Sunday, 23 September 2012

a lovely thing.

I think I have told you before that, I love changing season.
When the leaves start to turn into deep golden amber, when the morning feels a little chillier, and the evening becomes sharp and crisp that makes you hunger for the warmth of home, you know that you're in the middle of welcoming the changing season of autumn.

I made a fuss of clearing up the wardrobe that has been in need of ruthless attention for a while. Toby has been busy around the flat trying to finish off the last bits of our never ending home renovation.
We've turned the heating back on and lit the candles for cosy nights. We put the jumpers on and cuddle up a little bit closer for the comfort of our silly souls.

Nothing much else is happening other than being as still as we could be to enjoy this lovely blue thing; the autumn, that seems so full and so empty.

How is your changing season?

Victoria sponge cake

for the cake
225g self raising flour
225g golden caster sugar
225g softened butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
2tsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod
1 lemon zest
pinch of salt

for the filling
jam of your choice
whipped double cream (optional)
fresh fruit of your choice (optional)

I don't think I need to tell you much about Victoria sponge cake. Everybody knows how simple it is to make it and how wonderful it is to taste it.
I'm not sure if there is any other cake that can beat freshly baked Victoria sponge cake, straight out from the oven, served still warm with a nice cup of tea, on a rainy day like today.

The basic is simple. 
You mix equal amount of fat, sugar, eggs and flour.
Start by fluffing up the softened butter with sugar. Gradually add the eggs and whisk to mix.
Shift the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture. Add pinch of salt, lemon zest and vanilla seeds scraped from the pod then fold in gently to incorporate, making sure not to over mix.

Divide the cake mixture into two lined cake tins and bake them in the oven for 25-35mins or until golden at 180ยบ.
You could just use one cake tin that is deep enough to hold the entire cake mixture then just cut them in half later. In which case, you'll have to bake the cake for little longer.

Once the cakes are baked, take them out of the oven and rest them on the cooling rack.
When the cakes are slightly cooled down, sandwich them together with your choice of fillings.

I used homemade rhubarb and strawberry jam, whipped double cream and some fresh strawberries.
I think the beauty of this cake is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you like and the flavour combinations that you can work with are vast.
I often use vanilla butter cream instead of fresh whipped cream. Lemon curd would be lovely too. 

Get creative and enjoy!

Oh, by the way, Toby's new website is now up and running and it needs a little attention from all of you lovely foodies our there. 
Please check out on

Sunday, 9 September 2012

so we drop that bombshell.

Hello there!
I must confess something before I start this post and that something is, I did have all the good intentions to write up this post and share it with you, when the summer's sun was shining high up the sky and my skin was feeling slightly leathery from the tan. 
But, in truth, I struggled.
I tried hard to make sense of it all but it was all very difficult to get the words out when things were far too confusing in my own head itself.
So that is why I am a little late.

Well, so... I am, for real, getting married.
Yes, you heard me right.
So I suspect I should be telling you of those much wanted romantic proposal story of ours, of which of course, quite naturally that everyone expects to hear. 
Because it supposed to be 'The Moment', as some might refer. But I am afraid, this won't be the case. 
There wasn't a romantic candle lit dinner, neither the bunch of roses, nor the tradition of kneeling down, and most definitely no question was asked. 
Hold your thoughts, guys. It's complicated.

I can't locate that key moment that I can call 'The Moment'. 
It kind of happened gradually over the past few years and one day, I realised we have spoken the forbidden word; the wedding.
And over the first few weeks since our wedding was on the agenda, I sort of felt cheated. 
I mean, by the fact that Toby never had to asked me, kind of made me feel like I was being sold too easily. Sort of.
Having said that, it wasn't as if I didn't know him enough to realise that the chance of him popping the much regarded question was improbable. It is fair to say that sort of thing had no chance of happening. He is just not that sort of bloke. He has his own ways of doing things and his ideas of being romantic differs from others, of which more than often brought me a fair bit of unanticipated joy.
I appreciated him the way he was and this wasn't going to be a problem. And because neither of us had great interests in wedding/marriage nor the children when we first met all those years ago, this wasn't something that I expected to become an issue.
Then, what?
Well, as much as my understanding of this whole thing was very clear in my head, when it finally didn't happen, I found it very tough to comprehend that, although we're getting married, I was never going to have the once-in-a-life-time chance of experiencing the fuss and the excitement of 'The Moment'.

I think, for me and in my pretty complicated little head, the act of asking was the ultimate confirmation and the declaration of one's devotion. 
The act of asking reinforces the answer and together it reaffirms that the both party is equally committed to one and the other. Also very possibly, this process brings two participants closer by sharing the, arguably one of the most significant moment of their lives together as a pair. And I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity that was open and available to any one of us!
And it was that, I was having problems with.

Then, over the family luncheon table, Toby, out of blue, spoke out. 
"Well, everyone knew what that ring really meant. It's just that it took me some time to come to terms with it all."

Oh, yes. I forgot about that. I do have a ring and yes, there was the moment, if you want to call it that.
Okay, lets go back a few years.
Two years ago, over a dinner with our friend who was responsible for us becoming an item, Toby declared that perhaps it was about time he should buy me a ring since I'd been banging on about this token of love business for many years. After few drinks, I decided that I will take the advantage of the offer and the following day, he bought me a ring. Yes, a little sparkler on my finger that represented his token of love. 
We called it a commitment ring. They called it an engagement ring.
We tried to explain that it wasn't an engagement ring and we were indeed very happy with it being a symbolic gesture of our relationship. But no one got it.
But that really did not matter to us. Because we understood it. 

Come to think of it, and without waxing the lyrical about what Toby said and done, his rather generous act of buying me a ring was of course, the moment to remember. One does not spoil the other with such an extravagance with no reason.
He actually did something. He took a giant leap toward the world of stability. He was in process of dealing with his believes in the subject matter and he was making the alterations in his own way, and in his own time.

That's it, isn't it?
I couldn't recognise this because I was so wrapped up in the world of what's norm and what is expected of you by other people. 
My brain did not function in an usual way and my emotions were all over the place. Not being able to cope with people hammering me down with what should happen and people making their own plans for our wedding even before I got to understand it all, I was totally lost and confused.
I was so frightened to step into the world that had no existence in me, I almost forgot what was there all along. Everything was so cloudy, I forgot that our love takes a different shape, like many others do.

The love that nurtured us through the thick and thin, is something that we cherish and all we ever wanted to do was to celebrate. We wanted to become an unit to make our own little people. We wanted to pay a gratitude to our love and the commitments that lives with us in humble gestures of everydayness.
And we are doing it in our own little way to compliment the invaluable qualities of our team work that had made us better, made us stronger, and made us who we truly are.

So, here I am, writing our versions of the eventful moments, in the hope of everlasting, love.

Cold Soba Noodles
serves 2 generously as main or 4 as starter

250g soba noodles (100% buckwheat)
85ml soy sauce (use a good quality soy like Kikkoman) 
15ml mirin (cooking sake)
15g sugar
400-750ml dashi (Japanese fish stock. I use instant one.)

for the garnish
spring onion, finely chopped
radish or mooli, grated
fresh ginger, grated
toasted seaweed, cut in to fine strips

This really represents fine hot summer's day for both me and Toby.
The only fiddly part of this dish is, a) you have few things to grate and chop, and b) you need to think in advance to have the cold broth ready. Other than that, it is dead simple and really flavoursome.
Don't be put off by the fact that it is served cold, and don't try to freestyle by serving it warm. 
It works one way and that only way is to have this ice cold, as cold as you like. The hotter the weather outside, the colder the broth you'll want to have. 
This is packed with Umami sort of sensation that you will never forget.

So, as I said already, the process is simple.
Lets make the broth by mixing the soy, mirin and sugar in a small sauce pan and gently simmer it until sugar is dissolved. Add prepared hot stock gradually and taste the broth as you go along. I like mine slightly on the stronger side in taste, so I tend to use about 500-600ml of stock and adjust the sweetness by adding a little more sugar if I need to.
Once you have the perfect flavour combo of salty and sweet, let them cool down and stick it in the fridge until you need them. You can cool them down quicker in the freezer, if you are short of time.

Prepare your garnishes.
Over the years, I have found the combinations of radish/mooli, spring onions and ginger works a treat with a little strips of toasted seaweed. However, it is entirely up to you to add or omit.

Cook the soba noodles as instructed in the packet and rinse them thoroughly in ice cold water to stop them cooking further.
These noodles get stuck together quite easily if you leave them out for too long once cooked,  so you want to cook them when you are ready to serve the dish.

Usually, the way to have this dish is to serve the noodles separately in a small bundle, either  in the bamboo basket or tray. You will have cold broth in a small bowl, garnish your broth as you like and dunk the noodles in your bowl.
But there is nothing stopping you to just serve it all in one bowl with a side garnish.
Hope you enjoy it!

So we drop that bombshell.