A Citrus Explosion: Jamie Oliver’s St. Clements Cake

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.

THIRTY POUNDS!?!?!

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

 

Recipe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

My tips:

  • 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!

Spinach and Dill Bagels

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.

Chopped spinach, dill and parsley added to the dough.

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.

Great with a little bit of cream cheese and a layer of prosciutto crudo! Yum!

Ingredients:

  • 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!)

  1. Mix yeast, 1 1/4 cups water, oil, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl. Sift in one cup flour and mix.
  2. Add dill, parsley and spinach and mix into dough.
  3. 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.
  4. Dump dough on counter and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth.
  5. Cut dough into 8 balls, cover with a clean tea towel and let restfor 20  minutes. The dough will start to rise.
  6. Preheat your oven to 220 celcius.
  7. 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.
  8. Let the bagels rest again for another 20 minutes (they should start to rise again and look quite puffy)
  9. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large baking sheet.
  10. 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.
  11. Add the baking sheet to the oven, bake for ten minutes, flip them over and bake for another ten minutes.
  12. Let them cool and dig in!

Drunken Deep Frying – Don’t Try This At Home… Or Do!

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.

We lost…

3-2…

To a team we beat 14-1…

Die…

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).

Spinach Empanadas!!

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.

Mmmmmm....

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.

All Gone

Spinach Empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 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

Recipe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Enjoy!

 

It’s a Celebration!! Graham Cracker Ice Box Cake

DON’T PANIC!!!

Not that I’m so self-involved that I thought you were panicking (though I kind of hoped you were), but….

I’m back!

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.

Heavy/Double Cream. Healthy....

First of all, let’s talk about my hair. I finally found a hairdresser that didn’t come near me with a straightening iron! A couple days ago I was doing some errands and running about town when I spied Headmasters, a well known UK salon out of the corner of my eye. I wandered in by chance they would have an appointment for me, and the wonderful Sophie was available. Not only did she not straighten my hair at the end, she even added curl with a round brush AND she didn’t cut my layers too short! She is a keeper. I will be heading back to her in Kingston.
 

All whipped up (with my new electric whisk I got for Christmas from Boyfriend's parents)!

I have been scrimping and saving to pay off some of my student loans and finally managed to send off a big chunk of cash. It doesn’t cover the whole thing because college is insanely expensive but I was able to pay off about $6000! Go me and my savvy self!
 

Putting it all together...

 
My relationship is still long distance, but we are closer than ever and our future looks bright because… I GOT A PROMOTION!! Woop Woop! The boss pulled me into the office and let me know things were moving forward. I literally “Wooped” there in his office, then got a hold of myself and shook his hand. Things are going so well my winning lottery ticket must be right around the corner!
 

Finished Product!

Unfortunately, the Twilight movies are still the worst movies ever. We can’t have everything.
 

How pretty....

Graham Cracker Ice Box Cake
 
Ingredients:
  • 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

Recipe:

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

 

The “I’m So Annoyed at the World I Ate a Whole Pizza” Pizza

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

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.

Classic Tomato, Basil, Mozzerella and Ricotta pizza ready to be baked.
Anyway… here is a list of my groans and mumbles of the moment that make me gorge on anything and everything nearby… especially pizza.
 
1. Long Distance Relationships – Boyfriend and I have a long distance relationship. He lives in Southwest England, I live in London, and we are a little over 2 hours away from each other. We try our very hardest to see each other every weekend, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We are at the point where we want to move in with each other, but we can’t because of the distance between our jobs. Which brings me to my next groan….
 
2. My Job –  My job is great. I love it. I would do it forever except for one main flaw – ultimately it doesn’t pay enough money to support me in the future. I am on my 4th year in England and for 4 years I have been trying to get promoted. I have tried everything from simply doing my job extremely well, going above and beyond in my job, coming right out and asking for a promotion, and even changing places of work. But this has all been done to  no avail. Some of this has been due to bad timing and the circumstances of my visa and some of it due to people not wanting to give me a chance. I just need someone to give me that break and I will run with it…. Oh well, keep on chugging on.
 

Yes.. I ate the whole thing.... All by myself...

 
3. British Hairdressers – WHY are they so OBSESSED with the straightening iron???? My hair is straight already. Therefore, when I tell you I want my hair styled wavy and messy after a haircut, I expect diffusers and CURLING irons. Not pin straight hair with a little wax to “tousle” the ends… Especially when I’m paying £50 just to take half an inch off the ends and clean up the layers. And speaking of layers – when I say LONG layers I do NOT mean start them at the crown of my head so I end up looking like Chav-tastic Barbie,”init”. I have spent many hours explaining what I want, what other hairdressers did that I didn’t like, and being as clear as possible and I still end up with the same haircut. Hairdresser after hairdresser. I am on the hunt for one in England that actually listens to what I want.
 

Covered in goat's cheese and baked, then layered with a mixture of spinach, dill, parsley, red pepper flakes, olive oil and parmesan. Best pizza of my life!

4. The Twilight Movies – They are seriously bad aren’t they? I mean seriously really bad. And I like almost every movie as long as it entertains me. I read the books and I actually really enjoyed them for what they are. Yes I know books are always better than the movie… but these movies are really horrible. I just saw Breaking Dawn (part 1 as everyone is jumping on the Split-a-book-in-half Bandwagon circa Harry Potter) and the whole movie is one long stare broken up by a bit of piano music and some really long awkward kissing that I feel uncomfortable watching as I feel nothing for the characters. Not to mention the bad acting and bad direction. This was all true for Twilight 1, 2, and 3 as well.. Though I still feel the need to see them so I suppose Twilight is laughing all the way to the bank. Could have been so much better.
 

Apple, Gouda, Bacon and Sage Pizza. Brilliant!

5. Mean people AND People who like to make your life harder just because they can OR (even worse) because they are trying to teach your something. Hello I am an adult, just tell me. AND customer service people who can’t speak English OR they are given no authority on anything so they can’t actually help you except to tell you what is already on their website. That is why I am calling in the first place… because I COULDN’T FIND IT ON THE WEBSITE. AND  how money equals opportunity. AND people who judge or categorise you.
 
6. WHY DON’T I LOOK LIKE A SUPERMODEL AND WHERE IS MY WINNING LOTTERY TICKET?!?!?!?!?
 

Rosemary, Parmesan and Red Chili Flaked Flatbread with a Thick Tomato Dipping Sauce

 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)

Recipe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

Sourdough Bread and My Biological Clock

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.

My first loaf. I tried to shape it into a batard but I dont think it came out round enough in the middle or pointy enough at the ends. But it still looks good!
So apparently you have to make a starter and let it go “sour”, hence the name sourdough. But here is the catch…. Your starter is a living breathing thing where all the bacteria are multiplying and you have to take care of it by feeding it everyday so that it won’t STARVE AND DIE! Who knew dough could die? Who knew it was living in the first place? Who knew I would have to take care of it for years until it matured?
 
I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of responsibility.
 
But who ever is really?
 

Mmmmm....

 

So once you make the starter and it is sufficiently sour, you combine some of the starter with bread flour and a pinch of salt and voila!.. Sourdough Bread!
 
There is a lot of conflicting information all over the internet about sourdough starters. Keep it in the fridge, don’t keep it in the fridge. Feed it twice a day, once a day, every three days. Freeze it. It takes a few days to mature, weeks, months, years! Dont do this.. No that is fine. It’s like having a child!
 
Like I said, I am not ready for that kind of responsibility.
 
But… I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do what I want to do, what I feel in my gut, and that should be the right thing… right? If I mess it all up then my little yeast baby will suffer psycological damage forever. But if I get it right… well then I’ll have plenty of tasty, sour bread.
 
Nice airy crumb!
So without waiting any further, here is my recipe (which I stole from Emeril).
 
For the starter:
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups plain flour

Recipe:

  1. 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

Recipe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

An Excellent Spot Of Lunch!

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…

Salami, cheese, lettuce and gherkin on a poppy seed baguette.

I noshed my way through this…
 

Toasted Sandwich with goat's cheese, leeks, and olive tapenade.

And then there were the puddings…
 

Apple Slice

And I ate my way through this…
 
Tartalette Fraise… Strawberry Tart.
Overall the food left me feeling energised and ready to fight the grannys for the last crock pot on the shelf!
 

Man Food (Chicken Parmesan)

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…

This is not Boyfriend. This is the guy who played Thor, which I watched last night. Uhhh.. no one told me about the man candy in this movie. He must eat some serious man food!
Anyway, Man Food for Boyfriend came in the form of Chicken Parmesan. It was a bonus because Boyfriend had never had this before as he is British and this is a very Italian-American dish. I womanized it a bit because I made my own sauce, but go ahead and be manly – buy sauce in a jar from the store. I’m sure it will be just as good.
 

Wonderfully bubbly Chicken Parmesan smothered in mozzerella cheese. Man food if I ever saw any.

 
Ingredients:
 
Sauce:
  • 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

Chicken:

  • 2 chicken breast escalopes or cutlets
  • 1 egg
  • 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

    Man Food if I say so myself!

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.

This is my new favourite movie... just because of those pecs.

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 Brunch (a.k.a How To Poach An Egg)

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.

Toasted Muffin layered with a thick slice of tomato, then piled with bacon, then a poached egg and topped with grated cheddar cheese. Best. Breakfast. Ever.

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.

Who doesn't love bacon!

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.

Kit Kat Cookie Bars and Snicker Doodle Cupcakes

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.

Sweet Pea’s Kitchen has the most amazing recipes for snacks EVER. Great photos make you want to bake everything. It’s where I got the recipe for these Kit Kat Cookie Bars.

I did try to style my photos after sweet pea's for a comparison, but there is none. Not to mention the loss of natural light and the fact that I use my phone to take pictures. They did actually come out really nice and yummy. Click on the link above to see better pics of how they look when finished.

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 mine came out quite yummy. And this photo is a bit better with the natural light of my front yard shining in. Still no where near as good as Mrs How Sweet. (I'll get there my pretty!)

 

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…