Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Shami kebabs with coriander-mint chutney

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I love kebabs, and its a pity we don't get them as frequently as we did back home. We had this really nice tandoori restaurant near home and my dad would so often go pick up tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and the like from there. Even now when i go back home, he gets me the kebabs and it tastes just as nice, but i just haven't had anything close to that here. I mean Tayyabs is good and so is Kadiri's but they are so far away, and i miss those corner kebab places you find in abundance in India.

So the next best thing is to try and make your own. I have a few favourites that i have proudly mastered, like the Afghani murgh malai kebabs, the beef seekh kebabs and chicken tikka, and they make it to the table at most of my parties because they are so easy to make. Shami kebabs on the other hand is a bit difficult to make, i admit, but so frikking tasty and def up there on the kebab list. Like seriously melt-in-the-mouth types.
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I had some friends over last weekend and I made these kebabs as starters and served them with a spicy coriander mint chutney, which i must say came out so well. The one time i previously made them, they were bitter...its a problem i always seem to face with coriander leaves when ground. I started putting it together with a plan b in mind, 99 percent sure it wasn't going to turn out nice, but then, it just did...and i decided to post it here before i forgot the measurements.

The recipe is from Maya's Yummy O Yummy, a blog i religiously follow for all my mallu recipes. She's really got some amazing stuff up there so do drop by and check them out. 

Makes 25 to 30 small patties
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Ground beef- 1/2 kg
Chana dal- 1/2 cup, rinsed
Ginger- 1 1/2 tsp, peeled and chopped
Garlic- 2 tsp, peeled and chopped
Onion- 1 cup, roughly chopped
Dried red chillies- 2
Salt- to taste
Water- 1/2 cup

To grind
Coriander seeds- 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1 1/2 tsp
Whole peppercorns- 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick- 1/2 inch
Cardamom- 2 pods
Cloves- 4

Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup, washed and roughly chopped
Mint leaves- 25 (around 1/4 cup packed)
Onion- 1/2 cup, roughly hopped

Oil- enough to shallow fry the patties
Egg- 1, beaten
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Into a pressure cooker throw in the ground beef, chana dal, ginger, garlic, onion, red chillies and salt.
Break the meat down, while mixing in the other ingredients as well.
Pour in the water and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or for around 2 to 3 whistles.
Once the pressure releases, open the cooker and add the ground mix.
If there is any water, put it back on medium-high heat and cook till the water completely evaporates, while stirring continuously.
Keep aside to cool.

Once cool, transfer the contents of the cooker into a food processor/ blender along with the coriander, mint leaves and onion and grind to a paste.
(I do not have a food processor and my spice mill is too small, I'd have to grind it multiple times, so i used my immersion blender which surprisingly worked fine. I think I've solved my minced meat dilemma for cutlets)
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Transfer the ground meat to a large bowl and start making small lime size balls and flatten.
You can freeze the patties at this point and continue with the next step once you take them out of the freezer.
When ready to cook, heat oil in a pan, dip the patties in the egg and fry till brown on both sides.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the chutney.

Notes: The shami kebabs are traditionally made with ground mutton, but i went with beef. Feel free to use the exact measurement of ground lamb.
The kebabs weren't spicy at all, and so i made the chutney a wee bit spicy, which worked well.

Coriander-mint chutney
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Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
Mint leaves- 1/4 cup
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice- a generous dash
Green chilli- 1, chopped
Salt- to taste
Yoghurt- 2 heaped tbsp

Blend together all the ingredients, except yoghurt, in a food processor (I used my spice mill).
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the yoghurt.
Adjust seasoning if required.
The chutney stays in the refrigerator in an air tight container for about 5 days.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Rosewater pistachio cupcakes with mascarpone cream frosting

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Because its Valentines day and because no ones going to do anything special for me and because I felt like eating cake :)

I used to get all upset cos Ro hates everything to do with celebrating something (although he gives me some darn gift these days so i wouldnt sulk and make his life hell). These cupcakes were baked eons ago for Great British Chefs. I'm not a rosewater fan but the pistachio cake on its own is brill. Try it, cos you know, its Valentines day and all.

Makes 8 cupcakes
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Pistachio nuts- 50 gms
Ground almonds- 60 gms
Plain flour- 25 gms
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Butter- 100 gms, at room temperature
Caster sugar- 100 gms
Eggs- 2 small
Milk-2 tbsp
Rosewater- 1 1/2 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp (optional)
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Preheat oven to 176C and line a cupcake pan with 8 liners
Grind together the pistachio nuts, almonds and plai flour in a grinder or food processor. Make sure you dont over do this, or else you will be left with lumps.
Transfer to a bowl and add the baking powder.
In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one after the other, beating well after each addition.
Pour in the milk, followed by rosewater and vanilla (if using) and mix well until well combined.
Fold in the ground mix using a spatula, till there is no trace of it in the batter.
Pour into the cupcake liners till about 3/4th full and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes come out clean.
Take them out of the oven and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack while you get the frosting done.

Mascarpone cream frosting
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Double cream- 100 ml (cold)
Mascarpone cheese- 250 gms 
Icing suagr- 2 tbsp
Red food colouring- a small bit to get the rose colour (optional)

Whisk the double cream in a large, clean bowl using the whisk attachment of your mixer or even a hand held whisk till stiff peaks form. Be careful to not overdo the beating or else it would split.
In another bowl mix the mascarpone cheese and icing sugar slowly till well combined.
Add this to the whipped cream, followed by vanilla and food colouring and continue whisking on low speed till they all come together and are mixed well.
Transfer into a piping bag and once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe them.
Store in refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Telegraph Cruise Show with James Martin

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Picture courtesy Siren Comms

I've never been on a cruise. I remember how awed i was at the Star Cruises that had taken India by storm a long time back with the cruise liners all named after the star signs. It was a pretty cool thing at that time and i remember a friends sister and husband went on their honeymoon on the super star Virgo or something and we ooh-ed and aah-ed at how lucky she was. Back then it was so totally a luxury thing that was just beginning to gain popularity.

Whereas now every other person i know has been on a cruise, a lot of them on immensely fancy ones. I most certainly want to go on one sometime in the future, but till then I will have to make do with attending annual events like the Telegraph Cruise Show which i was invited to beginning of this year. It was at the London Excel Centre and spanned over 3 days. The event mostly targeted travel enthusiasts, cruise fans, first timers and anyone who was interested in learning more about cruises. There were a wide range of talks by industry experts, interactive Q & A sessions with travel experts and a lot of offers on cruises which were exclusive to the show. 
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Picture courtesy Siren Comms

However, from a food enthusiast's point of view, the interesting bits were the cooking demo's that were part of the show. P & O Cruises' Food Heroes James Martin, Eric Lanlard and Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar put up free live cooking demos along with wine expert Olly Smith who hosted a free wine tasting session. These celebrity chefs, on top of featuring heir own signature restaurants, bars and dining experiences, would be travelling on numerous cruises throughout the year and you will have the opportunity to accompany them on shore excursions, be part of cookery demo's, and even join them for hosted dinners at the chef's table. 
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We opted to attend James Martin's session at the Kitchen and also dragged the husband along, him being a big fan of Saturday Kitchen Live and all. James Martin, who was exuberant all throughout the 2 hours was absolutely fun to watch. He kick started the show with some almond biscotti, followed by a fillet of mackerel with dressed crab, pickled turnips, cucumber and radish. He then showed us how to portion a chicken and to grill it to perfection. He served the grilled chicken on a bed of cauliflower cous cous which I'm soo going to try. The highlight of the session however was the gorgeous monkey bread he baked and served with a snicker bar ice cream. The very thought of it is making my mouth water, and its been at the back of my mind ever since i saw the demo. Its about a million calories with 2 bottles of maple syrup and tonnes of butter, but so totally worth it, i can tell. We were unfortunately not allowed to taste any of the food, but going by how they looked, they were all bound to taste brilliant.
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If you do fancy any of the dishes i mentioned, (especially the Monkey bread) i suggest you get on board one of the P & O cruise liners and have it hand made by the man himself :)

Thanks to The Telegraph Cruise show for a VIP invite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself :) 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Spanish scrambled eggs with spinach and chorizo

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Breakfast is something i struggle with on days i have to head into work. I usually take the easy way out and have a bowl of cereal, or toast with some hummus or egg mayo or some days i don't even have breakfast, leaving me hungry by around 12 and with a bad headache. I promise myself i will never do it again, but thinking about being able to sleep that extra 10 minutes by skipping breakfast seems much more appealing when you turn off the alarm.

Ro on the other hand will not go a single day without breakfast. I really wonder how someone can have the same darn thing every single day for the past couple of years. Just recently he decided he wanted to alternate between fruits and toast and in spite of me saying id make him some hot breakfast (secretly hoping he'd say no) he declines.
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Its only on weekends that we indulge a bit and make eggs (with bacon or sausage sometimes) or have a slightly more elaborate brunch with French toast, pancakes and the like. I love eggs in any form and given a choice would have it every day. So i was very happy to be selected as one of the Taste 100 #happyeggtastemakers by The Happy Egg Company, who pride in the fact that happier hens lay tastier eggs. Every month we are given a couple of activities to do and even though I've been thoroughly using the eggs in my cakes and bakes, I've not really been able to take part in those due to something or the other cropping up last minute. Today is the last date to submit this challenge and i thought i should somehow meet deadlines at least this time.

The challenge was to come up with a scrambled egg recipe of your own incorporating a vegetable or source of fish or meat, a herb or spice and a surprise ingredient of choice. I broke my head a bit and did come up with some interesting combinations but it all went down the drain when i saw a pack of chorizo half price at Sains. Its my favourite and i immediately decided to do Spanish style scrambled eggs instead. Its spicy, flavourful and so easy to whip up. Have it for breakfast on toast or with some Indian flat bread for dinner. We loved it both ways.

Serves 2
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Chorizo- 1/4 cup, diced finely
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Garlic- 3 pods, roughly chopped
Spinach- a generous handful
Peppers- half of one, diced
Paprika- 1/4 tsp
Eggs- 3 large
Milk- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Spring onion- 1 tbsp of just the greens to garnish (optional)
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Cook the chorizo in a frying pan till done. 
Drain on to paper towels and keep aside. 
If there is a lot of oil that has oozed out of the chorizo, drain some of it and use the remaining to continue cooking. \its really flavourful oil, you don't want to throw it off.
throw in the shallot and garlic and saute for about 4 to 5 minutes, till the onions start sweating a bit. You don't want them golden brown.
Simultaneously, whisk together the eggs and milk in a bowl until slightly frothy. Keep ready
Add the spinach and peppers to the frying pan, and continue cooking till the spinach has wilted. The peppers need to retain their crunch.
Add the paprika and salt to taste and give a quick mix.
make a well in the centre and pour in the whisked eggs.
Let it stay for a about 15 to 20 seconds without stirring and then using a wooden spoon stir it up and fold, while mixing all the other ingredients.
Continue the stirring and folding till your eggs are cooked and they look fluffy. Don't over do the cooking or else they'd turn dry. 
Transfer on to serving plates, garnish with spring greens and serve with toast.
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Notes: You can use prawns or even shredded chicken or pork instead of chorizo
Some Monterey Jack cheese would have been a fab addition, but i didn't have any.
Garnishing with coriander leaves give it a sort of Mexican flavour which i absolutely love.

With thanks to The Happy Egg Co. for the voucher to be redeemed against a carton of eggs.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Chicken zafrani pulao

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I am not one to adhere to new year resolutions and so i stopped taking them. But last year i decided I wanted to go organic and am pretty proud of the fact that we did manage to do that with whatever options we had. The grocery bills did go through the roof, and there are still some arguments about the pros and cons of going organic, but i think its been a good decision and we are still sticking to it. This year my decision is to eliminate plastic from my life. Replacing all my storage containers and the like tops the list.

This year also started off with me deciding to get my priorities right. (Ro will roll on the floor laughing if he hears this). First on the list was to take up a new hobby. I am still working on it and I have so much negative energy in me right now, i should channel it all in the right direction. I turn a year older in the next couple of weeks and suddenly out of nowhere I've started to panic. It kind of happens every year but this time my fears are different. I'm getting older (and not in a wise , I'm rocking the 30's sort of way), I'm wondering if I'm taking the right decisions, whether I'd regret those decisions and most of all if Ro would resent me later for those decisions. Anyways, rant over, lets talk about something that cheers everyone up.. Food!
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Tilda has been my go to brand for basmati rice. I had some excellent biryani at a restaurant called Kadiri's in North London and we got talking and they gave me a couple of sachets of their excellent biryani rice to sample. And no surprises there, it was of course this special extra long rice called golden Sella from Tilda. I made a batch of biryani with that rice and omg it was the best ever. The rice is so so fragrant, super long, and what we realised is it absorbs the flavour much much more strongly than any other rice we've used. After my sachets were used up i scouted around for that exact variety but couldn't find it anywhere. Tilda does have the Grand Biryani rice in a similar pack but its not the same. 

I was not willing to let go of the rice like that so I sent Tilda a tweet and after a couple of emails they were able to find the rice and they were kind enough to send me a bag to cook with. I have been so stingy with it, and have only managed to make this zafrani pulao and a small batch of plain rice to show you how long they are. I am on a quest to collect recipes and make the best biryani's and blog it and also to find some of the best biryanis in London. This zafrani (saffron) pulao with chicken added to it, is a close substitute for biryani and much easier. A lot of cream and milk is used and like i said, the rice does a great job by absorbing all the fab flavours. Its a very flavourful one pot meal.

Recipe adapted from here (serves 4 generously)
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Basmati rice- 2 cups, washed and soaked in water for half an hour
Water- 1 cup (approx.)
Lemon juice- 1 tbsp (optional)

Eggs- 3 to 4, hard boiled and sliced in half (I used 6 quails eggs, cos i had them lying around , yes i know, I have a thing for quails eggs)

To marinate
Chicken- 1kg, with bone and cut into medium size pieces
Yoghurt- 2tbsp
Ginger-garlic paste- 2tbsp
Salt- to taste

Single cream- 1 cup
Milk- 1 cup
Saffron strands- 8 to 9 
Coriander leaves- 1/4 cup, roughly chopped + enough to garnish
Mint leaves- 1/4 cup, roughly chopped

Ghee- 3 tbsp
Cinnamon- 2, 1 inch sticks
Peppercorn- 1 tbsp
Cloves- 5
Bay leaf- 1
Star anise- 1
Cardamom- 5 pods
Mace- 1 blade
Onions- 2 large, finely chopped
Chilli powder
Garam masala- 1 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste- 2 tsp
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Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned.
Warm the milk in a bowl and soak the saffron strands in it for a while.
Into it add the cream, coriander and mint leaves, give a good mix and keep ready.

Melt the ghee in a big chefs pan  on medium heat, and throw in all the spices.
Once the aroma sets in, throw in the onions and sauté till they turn golden brown.
Add the garam masala and chilli powder and mix it all in.
Pour in the saffron infused mix followed by the marinated chicken and give it a good stir. make sure everything is nicely mixed.
Cook the chicken till about 3/4th done, or if you are doubtful like me, cook it all the way through, stirring in between.
Add the rice, boiling water and lemon juice, and enough salt (if needed). Stir it in well.
Once it boils, reduce heat to the lowest, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook till the rice is done. This would take around 15 to 18 minutes.
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Once the rice is cooked, take it off heat and leave aside for another 10 minutes or so, after which you can scoop it on to a serving plate, garnish with coriander leaves and eggs.
Serve with raita.

Notes: Zafrani pulao is traditionally not made with chicken, so omit the meat for a meatless version.
The recipe did not specify what cream was to be used and i ended up using double cream which was a bad idea. So use single cream like I've mentioned in the recipe.
Use 2 cups of milk for a lighter version
The left over pulao freezes really well for a couple of weeks. I thaw it at room temperature and then steam it for best results.

I was not asked by Tilda to do this project, but thanks to Tilda for providing me the rice for this #biryaniquest

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Chaiparty (London supper club)

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The pretty posters were by Suchi

I'm a little late in posting about the chaiparty we hosted a while back, but as they say, better late than never right? We had this idea brewing (pun intended) in our minds for so long and finally after almost a year we were finally able to execute it. Supper clubs are popping up every second in London and although this idea was on the lines of a supper club, we wanted it to be more of an experience than just the food.
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Chaiparty, as the name suggests is all about chai and an excuse to get together and chat, dance, play games and of course enjoy the food. Since it was our first stint with an event like this, we decided to keep it 'by invite' only. On the guest list were food bloggers, media professionals and food enthusiasts who all enthusiastically took part in the festivities. The dress code was Indian and we all dressed up in sarees, skirts, salwars, kurta's and lehengas. It was at my house in South East London and we decorated my tiny apartment with all sorts of Indian-themed paraphernalia and in the process managed to drive our husbands crazy.
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The guests were all welcomed in the Indian traditional way with a small aarti, a sort of blessing, and then gifted colourful bangles and bindis. Everyone was sportive and courageous enough to actually wear a saree and even keep it on till the very end. We had a few fun games lined up, like a treasure hunt of sorts where we used twitter and the #chaiparty to give out clues, which we all had fun doing. Then there was the what's in your purse game where we picked out a few random, bizarre things and whoever had the most number f items in their bags won. Believe me, quite a few of them had most of the items :). Then we of course selected the best dressed which was quite hard to pick, considering everyone looked just as gorgeous as the other.
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The menu consisted of dishes from all over India, and we gave it a fusion twist, but keeping in tact the traditional flavours. We also gave snazzy names for the dishes, something we are pretty proud of. Take a look at the menu to know what I'm talking about :)
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We also had some lovely gifts and goodies sponsored by amazing brands and i cant thank you enough for the support you have shown us. We had Waitrose Wines sending over a case of assorted champagnes and sparkling wines which we put to full use by making the plum and chai bellini. Priscilla, winner of the best dressed also won a Seriously Peachy Dessert wine sponsored by Waitrose, an absolute fav dessert wine perfect with some citric desserts. There was unlimited tea sponsored by Tea India, an upmarket brand of chai which comes in three delicious flavours Masala Chai, Cardamom Chai and Vanilla Chai. They also gave each of our guests a small goody bag with all their teas and recipe cards for some cooking inspiration. Dessert, a very important part of a meal, wouldn't have been complete without Devnaa sponsoring some gorgeous chai truffles that were gobbled up in no time.
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The uber cool online gift store Dotcomgiftshop sponsored a pretty tea pot, quite fitting with our theme for the evening, from their Moorish Stoneware collection. Erin has been thoroughly putting it to good use. Two favourite authors of mine Ottlenghi and Madhur Jaffrey were also present that evening in the form of cookbooks, both sponsored by Ebury Publishing, and won by Hayley and Natalie from Wild Card PR. 
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This was our first foray into the whole supper club scene in London and we are sure going to have a couple more lined up this year, with the next one in March for Holi. We shall put up details closer to the date but it would be great if you can extend all your support in this new and exciting endeavour of ours. Thanks in advance :)
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The #chaiparty team

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Kettle Chips factory, Norfolk

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Happy New year all you lovely people. Hope you welcomed the new year in style and hope you do have a fabulous year ahead. I have been busy entertaining and attending parties and travelling a bit and today is the first day i get a breather. I thought i should start the new year with the first resolution on the list- to blog more often. So here's my first post for the year, a lovely opportunity i had- to visit the Kettle Chips factory up in Norwich.

On a cold December morning a couple of us food bloggers caught the train from London to Norwich for a day full of activities. We were off on a press trip to the Kettle Chips Factory based in Norfolk and to meet Chris Barnard, the Kettle Chips Head Chef and brains behind the operation at the factory. Excitement was thoroughly building up, and like a fellow food blogger said, its like getting the Golden Ticket to visit Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

After a quick lunch, we went on to the factory floor where Chris was waiting for us. We suited and booted up and started the tour. Kettle Foods was launched in 1988 and Norfolk was selected as the base in order to be as close as possible to the vast majority of potato growers. Chris joined the team a year later and has ever since been part of every flavour Kettle Chips' brings out and also sourcing all the ethical ingredients that form an integral part of the delicious chips.
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The potatoes are carefully checked for size, quality etc and only those that pass these tests are moved on to the next stage of power washing them where again they are hand inspected as well. They are then sliced thickly with their skins on and cooked in batches in sunflower oil. Even though there are machines that aid in the frying, they are always closely manned by experienced chip fryers who make sure they are perfectly cooked. We even tried our hands at tossing the chips with huge rakes while they are being fried, to make sure they don't stick to each other, and for even cooking. And yes, we got to taste them right out of the fryer, all golden and crunchy- chips that cant be any more fresher than that.

The cooked chips are then transferred through a conveyor belt of sorts, checked thoroughly to remove any distorted ones and then moved on to huge drums where they are flavoured with carefully blended, authentic seasoning, of course developed by Chris Bernard. Needless to say, there is no added MSG, artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives to the process. Last step is the sealing and packaging in distinctive coloured bags that help consumers quickly find their favourite.
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I cant begin to explain how interesting it all was, but for me the best part was going into Chris' cosy kitchen where he showed us how he went about creating the unique flavours Kettle is known for. From Port and Stilton to salsa and mesquite to cracked black pepper to the classics like sea salt and balsamic he talked us through the entire seasoning process, how he derives inspiration for certain flavours, how he has to travel to source the right ingredients to ensure that there is perfection in every flavour he develops. 

Armed with a goody bag filled to the gills with Kettle chips, and with huge smiles on our faces, at having spent a fabulous day at the factory we boarded the train back to London, our heads brimming with ideas on how to use the chips. I have actually gone through all of my packs with the last one opened on Christmas day when we had friends over. I have also been using them in bakes, they add that perfect crunch when crushed and added as a top layer to a pasta bake. It was my first ever trip to a full fledged running factory and I'm sure I'll never forget the experience.
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Kettle chips is running their first ever on-pack promotion which is running at the moment, across the top 5 seasonings in the Kettle Chips 150g range. Look out for promotional packs in store; entrants will have the chance to win their chef's handmade kitchen from Harvey Jones worth £35000, plus thousand instant win prizes including designer appliance, cookware and lovingly crafted wine glassses and bowls. Click here for more details.

With thanks to Kettle Foods UK and the PR agency for the press invite to visit the factory.