Pear Cake with Chai-Spiced Buttercream & Salted Caramel

Fall is here! The leaves are starting to change, the nights are closing in earlier and earlier, and days are feeling crisp and cooler. I love this time of year.

I have been itching to get back to cooking and sharing. In the first half of September, eating was about survival. There was no innovation or fun dishes, I just wanted to get something on the table. It was some of the most stressful times of my entire career. But, I’m on the other side now: I successfully defended my PhD thesis and am now Dr. saturdayedition! There might be an upcoming post with more reflections on this new stage of my career….or there might not be!

I’m now 10 days post-defense, but just starting to come out of my cocoon. I had (have) a huge “post-viva” (defense) to-do list that I will be working my way through for months. However, with a slightly less crazy schedule now, I hope to be cooking a lot of new dishes this fall.

I’m starting with this cake.

It caught my eye in the September edition of delicious magazine. The recipe comes from Edd Kimber, the winner of the inaugural season of the Great British Bake Off (RIP). The is very much a multi-stage cake. It’s not one that you mix up in one bowl and then forget about in the oven. No, there is lots to do: make the chai butter (hindsight: not worth it), make the salted caramel, simmer the pears, make the batter, bake the cake, cool it, make the icing, and decorate it. Whew. I made it over a 5-hour period (and the magazine says 40 mins hands-on time! Ha).

I  had a bit of a disaster moment when I heated up the caramel and didn’t let it cool down enough before I started drizzling it over the cake — it melted some of the buttercream. Luckily I avoided any true disasters and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.

I’d rate this cake a 6/10: the icing was too sickly sweet for me and overall I found it a touch too much work. I don’t think the extra step of making chai butter was really evident in the taste. Also, despite cutting about 1/3 of the sugar in the icing, I found it too overpowering for me, though the taste of the base is quite good.

As usual, I’m often quite hard on things I made. I gave half of this cake to my friend/neighbour, D., and her husband and they seemed to love it (or were very polite!), and H. liked it too.

Delicious is no longer posting their recipes in real time, which is a shame. If anyone would like the recipe please let me know and I will take a photo of it for you!

Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!
Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!

August 2016 Favourites

August bliss, you seem so far away now that it is well and truly back-to-school time. But you were a fantastic month, my favourite yet so far this year I think!

Here are some links:

Does the disappearance of sea ice matter?

◌ Loved Obama’s essay on feminism. And this profile of how he spends his evenings (fascinating).

◌ I read Flannery and loved it. Yes, I’m a bit biased because I love Lisa Moore (and met her this past month!). This novel is billed as YA but has a lot of resonance for all adults, I’d argue.

Ha! Don’t talk to me till one is a professional violinist and one writing a PhD together in a 44 square metre (470 square feet) apartment!

Discovering 2000 year old treasures while on holiday in Greece. Have a look at this!

◌ H. & I started watching Fargo on Netflix and are really enjoying it.

◌ Really looking forward to this cookbook.

Tomato recipes. Love tomato season.

◌ Last but certainly not least, I’m on a major binge of the podcast Chat 10 Looks 3. Big ups to my friend K for telling me about it! Don’t let the odd title put you off  — this podcast is two Australian journalists talking about what they read, watched, ate, saw, etc. It’s fantastic. They are both extremely well-spoken and eloquent. Really loving it, although the recommendations I’m getting from them just keep getting longer and longer.

Here’s to a happy September!

Sunset from my parents' home last month
Sunset from my parents’ home last month

24 hours in western Cumbria

There are so many parts of the UK that are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Recently we got to experience another one of them: the western Lake District/west Cumbria. This visit was short and mostly sweet. Our job was to drop off my aunt J and her good friend L, who started the 190-mile Coast to Coast walk on Friday. After a horrendous drive north on Thursday (bank holiday weekend + rush hour), we were rewarded with a full day of excellent weather on Friday.

We managed to pack a lot in in just 24 hours. We did the first third of day 1 of the C2C, which took in some stunning views of the Cumbrian coast and Irish sea, and then turned back for St Bees as J and L continued on their way. That afternoon, we walked partway around the stunning Ennerdale Water before visiting a local pub for some yummy fish and chips. On Saturday morning we headed back south, down the loooong M6 (fortunately not nearly as much traffic), and back to London life.

This trip was really the last of the summer wine hurrah. It’s back to school now, and I’ve got a very busy first 2 weeks of September to prove it!

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Thai-flavoured Chickpea & Millet Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce

Having moved more than 6 times in the past 10 years, I’ve learned not to keep much. I’m not a collector of anything (yet), with one major exception: books and magazines. I find it hard to get rid of these. My rule for books is to give away what I would never want to read again, and I’ve recently devised a magazine rule too: only keep them for a maximum of two years. In a small flat with no storage, even that is pushing it.

So, 3-4 times a year I go through my collection, which is mostly delicious as I have a subscription, and rip out recipes I want to keep (yes, I know… old school). I do it seasonally so that I can better be in the time of year frame (no use sorting summer recipes in the middle of Feb.). I recently went through a bunch of late spring/summer ones and (re)discovered this recipe, which comes from the May 2013 issue of delicious.

This is one of those dishes that really grabs me. I love a cake (this blog is full of them), love millet, and the flavour combinations really seemed to work.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put 125g millet in a pan with 300ml water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce and heat and simmer until cooked, ~15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the red pepper sauce: chop up 1 red pepper and put it in a pan with 1 tbsp maple strip, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and a pinch of chili flakes. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. The pepper will lose water and become tender.
  3. When the millet is finished, mix it in a bowl with 1 can of drained and rinsed mashed chickpeas, 3 tsp Thai curry paste*, 4 tbsp chopped coriander, and 2 chopped spring onions. Mix together, and then form the mix into 6-8 cakes.**
  4. Heat 1/2 cm of oil in a pan and fry the cakes in batches. Fry until they are golden.
  5. Meanwhile make the dip: mix together 3 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tsp Dijon mistard.
  6. Serve the cakes with the dip, red pepper sauce, and a side salad!

*Use your preferred curry paste, or make your own. It called for red but I’d run out of red so used green.
**Here’s the thing: there was a major flaw with this meal….the cakes did not want to stick together! There is no binding agent in them and even with a lot of pressing it was touch-and-go. The mixture may have needed to be colder.

As you can see from the pic below, at a certain point I sort of gave up. The cakes weren’t sticking together well and so I cooked the second half of the mix on its own. But guess what….the TASTE was spot on! We loved this meal. The sauce, composed of just mustard and maple syrup (3 tbsp), with a pinch of chili flakes, was SO good, and the red pepper sauce worked perfectly. While the cakes may have been a bit of a failure I wouldn’t call the overall meal that at all. Just a good lesson for me to stop being such a perfectionist and concentrate on what matters…delicious food.

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Kinda gave up
Kinda gave up

Nova Scotia summer 2016

Nova Scotia, you never disappoint. Ever. The 2 1/2 weeks sped by and H. and I had a packed but fantastic time. The air, the scenery, the water, the sunshine (perfect weather), the food (and drinks!), the sunsets, the people, the space…. did I mention the people?

I’m so lucky to call this place home and to have been able to visit frequently since I moved away.

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July 2016 Favourites

Hi from Nova Scotia, where I arrived yesterday! I’m so happy to be home! Here are a few links for July. The blog will be on hiatus for the next few weeks, so wishing everyone a great August!

◌ Book previews – what’s to come in the second half of 2016. fiction; nonfiction.

◌ Beautiful pictures of London.

Zadie Smith on Brexit, nailing it as usual!

◌ I have recently been on a podcast binge. My two new (to me) favourites are Reply All and America’s Test Kitchen.

The War on Stuff.

No-cook dinners (and here’s 25 salads).

◌ Enjoyed the Lenny interview with Bobbi Brown.

◌ Parts 1 & 2 of a big series of the most influential people in Canadian food.

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Summer skies in London

Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Strawberries

“Yogurt cheesecake” doesn’t really capture the deliciousness that is this simple cake. I used the base cheesecake recipe here –which is a great staple base — but made it with strawberries instead of rhubarb.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing with the strawberries– I was sort of doing this without thinking. At first I thought about roasting them but ended up just putting them in a pan on the stove and simmering with some balsamic vinegar and sugar. The result was….well, basically jam. Ha! Not really what I was going for, but it worked taste-wise. If/when I make this again with strawberries, I would simply put them on raw. I think this would work well with pretty much any fruit!🙂

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Mushroom Strudel with Spinach & Cream Sauce

It’s so hot here at the moment that even thinking about putting something in the oven fills me with dread. London is in a mini heatwave (highs into the 30s this week), and needless to say this mushroom strudel is probably one of the last things I’d want to make right now. Alas, I made this a few weeks ago when we were still in our “not summer summer” period of cool and rainy weather.

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to describe this dish. It’s one of those dishes that looks like it’s a lot of work….good for a dinner party (or brunch). Parts of it are very easy to make, and the rolling up is not difficult but just takes some precision and care (hardy store-bought pastry helps a lot).

The recipe is from Craig Flinn’s Fresh and Local, and I’ve had it on my ‘to-make’ list for a while. Love pastry, love mushrooms, love garlicky creamy sauces — what’s not to love in this?

Mushroom strudel, adapted from Craig Flinn

  1. Mushrooms: sautee 500g of mushrooms*, 2-3 chopped shallots, a clove of garlic, and salt and pepper in butter, until the mushrooms release liquid.  Cook for roughly 10 more minutes, and then deglaze the pan with 60ml sherry (or wine). Add in 4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs.** Allow to cool.
  2. Pastry: Roll out your pastry [see * note below about mushrooms] and place the cooled filling in the centre lengthways. Using an eggwash of 1 egg + 1.5tbsp milk, brush this along the inside seam of the dough. Roll up, on the long side. Then placed the rolled ‘log’ on a baking sheet and make 4 slits to allow the steam to escape. Bake at 200C for ~20 minutes (it should be golden brown and crisp).
  3. Meanwhile make the spinach sauce***: Lightly sautee 1 chopped shallet with some lemon zest in 1 tbsp butter. Add in 225g spinach and 6 leaves basil [latter optional]. Wait till it has wilted and then add in 125ml white wine. Reduce liquid by half, and then add in 125ml cream & 1 tsp lemon juice. Allow it to come to the boil and then take it off the heat. Puree in a blender or with an immersion stick!

With a side salad it’s a winner. I will definitely be making this again when it cools down a bit later this summer.

*The recipe calls for 2lb/900g. I found that was way too much. It also specifies “one puff pastry sheet”, which I am guessing must be a lot larger in Canada than here. Adjust accordingly!
**I COMPLETELY forgot to do this! I had the breadcrumbs out and ready and only realized I’d forgotten when it was in the oven.
***I was a bit nervous about the sauce, but it’s excellent. It really works. It would be great on a number of other things!

 

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Spinach & Blue Cheese Biscuits

WOW is the word to describe these biscuits. Game-changer. They are simply delicious. I’d even go so far as to say amazing… I think they’re the best biscuits I’ve had! They’re so good that I don’t even have a picture to show you because we gobbled them up so quickly.

I followed Joy’s recipe closely, except I started with fresh spinach (not even sure frozen exists here), cooked it down, and allowed it to cool. The blue cheese flavour is subtler than expected, but it really works. And for those that don’t like spinach, I’d urge you to still give these a go. It’s not a strong taste.

They’re quite hardy, not a dainty biscuit. I was a bit worried because I had an oven fiasco and had to delay putting them in, but they turned out perfectly despite that. They’re best warm (I had every intention of freezing a couple but they didn’t make it that long!) and can be heated up in the toaster (just keep an eye on it due to the cheese), best served, I found, with a bit of butter.

I’ll be making another batch soon and will update this point with a photo but wanted to share the recipe as soon as possible.

Summer Bucket List

Inspired by Joy’s summer bucket list, I thought I’d do one of my own! I’ve split it into two, since I dream about Nova Scotian summers all year long.🙂

London
Swim at Hampstead Heath
Peckham
See a jazz show
Go on a walk in the country
Visit at least one new gallery or museum

Nova Scotia
Hike Cape Split
MAVILLETTE BEACH (I’ve been saying this for years).
Kayak Shubie Canal

General
Read Fates & Furies and In the Unlikely Event
Make and/or eat as much strawberry shortcake as possible
Experiment more with makeup (maybe perfect a summer smokey eye?)

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