Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas cake

Merry Christmas everyone!

This year's cake:
Made using my mum's traditional recipe, with cherry brandy instead of Irish whiskey (don't tell her!), and fed with brandy over a few weeks. Decorated with a layer of marzipan and then royal icing. The Christmas tree is made from green fondant, using a snowflake cutter in three different sizes, then stacked up, and stuck with royal icing. The gold star is marzipan, the gifts are fondant icing. Sprayed with Pearl lustre for the sparkly sheen.

With extra decoration by the kids:

fondant penguin snowman

Ho Ho Ho!

Monday, 16 December 2013

40th Birthday Spurs Cake

The same friend who asked me to make a Spurs cake for a 50th (not hers!) has asked me to do another for a 40th (not hers), but 'not as big'! 

So I reduced the number of sponges to two, updated the collar, changed the name and shrunk the logos!

Otherwise it's exactly the same as before...

Spurs cake
Spurs' new signing...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Eastern Feast

To celebrate, well, Friday night, a little Eastern feast with friends. First, a little shopping in Chinatown for essentials like gyoza pastries and plum wine, some Chinese chives and shittake mushrooms. Tesco provided the sushi-grade tuna (ok, tuna steaks)

First up, to prepare MULLED WINE to drink whilst cooking (A Delia recipe):

2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
2 litres water
1 orange, stuck with cloves
2 lemons, sliced
6 tbsp honey
1 stick cinnamon
1 inch finely grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp brandy

Add everything to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Do not allow it to boil!
Simmer for about 20 minutes, then serve through a sieve if you don't want bits!

Served with a soy, vinegar, ginger and chilli dip
and/or homemade sweet chilli sauce 

school of wokThis recipe is from the School of Wok, where I learned some Dim Sum!


Wonton or gyoza pastries (circular)

For the marinade:
2 tsp sesame oil
salt to taste
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

For the filling:
500 g minced turkey (you could also use pork)
1/2 bunch coriander. chopped
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 shiitake mushrooms, chopped small
1 bunch Chinese chives, finely chopped


Mix all the filling ingredients together. Add in the marinade ingredients and mix well with your hands.

To wrap the gyozas, place a tsp or so of filling in the centre of the circular pastry. Then fold over to form a semi circle - you can use some water to stick the pastry together. Then you can fiddle about and try and make a pretty over-lapping shape but essentially you want to end up with a wobbly half moon shape. I would recommend going to a class at the School of Wok to learn this properly from the experts!

To Cook:
You can deep fry for about 5 minutes at 180 degrees, until golden brown.

If you don't have a deep fryer, you can shallow fry quickly on a high heat, then turn down to medium, add in some boiling water (careful now!) to half cover the gyozas and cover with a lid. Steam them for about 10 minutes until all the water has gone, then give them a minute or so to crisp up.

To Serve:

Mix some soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, fresh chopped chilli, and ginger chopped in matchsticks. Dip in and enjoy!
You could also have a homemade chilli sauce - mix up some finely chopped chilli, garlic, a squeeze of lemon, sugar to taste, chopped coriander and rice vinegar.


This was one of my favourite non-tapas dishes that I had in Barcelona, and have wanted to try it out ever since.

japanese recipe
The recipe was taken from a Beef Tataki recipe that I found online somewhere and adapted it to our sushi-grade tuna (or, truthfully, Tesco tuna steak).


4 tuna steaks (1 per person)
60 ml soy sauce
75 ml Chinese rice wine
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste


First make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil in a bowl. Pour into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer, then add in your chopped spring onion and garlic. Fry for a few minutes, don't let the onions get too soft. Remove all this from the pan and set aside. Next season the tuna and leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes. In the frying pan, add a splash of extra sesame oil, then sear the tuna steaks evenly on both sides for about a minute, they can remain rare on the inside.

To serve, place each steak on a plate and pour over the marinade.



Recipe here. These worked perfectly with the tuna, adding a nice spicy kick to proceedings.


Served with Plum wine

Plum wine from Chinatown went down really well with dessert. I didn't really think we needed any more photos at this point of the evening...!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A (Vegetarian) Taste of Thailand at the School of Wok

My very good friend wanted to learn how to cook One ShowStopper Dinner Party Dish, her signature dish, as it were. She's not exactly Delia, but is willing to learn. She is also vegetarian, but I don't hold that against her in any way. Me being a foodie, she asked my (obviously expert) advice, and my first thought was to head back to the School of Wok for a lesson in Thai cooking. My Quick Fire Class there a few months back left me with some new skills, like how to chop more quickly without any digit damage, so we returned as a (vegetarian) pair and, both being fans of spicy Thai food, spent three hours in the company of Stefan, Yolanda, and Seong, learning how to chop (claw-style), crush, grind, and stir-fry, and smell those kaffir lime leaves in a fantastic Taste Thailand Cookery Class.

On the menu were Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, and Green Curry.

Spring Rolls

spring rollsOur vegetarian option simply left out the minced pork, making it possible to taste for seasoning as we went along. The filling contained cooked vermicilli, grated carrot, garlic, bean sprouts, chopped coriander and oyster sauce, with some sugar, salt and pepper for seasoning. Half our mixture didn't even get cooked! Folding the spring rolls pastries using banana to stick them, they were then taken away for deep frying and served with a sweet chilli sauce.

school of wok

Pad Thai

school of wokPad Thai is one of my favourite dishes ever, and although I would usually use prawns (or indeed, leftover salmon!), I was happy to go veggie again, substituting thinly sliced firm tofu for the prawns. It's simpler than it may seem, all the ingredients are readily available in any supermarket, or better still, local grocery. The tofu is stir-fried first until brown, then the egg added whole, allowed to cook until the white has set, then the yolk is broken apart and the egg is finished cooking. This is then pushed to the back of the wok, while you add in some chives, then beansprouts, for 30 seconds each, followed by cooked rice noodles, with a sauce mix containing chilli, garlic, tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. This is all mixed in until the noodles are glistening, and this is then served sprinkled with chopped peanut and fresh coriander. 
pad thai

Green Curry

Thailand's most famous, and infamous dish, green curry was our finale for the evening. We started this dish at the beginning of the class, by making the paste first - using a pestle and mortar, between us we bashed up the ingredients, compromising on using 8 chillies rather than 10 - Stefan told us the more green chillies, the better the green colour. If you can't hack so many, then use more coriander stalks. The paste was made up of green chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass stalks, lesser ginger (as opposed to our more familiar ginger, but that will do), shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, coriander stalks, and turmeric root. Of these, the most essential for authenticity are the tamarind and the galangal, and of course the kaffir lime leaves - the smell of these when ripped give that wonderful authentic Thai aroma that is so distinctive. Everything can now be sourced in the markets of Chinatown.

thai Being veggie for the night, we also had a massive squash to peel and chop. The paste was then stir-fried until fragrant. Then a can of coconut milk was added and brought to the boil, throwing in the cubed squash at this point. All those lovely little vegetables that we only seem to find in Thai green curry were then added, Thai aubergine, purple aubergine and baby corn, and this was then simmered, stirring occasionally. Towards the end of cooking, the dish was seasoned with fish sauce and sugar, then kaffir lime leaves and holy basil to finish off. Served with sticky rice and garnished with red chillies.

thai school of wok

A fabulous, relaxing evening of deliciously authentic Thai food, wine, chat and learning some secrets. One of the other punters was in fact the teacher of the Indian cookery classes at the School of Wok, so I think I may have to return to see what secrets of Asian cuisine he has to divulge! My friend, in the meantime, is practicing her Pad Thai, so I'm also waiting for my invitation to dinner...!

Have a look at the School of Wok's website for a whole range of Asian Cookery Classes.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Pad Thai with Salmon Recipe

A quick recipe to use up any leftovers. Leftover cooked salmon and store cupboard ingredients.

Serves 2
Time: 15 minutes


300 g fresh pasta or noodles
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used Kikkoman - here is why!)
juice 1 lime
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp hoi sin sauce
1 tsp demerra sugar
rapeseed oil
2 banana shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 red chillies
leftover cooked salmon, flaked
2 eggs or 4 egg yolks with some cream (leftover from my soufflés)
fresh coriander, chopped.


Cook the pasta or noodles as instructed, drain them and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and hoi sin sauce with a teaspoon of demerra sugar.

Heat the oil in the wok and fry off the shallots for a couple of minutes, then add in the garlic and chilli. Push the onions to the side, then add in the eggs and gently heat for 1 min, then stir agian to scramble the egg. then add in the salmon and mix back in the onions/garlic and chilli.

Add in the noodles and sauce, and stir well. add most of the chopped corainder, and stir.

Divide up and sprinkle with coriander (and chopped peanuts if you have them handy)

leftover recipe
Pad Thai with Salmon

November Supper Club - Meat- Wheat- and Poultry-free Spanish Night

The best nights are the nights you don't plan. In theory. But I planned this. I had to. One wheat-intolerant guest, one vegetarian, and one with a poultry-phobia. And two normals. It was still the best night though!

We started with some Prosecco and then some Cava, just because...


Goat's Cheese and Fennel Fritters served with Mojo di Cilantro

Goat's Cheese and Fennel Fritters...
... with Mojo di Cilantro

Following a José Pizzaro recipe for fennel and onion squash fritters, I used fennel and goat's cheese, dipped in cornflour and then egg. I fried them first, set them aside and then just popped them in the oven later once my guests had arrived. 
Served with mojo di cilantro from the same book, a coriander and garlic salsa, extremely salty but deliciously so, they ladled it on!

Main Course:

Vegetarian Paella
Catalan Spinach

Paella (not vegetarian anymore)

Catalan Spinach

Paella and Spinach

Well, vegetarian up to a point. I followed José's recipe for Seafood Paella, leaving out all the seafood, up to the point where you add the peas and then simmer at the end. Here, I separated out a vegetarian portion, and then chucked in some scallops, prawns and chorizo, 8 more minutes and it was ready.

The Catalan spinach is the simplest, tastiest salad dish I've ever eaten, simply fried shallots, pine nuts and raisins, and then toss the spinach in this - not even long enough for it to wilt.


Berry Soufflé with White Chocolate

Berry Soufflé

This was the best dessert I've made for ages. It was a blackberry and raspberry soufflé - recipe from a Sainsbury's recipe card I randomly picked up! I was a soufflé virgin so it was a little daunting, but oh my goodness, it worked and it tasted divine, particularly drizzled with lots of extra melted white chocolate. 

I think we had more Cava then...

Thank you José Pizarro! And my lovely awkward friends.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Barcelona in October

There is so much to do in Barcelona. Escaping from the dreary Autumn weather in London, Himself and I had a Cava-infused culture and food fest in this fantastic city. As well as visiting the amazing Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlo, both infamous and unmissable Gaudi designed architechural masterpieces, wandering the Barric Gothi in search of Picasso's favourite haunts, an evening mingling with Barcelona FC fans around Camp Nou on the day of El Classico against Real Madrid, and even an afternoon on the beach, right there in the city, of course the highlight for me was the food. Real Spanish Food.

Tapas at Bar Plaza on Placa de Sant Josep
(First day - no idea where we were!)

Tapas and Rioja at Casa Tomasa, at Passeig d'Isabell II. Romantic, and friendly service, close to the marina, but not so close it's too expensive.

Tortilla, chorizo in cider, spicy chicken, and ham croquettes

Chorizo in cider

Brunch was a Bocadillo with serranito pork with iberico jamon and sweet red pepper at Terraza Sweet, Moll d'Espanya. A bit of a tourist trap, I fear, but I enjoyed it.

Tuna tataki at Restaurante Grill Room, Carrer dels Escudellers. Just a slight break from the tapas, this was really delicious. Don't worry, I still had Rioja.

Tuna Tataki

Pre-Gaudi Catherdral lunch was a salsichon bocadillo at La Palmera with a full on view of La Sagrada Familia. Excellent location, but they could have made so much more of this.

Salsichon Bocadillo

Obligatory Churros con Xocolate outside Camp Nou.

Churros with chocolate

At Vitae Tapas, Baixada Sant Miguel, we had Gambas al Ajillo...

Gambas al ajillo
...and Merluza con Almejas a la salsa verde (hake with clams garlic and parsley)...
Hake with clams and salsa verde
...Himself ordered Steak and Pepper (typical!) and got a steak with padron peppers! Yum!
Steak and Peppers

We watched some Star Wars/Trek people wander by on a little Placa near El Born, while we sampled calamari (first meal of the day, really shouldn't have been calamari...)


Chips with beer? No! Patatas Bravas at Bar International just off La Rambla, expensive beer, to be expected for the location.

Patatas bravas

On the last evening, dinner at Sedna, on Passeig de Colom. Mixed paella. Nuff said.


Of course, no self-respecting foodie can visit Barcelona without spending several hours at La Boqueria Food Market! An amazing range of fresh everything, I only wished I'd had access to a kitchen for the weekend!!

Foie gras
Fresh meat

Crab and Sea Hedgehogs
Insides of sheep

Giant Shellfish
Freshly Salted Cod

Squid and Sea Hedgehogs
Saffron and other spices

Only about 6 Euro a gram
Freshly slice Iberico Jamon


Sheep stomach and other internal delights