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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Chocolate Bomb Failure

All mouth and no trousers, that’s me. I’m forever saying or blogging that when The Boyfriend is back, I simply must cook him whatever delicious meal I’ve discovered while he’s away, or whip up a tasty dessert for a Friday night meal. And yet it never quite turns out like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and I LOVE cooking for the two of us, but spending hours in the kitchen when I could actually be spending time with him seems pointless when we spend so much time apart. It’s not as if our current kitchen is suitable for relaxing in or cooking as a team (oh, but it will be, mark my words, it will be), what with it being small, run down and designed to suit those of a pensionable age, so the cook tends to be alone at the far end of the house. There are few things in life I enjoy more than getting my iPod out and pottering about for hours in the kitchen making bread, cakes, pasta sauces, casseroles or biscuits, but only when I’m alone and can be selfish.

The irony then of this selfish hobby is that the food I have time to cook when he’s away is also the food that is perfect to share with him. I’m not going to make a chocolate soufflé just for me (unlike cake you can’t take soufflé into work the next day to share) but I would deeply resent spending two hours of a Friday night in the kitchen making a soufflé when I could be binging on Breaking Bad and eating Malteser’s with The Boyfriend. This is what led me to make the simplest recipe from a hugely neglected cookbook for a Friday night dessert – chocolate mint bombs from Green & Blacks Ultimate Chocolate Cookbook. Expressing surprise at how a cookbook about chocolate came to be so abandoned? Me too, and I can’t for the life of me explain how I’ve had this book for nearly two years and not cooked from it once. A disgraceful oversight on my part. Especially as I’m head over heels in love with Green & Blacks chocolate, in particular the butterscotch flavour. Oh my god, just writing that has made me desperate for some. Do they deliver? The recipes in it all look scrumptious, you’ve got salted caramel chocolate torte, brownies, white chocolate millefuille, ice creams, soufflés, hot chocolates, truffles and so much more. It’s a chocoholics paradise. Whilst I really, really wanted to cook the chocolate soufflé, the workload for it put me off so I went for possibly the least labour intensive recipe in the book. The other half’s a huge fan of mint chocolate so it seemed like a no brainer. In essence, the ‘bomb’ is in actual fact just a cake mix wodged into a ramekin and baked in the oven. Easy to make ahead, yet there were very few clues as to what this dessert should turn out like. Was it supposed to have a runny centre, be turned out of the ramekin onto a plate? Who knew. Because of this, I’m not sure whether I overcooked it or not, as while tasting perfectly fine (although not as minty as I’d hoped) it was pretty unspectacular and had the texture of dry, heavy cake. Even if it was supposed to have a gooey centre, the cake surrounding it would still be lacklustre. I made the mistake of sacrificing flavour for time. As well as tasting unspectacular, it didn’t look much, so I tried to jazz it up by attempting to dust a teaspoon shape onto it with icing sugar. This failed miserably, and my pride forbids me to put photographic evidence out there.

This dull attempt at dessert then makes me think that maybe once in a while, dedicating some time in the kitchen to get a stunning dessert on the table might not be so bad after all if it tastes amazing. Just don’t expect me to be all that happy about it.

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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Baking, Books, Chocolate, Cooking, Food

 

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Disappointment In The Kitchen

The trouble with celebrity chefs is that you just can’t help but trust them. Food is their livelihood, they’ve studied it, worked with it for years and put in the hours working their way up from the bottom of the kitchen to become head chef and subsequently, a star. Of course you’d believe them when they tell you japchae isn’t hard to find outside of Chinatown, or that cooking a three course meal really can be the work of a mere half hour. What have they got to gain from deceiving you (besides millions of books sold, great ratings on the telly and a three month wait for a table at their exclusive restaurant)? They tell you this information purely out of the goodness of their own heart, to share the knowledge and make you at home a better cook. As you may know from Jamie Oliver and Quail Egg-gate, I take umbrage to chefs embellishing the truth. Jamie has been forgiven for his many lies but it didn’t take long for a new fibber to come to the forefront: step forward Gordon Ramsay.

Gordon and I have a chequered past as it is, what with him once being my weird crush until he was on TV ALL. THE. TIME and I gradually lost interest. There’s only so much shouting at morons I can take before it becomes tedious. I only became interested again (strictly in the cooking sense) when his back to basics cooking show ‘100 Recipes To Stake Your Life On’ started last year and the tasty looking recipes combined with Gordon’s rather inappropriate feelings towards food had me hooked. The few recipes I’ve cooked from the accompanying book I’ve had mixed feelings about. There is nothing wrong with the finished meals, they are simple, tasty and produce a satisfying dinner. They just aren’t anything special. Maybe I have too high standards, perhaps I want too much from Gordon and have ridiculous expectations to be blown away by every recipe. But then when I cook, say, satay chicken from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, or massamann curry from Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic, or chicken schnitzel from Nigella Express, I am blown away because they taste so delicious and addictive. I remember them, cook them again and The Boyfriend also likes them. They’re hits and all I’ve done is followed a recipe and put my faith in the authors. So yes, maybe I do have high standards but other chefs meet them. I like recipes that really pack a punch, whether that be spicy, salty, sweet or sour. In middle school I had a teacher who would not tolerate the word ‘nice’. She said it meant nothing and was an insult. I didn’t understand it then but now I completely get it. If you said to me that someone was nice, I’d assume that while perfectly pleasant, that person did not put across anything memorable or interesting about them self which would require a better adjective used to describe them. Nice is forgettable. Nice food does its job but in the end it’s forgotten. Much like how my friends and family are so much more than simply ‘nice’ (they’re kind, funny, witty, sharp, interesting, clever, charming, intelligent, enthusiastic, savvy, sweet, generous.. see how much more complimentary these words are than ‘nice’?) the food I like to cook and eat also needs to be so much more.

So Gordon already had his work cut out to try and please me with his recipes. I chose to make pork neck curry with mango salsa from his book ‘Cookery Course’ which accompanied the ‘100 Recipes’ TV show because he writes in the book that this is his favourite curry of all time. For a chef to make such a statement about a recipe makes me pay attention. He must have eaten and cooked loads of curries so if this is The Best then I am cooking it. Like I said earlier, the trouble with chefs is that you can’t help but trust them. It’s a Thai recipe, so I made a paste and assembled the curry and the house was filled with a delicious spicy aroma. Normally when I make Thai curries I reduce the sauce down a little so the curry is a little thicker and less watery, but this was quite tricky to do, possibly because of Gordon’s insistence on adding loads of stock. The pork itself was super soft after bubbling away in the curry for an hour and the sauce was spicy with plenty of flavour. However, it just didn’t have that wow factor whilst the sauce was too thin. For a mid week meal it would be perfectly acceptable but what with it being a Friday night dinner, I was a little disappointed. It makes me question Gordons judgement on food that he thinks this is the best curry he’s ever eaten. Whilst I don’t think you can ever really recreate authentic Indian curries at home, Thai curries are a little easier to replicate and taste fantastic made in your own kitchen. If you want an amazing home cooked curry, you’d be better off trying Gizzi Erskine’s lamb massamann or her green curry paste. These pack serious flavour and I find myself cooking them again and again. I’ll continue to use Gordon’s book as the recipes are nice and they beat chicken nuggets for dinner, but when it comes to weekend cooking and packing a punch, Gordon’s not the right chef for me.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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Eat Your Strawberry Cheesecake, Fool

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Cheesecake. It’s bloody great isn’t it? As sweet foods go, it’s up there with chocolate, ice cream and brownies. The best of the best. I’ve made it my mission to eat cheesecake as frequently as possible, trying new flavours and textures, selflessly sacrificing those size 10 jeans in order to find the perfect one, one that could go head to head with the – so far- triumphant banana cream cheesecake currently residing at The Cheesecake Factory. Kate Moss once said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Clearly she’s never had cheesecake. What a sorry existence.

Loving cheesecake as I do, my excitement levels for our trip to New York is at fever pitch. Sure, sure, New York has super high skyscrapers, a fascinating history, amazing museums, excellent nightlife and the best shopping in the world. Blah blah blah. But it also created the perfection that is the New York Cheesecake. I’m not saying that the biggest draw for this trip is the food I’ll be eating, but lets face it, there’s surely nowhere else in the world where you can eat as well as in New York. Chinatown, salt beef and brisket sandwiches, bagels, Michelin starred restaurants, street food carts, BBQ joints, Italian-American food, endless food cultures, coffee obsessions, innovative bakeries, cupcakes galore and of course, cheesecake. I’m going to get fat and I’m going to freaking love it.

Knowing this about me, you can imagine my delight upon finding a recipe in Smitten Kitchen for Strawberry Cheesecake Fool. A new interpretation on two classics – the New York Cheesecake and the English Fool – with a hint of Eton Mess about it, how could I not give it a whirl? As a fellow cheesecake lover this also got the seal of approval from The Boyfriend, never one to turn down a dessert containing strawberries, cream cheese and a buttery biscuit base. It’s a fairly uncomplicated recipe to follow but has a few stages, one involves cooking the strawberries which appalled me until I got a taste of the super juicy strawberries that emerged from the saucepan. The point of cooking them is that you are left with sticky strawberries and a luscious sauce which you then swirl through half the sweetened vanilla cream cheese mixture so you have a beautiful pink mousse which tastes just like a strawberry cheesecake. A very, very good cheesecake. Layer all the different elements (strawberries, vanilla cream cheese, sugary biscuit crumbs and strawberry cream cheese) in whatever glasses you have lying around, top with a fresh strawberry and voila, you have a stunning dessert which tastes amazing. Like all the best cheesecakes, the cheese was light, fluffy and super smooth and actually tasting of the fruit rather than some synthetic version of a strawberry. The sugary biscuit crumbs gave the dessert some texture and crunch, and the strawberries just tasted delicious. A total success on a variation of cheesecake and a great way to use up all those strawberries on the supermarket shelves. And for an English fool heading to New York to eat cheesecake, it was pretty apt.

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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in American, Cooking, Food, Puddings

 

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