(Not) in the mood for Love/Time consuming Macaroons

I am the Valentine’s grinch.

Years ago, I actually watched a women suck her boyfriend/husbands whole tongue at the table on this day – since this day, I have been put off Valentine’s day for good.

I remember once at school, receiving cards on this day with just a question mark and one with nothing at all inside– a blank card. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS? Nothing used to frustrate me more.

I do still get 2 “anonymous” cards a year without fail. One still with a question mark which I know is from my Grandmother as it is her writing on the envelope and one from my mother which says “guess who” followed by “love from Mummy” – get my point?

Believe it or not, I am a sucker for love, but not Stereotypical love. I would rather go to a gym than buy underwear covered in lips and diamante and don’t get me started on the valentines restaurant saga – holding hands whilst eating a “special” set menu at a table surrounded by couples, why would you do this!? Is this just me!? Honestly makes me wince.

Anyway, this year I am doing what I like to do every year on the 14th February –absolutely nothing, apart from eating a Byron Burger with Will, washed down with a nice bottle of red – at home.

If any of you do fancy giving someone something different this year, here is my recipe for macaroons (please note, I would only attempt these if you have a lot of time on your hands. It took me 3 takes to make these last night, along with a dress covered in egg and sugar and a broken whisk. 2.5 hours in total of my evening to get anything that looked a like a macaroon – these really are a pain in the ar*e to make, however, once you get there, they really ARE one of the most delicious little things….

Ingredients

You will need a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in nozzle for this ( I didn’t have one so used a freezer bag and tried to make one – unsurprisingly it didn’t work, hence the different shapes of macaroons)

125g/4½oz icing sugar

125g/4½oz ground almonds

90g/3½oz free-range egg whites

2 tbsp water

110g/4oz caster sugar

food colouring (optional)

150ml/5fl oz double or whipped cream, whipped

 Preparation method

Preheat the oven to 170/C/325F/Gas 5 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g/1½oz egg whites together in a large bowl and mix into a paste.

Put the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat gently to melt the sugar, then turn up the heat and boil until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens – I didn’t use a thermometer but if you prefer to use one, it should read 115C/239F at this stage.

***WARNING*** do not overcook the sugar or the below will happen whn you get to the next step:

Whisk the remaining 50g/2oz egg whites in a small bowl until medium-stiff peaks form (I suggest you do this before the sugar so it doesn’t have time to set). 

 

 When the whisk is removed from the bowl,  pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.

Tip this meringue mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until the becomes stiff and shiny again. (This takes 10 minutes of mixing with a spoon)

For coloured macaroons, add a few drops of food colouring. .

Spoon into the piping bag. Pipe a little mixture under each corner of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm/1½in flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm/¾in apart, twisting the bag after each one (due to freezer bag, mine do not look like this). The mixture should be quite loose to give a smooth finish. The piping will leave a small ‘tip’ on each circle so, when they’re all piped, give the tray 2–3 slams on a flat surface to flatten them.

 Leave to stand for 30 minutes to form a skin then bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar until firm. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.

When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream. They can be kept for a couple of days.

 How cute…

Conclusion: If you love someone more than the universe these are worth making for them - Absolutely yummy, yummy, yummy, however, you need to allow a lot of time and have the patience of a saint.

The Well Kneaded Wagon

The Well Kneaded Wagon – Nope, not my liver – Original, homemade, fresh, smoking hot “Firebread” pizzas baked in a clay wood-fired oven in the back of a cute VW van and in your mouth less than 2 minutes after ordering from the cutest little VW van ever – YES PLEASE.

As a lover of anything carb based, unsurprisingly, pizza, second to burgers are my weakness. Ever since my first trip to Franco Manco in Brixton I have been hooked. I am on a pizza mission.

Looking online this week at street food in London, to my absolute delight I realised that one of the supposedly best pizza’s can be found nearly on my door stop in Battersea – EEEEEK.

Suitably hangover, off I trotted (sprinted as fast as I could) to the Northcote road in SW11 to meet Marta who kindly agreed to show me the step by step process they use to make their emotionally good pizzas. It was an emotional experience and here is why…..

Cutest Van:

 

Saturday’s menu:

 We went for the special – Salt beef, parsley pesto, watercress and mustard, followed by the Three mushroom with garlic and thyme cream.

How can something so simple, taste so good- Dough being stretched, toppings thrown on and the whole lot blasted in a hot clay oven.

hurry up oven, HURRY

Utterly speechless

Conclusion:. As if you needed more of a reason to go, the two Wandsworth girls who decide to set up this pizza van did so to use it as a means to employ local Wandsworth kids who otherwise might not be given the opportunity. Absolutely sublime, go, go, go

 

 

The Sumo Wrestler/Banana Bran Muffins

 

I never realised how much I have in common with a sumo wrestler.

My name is Harriet, not Hakuhō and I have decided I need to start eating breakfast.

Sumo’s chow down on average 20,000 calories a day with around 6 pints of beer. My calories intake is a little less, and the beer for me would be replaced with red wine. The only thing we don’t seem to have in common is the workouts that they do as I hate exercise.

Apart from the above, one of the main things Sumo’s do in order to put on weight is to not eat breakfast. These national hero’s actually gain weight by not eating breakfast as this encourages overeating at the end of the day. This all sounds too familiar to me – Sh*t, I never eat breakfast in the week, usually have a naughty lunch, and, always end up pegging it to the constant supply of Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes in my office (praying there is a Red Velvet flavour left) and scoffing it in 2 seconds flat during my afternoon 4pm slump.

The only problem is, my idea of breakfast would be a fry up, toast drenched in butter or a sausage sandwich and at Easter, an Easter egg (yes, I am one of those people that can eat chocolate in the morning) . Most mornings I am running out of the door nearly late for work, with my dress unzipped and last night’s mascara tattooed under one eye – what would I actually enjoy that I can eat on the go and does not have a billion calories and will hopefully starve off my hunger pangs until lunchtime? Banana and bran muffins, that is what.

Only 125 calories per muffins (praise the lord). I made 12 of these last night and the idea is for me to make these every Sunday evening and for Will and I/just me to have one each morning before we dash off to work each day. Super easy and stress free to make. (apologies for some of the measurements, I got this recipe from an American site)

Total Time: 30 mins

Prep Time:5 mins

Cook time:25 mins

 Ingredients:

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Combine cereal, bananas, milk, egg and oil in bowl; mix well. Let stand 5 minutes; stir to break up cereal.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices in separate bowl. 

Add flour mixture all at once to cereal mixture, stirring just until moistened.

Grease or paper line muffin cups.

Divide evenly among prepared muffin cups (which comes to about a heaping tablespoon per muffin.) 

Bake 20-25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Conclusion:

Ermmmmmm, 50/50 on these. They are absolutely edible and taste nice, although for me, eating these feels a bit like a punishment as all I can think about is other wicked options I would enjoy a whole lot more. I never realised how overpowering nutmeg can be so next time would use less or replace it with cinnamon. Overall though, they are VERY filling and will starve off pangs until lunchtime. I will be remaking these.

 

Happy New Year / Thai Beef Salad

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Unsurprisingly, year on year, there are not many commitments that I make regarding personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. All my naughty habits I love,  and I have been more than happy living in a puff of smoke, surrounded by wine and friends, year on year.

The 1st of January this year was spent in a pub in St Andrews after a beautiful wedding the previous day followed by the 2nd January on a 4.5 hour train back from Scotland with our table completley obscured by Gin and tonics. After waddling through the door back in London past all the discarded Christmas tree’s that lay all alone on the pavement (makes me so sad), we decided that this year, after way too much consumption we would be “better” and stop drinking in the week (this has been a huge challenge with a few slip ups) and eat more food that is not full to the brim of fat and I would start cooking again and continue my blog.

When we headed up to Scotland after Christmas, Will and I spent a few wonderful days in Edinburgh gorging our way through as many restaurant as possible. From Seaweed crusted lamb loin with braised neck,and truffled goat’s cheese dauphinois, Potato Gnocchi with Brown butter, wilted sage & Parmesan to Chocolate and peanut butter mousse with banana and honey ice cream, we had some of the best meals I have ever eaten – complete and utter food porn.

There was one restaurant in particular we loved, bustling and full of life, a Thai restaurant called “Chaophraya”. We had the chefs special,  “Yum Ped Grob” – to you and I, a Crispy Duck Salad, and it was off the scale good. (Roasted crispy duck strips tossed with cucumber, shallots, spring onions, celery and pomegranate in a roasted chilli and lime dressing). After two bottles of wine and seven cocktails, Will and I decided that as part of our “healthy” new year’s resolution, I should try and recreate this dish, however, the thought of buying and dissecting a duck completely freaked me out (can you even buy a duck in a supermarket? Ergh just picturing it’s huge beak), I decided to recreate something similar (ish) and try out a Thai Beef Salad. After purchasing numerous really strange ingredients ( what the hell is a kaffir lime leave – anyone else ever heard of this?), here is my take below – I must add, this was the EASIEST and quickest dish to make – 20 minutes from start to finish :

Main Ingredients:

2 sirloin steaks, trimmed (rump or fillet – if you can, always go for Organic as worth the extra pennies)

7 ounces salad greens (any kind, I used a mixture of rocket and a salad mix from Sainsbury’s)

2 small red onions, finely sliced

10 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (I had NO idea what these were they look like a normal leaf – in the pack these were really crispy, so hard to shred, so I ended up just bashing them into little pieces)

3 large mild red chilies, seeded and shredded (can add more if you like a big punch)

2/3 cup coriander

2/3 cup mint leaf

Dressing:

1 teaspoon soya sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar or 2 tablespoons palm sugar (I used palm sugar – had never heard of it, however, Sainsbury’s had this so used it)

 Directions:

Cut the onion, red chilli, coriander, mint and kaffir lime leaves into thin slices.

 

Place salad greens, onions, kaffir lime leaves, chili, coriander, and mint into a salad bowl and toss lightly.

 To make the dressing, combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and stir well.

 Salt the beef on both sides.

Fill saucepan with 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, letting the oil heat up until piping hot

Add the beef being very careful whilst doing so as oil will spit when added.Cook on each side for 30 seconds and then turn again for another 30 seconds (this cooking method applies for medium rare for this recipe, if you can handle a little blood.)

Set aside for five minutes

Slice the beef thinly.

We like our’s really quite rare.

Place the beef on the salad and pour over the dressing.

Conclusion: This ended up, for once, turning out as I had hoped and was bursting with flavour and utterly yummy. I will definitely be making this regularly.

It’s Pimm’s O’clock – Pimm’s Ice Lollies

 

 A while ago I wrote about the nostalgia of food, and nothing reminds me quite like summer than Pimm’s does. Even though we haven’t had a summer as such, I was long overdue a slurp of this stuff and rather than making a standard Pimm’s, I thought I would try something with a twist – Pimm’s Ice Lollies.

Whilst at the “We Feast” food festival last week, we stumbled across/headed straight towards the alcoholic ice lolly stall (below) who were serving up Mojito, Bloody Mary, Mai Tai, and Pina Colada Ice Lollies – you can imagine my excitement – This was all the inspriation I needed to attempt an alcoholic ice lolly..

Equipment: for this recipe you will need lolly moulds. How cute are the one’s below I bought from Waitrose, I love my little umbrella lolly moulds…

 Ingredients

300ml/½ pint Pimms, or similar ‘fruit cup’

850ml/1½ pints lemonade

handful fresh strawberries, hulled, halved

few sprigs fresh mint, leaves only

Cucumber

Please note that the above measurements are for a lot more lolly’s than I made. My measurements were all based on what I thought were good amounts for the moulds that I had.

Place a couple of strawberry halves, a few mint leaves and a little cucumber into each lolly mould. Repeat the process as your ingredients get further to the top of the mould.

Pour the Pimms mixture into each ice lolly mould until three-quarters full. Insert the lid and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until frozen solid. (I left mine overnight)

Once frozen, dip the moulds briefly in hot water and carefully remove the lollies.

 

 Conclusion: Why not serve these naughty Pimms lollies instead of dessert at a summer barbecue/supper. They are super easy to make (no more than 10 mins) and will go down a storm. I will be making these as often as possible.

“We Feast”

 

I am back to work and back in the kitchen.

Having been thoroughly pi**ed off with myself with my recent lack of motivation, Will and I decided that what was needed was a weekend of food and inspiration, and that is exactly what we got.

Will bought tickets to “We Feast” in London Bridge, where we began our day. “We Feast” is a festival of food, taking in the world’s most sumptuous street food and creations from London’s top restaurants (including Moro, Morito, Yum Buns and Big Apple Hot Dogs).

Hungover and hungry we entered into the outside stalls and were hit by smells and visions of food like you have never seen before – I was in complete and utter heaven.  Just imagine being confronted with oozing meringues, pork belly buns that disintegrate in your mouth, slow roasted lamb shoulder in flatbread with Tatziki, slow pit-smoked pork shoulder with bbq sauce, to the weird and wonderful pigs head stew and alcoholic ice lollies to name a few.  To make things even better, as we were browsing where to begin our feast, we slurped on cocktails whilst listening various bands and dj’s .

 Below are a few examples of what we saw and what we ate. Get your taste buds ready…

On your marks…

 Most importantly before we began….

Slow pit-smoked pork shoulder with bbq sauce, coleslaw and spring onion. So good, I don’t know where to begin..

Slow roasted belly of pork bun with spring onion and hoisin sauce – I was still speechless at this point..

Slow roasted lamb shoulder in flatbread with tatziki

Glorious meringues..

Arancini (crispy fried risotto balls)..

Alcohol lollies, Genius…

Out of this world Pizza…

Anyone for some Pigs head stew?…..

Smoked Salmon…

Macaroons…

Best cured ham in the world….

Beef cheek and chorizo stew…

 Goodbye to We Feast…

Hello to another…

We ran over the road to Borough Market in our food coma to find some bits and pieces for supper – you could not get more inspiration when it comes to food than in this market, just incredible, here a a few snaps of the huge amount of incredible produce that is available…

White truffle honey – what dreams are made of…

beautiful scallops…

Cheese, huge cheese…

Turkish delight…

Fudge…

Bread….

Salami’s…

Beautiful bunches of Oregano..

Incredible olives…

Lastly, the ultimate indulgence….

After a long day of nothing but food, we headed straight home to prepare our supper from  our purchases at the market…

Conclusion:

It gets easier and easier to understand why people are so in love with London and all the incredible things that this city has to offer, Borough Market being one of them. The next time you want to do something different on a weekend, go there, it is impossible to be disappointed. Surprisingly, out of all the inspiration from the weekend and all of the things I could attempt to make, my first attempt is going to be an alcoholic ice lolly. Tonight I am going to make Pimm’s Ice Lolly’s – will post outcome this week. x

A broad bean disaster

 
It has been a manic few weeks of temping, weddings, baby showers, 30th’s and attempting to cook, mostly all in a martini haze (all the wonderful weddings we  have been lucky enough to go to all seem to be have a martini bar-where I have been sat at firmly in between being swung around on a dance floor and scoffing canapés.)The last few weeks have been so crazy that my blog has taken a back seat, however, after plenty of resolve (best hangover cure ever) I am back in the kitchen, on my computer, surrounded by a mess of pots and pans, a very large glass of wine and Fred, our Lhasa Apso who I am obsessed with. (see below – not sure he is keen on my disastrous next recipe attempt either)

The next recipe went wrong, really quite wrong. Can somebody please be honest – is it common knowledge that broad beans need to be removed from their shells? This is the point where you are all either laughing or are hopefully thinking “I didn’t know that either” (please be someone?). Anyway, I had absolutely NO idea, hence my soup looking like baby food with not a hint of green anywhere.It is also worth noting that when I mentioned to my husband that I was cooking a recipe with fresh broad beans, he firmly stated that it was a real pain cooking with these. I simply thought, I needed to get the beans out of the pods, failing to realise that once cooked, the white shell around the beans had to come off too. I was waiting for the broad beans to go green, thinking they would whilst boiling them, they didn’t and this soup ended up being cooked and whizzed with the beans still in their shells, as you will see, oops.

Anyway, for those that know you are meant to get the beans out of the shells, it may be worth having a go at the below recipe and trying to imagine it without the shells, if that is possible.

Here is my version of broad bean and pancetta soup…

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 140g Pancetta, cubed
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Leeks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 350g Podded broad beans
  • 1.2 litres Chicken stock

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole and add the pancetta and onion. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and the pancetta cooked.

 Add the garlic, leeks and carrots. Cover and leave to soften over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once everything has softened, add the broad beans and the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the beans are tender.

I then moved  the mixture into a large casserole dish to blend and purée. It is at this stage I believe I was meant to get the beans out of their shells. 

I was rather excited peering down on the above thinking what a lovely, hearty soup this may end up being. This excitement soon ended once i started whizzing:
Conclusion: DISASTER – Frankly, I am pretty miffed that I have been defeated by a little weird thing in a shell the size of my thumbnail. I have lots of broad beans left over so this evening will be attempting something else with them, remembering to remove them from their shells.
 

Greetings from Bali/Food Glorious Food

 

As I write this, the above photo is the view from our hotel in the jungle of Ubud in Bali, it is extraordinarily beautiful. This is an entirely different view from where I was this time 3 weeks ago preparing for this holiday to celebrate my 30th birthday  and my best friends wedding anniversary – my view was of my dermatologist  who I went to see due to pigmentation on my face and she told me I have the skin of a 37 year old. Fantastic. She also gave me one of those “well are you surprised?” looks whilst she gazed over my too truthful form about how many I smoke a day and how many units I drink a week. I wish I had lied.

I left her office with a ridiculously expensive bottle of factor 60 block and a new skincare routine which I am pretending to myself I am going to use for the rest of my life and promised I would give up smoking and cocktails – all lies.

It looks as though when I hit 40, if my dermatologist is right in her assumptions,  it will look as though my husband married a Cougar. Again, Fantastic.

This trip so far has without a doubt been worth the premature ageing and the food we have eaten in hong kong and now Bali, has been some of the best I have ever eaten in my life. We have eaten here there and everywhere from local markets, to restaurants, to shacks. A few of these dishes I am going to attempt to cook  when i get home, and below are two examples of what we have eaten in Hong kong and Bali.

Below are photo’s of the chefs preparing the dumplings and the dim sum we had in Din Tai Fung in Hong kong which are indescribable they were that good:

 

 

 

Below is one the chefs preparing the ribs we had last night in Ubud at Naughty Nuri’s. Naughty Nuri’s is famous for it’s ribs and these were off the scale. The meat fell off the bone and I have not been able to stop thinking about these since (It was too dark to photograph the actual ribs I ate in the restaurant):

 Much to my surprise and horror, below is a picture of my new favourite drink, this green concoction has no alcohol whatsoever and is made from mint, honey, ginger and lime.

 

Conclusion: We are off to an island called Lombok tomorrow where I will celebrate my 30th birthday and best friends wedding anniversary on Monday – I am trying to book in for some cooking lessons so will report back next week with the results. Happy Jubilee Weekend Everyone xx

Jubilee Cake- Fit for a queen

 “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” – Her Majesty the Queen

 

We won’t be here for the Jubilee, however, I really wanted to attempt to make something that others may want to try if they are here. My favorite of the recipes I came across was the Jubillee cake. If any of you are celebrating the Jubilee with a picnic or party, this would be a wonderful addition and is absolutley yummy.

The blueberries and rasberries on top are meant to look like the British flag – I slightly failed on this, however, my attention span/attention to detail is notoriously low, and am sure others will be able to achieve this.

Ingredients:

220g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
220g self raising flour, sifted
2 tbs milk
400ml of clotted cream (I made my own from double cream as the shop had sold out)
100ml double cream
1 jar of rasberry jam
200g fresh raserries
100g fresh blueberries

 prep time – 30-40 mins, cook time – 25-30 mins

Preheat oven to 180c and grease line round cake tins. Cream together the unsalted butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the eggs then add the vanilla extract and lightly fold in the self raising flour. The mixture should drop easily from a spoon, so loosen with a little milk if necessary.

 

Divide the mixture between the tins and level the tops.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins until risen and lightly browned. Turn the cakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

 

If you managed to find clotted cream, combine it with the double cream in a bowl. if it is too runny ,gently whisk by hand until it forms soft peaks. Our local shop had run out of cream so i made mine by whisking 400ml of double cream. (by the way this is the most boring, arm aching job and took 15 minutes – see below). I also added a few tablespoons of sugar to the cream miixture as i wanted it to be sweeter.

Take one sponge and spread one side of it generously with the rasberry jam. Repeat this process with the other sponge and the clotted cream.

 

 

 

Place the sponges on top of each other and spread the remaining clotted cream on top of the cake and decorate with the fresh berries in the pattern of a Union flag (please note failed attempt at this below).

Conclusion: I demolished the above piece in ten seconds flat. Even though a bikini body required for next week, this was absolutely worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhubarb Crumble

Continuing with the theme of foods that are in season, I am working near Daylesford Organic at the moment and when I passed them yesterday afternoon, they had crates of fresh Rhubarb being delivered.

Having never attempted to make a crumble, even though it is one of my favourite puddings, I rushed in after work and grabbed some rhubarb and made my first crumble last night. Aparently, never even think about eating or cooking the leaves of the rhubarb plant – they’re poisonous – good job I got told this by the shop assistant as if not, I would probably be dead.

Again, for someone like me who for the last 29 years has only cooked/been in my kitchen since starting this blog, this really is the most simple recipe and perfect for a supper party or pudding for a Sunday lunch.

Preparation time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 500g rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 3cm pieces
  • 50ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, cubed
  • 125g demerara sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.

Cut the rhubarb and put in a 1.2 litre ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle over the water and caster sugar.

Sift the flour into a bowl

Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

 Stir in the demerara sugar.

Spread the crumble mixture over the rhubarb – don’t pat it down too much.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the rhubarb bubbling through at the edges.

Serve hot with cream or ice cream.

Conclusion: Absolutely yummy. I always love the topping of a crumble more than the actual contents, and for those that prefer the contents of the crumble, I would definately use more rhubarb as this recipe is very heavy on the crumble topping.