Archive for the 'New York city' Category

New Years Solution

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. – Douglas Adams

As I bundled myself up and stomped up Brooklyn Bridge in my ‘Happy New Years!’ cone hat, popped a bottle of champagne and rung in the new year, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to think of what issues in my life needed resolving. That is until my first five days of the new year were spent having coughing fits and cold sweats whilst similtaneously working my way through several boxes of Puffs with lotion and Vicks tissues, gallons of tea and the last of my Karvel. In my misery I was unsurprisingly able to come up with rather a lot of things that I could improve on to make my life more comfortable- taking more zinc and vitamin C obviously topping the list.

The reason of course that I had not decided upon my resolutions prior to getting the lurgy was because I currently live at work- not for work, just atwork. This has averaged in at around seventy hours per week these past few months- woe is me. When people ask me if I go home and cook at the end of the day I cower in embarrassment- “no of course not, who has time to cook dinner at night?” Whereas once I would avidly spend an hour preparing dinner each night I now find myself little energy or will to cook at the end of each working day- an omelette is about the extent of my imagination come dinner time .

Coincidentally, this excessive amount of time spent at work appears to be a bit of an obstacle in achieving my newly laid-out resolutions, which all involve time and more of it. More time put into my well being, more time with Don, more time running, more time cooking, more time enjoying food, more time cooking in the evenings, more time with friends, more time traveling, reading, writing, having fun, more, more, more, more, more time! And if I spent less time at work, allowing more time for these activities, I would spend less time complaining about how many hours I work, which would be good for all of us.  So you see, this year I’ve decided that I don’t have any resolutions. I have a solution- to work less. Now I just have to work out how to tell the boss…

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’

A RECIPE: Cheese & walnut gougeres

This weekend my parents are throwing their third annual office party and for the third year in a row I’m heading over to Kentucky for an evening of unpaid but highly appreciated work. It’s really a simple affair- buffet style, and my expertise isn’t at all necessary but my mother would rather not deal with the stress of cooking and my father likes to claim that he’s flown in his private Chef. The fact that I’m not a chef and never have been is ignored and for one evening a year I’m The London (now New York) Chef. This year I will be accompanied my very own tried and tested wine waiter- my boyfriend. For a ‘wears-a-suit-to-work’ kind of guy- he’s extraordinarily good at playing the more subordinate and helping role of a bar waiter. So, now my father can proudly boast he’s flying in his Chef and Bar tender.

The problem is- seeing as I’m always cooking other peoples’ recipes, I tend to get carried away with the menu. If you’ve read any of my previous posts and recipes then you’ll know that I’m a simple cook, though I do like to add a few extra ingredients here and there. In other words, you wouldn’t find me bringing plain hot dogs and buns to a BBQ. I sent the proposed menu to my mother weeks ago:
Slow cooked leg of lamb, feta and herb salad, cod poached in olive oil with gremolata, roasted garlic and tomato tart…

“Sounds delicious. We’ll use salmon and put it on the grill”, my mother said.

“What’s lamb?”, asked my father’s secretary.

Being fed-up with making burgers at work all summer, I pleaded to my mother to allow me some creative liscence and go with the lamb

“Oh, don’t worry- it tastes a lot like beef when it’s slow cooked” my mother replied.

Organic leg of lamb cooked for seven hours in stock and wine at a low simmer until it peals off the bone in tender strands of succulence- and you want to say it’s BEEF!

Dessert is another headache altogether. This crowd loves desserts, which tend to be the main event and no matter how many I make the the FHB (Family Hold Back) rule always comes into effect. I make proper puddings (which are not as an American thinks- custards thickened with corn flour- or should I say corn starch?). Convincing the crowd isn’t hard- explaining what it is can be! Last year I made a summer pudding, hand picked berries and all. It was stared at a little ominously, until I cut into its glistening bread casing and the fruit came tumbling out. I had to called my peach and raspberry crumble a cobbler but the chocolate éclairs were devoured instantly and I was thanked very much for making such wonderful “cream puffs”. But how can I complain? They all enjoy my food and even if the lambs not quite tender enough for me, or my meringue crisp enough- I know that I will get huge compliments. What’s in a name anyway?
Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Cheese & walnut gougeres’

A Match Made in Heaven & Ricotta and Basil Gnocchi

Heston Bluementhal’s Michelin Starred UK restaurant: ‘The Fat Duck‘ relies on the concept of imagination and experimentation. His famous ‘scrambled egg and bacon ice cream’ and ‘snail porridge’ have people waiting three months in order to pay a fortune for a taste of his quirky combinations. Though this might be extreme, across the globe there are many food pairings that baffle even the most cosmopolitan palate- peanut butter and jelly. Like so many of my fellow Brits I ask the question- why?

According to the National Peanut Board nine out of ten American households have a jar in their cupboard and the average American consumes six pounds a year. It goes without saying that PB&J sandwiches are the most popular method of consumption; but this sweet on sweet alliance has yet to cross the pond.

In the UK peanut butter holds a less than prominent position on the supermarket shelves and most people I know over there either don’t own a jar or have one stuck to a shelf way in the back that was probably bought for me when I last visited. What you will find very easily in an English supermarket is Marmite. For those who don’t know, Marmite is deliciously salty, resembles molasses in texture and is full of the vitamin B’s. In the UK, 370,000 tons of Marmite is consumed each year- and that’s a heck of a lot, considering you only need a tiny bit at a time. Having lived in both countries, I finally came round to the idea of Peanut butter- though I’m the only one in my family who eats it.

In my house, we ate Marmite. Marmite and butter on toast to be precise. As I grew up and became more daring in my culinary endeavours I began pairing it with honey, cheese- mainly cheddar and then apples (which my sister taught me) the started using it to add flavour to Bolognese sauce. I even learnt as an assistant Food Stylist how to use it to paint a roast chicken for an even colour. Finally, twenty-four years into my transatlantic life and I have discovered the perfect match for Marmite and it was there all along- natural crunchy peanut butter. Don’t buy the kinds with the sugar just buy all natural and spread them both together- on a bagel, or a rice cake, or just do as I do (much to my boyfriends disgust) and lick them off the spoon in harmonious unison.

I have found that on the whole Americans’ do not like the idea of marmite- which perhaps has something to do with the fact that its found in the baking aisle next to powdered yeast (if it’s sold there at all). “Yeast extract? ughhh!” my colleague gasped as I pronounced my loyalty. She pulled a face similar to that of a baby who isn’t sure about the taste of its carrot puree and is thinking about whether or not they ought to cry about it. And there I was thinking that my enthusiasm would be enough to tempt her. This attitude is such a far cry away from England.

There is a first class restaurant in London called “The Providores” that serves a fabulous brunch menu. When I was at cooking school the Head Chef, Peter Gordon, came to do a demonstration and he told my class that the best seller on his fusion brunch menu was ‘soft boiled eggs with Vegemite (Ozzy version of Marmite) soldiers!’ So, if us Brits are so keen on this salty taste- why aren’t Americans?

Lets face it, we ALL, yes that’s right every single one of us has a food habit- or two that makes the rest cringe. My sister eats cottage cheese with everything, my boyfriend mashes up every michelin starred meal I cook for him(!) with ketchup, my dad likes his crusty left-uncovered-in-the-fridge-cheese with marmalade on cold toast, my mum spreads her bagels with butter, cream cheese and jam (and no she’s not even slightly overweight) and my brother is one of the pickiest eaters alive- but I bet he eats something wacky.

The Fat Duck are currently recruiting staff for its ‘experimental kitchen’ and if people are queuing up for three months in order to try ‘salmon poached in liquorice’ then peanut butter and Marmite might not be so far off the next big thing- lets just hope it’s not turned into ice cream.

Ricotta and Basil Gnocchi

I think this is a pretty safe combination- but for those daring souls, try adding different herbs or even some anchovies to your sauce. I had this recipe published in Woman and Home magazine in March 2007.

Serves 4

500g/1 lb 2 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
200g/7 oz plain flour, plus extra
2 tbsp grated fresh parmesan
5 tbsp chopped fresh basil
drizzle of olive oil
200g/7 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, diced
50g/2oz black pitted olives (optional)
300ml/ 1/2 pint passata
3 tbsp sea salt
drizzle of oil and Parmsan shavings to serve

1/ Beat together the ricotta and egg yolk, then add three-quarters of the flour, the Parmesan and 4 tbsp of the basil and fold together to make a soft but not sticky dough. Add more flour as necessary and season well.

2/ Flour your hands and roll the gnocchi into logs 2.5cm wide and let chill on floured parchement for 30 mintues.

3/ Drizzle a little oil into a non-stick frying pan and toss in the tomatoes, garlic and olives(if using), mixing together for 5 minutes before addig the passata for 2 minutes, to heat through. Stir through the remaining basil and season to taste.

4/ Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the sea salt. Cut the gnocchi into 1 inch logs and drop one at a time into the boiling water. Cook until the gnocchi float to the surface (about 2-3 minutes) then drain and serve immediately with the tomato sauce spooned on top and the parmesan.

Supermarket Bowling

If there’s one thing that food stylists excel at, it’s supermarket bowling. That is to say being able to fight through (and survive) the jammed-to-the hilt, not-fit-for-a-sardine-in-a-tin conditions that one is subjected to when food shopping. Next to the importance of seeking out the most beautifully wonderfully gorgeously perfect bunch of basil- it’s an essential skill of the trade. Without this skill- I would not discount the possibility that one day you should find yourself sat in a circle on a plastic chair stating your name and why you require anger management. Regardless of whether or not your dream vocation is to be able to spot herbal perfection- you may still find some use from this lesson. If, however, you’ve spent time in New York city- food stylist, restranteur, microwave dinner enthusiast or otherwise, I’m sure that you can mutually commiserate with me on the frustrations of overpopulated supermarkets.

I broach the subject of supermarket bowling with an air of caution. This is not for the faint hearted- more hard-hearted, if you will. I do not classify myself as a nasty person- I’m an efficient person and when the supermarket entrance is barred by the sweet little old lady who has paused inconsequentially to remove her woolly hat and gloves – my efficiency levels drop. I dream of Supermarket Sweep- sparkling clean obstruction-free aisles that one can rush freely down tossing the necessary dinner components into a trolley in seconds. I spent my last blog bemoaning the fact that obviously nobody in New York cooks based on the size of their kitchens. But according to the number of people loitering in the supermarket aisles- they all cook. And I wish they bloody didn’t.

An undoctored picture of my local supermarket is enough to lead any normal person to the gates of insanity. There is consistently an unhealthy array of wailing toddlers challenging the nerves of their frantic mothers (and everybody else’s). Dumpy menopausal women crowd the fridges as they optimistically compare the calorie contents on the backs of each and every low fat yoghurt. A clean up team rushes to mop up a spillage (usually something sticky) and two shoppers try to disentangle their trolleys after attempting to pass side by side down one of the narrow aisles. Meanwhile, at the fish counter two men will heatedly debate who had been waiting longer as two young kids playing tag, rush past screaming bloody murder. Combine this scenario with the sweet little old lady who has now stopped dead (no pun intended)- overwhelmed by the choices of olive oil and you have more chaos brewing in this small upper west side supermarket than at Marilyn Manson concert. A situation that can only be resolved by bakram yoga- or supermarket bowling.

Supermarket bowling is a head-down, don’t look back, every-man-for-himself, survival of the fittest approach to getting through crowds; quickly. Imagine it as a game of chicken. Your trolley is your 1959 Mustang, you’re Danny Zuko and you’re not turning off the road for nobody. Stare through the competition – this is your Zen, adopt a look of dangerous instability, shop in pairs, one stands with the trolley as the other ducks and dives through the crowds. In extreme circumstances, consider more aggressive actions. For instance the trolley-to-ankle strike or the release of unfriendly wind- but remember to avoid arguments with other competitors as this will only serve as a time waster and the key here is to getting in and out quickly. As with all things- practice makes perfect. With that in mind- I’m off to find dinner. May the best man win.

Continue reading ‘Supermarket Bowling’


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