Sunday, 31 May 2009

Video entries - yes or no?

I'm toying with the idea of posting some video entries:

It would provide endless amusement for you all to see what a prat yours truly really is.


It would provide endless amusement for you all to see what a prat yours truly really is.

Should I go for it? Everybody that knows how to open a packet of instant cake mix has their own cooking series on Youtube.
Would yet another one do that much damage?
It would probably just be a drop in the ocean to be honest.

But what do you all think - yay or nay?

Friday, 29 May 2009

Orange cake and summer eating.

Tonight two American scientists came to our house for dinner.
I think their accents are funny.
They have trouble understanding mine.
It's silly, at school I was teased for my accent being too 'English' and 'posh', but to the rest of the world I might as well be wearing a kilt and swilling whisky.

It was really hot here today, round about 25°C.
Dinner was simple as mother had no time to shop or cook, because she came home straight from work with the Americans in tow.
As an impromptu starter, we had houmous with a dusting of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil, olives, vividly pink radishes, crusty baguettes and a pressed ham hock terrine.

As the 'main course' there were prawns with garlic, red chilli and finely shredded basil, fish done on the barbeque (which unfortuently managed to fall apart spectacularly) and potatoes baked in cream and shallots which contrasted rather oddly with the otherwise light meal, but in my defence I had no idea what was happening and was instructed to make something, anything, with the mountain of spuds that had arrived with the veg box on wednesday.

For dessert it was yet another concoction I managed to bluff my way through - a rosewater, almond and orange cake with a honey and orange syrup poured over it. Very similar to the orange and poppyseed one in fact, but better.
It was extraordinarily dumb of me to completely make up a recipe when I was supposed to be impressing guests. Ah well, it ended up being delicious so that's all that really matters I suppose. I have no idea what the measurements were, but I basically creamed together butter and sugar (not too much sugar, as it would have been hideously saccharine with the syrup), added two egg yolks, ground almonds, rosewater, the juice of an orange + the zest. Flour was folded in and then the egg whites were beaten and stirred in gently. The syrup was the juice of one orange, half a lime, muscavado sugar and honey.

Annoyingly, there was an absence of any icing sugar in the house, so I had to serve the cake all covered in holes from where I had poured in the syrup, with no way to disguise them. Ugh.
It's an ugly looking creation, but one that tastes so, so gooooood.

I need to restrain myself..

from posting non-food related entries!
The only reason I allowed the previous 'At the moment..' to slip through was because there was a KitchenAid tucked in there somewhere.
I do apologise.
I have a new blog that's all about my futile attempts at being human.
It should distract me from posting non-foodie things on Cake.
Here's hoping!

Tonight: salted butter tart?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

At the moment..

The disadvantage of having your birthday so close to Christmas is that you have to wait a whole year to have gifts bestowed upon you. Those with summer birthdays only have to wait six months.
I want these items so bad that it hurts.
I fear that if I have to wait for another 7 months I may implode.
Yes, I know I shouldn't be focusing on material goods because that's badbadbad, and that other children have nothing, but I can't help it.
Feast your glazzballs on these beauteous objects and tell me you don't feel the same way:

I told you!
Look how beautiful and gorgeous and appealing and charming and colourful and amazing and fantastic and [insert more adjectives here] they all are!
Only 169 days to go...

Challah-like bread pt. 2 - (slightly) better photos.

I wasn't satisfied with the previous photos of my first loaf of bread.
So here are some new ones.*
Isn't this your lucky day?

Yet again my braiding is an epic fail, but the texture of this loaf is actually better than the last.
It looks a little dark because it's currently 2:39am. I felt slightly sick so went to bed at 5:00pm, woke up at 9:00pm, and now can't get to sleep again.
There's nothing like a little thereputic late night baking, so hopefully it will aid me in losing conciousness.

*I know, I know, they still really suck. It is, however, far too late at night/early in the morning to be worrying about artistic merit or even whether the photo is in focus or not.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Banana bread & my first attempt at risotto.

The family members that went to England (two siblings and both parents) returned today.
I wanted to cook something nice.
Possiblities were narrowed somewhat as dinner had to involve a whole cooked chicken that had been lurking in the fridge. Serving it whole was out of the question because it wouldn't stretch to seven people. A salad seemed too dull, sandwiches too pedestrian, a pie too boring. So funnily enough I settled on a dish that many find repellent in it's blandness, but seemed slightly exciting to me as I had never cooked it before. I have eaten risotto half-heartedly many times, yet never once made it myself.
I shredded the meat and used the carcass to make the chicken stock. I had no peas so instead sliced green beans into tiny rounds which were added with the shredded chicken to the risotto. Alongside, we had asparagus that had been brought from England. I forgot to add saffron.

Don't you hate it when bananas go brown before you have a chance to eat them? There were five like that in the fruit bowl this morning so I baked banana bread. We haven't had it in a while, so it was lovely to make it again.
Banana bread is pretty hard to get wrong. Case in point, I completely made up this 'recipe' today and it turned out beautifully. This recipe is not very sweet, so tweak the sugar content to your liking. I used five bananas to save them the fate of being chucked in the bin, however three is around the right number.
The riper the bananas the better.

Makes one loaf.

3 bananas
3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1/2 cup granulated or muscavado sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 free-range eggs
100g butter, melted
2 cups self-raising flour

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 350°F/gas 4
1. In a large bowl mash the bananas with the yoghurt, sugar, and eggs.
2. Stir in the butter, vanilla, salt and cinnamon.
3. Fold in the flour.
4. Pour mixture into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper. Bake until a skewer comes out clean.

This weekend was good.
My first loaf of bread and my first risotto.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

More late night baking & something vaguely challah-like.

I can't believe I have never baked a loaf of bread.
Not once.

Sibling no.2 has a ballet exam tomorrow and will be dancing all day so I thought I would make her something sustaining for breakfast tomorrow. Hence the fact that I am awake at 1:30am, glazing a loaf with egg before it goes in the oven. I am attempting to make challah - it's always seemed so tempting, but one of those things that I never really thought to make at home. After much researching, I decided all the recipes online differed too much from each other. Not knowing which one to pick, I cobbled together my own:

5 cups of plain flour, plus extra for kneading
1 & 1/4 cup lukewarm water
5g of dried yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
poppy seeds

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 350°F/gas 4
1. Combine the yeast, sugar, honey and a 1/4 cup of water and leave for a few minutes until frothy.
2. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and poppy seeds.
3. Into the flour add the oil, yeast mixture, cup of water and 3/4 of the egg.
4. Combine and knead on a floured surface, adding flour gradually until the dough is smooth and elastic.
5. Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a teatowel and leave for an hour or until doubled in size.
6. Split dough into three equal parts, and roll these parts into long snakes.
7. Lay the three parts alongside each other and press their ends together. Braid the dough and press the other ends together.
8. Place on a floured baking sheet, cover again with the teatowel and leave to rise for 45 minutes.
9. Using the remaining egg, glaze and scatter more poppy seeds on top if you want.
10. Bake until golden brown.

Makes one very large loaf.

You can see from the rather poor quality photo (sorry about that - the good camera is off to England along with half the family), I wasn't too great with the braiding. I am far too impatient. It didn't really matter in the end though - what a handsome loaf! And, wow, did it grow - as you can see, it rivals a cast-iron Le Creuset pot in size. I'm very pleased with my first attempt at bread.

Right, I'm going to sleep!

P.S. I have no idea how traditional my recipe is. All the recipes I came across stipulated using sesame/poppy seeds on the top of the loaf, whereas I put them through the dough too (I am a poppy seed fiend). I am certainly no expert, and haven't even eaten challah before. So this is most likely not the real deal. You have been warned!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Meat, meat and more meat. Oh, and some asparagus too.

Today was a fantastic day.
We went to Loch Lomond and frolicked on the beach and climbed trees and threw rocks into the water and clambered along rocky paths and climbed a small hill and smelled some wild mint and then stole some of said wild mint to plant in a pot and had a pub lunch and laughed when sibling no.2 fell down twice in a row and attempted to skim stones and sat in the sand and fell asleep in the car on the way home. It was fun.
It was also sunny and warm so we broke out the barbeque and had a protein-fest consisting of burgers, chicken and sausages. Along with that there were little pastry half-moons filled with feta cheese (M&S I'm afraid), asparagus with olive oil and chorizo, salad and olives. There were a few leftover baked potatoes from the other night (I was telling the truth when I said I hadn't eaten anything interesting recently), and the flesh was scooped out and mixed with spring onion and cheddar, and then baked in the skins. There were two profiteroles each for dessert.

Everyone was thoroughly confused as to why we had such a feast today. Mother basically read me her will as half of the family is travelling to England tomorrow and told me it was a possibility that they may die a horrific and fiery death on the motorway. So I am now doubly confused. Why the sudden paranoia?

I despise it when people pronounce chorizo as 'cho-RITZ-oh'. It drives me bloody insane.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

At the moment..

So I feel I ought to apologise for not posting anything in what feels like weeks but is in actual fact two days.
I haven't been eating anything very interesting.
We did have a chicken dish which was thighs and drumsticks roasted, coated in a sort of Chinese BBQ sauce*, and roasted again. A beancurd, cucumber, beansprout and peanut salad was served alongside. I was planning to write about it because it tasted great but was in a slightly weird mood that day and decided that the photos were, frankly, rubbish. So I forgot about it. Sorry.

But anyway, I was half-heartedly surfing through youtube and stumbled across something called 'Cooking Coarse' (purposefully misspelt). It's a series of little lessons in methods of cooking, rather than actual recipes. I completely agree with his 'philosophy', and ended up watching about 15 of the videos today alone! So to understand what the heck I'm babbling about, I must implore you to check out the below video:

*soy sauce, ketchup, sesame oil, chinese vinegar, five spice powder, sweet dark soy sauce, salt + pepper seasoning (which includes five spice powder, ginger powder, salt and sugar)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Italian beef stew.

Well, I say Italian, but it's nothing authentic.
This is a great way to make the most of a so-called 'inferior' bit of meat - after a few hours of cooking it becomes incredibly flavourful and everything melds together wonderfully.
There's also the added bonus of it being incredibly easy to do. Even though it takes a good 3 or 4 hours to cook, you're don't have to be anywhere near the stove during that time. It'll just bubble away quietly while you do other things. All in all this requires just 20 minutes of hands-on time.

1 kilo of braising steak, cut into chunks
3 medium red onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
salt + pepper
1/2 bottle of good red wine
1 tin of tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
3 bay leaves
4 large carrots
and an optional sprig of thyme, rosemary, oregano, whatever you have to hand

Serves 8

How to do it:
1. Chuck the onion and garlic into a big pot with the olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and cook over a low heat until softened.
2. Turn up the heat to medium and add the meat to the pot.
3. Add the wine, tinned tomatoes, stock cube and herbs. Grind in a fair amount of black pepper.
4. Top up with water and leave to simmer away for as many hours as you can, but a minimum of three. This makes the meat incredibly tender.
5. An hour before you plan to serve, add the carrots into the stew. You could also add mushrooms.

Today we had the stew with crushed potatoes and buttery pan-fried leeks.
It's also great with pasta, or even just some crusty bread to mop up the meaty juices.

P.S. I hate how stew always looks like dog food in photos. Delightfully delicious dog food, but dog food nonetheless.


I have 10* followers!
Thanks guys!

Tonight: Italian beef stew.

*Okay, so two are friends that were forced into it and one is my step-dad.. but still, 10!

Monday, 18 May 2009

At the moment..

I'm listening to Franz Ferdinand on Youtube of all places, since I can't afford the CD right now. Ugh, and I call myself a fan! I should be peddling crack just to be able to purchase it.

I dropped the boy off at nursery today. He was sporting a large cut underneath his eye from some toy-related incident.
I was wondering why the first thing the nursery lady said to me was 'What happened to his eye?' and was even more perplexed when she proceeded to ask him the same question as I was leaving. Being the naive idiot that I am, it didn't occur to me that she might have thought I/mother/step-father had beat on him until I had walken halfway back to the house. So rather unfortuently I am now a renowned child-beater. Fantastic.

On a more positive note, I made cookies!
Yes, yet another batch of deliciousness!
It's okay though, because I'm at the house so the family will eat them all to save me from myself. I just thought they should try the doughy awesomeness.
Today they're extremely grown-up cookies with 70% Green & Black's chocolate and hazelnuts. G&B's chocolate is quite interesting - it almost tastes like black olive and is very intense. I still can't decide if I like it or not.
Also, are cookies something that shouldn't be dressed up? Should they be trashy with bad milk chocolate all the way? Is attempting to make them more sophisticated a travesty? I am very undecided on this most controversial issue.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Late night baking - boysenberry & lemon biscuits.

So it's 11:00pm here and I've just put a tray of biscuits in the oven. It's not to satisfy some rampant craving, but rather sibling no.2 needs some baked goods for her tennis match tomorrow at 10:00am and I don't plan to be up earlier than that. So out of love for sleep & laziness, I'm doing them now. Perversely, it's the same amount of work and the same amount of sleep whether I make these today or tomorrow.. I guess I just like being awake later rather than earlier.

Note: the dough will seem too crumbly too bind together, but don't be tempted to add any more liquid, instead persevere and conquer!

This is adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Lemon Gems.

200g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
275g plain all-purpose flour
40g ground almonds
25g cornflour
boysenberry jam

How to do it:
1. Beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the lemon juice + zest, salt and egg yolk.
2. Fold in the flour, then the cornflour and ground almonds.
3. Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/350°F.
4. Shape the dough into balls and flatten onto a lined baking sheet.
5. With your thumb, press to make an indentation in the dough (for the jam to go in later).
6. Bake in an oven at gas mark 4 for roughly 20 minutes.
7. Once very lightly golden, remove and immediately spoon some jam into each indentation.
8. Leave to cool completely.
Makes roughly 20.

Variations: You could of course top with lemon curd to match the lemon in the dough. For orange biscuits, replace the lemon zest & juice with orange, and use marmalade for the top. For lime ones, use lime zest and juice and top with lime curd. Or, my siblings' favourite, add some crunchy peanut butter to the mix (beat in at the first stage) and use strawberry jam for the topping - delicious.

These were great. Crisp and buttery, not too sweet, and the boysenberry went nicely with the lemon.
Again, sorry for the rubbish photo! It was obviously rather dark, it being nighttime, so the flash had to be on. In real life the jam is a vivid purple, and the biscuits look like pretty little jewels.
Ah well.
You can always make them and see for yourself (:

Extreme deliciousness and an Indian takeaway.

First off, mother will probably want you to know that we hardly ever get takeaways.
We've given up on Cantonese ones because they aren't executed very well, do not do the cuisine justice and the quality of the chicken makes me want to vomit. The only pizza place near us is Domino's, and at £12 a pizza it's not very cost-effective for 7 people.. so basically, we never get takeaways.
The occasional exception to the rule, however, is an Indian takeaway. Unfortuently curry is one of the worst foods I could be presented with*. However, upon trying a new place, I have decided to give it another go. I generally enjoy sniffing at food (I do this when no-one is looking as it is quite a bad habit), and I must say, this smelt pretty nice.

What we ate:
- raita and chickpea salad
- chicken pakora and vegetable pakora
- lamb samosa
- naan
- potato paratha
- lemon and cashew rice
- chicken curry
- chicken and spinach marsala
- Delhi style lamb
- lamb kofta
- okra curry
- yellow split pea dhal
- gulab jamun
- AND carrot halwa which we got for free because we are awesome!

Even though I really couldn't face properly eating any curry*, I did try a scant amount of each sauce. It was outstanding for takeaway food - everything tasted fresh and vibrant rather than sad and old and greasy.

I had a samosa, some salad, two pakoras and some paratha;

And damn fine it was too, sir. In an average meat samosa most of the content is veg, but this one was stuffed full of lamb mince - in fact, I think I only detected three peas in all, an outstanding result I think you'll agree. The paratha (a type of flaky pastry/flat bread hybrid) was also absolutely delicious.

Okay, I must admit something. This whole meal was in fact a ruse. A cunning one to disguise the fact that all I really wanted was gulab jamun. These babies are the absolute pinnacle of perfection. They are basically balls of dough, deep-fried until dark brown, and then doused in a sugar syrup. They are 100% joy, 100% deliciousness, and a 100% better than doughnuts (!). They are also incredibly sweet, so eat all four at your peril and your dentist's disapproval.

Everyone was overjoyed since the last time we had them was.. actually, I can't even remember. They are quite tricky to get hold of because not many shops stock them, and if they do, they're all the way over in the other side of Glasgow.
So all in all, this was a pretty fantastic dinner.
I shall sign out with another shot of the lovely golden spheres, and a video of a lady named Manjula showing us how to make them - whatever else?

*There was an unfortunate incident about a decade ago in which I was rather violently sick after eating some curry. Only recently have I been able to smell any kind without feeling faintly nauseous, but there's still a fair few years to go before I could face actually ingesting any.

Friday, 15 May 2009

A lonely dinner - chicken macaroni soup.

You know how food from other countries can seem really strange? And then you think to yourself, 'it's obviously not strange for them, because that's whast they've grown up with.. but DAYUMN! That's some weird food.'
Well, this is a dish that may seem slightly weird to some. I mean, it's not outlandish in any way, but I find a lot of people don't really get how delicious this soup is!
I don't think of it as anything exciting since I've been eating it my whole life. Actually, it's one of my top 3 favourite meals ever, but whatever.
Chicken macaroni soup (praise the lord) is from Singapore, where my mum grew up, and it is absolutely divine. I don't know why I like it quite as much as I do, but there you go.
As usual, I don't have any weights or measurements because this is also a meal that heavily depends on personal taste. Go with what you feel you will like, but if you feel you want some weights, give me a shout.

chicken (breasts, thighs, wings, a whole bird, whatever you've got)
garlic cloves
spring onions (i.e. scallions, green onions, salad onions)
a red chilli
soy sauce
sesame oil
sriracha chilli sauce
chicken stock cube or concentrate

How to do it:
1. Fill a big pot with water and place over a medium heat. Add the raw chicken. (The base of the soup is a chicken stock so meat on the bone is best, but you can use breast meat and add more stock cubes.)
2. Chop up the rest of the ingredients for the stock.
Slice the ginger into thick coins, and squash the garlic cloves under a knife. Add to the pot.
3. While the stock is bubbling away happily, get on with the garnishes.
Finely slice the spring onions and place in a ramekin or small bowl. Slice the chilli into rounds, as thinly as you can, and put in another ramekin. Chop up the coriander, and, you guessed it - put in a remekin.
4. Once the chicken has cooked and become tender, remove from the pot and shred the meat. Throw away the bones and put the shredded meat into a serving bowl. Taste the stock. It'll probably need some more chicken flavour, so add a cube or concentrate from a bottle. Keep the stock on a low simmer.
5. Cook your beansprouts by blanching them in a big pot of boiling water. You want them to still have some crunch so don't overcook them. Put the cooked beansprouts to the side. In the same water, cook the macaroni according to packet instructions. Once cooked and drained, return to the pot and douse in sesame oil to stop it from sticking and also to give a faint aroma that's crucial to this dish.
6. Pour some soy sauce over the sliced red chilli in the ramekin.
7. To serve: place the ramekins of spring onion, chilli in soy sauce and coriander on the table along with the bowls of beansprouts and chicken and the pots of soup and macaroni. Also have on the table the condiments (soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli sauce). Construct your own bowl of soup and enjoy!

This is the way we have it at home - everyone serves themselves and adds as much or as little of each component as they want.
I have my chicken soup with lots of shredded chicken, beansprouts, sliced chilli, a squirt of sriracha, copious amounts of spring onion and lots of soy sauce.
Your finished bowl, however you wish to garnish it, will be fragrant with ginger, very faintly garlicky, and extremely, extremely delicious.
You could also have some chinese veg in this, such as pak choi, or substitute the macaroni for noodles (but trust me, macaroni is the best here!).

Sorry for the rubbish photo. I'm at the flat so I only have access to a rather old compact digital camera. (But look how sparkling and white my stove is ;D) And unfortuently I don't have those lovely big chinese bowls at the flat, or chinese spoons so I had to have it in a tiny white bowl ):

I love chicken macaroni soup more than life itself.

The cookie saga continues! (And possibly ends)

Today I was reflecting. Reflecting upon my failure to bake a proper cookie. Yeah, yesterday's were okay but they just weren't good enough.
Well, I decided that this pitiful character flaw cannot go unchallenged so I tried a new recipe today.

2 cups + 2 tablespoons plain all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 sticks (170g) butter, melted
1 cup soft light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg +1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate chips

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 325°F/Gas mark 3
1. Combine together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. Combine the melted butter, two sugars and vanilla extract and beat together. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until thick and homogenous.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until combined.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Roughly shape into balls - the craggier the better - and bake for roughly 15 minutes.
6. Take out when the edges are lightly browned. You want them to look slightly underdone in the middle - they'll harden slightly upon cooling and still be soft and chewy.

I don't know exactly how many this recipe makes since I only baked one as a test run and froze the rest of the uncooked mix in logs. Since mother reads this blog I thought it best not to be gorging myself on dough. However, I would guesstimate it to make about 15 chocolatey circles of delight. (UPDATE: It makes 12 large cookies.)
And, yes, these are about as near to perfect that I'll probably ever get. They're thick and chewy and soft and pretty amazing.
I implore you to make these as soon as possible. In fact, just go and do it now. Yes, you. Make them. Make them now! And tell me how you get on (:

NOTE: The dough will seem really crumbly and won't mix together easily, but do not add more liquid! Persevere and squidge it together with your hands.
Also, the recipe specified unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp of salt. I used salted butter and also the extra salt. Possibly because I am a disgusting human being, but whatever. They taste goooood.

Original recipe here.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Chocolate chip cookies.

Oh no! I can't find my ancient digital camera that I keep here at the flat. No photo today ):
I've only made CCCs twice before, and they have always been disasters - flat, spongy, delicious disasters. You know the type of cookie that's really chewy and thick? That's what I've aimed for, but when they come out of the oven they've collapsed into cakey puddles of (not so much) joy. They tasted nice and were chewy, but it just wasn't what I wanted.
So I've been scouring the internet ever since for a recipe that sounds good, and decided for this one. I halved the mixture because the full amount claims to, rather disconcertingly, make 60 cookies. So these are the modified amounts.

1 & 1/8 cup plain all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Chocolate chips

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 375° F/Gas mark 5
1. In one bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. In another cream together the butter (I used salted but you can use unsalted) and both sugars. Beat in the egg until the mixture is homogenous and completely blended - it will be quite runny.
3. Add the flour mix into the butter mix and stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips (or chocolate that you've chopped yourself).
4. Shape into balls and place onto a lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for roughly 10 minutes until slightly golden, then take out and leave to cool for however long you can restrain yourself. If you want smaller cookies make the balls of dough smaller and bake for 7/8 minutes, and bake for longer if you want bigger cookies.

By halving the amounts, this is meant to give 30 cookies. I actually got about 15 from it, and these weren't even very big. This recipe is fantastic, the cookies come out browned but soft inside, and perfectly sweet and salty.
However, it's still not exactly what I'm looking for - I'm beginning to think only factory machines can make the perfect American cookie. ):

Original recipe here.

Oh, and you can roll any unused cookie dough into a log, wrap in clingfilm, and store in the freezer. They can be baked without thawing.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Chilli con carne pt. 2

Wanted to make guacamole. Cut one avocado open and it was brown. Cut the second one open and it was brown. Dammit.

Ah well. We had salsa, grated cheddar, sour cream, tortillas and rice. Some disgustingly decadent individuals even had a mix of chilli and rice within a tortilla.
Personally I find the texture of the mince with the tortilla too soft, and with rice too same-y, so I compromised and toasted my filled tortilla (chilli, cheese, salsa) in a dry pan. I had it with salad and dipped the wrap into sour cream. It was okay - I guess I'm just not that into chilli. Except of course two days later, when the flavours intensify and everything is just a heck of a lot better. The photo is unfortunate in the way that the lovely black beans in the chilli aren't visible.
And is it just me or does that blob of delectable sour cream look a little like an albino fried egg?

A very basic salsa recipe:
Chop two tomatoes, a red pepper, a little coriander and one spring onion finely. Make garlic paste by crushing one small clove with salt under a knife. Mix everything in a bowl, squeeze some lime juice over and mix again.

Chilli con carne.

There was a load of mince to be used so I decided on chilli for two reasons:

1. Apart from some initial chopping and getting everything together etc., it's a very easy meal - plonk it all in a pot and simmer for a good few hours. Okay, that may be oversimplifying things but you get the jist ;D
2. The whole family likes it. With seven of us, there's going to be at least one person (usually me) that doesn't like what's on offer. We're all very good and eat it anyway, but it's nice to have something that everyone looks forward to.

So here's the first ever recipe I've posted on the blog. I don't use measurements because a) something like a chilli is really all about your own personal taste and b) I actually have no idea what the measurements are... indeed, the ingredients vary too depending on what there is to hand! Tinker with this recipe to your heart's content. Oh, and if you have it handy, a single square of 70% dark chocolate is always good to add in.

Steak mince (1kg)
Chopped tinned tomatoes (two cans)
Two medium red onions (finely chopped)
Three cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
Olive oil or vegetable oil
Beans (kidney beans, turtle beans, whatever you like)
Smoked paprika
One dried smoked chipotle chilli
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Tomato ketchup
Chilli sauce of your choice.

Serves 8.

How to do it:
1. Add your oil to a large pot (enough to coat the garlic and onion). Put the pot over a medium heat and add the finely chopped onion and garlic. Stir until softened. Add the mince. (You can brown the meat if you want but I don't bother since I'm using such a large amount.)

2. Once no more pinkness is visible in the mince add the two tins of chopped tomatoes, a glug of soy sauce and a generous shake of worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine then top up with water. (I leave the chilli to simmer for about three hours, so I add a lot of water. You may want to add less) Adjust the heat so everything starts to simmer.

3. Add your spices and seasoning - today I used cumin, smoked paprika, a smoked dried chipotle chilli, a little chipotle sauce, a squeeze of ketchup and, of course, salt. Play about with whatever flavours you wish.
4. Add in your beans.

5. Leave to simmer gently for as long as possible - the longer the better - because the flavours will get better and the meat will be tender. Remember to stir everything together every so often so it doesn't all burn onto the bottom of the pot.

6. When it's thick and a lot of the water has evaporated it's ready. Serve with guacamole, salsa, tortillas, rice, sour cream, cheese... whatever you want. You could also have it with corn chips, or cornbread (chopped green chilli and cheddar in cornbread is delicious).

At the moment..

I'm watching Archie the inventor gyrate suggestively to a musical picnic hamper on Balamory. They also focused in on his sporran-clad crotch which was rather alarming. Children's programme my arse.

Tonight - chilli con carne.

Monday, 11 May 2009


I stuck a lidded pot full of lamb (on the bone of course), whole garlic cloves and whole shallots, in the oven three hours ago. And my, my, my, it is smelling gooood.
After rifling in the fridge for a bit I settled for carrots, new potatoes and beetroot to be roasted alongside the lamb. There was also a monster celeriac lingering in the fridge drawer that really had to be used soon, so it was promptly sliced very thinly, and layered in a buttered baking dish. Some cream was chucked over, a few lumps of butter dotted were over the surface, and into the oven that went. Sort of like a celeriac dauphinoise I suppose, as there was no cheese involved.
Celeriac & I have a fraught relationship, as it's smell when raw is reminiscent of some vile medicine I had to force down as a child. How unfortunate then that I still have celeriac-odour lingering in my hands, despite having washed them three times. It's also the bane of everyone's veg box, sitting there all lumpily like the prize no-one wanted at a fair. Poor, poor celeriac. It's not really it's fault that it happens to be a hideous root, desperate to be loved as much as the humble potato.

The photo really isn't up to much, so I'll describe it instead: the beetroot stained the carrots an amazing vivid purple, the celeriac was delicious and creamy (I'll have to take sister no.2's word for it since I didn't eat any), the beetroot was outstanding and went surprisingly well with the lamb, but the best part was the roasted garlic and shallots which we squidged out of their skins. They were mellow and soft and utterly beautiful.

10.00pm: Mother just made a chocolate and beetroot cake to take into work tomorrow. Why must I be tempted with cakey wafts of goodness coming from the kitchen? Ugh.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Pizza night!

Ordinarily, mother doesn't view pizza as a proper meal, but I managed to convince her that it was a good idea. Usually I lack the patience to let the dough rise properly, roll it into thin, individual bases and leave again for a short while to rise (which is why in the past everyone's ended up with two gargantuan, doughy pizzas to share). Thank goodness I did it properly this time - the end result was a lovely crisp base. The oven, which is usually a sort of nemesis, was fantastic at cooking the individual bases to perfection when on at full blast. I also chucked in a few sausages since the family are dedicated carnivores and would miss the protein in an otherwise carb-rich meal.
The adults had spinach and sausage pizzas, the kids had theirs plain (apart from sister no.2, who is infatuated with onions in any form) with sausages on the side. I was thoroughly disgusting, and went slightly overboard with a vile - yet sooo delicious - topping of spinach, pineapple and jalapenos. I know, I know. But I enjoyed it ;D We ate it with a simple mixed-leaf salad with very finely sliced red onion. Unfortuently everyone ate their pizza with such gusto that I didn't have time to get a photo before it was demolished.

Tomorrow: something with lamb shanks.

P.S. you can find the pizza dough recipe
here. It specifies the use of a bread maker, but you can do everything by hand which is what I did.


It was mother's and step-father's 7th anniversary the other day. Seeing as it was only two days ago you would think I'd be able to remember what we had for dinner*. Alas, I cannot, and only have memories of dessert because there was photographic evidence!
Anyway - cheesecake. Personally I favour the unbaked kind, but since mother is on the baked team I made the latter.
It was originally a plain cheesecake with a hint of citrus through it (juice of half a orange), but then someone managed to excavate some raspberries from the freezer so I made raspberry sauce to go with it (raspberries, the rest of the orange juice, tiniest hint of vanilla).
Unfortuently this was definitely the worst cheesecake I have ever made - I ran out of sugar so it wasn't sweet enough, and we were one pack of cream cheese short - but the flavour of orange and raspberry together worked nicely. Disaster (not quite) averted.

*Update: STEAK! We had steak! I totally remember now!

Hazelnut brownies.

A few weeks ago my aunt came down from London to stay for a few days, an occasion that clearly warranted brownies. So brownies it was.
I have a huge dislike for brownies that think they're cakes - the only proper type in my book is one that is fudgy and in some cases, gooey. These were very chocolatey and fudgy indeed and I decided to top them with hazelnuts.
As you can see from the photo, a gooey brownie makes for a messy brownie. I actually kinda like the big, shambling pile it made though.
The children (2 cousins on top of the usual) weren't huge fans, instead preferring the whipped cream that was served alongside. What is it with women and chocolate, though? I myself am female and yet I'm pretty sure I don't like chocolate that much.. mother, and aunt, on the other hand, love the stuff. Maybe I've not got as much oestrogen as I would have liked..

Orange & Poppyseed Cake.

On friday I was babysitting sibling no.4. Understandably, he didn't want to go to nursery so we baked instead. Plan A was actually peanut butter-nutella cupcakes, but we found to much dismay that mother had run out of cupcake cases (Update: they were tucked away at the back of the cupboard. Gah.) so settled for an orange & poppyseed cake.
Not knowing how to make one and not bothering to look up a recipe, we instead creamed butter and sugar, added 3 eggs and the juice of an orange + zest, poppyseeds, self-raising flour and ground almonds. A whole lot of guesswork and a kitchen covered in cake mix later, a delicious cake was born!
Sibling no.4 then proceeded to poke holes in the top with a skewer, which he thought was lots of fun. So I covered the whole lot in some orange-vanilla syrup (muscavado sugar, juice of one orange, vanilla extract). The result - a deliciously damp, sticky, orange-y cake full of little blue poppyseeds.

Who wants to bet I won't be able to re-create it ever again?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A birthday lunch at La Vallée Blanche.

Today was the step-father's 52nd (52nd!) birthday, and luckily for everyone involved (mother, the birthday man, sibling no.2, 3 & 4 and myself) he chose to go to La Vallée Blanche for lunch. And, dear lord, this restaurant is seriously, seriously, good.
It's formal enough to feel special, but really relaxed and comfy enough to bring kids to (although I get horribly stressed when going out to a restaurant with the family, and I really wouldn't want to go there for dinner accompanied by small kiddies). You completely forget the ambience, however, because when the food comes you focus on little else. Everything is just so well balanced, seasoned perfectly, and the great ingredients make everything outstanding.
Even something as potentially bland and uninteresting as a vegetable salad was a complete delight - the shallot dressing was lovely, and not at all onion-y, and the vegetables were so small, cute and tasty I felt slightly guilty at the display of carrot infanticide. Potted chicken with toasted onion bread was utterly delicious, as was the chargrilled pork chop with cassoulet.
For dessert, the sister had lemon posset & blood orange panna cotta. The posset was lovely, but I thought the panna cotta was outstanding. The youngest brother (3) demolished a pot au chocolat with thyme shortbread. Luckily I managed to get a spoonful - it was intense and smooth and very very good, and the shortbread was beautifully light and crisp with a hint of the herb about it.
The birthday man was very upset when he saw everyone else getting some exquisite petits fours. I told him that it was probably because we were having dessert and it made no sense to have them at the same time. Thank goodness they came with the bill, because I was worried everyone would start crying if they had stayed absent. There were tiny profiteroles, cubes of pineapple jelly (like a grown-up fruit pastille, except brimming with flavour), pistachio jelly, peanut butter biscuits, and some more of the thyme shortbread. These were promptly demolished by the children, and thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, and I guess I should mention that a three-course lunch is £12.95 - an astounding price given the outstanding quality of food and service. There's also a fantastic burger if you don't fancy the French/Scottish theme.
So, if you're ever on Byres Road (Glasgow, Scotland), this restaurant is most certainly worth a visit.


There seems to be a huge following for cupcakes nowadays, which is attracting more and more people every day. It is understandable - they're sweet and cakey enough to feel like a treat but, crucially, small enough to not feel like you're pigging out. They also now come with a plethora of pretty designs which helps matters somewhat.
I've always liked cupcakes, so the other day I made a tray for my younger sister's tennis match. I reckoned it's what a bunch of preteen girls would like. Safe bet indeed - they were a hit, and had the mothers angling for one, too. I used the usual equal butter-flour-sugar & two egg mixture, and topped with a generous amount of vanilla buttercream.
Unfortuently, I was using my mother's oven and the cupcakes got a little more brown, and rose a little more unevenly, than I would have liked (said oven has a door that leaves a 2-inch gap, and only two temperatures: warm gently & blitz).
However, the most best part was when one girl ate the blossom flower, thinking it was intended to be consumed, and proclaimed it to taste 'a bit funny'. In hindsight, it would probably have been a good idea to point out that the decoration was not edible.
Ah, fun times!

First post!

I am not at all familiar with blogging - as it happens this is my first experience of one, so bear with me (: Basically, what I plan to do here is blog about things I cook, post a few recipes, and some photos. It'll take me a while to get comfortable and write something interesting - at the moment it feels rather like I'm talking to myelf. I guess that's it for now!