Tag Archives: baking

Up north for photos, pubs and pizzas

I popped back up north on Saturday, mostly to see that pair grinning up at the camera above. It was sunny by the time I’d made it to my parent’s house in a tiny town in Cheshire and I had started thinking about cooking.

My mum has an image of herself as a terrible cook, the tale of her Lemon Chicken (with red wine as she had forgotten to buy white) does no favours in dispelling this idea. She isn’t however, a ‘terrible’ cook – she just finds it rather boring and associates it with housewives. The idea of being chained to a stove permeated her youth and her vehemently feminist sentiments cried out against those supposed post-war beacons of British cuisine, Fanny and John Craddock. I may never have learnt to cook in the slapdash, experimental way that I do if it wasn’t for her leaving my sister and I to entertain ourselves in her kitchen and then at my Nan’s as she let us run riot with her cookbooks. However, she does make excellent lasagne and has the same obsessive relationship with vinegar as I do and I reckon that’s alright. The one big error on my mum’s part when it comes to food is her dislike on cheese, which she shares with my Nan.

I made the decision therefore, after some deliberation and a little inspiring trot through photos from my (drunk) meal at Pizza East the weekend before, to cook pizza – giving my mum a rare opportunity to eat it before somebody with better taste put cheese on top!

My newly enfranchised sister made a good job of driving me to Hall Farm Shop and we went about gathering ingredients. I have made pizza dough a hundred times, honing the recipe over years of kneading but I have always used bog-standard white flour. So, standing in the aisle looking at the paintbox coloured Allinson flours I decided to have a go at Wholemeal pizza.

The wholemeal flour took much more kneading than white flour dough which seems like an obvious thing to say, but I didn’t think it through to begin with and had to add a littlemore warm water in the end to bring the dough together. But, all that pummelling was not in vain as I was rewarded with a lovely springy, silky dough to shape into discs.

I also made a very basic sweet tomato sauce with a dab of chilli, grated carrots, red onion, garlic, celery, 2 tins of tomatoes and a glug or three of white wine.

I had all the toppings on mine, as I am neither vegetarian (my lovely photographer and friend responsible for these images is) nor a cheese-hater, our selection included:

Bacon, mushrooms, courgettes, red onion, rocket, peppers, red onion marmalade, mozzarella and grated cheddar.

The finished articles were as so:

To feed 4:

500g wholemeal bread flour

6-8 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Tbsp flakey sea salt

1/2 Tbsp caster sugar

1 x 7g pack of yeast

325ml warm water (plus some extra)

Mix the oil, water, sugar and yeast in a jug, leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt onto a flat dry surface or into a big big bowl.

Re-mix the liquid and pour into a well in the centre of the flour mix.

Start bringing the dough together with a fork, then slowly begin to knead pulling all of the flour into the dough.

Knead for 10 – 15 minutes.

Leave in a covered bowl in a warm place until double in size.

Knock back (punch the dough) and knead again until you have a springy, silky consistency.

Shape, top and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C.

Then we went to the pub and drank ale and marvelled at how pretty these home pickled eggs behind the bar are! And 6 free range eggs for a quid from the pub’s own chickens! Bargain.

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A rather royal picnic

This time last week I was invited to a picnic. A simple request, you may presume, and a lovely one at that.

However, as a result of the HRR (Henley Royal Regatta) Steward’s Enclosure dress code, absolute panic ensued! Now, I wouldn’t consider myself slutty, in fact I can be quite demure on occasions (until I smudge eyeliner/rip dress/move from a seated postion) but I do not own a single item of clothing which falls below my bloody knee! Well apart from trousers. And they’re not allowed either.

A quick scrambling around in my most fashionable of friend’s wardrobe and a suitable vintage dress was discovered, it fell below my knee, and I liked it. The correct length is aided by the fact that said friend is a good 8 inches taller than I am!

Suitably attired I got on with looking forward to the picnic hosted by Uyen and Simon (fernandez&leluu), both of whom I had met at their wonderful supperclub the previous Friday.

The picnic was fabulous, sitting by the river we enjoyed the following:

Tomato and Mozzarella salad, Oysters, the BFG of prawns, copious amounts of Samphire, Donald Russell Salmon, Russian salad, moreish tuna sashimi and a gigantic selection of cheese several of which I thought married perfectly atop a sweet onion Ryvita.

These new varieties of Ryvita were the reason we (myself, Laurafleur, Meemalee, theLondonFoodie, GreedyDiva, SuLin and Fernandez&Leluu) were there, to taste and experiment. Being totally honest, I’m a Ryvita buyer, it’s a brilliant receptacle and vehicle to so many other great things; Hummus, cream cheese, generally all things spreadable…..equally, the new types available are very good. They include Black Pepper, Pumpkin Seed and Oat, Sweet Onion (unanimously the favourite on Saturday) and the Thins.

We also had a lovely dessert of Pears poached in Champagne to which I would lovely the recipe…hint hint!…(Also, Luiz – they are verging on being better than sex!), lemon curd fairy cakes and lots of lush fruit from Broadway Market.

The day was really very enjoyable, lots of Champagne, great food (as is to be expected when Simon and Uyen have a hand in it!), gorgeous Cornishware plates and bowls to eat off (see top photo), outfit spotting and minimal race watching all topped off with a sleepy journey back to London through the countryside. My pictures are pretty rubbish, as usual, so I will just pop a few in to give you a taste for the day!

Thanks again to Uyen, Simon, the girls at WildCard and Ryvita.

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Belated, but as promised


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What a revolting colour…

As a middle-aged woman descended the spiral staircase from MsMarmite’s balcony I looked up and smiled…to be greeted with her exclamation at the sight of Violet’s Rhubarb Curd…”What a revolting colour!” Once the shock at her brusque outburst had subsided I realised the hilarity of the whole affair, she had no idea what the curd was and I suspect she originally thought it to be some sort of children’s concoction!

Having rolled around laughing for ten minutes or so with this mortified lady she tried a dollop of said curd on top of one of my mini fruit buns. Suddenly she was not only mortified but determined to buy a jar, despite my protestations that it wasn’t necessary to make up for her earlier comments!

The first UK Underground Farmer & Crafts market was the setting for this sale, held at MsMarmiteLover’s lovely garden flat in Kilburn. This was, in fact, the setting for all of my sales so far, of which there were many on Sunday! Violet’s Fruit Curd seemed to go down really well and I am absolutely delighted.

I sold Lemon, Apricot and the famed Rhubarb, selling out of everything apart from 3 jars of the Lemon and 2 of the Apricot. Other stallholders (of which there were more than 30!) were selling lovely napkins, tasty chutneys, lots of cupcakes, aprons, coffee and so on. Demos were held in the kitchen and many a Shed made gin cocktail was consumed….

J and I took home lots of swapped treats, cupcakes from Crumbelina, chutneys from House of Chutney, amazing tortilla and Empanades from can be bribed with food and it was all so lovely that we sat on the floor and ate it whilst watching Poirot (with David Suchet…yay).

The next day I received the loveliest of emails telling me how gorgeous Violet’s Lemon Curd was…was being the operative word…attached was this delightful picture:

Thank you, the late night tying on of labels and recipes related hair tearing definitely feels well worth it now!

Watch this space for further news on where Violet goes next…and the Underground Farmer and Crafts Market in Minolta+Ilford made pictures.

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Curd girl?

Having spent all of my day so far (that would be 8 hours) binding presentations I have decided now is the time to sneakily skive away to write about the lovely Sunday lunch we had yesterday at The Shed.

Firstly, damn you BBC weather and your inane, misguided meteorological predictions. Poor Nicola and Andrew, hostess and host of this supper club in Newington Green, reliant on the licence payers money to present reliable weather info, moved their tables inside yesterday in order to avoid everybody getting soaking wet.

But it didn’t rain of course.

However, less with the negativity. The Shed also now known as ‘The Lounge’ was just delightful.

We were the first to arrive into Nicola’s lounge and we sat at the far table which was set for seven. My mouth was already salivating at the smell of the Beef, a bonus to being inside rather than the shed! At our heels were Alexis and her partner Yohanna (sp? I’m sorry!), followed by two more Aussies and a Scotsman. Sarah (one of the other Australians) and her boyfriend (the Scotsman) had been to Alexis and Yohanna’s supperclub, LexEat, recently and so they were already familiar. This twist of fate made everyone immediately comfortable, and drew the conversation to the art and caper involved with running a supperclub of one’s own.

Having discussed supper clubs the conversation turned to Curd and my Grandmother’s grumpiness at having her photo taken for publicity material and somewhere inbetween I ended up as Curd Girl. I’m unsure as to how I feel about this…somehow it sounds a little odd, maybe fungal, I don’t know. So grumpy Grandmother or not we are sticking with Violet’s Fruit Curds rather than Curd Girl’s Curds!

At this point I feel I should apologise for my lack of photography. So far on this blog I have added a couple of half-hearted, very crappy, iPhone pics and nothing more. It may come as a surprise that I do have some, not many but some, photography skills and I do use an old-ish Minolta to take Black and White film photos. However I have not yet entered the land of digital photography. I suspect this is where I promise to save up and buy a digital camera in order to enter the technological world everyone else is living in. I would love to, but I also have aspirations of developing my own photos in an at-home darkroom so the two ideas are conflicting in my bank account! I did notice Alexis taking lots of photos of the food so I’m sure if you go to her blog they will surface there soon enough! In the meantime you may have to suffice with my slightly poor prose!

We were swiftly presented with bowls of finely chopped Shallots, Capers, Lemon slices and Creme Fraiche, followed by a plateful of incredibly fresh Smoked Salmon and a bowlful of homemade Blinis. The other starter was a flavoursome Chicken Liver Pate, which I thought was amazing, with Date and Apple Chutney and toast. I think I remember Nicola worrying that it was too strong but I thought it was dead nice – strong pate = good pate in my book.

The main course of Roast Beef did just what it said on the tin and more. The meat was moist and well cooked, the yorkshire puddings traditional and the gravy absolutely divine, we all had seconds which of course is the beauty of a)supperclubs and, I suspect, b)the Shed.

Pudding was Rhubarb and Apple Crumble with perfect custard followed by some yummy Neal’s Yard cheeses. J and I mused over whether the crumble contained digestive biscuits, and if it did that’s definitely an idea I’ll be borrowing!

Despite how shattered we were from a weekend of hire-van driving and ebay cooker acquiring we thoroughly enjoyed the company, the food and the atmosphere at Nicola and Andrew’s flat. I will be returning next weekend for an Italian feast with an out of town mate who is down in London for the weekend.

Lastly, as I left Nicola showed me some of the knitted wares her mum has sent to her for the Underground Farmer’s Market on 28th March, which are just lovely, and so beyond my knitting patience and capability!

Tonight I’m having a go at Apricot Curd, so we will see what drops out – otherwise I’m going back to a Pink Grapefruit…maybe….I should probably stop being so indecisive!

Buy tickets for the Underground Farmer’s Market here!

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A perfect London baking day

Yesterday in London was one of those beautifully sunny days with a crisp bite that makes us all feel like Spring is at least on its way, absolutely perfect for baking with all the windows open and sun streaming in through the glass. It was also pretty helpful for the hangover I had left over from the wedding we attended on the Saturday.

So I forged on with the mini Hot Cross Bun project, to reasonably great success I feel. Having never made Hot Cross Buns at all before I really wasn’t sure of the consistency of the dough. The recipe book I had scanned before beginning and deciding 2 tsp of mixed spice was definitely not enough described it as a ‘moist dough’ but this wasn’t exactly what mine looked like when I had finished with it.

perhaps not quite moist enough..

The second challenge once the buns had risen (sat atop my washer/dryer, completing another classic Sunday activity) was to ‘pipe’ the water and flour paste onto the top in the shape of crosses. This didn’t work. At least not for me. Maybe my paste was the wrong consistency. I found I had to roll the white paste out into little sausage shapes in the palm of my hand and carefully lay them over the top of the buns. Then I panicked because they didn’t stick! But once they were all done and in the oven they looked lovely.

finished product...

They weren’t quite as mini as I had originally intended, and they did need a little more mixed spice and I wonder about a splash of orange juice instead of all milk, they were also lovely, especially with a dollop of Rhubarb curd on top.

So, I now have jars (although mostly no lids, and I definitely need more!), tasting receptacles and one out of a possible three recipes down. I need to get the Rhubarb curd just right and I also need to have a go at a Grapefruit curd…I think, although I do keep changing my mind!

Suggestions welcome!

Buy tickets for the Underground Farmer’s Market here!

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