Competition Time

This year I’ve teamed up with Total Greek Yoghurt to bring you my Boxing Day Sandwich Competition!

Click on the present below or on the Competition page above to find out more.

Boxing Day Sandwich Design Competition 2012FAGE TOTAL Classic And please give generously to Action Against Hunger UK by clicking on the “Sponsor me” button at the bottom of the page.

Thank you xxx

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The Revenger’s Tragedy

So while I was on holiday in Herefordshire over the Summer I got a text message from the associate director at the Leicester Curve Theatre, and good chum, Suba Das (check me out with my glamorous friends!) asking me to come up with a bespoke cocktail for his next production; The Revenger’s Tragedy.

Of course I said YES!!! I really need very little excuse to get out the cocktail shaker 😉

He put me in touch with his production team and designers and that’s when the brief started to take some serious (and rather restrictive) shape. They wanted:

  • A new cocktail recipe
  • Must be Edwardian in style
  • Needs an element of “theatre” or “process” to it (but not too much as it might not be served by professional mixologists)
  • Quick to prepare at the interval as all the customers could arrive at once
  • There’s no freezer on site so ice is a no, no

Right….

I went away, got slightly obsessed by trying to add grapefruit juice to many things, none of which worked.

Then, on a whim I turned my attention to the ingredients list from a bottle of fentiman’s rose lemonade. The packaging looks fairly Edwardian…ish and I checked in some of my more ancient cookery books that rose would have been used as a flavouring a century ago and it all seemed rather plausible. Rose lemonade is delicious and it inspired me to add ginger to the mix – as the ginger cuts through any soapiness you might get from the rose but equally the rose takes a little of the harshness from the ginger. I just hoped that I could make something similar (and obviously boozier!)

I was still keen on using the grapefruit juice simply because it was pink as I figured anything rose flavoured should be pink…except it really didn’t taste brilliant and I was still struggling to find anything theatrical apart from using a cocktail shaker, and that was out as it would have been too complicated. Aaagh!

CHAMBORD!!! of course. How could I forget this?! I’d been offered some in a glass of prosecco one Christmas and not only is it delicious but who could resist the perfume like bottle with gold band and sparkly cap – not me! Chambord (a black raspberry liqueur from France) luckily sinks nicely to the bottom of the glass to give a beautiful pink gradient – much better than the grapefruit juice and it worked really well with the rose! Success at last – it only took a month!

The Gloriana

It’s called The Gloriana after the murdered wife of the main character, the revenger, Vindice.

1 measure of Gin

1 tsp of Rosewater

4 measures of Ginger Beer

1/2 measure of Chambord (or other raspberry liqueur)

Make sure all the ingredients are chilled before making this or slide in a couple of ice cubes a the end.

1) Pour the Gin into the glass

2) Stir in the Rosewater

3) Add the Ginger Beer

4) Slowly add the Chambord – don’t stir, let it sink, Serve!

My cocktail is now on sale at the interval in a purpose built Edwardian style bar, complete with an Edwardian barmaid! You can purchase a Gloriana during performances of The Revenger’s Tragedy at Hoxton Hall (10th of October – 10th of November).

 

This play is pretty gruesome so it’s perfect for Halloween – grab a ticket here. Or if you can’t get to London you’ll just have to dig out those cocktail glasses and stir up a couple of Gloriana’s at home.

x

 

Adventures in Canapés

I think a good canapé should look and taste delicious but equally your guests need to know they will be able to actually pick the thing up!

You shouldn’t need to use your hand like a claw from a fairground toy-grabbing machine just to avoid the very real danger of the base of the canapé sliding to the floor whilst the topping collides with your eveningwear! Many a lapel has fallen foul of a blob of rogue hollandaise! (true story!)

Canapés are ace when done well (and structurally sound), and I love them because they are a great way to feed people who are going to be moving around a lot! Together with my business partner Bradley Taylor; we are going to be hosting themed pop-up cabaret nights in London. We are very keen to have our events centred around food to help bring together the theme and make everyone feel welcome.

Because canapés are small you can have real fun with the flavours and reinvent classics to fit your theme. Pastry or mini pancakes make great bases so why not try adding additional flavours to the mix. Add fresh dill to blini batter before frying and top with sour cream and salmon or Bradley’s creation of cooked prawns mixed with chilli jam and fresh rocket – delicious!

Canapés don’t just need to be reserved for parties or events; a plate of three of four would make an elegant starter for a special meal and many can be prepared in advance.

Mini Sweet potato & cardamom patties

We’re making sweet potato patties for our first big event so we’ve put mild curry powder into the pastry to give it a subtle spicy flavour and a lovely yellow colour (Makes around 25)

For the Pastry

200g plain flour

100g of butter

2 tablespoons of mild/medium curry powder

1 teaspoon of turmeric

cold water

1 egg beaten

For the filling

1 small sweet potato (around 150-200g)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder

1 small red onion finely diced

1 red pepper finely diced

100g of sweetcorn

50g of peas

1 teaspoon of honey

Start by making the filling:

1) Peel and chop the sweet potato into large chunks and boil for around 10 minutes or until soft. Drain, mash and set aside.

2) Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the cardamom and the chilli powder

3) When the mixture starts to sizzle add the onion and red pepper. Reduce the heat and allow to soften slowly until the onion starts to be come translucent but not brown.

4) Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, peas and honey. Keep stirring until everything is thoroughly combined and the honey has melted into the mix.

5) Take the filling off the heat and set aside whilst you make the pastry.

6) Rub the butter, flour and spices together in a bowl until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs

7) Add a pinch of salt then gradually add the water – only add just enough to bring it together to form a firm and smooth dough (so just add it a dessertspoonful at a time and knead gently as you go).

8) Wrap it in cling film and rest the pastry in the fridge for around 30 minutes

9) Once rested roll out to around 1 or 2mm thick and cut into circles with a straight or fluted round pastry cutter.

10) Brush one side of each circle with beaten egg

11) Place ½ teaspoonfuls of the filling mixture onto one half of each pastry circle and then fold the opposite side over to cover it and enclose the filling into half circle shaped patties.

12) Press to seal and then use a fork to make small indentations along one side (this helps secure the seal and looks good too)

13) Repeat until all the pastry is used and brush all the patties with the rest of the egg wash.

14) Bake at 200°C for around 10 minutes.

15) Serve cold on their own or warm with a red pepper sauce or a yoghurt dip.

(If you have any of the filling mixture left – it makes a great side dish with grilled or barbecued chicken)

Grilled pineapple with lime and coriander

Canapés don’t have to be tricky either – this grilled pineapple number is a cinch but has wonderful flavour – if you can grab some of those fancy bamboo skewers they’ll look extra special. (Makes around 50)

1) Mix the juice of 1 lime with a small bunch of fresh coriander which has been finely chopped. Add half a teaspoon of ground black pepper and set aside.

2) Peel, core and cut 1 fresh pineapple into chunks. Place on a baking tray and the pineapple pieces until they start to caramelise at the edges.

3) Take the tray out from under the grill and immediately pour over the lime and coriander mixture and toss the pineapple gently so it gets well coated in the dressing.

Serve warm or cold on sticks or bamboo skewers.

The recipes in this post are taken from the menu at our “A Tropical Storm” event taking place on the 4th of October at Caipirinha Bar in Highgate – a night of Music, Drama, Comedy and Canapés. Caipirinha is known for it’s great cocktails but we’ll be adding one or two of our own to their menu on the night too, like this Lychee Bellini:

Lychee Bellini

1) Place a whole sprig of fresh mint into a champagne flute.

2) Fill up halfway with Rubicon lychee juice drink

3) Top with prosecco and serve.

It would be wonderful to see you all next Thursday at A Tropical Storm

For more details on our pop-up events venture Taylor & Nice visit our website, come see us on facebook or join in on twitter

xxx

Yoghurt, Smoked Salmon, Prawn & Avocado Parcels

If you find yourself here chances are you’re on the Total Greek Yoghurt Treasure Hunt, welcome intrepid explorers! Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt?! Bravely sailing the seven seas for your fortune in gold and jewels, with untold dangers over the crest of every wave! I can almost taste the excitement!

But online treasure hunts are good too…
This recipe is one of 30 being published across the blogosphere! The more you find the more chances you have of winning. The prize is for this is fantastic; ok so it’s not doubloons, but it certainly is the culinary equivalent; £800 worth of kitchen equipment chosen by chef Paul Merrett – I’ve met this guy, I’d totally trust him to pick me out 800 squids worth of cookery kit, I’ve seen him make couscous out of cauliflower; he’s alright.

When Total asked me to select a recipe from their 1000 strong list I picked this recipe, simply because I love smoked salmon, I think I could actually eat it all day everyday and not get sick of it.

My trusty recipe testers; my boyfriend Richard Kieß and the awesomeness that is my friend Helen Piercy were tasked with creating a set on which the finished dish could be photographed. They had about 10 minutes and could only use what they could find in our studio.
Here they are at work:

Yoghurt, Smoked Salmon, Prawn & Avocado Parcels

Ingredients

250g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt

1 avocado, skinned, destoned & mashed
100g cooked prawns, chopped
Squeeze lemon juice
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
4 slices smoked salmon

Method

1. Mix half the avocado and half the yoghurt together and put to one side.
2. Mix the prawns, remaining avocado and yoghurt, lemon juice and parsley together.
3. Overlap two slices of salmon, and fill with half the prawn mix. Wrap into a parcel.
4. Repeat for the second parcel.
5. Serve with the avocado yoghurt dip on the side.

When I made mine I laid the salmon flat on a sheet of clingfilm, placed a spoonful of the prawn mixture in the centre, gathered the salmon over it and then twisted the cling film around it to form a sphere. I let them rest for a few minutes in the fridge before unwrapping them and flinging them on a plate with the avocado dip and some fresh watercress.

Top tips: only use the leaves of the parsley in this recipe; stalks can be a bit hard and woody.
Instead of prawns why not experiment with some poached trout or salmon.

These do taste brilliant, and so simple and quick! They definitely make an impressive, easy starter.
You would be forgiven for mistaking the filling for cream cheese but with a truck-load less calories, plus I think the avocado dip would be brilliant with other things too; spread on toast with some sliced radishes, served alongside some poached fish or used as a dip for fishcakes.

 

Total Greek yoghurt have pulled out all the stops to come up with 1000 recipes using their product. Total is the only authentic Greek yoghurt on sale in the UK. Because it is made in Greece in the traditional way it is much thicker and more robust than Greek-styled yoghurt, this makes it ridiculously versatile and can easily become a super substitute for many recipes calling for cream, cream cheese, crème fraîche, bechamel sauce, sour cream or natural yoghurt.

A few months ago I produced a dessert designed to celebrate their 1000 recipe collection and their corresponding Facebook app but I am very happy to be taking part in their treasure hunt and wish you loads of luck in finding the other recipes!

We have hidden away 30 TOTAL recipes on 30 different food blogs across the web. Can you find them? If so, you are in with the chance of winning Paul Merrett’s Ultimate Chef’s Kit, worth over £800. On the tab you’ll find clues leading to 10 of the hidden recipes and over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting additional clues on our timeline to help you find the final 20. The more recipes you find, the more times your name goes into the draw and the more chances you have to win! The recipes are part of our brand new recipe collection 1000 Ways to Love your TOTAL

Total London

I use greek yoghurt loads, it’s a fantastic hero of an ingredient which I use in all sorts of recipes…off the top of my head, right now, I can think of about 10 different recipes. I think that’s pretty good. Well, turns out 10 is rubbish; the people at Total Greek Yoghurt have come up with 1000 recipes using their product! Hats off indeed as they launched 1000 ways to love your total this week.

Greek yoghurt panna cotta

As well as uploading all these ideas to their website they had time to host an event at La Cucina Caldesi (which is a lovely little italian cookery school in central London). I was very excited to be invited and Chef Paul Merrett expertly guided us through making Salmon Rillette, Butternut Squash Tagine and a Semolina Sponge cake.


Salmon Rillettes

Tagine

Semolina Sponge

So, Total have come up with 1000 recipes, arranged an event (where I got to cook, eat, drink wine at lunch time and hang out with super food bloggers like Filipa Kay, Phillipa Moore, Alice Langley and Lynne Clark) and they gave me a whole bunch of yoghurt to take home….I feel utterly lazy in comparison.

To pay homage to my Total experience I decided to come up with a really special dish, something pretty to celebrate their efforts and a recipe not already covered by the 1000 ways campaign; tricky stuff. Scoffing one of the complimentary honey split pots I had a sugary epiphany and an idea started simmering in my brain.


My Total Dessert

Apricots poached in a cardamon syrup with crushed pistachios & honey, greek yoghurt quenelles (oh I love a quenelle) in a walnut shortbread sandwich with turkish delight pieces. (serves 2 with leftover shortbread!)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon of coarsely ground pistachios (plus a little extra for decoration)
1 Total Greek Yoghurt Honey split pot
1 quantity of Delia Smith’s Walnut Shortbread dough (see here for recipe)
10-12 whole cardamom pods
1 orange
200g of caster sugar
6 fresh apricots
1 teaspoon of rose water
icing sugar
2 pieces of rose turkish delight
Method
1) Mix the coarsely ground pistachios with the honey from the split pot & set aside.
2) Make the shortbread dough following the instructions in Delia’s recipe, roll out and cut into rectangles (approx 12cm x 5cm) and place on a baking sheet lined with a sheet of baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, they should just start to turn pale golden at the edges. Leave them to cool on the tray until you’re ready to assemble the dish.

3) To poach the apricots heat 300ml of water, the cardamom pods (slightly bashed to release their fragrance) juice & zest of one small orange and the caster sugar. Bring to the boil then carefully add the whole apricots. Cover them with a piece of baking paper and let simmer for 8 minutes.
Gently remove the apricots from the syrup and set aside to cool.
Allow the syrup to reduce for another 8-10 minutes then turn off the heat and add the rose water.

4) When the apricots are cool enough to handle gently split them in half and remove the stone, cut each half into 3 wedges
Dredge 2 pieces of the shortbread with icing sugar on one side, these will become the lids.

5) Lay an un-sugar dusted piece of shortbread on each plate. Top with teaspoon quenelles of the yoghurt with small amounts of the pistachio honey in between.

6) Then add a layer of the apricot wedges, a little of the fragrant syrup, more pistachio honey and then the sugared lid.

7) Decorate the plate with left over pistachio-honey mixture, small pieces of the turkish delight (cut up using scissors) and drizzle the plate with a bit more of the cardamom syrup.

Crab cakes and updates

I think I may have finally found a way to survive the dreaded “so what do you do?” question and the inspiration came from the depths of my childhood; the TV show Blue Peter.

I always find it difficult to say “I’m doing an assortment of food-related and profile-boosting activities with the sole purpose of one day opening a restaurant” it’s a mouthful, and generally sounds a bit odd. Then I remembered that when the Blue Peter team wanted to reach a goal they used a totalizer. On the show, every time they reached a milestone in their charity campaign the totalizer would light up a new level. I can’t build anything quite so impressive (and I probably shouldn’t as it might be disrespectful to their charity work) but I can draw a career plan with a picture of my restaurant at the end and post it on my about page. I’ll update it with each step along the way until I get there, by that time the internet will have advanced and there’ll no doubt be a widget to make it light up and fling out confetti.
Now when people ask me what I do I can say, “Hi, I’m a food blogger please read my about page”…

… and then I can leg it 🙂

The rehearsals for my TV pilot are going well too; am coping ok now with the whole talking into the camera thing by pretending the lens is that Johnny five robot from the 1980s film Short Circuit, I’m not sure why this helps but I’m gonna go with it.
As soon as we get a location confirmed we’ll start filming so watch this space for updates!

The second big collaborative project is the events company, Taylor & Nice which my new business partner Bradley and I are starting up. We had loads of fun launching our website at the weekend. We hit the shops early on Saturday and spent the rest of the day (and evening) churning out countless canapés and cocktails to liven up the PowerPoint presentations. I would definitely recommend giving your focus group booze and nice food they are bound to love you idea!

One of the best things about hosting a launch party/focus group for a catering venture is that the fridge is full of leftovers for quite a few days afterwards. This has led to a string of easy dinners and last nights Crab Cakes were no exception. In fact the tinned crab and curry paste were surplus items from filming rehearsals and the chilli jam and salad were from the bash. It was lovely to pull together ingredients from these two projects, an edible reminder that I have actually started making good use of my time by working and watching a little less of our Fraiser box set!

Crab cakes

  1. Take 4 medium sized potatoes and boil for 12-15 minutes or until soft.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling chop a handful of flat leaf parsley and put it in a mixing bowl with a tin of crab meat chunks, a tin of dressed crab and a little lime zest. I also added a tiny bit (about 1/4 teaspoonful) of Thai green curry paste but that’s optional.
  3. When the potatoes are ready mash them till smooth and then fold them into the other ingredients.
  4. Shape into 4 fishcakes and coat in breadcrumbs before shallow frying until golden brown
  5. Serve with chilli jam, green salad and mashed avocado.

As Taylor and Nice is just starting out we would be really grateful for your ideas and feedback, if you have a few moments please do fill out our short survey on what makes a good night out in London. xx

Wedding Weekend

This weekend I went to the wedding of Richard’s friends Kate & Sam.
The happy couple had arranged for all the guests to stay in groups in lodges at a holiday park in Woodhall Spa. It was great, each lodge was crossed between a modern apartment and a log cabin in the woods…each one complete with a hot tub on the patio!

We arrived on Friday night with a box of homemade cookies and a few goodies from the supermarket deli counter.
We figured that cookies would be good to share with the other guests at whatever time we arrived and would last the weekend. We made these double chocolate chip cookies from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe which you can find here.

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And we made our own cranberry, cherry, oat and white chocolate ones too which also went down a treat. (see below for the recipe)

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We unpacked the cookies and the booze and then opened the fridge to pile in the cheeses and cured meats we had brought, then suddenly burst into a fit of giggles when we realised that a couple of other guests had clearly had exactly the same idea, resulting in an extremely well stocked “assiette” fridge!

After being introduced to what felt like a hundred smiling new faces I sloped off to bed, sleepy from all the baking and travelling.

The following day was the wedding, it was wonderful, a really happy occasion. The bride looked brilliant in a dramatic white dress with lace accessories. I was particularly impressed that when the celebrations moved to the reception party Kate’s dress was swiftly altered to become slightly shorter for dancing and her fascinator was discreetly swapped for a tiny top hat with feathers as a nod to the Alice in Wonderland theme.

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We shared a barbecue meal, drank pink champagne and signed our names on pieces of Jenga for a guest book that they can play with over the years to come: Genius!

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Later on Richard and I pulled out a bottle of tequila and everyone started dancing to the live ska band (who to my surprise were the same band who played at my graduation in Norwich in 2006 and, fuelled by tequila, I proceeded to bore everyone I could about this coincidence).
The tequila was pretty special too because I had half remembered something I had seen on tv – the theory is that if it’s 100% agave you don’t feel hungover the next day. I would not wish to encourage binge drinking but I am starting to find that even one glass of wine can give me a bit of a hazy head the following morning and surely anything that’s 100% something sounds pretty good right? We found such a product in Waitrose called “el Jimador” so I decided we should give it a whirl.

Sunday arrived and I got up feeling sleepy but not as grotty as I had expected (thanks agave!) and we headed out for a quick round of crazy golf before hitting the road.

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Big congratulations to the lovely Kate and Sam, wishing you lots of happiness xxx

Cranberry, Cherry, Oat & White Chocolate Cookies

Makes 18-20 cookies

Ingredients

85g butter, at room temperature
115g light brown sugar
1 egg
115g self-raising flour
55g rolled oats
100g of white chocolate, chopped
45g of dried cranberries
35g of glacé cherries, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Line a baking sheet with a piece of grease proof paper.

2) Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy in a free standing mixer with the paddle attachment, then beat in the egg.

3) Add the flour and cinnamon and beat once more until thoroughly combined, then fold in the oats, cranberries, cherries and chocolate

4) Drop rounded dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving enough space around each cookie to allow it to spread during baking. Bake the cookies in batches – I made about 9 cookies each time and just changed the grease proof paper for each batch.

5) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Cool slightly on the paper, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. I keep forgetting to buy a wire rack so a few sheets of kitchen paper on a plate works ok too.

Jubi-picnic!

My Jubilee Weekend

I am slightly ashamed to say that with all the meetings, recipe testing and business planning I almost entirely forgot about the 4 day weekend of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Luckily I was prompted just in time when my good pal Helen asked if I would like to go to a street party on Sunday.

Still keen to stick to my healthier ways I whipped up a light, wholesome Jubilee Picnic ready to share at whichever East London bash that would be willing to let us pull up a plastic chair.

I made coronation chicken skewers using free range chicken breasts, yellow peppers and dried fruit, served with a dip made from Greek yoghurt, curry powder, coriander and lemon juice.

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For a more whole-food cucumber sandwich I used rye bread filled with quark, cucumber and dill.20120605-163416.jpg

And as a sweet treat I made some Lemon & Lavender Drizzle Cake & Portmary Scones (both from Harry Eastwood’s book) which were lovely.

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I felt a royal picnic would not be complete without a little Pimm’s but instead of Lemonade I used Perrier to mix which isn’t half bad and much kinder on the teeth!

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We decided to head to London Fields as we thought that there was a good chance that Broadway Market or Columbia Road Market (both pretty much side by side) would be having some kind of shin dig. No such luck. Broadway Market was empty and Columbia Road had it’s usual Flower Market, which is always nice (and one of the flower sellers made a fuss of Helen’s bowler hat) but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Just as we were about to give up hope we heard the “thud thud thud” of some exciting music and tried to work out where it was coming from. This was the final nail in the coffin that was our street party hunt as the music in question was coming from the boot speakers of a parked car next to an unmanned barbecue and a small bouncy castle complete with a single kid. I’m sure this street party livened up later on but at this point we were cold and damp from the drizzle so lugged our picnic back to Helen’s flat.

This turned out to be the best decision; Helen’s flat has bunting, hot coffee and a TV on which we could watch the live broadcast of all the celebratory boats sailing down the Thames and all the rain was outside 🙂

Happy Bank Holiday x

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Blogtastic Wedding!

So excited that my sister-in-law’s article has just featured on major wedding blog site Rock My Wedding! It was a completely brilliant day and a total honor to be asked to make their cakes.
The design process (for the cakes alone) I think took about 12 months, but I’m not complaining; I got to taste them too and what better excuse for churning out cake after cake than in the name of research!

Image

This Summer they will have been married a year and even now I cannot believe how much detail and creativity went into everything from the flowers to the cuff-links to the giant Japanese fish windsocks.
Do go and see the full account from my fantastic sister-in-law here: http://www.rockmywedding.co.uk/full-disclosure/

xx