This is a ‘well I really want cake but I refuse to go to the shop for anything’ kind of cake. And I don’t have any baking powder… I am always running out of something. What the heck, let’s give it a go!
It turns out it’s amazing what you can do with what is lying around in your cupboard. Phew! I don’t have to go outside… The result of this laziness is a dense, moist almond cake that works perfectly with tea and even better with coffee and a book. Tah dah!
This carrot soup has a certain farm-like decadence to it. It is rich while nourishing and looks beautiful. You can make it vegetarian if you wish, but the chicken stock does add another layer of flavour. Punchy caraway and mustard seed add depth of flavour to the sweetness of the carrot while the garnishes – sour cream, dill and pine nuts – add a creamy richness.
I imagined myself eating this dish at an outdoor table on a warm summer evening, watching the stars begin to glimmer. However, as it is made from a lasting root vegetable it is also seasonally versatile – it just happens to taste the best when the carrots have been pulled straight out of the ground. Serve with a cool glass of California chardonnay.
CARROT SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM, DILL AND PINE NUTS
1kg carrots, peeled and cut into 1inch rounds
2 sticks celery, cut into chunks
3 banana shallots, sliced
2tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1tsp dried dill
1tbs mustard seeds
1tbs caraway seeds
salt and pepper
4 dessert spoons sour cream
4tbs pine nuts
4tbs fresh chopped dill
Start by sweating the vegetables and dry spices in a medium saucepan in a dessert spoonful of olive oil with a teaspoon of salt stirred through, which helps the vegetables break down. It’s great to get a bit of colour on the shallots as their caramelised flavour lends beautifully to the sweet carrots.
Once the vegetables have a bit of colour on them, pour in the white wine followed by the chicken stock. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, top it up with water. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely soft, about 30-45mins.
When the carrots are soft, take the soup of the heat and blend it until it is a fine puree. Let it down with a bit of water until it is the desired consistency. You don’t want it to thick, nor too thin. Think the of the body of double cream, that’s what you’re going for. Add plenty of fresh cracked pepper and a bit of salt if the flavour needs a bit more oomph.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and add a dallop of sour cream in the middle, laying it down gently so it rests on top of the soup. The sour cream really boosts and balances the flavour of the sweet carrots. Sprinkle over the dill and finally scatter the pine nuts.
Back in London to the grey and rain after a wonderful weekend in Amsterdam. Have you ever been? I highly recommend you go.
When you do, don’t go for the legalised substances and the liberal attitude to sex, though these are both fascinating culturally to observe. Go for the art, the scenery, the architecture and the fabulous bike rides on roads made for cyclists with a side of cars. I can’t tell you how free it makes you feel to ride a bike everywhere. Bliss! And of course the magical canals with beautiful bridges.
Oh and if you are wondering, yes I did go to the red light district but only at 11am and yes I did see those little windows and no I did not linger. Though I will tell you it made me a little cheerful to see so many shapes and sizes available, demonstrating that most people are not turned on by sticks. I also went into a coffee shop, and though I don’t smoke anything as I have asthma, I liked how civilised it was – like a specialist tea shop, nothing more exciting than that.
Speaking of civilised, the art really was fantastic and one of the paintings, a bucket list viewing for me (just look at the use of light and colour!), actually made me crave a wholesome food I imagined I would find inside that kitchen…
(The Milkmaid – Vermeer)
Oatmeal is one of those breakfasts that people either see as slop or comfort – usually dependent on whether it was served at school or by a caring parent on a cold day. Lucky for me, it has always been comfort. Here is my recipe for porridge success:
50g jumbo oats
1 tsp chia seeds
Knob of butter
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
Pinch of cinnamon
The perfect oatmeal takes time, but not much effort! Start by putting 50g of jumbo oats per person in a small saucepan, cover with 100ml water and soak either overnight or while you start your coffee – about 10 minutes for best results
Turn on a medium heat and add 100ml milk, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp chia seeds. Bring to a boil then down to a simmer and stir a lot for a minutes then occasionally, cooking for 10 minutes or as directed on your oats packet.
Turn off the heat and cover, leaving it for a few minutes (I do 5 but I know every minute counts in the morning). This does three marvellous things – the porridge continues to soak up liquid while cooling slightly to stop you burning the top of your mouth off and, most importantly, it magically unsticks from the bottom of the pan (what I am sure is the only real reason any haters hate).
Serve in a bowl with a knob of butter, maple syrup or honey and a pinch of cinnamon. Some people like to add more milk but I think it’s creamy enough.
Voila! Perfect porridge! Not to hot, not a bit cold, not crunchy or too chewy, not to dry or too wet, not too sweet or salty, and with a bit of added chia protein to get your through the (we hope) most productive part of the day!
This salad is all about balancing bold flavours while also letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of thought.
The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate molasses. All the flavours are covered. The serving size is perfect as dinner for two, sat out on the patio as the nights turn long and warm, and to be enjoyed with a glass of soft Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp wine to cut through the rich flavours. For best results, use whichever pumpkin and greens are in season.
I recently went out for dinner and we had this chocolate stout cake. It was dense, sweet, malty, moist, bitter (maybe slightly too bitter) – but mainly just a delicious piece of cake. Something worth baking at home, with a couple of little changes.
First thing’s first – it’s the beer that gives this cake depth of flavour by introducing some of its fruity and malty notes, so the beer is one of the most important ingredients to think about.
In Harold McGee’s book ‘On Food and Cooking’, the beer style chart lists stout as being mainly dark and bitter. Porter on the other hand has a bit of caramel sweetness to balance the bitterness from the dark roasted malt. It also has a bit more fizz, which might help to leaven the cake. I’ll tell you what – it works. I’ll never again bake a chocolate cake without it… and the whisky in the frosting? Well, it’s the icing on the, you know, cake.
Porter Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Whisky Frosting
I just had the blissful experience of having my mom and step dad come to stay with us in London. It had been a year since I last saw them and oh my days was that way too long. They stayed for a month and it was bliss.
Having people to visit is such a wonderful opportunity to go out and enjoy London for her best attributes, especially in her bleakest months. I’ve got to hand it to you, London, when given a chance you really know how to show a girl a good time in January!
We learned a heartbreaking and eye opening story of India’s past with Dara at the National Theatre, Emily Carr showed us the importance of the forest, the coast, legends and the totem pole to the NW Native American at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, we stood aghast yet again in front of the many historical pieces in the National Gallery and had a modern look at art through Taylor Wessing’s Photographic Portrait Prize. To say the least, I feel enriched! As does my waistline because the other thing everyone loves about a visitor is having the excuse to ride with them on their holiday, eating rich foods and drinking wine on weekdays (‘I don’t ever do this normally’…she lies) and having dessert after every meal.
I also had foot surgery… so have been laid up, unable to stand long enough to cook and itching to get back into the kitchen. Though I have managed to meditate (staring aimlessly at the wall is a good pastime if you’ve really got nowhere to go!) and read quite a lot, so it’s not been all bad.
Suffice to say I am well rested and looking to come out of this forced hibernation into the spring with gusto! … and perhaps eat a few dishes to help me feel remotely healthy after three weeks on the couch. Bring on the fresh stuff!
I’ll not say that I am a ‘Super Food’ fanatic but there really is something to be said about packing in the vitamins, so here is a salad that’s pretty much ‘all that’ (the 90’s are back in right?).
It’s got a balance of bitterness from the radicchio, sweetness from the roast parsnips that are still sticking with us for the rest of winter, sulfur from the broccoli, oily and salty umami from the fish and zing from the grapefruit. Serve it with rye crisp breads or sourdough toast and pomegranate vinaigrette and you’ll feel as zingy as the grapefruit yourself!
In my book roast chicken should be top on a cook’s basic recipes list. Not only is it delicious comfort food but you can make so much with the leftovers! Sandwiches, salads and curry can be made with leftover meat while stock made from the bones of a whole chicken can be used for any number of soups, gravies, and risottos. Talk about a good investment- one chicken can make up to 4 meals!
Since it’s far more cost effective than buying separate pieces of chicken, you have no excuse but to but free range. By not supporting factory farms that are responsible for some real environmental hazards (It’s pretty unreal…) and putting the poor chickens through short yet ghastly lives you can take small steps toward making a difference.
It’s worth it to promote sustainable farming and animal welfare and you can really taste the difference too. The meat of a free range bird has much tighter fibres because it has exercised, which tends to lead to richer flavour.
I like to roast chicken with garlic and knobs of butter stuffed under the skin to make it especially juicy and full of flavour. This method helps make the skin crispy too. Yum. Alright, let’s get started!
It’s Thanksgiving week. Some of you will be celebrating “Friendsgiving” while others fly across country or ocean to join family. I have done my fair share of both. Some will be the family others fly to. It’s all about getting together.
I remember my first Thanksgiving here in London seven years ago. I was living as a lodger so had no kitchen, but I was utterly homesick so I had to do something. I asked my English cousin if I could cook at her flat and was grateful she said yes. The kitchen was tiny and we didn’t eat until 10pm as I remember, but it was wonderful. There were only six of us around the table but we still cooked a whole turkey. Three Americans and three Brits. I made the cranberry sauce last minute while my husband, then boyfriend, tried to explain cricket to our American guests.
One of the Americans that year was a dear friend of mine from the University of Oregon. She was doing her MA at the LSE. Just yesterday she wrote to ask for my cranberry sauce recipe from that year. This made me so happy. The memory of that day is not just mine. It’s a shared memory. A feast is special because it has to be shared. Who cares if it’s not perfect, it brings us together! It’s Thanksgiving, not “Perfect Food Day”.
My goodness how time flies! I can’t believe my last post was in September! I have been getting all sorts of experience in the food, including a fabulously beautiful trip to the Amalfi Coast where I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely put this on your bucket list. Visit Positano, you will not regret it. The beauty almost hurts your eyes.
I have worked a month as a chef at Kome, a marvelous pop-up restaurant and catering company with food crossing the divide between Korean and Mexican flavours. Then a few more work experiences starting with 10 Greek Street in their pastry section, a few days with Southerden bakery right near me in Peckham, followed by a life changing week at Restaurant Story with Tom Sellers, who I owe a lot to for nudging my towards starting a career in food. Check out some of the snacks I helped make while I was there:
Crispy cod skins with emulsion and gin botanicals
Eel flavoured take on the Oreo with vinegar dust, delicious I swear!
And the beautiful Egg with salmon roe and egg emulsion
You would not believe the amount of prep work that goes into making these little snacks. Now just imagine how much work goes into creating one of their main dishes. Snacks of the Sea for example (I think they like the word ‘snack’…
Or Almond and Dill (I got to make the dill oil!)
There are 10 courses on the tasting menu with 6 additional snacks and every dish is magical. The Story team is so talented and they are more dedicated than most, hence the Michelin star. They are also some of the most thoughtful and humble. I am so lucky to have learned some of the magic. Phew, it’s almost emotional!
In between all that I have done some exciting private catering and before you know it here we are in November. Very little sleep but a whole lot of fun!
Anyway now that I’ve swiftly updated you all with the new notches in my CV, on to an updated version of one of my favourite foods in the whole world… pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner (OMG I HAVE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YET) and the only thing that could possibly make us feel better about the flames bursting from our pockets as our wallets spontaneously combust is to eat delicious things like pie. So here we are:
Vanilla Pumpkin Pie
Damn I miss home this time of year. The crashing of pans followed by the clinking of glasses and catching up with my American family… This time of year is when London really does feel a bit sad in comparison. Y’all just don’t know what Thanksgiving means! And you’re missing out…
At home, Thanksgiving is the time when we invite our whole family including every possible cousin within a 100 mile radius around our table to gorge on my mother’s fabulous turkey and stuffing. We break out the old linens, the silver, the china and we try our best to pay homage to the past generation’s parties through a balance of grandeur and generosity fit for such an important occasion. In a world where Christmas is often quiet and close, Thanksgiving makes up for it by swinging open the arms of the home and inviting everyone in we can fit. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey until we can’t possibly fit anymore… and then comes the pie.
Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it, no ifs, ands or buts. However, sometimes it can be more of an after thought to all that turkey and stuffing. So, I’ve opted to shake it up a bit, adding a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie so deserving of centre stage. It’s one of the acts, not an encore! The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.
One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)
425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree
2 Large Eggs
284ml Single Cream (or Evaporated Milk)
180g Caster Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt
1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f
Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like. It add extra oomph to pancakes especially.
Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust. Ta dah!
Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Excuse the horrible lighting/sharpness of this photo… I have been playing with a new lens. Cover this with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes or the fridge for 15 if you, like me have zero room for anything in your freezer, not even ice. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.
After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.
Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This is definitely one to practice before Thanksgiving since it’s so delicious and a perfect dessert to follow any special autumn meal. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream or for even more excitement, cinnamon ice cream.
Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe