Wednesday, 25 April 2018

April 2018 Favourites List

After March’s wintry, snow clad pictures, it is a delight to see that Spring has sprung! I was fortunate enough to spend this year’s Easter break travelling around Japan. Ever since Mr Hammick, my primary school Humanities teacher, taught us the Sakura song (in both English and Japanese) when I was 10, I’ve always wanted to see the cherry blossom. He had lived in Japan for 10 years, and had learned to speak Japanese. He told us about Japan, and I loved hearing every story. 

The delicately pink, five petaled Sakura is the national flower of Japan. The blooms last 3 to 5 days, depending on the weather. A windy day can spell tragedy, a seriously wet day is catastrophic. The blossom in a single town might last a week or two. The plum blossom lasts a month. So why do the Japanese love the cherry blossom so much? It is the combination of the indescribable beauty and its transience which makes it so irresistible. 

Chasing the Sakura in Kyoto, Kanazawa, Kawaguchiko and Tokyo was an unforgettable experience. I learned that Fujisan is as shy and elusive as he is described to be. If you see him, take your pictures immediately. Visibility rarely lasts the day. Clouds can mask him completely, such that you’d never believe he’s only a couple of kilometres away. Haze caused by mist and bright sunshine can make his full outline hard to discern. In full view, it is a truly awesome sight; a singular mountain, all by itself, with the most perfect sloping, conical outline. What an icon!

Kyoto’s streets are vivid and picturesque with the blossom in place. It is a fascinating city of culture and architecture at any time of year. The beautiful drifts of Sakura make the streets of Gion, the Philopher’s Path and the canals on the approach to Ginkakuji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) like a dream come true. The historic streets of Kanazawa are fun to wander around, the city’s gastronomy is among the best in Japan, but the blossom around the Castle and Botanical Gardens are ethereal; like cascades of snow. 

The deer of Nara are always adorable, but the cherry flowers make them even more photogenic and catching the very last Sakura in Tokyo at the tomb of the last Shogun,
Tokugawa Yoshinobu in Yanaka was poignant.

I hope you enjoy my pictures from my trip. The enchanting Sakura flowers made a big impression on me, and the memories are something I will treasure for the rest of my life.  


Italian sausages are deliciously high in meat content, meaning you don't need many for a decent meal. Here's a recipe using Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) I'm looking forward to making!

Here is the bean soup which forms the base for the Sausage Broccoli Rabe:  

Jalebis are a treasured childhood memory... off-the-scale sweetness, best eaten when they're so fresh they're still hot. The idea of making them at home seems a bit daunting to me, but just seeing a recipe for them on a national news website made me smile from ear to ear:

Comforting, fruity, sweet and warming. Cookwitch Lisa makes a variation of Nigel Slater's Lebanese rice pudding from his series on the Middle East.

Sort-of-Moussaka. Minced pork and minced lamb cooked in aubergine and tomato sauce, stuffed into half an aubergine, covered in white sauce, topped with cheese and baked.

This Couscous stuffed aubergine with Tahini sauce shows how diverse vegetarian and vegan food can be:

Black cod with miso, as made famous by Nobu restaurant. (NB: black cod is actually sablefish or butterfish, but you can substitute sea bass or even salmon).

Japanese stewed pork, with a touch of sweetness:

An inventive fish taco recipe using pickled ginger and wonton wrappers. Sounds tasty rather than authentic, but isn't it taste that ultimately counts?

Miso chicken teriyaki made with flavourful chicken thighs:

Sesame and yoghurt roast lamb. Serve with salad and flatbread for a weekend cook out with a difference.

A fragrant gingery soup for supper and a tart for lunchtime, Nigel Slater's new butternut squash recipes:

Farro is one of the old style wholegrains which is coming back into fashion. Here's a Winter salad which you can whip up:

Food writing and articles: 


London restaurant news to get excited about - Din Tai Fung is coming! (Fantastic dumplings ahoy!)

How to eat 12 popular Japanese dishes correctly. (From sushi to gyoza!):

What you might have missed at Snig’s Kitchen:

An afternoon of French food discovery “La French Food” at Business France:


Damned (Series 2)



Buena Vista Social Club

I Can Speak

Paddington 2


Buena Vista Social Club 

Neil Young - On The Beach

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

La French Food Afternoon tea

La French Food is a chance for people with a love of food who produce, make, buy, sell and write about food to get together over an afternoon in Central London to sample the best, most traditional, and also the most innovative French food products.

Because, as we know, the French have great style, that meant being welcomed with a glass of Champagne, served up right next to Valrhona chocolate's presentation. Resist fine chocolate and Champagne? I am a mere mortal. How could I?

Valrhona's chocolates are rightly famous, known as one of the best in the world. But other than delectable high quality chocolates, what is new and innovative? 

The people at Valrhona were keen for me to try their fruit couvertures, as pictured above. They have been experimenting with preserving the very essence of fruit; colour, aroma, flavour in cocoa butter to give a cooking ingredient for baking and desserts. The strawberry is fresh and tastes like a sunny Summer day. The passion fruit is a taste revelation; packing a tangy punch, the vibrancy of the fruit shining through. Almost too good to cook with, these little parcels of fruitness have to be tasted to be believed!

Next I decided to check out the cooking demonstrations, of course!

Chef Neal from Atelier des Chefs was making salads using Entremont's new cheese creams. Their "Creme Terroir" takes classic French cheese such as Munster, Rebluchon and Roquefort and combines them with cream and butter to make a blend highly suitable for making sauces, creams or just for eating with salads. The blending means that when you are making a sauce, you can be sure the sauce won't split and will come out perfectly creamy.

Across from Neal, Chef Fabrizio was cooking up a storm, making that French favourite, Crepes. With a choice of Crepe with Valrhona Caramel cooking chocolate and Fabrizio's own secret recipe Chocolate Ganace or Crepe with Ham and cheese, the sweet crepe was always going to win!

Naturally, an experienced Chef like Fabrizio was going to make a lovely, light pancake. But the caramel chocolate filling was a great surprise, as was the rich ganache. Indulgent and luxurious!

It wouldn't have been right to only try the sweet stuff, so I moved on to Bahier's very traditional meaty Rilletes. They make Pork, Goose, Duck and Chicken varieties. 

Spread on some fresh sourdough baguette slices, their Rilletes were rich and pleasantly unctuous. They reminded me of sunny afternoons spent in the Loire Valley last Summer, where we had these informal and unfussy pates for starters, with glasses of Vouvray. 

The famous Agen prunes and dried fruits of Les Vergers D'Escoute were my next discovery. This family has made great quality dried fruit products for 5 generations. Not only were they large, moist, generous and tasty, but look at the presentation of their produce! A world away from the uninviting packs you find in health food stores, these are inviting and beautiful packages to either treat yourself to or give to your friends as gifts.

My next discovery was one of the quirkiests finds at La French Food: Apis Civi honey. Why quirky? This is isn't honey made in sunny Provence, or on the wineries of Bordeaux or on the banks of the Loire... this is city honey. Made in Paris! I was told that the flower diversity of Paris is so wide, the bees create a honey which is unique. It certainly tasted good and made me think twice about France's stunning and special capital, a city I love. 

It wouldn't be a French afternoon without Macarons! Brioche Pasquier provided these beauties. They are a bakery from the west of France originally founded in 1936 whose bread products have recently been picked up by Ocado in the UK. 

My final discovery was perhaps the most innovative food and drink product I have ever seen: the D-Vine wine system. This is a method of serving wine in perfect condition almost instantly. I was sceptical but had to give it a try.

As a frequent forgetful foodie, I have known the frustration of forgetting to chill white wine before serving, desparately putting the bottle in the freezer and hoping for the best. With the D-Vine system, each little bottle (which has a full glass of wine inside) has a little microchip to tell the machine how to serve the wine in terms of aeration and temperature. Still pining for the Loire Valley after my trip there last Summer, it was obvious what I was going to choose!
The machine detected my choice, recognising the need to chill it before pouring. After just under a minute the machine began to pour my wine into my glass.

Amazingly, the wine was perfectly chilled, despite the bottle having been at room temperature only a minute before. The wine itself was a beautiful off-dry Loire, as promised. The next person in the queue wanted a red wine. Somehow the machine served that wine, aerated and at room temperature.

This machine is such a marvel of new technology that even Emmanuel Macron, the French President has a D-Vine machine. I can see how this could be an excellent little gizmo for a small restaurant or bar. I was a bit concerned about the sustainability of the system given that each bottle only holds the capacity of a glass of wine. However, they are fully recyclable, and the makers hope to expand to reuse the bottles, collecting, cleaning and refilling them. If this happens this would be an excellent and environmentally friendly way of enjoying wine, glass by glass.

Snigdha was invited to La French Food by Business France as a guest. She has received no incentive for posting this review.