Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!
Hello you lovely, lovely people. This week I have returned with an abundance of flavour and flair (if I do say so myself!). Last Thursday marked an exciting event in my culinary calendar as I met the glorious Rachel Khoo at her Harrods book signing. A vision of green, Miss Khoo arrived a little earlier than the designated two o’clock in order to showcase a savoury choux pastry recipe from her new book, The Little French Kitchen. She was utterly charming and surprisingly “normal” despite her recent European success. In suitably eager form, I dashed to the front of the queue once she announced that she would begin signing. I managed to stumble upon a few words and she was awfully kind in return. I left with an enormous grin on my face and clutched my newly signed cookbook tightly to my chest.
Last blog entry, I mentioned my liking for sweetened meats. Well, have I found a treat for you! Miss Khoo has a brilliant grape and duck dish in her new book which I heard her make, live on women’s hour the same day of the book signing. The duck is served in a lettuce leaf and tastes beautiful. Unfortunately when I made this myself, I was a little too over enthusiastic and the duck was consumed before I reached for my phone. Tant pis! Personally, I think that this recipe would be great for an intimate Sunday lunch. It’s a tad on the DIY front but when dealing with sweetened duck, there is no harm getting stuck in. Below is how the dish should look….bad Emily.
One thing I have been doing for the past few Christmas’ (yes, I dropped the C-bomb a little early) is making my own infused vodkas. My mum started off the trend in our house and we’re fond of making blackberry, cranberry and raspberry infusions the most. Ideal for gift giving or even a little tipple of something sweet and warming before bedtime, these syrupy based drinks are divine. All you have to do is soften the fruit (500g of fruit to one bottle of vodka) with a few tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan, push the mixture through a sieve and combine the fruit juice with the plain vodka. It should be ready to serve within a week, but the longer you store it the greater the flavour. A glass bottle with a stopper shows off the rich colour of the vodka.
Since using sweetened berries, I became interested in other fruit such as pomegranate, cucumber, lemon and lime. For these fruits, sugar is not necessary. Having read a few recipes online, for thick-skinned fruit such as lemons and limes you should peel off the skin and place it in the vodka for four to five days. Afterwards, remove the skin as the vodka should have taken on the flavour fairly well. If you’re not satisfied with the strength, leave it in for a little longer. Once you have these under your belt, you should try some more exotic flavours such as, fig and vanilla-which is lovely! Cut up the figs, place them in a glass bottle with the vodka and finally, slice a vanilla pod into two and throw into the mixture. Check for taste a few days later and enjoy! Label the bottle with tags or a sticker stating the flavour and date it was made and place into your store cupboard.
Remember vodka should be served cold, I usually put my bottle of voddy into the freezer for half an hour before serving and it tastes incredibly refreshing! For any serious vodka lovers out there, I thoroughly recommend the restaurant Baltic, not far from Waterloo station. Not only is the food is wonderfully fresh (a lot of fish) and live jazz but there is a bar dedicated to over sixty different flavours of vodka! Some are syrupy and sweet, others are fairly harsh but clean the palette nicely. I mention Baltic here because they take their vodka seriously, serving the shot glass ice cold as well as their spirits. Having spent some time infusing your homemade vodka, I think it’s only fair that you treat it with the icy respect it deserves.
Last week, I promised cakes therefore, cake is what you shall get! A close friend of mine at Bristol, a Miss R Johnson brought home a delicious marzipan cake one weekend. Her aunt had made little Rosie a cake tuck box meaning, not only was there this marzipan sponge but hoards of chocolate this and lemon that! As you may have noticed, the marzipan cake took my fancy the most. Once again, I trolled the internet for a decent almond cake recipe and came across another Nigella! It turned out that this was the exact recipe used by Rosie’s auntie. I always knew I was a good secret agent, oh damn it, ex-secret agent! I have made this cake quite a bit and the fact that is requires very little effort makes me love it even more. Not long ago, it was my sister’s fifteenth birthday and a cake was most definitely in order. I had seen several celebratory cakes with a chocolate finger finish or crown and I was most keen to try it. So, the marzipan cake spectacular was born!
I baked the Nigella cake, and left to cool on a drying rack. Meanwhile I made a milk and dark chocolate combined frosting and bought four packs of chocolate fingers at Sainsburys. They actually had a buy one get one free deal that day and I was delighted! When the cake cooled, I put it on a cake stand and covered it all over with the frosting. A flat knife works wonders for the side bits. Then, I individually stuck on the fingers and it was ready! Looking at the photo it looks so much fancier that what it really is. Truthfully, it is one of the tastiest cakes I have ever eaten. Marzipan and chocolate are an inspired combination and yet, the marzipan sponge on its own with a cup of builders tea tastes just as good. I’m speaking from experience here! I would like to point out that if you can’t be bothered to make a frosting, Betty Crocker’s tub of chocolate fudge frosting is INCREDIBLE.
One cannot deny that the evening air has become a great deal colder as of late. For this I suggest two keys things; alcoholic hot chocolate and boozy bread and butter pudding. You may have noticed the common denominator in the two recipes above, (monsieur alcool) but I’m telling you it works! For this week I’ve made a marmalade and whisky bread and butter pudding according to a good food recipe (link below) which I thoroughly recommend. I made it a second time and added baileys instead of the whiskey and this was a big hit too. It depends on your personal preference and your selected audience, I liked the baileys more but I’m sure dads would prefer something stronger! Don’t be hesitant in how much you add either in relation to baileys as it is so sweet, you can’t really go wrong against the bitterness of the marmalade. My cat, apptly named Kahlua quite liked the baileys version too. This pudding is ideal for a winter night dessert or in my case, breakfast with yoghurt and honey…
Now, some alcoholic chocolate! A while back, my friend Jazz mentioned that she loves a hot chocolate before bed. It sounded so romantic and soothing. It made me think back to a fair few Christmases ago (said again! Oops!), when I stood in Hyde Park watching the ice skating with a flask of hot chocolate and liquor and it was utterly perfect. Not only does it make you warm, but it gives you those lovely pink cheeks and big ol’ smile. So, without no further ado behold the alcoholic hot chocolate recipe that kept my stepmother free from pain on a past ski trip. If you haven’t got the hint already, she fell over quite a bit…
Alcoholic Hot Chocolate
One and half tablespoons of hot chocolate flakes or power
Cinnamon Stick (or powder)
Cup of whole milk
Pinch of ground ginger
A shot of baileys or Mozart
Drop of vanilla extract
Combine all the ingredients over a low heat. After a few minutes, the kitchen will smell absolutely wonderful. Check for taste and add a little extra of anything if need be. Pour the liquid into a solid cup, sprinkle with cocoa and serve. A dollop of cream on the top would go down nicely here.
Once again we come to the end of this week’s blog, oh bother! I really hope that you have enjoyed reading my culinary mutterings. Next week there will be more meat, a little ice-cream and a whole lot of foodie love. Another big thank you goes to the wonderful Grace Jenkins for her lens work this week. Apparently her website is under construction, so if you want to get hold of her, contact me and I’ll let her know. Finally, if you want to swarmed by further food imagery, follow me on twitter @BlitheringTwit and/or add me on Instagram at EKCWELLS.
Lots of love,
E. Wells x