Monday, 29 June 2009

The reveal (part two)

No time for a good picture this week. Why? Because it's action stations in the North London Kitchen. I can finally reveal the massive project I've been working on, which is possibly the most exciting and terrifying thing ever...

...I'm going to be selling my products at the Covent Garden Real Food Market! Ohmygoodness! Basically, if you live in London, for the next three Thursdays (2nd, 9th and 16th July) you can come down and see little ole me and my jams, chutneys, cakes, cookies and such like, and even buy it! I'll be in the piazza of Covent Garden (near the Royal Opera House end) from 12pm - 8pm each week.

I've been wanting to make NLK into a business for so long now, but didn't know where to start, and was convinced when friends and family said things like "you could sell this you know" that they were just being polite. Well, they probably were, but as of Thursday I'll actually find out. Who knows, it might be the start of my empire, it might lead to nothing. But's it's going to be great fun and a wonderful experience.

It's all part of the UK Food Bloggers Association, and I must thank them and particularly Julia Parsons so much for providing the opportunity.

I'd love to see some of you down there (don't worry, there's won't be any hard sell, just some nervous grinning). Sorry I can't give more exciting recipes and tales from NZ, but right now I have tomorrow's teaching to prepare, a chapter of the Phd to edit and a price list to put together. Eek!

Friday, 26 June 2009

And the award goes to...


I had another post all worked out for today, and then out of the blue I got an award!

Ta da!

The lovely lady what lunches, Cucinista, has honoured me by passing on the "One lovely blog" award, my first ever blogging award. Thank you so much!

So what happens now? Well, first of all you head right on over to Working Lunch and check out the fabness. This is a lady that takes lunches very seriously indeed, and frankly so would I if I took the time to prepare the gorgeous meals she does. Salad with avocado and grapefruit, oh yeah.

Next? The rules of the game are that I have to pass the award on to ten other blogs I've discovered recently and think are damn fine. Here, I hit a wall, not because I can't think of ten lovely blogs, believe me I can probably list almost a hundred, the problem is that so many of them have either had the award, or are so well known that everyone already knows they are lovely.

My solution is to name six very special blogs that I follow obsessively, and that more people should know about. I hope that is alright with everyone. Here's my pick in no particular order:

The Transplanted Baker - Siri upped sticks from the confort of Minneapolis to the Fiords of Norway, and has done with with an ease and style I envy. Plus she digs pie and bread with a passion. What's not to love about her?

Arctic Garden Studio - Nicole is my blogger-ganger (like a doppleganger in the blogging world), she preserves, she knits, she loves buttons, is obsessed with lemon and somehow always manages to post things I am thinking about.

Green Ink - a literary Londoner (well, living in London at least!), need I say more?! Get thee hence to her page.

Shutterbean - I'm not sure how I stumbled across Tracy's blog, but I do remember arriving and then losing hours going through her previous posts. This lady has style, her obsession with black and white reminds me of a very close friend, and her home and cooking are just beautiful. I'd harbour some seriously jealousy if it wasn't for how downright nice this lady is, and just how effortlessly she seems to cope with balancing being a new Mum with absolutely everything else!

The Domestic Novice - There is nothing of the novice about this lady, I can tell you. Gorgeous summer cakes and the pictures of flowers will have you wishing for days in the garden tending to flower beds and drinking white wine and eating sponge cake. Or is that just me?

Batter Splattered - I was originally only going to post five blogs, but it would be a huge injustice not to have Molly in my list as I owe her so much. In fact, I would love to give her a special award of her very own, the "Molly Rocks" award. She is the lady who got me blogging, she said far too many nice things about my writing when I was still a humble invitiation-only, "I bet only my Mum would read this" blogger. She pulled me in with her love of thrift store scores, her jammin' jelly and her appreciation of a cold beer on a hot afternoon. She's also an Alaskan. Boy, those Alaskan ladies are something special aren't they? I wish that Molly and I lived closer as I can just see us sitting on a deck in the soft summer evening light sharing a beer and talking about recipes with unusual names.

So there you go, that's my list. There could have been so many more, but the above ladies are ones that make me grin every day, and make me thankful for the blogging community.

Now, I'm off to put things in jars...more about this later in "The reveal (part two)" hehe.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The reveal (part one)

So, I have a confession to make, which might go a little way to explaining why I have been slack in commenting and reading blogs recently. It's not because I've fallen out of love with you all, oh no, I'm just as obsessed with all the gorgeous blogs and food out there as ever, it's just been the slight issue of being across the world in the southern hemisphere.

Yep, you heard that right, for the past month I've been in New Zealand.

Er, surprise!

I know it will probably be quite a shock since I decided to do what K has called "phantom blogging." I just didn't want this little space to get neglected while I was freezing my ass off spurning the English summer for a proper winter.

Why was I there? Well, friends of ours were getting married, and it couldn't be missed, and given that it was going to take us almost thirty bum-aching hours on a plane to get there we figured we might as well make a holiday out of it. Now yes, it does seem a little strange to me both get married and holiday in winter, since my experience of winter is of dull grey perpetual rain. NZ, being the gorgeous place it is, does winter a little differently. Okay, it was bloody freezing, and even with my layers of alpaca jumper, coat and a windproof waterproof jacket the cold was biting at times, but the sun was out almost every day and the autumnal colours were still hanging on the trees. I don't think it could have been more beautiful if it tried. Plus, can you imagine wedding photos on the tops of snowy mountains?!

Yes. I get it now! I've always loved the idea of a proper autumn or winter, but it's so rare to get them here in England, now I feel completely spoiled as I got a second winter that showed me just how perfect bright cold days can be, and have returned to hot weather and a greenhouse full of tomato plants! The best of both worlds.

So yes, as you can probably see I have so much to tell about, including my baking exploits in hostels! It's true you know, you can take the baker out of her kitchen, but you can't take the want for baking out of the girl.

I shall post exciting things about my experiments soon, and share part two of the reveal in a couple of days when the world stops being a bit blurry and jet-lagged around the edges.

Until then, it's very very good to be back, and I'm loving catching up with everyone's news.

p.s. Nicole, thank you so much for the Hokey-Pokey heads up...have you had it on rhubarb? Oh yes. mmmmm.......

Friday, 19 June 2009

Wholesome, yet tarty!

I realised a few days ago that onions seemed to be reproducing in the veg bowl. Every time I walked past more seemed to have appeared.
Now, I like onions, but when there are only two of us it's sometimes hard to use them all up. Not unlike the bananas that make their way into the flat. I'll chop an onion for a pasta sauce, or soup, or stew, or to top some bread, but then I'm still left with a few billion vying for my attention.

So this week I decided it was time for a serious attack, before they got too comfortable and started sprouting.

I've become rather addicted to caramalised balsamic onions. I first discovered them on Valentine's day last year when I made an onion tart from Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection. She suggested red onions, as you get a slightly sweeter flavour, but I've since done it with normal white onions on many occasions for topping cornbread or focaccia and I still really enjoy it. If anything I like the less sweet version.

Whilst eyeing up the onion situation this little tart came to mind. Delia makes them as starters, but I figured that with all the onions I had I could make a large version topped with little rounds of chili-rolled goats cheese. I also decided that instead of the cheese-heavy pastry that Delia uses, I would make a more wholesome version using light wholemeal flour (which has been ground down much finer than usual wholemeal to make it more suitable for cakes and pastry).
I was really pleased with how this turned out, the only problem was I made too much of the onion filling! I was so keen to use up the surplus that I just kept chopping! So now we're going to be eating caramalised onions with everything. Oh well, they are tasty and I'm sure it's good for you, I'm just not sure I fancy them for every meal.

Caramalised onion tart with goats cheese: serves 4-6.

First make the pastry so it can rest in the fridge.

8oz light wholemeal flour
4oz cold butter
sprinkling of salt
cold milk

Sprinkle the salt over the flour and then rub in the butter until you get a coarse breadcrumb texture. Then slowly add milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it just comes together as a dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30mins.

Preheat oven to 180C. Then roll out and lift into a 8 inch loose-bottomed tart tin. Prick the pastry with a fork and then fill with baking beans and blind-bake for 20mins. Remove from the oven when slightly golden and leave to cool.


4 large onions
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
goats cheese log, cut into as many slices as you want to top the pie.

Slice the onions and the place in a pan with the oil. Cook over a low heat for about 20mins until soft, glossy and golden. Add the vinegar, stir and continue to cook for another ten minutes. Leave to cool.

When cool, place the onions into the tart shell, and then top with the roads of goats cheese. Place back in the 180C oven and cook for about 20mins until the goats cheese is just beginning to melt and brown. Remove, rest for five minutes and then serve.

Monday, 15 June 2009


I've become rather addicted to scones recently. I've started using them as my go-to breakfast option when we don't have any bread. I think it's because the cricket season makes me want high tea with scones and strawberry jam. There'll be plenty of time for that later in the summer, so at the moment I'm doing a bit of experimenting.

We don't have an indulgent breakfast every week, but probably once a month I decide it's time to celebrate a lazy Sunday with a spot of baking.

Another reason that I decided we should have scones was because I was desperate to try one of my newest jam recipes. Yes, it's that time again, I've started on the preserving kick! I had a flurry in January with the marmalade season, and then a few chutneys got tried, but then I tailed off a little. Partly because there is less fruit around at the tail end of winter, but mostly because I ran out of jars! However, good friends of ours recently - and very kindly indeed - donated their kilner and preserving jars to us. With two little ones now they rarely have time to watch children and boiling sugar, so things were handed over to me. How lovely is that!
Remember I alluded to a big project coming up? Well this jam may well be part of it, and I wanted to test it, and more importantly I wanted the resident North London Kitchen taster to try it. What better way to do that than to have it on fresh hot scones.So I whipped up a batch of sour cherry and vanilla scones and we ate them in the sunshine topped with my new peach and mango jam. I'm not sure which went down better, the scones or the preserve!I won't share the jam recipe just yet, but I do recommend the scones. They are light and fluffy and a little too indulgent for breakfast, so call it brunch and no-one will notice!
Sour Cherry Vanilla Scones: Makes 4

4 oz of Self-raising flour
1 oz cold butter
3/4 oz sugar
1tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
handful dried sour cherries.
Cold milk.

Preheat the oven to 200C, line a baking tray.

Put the flour, sugar, soda and tartar in a bowl and combine. Then rub in the cold butter. Add the sour cherries, and then the vanilla, and enough milk to just make a dough (probably about a tablespoon, or a little more). Roll out the dough - but not too thin, as it won't rise much, so bare this in mind. I make mine pretty thick. Cut our four rounds. Place on the baking tray and bake for 1o mins. Rest for as long as you can hold out, then cut and top with your favourite jam.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A change of pace

When the weather gets warmer things seem to slow down. Everything becomes more lazy and languid, and that's exactly how I begin to approach our evening meals.

I no longer want meals where I have to stand and prep veg for ages, instead I like to spend time with N in the garden, sitting in the early evening sunshine with a chilled glass of wine. We sit, read the paper and enjoy the comfortable silence between us. It's only when this calm is broken by growling stomachs that dinner occurs to me, and I want something simple, quick and satisfying.

I swear that we both must have some Italian in our blood, because we rely on Italian food for almost all our meals in some regard (except when we're eating curry!) and in summer this is even more pronounced. We eat hot fresh bread with salads, or simply with roasted tomatoes and a slice of cheese.
One thing I don't do nearly enough is bruschetta. It's such a simple and delicious dish, and yet for some reason it rarely crosses my mind. This week however, with some sourdough getting a little past it's best in the cupboard and a punnet of ripe cherry tomatoes in the fridge, it was the first thing I fancied.

I simply toasted the bread on one side under the grill. While this was happening I roughly chopped the cherry tomatoes and mixed them in a bowl with some chili oil, a whole load of torn basil, a squirt of tomato puree and the tiniest dash of balsamic vinegar. I then piled this onto the untoasted side of the bread, grated some parmesan over the top and popped the whole thing back under the grill until it sizzled.

Served with a light salad of simply leaves and a very cold glass of Pinot Grigio it was the perfect thing for a light evening meal in the wanning sunshine.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Dinner for one

I'm not very good at doing dinner for one. I can cook, that's not the problem. I can cook small portions, that's not the problem either. The thing is, I very rarely want to cook when it's just for me.

Now this presents a problem, as once a week, like clockwork N is out in the evening and I am left to fend for myself. It doesn't matter if the flat is rammed with all the most delicious possibilities, I am far more likely to pop to the corner shop, buy a small tin of tomato soup.

This sort of attitude to cooking for myself that has developed over the years that N and I have been together has resulted in some very strange meals while N is out. All of them tasty enough - yes, porridge is dinner, yes, so is peanut butter on toast, and yes all of these should be accompanied by an episode of Columbo and a large glass of wine - but none really what I'm sure many people would call a "proper" dinner.

A few weeks ago I found the usual night rolling around, and the cupboard even more bare than usual. It was at this point that I also discovered the box of eggs on the verge of their use-by date lurking in the back of the fridge.

"Brilliant!" I'm sure most people would think, omelette time! Thing is, I don't like eggs. Never have. No quiche for me, or scrambled or fried for breakfast. Bung them in a cake, no problem, but actually have to face them alone, and I'm outta there.

With one exception. Egg mayonnaise. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes, on a very rare occasion I find myself in the mood. To demonstrate how rare this is, I can confess that when I made this dish a few weeks ago I actually had to phone my Mum and ask how long to boil the egg for. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's how little experience of eggs I have!

So when I make egg mayonnaise it has to be special. It has to be worth adorning the gorgeous things that are cream crackers. And so I give you, egg mayonnaise, my way:

Egg mayonnaise ala moi.

4 large eggs
Heinz light salad cream
freshly ground black pepper
dijon mustard

Boil the eggs for as long as you need to boil eggs for. I'm still a little vague on this, I think I did mine for about ten minutes because I want to knock any softness out of them! Once the eggs have been boiled and cooled shell them and either using a clever egg slicing gadget (like the one I inherited from my grandmother and sat in our bottom drawer for three years until I needed it last week) or the high-tec method (a knife) chop the egg into small pieces. Grind the black pepper over it. Use lots, you always need more than you think you do. Stir. Then add a healthy squirt of salad cream. No posh proper mayo here, it's against the law in my egg mayonnaise making. You want enough to coat the egg, without the whole mixture being totally sloppy. Then add about a tablespoon of mustard, or to taste. Then grind in more pepper, mix and serve on cream crackers.

This amount made enough for me to have crackers for dinner and then a sandwich the next day.