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  1. We're not really big on Valentine’s Day in our house but Charlie is partial to a spot of cooking and since Daddy Moo stopped eating meat we have had to start being a lot more adventurous in the kitchen. In Japan, the tradition is for women to give the men chocolates, rather than the other way around. And it’s not only partners who get gifts – chocolates are offered to male friends, colleagues and relatives too.

    Japanese food company www.yutaka.london challenged us to re-create a range of manly truffle recipes including Japanese Curry. They’re coated in toasted panko breadcrumbs with sugar and cinnamon and the truffle itself has a warm hint of curry, making it a delicious treat. The recipes designed to appeal to a male palate are:

    • Miso Caramel - think salted caramel with a twist

    • Cinnamon Curry – a spicy truffle with crunchy, toasted panko

    • Yuzu Soy – yuzu and soy give this a sweet and salty appeal

    Charlie cooking japanese truffles 

    I'd forgotten how easy it was to prepare truffles so simple Charlie was able to do this no problem. We shall definitely be making more and adding truffles to our cooking repertoire.

    Truffle Recipe : 

    Truffle ingredients – makes approximately 30 – 36

    • 200g dark good quality chocolate

    • 60ml double cream

    • 80g unsalted butter

    • Truffle cases

    Method for all truffles : 

    In a double saucepan (or a Pyrex bowl in a saucepan), place chocolate, butter and cream. Heat through slowly until smooth whilst whisking. Remove from heat and divide into 5 equal portions, adding the various flavourings to each individual portion as below. Place in the fridge to set – overnight if possible.

    Filling & coating ingredients :

    miso caramel truffles

    Miso caramel sauce filling :

    • 75g sugar

    • 25ml water

    • 50ml double cream

    • 1 tbs Yutaka Miso

    • 100g milk chocolate – gently melted for coating.

    Miso caramel flavouring method :

    Put sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir and leave on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel in colour. Carefully add double cream (it will hiss a little) and whisk whilst off the heat, add miso paste and whisk thoroughly until smooth. Add 2 tbs of miso caramel sauce to the remaining truffle mixture. The remainder of the sauce Olive hijacked by dipping apple pieces in it as a super tasty snack. I was so surprised how delicious the miso caramel was. I'm a massive miso fan and love nothing more than a bowl for lunch I'd never have thought to use it as a baking ingredient but miso caramel is going to be a great quick sweet fix.

    We also didn't coat the truffles in chocolate and then leave to cool so they had a hard outer shell, instead we opted for cocoa powder and chocolate flakes which we covered a chopping board in and then simply rolled the truffles on. Out of all the mixes the miso was the nicest to work with. However it didn't firm up hard like the rest so in hindsight the hard chocolate coating may have worked a little better.japanese truffles

    Cinnamon Curry flavouring : 

    • 1 tsp of Yutaka Japanese Curry block mixed with hot water

    • 50g of Yutaka Panko Breadcrumbs mixed with 3 teaspoons of sugar & 2 teaspoon of cinnamon toasted in oven until golden brown

    We diluted the curry block and then added to the truffle mixture to taste. I don't like curry so this was left in the capable hands of Charlie who added a lot of curry then proceeded to drink the left over with a spoon! The Panko breadcrumbs were a bit hit and miss, nobody could decide if they liked the cinnamon combination. Megan however loves Katzu Chicken Curry so has her sights set on making this next.

    Yuzu Ponzu :

    • 1.5 tsp Yuzu Ponzu

    • Flaked milk chocolate for coating

    This mixture was a little harder to roll in your hands and started to kind of melt, I found it much easier to roll over the chopping board that was covered in cocoa powder and chocolate flakes.japanese truffles boxed

    As it's Nanny Moo's birthday, Charlie and I filled some pirate cake cases with the various truffles and placed inside a party box, which created a lovely little gift. These manly truffle flavours went down really well and even Olive who is a fuss pot enjoyed trying them. This is a perfect cooking activity for making gifts for both Mother's and Father's Day too.

     

  2. It literally isn't Christmas without a Julia Donaldson, adaptation on the telly. This years offering was The Highway Rat, a beautifully animated film, filled with swashbuckling adventure of bandits and biscuits. As the children have gotten older we've not read some of Julia Donaldson's new material so this was a bit of a treat.highway rat trail

    The Highway Rat tells the tale of a ravenous rat who craves buns, biscuits and all things sweet.  Tearing along the highway, he searches for sugary treats to steal, until his sweet tooth leads him to a sticky end.  This sweetly satisfying animation features the voice talents of an all star, home grown cast; David Tennant (AKA the best Dr Who); Rob Brydon (Gavin and Stacey); Frances De La Tour (Into The Woods); Tom Hollander (Pride & Prejudice); and Nina Sosanya (Love Actually). After the first “Stand and Deliver” Olive was hooked and The Highway Rat a firm favourite.highway rat

    With exceptional timing not only did Olive receive a bag full of The Highway Rat goodies, celebrating the release of the DVD (5th February 2018) but it also marked the opening of The Highway Rat trail at Moors Valley. Olive set to work straight away decorating the canvas bag the goodies came in. I love how creative my girls are. She snuggled down to watch the DVD on repeat for a week and you know learn the script word for word!Highway Rat Moors Valley

    The Highway Rat trail activity pack is £3, which contains activity sheets, stickers, string, pencil and a crayon, oh and of course a Highway Rat mask, Olive quickly hijacked that for herself. Don't be fooled by the lovely sunny photos it was freezing! The food stash rubbing activity was really sweet and the posters give the older ones something to read and learn. Megan particularly enjoyed the bird call poster which detailed bird calls “chiff chaff” had her laughing for ages. At Moors Valley the trail ended between part of the play trail providing even more fun and excitement. We started to attach things to the fishing rod but my fingers were just too cold to tie! But we have kept the start and Olive plans to add more and make a fairy wand.highway rat wanted

    The trail took about an hour the trail is 2km long, we didn't do all the on the spot activities as it was a tad chilly. But now we have the pack we will more than likely venture out again. Once we got home we cuddled up to defrost in front of the DVD which is available from all good retailers however it is currently £7 on Amazon

    The Forestry Commission website details all the venues around the UK with The Highway Rat trail plus there are plenty of activity downloads too. With the DVD out in shops it makes for a lovely Half Term activity.

    We were sent a goody bag of The Highway Rat merchandise including the soft toy and DVD. I paid the £3 for the play trail.