Archive for May, 2008

Hello, Microwave!

There’s been an awful lot of button punching going on in my Brooklyn pad since my kitchen was demolished. I’ve been getting reacquainted with my microwave, an old pal from my boarding school days. It was then that I relied on it equally with Mr. Toaster to provide me with the necessary sustenance that school house meals were unable to provide. Saturday night at the pub were not complete without cheese toasties made with the toaster on laying on its side and microwave pasta & sauce. The cheese toasties were legendary but the microwave pastas less so. In the years since, my Quasar has had little more than a look in from me and sees more mugs of lukewarm tea and hard brown sugar than it does food. There’s something about cooking in a microwave that just makes me gag- perhaps its the way the smell of microwaved salmon lingers in the work kitchen after one of the crew cooks his dinner.

So we’ve been making up for lost times and becoming buddies again. Well, sort of. He didn’t like it when I tried to bake a chocolate chip cookie yesterday (hey, things are desperate around here, people and I needed something sweet). There were a few sparks and zapping noises and my apartment was left with the unforgettable smell of burnt chocolate intermingling with paint fumes. He also doesn’t know that once this whole renovation debacle is over and I’m no longer high on the paint fumes he’s going to lose his prime real estate position on the kitchen table. When I have my new kitchen he’ll either be making friends with other recycled appliances or perhaps hanging out with a less neglectful neighbour who fancies its electromagnetic waves cooking their dinner. It’s a sad fate, but Quasar just doesn’t fit into my new kitchen design.

I can’t claim that I’ve been nuking-up culinary wonders though- think more like the occasional sweet potato and frozen leftovers from the freezer. And there’s nothing like microwaving leftovers and sweet potatoes to induce a phase of culinary meloncholy. The electromagnetic waves paired with the thought of washing-up in the bathroom sink and eating off of paper plates seem to have zapped my enthusiasm. I thought that I might make myself feel better by going through my cookbooks and magazine clippings and dog ear all the things that I’m going to try when I have a kitchen again. But alas, it has not helped. Not only has this made me more depressed but I’ve also managed to wrack up quite a hefty Amazon bill on new cookbooks- which I decidedly do not already have enough of. I’m like a child writing their wish list from Santa Claus in July. Christmas will never come soon enough.

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A RECIPE: Speckled coconut macaroons

It happens every time I try to follow a recipe. I’ve mixed together all of the ingredients listed on the page and scooped a delicate pinky in for a sampling. And then similtaneously, or so it would seem, something through the cracked-open cupboard door grasps a hold of my eye, lures me towards it and forces me add it to a what could have been a perfectly fine recipe. Sometimes I wish I’d just tried the recipe untampered with and sometimes I have to admit I find myself thinking it was a stroke of culinary fate. Fate or just pure genius. Speckled coconut macaroons came about on one of these occasions.

Everything got in my way when I was trying to work on this recipe for the blog. Work for one thing, really got in the way. And then because I haven’t had an oven the only way to test them was at work- which I’ve been banned from doing so I had to sneak test them without the original recipe to hand. Honestly, the trouble I get myself into trying to keep this blog going. Then it was too dark to photograph them, which meant that I couldn’t eat them (talk about tedious) and by the time I did photograph them they were a bit past their best. I did manage to get there in the end though- and I think you’ll find yourselves thanking me for my troubles. Your welcome.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Speckled coconut macaroons’

Starting over

I apologise for neglecting my blog over the past ten days. It’s not that I haven’t wanted tap at my keyboard but life has somehow gotten in the way of me and my Mac. I was away at the weekend for a friends fabulous wedding and then when I returned after fourteen hours at work on Monday night this is what I faced when I walked in the door of my tiny apartment.

Oh, alright, so it wasn’t a complete surprise- I did know it was coming but somehow seeing my kitchen smashed to smithereens still provided quite the shock factor. Even if it was horrifyingly out of date, lacked a working oven and generally drove me bonkers. My mother tells me that renovating is one of the most stressful things that a couple can go to next to moving, divorce and planning a wedding. Well, in the past eighteen months, Don and I have moved country once, moved apartment twice, and similtaneously have started planning a wedding and kitchen renovations. One of these days, I’m going to have to learn to slow down. In the meantime though, my biggest concern is how we are going to eat for the next six weeks and what am I going to blog about? It may well turn into the London Foodie learns to microwave blog- we’ll see, perhaps I’ll try eating out first. At least for the next couple of weeks you’ll be covered with a stash of pre-demolished-kitchen recipes (phew). Heck, I’ve survived three months without an oven- I think I can take six weeks without a kitchen.

In the meantime though (whilst I peruse over the microwave cooking manual) – here are some of my favourite recipes from the past year.

Gluten-free Biscotti

Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread

Squash, Chorizo & Feta Tartlets

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Feta Cheese, Cucumber & Tomato Herb Salad

A RECIPE: Sweet & savoury Israeli couscous

It’s only recently that I’ve developed a favouritism for Israeli couscous. Not one who usually chooses starchy carbohydrates over whole grains I never gave it a nibble. I resolved that it was just fancy couscous that you were only served in fancy restaurants who wanted to put couscous on the menu only with a more glamorous name. And then -I ate it at work, when a not-so-fancy-chef cooked it and I realised that it’s not fancy at all; it’s just good.

Actually, it came as quite a surprise to me that I so thoroughly enjoyed it- after all it does have an uncanny resemblance to frog spawn. But the nutty flavour and highly satisfying squeaky noise it made when I chewed won me over. It’s so much nicer than the grainy texture of normal couscous that just slips down your gob with no necessity to chew- it has more depth and it’s much more filling. Of course, it does take more effort to cook than bog standard couscous- I mean you can’t just pour over boiling water and come back to it; you actually have to cook it, people! The horror! Being a cooking blog though, I decided that this really wasn’t too much to ask of my readers- especially given the fact that it only takes ten minutes to do and because you’ve had weeks of no oven required recipes whilst my faulty oven situation drags on. And on.

Feel free to substitute the apricots for other dried fruits or cooked chicken and the nuts as you please- I won’t hate you, mine are only suggestions. There is a simple recipe and a more involved recipe. And when I say involved I’m referring to the fact that you’ll have to open up your cupboards and search through your spice jars. Is that really too much to ask?

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Sweet & savoury Israeli couscous’

Schlepping, a food stylists way of life

If you’re a food stylist then you are probably very familiar with the term schlepping. Schlepping round the grocery store, schlepping groceries, schlepping props and equipment into a cab, up to your apartment, out to a studio….. schlep schlep schlep. Schelp. It should be a part of the job description if not the title. Yes, food stylists often eat the best food, work with amazing chefs, on TV or with famous photographers but it a far from glamerous lifestyle, I can assure you, personally.

Most people are unfamiliar with the term food styling and if I ate a cupcake for every time I heard the question: “you do what?” then I would be one well-rounded woman. Mind, I myself didn’t know what a food stylist was until I fell into it, literally. “Oh, so that’s where the pretty food pictures in the books and magazines that make you drool come from.” and “you mean that chef lied when he said ‘and here’s one I made earlier”? I liked food, I liked photos of food and I liked making food look nice and one day I met somebody who did this for a living. Well that was me sold! I can’t say that I wasn’t partly swayed by the vast quantity of leftover sausages that I was able to fill my University freezer with after the shoot but mostly it was the fact that it seemed so fun. It would be like working in a restaurant, only better. It would be exciting! I would work for myself with more reasonable hours, better pay, more variation, less chaos and there would be a constant change of scenery. All of a sudden I had an answer to my father’s list of questions asked hours before my graduation: “What are you going to do with your life? How are you going to support yourself? How do you intend to pay your rent?” I was going to be a food stylist. I could do more than cook for my friends and University bake sales- I could make the whole world want to cook just by making something look good! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I’m rather fortunate in the fact that I now work out of the same kitchen everyday so the majority of my schlepping is grocery bags rather than food processors. And without any schlepping I’d probably have to get to the gym more, so there is a positive.

However, that being said; if I were to write a job description for food styling now it would be as so: Food stylist needed to transform frequently rubbish recipes into mouth-watering beauties. Must be incredibly neat and organised but be prepared to have a home kitchen full of shopping bags and large plastic containers full of ingredients, equipment and props that are overloading your fridge, freezer, kitchen floor, hallway and if you have one- your garage. Be aware that you will have to schlep these items to and from the studio and up six flights of stairs. You must have keen eyesight be skilled with tweezers, q-tips and toothpicks. Hire an assistant to do your washing up for you and always order in lunch or everyone will look to you as a catering service at the first tummy rumbling. Invest in a pair of clogs to delay the onset of varicose veins and swollen ankles (may I suggest Dansko), they are not a fashion statement- but then neither are you in your curry-splashed-apron and jumper stinking of garlic and occasionally a chip shop. You should practice the art of standing for 14 hours and not going to the loo for up to six hours (a custard will curdle if you turn your back). Should you choose to go into advertising you will have to learn how to make sorting through and grading Grape Nuts for 12 hours meditative rather than soul destroying and utterly mind numbing. Must enjoy a good tipple of vodka, but even if you don’t now- have no fear, you soon will. Finally, you must have a good sense of humour and love food- nothing looks good on camera if it doesn’t taste good. Well, that’s our philosophy at work anyway.

A RECIPE: Coconut and apricot ice

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If I were to put together a collective list of goodies that had me reminiscing my childhood then coconut ice would certainly be among the favourites. Perhaps it’s the fact that being simple to make, it was one of the few things that my mother dared to let me have a go at in the kitchen or the that it was half pink and half white, which seemed quite magical to a younger me. Pink food! All that paired with my deep, shared affection for coconut and condensed milk is why it surprises even myself that I haven’t thought to make some since. Sometimes I wonder where I’ve lost my brain to.

On this occasion I found it in the bottom of a Fairway shopping bag that my boss had bought for the days prep. A plastic container with tiny white squares labeled “French coconut cubes”. French??! Well, that would explain the lack of pink food colouring present and the measly portions but honestly must the French claim all food as their own culinary ingenuity? Coconut ice is most definitely British by my books and it is far too rarely seen for that matter. Perfect as petit-fours, at afternoon tea, kids parties- I don’t really see an occasion when it wouldn’t be appropriate to serve them.

For those unfamiliar readers, coconut ice has nothing to do with ice cream but rather is a mixture of shredded coconut, condensed milk and icing sugar that when mixed together becomes stiff and utterly divine. Traditionally, (in England) half of the mixture is died pink and then the white and pink mixtures are layered to give you a two-toned effect. Using shredded rather than dessicated coconut is important in this magical equation because it keeps it juicy and so wonderfully chewy that you may begin to think that you’re eating something healthy. Don’t kid yourself. I would find it hard to justify these as healthy but the onset of mild jaw discomfort from heavy-duty chewing should prevent you from eating more than you should in one sitting.

This recipe is what I like to think of as a grown-up version of coconut ice. Gone is the pink food colouring, because I now find the idea of eating hot pink food less magical and more repellent and in comes a spattering of dried apricots to break up the grainy texture and add a new twist. I bet the French never thought of that! Of course, even with the apricots these still remain a highly sugary treat and should only be consumed in moderation, whatever your individual levels of moderation may be.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Coconut and apricot ice’

Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris

It is on very rare occasions that us keyboard communicators are actually fortunate enough to come face to face with other bloggers. A person whose pictures and words you follow weekly, if not daily, fascinated to know what they have been working and musing on and yet often haven’t got a clue what they look like,how old they are or what their voice sounds like. But what I suspect is even more rare, is when you find yourself working with another blogger, whose blog you look forward to reading each week and tune into like an addictive soap opera.

This week I had the great pleasure of not only meeting Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini but also cooking and styling (and tasting!) recipes from her new cookbook for her live demonstration on the Today Show. Now, all I have to do is take a trip to Paris and I will have the perfect handbag-sized culinary guide to hand. And what more could one want on a trip to Paris, I ask? It’s days like these when I really appreciate what I slave for to pay the mortgage, the long hours, spider veins and swollen feet are comfortably brushed under the oven when the opportunity arises to work with somebody who has inspired me. Continue reading ‘Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris’


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