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hyper japan christmas event 2012.

when i was invited to the hyper japan and eat japan christmas event this year i just couldn't wait. let's face it - seafood, sushi and sake and i'm there. 

overwhelmed with all the brilliant stalls (and hunger from my two hour journey from leicester!), i spent the first half an hour deciding what i wanted for lunch. sadly around 20 minutes of that was in a cash point queue getting out money to buy... everything. more cash points please, earls court!

i'd remembered at hyper japan in summer 2011 i'd had some kind of noodles in a boat shaped bowl. i was determined to find what i called the boat bowl stall again. and i did... here i am loving life eating yakisoba noodles with a cheeky side of prawn tempura. delish! 

about five minutes after this photograph, i excitedly ran (ish) off in search of wasabi ice cream. it's so nice - the taste of wasabi but not the heat. there were also these things called snow cones which i saw afterwards (see picture below). i'm not too keen on overly icey things but they really intrigued me. has anyone ever tried them?

after a little mill round the stalls, taking in the atmosphere and, admittedly, looking for a little too long at all the incredible costumes, we headed over for the sake tasting experience. 

i actually hadn't tried sake before. like most people, i imagined it to be really potent, highly alcoholic and something i definitely couldn't try 10-15 shots of. the alcoholic part was pretty spot on as most of them were 16-18%. however, there were so many different flavours you wouldn't believe. we actually learnt loads about how they polish the rice and thee categories junmai, ginjo and daiginjo. the most premium sake is daiginjo with a 50% polishing ratio, whilst, ginjo is 60% and junmai is 70%. there were also snacks laid out to complement the sake - such as goats cheese, dried oyster, dried shrimps, wasabi peas and rice crackers.

a particular favourite was a sake made from yuzu, a japanese citrus fruit which i found to taste somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit. this in was the cloudy yellow bottle in my pictures. i was so sad that they'd sold out and think i'm going to have to do some serious research to track down a japanese supermarket that sells it!

i also really enjoyed a cider style sake, which was in the white bottle. this was only 5% and was really fruity and sweet - just how i like my cider! kampai! after voting for our, favourite, sake we'd give as a gift and sake we'd drink with british cuisine, we got a free sake book and a go at a lucky dip. i won a wasabi fridge magnet... yess! 

all in a all yet another amazing j-culture event embraced by foodies, art lovers and fans of japanese gaming and pop culture. i can't wait to see what the next one brings!


follow on twitter at @hyperjapanevent

zero degrees, reading.

so this weekend i went to go and see lucy rose at reading minster church, which was, well, a beautiful setting for a beautiful voice. well worth the drive down! plus one of my favourite things to do when i'm off to a new place is to do some in depth restaurant research before i go. this time i decided zero degrees was the place for me. as well as being just round the corner from the gig venue, i was won over by the interesting menu of delectable pizzas, pasta and mussel pots with locally sourced ingredients in the quirky setting of a microbrewery. 

i have to say, the food didn't disappoint either. mains i was swayed by were the mussels thermidore (with brandy, wine, mustard, cheddar cheese, cream and parsley), salmon and mascarpone pizza or lime and tequila chicken tagliatelle. i know, right?

we ended up choosing a porcini mushroom pizza with extra parma ham and bangers and mash. the pizza already came with porcini mushrooms, red onions, white wine and garlic sauce and smoked cheese and you had a choice of two flavours of sausage special that day. i have to say - i was pretty disappointed that you were told to ask your waiter or waitress what the sausages of the day were and ours didn't know. it's the little things, you know? she told us there was a mexican one and another beginning with c that she couldn't remember the name of. i promptly replied "cumberland." it was cumberland. :) 

anyway i suppose that's besides the point in the end because the sausage was gorgeous and flavoursome and the mash was creamy and well seasoned. i also liked that the parma ham on my pizza came in a proper slice and that the white wine and garlic was like a pizza base. i'm not sure how else i imagined it to come though to be honest - though it was a nice change to the standard tomato.

when we came to pay (which sadly took a while to come and we needed to go to the gig quick smart!) the bill had two clear totals. one was the total of our food and the other a +10% optional service charge. what was a shame for the end of the meal was that when the waitress put the figure in the card machine, she assumed the larger number and handed it back over to enter the pin. the service charge is optional afterall, so why the assumption and why not the anonymous card tipping thing like usual? so overall i guess the service could be a little improved - but if i'm ever in the area again that probably won't stop me going back to try one of their mussel pots.

Square Meal

la torre, coalville, leicestershire.

an absolute little gem of north west leicestershire, i was lucky enough to be taken here for my birthday last week. in the nicest way possible, the town of coalville isn't the most obvious of places for an authentic italian bistro. but i can't recommend it enough and was so pleased to see that, judging by the bustling atmosphere for a thursday night, other people agree. 
as you can see, the presentation of the food speaks volumes too. i had a stunning fillet steak wrapped in parma ham, topped with dolcelatte cheese and served on a bed of rocket. known as the filleto dolce parma, this comes in at £18.90 and comes with fresh seasonal veg. don't be put off by prices though - there were lots of other dishes around the £10 mark. i was just making the most of my birthday! :)

now, anything with steak, parma ham and rocket and i'm sold. i'm not really a fan of strong cheese but i trusted that the chef knew better than me and didn't ask for it to be altered. i'm SO glad i just went with it - it was divine! i asked for it rare and as you can see from my (sorry a tad messy) picture, the meat was perfectly cooked. 

for dessert, i had a special which was a chocolate terrine. it came quite cold and melted in the mouth. i was slightly disappointed as i don't really like cold chocolate (people that put chocolate in the fridge truly baffle me) and expected more of a mousse in a pot. but hey, it's chocolate right?

prawn and pea risotto.

shopping list
♥ 200g arborio risotto rice
♥ 180g frozen jumbo prawns

♥ 100g peas
♥ 200ml vegetable stock
♥ one white onion, chopped
♥ two garlic cloves, chopped
♥ block of parmigiano reggiano
♥ a knob of butter
♥ lots of black pepper

makes two large portions.

so i decided to make risotto for my lovely friend nicky. with her as chief taster of course!

begin by caramelising the garlic and onion in a pan on a low heat with butter. 

after about ten minutes, add the risotto rice and lightly toast by moving around the pan for about thirty seconds before adding the stock. 

next, simmer for around 20 minutes whilst adding the stock bit by bit. add a little bit of cheese and stir it in - especially if you like your risotto extra creamy! 

don't be afraid to make more stock if you think it needs more - just don't let it stick to the pan and keep on stirring.

lastly, add the prawns about ten minutes before the end and peas five minutes before the end. it should (hopefully) all come together so that the prawns and peas have defrosted at the same time the rice is cooked.  

serve with a little black pepper, grated cheese and a smile.

mozzarella and refried bean tortillas.

shopping list
♥ four tortillas
♥ 435g can of refried beans
♥ one mozzarella ball, sliced 

makes four large tortillas or six lighter ones.

this is a really simple, mexican inspired vegetarian dish which takes minutes to make! you can might them spicier with hot refried beans, but if you regularly read my blog you'll know i'm a total wimp when it comes to heat.

mash up the refried beans and cook for a minute or so in the microwave or in a pan. 

next, arrange a couple of tablespoons of the beans with a slice of mozzarella and wrap up into a trusty triangle.

i used my housemate's lean mean grill machine which was nice as it had the grill lines on it. i suppose you could also use a frying pan or toastie maker!
and that's it really - yummy, veggie friendly wraps full of mexican beans and gooey cheese. delish!

flourless chocolate brownies: based on nigella lawson's recipe.

ahh well i'm the birthday girl today, 21+3 to be exact! whilst reluctantly avoiding changing my bio, and amongst two brilliant birthday meals so far, i've decided to make some trusty brownies to take into work. 

as you may know, i recently had a go at vegan soup as my housemate is vegan. inspired by this and the fact my friend at work doesn't eat gluten, i thought i'd have a go at these! 

based on nigella's recipe for flourless chocolate brownies, these gluten free goodies taste just as good as floury ones, with the ground almonds giving them a tasty, nutty flavour. i have tweaked her recipe to include white chocolate chunks as i love the chewy surprise every so often as you eat them. enjoy!

shopping list
♥ 200g dark chocolate (80% cocoa solids)
♥ 150g ground almonds
♥ 3 eggs
♥ 200g caster sugar
♥ 225 butter 
♥ 75g white chocolate
♥ a pinch of salt

preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3. melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat over a saucepan. 

take the pan off the heat and add the sugar and salt, stirring as you go.

beat the eggs in one by one, and then stir in the ground almonds.

next, pour into a buttered up baking tray and drop in chunks of broken up white chocolate. push a few to the bottom of the pan so they're all randomly in the mix!

nigella's recipes says 25-30 minutes but mine are already in 40 minutes and not ready. it's hard to tell really. though my oven at the moment is from about 1978 so is probably taking ages. 

i'd say when the top starts to look harder and sort of cracked, yet when you put a fork/skewer in it comes out clean... they're done! in the end mine took 50 minutes!

leave to set before taking them out. if you want to eat them warm, i personally wait for them to set first time round and then re-warm them up with a bit of cream. yummmmmmmmmmmm!

salmon and spinach lasagne.

shopping list
♥ three salmon fillets
♥ one bag of spinach
♥ one white onion
♥ three cloves of garlic
♥ three fresh lasagne sheets
♥ 250g mascapone
♥ a handful of dill

begin by wrapping up the salmon steaks in tin foil with a splash of olive oil and a little black pepper. put them in the oven for around 20 minutes whilst you prepare the filling for the other layers.

for the spinach layer, begin by cooking the chopped onion and garlic in a pan with a touch of oil or butter. then little by little add the spinach until wilted. this will take around ten minutes.

next, prepare the mascapone layer by mixing in a handful of dill and lots of black pepper. 

by this time your salmon should be mostly cooked and flakey enough to make a salmon layer - the key is that it still stays quite chunky. don't worry if it isn't fully cooked as it will be when baked later.

i began by putting the salmon in the bottom of the lasagne dish, followed by the spinach and onion mixture, followed by a sheet of lasagne.

then put a layer of mascapone, salmon and spinach. any order is fine really as long as have two layers of salmon and enough mascapone to go on the top at the end.

bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees, or until the top is golden brown. 

and voila!