I already have a draft post that’s been half-written for nearly a month now. The problem with that is that there’s too much to describe and I think I’m a little too pedantic, which makes it more work than it really should be.
However, I had a lovely time in London over the weekend and thought I’d share a little of what I ate.
First, I made figs and goats cheese as a quick starter for lunch on Saturday. I believe figs are in season now, and the figs we bought certainly lived up to that, subtly sweet and juicy. I picked up some goats cheese from the butcher down the road – it’s a gorgeous sweet, cheese with a rind and creamy outer layer similar to camembert, with a firmer, almost crumbly centre. After slicing the figs open with a cross-cut (see this for a proper written description), I wedged a small piece of the amazing goats cheese in the centre. Then I baked them at about 180-200°C for 5 to 8 minutes, just enough to melt the cheese and allow the figs to warm up a bit. It’s a classic pairing and I certainly understood why after the first, warm burst of sweet and salty melted cheese in my mouth as I bit into the fig.
Continue reading Figs and goat cheese
As I type right now, I look up occasionally and see the heavy raindrops pitter-pattering outside the doors leading to the garden. It’s a strange sort of rain – heavy, but not a proper downpour, and the sky has that weird quality of being almost overcast, but not quite. The sun’s managed to peek through a little so overall there’s a rather dreamy feel to it.
I’ll stop rambling on about the weather now, even though it was what originally inspired me to write this post. The past month or so has been filled with mostly glorious (read: sunny) weather, although I do draw the line at 30°C heat in a country that’s built around a climate that doesn’t usually stray over 20°C.
However, the upside of all that heat was lots of flower photos…
Continue reading Flowers and scones: in the midst of summer
Last week I made this cheesecake twice, the first time to try out the newly discovered recipe, and the second because I enjoyed the first attempt so much. Also I had friends over.
We had oven baked “fried” chicken, using a recipe I saw on the Food Network on a show called Not My Mama’s Meals. They call it Unfried Chicken, and I was amazed that it isn’t actually the grease and oily skin that makes a good piece of fried chicken, rather it’s the crunch, which the cornflakes manage to produce very well.
However we dove into the chicken so quickly that I completely forgot to take pictures, so I’ll move on to the cheesecake I made instead.
I found the recipe on a blog called Parsley, Sage & Sweet; this post in turn came from another blog called Cook Book of Trial and Error. I was attracted to the idea that you could make a decent cheesecake from a cheese that is pretty much fat free (the quark I bought has 0.2% fat), and the comments seemed promising.
Still, I was rather skeptical, but it was an easy recipe to put together and quark is cheaper than regular cream cheese, so I thought it was worth the attempt. Continue reading Skinny cheesecake
So spring has finally arrived. It seems as if everything and everyone is making the best of the warm(ish) weather, and I am no different. I’ve been for long walks and picnics in various parks and just generally chilled. For now, I just intend to make the most of my free time, so in addition to working my way through the library and making a few stabs at my own writing, I’ve also walked around the city sketching whatever catches my eye. Looking at my surroundings with an artist’s eye really does make a difference – so many things stood out that I previously did not notice.
I often have my head in the clouds, but I do want to share some pictures that I feel best sum up my wanderings over the past week:
Continue reading Spring (and shortbread) madness
Or as it said in the Tesco leaflet, Chicken and Prawn Chow Mein.
I picked up the February/March free recipe booklet when I went shopping last week and left it in the living room. One of the guys I live with, M, decided that the recipe was simple enough and we ought to try it out. There’s only three of us in the house and the recipe said it served four to six, but we eat a lot.
The recipe below is what we did, which is a slight adaptation from the original as we weren’t able to get exactly the same ingredients. Amazingly, it all only cost us just under £10, which is far less than what we’d pay at the local Chinese takeaway. Continue reading Chicken & Prawn Noodles
As tomorrow is the first day of Chinese New Year, I thought I’d write about my lunch today, which was inspired by Chinese flavours.
I’d roasted a chicken earlier this week, seasoning it very simply with salt and pepper and since then I’ve been using the meat in a variety of recipes, of which this is one.
All I did was reheat some breast meat in the microwave, seasoned with a little five spice powder, pepper, a dash of light soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Then I served it up in (and on) some warm, toasted wholemeal pitta bread with slices of cucumber and a healthy dash of mayo.
This was possibly one of the quickest, simplest ways to recreate all the flavours of a Chinese meal in the convenience of a sandwich.
And to all the Chinese out there, 恭喜发财!
Last week I found that I had a surplus of apples which coincided with an odd muffin craving. Even though I didn’t have any paper cases I wanted muffins so much that I risked baking them straight into my non-stick silicon muffin tin. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as non-stick as I thought it was; however I managed to rescue most of the muffins.
I followed the recipe, which I found from Smitten Kitchen exactly as it was posted, with one exception: I mixed a little demerara sugar and oats and sprinkled this mixture on top of the muffins just before I put them in the oven. I rather like extra texture it gives, and besides, it just looks plain nice!
The muffins were lovely and moist and using dark brown sugar gives them an extra level of flavour that regular castor sugar just doesn’t have.
As for the picture of the blue sky, I took a few pictures in the morning just after I ate breakfast the other day and I thought the sunrise was worth sharing. I love the way the clothes pegs hang at different angles – their silhouette and those of the bare trees stand out so well against the tail end of the sunrise.
After lunch today I felt like having a biscuit, and fortunately my housemate always has biscuits. I had a Hobnob, and the oat-y texture made me want more!
I didn’t want to entirely empty his stash of biscuits, so I looked up oat biscuit recipes, finally deciding on a simple recipe from BBC Good Food, substituting the golden syrup with honey. Click on the picture for the link to the recipe.
The result was soft and chewy in the centre and a little crisp on the edges, with that wonderful slightly rough, oat-y texture throughout. We got through most of them before I remembered to take a picture. So, here are the lucky three that made it to the camera.
I finally remembered to buy some yeast. I’ve been reading bread recipes online and was debating which to try. In the end the decision was made for me.
My housemate came back to uni with about twelve packs of mature cheddar cheese and another two of orange burger cheese with black pepper from McDonalds, where he worked over Christmas. The cheese was expiring, and they couldn’t use it despite its apparent freshness, so it was all destined for the bin. Fortunately it found a new home in our fridge:
Due to the glut of cheese in the house I started looking up cheese bread recipes instead of sweet ones. I eventually decided that this recipe from The Hungry Mouse was simple, yet impressive enough. However I still needed to make the pizza dough and I decided not to use The Hungry Mouse’s dough recipe purely because of the yeast measurements, as she uses a tablespoon. The yeast I bought comes in 7 g sachets and I didn’t want to convert things. I soon tracked down Gordon Ramsey’s pizza recipe (on the BBC Good Food website) that uses 7 g yeast sachets.
Both recipes were very easy to follow and the results were delicious. The cheese was melty on the inside and crispy on the outside where the oven had dried it. The bread was soft and fluffy. It is a prime example of comfort food, all in a little roll that fits in the palm of my hand. I ate a couple cheese rolls with leftover bolognese sauce from dinner, and if I closed my eyes, and relied on flavour alone, I could’ve been eating a pizza. Perfection.
A few changes I made to the recipes:
I halved the original quantities of the dough recipe and this worked out just right for the cheese roll. I also used all-purpose flour as I didn’t have any bread flour.
As for the actual cheese rolls, I didn’t have any parmesan cheese so I omitted that and just made sure that the other cheeses covered the dough well.
The following pictures are of the finished rolls:
So the first few weeks of January have been pretty tough. I’ve had a couple job rejections and disappointing feedback. I think the lack of recent success has been affecting me more than I thought it had.
Today I wanted to share two things.
First, a really uplifting Bible verse:
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG).
Meditating on this as I received two consecutive emails with rejections definitely stopped me from breaking down on a two hour train journey. I won’t dispute that it was incredibly tough and definitely tested the limits of my faith. Getting through this dry season will need a lot of prayer and support from friends and family, albeit distantly.
Thankfully I’ve had visits from some close friends and each visit has recharged me. I used to underestimate the importance of human support, but I definitely won’t anymore.
The second thing I wanted to share was some sweet and salty popcorn that I made the other night.
I’ve always had trouble making my own sweet and salty popcorn because it was difficult to get the sugar to stick to the popcorn. I’m not a fan of toffee popcorn, with all the thick, sticky gunk, and unfortunately most popcorn recipes are about those.
However, I found this recipe. The blogger got over the sugar issue by mixing it into melted butter, which coats the popcorn perfectly. I used salted butter and a few twists of my salt grinder and the result was perfect. From now on this will be my go to popcorn recipe. I just can’t believe how simple the solution was!