Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Flour cupboard

We re-did our kitchen last year. Where once there was carved, dark oak cabinet doors there is stainless steel. Where once there was a dark brown (yes) sink with dark brown tap (yes) there is stainless steel. Where once there was the ‘smashy floor’ as my eldest called it (tiled and mean) there is wood. Where once there were three rooms: kitchen, loo, my study, there is now just one great, big muthaloving kitchen.

I joke that, had I got into bread baking before the kitchen was done, I’d probably have had an entire bakery area. It’s only part-joke since if I had the space, I’d surely do this. But I don’t do too badly. I have an entire cupboard dedicated to flour, all labelled. People laugh when they see this except they don’t seem to understand I do all this cos I’m lazy. I’m too lazy to be faffing around searching through identical-looking packets of flour, held chaste with Klip-its. I find organisation comforting, or as I often say to my boyfyhusband:

Organisation brings you freedom.

I find nothing odd in Monica from Friends behaviour. I have a labeller, too. With a labeller chaos is tamed.

Organisational beauty.

So anyway. I have these Lock and Lock Counter Top boxes which store about two bags of flour . I have four of these, for the four flours I use most and keep a stainless steel scoop inside to make life even simpler (do you have ANY idea how hard it is to find stainless steel scoops these days?). And then for the flours I use less frequently, such as rye and barley, I have the 1.8 Lock and Lock, which is incidentally, also the size I keep my sugars in. But they’re all in the Sugar Cupboard, which has no place here.

If you think I’m mad, have a look at this:

These are Martha Stewart’s ‘Creative Containers’.
You think these scissors ever get out of control? On the right are small spice jars containing glitter. Imagine IMAGINE if someone spilled any.

If you’d like to see more of Martha’s Craft Room, and believe me you do, then go here. If ever I feel like the world is too big and things are getting on top of me, I go and look at pictures of Martha Stewart’s estate and it makes me feel better knowing that in a large corner of Connecticut, a staff of 127 can keep order. Don’t forget to check out the ‘equipment barn’ whilst you’re there.

Cherry Bakewell Slices for a picnic

The Bakewell slab, before it was liberated into slices. Please note how crumbly my pastry is thanks to my super cold heart and hands.

We went to Southwold at the weekend, and central to this, central to most trips in my life, was a picnic.

We had everything other than something treaty to take with us (like sourdough bread, home made coleslaw and pork pie aren’t treat enough, spoiled bastards that we are). I had some ground almonds I wanted to use up and decided to make individual little clafoutis, until I found out that mostly the recipes I had for clafoutis didn’t really involve ground almonds and anyway I didn’t have enough cherries. But I did have a can of ‘black cherries in syrup’ and lots of ground almonds.

What could I make?

I make a really superb (look, there’s no immodesty in the truth) Bakewell Tart, the recipe for which came from the Waitrose magazine long ago. Believe me when I say you don’t need to search for any other bakewell tart recipe as the Waitrose one cannot be beaten.

But I didn’t want a bakewell tart. I wanted little individual things to pick up. So I thought: bakewell slices.

So I adapted the recipe slightly. First I made the pastry:

200g plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
(you may also need a bit of extra water).

I whizz the flour, sugar and butter in my Magimix, then add the egg yolks and a bit of water if necessary. Don’t overdo it with the water and try to keep the pastry so that it’s just holding together, it shouldn’t be all smooth and one big ball. If you haven’t got gadgets of course you can do this with your fingers and then use a fork to mix the yolks in or something. I don’t know, it’s ages since I didn’t have gadgets.

I never roll out pastry. Life is too damn short. It’s not too short to make your own pastry though cos shop bought really isn’t the same and how long does it take to weigh out a few ingredients and slam them in a blender?

When it’s blended, I just take bits of the pastry and flatten it out into the bottom of whatever tin I’m using, welding it all together with a thumb like a giant pastry jigsaw. In this recipe I used a small Mermaid roasting tin which is about 30cm by 23cm. I lined it first with baking parchment/paper.

Then when you’ve covered the bottom of the tin with pastry in this piece meal but completely acceptable fashion, chill the pastry for about half an hour (perfectly do-able to chill for longer of course).

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190C. When the pastry has rested, cover with foil, pour on baking beans (sorry, apparently you can use rice too, never tried it, I’ve had baking beans since I was seven, I’ve always been very serious about pastry). Bake blind (this means with nowt in it but the baking beans on the foil) for 15 mins. Then remove the beans (take care they’ll be hot) and bake for a further five minutes.

The filling part 1

Now I have a problem with jam. It’s just too damn sweet. The only shop bought jam I really like is Bonne Maman’s apricot conserve, although I can’t eat the chunky bits of apricot as they scare me. When I make my Bakewell Tart, I use strawberry jam, very thinly spread. But I had that can of black cherries in syrup that I was determined to use up.

So I poured the whole contents of the can into a saucepan and boiled it until it was mush. This takes about 10-15 mins. It makes for a really nice fruity layer which isn’t too worthy (it has got syrup in it after all) but isn’t as teeth-jarring as jam. *See note at bottom. Just use jam or compote if you don’t have cherries in a tin.

Whilst you’re reducing the cherries in syrup, make the filling pt 2:

125g caster sugar
100g very soft unsalted butter
3 eggs
half a teaspoon of almond extract
150g wonderful ground almonds (I LOVE ground almonds)

Mix the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy, this is quite a good work out for your arms and you’ll expend about 12 calories to offset against the calorific value of these slices, then add the eggs, one at a time, mix well, la la la,  then the almond extract and finally fold in the ground almonds.

Spoon the black cherry mush onto the pastry case, then on top spread the topping. It looks like you might not have enough but unless you’re using a giant tin, in which case you haven’t read my instructions, you’ll be fine.

I also like to top it all with flaked almonds, like a handful scattered on top. You can never have enough almonds, rich in protein (so they bring down the GI of anything), calcium and essential fatty acids. How can you go wrong. Unless you’re allergic to nuts of course.

Cook for 25 mins or so, the top should be definitely golden, not pale blonde. When out, tie your hands behind your back and dive in face first. Or alternatively, slice into Mr Kipling type slices, big or small depending on what suits your psyche. You can also drizzle some icing on in that fancy filigree way (50-75g icing sugar with a few teaspoons of water, do it slowly so you have a fairly thick mixture, not too runny but not so thick it blobs on). I do like icing, but remember you’re adding on a whole heap of sugar for that bit of icing, so go easy.

These keep lovely in an tin for a few days and make lovely treats. My boyfriend cries slightly when he eats one.

*update. March 2014. I made these today and I did exactly what it says up there. But. I found that this time, the cherries weren’t enough to cover the base. I’m not sure if the tin was smaller (I don’t think so). I did use a different make so maybe they were just different. Anyway, the point is that I realised that not all tins are equal and I’d hate for you to make this and it not work. So have some jam or compote on stand by just in case, or you know, FORGET THE GODDAMN cherries in a tin altogether and just use jam or compote. It’ll be cheaper, too.

Chanel’s Paradoxal nail varnish: the new Rouge Noir.

I have about thirty bottles of nail varnish in my fridge*. Nearly all of them Chanel. I’m a total sucker for its nail varnishes. I love the colours. I love the bottles. I love feeling a bit posh for having it.

But of all its shades, the one I still go back to, again and again, is Rouge Noir. That gorgeous black/red colour perfect for girls such as I who just don’t do, and never did do, bright red. (Tis the shade Uma Thurman wore in Pulp Fiction. When it launched in early 1994, it sold out almost immediately, and then there were waiting lists of up to a year; it’s still Chanel’s best seller in terms of units sold.)

Each time I get a new shade I think “this might be the new Rouge Noir” but it never is. I’ve done the blues, and the greys and the pinks. I’ve done the glitters at Christmas (always a bugger to get off) and they’re all lovely. But they’re not Rouge Noir. The thing about Rouge Noir is that it’s perfect. It doesn’t look too dressed up, whilst still always looking groomed and fabulous.

This Friday, Chanel launch its latest shade: Paradoxal. I’m guessing, so named cos it’s hard to label. In certain lights it looks violet, or metallic purple, then grey, then brown. I love it. (Yes I have some, I’ve been wearing it for a few weeks now.)

Okay so it probably won’t trump Rouge Noir, but nothing else has come this close in sixteen years.

*they last longer that way.

Chanel’s latest nail polish launches this Friday 13th August. And yes it’s important.

Beetroot salad dressing

I’ve been meaning to post this up for ages, as it’s my current favourite salad dressing. But I couldn’t remember where I’d found it. It was getting pressing as it’s coming into beetroot season now (er, I think, at least ours are being harvested).

When I like a recipe that I see in a magazine, I tear it out and put it in a Muji folder that has clear sleeves, so you end up making your own recipe book. It works really well: you can change the order round, very easily get rid of recipes you don’t end up using much, and the plastic sleeve that encases every page keeps them clean of cooking splashes.

Here is the one of the pages from one of my many recipe books using torn out magazines put into Muji PP folders. It just so happens it’s a pic of some chocolate cheesecake ice cream cookies..also I know that when I post this on Facebook this is the picture that will come up, and I bet more people will read it thinking it’s about biscuits/chocolate rather than vegetables.

If I really like a recipe and use it lots, I write it out in my Travelling Cookbook, which is so named as we take it with us when we go away and is a large Moleskine book, much used, much loved and I like that it’s all handwritten (I have romantic ideas that my daughters will one day inherit this book and say things like “look, that’s Mamma’s famous chocolate mousse recipe“). This is what I’d done with the beetroot dressing recipe, which is why I had no idea whose it was. I have about 10 of those Muji folders, each housing 60 sleeves, ergo 120 recipes, so I kept meaning to go through and find the original.

You get the point.

Finally, as is the way of these things, I found it whilst looking for something else. It was by Yotam Ottolenghi, who is fantastic. He gives it as part of a bigger recipe involving gorgonzola, radiccio and toasted almonds, but you can put this dressing on almost any type of salad. Drizzle it on (use one of those squeezy bottles chef use if you have one) as if you actually toss the salad in it, whilst it will still taste delicious, it really won’t look so hot.

This dressing makes a fair amount – I’d say enough for six very greedy people, it keeps for a day or two but not much longer so make less if there are less of you.

One small beetroot, cooked (I buy mine precooked, otherwise roast it til soft)
20g honey
15g Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove (I tend to leave this out)
25ml cider vinegar
salt and pepper
120ml extra virgin olive oil

Yotam (cos we’re on first name terms, I wish), suggests you blend everything together (I use a mini blender, the one that attachs to my Braun Multistick thing, really useful piece of equipment) and then add half the oil, mix up and then other half. I have to say I just bung it all in and it’s fine.