Posts Tagged With: review

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

Come join our chocolate feast!!!!  A group of dedicated chocolate enthusiasts (and keen amateurs) gathered together and tasted some of the best chocolate around.  We tried the finest single estate cacao, raw chocolate and some delicious milk chocolate and I’d like to share our findings and the thrills and joys of real cacao!  Definitely not your average chocolate.

There is a huge difference between a quality chocolate and what we normally find in the shops and we had the rare privilege of trying them all back-to-back and finding out what kind of chocoholic we were!  Some like chocolate with caramel notes, some prefer cacao with a hint of summer berries and we pretty much all loved the wild orange flavour.  Here are the results of an intensive tasting session involving some of Jane and I’s favourite chocolate producers.

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

We were lucky enough to host this chocolate tasting at our recent vegan cooking retreat.  Having assembled some of the most brilliant chocolate around we all tried to eat a small breakfast in preparation for the chocolate onslaught that lay ahead.  How could we fit it all in!?  There is no spitting chocolate out a la wine tasting (that would be way too gruesome and messy).  This was a stamina event for serious chocolate fanatics and aficionados only.

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

In reality, it wasn’t quite that dramatic.  There was a lot of nibbling going on and plenty of uuuuuuuuming and aaaaaaaaahhhing (in a good way).  A variety of ecstatic yelps and the occasional ooooooooh (thats normally a very good sign).  One thing is for sure, we had some clear winners that shone through and brought much smiles and happiness.

This choc-a-thon saw us taste a variety of chocolate from Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco, Pana Chocolate and Choco Mama.  These guys are making some of the very best chocolate available in the UK.  I’d also like to mention Essy & Bella’s chocolate, who were definitely going to feature (we love em!) but time caught up on us.

Willie's Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

Willie’s Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

So let the tasting begin…..

DARK CHOCOLATE WINNER – WILLIE’S CACAO PERUVIAN GOLD ‘CHULUCANAS 70’

We started with unflavoured, unadulterated dark chocolate.  Pure, simple and potentially, absolutely sublime.  For me, as a slight chocolate snob (I am a cook after all) this is where chocolate begins and ends.  I love all chocolate, but this is its purest expression.  All the flavour of the cacao is there (hopefully) and we were lucky enough to be in contact with the wonderful Willie’s Cacao who supplied some sensational, single estate, chocolate bars especially for the purpose of sampling a range of cacao from different regions and countries.  We could really taste how the specific location of the cacao estate affected the flavour of the final bar.

It was clear that Willie’s had the dark chocolate comp covered with bars from Peru, Venezuela, Madagascar, Columbia and Indonesia.  Willie compares good cacao beans to fine wines, each estate capable of producing beans with unique, stunning and individual flavours.  Willie’s Cacao uses just raw sugar cane and natural cacao butter, no soya lecithin that can impair flavour.  Willie even owns a cacao estate in Venezuela and visits all the farms that supply his beans.  I love his approach and passion for chocolate.

It is a rare privilege to taste high quality products back to back, you can really appreciate the difference in flavours and textures.  Willie’s range of dark chocolate it stunning and it was difficult to pick a winner.  Eventually the Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70‘ came out on top with its distinct raisin-like flavour and deep, dark cacao taste.  A tiny piece is like a taste explosion in the mouth!

Really, all of Willie’s chocolate is a delight, with the pure taste of exceptional cacao in each bar.  He really does make chocolate from ‘bean to bar’ which many producers talk about, but few are scouring the jungles of Latin America and the world seeking new and interesting cacao beans.  Picking a favourite, well it really just depends of how you feel that day, there are flavours like caramel, nut, berries, fruits in each bar.  You’ll just have to have your own chocolate tasting to try the all!

(I have to say that my favourite Willie’s chocolate is the Indonesian Gold ‘Javan Dark Breaking 69’ which didn’t even make it to the tasting.  Very irresponsible of me, it just disappeared somewhere on route. In the car. YUM.)

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin 

RAW AND FLAVOURED CHOCOLATES – WINNER PANA CHOCOLATE FIG AND WILD ORANGE

We then dove straight into the raw and flavoured chocolates and this was an equally difficult and exhaustive process, with repeat tastings needed to decided a winner (nobody seemed to mind this at all!)  Extra tea was drafted in….  We liked Choco Mama’s Mulberry Crunch flavour an interesting texture and dried mulberries are rarely seen in the UK.  Choco Mama is a small company based in glorious North Wales and we love trying their range of chocolate from our local health food store.  Their chocolate is hand made in small batches with fair trade cacao form co-ops in Bali and Peru.

choco mama

An interesting range of raw and fair trade chocolate made in Wales

However the clear winner in this section was Pana Chocolate’s Fig and Wild Orange.  They already produce a wonderful selection of chocolates with creative and surprising flavours and it seems that there are even more coming soon (I just checked out their website, Hemp and Nib is looking good).  The Fig and Wild Orange flavour received the the most votes by a long way and like all Pana Chocolate is so rich and silky.  We all loved the fragrant orange flavour coming from the orange essential oils.

Pana Chocolate make 'Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.'

Pana Chocolate make ‘Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.’

Ethicoco’s rich and creamy bar did gather quite a few votes but the majority of people were part of the dark chocolate persuasion and it was always up against it.  As a change, we will definitely be buying a few bars for a rainy day.  I also love the sound of their Chai Latte Flavour and at VegFest this year in London, I tried their range of dark chocolate which was also delicious.  We found that the oat milk makes this bar so creamy and it is not overly sweet, something I cannot forgive in a chocolate bar.  I like to taste the cacao not the sugar!  Ethicoco know their way around a top bar of chocolate for sure.

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held - North Wales

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held – North Wales – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

To top everything off with yet another dollop of chocolaty happiness, during our story telling evening with Claire, we made a massive bubbling pot of hot chocolate using a block of Willie’s 100% Venezuelan Black Cacao.  You basically grate the entire block (if you’re making for fifteen) over a pan of water and bring to a simmer.  The cacao does need cooking through for a while to allow it to melt and become silky smooth.  You can add some almond milk, but it’s creamy and rich as it is and is packed with pure cacao goodness.  As Willie says “Coffee is a poor mans hot chocolate” and when you try this hot chocolate, you can really see why.  The flavour is intense and the aroma, totally sensational.

I love using cacao in savoury cooking like stews and pies.  There is a ‘Smoked Chocolate and Beetroot Beans’ recipe in Peace & Parsnips which contains very dark chocolate.  You can try adding a few teaspoons of cocoa to a Mexican-style stew, it brings a new and interesting flavour to a bowlful of your favourite beans and goes especially well with smoked paprika or chipotle chillies.

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

There is a rumour going round that bottles of rum where planted around the library at strategic points and this somehow made it into the hot chocolate.  I have no idea how that happened?!  So the scene is…..an open fire, a group of new friends, a wonderful story unfolding and a mug of rum laced hot chocolate from Venezuela…….it was a very special evening and the best possible way to spend the last night of our retreat.  We all had rosy cheeks and slept like babies.

So tasting chocolate is a hit (we thought it might be!) We couldn’t think of a better way to round off our vegan cooking retreat, with all those whoops and occasional sounds of sheer delight!  Great chocolate does that!!  Highlighting the power that brilliant, plant-based food can have on us.  It can bring so much joy and I’d like to thank all the chocolate suppliers for packing so much flavour, care, love and happiness into each little bar of chocolate.  It was all very much appreciated.

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

Cacao has been known as the ‘Food of the Gods’ for centuries in the Americas and it’s easy to see why.  The cacao tree produces big pods, where the cacao beans hide and grow.  Inside each cacao bean there is a cacao nib (for chocolate) and cacao butter (for chocolate, cosmetics etc).  Most chocolates are made with extra cacao butter, or things like soya lecithin, added to make the bar smooth.

Cacao is very high in anti-oxidants and essential nutrients although many of these can be lost when processed into chocolate or cocoa.  Some of the apparent health benefits of eating cacao are lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, diarrhea, preventing wrinkles, liver, bladder and kidney disorders and many more.

The cacao bean is packed full of antioxidants, good fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc and potassium.  They also contain oleic acid which is a heart-healthy essential mono unsaturated fat, fiber and vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9 as well as small quantities of vitamin A and C.  We think it’s incredible that something as decadent as chocolate, especially raw chocolate, is so wonderfully healthy.

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FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

Willie’s – Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70’ – 5 points

Willie’s – Venezuelan Gold ‘Rio Carabe 72’ – 2 points

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

Willie’s – Venezulean Gold ‘Las Trincheras 72’ – 2 points

Willie’s – Madagascan Gold ‘Sambirano 71’ – 1 point

Willie’s – Columbian Gold ‘Los Llanos 88’ – 1 point

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Willie’s – 100% Venezuelan Black Carenero Cacao (as hot chocolate) – Many, many points…….(plus extras with a glug of rum)

Thanks again to Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco and Pana Chocolate for sending chocolate across to the BHK.  It is always wonderful to sample on the blog the products that we enjoy so much.

PS – Although Willie’s is not certified as vegan, I have spoken to them and they assure me that their dark chocolate it totally vegan.  

Categories: Cooking Retreats, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Sage Nutri Juicer – Juicer Extraordinaire! A BHK Product Review

Sage Nutri Juicer

Sage Nutri Juicer

We have the distinct pleasure of giving a Sage Nutri Juicer a new home.  As regular BHK readers will know, Jane and I are partial to a morning juice.  Actually, without it we feel a little under nourished and lack the incredible zing! that a fresh juice gives you in your waking hours.  We had researched juicers and made up a shortlist, Sage where somewhere close to the top and definitely offer awesome value for money.  So when one arrived on our doorstep, delivered by the juice crane we presume, we unpacked it with joy and then things got really juicy!

Juicing is so very good for us its almost outrageous.  We find that a glass of good juice in the morning sates us until lunchtime at least.  We also feel cleansed and energised by the whole process.  Most fruit and vegetables can be juiced to good effect and this means that juicing is seasonal.  We find that broccoli for example makes a wonderful juice and the stalk even tastes a little like egg (which is more appetising than it may sound!).  We are also experimenting with recipes to utilise the pulp, normally discarded in the juicing process.  Nothing is wasted!

You cannot beat a fresh juice, preferably with organic fruit and veg when possible.  Please do not be fooled by processed juices or even worse, juices from concentrate.  Many of these popular juice brands are just vehicles for added sugar to enter your diet and we don’t need any more of that.  Fresh juices can also be high in sugar and it is worth balancing high sugar fruits and veg with lower sugar varieties, greens are a perfect example of this and bursting with nutrients and flavour.  They also make your juice look very cool indeed.

One more word on juicing and we’ll get on with our review.  Juices can be high in acid, that may, over a period of time, damage teeth.  Its worth bearing in mind.  Maybe brush your teeth after your morning juice (using non-flouride toothpaste por favor).

Our last juicer died in a dramatic flaming fashion, possibly due to one too many beetroots!  We think it was a little under powered and couldn’t really handle the hard stuff, root veg and all.  The Sage has no problems on this front, when you start it up, it sounds like an out-board motor and the high setting (there are two settings, high and low) cuts through hard vegetables like carrots like a knife through cashew butter.  We are also very impressed with the amount of juice extracted, the pulp is very dry and even on high setting (think helicopter taking off on your work surface!) the extraction of juice is brilliant.

The Nutri Juicer is easy to assemble and take apart and relatively simple to wash up (the bug bear of many a non-committal juicer).  The actual juice basket is as sharp as you’d imagine (like an uber grater), so taking care when washing it is important.  Sage have provided a great little scrubbing brush for this purpose. There are a few parts that come apart with ease and fit together with the help of a reassuring metal fitting.  It has a very solid feel when in use and is well balanced, no leaning or buzzing off around the work surface like some other juicers.  The discarded pulp flies out of the juicer into a purpose built bucket, which when lined with a compostible bag, makes for very easy disposal in the compost bin, no scraping or blocked sinks here.

The juicer basket and pulp bucket

The juicer basket and pulp bucket

The Nutri Juicer comes equipped with its own jug, which even acts as a measuring jug for the pedantic juicer or doubles up around the kitchen when baking etc.  As mentioned, the Sage is a powerful little contraption and this means that the juice comes out at a rate of knots, so the lid and rubber pouring spout are a must.  There is nothing worse that walls covered with fine drops of beetroot juice!  This power also means that the juice gets nicely whipped up and when extracted into the jug has a decent head on it.  We like to swill this around and combine it with the juice, but if you leave the lid on when pouring the juice, it will separate the froth from the liquid.

A large chute on a juicer is essential and the circular chute on this machine is perfect.  We have not found an apple that will not fit in there whole.  This juicer will take care of whole apples without breaking sweat.  Even if you are having a particularly hectic juice morning and the Sage overheats, it has a safety device which means that it will cut off and can then be used after 15 minutes of cooling down.

Mid juice - see the handy little rubber spout and cosy fitting jug.

Mid juice – see the handy little rubber spout and cosy fitting jug.

This Sage is a centrifugal juicer and we had originally thought about a masticating juicer, which is alot slower and really squeezes the life force out of things (which we then drink!)  They are generally more costly and there are only a handful of companies who make them, most based in the U.S.  This means added shipping miles and cost to the equation.  In the future, we’d love to try and ‘masticator’ but have been pleasantly surprised by the Nutri Juicer performance.  One criticism of a centrifugal juicer is that it heats the juice and kills some of the enzymes and goodness, but Sage have got around that with some very clever design.

The Nutri Juicer is a real looker, with a shiny metallic finish and simple design, it sits nicely on the kitchen surface.  Heston Blumenthal is involved with these guys and he seems to be a man who knows his way around a quality gadget.  The Sage juicers were also used in the documentary ‘Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead’, I haven’t seen it, but people in a bad way use juice to help them get fit and healthy.  I can see why they chose Sage, it is a well-priced juicer with brilliant overall performance.

Sage Nutri Juicer - Quite a looker!

Sage Nutri Juicer – Quite a looker!

For reference, we have a BJE410UK.

Juice, glorious juice.

Juice, glorious juice.

Beetroot, Apple, Ginger and Lemon Juice

Makes 2 glasses of purple morning sunshine

1 large beetroot, 3 carrots, 4 small apples, 2 inch cube of fresh ginger, 1/2 lemon (juice only)

Scrub your veggies, do not peel.  Cut the very ends off your veggies, they can get stuck in the juicer.  Ensure no soil or woody stems get into the juicer.

Get your juicer up to speed, higher setting is best as these are quite hard veggies.

Add ginger, beetroot, carrots and apple in that order.  Most flavourful and colourful to least seems to extract more flavour and colour.  Makes sense!

Squeeze your lemon juice separate and stir in at the end.

Ready to juice

Ready to juice

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Detox, Juices | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Willie’s Cacao Chocolate Tasting Challenge

Our stash of Willie’s Chocolates

Ladies and Gentleman, we have arrived in chocolate heaven………

Willie’s World Class Cacao chocolate is the best we have ever tasted.  No mincing our words here, its the best.  Hands down.  The champagne of the chocosphere, you know it’s the best by its ‘bite’.  One crisp, crack and you instinctively know that good things are going to happen in your mouth.

No cheese, ho booze, no coffee, no sweat.  No chocolate, well that’s an existence you can count me out on.  As Willie says “Coffee is a poor mans cacao” and I tend to agree.

Yes, we are eating chocolate again, with great relish and delight.  We have thrown ourselves back into the world of those fabulous brown chunks with gusto and started right at the top with a Willie’s chocolate tasting session.  We lined up some lumps of quite amazing cacao and gave our taste buds a real treat.  For moments, we had died and gone to chocolate heaven.

Passion is infectious and Willie has it in giant spades.  I remember seeing him in Selfridges (big posh shop in London) being animated and charming about all things chocolate and the very finest cacao.  Willie has a mission in this life and its very chocolaty.  I liked him straight away, its rare to see anybody so consumed and charged by something, the fact that this something was chocolate, only made me warm to him more.

I then watched the documentary style TV programme that followed him to his hacienda and cacao farm in Venezuela where he seemed to be a one man army, defending us all against the abomination of substandard cacao.  Willie was so driven to succeed against all odds and many wild and wonderful set backs.  The story of this chocolate is to follow your dreams, no matter what gets in your way or what they may be.  Don’t waver and have faith.  In chocolate!  This definitely adds to the flavour!

Willie has scoured Latin America looking for the finest cacao trees to re-plant and discovered a small plantation, surrounded by coffee trees, that had not cross pollinated with the newer types of cacao trees (some of those high yield, low quality varieties that modern farming is dominated by).  He took them back to his hacienda and ended up planting 10,000 of them (told you he is driven!).

Cacao is great for us and Willie uses only the finest cacao and a little sugar and thats it.  No hidden nasties in there or chemicals at all.  He also sells the cacao pure, 100%, that is best used in cooking or hot chocolate (it is a little on the bitter side).

Willie

He brings all of these beans back to this little grey island and feeds them into his collection of old chocolate making machinery (slower than the modern machines, but better for taste).

Willie’s chocolate is not the cheapest, you wouldn’t expect it to be, but if you are looking for the best, I think its probably worth splashing out the extra .50p on something truly amazing!

If you don’t believe any of these claims, check out Willie’s brilliant website.  You’ll find a real feast for the eyes, it a stunner, you’ll also find many recipes for cooking with chocolate and not just desserts either.  Savoury dishes with the 100% cacao.  We’ll be giving some a go soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

My first taste of chocolate in a savoury dish was in Mexico, up a mountain somewhere south, lost and hungry.  It was actually raining as well.  A kind hearted lady opened her front room for us and begin to whip up something that looked like a chocolate and banana sauce, mixed with a casserole.  My first Mole Poblano and I will never forget it.  Dark and rich, with the bitterness of the chocolate, sweetness of banana and the potent chilli punch, it was a rare taste explosion.  A combination and sensation that cannot be repeated in any dish.

One of Willies farmers

Back to chocolate as we know and love it, here are Jane and I’s tasting notes for the chocolate frenzy/tasting:

Indonesian (Javan Light Breaking)

Lee – Love that crack and crunch, gorgeous (this was repeated many times during this tasting), light flavour, lighter than most chocolates with a lovely caramel-ness to it.  

Jane – Tastes like caramelised treacle, so, so smooootthhh.

YYYYYYYYuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….

Venezuelan Gold (Hacienda las Trincheras)

Lee – Rich, really rich, wow,  a real full flavour that goes on and on…..more intense than the Indonesian and super velvety.  Gorgeous (again!)

Jane – More chocolaty, more flavour and complexity, super luxury chocolate, super rich.  

MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm  (eyes closed and slightly erotic noise).

Madagascar (Sambriano Superior)

Lee – Really, wow, very, very nice.  Thats amazing.  Very nice.  Fruity, a little blackcurranty and was that a raspberry!

Jane – Fruit, yes fruit, delicate flavour, no words (just noise of delight)

DELECTABLE……moving on….

Ginger Lime (Sierra Leone)

Lee – Reminds me of Christmas, I prefer the other, unadulterated stuff.  Still very, very fine and zesty.

Jane – A bit like ginger nuts!  Heavenly.

Peruvian (San Martin)

Both –  AMAZING CHOCOLATE!!!! (dumbstruck looks and lost for words……)   

(Due to intense chocolate overload, at this stage the tasting turned into a giant scoff/ farce and we lost track of which was chocolate went with which wrapper.  Meaning the other bars tasted all get a 9.96 out of 10 and a big thumbs up from us.)

Best Overall

Lee  – Has to be the Indonesian, maybe because it was first to be tasted.  I loved the sweet caramel flavours and the general lightness of the chocolate, something really different and not achieved completely naturally.  I would also like to visit Indonesia one day soon.

Jane – Venezuelan.  The richness, so, so dark and packed full of flavour.  The loveliest and purest flavour.  REAL chocolate.

This was only a small taster of the full range which you’ll find a doorway to here.

Enjoying Willie’s chocolate makes you part of a very special adventure; one mans dream, now boxed up by old clanking machines and available on supermarket shelves.  This is our kind of food success story.  Chocolate is important and Willie’s is chocolate at its most inspiring and delicious best.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

B.H.K. Review – Allegra McEvedy ‘Bought, Borrowed and Stolen’

‘Some women collect shoes, Allegra collects knives.’

A cookbook full of ‘Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef’.  Allegra’s books are always full of good writing and inspiration, but ‘Bought, Borrowed and Stolen’ inspires with not only the food, but the tools that make it and the personal journey behind each dish.

From San Francisco to Burma, this book is a true labour of love.  Allegra has definitely put in the hard yards here.  It’s an insight into many revealing journeys over nearly a quarter of a century and most of the planet.  Ever seeking sharp edges, shiny people, proper food and other tasty mouthfuls.

I own a couple of Allegra’s books, but this is the best read.  It’s as much a memoir as a gang of recipes; the memoirs of a foodie in love with the world and its diverse cultures and traditions, always lead to culinary adventures, relating directly to the plate and the belly.

Allegra has been out and about, distilling years of travel and great eating into these pages.  There is a real sense of love and passion that comes through in the writing. Allegra seems to get to the heart of each country visited and as we know, the best way a people’s hearts……….are their bellies (or rib cages and I’m sure Allegra will have a knife to suit!!!!!).

Jane gifted me this wonderful cook/travel book for crimbo.  It graces our windowsill turquoise and when opened, explodes with even more vivid colours.  Allegra’s food is always vibrant and challenges the stuffy ‘elite’ of British cooking.  You may know who I mean?!  Unlike most famous chefs, Allegra actually has a great sense of humour!  You are allowed to laugh, enjoy and be natural whilst cooking.  Not fickle or false.  Allegra’s cooking comes from the heart, not an assembly line of egos.  Hoorah!

It’s not a veg cookbook, but there are many veggie options.  The meat dishes can always be played around with; an aubergine here, a pumpkin there and you’ve got worthy substitutes for a slab of beef (sort of).  Allegra’s enthusiasm and talent is prevalent on each page.  The travel writing paints magical pictures of markets, stalls and kitchens encountered along the way.  This is an insight into a real cooks (chefs?!) pilgrimage from working on the ‘line’ to being one of Britain’s best-loved and talented foodie people (chefs?!).

Allegra gave up cooking ‘posh food for posh people’ years ago and since then has commited her time to giving great, affordable food, to the masses; via Leon Restaurants and many other charitable projects.  Bagging an MBE along the way.  Allegra is regularly on TV, her most recent show was ‘Economy Gastronomy’ and to cap it all off (for now), has been made only one of three ‘patrons’ for the fair trade movement.  Allegra is quite a busy lady.

To add to the job list, it appears Allegra may need to build an extension to accommodate her knife drawer!  I am sure it resembles some kind of ancient armoury.  I wonder is she has a spear?  I have one good knife, but this book has wet my appetite for more.  Maybe one of those ‘Oaxacan Whackers’ to have a go at a particularly stubborn beetroot.  Bring on the carnage!

The knives all seem to embody the food culture of the place.  The are all fascinating in their own way, many exhibiting great craftsmanship, many purely barbaric.  My personal favourites are an elegant Japanese Unagi Saki, handle-less; deadly looking, like something a Ninja would carry in there sock.  The Grenadine Scrimshaw is a tasty looking pen knife, the Phoenician Phoenix is ostentatious and the Burmese Machete looks like something you’d reduce a tree to splinters with.

Difficult to say which is my favourite recipe.  There are many.  The Shepherd’s Salad went down well at a Veg. Hen Party I cooked for recently.  The Hens liked the pomegranate.  The Black Sticky Rice is a treat, the Sweet and Sour Aubergine, Rooibos Malve Pudding, the list goes on and on…………..these recipes will grace many a happy occasion in the Beach House.

I love the fact that Allegra has copied these recipes down in situ, in the moment.  Scribbled in one of her many food diaries and then copied down here, straight on the page.  There is no messing with the dishes or ‘dolling them up’, making the food technical and overly complex.  It’s straight from the stall to the page, showing Allegra’s integrity, in honouring foods simplicity and respecting the lineage and tradition of the many cultures cuisines.  How we eat says so much about who we are and the recipes here seem like a true reflection of that.

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Allegra in Malawi

Allegra wears her heart on her sleeve, which makes the book a personal quest for culinary insight, as opposed to a bunch of recipes re-hashed with a tenuous theme.  This is ‘real’ soul food with choppers!

I had the pleasure of working with Allegra for a short time with Leon Restaurants and I can imagine her in these far off places, being charming and impressing all with a passion for good food and good livin’.  Allegra is so kind and genuine, I’m sure this has opened many a doorway.   This book acts as a portal to the kitchens, history and characters of the world (and their cutlery drawers!).

Wherever you are in the world, there’s no better way of giving people joy than by handing them a plate of food made with love … and watching them love it too.”

Cheers Allegra!

Heres Allegra’s site:  http://www.allegramcevedy.com/Allegra/Biography.html

I also recommend the ‘Colour Cookbook’.  It’s cheap on Amazon.

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I feel that cookbooks are generally overpriced and not necessary.  I own three.  Just think about all that amazing produce you could buy with 30 quid!  I have notebooks full of recipes, all very personal and much-loved.  This suit me fine.

I prefer to get my inspiration, like Allegra, through travel and eating as opposed to second-hand in a sumptuously photographed hardbacks (lets face it, you can’t eat photographs, or books for that matter).  I like scribbled recipes and cooking from brilliant memories of taste and occasion.  However, if you are ever going to waste money on a cookbook.  This is the one! 

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A few of Allegras choppers

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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