the unique things they can offer but I see supermarkets and chains as very much a part of my life. I am busy. I work 9am-5.30pm 5 days a week, making jewellery is my 2nd job, I blog, I bake and I do occasionally like to sleep. So being able to pop to the local Tesco (of which there are SO many in Cambridgeshire), Waitrose, Sainsburys or M&S is very much what I need to be able to get on with it.

To be fair to them, I think supermarkets have been getting it right recently too, current horse related mishaps aside, they are stocking more interesting produce, they have local sections and (particularly useful for me) world food sections along with stocking interesting cheeses, meats, niche brands and seasonal products.

But I think basic produce in supermarkets isn't good quality- fruit and veg, bread and meat either don't taste of anything or don't last long enough. But I make do, I buy them anyway and I expect what I can out of them. I add more spices, more salt, more herbs to make them taste better. Unfortunately they aren't even that cheap anymore either.

And I do visit Starbucks and Costa. I need time for a restorative coffee and cake during the week! I prefer Costa but it is not a patch on my favourite tearoom, Teacake, who I also visit equally as much. Cambridge is teaming with independent cafes, a lot of which have opened up recently.

This is also not just about food. What about household items- washing up liquid, bleach, loo roll, cat food? A lot of these are dominated by big brands, but I am not ruling out shopping for brands because seriously is there an artisan toilet roll producer in Cambridgeshire? But I will buy them from an independent rather than a supermarket. It may well cost me more, we'll see how that goes. I have to admit we do have most of these things in the house already so I may not need to buy.

I'm afraid I'm drawing the line at petrol. Judge me if you like but petrol is already bankrupting me as it is. And the two independent petrol stations (which, let's face it, still get their oil from big multinationals) are about 15 miles from my house, and about 12p a litre dearer.

So, petrol aside, I'm going to challenge myself to be less of a lazy giraffe consumer - to plan my shopping better and to really think about how to be smarter even if I am busy. Over the Easter weekend I've used the extra time to get some supplies from a local baker and Gog Magog Farm Shop along with a veg box from the Cambridge Organic Food Co.

There was something that came up during the Eat Cambridge food debate that there wasn't as much of a food scene outside of the city, which I very very much disagree with! I live and work outside of Cambridge centre and there is plenty going on, and I am very good at finding it, my list below will show you :)

I've got a list of places in my head that I will be shopping at - close to work and/or home. In no particular order:

Leech & Sons in Melbourn (meats, cheese, bread, fish, cakes, bread, eggs and 5mins from my office)
Bury Lane Farm Shop, near Royston (although I don't rate them much, it is a bit like a theme park farm shop. Might be good if I need something quickly)
Teacake Tearoom in Shepreth - my favourite tearoom. They also sell 'household staples' like loo roll, milk, bread, eggs, baked beans...
The Country Store, Sawston (cat food and litter, and I think logs for the fire, because it is definitely still going to be freezing in April)
The Ickleton Lion  - my local pub!
The egg lady, Ickleton (I hope her ducks start laying again soon)
Cafe Cou Cou, Saffron Walden (amazing shortbread and fruit bread)
Gog Magog Farm Shop & Cafe (all manner of things! Their fruit and veg, meat, cheese, food cupboard bits, bread, tea, coffee. It is one of my regular haunts and I've seen them grow into a fantastic local business who really care about what they do).
Several butchers in Saffron Walden
Saturday Market in Saffron Walden (fruit, veg, fish and seafood, brilliant bread, olives, tapenade, houmous, plants)
Walden Local Food - veg stall in Saffron Walden on Sunday
Jigsaw Bakery in Linton, blog post coming up about this soon - brilliant new bakery run by one man in a tiny little shop/kitchen

Wish me luck! I'll be tweeting using the #camshoplocal this week and blogging my progress/frustrations/achievements :)

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