Thursday, 14 November 2013

Mocha Cake

I'm poorly today (boooo!) so to keep myself able to power through my work I've been mainlining coffee. I also needed comforting so wanted cake but also not to leave the house. That meant I spent an hour this evening whipping up this yummy chocolate & coffee cake. It's usually raises to impressive heights but I was not feeling like making such an effort so just whacked all the ingredients in a food processor rather than following my method below. It still looks and tastes good, so I say that's a win for a sexy snot-monster. The icing is really creamy and delicious.


Ingredients

For the sponge
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g butter or margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee

For the icing
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • Splash of hot water

Method
  1. Preheat the oven at 160C. Line and grease a cake tin.
  2. Add the sugar and the butter to a bowl and cream together.
  3. Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Fold in the flour and baking powder.
  5. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and add to the mixture still folding.
  6. Whisk the egg whites and fold it in gently until combined.
  7. Add to the sandwich tin and cook for 30 minutes.
  8. While the sponge is cooking, make the icing by creaming the butter and the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee in a splash of hot water and add it to the butter and icing sugar (not too much or it will be runny). Whisk and leave in the fridge until the cake is done.
  9. Once the cake is out of the oven and fully cooled, either cut in half and spread icing in the middle or frost the outside. Add nuts if desired.  

Monday, 22 April 2013

Ice, Ice Baby


I have been hacking the humble ice cube tray for years. Now the sun is furtively peeking out from behind the clouds, let me open your mind to a world of chilly wonder. Just follow my tips below and once fully frozen, stick the cubes in a ziplock bag and label/date contents clearly.

Coffee
Made a pot? Had 5 cups? Jazzed up like a monkey on speed? Heart palpitations? The last cold cup just going to be thrown away? HELL NO, SON! Pop that bad boy in your ice tray. You want a cheap-ass Frappuccino? Frappu-welcome, bitches.


Wine
Sometimes (rarely) I can’t finish a bottle of wine. When this happens I freeze it. Then you can plop them into sauces at the opportune moment. Or, more likely make sangria / wine slushies (I like pineapple juice and a handful of Chablis cubes - Summer in a freaking glass, home girl).

Image source: The Kitchn

Speaking from horrible, horrible experience, I cannot emphasise my introductory labelling point enough as we move from white wine to stock.

Stock
The best culinary results come from the best raw ingredients. In an ideal world we’d all be making our own stock from scratch. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I hear you screech. Well, actually it’s not that hard. Next time you have a roast just boil up the bones (and/or giblets) with a few veggies (check here for a good Jamie version if you don’t have a family recipe). Reduce by half to concentrate then when you want to use some just dissolve in boiling water. If stored properly, it lasts about four months and saves using up all your Tupperware.

Image source: Saucy Cuisine

Repeat for vegetable, fish and beef stocks. Also a good ‘ice lolly’ for the dog.

Spinach
Stay with me here, stud. Spinach + a bit of water blended and then frozen is a great way to save the leaves from going bad if you’ve bought a value pack. Add to smoothies for extra iron – hidden in a berry blitz or out and proud in an apple concoction it is delicious. Remember: if you eats your spinach you’ll be strong to the finish! I’ve always had a thing for sailors...

Image source: Rowdy Stroudy

Anyway…you can do the same with herbs or other green leaves for seasoning soups, etc.

The big finish
So this isn’t strictly sticking with the ‘leftovers’ theme but how great is this idea: tomato chili and cucumber basil cubes?! First seen for a DIY Bloody Mary bar but the cucumber ones would be lovely in Pimms.

Image source: Food and Wine

This got me thinking about other ‘ice’ combos. How about grapefruit and lime for Palomas, or mint infused water for juleps, lemon and rosemary for a jumped up Collins. Possibilities are endless. Maximum cool points (pun intended).


I recommend this silicone tray with holder from Amazon. It’s a beast.



Now go get your summer on!



Saturday, 13 April 2013

Les morsures de la semaine, le style de Paris


Me and the girls packed our bags and headed off to Paris for a weekend of culture, food and wine (lots of.)



We were staying in the Montmarte district (loosely translated as The Mountain of the Martyr – Saint Denis was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD for being stubborn it seems….) The district is full to bursting with artists and their studios and once upon a time, Dali, Monet and Picasso roamed these streets. That’s a bit good, no?

Anyway, back to the point – the nosh. Let’s just say that the idea of French food, never really fills me with joy. I don’t eat meat (just fish) and I run for the hills at the sight of buerre blanc or any creamy sauces. I like cream on strawberries, not slathered all over my main course.

It’s fair to say, my experiences with French food haven’t been great to far, so I was game for trying some new things and getting involved with some of the local treats.

First up…

Le Progrès



A classic French bistro a hop, skip and a jump from the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre. The restaurant is cosy and very classic, serving a range of French food. I opted for fish soup with a side of Escargot (we had to try it!) 

The soup was hearty, pungent and making everyone in the room gawk at it as it left the kitchen. It was a bit on the large side (there must have been a minimum equivalent of 3-4 cans in the bowl) but it came served with large crunchy croutons and a little pot of Gruyère cheese on the side. Perfect.

The Snails were done to death in garlic (as you would expect) so I couldn’t really tell you what the snail itself tasted like, but in all honesty, I think that’s for the best. It was very similar to a mussel and was very pleasant.



Good for: All day dining, relaxed long dinners or a quick bite at lunch.
Where to find it: 7 rue des Trios Freres, 75018 Paris (Nearest Metro is Abesses)
£: Major bang for your buck - I think we spent 30 Euros each on 2 courses and a couple of bottles of wine.
Eye candy behind the bar: Ladies, just trust me.

Next up and this weeks winner!

L’Annexe

Tucked away on the hills of Montmarte, among a plethora of restaurants, bars and bistros, is a little shop front, painted red. 



We had passed a ton of places, all either suspiciously empty or so full we would have had to sit on top of each other.

We went in, and there is probably only 30 covers in the entire place. It’s very cosy and intimate, with tables that are almost joined they are so close. (Myself and my best friend like a bit of space and privacy when we go out to eat, so we were feeling a bit claustrophobic at first, wedged between two other tables…..)



Once we had sunk a bottle or two of wine though, we were best mates with the people on either side so we soon forgot how close together we all were.



So, let’s talk food. For my starter I opted for poached egg on leeks with sesame vinaigrette. Not much to write home about, you might think? This was easily one of the nicest starters I have had in a very long time. Simple and fresh with a sesame twist. It was served on a huge slab of slate too, which looked fantastic.



Next up – the main course. Now, I was a bit naughty here as the menu wasn’t very vegetarian friendly (apart from risotto, but I’d rather eat wall paper paste!) I had back of cod, orange marmalade and chorizo sauce served with quinoa. Annoyingly, I was so taken with it, I forgot to take a picture. I’m not going to lie, the mix of flavours wasn't exciting me much and the idea of removing one element (the meat!) didn’t seem like the right thing to do when it seemed like such a strange concoction. It arrived, presented beautifully on a circle of quinoa. The fish, lovingly placed on top and with a little blobs of the orange and chorizo marmalade on either side of the plate…but wait, what was that thing on top? No. It can’t be? Is that…is that SQUIRTY CREAM plonked on top! Now, I know I have an issue with the French and their love of cream, but this was taking the biscuit. Just so we are clear, there is only one use for squirty cream, and that is THIS:


Really, you should only sink to these lows if you've been dumped, Bridget Jones style....or in my case, just your average Friday night.

“I’m going in…” – it turns out, this ‘squirty cream’ was homemade, not from a can and was in fact some sort of peppery savoury wonder. All was forgiven...

The fish and quinoa was cooked perfectly and was full of flavour. I tasted a couple of slithers of the chorizo (just for good measure, you understand!) and even though the idea of orange and fish was a bit alien to me, it was absolutely delicious. I cleared my plate, which to anyone who knows me, knows is rare.

For dessert we got one of everything to have a taste. There was crème brulee, coffee mousse with a surprise spoon and chocolate foam with a ‘taste explosion’.

The crème brulee was perfect and had a secret layer of hazelnut praline at the bottom. The chocolate foam was served in gorgeous little jam jars, on a chalkboard tray. The explosion was popping candy – which to four wine drunk women, was basically the best thing that had ever happened to us.




The coffee mousse was the only one I was slightly disappointed with. It had formed some sort of skin on top which  wasn’t easy to eat and the ‘surprise’ was what can only be described as sugar puffs – it tasted ok, but if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have thought coffee was the main player!



All in all, a fabulous evening, amazing wine, friendly staff and some of the most beautifully presented food I’ve had in a long time. Hats off to you L’Annexe - you're our top bite in Paris!

Good for: Dinner and drinks
Where to find it: 13 Rude des 3 Freres 75018 Paris



Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Bite Of The Week


Eats - Viet Hoa

Now, anyone who knows East London’s Hipster farm Shoreditch, knows that the streets are not only lined with fashionista’s, but they are also lined with an endless bounty of Vietnamese restaurants. Some good, some bad and some that would make you run for the hills in your vintage-one-of-a-kind-platforms-that-prince-once-wore. 

Fear not food lover, I’ve tried them all (Yeah, that’s right – I’ve taken a few for the team on this one!)  and I am here to tell you that Viet Hoa is the one that will give you the most  bang for your buck. The service might be a bit on the slow side and the staff might nod along even though they are clearly confused, but they are very attentive and polite….so we forgive them a bit of miscommunication!

The food is tasty, fresh and is easily one of my top 5 for this area. Now I have found it, there is no looking back.



Top bites – Deep fried squid, summer rolls or any of the pho soups.
Price - £10 a head without booze.
Location – 70-72 Kingsland Road, E2 (nearest stations Hoxton, Liverpool Street or Old Street)


Drinks – Golden Bee

“So, there is a rooftop bar that serves cocktails, has an outside fire and you get blankets.”

Yeah, you heard me.

It had been a hard week and the lure of a blanket and a cocktail list was basically the best news I had been given since Take That announced they were reforming. (Robbie, thanks for making dreams come true.)

Golden Bee is right in the heart Old Street in East London (Or Silicon Roundabout for all you tech heads!) It features 2 floors. The first being loud, full of city types and garish in décor. The second being high up in the skyline, complete with a fire pit, fairy lights, blankets and an extensive cocktail list that will keep you tucked under a blanket for hours. (They have haribo infused vodka for those of you with a sweet tooth.) 

If you want to relax, be totally zen and watch aeroplanes crossing the city skyline, get involved. This is easily one of the nicest spots in London right now. (Just a heads up cocktail lovers, the rooftop bar requires you to navigate two sets of spiral staircases. If you suffer with vertigo, don’t leave until you can’t see or you have a sober mate to help you down!)



Tipple – Passion Fruit Collins / Old Street Mule
Price – £8-10 for cocktails / wine (bottle) around £15-20
Location – Singer Street, Shoreditch.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Steak in Sherry Cream Sauce

February 14th: chocolates, flowers, romance…it’s not for couples, it’s for girls, so some bright spark has commandeered March 14th as a manly solution. Yes, today is (unofficially) Steak and Blowjob Day. As two single, sexy ladies we’re offering our services right here, right now on the kitchen counter. Quick and easy and oh so satisfying, we’re sure it’ll be the best you’ve ever had (but all girls say that right?)…Yes, boys, here’s a lovely steak recipe!

Steak in Sherry Cream Sauce

Ingredients
Steaks (fillet if going all out)
1 cup dry sherry
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp double cream
Liquid beef stock concentrate
Peppercorns (to taste)

Method
  1. Combine Worcestershire sauce, sherry and peppercorns then marinate the steaks for a minimum of 5hrs (but overnight is preferable)
  2. Remove steaks (reserving marinade) and pat dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Fry steaks to desired bloodiness, pop onto a plate to rest and cover with tin foil
  4. Add a dash of liquid stock concentrate to the frying pan with meat juices, pour in marinade and reduce by half
  5. Add the cream then plate up steaks and pour on sauce
  6. Serve with greens (we like mange tout and tender stem broccoli) and a Bloody Mary with sherry & red wine float. 


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bite of the Week: Monikers Hoxton Square


There’s been a spate of new openings in the Shoreditch area recently, but we've got to give a special mention to a venue that pulled us back multiple times, the splendid Monikers in Hoxton Square. We visited no fewer than three times in its opening week, and I’m going to tell you why.

Firstly the décor is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the venue’s history, which used to be part of the neighbouring church’s school. There’s an assortment of science beakers, a giant rolling chalkboard where they scribble specials and an old cloakroom bench is transformed into seating. A mezzanine level is fronted as a bus and there’ll be diner style booths upstairs when it’s finished. This could all trigger dark memories of terrible school dinners but with big bright windows leading onto a terrace and a pretty bar area it feels more like The Breakfast Club but set in Britain: a little naughty and full of potential.


On our first visit the barman made us a killer Bloody Mary and a delicious rhubarb concoction called the Greta Garbo. The English Patient with elderflower, apple and blueberries was a little sweet for my taste but still very nice. Later I dipped into their selection of reds, which were pleasant but I couldn't convince my companion to splurge on my favourite, Montepulciano, which they only sell by the bottle. A good shout for the meatier end of the menu is the Kernel Porter – very robust with roasted malts and a hint of chocolate that would go well with a game option.


The food is a sort of British tapas / modern European deal. I won’t talk you through the whole menu - top line is I've worked my way through most of it and it's all pretty good - but the stand-out dishes include honey mustard chorizo, grilled leeks, scallops and the chips. The bacon chop was perfectly cooked with a satisfying saltiness and actually could’ve done as a main on its own if you’re not into sharing. The buttermilk chicken was probably the only plate I didn't rate so highly as I prefer my fried chicken with a little kick but my friend liked the unusual pairing with tartare sauce.

Similarly on the dessert menu the buttermilk pudding was a little overwhelmed by the citrusy rhubarb however the chocolate marquise was outstanding. A velvety mousse on a thin sponge base topped with honeycomb. One of the best desserts I've had in a while. Well worth the calories and a smooth salted caramel ice-cream to accompany it. My only regret was sharing it.

So, a fun atmosphere, distinctive menu and great drinks: all in all, Monikers could distract us long enough from kissing boys behind the bike shed to teach us a thing or two about running a decent restaurant.


Good for – boozy brunch, casual date, friendly catch up, informal business
Bad for – Dating the principal
£ - about £25/head


Find them at 16 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London, N1 6NT

Opening Hours:
Tues to Thurs 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Fri to Sat 10:00am – 12:00am
Sun 10:00am – 4:00pm

Book on 020 7042 7720 and follow @MonikersHSQ for updates.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bite Of The Week

I'm doing things sightly differently this week. Due to a nice dose of man flu, crossed with something else disgusting, I have basically been living off of soup. (I paint quite a picture, I'm sure.) This means, I've hardly left the house. Sad times.

Whenever I feel a bit crap, I turn to vegetable soup and there has been a recipe that has been floating around for years, which came from my Mum. Every time I visit Malta (the family are from there) I make sure I get my hands on some Minstra, so Mum's original recipe has been twisted/added/removed from based on the bits I like from my travels. (Just take a moment.....)


** Please note, Mama Renda's soup is top notch as it is**

You will need:

Glug of olive oil - about a dessert spoonful.
1 small onion - finely chopped.
1-2 garlic cloves (2 smalish ones if you're a garlic fiend like me)  - peeled, sliced or left whole.
Fresh red chilli (This bit is your call, but I go for 1 whole one) - finely sliced.
1 teaspoon of oregano - I normally use dried, but fresh is even better.
2 cubes of vegetable stock, or fresh vegetable stock if you have it.
Tomato paste (a couple of squeezes!)
1 x tin of good quality tomatoes (optional, Minestra isn't traditionally very tomatoey so it's up to you if you want to add these.)
1 x courgette
1 quarter of a cauliflower.
2 x sticks of celery.
250g of butternut squash.
250g of turnip.
2 x carrots.
1-2 small potatoes.
4 savoy cabbage leaves - chopped.
Half a can of beans - butter or kidney are my preference.
Handful of rice or conchigliette.

(I haven't indicated how the vegetables should be cut as Minestra normally has vegetables that are cut very finely or down to a small size, I prefer mine a bit more chunky, so it's up to you!)







Method:

Put a large soup pan on a low to medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, garlic and chilli and let that cook away for a few minutes.

Add all of your vegetables except the cabbage, cauliflower and potato and allow them to sweat for 5-8 minutes.

Next, drop in your stock cubes and your oregano and coat the vegetables. (Some freshly ground black pepper popped in here too.)

Then fill the pan as close to the top as you can (but with room to allow it to boil) with water. Bring to the boil and then add tomato paste (a couple of squeezes) and your tinned tomatoes (if you want it a bit more tomatoey!) Let this simmer for another 30-40 minutes.

Then add your beans, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes and rice or pasta and give it another 10-15 minutes.

I then normally turn it off and leave it stand over night in the fridge. The next day, you can boil it up and add more vegetable stock or tomato paste or whatever it feels a bit light on.

I serve mine with ciabatta (or Maltese bread if you're lucky enough to have some!) and pop some freshly ground black pepper on top, a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh parmesan.