I fell in love with Earl Grey tea when I was fifteen. I was working in the kitchen of a country café at the time. As with all jobs, there were parts I loved and parts I’d rather didn’t exist. I’d make huge ten litre buckets of coleslaw, scrub pans until my fingers were sore, peel potatoes for hours on end and you’d often find me head and shoulders in an industrial sized oven. Come break time, it was my job to make tea for the entire staff and one of the waitresses would bring in her own tea bags. I remember the first time I poured the hot water over her Earl Grey tea bag and thinking the smell that wafted above was heavenly. That was it. It had me.
Since then I’ve had a real romance with my favourite tea and this Summer, I’ve found the very best Earl Grey. It comes from a company called Jing.
Given that they supply more than 50 Michelin starred restaurants, it’s no surprise that it’s the best I’ve ever sampled. Quite unusually though, their Earl Grey comes peppered with cornflowers.
I’ve been drinking mine in a nifty infuser mug that Jing kindly popped in the post for me to try. It’s certainly the most practical infuser I’ve used. The little lid flips over to hold the infuser when you take it out. No fuss, no mess and plenty of style.
Like a fine wine, Jing’s Earl Grey will be my special occasion brew. It’s nothing to do with the price tag (£13 for 100g) but I have a genuine concern that if I drink this all the time I’ll never be able to settle for any other Earl! If you’re a fan, you need to try it!
Supermarket tzatziki is like microwave cake, it’s fine, it will do in a pinch but it isn’t the real deal and you can spot it a mile off. It all started when Matt’s Mum brought us some spices back from Greece and we made chicken gyros. They blew me away and since then, gyros and tzatziki have been our best friends.
Whether you’re going to use this tzatziki as a dip for veggies or pitta, to give lamb chops a fresh kick or with your souvlaki, this sauce is a winner and takes less than 5 minutes to make.
1 Garlic clove (2 if you’re a garlic lover)
Pinch of salt
1/4 Lemon, juiced
250ml Greek yoghurt
1 Tbsp Dill
(1 Tbsp of mint of oregano – optional)
1/2 Cucumber, finely diced
A little olive oil
In a pestle and mortar, rub the whole garlic cloves in to a little salt until they’re pureed. Then add the lemon juice and leave for a minute. The acid in the juice will cook the garlic a little, taking away the harshness.
Stir in the dill and if you like, a tablespoon of mint of oregano too. Add the cucumber.
Greek yoghurt can vary a lot between brands so check the consistency. If it’s too thick you can let it down with a little olive oil until it’s right for you. Taste it. Add more lemon juice if needed.
That’s it. Perfect tzatziki in under 5 minutes. I hope you try it!
Along with July comes Matt’s Sister’s Birthday. Rhi (Rhianna) is a foodie and much more of a baker than me. Baking is my weakest area for several reasons but mainly it falls down to my aversion to measuring. I like to gauge my ingredients by eye, tweaking and changing as I go along. The only time weighing scales ever come out when I’m cooking is if I’m testing a recipe to share with you or to check my portion sizes with things like rice if I’m cooking for more people than I’m used to.
But when your one day Sister-in-law is coming home for her Birthday and shares a cake recipe on Facebook a week before, the weighing scales come out. Ok, so the fact it’s a gin and tonic cake might have swayed me a little. I sent a quick ‘stand down’ text to Matt’s Nan and started to think about decorating it.
“I’ll just buy some candles and sprinkles”, I said, and that’s exactly what I did.
On the night Rhi came home, we went out for a family meal but skipped dessert to come home for Birthday cake. It went down really well, even with Grandad who by all accounts doesn’t like alcohol. The texture was comparable to a Madeira cake and the gin really sung through, especially in the top layers where the drizzle had formed a sugary crust. If you fancy trying it, I can highly recommend Pudding Lane’s Gin and Tonic cake recipe.
In my head, Häagen-Dazs is a European brand, right? It sounds and looks European, it’s all over Europe but it was in fact born in Bronx, New York and the name is entirely made up. This curious flip of what I felt was a familiar brand led me on an afternoon long date with Häagen-Dazs which I’m about to tell you all about, but first, let’s clear up my opening question.
So why is the name so Euro-cool? There are a few theories and no matter which is true it’s evident that Reuben and Rose Mattus chose a somewhat unconventional method of naming a brand. The first is that they simply took the name of a European place - in this case Haage- and Scandi-fied it.
The second is that the name is a spoonerism of successful food entrepreneur Duncan Hines, becoming Huncan Dines and then reeled off in Danish sounding iterations until it felt right.
And the third, that as a Jew, Reuben wanted to brand the ice cream as a tribute to the country that had supported the Jews during the war, Denmark. He chose a gibberish Danish sounding name and threw in an umlaut, which seems odd given that they aren’t used in Danish. He often mentioned in interviews that the umlaut was ‘bound to draw attention’.
Despite the legends, Häagen-Dazs doesn’t actually mean a thing, but in 54 countries it means good ice cream and that’s what my date with them was about. It began like only the best dates do. Cocktails on a roof top in Southbank with incredible skyline views of the London Eye.
We chatted whilst a special treat was prepared for us in the kitchen below. Master Chef ’13 winner, Natalie Coleman, was cooking for us and I couldn’t wait to taste her food. When the time came we were seated in a gorgeous lofty room filled with the most dreamy industrial style design pieces. The huge dining table was in fact a milliners table, complete with scratches and scrapes from years in service. Beauty, in my eyes.
Being plated in front of us was: confit duck yolk, asparagus, hollandaise, nasturtium leaf, mustard frills and black truffle.
Our first course really showcased the beauty of an egg (one of the 5 ingredients in Häagen-Dazs). Whilst we ate, it was amazing to watch the well oiled machine that is Natalie’s team come together to prepare our next course.
Pork belly on a bed of cauliflower puree, the most perfect scallop of my life, pea shoots, apple, lemon.
The entire meal was just incredible. I love Natalie’s style; something very special but never straying too far from the basics we know and love.
Dessert couldn’t be anything but ice cream. Natalie demonstrated her technique with the 5 ingredients true to the original recipe of Häagen-Dazs. Cream, milk, vanilla pods, egg yolks and caster sugar. No stabilisers, no colours, no artificial flavouring. She served it up with strawberry puree and meringue, belgian chocolate and toasted macadamias, and a jug of warm salted caramel. Unfortunately for you though, there are no pictures. Nothing waits for perfect ice cream, especially not me! That salted caramel; absolutely incredible!
Next we moved on to some taste testing work. Four ice creams, all vanilla, but all very different. Our task was to assess the scent, texture and taste of each sample. We were guided through by one of Häagen-Dazs’ food scientists who explained that it is actually made in Northern France, because the quality of the dairy there lends it’s self perfectly to ice cream making.
Like all the best things in life, there is a teasing delay before Häagen-Dazs can be enjoyed. Just as you’d rest meat or brew tea and coffee, Häagen-Dazs calls for 10-12 minutes out of the freezer before you dig in. Unlike most commercial ice creams, very little air is incorporated in to the product so you’re buying a solid tub of ice cream, not a box half filled with air.
We’d eaten a whole lot of ice cream by this point and the team were just about to wheel out more for us to taste all the flavours. I thoroughly deliberated the pros and cons of Salted Caramel versus Dulce de Leche, it was a tough afternoon…
The history and legacy of Häagen-Dazs is something special. I can’t believe how little I knew about the brand to begin with. I had the best time with their team and Natalie Coleman – they couldn’t have chosen a better chef to work with and she loves a selfie!Now over to you. Did you know where Häagen-Dazs came from? And what’s your favourite flavour?
The first kitchen studio I filmed a recipe in (this one in fact) was entirely cream, apart from a gorgeous collection of turquoise glassware in one corner. It’s something I’d have never thought of doing but it was so effective. Since then, I’ve loved the idea of adding a pop of colour with art and accessories that could be easily swapped whenever we felt like a change. A monochrome kitchen would be the perfect base for that.
The open shelving is a must have for me, it seems to open up the room and provides easy access for the essentials. A magnetic knife rack is a must have in my dream kitchen too.
I’d also choose deep wide drawers over cupboards for most of the units after using my parent’s new kitchen. The drawers are perfect for pans, plates, utensils, appliances… You can see at a glance what is in there, you don’t have to bend down to find out what’s lurking at the back. There’s plenty of drawer organisers on the market to keep smaller items in check if you’re worried about them turning in to a jumble.
A pantry style cupboard would hold all the food stuff for quick ingredient grabs with staples in Kilner push tops. I’d paint our smallest wall with magnetic chalk board paint and turn it in to a notice board and scribble on ingredient reminders so I could see it each time I walk out of the door.
I really like the sleek look of a ‘wrapped’ work top like in the photo above. Are they actually called that or have I just coined the phrase? Either way, I plan on ending our units that way.
What would you have in your ideal kitchen? I should add that I would definitely have a dishwasher. If you’re reading this Matt, that might be a hint. I’ve written this post in association with Homebase, but each item has been handpicked by me and as ever, the opinions (and hints) are entirely my own.