Archive for February, 2008

A Recipe: Gluten-free biscotti


The bitterness of winter doesn’t seem to be tiring anytime soon and evenings bundled up on the sofa rather than sprawled out on picnic blankets in the park deem it the perfect excuse to indulge in some slow cooking. Casseroles, seven-hour leg of lamb, rusk cookies, biscotti- (just to name a few of my favourite things), left overnight or all day in the oven providing not only dinner but the best kind of air freshners on the market. There is only one thing better than the smell of baking cookies- and that is the smell of baking cookies all through the night. You can only hope that the entire batch you let pass your lips was only a dream- a nice one though it may be.

Alas, apparently these chilly times have also proven the ideal time for my 1970’s vintage (but not in a cool way) oven to choke out its final batch of biscotti. Perhaps I’ve abused it a little too much this winter, but I find this timing highly unreasonable. There is still, after all another month (at the very least) of cold weather to come and I shall find no comfort in my unpredictable gas hobs. But in respect to my oven, which lacks any distinguishable feature that might reveal to me what company had made it, in its time it had always worked better than the swanky new GE ovens we have at work. If only it were as easy as calling up a landlord and demanding it fixed or replaced but now that we are proud owners of our apartment it will get added to our ever increasing list of vital home improvements. Our shower broke two months ago and that may now be pushed down in the order of priority- because I think we’d all agree that weekend baking is more paramount than personal cleanliness.

Fortunately, for you, dear readers, my months of Saturdays spent in the kitchen rather than out on the town have paid off and I have a small back-log of recipes to tie you over until my oven recovers/is fixed/or replaced. And like a scolded child I will have to finally start attending to my ‘TO DO IMMEDIATELY’ list, immediately- more or less. Now can we all please have a moment of silence for my oven, which can’t be named.

Continue reading ‘A Recipe: Gluten-free biscotti’

Crispy on the Outside

When it comes to baked dishes, and I’m swooning about lasagna, shepherds pie, chicken pie, beef bourguignonne, I’m typically more excited about using my fork to chip off the cripsy burnt bits around the sides of the pan than to use said utensil to eat what’s on my plate. I’ll wait until everyone has served themselves before doing a scoop around the upper sides of pan collecting all the crusty bits (and I’m especially partial to cheesy ones) that most people leave for the washer-upper to battle with. It’s really a rather grotesque habit- and I promise that if you ever come over for dinner I won’t do it, at least not in front of you anyway. Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to settle for something grilled?

The thing is though, I recently came across the Edge Brownie pan and one would think that I, coveter of kitchen gadgets and crispy edges alike would think of this as the greatest creation of the modern culinary world. Alas, I don’t. Now, lasagna baked with all edges would be my idea of perfection- and I’m contemplating buying one just to test it out for this use alone, but who likes the corner part of a brownie? Personally, I always cut the chewy overcooked edges off. Have I been causing offense to others in discarding the edges to the rubbish? Is it just me who thinks that it’s the middle of the brownie batch- the gooey, not quite cooked through section, where the top layer is the most cracked is the best part?

Perhaps it’s the English in me that was bought up eating stodgy sweets- steamed puddings, sticky toffee puddings, Queen of puddings, Bakewell puddings, bread and butter puddings, Christmas puddings. There is, it would seem very good reasoning behind us brits calling desserts: pud? Oh glorious tummy bulging filling puddings baptized in thick, free flowing, pleasantly yellow custard. When I was at school I would wait to see what was on for pudding before deciding whether or not to eat lunch. This was part due to the fact that puddings were the only good thing my school kitchen seemed capable of churning out without an objectionable name and equally objectionable taste and part due to my fondness for stodgy puds. But when sweets are on the table I’ve never had the same inclination to scrape around the sides of the pan. I see no appeal in consuming burnt sugar. When it comes to sweet things I plunge my spoon/knife/fork straight into the middle of the pan- not ignoring the crispy toppings, just the unpalatable corners.

So, as far as I’m concerned these culinary gadget designers need to come up with something edgeless but thanks for the new lasagna pan. And for those who want to sample some great savoury cripsy edges try here or here.

A RECIPE: Squash, chorizo & feta tartlets


For my sins, I’m cooking, as part of an auctioned prize in support of United Way. My sister always suckers me into doing such events promising that it will be good for my career and I just nod my head greedily eagerly and then go home and get completely strung-out about the possible consequences of my acceptance. It’s not that I’m not charitable- it’s that I can’t say no, even when I’m swimming a little out of my depth.

The event concept is based on the show Iron Chef and there will be canapes and cocktails, which are taught respectively by myself and a mixologist. Teams will then compete to come up with the best canapes/cocktails of the evening. The prize auctioned for $4,000 and will involve an evening of highly-paid and important business executives, which is hence the reason why I feel like I’m drowning off the side of my own boat. Flattered, sure but sensing the need to perform- hell yes.

And so I have been testing out canapes with the following guidelines- they have to be simple so that people can actually do them at home (and so that I’m not up making them all night the night before) but they have to be worth the $4,000 price tag. Now that’s a concept. I’ve come up with one idea (you have to start somewhere), which utilises all of my favourite ingredients without being overly fatty or rich. Wonton wrappers are similar to Phyllo pastry but being precut and a tad thicker they are much easier (and that’s a word we all love) to use. Now for anyone who actually wants to pay me $4,000.00 to teach them three canape, you already know I won’t say no.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Squash, chorizo & feta tartlets’

Not feeling the love

It’s hard to get in the mood for Valentine’s day when the day before it’s rainy cats and dogs outside, your running late for work despite the alarm going off at 4:45 am and the elevator in your apartment building is out of order, oh and when you finally do make it out of the door after a trip back up the seven flights of stairs to get your rain coat,your umbrella does an impressive back flip and jars an elderly lady walking past (which I now know is only funny in films). Frankly, by this point in my day (and it was only 5:43 am) I felt like my guts-on-the-outside-umbrella, only minus the gold medal gymnastics. There was no love in the air. nada, zilch, niente- well you get the idea.

They say things can only get better-but I can categorically say when you start the day like you’ve been thrown in the pool with your clothes on (on a winters day) and there’s no more PG-tips left, there’s very little to feel bright about. So, I did what any right-minded girl in a grump and a sodden jumper would do- I got out a set of scales. If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t yet come across an activity or the person in your life to bring you up when you’re down, then let me suggest you drag your sad little feet into the kitchen. Sweet smells from the oven warm the heart, enliven the senses and really, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves…one more biscuit will make everything better? This isn’t to say that Don, doesn’t live up to his relationship-bound duties but I didn’t want to bring him down the day before Valentine’s Day and make him forget my flowers (Don, you did buy me flowers, right?).

Walking to the subway after work I chucked my useless brolly on a pile of other discarded ones’ by the curb- seems like no matter how much you shell out there is no such thing as a good umbrella. There are however good biscuits. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A RECIPE: Coconut krispies


Who hasn’t swooned over a Rice Krispie Treat in their life? They were certainly a prominent feature at all my school sports matches growing up and when I made them for my cousins last year they thought I was a some sort of culinary genius (bless their easy-to-please-sweet-toothed-souls). I thought my Aunt Nicky had really outdone me when she invented the Rice Krispie Treat avec Cadbury’s Caramel bars- now this was definitely a genius idea but I have no sooner learnt that Rice Krispie treats are more diverse than one would think. The other day at work we had to make Rice Krispie Treats (my job can be so challenging sometimes) and it bought back all these wonderful memories- sometimes it only the trashiest of recipes that are the most memorable. Being who I am though, I couldn’t possibly publish a recipe that was on the back of a box of cereal- it had to be altered, and that’s when I noticed the bottle of coconut oil, staring down at me, glistening enthusiastically in the sun.

Okay, okay so I admit that I’ve taken this whole coconut oil obsession a tad too far. And so, I promise you that this is the last of the recipes (at least for the time being). I do hate having half empty jars in my cabinets though and this finished the last of it off and so now I can move on to something else. This is hardly a recipe anyway- but it makes a wonderful afternoon treat and I even managed to stay away from adding chocolate, so it’s dairy free for all you intolerant people. If you don’t like the coconut oil, then suit yourself and replace with butter (you traditionalist you).

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Death by Chocolate, yes please

If I were to drown in a sea of 72% cocoa chocolate in this, my 25th year, rest assured, I would not have died in vain. I’m not attempting to sound morbid but coughing and spluttering chocolate as it’s silky bittersweetness wrapped itself around me- it couldn’t be that bad could it? You only have to click my recipes page to witness my incontestable bias towards said ingredient* and though I try to steer myself away from time to time to give others a chance to step up to the plate, I always end up thinking:”it would be even better with some chocolate”. Caviar, overrated, foie gras, take it or leave it, filet mignon, well if I must, chocolate, mmmm….

And though I favour chocolate in my baking above all other notable additions, nothing beats a square, or two, or oh heck, the whole bar of 72% cocoa on its own in all its heavenly decadence. There are few instances in my day where I actually get to sit back and think about what I’m eating and yet when my teeth snap off the corner of a piece of chocolate, my pursed lips close around it and my tongue rubs it against the roof of my mouth… I close my eyes and have a moment. Yes, really, I have moments when I eat chocolate- stop judging. My sister has always poked fun at me for how long it takes me to eat a morsel of chocolate, savouring every last milligram, placing it down in between each bite to reflect, breath, enjoy. Some people need yoga, red wine or a hot bath to relax- for me it’s chocolate. Chocolate is my zen. It is no wonder that I was never any good at that childhood game where you had to run into the middle of a circle dress up and try and eat as much of a bar of chocolate as you could with a knife and fork before somebody else rolled a set of doubles with the dice and replaced you. I’d have one square and want to lie back and sleep- satiated on first bite.

Continue reading ‘Death by Chocolate, yes please’

Saturday morning baking

Some people unwind at the end of the week with hot bath, a yoga session or a glass of wine but for it’s baking on Saturday mornings. I feel more focused and at ease with life when I’m baking in my pyjamas as the sun comes up with a mug of tea in hand and the radio on in the background. I roll out of bed without an alarm, put on my glasses, tie my hair back and get the kettle going. Before Don has even stirred, the apartment has been filled with sweet smells and I’m already covered in flour as I jot down notes in my testing book. And no, I’m not middle-aged (eccentric, probably) I just sometimes prefer the life of one who’s considered to be middle-aged. Dinner parties, good wine, NPR and baking on Saturday mornings. This of course, makes going out partying on Friday evenings considerably undesirable. Then my Saturday mornings are spent rolling around in bed well passed the rising of the sun demanding tea and complaining how I’ve wasted my favourite day of the week. So, middle-aged Saturday’s tend to win out, despite my best attempts at being sociable on Fridays.

It is my need for baking therapy on Saturday mornings that now a year into my relocation from London to New York, I still find the nightlife in New York intimidating. The days of ‘last tube’ and ‘last call’ are well and truly over. In fact going out in New York on the weekend tends to commence when normally everyone would be downing their last pint, were it a London pub. Invitations to parties starting at 7 pm are unheard of- it’s more like 10, 11 or even 12. Relaxing at the weekends used to be sacrosanct, now they are a highly sought after commodity. As someone who loves their bed, and sleeping in it even more, you can see how this has proven to be somewhat of a complication for me. I’ve adapted to many things in New York over the last year, measuring in cups and ounces included, but shifting into the late night mode is one type of jet-lag that I decidedly will never adjust to. I thought I understood the meaning behind the city that never sleeps phrase before I moved here, but I had no idea quite how sleep-deprived this city really was. New Yorkers don’t unwind in a very relaxing manner.

I could argue that it’s how hard I work during the week, or the fact that I start work before the crack of dawn that makes me long for my bed on a Friday night- but really I know in my heart of hearts, it’s baking on Saturday mornings. AARP card not required.

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