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Fun in the Kitchen

5 Aug

At work today, my co-worker and I discussed how amazing Paul Newman is and how much we love his salad dressing. Yes, we are both older than our years and yes, people in our office talk about food more than anything else. Even work. Sometimes, when I am working with students, we talk about food together.

Anyway, this discussion resulted in us thinking how great it would be if we could find a picture of Paul Newman making salad dressing. Alas and alack, our google fu was broken and came across no such thing.

But I did find this picture:

 

at the blog Hey Nonny.  I found it to be very amusing because it gave me a great plan for what I would like to be doing, once I finally move out of my shared space (more on that exciting development later!) and have a refrigerator I can call my own. I already love to cook and pay no mind to the fact that these days, I am often the only one eating what I make.

Cooking is always at the center of all of my favorite memories, whether it’s Morgan and Deborah cooking for me in their East London flat, my making pancakes for the beautiful Rubyyy Jones, sitting around a table learning to make eggplant salad with a smiling Romanian woman, or stirring up a big vat of pasta for an army of bookstore volunteers on a beautiful Greek island.

I plan on making this a huge part of my personal culture: cooking all day, with my dog at my feet, dancing around with a wooden spoon in my hands.

My lovely friend Ansley has been staying with me (along with her co-conspirator and traveler, Justin) and she introduced me to a oh-so-tempting food blog, written by a gluten-free food critic, called Cannelle et Vanille, which is really inspiring me with things to make. Although I certainly have a gluten allergy, I ignore it mostly because my love of all things food is stronger than the pain they cause me. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to make delicious things that are tested out by a woman who begrudgingly became gluten-free. I try those cookbooks sometimes, but often, the food tastes bland and falls flat of the way I already know how to make things, which is disappointing.

Hopefully, spending more time cooking will lead more Paul Newman in my life….

Fabulous Fall Cupcakes

11 Oct

So, since my chai latte recipe has proved so popular, I would like to share with everyone my most recent concoction: The Chai Latte Cupcake and it’s sibling recipes, the Vanilla Chai Latte Cupcake, and the Pumpkin Chai Latte Cupcake.  I share these with you on Columbus Day because I know that a lot of you aren’t at work today and maybe you have some extra time on your hands for baking. This recipe makes A LOT of cupcakes, but you can also double it and freeze a bunch of them. Whenever I have parties to go to I double the recipe and split the batch to make two different kinds of cupcakes. All three recipes call for my base yellow cupcake recipe, which I will also, somewhat tentatively, share now with you all. It is the absolute best base for any sort of non-chocolate cupcake you want to make. It’s moist, it’s fluffy, and trust me, it will win rave reviews from anyone.

The Perfect Yellow Cupcake Recipe

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (I soften this up in the microwave first, after cutting this into cubes for easier mashing)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (my secret: I use low fat goat’s milk which tastes like cream)
  • 2 tablespoons of either melted cream cheese or sour cream (really adds a lot of moisture!!!)
  • If this is all you want to do, scoop into your muffin papers/tins and bake at 350 for 20 25 minutes. You can freeze after they cool, if needed.

    Now, onto the fun stuff:

    Chai Latte Cupcakes

    What you will do is bring 1 cup of water to boil and place two black tea bags (does not matter if it is decaffeinated, in fact I often make it without caffeine because I have a lot of friends who don’t like caffeine) in the water. Let it boil for about 2 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until it reduces to 1/3 a cup of water. You’ll add HALF of that to your basic batter. Then you will add the following spices:

    * 2 tablespoons Cinnamon

    * 1 teaspoon ground ginger

    * 1 teaspoon nutmeg

    * 1 teaspoon black pepper

    * 1 teaspoon cloves

    I almost always add MORE spices than that, but I am giving you the minimum because I know that people have different tastes than me, so just taste your batter and adjust accordingly.

    The frosting for this should be a buttercream frosting with the addition of 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon.

    Vanilla Chai Latte Cupcakes

    Simply add an extra 1/2 teaspoon to vanilla to the batter and when making the buttercream frosting add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and then sprinkle each cupcake with a little cinnamon.

    Pumpkin Chai Latte Cupcakes

    To the Chai Latte cupcake batter, mix in 1 cup of NON SPICED pumpkin puree. If you have only pre-spiced pumpkin puree, please adjust your spices accordingly.

    Frost these with a cream cheese/butter frosting with 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla mixed in.

    And since it is the season, a generous topping of crunchy orange sugar sprinkles is always super nice! Target has some really nice ones in the dollar section!

    Poor Sophie Dahl, or Halloumi Cheese For Breakfast

    1 Sep

    Sophie-Dahl-making-Smooth-001 I just want to start off by saying that I severely dislike Nigella Lawson. I think she’s pretty and all, but I am a female and therefore able to mentally separate lessons on cooking and porn. And reviews of Sophie Dahl’s new cooking show were, ahem, mildly abysmal, saying she wasn’t nearly as sexy as Nigella and that her food was lacking as well. So, since I am already very busy watching The Vampire Diaries on my computer whilst I pack up all my belongings into yet another rucksack, I decided not to bother with her show.

    Until this morning.

    I decided to make myself some breakfast and I took my laptop in the kitchen and put on Sophie Dahl. Now, I fancy myself a tremendous cook. Not because I have a huge ego, although I do, but because I sincerely think I can make a yummy meal out of anything in the cupboard and make people very happy with my food. And the truth is, most people can do that. At least my friends can. Deb whipping up a veggie chili and then topping it with a few slices of avocado, Morgan changing the ingredients on a soup/noodle recipe so that it accommodated everyone’s taste buds and then, on the fly, making a few last minute arrangements to fix problems, or my amazing halloumi cheese breakfast I just made, all make me feel quite sure that cooking is pretty fucking simple.

    And so I don’t care that Sophie made an omlette in her first show. I eat simply, she eats simply, most people eat simply. And I actually didn’t think she was overtly sexy in her show. She certainly wasn’t a whiz in the kitchen or standing around in her knickers OR, in a bathtub with some chocolate cake. If anything, she was whimsical. And adorable. But not nearly as inventive of a cook as I am…

    ha.

    Well, I woke up starving this morning. Partially because I fell asleep in front of my computer last night, trying to write, and that was around 7 pm. So, having last eaten at 4 pm yesterday, I staggered into the kitchen, knowing that whatever I was going to eat needed to be completely sourced from what my cupboards offered because there was no way I was going to the shop.

    I didn’t have a lot of food. Nor did I have a single breakfast-y type item. But what I made was really beautiful and you can probably eat it for lunch or dinner or a midnight snack….

    Halloumi Cheese Salsa Salad for 1

    * 4 1/4 slices off of a block of Halloumi cheese

    * 1 1/2 slice off a red onion, then diced

    * 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

    * 5 small tomatoes or 3 large ones, roughly chopped to your liking

    * a fist full of cilantro, finely chopped

    * half a lemon

    * 1/3 a zucchini, shaved, like parmesan cheese on a cheese grater.

    * 1/2 an avocado, cut into chunks

    * a bit of sea salt

    * oil of your choice (I used sunflower, but you could use olive oil, etc…but it is for frying, so remember that heating up olive oil is stupid for many reasons).

    1. Slice and chop the onion and put it in a pan to slowly heat up, carmelise if you want to use a fancy word.

    2. After a few minutes, when they start to look nice, add the garlic.

    3. After another minute, add the slices of cheese and pan fry until golden brown, flipping once.

    4. Arrange the avocado, zucchini, and tomatoes in a bowl, mixing with another dash of oil and the salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the halloumi and sprinkle the whole shebang with a healthy handful of cilantro.

    DSCF3236

    The Most Amazing Fondue Recipe Ever

    6 Apr

    Last Saturday, my lovely friends Nils and Becca came over to help me make it through an East Finchely bound day. We flicked through some recipe books, trying to decide what to make, we had thought cookies, but Nils made the spot of the day: We have a fondue pot! So, why not have ourselves a really grown-up soiree? We sauntered down to the specialty cheese shop and then made the tastiest fondue ever created. 

    Here’s what you will need: 

    3 rather amazing friends (bring a fourth over later to help you eat all the food to make it an even better party) 

    Pink Champagne and Gin and freshly squeezed orange juice for lubrication. 

    Now, on to the fondue: 

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 pound Swiss-style cheese such as Jarlsberg or Emmenthaler, shredded
    • 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
    • 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch (use cornstarch if cooking gluten-free)
    • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
    • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc) or sherry
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy
    • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
    • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    • Assorted dipping foods such as cubed day-old French bread (skip for gluten-free version), cubed ham (skip for vegetarian option), blanched broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, chopped green bell peppers, peeled and chopped apples or pears

    1 Place the shredded cheese and cornstarch in a plastic freezer bag. Seal, shake to coat the cheese with flour or cornstarch. Set aside. 

    2 Rub the inside of a 4-quart pot with the cut garlic, then discard. Add the wine and lemon juice to the pot, and bring to a low simmer on medium heat. Bit by bit, slowly stir the cheese into the wine. Stir constantly in a zig-zag pattern to prevent the cheese from seizing and balling up. Cook just until the cheese is melted and creamy. Do not let boil. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in kirsch, mustard and nutmeg. 

    3 Transfer the cheese to a fondue serving pot, set over a low flame to keep warm. If your pot is thin-bottomed, a lit candle will probably do. If thick-bottomed, you can use a small Sterno. 

    4 Arrange various dipping foods around the fondue pot. 

    To eat, spear dipping foods with fondue forks or small forks. Dip to coat with the cheese, and eat. 

    Then everyone should sit around the table, discuss inane topics, and then retire to the lounge to watch Twin Peaks. 

    Nils grates a pound of cheese!

     

    important ingredients...

     

    Let them Eat Cake (that they decorated themselves)…

    22 Mar

    Brilliant and beautiful…

    a make your own cupcake bar!

    How To Make a Starbucks Chai Latte and stop having to leave the house

    20 Feb

    Whilst I know that this is a writing blog, part of writing (for me anyway) is drinking copious amounts of tea. My friend Rhea and I have been talking about how on earth to recreate a Starbucks Chai Latte at home. It’s important to me because I spend entirely too much money on these addictive drinks. In the winter, they warm me up, in the summer they cool me down (oh, an iced latte is heavenly!) and give me a jolt year round. Love, love, love. But leaving the house to purchase them means I am not getting as much work done as I should be. Plus, I am not a high powered executive, so spending all that money is not great for me either.

    Now, the problem with re-creating these is that Starbucks uses a concentrated liquid, a flavor shot if you will, to make this drink. And yes, I suppose you could do some google hunting and purchase this flavor shot and a milk steamer and an espresso machine and so on, but you want one right now (I know I do) and so, let’s pretend that this isn’t an option and move on from there.

    What I currently have in my kitchen to work with: Tazo Decaffeinated Chai Tea bags, Tetley Black Tea Bags, Splenda, water, and milk.  I wish my chai tea had caffeine, but it doesn’t. I don’t suppose it matter either way, since my black tea does.

    Here’s exactly what I did to make it taste JUST like my Starbucks baby:

    With a medium to large sauce pan (the one I originally used was too small and my milk boiled over the edges. Avoid that, it’s messy), put about a cup of water and two chai tea bags and one black tea bag  in and bring to a slow boil. I let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

    The simmering is super super important because you are making your own tea concentrate basically. The water should half and the tea remaining should be super dark. To this, add about three tablespoons of Splenda (if you are using sugar, I guess you need more? my mom says Splenda is sweeter than sugar) and a bit more water…I eyeballed it, but maybe a 1/3 cup of water. (PS, the tea bags are still in there!).

    Keep simmering until the water steams away again and the liquid in your sauce pan is thicker. It;s not going to look like a syrup or anything, but if you really wanted to, you could keep adding sugar and water, slowly, until it does look a like a syrup. I just found this wasn’t necessary for my purposes. But maybe if you wanted to make a lot to use up later on, this would be a good idea. I just didn’t do it, so I can’t tell you if it works).

    This whole time, I didn’t really have to pay any attention to it, because I kept the heat low and put it in a pretty good sized sauce pan. If you wanted to make it for more people, I would honestly say you don’t need to add a lot more tea bags, just another chai one and another black one, because you are simmering it so much and for so long that it starts to get very very strong. Obviously.

    The only part you have to pay very close attention to the pot is the next step, because it involves boiling milk.

    So check the amount of liquid in the pot. Again, I just eyeballed things, but for two cups of chai tea, which is what I ended up with, you want the concentrated tea to be at about 1/2 cup and then I added another 1/2 cup of water. Then I added about 1/3 cup of milk (I used 2 %) and brought to a boil. Then I quickly removed from the heat.

    Then, because the tea bags had broken (all the boiling really destroys those bags), I used a small strainer and poured the liquid equally between two mugs. There was some left over and I just topped off the mugs later.

    The milk will NOT be super super foamy, sorry. That’s what happens when you don’t have a steamer. But it does taste exactly like the one I always order.  You could always buy one of these frother things, which my old flatmate Damon used to have at my place in Edinburgh. It’s nice to use with coffee and stuff, but if you use it, it does get a bit complicated because you sort of have to choose between having foam on the top or having the milk mixed in really well into the latte. I prefer to boil the milk with the tea because it makes it taste like Starbucks. But you could always do a mix of the two…

    It does take a good bit of work, but I think I could just make a larger batch next time and leave the extra in a tea pot that will keep it warm and then just microwave any future cups.

    I also like the idea of making a tea syrup to use as well, so maybe I will test that one out next time I have a bit of time to kill. Like next time I have some writing to get done ;)

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