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Category Archives: Puddings

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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Cajun Chicken and Cherry Cheesecake

I love the Internet. Properly, well and truly in love with it; til death us do part, in sickness and in health kind of love. As much as I cherish my cookbooks, they’re not cut out for ‘renovation cooking’, whereby the basic means to bake, roast, boil and pull a delicious joint of pork out of the oven are cruelly denied. Please, put your violins away, I’m fine, really. Google, Pinterest and many food blogs have stepped in to replace the books and given me some much needed inspiration for my slow cooker and George Foreman limitations. The Internet, what would we do without it eh? Going with my love of American food, and Cajun food in particular, I plucked from the infinite depths of the Internet a recipe for slow cooker Jambalaya. I say depths, what I really mean is the All Recipes UK website, and you can find the link to the recipe here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/9410/jambalaya-in-a-slow-cooker.aspx . Being the total rebel that I am, I made a few changes while cooking it to suit what I had in the kitchen. Smoked pork sausage was out, pork and red onion sausages from the local farmers market in. Not authentically Cajun but they are delicious sausages and went really well alongside the flavours of the Deep South. I also chucked in some garlic and red chilli because let’s face it, nothing can go wrong when chilli and garlic gatecrash a party. You know it makes sense. Don’t feel you have to follow a recipe slavishly, throw stuff in if you think it will work and go with your tastes and instincts, cookbooks should be a guide and nothing more. I also halved the amount so that I’m not overwhelmed with frozen leftovers for weeks on end. If you’ve never had Jambalaya before, it’s a tomato stew cooked with chicken, sausage (traditionally this would be andouille sausage but it can be tricky to find on this side of the pond), prawns, herbs and rice and is really tasty. The word stew doesn’t really inspire but Jambalaya does and hints at the spicy treat awaiting the diner. I’ve made jambalaya before, from Jamie’s America, which was lovely but knowing I can cook it in the slow cooker makes it so much easier and for me is the better option – much less mess to clean up. Give it a go, its simple but tasty and a great one pot dinner as the rice cooks in the stew.

Waking up this morning hungover after a great night out, it felt like it was finally time to attempt making dessert in our makeshift kitchen, although with no oven Baking Sunday is clearly out of my reach. So Baking Sunday today became Cheesecake Sunday! I’ve tried my hand in the past at baked cheesecakes and have never been able to really do them justice, which is a huge shame as baked cheesecakes are far superior to chilled and hark back to Jewish tradition and give me that New York feeling. I’d eat baked cheesecake off the floor a la Rachel and Chandler if I had to, they really are so good. Still, a chilled cheesecake is not to be sniffed at and while lacking in fluffiness, it delivers in density. Not needing heat of any kind, I made cherry cheesecake from Nigella Express although in the end I was sorely lacking in cherries. A chilled cheesecake is really quick and easy to make, the only time consuming part is waiting for it to set in the fridge. I could not be bothered to get my electric whisk out and needed to vent some minor irritations and aside from kneading bread which is currently out of the question, whisking cream by hand is one of the best ways to vent. I’m not a confrontational person and its by no means a big issue but being made to feel like I’m putting up with a thoughtless, selfish boyfriend and hearing sarcastic comments from friends when The Boyfriend could not be more lovely and awesome is extremely frustrating. But being a classic girl means having a difficult conversation with someone about practically anything will lead to me crying despite the fact I am neither upset not angry, but just want to clear the air. I’ll go the cowards way out and vent on my blog then: The Boyfriend is not a selfish, thoughtless pig and I’m not a pushover girlfriend who has very low expectations. That may not have been how it was meant to come across but that was the implication and it was quite hurtful. And let that be the end of the matter!
Back to the cheesecake – it was supposed to be topped with a cherry conserve but I mistakenly bought jam, which may not seem like a big difference but conserve is chunky with fruit while jam is a smooth paste which while great on toast would not be so great spread on a cheesecake. It ended up being a plain vanilla cheesecake and while there was nothing particularly wrong with it, it really needed the cherry flavouring to crank things up a notch. It just tasted a bit plain and ‘meh’, nothing special. And there’s still 7 slices of it left, gah! I know everyone’s on a diet at work so I will apologise in advance for bringing in inferior but fattening cheesecake and hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me!

 

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All You Need Is Custard

Popular music, or more specifically, The Beatles, would have you believe that all you need is love. I’m going to stick my neck out and disagree with those mop top boys from Liverpool and say that actually no, love is not all you need. Had they never eaten custard? If they had indeed eaten custard, what were they thinking making such a claim and not giving custard it’s rightful place in music history? Outrageous. I’m not someone who’s down on love, I get emotional listening to Beyonce singing about how awesome Jay-Z is (if those two ever split then I will lose all faith in humanity) and I’m pretty crazy about The Boyfriend, but a life without custard in it is not one I want to even consider. Custard, or Creme Anglaise if you’re running a gastropub, is easily my favourite topping for a dessert. It takes me back to being little on a Sunday night where after tucking in to a roast, me and my brother would anxiously await the cooking of the custard to go on top of the crumbles made with rhubarb grown in our garden. I know it isn’t culinary or very foodie, but I won’t hear a bad word said about Birds custard powder or the nuking of it in the microwave, it’s the taste of my childhood, and very likely if you’re English, the taste of yours too. Watching it bubble away in the microwave always seemed to take hours, and then being told by my mum to wait five minutes for it to cool down was pure torture. Was always worth waiting though. Since then though I’ve made custard from scratch (best recipe is from Jamies Cook, absolutely heavenly) and bought those fresh pots from the supermarket that are flecked with vanilla seeds and it’s hard to disagree that these are miles better than the powdered stuff. I certainly wouldn’t turn down Birds custard anytime soon though. Or a carton of Ambrosia. Which nicely leads us to the crux of the matter, last nights dinner.

Last night I had some friends round for dinner, and the one food that we can all agree on and eat is Italian, leading me to naturally cook from Nigellisima. Nigella is a friend to any cook who has invited people over for dinner on a work night as her recipes don’t require much faffing around and are designed to be easy to cook and tasty to eat. Italian sausage and chicken tray bake with gnocchi gratin certainly did the trick, although the Tesco near my work had no Italian sausages so I had to sub with pork and red onion sausages (red onion seemed the most Italian out of all the flavoured sausages) which I recommend you try as they were mighty tasty and went pretty well with the lemon zest and rosemary that I chucked all over them. Add in some chicken thighs and olive oil then cook on a high heat in the oven and hey presto, crispy chicken skin and a tasty, easy dinner. The gnocchi gratin was simple too, the boiled gnocchi is cooked in the oven in a mascarpone and Parmesan sauce and emerges from the oven with a beautiful golden crust and soft, spongy gnocchi that have soaked up the rich sauce. You don’t need me to tell you it’s good, but really, it is. If you were to give me the whole tray of gratin,a spoon and some privacy, this would be gone in approximately five minutes. I’d have to work out all day every day for the next year to work the calories off, but it would so be worth it. If there’s one thing you take away from this blog, let it be that you must try this dish.

For dessert, I went with a variation on the classic English crumble, which was plum and Amaretti crumble, again from Nigellisima. This looks beautiful even before it goes in the oven, with the cooked, sugary plums nestling in their ruby red juices and the sandy rubble with Amaretti crumbs sitting on top. While this dessert wasn’t perfect (plums weren’t quite ripe enough so weren’t as soft as I’d like them) it was pretty darn good and the almond-ey taste of the crushed biscuits went really well with the sweet yet sharp plums. The Boyfriend did make a genius suggestion of replacing the plums with cherries in future, which I would be more than happy to try one day. All this was naturally served with custard, I’d never serve crumble with anything else. Having made everything else from scratch, I didn’t have the willpower or indeed the ingredients to make a custard so I went with Ambrosia, which although lacking in vanilla seeds, does still taste delicious and totally hit the spot. On a cold, wet, windy day, nothing says comfort and home like custard does. Perhaps one day there will be a song in the charts paying tribute to the mighty custard, but I don’t hold out much hope.

PS- We were so hungry that everything was eaten up before I remembered to take a photo, so you will just have to make do with a beaming Nigella instead.

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Lamb Dhansak In Its Rice Anorak

If the title of todays bloggage means nought to you, then may I point you in the direction of the sublimely bizarre Mighty Boosh DVD box sets and hopefully all will become clear. Perhaps, either that or you’ll come away from the experience more confused than ever, who can say, it’s that kind of show? In essence though, I just pinched one of their lines as it perfectly suited what I’ve cooked the week, which obviously was a lamb dhansak. It’s always infuriated me that I’ve never managed to cook a decent Indian curry, heaven knows I’ve tried but they always end up watery, or tasteless, or tasting purely of tinned tomatoes. I know a homemade curry is never going to taste anything like a curry from the local Indian takeaway, but all I ask is that it tastes nice. Well reader, on Saturday I finally made some progress. Get out the champers and party poppers. I’ve tried curries from so many different cookbooks, all have failed, so it came as quite a surprise to me that the recipe that finally worked was from a recipe book for pies. Yes that’s right, not a curry book but a pie book. It’s like up is down and down is up. The reason for there being a curry in Pieminister is that you make the curry one day and dish up some as a regular curry with rice, and then the next day pop the remaining curry into pie, bake and serve. Genius. The recipe is called The Guru, I’m not sure why but recycling the curry into a pie seemed like a great idea to me. Plus the flavour in a curry intensifies when left for a day and reheated so in theory the pie should taste even better than your dinner the night before.
First things first, this recipe yields an absolute truckload of food so if you’re feeding a lot of people this is the dish to go for. We had enough for 2 servings of curry, 4 slices of pie and at least 2 servings for the freezer, but we have big appetites so less greedy people could probably stretch it further. It’s also packed full of healthy ingredients, but don’t let this put you off! Aside from the lamb, you’ve got chickpeas, lentils, onions, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach and loads of spices so plenty of super foods which add flavour and texture, as well as added smugness which comes with the knowledge that actually the curry is really quite good for you. Pieminister also taught me that the way to avoid the tinned tomato taste is to use a jar of passata instead of the usual tinned stuff. There’s no metallic taste and its thicker so the curry ends up far less watery, two perils that until now I’d never been able to avoid. Such an obvious substitution to make but one I’d ever thought of and I urge you to give it a go too if you’re just as hopeless as me at Indian curries. In the end, the dhansak tasted pretty good. Nothing amazing, but pretty good nonetheless. It even looked like a proper curry, and had a decent amount of spice in it. Even The Boyfriend thought it was pretty good and he is my toughest critic. In the pie though, it was less impressive. I say that, but the curry was still tasty and definitely had developed more of a kick overnight. It was the pastry that let it down, that bloody shortcrust pastry. I’m just not a fan, it’s bland and dull and adds nothing to the dish, I should have just had the dhansak with rice again. The Boyfriend went so far as to say that shortcrust makes him feel sick, so it’s fair to say I won’t be making shortcrust pastry in my kitchen again. Puff pastry is the way forward. To accompany the pie I made Bombay roasted new potatoes from Jamie’s Britain which thankfully got the thumbs up, and some petit pois peas which always taste good.

Feeling adventurous last night I also decided to whip up a dessert, vanilla soufflé with a raspberry coulis (what normal people call a sauce, however the recipe did come from my Masterchef cookbook so one can expect a little bit of pretension). Putting it in the oven I was convinced that the soufflé would be a disaster as the two components of the pud would not gel together in my mixing bowl, but I was wrong in my conviction as they rose splendidly and came out just as I wanted them to. The soufflés tasted perfectly of vanilla, which is reassuring considering vanilla pods aren’t cheap, and the smell of the milk infusing with the vanilla was amazing. Vanilla is easily my favourite smell of all time, it’s gorgeous. It was light, fluffy and reminded me of a just cooked pancake, albeit with a strong dose of vanilla instead of the traditional sugar and lemon. The coulis was also very good, sharp but sweet and added some punchiness to the soft, fluffy soufflé. My only beef with soufflés is that while they taste lovely, it’s like eating air and doesn’t give me something to sink my teeth into and therefore leaves me feeling somewhat deflated, much like a failed soufflé. In my eyes, the perfect desserts are either fudgey, gooey, chocolatey concoctions, fruity pies or crumbles with lashings of custard, or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. With this up against it, it’s no wonder the soufflé didn’t entirely hit the spot, tasty though it was.

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For The Love Of Chocolate

I’ve made no secret of my pure, unadulterated love for chocolate. It’s been 26 years but my love for the brown stuff shows no sign of abating, and nor would I want it to. Unluckily for me though, this week chocolate has not loved me. I don’t know what I’ve said or what I’ve done, but clearly I’ve pissed the chocolate gods off in some way, shape or form; what else could explain the disasters that have befallen me this week? Before I tell you of the heartbreak and distress that I have suffered, I should probably start with the more savoury stuff. Some of my lovely workmates came over for dinner earlier on in the week (this blog entry features these cheeky scamps heavily I’m afraid!) and rather than stressing myself out by cooking something time consuming or complicated I decided to take advice from my all time favourite, Nigella Lawson, and make a simple tray bake. It was Spanish chicken from Kitchen, and the only effort required of me was to chop up some chorizo, red onions and sweet red peppers and chuck them in a roasting tray with some chicken thighs, olive oil, new potatoes, oregano and orange zest. Minimum effort, maximum taste. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, you can always rely on Nigella. I was worried the dish might be a little dry but the amount of spicy paprika oil provided by the chorizo was enough to prevent any dryness and gave everything shed loads of flavour. Plus the skin on the thighs was nice and crispy due to the high oven temperature, perfect. The dish even introduced one of the girls to the delights of chorizo, so as well as feeding I like to think I’m also educating! This yummy main was followed by chocolate lava cakes with a salted caramel centre (this sounds so much sexier in French- moulleux au chocolat coeur fondant caramel sale – swoon) which came from The Little Paris Kitchen. Then things started going wrong. If only I was capable of following instructions To.The.Letter. Being the maverick that I am though, I fobbed off her advice to fill up the ramekins with the cake mix and then pipe salted caramel into the centre of the uncooked mix, and instead filled the ramekins up by a third with cake mix, dolloped some caramel on top, then topped with some more mix. A silly, silly mistake. After baking until juuuuuuust right (thank you Goldilocks), I attempted to get the fondants out of the ramekins. Instead of cakes with an oozy caramel centre, I ended up with a thin layer of chocolate cake covered in salted caramel and the rest of the cakes stuck in the ramekin. Oh sure, they came out eventually with a little prodding and poking, but the effect of cutting into the cake and a soft, oozing centre flowing out was lost. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would be less than complimentary. Luckily for me, my workmates are not Paul and Mary, so I may have gotten away with it, but Masterchef it ain’t. When the entire structure of a pudding collapses, you know you should have just manned up and tried to get to grips with a piping bag instead of taking the easy way out. They looked a mess, so no photo this time. Despite this disaster, the ladies seemed o enjoy it, and that’s the good thing about friends, they don’t judge you on your ability to hold a chocolate fondant together. That’s one of the positive sides of having a boyfriend who works away for long periods of time: you find out who your real friends are and which ones make an effort to talk, meet up, send texts, or just get me so trollied that I can barely even remember my own name or that my boyfriend is on the other side of the world.

Onto my second chocolate disaster. Once again, this was for one of my lovely workmates whose birthday it is on Monday, so what with it being a big birthday I decided to bake a cake for her. I do feel for my workmates, I’m regularly bringing in various baked goods to force feed them with, whether they regard themselves lucky or unlucky over this is hard to say as they may well be very good liars. Until they say stop, I’m going to keep bringing them in. This cake was Coca Cola cake from Marian Keyes lovely book Saved By Cake, and was chosen because the birthday girl is a coke fanatic. It’s hard to put down in words how much she loves the stuff, I’m not even sure I can fully comprehend her love for it, but I imagine it’s similar to my overwhelming love for chocolate. This is a cake that would be absolutely perfect for kids what with it containing coke, chocolate, mini marshmallows and topped with fizzy cola bottles (not such a perfect cake for the parents though I guess, what with toddlers likely to still be screaming and rolling around the floor from an intense sugar high at midnight) but is just as enjoyable for childless adults. The cake itself was lovely, damp with a gooey stickiness from the melted marshmallows, strong cocoa flavours and a hint of the fizzy stuff (you must go for the full fat coke, Diet would simply be wrong and pointless when you look at all the other ingredients). The icing though, was another story completely. Made up of butter, coke, cocoa powder and icing sugar, I just could not get it to thicken and set. It didn’t help that I had exactly the amount of icing sugar stated in the recipe, so adding a bit more to thicken the runny sauce was out of my hands. I was covered in flour and chocolate so a trip to the shop was out of the question, I just had to pour it over the stacked cake and pray it all went OK. It did not go OK. While some of the icing stayed put on the cake, the majority ran off the cake and gathered in a pool on my cake stand (which in actual fact was the lid from a Celebrations tub), which ended up looking like a very big boat in a small, muddy puddle. Again, my presentation skills need some serious improvement. Fizzy cola bottles saved the day though and I arranged these as prettily as my unartistic hands could manage. This morning upon waking I was in a foul mood, and on asking myself why I realised it was because of the failed icing and the cake looking a mess. I invest way too much emotion into my baking. Either that or life’s so great right now that bad icing is the only cloud on my horizon. But I think it’s the first one. In the end it didn’t matter too much as Cokehead seemed to really enjoy it and with lit candles and a sparkler the pool of icing didn’t seem so bad. Its the thought that counts, right? In baking, mistakes are easily made and I need to learn to not be so ridiculously hard on myself and just enjoy doing it, then subsequently eating it.

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Tastes of Paris

Bonjour mes amis! I’ve been neglectful of the blog for a little while, but can you blame me, I’ve been in Paris? Whisked away by The Boyfriend upon his return home, we’ve been eating our way through Frances food repertoire and working it off by a lot of walking around The City Of Lights. And I did this all for your reading pleasure, selflessly taking the calorie hit so you, dear reader, don’t have to. The things I do for my “craft”. So clearly I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking, but what is the point of travelling and eating good food if you can’t brag about it upon your return to patient (but ultimately bored) friends?

Now, in four days we obviously weren’t going to get a chance to try every famous French meal, but we absolutely gave it our best shot. Frogs legs, snails, horse meat, all missed opportunities, although I really will draw the line at eating snails. I’ve heard they are delicious, but I can’t get my head round the idea of eating the slimy things so am happy to leave the snail eating to others. I’d much rather try horse meat. I know that might be a bit controversial over here, but I have as much emotional attachment to horses as I do cows and chickens, which is nil. They may have been one of my mums favourite animals, but she also loved ducks and I have eaten a lot of that so if she would ever have disowned me it would have been on that fateful day I had a Chinese crispy duck pancake for the first time. Hooked. Some animals just taste too good. Speaking of delicious animals, one of the highlights of my Parisian meals was the steak frite meal we had at Relais Les Entrecôte on a street just off the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysee isn’t known for good food, generally being full of tourist traps serving average food, but venture off it and you’ll find this gem. The guide book described it as possibly serving the best steak frites in town, which i think may be pushing it and gives you unreasonably high expectations, but it certainly was delicious. If you go, arrive early as its a badly kept secret and we queued to get a table (they don’t take reservations) but I felt its worth it. They don’t give you a menu, they only serve steak frites, and give you a pretty tasty little salad and sourdough bread while you wait for your main. Its a bustling restaurant and if you like your space this isn’t the restaurant for you as the tables are claustrophobically close together. The steak itself was perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and super soft, covered in a delicious sauce.The recipe for this is apparently a closely guarded secret, but between us we could detect some curry powder, mustard, cream and er, that was about it! Definitely not the best food detectives around, but who cares, it tasted good and was a good dunking vehicle for the french fries. They were also pretty good. Best thing about this restaurant though is that once you’ve cleared your plate, the waitresses come round with trays of steak and chips and pile your plate up again with seconds. Forget stuffy restaurants with teeny portions and over inflated prices, this is the sort of French food that totally satisfies. Even though we had seconds, we found space for pudding (unlike the mains, their dessert menu is extensive!), The Boyfriend had raspberry sorbet and I had profiteroles, which were filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in a gooey, rich and utterly gorgeous chocolate sauce. Total chocoholic heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other French foodie highlights include eating more ice cream under the Eiffel Tower (we both pigged out and had 3 scoops in a cone – mint chic chip, banana fudge and my old favourite, pistachio), crepes while sat in cafe on Place des Vosges (mine banana and rum, The Boyfriends filled with Nutella), French onion soup, and mussels in  a creamy parsley sauce. The French onion soup was seriously good, but should have been renamed cheese soup for the sheer scale of the amount of cheese contained underneath the croutons. I’m not complaining, it was flavoursome, filled with caramelised onions and gooey, stringy, melted cheese, and topped with crispy, cheese covered croutons. How can one complain about that? There were some disappointing foods, mainly the croissants I had for breakfast in the cafes which blatantly just came out of a packet. For the life of me I could not find a bakery near our hotel that sold croissants freshly baked which is really annoying when you’re very aware that the city is full of good bakeries but you can’t sniff them out. Plus, if you don’t like anything heavy for breakfast good luck finding somewhere that doesn’t force feed you baguette and croissant as soon as you sit down. The breakfast menu at this cafe said that it did eggs/bacon/omelettes, but when The Boyfriend asked for this he was told ‘non’ and subsequently given croissants (which he dislikes) and baguette, no sign of fried eggs and bacon. It was no use arguing, this waiter had it in for us tourists and decided to go all Dictator on our breakfast and pretended to not speak English, which was unfortunate as our French is pretty appalling. Very good reason to learn French if you’re planning a holiday to France, to get one up on the rude waiters (of which there are a lot of in Paris, it’s as much a part of Paris as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine) and get the breakfast you want, nay, deserve!

 

Lastly, how could I got to Paris and not try my cooking nemesis, the macaron? Unsure of what they should taste like and what their texture should be, I finally got to see what these tricky little devils should be like. Surprisingly, I’ve not actually been that far off when making them myself, which is a bit of an ego boost for me – I’m not as bad at making them as I thought, wahoo! Of course, I could never make such picture perfect macarons and the flavour combinations on offer at Pierre Herme were a million miles more ambitious than I could ever attempt, but I’m taking this as a victory over the tricky French meringues. Well, you take your victories where you can. I’ve not tried all the flavours I bought, I don’t want to wolf them down too soon as they were not cheap, but when they look like such perfect works of art you can see why they are such a delicacy. I went for salted caramel, chocolate and passion fruit, mint, pistachio,peach with apricot and saffron, and finally, lemon. So far, so delicious, I just need to take my time with these babies and savour the moment instead of just shoving them in my mouth like cheap toffee. Paris is absolutely a destination for food lovers, and while it’s tricky to avoid the tourist traps and disappointing food, there are still treasures in every district and, in the wise words of Chef Gusteau in the fabulous cartoon Ratatouille, “good food will always come to those who love to cook”. He sure knows his stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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Foodie Memories

Not much cooking going on in Neglected Cookbooks kitchen this week I’m afraid, I’ve gotten lazy in the run up to The Boyfriend returning home. I have far too much left over food in the fridge / freezer so I’m ploughing through that before I start to fill it up once he’s flown away to distant lands again. So, like a Friends compilation episode where they look back at funny/poignant clips from the year (you know the ones, you always feel a little disappointed when its these episodes and not Ross’s fake tan disaster or Rachel and Ross hiring a ‘manny’), here’s me reflecting on my favourite foodie moments. Sorry.

The One Where I Eat So Much I Am Nearly Sick: This pretty much happens whenever I visit my Aunty down in TOWIE land. She always cooks way too much for guests, but fortunately she is a great cook so it’s easy to help polish the lot off. When younger my brother actually was sick after a BBQ at hers, all down to gluttony, my favourite of all the sins. A weekend at hers will then result in avoiding the scales and repenting at the gym for weeks, but you know what? Its definitely worth it. Her homemade curry is amazing, I keep meaning to steal the recipe from her but no luck so far. Her favourite saying in the kitchen? ‘Its soooo easy”, and she’s right. Keep it simple and keep it tasty. And always serve with a chilled glass of wine.

The One Where We Ate Ice Cream On The Seine: Life doesn’t really get much better than eating pistachio ice cream with The Boyfriend on a sunny day, while floating on the Seine’s boat taxi between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. It was definitely the best long weekend I’ve had, and the pistachio ice cream was divine. Not a lot of food stood out on that trip, we were a lot younger and just drifted around the city, popping into random places for food, but the pistachio ice cream stands out. The only other memorable meal from then was finding an Indian restaurant in the middle of a residential area where no tourist had clearly ever been before. They hunted around for the English menu for a good while, dusted it off and while the food was great (and very different from English curries) that uncomfortable feeling of being the only English people in a room full of snobby Parisians glaring at us was the pervading memory of that meal. Good times.

The One Where We Discovered Cheesecake Heaven: Have I mentioned my obsessive, compulsive love for The Cheesecake Factory here before? I’m fairly certain it might have come up at some point or another. When me and The Boyfriend first discovered the sheer amazingness of their Banana Cream Cheesecake, we’d been at Universal Studios in Florida and found a cafe there that served their cheesecakes. Needing a snack to keep us going until dinner (we’d done a lot of walking, alright?), we made the stupid mistake of sharing a slice. How we didn’t break up right then and there while passionately arguing over who should have the last bite, I’ll never know. Since then, we’ve had a love affair with the place and any visit to the States HAS to include a trip to the nearest Cheesecake Factory. Its another long distance relationship I’m happy to be in. I’ve never had a better cheesecake than the Banana Cream one, ever. It really is a thing of beauty. If I know anyone going to America, the first thing I say is “you have to go to the Cheesecake Factory”, and if you don’t then you have made a grave error of judgement. Moral of the story: Never share cheesecake.

The One Where Its Sunny And The BBQ Must Come Out: When still living at home with my dad and stepmum, it became very clear to me over the summer that the slightest hint of sunny weather would mean that the BBQ gets rolled out and its burgers ago-go. I’m not complaining, I love BBQ’s and sitting outside with a good book and a glass of wine while someone else does all the cooking is fine by me (when it comes to BBQ’s, I’m more of a spectator than a cook). Even the cat would become less antisocial and mingle with the inferior humans, hovering behind the BBQ for some dropped pork chop and begging at the table. Happy faces all round!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Food, Lunch, Puddings

 

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Empire Chicken, round two

After yesterdays little excursion to France, our feet are now firmly back on British soil, eating British food. All that French food, it’s very rich after all! I delved into the cookbook Jamie’s Great Britain, and chose to give Empire Chicken another go after the last disastrous time. For my very first blog post all those months ago (so young, so naive) I chose this recipe, but after marinating the chicken overnight it turned out our oven was broken and by the time it was fixed the poor chicken had been ungraciously chucked in the bin. I promised myself and my future readers that I would return to this tasty looking dish again, so not wanting to break a promise, here it is. Jamie Oliver came up with this recipe to combine the two favourites of Brits across the country: roast chicken and curry. Correct on both counts, at least for me anyway. The smell of roast chicken on a Sunday makes my mouth water and I become extremely impatient for Sunday lunch. Ditto with curry, I’m so impatient to eat it when at a restaurant that I devour it in record time. Usain Bolt would not be able to keep up. And god forbid you get in the way of me, popadoms and chutney. You marinate the chicken overnight in a mixture of yoghurt, spices and chillies (your fridge will smell amazing every time you grab the milk while this is in it), then cook in the oven alongside some crispy Bombay potatoes and an Indian gravy. While cooking these three smell fantastic, although don’t do what I did and decide to wash and dry your bedding on the same day, as they now smell like curry. I’m all for curry, but not in my bed. I’m very pleased to say that this meal was perfect and worth coming back to. The chicken skin was crispy and spicy, meat soft and with a subtle taste of curry and lemon (you have to chuck a boiled lemon inside the chicken, which is quite a squeeze I can tell you). I LOVED the Bombay potatoes, they were so much better than your takeaway versions as these are flavourful and crispy, adding an element of the good old roast potato into the mix. The only downside is the gravy, which is cooked in the oven under the chicken, catching all the juices. That isn’t the problem, as it tastes great, but there was so little of it that I struggled to get enough for just me. If you make this dish, I recommend at the very least doubling the amount. I’m being picky though, as it tasted great, like a mild curry. Naturally, cooking for one means I’ve got a lot of chicken leftover, meaning chicken sandwiches for lunch and then a chicken and mango Thai salad for dinner tomorrow. Got to see the advantages of being alone!

After yesterday’s slightly disappointing macarons, I felt like I needed something more satisfying, sweet and most importantly, soft. Sticking with Jamie’s Great Britain, I made Coconut and Jam Sponge, which most people will remember from school dinners of the past. Whether this is fondly or not depends on how your school dinners were. Mine were forgettable aside from the puddings. Jam and coconut sponge was definitely a favourite of mine along with chocolate toothpaste, which no one outside of the county I grew up in seems to have heard of. It was just chocolate goo on top of pastry really, but ah, what delightful goo it was. The coconut sponge I made today was again delicious, and tasted just like I remembered. There’s no real skill to this cake, it’s just a plain vanilla sponge smothered in blackberry jam and desiccated coconut. I could have made the jam from scratch but that’s not my bag, so a Hartley’s jar sufficed. The only mistake I made was taking the cake out of the oven a bit too early so that when I cut it into slices, the centre was still liquid and collapsed. Luckily the majority of the cake was cooked so I still got plenty of slices out of it to take to work tomorrow. Raw cake mix really doesn’t bother me, I scooped loads of it onto my plate as cake mix is always better than the finished article, but I can’t imagine it would have been too nice tomorrow lunchtime in the office.
I’ve been impressed by this book today, we got off to a bad start with the rabbit bolognese, but Jamie’s redeemed himself with the chicken and the sponge. British food may not have the elegance of French cuisine, but it has the taste and the comfort factor, which is far more important. This book definitely reminds people that as a country we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our food.

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Pavlova and Pretentiousness

I completely forgot in my last post to mention the delicious strawberry pavlova I made for a friends BBQ on Bank Holiday Monday. It was so good, the meringue was crunchy on the outside and gooey and chewy in the middle, which in my eyes is perfection for meringue. I would like to point out that I’m definitely not sitting here bigging myself up for such wonderful cooking skills, I literally follow the recipe and the end result is 10% down to me and 90% down to the writer of the recipe. Given free reign in the kitchen I come up with disasters, and while there are several things I can cook by heart, without my beloved cookbooks I would be limited to about 5 dishes! The pavlova recipe came from Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers, which I believe I’ve already told you is a beautiful book with some great food photography (way better than my poor efforts!). The only criticism, and it’s a small one, is that as advised by the book I made a salted caramel to drizzle over the pavlova which could barely be tasted amongst the cream, strawberries and meringues. Pavlova just doesn’t need any fancy drizzles or garnishes, it’s perfect in its purest form, salted caramel needs to find another dish to play with.

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Now onto the pretentiousness. I’ve been watching Great British Menu on BBC One, and while I love it, I have to say that the BBC really should hire me as a fourth judge to give the show some perspective. Some dishes would make me want to throw my plate at the wall and scream “enough of this pretentious shit, bring me some real food in a decent sized portion”. I’d love to see the look on Oliver, Prue and Matthews faces, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be invited back. I’ve nothing at all against fancy Michelin starred food, some of the dishes look amazing and very very tasty. However, I do have a problem with cooking purely to show off, being groundbreaking at the expense of the food, and pointless spherical shapes. I mean, the other week some guy plated up a dish with globules that were bright green, looked like peas, and according to him tasted just like peas as he really wanted to get the essence of peas in to the dish. Call me old fashioned, but may I suggest using actual peas? Instead of going to a huge amount of effort, using chemicals and fancy equipment, just get the best tasting peas you can find. Sure, there’s not a lot of skill in that, but surely the best meals are ones that reflect simple, good ingredients, cooked with passion? Save the skilled work for cooking meat perfectly or making amazing pastry desserts, not making a fake pea. It’s pretentious. And while I’m on the subject, don’t be so stingy with portion size. If I was an Olympic athlete and the BBC were throwing a banquet for me, I’d want to forget the exercise and diet regimen for one day and eat well and plenty. Just a thought. Saying all this, most of the dishes look awesome, and if any of the chefs on Great British Menu are reading, (very unlikely i know) I am more than happy to try your dishes and judge them accordingly!

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Puddings

 

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Dream on, dreamer

Trying to lose weight when your a bit of a foodie is officially a bloody nightmare. And when you’re supposed to be writing a blog about unusual and/or delicious foods, you come unstuck. All the things I want to cook from my poor neglected cookbooks contain pretty much all the things that need to be avoided: butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, saturated fat, cholesterol… Damn that saturated fat tastes good. So I’ve been very healthy this week cooking boring healthy foods and doing boring healthy exercise, and now all I can think about is the complete opposite. All I can say is bring on the weekend, when I don’t have to even pretend to be good. After 5 pm on a Friday, there are no rules. With all of the above in mind, and rather than boring you senseless with what I actually ate, here’s what I wish I could have eaten for dinner this week.

Monday: A gigantic slice of chocolate cake. If this wouldn’t make you excited to see Monday arrive, then you must be dead inside. That’s all.
Tuesday: Homemade burgers with loads of cheese and bacon. While any food that when squeezed oozes out grease can’t possibly be healthy, you know for sure that it’s going to taste good. Add melted cheese, crisp bacon and crunchy gherkins and you’re in heaven.
Wednesday: Lasagne. Oh how I love lasagne. What’s not to love- rich meaty tomato sauce, smooth, creamy, bland white sauce (bland is good!), silky sheets of pasta, and a lot of strong melted cheese, with the cheesy edges gone all crunchy. Lasagne and I should really get a room.
Thursday: Thai green curry. When done right, this is so good. But it’s full of calorie laden coconut milk so not diet food. If you’re going to eat it, do it right: either make it from scratch, paste and all, or go to a good Thai restaurant. Spice and flavour paradise!
Friday: Nandos piri piri chicken, followed by chocolate fudge cake and clotted cream. Oh wait, that is what I’m having tomorrow. Thank goodness!

Sorry if any of you working on your summer body now want to roll around in a vat of chocolate cake. Just hold out until the weekend!

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Books, Chocolate, Cooking, Food, Puddings, Thai

 

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