Monday, December 31, 2007

apron dress


I'm hanging up my apron in 2008. I am going to try and stop escaping into the kitchen for frequent sugar highs and instead start making items of lasting value.

I have started by making a apron-dress for the girls with some old Ikea fabric I've had for years. It's lined with bright lime fabric for contrast and it ties at the shoulders. It absorbs all the spills and dribbles a toddler/child makes, and it also looks practical and dare I say it, a little charming.

I'm thinking of making it Evie's school uniform, just whizz up a set of various colour-way gingham aprons, so to avoid the daily scrummage of  'what to wear - where to find it - and will she wear it if it's not pink.'


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

candied orange peel


Christmas just wouldn't be complete if I didn't candy orange peel to dip in chocolate, and also make fig salami. And if you are one of the lucky recipients, I hope you're not bored of them yet!

My slight obsession for candying orange peel started when I worked at Yetman's  Restaurant, I think the recipe we used was from a Jane Grayson book. We would add the peel to biscuits and also dip it in dark chocolate to serve with coffee. Although the recipes we used then was good, the peel never lasted long. We would always find it had gone mouldy even in an air tight tin.

I've tried many other recipes since, often concocting my own methods with OK results but more often, it would turn out too hard or too soft. But the one recipe that has worked the best is from the excellent book, Preserved by Jonny Acton and Nick Sandler. The reason this recipe seems to work, is because it takes about 5 days of  consuming huge amounts of sugar and also has a dose of glucose syrup in the final boil up.

I often struggle to follow a recipe and that, combined with my inability to understand anything numeric, means my food measuring can be a little hap-hazard. The quantity of peel required in the Preserved book is a little on the industrial size, so I have subtracted and divided to the best of my ability and come up with a recipe that seems to work just fine.

Candied Orange Peel

Approx 6 organic or un-waxed oranges, scrubbed and quartered. The peel should weigh about 600g.

Approx 1 kg sugar (granulated or caster)

Approx 150g glucose syrup

Day 1

  • Cut most of the flesh from the peel. I like to leave some flesh on as it makes the strips more succulent once they are dipped in chocolate.

  • Add the peel to large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 mins.

  • Drain, and repeat above process.

  • Drain again. Keeping the peel in pan, and add approx 600g sugar. Cover with water until peel is just submerged. Heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and simmer for 30mins.

  • Turn off the heat and let the peel cool in the pan with a lid on.

Day 2

  • Remove the peel with a slotted spoon and add 100g of sugar.

  • Bring to the boil then return the peel to the pan.

  • Turn off heat and replace lid.

Day 3 and 4

  • Repeat above process

Day 5

  • Repeat above process, only you use 150g of glucose syrup instead of sugar and boil rapidly for 20mins or until reduced by half. Then place the peel in the pan and leave for a few a few hours.

  • Using tongs, remove pan from peel and lay out on drying/cooling
    racks or silicone paper to dry for up to 4 days or until it's lost a
    lot of it's moisture. You can also place in very cool oven if you want to speed things up.

  • Wrap it in a silicone paper, then put it in air tight box and store somewhere cool - it should last for months.

  • If you want to try tempering the chocolate to get that glossy, professional chocolatier look, good luck. To my utter annoyance, I seem to fail every time, and I do try every time.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

dense chocolate brownies


Some months back I stumbled across the blog Coco & Me,  at the time I was searching for a recipe for those perfect pastel macaroons when I clicked on a link to Coco & Me's step-by-step guide. Tamami's food instantly grabbed my attention and I often look at her blog, she is achieving something I have always thought about doing myself.

Tamami runs a chocolate and cake stall at Hackneys Broadway Market and her food looks amazing. She manages to bake from home for the stall on the days leading up to Saturday's market. She also has a toddler and is expecting another. I'm impressed. 

This week I was asked to provide food for a 'work' lunch for a good friends business meeting. She enjoys my food and I thought it would be a fun if a little hectic thing to do. So with the help of my wonderful parents in the house distracting the girls from 'helping', I did manage to provide what I had hoped would be a pleasing lunch for all.

I decided not to make sandwiches, (although it would have been easier) but instead I made a sweet potato, feta, onion and cumin tart;  lamb kofta's, pita, tzatiki, houmous. Slices of fresh melon and pineapple and grapes, home-made cookies and chocolate brownies for a price of £10 a head. I know I would have been happy to eat it and I believe everyone was, except the boss who wouldn't even try anything and instead, sent his secretary out for a white bap. I know he was peeved at the cost, he could have "bought in lunch for much less", but I couldn't help but feel deflated, annoyed that the boss didn't try my food and also slightly embarrassed that I had prepared something a little different and possibly charged too much. Yet I know the time and effort I took deciding, cooking, shopping and delivering not to mention the quality of ingredients that went into the lunch.

But it was a good learning curve. It reminded me of a post a few months back on Coco & Me where at Broadway Market, someone had challenged Tamami about the cost of her tarte tatin (but still bought it) and left saying “I should remember never to buy cakes from you.” 

On a brighter note, I think the  chocolate brownies I made were pretty delicious. They are wheat-free but certainly not fat-free. Moist and dense and they would last for days and days in the fridge if they weren't so damn tasty. I think I always under-cook my brownies, I  prefer them fudgy to cakey but I realise fudge isn't everyone's cuppa tea. If you prefer them cakey, just cook them for longer.

With this batch, I forgot to add the toasted hazelnuts until the mixture had been in the oven for a few minutes. Rather than omitting them completely, I threw them on the top of the slightly baked mixture and then put the tin back in the oven. I now actually think I prefer this look than them being concealed inside the dark cake.

Dense Chocolate Brownies

190g salted or unsalted butter (I like salted)

190g good quality (74%  cocoa solids) chocolate ( I swear Lidls is the best!)

3 large free range eggs

250g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

150g toasted hazelnuts or walnuts

17cm x 26cm tin lined with silicone parchment paper

Heat oven to 150Âșc

  1. In a heavy based pan, heat the butter and chocolate on a very low heat until melted.

  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with a balloon whisk

  3. Pour the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mix and beat until combined, thick and glossy.

  4. Gently stir in the ground almonds and whole nuts (or leave nuts for throwing on top) and pour into lined tin.

  5. Bake for 30 - 40 mins or until the top starts to puff up and crack.

  6. Place the cake tin on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely until cutting. (Cutting the brownies with a wet, hot knife makes it look slightly neater).

  7. Heat and eat with ice-cream or cut it into small pieces, and like me, eat it straight from the fridge when the girls aren't looking.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

feisty food thrower


Last week, Matilda threw a spoonful of  soggy Bran flakes onto the right hand corner of my laptop (Urrgghhh) while Evie was familiarising herself with some simple games on CBeebies website. Yes, jealousy is Tilda's favourite game. In the past, the laptop has escaped a few minor sploshes and it's consumed a number of biscuits, but this sticky dollop has killed my delete key and muffled a speaker. I know I can cut and paste but it's eally very annoying not having a delete key. I never had to confront the fact that my typing is so utterly bad until now. I miss it and want it back. But I don't think that is possible unless I go down this route of  keyboard autopsy which I confess, I would love to do. Sad? Yes. Geeky? Yes but... No, I just relish the thought of sitting still for 6 hours.....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

millionaires cupcakes


The other week, heavily pregnant Mia arrived with a bag of irresistible millionaire's shortbread. In the bag, were four individual chocolate topped shortbread in large muffin cases. I was inspired. What a great way of  serving the often messy to cut indulgence. Better still, she told me she just whizzed up a packet of shortbread fingers, added some melted butter and just pressed them into the white paper cases. So, last week I gave it a go. I think my shortbread base was too thick but Stu, being slightly Scottish loved it. With the caramel, I couldn't decide whether to boil the condensed milk in the tin, in a vat of water for several hours and risk it exploding, or, to use the other and quicker method - heating it in a pan with butter and sugar. I went for the later, I wanted full fat, billionaires shortbread.

And congratulations Mia and Sam, who have since given birth to a little girl called Mali -  very perfect and very beautiful.

Mia's Millionaires Cupcakes

1 packet 'all butter' shortbread fingers
50g melted butter

...for the caramel
120g butter
120g soft brown sugar
397g tin of condensed milk
large pinch of sea salt flakes

200g  chocolate (70% cocoa)
1 tsp sunflower oil

  1. Empty biscuits in food processor and whizz.

  2. Melt butter and pour in to whizzing crumbs.

  3. Press the biscuit mixture evenly into the 12 (or more) cup cake / muffin cases.

  4. Empty all the caramel ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring constantly until starting to caramelise. You want it to be a toffee colour although that is not essential.

  5. Place the muffin tray in the fridge.

  6. Break chocolate pieces into a bowl and heat over a pan of hot water.

  7. Once melted, add a teaspoon of sunflower oil. This is suppose to add a gloss to the chocolate like tempering but It didn't really work for me, but neither does tempering, but that's another story....