Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Little pear, pecan and mincemeat cobblers

I realise this post probably requires an explanation.

Because, of course, nobody in their right mind would want to be cooking, let alone eating, a cobbler right now. Nobody in their right mind would want to be eating anything at all right now. Maybe a few salad leaves and a piece of fruit. But certainly not anything involving butter, nuts or dried fruit soaked in alcohol

I think I've had enough dried fruit soaked in alcohol to last at least until next Christmas. Everywhere I go, it's there, haunting me. Mince pies. Christmas cakes (why, oh why, did I decide to make TWO?). Christmas puddings (again, I made TWO). Stollen. My body yearns for sweet release from this culinary captivity, yet somehow I can't help myself. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

And a partridge in a...roast with pears

It may not be very cool to say so, when the general trend appears to be to moan about it as much as possible, but I love Christmas. In fact, I love the few weeks before the big day more than the day itself. There are twinkly lights in the Cambridge streets, Christmas songs playing in the shops, cranberry sauce sitting in the fridge, and two heavy, alcohol-sodden Christmas cakes maturing happily in one of my kitchen cupboards. We were very organised this year and made the cakes a huge six weeks in advance, to allow time for 'feeding' them with copious quantities of brandy and rum - brandy for Delia's classic version; rum for a truly scrumptious-smelling tropical version by Fiona Cairns, resplendent with jewel-like chunks of dried mango, apricot, pineapple, dates and raisins and rich with the aroma of crystallised ginger, lime zest and treacle. I can't wait to get my teeth into a slice of it, though I'll wait until it is thoroughly inebriated before I do so.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Daring Cooks: Cha Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

I'm very excited to share my first ever Daring Cooks challenge. For those of you who don't know/haven't heard of the Daring Kitchen, it's home to two groups - the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers. Basically the idea is that one member sets a challenge each month for everyone else to follow - usually an interesting and possibly complex recipe that bloggers then work to recreate, posting about their progress on a given date. I've been lurking in the forums for months now, but for one reason or another have never been able to complete the given challenges (I was all set to do one of them, then got food poisoning, was unable to eat for a week and thus missed the deadline!) However, I finally got there and relished the opportunity to make Cha Sui Bao, or Chinese pork buns.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cranberry and orange Christmas Tree cake

Cranberries are a mysterious beast. I read an article by Nigel Slater recently in which he posited them as remarkable because "they are the only fruit that's impossible to eat raw". Now, I wouldn't have thought this was true. What about quinces, whose flesh is grainy, rock-hard and bitter when untempered by heat and sugar? What about gooseberries, mouth-puckeringly sharp and requiring a good blanket of the white stuff to calm them down? Surely Nigel has thought of this, though, experienced culinary connoisseur that he is. Maybe the cranberry really is a different creature altogether. I can't say I've eaten enough raw cranberries, gooseberries and quinces to experience the subtle nuances of their varying astringency.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Love Music Love Food: the Rock Star Cookbook

I will admit to, on several occasions, having judged a book not quite by its cover, but by the photos it contains. This is especially true of cookbooks; I know it's bad, but those without photos are generally unlikely to end up in my literal or Amazon shopping basket. I know I'm not alone in this; quite often, it's the mouthwatering photo of a dish that catches your eye and makes you try something new. Ingredient combinations that sound weird on the page suddenly make a whole lot of sense when displayed there in photographic reality.

Love Music Love Food: The Rock Star Cookbook from Quadrille publishers takes this to an entire new level. It will have you gawking at its pages in a way probably no other recipe book ever could.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Tropical granola

Health food stores really are such depressing places. The musty smell of arid, desiccated fruits and nuts; the greying packets of various withering beans and seeds; the assortment of tragic soy products that with every bite remind you how much you crave a huge, bloody, juicy steak; the lingering odour of crushed hopes and disappointment as yet another jar of £18 coconut oil fails to transform you into Miranda Kerr overnight. And why is it that customers browsing in health food stores are such a poor advert for the stores themselves? I can't say I've ever entered a health food store, seen someone poring over a shelf of Manuka honey or powdered flaxseed and thought "woah, I'd better get me some of that if it means I can look like him/her". Generally, health food stores are seen as breeding grounds for the socked-and-sandalled, the hairy-legged, the old and mad. You can feel the vim, zest and gusto being slowly sucked out of your soul as soon as you cross the threshold of one, as if some kind of health Dementor had zoomed down upon you and sucked your joie de vivre out through your mouth, replacing it with a pint of cod liver oil or an omega-3 supplement.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged: Nutmegs, seven

I was recently tagged by thelittleloaf (whose chocolate and chestnut cake I am currently ogling and planning to replicate) in a post for Food Bloggers Unplugged - designed to help you find out more about the people behind those culinary endeavours you peruse every day.

In the spirit of Christmas and a spot of harmless self-indulgence, here I have bared my soul to reveal all my deepest, darkest kitchen secrets (or something).

What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

I think various friends had been suggesting it to me, after I continually assaulted their Facebook feeds with photos of my gastronomic adventures. I can't remember what finally made me decide to take the plunge, though I think it had a lot to do with some pigeon. I had been on a wander to town one day, and spied some gorgeous wood pigeon on offer at the butcher. I bought six, with no idea why, invited friends round and then decided what on earth I was going to do with them. That feeling of being totally inspired by food, of being really excited about the kitchen adventures you're going to embark on that evening, was something I kept experiencing and finally decided I should document.