Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Devil Food Cake - Almost A Disaster

 I've have been patting myself on my back over the last few days as although I've been doing a lot of eating I've managed to lose almost 5kg/11lbs in weight. Not sure if it's due to the amount of pills I'm taking, the exercising or the eating of lower fat foods or all three but I am so pleased I have decided to treat myself and attempt to make a big fat chocolate cake, called Devil Food Cake

It's been a long time since I've done any baking because of the complete disaster last time see HERE. I looked through several book for a Devil Food Cake recipe and actually found two and apart from the sour cream and chocolate they were very different. It was also made harder to choose because the recipes were in my two favourite books. The Good House Keeping Cookery by the Good Housekeeping Institute and The Great British Bake Off there second book. After a while I decided to pick the GBBO, seeing as I've tried several baking recipes from this book and have mostly been a great success apart from the chilli chocolate cake.

Well it went wrong again again the language in the house went so blue even the cat ran out of the house. :-). I am beginning to think about giving up baking cakes altogether

This time, as you can see, one of the cake tins wasn't greased enough and so when I went to take the cake out, it fell apart. But not to be too dishearten I made half a devil cake. Instead of having four layers I carried on making the cake but with only two layers. This is what I love about cooking, you make a mistake and you can just “change it”

As you can see by the finished picture my baking skills have a lot to be desired, but practice makes perfect and maybe one day it won't be a disaster and get to bake like Mary Berry.

The recipe below is for the full recipe, which has four layers and if you decide to make it, which I recommend as it's very tasty I hope comes out better successfully and if not, come and join my gang.

  • For the Sponge
  • 4tbsp chocolate powder
  • 175ml boiling water
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • broken up
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plan flour, sifted
  • 125ml sour cream at room temperature

  • For the Filling and Topping
  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • broken up
  • 300ml soured cream, room temperature
  • 100g good quality white chocolate
  • broken up

Preheat the oven to 180/350f/gas4. Put the cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl and add the boiling water mixing it until you have a smooth liquid, then add the bicarbonate of soda, stir together and put to one side

Place a pan of water and bring to the boil, once boiling turn it down to a simple simmer (this is very important as you must not have boiling water or it will ruin the melting chocolate). Take a bowl and place it on top of the simmering pan, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place the broken chocolate and allow it to gently melt. Once completely melted stir it until smooth, move to once side and allow to cool.

Place the softened butter into a bowl and with beat for a minute with a wooden spoon or hand held mixer (much easier) until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat thoroughly for 4 to 5 minutes or until very light. Break open the eggs into a cup, add the vanilla extract and using a fork mix together. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture a tablespoon at a time, ensure it's all mixed together before you add the next tablespoon.

Fold in the flour in 3 batches, alternately with the soured cream. Once all mixed together add the cocoa liquid into the melted dark chocolate and stir together. Then add fold into the cake mixture, until you get no visible streaks.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until risen and just firm. Insert a skewer into each cake and if it comes out clean then it is cooked. Using a rounded-bladed knife run around the edges of the tin to help loosen the sponge. Turn out the cake and place onto the wire rack to cool. Once completely cold, slice each one horizontally in half to make 4 sections.

To make the filling and topping, melt the chocolate as before. Remove the bow from the pan and stir in the sour cream. Reserve half the chocolate cream for covering the cake. Set one sponge layer, cut side up on a serving platter.

Spread one third of the remaining chocolate cream. Layer up the rest of the sponges in the same way, ending with a sponger layer, crust side up.

Spread the reserved chocolate over the top and the sides of the cake. (If the chocolate cream starts to stiffen before you have finished covering the cake, set the bowl over a pan of steaming water hot water for a few seconds and stir gently until it softens.

Melt the white chocolate as before, then spread, fairly thinly, onto a sheet of baking paper and leave to set. Break into long thing shards and scatter over the cake. Store he cake in an air tight container in a cool sport – NOT THE FRIDGE.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Chicken, Ginger and Green Bean Hotpot

After reviewing the recipes from Skinny Meals in Heels, (rrp £14.99) I decided to try a simple recipe of chicken, ginger and green bean hotpot, served with rice. This is a classic Vietnamese braise dish that is low in fat but full in flavour.

The recipe in the book required 500g of chicken but I only had about 250g, after looking in the fridge I saw that I had a courgette and a corn cob. So I removed the kernels from the cob, sliced the courgette and used them instead of going out to get some more chicken. The extra vegetables made the dish lighter and healthier as all the veggies are only added for the last 2-5 minutes in the cooking process, so they do not lose all of there nutrients and are still firm and crunchy. The recipe below is the complete version from the book, but like me you can reduce the amount of chicken and add more vegetables if you prefer. You could also remove the chicken completely that show how easy and versatile this recipe is.

  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5cm/2” piece of ginger, cut into julienne
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion or 3 shallots finely sliced
  • 2tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 500g/1lb 2oz chicken thigh, skin removed, boned and fat removed then diced
  • 250ml/9fl oz chicken stock
  • 100g/3½oz green beans cut into 2.5cm/1” in length
  • 2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • (serves 4)

Place the oil into a pan and gently heat, add the ginger, garlic and onion/shallots and cook for 5 minutes

Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken thighs and chicken stock. Stir altogether and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the green beans (if using other vegetables to replace the chicken also add now) and cook for two more minutes. This will only heat the vegetables and not over cook them so they will still be firm. If you prefer you can cook the vegetables for longer, but I think 2 minutes is better.

Just as you are about to serve, place in half of the coriander and stir it through the sauce.

Serve with steamed or boiled rice and top with the other half of the fresh coriander.

For other great recipes you can purchase the book in any good book shops or by clicking on the link below

Friday, 27 July 2012

Indian Veg - All You Can Eat Buffet in Islington

Various Vegetable Curries

22 years ago I used to work for the Citizens Advice Bureau in Pentonville Road, between Kings Cross and The Angel. In those days I was a strict and an annoying militant vegetarian. I use to always challenge people who said “I'm a vegetarian, but I eat fish”. Well guess what fish is flesh so you ain't no veggie, actually it still annoys me now. Anyway I digress, trying to be a veggie that long ago was not as easy as today, unless you liked vegetable lasagne or mushroom stroganoff, two dishes I still hate to see on a menu. Unless you went to a proper vegetarian restaurant other places only made “token gesture” dishes like the two I mentioned.

Finding a decent place that served decent veggie food for lunch was even harder, but there was one place in Chapel Market, Islington called Indian Veg. It was all you can eat buffet for £2.95. The food wasn't awe inspiring, just a variety of different veggie curries, aloo gobi, tarka dhal, channa masala, with sides of onion bhajis, vegetable pakoras and smashed up poppadums. It became a lunch local and I learnt very quickly, by the eagerness of my stomach wanting to bust out of my jeans, to take it easy on the carbs less but it was all you could eat and I like a challenge. lol

I was around Chapel Market going to an acting class and couldn't believe it was there and so I had to go and see if what it was like. It has been about 20 years since I last frequented the restaurant and virtually nothing has changed. It still dark and dingy and still has a shabby feel. It has the same old tables, chairs, cutlery and the only thing that I can see that is different is the massive fridge holding soft drinks, the kind you would find in your local corner shop.

Also they have a lot more posters telling you how bad it is to eat meat. They even have a enlarged photocopy of a newspaper article about bowel cancer doubling in men due to the amount of meat. Another called Meat By Numbers, listing weight and measure to produce meat, like it takes 1kg of carbon dioxide to produce one burger in a fast food restaurant. Almost wants you to go veggie and never eat meat again.

The food is not as good as I remember, as you can see by the picture, but maybe I am just romanticising of the good old days, but for £4.95 for all you can eat dinner I'm not complaining. I also forgot my golden rule about carbs.... I waddled out of there after eating to much rice and potatoes, I also had to undo the top button of my jeans open - oppppsss

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Coda Restaurant Review

Guinea Fowl and Froie Gras Terrine

I was very privileged on Monday evening (23rd July) to be able to see Daniel Barenboim conduct the West Eastern Divan orchestra playing Beethoven 5th and 6th Symphony. It was stunning evening of music by a superb orchestra playing some amazing music. It was simply one of the best classical concerts I have ever seen and heard. The orchestra is a torch light for tolerance as it's made up with Israeli and Palestinians, proving that sweet music can be made between these two countries when hard work and effort is applied.

Before the evening of music, I also had the pleasure of visiting the Albert Hall's more formal of their three restaurants called Coda. I was a little apprehensive as I have been before and that time I found it only average, but this time it was a vast improvement, but still not perfect

The staff, like last time, were very good, they were chatty and polite without being to intrusive. A few jokes was had with my friends and the staff which is was nice and added to the ambiance of the evening.

Whilst looking at the menu we discussed what we were thinking of ordereing and what it was about the dish that we like. It was very obvious we were all going to order the same starter and main course, which was a first. This is not saying that the other dishes were not as nice sounding, but there were certain ingredients that stood out, like the rhubarb compote in the starter and cockles in the main course, which we all wanted to try.

Confit of Organic Salmon

We started with confit of guinea fowl and froie gras terrine, with a rhubarb compote with honey, mustard, leaf salad. The terrine was light and moist with the guinea fowl being tender with a meaty texture which was complimented by the rich creamy froie gras. The rhubarb compote cut through the richness of the succulent terrine. The only down side, was the two very small pieces of toast. The bread was perfectly toasted and was crisp, but not enough for the size of terrine and more bread had to be ordered. It's not the first time I've ordered pate or terrine were there is a lack of toast and I'm sure it won't be the last time.

The main course was confit of organic salmon, with pickled cucumber, dill potatoes, courgette flower and cockles. The salmon was firm, tasty and light and you also got a delicate hint of the sea from the cockles. Unfortunately they were the only good things about the dish. We all thought the pickled cucumber would be sitting on top of salmon, but was actually in a hot stock underneath the fish. This meant the cucumber was limb and the pickled flavour was totally lost. The courgette flower was deep fried in batter, but the batter was too thick, too soggy and totally tasteless. Which was a shame as it has the hallmarks of being a great dish, but it needs some more work to justify the £18.50 price tag.

Dark Chocolate Tart
The great thing about Coda is you can save the dessert for the interval between the evenings programme. Which means you are not full when sitting down in a hot and stuffy concert hall as the Albert Hall was that night. This time we all choose something different for dessert. One friend ordered cheese, the cheddar was strong, the brie was creamy and the blue cheese was full bodied and served with a great variety of biscuits. My other friend ordered poached rhubarb mille-feuille with vanilla, pistachio and ginger ice cream. The rhubarb had a rich poached flavour, the mille-fueille was crisp, but the ice cream was a bit disappointing and lacked the bold flavours I was expecting, as I was offered some to try it. I ordered the chocolate dèlice , beetroot sorbet, candied beetroot with raspberries and orange curd. Only to be told they had taken it off the menu as it appeared the beetroot flavours didn't work with other punters, which was a shame as I loved the idea of the beetroot element of the dish. Instead I ordered the replacement dish of dark chocolate tart served with vanilla ice cream. The dark chocolate ganache was wonderfully creamy and bitter. I ordered this because the pastry contained cumin, which I thought would add a nice flavour. Unfortunately the cumin seeds were whole and toasted, so there was a sharp and tough bite through the pastry, although the flavour worked with the dark chocolate. The ice cream was typical and nothing to shout about, but it complimented the dark chocolate and overall it was a satisfactory dish.
Poached Rhubarb Mille-Feuille
You might think from the review, that is wasn't a good meal, but that is not true. It was very enjoyable and it was better than last time, and I will visit the restaurant again when going to the Albert Hall. The food is just a bit rough around the edges and needs a bit of tweaking to make it memorable for the rather large price tag.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Skinny Meals in Heel Review

RRP £14.99

For my birthday in January a good friend bought me a “joke” cookery book called Skinny Meals in Heels, by Jennifer Joyce. He thought it was funny because I'm always talking about trying to lose weight (due to the amount of eating I do so that I can write articles for this blog). He also thinks in the right heels and dress I would make a great drag queen lol. I took a quick glance at it and I didn't it's style or the “joke” element and threw it with the rest of my cookery books, not expecting to use it.

Well that was wrong of me as my other half was bored one evening recently and started looking at Skinny Meals in Heels. He said he would like to try Tomato, Chickpea and Cumin soup and when I looked at the recipe I agreed with him. It tweaked my interest in the book, so I decided to take a longer glance and realised there were some great recipes in it.

As you can tell by the name of the book and the writing on the cover “Figure-friendly dishes for girls on the move” It is aimed a woman – well duh...which also put me off. I actually thought the book was about dieting with low calorie recipes and I didn't fancy reading it. But taking a longer look at the book I realised it was more about light recipes rather than diet recipes, as the books says “quick mouth watering recipes that happen to be low in fat....” Although not all the recipes are “healthy” as there are recipes for pizzas and we all know they aren't always healthy, low in calories or low in fa, depending on the toppings.

The opening section talks about how to sustain a constant weight, like no snacking, quit eating when full, vary what you eat etc etc. It then goes into the recipe sections like the average cookery book, starters, soups and salads. Then not so normal, weekday dinners, weekend cooking. The weekday recipes take well under an hour including prep time, in fact most of them take about 30 minutes or under, where as the Weekend section include recipes that take a lot longer to prepare and cook. The dessert section is called Skinny Puds and as you might guess there is nothing heavy like sticky toffee pudding, teracle tart etc, but some wonderful light recipes, roasted plums with star anise and cinnamon, pineapple and mint granita are a couple of examples. All the recipes have two tips, one called Prep Ahead, which is self explanatory and the other called The Skinny, which talks about why it's healthy, how to make it lower in fat etc.

The recipes are varied, but as it says in the introduction, they are more on the light and healthy side. Examples are sashimi tuna with yuzu dressing, tomato tratines with goats cheese with a caper, mint and balsamic dressing in the starter section. Then we have wonderful sounding recipes from the Weekday section, like pork and fennel tray roast with lemon and coriander paste, a Vietnamese dish of chicken, ginger and green bean hotpot, which are both easy and quick to prepare and make. With recipes like poulet au poule with salsa verde, slow-roasted pork with spice crust and pomegranate glaze, they take a lot longer to prepare and cook, hence they are located in the Weekend section when we tend to have more time to spend on cooking. But there are quicker recipes in the Weekend section like pork tenderloin with charred tomato and chipotle chilli sauce.

They say you should never judge a book by it's cover and this is certainly true this time. If you want some light and flavoursome recipes then you won't go wrong with this book. I can see why they marketed this book towards woman, but it's a shame because there are a lot of enlightened men that eat more than just steak and would enjoy these recipes.

So, a big apologies to my friend Jeff, for being so dismissive to the present he bought and also a big thank you to him for giving me a book that is going to give me many enjoyable, tasty and light meals that won't be belt busting on my ever expanding waist line.

You can click on the link below to purchase this book via Amazon.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Beef and Cinnamon Ragu

One of the earlier articles I wrote for this blog was three different versions of spaghetti bolognese. The version from my good friend Lyd has become a favourite in our house. Whilst it cooks, the aroma from the wine and cinnamon permeates the house with a wonderful smell and as “stewing” it makes my stomach rumble eagerly awaiting the outcome. You may be thinking how lazy! He can't be bothered to write a new recipe he's turning into day time television, full of repeats! In a way you are right, but this recipe I feel needs it's own posting as it can be used for more than just spag bol.

After having this with spaghetti, I realised that this lovely recipe can be used for many other dishes and we have actually used it to make lasagne, cannelloni and we have also served it up with rice and jacket potatoes. This is one recipe that is best made the night before, giving it more time for the flavours to blend together. I was making a chilli con carne and had lots of mince beef left over, so quickly made this ragu. I cooked it for two hours and placed it in the fridge for two days. On the day I wanted to use it I cooked it for another three hours and it was gorgeous and I seriously recommend you try out.

  • 400g mince beef
  • 2tbls olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic, finely chopped
  • ½tube of tomato purée
  • ½ red wine, full bodied
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • (serves 4 if serving with pasta)

Brown the mince by placing into a saucepan and turn up the heat. Stir occasionally until all the water has gone and once the mince has started to brown, remove into a bowl and place to one side.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the oil and onions and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and again sauté for 3-5 minutes.

Place the mince back into the pan and add the tomato purée. Stir together and turn up the heat. Stir continuously and cook until the tomato purée almost burns (by doing this it's intensifies the purée flavour and releases the oils into the meat).

Turn down the heat, add the wine, beef stock, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Stir together and bring it to the boil.

Let the ragu boil for about 10 minutes and then reduce the heat and cook the hell out of it. I would recommend at least 2 hours, but more is best.

There is a lot of liquid but this will reduce whilst it cooks. You might even need to add some water from time to time, so keep an eye on it.

Use in cannelloni tubes or lasagne sheets, covering with a bechamel and cheese. Or serve with spaghetti, jacket potato or rice.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wild Mushroom Risotto

I always think of risottos as largely unhealthy and to eat only now and again, as I always thought they had a lot of Parmesan cheese in them. Recently I've been told otherwise and that cheese is not used that often and so when searching through my food bible “Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, published by Good Housekeeping Institute, I came across a great one called Wild Mushroom Risotto.

This is a simple vegetarian dish that would keep meat eaters happy because of the fleshy mushrooms. It's also very simple to make, although tiring on the arms, unless your ambidextrous and can stir with both arms.

I have slightly modified the recipe from the book by using some dried mushrooms and using the excess mushroom liquid as part of the vegetable stock. Be careful when pouring the mushroom liquid as there is always dirt and grit at the bottom of the bowl.

  • 5g/¼oz dried mushrooms
  • 6tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2tsp chopped thyme, plus sprigs to garnish
  • 1tsp lemon zest
  • 350g/12oz arborio rice
  • 150ml/¼ pint dry white wine
  • 900ml/1½ pints vegetable stock
  • 450g/1lb mixed fresh mushrooms, such portabello, oyster shitake slice if large
  • 1tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serve 4 as starter or 2 as main but large)

Place the dried mushrooms into a small bowl and pour over some boiling water to cover all the mushrooms and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes.

Place half the olive oil into a frying pan and gently heat adding the shallots, garlic, thyme and lemon zest and fry for about 5 minutes or until they are softened

Add the rice and stir for 1 minute, add the wine and bring to the boil and reduce until the wine has almost evaporated. Ensure the vegetable stock, with the mushroom liquid, is in a separate pan and on a gentle heat.

Take a ladle of stock and add it to the rice stirring continuously until the stock has almost been absorbed. Then add another ladleful, continue you this until all the liquid has been used up and the rice is tender but with a little bite, Test the rice after 15 minutes, but it will take about 20 minutes and one aching arm. The rice should be soft with a little bite.

5 minutes before the rice is ready, heat the remaining oil into a large pan and stir fry the mushrooms, on a high heat, for about 4-5 minutes.

When the rice is ready add the mushrooms to the rice and stir together. Throw in the parsley and add any seasoning as required and serve. Be careful with the salt as most vegetable stock have a lot of salt already in them.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dirty Food

It's another confession time, I have a “dirty” food habit. It's a word we use in our house when either one of us consider the food we think is wrong and shouldn't be eaten. It doesn't mean we don't like the taste, like hard boiled eggs, it's not naughty like a big portion of sticky toffee pudding with lashing of chocolate ice cream, it's just dirty. An example dirty food for me is a salad cream sandwiches, wrong on all levels and the most controversial is pineapple on pizza – wrong and dirty.

I think it's good to confess occasionally, as it's helps cleanse the soul, I guess that is the ex catholic in me, but my dirty food habit is Chicken Chow Mein Sandwiches – yep you read it correctly. My other half almost runs away in horror when we have a Chinese delivered and I get bread out. I love lashings of butter on the bread and then add the hot noodles, bean sprouts and chicken, melting the butter and making the bread go all squidgy, lovely. Then you bite into the hot chow mien and you crunch down on the bean sprouts that are soaked in hot melting butter, delicious. Of course I use wholemeal or wholegrain bread as don't want to be seen as a complete slob and need something a little healthy in the meal :-)  I've even been known to ask for bread and butter in a Chinese restaurant whilst my friends look at me in disgust, as well as the staff.

If you recoil in disgust whilst reading this, you now understand what we mean by dirty food. I'm sure you, yes you, have a dirty food habit and will be interested in hearing it, so leave a comment and let me know, also remember confession is good for the soul.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Doro Wot

As mentioned in the Black Bean Soup post, I've got my grubby little hands on a lot of African recipes, via the Food Chain, recipes from Ghana, Sierra Leone and South Africa, etc. I've only every eaten Ethiopian and Eritrean, from the African continent before, in a restaurant called Adulis in Clapham Junction and so decided I would make two staple recipes, Ingera Bread and Doro Wot.

Ingera bread is a flat bread made with soda water and doro wot is a chicken stew. Wot means stew and you can use red meat for this recipe but it's called beg wot. Doro wot also also has hard boiled eggs in them and if you've read previous posts you will know I hate hard-boiled eggs with a passion. Although I decided to try and eat some and got through about a quarter of an egg before my head and stomach said enough. Who knows maybe I will get over my hatred for them and will one day eat a whole hard-boiled egg on it's own, but I wouldn't hold your breath if I were you.

Ethiopian food is very hands on because you should eat the food with your hands, by tearing the injera and picking up the stew with the bread. Perfect, less cutlery to wash up or stick in the dishwasher

My attempt to make the injera bread was a complete failure, the recipe didn't seem to work at all, and I had to use double the amount of soda water as listed. Also it tasted awful, not the injera I've had in restaurants so have not listed the recipe here. But will find another version and will try that out, as I’ve got lots of other Ethiopian recipes. So I served the Doro Wot with rice, another Ethiopian staple.

This recipe says to use either red chillies or a spice blend called berbere. When I researched what was in berbere I decided to make some the day before, see recipe HERE. The spice blend has a lot of spices and adds a lot of flavour to the dish, but just using red chili is fine.

  • 125g/4oz butter
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 185g/6oz tomato paste
  • 750ml/1¼pint of water
  • 10g/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 5g/1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red chillies/2tsp berbere mix (see bottom if you want to make the berbere mix)
  • 1kg/2lb chicken pieces
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes or until golden.

Stir in the tomato paste with 125ml (4fl oz) water to form a creamy paste. Stir the paste into the onions with garlic salt, black pepper, chillies/berbere and cook for 2-3 minutes

Add the rest of the water and simmer gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes.

Prick each piece of chicken and each egg all over with a fork and add them into the simmering sauce, this will allow the sauce to infuse into the chicken and eggs.

Stir well to ensure the chicken and eggs are well coasted in the sauce. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken and eggs have absorbed the flavours of the sauce.
The chicken should be tender and the sauce should have thickened slightly and serve with rice.

If you make injera successfully then place one piece on a plate, place some doro wot on top and then get another piece of injera and use that to pick up the stew. You also use the bottom piece of injera, which is lovely as the stew has soaked into the bread.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Berbere - An Ethiopian Spice Blend

I am going to making an Ethiopian dish called Doro Wot in the next few days and the recipes requires either two chillies or Berbere. Berbere is a mix of chili and spices blended together and added to  many Ethiopian dishes.

When I read what went into Berbere I decided that it would add more flavour to the Doro Wot and as it lasts for up to 6 months in a sealed jar I thought why not make some, rather than just using chillies in the dish. Also I can use the Berbere in other dishes to add flavour and a kick.

This is a very hot spicy mix, because of the cayenne pepper, but you can use less cayenne to stop if from being too hot for you. But you are only adding 1 or 2 teaspoons into a recipe so it will be milder in heat when other ingredients are added.

1tsp ground ginger
½tsp ground coriander
½tsp ground cardamon
½tsp fenugreek seeds
½tsp grated nutmeg
¼tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground cloves
¼tsp all spice
4tbsp cayenne pepper
1tsp freshly ground pepper
2tbsp paprika

In a heavy based saucepan toast the following on a low heat, for 4-5 minutes stirring continuously to stop them from burning, ginger, cardamon, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and all spice.

Then add the cayenne pepper, black pepper and paprika and gently cook for 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally to stop the blend from burning

Allow to cool and store in a tightly covered glass, you can store it for about 6 months in the fridge.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Giaconda Dining Room - Another Quick Review

I've have just had another superb meal at one of my favourite restaurants The Giaconda Dining Room, see previous post HERE. I started with a crab bisque which was silky and smooth with a full flavour as you would expect from a bisque. I followed this with medallions of ox tongue with flat leaf parsley, bread and lentil salad. The ox tongue was firm, succulent with a meaty texture and flavour and was the highlight of the dish. The lentils were firm, but not crunchy, the bread was tasty and didn't become soggy considering there was too much dressing and almost overpowered the salad and the ox tongue

The reason I love this restaurant is because the food is honestly cooked with devotion to flavour. To highlight this, I was actually struggling what to have, but the waitress/owner and I talked about my choices and she knew what would work together as not to have a “heavy meal” but one where I would get an enjoyable meal with lots of textures and flavours. Now only someone with passion for food and her knowledge of the ingredients would know this.

As I was paying the bill I was horrified to hear the restaurant was closing, to say I was gutted was an understatement. I couldn't believe that it was closing down surely a restaurant of this calibre must be making a profit. Luckily after a while I was advised that it's closing down for a while, whilst crossrail finishes off redeveloping Tottenham Court. It will open again but they cannot say when, they were hoping around September time – phew. I gave them my email address so they could advise me they open again, too soon is not soon enough as far as I am concerned, but will keep you advised.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Best White and Wholemeal Bread Recipe

White Bread

One thing I love making, since starting this blog, is my own bread, it's so totally different from shop bought bread and with less “extra” ingredients. Don't get me wrong I love sliced bread, because as far as I am concerned slice bread still makes the best chip butties. But I really enjoying getting my hands dirty and taking my frustration out on the bread dough. It's also fills the house with a gorgeous smell of baking bread, something I remember as a kid. It's one of the aromas I love, like freshly cut grass, cooking bacon and my favourite, fresh coffee in a percolator. Also, eating the nobby (what we in our house call the two ends of the bread) once it's has cooled down with lashing of butter is divine. Crisp and crunchy bread with the butter gently melting on the warm bread. There are times when you can't be too healthy and when it comes between margarine and butter there is no competition, butter wins hands down, but I try to use liberally but that doesn't happen when eating the nobby.

A while ago I got sent a copy of the Fabulous Baker Brothers book, which I actually find disappointing, mainly because most of the recipes in the TV series are not in the book. But their basic white and wholemeal bread recipe is one of the best I've come across. It has become a big hit in our house and I have made many perfect loafs using this recipe. I always knead the bread by hand and have found the longer you knead the dough the better. I have found 20 minutes a basic minimum kneading time. It is very difficult to over knead the bread by hand, but be careful if you do with a kneading machine, ten minutes should be the average amount of time.
Wholemeal Bread

With this recipe you can use either white or wholemeal bread flour as the measurement works well for both. But if using wholemeal flour you should add about an extra 10% of warm water as the wholemeal flour absorbs a lot more water than white flour.

  • 300ml tepid water – 330ml if doing wholemeal flour
  • 20ml oil, rapeseed is best but vegetable oil is fine
  • 5g dried years (or 10g fresh)
  • 560g strong white flour/wholemeal flour
  • 5g salt

Put the tepid water into a jug and add the oil and the yeast and mix together.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt and mix together.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid. With one hand mix all the ingredients together and then turn the dough onto a floured surface.

If you are kneading the bread by hand knead it for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you have a food mixer than knead for 10 minutes and no longer.

Once finished place the dough into a bowl and allow it raise to either double the size or for an hour which ever happens first.

Take out the dough out of the bowl and knead again for about 4-5 minutes. This removes any air in the dough so will stop holes appearing in the bread after it's cooked.

Roll the dough in a a pan shape and place into a greased 2lb bread tin. Cover and leave to rise for an hour or doubled in size which ever happens sooner.

Whilst the bread is proving, pre-heat the oven to 240c/475f/gas 9. Place a metal tray in oven whilst heating up. When the oven and bread is ready, place the bread in the oven and pour in some water into the metal tray and cook for 10 minutes. The steam from the water will help the bread form a crispy crust.

Then reduce the heat to 210c/410f/gas6.5 and remove metal tray with the water in it and bake for about 20-30 minutes. If you leave the water in the oven the crust will become too tough.

Take out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove from bread tin. Turn the bread over and tap the base of the bread. If it sounds hollow then it is cooked, place on a wire tray and allow to cool.
RRP £20
Or you can purchase the book by clicking the picture below.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cheese and Sage Crusted Pork Chop

I prefer my pork chops simply grilled or lightly fried in the a pan, occasionally I just add it to some Soup but I wanted to do something completely different. I scanned the net to see what other recipes people had created to change a simple but tasty pork chop into something new

After reviewing rather a lot of different recipes I decided to make chops with a cheese and herb crust and gently roast them in the oven. Both the parmesan and sage are strong but not enough to overpower the succulent chop. It's not the healthiest of dishes but nothing to scary and if served with some some steamed vegetables or salad leaves it will make a lovely evening meal.

Ingredients wise it's a fairly easy dish, but you need a variety of plates and blows as you need to place the chops onto one plate with flour, then egg white and then breadcrumbs and you will need a pre-heated oven.

  • 25g/1oz flour
  • 1tbsp english mustard
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 50g/2oz breadcrumbs
  • 25g/1oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1tbsp sage, finely chopped
  • ¼tsp fairly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • (serves 4)

pre-heat the oven to 180c/350c/gas 5

Put the flour onto another plate.

In a bowl mix the egg white and mustard together, do not over mix so that you start getting meringue texture, it's just to help “glue” the breadcrumbs to the pork chop

Mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, finely chopped sage and ground black pepper and place onto a plate

Take 1 chop, place it in the flour on both side and tap off any excess flour.

Then dip it into the egg mixtures, again cover both sides

Then place it into the breadcrumbs mixture on both sides and place onto a non stick baking tray

Repeat this with the other three chops and place into the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning over once.

Serve with steamed vegetables or side salad.