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.

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