Advent Calendar 1: Sbiten

To get the ball rolling on this recipe advent calendar, here’s a Russian winter warmer that’s great if you want something fruity this festive season.

Sbiten used to be the eastern european go-to warm drink. The recipe was first documented in the twelfth century, and wasn’t replaced by the now more popular tea and coffee until the 1800s.

Full of festive spices and sweet blackberry flavours, this inky drink is going to becomes a season favourite of yours, for sure.

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Sbiten

  • 115g blackberry jam or bramble jelly
  •  honey
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 625ml water

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Put all your ingredients in a saucepan and bring it up to the boil, stirring to combine and to melt the jam.

Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, and serve piping hot.

 

If you have leftover Sbiten, you can store it in the fridge for a day or two and reheat as needed. Realistically though, this sweet and spicy drink is going to vanish faster than you can say ‘Za zdorovje’!

Enjoy!

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Special Delivery! Candy Japan Review

Bemmu over at Candy Japan was kind enough to send me sample shipment of Candy Japan to review for you guys, and here’s what I thought.

So, what is Candy Japan? Well, it’s a fun subscription service run by Bemmu Sepponen, a Finn who’s settled in Japan with his wife. For 25$ (£14.62 in real money- sorry America!) a month, you will receive 2 shipments of delicious, interesting Japanese sweets and snacks. That’s £7.31 a shipment, approximately, which includes shipping. The system runs a month in arrears, so if you’re impatient this might not be for you, but I really like the fact you get two shipments a month. It’s double the surprise for your buck! Unlike more formal subscription boxes, Candy Japan often ships out in smaller, more convenient mailing envelopes, but its definitely what’s inside that counts. Bemmu also sends out an email about your shipment around the time it should arrive, including the product name (if you can’t decipher it) and what it’s all about.

So this is what I got in my shipment; so in other words, here’s a sample of what £7.31 gets you:

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Excuse the shoddy framing on my armchair. Gawd.

Honey-Kumquat Jelly

Hachimitsukinkan Jerii (go GCSE Japanese…) are round, orange jelly candies flavoured with honey and kumquat. The kumquat bears on the packaging hint at the sweet treats inside, and of course, bears love honey! These sweets have merit beyond their cute packaging. They have a crystallised sugar coating and a liquid centre. They’re sweet and fragrant- somewhat citrus, somewhat not. I can’t taste the honey overwhelmingly, but they’re very palatable. Even with the cutesy packaging, I think these are sweets that adults and children could enjoy.

Super Mario Gummy

Suupaa Mario Gami are super cute sweets in the shape of Mario’s face. The packaging is bright and fun, covered in popular Nintendo characters (such as the plumber himself). The gummy candies smell very sweet- of cola and melon, and are translucent brown in colour. They taste almost like cola bottles (they are supposed to be cola flavoured) but a little more fruity. Apparently I should consider myself lucky, as my pack included several candies that weren’t Marios- I got two mushrooms, two coins and a question block. These candies are adorable, and I can name a dozen of my friends right of the bat who would find them charming, and of course they would appeal to kiddies too.

Salted Caramel Chews

Shio Miruku Kyarameru are salted caramel chews. These are a more premium kind of sweet than the other two cutesy gummies. With salt purportedly from Lorraine, France, and cream from Hokkaido in northern Japan, these are gourmet chews. The sleek black packaging reflects this sophisticated image. Like a lot of japanese chewy sweets, these come individually wrapped. They smell amazing- creamy and almost fudgey, with a pretty pale cream-caramel colour. They taste super creamy, with just the barest hint of salt. The consistency is like a soft true caramel,with a little more of a chewiness of a typical chew sweet. They’re divine. Oh my goodness. I’m trying not to devour the whole packet in one sitting, particularly as I’m on the Paleo diet at the moment, but it’s a trial. These are definitely best enjoyed by those mature enough to enjoy the subtle flavours here.

 

So, is Candy Japan worth the money? Well, that’s up to you, really. Its difficult to pin down how much the shipment is worth, because most if not all of the candies aren’t available in this country. However, I’ve tried to estimate their cost using the same, or similar, products via several uk stockists of Japanese candies including The Japan Centre, Cyber Candy and the best source of similar sweets, Tofu Cute. Incidentally, I couldn’t find any of the shipment specific products readily available via UK stockists.

Based on similar products (i.e jellies and gummies) of around the same weight at the Mario and Honey-Kumquat candies, you would pay about £1.99-£2.99 in the UK for each packet, perhaps a little more for the Mario gummies. Based on very similar products such as Hi-Chew and Puccho, which are less ‘premium’ options, I expect you would pay about £1.50-£2.50 for the Salted Caramel chews. All in all that is about £6-8 worth of sweets, so the price of £7.31 a shipping is pretty good value- probably cheaper than purchasing separately over here (if you could even find these sweets- I couldn’t), and with the added bonus of the surprise of opening the packet.

If you love sweets, or Japan, or both, this would be a lovely subscription for you to sign up for. It also screams to be shared with friends or colleagues- blind tastings would be great fun. With the regular deliveries ensuring continued interest, plus Bemmu’s helpful emails, this is a really fun idea and great service.

Maybe I’ll sign up long term when my diet is done!

Later days!

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BEDA: Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

Whilst they weren’t the first thing I ever learnt to bake, Flapjacks evoke strong and nostalgic memories for me. I remember in year four or five bringing home a tin of flapjacks I had made in cookery class at school, and presenting them to my parents. They were mostly stuck to the greaseproof paper, and I remember the sweet gooiness of them, between picking out bits of chewy tacky paper. I think my father snuck most of them.

Valentines Day holds no happy memories for me, so every year I have two choices- stay very busy, or wallow. Either way, I eat my weight in chocolate. This year I arranged days out and visiting with friends, and, erm, a date for the inauspicious weekend, and baked up a storm of choccy drenched treats for my friends. This included my first venture in perhaps twenty years into flapjack making. Which is ridiculous, really, because they are sickeningly simple and damned delicious.

The ingredient breakdown for this recipe is so easy to remember, it’s become a staple bake for me. You can substitute the honey for golden syrup, but unless you do this for diet reasons I will judge you quite a bit. Honey is infinitely tastier. That being said, should you be of the Vegan persuasion, then of course, substitute in syrup for honey and any Vegan friendly spread for the butter (I recommend Pure).

 

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Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Local Honey
  • 200g sugar (approximately half dark brown and half caster provides the best flavour, but use what you have)
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark or bittersweet chocolate

Line a Swiss Roll tin, or any 13″ x 9″ pan with a strip of greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 180 c.

In saucepan, melt together the butter, honey and sugar. Do not allow to boil- just heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, the butter melted, and the whole glorious mixture is combined.

Next, dump in your oats in roughly half batches and stir in until the liquid coats the oats and you have no dryness of spare fluid.

Mix the cranberries in, and spoon out the mix onto your tray, pressing down and flattening with your spoon into the corners.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. If you over bake don’t worry, they’ll just be more cookie like than chewy.

Cool in the tin.

Once cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a bain marie, taking care not to burn it. Kiss the surface of the flapjacks with trickles and drizzles and blobs of cocoa-y goodness, and let it set at room temperature.

To serve, lift the sheet of paper to remove the flapjacks in one fell swoop, and chop into generous bars or squares. Store in a airtight container for up to 10 days… if they last 10 minutes, that is.

 

Obviously you can omit the chocolate if you hate yourself, or substitute in any fillings you like (including, of course, chocolate). However the sweet, bright tartness of the cranberries is perfect with the comforting, sweet and rich oaty base. Whatever you do, be sure not to skimp. Never go under 60g of filling, or else it’ll be too sparse in the mixture.

 

Let me know how you make yours!

 

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