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

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I'M BACK! and gratinée lyonnaise...

I know, I know. 'Where have I been?!' etc..  Well, I don't want to bore you with all the details, plus I'm back now, and am determined to remain as active as possible on here for as long as I can, so we can get back to the important stuff.

A couple bits I should mention first though:

1. I am in a new kitchen as of about a month ago. When I started this project I was in a tiny little kitchen in Southern Spain. Five months later I had packed up and moved back to my parent's house in Chicago, which is where those yummy looking scones were made. That was four months ago. Then, last month, I moved back to Canterbury to start my FINAL YEAR of uni (yikes) and have had to get used to a whole new kitchen, complete with hyperactive oven and brand spankin' new food processor.

2. I am a student again. This means that I am, once again, by definition, poor and lazy. You'll have to forgive me for the influence that these two attributes may have here.

3. Remember how I talked about making a red velvet armadillo cake for a friend's birthday, à la Steel Magnolias? Well, that's still happening, in fact her birthday's in about two weeks time. So watch this space.

Great. Now that all that nonsense is out of the way, we can focus on the cooking, yes?

It's hard to believe that this time a year ago I was in Lyon, France. Although I was working crazy hard as a hotel stagiaire, I had such an amazing time there and I miss it like whoa. Having been giving an insanely large amount of money by the Erasmus Programme (fools!) in the form of a grant, my friends and I spent a stupid amount of time bumming around some of the most fab restaurants in the city. One of my most favourite things to eat there, was gratinée Lyonnaise, or French onion soup. It was so delicious and so comforting, especially in the type of weather we're getting in Canterbury in the moment: cold and grungy.

I had been wanting to learn how to make this from scratch for a while now, especially since Autumn has well and truly set in. I finally managed to create it, based half on a recipe in Sophie Dahl's fab book, Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, and half on the soups I tried when I was in France. This is the perfect soup for when you want to curl up under your duvet, watch some mind-rotting daytime TV, and forget about the world.

Gratinée Lyonnaise

2 medium onions
1 tbsp butter
Slug of extra virgin olive oil
1 litre beef stock
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper (optional)
3/4 cup/3.5 oz/100g grated Gruyère cheese
1 thick slice baguette

1. Roughly chop the onions. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil on a low heat. Once melted, move around the base of the pan to make sure it is all coated, then add the onions. Mix into the oil with a wooden spoon.

2. Allow the onions to sweat for approximately half an hour. Towards the end of the time, turn the heat up to medium, so that the onions brown around the edges.

3. Add the stock to the onions and turn the heat down to low again. Stir the mis and then add the balsamic vinegar. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. While the soup is simmering, toast some french bread under the oven and cut into chunks. When the time is up on the soup, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into bowls using a ladle.

4. Right before serving, add the cheese and bread.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Tea Time!

I'm not entirely certain why I found myself with such a craving for scones over the past few days. It may have something to do with the fact that ever since I came back to Chicago I've been on a massive baking rampage, or perhaps that I've been away from the UK for over two weeks and I was beginning to doubt my own english...ness. In any case, I made them and they're well, splendid. Perfect with a little clotted cream* and raspberry jam to make a perfect cream tea, or just a bit of butter. And a cup of tea. But that goes without mentioning, of course.

*for all yank readers who haven't a clue what clotted cream is, have a look here

Raisin Scones

2 cups/8 oz/225 g flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp/1 oz/25 g butter
2 tbsp/1 oz/25 g brown sugar
1/2 cup/2 1/2 oz/75 g raisins or sultanas
2/3 cup/1/4 pint/120 ml milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 ºF/220 ºC/Gas mark 7. Lightly flour a baking sheet. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the butter to the bowl and gently rub into the flour mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the brown sugar and the raisins. Then, stir in just enough milk to make a spongy, light dough (you may not use up all the milk).

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 1 inch thick. Stamp out small pieces with a floured cutter.

4. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with milk. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the scones are well-risen and golden brown.

makes 16

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Taste of What's to Come

Everyone should have something that only they can make, or at least, out of all their friends and family, they can make it the best. All Americans know about red velvet cupcakes, they're an americana classic, but to English people they're still a novelty. That's why I'm in two minds about posting my recipe for red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on this blog. The magic will be gone. They'll all start making them themselves. Then what will I be best at?!

 red velvet cupcakes 1

Plus, I've promised to make a giant red velvet cake for a friend's 21st that's coming up. I'd better wait at least until after that to divulge any secrets.

Anyway, to keep you interested, here are a couple of pics of what may or may not be to come...

red velvet cupcakes 2

red velvet cupcakes 3

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Whenever I go to Starbucks (whether it be in the US, UK, France OR Spain) one of the tasty treats I always have is the blueberry muffin, with the delicious crumby bits on top. I recently found out how to make a cake version from the wonderful blog The English Kitchen. A perfect accompaniment to a coffee or tea.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

2 cups/7 oz/200g flour
1 1/2 cups/10 oz/290 g sugar
2/3 cup/5 1/2 oz/150 g butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup/8 fl oz/250 ml milk
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups/7 oz/200g blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4. Butter a large nonstick baking pan and set aside.

2. Mix together the flour and sugar. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine, dry, breadcrumbs. Remove and set aside 3/4 cup of the mixture to use later. To the remainder of the mixture add the salt and baking powder. Beat in the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and milk. Blend together well.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly all over the top of the cake. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture on top of the blueberries.

4. Bake for 40-50 mins, until the cake has risen and golden brown among the edges. Be sure that the cake is set in the middle and test with a toothpick or a skewer (if it's done, then it should come out clean). Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool.

Serves 8

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Quickie Chocolate Mousse

A great recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson. Appropriate for those who don't want to/can't eat raw eggs, and a hell of a lot less effort as they take as little as a half hour in the fridge to set. This recipe can quite happily serve 4-6, and while it is, yes, AMAZINGLY tasty and chocolatey, and you might want more per person, it is also very very rich, and so perhaps a smaller amount between more people is a good idea.

Also, if you want to be a ponce like me and make them look fancy, you can put them in little tea or coffee cups. I think it looks cute. Although the main reason I did it is because we don't have any ramekins in our apartment. Anyway, enjoy!

Quickie Chocolate Mousse

3 cups/5 oz/150 g mini marshmallows
1/4 cup/2 oz/50 g butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 1/3 cups/9 oz/250g dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup/2 fl oz/60 ml recently-boiled water
1 cup/9 1/2 fl oz/284 ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a saucepan. Place over a low heat, and stir every now and again, waiting until everything is melted before taking it off of the heat.

2. In a large bowl, whip the cream and vanilla extract together until thick, then fold into the chocolate mixture until it is all smooth and completely mixed together.

3. Pour/scrape into ramekins. Chill in the fridge until you're ready to eat.

serves 4-6

Thursday, 3 June 2010

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."- Russell Baker

*Gasps for air*

It's so damn hot!!

Seriously, it's boiling over by 'yer. We're on our fifth day of 35ºC + weather (that's 95ºF + for all you fahrenheiters), and while you might be thinking: "I don't know what you're moaning about! That sounds swell!" consider that there is no beach, a VERY strong sun, very little wind, and that we try not to turn on our air conditioning for fear of the astronomic electricity bill.

In all this heat, there's very little one feels like doing. The heat coming from the computer adds to the discomfort, it's too hot to shop, it's too hot to eat, and it's certainly too hot to do any work for uni! ;) In all this heat, all I want to do is take a siesta, listen to a ridiculously assembled summer playlist and drink gazpacho.

Gazpacho (recipe to follow).

Hope that wherever you are, you're keeping cool.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Dorada a la sal

In my house in Chicago there are two framed watercolours hanging on our sitting room wall. One is of the house that my family stays in near a tiny fishing village in Almería– incidentally one of my most favourite places in the world– and the other is of a Dorada skeleton. This is something my dad painted on Christmas Day, 1999. We had decided to ring in the new millennium in Spain, and so spent Christmas there as well. Deciding to go the more untraditional route with regards to Christmas lunch, we had dorada, baked in salt.

Dorada. image from M Stevens and Son

Dorada literally translated into English (according to is Gilt-head Bream. Sound familiar? I reckon even as a native Engish speaker you'd have to know a whole lot about fish to be able to identify one just from that title. Actually, dorada is very common in Spain, and in Portugal. It's a fresh-tasting, white fish similar to cod. Baking it in salt is probably one of the best ways to cook it (and I say baking it, you don't eat the salt with the fish, it all gets removed before serving). It creates a sort of kiln that allows it to be cooked almost perfectly. It also looks rather fancy so if making it for a dinner party or what have you you can make a show of removing the salt before you eat it.

The dorada in its salt shell

Dorada a la sal

2 Dorada, gutted, scales on, gills out
4 cups/2 lbs/1 kg rock salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp cold water
1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to full heat. In a large bowl, mix together the salt, eggs, water, and grated lemon rind into a thick mixture. Place about a half of this mixture onto a baking tray and form a bed for your fish.

2. Place the fish on your salt bed, then cover with the remaining salt mixture. This should create a nice shell all around the dorada, about 1-2 cm thick. Make sure that the fish is completely covered by the salt. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.

3. To check whether or not the fish is cooked, stick a knife into the fish and then gently press it against your lips. If the knife is hot, then the fish is cooked. Do not take off the salt until the fish is cooked. Leave to sit for 10-15 minutes.

4. Get ready– this is the fun part! With the back of a spoon, firmly tap the salt casing of the fish. If you do it right, the hardened salt casing should crack nicely and all the pieces will begin to fall off the fish. If not, gently remove them with the teaspoon, making sure not to let any salt touch the flesh of the fish. With a sharp knife, cut along the spine of the dorada, then remove off the head. The dorada should open up nicely, and you'll be able to remove all of the bones pretty easily. Serve with a big wedge of lemon.

serves 2-3.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Chorizo al vino

Sorry for my absence folks. Been a busy gal. But I'm back, with some good stuff.

Another 'I will learn to cook this in Spain' dish out of the way. Chorizo al vino is one of the easiest things in the world to prepare, it just takes time. And, because it lasts for quite a while, it's totally worth making a lot at a time, using one or two chorizos in each batch. Perrrfect for tapas.

Chorizo al vino

2 chorizos, as picante as you want them
1 bottle bog standard red wine (the wine's going to be bubbling away for ages, there's not much point splashing out on a nice one)

1. Using a fork, prick holes all over the two chorizos. This will allow them to absorb the wine more easily. Place them in a saucepan that has just enough room for both of them. Pour the entire bottle of wine over the chorizos. The wine should just cover both of them. Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for 20 minutes.

2. Remove the pan from the heat. Place a lid on the saucepan and set it aside overnight to allow the flavours to really blend together.

3. When you're ready to eat your chorizo, remove them from the pan, being sure to conserve the wine. Cut the chorizo into thick slices. Place into a pan with half of the wine mix that you marinated the chorizo in. Fry, turning frequently, until the slices are nice and crispy and the wine, mixed with the juices from the chorizo, have reduced to 2-3 tbsp. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Fougasse aux olives

I've already talked before about my love of the french bread, fougasse, particularly when it's aux olives. I found about above my love for this particular bread when I first visited a Paul's patisserie during my stay in Lyon. There they do a tomato mozzarella sandwich on the olive fougasse which is to die for. For serious. I've tried once before to recreate said bread so as to have a proper tomate mozza at home (you can do it with regular bread but it's just not the same) and while the results have been edible, they've not been nearly close enough to Paul's version.

So, I set about recreating it, again. I figured I should use a different recipe, one that was more... authentic. I therefore decided that the best thing to do would be to find a French recipe, and translate. A daunting task for several reasons: 1) I have been in Spain for the past 3 months, had my mind focused on speaking Spanish, and have not spoken any French; 2) I hate written translations, I'm no good at them; and 3) I've never translated a recipe before, and the French are so particular about their cooking ways!

But I did it. And the results were again edible. Still not quite like Paul's but I'm getting a hell of a lot closer. And I had one great tomate mozza for my supper yesterday. Mmmmmm.

Fougasse aux olives (translated and adapted from this recipe from

5 cups/17 oz/500g bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups/10 fl oz/300 ml mix of 1/2 water 1/2 milk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g of black olives, without stones, sliced
1 tbsp Provençal herbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt) together into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the mix, then add the olive oil and the water/milk mix. Mix well until the mixture starts to form a ball. Draw into a ball with your hands (NOTE: If it is too dry to handle add the tiniest bit of water; if it is too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour).

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for about 5 minutes. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to sit for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Knead the air out of the dough, and then add the olives and herbs. Mix until well incorporated.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface. Roll it into an oval shape and make scores in the dough with a pastry cutter or knife. Transfer the dough to a greased baking tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475ºF/250ºC/Gas mark 9.

5. Brush the dough with the remaining 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up, lower the temperature to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6 and cook for a further 20 minutes.

6. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Moroccan Chicken with Tzatziki

A really good spicy chicken marinade, served with a cooling cucumber yoghurt dip.

Moroccan Chicken with Tzatziki

1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup chopped coriander/cilantro
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
salt and pepper

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and cover or put the marinade and chicken pieces into a ziploc bag. Chill for 6 hours.
2. Heat a teensy bit of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Fry the chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through.
3. Mix together the cucumber and yoghurt gently in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste

Monday, 3 May 2010

Iced Tea Pops

It has been hot here lately. Hot hot hot. Even though it is only April and what Córdoba's residents insist is 'Spring', temperatures have reached the mid 30s (that's about 90-95ºF for all you fahrenheiters) and I have melted a few times. We're resorting to all measures to keep cool, without turning on the air conditioning that is.

It is this obscenely hot weather that has made me oh so thankful for my new favourite purchase. While perusing one of our local markets I managed to find ice lolly moulds... in the shape of umbrellas! OH how cute! And for €2 no less! These are something you could fill with juice or a soft drink, but I personally prefer to fill them with tea. So far only herbal tea– more specifically a great strawberry-kiwi-hibiscus blend that my wonderful pal Kate got me for my birthday– but I'm experimenting with more interesting things. What's great about this is you can monitor how sweet or how strong you make it, depending on your taste. I seriously recommend trying it.

I appreciate that I am an ENGLISH person using UMBRELLA ice lolly moulds and filling them with TEA. I'm experimenting with Earl Grey and milk ones. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 30 April 2010

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time, birds sing hey ding... a-ding, a-ding, sweet lovers love... the spring."

- Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Spring is well and truly here. Hooray!

To celebrate, I'm putting up one of my favourite recipes, for a really wonderful spring lunch.

Asparagus Rigatoni

9 oz/250 g asparagus
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tbsp butter
3-4 cups/6-8 oz/170-225 g whole wheat rigatoni pasta (can be substituted for your favourite type of pasta)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
2. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and then slice the spears finely.
3. Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan. Once all the butter has melted, add the sliced garlic and fry on a low heat. Just as it's starting to colour, add the sliced asparagus. Season well with salt and pepper.
4. Cook slowly for 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add a tablespoonful of water to the pan. When the asparagus feels tender, turn off the heat and allow to sit while your pasta cooks.
5. Cook the pasta in the boiling for the amount of time the packet suggests. When it's done, drain, but be sure to keep some of the cooking water.
6. Mix the asparagus with the pasta. Grate in lots of parmesan, and stir well, adding splashes of cooking water if it starts to get sticky or dry.
7. Serve with extra parmesan, lots of pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you fancy.

serves 2.

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