Monday, 30 January 2012

Baked raspberry oat bar

Recently, I've been leafing through my various cookbooks and trawling the net for a good recipe for a oat/granola type bar which would incorporate fresh fruit (spurred on by trying to make smthg healthy for JD to bring to work whilst he's clocking some crazy hours!). I finally settled on trying a baked raspberry oat bar from the book, Baked. Very simple to make and a good way to use up some leftover frozen raspberries. As with all things baked and beautiful(!), the smell of oats, sugar, lemon, raspberry and cinnamon wafting through the flat was lovely!

Its best served slightly warm, after having rested from coming out of the oven so you can experience crunchy oatie goodness with a gooey raspberry centre. Be sure to have a mug of hot tea to hand! They still taste pretty good after a day but the fruit in the bar causes it to become moist - different experience :) 
Not a looker but packs a punch in the flavour department :)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Duck for dinner

For someone who considers herself a food enthusiast, I have to admit I am fairly unadventurous when it comes to cooking in my own kitchen sadly!! :(

Duck is usually the type of thing which I will order out at a resto simply because I do not cook it at home but I think that might be all about to change :)

We picked up some duck breasts during this week's grocery shopping for one of our weekday dinners, providing me with an opportunity to cook duck for the first time ever. Obviously, the first port of call was the net to find out instructions for pan frying duck breasts. I plumped for some advice from Jamie:
  1. Score the skin of duck breasts.
  2. Place breasts in cold pan, skin side down.
  3. Turn on heat to high and cook until skin is crispy brown.
  4. Flip duck breast to the other side and cook for another 3 minutes to seal breast.
  5. Transfer to dish skin side up and place in oven at 180C for 10 minutes.
  6. Result = perfectly cooked pink duck breast :)  
I did my quick Chinese marinade beforehand on the meat with an addition of zest of an orange which went very nicely with the duck. I also added a quick squidge of honey just before the breasts went into the oven for some extra sweetness. Serve with steamed rice and some blanched spring greens - delish! :)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Birthday cake request

My good friend T approached me a few weeks ago to ask if I could make a birthday cake for one of her friends from work. The brief was pretty straightforward - a yummy chocolate cake. Unfortunately for me, I haven't made many birthday cakes in my time so it was time to hit the cookbooks and search for a suitable recipe for said chocolate cake. I particularly liked one which I came across in the Tartine cookbook so decided to have a bash at that one. The base cake was a dense chocolate cake. Once the cake is ready, the dome is then sliced off, broken off into chunks and dried out in a low temperature oven for an hour or so. The dried chunks are then blitzed to produce cake crumbs which are used to decorate the outside of the cake. The crumbs are stuck together with a dense ganache which produces a refined-looking Brooklyn Blackout cake (I have seen another version using chocolate pudding and wet crumb which doesn't look as elegant). The resultant cake was pretty good - dense, fudgy and full of flavour :)

So after my baking experiment, I was all set to make the real thing. My friend then threw a curveball at me and asked if I could incorporate a message in the cake which of course, is perfectly normal for a birthday cake. Trouble was, the cake would be decorated all over with crumbs making writing more than a little tricky. After a night of pondering, I came up with a compromise - decorate the side of the cake with crumbs leaving the top with just ganache and then handpiping the message with white chocolate.

So I almost managed to pull it off.......except that my white chocolate had not been thinned out enough with cocoa butter so I wasn't entirely happy with the writing. I also probably should've left the piping of the ganache rosettes until after the writing but I guess I'll chalk this one to experience ;)

The good news is that the cake went down a treat so job well done, yay!!
 Trial chocolate cake

Trial yielded excess ganache and crumb - rather then throw it all away, they were turned into makeshift "biscuit crumb truffles", gobbled up happily by JD's workmates! :)

 Actual birthday cake - not entirely happy with the piped message so no picture of that :(

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Postcards from Brixton

 It used to be called Brixton Academy back in the day :)

 Ramen galore!!

The side of the Ritz cinema :)

Brixton Village market visit - Federation Coffee and Kaosarn

The last time I ventured to Brixton was for a Fugees concert......and they are no longer so you imagine how long ago that was!!! I had read about Brixton Village Market a while back on the Timeout website so finally got my arse in gear and headed saf of the river to have a goo. Its a covered marketplace hidden away behind the regular Brixton street market full of little food stores and cafes/restaurants. I arrived mid-morning and had a good wander around; not all the restaurants were open so I popped into Federation Coffee for a cup of coffee and cake (my choice in this case was banana bread). The cafe had a nice cosy feel but I was disappointed with what I ordered; I am not a coffee connoisseur but my flat white lacked flavour and depth. The banana bread looked alright but tasted awful; it didn't have enough banana and whoever baked it had an idiotic idea that adding banana essence (???) would make it taste better......IT DOES NOT!! Despite paying an exorbitant £2 for a tiny "bread", it was so bad that I stopped eating after 2 bites. I might sound harsh in my review but it pisses me off so much when you get ripped off like this when I know full well that its not hard to make a better tasting product. 
Traces of banana but sadly, not enough

Brooks saddles mounted onto bits of frame - look cool but not entirely sure who's going to opt to sit on them?!

Lunchtime beckoned so I headed back out to the market and headed to Kaosarn for a steaming bowl of noodles and a comforting mug of hot lemongrass tea. Before ordering, I did ask how spicy the Kuay Tiew Tom Yum was going to be. My waitress said spicy but did ask how spicy I wanted it so I plumped for medium. It tasted delicious but because the weather was so cold, my nose started running when I tucked in. The staff thought they had made the noodles too spicy for me and immediately rushed over with a glass of water! It was that good that I'd been tempted to make the trip back for another meal :)
Blankets for the peeps sitting outside, it was chilly alright :)

Inside dining area not very big - 6-7 tables at the most, not much warmer either but then again, it wasn't full when I visited.

Kuay tiew tom yum - bowl of rice noodles in spicy broth. Think the broth is flavoured with lime, chillies, dried shrimp and coriander amongst other stuff. Not too spicy but just a little kick right at the end of each mouthful. The dish also had tasty pork mince, fishballs and deep fried prawns, yum! :)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Muffin experiments

So this week, I decided to have a bash at making some muffins - very easy and straightforward to make but too often given a bad name by the shoddy stodgy ones that you find around.

I came across a recipe for orange and blueberry muffins which took my fancy so decided to start off with those. My kitchen was immediately filled with the scent of freshly grated orange zest and all was going well. Towards the end of prepping, I was thinking it was a little strange that there was no leavening agent in the recipe. I then realised that I had written the recipe wrong onto a post-it and sadly, my unleavened buns were already in the oven and could not be saved. Result = eggy solid mess :(

After grabbing a few more ingredients from the shop, I was undeterred and had a another go. This time, I wiped the slate clean and plumped for another recipe which was originally  raspberry and rhubarb muffins but I tweaked it slightly and substituted rhubarb for blueberries instead. Success the second time and kitchen was filled with lovely wafts of buttery, sugary, raspberry goodness :)

These raspberry and blueberry muffins are best eaten whilst still warm - they are OK the day after but not optimum.

Buoyed by those yummy bad boys, I returned to my dodgy post-it attempt, made sure I used the right recipe for a fault free batch of orange and blueberry muffins, yay! Strangely enough, they were a little underwhelming and lacked the fragrance of the other batch when they came out of the oven. Even stranger still was that they actually tasted better the day after when the flavour of the orange really came through......the experiments continue....

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Fruit tartlets

Upon landing back in the big smoke, I received a phone call from my friend (La Chilanga) asking if I could help out her sister who wanted some fruit tartlets for a children's birthday party. Of course, I was happy to oblige! On the whole, I was happy enough with the way they turned but maybe next time, need to up the fruit quotient for some of the tartlets :)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Vanilla essence

Happy New Year all!
After spending the latter part of last year shelling out a fortune for vanilla essence, I decided to follow in the footsteps of Tamami and try and make my own for 2012. It was a lot more straightforward than I was expecting, the most tricky part was tracking down a suitable bottle to hold the stuff in (I laid my hands on a bottle from Lakeland). Here's all I had to do:
  1. Put bottle in pan of water and boil for 10 minutes to sterilise.
  2. Split and scrape vanilla pods and place in bottle (pod and paste). I also cut my pods in half so they fit into the bottle. 
  3. Add vodka to bottle (Quantities are 30g vanilla pods to 250g alcohol).
  4. Place top on bottle and shake vigorously.
  5. Leave in a dark corner, shake the bottle occasionally and after 5 weeks......hey presto!!
Looking forward to trying my own brew :)
My only quandry now is what to do with my remaining 220g of vanilla pods?!!

 Scummy water from the big smoke is giving my bottle that frosted look, char!!