Wednesday, 8 June 2011


"He's a French bloke. Wakes up, in France. Has a biscuit. Thinks, 'what did I do yesterday?'... for 3,000 pages. It's brilliant, very French."
- Bernard Black talking about Proust in Black Books

I didn't tell you guys, I made another attempt at reading Proust this year! Well, I kind of had to; you don't really sign up for a module called The Painting as Phantom: Diderot to Proust without knowing you're gonna have to pick up even just a part of Temps Perdu.

The daunting task of reading this amazingly intense and looooong piece of literature was made less daunting by the excuse I created to make madeleines! I had treated myself to a madeleine pan earlier in the year in anticipation of this and I decided that if I made these delicious cakey-biscuity pieces of yumminess, the act of reading Proust would be transformed into a doddle of a task.

So I made them, and they were delicious. And then I read Proust. And that was... interesting. But the madeleines were good, and I guess that's what's important.

They were more than good, they had an entirely Proustian effect on me. For those of you who have read In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu if you're fancy), you'll know that early in the novel Proust's narrator eats a madeleine and is transported back to his childhood, when he used to have tea and madeleines with his grandmother. Every mouthful of madeleine I had took me back to the hotel where I worked in France back in 2009. Every morning, after getting up ridiculously early to ready and serve breakfast to the guests, I would have a madeleine, or two, with a chocolat. With every bite I could hear the whirring of the drinks machine, the unique ring of the reception telephone, and the ever so slightly shrill voice of my boss in the distance. It was a profoundly odd experience.

I think ol' Marcel may have been onto something.

Madeleines (adapted from Daniel Boilud's recipe, found here)

3/4 cup/3 oz/75 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup+ 2 tbsp/3 oz/75 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp packed light brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
6 tbsp butter/3 oz/75 g, melted and kept warm

1. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the sugars, eggs, honey, and lemon zest using a whisk. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the butter, and stir until just incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 1-1 1/2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Liberally grease your madeleine pan. Place all the batter in a piping bag and pipe into each mold to about 2/3 full. If you don't have a piping bag, you can always use a ziploc/ sandwich bag and snip off one of the corners with a pair of scissors.

4. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350ºF/180ºC and rotate the pan. Continue to bake about another 5 minutes, until the centres have risen and the edges are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, turn it upside down and tap it against the counter to release the madeleines. Serve warm.

Makes 1 dozen large-sized madeleines. See the link for how to make mini madeleines.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Pork and Vegetable Gyoza/ Dumplings

I'm really pleased with how these turned out, especially as I have been missing GOOD pan-Asian cuisine!

Pork and Vegetable Gyoza

1/2 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
75-100g pork (the best thing to use is leftover roast pork, but you could use a chop if you want), chopped to a texture similar to mince
extra virgin olive oil, for frying
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
a small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
a splash of sesame oil
dumpling wrappers (you can totally make your own if you want, there's a good recipe here, but if you're lazy like me you can buy these from your local Chinese supermarket)

1. Mix together the ginger, garlic, chilli, soy sauce, vinegar, and honey in a medium-sized bowl. Add the pork and mix.

2. Place a wok in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil. Sauté the vegetables until they're tender. Tip the bowl with the pork and marinade into the wok and stir-fry over a medium high heat until the vegetables look soft.

3. Tip all the mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Transfer mixture back to the wok, add the coriander and a splash of sesame oil and combine.

4. Take the mixture off the heat. Place a rounded teaspoon of the mixture in the centre of a dumpling wrapper. Using a pastry brush or your finger, wet the surrounding area with water. Fold the wrapper in half to form a crescent and press to seal. Repeat until you have no more filling.

5. Put some olive oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is warm, place the gyoza in the pan with a little space in between each one. All the wrappers to crisp and brown, then add a little hot water (about 2-3 tbsp) and cover for 5 minutes, so that the gyoza can be steamed through. Once there is no more water left, you're done! Transfer the dumplings to a platter and serve immediately.

Makes about 15-20 dumplings

Monday, 23 May 2011

Pea and Mint Soup

Yes, yes, I know. Where have I beeeeeeeeeen?

Unfortunately, until now university and other general life things have gotten in the way of both my cooking time and my writing time. However, exams are over now and with the summer approaching and all the new opportunities that it brings I'm committed to getting back to some serious cooking, eating, and prattling.

... and Pimms drinking. I love Pimms.

Now that we've dealt with that little life update shall we get back to the important stuff? Yes, let's...

A few months ago, I made the decision to truly make myself suffer during lent. I always get that idea around mid-February, when I've well and truly given up on my New Year's Resolutions and am feeling heartily ashamed of myself. This year, I thought that it would be a good idea to give up meat. and booze. and biscuits.

Those who know me know that I am most definitely of the carnivorous persuasion, and that I like a drinky and a biccie from time to time. So this was looking like it was going to be a challenge. And it was.

But I'm very glad I did it. Without having chicken or pork or beef to depend on for dinner most nights, I had to think a lot more about how to get all my nutrients and how to make meals that would fill me up and taste good.

One recipe that does all the above (and is perfect for our wonderful summer weather) is to be found below. I hope you enjoy it.

Pea and Mint Soup (adapted from a recipe by Sophie Dahl)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 small spring onions, roughly chopped (you can substitute this for a medium sized onion if you absolutely must, but I find it has a harsher taste)
3 cups/1 lb/450 g frozen or fresh peas
4 cups/32 fl oz/1 l vegetable stock
A handful fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and then fry the spring onions for about 3 minutes. Add the peas and stir well to coat them in the oil.

2. Add the mint and the stock and cook for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a blender and whizz it all up. You could always use a handheld mixer if that's all you have but you'd probably have to do it in batches.

3. You can either garnish with mint and serve hot, or put it in the fridge to cool before serving. Miss Dahl suggests swirling in 1 tbsp of crème fraîche, but I object to soups that are too creamy so I omitted it.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Homemade Granola

I made my own granola the other day!! I know, I'm awesome. 

Thanks to, the process was lovely and painless. Here is the proof!

Homemade Nutty Vanilla Granola

4 cups/11 oz/325 g oats
1/2 cup/3 oz/85 g sliced almonds
1/2 cup/2 oz/60 g chopped walnuts
1/2 cup/2 oz/60 g chopped pecans
1/2 cup/2 1/2 oz/75 g sunflower seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup/6 oz/170 g honey or golden syrup
1/3 cup/2 1/2 fl oz/80 ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375º
F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil.  Mix oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, and oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla.  Pour hot liquid over oat mixture, stir and toss until thoroughly mixed.

3. Spread granola on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 18-20 mins, stirring occasionally (3 times during the baking process) to ensure even baking.  Be warned: granola can go from perfectly brown to burnt in one minute, really watch it at the end.

4. Transfer granola to a large bowl and let it cool, stirring occasionally.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

An English Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving–since I started celebrating it back in 2000– has always been one of my favourite holidays. Think about it: you don't have to buy tons of presents, you get to eat A LOT, and hang out with people that, though they may drive you mad at times, you love. The whole sentiment behind it is pretty kickin' also. I don't think people are grateful enough of the time. Yeah, that's right. I'm getting all preachy on yo ass.

So, I realised some time ago that I hadn't celebrated Thanksgiving since 2005. This kind of upset me, and I felt like I was missing out. So I decided that I would cook Thanksgiving dinner for my housemates on the day. Then we invited a couple more people. Then a couple more. Before I knew it I was preparing to cook a meal for 15 people. And you know what? It. was. awesome. Everyone came over, we drank, we ate far too much food, and we were merry.

Here's a rundown of the whole shebang:
pigs in blankets (thank you Kat)
devils on horseback (thanks again, Kat)
roast potatoes
sweet potato-orange mash
green beans (thank you Jamie)
corn on the cob and broccoli (thank you Vivi)
roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and pomegranate seeds
maple-glazed butternut squash
buttermilk biscuits
gravy (thank you Katemonster)
apple and blackberry pie
homemade belgian chocolate ice cream

Keep an eye out for some of the above recipes. I will post when I stop being full.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Bleedin' Armadillo Groom's Cake

So, I've been promising this for a while, and here they are: pictures of my bleeding armadillo cake for Mia's 21st.

Getting a photo of the entire thing was a bit diff. Note that it's on two separate boards.

Definitely not at pretty or professional as the one in Steel Magnolias, but not bad for a first try dare I say so myself.

"Nothin' like a good piece of ass."


Monday, 1 November 2010

Maté Cupcakes

I love tea. I also love cupcakes. And when the two come together, well, it's pretty magical.

For me, this joining together of awesome and awesomer only ever seemed to come in the form of a cupcake accompanied by a cup of tea.... that is, until quite recently. I had been thinking for a while about infusing tea into some baked goods, and then, when over at a pal's and perusing their cookbook selection, I had a nose into the book, Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery. Besides being pretty exciting as books go, this recipe book contained a recipe for Earl Grey cupcakes with lavender icing. Knowing that other people had thought about the beautiful marriage of tea and cake and had successfully pulled it off was all I needed to set my plan into motion.

Instead of using Earl Grey tea, which, according to my research is quite a popular choice for this type of cupcake, I took a different route (I should say that there is nothing wrong with Earl Grey: I love it, it warms the heart and smells like love). The tea I used is the Maté Laté tea from Argo Tea Café in Chicago. This tea is an energizing Argentinian herbal tea roasted with almond and cocoa, so it seemed just the ticket. Obviously, one should experiment and use any sort of tea that might be interesting. Topped with some vanilla frosting, it's the perfect TEAtime (ha!) treat.

Maté Cupcakes

1/2 cup/4 oz/115 g butter
1 cup/7 oz/190 g sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups/5 1/2 oz/150 g flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup/4 fl oz/120 ml milk
2 tbsp tea (either loose and ground up finely or from a teabag)

1/4 cup/2 oz/55 g butter, room temperature
2 cups/9 oz/260 g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180º/Gas mark 4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and tea. Set aside.

2. In a bowl or in a food processor, beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time; the first one should be fully incorporated into the mixture before you add the second.

3. Add half of the dry ingredients to the mixture, and then add the milk. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, being sure not to over-mix.

4. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners and fill about 2/3 full with the batter. Bake 20-25 mins, until a toothpick inserted to the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

5. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, you can make the frosting. In a medium bowl in the bowl of a food processor beat together all the ingredients until light and fluffy. Ensure the frosting is at room temperature before attempting to frost the cupcakes.

Makes 12-16

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