Archive for December, 2007

A RECIPE: Chocolate & walnut fudge

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Dinner is not complete for me without a little snippet of chocolate- whether it’s this way, this way, this way or even just a simple square of 70% dark. Of course, when it comes to getting ready for Christmas, as much as I’d appreciate being given a bar of chocolate as a present- it doesn’t exactly cry out “I’m thoughtful and put time into this!” Making fudge, on the other hand, does just that. Of course, what most people don’t know is that making fudge doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t require a candy thermometer or exact temperatures. When I asked my boss if she had a good fudge recipe she replied “ooh, uhh, that’s tricky” and though I know I’ve made fudge the real way, melting the sugar with liquid glucose and cream and letting it reach soft boil stage blah blah blah, you can make fudge that’s just as yummy and as straightforward to make as a bowl of porridge. For quick and easy fudge, and lets face it, we all love the words quick and easy when it comes to cooking, use condensed milk. I know it sounds like cheating, and perhaps it is but so long as you use a good quality chocolate, nobody will ever know (and that’s the only kind of cheating I partake in). Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Chocolate & walnut fudge’

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Shopping blues

Christmas is only just a week away and I still have not figured out what presents to buy my nearest and dearest and my nearest and dearest dearest’s as they continue gloat unforgivingly that they finished their shopping in July.  I can’t work out whether this is to make me feel bad that my thoughts were on ice cream and barbeques in July and not on what meaningful gifts to buy them, or just that they’re rubbing in the fact that they won’t have to fight the winter crowds in New York. Every year I mean to be get prepared early, but with moving country, then apartment, finding and starting a new job, a blog and getting engaged all in one year, there has been very little time for anyone other than, well, me. And no, that’s not a very festive place to let you thoughts reside but I’m the one who’s now paying for such neglect by being forced to face the dreaded city crowds.

 It is on this note that I am now a firm believer that Thanksgiving is a better holiday than Christmas. Thanksgiving being of course all about the food and family and Christmas involving months (or at least days) of thought, endless card writing (or intended card writing), shopping, increased line of credit and then of course afterwards you have to write more cards to say thank you for outfit you were bought that was fashionable last summer!  So much pressure for one day! My favouritism towards Thanksgiving will of course be in disagreement with the younger generation of my relatives who A/ being British have never celebrated Thanksgiving and B/ still get a visit from Father Christmas.  As for myself, after 24 years of reliable service Father Christmas himself has forewarned me that from henceforth he will not be filling stocking for my siblings and I- again a reason why Thanksgiving rates higher than Christmas.

 Until Thanksgiving this year, Christmas was always the big family day- in fact the only day that my family spent together as a whole unit every year and thus my favourite holiday.  It goes without saying that this is also the only guaranteed holiday I get off work other than New Years Day, which is spent in the recovery position and so does not count. This year, will be the first year that one member of the family, my brother, will not be joining us- what is it with Americans companies and their aversion to reasonable amounts of time off?  And so last weekend we had my immediate family Christmas at home. It was on “Christmas day” last weekend that the day before we all sat down to open presents that the reason why I hate buying presents so much came to a head. My brother said he didn’t want what I had wrapped up and was due to give him the following day, my sister had just bought what I was about to give her and Don had declared that he didn’t think he could trust himself with the prezzie I had so generously purchased for him. Okay, so I lied, I have done some Christmas shopping but you can see how unsuccessful they were! I mean you don’t after all hear many people rejecting turkey at Thanksgiving!

 As ever I have found salvation/escape in my cookery books and it is for this reason that I will be making vast quantities of fudge over the following week to give to my doormen, supervisor, handyman, colleagues and postman for Christmas.  If only my family would be happy with fudge!

A RECIPE: Chocolate yule log

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Last weekend was the first weekend that my family has been together in nearly a year and what better a way to spend quality family than positioning myself firmly in my mothers kitchen for a full day of cake making and decorating. Rarely do I get to take advantage of such a large, albeit a hopelessly ill-equiped kitchen and so when I go home I enjoy nothing more than spreading out my recipes on the large island, weighing out my ingredients into separate bowls and knowing all along that my mother will clean up after me! It’s not as antisocial as it sounds- on the other side of the counter lined up on barstools sit family members and other halves chatting away and eagerly asking when it will be done.

Making a Yule Log or Buche de Noel- was rather a selfish choice on my part because I wasn’t in the mood to make marzipan to decorate my mothers Christmas cake and my families choice of dessert usually extends no further berries and ice cream. But I have never made a Yule log and being that it was my mothers birthday, it seemed to kill two birds with one stone- cake and festive dessert in one. Or rather four birds really because I got to have fun playing in the kitchen all day and a blog entry out of it. The list of ingredients and directions may seem a tad daunting, but this is actually rather a simply decorated Yule Log, being that my decorating skills are limited and self-taught.   But you should be relieved to know that you can make this even in the most ill-equiped kitchens.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Chocolate yule log’

Oh, Paula.

There are chefs that I get to work with that inspire and challenge me- say Jamie Oliver, Ed Brown, David Chang, and Nigella Lawson, to name a few. And then there are those who make me wonder how they got so popular in the first place and who the hell follows their recipes?

Have you ever heard of Paula Dean’s holiday salad? It contains the following list of ingredients: lime and lemon Jell-O, cottage cheese, tinned pineapple, pecans and horseradish? The ingredients alone make my nostrils flare, my eyebrows shrivel and my body shake with queasiness. Ghastly ingredients list aside though- you should have seen what the finished dish looked like. It was not fit to eat let alone put on TV. I have a food tasting policy, which is: I’ll try anything once. My policy has forced me to try many a strange thing in my lifetime – chicken feet, crickets and squirrel amongst them and yet nothing could have prepared me for the turn in my stomach I experienced when touching a dab of Holiday Salad to my petrified tongue.

Why I felt compelled to taste this mixture, which is apparently whipped up and served alongside many an Americans’ holiday dinner, is utterly beyond me. This was not an experiment by Heston, but a serious side dish to accompany roasted beef tenderloin- that is a $150 cut of beef next to something resembling frog spawn- only most people aren’t actually expected to eat frog spawn. This is all aside from the fact that holiday salad is in no way a salad at all but instead a gelatin mixture full of ingredients that work perfectly well on their own and in multitudes of other combinations. Airplane food would have looked live five star fare paired next to this unsavoury concoction.

How are Americans’ supposed to know how to cook a healthy well-balanced meal at home when they’re taught to cook rubbish like this?

My rant is now over, please resume normal activities. And for a real salad that does taste good try here or here.

A RECIPE: Roasted brussles sprouts with almonds

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Growing up I only new Brussels sprouts one way- and that way was boiled. When there was company visiting there may have been a knob of butter thrown into the mix but at home with the family they remained unadorned boiled sprouts. Come to think of it, there were very few vegetables that I ate as a child that weren’t simply boiled, and inevitably unseasoned. This is not a criticism of my mothers cooking, at the end of the day we all ate our vegetables so she must have been doing something right. Of course she now knows how to steam, which gives her vegetables marginally more character than does boiling.

Despite being boiled out of their skins, sprouts were still perhaps my favourite side addition to a roast chicken and yet I vividly recall submerging them enthusiastically in gravy. I could never understand why they were poked and prodded at by my brother and sister, that is until recently, when I came about the roasted sprout. Post-mothers cooking, I’d tried them steamed, sautéed, braised even, but nothing has compared in taste and simplicity to the roasted sprout and it’s crispy charred edges. No flavour is lost to the cooking liquor- you get 100% sprout, a bit of texture and most likely the vitamins to match. There’s no looking back now.

It was the build up to Thanksgiving that led to my first introduction to the sprout a la roasting pan- something that I would never have guessed. Firstly-Americans eat Brussels Sprouts(?) and secondly- they make them better than us Brits? The answer of course was yes, and I hate to say it but on both counts. Being that this is America though, many recipes call for a drizzling of honey or maple syrup before serving, which has its place– just not on my plate.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Roasted brussles sprouts with almonds’


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