Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing day bake-athon continues

It's baking time again!! But at least it's not me. See below: Our selection of "wives" cakes. Legend has it some man lost his wife in a gambling debt (welcome to the Chinese and gambling), and to get her back, he sold lots of these cakes to buy her back.

Well tomorrow I'm going up north to the Grandparents and so mother dearest baked a lot of cakes. I sat aside and let her get on with it as I'm not a major fan tbh. But check out the pictures.

Sis holding pei-dan so


Pei-dan is a thousand year egg. It's an egg that has become a black jellified solid. It tastes amazing in congee, but it also goes in these little cakes, in a mass of lotus paste wrapped in flakey pastry. I can't say I'm a fan of it in that form, but it's something we make. The pastry is the same as the wife cakes but they are more egg shaped.

Mama-san egg washing the "wife" cakes. These are stuffed with a more melon paste type concoction. Wife cakes are flat rounds and there are some special places in HK that are reknown for them. Personally I've not gotten over the wife cakes that have chunks in them as they taste nicer with more texture.


Boxed up wife cakes for grandparents.

Mum mixing mooncakes (yes we know they're out of season).


Eggwashing the mooncakes (also not a good idea as they got too brown in the end).

We stuffed theses babies with lotus paste mixed with some flour to lessen the sweetness. The incredible pattern is due to the mould.

Lye water. The deciding factor between mooncakes that keep, and mooncakes that go soggy.


My cheese and parma ham puff. Completely unchinese. But I needed to use up the cheese and ham.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmasberry baking


What else can I say? I've been a busy baker recently. Namely because I've been hugely antisocial of late, slight toothache and just generally sick of it all. So for the first time in ages I've been spending large amounts of time in bed curled up and so to be productive I've been baking a bit.

Coconut cupcakes (which neglect to mention the chocolate factor)
  • 175g softened unsalted butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Frosting:

  • 150g mascapone
  • 1 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 25g desiccated coconut soaked in a little milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. Cream together the butter and sugar in the large bowl until pale and light. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Add cocoa powder and coconut.

Mix together theflour and baking powder and fold it to the butter-egg mixture, and mix until smooth. Divide between the paper cases and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes until the cakes are golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the frosting, mix the mascarpone, icing sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Add coconut. When ready, spread an even layer of the mascapone mixture over the top of each cake and sprinkle with coconut.

I can't remember where I nicked the recipe (they used lime but we have lemons so tough) but it's not something I'd make again although the sponge was delicately soft.

Jingleberry jingleberry jingle bell rock...


I'm in a petulent mood. Hmm maybe that's the polite way of putting it. Right now, I want to whip raw potatoes at the wooden fence outside. If I had superpowers and could throw fireballs I'd be in trouble right now. All in all, not feeling too Christmassy. Usually I'm really into the cooking. My only opportunity to cook the main. But I made goose last week (£19.99 at Lidl) and I suppose that might have killed my urge. I was banned from cooking goose for Xmas because it's too fatty, too expensive, may as well get duck... and when I bought it the parentals got all excited because it's not that pricy, it's huge and quite tasty.

I followed Nigella's Feast to a certain extent. Stuffed it with mashed potato but also some apple wedges which did not go down too well. I also learnt that geese have some large greasy valves near the bum which require squeezing or cutting off. (Icky, but less icky than what I thought it was.)

Presenting: My Goose.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Restaurant Blogging

I'm procrastinating as I should work (it's Sunday) but a mate said since I ate out so much I should really write reviews... well, tbh I should just write to remind me where to eat next time. Will do a round up and then try to blog going forwards. I already take bad pictures on my camera (well you're sitting on your own so being a freak isn't so weird...) Edit this as and when I can go through my receipts and remember where I was and what I ate...

Brighton
Hotel: Jury's Inn: Nearest to the station, clean, basic, no biscuits on the nightstand, gym or free wi-fi. God-awful food. Will explain.

Unlike some of my more refined colleagues, I didn't mind Jury's Inn. I don't mind you have to go to pick up room service from downstairs. And I don't mind the minimal tv channels because channel 5 is a luxury for me (I live in a valley). The hotel is blissfully less than a minute's walk to the station. It's also about ten minutes walk to the Lanes where most the restaurants are. So on occasion if it's rainy, I am lazy enough to stay put and eat in the restaurant.

I ate three meals there I think. Pasta - plain, with a odd sprawl of spikey lettuce to garnish. Apple pie. With mango coulis. Steak pie with the world's flattest pastry (supposedly puff). Rhubarb and raspberry tart. With mango coulis. Cold. It really did get quite bleak. The Beef lasagna in the bar was of findus standard, which I didn't mind. But the garlic bread it came with was burnt. And didn't taste garlicky. Bleak. In fairness, most the time if I do get room service or hotel restaurant food I go for three courses because the main is rarely up to scratch. But it was pretty bad food attempting to be a bit fancy. Lovely staff though.

Englishes: Seafood
Lovely little restaurant which was pretty much completely empty when I dined there. Odd banquette seating (is that a word?) Think plush benches which have you facing other benches. If I wasn't there alone I'd be staring at another couple pinned to the wall by their table.

Regardless, I had some oysters because I was near the beach, there's the excuse anyway, however I don't think I'm any more inamoured with the slippery b@stards. Unlike the last time they were well shelled. However you still had to claw the muscle off the shell and this time they were freezing cold to the point of no flavour. Hmm. Is that meant to be the appeal? Just as a well they're not an aphrodisiac - there's not much around in Brighton. Mains was a rather gorgeous fish pie. Or rather a seafood pie. It came in this deep noodle bowl, topped with mash with red leicester. Definitely a nice touch. Given that I'm not a fan of fish pie - which is usually from M&S in my case, and given I'm not a major cooked fish fan, the fact I fell in foodie lust for this pie says something. Creamy sauce, peas, good chunks of fish, prawns... it was just yummy. I literally scrapped the bowl clean and licked my chops. *sigh* Good memories. Dessert however, was a bust. It had a fairly boring selection. Chocolate mousse and Raspberry Mille Feuille stood out. Trying to be experimental I went for the Raspberry. What a disappointment. It was chiller cabinet cold. It was pale white with a kind of raw pastry taste. Like layers of filo pinned together with water. Squiggle of raspberry sauce. If I'd not been on expenses I would have been disappointed. Go again? For the pie, the pie.... if only for the pie. Otherwise, just give it a miss!

Piccolos: Italian
Another questionable establishment which was packed to the gills the day I went. The risotto was not risotto. It was fried rice. With less oil. You know how risotto should have the wave to it and a slightly soupy texture? No soup. Fried rice. It was a good rice dish. Just not risotto. Dessert was Tiramisu and it was a round wedge. I'm guessing Brakes Brothers or Icelands, but it definitely wasn't home made. Oh poor mama! Go again? Not really. No. Consider it a stranger in the night.

Bristol
Hotel: Thistle: Nearest hotel to the shopping complex. Are we sensing a theme here? It was a nice hotel. Cosy. Had a gym I never got to use but shops weren't bad.

What can I say about the food? Well never go to one where the review in the lift talks about rubbery scallops. I mean, you put the NICE reviews up, not the middling ones... as it was we had to "wait in the bar" for a table when there were plenty empty. Food wise it wasn't hideous. I remember it being fairly decent actually, if only I can remember exactly what I had! I do remember a mushroom cappacino thing to start with though. Slightly frothy mushroom soup served in an expresso cup. Hey I liked it. But then I always like surprise food you haven't ordered. Worth going to again, but not the best best.

Bordeaux Quay: Absolutely gorgeous restaurant. Beautiful bread. Didn't charge for water. Think I ate duck. This really is a poor review isn't it? Worth going to again. Particularly if it's with someone you actually carry a conversation with.

Sheffield

Hotel: Best Western

Ate at the best Italian restaurant I've been to for a long time. Can't remember the starter but it was good. The main however was a dreamy cream sauce pancake dish (crispolini?) with chicken and I can't wait till I have cause to go again. Great value for money and I only wish I had room for dessert.

Aberdeen

Hotel: Carmelite
When in Aberdeen you should be prepared for two things. One, their hotels are extortionate. i.e. London prices. It was £135 a night for mine. Two, the quality sucks. Admittedly it was town centre, but even London would not give you a room that was sub-Travel lodge standards for that price. The lounge and restaurant was impeccably designed, and so were the suites so I hear... but the room that I got? Let's see, there was bird poop on the window, a little board nailed to the window so people at street level couldn't look up whilst you used the toilet, the toilet had this fantastic contraption that made lots of churning noises to make sure the water circulated away. It was just... caravan class. The furniture was circa 80s yellow MFI, the wi-fi dubious and oh, the tv went out at one point. But you know what? It's not the worse hotel in town! Actually it's one of the good ones apparently. Colleague went to the Copthorne, of which I am a fan of the one in Newcastle, having blown my budget on tea and cakes with a friend and grabbing a cheap dinner in town instead. That one again has a b&b room and a price tag of a fair heft.

To the food. Breakfast at Carmelite is a bit of a funny affair. Buffet spells pancakes, pastries, cornflakes etc. It's generally very sugary. One of the days I did spot mould on the american pancakes and discretely shoved it aside. I tended to stick to toast and cornflakes when I'm on expenses anyway but I was there that long I tried most things. Porridge was blah. On the days I did try the cooked, it's a funny affair. It came stacked on two crumpets like mini towers for a start.

Dinner. Ah. What can I say? I craved haggis. I have a love of haggis. Try not to quote me. Ever. It turned out that it seems to be more of a Edinburgh thing, because although you could get haggis in the shops, restaurant haggis is a rarity. Carmelite was the only place that had it, although I spotted chicken stuffed with haggis elsewhere. The haggis was lovely, but it only came in starter form. One of the days I did ask for it as a main. They said "oh I'd have to ask the chef", chef said fine, they came out with a starter sized main. Bright they ain't. Tasted my way through an assortment of starters and steaks etc. Memorable one includes scallops with blackpudding salsa. I'm not a blackpudding fan - it's okay. But the salsa is vile. Neither did I expect for the price, to get three scallops plopped on the little black mess. At least they were the beautiful fat chinese style scallops, but had I paid, I'd be starving and in tears. Dessert wasn't amazing either. Ultimately, if I wasn't eating there that frequently (it rained a lot when I was in Aberdeen) I may have liked it as it did have a nice decor and well-presented food. But a two week job where I probably ate there four nights? No thanks.

Prime Cuts: Meat
Had mushroom and ricotta pasta the first time (well I was trying to conserve my expense budget for the dessert) and it was lovely. Can't say I was elegant enough to taste the truffle oil but it was nice and well cooked - pretty good considering it was a veggie dish in a restaurant named after slicing meat. The dessert (oh the dessert) was baked alaska. It was actually the reason I chose the restaurant in the first place. It was the first time I'd eaten baked alaska and I'm not sure how I feel. They cheated. Well that's my opinion. They did the meringue and blow torch routine. I have no idea why but it feels like cheating in my opinion. Was yummy and well worth someone else's money though.

The next time I went I had beef (when in Aberdeen...) and it was lovely. It was meat. I don't know. I think the one to beat is Black and Blue at the moment, with regards to steak that is. Although I think that might be because they had garlic butter to go with the beast there. Had the chocolate parfait to finish and it was very nice. Just nothing to write home about. I'd go again, it's a first date kind of restaurant, comes with cutlery, glasses, linen and enough room to embarrass yourself in private.

Jasmine: Chinese/Thai/Everything vaguely oriental...
Haa... how to describe this. It was Chinese. I ordered a fried rice and mussaman curry. I love mussaman curry. It's peanutty with potatoes, coconut and onions and just enough spice to be interesting but not to scorch. Jasmine did a good curry. It had no peanuts in. And it had pineapple in it. Got to love the bizarre. Had a toffee banana to finish. Hefty portion, cantonese restaurant style. Go again? If I was in the mood why not? It was what it said on the tin...

Lemon Cake by Nigel Slater


I think I've been failed by Nigel Slater. It's very disturbing. Now he says he's not a cake man anyway, he's predominantly mains, ice cream and the odd fruit based dessert. However, I had poppy seeds, so I decided to borrow his recipe from Kitchen Diaries and tweak. I have to say it was an easy to make, albeit I judge him for requesting 90g of ground almonds when the packets come in 1oog amounts. So anyway, the cake. Which I forgot to add the poppy seeds to until the cake was in the pan. But I digress. Why did I feel the cake failed?


Well it lacked the lemony-ness one craves. But, even worse - although might be partially my fault.... it tasted quite bitter when warm. That could be because that's an entire lemon with peel sitting on the top. Or it could be that I made the syrup in the pan that held the slightly caramelised lemons. Oh well. Live and learn. And also figure out a way to use the shredded coconut that's in the cupboard...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Truffle buffle


Made them. And whilst they look okay, they taste BLEUGH!! Reason being was I didn't roast the nuts. But I didn't PLAN on using nuts. I only used them because the white chocolate stuck to the pan when you crank them off the plate. Hence they were a last minute adjustment. Recipe I used was one using Golden Oreos. But this is the UK so we didn't have those. So I used ginger nuts and digestives. But they tasted blah so I added loads of lemon curd.... so in the end I don't think it's even worth linking the recipe! Recipe I would follow (if I was sane) looks like this.

Lemon Cheesecake Truffles
200g soft cheese
Half the smallest pack of digestives
Half a pack of ginger nuts (whatever was left over from the cheesecake!)
Half a pack of white chocolate cake covering (Dr Oetekars? is about 300g in total)
Bag of chopped mixed nuts.
3 large table spoonfuls of Lemon curd.

1. Bash the biscuits.
2. Mix in the soft cheese and lemon curd.
3. Roast the nuts.
4. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
5. Roll balls of biscuit mixture in the white chocolate with forks and dip and roll in the nuts.
6. Chill.
Makes around two/three platefuls (so accurate I know!) Come Christmas I'm doing these in coconut.

It took that long to get the pics out...

Just some random pics. I went to a friends house and did the Gordon Ramsey cookalong. Made possible by the fact he has a tv you can pause and rewind!!

The starter Pea, mint and bacon soup was yummy, the lasagna a lot smaller than on screen (and sadly lacking in mushrooms). The dessert was lemon and lime syllabub and although it tasted like there was a touch too much cream, it was a good laugh to compare the pile of zest from Ramsey's lemon and what we got from our three Tesco's value ones!!

It's been awhile since I've been round people's houses but that was quite enjoyable. Gordon Ramsey, bit of background, is the footballer who is now a major celebrity chef and this is his rapid fire, cook a meal for four people in an hour job. It helps if you can eat when he does the boring bits, but in all honesty, he goes so quickly you can't actually pan cook any of the stuff in the time that he does it on screen.

The other picture is a pic of my rhubarb. I've never bought the stuff before, but it was on discount so I bought it, roasted it in lemon juice and sugar and it turned out quite nice! (Needless to say, I was the only one who would eat it in my family.)

Today I will try and make some cheesecake truffles. It's an effort to use the lemon curd, the biscuits and the lemon leftover, the double cream, chocolate and three packs of soft cheese I bought today. It was entirely stupid because there is no call for double cream and I need maybe one pack of soft cheese, but one was stupid and I thought I wouldn't have enough when I was in the supermarket.

Failing that I need to make a lemon cake of some kind.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Dirty little cheesecake...



Not to sex up dessert... no, not at all. But I've always had... earth moving experiences with food. It has been noticed that I seem to inadvertantly *mmmmmm* when I eat certain foods I find appealing. Gu chocolate molten middle puddings - those ones you put in the microwave for a minute, and oddly enough Scottish Oat cakes really do it for me.

Anyway today it was all about the cheesecake. I should have gone to the gym and watched a film at the cinema since it wasn't rainy, but instead me, mum and sis hit the local Waitrose for a shopping trip. Came back with the makings of cheesecake because after last year, year of the gingerbread house, this year is for cheesecake. It's a competitive thing. I think I must have mentioned. If not, here it is again, the ladies who bake are competitive. The chinese chiffon cake is the main item of choice, however my great-aunt has recently discovered the joy of cheesecake and orders it if they go to cafes. They don't know how to make one. I do. Hence since her daughter-in-law now makes gingerbread (copycat) I need to up my game and make cheesecake to allow mum bragging rights. Sorry, not bragging rights (we are talking about a daughter in law who is terminally ill and all, but competitive baking holds no prisoners). It's not bragging rights, it's "oh, well my daughter made this, oh she's so lazy, she can't bake at all, but just try this..."

So that's the backstory. Nevermind I'm not actually a fan of cheesecake, but hey. It's just life - I love raspberries, none of my family do. Hence there's a problem finding people to eat my food that I like to make. Regardless, the "family" favourite is to buy the lemon cheesecake from M&S or Tescos. Personally I liked the apple muffin cheesecake I bought once at Sainsburies (it was on sale!) Either way, it means I'm having to perfect a recipe for something I don't ACTUALLY really like.

However, today I made the cheesecake. It came from GoodFood, with a few adjustments... like no raspberries, a deeper dish, lemon curd, ginger nuts rather than digestives... is it even the same cake??!! Still, one baked and the middle was molten and you are supposed to let it cool and set, but... it's our family. We like things hot. No one ever serves cheesecake hot. Or even warm. It's wrong isn't it? Well I sliced. I spooned the liquid middle with the swirls of lemon curd and oooooohhhhhhh.... It has a sexy warm liquid feeling. Like....the melting middle puddings. Like a warm version of a particularly voluptuous trifle... oh that's a thought... But anyway we sat there spooning this rather delectable cheesecake and drifting nicely into a lemon buttery cloud. Mmmm. *Sigh* time to shake the pictures out of my mobile. Enjoy.


Dirty lemon cheesecake
Base:
12 ginger nuts
50 g unsalted butter

Filling
600g cream cheese
160g sugar
2tbsp flour
2 eggs
1 yolk
140ml sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
Few tablespoons of lemon curd

Method to my madness:
1. Bash ginger nuts and stir with melted butter.
2. Smush into the base of a loose-bottomed tin. Think mine was 9 inches.
3. Bake briefly (less than five minutes) at Gas Mark 5.
4. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, eggs, yolk, sour cream and vanilla together.
5. Pour onto biscuit base.
6. Drop small drizzles or teaspoons of lemon curd artistically on cheesecake.
7. Drag knife through to make funky patterns.
8. Bake for 50 minutes until edges come away very slightly, middle is molten and wobbly.
9. Turn off oven and leave in there until the middle solidifies a bit more.
10. Just eat it warm regardless. It's... yummy.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sunday Lunch


To remind me of the occasions where I love my family - Sunday Lunch.
That's a big chicken, some sort of roast potatoes, dumplings with chinese cabbage and noodles.
I say sort-of roast potatoes because I boiled them far too early because mum wanted the hob, and then I used butter to roast when I'd really prefer olive oil. Hence they are only sort of crispy in parts - namely the bits where I drizzled chicken fat over. Will do better at Christmas - if I knock mother out the way! The chicken however is majestically browned. The product of buying from Waitrose, smearing with butter and salt, shoving two quarters of lemon up it's nethers and bits of garlic all over. Yummy.


I took the picture above in Bristol. It's fried tofu wrapped in seaweed with some kind of sweet soy. The reason I took the pic was because it wasn't what I ordered - but it was pretty nice all the same. That's it for savouries. Until I find a use for half a lemon in baking, plus the chicken flavoured butter (health and safety would have my head!) we're over and out. xx

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

London Lite

List of cake places to hit (according to London Lite - I'm a London Paper girl myself...)
Outsider Tart
Hummingbird Bakery
Buttercup cake
Treacle
Primrose
Bake-a-boo
Konditor & Cook
Peyton & Byrne

Bristol Blue

Apparently this is what Bristol is famous for. Bristol Blue. I had a vaguest recollection somewhere about it but did a search today. Picture is filched from a website of the same name. In all honesty, the only Bristol Blue I've seen, is one lone bottle behind the reception of my current client. That's only because I've been storing my luggage behind there that I noticed. (Always notice breakables when you are a klutz like me!)

This is an entirely non-foody blog day. My back is aching, I have eaten Japanese to the gills in Bristol. I'm debating whether tips are allowed on expenses. I'm wearing a pair of black jeans bought this week and have just realised one of the belt loops needs attaching. (But they look good and didn't cost me £81 but the bargain price of £25. Okay at Dorothy Perkins it was the pricier pair but still!!) I am still wanting the Gucci watch (Black dahhling) but since I've not been in London, none of the shops seem to carry the crazy priced watches for some reason... *hmm* but anyway, it remains my lust object, and maybe in a year's time I'll actually buy it. Maybe if I didn't traipse around the country and didn't risk leaving it in hotel rooms that is.

Feeling the weight of endless work engagements now (can you believe it's been less than two weeks since I had two weeks off? Of course that was exams so that's hardly restful!). But work stretches out before me until Christmas. Whereupon I have my days booked between Christmas and New Year. Pity. Christmas always spells a more fun office. Albeit with the hot desking environment I think I might be disappointed. This week, work-wise, apart from the inevitable feel of a lightening bolt striking my head every time my current profession is announced, it has been good. I'm sat with some crazy guys doing reconciliations as a day job. But in all honesty lean on their arms, take naps and discuss who sung "Bad Day" and the reasons why they are taking Japanese classes (to read Manga baby!!). They do a good job of what they do, but there's a definite camaraderie that's slightly more lacking in what I do because we don't sit with each other every day. Saying that we text, online message and generally rip into each other with equal abandonment across the electronic airwaves. I complain a lot. I complain when I know people too well. I complain when it's that little bit more distant.

A bit more gym this weekend, and hopefully my first facial. Need to contemplate snack pimping and addressing that list of things to make at some point. Think cheesecake has risen to the top of the list though as the Xmas bake - purely because we have relatives that eat it and it's the mother-one-up-man-ship game. (Bear in mind these are not schoolyard stalkers, these are ladies of the pensionable era). Since I don't like cheesecake particularly and I have until Christmas to get a good one going, I better get started so my family don't die of heart attacks from regular portions of whipped and baked cheese. Ta-tah for now. xx

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Scary

The extent of how much I need to invest to photograph properly has just been made abundantly clear. See that plate below? It's actually pink...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

One ugly pie


It has to be said, this baby isn't pretty. It did look absolutely gorgeous till I heaped the brown mess of streusel on top. Think next time, we'll opt for my usual sugar streusel with white sugar. This brown stuff... looks like something you scrape off a shoe. Like I said before, we had sour cream in the fridge, a glut of apples, and so I created this little number from a recipe online. The picture they had was slightly better and retrospectively that might have been because I was rough and ready with the measuring of the butter, plus I melted it rather than make crumbs from it - fridge cold, microwaving it seemed easier. Therefore there was actually butter to pour OFF the pie before it finished. Still tasted yummy and family are actually eating it. Bit OTT given the JustRol had TWO rounds of pastry. The other round I made in to a banana, apple sauce and custard topped pie. It looks as random as it sounds but very edible. However, for the picture above the recipe went like this with my adjustments (for laziness and available ingrediants) :

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Streusel Topping

Filling:
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 cups peeled, sliced tart apples (four hefty ones with lots of core and bruises cut off)
Roll out shortcrust pastry for 9 inch pan (JustRol had a deal)

Topping:
1/3 cup muscavado sugar (loose)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

1. Line pan with pastry.
2. Mix all the filling stuff together.
3. Bake at Gas Mark 6.
4. After 25 minutes, mix all the streusel topping mix together and pour on top.
5. Bake for a further 20 minutes.
6. Cool slightly and slice.

Sour cream and apples

I'm a bad, bad person. I bought sour cream last week and still haven't used it. Well I was in Bristol all week. Work. Rather fabulous city although no dessert! Which is namely because of the colleague I was with. Oh well. At least I suppose I am no heavier. That might change this weekend since the sour cream is still in date so I can bake with it. I did manage to dine at the recommended Bordeaux Quay in Bristol though and it was really affordable. Well I say really - the service charge is automatically added, but they didn't charge us for water which I was surprised by. So used to water being pressed upon you for £XXXX that I actually feel bad that we didn't buy a drink or have dessert (like I said, colleague). So I will look around and see what I can make with sour cream, although I can always do my favourite cupcakes, it seems lacking in va-va-voom experimentation today.

The apples by the way are the product of some man with a large organic stock who is giving them to my mother (generous!) Rosy red, they make good eating stock apparently but perhaps maybe we can do some pan-fried with pork or something. We shall see. Hopefully back on with some pictures later today, but meanwhile I will just catch up with some Desperate Housewives!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

So much free time!!


So. Exam over. Friday I went out briefly for steak and lemon meringue pie. Wasn't an amazing pie but at least it was a good sized slice. Saturday featured the joys of Watford shopping centre and a fashion show. I love them. Pity the poor models who have to dance in high heels on a stage designed almost to trip them up. It's a hard life. Even if you do look hot.

Sunday was rainy. So it had to be done. BAKE FEST!! I went straight for the cookies book. Fortunately there was a bit of planning involved. I spent the Saturday stocking up on flour and various chocolate chips and coconut, just in case there was an opportunity! I did, I confess, not make any of the recipes that I had listed. Instead I opted for the classic - chocolate chip and a vanilla cookie. The aim was to make use of the Hello Kitty cookie cutters I have from HK. Unfortunately, as you can see, they didn't really show up (although as I've just noticed, a ghost of Hello Kitty is in the top corner of that heart). Will have to push harder next time or make a stiffer cookie.

The vanilla cookie is called the Teatime sugar cookie in the Ultimate cookie book. Very sticky dough and so extra flour was called for.

The chocolate chunk cookie recipe I adjusted a lot but still not enough. Critique from father was (funnily enough) was firstly "they're not cooked yet" - "no dad, that's a white chocolate chip", the second I agreed with - 10% less sugar. As it was we reduced the sugar by half a cup in the first place. Plus I suppose I used a pack of white chips which are infinitely sweeter. Must re-jig next time I make them.


Chocolate chunk cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cup plain flour
2 packs chocolate chip (about 200g)

Gas Mark 5

1. Beat butter with sugar
2. Add everything else in order, beating in the flour gradually. It is slightly drier than my usual chocolate chip recipes.
3. Place rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet. I put five walnut sized blobs per sheet.
4. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

One more day....

One more day to revolution, one more day to... Les Mis anyone? Exam's tomorrow. I'm in denial that I don't know anything. Spent a few minutes watching fireworks on tv celebrating something to do with China and HK and possibly Samsung since their building was behind every shot.

Being sent to Bristol for four weeks. What's that famous for then?

I will bake. And if I'm lucky go to the meet. (FYI all "meets" are basically the British Born Chinese ones). And maybe the Barn Hotel since my brother is free this weekend (gf with a rock on finger/possible fiance has gone to Manchester this weekend). And a film. I could go see a film... and catch up with all the Ugly Betty's, Heroes and Desparate Housewives I've missed.... must.focus...

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Cake shopsssss

Hmm. No baking. Some forum posting. But someone posted (at length) about Maze restaurant and her birthday. It was informative. I have to try it some day. But guess where my eyes zeroed in on? Bea's Cakes of Bloomsbury. *chi-ching* Guess where I'm going hunting this weekend? :) American cakes. Which one do I try?? Debate on fried rice online at the moment. People put the egg in last? Sacrilege!! Oh well. At least they didn't say cook separately and slice into slivers and toss through *grins* Ah the yesteryears of "chinese" cookery. Beats people who would overcook the egg I suppose. Craving for fried rice now.

Monday, 29 September 2008

*Dark Clouds*

Today beckons the week that my exams lie... Friday afternoon to be precise. I just feel so *ARGH* *tear hair out* and all that malarky. It's the THIRD time I'm going through the question bank and that's quite extreme, even for me. Which is probably why I look at the questions and just blank in some cases. Either way, after going downstairs, eating my body weight in oatcakes and rich tea and watching some Diagnosis Murder, I'm going to officially take the next hour off. No study. Tidy room. Maybe go bask outside in some sunlight for a bit before beating the cr@p out of something.

One things I thought might be interesting - an art/weird stuff blog

Oh and I read the Daring Bakers bitty again. You have to "unveil" on the same day. With me in a different county most weeks I think I may have to bow out and just force myself to bake something once a month instead.

Off to dive off a cliff. (Since we live in a valley that can't even get Channel 5 there are very specific reasons as to why I've survived so long!) xx

Sunday, 28 September 2008

I want nobody, nobody but you....

Thanks to my friend I now have an addiction to a Korean girl band. Think Girls Aloud. Think PussyCatDolls with less gynecological cameramen. This is as sexed up as mainstream Oriental pop acts have ever been. I love the cartoon dancing (it's slightly reminiscent of dances in videogames) and evidently the fact they sing in Korean does not make a bit of difference to me. Meet.... the WonderGirls.

And now to food... or reading anyway! First read of the day was National Geographic in the bathroom. That was interesting, especially when you consider the copy was from October 1980!! Apparently sis went to the second hand shops and bought a few to look at. Had to say I was mainly looking at the adverts. The height of designs that year for Cartier watches and Nikon cameras! My how twenty odd years changes things. It is amazing though. Tempted to buy some more and frame the adverts.

Reading part 2: Waitrose magazine downstairs whilst I was eating my cornflakes. As a time saving option, why not buy ready made mash which you can reheat... in 40 minutes. It takes less time to make from scratch surely? But I suppose that's 40 minutes in the bathroom pampering rather than pounding the pesky lumps out. Also quite funny (I'm easily amused) their range of bistro foods, the Finest, Treat Yourself type range... guess what it's called? As Good As Going Out. Jesus. And they PAID someone to come up with that?

We need a picture. Oh here, have the one from William Curley of what the dish looked like when I ate it.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sunny Saturday

I've actually had a relatively good day's study. Four hours at five o'clock in the afternoon is pretty decent. Of course I'm not entirely sure I've learnt anything. I'm doing the questions again (third? time) and it's like... yes I am still getting X wrong. Least I know what it is and I've got precise notes on what the answer SHOULD be. I have this weekend to do the questions and then four whole days to memorise the missing elements.

Cake moment. Have I mentioned the Daring Bakers? I'm still in debate on whether to join. This month's challenge was almost off-putting. Gluten free crackers? Is that my future? Spending a Saturday a month making dishes I won't really eat? Hmm. Given I've found a new love in Scottish Oatcakes when I was I was in Aberdeen perhaps I shouldn't be hasty. We shall see. But I am beginning to make a HUGE list of recipes I MUST try.

Things I found reading the two books I bought yesterday - the biscuit one really is OTT in the amount of colouring they add to almost everything. I shall be remedying that. By, er, not buying a single recommended colouring. We own one bottle of food colouring in this house and it is used in miniscule amounts to try and tint the edge of the icing. We use Bird's custard powder to make egg tarts yellower (the colouring is in there but it FEELS less toxic). Either way, very happy I bought the book and you can hold with baited breath to watch me fake corn syrup. Golden Syrup apparently doesn't cut it in all cases.

The Magnolia cookbook I have decided to keep. Brother dearest just took a look and said, "Well if you don't like it, just give it to someone for Christmas." The solution to all Christmas shopping for him is raiding the downstairs room. OOOH Just realised this Xmas I might be able to go see my cousin's baby. "Irrelevant" says the New York Times. Ok, well the big a$$ coconut cake on the front. Is big because they make three layers. Cheats. Also, the frosting is as far as I can tell, Italian Meringue. I had an internal conflict here as raw eggs are something that we don't usually use for baking purposes. Last year I used the dried egg whites for royal icing on my gingerbread house and this year I've tried Swiss Meringue Buttercream which cooks the egg whites over a bain marie. I *think* I've been convinced by the BBC food forumites to just go for it. But I won't be telling my mother what's in the frosting!

For your loving dis-interest and because it saves me saving bookmarks each time I reformat the hard drive - William Curley gives the recipe for a) Truffles b) The chocolate thing I ate at the dessert bar. Note he doesn't give the recipe for the "hazelnut and almond Dacquoise, chocolate biscuit jaconde, milk chocolate and praline Feuillantine, praline ice cream, orange caramel compot and confir kumquats". Well he has to keep some secrets!

You might want to take note - he's won some awards for his chocolates so I don't know, he might be some good? xx

Friday, 26 September 2008

I had to post this

Think as you know I've been going a little crazy online shopping, but I was looking at baking tins on Amazon today and as usual you get a few things which are tagged so they show up in the search despite having little relevance at all. This however, made me crack up. An Optical zoom for mobile phones. Way to take on those food bloggers with their DSLR's ;)

They arrived!!

Amazon delivers! And whilst I was being a lazy bum they were downstairs...

Book1: Better Homes and Gardens: The ULTIMATE cookie book looks like something I will definitely cook many recipes from, pour over and make lots of fat friends from :D







Book2: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook was the one I bought to make the £15 threshold for free delivery (that's a skill, you aim to get £15 and then you spend £17 extra) I know I shouldn't have. Heck I remember being in NY, not loving the cupcakes, and coming back finding a few on the internet and still... mmmm I don't know.


But there it was. A big coconut cake on the cover. With stiff icing. And a rich, deep devils food cake next to it for contrast. I don't think I'm sending it back somehow! It is the priciest book I've bought for ages and low value in fairness. It's relatively slender and doesn't have the multiple pictures that I've gotten so used to. Still, if I make a good chocolate cake, a good coconut cake and the one fruit torte which looks more like sponge, then it will be worth it no? It's sitting to my left right now, smugly squat and knowing that it's not going to be sent back. (When cooking books speak to you I'm guessing the men in white coats are only minutes away...)

OH TO GET THIS EXAM OVER WITH (one week to the day!)
Then I can bake. Then I can go to the gym and pretend it makes the slightest bit of difference.

Maybe just maybe...

My books will arrive today...

Scored myself 48-56 on my mock. Not bad with a week to go and my ruthless marking. It is precisely 7 days now. NEXT FRIDAY!!

Also kind of freaky that the BBC Food forums shut down after a certain time *blink* *blink* It's as if you've woken up in a deserted ghost town. Eerie!!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Today I am supposed to do accountancy...and a mock

Right. Quick blog as yesterday I didn't blog. But didn't study. Pathetic. Here is somewhere I really, really want to go to. I've been lusting after it for ... approximately five years? They advertise quite regularly in our local free magazine Optima and thus I've been wanting to go on the basis of two pictures. The fact it isn't really local at all and I have to beg a lift from my brother is probably why I haven't been. Plus every birthday I've had in the past two years (er that's two then) I've either been - unable to eat hard foods, or just not up for a big meal.

The picture has that certain "I'm so beautiful, look at me, eat me, you want to eat me!" quality to it. Hence I've actually blown it up a bit. Here's another little teeny tiny problem with it though. There's a taster menu there. So if I eat a taster menu, will I have room for this little baby? Problem part two. There's a chocolate version... admittedly not the BIGGEST problem of the world since my family (I love my family) are very big sharers of food. We specifically order different things so we can try each other's plates. I thought this was entirely normal till I took a mate out and he thought it was akin to swapping bodily fluids (since we were at the time... PG13 style mind! it wasn't an issue but surely with family? You share the same DNA anyway??!)

Chocolate version below. And if you fancy giving it a go, the name of the place is the Barn Hotel in Ruislip. Please don't go before I finally make it there!!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Shopping blog

Okay I think I'm so desperate to write things that this has steered away from a baking blog to ... a blog. But much excitement - my ipod dock/alarm clock arrived!! Very happy. My laptop was designed for business use and so the speakers are abysmal. And this is coming from a girl who listens to tapes recorded from the radio on a Panasonic tapedeck still!! I feel the lack of pictures though and so here's a picture from William Curley's in Mayfair. One of the more recent additions to my cake walk in Green Park, it's slightly more hidden away, they do cakes at John Lewis on Oxford Street too.

When we went it was for the dessert bar where they make the dessert in front of you (really more of a construction job, but kind of cool watching people who actually know how to pipe stuff). It was really an effort for me to try and recreate the experience I hoped to have in NY, but since we had cool desserts every day, making the effort to find an out of way dessert bar fell to bottom of the list. Check it out if you do go that way, because I want to know if it's worth the hype. Chikalicious.

Have to say, the actual cake was lovely, probably because I rarely get the full done up type of desserts (although these days eating on expenses I get a bit more!) But don't think anything beats a proper crumble and custard. Will construct of list of things I want to do and try and do it next year. Pudding club is one of them.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Giddygiddygiddy!!

Hehehee.... just bought a cookie book and a Magnolia bakery cookbook today and just got the warm vibe on impending pretty pictures and recipes. I'm silly but it makes me happy.

Happy Bunny Day!

Okay I have a slight... obsession with wedding cakes. In fact my friends have reached the point where they just expect me to be incredibly critical about their wedding cakes. I'm well...I keep my opinions from the bride and groom naturally but I always think a cake should reflect them and boring cakes don't hit the spot. (There is a difference between boring and classic mind!)

I am happy today (despite now rainy weather) because a mate of my sister's is getting married and my sister is bridesmaid (we think - the offer has been extended and retracted before as there is a certain indecision regarding the matter.) We've known this for awhile, but basically the CAKE and the decisions surrounding it have entered my sphere. Consultancy here I come!! :P First off, it's GREAT when someone cares about the cake. My friend's couldn't give a monkeys and she was told the morning of the wedding that they got a cake arranged by dad (I'd like to say, she did get married in Thailand and the "wedding" with the cake was more like an afterthought where we had to dress up. It was a very yummy cake actually (chinese) but there was no obsessive, compulsive comparison of flavours, designs, etcetcetc.... what some people do with the dress, I think about with the cake. I have all this with my sister's mate *gleams*.

You couldn't possibly care (if anyone is actually reading this), but so far we are very likely to get one made of cheese as well. (Happy dance somewhere...) The sweet cake is varying between cupcake ones, traditional ones, chocolate ones... originally the remit was this:
Layer 1: Chocolate cake
Layer 2: Fruit cake (she's traditional)
Layer 3: Cheesecake.
Very excited and throwing all kinds of questions at her. I don't fancy making a wedding cake (too much pressure and I can't decorate jack...) but certainly a girl on a budget I'm trying to be as sensible as possible! (Not all people want to blow several thou on a cake!!)

Love and kisses from a happy, but should study, amateur wedding cake consultant :D

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Possibly the laziest moment I've had...

Studying a bit better - got two questions under my belt today.

Laziness factor is this, was making myself some humous on toast (humous from M&S and I didn't even buy it myself!) and was in the process of spreading when knife lingers over cup of fresh tea. *plop* in goes humous.

Surprising bit is the fact my tea tastes fine and given the oil based nature of humous, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that it didn't stay solid enough for me to fish out with a spoon. Ah well.

Nuclear egg tarts

I'm still wondering about what to make for pimpthatsnack.com as it's been something I've been wanting to do for agggggggges. Trouble is, most things have been done and in a spectacular fashion. Bearing in mind I'll probably do my exams and it will be forgotten as I get my life back again - kind of like wanting to learn to "crank" ala Soulja Boy whilst I was on sabbatical.

It does seem wrong to write what should be a food blog without pictures - so here's a picture of some chinese egg tarts I made a long time ago. Only they're not really chinese - I cheated and used puff pastry and since I don't like to waste the trimmings, there are some in there that look like they've been through a nuclear fall-out as my friend put it. There is a chinese recipe for puff pastry which does the folding marlarky but instead of layer of butter, it's actually TWO types of pastry folded, one water-based and one oil-based. Unfortunately the oil is lard, although you can do it with vegetable shortening, and the lard made me queasy when I was mixing it in by hand. Rather than go through all that effort again I think I'll stick to my frozen puff which I love anyway, but in you're in ChinaTown and you get some warm egg tarts, you'll notice the difference.

The oddly addictive thing about blogs is, and you do find this going onto other sites, is that the photos are key. People ask each other what camera they use. And I am, er, using the one that comes on my mobile! So very tempted to get a DSLR and you can get them for around £250 which is probably a touch more than what I paid for, for my regular digital camera - HOWEVER when will I use a DSLR?? Other than in the house photographing food? It's heavy, you look like a geek wandering around with it (and yes Chinese people worship cameras and so there are a lot of GEEK geeks out there). Something to think about because, well it's money and I should really care since I've hit a materialistic phase lately and want things like Gucci watches when I'm seriously a Primark, M&S, and H&M type shopper.

I'll pretend to study some more this morning... but if I end up posting again, don't be surprised.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

When I'm supposed to be studying...

I choose to blog instead. Ai. Two weeks to go. Then it's ALL OVER. For a year at least before I chose to inflict myself with this again. Enough of the life story, may as well get with the good stuff.


Over the year I've picked up several new cookbooks - not least because my brother has a book club deal with work and therefore gets cheap cookbooks. Hence I got Delia's "
How to Cheat" in my cookbook collection (and inexplicably the ready made mash in the freezer which I didn't buy!) I'm not for slating her, she made money out of it and she CAN cook. Plus one of my favourites as previously mentioned, Silvano Franco is the queen of quickie food.

More interesting books however are the now very popular cupcake ones. I bought two. Not on purpose mind! I actually bought one, lost it, so bought another one (because I can, can, can...)

The first is "The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake book". Personally I found the mixture too sweet and they made too many. Normal people have one tray for twelve muffins to use for cupcakes
. One does not need to make 24. However, there's a variety of cakes at the back which I fully intend to make. Even funnier was my "future sister in law" has a mate who had a tea party - and I could see the cakes from the pictures, were very faithful representations!! The gauntlet, has been thrown shall we say?

Cupcake book 2 is more frequently used. It is originally called "Cupcakes!" by Elinor Klivans. The recipe calls for sour cream, which is slightly annoying because I don't think it's an exact pot. However, it's not too sweet and tastes quite nice. (Never in my youth did I think I'd try different recipes for what is just fairy cake mixture or victoria sponge in cups!!) I've made several recipes from this book, some more popular than others, but definite experiments going on here. One fantastic one is the vanilla cheesecake cupcake which is deliciously cheesecakey, top to bottom crumb cupcake gives a nice texture of, er, crumb, and top-hats were a different foray into American bakin
g since we don't have them over here.

Thus far I've made the vanilla cheesecake ones several times and they've been scarfed quite promptly by the people at work (old work place!). I like victims for my experiments and I'm not shy.
They've eaten a dubious banoffee pie and my sister's workplace have been fed some overdry brownies from Nigella's "How to be a domestic Goddess". Lord knows why I keep trying from that book.


For me, the only recipe that has worked fantastically has been the philadelphia cheese brownies which are a miracle of lusciousness. FYI, just before you commit to reading my blog you might want to know that I tend to bake with margerine. Butter takes too long to soften
(I use the microwave occasionally) and for some reason feels more fattening (when you melt butter over the hob it FEELS like it's just stuck to your face and bathed you in fat). That's not to say I always avoid butter, but if I'm lazy I won't make the effort to slice and dice the hard stuff to soften. The exception to this rule is when you melt it with chocolate or are making scrambled eggs. Then there is no substitute...

Have a look at the cupcakes and let me know what to make next. These days we have a pool going where someone shouts a number and I make the nearest cupcake to that page.

Friday, 19 September 2008

It's been awhile

Forgot that I wrote so much last time!

Basically facebook took over and most my pictures are posted there as it's so easy, but in the mood to pick this up again.

First of all, I've realised that I've grown attached to a few bloggers - namely the pictures, not the words - but they are somewhat amazing and very regular with their posting! Therefore it is worthy of mention.


Other than that my baking has pretty much gone along the same train although "Chinese Cooking Made Easy" came on the BBC for six weeks, which made for more love to hate tv. Taiwanese smiley girl dismisses takeaway food as the devil incarnate and proceeds to burn her own version on tv. Great. Check out the BBC website for some forumite bashing. Same goes for the British Born Chinese version.

Speaking of which though, I have been on a hell-bent to find more chinese baking to make. As it was Harvest Moon festival for Chinese people recently (not that I could celebrate - I was in Aberdeen with work :( ), I will be making mooncakes at some point. That's about as cultural as I get - apart from my quest to find a mixture to make Chinese whipped cream for frosting my cakes with. If you haven't tried it, Chinese cakes are lighter. The cake base is essentially chiffon cake, however the cream I haven't managed to master/find the secret formula for. All roads currently lead to vegetable shortening. Swiss meringue seems close but it tastes too buttery... yes I may be finding that my dream cream is actually frankenstein in disguise but I have to find the secret!!We shall see. For now, have some pictures of my random baking from last Christmas (when mass-producing gingerbread for the masses).