East Anglia

Last weekend, H. and I left crazy London for 2 nights/days in rural East Anglia. We were celebrating: the 10th was H.’s birthday, and it was also the last week of term for me. We rented an Airbnb cottage that was right on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Even though we (fortunately) live in a part of London where we can easily access what little wilderness is left here, these couple of days allowed us to reconnect with nature a bit, and were just peaceful and relaxing all-around (well, except the driving in and out of London part).

Snape, Suffolk
Snape, Suffolk
The best spot for a simple lunch! The brownies were the best we'd ever had.
The best spot for a simple lunch! The brownies were the best we’d ever had.

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Beef & Peanut Stew

I’m not really a beef stew person. Unless I’m in Ireland and I’m in a pub and it’s pouring rain and steaming up inside and I’ve already had a couple of glasses of red — then I might order a beef stew. Otherwise, it’s not something I crave or actively seek out to make. I made this because I bought the wrong cut of beef by accident. To use up my stewing beef, I searched for a recipe and ended up making this one from The Kitchn. It appealed to me straight away because both H. & I love peanuts/PB in savoury dishes. It is a bit like a a non-vegetarian version of this amazing soup, but a bit less rich as it does not contain coconut milk.

This dish is best as a weekend deal as it takes around 3+ hours to make in its entirety. I followed the recipe quite closely although I used a can of tomatoes instead of chopped ones. The stew needs the moisture — the only word of advice I’d give for this one is to keep an eye on it towards the end, as you’ll likely need to add water. The end texture is more curry than stew (I think of stews being a lot more watery), but whatever — the taste is fantastic!

I served it over couscous but millet would be even better.

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Lime, Yogurt, & Pistachio Cake

This is the third thing I’ve made out of Rachel Allen‘s Bake and all have turned out really well– it’s becoming one of my most dependable baking books.

This cake, in my humble opinion, happens to be the perfect cake for spring. It’s light and really moist so keeps well, and very, very tasty.

Lime, Yogurt & Pistachio Cake, adapted from Rachel Allen:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Sift the following into a large bowl: 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Add in 75g ground almond and 70g caster sugar.*
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix together 2 eggs, 1 tbsp honey, 250ml Greek yogurt**, 150ml sunflower oil, and the zest of 1 lime.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet until they are just combined. Add a handful of chopped pistachios (optional).
  5. Pour the mixture into a baking tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. (The recipe says 50, but mine was done around 38 minutes so keep an eye on it).

Serve with a dollop of cream or yogurt, both optional as the cake is very moist. In addition, you can also top it with syrup as Rachel suggests, by boiling 150ml water and 100g sugar until it is reduced by half (about 5 moinutes). Then add in the juice of 1 lime, boil for a few minutes longer, and finally add with 1-2tsbp rosewater (optional). Drizzle over the cake after poking holes in it with a skewer.

*The original recipe calls for 100g so add more if you prefer sweeter cakes.
**The original recipe calls for plain Greek-style yogurt, which I used, but honey would also be nice.

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March 2016 Favourites

◌ Stunning aerial photos of Hong Kong.

◌ The location (and purpose) of the world’s longest fence may surprise you!

◌ I first made this Greek broccoli salad a few weeks ago, and have made it several times since — it’s that good!

◌ Can someone please re-do my kitchen and incorporate several of these features?!

◌ Hehe. Whisky-smelling Golden Retriever!😀😀😀

◌ Love these pigs.

◌ Looking forward to seeing this exhibition at the National Gallery.

◌ Currently reading this. And bringing this with me on a much-needed weekend away on Saturday.

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, on a rare moment off from conferencing!
The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, on a rare moment off from conferencing!

Tuna Casserole

Oooh man, it’s been a busy few weeks. The latter half of March brought me to my knees. Teaching + conference + revision deadlines + job applications + PhD has meant I’ve been feeling a bit on autopilot, working through my responsibilities but perpetually feeling behind. (Oh, academia). And that’s just work-related stuff.😦

Well, we often turn to food for comfort and there is no better dish to turn to than this one. The nostalgia of tuna casserole….where to begin! This dish will bring all of those childhood memories back but elevates to a completely new level. Chips + cheese + mushroom + cream + noodles….several of my favourite ingredients!

When I saw Meaghan’s post, I knew I had to make it as soon as possible. It did not disappoint — this is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while! Though there are a few different steps involved, it’s easy to make. Moreish comfort food at its finest. Even though we are getting into spring, and this is more of a winter dish, I urge you to try it. You really can’t go wrong with this one!

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Rhubarb & Blood Orange Crumble

Citrus is abundant at this time of year, and recently I have been seeing blood oranges popping up everywhere (apparently, their darker colour flesh comes from an antioxidant pigment and blood oranges have more of a berry taste than a typical orange). To take advantage of the seasonal fruit, I decided to make this crumble from delicious magazine. Crumbles are one of my favourite desserts, and they definitely have to be one of the easiest ones out there, although I did almost forget to put the sugar in this one.

If I was to be completely honest, the orange taste is not very strong or distinctive. It adds a hint of zest and of course it’s rather tart anyway with the rhubarb. This dish is best served with a drizzle of cream and great for breakfast dessert or a snack. It will keeps in the fridge a few days although it tastes best the day it’s made.

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5 YEARS OF MADE WITH LOVE

Birthday-Cupcake

5 years ago, in March 2011, I was living in Germany. I had been there for almost a year by that point. I was, for the first time in my life, really getting into cooking, because I had a kitchen of my own and someone to cook with and for. Since then, a LOT has changed. I still have the same H. by my side, but we have made two transatlantic moves in that time — back to Canada and then to the UK, both in 2012. We’ve now lived 3.5 years in a city I can only describe as dazzling, overwhelming, amazing, and challenging.

In five years, I have posted 381 times, 284 of them about cooking or baking, 25 on travel, and the rest a random assemblage. Things have come a long way since my first post (on fajitas!). I am surprised just how much I have learned in that time. I have pushed myself and gone outside of my comfort zone in terms of what I am able to do in the kitchen, and really quite astonished with my progress when I think back to five years ago.

I have never promoted this blog beyond sharing it with family and friends, and want to sincerely thank everyone who has read it along the way! Thank you for sticking with me!!:)

Falafel (Part 2) with Green Tahini Sauce

After over 2 years(!) I decided last month that it was time to try making falafel again. My first attempt was a disaster (“broken falafel, broken dreams”). I am happy to report that while not perfect, this was a definite improvement on attempt #1, mostly because I have greatly improved my deep-frying skills.

Last time I used an Ottolenghi recipe. This time I tried one from Bon Appetit. I also went the proper route and used raw chickpeas and soaked them overnight. This is the first time I’ve done this — I figured if I was going to try to improve on my first attempt, I’d better do it properly. I also learned something: the chickpeas won’t be soft after soaking. I was a bit confused because I expected them to be (and I’d had them soaking for about 20 hours, so thought I was doing something wrong). But no, merely soaking chickpeas doesn’t make them soft, which apparently makes for the exact right texture when it comes to frying them for falafel.

Everything went well until I started to form the mixture into balls — always the point in any shaping/frying activity when my heart starts to beat a little faster, in case everything falls apart. At first, they were not sticking together well. I found that the only way to make them stick was to press them hard into my hands. It’s messy work.

The recipe specified to fry them for five minutes. I used peanut oil which seemed to work really well. In order to make sure the oil is hot enough (a problem in round 1, I think), I waited until small bubbles appeared. As I had a few batches, I experimented with the timing a bit after realizing that my first batch came out too well-done. The subsequent batches were a bit better but at least for my frying system, 2.5 or 3 minutes worked best.

I served the falafel with a side salad and two dips, hummus (store-bought), and a green tahini sauce, which was good but slightly too salty (the recipe calls for 2 tsp, I’d suggest 1 tsp and then adjust to taste).

I halved the recipe and it made enough for the two of us plus my lunch the next day. While they were successful overall, I don’t think these will become a staple in my repertoire (or not this version at least) since they are just a little too cumbersome/finicky.

February 2016 Favourites

Happy March! Links:

◌ How to pair Chinese food and wine.

Britain’s best bakeries.

So want a nook.

◌ How to give a good toast.

The Louvre through wine.

This article is worth it for the photography alone.

◌ Ottolenghi’s braised eggs with leek and zaatar was delicious.

◌ How to overcome worry and be a friendlier person (via Cup of Jo).

Happy Valley is back, after a long 2 year break, but the wait was worth it. Simply amazing.

And, speaking of amazing:

Tahini & Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve decided to keep this post simple. Made these tahini chocolate chunk cookies from Molly Yeh, adapted from another recipe.

What I liked:

  • Big chocolate chunks are definitely better than small chips.
  • In theory, I love the idea of tahini in cookies (see here) as I love the mix of savoury and sweet ingredients in baking.

What wasn’t so good:

  • I didn’t really taste the tahini! It was lost.
  • They were too soft in the middle and fell apart quite easily.
  • The ultimate one– they simply took too long to make (you have to freeze the dough overnight). I will happily start many things the day before but I don’t think cookies are one of them.

Ultimate verdict: these cookies were certainly tasty, but, despite the inclusion of tahini, far from my favourite. I won’t be making them again.

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