Nankhatai…Spiced Indian Shortbread from ChinsKitchen

2016-02-05 10.45.44

There is a lovely lady who I follow on Twitter called Chintal Kakaya, and she bakes the most stunning looking Artisan Indian inspired cakes imaginable. I have been drooling over the photographs of these cakes for some time now but sadly I don’t live close enough to go and buy one. Recently though Chintal opened an online shop selling Nankhatai, or Spiced Indian shortbread. She has spent months getting the recipes perfect, and now she feels ready to share them with us. As they are a new product, she kindly invited a few people to try some so she could get some honest feedback on them, and I was very lucky to be one of those invited 🙂

Just because I receive something for free to review, it doesn’t guarantee a favourable report. I believe in honesty at all times. Why mislead readers? It doesn’t help anyone. Luckily though I can honestly say I absolutely LOVE these delicious treats.

I received 3 flavours to try: Chai Spice, Peanut Butter, and Rose and Cardamom. They arrived beautifully packaged in red tissue paper (my favourite colour) and surrounded by bubble wrap to keep them secure. I don’t know what it is about tissue paper, but when I get a parcel wrapped in it, it instantly brightens my day. I see it as a sign that the contents are extra special, and in this case I was right. The Nankhatai were packaged in lovely brown paper bags with windows so you could see the yummy treats inside, and finished off with a very rich wine coloured ribbon with Chintal’s name and company name printed on it gold letters. This added to the feeling of something special waiting inside. Each packet was clearly labelled with the flavour, and on the back there was a label with ingredients, allergens, and the best before date. Perfect!

Those of you who know me will be shocked to read that I didn’t try the rose flavour first! As these are Spiced shortbreads, I figured that the Chai Spice ones would be the equivalent of a plain shortbread if you were eating a normal buttery shortbread. I wanted to try the “plain” one first so I could get a better picture of what an original one would taste like. Well, one thing I quickly discovered was that you can never use the word “plain” with these! They are anything but plain!

2016-02-08 11.14.49

The first thing that hit me was the texture. I’ve eaten lots of shortbread in my life but can honestly say I have never eaten any as light as these. They have a delicious crunch when you first bite into them, then they just melt in your mouth. And the taste!! Wow! I didn’t know what to expect but it was amazing! There is just the right amount of spice added to give the most heavenly taste. Not too strong so as to overpower it, but enough so you can taste it. Chintal says these recipes took months to perfect. Well, she has definitely mastered them! My partner Del and son Luke both tried some too. At this point I should tell you that both are terrible critics when it comes to food. I have wanted to dump many a dish on Del’s head when he has found fault with the slightest things! So I was keen to see what they both thought of these shortbreads. First there was silence. I held my breath waiting for the comments. Then they both grabbed the other packets to try those too. No comments, just an eagerness for more. I had to grab the packets off them so they didn’t get destroyed before I had chance to photograph them! They both said that they were the most delicious shortbreads they had ever tasted. In fact they went all Britain’s got Talent-y and said “It’s a yes from me”. Chintal, you got 3 yes-es! 🙂

After trying the Chai Spice one, I knew I would love the other two flavours too, and I was right. The Peanut Butter has delicious tiny chunks of peanut in which just adds to the amazing texture. Beautifully nutty and so irresistible!

2016-02-08 11.12.06

I don’t know how Chintal does it, but even with the addition of peanuts they still melt in your mouth.

And finally there was the Rose and Cardamom. It goes without saying that this was my favourite, but only by a tiny margin. I use rose water a lot, and I know it can be sooooo easy to get the amount wrong. Too little and you can’t taste it. Too much and you may as well be eating a bar of soap. Chintal has got it spot on! These ones also contain pistachios and dried rose petals for extra flavour and texture, but again this doesn’t affect how light they are.

2016-02-08 11.13.34

I should change the motto on my mug in the photo to “There’s always room for Nankhatai!”

I can whole-heartedly recommend these beautiful shortbreads to everyone. They are like little bites of heaven. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and these would make the perfect gift to tell someone you love them. Or for yourself! I will be placing an order today for more. I was sent sample packs… the packs you buy online hold twice as many so you really get a lot for your money! Chintal says on the labels on the back that these were Made with Love. You can certainly taste the love and attention that has gone in to making these perfect!

There are other flavours available too… Cranberry and Almond, Orange and Ginger, and Almond and Pistachio. They all sound equally delicious! You can buy them HERE.

I’m looking forward to trying the whole range of flavours. Now, where did I put my bank card!?

Vandotsch Speculaas Spice Mix Review – A Log Fire on a Cold Day

2015-11-03 12.32.45

I was recently sent a sample of the vandotsch speculaas spice mix to review for the brilliant My Foodie Heaven, an online magazine featuring artisan and speciality food brands and products.

Here are a couple of recipes that I made using this gorgeous spice mix:

HONEY ROASTED CARROTS

500g carrots, peeled

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp speculaas spice mix

  • Preheat your oven to 200C. Cut the carrots in half down the length from top to bottom, then in half again so you have long quartered carrots. I like to then cut them into strips about 2.5 inches long but you can leave them as they are if you prefer.
  • Mix the honey, olive oil and speculaas spice mix together and then toss the carrots well in the mixture, ensuring the carrots have a nice coating.
  • Spread the carrots out on to a shallow baking tray and roast in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.

These are absolutely beautiful and will be a definite part of our family Christmas dinner! This recipe serves 4, or if you’re like me and can’t resist pinching a few as you are serving them up, it serves 3. Ahem!

I grew up in South Wales in a lovely little village called Ystradgynlais. It was in the days when there were lots of family friends who you were brought up to think of as relatives, but they weren’t. One such person was a lovely little old lady who we called Granny Dub (no idea why). My fondest memory of Granny Dub was going round to her house and sitting in her kitchen as she made batch after batch of Welsh cakes, and eating them while they were still warm. (In those days, the kitchen was the heart of the house, and when you visited people you sat at the kitchen table). The smell of those Welsh cakes and the melt-in-your-mouth texture has stayed with me all these years later, and I now keep her tradition of making them for my family. I used to use mixed spice or cinnamon in them but after trying them with the speculaas mix, that’s the only way I’ll make them from now on. This recipe makes a lot, so you can just half the ingredients if you prefer.

WELSH CAKES

450g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

pinch of speculaas spice mix

110g unsalted butter

110g lard

110g seedless raisins

200g caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

  • Milk, to mix into dough

Caster sugar, to sprinkle after cooking

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spice mix into a large bowl.
  • Use your fingertips to rub the butter and lard into the flour mix until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the raisins and sugar until evenly distributed, then add the egg and enough milk to form a quite stiff dough.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, to a thickness of around 1cm. and use a round cutter (about 5cm wide) to cut out the cakes.
  • Cook on a greased bakestone, griddle or heavy based frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  • Remove from heat, sprinkle with caster sugar and enjoy. Delicious warm or cold but extra yummy when warm.

2015-11-03 13.14.40

Another way I enjoyed this spice mix was to make a tasty treat using the seeds from the pumpkins we carved for Halloween. I washed and dried the seeds, then mixed 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil with 2 tsp of speculaas spice mix, tossed the seeds in it, and toasted them on a baking tray in the oven at 150C for 45 minutes. To make them even yummier I mixed a tbsp brown sugar with a pinch of Speculaas mix and tossed them in there after toasting too.

2015-10-30 19.41.14

If you’re wondering what the title for this blog post is about, that is the best way I can think of to describe this amazing Spice mix. Picture the scene… it is cold, snowy and windy outside, your car broke down and you had to walk miles in this awful weather. You’re in the middle of nowhere, and have no idea how to get home. You finally come across a little country inn, open the door and get hit by the welcoming heat of an open log fire. As you sit in front of it warming up, all your worries seem to melt away and that blissful cosy feeling takes over and you could just stay there all night. Well THAT feeling is what the Speculaas spice mix gives you. Use some in a recipe, smell its beautiful aroma as it cooks, taste the explosion of warm spices as you eat, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Heaven 🙂 You can use it in place of cinnamon in any recipe so the possibilities are endless!

If I have tempted you to try some yourself, you can buy some or read about it HERE

Let me know what recipes you use it in!