Thursday 27 January 2011

Spring time wedding cakes

It seems to be quite fashionable to have a tower of mini cakes or cupcakes rather than a tiered wedding cake at the moment. It's also a lot easier to serve and portion! For me a cake the size of what you would normally have as a 'slice' (that therefore has a higher ratio of icing to sponge) isn't ideal. I know however it would be some girls idea of a dream. My friend Kerry comes into mind, who I've witnessed peeling off the icing first to eat before the sponge! Ah well, they are cute. I wish I had dotted icing inside the flowers... next time eh.
I would personally prefer the cakes like below, not a big fan of icing. For me it's all about the sponge and jaaaaaaam.
Here is a wee pic of the wedding tower of cupcakes I do, also very pretty.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Oak Smoked Black Bacon

My friend Colleen bought me a treat back from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland - Oak Smoked Black Bacon!
Pat O’Doherty’s own home reared pigs are a mix of four speciality breeds including Saddlebacks, Wessex, Tamworth and Gloustershire Old Spots, reared in totally free range conditions in the forest on Inishcorkish Island and are checked on every other day. The pigs forage on the wild grasses, herbs and shrubs, infusing the meat with natural flavour before it is cured for up to three months then naturally smoked over oak.
Thanks Coll, I'm looking forward to trying their black pudding ;)

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Chocolate Chip Brioche

Josh and I made Brioche. He's not a great help, he wants to eat all the time.. the ducks yesterday didn't see any of his supply of bread. He will take my calls though, when I've got sticky hands!

Broadway Market

We went over to Broadway market on Sunday, I really love it, buzzing but not too busy. I drank enough beer to forget about the calories consumed whilst just perusing the stalls!

 Eddie's Cafe has closed down!!! Nooo!!! This was the real deal, lovely guy, tea out of polystyrene cups and a fry-up for a few quid. It hadn't changed for years but looks like so many of these new places now trying to create a retro feel, or american diner experience. Eddie, you will be missed.

 But there are still so many great things to see and eat!

Testing cakes in the pub :)

Sunday 23 January 2011

Moroccan chicken

This chicken isn't fully roasted but it doesn't taste too different, if anything more juicy just without such crispy skin. But you don't need the crispy skin when you've got the crispiest Goose fat potatoes! There's not a whole lot of things that Nick does better than me, but I got to say, his roast potatoes always steal the show ;) Here he mixed them with cubed sweet potato too which added a little something. 
You need a large casserole pot that will fit a whole chicken in. 
Saute some sliced onions with a little garlic in a good glug of olive oil. Sprinkle in a pinch of saffron strands. Now you can either put a jointed chicken in and brown the pieces or you can just plonk the whole chicken in. Pour over chicken stock to about half the way up the chicken. Simmer for 45 minutes. 
At this stage, I lift out the chicken and drain of its juices back into the pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the skin and pop into a hot oven to roast until cooked. 
Turn the heat down on the casserole pan and add a few sliced carrots and the sliced skin of 4 small preserved lemons. This recipe is nothing without the preserved lemons! 
The sauce will start to reduce. Season, and add a little ground ginger and the smallest pinch of cinnamon. Add chopped coriander and parsley and two small handfuls of olives (black, green, violet or a mix) It doesn't matter if the olives are stoned or not, but if they're not tell your guests!
The sauce will reduce to a gravy consistency and will be perfect spooned over your chicken and roasties. 

Friday 21 January 2011

Sticky chicken thighs in Asian marinade

Do I really need to persuade you to make these? I can taste it through the screen, I want to lick the screen. I am taking Nick out tonight for a surprise stand up show in Soho, like my alliteration? So lets be quick...

6-8 Chicken thighs
Juice of 2 limes
6 tbsp soy sauce (kikkoman) 
2 tbsp runny honey
2 chopped fresh red chillies/ dash of chilli sauce
1 tbsp of fish sauce
4 crushed cloves garlic
1 thumb of ginger grated (best to use microplane)
fresh coriander

Marinade chicken thighs for at least 1 hour in fridge.
Pop into a preheated oven 180-190C on baking tray.
Wait for 35-40 minutes until cooked and eat with anything from noodles to baked potatoes and salad. Top with more chilli and coriander.

Lick your fingers and pat your back. Make sure you do this last step in the right order hehe. 

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Spinach and broccoli soup

I am eating bright coloured things this month. I really think it's the only thing to stop me getting ill. What can be healthier than a bowl of bright green soup? Oh, and check out these mini tangerines I saw in M&S, terribly cute.

Serves 6
1 head of broccoli
1 bag of spinach
1 potato
2 pints of chicken stock
1 large onion
1 small clove of garlic
pinch of nutmeg or all spice, salt and pepper

Fry chopped onion in a little olive oil, slowly until the onion is sweet. Crush the garlic in and stir, followed by a potato, cubed.
After 5 minutes, add stock and bring to simmering point. 
Chop broccoli and add to soup, simmer for 10 minutes. 
Turn the heat off.
When tender, blend. Once blended, add the spinach and wait a couple of minutes until the spinach has wilted in the soup before whizzing again (this retains that bright green colour and keeps all the goodness in) 
Taste and add a good pinch of nutmeg or allspice and then salt and pepper to taste. 

It's hard to tell how small these are! (the bowl fits in the palm of my hand)

Sunday 16 January 2011

Target cake!

My google history today reads like a bank robber's research. Rifles, handguns, bullets, more bullets, even more bullets. I opted for quite a simple design in the end. I don't know Drew but I like him already, because like me, he regards the classic victoria sponge as the best cake filling. You may not think it matters if I'm making it and not eating it but it does matter, it just does. 

Saturday 15 January 2011

The perfect breakfast - Villa Jacaranda

Flowers, flowers, everywhere. We stayed in a beautiful Villa in Varkala a couple of weeks ago and I keep dreaming about it. I loved all the little touches, the floating hibiscus brightening up the courtyard, the chain of Jasmine left on our balcony with candles when we returned from dinner, and the breakfast. Ah, don't get me started. Beautiful table setting, delicious coffee, homemade bread and pineapple jam. I tried the Indian scrambled eggs (Bhurji)with coriander, green chillies, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Oh and the lassi, the banana lassi... my shreddies don't seem to cut it anymore.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Indian Sweets!

Wandering around a foreign city with a heavy backpack and the sun blazing makes rocking up expecting to find some last minute accommodation exhausting... but it's rewarding when you do find something. Same goes for reading about a restaurant in the Lonely Planet or on the internet or looking for somewhere recommended from a friend, just not when it happens to be closed that day, or even worse... it's closed down altogether (and this happened a few times) this normally happens when you've travelled far to get there and the restaurant is in the middle of nowhere! The best experiences are often the ones you stumble across yourself and although it may have been there for thirty years and a firm local favourite, you still feel like you've discovered something yourself. That goes for this little sweet shop, a gem in the midst of many a grey shop or cafe, in a dirty and uninspiring part of town. A window of colourful chewy sweetness, of shimmering silver leaf and kids and adults alike wide-eyed and tiptoeing over the heads of customers who got there first. I bought the smallest box I could (Nick doesn't like sweet things) and ate as much as I could before leaving half a box to the security guy at the hotel as they are made with fresh milk and couldn't bear to see these beautiful treats spoil. Having said that, there was so much sugar in those things I don't think it was a real concern!

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Smoked and braised Pork shin and winter vegetables

I have never eaten so much good food for such a long period, we were in India over a month and I miss it. I have cooked a couple of curries and a mean dhal since I've been back but the first thing I did was get sister, brother, boyfriends, girlfriends, niece and nephew round for a well longed for Roast (especially missed over Christmas!)Did the whole thing, bread sauce, stuffing, cranberry sauce.. oh dear feeling full again just typing it.
But let's be honest, as comforting as it is, the humble roast is calorific. So, if you're thinking of starting the new year off to a healthier start but want the wintery comforts of slow cooked, rich meat and veggies  buy yourself a smoked pork shin. I did this for Nick and I as an experiment for my new slow cooker and it was lovely. 

I just popped the shin into the slow cooker and covered with water. I dropped in a couple of peppercorns but no point in adding herbs at this stage as the smoked shin has too strong a flavour to take in anything else. I let it cook for a good 4 hours on low and then removed the meat to a plate and pulled off the ham in chunks from the bone. I then popped the meat back in and added celery, carrots, beans, cauliflower and squash for 20 minutes until tender. Sprinkle with Parsley and soak up juices with crusty baguette and a little dijon mustard. Healthy, hearty and delicious. Oh and it was cheap too, got to love the cheap cuts.

Pina Colada

Goodbye India, goodbye Pina Coladas and sunsets on the, I'm home and it's cold and drizzly.
May just whip myself up a cocktail to brighten things up. Ever sniffed at a sun cream bottle before you go on holiday? You need silence and your eyes closed's like a free ticket to somewhere tropical if only lasting a few seconds. 

3oz light rum
3tbsp coconut cream
3tbsp fresh pineapple
-Whizz up in a blender with a handful of ice. 

We had to be careful where we could order ice in India, it could be a real pain - oh the things to be thankful for to be home! (not really, just scraping the barrel here)  

Monday 10 January 2011