Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. Ode to Sourdough Bread

    I just did two weeks without gluten just to see what would happen. Nothing, thank gawd. My respect goes out to all those with a real gluten problem, I know it’s not pretty and it’s sure as hell not easy!!! 

    Anyway since I’ve been thinking about bread nonstop for 14 days but not been able to eat it, I thought I’d eat it with my mind, so here are some ramblings on sourdough. Thank you heaven and earth for letting me have it again…. 

    It all starts with yeast, this really fabulous one celled organism that reproduces quickly and converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It’s a delicious bubble making machine and we have been using it for centuries (we’re talking Neolithic era, as early as 4000 B.C.) to make booze and bread – still two of the consumable pillars of our society. Yeast is essentially man’s first industrial microorganism. Respect! 
    Sourdough is made using natural yeast and lactobacilli, those fabulously useful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.

    Fermented foods are responsible for feeding and multiplying all the good bacteria that play a vital role in balancing not only our digestive system but possibly all of our body, even our mind. (Double wow for sourdough!) According to growing numbers of experts in the medical field, “microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways”(1). Pretty great stuff!

    IMG_5078 I am a seriously lucky woman in that my husband took up baking sourdough bread as a hobby a few years ago – I showed him the New York Times ‘No-knead bread’ recipe (still a go-to) by Mark Bittman and said, “Here honey, give this a try!”. The result has been freshly baked sourdough almost every weekend! 

    Sometimes he even lets me join in the fun of the process. The above photo is a loaf I made recently. I won’t pretend it’s as perfect – you get used to analysing the rise and texture of a loaf in our house but at least we’re only really discerning about taste. But here is the greatest thing about baking sourdough at home – it’s rustic defined, each loaf looks a little different and perfection is to taste – some like it soft and some like sour to the max (like me!), but there is no wrong way.

    It’s fun to play around with different recipes, experiment with different methods, hydration levels, flours and yeasts. It’s really a messy science. Once you’ve got it down though, it doesn’t have to take too much effort, just a bit of time around the house to work the dough, and being nearby when you’ve got to throw it in the oven. That easy and it’s lovely knowing that you’re creating something in your kitchen that humans have been making for eons. A little bit of history right at home.

    I have played around with four methods and recipes: Richard Bertinet’s ‘Sourdough Baguettes’ from his book ‘Crust‘, an old sourdough recipe card I found in a battered file filed by a woman from the 1940’s on, a handout from my time at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, and our household favourite – Tartine by Chad Robertson. I’ll share it with you soon, but it’s still in the testing stages.

    If you haven’t gathered yet, sourdough can be a bit complicated… but the good kind of complicated. For me it has been a love affair turned into a marriage – something I’ll be working on for a long time and from which I will enjoy wonderful benefits.

    Stay tuned…

    (1) A. Selhub, A Logan, A. Bested, Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry (J Physiol Anthropol. 2014; 33(1):2, published online January 2014.

  2. I feel this needs a second round… Porter Chocolate Cake – it’s still so good.

    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




  3. Happy New Year 2016! (and a 2015 round up)

    Now that we are in 2016 (holy moly how did that happen so fast?!) I am feeling a little reflective, a little proud even. I can look back at my many projects in 2015 and see that I really stretched myself as far as I could, though I’ll admit I missed having time to do more of my own writing on this blog. Thank you for keeping in touch via my Instagram and Twitter, I have really appreciated the feedback and encouragement!

    My goals for 2016:

    First – I want to write more and get back to regularly posting here!
    Second – Start on my first cookbook (Yes! But no promises for publishing in 2016…or 2017)
    Third – Learn to sketch.
    Fourth – First pop-up.

    Fingers crossed I can check all those off come January next year!

    To wrap up 2015, here is what I did while I was busy not writing this blog (again, see first resolution for 2016):

    I continued to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery School, where I have now worked for over a year, helping to run classes and testing tons of recipes. Here I am on the team page of the website among some of the cookery teachers I most admire in London. So proud!

    Picture 2

    At Good Housekeeping I also learned more about food styling and writing for a monthly publication and other nifty things like SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I had quite a few articles published on their website and even had a photo of my cooking published in the magazine’s September issue, on which I worked as a styling assistant. SO MUCH FUN!

    Maggie Rayfield Food Styling

    Good Housekeeping UK, September 2015, p. 261

    Good Housekeeping has been an amazing experience and I met the goals I set for myself from the start of working there within a year. A couple of my online articles that got the highest number of hits for food on their website that day, I learned to teach and run classes and events in a high end cooking school and I met loads of interesting people in the field that I can look forward to doing work with in the future.

    In addition to my work at Good Housekeeping, I also started branching out with my own projects. Working as a freelance chef has opened up doors to fantastic opportunities. Oh have I been busy!

    Most rewarding has been teaching autistic kids to trust their abilities through cooking at a special needs school. They are absolutely brilliant and it’s a joy to see the immediate reward they get from finishing a dish. I also started teaching at a snazzy school in Clerkenwell called Food at 52. I love the team there and get to teach some of my favourite cuisines – Italian, Vietnamese and South Indian.

    I have also worked in corporate catering, cooking for chairmen, directors and team members of private banks and firms in the City of London. Playing with fabulous ingredients and allowing my creativity to flow has been so awesome.

    One of the most exciting (and down right terrifying) opportunities I was given in 2015 was to make my first wedding cake. I’ll tell you about that soon!


    In between the hard work I got to go to Amsterdam and Paris (spoiled I know!) and in both countries cheese seemed to be the centre of attention.


    But their markets came close second. The fruits and vegetables on the continent are absolutely incredible.


    By the way, don’t let anyone tell you that all Parisians dislike Americans again – I was eyeing up some delicious looking apples at a stall and asked the lady running the stand (in my best possible French,which is borderline OK but not great) how much it would be for one apple, as I’m so hungry I can’t wait for lunch. She smiled and said, “Thank you for trying to speak properly, have it for free.” So there you go – it does pay to try!


    You  know what Eleanor Rooseavelt said – “Do one thing everyday that scares you”. Well, I’ll tell you what, I spent a lot of days rolling on that mantra in 2015. What the universe passed to me in exchange was incredible! I plan to keep it up this year and I can’t wait for the adventures 2016 will bring.


  4. Beef Wellington on an idle Wednesday

    It’s STILL freezing outside. Brrrrrrrrrr. All this ‘spring starts on the first of March’ malarky is just that: malarky. First of all, see above (it’s freezing) second of all, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which MUST be right, says the Vernal Equinox (that’s Spring) is on the 20th of March, so maybe we’ll have better luck in 5 days. I dunno – somehow I doubt it.

    OK, enough of this talking about the weather – what I really want to share with you is my first experience with Beef Wellington, which might be just what you want to  make for Sunday lunch this weekend. I highly recommend it for a small dinner party and I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not as hard as people make it out to be, especially if you buy ready-rolled puff pastry!


  5. Frosted Thyme

    Ahhhhh the chill is setting in. It’s that time of year for lots of pretty little frosted things on the table and outside. There’s nothing like wandering around with a cup of hot cocoa to help you appreciate nature’s beauty.

    Here is some early morning frosted thyme…

    And some beautiful Fall colors…

    And a huge gang of horses!!!! Oh England, how I love you…

  6. How healthy is your cereal? – Which? Campaigns

    I have been on a bit of a breakfast rant these past weeks. Now you all know I’m not exactly a health nut per se – I like to use butter, and lots of it. I probably get more excited about dessert than I do about dinner too- but I do believe in being healthy! Balance is what it’s all about, and value for money and time too!

    I like a bowl of cereal as much as the next person… it’s easy when you’re in a rush and who doesn’t like munching down a bowl of the sweet kind in front of the TV once in a while? My favourite right now is fruit filled mini wheat’s. 

    What I don’t like is feeling hungry an hour past breakfast when I feel like sleeping at my desk. I think breakfast should at least get me to 11am on the hunger clock and for some reason, my bowl of cereal just doesn’t seem to get me there. So I thought I’d do a little research.

    I found this really interesting article by Which?, you might be familiar with them, they offer loads of good advice to consumers like you and me.

    Now, I knew cereal had a little too much sugar in it- but read on to learn just how much! And that’s not the interesting part- the interesting part is in the labeling… or lack of. If you like to cook, you might like to know what you’re eating. Read on to learn about labeling and how some are hoping to change it. What do you think?

    Healthy eating for all How healthy is your cereal?

    Many of the cereals we tested had very high levels of sugar. Is your breakfast cereal a nutritious start to the day? Which? examined 50 top-selling branded and own-brand cereals for sugar, salt and fat content. We discovered many did not deserve their healthy image, with one cereal containing nearly 40% sugar.

    Sugar and salt
    First, the good news – salt levels in the cereals we looked at have come down since our last investigation.

    Unfortunately, sugar levels in 32 out of 50 of the cereals we examined were still extremely high. Which? was especially concerned about the sugar levels in cereals that were marketed to children. Only two out of the 14 children cereals looked at, Weetabix and Rice Krispies, were not high in sugar.

    Kellogg’s Frosties topped the sweet league with 37% sugar. Chocolate rice cereal from the majority of the supermarkets came a close second, followed by Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Kellogg’s Coco Pops and Sugar Puffs.

    There were also some high-sugar cereals, such as Kellogg’s All-Bran Bran Flakes and Special K, marketed as ‘healthy’.

    To find out more about the cereals we tested, and see our comparison tables, view our full cereal results.

    We need better nutrition labelling
    It should be easy to identify and choose food that is good for your health. However, the way cereals are labelled can make it very difficult to identify the truly healthy choice.

    Some cereals list nutrition information including milk, and use different portion sizes. We found examples of cereals assuming a portion of 50g, whereas others were as low as 30g, making it difficult for customers to compare the nutritional value of different cereals.

    Which? would like to see food manufacturers include prominent labelling on the front of the pack, including traffic lights to show levels of nutrients. Just 14 of the 50 cereals we examined used this traffic-light colour-coding. These were cereals produced by Asda, The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer. Eight out of the 50 cereals had no front-of-pack nutrition labelling at all.

    What Which? wants
    We’d like to see manufacturers take action by:

    • Offering lower sugar cereals and not promoting high sugar products as ‘healthy’
    • Making further salt reductions
    • Applying traffic light colours to nutrient labelling
    • Developing and promoting healthier cereals aimed at children.

    The government can also help by encouraging greater company responsibility. We’d like the government to:

    • Push food companies to include traffic light colour-coding on the front of packs
    • Set guidance for sugar and salt reductions, including 2014 salt targets
    • Ensure that food companies promote healthier choices to children
    • Work to restrict the use of health and nutrition claims on foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt

    How healthy is your cereal? – Healthy eating for all – Food and health – Which? Campaigns

  7. The Olympics Have Arrived!

    Here we go!

    We here in London have been waiting and planning for the Olympics to arrive for years and now they are finally here. The atmosphere is unbelievably amazing. People are filling the streets with their good vibes and everyone is shouting at there televisions for their home teams and athletes in general. The Opening Ceremony was kick-ass. I mean, I was a little nervous really. Austerity has hit our streets like a thug but in spite of that London opened the Olympics with a historically incredible ceremony. It really was an amazing show.

    So, it’s all very exciting and (would you believe it?) it’s the third time the Olympics have been in this beautiful buzzing city! It really is amazing, throwing the biggest event in the world in one of the busiest places – not to mention with a seriously old infrastructure and very small streets! A friend of mine found this nifty poster, which illustrates London’s Olympic history. Pretty cool huh?

  8. Opening Doors

    Sometimes you have to knock on the door to make it open – just make sure it’s a nice looking door…

    I have been working on opening a few doors lately, hence the delay in posts… I have missed you.  More fun to come this week!

  9. Autumn Ale

    I love ale. It’s many shades and flavors. It is an under rated beverage in comparison to wine, but it is making a big comeback in the form of small batches and microbrews.

    If you’re here in the UK, lucky you! You are in the home of ale! With Oktoberfest out of the way, it’s time to make new beer for Autumn. I am personally dying to try Pumpkin Ale. If anyone has a recommendation on which ones to try, please let me know! If your not into pumpkin, it’s hops harvest season, so those special batches with fresh hops will be around. Delicious. You’ll be able to find them at Cask Ale pubs all over the country. Don’t see one? Ask your bartender, they might know when it’s coming in.

    This week, why not explore your love of beer, your love of ale, your love of relaxing. Just sit back with a lovely shade of that delicious copper-colored drink.

  10. My Morning Coffee

    It’s a beautiful thing, the morning coffee ritual. Boil the kettle, grind the beans to make sure everyone is up in the house, hot water into the ancient cafetiere, stare at it until you can’t wait any longer, stir, plunge, pour, honey/sugar, milk and…. PRESTO CHANGO, art in your cup!

    It’s amazing that someone trusts me to handle the spinning blades of a coffee grinder and boiling water before I am even awake, but (putting aside the occasional finger scald) I have never been hurt carrying out the morning coffee ritual. To celebrate this accomplishment, I thought I would publish a photo of My Morning Coffee.

    See what I just did there? Now it’s art because it has a title… AND I got to use my new camera! Yippy! What does your cup look like?