Monday, 23 May 2011

It goes like this

When we bought the Emile Henry Tagine for Toby's mum for one of the occasions that requires a gift, I absolutely adored it. 
It was gorgeously coloured in deep rich aubergine and rather handsomely crafted. Beautiful silhouettes of its top was sexy enough to seduce you to touch its lines and appreciate one's hard craftsmanship.
I was quite tempted. Not that I needed any other pots and pans to aid better cooking as such, but it had a great potential; enough to influence the way of cooking, I thought. 
The problem was though, it wasn't a necessity.
It was more of a desire. That lust of wanting made it a bit of naughty thing and I couldn't justify to dig deep enough into my purse.

That is the thing about gifts.
I think it has to be something that you cannot possibly justify buying it whatever the reasons that may be. It could be that the object concerned is just a bit of laughing matter or simply a lavishing corker.
And going back to the beginning, for H, it was a corker.
She loved it. 
Loved it so much when she redecorated her kitchen, she used the aubergine purple as an accent colour scheme. She even bought another one for J, Toby's brother, in burned red.

I could see its well deserved benefits. People seemed to enjoy its durability. The multi purpose hard wearing casserole-like dish that is perfectly presentable with its showy-like character, this is the winning type for any dinner party.
I really wanted it.
And the morning of my birthday, my dream came true.
A gift. The object matter that I longed to own for so long, that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. I now had the Emile Henry Tagine in dusty charcoal black.

You know, I really wanted to share a tagine recipe with you last night... until for some reason that I could not explain why, it decided not to participate, cracked on my little electric hob. Right there. 
And there was my excitement, shattered with the dream.

Eggs royale

couple of nice multi seeded muffins, sliced and toasted
couple of slices of beautifully smoked salmon (mine was smoked with Lapsang Souchong Tea)
perfectly poached egg or two
garnishes of chopped chives and some flowers
good crack of salt and pepper
not to forget a generous helpings of hollandaise sauce

for hollandaise sauce (inspired by Masterchef goes Large)
2tbsp sake
2tbsp vinegar
some white peppercorns
1 egg york
100g unsalted melted butter
salt and some lemon juice to season

Make reductions of sake, vinegar and peppercorns by boiling them. When you get about table spoonful, take them off the heat and cool.
Place a bowl over a barely simmering water in your sauce pan, start whisking york with the vinegar reduction until they appear pale and double in volume.
Take them off the heat, and add melted butter little at a time. Whisk them well to incorporate the butter before you add more to it to make sure it doesn't separate.
You should be able to achieve good pourable consistency and pale-ish in colour. 
Season it with salt and some lemon juice to taste.

So you get this instead. My lazy Sunday breakfast.
Nothing to do with Emile Henry Tagine or my favourite tagine recipe and I cannot tell you how brilliant it was to finally own one of those because so far, it is pretty shit.
I'll get over it and luckily Mr. 'John Lewis' will rescue me with the replacement.
I just need a strong G&T to get over with.
Any excuse, hey?

I couldn't tell you how to make a good Gin and Tonic.
It's kind of personal thing really. Needless to say, mine was more heavy on Gin.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

my fair lady

I share a birthday with someone very special. 
Only a day apart.

I still remember the first time I met her.
She welcomed me with a big smile, warm soft hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek. 
What was really nice about her on that particular day was, she really made me feel WELCOMED. We chatted the night away over a few glasses of wine. I felt connected with this woman who was sitting in front of me, this person who could easily be my mother. I felt the sense of comfort; sort of thing you get from your own home, family.

She is ever so pretty. 
She dresses very well with good fashion sense. She takes a good care of her home. 
She is generous and kind; so kind she will probably give you her last penny providing a decent valid reason. 
She is strong, strong enough to hold the waves of emotions to protect the others around her.
She is just quite lovely. 
And whatever the weather her beautiful personality shines through.
Gifted woman of her own kind, this is H, Toby's mum.

She has turned 60 last Sunday.
It has not been all plain sailing for her. 
Along the way, there was a boat that she had to work hard to cross the river, there was a ship that gave her a break of swimming in the ocean and then there was a raft that made her fight through the storm. 
Last couple of years of her life has been somewhat of a tough journey. But like many other times, she composes herself and stands courageously. 
She brings everyone together and tries her hardest to care for her beloved FAMILY.

English strawberry pavlova with vanilla cream

for meringue (basic meringue from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver)
6 egg whites, large organic
300g caster sugar
pinch of salt

for filling
350ml double cream, whipped
1 vanilla pod, seed scraped (vanilla essence is fine too)
strawberries, quartered
1 lemon zest, 1/2 juice
fresh mint leaves, finely sliced

When making meringue, always ensure your bowl is completely grease free.
Put egg whites in the bowl with a little pinch of salt. Whisk the mixture whilst gradually adding sugar. Whisk them until it becomes stiff and glossy.
Line the baking tray with a greasy proof paper and pour the mixture to create a meringue nest. 
Bake them in the oven (150º) for around an hour.
I made individual ones for this occasion and baked them for 40mins top.

Prepare strawberries in the bowl with lemon juice.
Whip some double cream with vanilla to add some flavour.
When ready to assemble, mix in the mint leaves to strawberries.

Cover the meringue with vanilla cream, top with strawberries and finish them off with zest of lemon.
If you like your creams to be sweet, just add some icing sugar when whipping the cream. You can also substitute strawberries with any other seasonal fruit of your choice.

She says she is very lucky.
I think, the luck just has found its way to one of the most deserved person.
Hope it carries her through the warm ocean so she can enjoy this wonderful life for little easier.

It is not that difficult to have a heart of gratitude for someone like H.
A mother, wife, nanny, sister and a friend, very very special friend.

Monday, 9 May 2011

It does it for me.

Well, well, well...
I looked forward to this breakfast and could not make a good sleep last night feeling excited.

Three weeks ago to be exact, Toby and I discovered the little cafe, 'the coffee' in the corner of Kingston.
I must admit, I didn't expect anything other than being able to get a papercupfulness of caffeine supply that I desperatly lacked of that particular morning you know. But as you might suspected, and it is always the way I reckon, this place came out of nowhere... captured our eyes.
And this sunday, we'd planned to revisit for full English for a treat.

Toby and I took some time looking at their chalk board. 
Carefully surveying our options, he decided to stick with the plan while I chickened out for some egg omelette.
What's really nice about doing this whole breakfast thing was, you see, you get to experience whole new world of laziness. 
Piles of Sunday paper and supplement magazines on the side of the table, maybe a little quarrel deciding who wants which bits first to read and that wonderfully glorious wake up smell of good coffee...
It does it.
The whiff of freshly roasted beans and the loud but pleasant sound of grounding grabs your attention until the delivery of your coffee gives you a little knock.
Then there's that big lip smacking snog of sweet fluffy creaminess you can't resist. 
Oh boy, I am almost lost in this haziness until that last mouthful of bitterness hits me back to wake me up.

After a little head rush, you are awaken; mellowed out with an eyeful of daydream and eased up like Sunday morning.
It definitely does it for me.
How about you, man?

Balsamic glazed shallot tarte tatin

for tarte tartin
300g shallots
3tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp honey
olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
some ready made puff pastry

for mint yogurt dressing for salad
1/2 sumac
2tbsp yogurt
1/2 lemon juice
pinch of salt
handful of mint, finely sliced

Start by preparing your shallots.
Over medium heat, gently fry your shallots with little butter, oil and a pinch of salt. When they are softened and a little brown on the outside add the vinegar, honey and some pepper.
Cook them over low hear for good 10mins or so until the shallots are well glazed.

Place the shallots in the baking tray and cover them snuggly with puff pastry.
Bake them for about 20mins or until golden in the oven (180º).

In the mean time, you can prepare the mint yogurt dressing for your salad by combining all ingredients together.
Whisk all of the components thoroughly and dress your salad just before serving.
I made mine with thinly sliced radish, cucumber and some watercress which provides wonderfully refreshing pepperiness with the dressing.

Now, that's ya lot...!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Companion: someone you share bread with'

Making bread is quite a tricky task, I thought.
Then I found him who thinks otherwise. 

Richard Bertinet, the author of 'DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread'.
He starts the book by introducing his love for baking, explaining why he thought this book was necessary. 
He goes an extra mile to talk about tools, ingredients, all the steps of bread making and what's involved for reasonably lengthy time before he showcases his beautiful recipes. He really makes you understand the fundamental basics of making the dough. His step by step approach to explain what it is that you are dealing with and how to play with them to make it do what you want, is simple and very clear.

I was quietly surprised.
For someone that who didn't really get the beauty of baking bread, not because I didn't appreciate flavoursome home baked bread but more because I hardly consumed or added bread as part of our diet, this was indeed educational.
And I think his book possibly changed my approach towards making, baking and eating bread.

I thought of welcoming my companions with freshly home baked bread.
Nice way to start the conversation passing the bread basket around the table. 
Everyone got involved and the first basketful went in no time.
Good job there was some more...

Caramelised onion and Cheddar Loaf

for caramelised onion
2 red onions, finely sliced
1tbsp dark brown sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
olive oil

for dough
150g strong white flour
100g strong wholemeal flour
5g yeast
3g salt
175g water

30-50g coarsely grated strong Cheddar cheese

This bread recipe I came up with the other day is so easy to make and very flavoursome. 
Don't be put off by the amount of time you may have to invest. It is well worth it.

Start by preparing the dough by placing both flour, yeast and salt into the bowl. Slowly and gradually add water and mix well. I use round scraper to bring those ingredients together roughly. Work the dough on your work surface to form a smooth and supple dough. 
Place it in the bowl dusted with little flour and cover. 
Leave it to rest for approximately an hour until it is twice in volume.

In the mean time, make you caramelised onion by gently frying the onion over low heat with little pinch of salt. when it is softened, add the vinegar and sugar. Let them bubble away until it thickens and leave them to cool once ready.

Now back to the dough, gently take it out onto the work surface. Flatten it down and add the onion mixture and Cheddar (make sure to save some to decorate the top). You need to bring these together by working the dough once more. Don't worry if it gets a bit messy to start with. 
By folding the edges into the middle you will create good sold base.
Place it in the baking tray and decorate the top with a little more cheese. 
Leave them to prove for around 45mins until it is twice in volume.

Preheat the oven as high as you can.
When ready, reduce the temperature down to 220º and bake the bread for around 25mins or until it appears deliciously golden.

I served mine sliced with homemade garlic mayo flavoured with some tarragon.

Job done.