Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Great PhD Pudding Stir-Up

Today was The Great PhD Pudding Stir-Up

What a way to celebrate the final post in a month of blogging every single day; with a post about 20 people getting together to make Christmas puddings!
That's right, today I brought the tradition of homemade Christmas puddings to an international group of pudding novices. We had Americans, Canadians, Germans, Portuguese, Thai, Malaysian, and even a couple of token Brits. It was such a laugh. Who knew such hilarity could be had by communally measuring ingredients, grating apples, beating eggs, and stirring a massive pan of pudding mix, whilst sipping mulled wine and making wishes.
It was the perfect way to welcome the beginning of the festive season. By the end of the afternoon everyone had a pudding to take away, having had their turn stirring and making a wish. The washing up was quite a task, and explaining the intricacies of steaming somewhat difficult to justify ("What? You steam it twice?! You cook it once now and again on Christmas day?!") but hopefully when people tuck into their homemade PhD pudding on Christmas day, and can share a little bit of traditional goodness, it'll all be worth it.
Today to make 19 puddings we used:

3.4kg dried fruit soaked in 500ml brandy (sultanas, currents, figs, apricots, candied peel, cherries and cranberries)
6 apples, grated
zest and juice of 6 oranges
18 eggs, beaten
750g suet
750g breadcrumbs
1kg muscovado sugar
525g self-raising flour

6tsp mixed spice
3tsp nutmeg

That's a whole load of pudding mix and it took some strength to stir it all together!
I certainly had a fantastic time and can't wait to organise the next PhD baking social get together. Cupcakes at Easter anyone?p.s. As of midnight NaBloPoMo is over. No more frantic dashes to the computer at the last minute in the hopes of finding some inspiration. I've really enjoyed it, and I have to admit that I'm rather proud of the fact that I've managed it. I never thought I had this much writing and baking in me, and we're not even part-way into the proper Christmas cooking! I hope you've enjoyed it too, and tomorrow I should have a little reveal to add some icing to the NaBloPoMo "cake." Daily posting might be over, but watch this space!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Tart that's not a tart, cos it's a pie!

So last week we had a whole load of confusion about a tart. I kept calling it a pie, and it wasn't, it was a tart. Now I have the other problem, I've made a pie, but it's in a tart dish, so it's blatantly a tart!

This is indeed the pie I was going to make last week when all this confusion started. Back then I didn't have the ingredients, and so instead we had to struggle on like the troupers we are and make do with a cranberry and pecan frangipane tart. We suffer in this flat we really do.

Tonight we have friend coming for dinner and I wanted a nice dessert. The cranberries in the fridge were still good and I had a nice new batch of cooking apples. It just had to happen. This time however, it wasn't having the ingredients that was the problem, it was quite the opposite, I had the butter, and could plan for the cream cheese, except one of our friends doesn't eat dairy. When asked by N if this was a problem, I laughed, "no no," I said, "it's not a problem, it's a challange!" I definitely enjoy this stuff far too much.

So yesterday I prepared the pie, veganising it as I went along. It wasn't actually as difficult as I'd expected. I replaced the cream cheese with silken tofu, and the butter in the pastry with vegan margarine, and the egg with soya milk. This made the pastry less fluffy, but it still looks pretty good. In fact, I think it looks downright pretty if you ask me.

We haven't tried it yet of course - it's taken some will power not to, I can tell you - so I will have to report on the flavour and response later, but hopefully it'll be a winner. I'm going to serve it with whipped brandy soya cream so if nothing else at least the booze should go down a treat!

here's the recipe. I adapted it from one in the Sainsbury's magazine.

Cranberry and apple pie (Makes one 9'' pie)

375g of your favourite sweet pastry (replace the butter with vegan marg and any egg or milk with soya milk)

250g cranberries
250g apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
juice of one orange
200g light muscovado sugar
200g silken tofu

Lightly flour the worksurface and roll out the dough and line the tin, collecting the scraps to make the lattice top. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Put the cranberries, apples and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer uncovered until all the berries have popped, the apple is cooked and it is a thick bubbling sauce - aprox 15mins. Stir in the sugar and then leave to cool.

Gently prick pastry shell with a fork, line it with parchment and fill with baking beads. Bake for 20 mins, then remove the beads and cook for a further 5mins, until dry. Leave to cool.

Stir half the cold cranberry mixture into the tofu and blend until smooth. Spread evenly over the base. Cover with the remaining cranberry mixture, then with strips of rolled leftover dough make a lattice top.

Bake for aprox 40-50mins, until the pastry top is golden (keep your eyes on this, in my oven it took a while, but it might be much faster in yours.

Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

So good they baked them twice

I've been having lots of fun in the kitchen today. I have been making some preparations for the busy weekend ahead. We've got friends coming for dinner tomorrow evening, DnD on Saturday and then it's the Great Pudding Stir-Up on Sunday.

I'm going to do the majority of the festive baking tomorrow, but couldn't resist giving this recipe for biscotti a go today. It was a handy one to start with not only because I knew they would keep for a couple of days, but also because there is talk of a cookie exchange in December and I wanted to try out some ideas. Someone had suggested that biscotti would be a good idea because they're somewhat sturdier than the average cookie, so good for shipping. Not having made them before I wanted to give it a go before doing the batch to send. I learnt from my jam exchange mistakes you see! No leaving it to the last minute this time around.

The only recipes I could find for biscotti were nut-based versions. What I wanted was something more suitable for the season. So I took the recipe in the Ottolenghi cookbook and replaced the pistachios and stem ginger with dried cranberries and white chocolate, keeping the little bit of ground ginger and using port rather than brandy (because I still haven't bought any since using it all up in the pudding!).

The results have come out rather well. I only had a sneaky taste of the edge pieces, but I think it's going to go down rather well on Sunday, and hopefully they will hold up for posting across the world.

I only made half a batch, but still got 11 pieces of biscotti out of it. I'll definitely be making this again - provided N likes it and could help out in the eating!

Cranberry and White Chocolate Biscotti - adapted from Ottolenghi

This recipe makes the full batch

80g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp port (or brandy)
150g plain flour
1/2 ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
80g dried cranberries
60g white chocolate, chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating after each addition. Stir in the brandy, followed by the flour, salt and ground ginger. Finally stir in the cranberries and chocolate.

Lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and spoon the mixture on to the tray. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30mins so it firms up.

Preheat the oven to 170C

Take the dough out of the fridge, and using your hands and some extra flour roll and shape it into a log of about 25cms length (I found this to be rather sticky, so flour it up!). It will spread during baking and so it doesn't need to be perfect. Bake for 20mins then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 130C

The dough will still be slightly soft because of being partially baked. Once it's cooled, use a serated knife and cut into 1cm strips. Lay them flat on the tray and return to the oven for about 40mins. Remove and cool.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Secrets and pies (or rather puddings)

I have been doing secret things in the kitchen today. A secret experiment involving expanding my skills and hopefully making something very tasty indeed. Only problem is, I can't tell you about it! Well, not now, as it's a secret for N and I don't want him finding out. I'll tell you on December 1st, how about that? In the meantime I shall leave you with this image and you can have fun guessing.

The other exciting thing today was the arrival of these lovely cards:

They are festive postcards, all images taken by me, and on the back they have reheating instructions for Christmas puddings! I wanted all the pudding participants on Sunday to not only have a memento in the form of pudding, but one for a little longer, hence the cards. Also, I figured that as many people have never made or eaten Christmas pudding before, they may be a little bemused on the day as to how to reheat it, hence the handy instructions on the back.

As you might be gathering I am a little enthusiastic about the impending festive season! I think this year I might actually manage a completely homemade Christmas, with not only the main meal, but dessert and all the chutneys and preserves! If only I'd thought to learn about wine making. Oh well, got to have something to aim for next year! (I'm kidding of course...or am I?! hehe).

Monday, 24 November 2008

Pie that's not a pie, cos it's a tart

I keep calling this a pie. It's not, it's a tart, but I was going to make a pie and I think that's why I keep getting it wrong.

Whilst at the market I managed to pick up fresh cranberries, something that is difficult to come by here. I was delighted and couldn't wait to try out some great recipe with ones that were fresh, rather than frozen.

So I pored over my recipe cuttings and I found a cranberry and apple pie that had caught my eye about a month ago. It was perfect. Except that it wasn't, because I didn't have all the ingredients. Oops!

So then I decided to take inspiration once more from Smitten Kitchen and bake the cranberry pecan frangipane tart. Not only did this have fresh cranberries and pastry, but a frangipane that N would actually be able to eat. You see, N doesn't like almonds, which is rather a shame considering my love of marzipan and frangipane (then again, it means I don't bake those things, or buy those things, and so am probably indebted to him for saving my waistline!). But here was a recipe that promised all the goodness of spongy frangipane, with the caramelly and festive flavour of pecans, cut through with the tartness of the cranberries. It sounded like just the thing to usurp the place of the pie.

As it happened I baked it for too long, and it came out more toasty than golden, but it still tasted great and retained its softeness. Definitely a winner, and I can't wait to try it with sharp raspberries. It would be a great festive treat over the holidays, and apart from having to wait while you chill the dough and the filling it's not actually that hard.

I won't post the recipe, because for once there was very little adaptation on my part. I did use port instead of brandy (because I used up all our brandy making mincemeat and puddings, oops!), but I think that was it.

It's telling that after one and a half days there is only a tiny slice left...and there's only two of us eating it!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Stir-up Sunday

Today is "stir-up" Sunday, the Sunday before the beginning of advent that marks the time when Christmas pudding is traditionally made, giving it four weeks to mature before eating on Christmas day.

Next weekend 20 of us are getting together for "The Great PhD Pudding Stir-Up" when we shall eat mince pies, drink mulled wine and all make puddings together - tipsy baking, now there's a good Sunday pastime! However, I couldn't resist making my very own pudding on the correct day, especially as I've never done it before!

So last night I put the dried fruit in a bowl and covered it in brandy, then this morning I got all the ingredients together and stirred it up.
I also made sure that we both had a stir and made a wish.
I steamed the pudding for three and a half hours, and now it's cooling ready to wrap and put in the cupboard. It smelt good, so hopefully it won't let us down on the day.

I adapted the recipe from Nigel Slater, taking out the figs and apricots (I unfortunately didn't have any and what with the rain and the snow there was no way I was leaving the house), instead I used slightly more sultanas and currents and added cranberries. I also used maraschino cherries, because I like the slightly softer texture.

The recipe makes one pint sized pudding:

59g sultanas
59g raisins
25g currents
21g candied peel
16g cranberries
12g glace cherries
25ml brandy
1/2 apple, grated
juice and zest of 1 clementine
1 egg, beaten
42g vegetarian suet
59g muscovado sugar
42g breadcrumbs
30g self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Place all the fruit in a bowl and add the brandy, leave overnight, stirring at the beginning and end to make sure the fruit is coated.

In a large bowl mix together the apple, suet, breadcrumbs, zest and juice of the clementine, sugar, and flour and mix. Then add the beaten egg, mix again. Then add the soaked fruit, making sure to scrape in any excess liquid from the bowl. Add the spices and stir together.

To do it traditionally you need to give everyone a stir, youngest to oldest, each getting a wish as they stir, and apparently the stirring has to be done east to west.

When everyone's had a go, put the mixture into a greased pudding basin and place a circle of parchment (with a fold in the middle) over the top, then add the lid. Steam for three and a half hours. Then allow to cool, remove the parchment and replace with clingfilm. Then store in a cold dry place until Christmas.

On Christmas Day: Either steam for another 3 and a half hours, or microwave for 3-4 minutes (upturned on a plate) and then place on a plate, pour over warmed brandy and light! Enjoy the blue festive flame before tucking in with lashings of brandy butter and/or cream!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Back to the old neighbourhood

For the first two years I lived in London I was very lucky indeed and I got to work at the famous Borough Market, bastion of all things foodie. It all happened a bit by accident, but I wasn't sorry. Not on the days when it was freezing and the wind chill was so much that you'd have a bath and still go to bed cold to the bone, only to wake up the next morning at dawn and do it all over again. In the end it did get a bit much, and despite moving around and changing the food I worked with I had to give in and decide it wasn't for me anymore.

But those two years were fantastic, they did a lot for me as a person, and loads for my love of food. I learnt so much and was surrounded by people who loved food like I did. Since I've left I've shed a few pounds (there's nothing like a brownie to keep you warm in the long cold January!), but I've retained some of the friends and am always welcomed back with cheery smiles.

Today I was back to show round some friends who've lived in London for years but never experienced it and wanted a guide. It was so much fun; we pottered around, bought nice things (I was very restrained and bought only veg and fruit....although I'm hoping I'll get a share in the olives and cheese N bought!) When it got too much for the boys they retired to the pub and we continued our stagger, aided by hot cider to keep out the chill (It's FREEZING here at the moment, and there are rumours of snow!).

All in all it was a lovely day. So many amazing smells and it brought it all back. I don't think it'll be so long before I return, in fact I think in a few weeks time I'll be there stocking up on coffee and cranberries, and yes probably some chocolate this time!

It was like a food adventure all over again, and I know our friends had loads of fun. It might be a bit expensive, but it's worth it, it really is and this time of year is perfect for it: traders are cold, but festive and cheery (because the long cold slow slog of January and February is still a while away) there are smells of the hot wines and ciders, the roasting fruit and veg, and the air is chilly but bright. We saw Borough at it's very best, and yes, for the first time since I left I actually missed being the other side of the stalls.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

By request...

Today I made sculptures out of leaves in the garden. There are only two trees near our garden (near, not even in) and yet when autumn hits a tremendous amount of leaves end up on the decking. I think it has some sort of leaf-attracting force field or something. It's been a long long time since we ventured out there, partly because of busy weekends, partly because we feared being eaten by the leaf mountain, and as a result the leaf piles got higher, the decking slimier and generally it was all a bit eurgh. So today I went out and did battle with it. I think I won. All the leaves are now in a huge pile at the back of the garden, waiting for the weekend when the two of us can haul them into bags. My only worry is a fateful wind will scatter my efforts. Oh well, I can live in hope.

I didn't post the recipe for the ginger bears the other day, and I've been asked for it, so here it is. It could do with more ginger I think because the flavour is a mild one, but then if mild is what you're going for this is perfect. It's also not a dough that is going to yield hard teeth-cracking gingerbread like they used to have in the bakery near where I lived when I was a kid. Instead it's a soft dough, much kinder to teeth and more appropriate for bears.

Gingerbear dough: I highly recommend making animals out of this dough, it suits them. I think bears are best, maybe you think elephants are, either way it's more fun than people!

Yields - er, quite a few.

300g self-raising flour
3 tsp ground ginger
100g caster sugar
50g butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp milk (I needed a bit more)
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 160C and line a baking tray.

Place flour, salt and ginger in a bowl. Warm the sugar, fat and syrup together (I did this in a jug in the microwave for about 1 min) and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the milk and mix to a firm dough. Knead lightly with hands. Roll out and cut out shapes and place on the baking tray. Bake for 10-15 mins (I baked for a little longer) until just golden. Cool on a rack then enjoy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Indulgence to ease mediocrity

England are playing a "friendly" against Germany tonight. It won't count for anything, and is months before the next competitive match, and the training for it has wiped out another Arsenal player, our best winger, potentially for three months. Bitter, me? Yes, yes I am. Especially as I knew that the football from England will be hit and miss. We won, but didn't look that convincing, and made some shocking mistakes.

It's nights like this that a little bit of indulgent food is needed. I chose to express this through the medium of nachos. A friend today commented that nachos are a side dish, not a main dish. Well clearly she's never had them like we do: piles of a beany chili type thing, nicely cooked down so it's thick, spooned over tortilla chips, with avocado and sour cream on the side and a nice handful of salad to get something green on the plate. That's a main meal, oh yes, and the perfect antidote to vaguely rubbish football.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Gingerbears hibernate in tupperware,
where they sleep until teatimethen out come the gingerbears,
out from their tupperware
with spiced winter warmth to share...
...and then the cupboard was bare!

We don't do gingerbread men in this house, as you might have noticed. Just bears. Or moose, or cats. I whipped these up last night when I realised that N didn't have a nice little something ready to go in his lunch. Plus, I was in the mood for something cute like cut-out biscuits. I only made a half batch, and even though I didn't half the ginger they still felt like they were missing something. I might have to track down a different recipe and give it a go. Then I'll get to cute out more sleepy bears, yay!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sweet oniony goodness

I didn't used to be a big fan of onions. I wouldn't mind them chopped up in a sauce, but offer them to me on their own and I was likely to refuse, quite possibly pulling a face whilst doing so. Then I met N, and he showed me some magic things. The first was his onion gravy. Now gravy was another thing I would spurn, I think because I have never liked meat juices, and the out of the packet alternatives didn't seem to have anything to offer except cloying pasty saltiness. I was much more likely to smother my mash in brown sauce and mustard. Not anymore. N's onion gravy, made very simply with stock, fried onions and red wine is the business, I had it for the first time last Christmas and I've never looked back.

Which is how I discovered fried onions. Oh yeah! Veggie sausages with fried onions, makes my stomach rumbling just thinking about it, and would make me reconsider tonight's dinner plans if it wasn't for the fact that we have no more onions!

Why are we out of onions? Because last night I made a caramalised onion topping for the focaccia we were going to have with the soup. And it was delicious. I might have to make it again, soon, like as soon as the box comes with more onions on Wednesday!

It's really simple too...

caramalised onion topped focaccia - Serves two, generously. (It would probably stretch to four, but we're not sharing!)


250g strong white flour
10g course semolina (or 10g more flour if you don't have it)
7g yeast
5g salt
25g olive oil
160g water


4 small onions
1 tbsp oil
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch brown sugar

Mix the dry ingredients so they are combined and then add the water and olive oil and form into a sticky dough. Knead for a few minutes until it becomes elastic and smooth, leave to rise for an hour in a warm place covered with a clean dry cloth.

Meanwhile make the topping: Chop the onions into round slices. Heat the oil over a low heat in a non-stick deep frying pan that has a lid. (I find this dish the best for the job, but a small saucepan with lid will do), add the onions and stir to keep the cooking even. The aim is to gently cook them so they go soft, and at no point get it hot enough to burn or char them. They should be translucent, then golden, rather than brown. Once the onions are very soft (about 20 mins) add the vinegar and sugar and stir to coat the onions. Place the lid on the pan and cook for a further 10-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the onions are caramalised. Remove from the heat and allow to cool,

Preheat the oven to 200C

Once the bread has risen to twice it's size place on a baking dish and spread out into a rectangle, add the topping and leave to rise for 45 mins. Place in the oven on a middle shelf and cook for 25-30 mins, until the edges are just browning, but before the onions get too dry. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sunday soup

Sunday seems like the perfect day to make soup. It's lazy, easy and comforting. A November Sunday is even better, because chances are it's cold and wet too. So it was that I found myself copying out a recipe my Dad had sent and suggested; carrot and ginger soup.

I love carrots. I quite often have one chopped up raw with my lunch, and I remember loving stir-frys when I was a kid because of the carrot, the sweetness of which matches perfectly with the saltiness of soy sauce. However, despite my love for them, it's hard to get through how many inevitably arrive in the organic box. They may be a staple during this time of year, but there are only so many I can get through in a week when I don't cook a roast dinner for six on a Sunday! It's just the two of us, and the cat - who quite frankly would rather another carrot never crosses his path - and so when the haul of carrots arrive occasionally a sinking feeling comes with them (although not as badly as when the Jerusalem artichokes get on the scene, which no doubt you'll start hearing about in a few weeks!).

Given the carrot overflow imagine my pleasure when my Dad suggested this soup. I waited all weekend to do it, admiring the stock of carrots in the fridge with gleeful satisfaction. "I know what I'm doing with you" I thought in their direction. This evening, I copied out the recipe and started organizing the ingredients: 1Kg of carrots, no problem. Oops! It seems my mid-week nibbling was a little premature, only 500g remained. So I did the only thing possible. I upped the bread quota!

In the end the halved soup recipe was just enough for one normal and one small portion, which when topped up with onion focaccia, was perfect. If I'm honest the soup was a little too sweet for me, and the ginger was only a subtle residual heat. I think next time, when I make a full batch, I will probably taste it and then add some more ginger. Other than that I hightly recomment it. I think a sharp piece of vintage cheese would have gone down very well with it too, but as it happened the bread was enough for us, with the burnt caramelly flavour of the onions a perfect accompaniment.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Christmas in a jar

Yes, I know, I know, it's only the middle of November, but there are some things that need to be done early in order to be ready when the festivities begin, and who am I to argue when it's going to make the flat feel all warm and smell of oranges, brandy and sugar.

This afternoon I had my first bash at homemade mincemeat. Mince pies are one of my favourite things, and last week asked N just how soon I could get away with making them. I could eat them all year round, and would, except then they would feel less special in December and I would probably gain quite a few pounds all year round as opposed to just stacking it on at the end. I do however try and make the best of the season and make and consume as many as possible. I have my favourite commercial ones (Pret's shallow ones being the nicest in my opinion) but absolutely nothing beats making your own, and this year I wanted to go all the way and make the mincemeat too.

I spotted a suet-free cranberry mincemeat recipe in Nigella's new Christmas book, and thought it would be perfect, especially as she gave an ordinary version too. The instructions looked amazingly simple and apparently it would take no time at all. Plus, I had all the ingredients to hand, having done a sneaky pre-Christmas shop during the week.

Off I went and in twenty minutes had a glistening jar of cranberry mincemeaty goodness. A quick wash-up of the pan and in another 30 mintues I had two jars of a more traditional mincemeant. Now that's the kind of Christmas prep I like; done in less than an hour with all the more time to potter about basking in the results.

I have to confess that I did lick the spoon, and I think that in about three weeks time when I can finally justify starting the great mince pie ressurgence it's going to be very good indeed.

Nigella's "Cranberry-studded mincemeat"

Makes about 600g.

60ml ruby port
75g soft dark brown sugar
300g cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
75g raisins
75g currants
30g dried cranberries
zest and juice of one satsuma
25ml brandy
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 almond essence (I ommited this because N doesn't like it, and I don't have any as a result)
30ml honey.

In a large saucepan dissolve the sugar in the port. Add the cranberries. Then add the spices, along with the currants, raisins and dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the satsuma. Simmer for 20 minutes or until everything looks pulpy and has absorbed most of the liquid, bashing the cranberries helps release their juice. Take off the heat and, when it has cooled a little, stir in the brandy, essences and honey and beat to turn into a more pasty mix. Spoon into sterilised jars.

It keeps for up to a month.

To make the traditional version just substitute the fresh cranberries for a small cooking apple, grated and replace the dried cranberries with 15g raisins and 15g currants.

NB: I kept the cranberries in our traditional version because I like them a lot and thought it would make it slightly different. I also used an orange rather than a satsuma.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Fixing things

I have been feeling very zen today. It might be because of these:

the nine blackberries I found whilst out walking this morning. I found a back route into the park, and I was kicking myself for having spurned the idea of carrying my camera. It was so wonderful to stumble across a wooded path that could so easily have been in the countryside rather than the city. Along the path were numerous bramble bushes which must have been laden with fat juicy berries a month ago. Alas I only managed to get nine (well ten actually, but in retrospect one wasn't edible). Next year though I shall be staking out that spot with my preserving pan at the ready!

The park too looked beautiful in it's dressing of gold and amber. I will have to go back before the wet winter truly settles in and take some photographs.

The rest of the day has been split between trying to rescue my newest chapter, and trying to rescue the cassoulet, alternating between brandishing a red pen and a red spatula. I think both tasks have been successful. I know this picture doesn't look all that exciting, or appetising for that matter, but believe me the rich spicy smell that was emanating from the pan when I boiled it to soften the beans was just marvelous. I think this, with a glass of the rich red wine that arrived yesterday, is going to be the perfect end to the day. I will post the recipe at some point, but I thought it would be better to at least get mine edible first!

In other random news I have been pondering this, as inspired by this. I was thinking of producing two, one of things to do and a separate thing of baking/cooking challenges. Hmmm. I have a month and a half to sort it out...I'd better get started!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

How to break things and eat chips twice in a week.

Arsenal won again last night. This time our youngsters took on the mighty Wigan in the Carling Cup. We trashed them 3-0, and looked pretty darn good doing it.

Which is more than can be said for the things coming out of the North London kitchen these past two days. I mean look at this:

Its supposed to be a pain au chocolate. Not quite the effect I was going for. I think the milk I added the yeast to was too hot. Oh well. The pastry is lovely and flaky, just not as puffed up as I had hoped. Oh well. I'm sure we'll cope, it'll just have to be a very dense pastry with our coffee on Saturday morning (and the following seven mornings!).

That wasn't the beginning though, oh no. Yesterday I began the experiment with dried beans, and dramatically underestimated how long they would take to cook. I'd soaked them for 24 hours, and yet after 40 mins cooking in my cassoulet they were still rock hard. This would have been fine any other night, but last night we were against the clock and had to dash out of the door to the match.

So yes, it was chips for dinner and cookies at half time. A nicely rounded meal of carbohydrate. I won't knock it though, it keep us warm through the cold November night. No wait, I think that was all the jumping up and down celebrating goals. Cassoulet tomorrow, after hours of boiling in the afternoon.

I did however make one nice thing tonight. Homemade baked beans, this time boiling the butter beans rapidly before actually making the dish. Note to self: boil the beans forever before you add to a dish, that's the answer!

Hopefully the next couple of days will be more successful. I'm afraid there probably won't be any more baking, at least not for a while, but I shall be out and about with the camera, so hopefully I'll have something to tell you about to keep up my blog-a-day November habit.