Monthly Archives: August 2013

Greens. You know you want to.

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…. Just in case you were thinking that all I’m eating these days is wedding cake cast offs and copious amounts of raw cake mix (ahem)…. I thought I would allay those concerns with this so-good-I-almost-cried plate of greens.

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Truth be told, I have been having a lot of greens lately: most mornings start with a raw green juice of broccoli, kale, spinach, celery, apple, cucumber, spirulina and wheatgrass (try that for a 5am wake-up call (well actually my current juicer is so loud I’m pretty sure that it is a wake-up call for my too-kind neighbours but that is another story)).

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The sound of this story, is a blissfully silent one of sheer appreciation. This dish is so good in its wholesome simplicity, so beautific in its glorious greenery and so comforting in the warmth of its goodness that it deserves an applause. As does Sarah B of ‘mynewroots’. Superstar.

The sweet tang of the dressing perfectly counter balances the gentle crunch of raw greens and the delightful squelch of soft soba. It’s just… too good. If you are still reading this post, be gone. Go make the dish. Now.

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Greens n Noodles (recipe adapted from Sarah B at mynewroots).

Ingredients:

125g brown rice noodles /buckwheat / wholewheat soba
Handfuls of mixed greens (swiss chard, kale, spinach, spring greens etc)

Dressing:
1 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce works too)
2 tbsp. cold-pressed sesame oil
2 tsp. raw honey (or maple syrup)
2 tsp. brown rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
Juice of ½ a lime
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced
2 spring onions, sliced
½ red chili, minced

Toppings:
¼ cup mixed black and white sesame seeds
¼ cup cashews
½ cup coriander, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped

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1. In a small dish whisk dressing ingredients together, season to taste. Set aside.

2. Boil a pot of salted water and cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and pour a little of the dressing over and toss well to coat.

3. In a dry pan over medium heat, toast sesame seeds until fragrant. Do the same with the cashews.

4. Wash and greens and spin them dry. Remove any tough stalks, stack leaves, roll up and slice into thin ribbons. Add to a large bowl pour remaining dressing over, throw in some mint and coriander and toss well to coat.

5. Add dressed greens to dressed noodles and dish up .To serve, you can add additional herbs, nuts, seeds, etc. It’s a bowlful of health this recipe.

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Buttercream baby, let’s talk

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It’s getting creamy in here. And not in a good way. Let’s re-cap: yesterday we spoke flour, butter and sugar. I finally faced the challenging truth that I am in fact, baking a wedding cake and that despite my numerous attempts at denial, the magnitude of the project was beginning to dawn on me.

I did say that today I was going trial a different cake. I didn’t. Even my own very persistent inner perfectionist fatigued itself this weekend. In the end (the end being around 2am), I decided that the chocolate cake was delicious and also intense enough to hold the sweetness of the white chocolate filling. I will work out how to use the dowels next weekend. For now, let’s focus on making everything look pretty.

So today we’re speaking sugar, butter and white chocolate as we face filling, frosting and piping.

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For the filling I have decided to go with a classic recipe for white chocolate buttercream and fold frozen raspberries into the mix – which will look beautiful when the cake is sliced. The recipe and the process proved easy. This one is a winner.

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For the frosting I’m going with a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. In the end I decided that Swiss buttercream would be more forgiving as a frosting than any other cover and I needed something not too sweet. I took the advice of several bakers; whipped, whipped and kept on whipping right through my panic until the mix resembled something like frosting. It was a magical moment when it did.

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For the piping and decoration I am keeping it simple. I will admit on this blog that I haven’t so much as touched a piping bag before (did I mention I googled ‘how to attach piping nozzle to bag’?). I’ll say no more.

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So a whole three days into my long weekend I now have an enormous 10 inch, 5kg cake in the refrigerator that I will need to carry on my commute in the morning. I hope my colleagues are hungry. Forget weight training at the gym tomorrow, I’ll just run on the treadmill for hours ‘til I burn off the calories of sugar that I did (not) eat.

Recipes (and lessons learned) below.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream Filling

I took a classic recipe for white chocolate buttercream from Good Housekeeping magazine. It’s a very sweet recipe and ought to offset the density of the chocolate cake.

The quantities provided below covered ½ cm layer of a 10inch cake. I intend to double or triple for the actual event.

Ingredients
175g white chocolate
250g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk
handful frozen raspberries

1. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water. Remove when smooth, and set aside to cool for ten minutes.

2. Put the softened butter into a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Starting slowly, beat together until fluffy and combined. Beat in cooled white chocolate and milk.

3. Set aside and fold in the frozen raspberries when ready to use.

Swiss Buttercream

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen/ Wedding Cake Genius

Ingredients (to cover a 10inch cake)
227g caster sugar
4 large egg whites
340g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg whites and sugar in a large metal bowl over a pot of simmering water until you can no longer feel sugar the granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

2. Transfer to the mixer and whip until it turns white and approximately doubles in size. Add the vanilla.

3. Finally, add the butter a little at a time and whip, whip, whip. Here I quote Smitten Kitchen “do not have a panic attack as this takes a while to come together”.

So. Lessons learned:

Decorating the cakes is easier when they are frozen or very cold.

Moving the cakes from one surface to another is not easy whichever way you look at it. I have yet to address the problem of how I am going to transport them from my home to the venue (and whether assembly of tiers should take place here or on site). Any volunteers?

Make way more white chocolate buttercream filling and Swiss buttercream frosting than anticipated (note this is most definitely not because I ate some (a lot) along the way).

Don’t panic.

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I do…

…. Wish I were not freaking out about making my friend’s wedding cake.

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No, that was not a typo and yes I am making a wedding cake. Like, a real one. Yeah.

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I hadn’t shared that small piece of (big-deal) information here on this blog space in the secret hope that if I kept quiet it would either a) go away or b) the cake fairy might visit. Much like my other commitments in life, it didn’t go away. And the cake fairies are nowhere to be seen.

So I hereby declare this relationship with cake baking, official. And, we’ve had our first fight already. I won’t lie. It got pretty messy. My shirt is covered in more flour, butter and chocolate than my kitchen floor, my sink is piled with more dishes than I can see over the top of, and the number of expletives I’ve uttered means that my mouth needs cleaning even more than the kitchen sink.

And so far all we have is one very imperfect ten inch dense round chocolate cake base. Let’s not even talk about white chocolate raspberry buttercream filling and the oh-so-trivial issue of making perfect Swiss buttercream frosting and using cooking tools hitherto unheard of on this blog. Dare I say I am actually embarrassed that for someone who professes some degree of prowess in the kitchen, my baking skills are leaving much to be desired.

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So. What else was there to do but to retreat here, to this space (with a spoonful of raw chocolate mix in my hand. Eating my emotions? Me? Never…..).

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Pauline. If you are reading this, do not worry. I have an entire week to calm myself down and talk myself up to trial round two. You shall not have a cakeless wedding. It will be fine. I promise. I do.

Gulp.

Here is the the one I’ve trialled. Am attempting another one this afternoon and will report back. I promise not to eat raw cake mix (much).

Dense Chocolate Cake (recipe from Good Housekeeping, for one 10inch cake)

350g butter, chopped
350g dark chocolate
275ml milk
375g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
60g cocoa powder
750g caster sugar
6 medium eggs
250ml sour cream

1. Pre-heat oven to 160C (140C fan) mark3. Grease and line a 10inch round cake tin. Put butter, chocolate and milk into a pan and gently melt until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl and stir in sugar. In a separate jug mix together the eggs and sour cream. Pour both the chocolate and egg mixtures into the flour bowl and whisk until well combined.

3. Pour cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the tin.

[note, when I did this, I hadn't used wet strips and so the cake needs levelling in order to use it for my layers. also, the core is still slightly fudgey; use a heating core? still contemplating this]….

 

 

 

Oh the places you’ll go…

 

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My social media footprints (twitter and instagram and travelblog) will reveal that I went to Italy and to Hungary in July and although it’s now August, it still feels like July so that excuses my tardiness. Doesn’t it?

Those two short weekend trips in the space of a month were more than just much needed respite from a hectic schedule, and much more than the sum of their parts; four days away to indulge in my own company and that of good friends; time to let the sun soak into my skin and thaw the tension of everyday life; space to wander think and be; food to fuel my appetite and culinary imagination…. Those four days were freeing in a way that only travel can be. I had forgotten that.

Let’s backtrack a little. Some years ago, weary of working life and feeling directionless in my early adulthood I packed a bag and travelled around the world on my own. Seven months later I returned to the UK craving companionship and tired of travelling. I hadn’t since granted myself the gift of solo travel and time… until now. Reconnecting with oneself is such a vital component of an expressive and fulfilling journey through life.

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Of course the journey was as much an epicurean one as a personal one. I will unashamedly share in this space that I visited the beautiful city of Florence and saw not a single museum, learned not any historical fact, marvelled at none of the great buildings, nor admired any of the art galleries. Even Michaelangelo’s David went amiss. Instead, Emma and I went on a culinary pilgrimage to find the city’s finest gelato (we happened to stumble upon the Duomo en route) (oh, and it’s toasted black sesame at Vivoli’s in case you’re wondering), to indulge in the most mouth watering pizza, to practically pray to the food gods for the divine taste of fresh porcini, to taste tiramisu and sweet creamy pastries, to frequent the food markets and to carry as much balsamic vinegar and olive oil home as is possible in economy class hand luggage. Oh my gosh did I mention I had a “DinnerSheWrote” apron made?! (see picture below). This for me is Italy, this is the beauty of being passionate, this is art of falling in love. For in Italy, food and love are synonymous.

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Following the Italian food excursion, I flew to Budapest, Hungary. This time to meet another friend, to explore a new city and to fill the pages of my journal. Needless to say food featured highly in this trip too; I ate the most divine salad with Hungarian mangalian ham I have ever tasted, I ate chicken pancake (which I’m sure sounds way more exotic and menu worthy in Hungarian) and drank my fill of sweet sweet tokaji wine. The breathtaking views of the Danube down at river level or up on the hilltop perhaps stamp Budapest as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

I am ever grateful for the experiences of travel, for the friends that find me, and for the exciting culinary journey my life is.

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No recipes today, just fuel for your imagination.