Wednesday, 21 December 2011


These are amazing desserts from The Artisan Co-operative: gelato inside the very skin of the fruit its made from including lemons, figs, prickly pears, plums, peanuts and dates.

Now that gives me an idea...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Food Cycle

Food Cycle is a charity that

combines volunteers, surplus food and a free kitchen space to create nutritious meals and positive social change in the community

The food surplus comes from food retailers which is then used to feed those in need in the local community.

Since 2008 nearly 8000 kg of food has been collected and turned into over 14000 meals.

It's a brilliant concept that simultaneously address a number of vital issues in today's society. just the type of thing to get involved with. You can volunteer at any one of four locations in London and in another nine cities around the UK and I would urge you to do.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Bite N Write

Seems like I missed out on another good food blogging event today. This time it was Bite 'n' Write, in Brumingham.

It was billed as
a day of food blogging workshops, food and mingling with fellow food bloggers

I really must make more an effort to get back into the foodblogosphere following the lost Wolverhampton months. More on that and plans for the future soon, I hope.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Feeding the 5k - TOMORROW!

Tomorrow the second Feeding the 5k event will take place in Trafalgar Square in London.
Feeding the 5000 will show how easy it is to reduce the unimaginable levels of food waste in the UK and internationally. And how governments, businesses and individuals can help.

An absurd amount of perfectly good food is wasted every year in the UK and it drives me nuts because it's almost entirely avoidable! In my opinion, there's absolutely no reason to waste food.

I'm gutted I can't go, especially as I turned up too late for the one in 2009 :-(

I urge you to go along if you can and to pledge your support.

Learn more about why this is so important:

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Major disaster today. I'd been planning a take on a pineapple upside down cake for about a week and finally got round to making it. However, it quite literally didn't turn out as expected.

As I was turning the cake out, I dropped it all over the side. Resulting in a heap of cakey-goodness. Edible but not presentable.

I'll have to give it another go and hopefully post a slightly more successful attempt soon.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


I learnt about FruitShare today.
Find a good home for surplus orchard fruit

Fruit share is an initiative to encourage the local distribution of surplus garden or orchard-grown fruit that would otherwise go to waste. Whether you are a private individual or a commercial orchard, simply register to add the details of your available fruit.

The site is split up into "Fruit Sharers" and "Fruit Seekers" and you use the site accordingly. Essentially the site lets you either get rid of or find fruit straight from the orchard!

Brilliantly simple. It'll be perfect when I finally get round to starting the preserving I've been meaning to do for a while now.

Too Good to Waste

The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) has just launched a new campaign, Too Good to Waste, to combat food waste in restaurants by encourage people to ask for doggy bags.

Amazingly for every restaurant meal served in the UK, ~0.5kg of food waste is generated. This SRA campaign is currently running in London and they are offering diners, and restaurants, a viable alternative to wasting food by providing over 25,000 doggy boxes to participating restaurants.

All you have to do is check to see if the restaurant is part of the campaign - check on the website and or spot the sticker in their window - then if there are any leftovers just ask to take them with you.

A completely fuss-free humiliation-less way of making more of a meal out. I encourage you to support the effort, if you can. And let's hope it goes nationwide soon.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Best cookie ever?

Tonight was Bonfire Night, obviously, and I went to the Blackheath spectacular which was as good as it ever is: 20 minutes filled with "oooohs" and "aaaaaaaahs" in response to coloured explosions lighting up the night sky.

What was unusual was that I went for dinner at a friend's before hand (banger (sausage) casserole, followed by apple dumplings (which I made but completely forgot to take a camera so can't show you)) and as a pre-cursor to dinner had some pretty fine cookies.

Now these cookies came from a recipe in the New York Times which was posted in response to this article all about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The article's actually really interesting and throws up a few pointers which could improve your baking and seems to explain how to achieve that elusive crisp-chewy-soft cookie texture (it also serves as quite an interesting peak into the American psyche). As baker Maury Rubin puts it

"First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so,” he said. A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. “Then there’s the center, which is soft.” A bull’s-eye the size of a half-dollar yielded easily. “But the real magic,” he added, “is the one-and-a-half-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”

The main thing to achieve this seems to be letting the cookie dough rest (in the fridge) for up to 36 hours! Apparently this allows time for the liquid (from the eggs) to be adsorbed firming the dough and improving the final baked texture.

There's also talk of the cookie dough to chocolate ratio, with some going as far as 60:40!

All that remains to do is to convert those pesky measurements...

Recipe for the "best-ever" Chocolate Chip Cookies (taken from the NY Times)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 oz) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 oz) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 lb bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

How to cook?

There was a very interesting article in tonight's Evening Standard with the headline "Dare you cook without a book?".

Essentially the author was exploring cooking without following a recipe book, as if this was some sort of novel adventure. This, I think, is maybe the fundamental problem with people who moan that their food never turns out like the recipe. It's because they follow the recipe so slavishly that it doesn't.

[The single exception (that some may say "proves the rule") is baking. Baking is more like science. Thus for the purposes of this article, baking isn't cooking.]

Good cooking does, I'm afraid, involve a touch of skill, not just an ability to follow a set of instructions perfectly. As many times as an author tests a recipe, or is prescriptive to the last detail, unfortunately the circumstances in which people cook are completely different. It is unlikely that you will have the same oven or hob as the author, that you used exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same condition, to that your water is the same hardness. I could go on, their are countless variables which will be different. However, the skill is taking account of these differences to be able to cook a steak rare every time independently of where you are, what utensils you've got and the provenance of the ingredients.

To get back to the article the author had spent the morning with Michelin-starred Alex Gauthier (of Gauthier Soho) wandering around Berwick Street market choosing what looked good. They then went back to his kitchen and made a meal.

Apparently this idea of cooking "using only intuition and instinct" is "creating the quiet rumblings of a backlash". In my mind it's actually what cooking is all about.

I'd love to be able to just wander a market and know what's in season and what pairings work without having to do some research before hand. That is what gives professional chefs the edge and makes them professionals. They spend their working life with ingredients searching for combinations which taste great. The other advantage they have is that they are trained in technique and know how to best extract flavour.

Having said that I think it is the author I have issue with rather than Gauthier, his philosphy seems genuine and makes sense. I'm also keen to visit Ducksoup in Soho, which has a daily changing menu based purely upon what's available and good that day.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Experimental Food Society

I went along to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch today to have a gander at the displays on offer from the Experimental Food Society Spectacular.

I was quite sure what to expect but I seem to remember reading a fair amount last year about this unusual combination of food and art. I was expecting a fair amount to eat that would both delight and intrigue and challenge normal perceptions of food. One thing's for sure, I didn't quite realise just how "Shoreditch" and arty it was going to be.

For example when I walked in I wasn't prepared to encounter a full-size edible cake Dodo. I don't have the words to express how lifelike this was. The feathers were phenomenal. Each one individually crafted from a wafer of fondant icing (I think).

This normally quite impressive chocolate cake was next on the horizon.

I say normally, because I turned round and saw a replica Eiffel Tower made out of Curly Wurlys.

It turned out this was taken from one of Carl Werner's Foodscapes, which I had first seen on the walls in one of the cross-passages at London Bridge underground station. The Chocolate Express was also there. I managed to get my hands on a signed copy of Carl's book and am seriously considering getting a print (or two) for my dining room.

These quail egg cakes were one of the few edible items.

However, I didn't quite get it. Each egg shell contained a cake which had been made using the quail egg. I order to eat the cake you had to peel the shell away. I don't know about you but I think you shouldn't have to peel your cake before you eat it.

I didn't really understand why this massive Fabergé egg type sculpture was there to begin with.

But on closer inspection, it the crown itself was made out of some sort of nut brittle.

There were a few other crazy things there:
  • Sharon Baker's Bread Casts
  • Eat my Cake and their Halloween biscuits. (It looks likes they make great cakes too)
  • The Food Illustrator had some of the prints from the collection of illustrations documenting what he ate each day for a year
  • A display by the creator of 2011's "Best decorated cupcake" - Peggy's Cupcakes
All in all quite an eclectic mix of food-related displays from the more "traditional" to the completely ridiculous conceptual art. All of which didn't quite sit very easily with my conscience given there isn't enough food for all the people in the world...

PS Went to Galvin's Café a Vin afterwards and had a red wine and radicchio risotto. Which not only was very tasty but made me feel better about my duck risotto.

Friday, 14 October 2011

New Zealand

Having been in New Zealand for the last month or so the single most confusing thing was the food. Kiwi's don't seem to have a native cuisine. It seems to be an accumulation of things from all over the world. I guess that explains why so many Kiwi's are proponents of what was known as fusion cuisine (I'm thinking Peter Gordon and Anna Hanson). In fact, in terms of finding some where to eat, I would say it's more like England than anywhere else in the world, even down to pub menus with lamb shanks, burgers and pork belly.

One thing that is definitely Kiwi is Maori culture. Being the good little tourist I duly visited Rotorua and had my fill of Maori tradition including food.

I started off with some cord on the cob cooked in the geothermal hot water pools.

That floating silver buoy is a net filled with corncobs. Apparently the mineral content of the water brings out the flavour of the corn. I'm not so sure.

The warmth of the hot rocks is used to prepare a "hangi" which I tried at the Mitai Maori Village. A big pit in the ground is filled with meat and vegetables (including the ubiquitous kumara) then covered over and allowed to cook for 12 or more hours.

Essentially it was a roast dinner. Now don't get me wrong it was very tasty with an incredible unique smoky flavour.

I experienced a few other things of foody note whilst in NZ. I came across these Dole eco-pineapples

They have their crown removed. This allows for efficiencies in transportation (reducing carbon emmissions and costs) and also provides nutrient material for the farm in the Philippines (read more). I wonder if the appearance obsessed British consumer is ready for pineapples without crowns?

I sampled a "delight" unique to NZ: lolly cake.

Essentially it was a very soft cake (I'm not even sure it was sponge) enveloping soft sweets and dusted with dessicated coconut. It was strangely moreish although VERY sweet. I guess it's one of those cultural curiosities like Twinkies, which just don't translate from their native audience.

I also had a whitebait pancake whilst in Auckland (and yes, before you say it, I know I should really have had whitebait whilst on the east coast of the southern island). The problem here was really the ratio of pancake to fish i.e. too much package and not enough fish meant that the delicate taste of the whitebait was lost.

That was it really. Not the most gastranomic of adventures, but I feel a restricted budget held me back somewhat. Lucky the rugby was great. Oh, hang on...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Singapore slung (bet nobody's ever made that gag before)

It was my last day in Singapore today, so I felt obliged to go to Raffles for a Singapore Sling.

Now I'm not a massive booze-head (although I am partial to a fruity cocktail, Baileys, Southern Comfort or a good scrumpy. (I realised half-way through that sentence that it wasn't the butchest things I'd ever written so had to make amends with the addition of scrumpy (which I really do enjoy))) and didn't quite know what to expect.

What I received in exchange for my ~$35 was an incredibly pink long glass of cherry citrus booze. It was quite moreish and unlike anything I've had before. Very refreshing too (or maybe that's was just the effect of being out of the oppressive humidity). Although I'm not sure it was worth £17. Mind you the place was packed with table upon table supping up the pink nectar. "Tourist trap", you say?

I was surprised to see that the cocktail was made en mass in a blender using bottled juices. It seemed that the colonial glamour had been swapped for speed and efficiency: money making over elegance. Is this simply the modern Asian way?

I was also surprised that it was a tad crunch underfoot due to the extraordinary number of discarded monkey nut shells.

I was even more surprised when a I spotted pigeons in the bar helping to clear up!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Criminally Good Cupcakes

Just found out that one of my friends has a cupcake enterprise.

So here's a blatent plug for Criminally Good Cupcakes.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cooking Comically

Ever wanted recipes in a ninja comic style? Well now you can:

Cooking Comically

Actually pretty fun. Although will the joke wear thin soon?

Saturday, 20 August 2011


Have you ever bitten into a Toffee Crisp or a Curly Wurly or even an Aero and wondered what a perfect cross-section would look, that is one devoid of teeth marks and drool smudges?

Well, now you can care of SCANDYBARS. A remarkably simple blog which scans in cross-sections of chocolate bars from across the globe.

Remarkably simple and yet exceedingly diverting.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bacon jam!

Here's a dilemma:
A great friend invite you over for tea and when quizzed about what's on offer the response is "bacon jam". What do you do next?

Clearly, you high-tail it over to his place to try out his concoction. Unfortunately in my haste I forgot to take my camera so there aren't any pictures. Fortunately I found this article which (as well as being very good) has some ace pictures:

So, what can I tell you about bacon jam? Well, having read the list of ingredients and the cooking method, I was a little dubious. However, I have to admit that it was damn fine stuff. We had it with cheese and bread. (This was the only potential use I could come up with given the constraints of my mates' empty fridge. My thinking was along the lines of that anything you could do with pickle you could probably do with bacon jam and I think I was right). Incredibly smokey and it managed to pull off that amazing trick of being sweet but intensely savoury at the same time. It was undoubtedly a success.

I guess it just goes to prove the adage "bacon makes everything better". I just can't decide whether to make some myself.

Eat your books

I came Eat Your Books the other day and I quite like it, I think.

The idea is that there is an online archive of recipes in from cookery books you own. Thus you can find recipes in books you own as you'll have you're own "virtual bookshelf".

It would help in times when I've forgotten to write a shopping list or when people ask for a recipe (thus saving me time in photocopying or writing it out).

I haven't signed up yet, but may well do...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Epic Meal Time

Epic Meal Time is a collection of "recipes" made from an unfeasibly large amount of fast food, bacon and Jack Daniels. There's an update every Tuesday.

Only in America...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Watermelons go pop!

Initially quite funny, but the Guardian article on exploding watermelons does make you think about farming practices and just what goes into the food we eat.

Jamie Oliver helps Sainsbury's offer free fish

Sainsbury's have just launched a new campaign to highlight sustainable fishing and will be offering free fish to customers who switch to a more sustainable variety. This is clearly a fantastic scheme, but I'll be intrugues to see just how far it spreads in terms of the number of stores involved and its longevity. I found out about this on

"Customers buying one of the 'Big 5': cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns, will be offered alternatives such as pouting, megrim and coley for free.

The retailer is hoping to encourage customers to try other varieties of fish and make more sustainable choices.

Jamie Oliver is heading up the Switch the Fish campaign, which is being launched in stores on 17 June in England and Scotland.

He said: "Earlier this year I joined the debate to encourage people to try new, less loved fish which had a great response.

"Sainsbury's is really taking the next step with its campaign 'Switch the Fish' demonstrating its commitment to getting customers to widen their choice when it comes to eating something other than the 'Big 5'.

"Offering free alternative fish is a great way to do this and will in turn help people be a bit more adventurous when they come to do their next shop."

Sainsbury's recently ran a poll with YouGov on consumers fish buying and eating habits. It showed that 41% of the UK eats cod at least once a month and a fifth of people eat tuna at least once a week.

Fish-eaters are put off trying a different type of fish as they are unsure of how it tastes and how to cook it. According to the poll, 84% of Brits have never tried megrim and 82% have never eaten pouting.

Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, applauded the campaign.

He said: "If more people start to choose a wider variety of fish, this will help in our battle to end the terrible waste of millions of edible fish being thrown back into the sea dead because of an out-dated system."

Reads what Sainsbury's have to say on the subject of sustainable fish."

Monday, 18 April 2011

Le Gavroche

I went to Le Gavroche tonight with my sister as a present for her 21st birthday (and a little(!) present to myself too). Obviously we had high expectations given the reputation of Le Gav. It was also the first time either of us had been to a two star place too.

We had the Menu Exceptionnel, the eight course tasting menu, with matching wine. I figured if you're going to go to a place like this, there's no point in doing it half-heartedly.

In order to get a table, I'd only been able to make a reservation for 1830. It was a bit odd wandering through Mayfair past the US Embassy in the early evening. When we got to the restaurant there was no street furniture marking its presence; it could have been almost any other Mayfair doorway. Remarkable, they had to unlock the front door to let us in. As soon as we walked in the luxury was evident: deep pile carpets, thick flocked wallpaper and impressive chandeliers. We were both surprised that the dining room is actually below street level.

It seemed a little intimidating as we were shown to our table, given that we were the only ones there and probably outnumbered two to one by the front of house staff. Nevertheless we were immediately made to feel welcome and comfortable. (As the night wore on the restaurant filled up and the wine took effect the inhibitions were certainly shrugged off).

I won't go into the detail of each course but give a run-down of the highlights. (There are no photos as this seemed really quite inappropriate). I was glad that the menu started with the fabled cheese soufflé. It was luxuriant as I had hoped and so light as to be described as ethereal.

The lemon dressing on the salmon was intense and complimented the salmon perfectly. The langoustine and snail gratin was delicious: huge shellfish packed with juicy delicately sweet meat. Amazing. The beef was like no other beef I have ever had. Absurdly tender and cooked to pink perfection. The cheese selection was very good and much enjoyed by my sister.

After the cheese they brought a small birthday plate for my sister, which I had completely forgotten that I had asked for. Le Gav's not the sort of place where the staff break out into a round of "Happy Birthday".

As neither of us are particular fans of chocolate desserts I asked for an alternative so we had a passion fruit soufflé with a white chocolate ice cream. The ice cream was put into the centre of the soufflé in front of us. Sublime.

After four hours of absurdly good eating and drinking (I lost count of the number of glasses of wine I had as each course had a matching glass and because my sister was bit slower, I had numerous refills too) it was time to leave. The service had been impeccable and despite having been there for so long, there was no discernible urge for us to leave.

Apparently, Michel Roux Jr sometimes meets the diners, but it was the day after the London Marathon, so we assumed he was not in the kitchen.

PS I actually wrote this post in January 2012, so it must provide a pretty good representation of what I can remember and just how good it was.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Restaurant rights

Receiving poor food or service in a restaurant is a tricky thing to deal with. Do you say something and risk the revenge of the waiter/cook? It isn't something that should be taken into consideration, but the reality is that is has to be. I've heard far too many stories (both first and second hand) not to have this cross my mind.

Putting aside the vagaries of deciding what to do, do you know what your rights actually are?

I came across this article which explains just what you can expect in all too common circumstances.

Essentially, your rights are based on the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This demands that any service should be carried out with
Reasonable care & skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost

Using this as a basis you can
  • Refuse to pay if the food wasn't up to scratch
  • Refused to tip if the service was bad. Equally you can deduct 10% if service IS included!
  • Not always get tap water for free as restaurants are allowed to charge. They do have to provide a loo though (as long as there's a drinks license)

Flavour Magazine

Flavour Magazine has recently launched in London.

I've no idea how I learnt about it nor where one can pick up an actual copy (the whole thing is available electronically so maybe that doesn't matter).

The mag seems more than just commercial food porn with plenty of interesting articles ranging from recipes to chef interviews and thought-provoking comment that's perfect for a London foodie keen to explore the delights of out nation's capital.

I'd recommend picking up a copy if you get the chance.

Monday, 28 March 2011

An update, finally!

Hello all,

Just a quick note to say that I haven't given up the blogging ghost. Since my last post (which seems like an eternity ago) I've had some pretty major changes including a new job and a complete change to my day to day life. Not least of all has been a humongous upheaval to my Internet access and an inability to be able to update me blog. Which I am missing far more than I would ever have realised.

Recent things that I need to blog about include:
  • Starting another cake club
  • Pancake day
  • My massive red nose day cake
And soon I'll need to write about an upcoming trip to Le Gavroche.

Hopefully I'll get it sorted soon, not quite sure how yet. But there must be an answer!

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Tale of the Red Nose Day cake challenge

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a challenge was set to all of those in the employ of the great Lord ADAS,
"Red Nose Day - Cake Bake!

The Charity committee are looking for people from each office to take part in the Cake Bake for Red Nose Day. A prize to be given for the largest "red nose cake."

On hearing of this, the young(ish) new consultant with a penchant for cake saw an opportunity to make a mark in the strange town he'd been forced to live in and began to plan.

From the very beginning hurdles were put in our protagonist's way: a foreign kitchen, a lack of implements, the refusal of local tradesmen to barter with him (for the silver trays essential to the plan forcing him in to a compromise with the Tesco devil) and Lord ADAS sending him to a conference giving him just a single evening to meet the challenge.

Nevertheless the equipment and ingredients were gathered. With over 4lb butter, 3lb of flour and sugar, 24 eggs and nearly 2kg of fondant icing the size of the task ahead seemed daunting.

Hours later, when the burning furnace had been extinguished, six different tray bakes (cherry mallow, lemon, coffee, gingerbread, coconut carrot and white chocolate) lay waiting to be adorned with their icing.

The butter icing was laid down quickly and efficiently acting as the saddle ready to be ridden by the fine fondant.

The fondant was an opponent the likes of which our hero had never encountered. It tested his skill and patience like nothing before.

Gradually the fondant bent to the rolling pin of our hero and a gleaming white canvas was ready for the final stage.

After 10 hours of battle six cakes appeared from the cloud of icing sugar that enveloped the arena. A brief respite and as the Sun rose the trusty stead was loaded ready to unleash the mightiest of Red Nose Day cakes upon the unsuspecting Lord ADAS.

The furore caused by the cake was unprecedented: gasps, smiles and giggles of delight filled the air.

On measurement the cake was declared to be 39" (about the same size as one of the new magic viewers) and over 9kg.

The challenge had been met and all enemies vanquished. "Never again" muttered out exhausted hero. Well, not for another two years at least...

***THE END***

The easy part in all this really was making the tray bakes. Recipes for the six cakes can be found on the following sites:

Coconut carrot slices

Lemon cake - I didn't do a drizzle, but did use lemon butter icing
Cherry mallow - no marshmallow and cherry topping just vanilla butter icing
White chocolate - white chocolate butter icing here instead of creamcheese
Coffee cake - with a coffee butter icing

Monday, 7 March 2011

Lancashire apple cake

To further my mission to establish a cake club in my new office I took in a Lancashire apple cake today.

Cheese with cake is a classic Northern thing to do and this cake take it one step further by actually putting the cheese in the cake.

This cake is a batter-type cake and has that distinctive texture. It was incredibly apply (quelle surprise!), probably because I'd added so much grated Bramley to the batter. The cheese layer didn't stand out as a particularly prominent flavour. It added more of a subtle note and added some structure to the centre of cake. I'm glad I added a sprinkle of demerara to the top which added a much needed crunch. I think some cheese on the top of the cake could be another welcome addition.

This cake went down very well. That's two from two so far. I just need to find a way of manifesting the enthusiasm for cake eating as cake production.

Lancashire apple cake (taken from The Great British Kitchen)

½oz butter
7oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
30z caster sugar
1 lb 10 oz made up of Bramley apples, grated and eating apples cored, peeled and chopped
4½oz raisins
1tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
4floz sunflower oil
5oz Lancashire cheese
1oz demerara sugar

1. Sift flour and baking powder together. Add sugar, apples, raisins and nutmeg.
2. Beat eggs into oil and stir into the mix.
3. Spoon half into a 9" cake tin . Add cheese and top with the remaining apple mix.
4. Bake for 1 hour at 170°C until golden. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

In lieu of pancake day

Every year I look forward to pancake day and every year I ask myself (probably like quite a lot of other people) "why don't I eat pancakes more often?". They're so versatile: they can be savoury or sweet, flavoured or plain, stuffed or layered. Whatever form they are always yummy.

[Whenever I'm in Amsterdam I ALWAYS make a bee-line for The Pancake Bakery where you can get full-on pancakes ~18" in diameter and have an entire pancake-based meal: AMAZING!]

This year I knew I wouldn't be able to indulge in a pancake-fest on Tuesday so I decided to make Sunday lunch the focus of my annual pancakey desires and made a tomato and pancake bake (essentially a pancake lasagne without the ragu layer).

I seasoned the cheese filling with a touch (too much) cayenne which invigorated the whole thing. It was pretty good but I reckon you could put some of the tomato sauce in between the pancake layers, although that may take away from some of the cheesy pancake wonderfulness. You could also flavour the pancakes maybe with herbs.

Cheese and tomato baked pancakes (taken from Rachel Allen's recipe)


For the pancake batter
5oz plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
4fl oz milk
4 fl oz water
½oz butter, melted
For the tomato sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp sugar
3tbsp torn fresh basil leaves
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
For the filling:
300g mozzarella, grated
4oz ricotta
1oz parmesan cheese, plus a bit extra, for sprinkling

1. For the pancakes, place the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, whisking all the time, until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Add the melted butter and set aside.
2. For the tomato sauce, place the olive oil in a wide saucepan, add the onion and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover and cook on a low heat until the onions are completely soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and half the basil, leave uncovered and cook for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened. Add the remaining basil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and the sugar.
4. While the tomato sauce is cooking, make the pancakes. You will need a total of eight pancakes.
5. For the filling, mix the cheeses together in a bowl, to make a spreadable paste.
6. To assemble, place a pancake on the bottom of a 25cm/10 inch square ovenproof dish, spread with a thin layer of the cheese mixture, top with another pancake and continue assembling, alternating seven layers of pancake and filling. Finish with a top layer of pancake.
TIP: You can cut the pancakes to cover the dish better (if it's not round!).
7. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining grated parmesan.
8. Bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the centre feels hot when a skewer is inserted.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Lemon cake

Although I have left the joys of the ICCHFC behind, I am hopeful that I can rouse my new troops to a regular celebration of cake.

My first attempt to bring the joy of cake to my new office was a lemon sponge "birthday cake" (as office tradition demands).

The lemon sponges were sandwiched with lemon curd and whipped cream and topped with a lemon icing. I decorated it with lemon icing and meringues (attached with lemon curd).

It turns out that there is a strong under-current of cake appreciation and this went down far better than I could ever have hoped. Maybe there is hope for a new cake club...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Corn dogs

To keep up the theme of deep-fried American "treats" I had a go at corn dogs. I used a recipe from Lou's blog.

Basically corn dogs are frankfurters in a polenta batter. I couldn't be doing with firing up the deep-fat fryer mid-week, so I just shallow fried them hence the crazy triangular shape.

They were pretty crunchy, but peculiarly grainy too (that's be the polenta then!) . The mustard added a nice tang.

However, I'm not entirely sure these were fit for a meal. They're much more suitable for snacking at the ballpark!

Monday, 7 February 2011

ICCHFC - Week 70: Strike cake(!)

In protest of not having been saved a cookie last week, Sara had threatened not to bring in cake. Thankfully she did: a delightful chocolate chip sponge with a Nutella filling.

It was a fitting last cake for me. Next Monday I will be starting a new job, so the Cakers will carry on without me and my Monday's will be poorer for it. I've really enjoyed cake club and can't believe we've been doing it for 70 weeks. The start to each week has been made a little more bearable with the sweet elevenses. I really look forward to the break and banter.

I wonder, when is it appropriate to bring in cake for the first time at a new job?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Deep fried Twinkies

A while ago (I'm talking maybe May 2010) J went to the US to visit her brother who is working out there. On her return, as is customary she bought treats for the office. These included a box of Twinkies:

Now Twinkies are pretty hardcore sugary snacks. Despite our best efforts we weren't able to finish the box, so I ended up taking a brace home. Not quite knowing what to do with them I whacked them in the freezer, knowing full well that since Twinkies are reputed to be the only thing to survive a nuclear bomb, I thought they'd last.

Now, I've really no idea how I came across the idea of deep fried Twinkies. (It was probably from the Wikipedia page.) Anyhoo, as I'm in the process of eating my freezer (so I can defrost it), the Twinkies reared their head and I dug out the recipe I'd found from Good Morning America and my trusty deep fat fryer.

The batter was brilliantly crisp, but deep fried warm sponge cake was weird. And not in a good way. The sponge had practically dissolved, almost melted, and the "cream" centre was just about still there, lurking.

To cut through the sugar and fat the traditional accompaniment is a berry sauce. This being a spur of the moment Saturday afternoon thing, I didn't have any berries so free-styled with a dark chocolate sauce. The bitterness of the chocolate just about made the thing edible.

I guess this is the American equivalent of a deep fried Mars bar. Although I know which one I prefer and it won't require a trip across the Atlantic.

If you just happen to have some Twinkies lying about and want to have a go here's the recipe I used (apologies for the cups).

Deep-Fried Twinkies

2 Twinkies - frozen hard
Flour for dusting
1/3 cup milk
2dsp vinegar
1tsp oil
1/3 cup flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Wooden sticks - lolly sticks (or toothpicks will suffice)

1. Heat vegetable oil in deep fryer to 190°C.
3. Mix together milk, vinegar and oil.
4. In another bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Whisk wet ingredients into dry and continue mixing until smooth. Refrigerate while oil heats.
6. Push stick into Twinkie lengthwise, leaving about 2 inches to use as a handle, dust with flour and dip into the batter. Rotate Twinkie until batter covers entire cake.
7. Place carefully in hot oil. The Twinkie will float, so hold it under with a utensil to ensure even browning. It should turn golden in 3 to 4 minutes. Depending on the size of your deep fryer, you might be able to fry only one at a time, two at the most.
8. Remove Twinkie to paper towel and let drain. Remove stick and allow Twinkie to sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Variation: Slice Twinkie into 4 pieces. Flour and batter each before frying. With this treatment, one Twinkie will serve two people if accompanied by a sauce.

Monday, 31 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 69: White chocolate and cherry cookies

Mazza needed a quick and easy recipe this week so using the power of Google found a recipe for these white chocolate and cherry cookies.

Very tasty they were too and perfect with a cuppa.

Monday, 24 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 68

No home baked cake this week but we did have a rather extravagant Fleur de Lys chocolate tart from Paul. I'll leave it to John to exlplin why in his own words:

Hi Cakers,
I do have a delicious cake but because of diy kitchen refurbishment antics, I don’t have an oven so had to buy it.
I promise to make chocolate bourbon biscuits as soon as my new oven is commissioned and hope the inferior shop bought cake will suffice until I’m back in action.
Caker John

I cannot wait for home made bourbons.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The night of the exploding ketchup at Butlers Wharf Chop House

Booking a table for four on a Friday night at Butlers Wharf Chop House was surprisingly easy and I even managed to book the three courses for £20 "Best of British Menu", so I was expecting it to be pretty quiet in there. I couldn't have been more wrong: the place was packed making for a very vibrant and enjoyable Friday night atmosphere.

The service was up to the usual high D&D level that I've now realised is standard across the whole portfolio. The food was pretty good too.


Chef's homemade black pudding, ham hock hash, Hen's egg

Very peppery black pudding and a fantastic poached egg. I could have eaten a bucket load of the hash (just wish I'd asked what was in it and I was having too good a time to think about it).

Baked Jerusalem artichoke and salsify hot pot, fried duck egg
Given this was the vegetarian main, I was intrigues as to what the hotpot was going to be. Turned out it was just a gratin. Quite disappointing really. And I do hate it when the veg are not cooked through. In this sort of dish the veg should melt not crunch. The salad was a very welcome accompaniment to break the tedium.

Traditional beer battered fish & chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce

I had a little pang of food envy when the fish and chips arrived for J & K. The fish was lovely: huge white flakes of flesh in a crisp batter. The half dozen of so chips were huge and OK. We all agreed, however, that the jars where and chip cage were a little over the top, a touch passée and even a little pretentious now. However, this was countered with the appearance of a bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table.

The ketchup was an integral part of what was possibly one of the funniest events I have ever experienced in a restaurant. As is customary, J gave the new bottle of ketchup a firm shake. As her arms started to rise for a second shake, the contents of the bottle made a decision to make a break for freedom. The next thing I remember is K & I shaking with laughter at he sight of J's ample bosom newly decorated with an abstract red pattern. The scene was only exacerbated by the excellent maître d' proffering a clutch of moist napkins but not actually managing to help clear the mess due to the hypnotic effect of J vigorously stroking her chest.

Traditional English trifle
My trifle was excellent. The custard was fresh and soft rather than set and a sprinkling of caramel added a fantastic crunch. I was enjoying it so much I completely forgot to take a picture until it was half gone. However, the nature of the bowl meant that there was rather an overwhelming amount of custard and cream and not quite enough fruit to cut through it. Still that's a minor grumble and purely a function of the serving vessel.

Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce, clotted cream

K & J both enjoyed their sticky toffee pudding, but declared it a touch too rich.

All in all a great night. Good English food at a bargain price. I must return there during the summer so I can enjoy a table outside overlooking the river. That's pretty much the only improvement to be had.

Butlers Wharf Chop House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot and sticky toffee pudding

BK was round for dinner this week. Due to the ridiculous demands of the project I'm managing at work at the moment, I only had time to offer two courses (rather than the customary three). Inspired by Channel 4's recent Fish Fight campaign, I wanted to cook fish and I also wanted quite a hearty winter pud. Consequently we ended up having:

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot
Sticky toffee pudding

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot

A perfect example of how a few ingredients simply combined can be made into a very tasty meal that is on the verge of something quite fine. I love chorizo and it's not often that I can find a big cooking sausage so this gave me the perfect excuse to seek one out. This was so good, there wasn't a drop left in our bowls at the end.

Sticky toffee pudding

Apparently this was the "original" recipe and it certainly did hit the spot. Only trouble was I had no cream or ice cream to serve it with. Life is tough sometimes.

Here are the recipes:

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot (taken from One Perfect Ingredient by Marcus Wareing)

2 lemon sole fillets, skinned, cut in half lengthways
Onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g chorizo sausage
1tsp smoked paprika
500ml chicken stock
400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed

1. Roll up the fillets and secure with a cocktail stick.
2. Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
3. Remove the skin from the chorizo. Finely slice a third and roughly chop the remainder.
4. Add the paprika and chopped chorizo to the onion and fry for 5mins.
5. Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 mins.
6. Stir in the butter beans.
7. Place the sole fillets on top and spoon over a little of the broth.
8. Cover the pan and simmer until the fish is just cooked, ~8mins.
9. While the fish is cooking, hard fry the chorizo slices until crispy. Drain.
10. To serve spoon the broth into bowls, top with the fish and then garnish with the chorizo slices. Accompany with some crusty bread to help mop up the juices.

Sticky toffee pudding (taken from The Cook's Book edited by Jill Norman)

Ingredients: 2½oz unsalted butter
7oz caster sugar
3 eggs
7oz plain flour
375ml water
7oz pitted dates, roughly chopped
2½tsp baking powder
For the sauce:
2½oz soft dark brown sugar
300ml double cream
1¾oz unsalted butter

1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs.
3. Sift the flour and 1tsp baking powder into the mix and then fold in to combine.
4. Bring the water to biol in a small pan. Add the chopped dates and simmer for 2mins.
5. Remove from the heat and add the remaining baking powder to the pan. Add the date mixture to the sponge mix and stir to combine.
6. Pour the batter into a 9" square baking dish and bake at 200°C for 30mins (or until set).
7. Once the sponge has cooked, make the sauce. Add all the sauce ingredients to a pan and bring to the boil.
8. Pour half the sauce over the pudding and return to the oven for 2mins.
9. Cut into portions and serve with the remaining sauce.
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