Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Cake

 Only a few days left to Chrimbo! Time to decorate the cake for this year.
 
This is for my mother-in-law, who plays bowls with my father-in-law every week.
Decorated by their grandkids and dutiful son.
 
 
 
Merry Christmas one and all.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

40th Birthday Record Cake

For a musician.
 
 
 
 
 
Made using Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe (x2.5) in a 12" tin. As it's an LP, right? 
 
 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Tierra Peru, Islington - Restaurant Review

 Peruvian cuisine is hugely trendy at the moment, and this little gem of a place on Essex Road is the first time I've tried what is becoming renowned as the best of Latin American food. There's a Spanish tapas feel initially but both the differences and similarities become obvious as we indulge in as much Inca fare as we can.

Early evening, the place was empty but filled up comfortably as the evening wore on. A haven for local Foodies I would imagine, as well as an eatery worth travelling across London to visit. With simplistic Incan wall art and cosy seating, the staff made us feel welcome and at ease.
 
Choosing from the menu proved inconclusive as we all wanted to try everything, so in the end we went for two of the special platters, which was enough for five people, deceivingly so, as it seemed so little, but made us all satisfied. Pretty much everything in the menu was contained in these two dishes so it was exactly what we needed. 
 
The most traditional and possibly best known dish from Peru, is of course, the ceviche. These are usually fish and vegetables 'cooked' in citric juices and are served cold. A lot of  pulses and vegetables mixed in gave texture and flavour. My favourite meat dish was the chicaronnes de cerdo - deep-fried pork with cassava and chimmichurri sauce. Not hot at all - until the aftertaste kicked in!
 
Some similarities to my beloved Spanish food were the deep-fried cassava and cheese balls, reminiscent of croquettas, and much grilled seafood. Alongside this, the unfamiliar plantain, Peruvian corn, and palm hearts. The fusion of hearty traditional stews with modern unique dishes gives a whole wealth of new dishes which I will be more than happy to return to explore.
(Speaking of heart, one dish was actually heart, cooked and tasting similar to liver, definitely worth a try.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Desserts were most unusual. Chilli ice-cream? What a paradox. But it worked. It worked well. The chocolate mousse with pisco, Peru's traditional spirit, was delicious, and the rococo pepper ice cream intensified all the dessert flavours.
 
Mousse de Pisco y Chocolate
Helado Frito de Rocoto
Picarones y Helados

We were left feeling totally satisfied, as you do when eating tiny amounts of lots of different plates. And also indulged. When I go back I know what I want more of!

Tierra Peru
164 Essex Road
Islington
N1 8LY
020 7354 5586

Meal for two with wine ~£80



Tierra Peru on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Chocolate Gingerbread - an non fruit-cake Christmas cake alternative - RECIPE

My fabulous food photographer friend over at Stem and Ginger, Karen, and I have collaborated to come up with a tantalizing alternative Christmas cake. One which doesn't need to be baked weeks or months in advance (who thinks about Christmas in September, really...?). And one which isn't your typical fruit cake laced with whisky, rich and ensconced in marzipan. This, my friends, is Chocolate Gingerbread Cake, with Cinnamon and Honey frosting, topping with sugar-coated cranberries. It merges all the traditional flavours; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, but also oozes the richness of a sumptuous chocolate cake, which, let's be straight with ourselves, is really what Christmas is all about. Chocolate.

Cranberries are fabulous at this time of year, and their seasonality is short-lived, so make the most of them. Blue Kitchen Bakes is a big fan and so I've joined her Fresh Cranberry Recipe Link Up 2014, with these fresh (Ocado-delivered) cranberries, sugar-coated for a beautiful yet simple finish.

My recipe, and Stem and Ginger's fabulous photos are featured in Fabric's Fabvent Calendar Day 9!







Chocolate Gingerbread Cake – An alternative to a traditional Christmas cake

Recipe serves 8-10
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Decoration: 30 mins plus overnight refrigeration


Ingredients:

120 g unsalted butter
150 g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
240 ml buttermilk
100 g molasses
270 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60 g cocoa
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp crystalized ginger, chopped
180 g chocolate, roughly chopped


Method:

Heat the oven to 180 C, and lightly grease 2 round 8 inch tins.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark muscovado sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, followed by the buttermilk and molasses. The mixture may look a little curdled.
Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate, taking care not to over-mix.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for 35-40 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.




Cinnamon and Honey Frosting


Ingredients:

200g mascarpone cheese
50 g unsalted butter
120 g icing sugar
1 tbsp runny organic honey
¼ tsp cinnamon


Method:

Cream the cheese and butter together for about five minutes until soft and fluffy. Add in the honey and cinnamon and then sift in the icing sugar. Check the taste until you are happy with the sweetness, adding more icing sugar if needed. Beat until smooth.

Once the cake has cooled, level off the tops. Smooth some of the frosting over the bottom layer, then stack the second cake on top. Coat the top of cake (and the sides if you prefer) with the rest of the frosting, as smooth as you wish.

Sugar Frosted Cranberries

The cranberries are best prepared the night before to ensure complete sweetness. However, a few hours are also sufficient. Fresh cranberries are best of course, as they are in season, but frozen work as well, just remember to de-frost them a few hours before.

Ingredients:

75 g fresh or frozen cranberries (not dried)
120 ml water
110 g granulated sugar, plus extra for coating

Method:

Make a syrup by simmering the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Place the cranberries in a bowl, and once the syrup has cooled, pour over the cranberries. Allow to cool completely, then cover completely and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if you have time.

Drain the cranberries (you can re-use the syrup). Place the extra sugar on a flat plate, and roll a single layer of the cranberries in it until coated, shaking the plate gently.

Place on some greaseproof paper to dry for about an hour. Once the cake is frosted, and the cranberries have dried, arrange on top in a random pile.


Recipe by me, Photographs by Stem and Ginger.
As featured in Fabric

Friday, 5 December 2014

Cointreau Chocolate Cups - Recipe

I needed a little gift to bring to a dinner party, and rather than just trundle down to Sainsbo's, I thought I'd attempt to make some chocolates. I've made salted caramels before, out of which 5 were presentable out of 15!
This time I got lucky, and all 15 came out of the mould looking good enough to give to someone. I did make another batch using a strawberry shaped mould but only one of those turned out ok!
 
They're simple enough to make, they do take some time for setting though. You can adjust everything to your own taste, of course.
 

 

 Ingredients:

 
200 g dark chocolate
70 g white chocolate
70 ml cream
Zest and juice of one or two oranges, depending on how much flavour you want
Dash of Cointreau (again, to taste)
A few drops of orange essence
Sprinkles to decorate, optional
 
 

Equipment:

 
Silicon chocolate mould (I used the one that came with this Something Sweet Magazine)
Flats paintbrush - about 0.75 inch


Method:

 
Firstly, temper your chocolate. I just use the simple microwave method. Break your dark chocolate into pieces and place in the microwave for one minute, NO LONGER! Remove and stir gently, melting the rest of the chocolate just by mixing. You can give it extra 30 second blasts, but be very careful not to overheat it, and be sure the last of the pieces are melted only by stirring gently.
 
Brush the chocolate into the mould using the paintbrush. Cover the base quite thickly and gently brush the chocolate up the sides of the moulds making sure there are no gaps. Make it as thick as you wish, but the thinner the more delicate the chocolate.
 
Allow this to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
 
Make your Ganache filling by breaking the white chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan, and once it boils, pour over the chocolate. Stir together gently until all the chocolate has melted. Add in the flavourings - Cointreau, orange zest and juice, and essence of orange. Once you have the taste you are happy with, and the Ganache has cooled, spoon or pipe the Ganache into the centre of the chocolate cups that have set. Fill up to near the top, and again, allow to set in the fridge.
 
Decorate with sprinkles if you wish, or shaved chocolate... yum!

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Tree Biscuiteers

Whilst the fireworks were still sparkling in the sky, the festive season itself was beginning to twinkle when Fabric magazine sent me along to the quirky Icing Café, The Biscuiteers Boutique in Notting Hill. In the window, a ski chalet, made entirely from iced gingerbread was setting the festive mood, and on display inside the shop, an array of beautifully hand-decorated biscuits - rows of festive Jolly Gingers ('tis the season to be, after all), a nativity scene, and for the creative, a DIY gingerbread house. All of which can be gift-wrapped or presented in beautifully illustrated tins. There are even Biscuity Christmas cards - an edible AND ethical way to greet your loved ones this festive season.


I was entrusted with some pre-flooded gingerbread baubles, to decorate howsoever I wished, and it turns out, it's not as easy as it looks. Yes I've decorated lots of cakes and individual edible bits, but the detail and intricacy required gave me a bit of cramp! Hand-icing involves a steady hand, an eye for detail and the willpower to resist eating them before they have dried. My finished snowflake baubles would have looked beautiful on the Christmas tree, but the aroma of gingerbread defeated me and they were gone almost before the kettle had boiled...


Hand-iced Gingerbread Baubles

The Icing Cafe offers icing masterclasses, both for children and grown-ups (office party idea, perhaps?), and a new Biscuiteers Boutique opened up at the end of November on Northcote Road, where all the in-house icing is done in an open kitchen, so clients can watch their bespoke biscuits being designed and decorated, while drinking a warming cuppa in a T.G. Green designer mug. I'd love to stock up on some more bespoke Yuletide goodies, open those tantalising tins and fill some festive stockings and I hope to be back in Notting Hill soon to train as a real Biscuiteer.

Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés
13 Northcote Road SW11 1NG
194 Kensintgon Park Road, W11 2ES
Www.Biscuiteers.com

Jolly Gingers
Christmas Biscuits

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Holiday Food in Paphos, Cyprus

Now that the nights have drawn in, the weather has turned chilly and the only skin I am displaying is my face, my thoughts return to sunnier, carefree times. We spent our August holiday in Paphos, Cyprus. Three long months ago now. Sigh... The heat there meant we could do fewer activities and more laying around the pool. Just my kind of holiday. And not the kind I've done for a while, what with all the kids...

Of course, the highlight of any holiday, for me, is the food. From the fresh seafood...

Seafood















... to the basil growing outdoors...

Basil

...olives, growing by the pool...

Olives


... and of course, tzatziki with every meal!

Tzatziki

We stayed at the lovely Anemi Aparthotel on Posidonos Avenue, very close to Bar Street (which you may wish to avoid) and only a ten minute stroll to Paphos Harbour.

Our first port of call late on the evening of arrival was a Cafe Lounge Bar called Pingouino. Here my first Cypriot meal was Pork Souvlaki. Served with a Greek salad and, yes, a local Keo beer. Ah, we had arrived!

Pork Souvlaki

Due to the heat at that time of year (not complaining, just sayin'), we didn't venture far during the day, so we had many lunches by the pool at the Anemi, in the Turquoise Cafe.
Cyprus Dips was warm pitta served with the four traditional dips - hummous, tzatziki, taramalasalata, and tahini. I ate this most days! I also had halloumi and lountza (smoked pork loin) in pitta which was very filling, and the squeaky cheese entertained the kids!

Halloumi and Lountza

Cyprus Dips


By night we drank many a Strawberry Daquiri, you know, just so the kids could collect umbrellas and other cocktail paraphernalia.




















A non-Greek meal in the gorgeous Gold Sakura Japanese Restaurant, just around the corner from where we stayed. It featured a table at the teppanyaki grill, our very own chef (from the Phillipines!) with his salt and pepper pot routine, followed by a knife skills dance, and he cooked our egg fried rice, sea bream, chicken, and duck tenderloin right there in front of us. Using lots of 'Japanese Coca-Cola', apparently. Which turned out to be Kikkoman Soy Sauce. A great experience, lots of fun. The kids loved the starters too, duck tempura (her new favourite food - she always asks for it now, everywhere we go...) and BBQ spare ribs. Mmm hmm.


BBQ Spare Ribs
Duck Tempura

Seasoning the teppan grill
Love egg fried rice

Prepping the egg fried rice




One (late) morning we sampled the crepes at Vienna cafe 'Crêpe Land', on Posideon Avenue.

Africana Waffle with chocolate ice cream

Oreo crepe: Kashima Bueno

Strawberry and chocolate crepe: Porto Katsiki


Other evening meals included souzoukakia (spicy meatballs) at the Almyra, where we dined on a deck right on the sea. Although it was expensive it could have been oh so romantic...


Souzoukakia at the Almyra

A very nice Italian restaurant, Porto Bello, served pollo bruschetta with sundried tomatoes, chicken and cheese and the Pizza Special - chilli, honey, chicken and raspberry, a strange combo which worked really well. We also received vegetable tempura on the house. Fantastic service too, made all the more special with the Limoncello chaser.

Pollo Bruschetta

Pizza Special

Vegetable Tempura

The Grill Garage was a family run restaurant serving sizzling and traditional Greek dishes, all very well presented and beautifully cooked. We intended to return here. If not for the food, then to read some more of the food-related quotes!

"When engaged in eating, the brain should be the servant of the stomach." Agatha Christie




Pitta with tzatzaki
Chicken Souvlaki

BBQ Ribs with onion rings

Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream - just for the kids!

The Imperial Chinese Restaurant overlooked a few bars and restaurants, as we sat out on the terrace, but the inside was modern and beautifully decorated with tanks of tropical fish. Eating Chinese food in Cyprus or any Mediterranean country can be dubious, but this place was great. Another one we would have returned to.

Chicken Satay

Duck in Orange Sauce

Spicy Chicken Szechuan

On our last evening, we decided to go traditional at the Mandra Tavern. Rather disappointing to be honest, as it felt like they were just catering for tourists (which I expect they were). If I were to go back I would have what the couple on the next table were having, it must have been about 20 courses!
4 orektika

Kleftiko

Lamb Souvla

Our pre-flight meal was Moussaka at Tampania (TaMttavia), over looking the sea and enjoying one last Keo beer and the sunset.

Moussaka


All photos my own (Smartphone). All TripAdvisor Reviews in the links written by me.