World of Chilis

Back in late October, H. and I and my mum had a nice visit to H.’s parents’ in Germany. One afternoon we visited the very impressive Herrenhäuser Gärten — a must-see if you’re in the Hannover area. They had a temporary exhibit on chilis — we were impressed! I knew there were loads of chili varieties but to see them all collected in one spot was very cool.





On bake sales

I love a good bake sale. But I have to confess I generally enjoy the prep and the baking more than the actual eating, especially when it’s for a good cause. Recently, my friend B. and I hosted a bake sale for a cause near to our hearts. We each made 3 items and some of her friends helped us out, as you can see form the photo below. We hosted it on a Friday afternoon at her workplace — which just happens to be Vanity Fair magazine at Vogue House in central London. I decided to make banana bread, cupcakes, and sesame snaps (the first one tried and true, the latter two not). It was a mixed bag…

Mascarpone and almond cupcakes
I am not a cupcake person. They’re generally, other than maybe chocolate cake, the last thing I’d go for because I find them typically to be sickeningly sweet. Of course, there are exceptions. And since I had never made them before, I thought I’d give it a go. I used a recipe from Ottolenghi’s first book, Ottolenghi, which has some really good sweet treat recipes. In the book they are hazelnut cupcakes, but I could not find any hazelnuts so used almonds instead (it is such a small amount — 45g). I was really pleased with the way these turned out. I cut the sugar a bit in both the batter and frosting and it worked well. They were moist and very tasty. And they sold out! Someone even bought one and then came back 10 minutes later to buy the last one. :)

Sesame snaps
By my standards, the sesame snaps failed. As I was reading the recipe and comments, I thought to myself, “two cups of sugar sounds like a LOT.” Always trust your instincts. I ended up putting in about 1.5 and it was far, FAR too sweet. Like fudge. It needed maybe 1/2 a cup. (One person who visited our bake sale said, ‘ooh, these look healthy’ and I had to warn her that they were likely sweeter than she thought). H. thought they were ok, but I couldn’t really stomach them. Making the snaps is a slightly finicky process because you’re working with hot sugar and it dries very easily and quickly. I poured it but could not completely spread the mixture evenly before it started to cool and thus the snaps ended up being thicker than I wanted. Not the best first attempt, but 4/5 bags sold — hopefully to people with sweet tooths.

In the end, we raised £231 ($463 CAD)!

bake sale


October 2015 Favourites

November. 2015 is almost over — gulp, how has this happened? October was a busy but overall fun month: we had some weekend day trips, field trips with my students, a fun Thanksgiving party, a visit from my mum, a trip to Germany, and H. and I celebrated our 6th anniversary!

I’ll keep it short this month, because I’m drowning in work.

Amazing video.

Wine fountain in Spain!

◌ So sad that Henning Mankell has died. I love his books.

◌ What’s your personality? I’m an INFJ, which I thought was pretty accurate.

◌ The year’s best documentaries, according to Goop.

Insect restaurant coming to London. I think this is something I’d try!

What’s your style personality? Mine (B) was very accurate!

◌ Cocktails with coriander? Yes please.

Not your average peacock.

◌ How to get creative with lasagna noodles.

Yes, it’s everywhere, but I do love this song:

Chicken and Leek Pie

This was the first recipe I made from Rachel Allen’s Bake, a book that I bought almost a year ago. I am only sorry that it’s taken me so long to try a recipe out of it, because if this first one is anything to go by, it’s a good’un. This pie was absolutely fantastic — H. and I are still raving about it weeks later and I am trying to wait an appropriately healthy length of time before I make it again (it does use a whole pastry sheet!).

Chicken and leek pie definitely screams “fall,” so hopefully it’s lashing with wind and rain when you make this, for full effect. If you do not already have leftover chicken, this is more of a weekend dish. I made it on a weeknight and didn’t quite allow enough time — it takes about 1.5 hours to bring it all together if you start with uncooked chicken.

Here’s how to make it.

Chicken and leek pie, adapted from Rachel Allen (serves 2 generously, with some left over)

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C.
  2. Place chicken (about 1kg worth) in a large heavy pan, along with 300ml chicken stock, 100ml white wine, dried herbs of your choice, and salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in another pan, melt 1 tbsp butter in a pan. Add in 2 sliced leeks and 1/2 tbsp of water. Season, cover, and cook gently until the leeks soften. When they are cooked, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  4. With the remaining buttery leek juices left over (not a lot), add 1/2 tsbp of plain flour to make a roux.
  5. Chicken: when it is cooked, place the chicken pieces on a plate to dry, and bring the poaching liquid to a boil. Add in 175ml double cream, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the roux, followed by 1 tsp Dijon mustard.
  6. Pull the chicken off the bones and add it to the sauce along with the leeks. Taste and season again if necessary.
  7. Pour the filling into an ovenproof dish, and cover with a sheet of puff or shortcrust pastry.*
  8. If you want, brush with a beaten egg for a shiny finish (I didn’t both with this — was too hungry by this point). Cook for 10 minutes at 230° and then a further 20-25 minutes at 200°.

*Rachel says either work. I used shortcrust.

There are a lot of steps involved, but it’s worth it (and if you start with leftover chicken it will be much faster). This was the best chicken pie I have ever tasted and I will definitely be adding this to my regular repertoire.

I don’t have a photo for this one — not for lack of trying, but simply because they didn’t turn out well.

Fig & Mascarpone Tart

Figs seem to be everywhere right now. As a recent concert to fresh figs, I was eager to bake something with them this fall. I initially had in mind a cheesecake, but this post caught my eye. I simplified the tart a bit, omitting the orange blossom and almonds — not as fancy or complex, but I think it still worked well.

Throwing this together is almost laughably easy if you use ready made puff pastry, as I did and as the recipe recommends. It only requires a bit of planning as the pastry base has to cool before it can be ‘dressed.’ The first step is to bake the base, which is the hardest part really! As it’s baking, make up the mascarpone spread (and try to resist eating it all) and chop up the figs. That’s it really. When the pastry is cool, spread out the cheese and honey mixture and add the figs.

I’m glad I tried this. Next time I’ll add the almonds and orange (I think zest would have worked well too), but it was still a delicious dessert. Note that the tart should be eaten the same day it’s made. It does keep overnight in the fridge but isn’t quite as tasty.


Pork & Sweet Potato Curry

This is the perfect curry for cooler weather, just as late summer is transitioning to fall. We have been lucky in London: the last couple of weeks have been sunny and fairly warm, but fall has definitely set in now.

This is a recipe adapted from my Thai bible. The original it was pumpkin and pork, but …… I am not a great fan of pumpkin. So I decided to try it with sweet potatoes instead. I’m glad I did because this was a very satisfying meal.

Here’s how to make it:
Pork and Sweet Potato Curry, adapted from Simply Thai Cooking

  1. Dice 2 medium sweet potatoes and place them in a roasting tin. Lightly coat with a bit of oil and salt and pepper and roast at 180 degrees C for 25-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, slice your pork; as Wandee recommends, we used pork tenderloin.
  3. Slice up a red pepper into bite-sized pieces; reserve for later.
  4. Heat 250ml coconut milk in a wok on high, and when it boils add 2 tsbp red curry paste (this was rather hot; adjust to preferences). When it has dissolved and mixed in nicely, add in the juice of half a lime and then the pork slices.
  5. Stir fry for a 3-4 minutes and then add in 2 tbsp fish sauce and 1 tsp sugar.
  6. Add the roasted sweet potatoes as well as 1 tbsp oyster sauce as well as an additional 250ml coconut milk.* Simmer a further minute, and then dress with a handful of fresh basil and your red pepper. Taste: you may find you need a dash more lime juice.
  7. Enjoy!

*NB I forgot to include this in the initial post; revised 8/10/15.

Wandee recommends serving with steamed rice, but we ate this on its own and found it just fine. This is the perfect dish for rainy fall evenings as it has a good kick and brightens things up!

IMG_7212 (2)

September 2015 Favourites

October 2nd. Sigh. I love fall, but damn it’s a busy time of year. Posts have been few and far between, mostly because I haven’t been cooking much, or rather haven’t been cooking much that’s new. I feel as though my time isn’t my own any more, which is sad to admit, but true. I hope to bring you a few food posts in the coming weeks. In the meantime…

◌ A selection of recipes from Nigel Slater’s new book.

◌ Really liking the wine app Delectable, a recent download of mine.

Bathtub envy is definitely a thing!

◌ This Brooklyn bar menu generator made me smile!

◌ Really like this natural beauty guide from my friend Kate.

◌ Now THIS is a sandwich.

◌ I love this essay.

◌ Would you ever have wallpaper like this in your home? I have to say I think I would.

◌ Goop’s guide to fall in London.

◌ This salad is a real winner. We loved it.

◌ I feel like a bit of a broken record, but everyone has to read Patrick de Witt’s Undermajordomo Minor. I am a halfway through and it is fantastic so far.

◌ Another Goop guide: fall TV.

◌ Jacques Pépin making bunnies out of olives and grapes.

Finally, this made me nearly cry with laughter when I saw it yesterday:

Horses galloping in a field in rural Surrey. Taken by me early last month.
Horses galloping in a field in rural Surrey. Taken by me early last month.

Tomato Tart

I love tomatoes and will happily eat them in just about any form in anything. One of my favourite times to be in Nova Scotia is when the tomatoes are ripe and plentiful in my aunt and uncle’s garden — it is overwhelming! The tomatoes are so good that neither of them eat them at any other time of the year unless it’s their own frozen ones. Alas, that didn’t happen this year, so I’ve had to get my fix elsewhere — usually at our weekly farmer’s market, where we’ve had tomatoes since late July (which is actually when I made this).

Before we left for Nova Scotia in early August, H. and I completely cleaned out our freezer and used everything up. I had some frozen puff pastry, and had visions of a tomato tart, and in my search came across this recipe at the Kitchn. I was a bit unsure at first because of the mayo. Yes, I have a fear of mayonnaise that I am gradually overcoming. ;) In the end, the simplicity of this tart won me round, and I’m really glad I tried it.

My version was two-cheese rather than three (cheddar and feta), and it was delicious. No, it’s not the healthiest meal around, but it’s damn tasty and really hits the spot. And is perfect if you are lucky enough to have access to lots of tomatoes right now!

Market tomatoes
Market tomatoes


Seafood Chowder

I feel like summer is well and truly over. Weather-wise back in London, it’s been pretty poor — a freezing 9 degrees when I left the house yesterday morning. I’ve been back to work for a week now and so my weeks of checking email only once every couple of days are a distant memory. I do love fall though, and am excited for it, but before we get into spiked pumpkin latte season (shout-out for you MC, ha ha), a few late summer recipes are still to come on the blog.

I made this chowder a couple of weeks ago in Sandy Cove. We were fortunate to have some amazing seafood on hand — haddock, clams, and leftover lobster. I love a good chowder and so thought it would be the perfect way to combine it all.

I started loosely basing it on this one from The Bite House, but ended up changing things around fairly quickly. I only used a small amount of fennel (garden-fresh too!) but had to remove it as even the smell was too licoricey for me. Instead of sausage I used about 4 slices of bacon. I followed Bryan’s liquid measurements closely, and it came out the perfect most rich (but not overly rich) silky chowder. Much better than my first attempt three years ago! Most ingredients in the bowl were Nova Scotian, and all of the seafood had been caught locally. I know a lot of people eat like this all the time (well, for at least part of the year), but it’s still a novelty for me to cook a meal that is well and truly ‘local’, and a very good feeling.

seafood chowder YUM

End of Summer 2015 Favourites

An error meant that this went out before the links were completely edited. Whoops. Apologies!

– – – – – – – – – – –

Can we please put August on repeat? I’m not ready for September!

Books on wine for summer fall reading.

What it’s really like to be a pilot. Looking forward to this book.

◌ The radio station that stayed on though Hurricane Katrina.

◌ Vacationing like it’s 1999, i.e. without constant technology. I found this refreshing but sad that some people have to resort to paying for solitude from technology. I hope I never become one of them.

◌ All of the artwork in The Goldfinch.

Pretty damn cool.

◌ Was really happy to see Nova Scotia on this list of food-related honeymoon destinations!

◌ Everyone needs to read Hack Attackwhich knocked my socks off. Brilliant journalism, brilliant critique of power.

What it feels like to be a Canadian.

◌ Great ideas for mini pizzas.

Beautiful bowls.

◌ I followed the Feast‘s edible road trip blog, and am so pleased to see they have a book coming out.

12 years in the Blue Man Group.