29 March 2013

Sounds of Spring

The sun has made an appearance after days of gloom. How glorious to feel the warmth on my back even if only for a few minutes! As I stepped outside yesterday it struck me how the sounds of spring had returned. For the past week all you could hear was the howling wind, but now the birds are singing again. If I closed my eyes I could almost imagine sitting outside, glass of rose in hand...not long now hopefully.

25 March 2013

Lunch at Homa

On a recent visit to Stoke Newington we stopped for lunch at Homa. How gorgeous to sit by one of those big windows enjoying a deliciously garlicky pizza. I hope I have reason to go back soon - there were plenty of other things on the menu I would like to try!

17 March 2013

Parsnip and Candied Pecan Nut Cake

Does putting vegetables in cakes make them count as one of your five a day? I think so. In any case, I am sure this cake is ever so good for you because eating a piece will result in a happy tummy and a smiley face. The candied pecan nut topping is amazing and adds another crunchy dimension to this sweet, moist cake. Next time you plan on making a carrot cake, try parsnips instead - their distinctive flavour works really well with the cream cheese frosting.

Two Eggs
90 gms Brown Sugar
100 ml Golden Syrup
100 ml Olive Oil
150 gms Plain Flour
3 Small Parsnips
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Mixed Spice

50 gms Cream Cheese
25 gms Butter
150 gms Icing Sugar

150 gms Pecan Nuts
50 gms Brown Sugar
Small Knob of Butter

Peel and grate the parsnips. Whisk the eggs and sugar until nice and fluffy. Mix the dry ingredients. Add the golden syrup, olive oil and parsnips to the eggs and combine gently. Fold in the dry ingredients. Pour into a greased and breaded 22 cm cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes at 175 degrees.
Whilst the cake is in the oven, prepare the candied pecans. Put the sugar and butter in a non stick frying pan over a medium heat. Chop the nuts roughly. Stir the melting sugar until you have a gently bubbling smooth liquid. Add the nuts to the pan and stir until they are coated completely. Pour onto a plate and allow to cool. Break the pieces up by hand first, then chop with a knife. You want the pieces to be small enough to sprinkle over the cake, but not so fine that it resemble dust.
To make the frosting stir the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together until no lumps of butter remain. Once the cake is cooked and have cooled down completely, cover it all over with the frosting. Cut a round piece of baking parchment slightly smaller than the cake and place it on top of the icing. Sprinkle the candied pecans onto the cake then remove the paper circle. Slice and eat!

15 March 2013

14 March 2013

Staying In

It is the new going out. At least for the rest of this month, or until temperatures decide to reach above 5 degrees. In the meantime I am happy to spend my evenings at home with a bunch of friends, a few bottles of wine, lots of candles and some good cheese.

11 March 2013

Smoked Mackerel Carbonara

The wind is howling outside and I'm wrapped up in a blanket fantasizing about a comforting dinner...something like this dish would be ideal. What a genius idea this was! A combination of some of the best things I know all in one bowl getting along amazingly well. And it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. A winner in other words.

Serves 2

200 gms Linguine
1 whole smoked mackerel
2 Egg Yolks
1 Bunch of Spring Onions
100 ml Double Cream
Salt and Pepper

Cook the linguine for 8-12 minutes until it is al dente. In the meantime, gently flake up the mackerel and add it to a non stick frying pan over a low heat. It doesn't need cooking, just warming through, so make sure to keep an eye on it. Whisk the egg yolks and cream in a bowl, seasoning the mixture with a bit of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Chop the spring onions finely. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and put it back in the pan. Add the egg mixture, fish and spring onions staright away and stir. Serve in warmed bowls with a few more twists of pepper on top. Dig in!

10 March 2013

The Zetter Townhouse

What a nice place to go for a drink! After dinner last night at Bistro Bruno Loubet we went around the corner to the Zetter Townhouse for cocktails. The bar is housed in the most beautiful Georgian townhouse in Clerkenwell, and once inside you feel like you are in someone's very cosy and slightly eccentric living room. Perfect for a cold wintry evening!

9 March 2013

Choosing Keeping

This shop is a real find for stationary junkies like me. If possible I avoid writing with cheap plastic biros as proper fountain pens are so much nicer to use. For writing cards, letters and signing important documents (happens roughly once a year) I use a beautiful pen which was a gift from my lovely husband. But for meetings, making notes in my diary and so on, I have a great every-day fountain pen which was bought at Choosing Keeping on Columbia Road. They stock a wonderful selection of quality paper, scissors, sharpeners and pens. No pink girly floral prints in sight here - these are elegant, understated, grown up products with an old-school feel. If you are after the most beautiful pencils or the Rolls Royce of pencil sharpeners, this is the place to go.

6 March 2013

Mocha Brownies

The best brownie I ever had (so far...) was from a deli in Queen's Park. I can't remember the name of the shop but I do remember the taste and texture of the brownie. Quite something considering it must have been eight years ago that I ate it. Rich but not overwhelmingly so, slightly gooey without being sticky and not so heavy that it feels like a brick - no cake should be brick-like if you ask me. I am sure peoples taste in brownies varies a lot but this is how I like them.

At the weekend I made a batch of mocha brownies and they were pretty close to the mark. The addition of coffee powder make them a bit more grown up. On Saturday night we went wild and served them for pudding as part of a Sundae together with home-made candied pecan ice cream and a salted caramel sauce...what can I say. Outrageous.

150 gms Butter
200 gms Dark Chocolate
4 Eggs
150 gms Sugar
35 gms Plain Flour
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Coffee Powder
Pinch of Salt

Grease a square baking tin, then melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan. Once melted, break the chocolate into small pieces and add them to the pan making sure to keep stirring while it melts over a low heat. Whisk the eggs and sugar until really light and fluffy. Add the chocolate and stir gently to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the mixture and pour it into the tin. Cook at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Once cool, cut the brownies into squares and dust with cocoa powder.

Top tip: For dusting cocoa powder or icing sugar, I always use a tea strainer. This make it easy to control and you can be a bit more precise.

3 March 2013

Market Voices

Tete-a-tete, a pound a pot!
Tete-a-tete, a pound a pot!

Lovely lilies, two bunches for a fiver - don't be shy, it has all got to go!
Or how about a bunch of carnations for you mother in laws grave?

The sun is out and the market comes alive. It is packed with visitors from all over London, even some out of towners I think. And lots of tourists of course. I make a quick dash to the shop to buy some milk and pastries and secretly feel a bit smug about the fact I don't need a bag because I live around the corner.