Friday, 14 October 2016

How to Make Granola

There is an argument that granola is just as good when made in a factory, like any other cereal. Whoever made 'Special K' at home? But, just think about how a cafe is elevated echelons when there is the promise of 'home-made granola' on the menu.

One of the joys of the home-made version is the feeling of wholesome-ness it yields. The eating is one thing, but you can also feel cosy in terms of both the making: toasting oats and nuts in sweet honey and maple syrup, and the storage: having a nice big jar of home-made granola in the cupboard, ready for a swell breakfast. 

After being treated to some home-made granola by Grace one brunch at her flat, she text me the details of its making, so simple it fit into one short message. Since then I have played about with the measurements and I've done some research – Felicity Cloake basically has it down (although the egg white was superfluous to moi, so emitted).

Here is my version. NB: the seeds, dried fruit and nuts can be varied:

40g coconut oil
60g honey
60g maple syrup
1tbsp fleur de sel – flaked salt I suppose
170g oats
170g rye flakes 
100g peanuts
100g pecans
50g flax seeds
50g coconut shavings
50g dried cranberries
50g jumbo raisins 

Melt the oil, honey and syrup together in a little saucepan. Mix everything else together in a big bowl. Add the melted oil, honey and syrup to the oats, etc and mix it all together (I use two spoons). Spread onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake on gas mark 2 for 30 mins. Leave to cool on the sheet and then decant into your jar.

Eat with yoghurt on a Friday morning and don't even care about being late for work.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Magic of Miso

The weather is on the turn, and whilst Autumn is mostly a majestic time of year there are some days that catch you off guard when the wind whips at your cheeks and the bones in your fingers start to stiffen – time to dig out your gloves.

I learnt about the healing power of miso last February when our boiler broke. Our new flat was very cold and I felt extremely sorry for myself, hobbling around our capacious new living room that I loved yet couldn't stand to be in – cursing the big windows that let in beautiful light come day but an icy draft come night*.

It is in this chapter that I discover lovely miso soup. I had never believed that a soup so deep could be so easy to make – it has 4 main ingredients! Last week I made the connection between miso and marmite (something I have loved forever), for they're both rich, deeply savoury and sating.

heated chicken stock on the hob (n.b, stock: made the day before, luckily I had a chicken carcass knocking about). Once it boiled I added the miso (about 2tbsps) followed by a dash each of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Followed by some shredded cabbage, and pieces of chicken (from the aforementioned caracas), some thick 'straight to wok' noodles. I finished with a handful of coriander.

It really is as easy as that. Henceforth, this will be it the thing that happens whenever I feel run-down this winter.

*Thermal curtains have since been installed.

Miso soup

Lovely windows and pretty Autumn flowers

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Nigella's Birthday Custard Cake

As we grow with experience, we can let our culinary instincts guide us to our own clever inventions; a blueberry eaten with blue cheese or the addition of gin to an aperol spritz.

With a baking recipe from a trusted source in your arsenal, cake baking is rarely enhanced by our own instincts (unless perhaps you are a professional). Cake decorating is where the creativity comes in, the rest is science: precise weights, timings, vessels, temperatures. The use of said 'trusted source', such as a reputable book, means that you've had legions of recipe testers come before you to ensure that this recipe will work. For me, there is undeniable satisfaction to be had in crafting precisely the number of fairy cakes you are told you will produce without a lick of batter to spare (ala Nigella or Mary Berry).

I got bitten by a baking bug a couple of weeks ago and proceeded to deviate from my usual recipe bank and found a few exciting recipes on the internet I wanted to try. This was a mistake. Perhaps a more experienced baker would have foreseen discrepancies in this selection of recipes and used their instinct to adapt, but as a novice I know it's best to do as I am told. My spiced apple rock cakes were short to the extreme, and a cup of tea was a required accompaniment; whilst my jaffa cakes had sodden bottoms, not just soggy. I have learnt that the internet is not a trusted source, no matter how much you trust the website, ahem, The Guardian, proceed with caution.

Finally, a good excuse for me to buy more cookbooks.

Here is a Nigella Custard Cake that did go right, a little something to be proud of.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Nigella's Cappuccino Pavlova

This delicious pavlova is so good – chewy, marshmallow-like centre, crispy shell, silky cream, bitter cocoa and lovely cappuccino flavour. All hail Nigella, Domestic Goddess; Potentate of Pavlova.

As I'm sure Nigella would agree, one does need an excuse to make this, but this week I found many, including:

  • left-over egg whites from the home-made egg pasta at the weekend
  • it's mid-March, and I'm still wear a polo-neck jumper everyday, as I have been for the past three months (excluding a recent trip to Italy)
  • I'm addicted to sugar (and I'm #sorrynotsorry)
  •  it's Tuesday

I followed Nigella's recipe for Cappuccino pavlova from her delicious Nigellisima series, but halved the ingredients and the cooking time (from 1hr, to 30mins). The two egg-whites I had produced a lovely sized pavlova, enough for 4 portions, with enough to spare for a dainty-sized portion left-over for me to eat when I'm home alone.

See, here's the math:

  • 250 grams caster sugar / 125g caster sugar
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (not instant coffee granules) / 2 tsp instant espresso powder although also works with 'Americano' instant coffee powder as I discovered)
  • 4 large egg whites / 2 large egg whites
  • 1 pinch of salt / 1 pinch of salt 
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour / 1tsp cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar / 0.5 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 300 millilitres double cream / 150ml double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder / 0.5 tsp cocoa powder
Once the pavlova was cooked and cool I put it on a plate and wrapped it in cling-film to be stored in the fridge. The main thing is to store the pavlova as air-tight as possible, and in a place as-dry-a-place as possible so that it doesn't go soggy – the cling-film and fridge combination works just fine.

I assemble the pavlova with the whole works (cream and cocoa additions) just before eating.

Nigella will tell you that you can actually freeze egg-whites – excellent for emergency pavlova-making, stash them in freezer bags and label how many egg-whites are in each.

Monday, 7 March 2016

A Simple Way to Cook Monks Beard

Monks Beard is a rarely seen green. It's from Tuscany and has a very short season (late Jan - early Feb) and it's only around for about 5 weeks. Blink and it's gone.

Sure, like all rare things, it's expensive. But you'll likely only be able get your hands on one bunch a year anyway – so you might regret not 'getting it while you can'. I found the beautiful bunch in my local 'Natoora' in Chiswick, a gorgeous green-grocers who only sell the best produce from expert growers in the UK, France and Italy.

It looks like the spiky kind of grass that grows at the beach and it kind of tastes like a very delicate spinach.

When it comes to cooking there are limited recipes on the internet so I went with the flow and had mine as part of one my favourite week-night dinners: greens and eggs on toast.

I washed my monks beard (very hairy) and steamed it in a frying pan – (I say steamed, I put it in a pan over a low heat with the aforementioned washing water, lid on). Seasoned. And that was it.

I toasted my sourdough bread (home-made, more on this another time), rubbed a garlic glove over it, trickled over some olive oil over the toasty, garlic-y bread, topped with monks beard and crowned it all with a couple of poached eggs. What a handsome week-night dinner.

Julia Child's Egg Poaching 
The egg poaching, I have recently been experimenting with Julia Child's method. You boil the eggs in their shells for about 10 seconds, then remove them from the water, turn the boil down to a simmer, then crack the eggs into the water and cook for about 3 minutes. Sometimes the eggs aren't perfect, but it's the most consistent egg-poaching method I have found.
NB: those smart men, the Hairy Bikers do it this way too (read about it The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts)

Beautiful Monks Beard from Natoora - so pretty.
Eggs and Greens, the perfect week-night supper

The bountiful crop in situ at Natoora