Saturday, 27 November 2010

Jamie's Italian, Canary Wharf

Went for an ad hoc familial meal at Jamie's Italian in Canary Wharf last night. I didn't really have any expectations but it's suffice to say that even though it's been open for months I hadn't even contemplated going there.

I was quite surprised when my sister called to say that she'd they'd just walked in and got a table despite it being 6pm on a Friday night. I had heard talk of long queues to sample the delights of this "neighbourhood" restaurant.

We started by sharing a meat antipasti plank. It was literally a wooden plank balanced on two cans covering almost the length of the whole table, topped with various charcuterie and cheese. The cured meats were good as was the pecorino which came on music bread and some sweet chilli sauce. The crunchy root veg salad tasted of nothing despite the advertised "chilli , lemon and mint". However, the mozzarella was the star of the show. Simple beautiful: creamy and full of flavour. Delicious.

Thus far, the food was a touch hit and miss. The plank was also carefully portioned, with three of everything. Not quite the generous offering I expect when I think of antipasti and certainly not worth nearly £7 each! I also didn't like the air of superiority from the unfriendly menu descriptions (how many people know that music bread is a crisp Sardinian flat bread (think Italian poppadom)?) and the supercilious tone of the waiter (especially when he told me that I had ordered game so I should watch out for shot).

Anyway, I had gone down the pasta and secondi route. Rabbit ragu papardelle came topped with a lovely lemon and crunchy herby breadcrumbs which gave great an interesting texture. Also the pasta was very thick curly ribbons which I hadn't seen before. Unfortunately the mascapone sauce was too rich and far too salty for the rabbit so the subtle flavours of the braised meat were lost.

For my main I had grilled pheasant, well, I almost had it. The bird came with Jamie's "special Italian bread sauce". I wish it hadn't. The pungent mixture of garlic and anchovy was frankly disgusting, I simply could not eat it. Given that everything else on the plate was a on top of the sauce there was nothing to do but send it back.

Fortunately the Burger Italiano replacement was very good. Juicy flavoursome beef with plenty of worthy enhancements: "melty fontina cheese, crispy salami, (a little too much) lettuce, tomato salsa, dill pickles, chilli and crispy fried onions". Despite asking for it pink, the burger still came medium and the waiter irritatingly asked if I wanted fries (as if I want a carb side order when I've already has pasta).

My sister and Ma, on the other hand, were very pleased with their prawn linguine and skate special respectively.

We all shared an Amalfi lemon curd for dessert which was rich and suitably tongue puckeringly sour. Although the mascapone and mint chiffonade added little, the English raspberries were the most curious addition for a restaurant that's "seasonal".

Overall I was left disappointed by the inconsistency of the food, the irritating attitude of the waiting staff (I think we were left alone for maybe 30mins once dessert was served, with no opportunity to ask for the bill or coffee) and the style over substance of the place. However, they must be doing something right as by the time we left after 8pm the place was packed and the bar was packed with people waiting for a table. Perhaps, they just had an off night with me. I'd be prepared to go back there but it's not somewhere I'd suggest.

Jamie's Italian (Canary Wharf) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

ICCHFC - Week 61: Nutty apple loaf

Everyone was curious this week as to how Michael was going to maintain the level of his excellent pear and almond muffin début. He certainly managed it with this brilliant nutty apple loaf.

(Picture care of the Iron Chef Shellie blog).

The cake was full of generously filled with lumps of chocolate, nuts and apple making each and every bite different. Incredibly easy to eat; our first slices were demolished in seconds, hence having to track down a picture.

It would appear that the Hummingbird Bakery's cookbook is Michael's best friend.

Michael's Nutty Apple loaf (recipe from Iron Chef Shellie blog again!)

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 eggs
140g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
100g shelled mixed nuts, chopped
50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

1. Put the butter, sugar and strawberry jam in an electric mixer and cream together until light and fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a separate bowl, then beat into the butter mixture. Stir in the nuts, chocolate and apples into the mixture by hand until evenly dispersed. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible.
4. Pour the mixture into a 23x13cm loaf tin, greased and dusted with flour, and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake at 170°C for 50-60 minutes or until brown and the sponge feels firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean, but for a little melted chocolate. Leave the cake to cook slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

ICCHFC - Week 60: Lemon and rosemary cake

Laura did remarkably well this week and pulled a massive surprise out of the bag.

I was the last of the cakers to try a slice of the very sticky cake. It was obvious there was a herb involved but the challenge was to identify what. My taste buds told me that it was rosemary but the flecks of green just didn't look like rosemary so like a complete chump I didn't guess rosemary! I'd been fooled by finely chopped rosemary and I was looking for whole leaves. What a plonker.

I don't think I've had a fruit and herb combo before in any type of scenario and it worked really well in this cake. The lemon was very sharp and the rosemary added a great foil to the citrus. It was in that weird place between sweet and savoury. And yet incredibly moreish.

Laura's Lemon and Rosemary cake (adapted from The Times Online)

200g ground almonds
200g white sugar
200ml olive oil
4 eggs
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
4 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
For the syrup:
Juice of 2 large lemons
Same amount of water
3 tbsp sugar
4 sprigs of rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. In a large bowl, beat together all the cake ingredients and pour into 8 oiled ramekins.
3. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until golden.
4. To make the syrup, simmer all the ingredients over a low heat, until thickened.
5. Turn out the cakes, prick them all over with a skewer and pour syrup over them.
6. Decorate with Greek yoghurt sweetened with icing sugar, a sprig of rosemary and wedges of orange.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Project: Salt Beef - Part II

After two weeks of waiting the salt beef was finally ready to come out of its salty bath. Admittedly it didn't look to promising straight out of the brine.

However, once I'd cleaned off all the gunk (technical term there) and boiled it for 3 hours (together with a leek, a carrot and half an onion), dear Lord, what a magnificent meaty delight I had on my hands.
The meat was a exactly the right pink colour I'd hoped for (the effort of getting hold of some saltpetre had been worthwhile). It was just tender enough to carve easily and then gently fall apart with only the gentlest of probing with the eating irons.

One thing to note, is that it was definitely worthwhile trying to get as much fat off as possible before brining. The small scraps I had left on the surface had jellified and were not particularly pleasant. Thankfully, once cooked they were easily removed.

To celebrate, I had a traditional Irish meal of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and salt beef with some of the cooking broth. (Once the beef was cooked I left it to rest wrapped in a foil sarcophagus whilst I cooked the other veg in some of the cooking liquor.)

How tasty? Very. The meat was beautifully spiced, just sufficient to accentuate it's flavour.

However, that still left me with over 80% of the joint left. So, the following morning I made some mayo (spiced with cayenne) and took in four rounds of sandwiches to work for Jess, The Tilbatron and Karen.

The mayo worked well with the beef. The generous slices of meat were incredibly satisfying and seemed to just melt in my mouth without requiring much chewing. I think it's fair to say that the others were equally pleased with their lunch.

Rather sadly I polished off the last bit in another sandwich for a Saturday afternoon treat. I had two dinners and five generous sandwiches from a 4lb joint and after 2 weeks. Was it worthwhile? I think so, as it was an absolute treat and I had to stop myself picking at the meat every time I opened the fridge door. Let's just say it's not something I'll be making regularly but I'm pretty sure this won't be the last time.

All that remains is to try Jess's

Wedding cake - the pictures

I received the official pictures of the wedding cake I made a few weeks ago. Doesn't look too bad, does it?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Here's a thing...

Why is the same cut from different animals called different things?

For example, belly comes from a pig, breast from a lamb and brisket from a cow and yet they're all the same part of the animal. Weird, huh?

Tasty nonetheless.

Monday, 8 November 2010

ICCHFC - Week 59: Red velvet cake

I really didn't know what to make this time round for cake club. I just wasn't particularly inspired. I had a vague idea to do something with caramel but it didn't really grab me and I couldn't find an appealing recipe that really made me want to make it.

I was flicking through my recipe books trying to find inspiration and I was thinking about the cakes I'd done in the past and what I'd really enjoyed making. Then the angel food cake came to mind; clearly a cake I would never make other than for cake club. So, what about its counter-part a devil food cake?

It wasn't quite that simple, however. Recently there's been an air of mystery about the weekly cakes. Sara has instigated a season of "baker's choice" which has been accompanied by a guessing of the cake prior to the unveiling at elevenses.

With this in mind a devil food cake would be pretty easy to guess. It's basically a massive chocolate cake that looks like a massive chocolate cake. So what about a red velvet cake? A red vanilla chocolate cake coated in a white cream cheese frosting. Surely no-one would ever guess that, would they?

After a pleasant afternoon of baking and icing I had a cake ready for the ICCHFC. Thing is I had no idea how red the cake would be until we cut it open. I forgot to take pictures at the batter and baked stages (d'oh). I was pretty pleased nonetheless.

The cake was an unqualified success. No-one guessed what it was and everyone seemed very impressed by its size, colour and flavour.
Cake club gold baby, yeah!

This picture doesn't do justice to the deep red colour of the cake (too much reflection from the icing). Fortunately John took a better one:

This cake is a favourite in the deepest south of the US of A. Apparently the red colour was originally due to the reaction between the acids in the vinegar and buttermilk with the red anthocyanin in the cocoa and giving it the red colour. However, this was before cocoa was "Dutch processed", so now the red colour comes from a shed-load of food colouring.

After plenty of trawling of the t'interweb for suitable recipes I came up with the recipe below which is a combination of the many many that I found (Just how sweet do Americans like their icing? I frequently saw recipes using more than 1lb of icing sugar!)

Amongst all the recipe trawling I'd also come across the concept of a crumb layer of icing. Effectively a thin layer of icing put on to hold crumbs then left to set before applying the final layer of decorative icing, ensuring a perfect finish. If only I'd known about this when I was making the wedding cake. How much easier would things have been?

My red velvet cake recipe (sorry for the American cups):

2½ cup plain flour
1½ cup caster sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
¼ cup cocoa
1tsp salt
1½cup vegetable oil
1cup butter milk (or as an alternative 1tbsp red wine vinegar topped up with milk to make 1cup and left for 10mins)
1tsp red wine vinegar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 bottle of red food colouring ~38ml
For the frosting:
12oz cream cheese
60z butter, very soft
~6oz icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

1. Sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, bicarb) and stir in the sugar.
2. Beat all the wet ingredients together (buttermilk (or substitute), oil, eggs, vinegar, colouring, vanilla).
3. Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the wet to create a smooth scarlet batter.
4. Divide the batter equally between three 8" cake tins and bake for about 25min at 180°C. (The cakes are ready when the top springs back from a gentle prod, the sides have started to come away from the tin and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean).
5. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans for about 5mins before turning out to a cake rack and leaving to cool completely.
6. Meanwhile make the frosting. Firstly beat the butter so it is very soft and smooth. Slowly beat in the cream cheese and vanilla and then the icing sugar. Add icing sugar until you get the flavour you are after bu I'd recommend a minimum of 6oz. Leave in the fridge for at least 10mins to firm up.
7. Layer the cakes with a generous amount of frosting (about 2tsbp). Then cover the cake with a thin crumb layer of frosting and leave to chill for 30mins (or longer).
8 Use the remaining icing to give a perfect white casing to your deep velvet cake.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Whilst trying to come up with an idea for my cake club cake for Monday, I was browsing though New British Classics by Gary Rhodes and came across a recipe for crumpets.

I did not realise only 4 ingredients are required to make these beautiful tasty treats. It being Saturday and about brunch time, how could I not give them a go?

So after mixing 8oz strong flour, 1tsp dried yeast, ¼oz salt and ½pint warm water I left the batter to "rise" while I watched Saturday Kitchen.

A quick addition of water to loosen the batter, a gentle fry in a pan and I was in heaven:

So it would seem that crumpets are dead easy to make and incredibly satisfying. I got six meaty crumpets from the batter enough for today and tomorrow.

I love the way that the batter transforms to the familiar pitted crumpet we know and love just by the addition of heat and butter:

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

ICCHFC - Week 58: Chocolate, chilli and orange cake

Seb was back on the case this week and made a chocolate, chilli and orange cake.

Seb's made quite a few adjustments to the original recipe (see below) and wasn't quite sure how it had turned out so was insistent that a photograph should be taken before it was cut, so hear it is:

Seb needn't have worried. Look at that amazing marbled texture:

This was certainly a substantial cake. Despite having changed the recipe it was pretty tasty, although I think the chilli and orange subtleties were lost on me.

Seb's Chocolate, chilli and orange cake (aka Simon Rimmer's original recipe on Something for the Weekend)

For the chocolate syrup:
200ml/7fl oz water
125g/4½oz butter
1¾oz honey
1lb 2oz dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
For the sponge:
9oz butter, plus extra for greasing
9oz caster sugar
5 free-range eggs
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
14oz flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 orange, zest and juice
For the glaze:
1 orange, juice only
4½oz icing sugar
1 tbsp orange liqueur

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 25cm/10in bundt cake tin.
2. For the chocolate syrup, heat the water, butter, honey and chocolate in a saucepan, stirring regularly, until the mixture is smooth.
3. For the sponge, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Spoon half of the mixture into a separate bowl.
4. Stir half of the chocolate syrup and all of the chilli into one half of the mixture. Add the orange zest and juice to the other half of the mixture.
5. Spoon the orange mixture into the cake tin and spread the mixture out until it is level. Spoon the chocolate chilli mixture on top. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool.
6. Meanwhile, for the glaze, mix the orange juice, icing sugar and orange liqueur together in a bowl until well combined.
7. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and brush with the glaze. Pour over the remaining chocolate syrup.
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