Monday, 31 March 2014

The Vegetarian Pantry - A Veggie Indian Supperclub

One of my Christmas cookbooks this year was, by my own request, The Vegetarian Pantry, by Chloe Coker and my friend Jane Montgomery, who teaches at the School of Wok and also runs pop-up events with Waste Not Want Not. Chloe grew up in a vegetarian kitchen, her mum has been vegetarian for over 40 years, and Jane was inspired by her quest for more interesting meat-free recipes for her clients. Both are passionate about fresh, healthy, seasonal, meat-free cooking and in this book share this passion with those of us who often entertain vegetarians and need ideas that will satisfy carnivores as well!

Anyway, I had my vegetarian friends around again (one is actually a pescetarian but we won't hold that against him), so I chose two Indian recipes from the book to satisfy our chilli-love. Incidentally, they also brought some new Mr Singh's Chilli Sauces (now stocked in The Larder N21!), which fitted perfectly into my plans.

We began with poppadums and the chilli sauces (top ingredient: Scotch Bonnet!) and my homemade Indian mint sauce.

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Pine Nuts Samosa
Courgette with Feta and Sundried Tomatoes Samosa
Homemade Mint Sauce

Samosas look difficult to make but the way they are made here are quite manageable. Baked rather than traditionally deep-fried, with two delicious vegetarian fillings. A bit of nifty filo-pastry folding, topped with poppy seeds, served with mint sauce and Mr Singh's Chilli sauces... authentic!

Main Course: 
Roasted Aubergine, Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry
Served with steamed basmati rice and honey/coconut naan bread

Simple, light and healthy, the vegetables are roasted with some cinnamon and then stir fried with mustard seeds and spices, with a tomato base. A touch of lime and perhaps an extra chilli, and this gives even meat-lovers a curry of substance.


I found this recipe in the Metro as I was heading into work, wondering what to make for dessert. Even though the Italians would probably be abhorred, I thought it perfectly appropriate to finish off an Indian evening.
A very successful vegetarian evening, and I'm looking forward to getting these friends round again so I can get stuck into a few more recipes from The Vegetarian Pantry - I like the look of the courgette fritters with minted yoghurt, vegetable dumplings with soy dipping sauce, and the vegetable tempura with wasabi dipping sauce... and that's just for starters! 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Godiva Chocolate Challenge - The Finals!

And no, I wasn't in the Finals! I did, however, attend the event as press, representing Fabric Magazine (you can read my article here). As I arrived, the four finalists were beavering away (since 2pm apparently) with their creations, looking relatively calm and in control. The Boffi Kitchen showroom, where the event was held seemed a rather appropriate venue - luxurious and contemporary.

 Godiva Chocolates tasked the finalists with creating 'a chocolate dessert whose presentation, creativity and texture reflects the craftsmanship and excellence of Godiva'. My own Citrus Chocolate Cups didn't make the shortlist, but when you see what did, you will see why!

Heather, the winner, with Victoria, Danny and Natasha
  Danny's Candied Bacon & Chocolate Tartlet with Pork Scratching Snap, Heather's A Conference of Chocolate, Victoria's Chocolate Praline Mousse Cake, and Natasha's Praline Mousse Coeur

Heather Bennett is a budding chocolatier who works full time in the City. Her winning recipe, A Conference of Chocolate was "inspired by Godiva’s use of the finest quality ingredients and by Mark Hix’s love of British seasonal produce. Kent Pears and locally sourced honey combined with dark chocolate, compliments the dish that like Godiva’s namesake, needs no frills and laces. It is easily scalable for commercial kitchen production with no compromise to presentation or flavours."

The other three, no less inspired, finalists' recipes could also easily have won the competition, based on their presentation alone. Danny Kingston is a renowned food blogger (Food Urchin) whose love of chocolate started with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at a young age and his creation Candied Bacon and Chocolate Tartlet with Pork Scratching Snap was certainly daring to be different with the salty sweet addition of something salty you would expect for breakfast, rather than dessert.

Victoria Glass made a Chocolate Praline Mousse Cake which was elegant and luxurious with layers of flavour coated with chopped hazelnuts. Victoria was slightly panicked at one point as the failure of the freezers to work in this beautiful-but-maybe-not-so-functional showroom meant her mousse wasn't setting. She pulled it all together though just in time and this bunny ear-topped mousse cake was just the right balance between mousse and cake, according to William Sitwell.

Natasha Cohen (Tashcakes) was accompanied by her very proud parents, and was happy to chat while she worked on (my favourite) heart shaped chocolate mousse cake. She made five of these beautifully tempered cakes, and was happy for me and Vikki from @ChefMag to taste test some of the caramelized hazelnuts. We chatted together afterwards and Natasha is a genuine star, with modesty and talent in abundance, and I'm sure this will lead to great things for her, and for all of the contestants. Incidently, she mentioned she liked the look of my recipe, and it's on her 'to try' list! Woohoo! And in return I'm going to attempt hers...

Caramelized hazelnuts... mmmm.

Meantime, Vikki (@ChefMag) and I sampled the delightful chocolate covered strawberries...

...spied on the judges judging...

...admired the displays around the showroom...

...scoffed numerous delicious canapés... goat's cheese with balsamic jelly, beef carpaccio with truffle oil...

...Salmon curls with creme fraiche blinis...
...Miso black cod... 
...Tuna with soy and ginger on chopsticks...;

The finalists were finally given their de-briefing before Mark Hix announced Heather as the winner.

We could finally taste one of Thierry's exclusive creations, a rich luxurious chocolate mousse topped with pomegranate 'caviar', and dip into the four desserts, and roll our own truffles...

Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranite Caviar
And of course, check out our own tweets on the big screen!

Well done to all four finalists, particularly Heather, who must be absolutely thrilled to see her recipe on the dessert menu at Hix Selfridges! And a big thank you to Godiva Chocolates for a fantastic evening.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Arsenal 40th Birthday Cake

A last minute request for a 40th birthday cake - well, ok, I had a week - but being short of time, I had to keep it simple. Birthday boy is an Arsenal fan, and it was rather a little ironic that his party was on the day Chelsea beat them 6-0. Oops! It was hard to resist the temptation to change the '4' to a '6'...
football cake
Square Victoria Sponge (Annie Bell recipe) filled with buttercream and jam.
Sugarpaste icing  and edible gold pen from Decorative Supplies Enfield.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

3D Space Cookie Cutters - Starfighter!

 I often peruse the Science Museum Shop in search of a gift for one of the many parties that the kids go to, and I love to browse the kitchen stuff in there. If only I had the time and the space, I'd love to play with the Molecule R Mini Cocktail sets, the Wobble Wine glasses and even, in the name of Science, of course, the Kitchen Chemistry Set!
They sent me a set of 3D Space Cookie Cutters - Starfighter to try out at home. Nice packaging (we kept thinking it was a DVD lying around in the kitchen), and good solid cookie cutters. I made some orange and almond cookie dough, rolled it out and cut out several of each shape. When baked they are supposed to slot into each other so that you can make a space ship, or indeed, in this case, a star-fighter. I'm no cookie dough expert, but I followed my recipe as diligently as ever (ok, so not very!) and used the cutters, as instructed...
cookie cutters
3D Space Cookie Cutters
They didn't 'slot' exactly... perhaps it was my cookie dough - rolled out too thick perhaps, or they may have self-raised a little more than was intended.
But it was fun to play with, and they tasted good!
 We tried gluing them with some melted chocolate... that helped!
Overall I think they are a very good idea, and if you can get your dough just right I'm sure they would piece together nicely. Other sets available are Rocket, Shuttle and Space Buggy (that one does look tricky!). A few scientific experiments to test a variety of conditions, perhaps are in order? Chocolate chips anyone?
Available on the Science Museum Shop online.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Godiva Chocolate Challenge - Citrus Chocolate Cups

I am no chocolatier, pâtissièr or even chef. But I do love to experiment. And I like a bit of a challenge too. So when I saw the Godiva Chocolate Challenge (#GodivaChallenge), I was rather a little excited! The brief is to create 'a chocolate dessert whose presentation, creativity and texture reflects the craftsmanship and excellence of Godiva'. The judges are restaurateur Mark Hix, food critic William Sitwell, chef Juliette Nothomb and Godiva's head chocolatier Thierry Muret. The prize is a trip to Brussels to visit Godiva's Atelier of Chocolate Innovation and the honour of having the winning dessert on the menu at Hix for a week! All for making a delicious chocolate dessert! However after checking out a few of the other entries, I accepted the reality that for me at least, it was just going to be a bit of delicious fun, as I will get to watch other renowned and talented Foodies show us their stuff.

I chose my favourite non-chocolate dessert - lemon and lime tart - and decided to put it in a chocolate cup. This led, as you may expect, chocolate fans, to my first attempt at tempering. I've heard it talked about in cookbooks and on TV food shows, but never imagined I'd ever get round to doing it myself. However, it's an essential technique for achieving beautiful shiny evenly textured chocolate that is the signature of professional confectionery. That crisp snap when the chocolate is broken is a sign it is tempered correctly. Of course if this snap happens when you are removing the cups from the mould, it's not so good. But out of 15, hopefully you'll get a few pretty ones! There are acres of pages describing how to temper chocolate and hundreds of websites demonstrating it, so I have found the easiest, quickest, most amateur way of presenting these chocolate cups I could, and it is surprisingly simple. Don't be fooled into thinking this makes me a chocolatier extraordinaire, it doesn't, at all, but it's impressive for a first attempt, no?

It tastes delicious, if I say so myself, zingy and smooth, and I'll be practicing this again and again to improve my tempering!

Prep Time: 1 hour
Setting Time (no cooking!): 1 hour
Serves: 8-10


200g Godiva Milk Chocolate Pearls
2 lemons
3 limes
397g can sweetened condensed milk
200ml double cream
Lemon/lime zest, to decorate


Silicon cup mould or paper cupcake cases
Microwave (don't be sceptic!)
Flat paintbrush
Electric whisk
Citrus zester


Temper the chocolate by melting for one minute at half power in the microwave. Give it a stir, then another 30 seconds. It should have mostly melted, but not completely. Remove from the microwave and stir the remaining un-melted pieces until all are fully dissolved. Allow to cool slightly before using. Ideally you would use a sugar thermometer to ensure it is at about 32 deg C to use. And that's it! Tempered!

Dip in a flat paintbrush, tap off any excess and paint the inside of the mould or cupcake case, starting at the bottom and up the side. Make sure there are no gaps, but don't worry if it's a bit messy inside, it will be covered later. Paint it on quite thickly, to make it easier later, when you have to remove it from the mould. A thin layer of course looks fantastic and very professional, but remember who we are... Make about 15 then you can be sure you will have enough in case of breakages.

Allow to set in the fridge for at least an hour, overnight if you have time.

Make the filling:

Grate the lemon and lime zest and squeeze and strain the juice. Beat the condensed milk and cream in a large bowl using an electric whisk for 3 mins. Reserve 1 tsp of citrus zest for decoration, or make some zest curls. Add the rest of the zest and all juice to the cream mixture and whip for just a few seconds more. The mixture will thicken quickly.

Remove the chocolate cups from the fridge. Neaten the top edges by trimming away the tops, with a flat knife edge.

Flex back the mould and gently push up the cup from the base. If you are using paper cases, then very gently tear back the paper to free the cup from the case.

Add the citrus mixture to the centre of the cold chocolate cups. Allow it to set in the fridge for a while if you have time. Decorate with the zest curls and any shards of chocolate you may have accidentally snapped off...

Monday, 10 March 2014

A Dog on a Chair Cake

A birthday cake for a couple who love a good (lemon!) cake and have a gorgeous Patterdale terrier called Buffa. Buffa is the inspiration for this cake and you can follow his adventures on buffamom's blog. Buffadad is also a designer/antique chair enthusiast. Who knew there was such a thing...?

Fondant Buffa on a rug. 

The lemon cake was a lemon drizzle recipe by Annie Bell from her Baking Bible.
Lemon buttercream icing was used to hold it all together and the basket weave was made with a basket weave nozzle and chocolate ganache icing. The chair was (very) loosely based on this.
Buffa and his rug are both sugarpaste, with help from this and this.
The poop was also chocolate ganache! Buffadad was made to eat it!

Happy Birthday BuffaMom and BuffaDad!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Leopard Skin 40th Birthday Cake

For my beautiful and stylish friend.

10" square cake (recipe x 2)
8" square cake (recipe x 1.5)
White sugarpaste hand-painted with ivory and black food gel colouring mixed with vodka, inspired by The Krazy Kool Cakes.
Beading made using a mould from Issue 65 of My Cake Decorating Magazine, sprayed with pearl lustre.
Advice and boards, dowels, and icing supplies from Decorative Supplies Enfield.
Black fondant bow by the birthday girl's husband.