As it is Food Pairing Friday and with Mother’s Day (Europe), Easter and some other religious festivals soon approaching, we thought we would match some of our favourite wines and chocolates together and here’s the result.
We adore the natural marzipan chocolates produced by Niederegger, and what better pairing than our favourite Spring/ Summer wines: La Belle Angele, from Majestic Wines, and two Castello Banfi (a family-owned vineyard estate and winery located in the Brunello region of Tuscany) wines, part of a wine bundle courtesy of International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and Club Oenologique (a premium magazine with content from the world’s of wine, spirits, gastronomy and travel).
First up, La Belle Angele:
We loved this Sauvignon Blanc 2017, an elegant, refreshing and aromatic French Wine had delicate aromas of blackcurrants, blackcurrant leaf grassy notes, and gooseberries.
This perfectly complemented the sweeter, creamy elements of the Niederegger Strawberry Cheesecake marzipan chocolate bread loaf.
The Banfi La Pettegola was next in line to review:
We loved this pale yellow Tuscan white with honey and dandelion aromas, tropical fruit and spices aromas and stone fruit notes typical of the Mediterranean coast. Elegant aromas of flowers and some tropical ripe fruits. This has an exotic bouquet of dried jasmine, Williams pears and even quince/ guava peel aromas that reminded us of holidays in Europe and Goa. Clean on the palate with razor sharp acidity and very precise notes of yellow apple, with a hint of pepper. Long, pleasant finish of spiced fruit and floral notes.
This intense fruitiness, acidity and light pepperiness helped cut through and perfectly complemented the roasted nutty sweetness, caramelised toffee and apricot notes of the Niederegger Hazelnut Toffee marzipan chocolate bread loaf.
Finally, the Castello Banfi – Brunello di Montalcino:
We loved this 2015 red wine which is made with a hundred percent Sangiovese, is DOCG standard, fragrant and bright vintage with its wonderful aromas of wild cherry, blackberry and plum, and a fabulous soft, slightly spicy dryness with oak, tobacco and vanilla notes on the palate.
This perfectly complemented the rum, honey, roasted almond, and dark chocolate black cherry notes of the Niederegger Rum and Original marzipan chocolate bread loaves.
We loved the presentation and how gift like the box looked with a big bow on the front. Walnut Tree Gifts are one of the UK’s leading packer of superior quality dried fruit, nuts and chocolate.
When we opened our Luxury Belgian Chocolates box, our first surprise was there was no card detailing what flavours the chocolates were. This made it a lucky dip when choosing!
The chocolates were all very good quality, but unfortunately for us at least 4 of the sections (with 4 chocolates in each) featured banana as a flavour. We have an aversion to banana as a result of bad childhood experiences with banana flavoured medication and so this made this selection challenging for us, as it was very banana heavy. Also as banana is such a strong flavour some of the non-banana flavoured ones also started to take on a banana tinge over time. However, we really loved the coffee cream chocolates and the marzipan ones which were unusual and fabulous.
So in summary, we would like it if there was a card detailing flavours and if this was posted in the website listing as this would give customers more information. We also think it might be worth looking at the balance of flavours and perhaps making it less banana heavy (although this might just be us!). We loved quality of the chocolate, the presentation and some of the unusual flavours such as marzipan though.
Don’t forget that you get a 10% discount online by using discount code ‘WALNUTLY10’.
Gupta’s is one of the oldest family-owned Indian Sweets and Savouries companies in the UK since 1979 producing world-renowned delicious treats, and have won accolades for being the best Indian Sweet and Savouries specialist in London.
A surprise package of treats arrived from Gupta’s, perfectly timed for big birthdays celebrations … continue reading to see what we got, our thoughts, and also how to get an exclusive discount of 15% on your online orders!
We got the following delicious Gupta’s treats:
Samosas (on right of below pic) [£0.75 each] – crispy, flaky pastry encased a spiced potato and peas filling.
These are their world-famous samosas, and are a Punjabi style samosa pastry with hints of cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and coriander seeds. By the way, for those who are interested to delve further into the different varieties of samosas and how to make them, there are 15 different types of samosas across India. Delicious, and different to the ones we make in Goa, which are more along the Far East Asian method with a thinner pastry like filo pastry with several layers!
Dokla (on left of below pic) [£2.50 for 250g]- a Gujarati speciality, and is made with a fermented batter derived from rice and split chickpeas. It is like a light, savoury sponge cake, for want of a better description, and served normally with a chilli chutney. One of our favourite snacks!
Vegetable Cutlets (on right) [£0.75 each]- these tasty cylinders are made with lightly spiced potatoes and mixed vegetables blended together and covered with a crispy coating of breadcrumbs. Similar to our Goan rissoles (which we make a meat variation too), these are delicious and perfect for an evening snack/ starters for a party. Just don’t leave me alone with a box of these unattended, otherwise they will be gone before you know it!
Onion Bhajis (on left) [£2.45 for 250g]- made of sliced onions mixed in a chickpea batter and spices, which are then shaped into balls, and fried to a lovely crisp finish. These are served with a tamarind chutney. A nice snack mid-afternoon, or whenever you want!
A mixed sweet selection box containing (clockwise from top right):
Bundi Ladoo [£2.20 for 250g] – These are delicious sweet globules formed together into a ball. Our father and I could eat a pile of these if left to our own devices!
Kaju Katli [£3.00 for 250g] – Cashews are ground and cooked in a steaming sugar syrup with cardamom, and then rolled into a thin pastry and hand cut to a traditional diamond shape. These are moreish and one of our favourites, and eating these transported us back to happy holidays memories of visiting our relatives in Goa and grabbing icecream at Natural Ice Cream and Indian sweet treats from the shop next door in Panaji after an afternoon on the beach.
Gupta’s also has Badam Katli for those who like almond sweet treats too, and the Besan Ladoos (gram flour, cardamom, ghee, cashews, and sugar) are also C’s other favourite treat and her go to pick me up when she has had a stressful day clinically. By the way, the Hindi words kaju means cashew, badam means almonds, and katli means slice.
Barfis are rich and creamy Indian fudge, and they are a rich and dense milk-based sweet that you will find everywhere especially in the Indian sub-continent. Barfi is a derivative of the Persian word barf, which means snow. Gupta’s has an amazing selection of these with different flavours.
Malai barfi – twice boiled milk with condensed milk to create the most heavenly Indian fudge, and decorated with edible silver leaf. My favourite of this sweet selection box! (Ruchir’s family recipe and kindly a special addition to our box, as it is my favourite barfi.)
Chocolate Barfi [£2.50 for 250g] – creamy barfi base topped with a layer of velvety chocolate barfi. A firm favourite of C’s, and for anyone who loves chocolate it is a must!
Pista Barfi [£2.50 for 250g] – delicious barfi mixed with chopped pistachio nuts. Our father’s favourite, and for any pistachio fans – intense pistachio notes dotted with lots of pieces of pistachios, and he stated it the best pista barfi he has tried (and trust me we have visited a lot of Indian confectioners across London over the last 18 years living in London).
Coconut Barfi [£2.50 for 250g]- a creamy cross between fudge and coconut ice, and the dessicated coconut adds an exotic taste. Ruchir was sweet to do a variation without the traditional half pink coloured top (we have to try and avoid sweets with colours due to it flaring up my knee and hip injuries, an occupational hazard of working with athletes and higher level sports people as a Sports Therapist for over 20 years) – see their website pic here for how it traditionally looks. Wonderful, intense coconutty notes that transports you to exotic places abroad whilst you are munching on this delight! One of my top two favourites of this box.
Sohan Papri [£3.00 for 250g] – Think of a mille-feuille in Indian form – multiple layers of gorgeousness in a bite. These literally melts in the mouth, and was our family favourite of this selection box!
Plain Barfi [£2.50 for 250g] – A creamy fudgy dessert made the traditional way from slowly heated milk, ghee, milk powder and sugar syrup.
Gulab jamun [£3.60 for 6 pieces]- Deep fried balls made of milk powder, flour, butter and milk, and then soaked in sugar syrup. Basically, an Indian doughnut soaked in a sugar syrup – warm in the microwave for 20s and enjoy! C’s comment was they are the best she has tried hands down so far – until this point she loved some other (Ambala and Pooja Sweets) ones, now this is her favourite in a heartbeat as she said that the gulab jamuns were nice and fluffy inside and the sugar syrup was just perfect and not sickly sweet as some others have been before. A fabulous treat, and a comforting hug on a cold night. Recommend these if you’ve not tried as yet!
Jalebis [£2.20 for 250g]- sweet, crispy spirals of deep fried batter soaked in a sweet syrup; the batter is made of maida (refined flour) and sugar and deep-fried in circular motion to create these round circles of delight. They have a velvety interior with a crisp, sugary exterior. Moreish!!!
Perfect to eat in a thali with something pungent to offset the heat, or one of the lovely way to round off a meal with a sweet treat. It is one of the most well known Indian sweets around the world. Love the feeling of the sticky syrup just dribbling gently down your fingers – brings back memories of childhood travelling for over 1.5hr to get into London to get these sweet treats!
A bit of background cookery information, the key difference between these beautiful thin, crisp jalebis (which are made using a classic Asian Indian method) and other ‘jalebis’ from around the world (like the ones from Ambala and other Muslim owned confectioners, which are made using the Arabic method, are thicker in appearance and which have a soft chewy inside texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating) is the type of flour used to make the batter and the thickness of the batter when fried.
(Though do not confuse these with Imarti, a Bengali sweet that looks similar but made in a coil shape from urad dhal paste, or Chhena Jalebi/ Zalabia, which is from the Eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East/ Levant and are more akin to a beignet/ sugared doughnut, as the batter is made up of flour, yeast, yoghurt and sugar/ honey.)
It has been super hard choosing our favourites, as all Gupta’s products are produced to a high standard and are of such good quality that you would be very hard pressed to find fault with anything!
We highly recommend you ordering your savoury and sweet treats from Gupta’s for Diwali, any other celebrations of yours, or even if like us you just enjoy high quality Indian treats from time to time. Trust us, when you have a look at what they offer and have tried their products, you will be like us, a kid in a sweet shop wanting everything and going back for more!
Gupta’s have three locations in London, in Kingsbury, Euston and Hendon for in-store collections. They are Event Caterers and can be found at Street Food markets, plus have been featured in Time Out London, Evening Standard, and Londonist too.
You can also order from the comfort of your own home via Gupta’s UK website – use our exclusive code to get 15% discount at the checkout: GOANTOLONDON
We were lucky enough to receive a hamper of goodies from Niederegger, a family run marzipan and confectionery company that has been going since the 1800’s.
If anyone, like us, has been scarred by inferior marzipan on top of Christmas cake, etc let us just take a moment to reassure you that Niederegger’s marizpan will convert you instantly. Tasting of actual high quality almonds (as that what it’s made of!) rather than almond essence, it has a flavour that is delicate and delicious. It also pairs brilliantly with chocolate, as we discovered to our pleasure.
Our favourites from the hamper were the dark chocolate and cherry stick bar; if they sold these in supermarkets, we would be over the moon! It tastes almost like a cherry bakewell but wrapped in dark chocolate which, of course, makes it even better!
The other standout was the rum and raisin marzipan “bread” (actually a loaf shaped chocolate bar). The contrast between the gooey, rum soaked fruit and the marzipan was so addictive.
But, to be honest, there was nothing that we got that we didn’t like, the only one that we would tweak slightly would be the strawberry cheesecake flavour; it was made with curd marzipan, but we found it hard to tell the difference from regular marzipan and would have liked an additional creamy element to make it more cheesecake like.
The box of miniature nougats would make a great alternative to the traditional Rose/Quality street at Christmas.
We got to try My Fresh Box, a meal prep and delivery service that offers tailored, personalised meal plans covering all bases from vegan, low calorie to high protein. They also offer breakfast and snack options, which are great to stop you succumbing to the lure of corner shops and vending machine, we loved the chocolate and peanut butter high protein flapjacks. The menus change every week, so there’s lots of choice and you don’t get bored. The only downside is if you find a favourite you have to wait a while for it to roll back around! The meals only take 3 minutes to reheat and although they come in plastic you can wash out the containers and reuse them.
We loved pretty much all the meals we ordered, our favourites were probably the Lamb Massaman curry and the Moroccan Salmon both of which were incredibly flavourful and the salmon even came with a yoghurt/harissa sauce on the side so you could choose whether to put it on or not.
Lamb Massaman Curry
Moroccan Salmon Kebab
The only meal we were less keen on was the rump steak, we found this cut quite chewy and a bit bland. We would prefer it if there were add ons; such as if you could get a spice rub for the meat or a sauce on the side if you were willing to go more calorific. We would also love it if there were even more customisable options, such as a high fibre one that would let you switch out white carbs for brown rice/ wholemeal pasta.
The cost of main meals range from about £5.50 to £6.50 which is incredibly reasonable for such high quality, freshly prepared food and monthly plans from £25. We really liked the flexibility My Fresh Box offered, as we prefer to eat our main meal at lunch but if you batch cook you can end up eating the same thing for days on end. If you’re not seeing a plan that seems quite right for you have a chat to one of the team on social media, they’re very responsive and will always try to accommodate your specific needs.
We were here on a freezing November night, luckily the cold was abated by the cozy downstairs dining area and the warmth of welcome from our lovely waitress Hattie. We kicked things off with cocktails, The Tart for me (amaretto, bourbon, cherry and cacao, all the good things!) and The Mexinese for J (tequila, lime, ginger, pandan leaf) a bit too on the sour side for me but J loved it.
Starters were Szechuan aubergine, aubergine in a feather light batter covered with a chilli and sesame dressing that was so good I was half tempted to drink the remainder out of the bowl! We also had the Xian Xian chicken tenders dusted with a mix of raw spices. This wasn’t quite so successful as the uncooked spice mix was a bit overpowering. Luckily Hattie spotted that this dish wasn’t going down quite so well and offered to replace it with plain chicken tenders, which were delicious; juicy, succulent chicken encased in super crispy batter.
Then the piece de resistance, Kung Pao whole fry, an entire deep fried chicken smothered in Kung Pao sauce, dried chillies and spring onions. Maybe we were a bit ambitious to attempt this but je ne regrette rien!!
Fortunately J was willing to attempt the carving and did an excellent job. It was the perfect balance of sweet, salty and hot. We accompanied it with beef dripping fries and ginger miso slaw (hey there had to be something on the table that wasn’t fried!). There is no dessert menu, but frankly this was a mercy as we waddled home. Come hungry, order the whole fry and be prepared to get down and dirty with your food!
If thought of eating as much cheese as you can physically hold whilst chatting to fellow cheese lovers in a relaxed, unpretentious setting sound right up your street then book onto the next Homage2Fromage event. Nick and Vicky (fellow turophiles, the posh word for people who love cheese which is everyone right?) run monthly nights in different cities, themed around a region or variety of cheese. Eight cheeses are presented whole and tasted blind, when the Master of Cheese calls “cheese” run don’t walk to the cheese. They suggest that you cut thumb sized pieces of cheese (at least initially!). You can always go back for more, this is a marathon not a sprint people, and it stops you from ending up with a whole wedge of something that you find you later don’t like. Although the cheeses are presented with all the trimmings, including chutneys, grapes, tomatoes and crackers they recommend that you try the cheese “naked” at first. I would concur with this approach, once you have a good idea of the flavour of the cheese you can decide what you want to pair it with. The cheese slates have numbers on them and the paper plate you are given has corresponding numbers in a wheel. Try not to get so carried away with excitement that you lose track of which cheese you’re putting next to which number (as ahem I might have done). At the end you get to find out what the cheeses were and the story behind each one. At our night it was a Best of British theme, my favourite was perhaps the Char Coal cheddar, a dense fudgy cheddar blended with activated charcoal to create a dramatically dark cheese, which was a new one on me.
But this is the best part, you get to discover new cheese loves and talk to other people who are obsessed by cheese. Win win!!!
The prize is for a letterbox cake with a standard option design only for a Happy Father’s Day letterbox cake provided by the lovely Adam and Anna at @bakerdays . Closing date for entries is 23:59 on Monday 10th June, 2019 BST (British Summer Time). The winner will be selected on Tuesday 11th June, 2019 AM (BST) and must respond by Wednesday 12th June, 2019 at 09:00 ; otherwise another winner will be drawn. Also, the winner must order their letterbox cake by 14:00 BST on Friday 14th June, 2019 to ensure delivery of the letterbox cake in time for Father’s Day 2019. Only UK residents eligible to enter, as only UK mainland delivery provided by @bakerdays as per prior agreement. One entry per social media channel per person permitted. You must be following, and continue to follow, all our main social media channels and @bakerdays too to qualify – we do check! Any other expenses are the responsibility of the winner.
We were invited to attend a cheese cooking class by the lovely people at Comté. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the deliciousness of Comté it’s a hard cheese made from raw milk by cows who graze Alpine meadows full of flowers in France. The flavour and texture of the cheese depends on which flowers and plants were on pasture, how aged the wheel of cheese is (can be up to 24 months) and the expertise of the affineurs who look after the cheese during the ageing process. If you have the self restraint to do more with your Comté than eat it as it comes here are a couple of ideas!
Our first dish was one of my favourites, asparagus (perfect at this time of year) covered with a velvety blanket of cheese sauce. It came out so bubbly and golden I had to struggle not to dig into the demo version as it emerged from the oven.
Lightly blanch the aspargus in boiling water, drain and put in an ovenproof dish.
Make a white sauce, add 100g of Comté and stir over heat for 2-3 minutes til it thickens. Then take it off the heat and add an egg yolk, mustard, Worcester sauce and seasoning to make the best cheese sauce ever. Pop it in the oven for 8 minutes on 180 oC and finish it under the grill for 1-2 minutes or until you can bear the wait no longer and have to dive in!
The next was a salad which I’m a bit scarred by having eaten too many limp, sorry supermarket pre prepared salad. I have to say that I was unprepared for the beauty and tastiness of this. Enjoy!
Comté, broad bean, pancetta and hazelnut salad.
Put oven onto 190 oC put 50g hazelnuts in for 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool and roughly chop. Boil 200g broad beans for 3-5 minutes,drain and skin. Fry 100g pancetta and put on kitchen towel to drain fat. Make a dressing in a clean jam jar by shaking 2 tbsp virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp Djion mustard and 1/4 tsp maple syrup together. Chop 10g basil and 10g mint, add it to 50g mixed salad leaves and toss through the dressing. Add the broad beans, hazelnuts and half the pancetta. Dish up and top with the remaining pancetta and Comté cut into thin batons.
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