Archive for September, 2007

In the Need for a Curry

I’m leaving for India today, via a brief few inescapably cold, wet and stressful hours in London. I’m refraining from using the word ‘vacation’ because that would imply that there will be rest and rejuvenation taking place on this trip; which there won’t be. This is not because I’m not completely exhausted, rundown and in need of some downtime- it’s because I’m going on holiday with my sister. One Helm family member plus another Helm equals a ‘vacation’ resembling that of a person training for an Iron Man. Despite the fact that I’m not even five weeks clear of knee surgery, I’ve found myself packing my hiking boots, running shoes, swimsuit and goggles when I should probably be more concerned about filling my suitcase with Imodium and rehydration sachets. That’s what insurance is for right? Continue reading ‘In the Need for a Curry’

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A RECIPE: Chocolate Revel Bars

Chocolate Revel Bars

This past weekend, Don and I were invited to his bosses house for dinner. ‘Shit’, I thought to myself as I agreed not only to the arrangement but also for the offering of my services in providing dessert. Now, not only would I need to think before I opened my mouth, I would also have to create a masterpiece to impress everybody else’s mouths. Shit.

There is a reason why I am not a chef. Well actually there are two for now I will tell you the first. Pressure. Stand behind me when I’m chopping an onion and there will be blood, watch me sautee at the stove and there will be burns. I crumple and fall, like a soufflé when I’m out of my comfort zone. Cooking for my boyfriend’s boss was one of these out of comfort zone experiences.

I decided to cook my pistachio meringue roulade. What I love about this dessert is that it takes about ten minutes to prepare but for those who don’t cook, it looks like you’re a pastry chef. No pressure there. At least the day was relatively cool, so I wouldn’t have to endure the same humidity nightmare that I’d had previously this summer. So, I set to work whisking my whites until stiff, gradually adding the sugar to make glossy stiff peaks, folding through half of the pistachios and spread it on my parchment lined and greased Swiss roll tin. It was all going smoothly. In fact everything went smoothly right up until the point where having wrapped it delicately in foil, about to walk out of our apartment and Don turned to say “You hold the meringue, I don’t want to break it.”

Well you can imagine what happened next and I only have myself to blame. Usually I know to stand at least ten feet away from Don when he’s flagging down a cab. His wild and urgent gesticulations are like those from a person stranded on a deserted island having spotted a distant ship. We both saw the cab at the same time, and awakening the old waitress in me I took to balancing the roulade on my left forearm in order to raise my right arm for the driver to see. At the same time, Don pounced on the cab like he does his dinner and a flailing arm knocked the desert of balance and crushed it smack into my chest. God bless the person who created Eton Mess.

The dessert, was still a success, though not a pretty one- what is it with me and roulades? The other baking event that took place over the weekend was these chocolate revel bars. I made these for the first time years ago at University, and though they were good back then, I always thought that the oat mixture needed to be changed to make it less cakey and more crunchy. The filling is like chocolate fudge- feel free to omit the nuts and if you like a really thick middle, then double the filling. I have no idea why they are called revel bars- and I’m not sure what else to call them!
Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Chocolate Revel Bars’

A Recipe: Cheese Cigars

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I love evenings where there are lots of little things to taste or order from a menu. These Cheese Cigars ar perfect for serving as canapés at parties (prepare and freeze in advance) or you can make them bigger* for light bites. You can even use the mixture to spread over a sheet of puff and serve it as a tart. Feel free to swap around the cheeses- blue cheese in place of the feta is particularly nice. Any extra filling can be used for cheese on toast- so you don’t feel the need to tuck in food for your guests.

2 (250g/9oz) sheets of puff pastry (total of 500g) each rolled into 40 x 30 cm rectangles
250g/ 9 oz/ 1 cup ricotta cheese
50g/ 2 oz ½ cup parmesan cheese
85g/ 3oz/ ½ cup feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped chives or herb of choice
1 egg
paprika, sesame seeds or poppy seeds to garnish, optional

1/ Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Slice the pastry into rectangles measuring 10 x 5 cm.

2/ Mix together all of the cheeses, the egg and chives and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3/ Working one at a time, face the rectangles with one of the long ends towards you. Place a teaspoon of cheese mixture in a log shape in the lower third of each rectangle. Leave a little space at each end. Dip a finger in water or use a pastry brush to lightly wet the edges of the pastry. Fold over the short edges, then using the long edge closest to you roll over the pastry and pinch to seal with the two long edges overlapping. If you do not seal them well, they will burst open during baking. Repeat with the other cigars.

4/ Place on baking tray, lightly brush with water and sprinkle over optional toppings. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

* If you’re making these for a light meal, cut the pastry sheets into rectangles 10cm x 15cm (each sheet will have 6 rectangles) Use a rounded tablespoon of filling for each cigar. You will need 1kg of pastry divided into 4 sheets (rolled 40 x 30 cm) to use up all of the filling. This will make 24 total. Serve with a watercress salad to cut through the richness.

A Mouse in the House

We “had” a mouse. I say “had” for two reasons. One because we thought we had a solitary mouse and two because that not-so-solitary-mouse is dead.  The first acquaintance that I had with Mr Mouse was not a pleasant one. He wondered out sniffing for little morsel fromthe previous nights dinner and I performed the classic girl-sees-a-mouse-screams-and-jumps-on-a-chair-manoeuvre.  Panicked, I called my boyfriend: “come home NOW, we have a mouse!” We tried for several months to get rid of Mr Mouse. We started out with the humane traps- filling them with chocolate and peanut butter to serve as mouse-bait. It was a simple procedure, mouse walks into little dark box to find treats, lid on box shuts and I would wave a satiated Mr Mouse goodbye as he is reintroduced to outside world. It turned out that Mr Mouse was very clever and managed to miss every trap around the apartment, whilst I managed to set one off every time I breathed with my mouth open. Continue reading ‘A Mouse in the House’

Myers of Keswick and the Calling for Sausages

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Since moving to New York, I have not once visited either of the two city-renound British food shops Myers of Keswick and Tea & Sympathy. This is not for lack of fancy for Heinz Baked Beans, Marmite, PG Tips and Digestives- it’s just that since moving we’ve had rather a lot of UK visitors who only receive a towel and clean sheets on presentation of the such favoured items. Nothing is free in this life, even for friends and family looking for a bed.
The summer heat however, seems to have put off further hotel-avoiding visitors and our supplies have nearly all but dried up. Fortunately, New York has a rather strong British contingent and the demand means that the most basic English goods can be found in just about all the main New York supermarkets. I even read recently that there is a campaign for a “Little Britain” in the city- although if this has any resemblance to the TV show, then I think I might be forced in shame to adopt an American accent after all. Continue reading ‘Myers of Keswick and the Calling for Sausages’

A RECIPE: Aubergine and Courgette Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my favourite foods- but I like it saucy and sloppy (like my mother made it). In the winter I always make up big batches of meat sauce, but being summer I wanted something to use up all the great produce I had.

I’m still in the process of developing the world’s best vegetarian lasagna- but in the meantime, this one comes pretty close. If you don’t like aubergine, roast thin slices of butternut squash instead. I based it on a recipe for Aubergine Lasagna found on a another blog site. I made some alterations, so that it’s a little saucier (but you can add less sauce, if you prefer) and I chargrilled my vegetables for added flavour. If you don’t have time for this though- or you just can’t be bothered (lets face it we all have those days.), I have given an option to roast your vegetables in the oven- but you shouldn’t skimp on the oil or your aubergine will dry out.

You can make your own tomato sauce really quickly. Soften and brown a finely chopped onion, in the last minute add 1 crushed garlic clove, Add two 400ml tins of chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato paste and a glass of wine (your choice). Let simmer for 30 minutes, then season to taste. Get this going before you start griddling your vegetables.

Enjoy.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Aubergine and Courgette Lasagna’

An arthroscopy tale

Midweek days at home- reclining on my beanbag, reading trashy magazines, catching up on TV, books and emailing are something that I can only dream of these days. Of course, when the occasional one does come up, they end up being nothing more than a chance to catch up on loads of laundry, bill paying and invoicing. That is until last week, when I had five. I wasn’t headed off to the beach or on a city break I was going to spend five days at home, not working. No recipe testing, cake making or catering. Nothing. Continue reading ‘An arthroscopy tale’


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