Thursday, 30 December 2010

roller derby, donkey death, mexico city adventure...obviously..

I know blogs are pretty much self indulgent, your verbalising thoughts that normally you keep to yourself because you think that they would be boring and ridiculous and wouldn't interest anyone other then your internal monologue; well at least that's what I believe about my little blog... even though I have noticed that people are actually reading it (validation and success- yessss!) Anyway, anyway, anyway.... I was talking to someone today and we were talking about travelling- I loathe it, they worship it. I don't trust aeroplanes and said I would rather travel by donkey and rollerskates. They said I were more likely to die on a rollerskating donkey then on an aeroplane, I reasoned that I would happily die by donkey roller derby if my feet were within a few feet of terra-firma unlike an aeroplane, where I would plummet millions (yes millions) of feet to my rapid and explosive death. I cannot genuinely think of one person who would prefare the latter over the former. Anyway, anyway, anyway I said that I would only ever get on a plane for two reasons, my rapidly approaching honeymoon. Personally I would happily frequent Cornwall on a blissful bucket and spade holiday with Ice Cream, fresh Crabs and beach walks galore- swoon... whereas the man friend is incessant on the need for far off multi destination holidays with bright lights and big cities and tropical beaches galore....okay but not A1 in my little book, but hey-ho the things one does for love... The second thing that I said I would get on a plane for is Mexico... There are only two places I have ever wanted to visit, Paris and Mexico. I am a ridiculous homebody and the thought of leaving my humble abode for more then a few days brings me into a palpitacious state, but for Paris and Mexico, I can suffer... Paris I have done, but Mexico still beckons. I don't  mean the whole spring break, Cancun business. I want November, Day of the Dead celebrations but most of all I want to visit the blue house of Frida Kahlo. Upon my declaration my friend proclaimed their utter lack of knowledge on the glorious, wounded and triumphant Ms. Kahlo and I was shocked- how could they not know of my favourite artist of all time?! How ha they never heard her name, how is that even possible? So this blog entry is for them and for anyone else who has never heard of my beloved Frida. A small taster of some of her paintings and the beauteous Kahlo herself, yes the woman had a mono-brow and a moustache but I think she stomps Kate Moss into the mud, truly. 

  "Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly? "

"I hope the leaving is joyful and I hope never to return" 


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Animal magic

Today I braved the sales for some bits and pieces for new years eve...perhaps I should have gone earlier but I just cant cope with the queue's and today was bad enough. Sadly I think i'd left it a little too late and the shops were practically bare apart from clothes that would make you look like a streetwalker; Horrific! I swear, I know this is going to make me sound old, but how tarty have clothes become... Bring back a 40's revival please, where clothes were beautiful and women dressed like ladies not dock-side hookers. Needless to say I didn't really find any clothes that I liked BUT I was completely seduced by these beautiful trinkets! There seems to be a certain animal theme running throughout them but I'm a sucker for anything with a bird or a cat on it! Enough said! 


little drawings...

Was a little board tonight so did some etchings.... I really do love ridiculously small dogs and deers...

always bee yourself....

deary me...

hug a pug...


Monday, 27 December 2010

young wives tales...

As everyone does when they cook, or with anything that you repeat frequently enough, you seem to pick up certain nuances and shortcuts and techniques. Some you pick up from others, some are old wives tales, and some are of your own invention.  Some things that I now do out of force of habit more then anything else but they do prove invaluable, so I was comforted to see that in Nigella Lawson's new cookbook "Kitchen" she has listed her's in her Kitchen Compendium. I was even more comforted when I read the list to find out a few of my little shortcuts and tips are in there, so I must be getting some things right and if there good enough for Nigella, there good enough for me. I've listed a few of my favourites. 

  • If your whisking up egg whites for meringues you need a completely grease free bowl or your not going to get the rise and set that you need. The best thing I find to do this is to run a lemon around your bowl. It rids it of any grease and gives you lighter then light egg whites.
  • As well as having ingredients at room temperature, i think its important to warm your bowls slightly to take the initial chill of them, just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds, easy peasy
  • Never ever melt your butter for baking in a microwave, it changes the molecules and the consistency and will give you a changed consistency. Just be well prepared and get the butter out of the fridge and let it stand for 40-50 minutes at room temperature and it should be grand! 
  • Get in a stash of vinyl gloves. I use them for a million things, when manhandling beetroot to avoid the Lady Macbeths when de-seeding chilli's as I never quite seem to be able to get the remains of it from my mits and then poke myself in the eye, never a wise move... invaluable
  • I'm a bugger for re-using my tea cup throughout the day and as I like my tea industrial strength it becomes rapidly stained. As I always seem to have old half lemons knocking about the place, drop one of them into the mug with some hot water and leave to stand a little while- removes the stains beautifully.
  • If you don't have a skewer to test if a cake is ready, you can use a piece of uncooked spaghetti, this works just as well
  • When you fry in butter, always add a tiny drop of oil to it, it stops it from burning
  • If you make a soup, sauce, gravy or casserole and it seems to fatty or greasy drop in an ice cube, the ice attracts the fat that you can then fish out
  • If your using a griddle pan, never oil the pan as this renders the griddle useless and everything will smoke like crazy. Always oil whatever it is your putting in the pan
  • If you have used the juice of a citrus fruit in cooking, fill the remaining peel shell 3/4 full with salt and pop it on a little plate in the fridge, it works as an amazing deodoriser
  • If you are left with dregs of wine left in a bottle after a party that your not going to drink, freeze them into wine cubes that you can add to stews and soups as needed and then you don't have a 3/4's empty bottle of wine hanging around your fridge forever
  • If you have boiled pasta, take out half a cup full of the starchy water and add it to your pasta sauce. It helps the sauce combine wonderfully
I know to some these may sound a little old fashioned or pointless but I bet you won't say that the next time all the grease is floating on the top of your sunday lunch gravy! Trust in the tips!! 

new tattoo...

Well it's come round to that time again... the tattooists chair is beckoning me! I'm getting that itch that only someone who has had a tattoo knows... I don't get why there's this great stigma around tattoos and that "you'll regret it when your older" this is a load of twaddle... well no its not but I think you need to be completely in love with the design, you've got to think long and hard over it, leave the picture don't look at it for a while, come back to it still love it. A tattoo that is quickly chosen on a whim, yes that is probably something your going to regret when your older but if you research and perfect the idea you will love it forever! 

So I've had a few days of perusing ideas and I would completely love a half sleeve, the only thing is I think the man friend would but an immediate block on the idea- he already says I have enough and my arms arn't as lean and youthful as I would like them to be and I would want to put a tattoo onto an exquisite Picasso worthy canvas, not an old piece of sack stretched over two bits of stick. So I'm unsure of placement yet, but general initial ideas are along the lines of:

Loooove these soooo much!! 

How ridiculously cute are these, makes me weep with happiness a little bit!
So I'm gonna keep whittling away at the idea until it forms a perfectly clear little matchstick in my head and I will keep you updated!


soup, soup, a tasty soup, soup, a spicy carrot and coriander....

With the man friend working away alot of the time, sometimes its difficult to summon up the gusto to really cook anything. Don't worry I'm not saying when he is away that I am alone in a rocking chair weeping with a cat on my knee and a vodka in my hand, nothing like that, it's just that I'm not going to roll out a banquet for one. So when I do make things they tend to be in bulk, sauces that I can add to meats and fish or lasagne's that I can do in industrial quantities and freeze up to be used as needed. Another thing that I've found is that I eat a lot of soup, it's easily frozen, easily defrosted and I don't ever think that you can feel bad when you have a warming bowl of soup in your belly. A classic favourite is Carrot and Coriander. This is my method and I think it's pretty foolproof. 

Carrot and Coriander Soup- Serves 4 greedily

  • 1 large white onion
  • 450g of carrots (organic if possible or homegrown would be the best! its the star of your recipe so splash out a little)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 a frugal tsp of cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock depending on your preference 
  • bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • juice of 1 1/2 clementines 
  • fresh grated nutmeg, about 2 tsp dependent on your taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • single cream to serve
  1. chop the onion, garlic and carrot and soften in a little oil. add a pinch of salt as this helps to stop the onions and garlic from browning. you don't want any crispness to the onion at all, think soft, golden and yielding
  2. add the ground coriander and the cumin seeds to the onions and coat the mixture then pour in your vegetable/chicken stock
  3. stick a lid on your pan and let it simmer away for 20 minutes
  4. while your soups bubbling away, chop about half of your bunch of fresh coriander and set aside
  5. now your soups had 20 minutes remove the lid and add the fresh coriander, fresh thyme, the clementine juice and nutmeg 
  6. then with a blender, either a freestanding one or I use a stick, pulverise your soup till it forms a think earthy orange brew
  7. taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your preference
  8. to serve generously spoon portions into warmed bowls and decorate with a swirl of single cream, a flourish of remaining corriander, a a pinch of pepper


festive insights

Like I said this year my christmas was a decidedly un-traditional one. I didn't cook a turkey and I didn't do typical decorations and table set up but weirdly, I think everyone liked it more. It made a change from the standard red and green tablecloth and tartan crackers, obviously there were naff jokes in the crackers though, that I can't mess with. So here are a few little pictures. 


Rested Lemon Cheesecake

"On the second day of christmas party favourites, Becka gave to me, a cheesecake that's super yummy!" 
I'm unsure of why I'm not a rapper, anywhooo. I first made this cheesecake for some of the Man-Friends rugby friends. To say that these boys eat alot is an understatement, once one of them genuinely ate the bones from spare ribs...I despair for them!  To see these rugby playing boys covered in mud and eating this floaty light cheesecake was a treat and I just wish I had had doilies to serve it on- opportunity missed!!! Its lightness comes from the fact, I believe, the strange resting method. You leave it to cool in the oven for two hours for with the door closed and then cool for a further hour with the door open. A strange method I know but it produces lightness that I cant even describe.

For the base

  • 250 g ginger biscuits. you can use digestive biscuits if you like but I put in the ginger ones here for flavour
  • 150 g butter, melted
  • tablespoons caster sugar

For the filling

  • 225 g caster sugar
  • tablespoons cornflour
  • 750 g full fat soft cream cheese (like Philadelphia)
  • egg yolks
  • teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 150 ml sour cream
  •  zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • egg whites

To serve

  • icing sugar
  • raspberries or blackberries or any other tarty fruit you can think of

  1. pre heat your oven to 170°C
  2. smush and crush your digestive biscuits till they are fine crumbs 
  3. add in the melted butter and the sugar and press into a 24cm springform cake tin and leave to set in the fridge for an hour or so...
  4. mix together the cornflour and the sugar and beat this into the sludge of cream cheese, egg yolks and vanilla extract
  5. steadily add the double cream and the sour cream beating constantly and then drop in the lemon zest.
  6. in a seperate bowl, beat together the egg whites and salt into stiff peaks and then carefully mix this into the cheesy mixture
  7. splodge the mixture onto your chilled biscuit base and bake in the oven for 1- 1 1/2 hours. I know this is a broad time spectrum but its to do with your oven and if it has hotspots. bake it until the top is golden and the centre is firm to the touch
  8. once the cake is golden brown on top, turn off the oven and leave the cake in there with the door closed for 2 hours. 
  9. after the two hours has passed, open the door and let it stand in the oven for a further hour
  10. then move the cake to the fridge until you need it
  11. when its ready to serve, remove from the springform tin and dust the top with a flurry of icing sugar and serve with the tarty berries

Sadly I don't have a picture of the cake as I made it long before making this blog even occurred to me but i'm sure i'll whip another one up at some point and i'll stick some pictures on quick sharp then


Chrimbily party treats

Orange, Ginger and Tia Maria truffles. 
Ingredients: (makes around 30-40 depending on how generous you are)

  • 220g of dark chocolate, good quality minimum 60% cocoa
  • 220ml of single cream
  • large thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 3tbsp of tia maria, this can be upped to 4tbsp of tia maria if you like it a little stronger, I like it to be subtle- its a taste thing and is up to your preference
  • 2tbsp of orange juice 
  • cocoa powder

  1. peel and grate your ginger, do this on a plate or chopping board so that you can collect all that delicious juicy pulp
  2. in a heavy bottomed pan, place your grated ginger pulp, tia maria, orange juice and cream
  3. slowly and gently warm the cream. never let the cream boil but warm till just before bubbling. the slow warming process really helps to infuse the flavours
  4. while the cream is warming, put the chocolate into a bowl and smash it to little bits! - fun!! 
  5. when the cream is warmed through, pour it through a sieve over your smushed chocolate and mix the two together
  6. once you have swirled the two together you should be left with a dark chocolate gloop. pour the chocolatey mess into a large, shallow dish and put in the fridge to set
  7. after around two hours you should be left with a glossy, firm slab of chocolate. all you then need to is scrape out a blob of chocolate, around the size of a grape and roll it between your palms. work quickly before the chocolate starts to melt and then pelt the ball into a plate of cocoa powder and roll it around with a fork or spoon or polly pocket- anything you like, though I would suggest sticking to the fork really....
  8. once the truffle is suitably covered set it aside and continue until there is no chocolate left and all that remains is a mound of beautifully dark chocolate pebbles. eat and eat and eat more - perfik!  


Sunday, 26 December 2010

as promised....

Here's the follow up pictures of Charlie's birthday cake. It went down an absolute storm and I was so pleased with it! 

no to pudding, yes to cake?

As i said in my flourless chocolate cake blog, I dont really sign up to the whole christmas pudding deal but since it was left in my hands to dole out this years christmas meal, quite frankly my much cherished grandad would have gone home were there not something that at least winked towards a traditional christmas desert; so something had to be done. So christmas puddings take months and months to make and I simply refuse to buy ready made things for christmas dinner. I know someday this will probably change and I can see why million of people do buy in ready roasties and already prepared veg, I don't judge anyone for it and there are some really great shortcuts out there but I'm lucky enough that I have enough surplus time to prattle about for a few hours and do everything homemade, so for now i will. So with a christmas pudding out the window a christmas cake was slightly more plausible. Its a lot simpler to make, it doesn't require as much time and as I did, I think you can jazz it up a bit more and just look that bit more special. I will properly blog the recipe at some point but it's long and fiddily and I want to have a look at it and make it as simple and straight forward for you to follow, so for now I'm just going to wet your whistle with a little picture. Enjoy! 

have your cake and eat it

For someone who writes a food blog, christmas should be an uber busy time. It's a time for food and I should be doling out recipes left right and center but i think it's a bit pointless writing about how to cook a brussle sprouts. Most people generally know how to cook them (if you don't, my answer is briefly) and I want to be able to write something a little more different. This years been a strange one and I see christmas as my way to say goodbye to it. I guess most people think that that's what New Years Eve is for, but to me that's more about excitement for the coming year and what that holds, over remembering and saying goodbye to the one passed. So with the last few weeks been slightly strange for me and a little low, I didn't want a typical christmas, I wanted what any sane person would want... an ultra sparkly, pink and glitter; chocolate laced, alice in wonderland themed christmas shindig obviously. How had you not guessed sooner? My main grumble and I don't have many when it comes to christmas as I am still a complete woman-child, is christmas pudding; quite frankly I dont get it. I know that to some, most even, that not liking christmas pudding is like not liking christmas itself, its one of the christmas main-stays but after a glutinous lunch I can just never muster up the courage to  attack one with any gusto. So this year, I simply didn't make one. I didn't even entertain the idea. I had something much more exciting I think. I present to you the words- flourless, chocolate and cake. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. You can put all those beautiful  flavours into something saintly and light and avoid all that stodge that renders you slightly unconcious for the next 5 or 6 hours. The original recipe didn't have the almond crust but I have always wanted to try out the idea since I saw it on a cake by the mother of modern cooking- Julia Child. Since the cake is almond based anyway, I think its just helping to enhance the flavours already there and it gives a nice crunch and texture. This cake is, in a way, a bit of a homage to Ms Child but with a  modern twist, I don't think she would mind too much as long as Julia said, you have the "courage of your convictions about you"


For the cake:
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 150g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
  • 6 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4tsp cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 4 teaspoons icing sugar
  • 1 x 23cm springform or other round cake tin 
  • 2 tbsp of Tia Maria
  • zest of an orange and 2 tbsp of its juice 

For the ganache and decoaration:
  • 200g dark chocolate, min 60% cocoa
  • 230ml single cream
  • 1tbsp Tia Maria
  • 150g toasted almonds
  1. preheat your oven to 180°C and line your cake tin with greaseproof paper on the bottom and butter on the sides.
  2. melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. I don't like doing it in a microwave as i think it can catch and burn to easily and spoil the cocoa quality, but if your comfier doing it that way then do, just pay a little more attention to it and keep checking and stirring! leave the mix to cool a little.
  3. beat the eggs and sugar together until they are pale, doubled in size and beautifully moussey. this is best done in either a free stranding mixer or with an electric whisk. it could be done with a hand whisk but this would take dedication and muscle that I just don't have.
  4. GENTLY, GENTLY, GENTLY, fold the ground almonds, cocoa powder, tia maria and orange zest and juice into your egg and sugar mixture followed finally by your cooled, melted chocolate and butter.
  5. pour the mix into your prepared cake tin and bake! It can take anywhere between 30-45 minutes completely depending on your oven. start checking at 30 minutes by gently prodding the top of the cake it should be firm on top but still almost yielding underneath with a slight squash and wobble.
  6. remove the cake from the oven once cooked and leave to cool for around 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  7. once the cake has lost its initial heat, after around 1o minutes; drape a clean tea towel over the top and let it cool in the tin. the tea towel helps to stop the cake going crusty on the top and helps it to retain lovely moisture in the center, giving it a centre that is a unique cross between a firm mousse and a soft fudge- strange but completely satisfying. The top of the cake, due to its lack of flour will sink slightly and give a cracked surface with desert like fault-lines. Don't worry about this, I think it adds to its character anyway.
  8. while your cake is cooling you can make your ganache.  simply melt together the tia maria, chocolate and single cream in a bowl suspended over some boiling water stirring slowly but regularly.
  9. once the cream and chocolate have combined, leave the mixture to cool so it firms slighlty. Your looking for texture like smooth peanut butter. 
  10. remove the cake from its tin and move it onto a cake turntable if you have one or if not a plate covered in clingfilm. I would suggest putting clingfilm over your turntable also, it just helps when your ready to move the cake to its cakeplate or whatever your serving it from as it gives you something to grip onto without having to touch the cake and risking damage to it.
  11. give your cake a generous dusting of icing sugar till gloriously wintry white. 
  12. with a pallet knife spread the outer edge with a thick layer of your chocolate ganache mortar.
  13. finally and my tip is to use a teaspoon as your hands get too chocolatey and spoil the pale glory of your almonds, take spoonfulls of almonds and press them onto the side of the cake using the chocolate ganache as your glue. all you then need do is move the cake to its final resting place, slice and munch, munch, munch. this cake is ridiculously addictive, amazing for parties and a simple and beautiful treat. compulsive baking!