Sunday, 27 November 2011

Scandilicious Krumkaker

An afternoon of making and baking - now what to make?  Scandilicious has a recipe for Norwegian Kurmkaker (cornets)  I think. I had a look to see what a cornet iron looked like, for some reason thinking it would look something like a clothes iron but longer.  It doesn't.  Rather it is an electric round press, more like a Tortilla Press.

I have been holding off making these cornets, as I couldn't be bothered to make the template.  I wrongly assumed it would take more time than the 2 minutes it actually did.  They turned out really well and taste really good although it did take me a couple of goes to get the shape going.  Now I can impress the Norwegian lot - well the kids mainly - when I see them again in the new year.

 Template and batter discs prior to cooking.

Disc's prior to rolling - if you don't do it when hot they crack as they roll.

 Finished cornets with homemade blackberry icecream, not too bad for a first go.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Lighthouse Bakery

What a trip.  I got lost twice and it took me over an hour more than I had anticipated to get there.  Got myself into such a state I was actually screaming in the car at my own stupidity - I haven't done that before!  When I did finally arrive they had only just finished their talk about breads and the practical bit was starting.

We were taught by the lovely Liz.  She had a good way with people and had everyone at their ease very quickly getting everyone smiling and chatting.  All the starters had been made that morning, at about 2am or something ridiculous, and were ready for us to use in our wonderful bread creations.  I learnt how to get a tight form for my dough and actually its the dough I should spray to get a nice crust on my bread hence, I am not going to bother spraying the inside of the oven again.

Lunch was a great mushroom risotto with our first batch of bread rolls and salad for lunch.
We left with enough bread to feed an army.  I think we came away with 6 types of bread each, a cottage loaf, wholemeal loaf, epis, baguette, caraway loaf and some other loaf which I can't remember the name of.
I do feel like I bought the shop out, but I had only bought what I felt I needed and no more, a (very heavy) baking stone, a lame (a handled razor blade to slash the dough), a lined proving basket and couches.  It was great fun and I feel like my bread will be improved, so now all I have to do is put it all into practice. 

 A selection of loaves

Liz with our cottage loaves

Once I got home and showed off my breads to the fam.  The girl ate the epis, a baguette which has been snipped and twisted prior to baking to look like a shaft of wheat.  With the baguette I made a quick sandwich for myself and the hubby with fried off cured ham, tomatoes, onions, thinly sliced red pepper and drizzled with olive oil not forgetting the seasoning.  I toasted the slices of bread on the griddle & rubbed on some garlic clove.  To give it some heat I smeared on some of my homemade hot chilli jam - not too much, its hot stuff. And wha-la a very delicious end of day fix.  Although, not quite enough to fill the hubby, who then proceeded to have some of the wholemeal bread with smoked salmon as a chaser.  Needless to say lots of bread left over and to the freezer it shall go.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Carb on Carb

Just a quickie - yesterday I was so hungry that I knew just eating Spaghetti Bolongnaise wouldn't fill me.  It had to be made into a sandwich.  Nothing fancy just plain bread and butter, but boy was it delicious and filling.
I had already eaten the first before I took a breath to take a picture.

Yum, yum, in my tum!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

MsMarmite's Underground Farmers Market

Had a great time being chief person stamper at MsMarmite's market's over the weekend.  Friday night was great fun and more importantly it didn't rain.   I was on the door with Colin and Jane who were brill and really good craic.  Seemingly I managed to get a little bit blotto, something to do with Alexander coffee's and fancy cocktails, there might also have been a bottle of wine in there somewhere.  I do know that I wandered home with not a donner kebab tucked under my arm but, a very tasty Fosse Meadows Farm rotisserie chicken - it was delicious!  As Fosse Farm says "Happy chickens are tasty chickens", a bit more expensive but worth it.  I usually buy my chickens free range from the butcher, but I like the thought of knowing a bit more about the provenience of the bird.  The Fosse guys have a stall at the Sunday market in Queens Park, so that's where I shall be venturing to get my chicken in future - shush don't tell my butcher!!!!!

It never ceases to amaze me, who comes to these events.  People I think, enjoy the subversive note it has while being within the law, being part of that clique perhaps, of not being too conformist.  Maybe its as simple as just doing something different.  The vibe really was phenomenal.  I'm sure there was somebody from every country represented.  There was a whole spectrum of types, from early 20's hip and happening peeps to couples with babies and even a crowd in their early 60's turned up.  Although they seemed very trendy, so perhaps not too surprising.  There was great coffee and ice cream at the front, live music on the terrace and a Jail House cocktail bar serving through the bars of a bedroom window.  Cooking demo's in the kitchen and a bar in a bath with oysters on the side, served by Big Dave (who was just lovely).  I did have a feeling of deja vu on the Saturday afternoon but it turns out that some people came on both days.  As I was soooo busy stamping people I have no photos to post, other than the one Kirsten sent me, so have a look at MsMarmites blogspot for lots of great pictures of the event over the two days.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Inaugural Night @ the Livingstone Supper Club

I am pleased to announced that our fundraising evening in aid of Best Beginnings went really well and we raised a total of £280.  It was great fun and everyone said that they loved the food.  Myself and Anne split the cooking so we even managed to sit down and eat with our guest's at one stage.  Any worries I/we may have had before the evening melted away as it was all very relaxed and I think much more fun for having done it with someone else.  It was so nice to hear people chatting and laughing as we cooked.  Obviously not everyone knew each other, so to have all that chatter going on was calming for the nerves.  Things got forgotten of course, like Anne's wonderful Parsnip and Sage bread which was to go with the main (I am taking one for the team and happily munching through it).  The chocolate dipped candied peel which I spotted on the side as people were starting to leave,  "No no no" I cry, "it is but a wafer" and so they duly munch.  With smiles all round we were very pleased with how it went, so watch this space for up and coming events in the New Year. 

Table by candle light

Cook in action
Olive oil crackers with peppercorn salt

Poppy seed and Parmesan bites

Chocolate buttons with space dust
 Some guests enjoying themselves and still more came to enjoy the evening

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


I am so nervous about our first supper club on Saturday.  I so want people to enjoy the food and have a good time.  I made my pate yesterday and I'm afraid to taste it, that it might be awful and then I will be all upset that its all going wrong already.  The main problem is that I made more than I usually do and maybe I didn't get the quantities right.  On the other hand the pesto is done and looking & tasting good, so that's one box ticked.  We tried the Fishermans Friend cocktail I found and we're happy with that.  Not sure we have enough glasses of course.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Certain things.

I amuse myself with some of the things I do, like when I'm going to sleep.  I have a thing for Action movies and last night I saw that Die Hard was going to be on TV at a time when I would be snuggling down.  If gives me that warm fuzzy feeling, I know the movie so well that I don't get into it and can just fall asleep.  I'm not half listening out for the dialogue and even the gun fire/explosions are soothing. On the other hand if I'm not that tired I can easily watch and enjoy it.  Con Air is another fav, although I do admit to keeping an ear out for my favourite scenes with that one.

Any ho - The grapefruit marmalade was a success this time I am happy to report.  4 jars and a bowl (ran out of jars) were produced.  My little pantry is starting to build up.  My next objective is to use some of it.  I also treated myself once more to another cook book - River Cottage Handbook No.2 Preserves.  Flicking through it I am making a mental note to myself to purchase fruits that are on special, ahh that creative gene is tickling me.  At the back of the book it has a list of some food festivals including a Citrus Fruit Festival - for marmalade's held in Cumbria.  That sounds interesting, I have never been to Cumbria I don't think. 

I tried to give my neighbour a jar of my marmalade which she was about to take until I mentioned that it was grapefruit at which point she steped back said that she couldn't have it as she was on Statins for her heart.  It turns out that there is something in grapefruit that interferes with the Statins so I made her treacle bread instead.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Why am I like that?

Why I can't follow instructions I'll never know.  I had a look on google to see where I went wrong with my marmalade and strangely enough its down to the fact that I didn't put the pith and pips into a muslin bag and in with the other ingredients that the marmalade didn't work.  It's not that the recipe didn't tell me to do that, its just that I didn't have any muslin and I wasn't aware that that's where all the pectin is.  Given that I am now fully clued up I shall be trying it again tomorrow and all going well I will have something to show for my effort.  My breads are driving me crazy at the moment too.  I can't wait to go on my bread making course in November and get some of my questions answered.  I should write the questions down so I don't forget.

It finally looks like the weather is on the turn and thanks goodness for that.  It all feels very odd to be considering sunblock in the middle of October.  And as the man in the garage said - 'it should be snowing by the end of October' - I wouldn't be at all surprised!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Grapefruit Marmalade

 Grapefruit Marmalade NOT!

And I was so looking forward to enjoying my marmalade it tasted so nice.  I had reduced it to the required level prior to putting in the sugar but once I had added the sugar it didn't get to the jammy stage quick enough as per the recipe, so i cooked it some more and then some more and then I it burnt!  Dame shame and what a waste.  Of course my next problem is how to get rid of it, old cat food tins will have to do wrapped in a plastic bag as not to completely destroy the grey bin if it all leaks.  Well onwards and upwards I'm going to give it another bash later in the week - 3 grapefruit for £1 @ Sainsburys that and a bit of googling to make sure I get it right this time.
Something that I am finding out about writing my blog as I read other peoples, is that you really can write about almost anything.  From what happened to your eyebrows at the beauticians to the sandwiches you make your children.  The reason I mention eyebrows is due to the fact that mine got dyed black today when they should have been brown and am now looking abit edgy but not in a good way.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Driving me crazy

Ahhh, my kids just drive me crazy.  I spent 5 hours in the kitchen yesterday making 4 hour lamb with white beans, only to be told that 'you know we don't like stews' before even trying it.  Turning their noses up, the cheek.  Obviously this is the rod I have made for my own back over the years, giving into their demands, trying to make them happy.  Firstly that lamb cost a small fortune, then there's my time and effort thinking I'm making a lovely Sunday dinner for my family.  It's a good job that the husband loves his meat whatever form it comes in otherwise I'd be lost!

Tonight myself and my friend are going to be trying out our menu for the Livingstone Supperclub.  So I need to make some fruit bread to go with the pate & pesto I made over the weekend.  I also need to source some pumpkins for the soup and perhaps some olive crackers to go.  Even before the day has really started I can see it not going my way.  The Girl needs collecting from school at around 6pm, Anne is arriving at about 7.30pm so if the Girl ends up being late arriving to school that might throw me right out of sync.  I think I drive myself crazy more than the kids do.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

That Monday Feeling

Jose's Lamb Albondigas - very tasty.

The start of another week and I am happy to report that a successful dinner party was had over the weekend.  I have no pictures to show for it as I was so busy cooking I didn't have time but everything got eaten and second and third helpings were had.  Everyone happily hovered down the spicy popcorn but the radish's not so much.  Gizzi's chicken curry and the Rajasthani lamb went down a storm and my chapati's looked authentic and tasted great.  The potato curry ended up looking a bit grey after I added the coconut milk in so that may have put people off having too much of it.  To finish off the evening we played Beat the Intro on the turn table, brains V ipod with our selection of 80's albums.  The brains had it almost every time.  All in all a great night.

On Sunday the freezer needed defrosting and has needed it for some time.  The trouble of course with defrosting the freezer is the waste it causes i.e. the things I will plan to make with the defrosted bits but then forget or the things that need to be thrown out because they have defrosted like spring rolls.  With so much to do and so little time I am trying not to waste any of the meat, I am in the process of making chicken soup for tomorrow with the chicken wings.  Leafing through cookbooks for ideas for the duck breast.  And a Jose Pizaro recipe for the lamb mince 'Albondigas and skinny chips'.  I also have 2 pots of chicken liver, the question is how long does chicken liver pate last once made?  Brilliant idea, I will make one for us and one for our neighbour, they'll eat it.  Perhaps I'll make some bread to go with it.
Pre-cooked lobster - wasted - although it has been in there for an awfully long time.
Cooked chickpeas - wasted - took 5 hurs to cook as per recipe, not sure it was worth the bother.
Homemade puff pastry - wasted
Bits of bread - that can go to the birds so not wasted.
Spring rolls - wasted
Homemade pasta sauce - not sure how long it was in there, so not really wasted as it might make us ill.
Bits of ice-cream - wasted - but would probably never be eaten.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Not a Khana Night

Very excited this week as I have decided to try out some of the recipes from my new Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, Curry Easy for a dinner party on Saturday evening.  I thought it would be fun to do a menu for the table.  They are so going to look at me like I'm crackers.  If I'm being honest they don't really get the supper club thing, but I will not be detered.  I'm not going to going to do starters as such but small accompaniments to the main dishes as suggested by Madhur herself.  Its going to be a bit of a precursor to our Livingstone supper club on the 29th Oct, to see how I feel about cooking for about 10 people and whether my kitchen (and I) can cope.  I'm sure I heard that Heston started out in a teeny weeny kitchen and managed to turn out wonderful food.  God I'm dreaming now, Heston and me aren't exactly on the same page as far as cooking ability is concerned!  Another thought is about enough pots and pans, having said, that my mum did buy a set of them off the tinkers last year which she gave me for Christmas.  They had said they wanted 500 euro for the lot - bloody chancers, thankfully she's dealt with them a few times and managed to knock them down to a 100.  Well, lets face it the pots probably fell off the back of a lorry.

I have to admit that it has been quite thrilling planning the menu and considering all my options.  The whole point of cooking for other people as far as I am concerned is to cook that which the cheap seats (my kids) won't eat.  I like to try new things but hate waste and if I try certain types of meals on them the food is wasted.  I want to be more adventurous so a supper club, I hope, is my perfect solution.  The Boy did well for a while cooking, but now that he's working he's the 'big man well met' and needs his dinner on the table like his daddy.

So this is my menu

Gizzi's Chicken Curry
Baked Chicken
Rajasthani Red Meat
Sri Lankan White Courgette Curry

Sides of

Spicy Popcorn
Seasoned Radishes
Potato Curry
Stirfried Spicy Mushrooms

Served with

Chapati Bread
Plain Basmati 
Prawn Biryani

Monday, 19 September 2011

Still a lot to learn

So I have just read MsMarmite's post on her trip to Ballymaloe to enjoy Outstanding in the field and she has caught the essence of the experience and shared it with everyone even down to the photos she posted.  You could really get a feel for it, I think her style of writing is great and really draws you in.  What a fab blogger you are MsMarmite!  A note to me to improve and  I must remember to take more photos.

Today I am driving myself crazy surrounded by reference books on kitchen design and my morning delivery of Madhur Jaffery's Curry Easy (the cover is soooo pretty) and the Avoca Cafe cookbook (wanted it for ages).  I am in the process of designing our new kitchen, doing scaled drawings and scanning images.  There are tear sheets everywhere.  I'm sure its the too much choice bit that I'm having difficulty with and of course I want us to be happy with the end product.  It's doing my head in!

Ahhh maybe its not so bad.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Its Done

I have finally done it.  After months if not years of thinking and thinking, should I or shouldn't I.  The date got organised first and now I have made it official and posted it onto Supper Club Fan Group the first and hopefully not the last date for the Livingstone Supper Club.  I also tweeted it so my 4 followers are in the know too!  I am so looking forward to it.  I will have to start practicing now so I don't get myself in a tizz nearer the time.  It also gives the fam time to taste everything at least twice.  And I'll have to buy some new bits so everybody has something to eat off and drink out of.  Ahhh there's nothing like a bit of retail therapy to set the heart a flutter.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Outstanding in the Field

Well my trip to Wales went really well.  The only issue I had was finding the place.  Once I arrived at the hotel I decided to leave early so that I could relax once I had found the farm, but finding it proved more tricky than I had anticipated.  After driving around for about 20 minutes I stopped and asked a guy working on house to which he said "Dai, its another one" like I was one of those people from the add that fall from the sky and land on a bale of hay to have their cereal bar.  In other words a townie - either way they couldn't help.  In total I must have spent an hour and a half looking for the place driving up and down the same road and any other road I thought might get me there. The thing is I could see the table and marquee set up on the side of the hill but couldn't figure out how to get there.  I drove up and over, over and around and all I managed was to drive myself crazy and use up petrol.  In the end I gave in and rang the mobile number I had and low and behold I must have passed the entrance 20 times!

What a fantastic event Outstanding in the Field was.  I think that there were about 50 people altogether including suppliers and producers at Trealy's farm.  It was a wonderful bright evening, the food was lovely and I haven't had beetroot that good since I was a child.  I only took one photo and should have taken more because it all looked so fab, but I got carried away eating the stuff.  We had antipasti of Trealy Farm cured meats to start, with a fish course of hot and cold smoked salmon from the Black Mountain Smokery served with varieties of beetroot.  The main was loin of lamb and slow cooked shoulder of lamb from Pen-y-Wyrlod Lamb.  Even cold it was delicious not at all claggy as lamb can be.  A selection of cheeses for the cheese course which included a wonderful little welsh blue, called Perl Las (I think).  And for dessert summer fruit pudding.  Each course was accompanied by English wine from the Ancre Hill Estate.  I thought the Pinot Noir was particularly good. The food, scenery and atmosphere combined to make a superb evening on a hillside in Wales.  At the table, I sat in between the perry producer who supplied pear cider and the sheep farmer who supplied the lamb and who also happens to a vegetarian - go figure.

Picture courtesy of Outstanding in the Field.

 The view.
 Just before we all sat down

 One end,

The other end.

My plate, which I forgot to collect at the end of the evening.

Gorgeous cured meats from Trealy Farm with roasted garlic and pea shoots.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

You learn something every day

I was watching 'The Great British Bake Off' the other day and Mel (one of the presenters) was asking a chap who was kneading his dough if he was thinking of either of the judges while doing it.  His reply - which I completely agree with - was that he didn't believe that that would make for a good loaf but that enjoying the task helped to make a much tastier one. There is a certain enjoyment to be had from making bread, it gives you satisfaction to know that you made it and you know whats in it.  Even if it isn't the most beautiful loaf, it more than likely tastes good.  The thing is that when I make bread, I have a tendency to do things my way which is no way at all really.  I like free form loaves because if I put the dough in a tin I usually can't get it out, something to do with seasoning I believe.  When I follow the recipe it never really ends up as the picture.  My ciabatta can look like a ciabatta one day and just a regular roll the next.  Sometimes it is nice and open with big air holes and other times it is tighter with a more regular bread like interior.  From this I'm sure you can tell that I haven't done a course in bread making and that perhaps I should, but I enjoy it none the less and regardless of its looks my bread tastes great.

What I have learnt having seen the episode on bread making is that I should try some of the things that the contestants had to do to see if this improves the end result of my breads.
Previously I have been just misting the inside of my oven but i will now put a tray of water at the bottom to create the steam.  This hopefully with improve the crust.
For my ciabatta I have to allow it to be wetter to get the bigger air holes.
I think I let my dough overproof so I will stop it before it gets too big.
Add in any extra ingredients after the first proofing and not in the begining as I have done in the past.
And finally and probably most importantly I will read the recipe from start to finish including tips!!!

One of my better bread attempts.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day 3

Do I really need another cookbook?  I'm not sure I do.  But I do love buying them so and looking at their colourful spines in their cabinet adding colour to its interior makes me smile.  It is true that I have on occasion bought a cookbook on the colour of its spine.  Well I can't help being me.  I did buy Darina Allen's "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" last weekend on the say so of MsMarmite, who happened to make a remark about the book while chatting to me about Outstanding in the field - It's basically an open air lunch, hosted by a local chef, in a picturesque setting.  MsMarmite is off to the one in Ballymaloe in Co. Cork and me to Trealys Farm in Wales. 

To use Darina's book just as a flourish of colour is really rather unfair because besides its wonderful vivid green cover, it is rather good and I can see why she won a prize for it.  There aren't loads of pictures and the ones there are are simple.  I would describe it as an earthy book with no nonsense.  Nothing has been cooked from the book so far, but it did remind me of a dish that my mum used to cook.  Boiled ham with cabbage & mash in a soupy gravy - very simple but divine.

Unfortunately my image doesn't give it the justice it deserves.  I shall be practicing my food styling skills for any future shots.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day 2

There was a nice surprise this morning in the form of a half eaten mouse on the sitting room floor.  I have to say that kitten doesn't look as if he'd have it in him but there it was none the less. Just as I was thinking how am I going to clean this mess up without throwing up, (my toes were hurting because I had them scrunched so tight) the hubby walked in and so it all got sorted, thankfully without me having to touch it.

So last night I got together with a friend who is interested in hosting a pop up supper club with me.  Its only taken us about 6mths to get together but we have manage to settle on a name - Livingstone Supper Club, a date - 29th Oct 2011 and a menu - Halloweenish theme.  I am very excited, I hope it goes well.  We will have place for 20 people, so now all we need to do is get tickets sold.  The first supper club is going to be in aid of a small charity called Best Beginnings, based in North West London which promotes a healthy start in life for premature and full term babies for the first two years.  Have a look at their website for more information

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Day 1

A friend told me about a book called "The Happiness Project" where you create a list for yourself once a month or so, nothing unmanageable but things you want to achieve - like not to get so frustrated the moment you get in the car maybe and in the process perhaps make yourself a little bit more happy with the ticking off of that list.  Now truthfully I haven't read the book and am only going on what my friend has told me but it sounds like a good idea.  So I am now starting my own happiness project and the first thing on my list is to write a blog.

I am very nervous about doing this and putting myself out there, as it were but I don't expect it to be read by anyone really.  I am well aware that there is already so much being written by talented people who can make you laugh or cry on a whim and I am not one.  But I do feel that I would like to put fingers to keyboard and see my thoughts as the written word.  So here I go.........

I consider myself to be a very lucky person, I have a beautiful family and friends who love me and a 10 year old Zafira that just keeps trucking.  But, I have to say sometimes I want more.  Sometimes I want to be successful in a career but I haven't managed that, perhaps I'm too fickle.  At the moment I'm really into food and cooking.  I like it and I'm good at it.  I want to host a supper club but I worry about the cats hairs and the food.  Also the fam aren't too happy about people they don't know wandering through their house.  I am in the process of teaching the boy to cook, well hardly a boy these days, more a young man at 18.  His gap year beckons, with it independence and the cutting of the apron strings!  When I say teaching him to cook, its more him welding a sharp knife towards his fingers (he's left handed, so I get even more uneasy because it all looks so awkward) and me cleaning up the mess created.

I'm enjoying this it feels quite cathartic, more later.......