Friday, 30 October 2009

A few things

  1. Just had Annie round for the last tasting of my entry into the AA Home Cooking Competition. I think she enjoyed especially as the plate was left bare!
  2. Annie has also had an idea about how I can start doing some cooking on the side for people. I've been doing some other stuff around this too recently. Look out for a full post soon.
  3. I'm heading to the MasterChef LIVE (formally the BBC Good Food Show) and me and my dad will be doing The Invention Test!
  4. I've just found out about Matthew Walker Christmas Pudding competition. I've got until 20th November to come up with an original recipe involving Christmas pudding. Now that's a challenge!
Apparently The Blonde and The Brunette now have blogs...

Entertaining Annie featuring Baileys crème brûlée and white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce

My friend Annie was round for dinner, acting as the last taster for my entry to the AA Home Cooking Competition. Apart from the secretive main course the menu was:

Unearthed Tapas Selection
AA Home Cooking Competition entry
Baileys crème brûlée and white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce

Unearthed Tapas Selection
Unearthed develop, source, package and sell continental foods to the supermarkets. We had their mini chorizo sausages (which I roasted so that the beautiful paprika oil began to be released), hot chilli olives, barrel aged Greek feta and French pavé peppercorn salami. I wrapped a few pieces in some of the salami and roasted that with the sausages.

It was all delicious (and very labour un-intensive) although the olives were hot beyond words!

Main course
I'll not be putting the details up about the main course until the closing date for the AA Home Cooking Competition has passed. However, I will say that the main course was tweaked a little since Jo and Liza's visit.

Baileys crème brûlée and white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce - recipe adapted from Gary Rhodes.
Given the number of egg whites I'd used to create the angel food cake for my round of the ICCHFC, I had quite a few (15, to be exact) egg yolks in the freezer. In order to use some of these up I went for a crème brûlée.

I'd bought ramekins and a gas gun especially. For an extra contrast in texture I added chopped pistachios to the sugar topping. However, I didn't do well in caramelising the sugar topping and unfortunately managed to burn some of the nuts. I think I may have tried to add far too much sugar in one go. Lesson learnt is to use less sugar (and even use icing sugar) and do it in layers to get a good coverage. I served the brûlées with the white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce.

Ingredients: (to make 4)
6 egg yolks
33g caster sugar
240ml double cream
165ml Bailey's
1oz pistachios, finely chopped
2oz caster sugar

1. Beat the yolks and sugar together until pale.
2. Bring the cream and Bailey's to the boil in a pan.
3. Whisk the flavoured cream into the yolks then share between four ramekins.
4. Put the ramekins in a deep roasting tray and fill to halfway up the ramekins with boiling water.
5. Bake at 90°C for 40-50 minutes, until just set. There should be a slight wobble in the centre. Cool and refrigerate.
6, Sprinkle the top of the brûlée with sugar and glaze until the sugar become a golden brown caramel.
NOTE: Brûlées need to be glazed straight from the fridge and eaten at room temperature.

P.S. Annie has asked me to cater at her boyf's big birthday next year. Could this be the start of something?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers October Challenge: French Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Tonight was my first Daring Bakers challenge and my first time cooking classic French macarons.

Such as these available from renown French pâtissier Pierre Hermé.

Now, I've never had macarons so didn't really know what I was trying to achieve. Also because the deadline was today and I needed to start cooking as soon as I got in from work I used a recipe from Larousse Gastronomique (as I had a few questions about the recipe provided and didn't have sufficient ingredients to follow the recipe exactly).

6oz caster sugar
4.5oz ground almonds
2 egg whites
1/2tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix the sugar and almonds.
2. Whisk the egg white (with a pinch of salt), adding the vanilla extract near the end.
3. Mix the sugar, almonds and egg white thoroughly.
4. The mixture was then piped on to a greased and lined baking tray
5. Bake at 200°C for 12 minutes.

I must admit I was a bit worried when I'd prepared the mix as it was very stiff and even seemed a little grainy. Also it was a challenge on Masterchef: The Professionals the other day and they did get very nervous about making them.

I was not expecting good things. This was compounded when I realised I don't actually have a plain piping nozzle only a closed star.

This meant that I couldn't achieve the desired smooth top. The mix also seemed far thicker than I had seen on TV.

Still I always like to think that I can cook anything so I persevered. However, my mind wasn't only on the macarons at this stage and so when the buzzer sang out at the end of the 12 minute baking time, I was a little disappointed to see this:

It was clear that the oven was too hot and that the edges created by the nozzle were browning far too much and added a crunch that shouldn't have been there.

Undeterred I pipped out a second batch, turned the oven down to 190°C, set the timer to 8 minutes and watched like a hawk. Fortunately I was rewarded with a much better batch this time:Fresh out of the oven they had a great chewy texture which there wasn't quite enough of because they were too thin.

Nevertheless, running out of time and ingredients I made some chocolate ganache (using crème fraîche) and created the required macaron sandwiches:

Sandwiched together, these were lovely chewy almondy bites, with a slight crunch from the ridges caused by the piping nozzle. The bitter chocolate providing an excellent foil to the sweetness of the macarons.

All in all quite a stressful challenge but enjoyable. However, I know I can do better, but not too bad for a first attempt. I shall take the fruits of my labour into work tomorrow and get a verdict from the ICCHFC guys.

Monday, 26 October 2009


Went to Browns in West India Quay for post-work dinner with two colleagues.

We ate from the main menu. Following an argument about the voucher we were using (which entitled you to either a free starter or a dessert), I had the most expensive starter:

Scottish Langoustine Gratin with spinach, Emmental and cream served with crusty bread.

I am yet to be convinced about cheese and fish. The langoustines and spinach were lost in the (admittedly delicious) cheese sauce. Also the spin ch wasn't cleaned properly as it was a tad gritty. I HATE that, but couldn't summon up the energy to complain. To be honest I would have been happy with a bowl of the cheese sauce and the bread!

My main, Prawn & Chorizo Linguine - pan-fried butterflied tiger prawns tossed with linguine in a tomato and chorizo sauce, was much better. Prawn and chorizo complimented each other very well. Interestingly I was given a knife and fork to eat this pasta dish with...

All in all an OK meal. I'll go back (I've previously had a great burger) but would only recommend as a place to grab a bite, definitely not a destination restaurant.

Browns on Urbanspoon

ICCHFC - Week 11: Angel food cake

This week was my week to bake and I chose an international theme i.e. three cakes from around the world. The ICCHFC played it safe and ignored my German prinzregententorte and my Japanese oyatsu cake (I was going to make a castella cake) and plumped for an American angel cake.

In the end it turned out to be quite complicated. I had to go to a pharmacy to get some liquid glucose, I had to convert crazy US cup measurements to proper metric and I had 15 egg yolks left over!

Nevertheless everyone was pretty impressed come elevenses on Monday, I don't think they realised want an archetypal experience they'd let themselves in for. Overall the cake was good but the icing was so sweet you could only have a tiny slice unless you are Marianne, or an American!

Angel food cake

232g caster sugar (white)
161g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
12 egg whites (2 cups)
1tsp cream or tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsps grated rind of lemon
750g caster sugar (white)
3 egg whites
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp liquid glucose

1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Line bottom of three 8" round cake tins.
2. Sift the flour, salt, lemon rind and half the sugar (116g) into a bowl and set aside.
3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. 4. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and whisk to combine.
5. Gradually fold in flour/sugar mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, folding just until blended after each addition.
6. Spoon batter into prepared tins. (Tins will be very full. The batter will reach almost to the top.)
7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre of cake comes out clean.
8. Invert cake onto a lightly greased wire rack; let cool, with pan over cake, 1 hour or until completely cool.
9. Combine the sugar and liquid glucose in a pan and add 180ml water. Bring to the boil until it becomes a thick clear syrup.
10. Beat the egg whites until stiff and pour in the syrup whilst beating until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. [If the mixture won't stiffen, put the bowl over a simmering pan of water and whisk until it does stiffen].
11. Beat in the vanilla and allow to cool slightly.
12. Assemble the cake with two layers of icing. Ice the rest of the cake. [Note: a mug of hot water is useful to dip the application tool in]

Thursday, 22 October 2009

[BREAKING NEWS] German police investigate kebab sauce after attack

Just seen this article on Yahoo! News - GENIUS!
BERLIN (Reuters) – German police are investigating a chilli sauce to determine whether it was so spicy that it was capable of causing grievous bodily harm when used in an attack.

Police took a sample of the sauce from a kebab stand in Bremen's central train station after a kebab salesman threw it into the eyes of a customer during a fight over napkins.

"Legally, the question of whether the spiciness of the kebab sauce constituted 'normal' or grievous bodily harm must be addressed," local police in the northern city said on Friday.

Officers broke up a scuffle that kicked off after a 23-year-old wiped his kebab-soiled hands on the stand because the salesman refused to give him a paper napkin. The seller responded by flinging a ladle of sauce in the man's face.

The victim's eyes became bloodshot and police are investigating why the napkin dispute broke out, a spokesman said. Both men could end up facing charges, he added.
Yahoo! news

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

ICCHFC - Week 10: Blueberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping

This week marked the return of "Jo the Baker". Her theme was "small cakes" and she produced blueberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping. Jo was really quite fearful about these and was worried that they would be substandard. I can assure you that they were not. The combination of muffin and cheesecake was a delightful revelation.

N.B. John was back on hand modelling duties.

Jo's Blueberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping

100g butter (plus greasing)
100g golden sugar
2 large eggs
1 lemon
140g self raising flour
50g blueberries
For the topping
250ml sour cream
1tsp vanilla extract
25g icing sugar
1 large egg

1. Lightly grease a 12-hole deep muffin tin. Cut out 12 strips of baking parchment, each about 1.5cm wide. Cut each strip in half, then lay inside each muffin hole to make a cross. Trim the ends so they rise about 1cm above the rim of the holes. You'll use these as handles to remove the cakes when they are cooked.
2. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, then add the lemon zest and half the juice. Mix together well, then stir in half the flour. Stir in the remaining lemon juice, then the remaining flour.
3. Spoon the cake mixture into the tins, about 1 heaped tbsp per case, then smooth over with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle a couple of blueberries over each cake, then bake for 10 mins.
4. To make the topping, whisk together the soured cream, icing sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Take the cakes out of the oven - they should be pale and just firm. Gently press down to make a flat top, then spoon some cheesecake topping over each cake - the holes should be filled almost to the top. Scatter over some more blueberries. Return to the oven and bake for 5-7 mins more until the topping is just set and gives only a little wobble when tapped.
5. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin, then gently ease away from the sides of the tin and lift out using the paper handles. NB - you may need to cook the cakes once the topping has been added for slightly longer.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dinner for Jo and Liza featuring cheese and onion sandwich and baked chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce

Jo and Liza have just gone home after dinner. The menu was:

Cheese and Onion Sandwich
AA Home Cooking Competition entry
Baked chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauce

Cheese and onion sandwich
This was a goats cheese split in two with a red onion marmalade. The cheese was pane using thyme in the breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It was served on a bed of rocket with a garnish of re-onion marmalade and small red onion rings.

I'm pretty sure this went down well as just as she was cleaning her plate, Liza declared "It was GORGEOUS!!!! Especially the goats cheese (and I hate goats cheese)".

3 whole goats cheeses
5 slices worth of white breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Thyme (fresh or dried)
100g seasoned flour
Rocket leaves
Balsamic and olive oil dressing (mixed in a 1:5 ration)
Onions rings:
A few small rings from the core of a red onion
Seasoned flour
Red onion marmalade:
1oz butter
Red onion, thinly sliced
2 dsp White wine vinegar
1 dsp Demerera sugar
1 tsp Chilli flakes
150ml water (or red wine)
Bay leaf

1. Firstly make the sweet onion marmalade. Heat the butter in a pan, add the onions and fry for 1 minute. Add the sugar and caramelise lightly together.
2. Pour over the liquids, add the bay leaf and chilli and leave to cook over a gentle heat until reduced and has a jam consistency - about 25 minutes (this can be made well in advance). Chill until ready for use.
3. Top and tail the crusts from the goats cheese and slice in half. Put a generous spoon of marmalade on one half and sandwich the cheese together again. Chill to set.
4. Mix the breadcrumbs with a generous helping of thyme. Dowse the goats cheeses in seasoned floor, then egg, then in the breadcrumb mix. Repeat the egg and breadcrumbs layers for a second time. Chill to set.
5. For the onion rings dip them in milk and then the seasoned flour.
6. Deep fry the rings until golden in oil at 180°C.
7. Deep fat fry each cheese in oil at 180°C for about 3 minutes (or until golden).
8. Serve the cheeses on a bed of dressed rocket salad, with a quinelle of marmalade on top and scatter over the onion rings.

Main course
I'll not be putting the details up about the main course until the closing date for the AA Home Cooking Competition has passed. However, I will say that the main course was tweaked a little since Astrid's visit.

Baked chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate terrine and salt caramel sauceThis was a chocolate cake with a dark chocolate biscuit base, black cherry jam, chocolate fudge layer and topped with a meringue. The white chocolate terrine was served with a salt caramel sauce. the idea of this dessert was to satisfy Jo's request for baked alaska, caramel chocolate fudge cake and black forest gateaux. I didn't have time to make a trio of puds so combined all the elements into one! I think she was happy, she did say that "[the meal] was very tasty. I do recommend the cake".

Added to the fun was that Jo was picture messaging (on her brand new shiny phone) her friend, Emma from Norwich, with details and pictures of each course. Apparently I am to cook for Emma soon. They've also requested a take-away for Jo to take with her on her visit on Friday.

Recipe is based on elements from several recipes taken from What's Cooking Chocolate, Jacqueline Bellefontaine

Baked chocolate fudge cake:
8oz dark chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs.
40g butter, melted
4tbsp black cherry jam
3 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
4tbsp cornflour
1 pint milk
100g dark chocolate, melted
Iced white chocolate terrine:
2tbsp granulated sugar
5tbsp water
300g white chocolate
3 eggs, separated
300ml double cream
Salt caramel sauce:
50g caster sugar
1.5oz butter
1tsp vanilla extract
200 ml double cream
1tsp sea salt, ground

1. Mix the melted butter and biscuit crumbs. Press into an 8" spring-form cake tin. Chill to set.
2. Spread the jam over the base.
3. Beat the egg yolks, 50g of sugar and cornflour until they form a smooth paste. Add some of the milk if necessary.
4. Heat the milk until nearly boiling then whisk into the egg mixture.
5. Return the mixture to the pan and cook gently until thickened. Chill and then pour over the base when cool. Chill to set.
6. Whisk the egg-whites until soft peaks. Whisk in the remaining sugar until stiff and glossy.
7. Pile the meringue on to the pie and bake at 180°C for 15 minutes.
Iced white chocolate terrine:
1. Line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film.
2. Gently heat the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for 1-2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from the heat.
3. Break the white chocolate into the syrup and stir until the chocolate has melted. Leave to cool slightly.
4. Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture. Leave to cool completely.
5. Lightly whip the cream and then fold into the chocolate mixture.
6. Wist the egg white to soft peaks the fold into the chocolate mixture.
7. Pour into the loaf tin and freeze.
8. Remove from the freezer 15minute before serving.
Salt caramel sauce: (adapted from Sauces by Michel Roux)
1. In a thick bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Set over a very low heat and stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved completely.
2. Continue to cook until the mixture turns an attractive caramel colour. Immediately, take the pan off the heat and stir in the salt and cream.
3. Mix well and cook the sauce over a medium heat for five minutes, stirring continuously.
4. Pass through a fine sieve and leave to cool to room temperature.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Food Blogger Connect

We’ve shared recipes, great meals eaten and glimpsed into each other’s lives through our food blogs, we’ve shared photos and revealed personalities on Facebook, we’ve given cooking tips and encouragement on Twitter. Now isn’t it about time that we met?

In this day and age of the internet, we have lost our connectedness. Friendships are made and lost, love affairs carried on across oceans, bonds created though on different continents, fans found and clubs joined, yet how much of this is 140 spaces maximum or quick status updates? Disconnected and discombobulated, we can only carry on so far in the blogosphere.

So let’s meet! Some of us have already met but there are still many of us who haven’t. Everyone and anyone is invited from long-time bloggers, newbies or even people thinking of starting their own food blog. Food Blogger Connect 2009 is the time to connect: get to know your fellow food bloggers and meet new ones, share tips and ideas, network and organize projects. And have a blast doing it!

Food blogging no longer need be a lonely, individual sport. Forget those days when you feel like it’s going no where, when you wonder if you really belong to that great, funny, passionate family of bloggers out there. Come and connect, be inspired, partake of our favorite food group!

Food Blogger Connect 2009 is the first meet up of its kind (the first official conference being held in the U.K) and is being held in London on November 28, 2009 at Levant from 1 p.m to 5 p.m, serving delicious Lebanese cuisine. Don’t miss it! After all, Food Bloggers share!

Please note: On October 28th, we will call for your ideas, and we look forward to hearing from you about the topics you’d like covered and who you would love to see cover them. Food Blogger Connect is the first Food Blogging conference to take place in the U.K and we need you to take the lead. We are also looking for people to help spread the word. So, if you are interested in posting about this event on your blog, then please email and we will be happy to send you a flyer with all the pertinent details. You can RSVP @ The event number is 2009.

Here’s a quick recap:

WHAT: Food Blogger Connect
WHEN: November 28th, 2009, 1 PM to 5 PM
WHERE: Levant Restaurant, London, W1
WHO: Everyone who is or wants to be part of the Food Blogosphere. Food Blogger connect is open to all, and you don’t have to be a long-time blogger to attend. This event is open to Non-UK Food Bloggers as well.
HOW MUCH: £30 for food and 1 glass of wine. This is the only fee and it covers the meal.
WHERE CAN I RSVP: Go to The event code is 2009.

We can’t wait to meet you in person!

Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Mowielicious, Life’s A Feast & Saffron & Blueberry

London Restaurant Festival Awards at Pizza East

Last Tuesday (13 October) was the final day of the London Restaurant Festival and I was helping out at the inaugural awards. Details of the winners are on the official site. The awards were in the fashionable east-end in Shoreditch House.

I helped to shepherd the guests and keep order amongst the assembled rabble! I recognised a few faces most notably Richard Corrigan (Corrigan's and Bentley's), Jun Tanaka (Pearl), Thomisina Miers (Wahaca), Silvena Rowe, Tristan Welch (Launceston Place) and Oliver Rowe (Konstam). There were also a few notable critics: Faye Maschler of the Evening Standard (obviously), Charles Campion, Giles Coren (The Sunday Times) and Tom Parker-Bowles (Mail on Sunday).

The after party was held next door in Pizza East which was in preview mode and only officially opened on Friday. I must admit I absolutely relished my opportunity to eat in a restaurant before it opened. Basically there was no ordering we were just pumped full of dishes:

  • Marinated olives, Marcona almonds - the most delicious olives I have ever had
  • Wood roasted bone marrow, radish, parsley, rustic bread - unfortunate burnt offerings with very little marrow left to enjoy
  • Lamb meatballs, tomato sauce - I'm a sucker for meatballs and these were good
  • Wood roasted mussels, garlic fennel aioli - No, no, no
  • Cauliflower carbonara - cauliflower cheese with pancetta. High-end comfort food.
  • Anya potatoes, bottarga, shaved egg, parsley, mascarpone - Lovely, a very unusual potato salad
  • Calamari, caper aioli - surely no one enjoys rubbery squid?
  • Soft polenta, chicken livers, salsa rossa calabrese - a revelation. Delicious polenta (with an soft texture) and perfect chicken livers.
  • Board of Mortadella, Gorgonzola Dolce, Prosciutto and Paglierna - great produce. You can't go wrong with this.
  • Margherita, tomato, mozzarella di bufula, basil, olive oil - burnt crust that was far too crispy
  • Tomato, anchovies, olives, capers - the anchovies over-powered everything
  • Speck, tomato, mozzarella, rocket - the best of the lot
  • Wild rocket, shaved fennel, almonds, parmesan, lemon, extra virgin olive oil - dear Lord. Atrocious salad with rubbery cheese and an inedible acidic dressing
Wood Oven
  • Sea bass, butternut squash, puntarelle, pumpkin seed vinaigrette - well cooked sea bass destroyed by too sweet butternut squash. No, no, no.
  • Lemon pot - a perfect blend of creamy tart sweetness
  • Hot cinnamon sugar doughnuts, Valrhona chocolate - Tasty doughnuts let down by a very lacklustre sauce
  • Fig cornmeal cake - very light
  • Salted chocolate caramel tart - AMAZING. Best dish by a long way. Phenomenal blend of sweet, salt and bitter in a very short crust. DELICIOUS!
The LRF blog has more details.

On the way out we got a goodie bag of biscotti.

I had these for elevenses (and threeses) over the next few days and by jove, what a treat they were. Delicious crunchy biscuits with pistachios and raisins embedded in them. Absolutely tremendous dunked in coffee to soften them a little.

Although the festival is finished for this year, Kauffman's pop-up restaurant at Selfridges is still open. I wander if there are any tables going...

Friday, 16 October 2009

Much stuff

  1. I've organised another couple of tastings for my entry to the AA Home Cooking Competition. I hope they're going to be brutally honest.
  2. I volunteered for the London Restaurant Festival again on Tuesday which was fantastic. Will do a blog entry for that soon.
  3. I've just completed by first blog event. Watch out for the post on 1st November. (I've got another one planned too).
  4. Thanks to someone on the UKFBA I've finally found a food related charity that I might be able to get involved with Magic Breakfast.
  5. I've just found out about the Icecreamists at Selfridges. The menu looks great. Now who can I get to come with me?
  6. The kitchen still pongs from where I set light to my microwave...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

ICCHFC - Week 9: Malteaser cake

Malteaser cake

Week 9 was upon us and the first cake from Sara on the blog. Of her options the Malteaser Cake was by a long way my favoured option. In comparison to the fresh apple cake and the carrot, it was a no brainer: novel and clearly the un-healthiest.

I was expecting a malty cake with chocolate icing/filling. (I might have a go at this in the future. Although I've no idea what I'll do with the rest of the Ovaltine!) However, the chocolate cake with chocolate and malteaser filling was not a disappointment.

Sara must also get extra kudos for the way in which she handled her first, disappointing attempt. Rather than serve up sub-standard cake she bit the bullet and apologised to the group with her first email of the day:

Subject: Fellow cakers....
Importance: High

Last night I had a cake disaster, which resulted in a hard cake!!!!!! I was unable to make another and did not want to disappoint you all with a rubbish cake so today I am cake-less!

I will however make a cake, which I will bring in on Wednesday. It will still be Malteaser cake (although I will not be using the same recipe!)

I can only apologies for my failure to provide cake on this fine Monday morning and hope that I will still remain a valued member of the club.

Yours apologetically,

Then she made another cake on Monday night, ready for Tuesday. That's the sort of cake commitment to be proud of.

Sara's Malteaser Cake

7oz plain flour
1 oz cocoa
8oz butter, softened
8oz caster sugar
3 eggs
1.5tsp baking powder
250g mascapone
Cocoa to taste
Icing sugar to taste
Malteasers (as many as you like!)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale.
3. Beat in the eggs, alternating with a touch of flour to stop the mix splitting.
4. Sieve in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Fold until incorporated.
5. Pour the mix into a lined 8" round cake tin and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until done (i.e. when the cake is moving away from the sides of the tin, the top springs back at a touch or a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean).
6. Whilst the cake is baking make the filling by beating the mascapone, cocoa and sugar together.
7. Once cooked and cooled, slice the cake in half horizontally. Sandwich the two halves together with half the filling mix and a liberal sprinkling of malteasers.
8. Use the rest of the filling to ice the top and arrange the remaining malteasers decoratively on top.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Burger nonsense

I just came across this massive hamburger picture. Is it real? Where's it from? Could any single person actually eat it?

It would seem that creating massive burger is nothing new, especially for our North American cousins, in the home of the burger. Just try Googling "massive burger" or "huge hamburger", there's plenty to choose from.

So that got me thinking just how far has the burger encroached on our western psyche?

Obviously you can make your own burger and to help you can buy three different types of burger press from Lakeland.

You'd get some pretty good practice if you were making burgers for Joey Chestnut. He's currently the world's fastest hamburger eater, managing to get through 108 in just eight minutes.

You'd need to save quite a few pennies in your burger piggy bank before you could afford the world's most expensive burger.

In 2008 Burger King launched "The Burger". An £95 burger made with flame grilled Wagyu Beef, topped with white truffles in an Iranian saffron and truffle bun. The garnishes include white truffles, onion tempura prepared in Cristal champagne and Italy's finest Pata Negra prosciutto.
Seriously, £95 for a burger? But then again I find myself asking "where can I get one?".

As well as getting some burger in you maybe you'd like to share your passion with the wider world and dress like a burger.

You could ever wear your dress as you drive around in your burger car (although it's clearly a trike).

How about making your home a shrine to the burger?

You can get a set of coasters.

...or maybe a hamburger stool

How about some cushions for the living room?

Or how about a hamburger bed, which even has it's own Facebook page! Seriously, would you really want to sleep in this?

Maybe you could keep in touch with friends and relatives using your hamburger phone

You could suggest playing with your hamburger yo-yos.

Perhaps a birthday a party would be more fun, especially if it had a hamburger cake.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Haozhan - Modern Oriental Dining

I went to Haozhan in China Town tonight for a meal with a couple of old friends.

I've been there before and never been disappointed; it is definitely one of the better eateries on Gerrard Street. The food is excellent, very fresh and tasty at very reasonable prices. Tonight I had:

Grilled dumplings
(Grilled minced pork dumplings served with vinegar)
Haozhan Scallops
(Stir fried scallops with macadamia nuts in crispy rice nest)
Egg-fried rice

I love pork dumplings at any time and these were no disappointment. The scallop main was delicious, with immaculate contemporary presentation. There was a ridiculous number of juicy scallops in my dish accompanied by asparagus spears (although I really must question the use of asparagus in October in England) and macadamia nuts. Overall the dish was delicious and the rice nest added a dramatic touch to the presentation. Service was excellent throughout.

If you're in need of a quick cheap eat, or a quality meal out, I thoroughly recommend Haozhan.

PS I realise I need to get better at this blogging malarkey and have my camera with me at all times.

Haozhan on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Dinner with Gordon (c/o London Restaurant Festival)

That's me with Gordon Ramsay (I'm on the right), who I met tonight. It turns out volunteering for the London Restaurant Festival does have its perks.

A particularly wealthy chap (or chappess) had paid £23,000 at a charity auction to have dinner cooked by Gordon for him and nine pals (including James Blunt) as they were the sole riders of the London Eye. All the money is going to the Starlight Children's Foundation. Tonight was the second event in a series of seven meals on the Eye set up by the London Restaurant Festival.

It really is remarkable what doors a little wrist band can open"Why were you there then?" I hear you ask. Unfortunately I don't have mega rich friends, however, I was acting as a runner for the organisers.

My role was to do all manner of tasks but in particular tell the team from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (three chefs including Executive Chef Mark Askew) how long until service for each course. Each course was eaten whilst the dinners did a full revolution of the Eye so the timing from kitchen to pod whilst it was briefly stopped at the bottom was crucial.

The evening didn't start too well as it took me ages to work out where I was supposed to be going. However, I eventually did and introduced myself to the Ops manager, Trev, I went through the barrier and I was in. (Trev was quite amused by the fact that I'm a chartered engineer and not in PR trying to get experience or network. This was to prove a common theme for the evening.)

The guests arrived at 8pm and had champagne in the Eye reception. Ramsay arrived soon after that and soon the left the kitchen for a round of media interviews, and to greet the guests. The kitchen was very quiet and controlled. There was an air or nervousness around the PR people and organisers, but nothing from the chefs. They just wanted to know when to cook so that the food would reach the guests in peak condition.

The starter was a lobster, langoustine and salmon ravioli, sauced with a heavily reduced lobster bisque and served with a tomato salsa: a signature dish. One diner was not having shellfish so had a foie gras terrine instead. The starter went off without a hitch, fortunately there were a couple left over. When Mark asked if anybody wanted one, I think I had said "yes" before the question had finished leaving his mouth. It was delicious (and there was no shell in the ravioli as there was in the one I had at Claridges earlier in the year). However, yet again I was left slightly underwhelmed by the lobster. It's an ingredient that's very subtle in flavour, I worry that my palette isn't good enough to fully enjoy it. Nevertheless the pasta was wafer thin and the mouthfeel of the ravioli was superb. Overall I know that I ate something very tasty, if not overly distinct in flavour. (Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture until it was all gone. However, it was a working kitchen so I would have felt particularly circumspect taking photos of the food.)

It was at this point that the Ramsay circus returned and the calm and collected atmosphere changed. With the kitchen overrun with people there wasn't a lot of space left for the chefs to work. However, with Ramsay centre-stage the atmosphere was jovial. He opened some wine (and even I got a glass) and much banter started (most of which can't be repeated here).

The main was fillet of Aberdeen Angus with gratin dauphinoise, mushrooms á la crème, and spinach. This went off to the pod without a hitch. Although the PR girls were quite nervous that the beef was going "as it comes" (i.e. rare like beef should be). Yet again there were a few portions of beef left over, which Ramsay made into sandwiches for the two security guards. I hope I didn't look too gutted when I didn't get one. Ramsay was keen to point out that there wasn't any olive oil or butter in the mushrooms.

It was at this stage that I managed to get my photo taken with Ramsay before he left. He told me to eat the remaining beef as I needed "to put some meat on me".

Although the beef was well done by this stage it was still tasty and the dauphinoise was rich and creamy. Not bad for left-overs. There wasn't any cutlery left so I ate with a spoon and knife.

The kitchen returned to its previously calm state once Ramsay had left, especially since the dessert was cold and there wasn't much left to do.

Dessert was an apple trifle. The layers were:

crumbled sable biscuit
foam covering a finely chopped apple garnish
ginger cream
apple puree
vanilla cream
apple jelly

The remaining dessert which I got my mitts on wasn't garnished, but I can't grumble. It was a massive dessert. The apple flavour was very fresh and clear but the ginger cream was too thick (maybe even slightly cloying) and frankly didn't taste of ginger.

The dessert was served with what looked like spectacularly ripe cheese and coffee at the same time. The petite fours were impressive too - silver balls which looked like a Christmas table decoration (you can just see them at the left edge of the photo).

That was pretty much the end of the night. 10 diners (and me!) had a one off-meal (only the ravioli is a menu item) in a unique location.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Good Food magazine - 20 years old

Apparently the BBC's Good Food magazine has been around for 20 years!

To celebrate they launched a Birthday Cake competition. The final three have been chosed and the recipes are availabe online to try out:

Parsnip and maple syrup cake
Coffee crunch cake
Salted caramel chocolate cake

plus a bonus junior winner which looks amazing: Banoffee marshmallow cake

If I'd know earlier I would definitely have had a go. Apparently they got 400 entries. Oh well, I'll probably give these recipes a go they all look pretty good. Guess I'll just have to wait for the 40th aniversary...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Astrid's dinnner featuring pumpkin soup and jaffa cake

Astrid finally made it round for dinner tonight. The menu was:

Pumpkin soup
AA Home Cooking Competition entry
Jaffa Cake

Pumpkin Soup (adapted from Larousse Gastronomique)

750g pumpkin pulp (i.e. peeled and deseeded pumpkin)
2oz butter
~1litre stock
3 slices dried white bread
Olive oil
Clove of garlic, crushed

1. Cut the pulp into pieces and place in a pan together with the butter and 120ml water. Cover the pan and sweat for about 20 minutes (or until the pumpkin is soft)
2. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
3. Allow to cool, season and liquidise with a hand blender.
4. Mix the olive oil and garlic in a large bowl. Cut the bread into croutons and toss in the oil. Either bake in a hot oven of fry until the croutons are crisp.
5. To serve re-heat the soup and ladle into bowls. Scatter croutons on top and swirl a little cream on top.

Main course

I'll not be putting the details up about the main course until the closing date for the AA Home Cooking Competition has passed. However, I will say that the main course included a smoked shallot puree.

I got some smoked hickory chips from Lakeland. In order to smoke the shallots I lined a suacepan with foil, put the chips at the bottom of the pan and sprinkled some water over the chips.
I then put the shallots in a collapsable steamer on top of the chips.

I heated the pan until smoke was produced. I then put a lid on, turned the heat off and left the shallots to steam until cool. The result was subtle but noticeably smoked shallots. Apparently Astrid reckons it was

Jaffa Cake

This was the same recipe as my pimped version (see previous post), but this time I put orange segments in the jelly and on top just under the ganache. I also managed to take a cross section picture:

London Restaurant Festival

So the other day I said that I had volunteered for the London Restaurant Festival (see previous post), well, it would seem that they wanted my help.

Today I took a half day and headed down to Covent Garden to help meet and greet the public and generally spread the word about the festival. I learnt that the five year plan is to make the festival as big as the Edinburgh Fringe and comparable to the Sydney International Food Festival and New York Restaurant Week. Pretty impressive ambitions.

On Friday I'm helping out at the London Eye, when Gordon Ramsey will be representing Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. It's going to be a three course meal, with each course enjoyed during one revolution of the London Eye. On the third go round (dessert) Gordon will be joining the diners in the capsule. Apparently this capsule sold for £23,000 at the charity auction. No idea what I'll be doing but it should be fun!

Then on Tuesday I'm helping out at the Festival Awards, which should be a blast especially if I get to hang out after I'm done with my "work"!

Now just need to try and go to The Big Roast at Leadenhall Market on Sunday or maybe check out Pierre Koffman's pop-up restaurant on the roof of Selfridge's which is now going to be staying open until 31st October...

Monday, 5 October 2009

ICCHFC - Week 8: Victoria sponge

Today was the eighth meeting of the ICCHFC and heralded the return of Louisa to bake (although this is the first time Louisa's been mentioned here as I only started the blog on week three) to start the second round.

This time through each baker is having a theme. Louisa's theme was "afternoon tea". The voting went strongly for Victoria Sponge, much to Louisa's dismay, so in response she went for a "posh" version.

Note - That's Jo's finger (John's on holiday)

Louisa’s posh Victoria sponge

175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
125g raspberries
125g mascarpone cheese
125g crème fresh
Icing sugar to taste!
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract and beat together until smooth and lump free.
2. Split between two lined 21cm sandwich tins and bake for 20-25 mins at 170°C.
3. When cakes are Fonzie cool, mix the mascarpone, crème fresh and vanilla extract together and add the icing sugar to taste.
4. Spread the filling onto one of the sponge bases and scatter with raspberries, keeping some back for the top, and place lid on.
5. Dip saved raspberries in cream mixture and place artistically on the top. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Keep refrigerated until you eat. Serve with a nice cuppa - yum!

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Just got back from a relaxing weekend in Norwich with a very old and dear friend, which turned into quite a foodie weekend.

Friday night was a great start. Waitrose provided a pretty good selection of meats for a tapas-style starter. Only once we'd finished did I realise we'd just given a Spaniard tapas. He seemed to enjoy it, even his first pickle experience. Then we had moussaka and a plum clafouti. Tasty stuff, and a promising start to the weekend.

Saturday started with a selection of pastries from a local bakery the Dozen Artisan Bakery, a fantastic contemporary bakery which recently won Baker of the Year for at the 2009 Norfolk Food Awards. The almond croissant I had was phenomenally delicious.

Having done reasonably well in the Guardian's Quiz of the Week we set off into Norwich centre with the intention of going to the Norfolk Food Festival at The Forum. When we got there the place was packed, particularly with people taking part in the Battle of the Bangers. We gave it a cursory look and decided to come back for some lunch-time treat later.

However, somehow the afternoon managed to slip past far too quickly without us noticing. By the time we got back to The Forum most of the stalls were packed away and the grills at the sausage-off had long cooled. We did manage to salvage one left-over sausage from one of the competitors, very tasty it was too.

To make up for the lack of fresh porky delight we headed to Pickerings in Norwich Market. We picked up a selection of Grandad's Traditional Pork and Aunt Edna's Lincolnshire Pork. The sausages were put to good use in a Toad-in-the-Hole. The Grandads really had a delicious meaty taste and perfect texture. One of the best sausages I've had in quite a while. This meal then led to much discussion about the origins of the dish.

On a second trip into town on Sunday, not only did I manage to track down a Lakeland plastic and some hickory wood chips but also a brace of pies from Bray's Cottage Pork Pies. Which is where I have to agree with Giles Coren when he called them
the perfect pie

Pretty good weekend full of friends, banter and great food. Can't ask for more can you?

PS I've a dirty little secret to reveal. On the way back to London Town, Jo insisted that we stop at Little Chef, otherwise it wouldn't be a road trip. So we did. We both went for pancakes due to misty-eyed childhood memories of great steaming stacks of pancakes slathered sauce and accompanied with glistening balls of ice-cream. I went for the jubilee option, which in the menu looked like this:

What came was this:
To be frank it was a burnt leathery excuse for a pancake filled with what seemed to be pie filling which was hotter than the Sun:
Another case of reality not living up to the advert (or the menu in this case). How disappointing?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Mid-week stuff

Couple of other things for tonight:
  1. I've started to think seriously about entering the AA Home Cooking Competition
  2. I've volunteered for the London Restaurant Festival since I can't go on the Gourmet Odyssey as I've got to go to frisbee trials with Tooting Tigers
  3. My sister and I are going to take my Ma for tea at The Ritz for her birthday. Amazingly they serve tea from 11:00am until 7:30pm!
  4. Managed to set fire to my microwave whilst trying to defrost a mixed olive ciabatta to have with dinner. Apparently olives cause microwaves to spark. The kitchen still pongs...

This was the end result:

Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality

Came across these sites today which compare fast food advertising to the real thing. Clearly the ads bear no resemblance to the actual item.

As an example, this is a McDonald's Big Mac:

I'm no advocate of fast food and these really do nothing to convince me to eat more. If you want to see more try these links:
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