Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Basic vanilla sponge cake- the best so far

Its been ages since I've posted a cake recipe here. Truth is, i haven't baked a cake in ages. In spite of tempting Ro every now and then saying, I'll bake a cake, I never get around to doing it. I did bake once or twice in between, but fetched not so nice results- that and the lack of motivation to take pictures left me hanging.

This cake was baked way back in June. My sister in law and family were throwing a BBQ party at theirs and I was in charge of dessert. I decided to make Ria's Tropical Mango Pudding Cake, and after harassing her with numerous questions, I was confident enough to go ahead with the recipe. It was probably one of the best desserts I've made so far. Got really good reviews from all the guests and even though it was a bit time consuming, I'm so totally going to make it again, and blog it. Managed to take some pictures with the phone, just so you get an idea of what it looked like. 

Coming to the genoise cake. I suck at it. Like I've never ever got a sponge that is so so soft and spongy, but always managed to over bake it, over fold it, under fold it, under bake it and whatever can go wrong with it, it always used to happen to my sponge cakes. I love eating sponge cakes, and every time i try a new recipe, its a disaster, hence absolute deprivation of sponge cakes.
PicMonkey Collage
I was petrified about Ria's sponge cake recipe and since i was baking for a party, I couldn't afford to screw up. So i searched and searched and searched for a less intimidating one and the search led me to Jo Pastry website which i must say is a treasure trove of information on pastries. His recipe and description and comments on tackling the genoise put me at ease and i decided to go ahead with it. I was so so nervous while the cake was in the oven, but the moment i took it out, i knew id nailed it. It was soft, spongy, evenly/perfectly cooked and all what a sponge cake was supposed to be. There was a bit of left over batter that i used for 2 cupcakes and they were immediately consumed without any regret. 

I had to record this recipe for posterity and its certainly one I'm going to be fall back on for all my sponge cake bases. For those intimidated by the whole genoise cake making process, this is for you. Try it and I'm sure you wont need to look elsewhere.

PS. I baked 2 cakes with the above measurement. Didn't want to take a chance and double it.

Recipe adapted from here (Makes 1, 9x12" sheet cake) 
Milk- 1/4 cup
Butter- 3 tbsp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Eggs- 3, at room temperature
Egg yolks- 3, at room temperature
Sugar- 6 oz (1 cup minus 2 tbsp)
Plain flour- 3/4th cup
Preheat oven to 205C and grease a 9x12 inch jelly roll pan and line with baking paper.
Mix together the milk, butter and vanilla extract in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. 
Take off heat and keep aside.
Into the bowl of your free standing mixer, add the eggs, egg yolks and sugar and beat on high using your paddle attachment for about 8 minutes or till the mixture is really thick and when the paddle is lifted the batter falls down in ribbons and hold its shape for about 5 seconds before dissolving. This step is very very important, don't skip.
Slowly trickle the warm milk mix through the side of the bowl.
Sift in the flour in 3 additions, folding well after each. I did this using the slowest speed on my mixer, just until incorporated. But if you are not comfortable doing this in your mixer, do it by hand using a spatula.
Make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl while folding, but not too harsh that you deflate the mix.
Pour into the prepared pan and using an offset spatula spread the batter around, making it into corners etc. Even the top so there is consistency in the baking
Bake in the middle shelf of your preheated oven for about 12 minutes till golden and springs back to your touch
Take it out of the oven and when still hot, loosen the sides using a blunt knife.
Turn it out into a wire rack carefully, cool completely and use as required.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Minced beef kebabs- Summer BBQ with Waitrose

Summer has been fab, like really fab. I also say it 'has' been because, its gone back to sunless, chilly days and cardi's and jeans. I've also been so busy the past 2 months, this is the first weekend off after ages and i wanted to just vegetate on the sofa. Of course after about 2 hours catching up on Pretty Little Liars and Orange is the New Black, i started getting withdrawals. I realised that I actually like being busy, but not so busy it messes up with my mind.

This year BBQ parties have been scarce, with me working on weekends and with our favourite BBQ couple off on holiday. We still managed a few, and we also did our first BBQ at home as well, thanks to Waitrose. The deal was to get some food recipe inspiration from celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, do a twist on it and serve it at your BBQ. I scouted around Heston's Ultimate BBQ page and wanted to make almost everything there. My first option was the Asian style ribs, closely followed by the steak and parsley sauce. But after some brainstorming (read arguing) with the husband, we finally decided on Hestons beef kebab. A quick shopping spree on Waitrose online, and we had kick started our BBQ weekend.
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I did my own (no fuss) version of it, slightly Indian seekh kebab in nature, and served it with a side of pickled onions, cucumber and tomato salad, asparagus wrapped in parma ham, cous cous, pita bread, a yoghurt sauce and some Indian style corn on the cob. I also made a pitcher of raspberry vodka spritzer and for dessert, a meringue roulade with strawberry coulis. I invited some friends over and held the BBQ party in our common park next door. It was a laid back evening with great company, good food and fab weather.

Summer is still not over, so if you are looking for inspiration to whip up a BBQ feast, then you know where to look.

Serves 4
Beef mince- 400 gms
Onion- 1 small, finely chopped
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Green chilli-  2, finely chopped (adjust according to preference)
Almond powder- 20 gms
Coriander leaves- a handful, finely chopped
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Ground cinnamon- a generous pinch
Egg- 1 small, lightly whisked
Salt and pepper- to taste
Oil- 3 tbsp

Wooden skewers- 1o to 12, soaked in water for abut 2 to 3 hours
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients until well combined.
make sure you break down the beef mince and nicely incorporate all the masalas and ingredients into the meat, mixing with your hands if possible.
If you think the mix appears to be a bit loose, add some more almond powder.
take small portions of the meat in your hand and press on to the skewers, binding well.
make sure you don't use too much meat on the skewer, or else the weight would make it fall off.
Fire up your bbq and place them on the hot grill, rotating them every couple of minutes.
They should be done in about 10 minutes. Do a check by slicing off a bit and if you don't see any pink meat, you're good to go.
Remove from heat and serve warm.
I wrapped my kebabs in a pita bread along with cous cous and salad and doused some yoghurt sauce on top whereas the husband kept dunking his kebab in the sauce, which he said brought out the flavours much better.

Recipe for the Meringue Roulade can be found here

With thanks to Waitrose for the bbq grill and the voucher for the food and ingredients. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Grilled chicken and Comte cheese wraps

Work has been crazy hectic for me with late nights and early morning runs to the kitchen, churning out hundreds of macarons and delivering to Selfridges where we have a stand at the moment as part of the 'Meet the Makers' campaign that runs till the end of August. If you do want to pick up some printed macarons, do drop by :)

Anyways, coming to the recipe. I have trouble sorting out the lunch scene in between all the chaotic baking. I almost always never eat lunch on time and its around 4 or so in the evening that i manage to grab a bite and by then I'm famished. On days i wake up early enough, i manage to make something for lunch, and by make i mean pack the leftovers from last night or make a sandwich. This wrap happened on one of those days I was sick of eating rubbish sandwiches from the nearby supermarket. I had grilled the chicken a day before and so it was really easy to put together. I chucked it into the microwave for a couple of minutes and it tasted so so so much better than the store bought ones.
Comte cheese has turned out to be a favourite of ours and i keep adding them to almost all of our pasta and sandwich dishes. I was sent a 24 month aged Comte and I've been very stingy with it. I used it in this sandwich and its been nicely wrapped and put in the freezer for future use. The nutty flavour of Comte is perfect in this wrap and i love it even more a bit melted. This recipe was passed on from Comte as part of the Bastille Day Celebrations and its a fabulous one to take to picnics and such as Comte is a hard cheese and doesn't melt that quickly in this hot weather, which btw has gotten to me so much, i actually want the cold to come back. Its so muggy and stuffy during the night, and the days are even worse. I know, I know, i complain when it cold, i complain when its hot as well :)

Serves 4
Tortilla wraps- 4
Boneless chicken thighs- 2, around 250 gms
Paprika- 1 tsp (optional)
Salt and pepper- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp

Yoghurt- 3 tbsp
Mayonnaise- 1 tbsp
Lemon juice- a splash
Carrots- 150 gms, grated
Red pepper- 1, small
Lettuce- 1 small head
Comte cheese- 100 gms, grated
Wash, pat dry the chicken and cut into bite size cubes.
Season with enough salt and pepper and the paprika. Keep aside for half an hour.
When ready to cook, preheat oven grill and line a baking tray with aluminium foil.
Arrange the chicken pieces on the tray and grill in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping each of them after about 10 to 12 minutes.
Once cooked, keep it wrapped in the foil itself.

Make the sauce by whisking together the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Grate the carrots, dice the red pepper into long strips and tear the lettuce into big slices. 

Lightly heat a tortilla, either in the microwave or in a frying pan. Place on a serving plate.
Generously spread the yoghurt sauce on to the tortilla leaving about an inch from the edges.
Place the lettuce, peppers, carrots and chicken slices on the wrap and top with freshly grated Comte cheese.
Roll the wrap tightly and gently heat in the microwave for a couple of minutes, just to get the cheese melting. Of course, this step is purely optional, but i like it this way.
Cut the wrap diagonally and serve warm.
Do the same with all other remaining tortillas.
Notes: Feel free to use chicken breasts instead and you can even pan fry it in about 2 tbsp of oil.
Original recipe called for corn as well, but i didn't have any at home so omitted it

With thanks to Comte cheese for the samples.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Carnaby Street Eat Fest

Carnaby Street, Carnaby, London, W1
Picture courtesy Sister PR

Carnaby Street is this bustling street lying parallel to Regent Street, and one that is a must visit if you are in London. Its very close to Oxford circus tube station and getting there is really easy. Its got a whole lot of retails outlets and some really cool places to eat, plus bars and clubs as well and the first time i went there i was in awe of what lies behind some of London's main streets- the back alleys are the best way to explore the heart of London.

The Carnaby Street Eat is a free one day International Food Festival with 40 of the area's best restaurants, bars and cafe's taking part. From Hawaiian to Indian to Italian to Japanese there will be the chance to experience the sights, smells and flavours of over 15 international cuisines. Last week, a couple of us food bloggers were invited to a preview show of the Street Eat fest where we got a sneak peak at whats in store on the 20th of July. It was one fun evening where we restaurant hopped till about 11.30 in the night and i think i ate and drank so so much, i thought id be put off both for a really long time. That feeling lasted till 8am the next morning when i woke up with a grumbling stomach.
We started off the evening bonding over Prosecco and smoked salmon at The Wright Brothers. A restaurant that boasts about sourcing some of the best oysters, sustainable fish and finest seafood and bring them to you in the most delicious of ways. I will never forget this restaurant because it was the first time i ever had oysters. After the head chef gave us an introduction to oysters, May of Eat Cook Explore patiently told me how to go about eating it and, i, after much coaxing went ahead and tried it. I must say, it wasn't bad at all. I mean the shallot vinaigrette which i generously doused over the oyster made a lot of difference, but i am a convert and i shall definitely try them again. Head on over there to taste some of their tasty grub, and they'll even show you how to shuck the oysters.
Next stop was the funky Choccywoccydoodah which is like a cake haven. The interior is filled with trippy creations made with chocolate cakes and unique chocolate gifts. They took us to their secret tea room which is done up, like someone said, Alice in Wonderland theme. Very colourful with loads of mismatched furniture and accessories. If you want to enjoy a different sort of afternoon tea, you know where to head to. On the day they will be giving out free chocolate samples and Kiss FM DJ will be spinning the decks.
We then walked back to Shoryu in Kingly Court where we tasted some amazing Japanese yatai style street food. The dumplings and steamed bun with pork and beef were to die for. I would tell you to not miss them this Sunday. They would be serving their signature hirata buns and gyoza's. After downing a sake cocktail we moved over to Whyte & Brown where we got to enjoy some craft beers. I really enjoyed the Honey Beer and the dessert which was a fabulous Exotic Mess with tropical fruits like pineapple, bananas and passion fruit was what hit the spot for me. However, i must admit, that a few spoons down and the sweetness was getting to me. The beer helped and after a quick loo run we moved on to the next restaurant.
PicMonkey Collage
By this time we were filled to the gills, at least I was and we still had 3 more restaurants to hit. Off we went to Cha Cha Moon, a Chinese noodle bar where we again had cocktails, dumplings, steamed broccoli (which btw was simply out of this world) and Singapore noodles which most of us packed because we just couldnt eat. A few bloggers had already left by then and I was contemplating on whether to leave or not when Scarlett told me were off to Rum Kitchen to have some more drinks. Well, that did it for me and off i scampered with the rest of the gang to this Caribbean themed restaurant and cocktail bar. We all ordered the same cocktail Rumbustion which I couldn't for the first time ever, i couldn't finish a cocktail. This evening sure had some firsts for me :) Head on over there to sample delights including roast pumpkin and chickpea curry, saltfish fritter and jerk chicken wings.

Last and final stop was the American diner Stax where we sampled like a gazillion milkshakes all spiked with alcohol. My favourite was the cookies and cream shake which had oreos and whipped cream. I was so high on food by this time i just couldn't eat or drink any more. It was such a fun evening and a very different one from the usual and I enjoyed myself so so much. The fact that it was a small crowd made it even more fun and I went back home with a whole new set of blogger friends.
Picture courtesy Sister PR

Carnaby Street Eat is on the 20th of July from 11am to 6 pm and the weather is promising to be really good so I'm planning to head out there for lunch. There will be live cooking demo's, music and other fun activities- a perfect day out for the young and old alike.

With thanks to Sister PR for inviting me to the event. All opinions are my own and I wasn't paid to do the review.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

World Cup Best of Brazil Masterclass at Jenius Social

Is everyone going crazy with the World Cup scenario? I am so not a football fan, but somehow with everyone in good spirits about the game, especially when you are at a pub in the evenings, its kind of hard to not be part of the whole fun. The husband has been filling me in on that front and I can hear him shouting and screaming (to himself) in the middle of the night watching a game.

Even though the sport doesn't appeal to me much, Brazil does, and most importantly, the food aspect. So when Jenius Social invited me to their World Cup Best of Brazil Masterclass I couldn't say no. I'd been to Jenius Social once before and its this really nice social hub of sorts in North London. I walked in and knew immediately that it would make for THE perfect place to host our events (in case you are wondering what I'm talking about, there's something in the pipeline, stay tuned for the big reveal). Its cosy, its personal and omg the light coming in from those huge glass windows was kind of where i was sold. There is also a well-fitted and fully functional kitchen, which was to be our abode for the evening.
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We were about 6 to 8 of us and I for one had such a blast. The Chef, after introducing us to Brazilian food, dove straight into the cooking session. He first showed us how to prepare the various dishes and then sent us over to our work stations to start cooking a kick-ass Brazilian feast. Being a small group, we had hands on experience in every dish. Right from getting the ingredients ready, to cooking it to serving it was done by all of us, of course with the Chefs help. It was my first time with Brazilian food and I must say it was quite interesting. 
We made spicy Malagueta Prawn skewers, zingy lime and garlic chicken skewers alternated with chunky pineapple cubes, Cassava picanha, Bacalhau (Brazilian fishcakes) and my favourite the quinoa salad with mango and avocado which was so refreshing and summery. I am so going to try making this at home one of these days. Another favourite was the Empadinhas, small pastries filled with any filling of choice, cheese in this case, which were very similar to empanadas. After a busy 2 hours, we were ready to dig into all the food we prepared.
Took off our aprons and settled down at the table with a glorious glass of Caipirinha - yes Brazil's national cocktail- and some conversation, before digging into the food. Jenius Social did a fab job of organising the cook-along session celebrating Brazilian street food, and for a few of us it was a first time eating and cooking the food from that part of the world. We summed up the evening with a generous slice of the Nega Maluca, a Brazilain chocolate cake coated with a delicious layer of caramel, and went home with a wealth of information on Brazilian street food.

Jenius Social conducts regular food and drink master classes, supper clubs and cookery classes and they are also a great way to meet like minded people. Convenient location, great kitchen and a very helpful and friendly owner makes this the perfect place to hire for your event as well. I am thinking i should check out their coffee masterclass next.

With thanks to Jenius Social for inviting me to the masterclass

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Castello Tickler Cheddar and smoked paprika souffle

I love cheese. Like really love it. Throw cheese into anything and i will eat it without any issue. Not that I have a problem eating anything otherwise (if you see me you'll know what I'm talking about), but cheesy things are right up my alley. 

Castello Cheese has joined hands with cookery school L'atelier des Chefs to create a Cheese Cookery Class which will cover a series of classes showcasing a wide range of cheeses that Castello has to offer, and of course learning to cook with it. Food author and TV presenter Stefan Gates has also put together The Ultimate Cheeseboard, which, some of us bloggers had the privilege to try recently. Each class will focus on crafting the ultimate cheeseboard and to round it off, Matt Day has suggested complimentary drinks pairing to bring out the best from each cheese. The classes start on the 18th of July and run all through to October. Its a great way to enjoy some wine and cheese and while you are at it, learn some tips and tricks on creating fabulous dishes with it.
Off we went to L'atelier des Chef to get a preview of the class that was launching. We got to do some wine and drinks pairing and then went on to learn how to make a few dishes using the different varieties of cheese from Castello. There were nibbles and bubblies doing the rounds, a la Castello and a very interesting 'Super Taster' test conducted by Stefan Gates to see if we were a super taster. Apparently, I did have the signs of a super taster, but I actually wasn't one. Oh well! We all went home with blue tongues (as part of the test) and a goody bag filled with cheese and recipes. 

Of all the dishes we tried on the day, my favourite was the Tickler Cheddar and smoked paprika souffle which was simply mind boggling. I had to create it the very next and what do you know, thats exactly what i did. The recipe card had all the information required, and since the chef had given us tips and tricks on how to get the perfect souffle, I was pretty confident I wouldn't fail. The not failing bit was true and the souffle turned out to be fabulous, but the downside of a souffle is that it deflates very fast. So from a photography point of view it was a bit of a bummer. Well, you are just gonna have to take my word for it and believe me when i say it did puff up nicely.

Recipe halved from here (serves 3)
Butter- 25gms, unsalted
Breadcrumbs- 10 gms
Parmesan cheese- 10 gms, grated
Bay leaf- 1
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Plain flour- 25 gms
Mustard- 1/2 tsp
Smoked paprika- 2 tsp
Eggs- 2, white and yolk separated
Cheddar cheese- 50 gms (I used Castello Tickler Cheddar)
Butter- 10 gms, unsalted
Salt- to taste
Preheat oven to 200C and butter the souffle moulds/ ramekins.
Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs and Parmesan on to the ramekins, shake around to coat well and tip out any excess.
Start with the white sauce by boiling the milk with onions and bay leaf to infuse. Drain and keep aside.
In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
Add the plain flour and make the roux, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes.
Stir in the mustard and salt then slowly pour in the milk, while continuously stirring.
Cook for a further few minutes, until you get a thick but smooth mix. 
Keep aside to cool for a couple of minutes and then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. if the sauce is too hot, then you risk cooking the egg yolks, and you really don't want that.
Stir in the grated cheddar and smoked paprika.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. The chef made us do this using a wire whisk at the class, and so I decided to do the same at home. It is a bit of a chore, but it wasn't as difficult as i thought it would be. I think when the quantity is less, its much easier (mostly because I didn't have to unearth my hand blender, wash it, use it, then again clean it..too much work).
Add one spoonful of the egg white into the sauce and mix well.
Add the remaining in, and fold gently, making sure you don't deflate them.
Distribute the souffle mix into 3 ramekins and using a palette knife spread the top of the mix evenly. Then run your thumb or forefinger along the inside edge of the ramekin for the 'top hat' effect.
Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake on the middle rack of your oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top is golden and the souffle has risen nicely.
Serve immediately.
Notes: I used a large ramekin, and that was a mistake. The smaller one would have been a better quantity for one, and also I didn't have enough to fill them, so i couldn't get the top hat effect
Use a good quality paprika, it makes a lot of difference
Double the recipe to feed 6
You can make the white sauce well ahead and just to the egg bit just before baking,

With thanks to Castello Cheese and L'atelier des Chefs for the event invite and classes.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Waitrose Cellar launch- a very wine-y evening

Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
                                                                                                      (Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

I am ridiculously late in posting this, but as they say, better late than never right?
Well, about a month back I was invited to the launch of the Waitrose Cellar, and the invite said- with a twist. They had me at wine and I rsvp-ed immediately. I then went back and reread the mail and it said the wine tasting would take place on a canal boat in Regents Canal. Now that was really exciting and i waited patiently for the day. Laura, who was part of the PR team did a fab job reminding us of things like not to wear heels if possible, and directions to the place etc.
Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
                                                                                                         (Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

The weather Gods seemed to like the idea of the whole wine tasting thing on a canal boat and so blessed us with some fabulous sunshine and warm weather in the middle of May, when it was technically still spring. We got together at the London Canal Museum and after a bit of catching up with fellow food bloggers (of course with some bubbly in hand), our wine experts for the evening Xenia and Stephane, took us through the journey of wines and how the Waitrose Cellar came into being. We were then segregated into two groups and asked to head on over to the two canal barges that were ready for us. Once we all got cosy inside the boats, Xenia, who was our group head, went on to explain the different ways to identify the personality of different wines, while opening bottle after bottle of delicious wines for us to taste.
The canal ride was really beautiful, and with wine as companion you'd never want it to end. We tasted quite a few wines, but I must say my favourite was the Cae de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blan de Blancs NV which just hit the spot the moment i took a sip. Its perfect for those summery afternoon parties and at GBP 13.99 its a steal. I'm a Chardonnay lover, and so it wasn't too difficult to please me with this anyway! I usually go for whites and Rose's over Summer and switch to the dry reds in colder months, and i'm really really getting used to the sparkling wines this year. I am not too familiar with pairing wine and food, but I'm definitely getting the hang of it. 
PicMonkey Collage
Once the canal ride was over, we were all ushered back into the museum to do a round of 'speed wine-ing.' the idea being, we'd by then have learnt a skill or two about wine's in general and a one on one session with a fellow wine enthusiast would help us pick a wine for them based on their character traits and tastes. This was indeed a fun session and we all managed to get whatever we can out of the other in that one minute span. I am yet to go through my entire case of wine that was picked out for me, but from the few opened, I've loved them all, with the Cantena Malbec, picked out for me by Fiona of London Unattached, being my absolute favourite. I am not a sweet wine person, but the Seriously peachy dessert wine from Waitrose, picked out for me by Katja of ifhipscouldlie, was also a pleasant surprise. I recently paired it with a chocolate and coffee panna cotta and it really, really matched well. The bitterness from the dark chocolate nicely complimented the peachy flavours of the wine. 
Urvashi (Botanical Baker) insisted I try out the Marquesa de la Crus Garnache Rose, and that's the first bottle I opened from my case. It was indeed delicious, not too sweet, and perfect paired with spicy food. We had it with some chicken curry and stir fried vegetables. I keep tweeting and instagramming the wines as and when I open them, so follow me on there to be up to date with my wine saga.

The Waitrose Cellar website gives in-depth information on all wines and they also have how to guides that help you learn a few things; and if that's not enough, the wine experts are available on @waitrosewine to answer all your wine queries and food matches.
Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
(Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

With thanks to Waitrose Cellar for inviting me to the event and for the case of wine. All views expressed are my own