Thursday, 10 December 2015

Meringue Girls Cooking Class

For some reason, meringue is one of those words that I find it really hard to spell. I don't know why, but it always stumps me. I have to almost way it out in my head when I write it: mer-in-gue. OK, so that was a slightly useless fact about my, any probably not why you are here.

For a few years now I've admired and followed the Meringue Girls. They have beautiful styling, design and photography, plus a unique and YUMMY product. What's not to love? So when I was recently in London, I was happy to discover that they were holding a masterclass.

So what did I discover? Their recipe is a pretty simple and standard meringue recipe, but their passion for cooking and what they do is almost palpable. As soon as you walk through the door you can't help but smile along with everyone else in the room. Their approach to ingredients is something I'm seeing more and more of. Less of the stuff you don't need and the chemicals. Why add vinegar if you don't really need it?

When talking to Stacy, the thing that actually surprised me the most is how they got their 'big break' (for want of a better word). They were lucky enough to use a photographer named David Loftus (who works a lot with Jamie Oliver) as their website photographer. He happened to Instagram a picture of their product and like magic their brand took off. Overnight practically people knew about them.

It struck me that nowadays, it's not just the traditional celebrity that can be responsible for making or breaking people, but so many more people. People like David Loftus hold so much power and I wonder if they realise it. If they realise the responsibility they have to do good and not evil. How one tiny gesture from them can change someones world, for the better or for the worse. How they can make or break someones dream in an instance.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Turning Yoghurt into Labneh

If you're a fan of this blog, you'll know I love cooking courses. I'll take any chance I can get to spend a bit of time learning more skills. A few weeks ago my sister Arielle and I went on a Cornersmith Fermenting course and tried their AMAZING fermented lemonade. I promptly went home and declared I wanted to make sure. When I sat myself down and checked out the recipe, I quickly discovered that it had whey in it. Where does a normal person get whey from??? I'm talking the whey that comes from milk of course, not the powered protein form of whey. And then it dawned on some yoghurt to make some labneh to get some whey to make some lemonade. Talk about the long way around...

So over the weekend I made the Cornersmith labneh recipe and I was shocked at how simple it was. Given how much I love labneh, I can't believe I haven't done this earlier!

1kg natural yoghurt
1 tsp salt
Some cheesecloth (it's pretty easy to find)

Mix the salt into your yoghurt. Line a big colander with the cheesecloth and put it over a larger bowl. Top the yoghurt mixture into the cheesecloth, and fold the corners of the cheesecloth over the yoghurt.

Place a plate on the cheesecloth to add a bit of pressure, and put it in the fridge for 24hrs. The whey will drain out of the yoghurt into the bowl, so you'll need to tip it out every few hours. If you're like me and want to make lemonade from the whey, collect it in a container in the fridge.

How do I eat labneh? On bread or crackers. Or instead of yoghurts in soup or with lamb. Anything really!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A recipe request: Guacamole

I've always considered it a HUGE compliment when someone asks for a recipe of mine. OK, so most of the time it's not really MY recipe, it's an adaptation of another recipe that I've probably made 100 times and kind of know off by heart by may need to take a sneaky look at the original recipe to make sure I have all the ingredients...but none the less, it's a compliment. Today I got asked for the recipe for my (and when I say mine, I mean Jamie Oliver) guacamole. It's a true dash of this, bit of that recipe, but it always works and it's always delicious. But today, this request was more than a was the pinch of inspiration I needed to start tapping away again on my blog, so I thought I'd share this random recipe with you. Being so spur of the moment, there are no pictures, but I think you all know what guac looks like, so I'm sure you'll cope without one.

Chris...this one goes out to you...

2 avocado’s
Juice 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 – 1 red chilli, finely diced, no seeds
1/4 – 1/2 bunch coriander, finely chopped (controversial I know, but delicious)
Mash it all together roughly. 

I keep it all pretty rough, nothing too precise and not fancy. Sometimes I need more lime or salt, but you just taste as you’re going and add more if needed.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

One Dish Wonder - Crispy Almond Coated Chicken

Like pretty much everyone else out there, I'm always on the look out for simple and delicious recipes. I mean, who doesn't like a one dish recipe that makes people go WOW?!? A few weeks ago, a friend introduced me to a New Zealand blogger, Petite Kitchen and not long after following her on Facebook she posted a picture of her Crispy Almond Coated Chicken with Artichokes and Lemon which I swiftly screengrabbed. It took me a little while, but I finally got around to cooking it the other day and it was definitely WOW. Unbelievably simple, but the mixture of the oregano, almond meal and lemon is just perfect.

I didn't except to be blogging this recipe, so there's no fancy DSLR photo's in this post, but I once I started cooking I had a good feeling about the recipe so I took a couple of snaps with my iPhone (excuse the slightly dodgy quality of them).

6-8 free range chicken drumsticks
1 tin artichokes, marinated in brine
1/2 - 1 cup almond meal
handful of pumpkin seeds (although I TOTALLY forgot about these, and it was still delicious)
fresh oregano
salt & pepper
olive oil
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degree celsius. Coat the chicken drumsticks in olive oil and lay them out on a baking tray. Chop the artichokes in 4 and add them to the baking tray. Call me crazy, but when I'm baking in a baking tray I always line it with alfoil. It means a hell of an easier job cleaning up.

Roughly chop up the oregano and sprinkle it over the chicken, along with the pumpkin seeds (if you're using them). Season everything with salt and pepper, and pour on a good drizzle of olive oil and bake for an hour, or until the chicken is golden and crispy.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon (this is key...don't forget about the lemon).

That's it. It's as simple as that. I served it with some steamed broccolini and roasted tomatoes.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A life lived without dairy is a life half lived

Much to my horror and dismay (and to my poor flatmates dispair) I recently thought that I'd become lactose intolerant. I may have been being a slight hypochondriac, but just the thought of having to restrict my cheese, ice-cream, butter (croissants!!!) intake seriously worried me. Being born in a  household where there's constantly at least three different types of cheeses in the fridge doesn't prepare you well for a life without lactose. Can you more Messina ice-cream without some major discomfort afterwards. Oh the horror!!

Luckily, after a week of not eating dairy, finished by an evening of dairy overindulgence (pizza, chocolate milk, zonut and Messina ice-cream all under a doctors strict orders) I concluded that what I had was simply a bug and I was free from the worry of a life lived without dairy.

But my dairy free week did make me look closer at what was in what I ate. Did you know there was lactose in salt and vinegar chips? I didn't expect purely potatoes, salt and vinegar to be listed on the ingredients, but lactose...really? Surely manufacturers can find a way to cut unnecessary additives to our foods. Or perhaps I should just be opting for the more natural options out there. It may be a bit more expensive, but if I eat less but better quality won't that make me happier?

It also opened my eyes to all the people out there who don't eat one thing or another. I'm not talking about those who have genuine allergies, but those people who, for example, "vegetarian but eat fish". People, a fish is not a vegetable...which means if you eat fish you're NOT a vegetarian. Or what a colleague I worked with years ago described herself as: "rouge-carnivoreus-no-moreus". Can't you just say you don't eat red meat?? Is it just me, or are allergies and dietary restrictions just becoming trendy so everyone wants to be able to put a name to what just comes down to food preferences?

So my outtake from my dairy free week:

  • I know I can survive well with a lot less processed food than I currently eat
  • Living with less dairy in my diet actually makes me feel pretty good. Now I'm not saying I'll go dairy free, but having a long black instead of a cappuccino is actually a pretty good start to my day
  • People need to stop labelling their diets and just eat what they eat

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A couple of kitchen tips - baking trays, icing sugar and a spice list

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so thought it was about time...Here's what I have for you today:

1. Line your trays: Save yourself time and energy and line your baking trays with baking paper or aluminium foil whenever you put anything in the oven, be it vegies, meat, chicken, fish, anything. You trays will be a LOT less dirty and you'll have a lot less cleaning up to do.

2. Process your icing sugar: You all know I hate icing sugar. Well, I like it, but I hate the fact that it always clumps together and is a pain to sift. Well, before you sift if, process it in a food processer. It will still need to be sifted, but it breaks it up a lot and takes out a lot of the clumps.

3. Spice List: OK, so this is really OCD of me (and maybe a bit of an insight into who I am) but I got sick of spending ages sifting through my spice cupboard to see if I had one spice or another, or buying something to find out that I already had it and ending up with two packets of the same spice. So last time I tidied the cupboard, I made a list of everything I had. Now, rather than rummaging through the cupboard, or wasting money, I just check the list to see if I have a particular spice before I buy it. Easy.

Monday, 12 August 2013

French Cooking with Jean-Pierre

I love doing cooking classes. Learning something new and spending an hour/afternoon/day surrounded by people that are also passionate about cooking is fantastic. So when I was in Bordeaux recently, it was the perfect excuse to do a half day class. I mean France, food, traditional French Chef names Jean-Pierre...what more could I want? Oh yes, that's right...I had my beautiful sister there next to me. Technically it was her birthday present, but I think she knew as well as I did that that was just an excuse to bring her along, but I don't think she minded.
Now, in typical French style there was no exact recipe that came with the class. I would usually find that really intimidating, but in this instance I found it quite liberating. Maybe a lesson in how I need to start trusting my instincts more when I cook? But here's a write up of one of the recipes we made, plus a few pics from the day.
One thing I have to say is that if you're ever in the Goujounac area in Bordeaux, look up this cooking school, L'Atelier de la Fontaine. The Chef and his wife are absolutely lovely and welcoming. They even invited us back for a coffee next time we're in the area. Their English is fantastic, so no need to worry about speaking French. It was such a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Can't help myself...this is the Nuage (or Cloud in English), the Chef's very own Truffle Hunting Dog. I wonder if it's too late to train my dog to do this.
Just to show you how close we were to the vines. This was the view from the balcony where we were staying.

A word of warning, the pastry is a pretty tricky pastry to make, and to be honest, I'm not sure I'd be game to make it at home by myself. Its SIMILAR to a filo, but not quite the same, so you could substitute with filo if you're not up to making your own pastry. If you are making your own, remember it needs to sit overnight, so make sure you allow time to do this.

Croustade de Poulet Aux Cèpes (or Crisp Chicken Pie with Cèp Mushrooms)

Pastry Ingredients (enough for 2 pies)
1.2kg flour
3 eggs
2/3ish L milk

Slowly mix eggs and milk into flour and kneed it until soft. Add a bit more flour or milk as needed to ensure it's not too sticky. Put it on a plate, cover it and leave overnight in the fridge.
When you're ready to use it, cover a large surface like a table in a sheet or cloth and flour it. Put the mixture plate side down (ie, don’t flip it over) onto the table. Partially roll it out, then stretch it from underneath using your hands and fingers.
It should end up super thin and essentially covering the whole table. Leave it to dry out (about 30 – 45mins) and then it's ready to use.

Chicken Filling Ingredients
1 chicken, free range of course
Duck fat
Cep mushrooms (if you can't find fresh, use normal mushrooms and add some dried cep for flavour)
Chicken stock
Cut up the chicken into pieces.
Put a good spoonful of duck fat into a pan, and add the chicken pieces, cooking them until they are browned. Add some garlic, and a big heap of cep mushrooms. Sprinkle on some flour and leave for a minute or so. Add chicken stock until the chicken is covered.
Once the liquid has thickened, take the chicken out, take it off the bone and shred it. Then take all the mushrooms out of the sauce, but keep the sauce. Mix the mushrooms and the chicken together.
Oil a heavy based baking pan. Cut 4 circles out of the pastry and put them into the pan. Add in the chicken mixture and spoon in a heap of the sauce. Cut 4 more circles of pastry, and put them on top of the chicken in the pan and then seal the edges. Put a bit more pastry on top for decorations. Cook it at 180 for about 30mins, or until the pastry is golden and crispy.