Wednesday, 19 December 2012

19TH DECEMBER

Tonight, my book group is coming over for festive drinks and dinner before we talk about our December book so I'm heading home to roll puff pastry, melt chocolate and pour prosecco cocktails. I'm hoping to have a bit of pre-Christmas baking to share before the end of the week but until then...




Friday, 7 December 2012

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: FOR KIDS

Clockwise from top left: a treehouse for them to decorate themselves, a stacking dog puzzle, crayon rocks for little fingers, a chocolate Father Christmas, a kit for a kid obsessed with bugs, a woodpecker call, building blocks (that adults will love too), the prettiest tutu, chocolate coins for their stocking, little fox slippers, and a Mr Benn DVD to introduce them to one of your childhood favourites.

Friday, 30 November 2012

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: FOR FOOD LOVERS















































Clockwise from top left: a mango wood bread board, a new bread knife, and some London honeycomb for the breakfast table, a small jug and glasses (and, perhaps, a bottle of red wine to go with), a book and gift card for a favourite restaurant, glass containers for the fridge because they would love to get rid of the plastic, 'Canal House Cooks Every Day', a voucher for a butchery class, a small horn salt bowl and a pot of fleur de sel, a linen tea towel (because sometimes the simple things are the most loved), a little something from Ottolenghi, a candle that smells of Moroccan mint tea, a classic mixing bowl, and a bundt tin for cakes that look impressive but take no effort at all.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

NIGEL'S CHRISTMAS CAKE


Have you made your Christmas cake yet?

Do you make a Christmas cake?

Do you even like Christmas cake?

I didn't. I would pick off the marzipan and the icing, leaving the slice of cake for someone else to pick at (usually my sister who wasn't bothered about the icing, quite handy really). But at some point, it was 2005 or 2006, when we were staying in Edinburgh for the year, heading over to Chris's parents' house for the day, I decided to make the cake from The Kitchen Diaries. When Nigel Slater writes about cooking for Christmas I immediately want to hang fairy lights, curl up and give myself over to the season. His new book has the same effect, the December chapter calling out to me, cementing its position as a book to be given December residency on the worktop. Two Nigels, Nigella, Delia, Sarah, and a few Christmas specials to keep them company. In 2006, or was it 2005, the cake was baked and fed with brandy for a few weeks, marzipanned, and covered with rough snowy icing. I bought holly shaped candles and took (no, lugged, it may only be 20cm but it is H.E.A.V.Y) the cake as my Christmas offering.

The next year I was in Sussex with Nigel's cake and Nigella's chocolate Christmas cake, and, every year since I have taken that same cake, Nigel's that is, loaded with dried figs, apricots, prunes, cranberries, raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, glacé cherries, and hazelnuts, to Sussex. To be sliced into at some point, usually on Boxing Day, usually after lunch when we have all eaten turkey sandwiches with bread sauce, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, usually with a cup of tea before flopping onto a sofa to watch a film (or four, as on one memorable Boxing Day where a morning walk was followed by an afternoon and evening, just me and my parents, each of us lying on a sofa, watching film after film, only stirring to make cups of tea or turkey sandwiches, occasionally finding the energy to dip into a tin of Roses).

We're staying in Edinburgh this Christmas and I'm heading to Sussex for a few days the week before. I made the cake last weekend, it's sitting wrapped in baking parchment and foil, ready to be fed with calvados. I'll leave it with Mum but I think I'll make an extra mini cake just for us.

If you haven't made your Christmas cake yet can I suggest Nigel's? Over the years the page has been splashed with brandy, had ticks placed against ingredients, been smeared with sugary, buttery fingers. But isn't that a sign of a truly great recipe?

Friday, 23 November 2012

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: FOR HER


Clockwise from top left: the memoir of a remarkable woman, a dark green suede pouch, tiny wishbone earrings, softly coloured flannel pyjamas, the salted caramels that she loves, an arrow ring, something to keep on her bedside table, an oversized scarf and new mittens, a plaited cuff, a treatment with her favourite products, pistachio nails and red lips, an agate slice for a coaster, decoration, or just because.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

SWEET POTATO POUND CAKE


A few years ago (actually I just looked it up it was over four years ago, when we had only been in London for a couple of months and we were getting use to the flat we had rented in Stoke Newington - it feels simultaneously like way less than four years ago and like a lifetime ago) I found this recipe and we proceeded to make it regularly for a couple of months before it was replaced with some other weeknight staple. Maybe this, or this. I really don't remember. Baked sweet potatoes were forgotten for a while, consigned to the drawer marked 'stuff we used to make for dinner' along with pasta and pesto.

But they recently made a reappearance; baked, split, filled with feta, olive oil, spring onions, and sumac. They have gone right back to being an easy fallback; all of the ingredients available at the tiny terrible supermarket across the road, nothing requiring forward planning, or really any thought at all. Something to eat with mounds of green salad dressed with a tiny bit of olive oil and some sea salt. Easy, reliable, delicious.

On Friday, when Chris was heading out to a friend's to eat hot dogs and drink beers with seven other guys and I had dithered about whether to buy a steak, or fish and chips, or a curry, or make an omelette, before realising that I just couldn't be bothered, I ran across the road, picked up sweet potatoes and feta. Decision made and done. But, when I put those potatoes on the baking sheet (always remember the baking sheet, and something to cover the baking sheet, caramelised sweet potato goo is messy and surprisingly resilient stuff) I decided to bake the whole bag, eat one or two and use the rest to finally make the sweet potato pound cake that I pinned this time last year and that I have been meaning to make since Molly first posted it  over three years ago.

It took me until Monday to actually start baking. On Saturday, after a lunch of croque madame and fries in Leith, we jumped on a  bus into town to meet friends who were up from London. A quick drink turned into we should eat, turned into noodles, turned into one last drink, turned into closing time, turned into a painful Sunday morning leading up to a three year old's birthday party, turned into a pretty pathetic Sunday night (albeit one with a very good soup). Baking was not on the cards. So, on Monday, after yoga, I got home turned the oven on and finally started.






























I didn't make the glaze (partly because I didn't have the buttermilk, partly because, with my new habit of sending us to work most days with a slice of cake, I thought that extra hit of butter and sugar may be best avoided) so just left the cake to cool on the rack until the next morning. It's a good one, moist with a pleasurable heft and a hint of spice from the nutmeg. I'll try not to wait so long to make it again.

Friday, 16 November 2012

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: FOR BOOK LOVERS


 



Clockwise from top left: a candle that smells of afternoons in the library, a book about a little ghost learning to read, a handbound notebook and bookbinding classes, an early edition of a childhood favourite, a Welsh blanket to curl up under, an introduction to Ian Hamilton Finlay with a selection of his writing and a copy of his Nautical Alphabet, a song for anyone wrapped up in books, a voucher and book bag from a favourite shop, a mug and biscuits for sustenance while reading, a shelf for all their favourite books.

And, finally, because I'm sure you all have a few thousand pounds to spend on the book lover in your life...



Thursday, 15 November 2012

A LITTLE SOMETHING

'Eleven o'clock and still two hours until lunchtime. Something to keep you steady - nothing finer than a slice of seed cake, washed down by a glass of Madeira. This will see you safely through until lunch.' (Fergus Henderson, Beyond Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking: Part II)

On Sunday, there were online errands in the morning, then sandwiches from odds and ends in the fridge at lunchtime (mostly left from making pizzas the night before), a spoonful of pizza sauce, a few slices of prosciutto, the end of a ball of mozzarella. We piled it onto a baguette and topped it with scrambled eggs. That evening, once the cottage pie was in the oven,  I pulled out the second St John book and got to making this week's cake. A simple loaf cake speckled with caraway seeds. We've each been taking a slice to work to eat when we fancy a little something. For me, that's usually late morning or mid-afternoon, sometimes with a cup of mint tea, sometimes not. If only it could be that glass of Madeira that Fergus Henderson recommends...



Monday, 12 November 2012

AXEL SCHEFFLER AND ROYAL MAIL

Have you seen this year's Christmas stamps? 
Would it be excessive if I start putting one on everything I post even though it's still November?

No? Good.

Friday, 9 November 2012

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: FOR HIM


I've decided to dip my toes into the gift guide waters this Christmas. There will, hopefully, be one every Friday until 21st December starting with gifts for the man in your (my) life.



Clockwise from top left: John Fahey's Christmas Album, Fair Isle socks, a wall mounted bottle opener and some of his favourite beer, Kiehl's Facial Fuel (for men who really don't like the feel of products on their face), a Makr wallet to replace the one that was stolen three years ago and is yet to be replaced, enough fried egg sweets to last the year (perhaps), a West German vase to add to the collection on our windowsill.

Monday, 5 November 2012

DRAWING IN

I can never remember when seasons officially begin and end but I feel like Winter is here. I'm piling on layers and wearing my hat and gloves every day on my way to work and it's getting dark by 5pm. And, predictable as ever, I pulled my Christmas cookery books off the shelf over the weekend and started thinking about things to make in the coming months. Last night we had a roast chicken with mashed swede and carrot and sauteed shredded brussels sprouts for dinner and a bottle of red wine that Sarah and Rob gave us in September. Tonight, after I've been to yoga which will leave me floppy, ready to pull pyjama bottoms on and curl up on the sofa under the blanket, there will be little leftover vegetable cakes with chicken and Nigel Slater talking about sweets. Or maybe eggs on the vegetable cakes and chicken curry tomorrow, or chicken and chips...

I made a vanilla bundt yesterday. After we had been to the supermarket, before we were ready to start making dinner. A cake to sit on the worktop, we'll take a slice each to work for as long as it lasts, a treat from the weekend to see us through the first few days of the week. It has a golden crust with a soft yellow crumb, the raw cake batter tasted like vanilla custard and dropped into the tin in soft ripples, so satisfying.

So, after the shopping, and the baking, and the roasting I just wanted to say this. I think I'm ready for Winter. I could do with a pair of serious boots in case it decides to snow but apart from that I'm ready and looking forward to some, maybe even all, of the below.

Making marshmallows
Cold walks followed by warm meals
Christmas cocktails and meals out with friends
A spiced chocolate cake
A December weekend in Sussex
Quiet afternoons in warm pubs with the papers 
Clementine cake
Wrapping up in a big warm scarf, and, in my dreams, a coat that feels more like a duvet


 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

CPLD

Chris, Christophe, CPLD. 33 today.




Happy Birthday.

x

Friday, 12 October 2012

THIS AUTUMN FEELING

The changing colours, the bright crispness, being enveloped in wool, getting cold on long walks, coming inside to find warmth. The last week or so has been picture perfect October, the dark starts and foggy breath made better by the promise of sunshine, the days so clear that if you find just the right bench, out of the wind, you can sit outside and breathe Autumn in. On Saturday we sat in Princes Street Gardens, and on Sunday, while I fed waffles, bacon and maple syrup to friends, Chris walked to the Gallery of Modern Art with Euan and they sat outside for as long as they could. Later I walked across town to meet them, the sun in my eyes.

But all week we watched the forecast, the forecast that said yes it's sunny and bright and cold and perfect but don't get too comfortable just wait until Thursday, on Thursday it will RAIN. It held out until just after lunchtime and then it rained, and it rained, and it rained. I had taken my swimming costume to work but as I left I realised that I didn't want to go swimming, I just wanted to be at home. I wanted to turn the heating on, to make dinner, to bake a cake, to paint my nails dark blue and that, all of it, is what I did.


A couple of weeks ago I roasted a butternut squash with thyme, toasted some hazelnuts in a small pan, and threw it all into some couscous with goats' cheese for a quick meal. Last night I did the same, just with pasta and pecorino instead. Next time I think there will be big pasta shells, filled with squash, thyme and nuts, topped with crumbled goats' cheese...

Friday, 28 September 2012

21ST SEPTEMBER


At the start of the Summer, before New York, when we decided to get married in City Hall, we also decided to throw a party. I'm not sure that either of us knew exactly what planning a party for about 90 people would involve but there were many hours spent collecting and cleaning glass bottles and jars, making table plans, place cards and cake flags. There were flowers (and a flower-related injury when I cut myself with very sharp secateurs a few hours before the party), there were 96 cupcakes.  But, most of all and best of all, there were family and there were friends. Friends we have known for just a year or two and friends we have known since we were very small. Friends who flew up just for the party, friends who drove 500 miles to celebrate with us, friends who chose to make our party their first night out since the birth of their daughter, friends we see every few weeks and those who we would love to see more. There was a first dance, a second dance, and many more until midnight. There were dancing groups, dancing couples and a very small girl breakdancing in her pink dress and purple shoes. There was a double rainbow and a bright red sky while we stood outside drinking prosecco. I'm told there was a sky full of stars and meteors as we danced inside. It was a great evening with amazing people. We're so very lucky to have them all.




Oh, and the cupcake recipe? It's my new favourite, the cake itself isn't too sweet so it works well with the icing. I found this quantity made 12 cupcakes but enough icing for 24.


Friday, 31 August 2012

WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU

 

I finished reading this late last night. I knew I would love it when I was one story in, after two I didn't want to put it down.    

Friday, 24 August 2012

A DAY OF PERFECT MEALS


In the evenings we stand in the kitchen. Me by the oven, at the hob, standing with one foot flat on the floor, the other crossed over it, on tip-toes. Chris at the worktop, making our sandwiches for the next day - salami, cheese, salad, cornichons, mustard, Dijon for me, English for him. The sun setting, the sky turning from blue to pink, then getting darker and darker. Last night we listened to Spilled Milk, as we often do, and, while I made pasta with bacon, peas, parsley and parmesan, Molly and Matthew talked about their day of perfect meals. When the episode finished we tried to decide what our perfect food day would be. It's tricky, you start with one thing and then you remember a sandwich you used to eat, the breakfast roll from an Edinburgh cafe long since closed, a plate of freshly caught scallops, rotisserie chicken and crisps on a roadside in France. So what would my day of perfect meals look like? It would be something like this.

Early Bird granola with milk and a New Orleans style iced coffee from Blue Bottle for breakfast.

Spicy squid and grilled pork bún from Song Que with a watermelon agua fresca from La Superior for lunch. 

A nata and an iced coffee from Fernandez & Wells as a snack.

A white pie from Delancey for dinner with a bottle of the Bandol rosé that we drank with lunch at Petersham Nurseries on my 29th birthday.  

And for pudding? A scoop of chocolate ice-cream that I ate in Paris in 2003. It was from a small place on the Left Bank, Rue de la Bucherie maybe? It's closed now but is still the best chocolate ice-cream I have ever tasted. And with it, because that perfect food day definitely needs two scoops of ice-cream, a scoop of the mint ice-cream that we ate at Marlow & Sons in 2011.

I considered custard doughnuts from St John, gozleme from Stoke Newington, and lobster rolls from Maine but I guess the thing about the perfect food day is that it is bound to change, reflecting the tastes you have right now, in this moment, influenced by where you are, what you want from a day. And this food day, rich with memories of meals eaten alone and with friends, sounds pretty much perfect to me.  

Thursday, 23 August 2012

AUTUMN BECKONS


We haven't had much of a Summer this year, it seems wrong to wish it away, but I'm feeling the pull of Autumn as we reach the last week of August.

First there was the September issue of Vogue.

Then the first of the Toast Autumn catalogues.

A knee length cord skirt, silk long sleeved top, thick tights.

I started to think about a mustard scarf, a new leather bag, jumper dresses and navy blue moccasins.

I'll embrace Summer while it lasts, will gladly take any fleeting opportunity for bare arms or legs, for sandals, for painted toenails. I'll sit outside for as long as I can, I'll drink in the long days and hope for an Indian Summer with bright, warm September days but Autumn is reeling me in and I'm powerless to resist.

From top: Essie Stylenomics nail polish, Uniqlo dress, Uniqlo cardigan, Rib and Hull Heirloom Tote, Minnetonka moccasins.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

STRAWBERRY SEASON



Before we left the strawberries were just appearing, not yet quite ready, picked too early.

In New York, Brian had tiny strawberries in his apartment. I would spoon maple yoghurt into a bowl, top it with grape nuts and a handful of those deep red berries and sit back with my iced coffee. In Maine, a day that started with strawberry muffins, continued with lighthouses, lobster rolls, and local strawberry soft serve. That night we ate burgers outside, coming in when the bugs started to bite to eat strawberry shortcake. We were well looked after.

When we got back I was keeping my fingers crossed for good Scottish berries not knowing how this wettest of Summers would affect them. Sylvie, Sylvain and Ellie came for lunch that first Sunday. We ate frittata and a salad of fennel, celeriac and pumpkin seeds, which we had eaten the Sunday before, sitting in Frankie's Spuntino, enjoying the AC and a meatball sandwich before heading back out into the heat. A week later, on a much cooler morning, I had baked a vanilla sponge. A softly simple cake that I would usually cover in vanilla buttercream, and sometimes, if it's a birthday and these things are called for, dolly mixture, they just seem to fit. This time I made buttercream but, instead of vanilla, I pressed a few strawberries through my smallest sieve, maybe six or seven in all. The icing turned pink, strawberries and cream against the vanilla of the cake. We watched the final of Wimbledon, balancing slices on our knees.







Thursday, 19 July 2012

4 WEEKS AGO


4 weeks ago we were in New York.

4 weeks ago it was 37°C.

4 weeks ago it was the longest day of the year.

4 weeks ago we woke up, got ready, took a cab to city hall and got married.

4 weeks ago was the best.



























All photos by Brian Ferry.

Friday, 11 May 2012

OATMEAL BISCUITS


I don't think it's ever going to stop raining.

That may be an exaggeration but I don't care.

I'm fed up of wearing a warm vest every day.

I'm fed up of wearing thick tights.

 I'm fed up of curling up at night in my sheepskin slippers and having a cold nose all the time.

I'm fed up of slightly damp feet.

Can you tell I'm over it?

But it's Friday. At 5pm Chris will come to meet me from work. We'll walk down the road, stopping to buy coffee on the way, maybe having a beer before heading home. Tonight we'll watch American Idol because I, without shame (well, without much shame) love it. I suspect Philip will win but think that Jacob should. Then, tomorrow, I'll try, sometimes I succeed, sometimes not, to get up in time for Saturday morning Zumba to jump and turn and shimmy (yes, shimmy) to some truly terrible music that makes me smile nonetheless and by the time I get home Chris will be up. I'll kick my trainers off and we'll sit down with coffee and the papers and I'll put the unbaked biscuits that are sitting in the freezer in the oven to eat with butter and a little of the end of last Summer's strawberry jam.


Oatmeal Biscuits
 From The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

 ½ cup rolled oats
1 ¼ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, chilled
¾ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 215°C and grease a baking sheet.

Combine the oats, flour, salt, baking powder, and bicarb in a mixing bowl. Stir and toss to mix and blend all the dry ingredients.

Cut the cold butter into pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut or rub the butter into the flour until the mixture is in coarse, irregular bits. Add the buttermilk and stir the mixture with a fork until the rough mass somewhat holds together.

Gather the dough up and place on a lightly floured board. Knead about 10 times, pushing some of the pieces into the ball of this rather dry dough. Pat or roll into a ½ inch thickness. Cut into 2 inch rounds and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve hot.

 Makes 12.

Monday, 16 April 2012

SHAVED ASPARAGUS PIZZA

I was going to tell you about oatmeal biscuits today but they'll have to wait. Not because they weren't good but, because, last night, I made these.


It's my usual pizza base, sprinkled with parmesan, topped with mozzarella (a 125g ball between the two of us), dotted with ricotta and chopped wild garlic leaves, then topped with shaved asparagus that had been tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, before being finished with a final grating of parmesan. The pizza idea (and most of the recipe) came from Smitten Kitchen. The addition of ricotta from memories of last Summer and Brandon's amazing white pie. The wild garlic just because it's abundant here growing along side the Water of Leith, long wide green leaves, small white flowers. When they were cooked we drizzled over a little olive oil and sat down with pizzas that tasted of Spring.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

FROM SUNSHINE TO SNOW

The weather was perfect last week. Not perfect for March. Perfect for March would just mean a few days of cool clear sunshine, daffodils blooming and no rain. This was perfect for June.

Sitting on the grass, the smell of barbecues in the air, the start of a tan. We don't get that many 20-something degree days in July let alone March. The forecast for the weekend was, not bad, but grey, rainy, a little colder. It was a joy when we were still sitting outside eating an ice-cream on Sunday.


It's snowing today, I'm wearing thick tights and socks and my warm waterproof boots. Last week I was digging out summer clothes, today I'm all wrapped up in wool. Last week we were making salads for dinner, last night I went to yoga, came home and made a bit pot of mince. The same big pot of mince that I have made countless times in the last year, the big pot of mince I meant to tell you about, the big pot of mince that is comforting, hearty, easy.

I make about half of the recipe for the 2 of us, 500g of steak mince, 1 litre of chicken stock (because I always have chicken stock and never have beef), about 10 or 12 small mushrooms, an onion, a few carrots and parsnips, I'm heavy handed with the mustard powder and the Worcestershire sauce. On the first night we eat the mince ladled over basmati rice, on the second the leftovers are warmed up to have with pasta and a hefty grating of parmesan. That second day's pasta is one of my favourite meals. I look forward to it all day. I've been looking forward to it all day.

Mince with hidden roots
From Kitchenella by Rose Prince

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped or grated
900g/2lb fresh minced beef or lamb (or minced leftover meat)
20 button mushrooms, grated
2 carrots, grated
about 4 heaped tablespoons grated root vegetables - parsnip, turnip, swede, celeriac (or a mixture)
1 heaped teapoon English mustard powder
1 litre/1 ¾ pints beef stock
sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Heat the oil in a large casserole, add the onions and cook for at least 5 minutes over a low heat until lightly browned. Add the minced meat, the mushrooms and all the vegetables and cook, stirring, over a medium heat for 1 minute. Add the mustard, stir a few times and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for about 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the beef is tender. Add more stock or water if the braise is becoming dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the Worcestershire sauce if using.

Serves 6-8.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

MORO'S WET BREAD

I made bread last weekend.


I've been saying I would over and over and over again and, on Saturday, I finally did it. I poured flour into a bowl, added salt, yeast and water. I used my fingertips, gradually bringing it together in the bowl. Then I covered it with a cloth, walked away, left it for seven hours. Later I heated a baking sheet, sprinkled it with flour, and poured the dough on.

This is not a neat round ball of dough. It's wet, so wet you think it can't possibly work, rising in the bowl, forming doughy strands that stick to the side of the bowl, strands that stretch as you tip the bowl onto its side, as you try to get the dough to relinquish its hold all the while imagining, wrongly, how horrific it will be to wash up the bowl that this dough has been clinging to with all its might. With a little help from a knife it eventually flops into place on the sheet and goes into the oven to bake.

This isn't a loaf to slice and eat warm, I left it to cool overnight, sliced into it on Sunday morning.


It's a craggy loaf, squat with a good crust.

It turns out that squat with a good crust works pretty well with butter and last summer's strawberry jam.


Wet Bread
From Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark

This dough is wet enough to make, knead and prove in one large bowl. Think of it as whisking water (with your fingertips) into flour to make a very thick batter.

Makes 1 x 1kg loaf

600g unbleached strong white bread flour
1 heaped teaspoon fine sea salt
1 level teaspoon dried yeast, dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
450ml warm water
semolina flour, for dusting (I used plain flour)

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Pour the yeast on to the flour at one side of the bowl where you intend to start working in the water. Add a little water, incorporate a bit of the flour with your fingers until smooth, add more water, mix in, incorporate more flour and knead in. As the dough increases in size, larger amounts of both flour and water can be added. use a beating action with your fingertips, breaking up the lumps that appear; this also kneads the dough at the same time. When all the water is mixed in, beat for a further minute with your fingertips. Cover the bowl with a cloth or oiled clingfilm and leave the dough to rise in a warm place at roughly 20°C/68°F for 4-6 hours.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Place a large baking sheet or roasting tray (approx 30 x 30cm) on the middle shelf. When hot, sprinkle a liberal handful or two of semolina flour over the tray to prevent the bread sticking. Now gently pour the dough on to the tray and dust the top surface with a little more semolina. Return to the oven, and after 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and bake for a further half-hour.

Lift the bread off the tray, loosening it with a large knife if stuck, then place directly on the middle rack, right side up. Bake for another 15 minutes to crisp up the base. Now turn off the heat and leave the oven door open for the bread to cool completely. Don't be tempted to slice the loaf while it is still hot or it will become stodgy.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

BANANA BREAD

On Sunday morning, as we were drinking coffee, and after I had finished painting my nails dark blue, I thumbed through a pile of books to find something to make for dinner, stopping eventually on a lamb, cardomam and cabbage pilav from the first Moro book and pointing it out to Chris. And while I had been thumbing, marking recipes for stews and braises, I was also marking rhubarb cake, muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and this, banana bread.

I didn't think I was going to post this, I've written about banana bread here more than enough times but then, on Monday, when I was sitting at work, I unwrapped my foil wrapped slice, took a bite, and... oops, here I am again.


Banana Bread
From How I Cook by Skye Gyngell

I used regular caster sugar instead of golden and skimmed milk instead of whole without any problems. I also used far less than 75g of muscovado sugar, maybe 30g. You're looking for a coating over the top of the batter, how much sugar you want to use to get that coating is up to you.

125g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
250g plain flour, plus extra to dust
4 ripe bananas, peeled
a few drops of lemon juice
300g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
125ml whole milk
75g light muscovado sugar

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Butter and flour a loaf tin, measuring approximately 20x10cm, and line the base with baking parchment. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice in a bowl, using a fork.

Beat the butter and caster sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one by one, then incorporate the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together over the mixture. Using a large metal spoon, fold in carefully, until evenly combined. Finally fold in the milk.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, gently spread level and scatter the muscovado sugar evenly over the surface. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave the banana bread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool further.

Make 8-9 slices.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

PIZZA

I've been meaning to write about pizza for, well, for as long as I've been making it at home. Those first few times were sporadic. I would stand in our old Edinburgh flat kneading dough on the worktop and then we would sit at the table in the red walled kitchen, the table where we used to sit listening to the radio or to music that Chris would put on in the box room and which would reach us through the little high up window that connected the two rooms. I don't think I ever made pizza in London. I always meant to but maybe there wasn't enough space, maybe there were just other options.

Last Summer I decided to start again, using the recipe from Jamie's Italy that I had always used, making a half batch of dough for three pizzas, mixing the dough in my biggest bowl, topping them with tomato sauce, prosciutto, courgette slices, mozzarella and basil.

I made pizza when Brian came to stay, arriving on the train, tired, hungry, and thoroughly fed up after being forced to stand for too long, cheered by slices of pizza and a giant cookie. I went from making three pizzas to four much thinner ones with that same half batch of dough when we made dinner for friends. There were pizzas when Molly and Brian came to stay, followed by some oddly textured brownies, granular but edible. At New Year, pizzas and brownies again (the latter just because I needed to redeem myself).

And on Valentine's Day I made pizza for the two of us, one of them turning out wonkily heart shaped, by accident (sort of), the rest of the dough sitting in the freezer for next time.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sunday, 12 February 2012

4TH FEBRUARY

When you're helping to organise a surprise 40th birthday party there are a few necessities...

Balloons.


Friends.


Dancing.


Cake.


Candles.


Happy birthday Sylvain!