23 February 2014

The Weekly Round-up #07

I am writing this post whilst taking care of the husband and his massive hangover. Tea duty, toasts making, binge-watching House of Cards. Handing him sunglasses is the only thing I haven't done...

Granola from Honestly Healthy.

The Week in LRB Posts: Mini Walnut Cakes with Beurre Noisette & Espresso Buttercream

Foodie Outing of the Week: My local Tesco's. Wild I know.

Product of the Week: Croissants for breakfast on the weekends. A well established ritual in the H's household. All butter, no-nasties but sadly NOT the homemade kind. I am definitely not there yet.

Foddie Blog of the Week: Sally's Baking Addiction. Is there something this girl hasn't baked? I seriously don't think so. I made her chewy chocolate chip cookies (with milk chocolate and bits of Rolo stuffed in for good measure) this week and the hubs boldly declared that they are in his top 10 recipes I have ever made. Big statement. Looking forward to her book coming out soon!

Must-Watch Read of the Week: I ordered the Whole-Grain Mornings recipe book from Amazon and only received it yesterday, but already I am full of new breakfast recipe ideas. Can't wait to have more time to look properly into it next week. Beautiful little book, encouraging you to cook according to the seasons and put breakfast at the centre of your day.

Added to the Wish-List this Week: Last minute shopping on Asos for our holiday to South Africa next week is taking place right now. So much excitement!

22 February 2014

{Celebrating} Mini Walnut Cakes with Beurre Noisette & Espresso Buttercream

These past few days have been quite stressful ones. It's hard for me to see the big picture sometimes, and focus on the present, not the future or the past. When I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that I am so very lucky to be surrounded with amazing people that understand me so well, and love me too. I am so blessed in that regard, and it makes dealing with certain situations that more bearable.

One of these wonderful people is my lovely sister-in-law. And it was her birthday last week, though she was in the US of A and will be for another month or so.

I baked those mini cakes just before she left, for an early celebration. But also to express how much she means to me. She really does mean a helluva lot to me. My sista from another mista.

I love to bake to tell people how I feel. Is this strange?

I put effort into making something that I think they will love. And I knew she would love this nutty, milky coffee flavoured mini cakes. Plus they are a beaut to look at as well! Even if icing them was such a challenge, dayum I had to dig deep to keep calm and carry on as the Brits say.

Mini Walnut Cakes with Beurre Noisette & Espresso Buttercream

I made 2x3-layers mini cakes and 6x2 layers mini cakes
inspired by Nigella + Dolly and Oatmeal mini cakes

For the mini cakes:
90g walnut pieces
220g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
1-2 tbps milk
4 tsp instant espresso (can use normal instant coffee, the taste will just be more milky coffeeish)
1 tbsp hot water

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F.

In a food processor, with the "S" blade, pulse the walnut pieces until you get a flour consistency (a few nut pieces left is a-ok by me!).

Change the blade to the dough attachment in your food processor. Add the butter and sugar and cream together for 2 minutes, scraping the side of the bowl half-way through to make sure the mix is smooth and all incorporated.

Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well in between each addition.

Dilute the coffee in the hot water and add to the mix.

Then add the flour and baking powder and mix, scraping the sides as well, making sure everything is incorporated to the mix.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk, to make sure the batter is smooth and loose, not too stiff.

Transfer the batter to a well greased (butter it well!) rectangular traybake (I used a 9 x 12 inch dish) and bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges and flip the cake on a cooling rack. I then like to refrigerate the cake (wait till it is completely cooled) overnight and will cut and ice it the next day.

For the buttercream:
200g butter
300g icing sugar
2 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
2-3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp hot water

Put the butter in a a pan, and heat gently until the butter turns pale brown and smells of hazelnuts. I like to filter the butter to get rid of the brown bits, but you don't have to, it's just a preference. Then refrigerated the butter to firm up, and bring back to room temperature once you are ready to start making your buttercream.

Cream the butter until fluffy. Dilute the instant espresso in the hot water and add to the butter. Add the icing sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you get the consistency you like, it needs to be spreadable, so not too stiff.

Use a 2 inch round cutter and cut the cold cake in as many pieces as you can (so you can get as many mini cakes as possible!). Put aside and look at them (check 'em out!). Try and think how you will construct your mini cakes. I had to level most of them as they were lop-sided, poor lads. Then I sliced some of them in half, horizontally. I decided on building 2x3 layers mini cakes, and 6x2 layers mini cakes. But this step is completely up to you.

Dollop a little bit of icing on the base of the mini cakes and spread around. Top with another layer of cake, and repeat with some more icing. Then do the sides as neatly as you can. I have absolutely no icing technique whatsoever, or vocabulary as you can see.

Then voila! Mini cakes done.

Happy Birthday special lady!

15 February 2014

The Weekly Roundup #05 & #06

I forgot to do my weekly diary last week… life gets out of hands and mind sometimes. These past weeks, it has been raining so much in England that floods are destroying villages and cities around the country, and around the world too. Lots of people lose their home, their safety, their nest. We always take our home for granted, don't we? Help by giving, if you can.

Roses are red. Duh.

The Week in LRB Posts: Healthy Leek, Fennel & Pear Soup // Refreshing Blood Orange Sorbet // Brie my Valentine?

Foodie Outing of the Week: I have been out and about to a few ressies in the last weeks, but the only one worth mentioning is Tanner & Co. on Bermondsey Street. On the menu is meat and more meat. Sometimes, that's all a girl needs. We share a platter of charcuterie and pates for starter, then moved onto the beef. The staff is also super friendly. And their cocktails are pretty awesome too.

Product of the Week: I'm all over a red lip lately. Orangey-red are the best, especially the Nars velvet matte lip pencil in Red Square, best I've ever tried. And I've tried a lot!

Foddie Blog of the Week: I have been pouring all over the Top with Cinnamon blog written by the delightful Izy, a very passionate and creative lil teenager who bakes and is writing a cook book as well. Swoon. I love reading her blog so much, and not just because the food is unbelievably gorge, but because she seems to be such an empowered and confident teen that it makes me all happy and soft inside. Lately, we hear so much about kids and bullying, or teens that are full of angst, that we start to think all kids have it bad these days. But then I see the positive and creative environment some young peeps make for themselves, and I can't help but feel really impressed. Thumbs up (or bottoms up as she just turned 18!).

Must-Watch of the Week: House of Cards season 2 has just released on Netflix. Well this will have me and the hubby glued to the TV for a little while...

Added to the Wish-List this Week: I am constantly on the lookout for new and exciting crockery; mismatched, vintage, out-of-the-ordinary. Especially pastels colours. Must be spring calling my name.

11 February 2014

Brie my Valentine?

V-Day (or Friday to some people). You either love it or you don't.

And although I have been prone to organise a themed treasure hunt in the past, I don't think you need to shout and scream, dress in red and make pink cupcakes to declare your feelings for the day. Unlike Pinterest who has become a sickly-sweet affair, like the bedroom wall of an hormonal 13 years old. Still, to each their own.

Saying that, I told my husband I was going to join in and make cheese filled pastries. Then I asked him Will you brie my valentine? He was not impressed with my cheesy joke. I don't know why, I though it was a gouda one.

Nerd! (me).

Anyway, this is not really a recipe, more like an assembly. I would serve this as a starter with a little salad on the side. Or I would make them bite-size, for amuse-bouche. But I ate them for my dinner after photographing them. Just as good.

To make it you'll need:

1 ready-made, ready-rolled all-butter shortcrust pastry
8 thick sliced of brie
small jar sundried tomatoes, in olive oil, chopped
the white part of a leek, sautéed in a little olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F.

Like a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut 8 heart-shaped pieces of pastry (2 per cheesy pastry, so this recipe yields 4). Top 4 of the hearts with 2 thick slices of brie, a little of the sautéed leek and some of the chopped sundried tomatoes. Cover with the remaining hearts and use a fork to seal the pastry edges together.

Brush the beaten egg on top of each little heart-shaped parcel and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

What are you doing this V-Day?

7 February 2014

{Refreshing} Blood Orange Sorbet with Rosemary

I trotted to Borough Market the other week. I hadn't been there in yonks, even if I live a short bus ride away from the place. It is such a huge food market in London, full of lovely fresh produce, artisan bread, coffee, ice-cream, cheese, wine, anything you want.  And so many food trucks and kiosks it would take me a year to sample every last one of them. But it is so busy! So many tourists (true Londoner talking here), and if you take something to eat, you are left munching it on the side of street next to a bin, while people bump into you without apologising (true Canadian too).

Still I packed my bags full of leeks, colourful carrots, smoked garlic (awesome), sourdough bread, vacherin cheese and the hero of the day: blood oranges from Sicily.

These beautiful little jewels looking completely orangey on the outside, incongruous. But they reveal such vibrant colour inside. Such intensity.

I have been a little obsessed lately about finding ways of making ice cream without actually owning an ice cream maker. So I tried my hand at sorbet. The result are a little less "creamy" because it hasn't been churned, but it is still a sweet little frozen treat.

I used the base of the recipe from David Lebovitz, but improvised a little as I do not own an ice cream maker or sorbetiere. I also decided to infuse the syrup with rosemary. The taste the rosemary gives is really subtle, but you can definitely taste an herbal influence.

To make it you'll need:

500 ml blood orange juice, freshly squeezed
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Heat up half the blood orange juice in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and rosemary and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heart and add the remaining of the juice to the pan. After the syrupy juice is completely cool, remove the rosemary sprigs, transfer to a container with lid (so the syrupy juice is about 1 inch in thickness) and place in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours.

Take the container out of the freezer and break the frozen syrup up using a blunt knife into small pieces. Place into a food processor and whizz away until you get a sorbet texture.

This sorbet is so refreshing, not too sweet, perfect.

Scoop away!

4 February 2014

{Healthy} Leek, Fennel and Pear Soup

'Tis the season for soup.

January turned out to be such a miserable month weather-wise. I seriously upped the ante with my vitamin D intake lately. I am craving the sunshine! It feeds my energy level. Still… not long till the rays of Africa. Did I mention I am crossing the Equator this March? Well yes, I might casually drop it in every chance I get. As you do…

We are visiting my in-laws, who have relocated to South Africa about 3 years ago now. And it is only now that we are going to go visit them, how bad of us. Took us long enough. I think they are pretty excited to see us (I hope! We are excited to see them too!). And I also hope the weather will be nice, warm and sunny. Sun, sun, sun… here we come!

But for now, it is all warm jackets, wooly hats and umbrella.

Cold or not though, I am always on the lookout for new and out-of-the-box recipe for soup. Soup has to excite me a little. And when I saw a Fennel and Pear Soup recipe in the Honestly Healthy cookbook I have been pouring over lately, I knew it was a winner.

It was unbelievably creamy despite the obvious absence of cream. And it is all health to booth too.

I made this version by doubling the recipe and replacing the onion with the leek, as they are in season here in the UK. And I also sautéed some of the green leek bits to decorate, but they also added a nice texture to the soup. It is as delicious with the onion, so don't fret if you can't source some leeks.

To make it you'll need:
Adapted from the Honestly Healthy cookbook

2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed (or 1 large bulb)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, sliced
2 garlic gloves, chopped
1L vegetable stock
2 pears, cored and chopped (I used Coronation pears, and didn't bother peeling them)

Prepare all the vegetables and the pears. When slicing the leek, keep some of the green part for frying later.

Heat the 2 tpsp of olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the leeks and garlic, adding 3 tablespoons of the stock when they start to dry out.

Add the chopped fennel, adding 3 tablespoons of the vegetable stock when this dries out. Add the pear and the remaining stock, bring to the boil, then simmer for 40 minutes, until the fennel is tender.

Whilst the soup is simmering, heat a little olive oil in a pan and sauté the reserved green leeks bits.

When the soup is ready, blend away to the consistency you like.

Serve and garnish with the sautéed leeks and a drizzle of olive oil.

I find this method of adding only a little bit of stock at a time gives the opportunity for every vegetable in the soup to develop their flavour. Making it quite complex in taste, yet it has a super short list of ingredients.

A little ray of sunshine soup. Great with a piece of bread.

1 February 2014

The Weekly Roundup #04

One thing I love about living in the UK is being able to buy local and fresh fruit and veg in January. Let's talk leek and rhubarb people. Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas Canada anymore.

Vinyl shopping + Coffee

The Week in LRB Posts: Sea Salt Caramel Brownies

Foodie Outing of the Week: A trip to Borough Market is the only foodie thing I had time to do this week. Bought loads of lovely things despite it being so busy that I had to elbow my way through. I bought smoked garlic. 'Tis da bomb giggidy.

Product of the Week: Coffee. The end.

Foddie Blog of the Week: I have been crushing all over the faux Martha blog. Big time crush. I love the white, simple and clean photographs. The emphasis is on the food, the end product. No faffing about with endless props. Plus she is a new mum and she still blogs. Wowzer.

Must-Watch Read of the Week: Books are essential to distract me from this abysmal weather at the moment. As is a glass of red. And I have been geeking out on The Rivers of London book series this week whilst enjoying my favourite tipple.

Added to the Wish-List this Week: Stationary and me go a long way back, so not surprise the Martha Stewart stationary at Staples made it to my wish-list. Might have sneaked a little online order so technically not on my wish-list anymore. Woopsy daisy.