I once again have an obsession with Jamie Oliver. He kind of flits in and out of my life like a bad boyfriend who is really oh-so-good. Right now he is definitely in.
This current phase of obsessive behaviour bordering on stalker-like tendencies started when Jamie’s Great Britain aired on TV and I just had to try those Guinness Lamb Shanks with celeriac mash. So I ran out to the shops to buy the book. It was £30.
Yes I know Jamie is very talented and I would charge £30 for my cookbook if I had half his success, but I just couldn’t justify it at the moment. So my Jamie obsession waned for a while and I watched and waited while everyone else was discovering Jamie’s great British recipes.
After I got over my jealousy and bitterness, I almost forgot about it until I walked into WHSmith the other day looking for another embarrassing guilty pleasure in the form of teenage vampires. It was on the shelf for £9! This I could definitely afford. Jamie may not be able to feed his kids but I now have the secrets to his success.
So I am just now experiencing the amazing culinary genius that is Jamie about a bazillion months too late. Hopefully this isn’t ‘been there, done that’ for you, but I am in heaven.
I baked his St. Clements Cake for a charity bake sale at work without trying the recipe or in fact ever having tried St. Clements Cake. However, there was no need to fear because it is like a citrus explosion in your mouth. An orange and lemon wonder that was gone in 45 minutes and has now become my go-to cake.
According to my housemate, the name comes from a common British nursery rhyme about owing people money. Being American, I’ve obviously never heard this rhyme in my life, but there are lots of sinister lines in it including something about chopping off heads! It eventually made its way into a cake and I am oh so glad it did.
This recipe is straight out of his book and I only added a few tips of my own.
- 125g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 4 large free range eggs
- 1 large orange
- 200g ground almonds
- 100g self-raising flour
- 225g icing sugar
- 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed spring form cake tin with a knob of butter and line the base with greaseproof paper.
- Beat the softened butter with 125g of the caster sugar until it’s light and creamy, then crack in the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in well before adding the next. Finely grate in the zest from the orange, keeping back a few scrapings to use in the icing later. Fold in the ground almonds and sift in the flour. Mix and gently combine everything, then spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes, or until risen and slightly golden. To check that the cake is cooked through, poke a skewer or cocktail stick in the centre of the sponge. If it comes out clean, it’s done; if not, cook for a few more minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the time while you make the orange syrup.
- Put the remaining 100g of sugar into a pan and add the juice of the zested orange. Place the pan on a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring once in a while until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still hot, poke lots of little holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup all over it. Once all the syrup has been absorbed, move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and grate in most of the lemon zest. Keep back a few gratings with the remaining orange zest. Squeeze the lemon juice over the icing sugar and mix until you get a good drizzling consistency. Keep aside until the cake has completely cooled, then transfer to a serving plate and pout the lemony icing all over the top, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle over the reserved lemon and orange zest and serve.
- Use good quality ground almonds. I bought Waitrose almonds and they were fabulous, leaving a nice nutty taste that didn’t override the other flavours. Then I used Tesco ground almonds and the flavour was much more fake and very strong, like I used loads of almond oil.
- This recipe makes a lot of drizzle. Before I transferred it to a serving plate, I poured the drizzle with the cake still on the cooling rack. With a tray underneath to catch the excess, I could keep drizzling until it started to harden on the cake. Then I transferred to a serving plate.
- Leave the cake overnight before you eat it. It is one of those cakes that gets better with age. All the flavours have a chance to blend together and the result is fabulous. Also, all that lemony drizzle coats the cake and stops it from drying out.
Oh and don’t worry about Jamie feeding his kids. In thorough stalker fashion, I just booked one of his cooking courses through Recipease (yes I know he won’t actually be there) and I’ve eaten at his restaurant often enough to justify a £9 book. Once I publish this blog I will go on twitter and Facebook to tell the world about it, so hopefully more people will know about him and his cake. It’s free PR Jamie!
So here are a few thoughts going through my mind at the moment…
1. First of all, make and try these bagels. They are so good and your stomach will rumble at the smell of your kitchen. They came out perfect and chewy, just like from the bagel shop around the corner. Experiment with your own flavours and toppings. I think I’m going to try sun-dried tomato and basil next. The basic recipe below without the dill, parsley and spinach will make plain bagels.
2. bareMinerals makeup is AMAZING! I have wanted to try it since I first saw the infomercial like a million years ago, but never really went for it. A few weeks ago, I was walking through the department store to the eyebrow bar for some much needed threading, and passed the bareMinerals counter. On a years overdue impulse, I stopped and asked to have my makeup done. Uhhh.. the best thing I have ever done! I just looked fresh faced and just… brighter. You have to try it! I immediately bought the starter set and since I have purchased a few other choice items. I am completely addicted…. there goes my next paycheck.
3. I love reality tv shows about fitness and people trying to get healthy. The Biggest Loser and Supersize vs Superskinny are two of my favourites… except for one thing…. On the British versions, why do they always take them to America to see how fat they could end up? I get seriously offended. I’m not naive – I know my home country is the fattest country in the world, but last time I checked there was only a few percentage points between the US and the UK. I have lived in the UK for four years and just like the US, there is a McDonalds in every town. I see seriously overweight people in every town here. There isn’t much difference in portion sizes regardless of what people say. It seems to me the UK is just afraid to admit they have just as ‘big’ a problem as the US. Case in point – the fattest person in the world is British.
4. I just bought this dress. Bring on Summer and hot weather!!!
5. I watched Food, Inc. last week. Eye opening. Immediately after I started checking my labels and vowing to only shop at farmer’s markets for the rest of my life. Until I decided I could only afford Tesco. Oh well.. at least I am more conscious about it. Maybe every once in a while I will make the good choice.
6. I need a new camera. Currently I use my phone for photos as you can probably tell from their amateur look. Unfortunately, I have spent all my money this month on makeup, so it looks like you will have to suffer through mediocre photos a little while longer.
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- a small bunch (about 30g) fresh dill – chopped
- a small bunch (about 30g) fresh flat leaf parsley – chopped
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach – chopped
Recipe: (Original recipe for plain bagels came from this blog and then I added my own twists. He used to own his own bagel restaurant. This is the real deal!)
- Mix yeast, 1 1/4 cups water, oil, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl. Sift in one cup flour and mix.
- Add dill, parsley and spinach and mix into dough.
- Sift in the rest of the flour one cup at a time. The dough should be stiff and pliable, but if it is too stiff add in the extra 1/4 cup water a little at a time as needed.
- Dump dough on counter and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth.
- Cut dough into 8 balls, cover with a clean tea towel and let restfor 20 minutes. The dough will start to rise.
- Preheat your oven to 220 celcius.
- Now form the bagels. Method 1 – Use your thumb and punch a hole through the middle of the bagel, slowly stretching until you have the relative shape you want. Method 2 (the one I use) – roll each ball into a stick until it is slightly wider that both your hands. Wrap the stick around one hand and squish and roll the two ends together until the dough is fused.
- Let the bagels rest again for another 20 minutes (they should start to rise again and look quite puffy)
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large baking sheet.
- Once the bagels have rested, drop them into the boiling water, boiling for 1 minute on each side. Do as many as your pan will allow but do not overcrowd as the bagels will exand even more in the water. Take them out of water and place on a cooling rack for them to dry for a minute or so. Then place on baking sheet.
- Add the baking sheet to the oven, bake for ten minutes, flip them over and bake for another ten minutes.
- Let them cool and dig in!
So I didn’t have the best day yesterday. This is how it went…
It was pretty much an average day full of average tasks until I had to coach my U19 Lacrosse Team in a match that afternoon. The team we were playing we had beat 14-1 in a previous match, and even though I was missing five strong players due to injury, illness and exams, I was confident we would be ok but also knowing it may be a bit of a closer game.
My team has not lost a game since the beginning of the season in September.
To a team we beat 14-1…
Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s just a game and kids learn a lot from winning and losing. Losing builds character and teaches them to be better players. But I got weirdly upset over this one. Maybe because it is so close to Nationals and my girls are talented and I want them to believe it.
All I was thinking for the rest of the night was, “what am I doing wrong?”, “what can I change?”, “why can’t they put what I teach them in practice into games?”, and on and on and on. I had to do something to get it off my mind or I was going to go mad (and I was annoying my housemates – J & K).
So first of all the show tunes came on. We were singing our lungs out to Wicked, Annie and every single Disney song. This started to lift my spirits somewhat and then we cracked open a bottle of wine and it was all over.
After the 2nd glass I was definitely feeling happy and said so to J.
“I do too,” J said. “But I also feel like I want more.”
“Ok! Let’s go,” I exclaimed.
It was about that time when I decided to make Spinach Empanadas with the contents of my fridge.
Two glasses later and another bottle cracked open I had still only made the dough and filling and was starting to put things together. It was also around that time when J & K pulled up online dating sites and started browsing for potential significant others (L, our other housemate, was already on a date). The three of us then tried to use wit and natural beauty to get J & K dates. It went a little like this:
Message from Man: I like your smile.
Message from K: I like your smile too. Let’s get together and smile at each other.
Two more glasses later I was thoroughly sloshed and my Empanadas were ready for the deep fryer. This could have been dangerous, but in the end it was relatively harmless though I did manage to get oil everywhere. .
When I tasted them in my drunken state they were SOOOOO GOOOOD! Absolutely delicious! Heaven! The best food I have ever tasted EVER EVER EVER! (I did make them again tonight just to make sure they actually were delicious enough to post. They were!)
Two bottles of wine finished it was time to clean up the kitchen. This meant instead of disposing of the used oil properly, my drunken self just dumped it out the window. Seemed like a great idea at the time. Yup – dead plants and grass.
I went to bed without stress and happy. It seemed to be just what I needed because I woke up the next morning focused and ready to change things.
But not before I woke up at 5am to wee Niagara Falls and drink about 10 gallons of water.
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 2 tbsps butter
- 2 cups flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1 egg – beaten
- 6-7 tbsps cold water
- 2 cups tightly packed spinach
- 3 hard-boiled eggs – chopped
- 15 cherry tomatoes – chopped
- 4 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Sift flour into large bowl and add baking powder. Cut butter and shortening into flour until it resembles crumbs. Mix egg into mixture. Add cold water 1-2 tbsp at a time until a soft dough forms. Form into a ball with hands, wrap in plastic and put in fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in pan. Add garlic, tomatoes and spinach and saute for 3 minutes until spinach wilts. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Allow to cool and then add chopped eggs.
- Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut out 18-20 3in circles. Spoon a tbsp of the mixture into the center of the circle. Brush one edge with water, fold pastry in half, and press down on edges to seal.
- Pour two inches of oil into a pot and heat. Drop two or three empanadas into the oil at a time and fry until golden brown.
Not that I’m so self-involved that I thought you were panicking (though I kind of hoped you were), but….
Now I know it seems like I fell off the face of the earth, but I was actually doing really important things like celebrating Christmas in America, hanging out in Boston, shopping the January sales back in the UK where I got amazing Dune boots and an awesome Zara blazer for at least 50% off, getting my hair cut, buying new makeup, going out and generally living.
But do I have news for you!!
2012 has got off to an AMAZING start with lots happening in my life. My last blog was basically a big moan about everything that was going wrong in my life (if you need a reminder click here). However, things started to turn around this month.
So I am making the Graham Cracker Ice Box Cake that my mom used to make for my birthday to celebrate the wonder that is my life. This is the Best. Cake. Ever. and it’s so easy to make that you don’t even have to bake it! Oh, and it’s not even remotely good for you, but worth every mouthful.
1-3 packets of Graham Crackers, depending how big you want your cake (3 packets per box)
600-1200mls Heavy/Double Cream (600 for a small cake, and more the larger you get)
1tsp Vanilla extract per 600ml cream (optional)
2tbsp sugar per 600ml cream
ground cinnamon for garnish
- Pour 600mls cream into large mixing bowl. Add vanilla and sugar and whisk with an electric mixter until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to mix too long or your cream will turn into butter!)
- Spread cream on one side of a Graham Cracker then top with another cracker. Add cream and layer with another cracker. Repeat until a small tower forms and you can lay the cake down on the dish you wish to serve it on. Add more layers until your cake is at its desired size.
- When finished, ice the cake with more cream and place in the fridge for 2-4 hours (or overnight) until the cream soaks into the cracker giving it a soft, cake-like texture.
- Add garnish just before serving and cut on the diagnol to get the pretty design on the inside. I usually garnish mine with fresh raspberries, which go brilliantly with the cream, but I didn’t have any so I used cinnamon. Marachino cherries go great as well.
Note: This is a very rich cake. A small cake will serve many as you only need a sliver.
I know it is hard to get Graham Crackers in the UK and the closest equivalent to taste are Hobnob’s. These biscuits are very thick compared to Graham Crackers and may take longer in the fridge, but I went ahead and made an individual cake layered with four Hobnobs. At press time it wasn’t ready but I will tweet the results when it is.
Mini-wave in celebration of me! Woop Woop!
Sometimes you just have those days. Everything is going wrong. Or little things have built up and you just want to EXPLODE! But as we are conscious, decision making adults, we know better than to explode and make fools out of ourselves.
Instead we stuff our face.
And what better to stuff said face with than homemade pizza specially made with a sourdough crust.
Sourdough Pizza Dough
Ingredients: (this makes a thicker crust. For a thinner crust or flatbread, halve the recipe but roll to same size tray as thick crust)
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 cups
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Pour starter into a mixing bowl. Sift dry ingredients in and mix until soft dough forms. You may need a bit more flour if dough is too wet.
- Dump onto floured surface and knead a few times until brought together (if you knead too long gluten will form and it will be tough to stretch).
- Let dough relax for 30 minutes then stretch into shape of large pizza pan or baking sheet (I used a 9X13 inch sheet). If making thin crust or flatbread use a rolling pin. Brush dough with olive oil then add toppings and bake at 200 degrees C for about 20-25 minutes (15-20 minutes for thin crust) or until crust is golden brown and cooked through.
OK so I know that was a lot of whinging and whining, but I had to get it off my chest. And now I’m going to go eat all my pizza… but I’ll leave you with a great quote from Grey’s Anatomy that always stuck with me. It should resonate with all you stress/comfort/anger eaters out there.
Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens: I believe in the good. I believe that it’s been a hell of a year. And I believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we will all be okay. I believe a lot of things. I believe that Denny is always with me. And I believe that if I eat a tub of butter, and no one sees me, the calories don’t count.
I LOVE Sourdough bread. I can never seem to find it easily in the UK unless I take a trip to Waitrose and then I pay £4 for something I could make for 50p. After researching forever, I realised sourdough bread is much more complicated than my French Baguettes and bagels that I can make within a couple hours. Sourdough takes days, months and years to get the amazing flavour. Definitely scared me off it a little bit, but then decided I would just give it a go.
3 cups warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 cups plain flour
In a large bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Sift in the flour and stir rapidly, one cup at a time, until something that could be described as a wet slop is formed. Cover and let rest in a warm, draft-free place for 12 hours. It will raise and become all bubbly and you will be able to smell the fermentation.
Now here is where it gets complicated and everyone has conflicting views. This is what I am doing.
Everytime you use a bit of the starter you have to replace what you used with equal parts water and flour. So if you use one cup, you replace that with one cup flour and one cup water.
You must feed the starter. This means discarding (or using) half the starter and replacing it with equal parts flour and water.
You can keep it in the fridge. If you do you need to feed it every 2-3 days. This is more helpful for people who don’t bake everyday.
Keeping it out at room temperature may help the sour flavour develop quicker (I don’t know yet, my starter isn’t that old yet). If you keep it at room temperature you must feed it everyday. Some people say little amounts at twice or three times a day. Some people say one big feed. I kind of alternate between both along with alternating between refrigeration and room temperature. It seems to work well for whatever time I have that day.
For the Bread:
- 1 1/2 cups Starter
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pour Starter into a mixing bowl and then sift salt and bread flour into bowl, one cup at a time until a dough forms. If too dry add another tbsp of starter until everything is combine.
- Dump onto floured surface and knead a few times until combined. Place in oiled bowl, cover with cloth, and let rise in a warm, dry place until doubled in size (1.5-2 hours).
- Punch down and dump onto floured surface. Form into desired shape, being careful not to break too many air bubbles. Cover with cloth and let rise until doubled in size (30mins- 1hr).
- Cut slashes into bread to release air and mist with water. Place in oven preheated to 200 degrees C and bake for 40 mins or until a hollow sound is made when tapping on the bottom of the loaf.
- Allow to cool. Sourdough should be served cool.. Or toasted with lots and lots of butter.
So any feedback on my method would be appreciated, especially if you are a professional baker with a 100 year old starter. Or just someone who has had success before will do.
And before I forget, a lot of this blog was about relating my starter to having children. I would just like to confirm to my parents, family, and close friends that I am neither pregnant nor brooding nor contemplating on having babies anytime soon.
Saturday shopping leaves me feeling tired and stressed, especially in the run up to Christmas. Battling the crowds and unhelpful shop staff all while trying to tune out the annoying Christmas music in November leaves me wanting to tear apart an entire restaurant by lunchtime.
This past weekend called for a lunch stop at Paul’s, a french boulangerie and patisserie, that made for a very satisfying and stress relieving meal. Leaving me ready to tackle the crowds again.
Boyfriend had this for his lunch…
Boyfriend came over the other night in a mood. Apparently he had a bad day at work. The big boss is trying to make him do even more than he already does and a particular co-worker was annoying him. Then his train was rerouted adding an extra hour onto his journey. Then there were no taxis so he had to walk the half hour from the station to my house with all his stuff AND he was hungry. I had a serious case of Man Whinging going on.
“Sit”, I told him. “I will make you Man Food!”
Man Food is a meal of ginormous portions, consisting of mass amounts of meat with a large serving of starch and there better not be a fruit or vegetable in sight unless it is the tomato on his double quarter pounder with cheese. This is because men need lots of energy to do things like fix the cupboards and pull huge hammers out of the ground…
1/4 a large onion, grated
1/8 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
350g tomato passata or 14oz crushed tomatos
2 tsps italian mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken breast escalopes or cutlets
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1tsp italian herbs
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tbsps fresh chopped basil
1 mozzerella ball, sliced
Recipe – serves 2
- Make the sauce. Heat olive oil at a medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add grated onion and stir with wooden spoon until tender. Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant but do not allow to turn brown (about a minute). Then add tomato passata, italian herbs, and salt and pepper. Stir until combined and bring until just bubbling. Reduce to a simmer at very low heat and allow to cook (uncovered) while you make the chicken.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. If you are using escalopes they are ready to be cooked. If using cutlets, you need to tnderize and flatten with a meat pounder first.
- In a cereal bowl, whisk egg. In a mixing bowl, mix together breadcumbs, italian herbs and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Dip chicken pieces in egg and cover. Then coat chicken in breadcrumb mixture.
- Heat olive oil in large frying pan on medium-high heat and lay chicken pieces in hot oil. Gently fry chicken until golden on both sides (3-4 minutes per side).
- Spread about half the tomato sauce on bottom of casserole dish. Place fried cutlets on top of sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with fresh chopped basil, then top with remaining parmesan cheese and slices of mozzerella.
- Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until mozzerella melts and begins to brown. Serve over a tubular pasta, pouring the sauce from the baking dish on top.
And just for good measure, I’ll leave you with this brilliant Thor quote…
Jane: How did you get inside that cloud?
Darcy: Also, how did you eat an entire box of pop-tarts and still be this hungry?
I assume it’s because he eats man food on a regular basis.
And P.S., Boyfriend enjoyed his Man Food very much and his mood improved significantly. I even got a kiss and a cuddle. Successful indeed!
Sunday calls for a day of sleeping in, followed by a heavy breakfast that can cure the hangover from hell! For most people, that calls for some combination of cheese, eggs and lots and lots of bacon.
In the past this would call for a (probably illegal and still intoxicated) drive to McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin and hash browns. Today it means carrying off one of the most feared cooking maneouvers… poaching eggs.
Poached eggs are AMAZING! They have the most fresh flavour, are healthy and all that runny yolk is perfect for your handmade Bacon, Egg and Cheese Muffin.
Poaching eggs are much more simple than they look. The only necessary equipment is a slotted spoon for fishing them out of the water.
Bring a small pan of water to boil. Some people like to add vinegar to the water. I don’t think it’s necessary, but give it a go if you like.
While the water is coming to a boil, crack an egg into a small glass tumbler.
Once the water is boiling take your slotted spoon and stir the water rapidly to create a whirlpool in the pan. Poor the egg from the cup into the center of the whirlpool.
Let boil for a 45 seconds to a minute (longer if you do not want a runny yolk) and carefully fish out the egg with the slotted spoon, drain and serve.
While in the water the egg will flair out and won’t look anything like you think a poached egg should look like, but when you fish it all out onto the slotted spoon the egg will come together and be perfect.
There are many easy and convenient ways to poach eggs out there, such as trays and bags that you place in the boiling water. I don’t like trays because you dont get the same effect and the yolk tends to cook all the way through. Bags seem to be ok, but I’d rather not spend the money on something I can do easily with what I already have.
So when you wake up on a sunday morning and need hangover food asap, try to poach your own egg. It’s easier than you think.
So an email went around work this week asking for people to bake something for a Princess Alice Hospice charity bake sale and my thought process went a little like this…
“This is my perfect chance to give something back to the world, contribute to charity and help make someone’s life a little bit easier.”
“Yesss!! This will be great for the blog and I don’t have to get fat because I’m giving it away!”
The only question was what to bake. My great Oatmeal Cookies? Meh. I’ll do that another time. Chocolate Chip Cookies? Classic but not what I’m looking for. Lemon Drizzle Cake? Good but boring. Nothing was inspiring me. I was having a bake sale brain fart.
So I fired up the old Internet and scrolled for inspiration. I didn’t find any. So I decided to steal a couple recipes instead.
Today I pay omage to a couple of my favourite blogs.
My second recipe was from How Sweet It Is. Mrs How Sweet also has better photos than I do (But I’m working on it. That’s why it’s called Amateur Kitchen), great recipes, and she is HILARIOUS! Anyone who talks about food and can make me laugh is a winner in my book.
Anyway, I stole her recipe for Snicker Doodle Cupcakes. People, there is a COOKIE in the BOTTOM of the cupcake! Brilliant! Stroke of Genius! Go make them now!
So if you haven’t been to either of these blogs yet, WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING ON MINE?! Go now.. before your eyes glaze over from my mediocre photography skills. These blogs can change your cooking life! Get ready to get down on your knees and hail their greatness!
Oh and p.s. I got a bit jealous that I wasn’t able to taste these amazing bits of heaven because they were all going to charity. So I figured charity could go halves with me. Kit Kat Bars went to charity and cupcakes went to me. So not only am I a mediocre photographer, I fail in the fatness factor too. Great…