Monday, 28 May 2012

Simple mint chocolate chip ice cream from Kavey Eats

I spotted this recipe for a quick and easy triple mint choc chip ice cream over on Kavey's ace blog a few weeks ago. I think I was still wearing my big coat, gloves, and boots into work then, so filed it away for when the sun eventually emerged. Which thankfully it has now done- huzzah- ice cream time!

Anyway, I don't think I've ever made a custard from scratch, and though I can't imagine it would be that difficult, what immediately appealed about Kavey's recipe is that it uses a ready-made custard for the ice cream base. I thought this was a great idea, so there was no faffing around with double boilers and spare egg whites for me! Apart from the custard, there are only three other ingredients in this ice cream- mint leaves, mint chocolate and mint liqueur (or peppermint extract). I made some minor changes to Kavey's original recipe, so here's my version.

Recipe (enough for about 6 portions depending on greed):

500ml ready-made 'premium' custard
1-2 tblsp chocolate mint leaves, chopped
100g bar Green and Black's dark mint chocolate, chopped into small chunks
0.5 tsp peppermint extract

Simply combine all of the above ingredients, and either put into an ice cream maker or (as I don't have one) put into a container, put in the freezer, and mix thoroughly every 45 minutes or so for 5-6 hours to minimise ice crystals forming.

This was the perfect ice cream for a hot sunny day- not too sweet, fresh from the mint, and with big chunks of dark chocolate. And it was so genuinely simple to assemble, I will definitely be making this again.

 And in a rather meta development, I'm also submitting this post as an entry into Kavey's Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream May challenge, which has chocolate as its theme.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hakka, Cambridge, UK

I was taken out for a surprise dinner the other weekend. I have to say that my heart didn't exactly soar when we ended up walking past the Cambridge City football ground and up to a small parade of betting shops, newsagents, and kebab emporiums. In amongst this row was the Chinese seafood restaurant, Hakka.
Hakka looked as nondescript as its neighbours, and inside it contained the generic interior design notes that you you can find in any average Chinese restaurant. However, what was truly distinctive was the food. We had some superb salt and chilli squid, that was hot out of the fryer and left my lips tingling with proper spicy heat.

This excellent start was followed by a steamed sea bass with garlic and spring onion, sizzling scallops in black bean sauce, sea spiced aubergine, stir fried green beans, and a seafood fried rice. Considering there were only two of us, this seems quite a lot now I write it down but let's gloss over that bit.

Everything we had tasted fresh and packed with flavour, with nothing floating in gloopy cornflour heavy sauces. I loved the simple but delicious crunchy beans, and the perfectly cooked sea bass. Even the fried rice was notable for it's fluffy egg, lightly cooked seafood, and non-clumpy rice. And all this delightful food, along with a couple of drinks, only came to around £60 (not including service)- a bargain!

So, as you might be able to tell, I really liked Hakka. It's in a pretty insalubrious location, has an interior a bit like a late 90's conference room, and plays easy listening versions of Tina Turner songs. But all of this somehow adds to its charm, and with its friendly service and lovely food, I think this might just be the nicest Chinese restaurant in Cambridge.

24 Milton Road
Cambridge CB4 1JY

Monday, 14 May 2012

The First and Last, Cambridge, UK

Cambridge has a lot of pubs in it, and randomly many are in 'pub clusters'. There is the 'back streets of Mill Road cluster', the 'Lensfield Road cluster' (though now somewhat depleted), and the 'behind the police station cluster' that is vaguely near town. A long-standing member of this last cluster has recently been re-born as The First and Last. This pub used to be the pretty average Cricketers, but has now been completely refurbished and has more of a gastropub vibe to it.

A few of us popped in over the bank holiday weekend to find a couple of light and bright rooms, where we happily spent the afternoon eating and avoiding the rain. We had a range of light lunch dishes, that were all under the £10 mark, nicely presented and flavourful. The sticky toffee pudding was particularly notable for being light while still being full of dates and errrm... well, sugar. Service was friendly, with a Camembert-related food delay pleasantly dealt with, and just a generally nice atmosphere. I wasn't drinking anything alcoholic, so can't really comment on that side of things, but there seemed to be a range of interesting looking wines behind the bar as well as lots of beers that I'd never heard of before (though that could be more of a reflection on me than the pub).

All in all, I am looking forward to a return visit.

The First and Last
18 Melbourne Place
Cambridge CB1 1EQ


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

M&S 'Ever So Posh' Hand Cooked crisps

The regularly occurring crisp-related posts on this blog are an obvious indicator of my fondness for this fried potato snack. These days I try and limit my regular crisp consumption a bit, but am always quite keen to try out a new flavour. I remembered a tweet from the delightful Sabrina Ghayour a few weeks ago when she spotted these crisps, and when I was in Marks and Spencer recently and saw they were part of a BOGOF offer I thought I had better buy some (for ahem, research purposes).

So this 'Ever So Posh' range are hand cooked crisps which come in a choice of lobster cocktail (pretty posh); parmesan, asparagus and truffle (posh), and some sort of salt and vinegar-type flavour I can't exactly remember (less posh). I bought the first two flavours as they sounded the most unusual.
The lobster cocktail flavour reminded me a little of a more refined prawn cracker (a good thing I think). They had a mild seafood-y aroma which matched the taste, and hefty dose of paprika which made up the rest of the flavour. They weren't overly sweet in the way that 'prawn cocktail' crisps often are, and I was very happy to scoff a large bowl of these.
The parmesan, asparagus and truffle flavour was a little more unique than its lobster brethren. There was a distinct grassy taste from the asparagus, which was a bit unexpected but not unpleasant. And I think this actually worked quite well against the cheese-y background of the parmesan. I'm not sure that I could detect much truffle flavour, but then again I'm also not sure that I've really eaten enough truffle to recognise it. These crisps seem to be quite a nice variation on the traditional cheese 'and something' flavours, and as with the lobster cocktail I was very happy to eat them.
Both these flavours of crisps were pretty grease-free and had a good crunchy texture but without turning into bits of shrapnel when eating. They were both very much standalone crisps though, and I would predict that the distinctive flavours wouldn't work that well when dipped into other things like hummous. And neither flavour appear to be suitable for proper vegetarians, due to the presence of dried lobster and parmesan cheese.
These seem more than just novelty flavours from M&S, and it looks as if some thought has gone into putting them together. Anyway, my overall verdict on both these crisp flavours is a positive one as I'd very happy to eat either again.

M&S Ever So Posh Hand Cooked Crisps
I rate them 8/10
Around £1.80 for a 150g bag, (may still be on a buy-one-get-one free offer)