Yoga and my black cat Jake 

  2. “This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.” *

    This is granola. This is living. An opportunity upon each bake of something new, a twist. Each time just as nutritious. I got this receipt from Hayley North, a great wholefood chef and aim to serve it with my very own almond milk.

    The recipe  is scant on measurements but I’ve gone for the following (excuse the americanism of cup measurements): 

    x3 cups of oats

    1/3 cup of coconut oil 

    1/3 cup of mixed seeds

    2/3 cup of cashews, almonds and walnuts

    1/2 cup coconut flakes

    1 cup of dates (pitted and chopped)

    1/3 cup goji berries 

    x1 small carton of apple juice

    I’m opting for adding date/rice syrup upon taste.

    Be good to yourself. Enjoy this granola. It may be a brief life but how nice it is to feel like you could just live forever.   

    Rudyard KiplingKim

  3. Chocolate Roulade. Roll with it. I am ready for Christmas. 

    This is a test. Christmas is coming and I would like to know if a chocolate log is within my remit. And I think it is.

    A kind soul gave me the Green and Black’s book as a leaving gift when I changed jobs recently. It has renewed my passion for chocolate and has confirmed that if you buy the recommended quality of chocolate the success of a recipe is well within reach. And this one is gluten free. 

    Trust the recipe. Follow the recipe. Know that the ‘roll’ doesn’t need to be perfect - it will crack, it will crumble a bit but it doesn’t need to look faultless. 

    Things to watch out for is just how much it appears to rise in the oven. It goes down slightly when it comes out the oven. This is all OK. When it came out the oven I slid the cake and the baking proof paper below onto a cooling rack. And I covered the cake with a very damp tea-towel; literally run the tea-towel under the tap and wring out any excess water and cover over the cake. This helps to mitigate the cracking as far as possible. 

    Layer on the cream (the perfect partner to the rich and decadent chocolate) once cooled and on new baking proof paper and icing sugar. Next the roll. Suspend too much concern and feel your way - use the paper that is the base to help you as you go. The first fold is tricky and then it comes together. Once rolled I kept the paper in place (entirely round the roll) for a while, helping the roll to keep the shape and not crumble or fall apart.

    It is so good. It is so decadent and grown up - the cool cream and the rich perfect chocolate. I was buzzing afterwards and continue to do so - buche de noel, well within my remit now. Christmas can’t come too soon after all!

  4. Bwaahaha! Scary scary cupcakes. 

    These cupcakes are the result of the chocolate fondant cupcake recipe in the Hummingbird bakery book. And I think that this is the better chocolate cupcake recipe in the book - the standard chocolate cupcake recipe delivers slightly drier cakes. Trick or treaters beware. These are rich. These are grown-up. Serve at room temperature.

  5. I’m going hunting. I’m the hunter.  

    I’ve given in. It’s autumn. We cover up. We go inside. We surrender to the dark. We cook rich and full and warming. Last week I rediscovered boeuf bourguignon Deila style (late 90’s, black book, red jumper, classic) and having followed the recipe religiously (with the exception of swapping flour for cornflour for my coeliac friend) it was the best one ever. I think the le Creuset pan helped but I wouldn’t want to name names. 

    A week later, it’s Sunday again and slightly darker slightly earlier. So I give Jamie’s Hunter Stew a go. From the Italian cookbook. 

    The thing with these recipes is that they all need a few hours in the oven, not to mention (in this case) time to marinate. So make a start around 4pm and you’ll be full and happy in time for Homeland to sufficiently kick you twitching into Monday morning.

    Don’t worry about the plonk with either - I plumped for a Sainsbury’s house red on both occasions and I wouldn’t do differently next time. It’s for cooking, not for drinking. Who cares?

    I also bunged in some left over chestnut mushrooms into the Hunter stew - they went in beautifully. Only thing I would say is that with all the stewing, the olives and anchovies the sauce had formed a gorgeous salty jam. Gorgeous but on the salty side. It’s intense and rich so serve with plain rice and not a huge portion needed. 

    Right then. Where’s the remote control? 

  6. Cheesecake. Because I love the people I work with. 

    Tomorrow is the beginning of the last week with my team. I am leaving. I have somewhere to go, somewhere shiny and new. The future is bright. Yet the future is without my best fans. They taste my cakes and say they are the best yet. They hover round the latest creations. The tupperware is always empty within minutes. The greatest compliment from the funniest, cleverest and most brilliant people I have ever had the honour to work with. So for my finale I deliver a classic. 

    Subtly infused with lemon juice, cinnamon, mixed spice and the contents of a vanilla pod, the cheese part is blessed with a beauty far more complicated deserts can only gawp at. And the base is simple, butter and digestive biscuits. Next time I might try crumbled chocolate chip digestives. 

    I can’t reference Jamie or Delia, Nigella or Gordon for this one. Nor was it passed down with the family pearls and china. It comes from one of those throwaway baking books you get down the discount book store at the bottom of the market. And that is why it is a gem. It came from nothing. It is a classic. It is a good way to say goodbye. 

  7. Pho is good. 

    Go there. Specifically the one in Spitalfields. Beware though if you have just cancelled a trip to Vietnam. It will make you full and gutted all at once. 

    Admittedly this might seem like sacrilege. Just up the road at the base of Kingsland road is a fantastic cluster of really good Vietnamese restaurants. Good value, authentic, trendy. Good boxes all ticked. So why settle for a chain when just a five minute bus ride away you can enjoy something far more credible? 

    Well, why indeed. Pho sits in that slightly in-between land where the city meets the east and its all a bit Disney-boho and on the verge of chain restaurant overkill. And this is where Pho wins; boring burger from Giraffe vs. tasty fresh and healthy soup, served with authentic spring rolls? Real Vietnamese beer, a lovely interior, buzzy when busy but not too much so.

    It was the perfect setting for catching up with a good friend. Both of us loved the fresh and spicy food and were left in peace to take our time and talk and eat, eat and talk. All for about £8 a dish; I was tired when I arrived and rejuvenated when I left. Perhaps I won’t need that holiday in Vietnam after all. 

  8. Supper in a sex shop

    When you are paying over the odds in London for food that would cost a fraction of the price at some unwittingly chic backstreet restaurant in its cultural home you want the whole experience to feel like a sexy glamorous dream. Two hours of feeling like a beautiful person in a perfect other world.

    Eating at La Bodega Negra hints at this. One starts at the exterior, the front of a neon-lit sex shop on the Charing Cross end of Old Compton Street. No hint of the activity below. So you enter and once you have checked in you are sent downstairs to the restaurant. Which isn’t like a sex shop or anything directly sex related at all. It is dark and dimly lit, tastefully so with some discrete corners and tables. Not a bad choice for a date. Except the two hour curfew per booking will put a stop to any beating around any bush.

    The food; the tacos were good, specifically the steak. The chorizo tacos tasted nothing like chorizo. Perhaps that was the point…or not, in which case they were average. As was the guacamole - pretty average, no distinct flavour to report. The salsas were the most potent, added to the tacos to supplement the average dip. Hmm, I’ve now used the adjective average three times.

    It gets better; we then had the sea bass and red mullet with green rice and patatas something. All very good - the red mullet was served with spinach, capers and a tomato sauce, gorgeous, tasty and fresh, enough to share between two. The sea bass had a lovely crust, no idea what this was of but very yum indeed. 

    I can highly recommend the watermelon margarita; clean, fresh and sweet but not too much so. So often watermelon is corrupted by the influence of sugar; here the taste was left naked and all the better for it.

    The only downside was the service on drinks; the server came to our table with a sombrero round his neck which made him a bit like a student earning his keep at the local Chiquito’s or that dreadful restaurant in One Day (I was expecting beautiful Anne Hathaway to sweep in awkwardly in a ruined accent to check if everything was OK). It seemed to suddenly do the whole place a disservice which perhaps sounds picky of me.

    Overall the service was very good though, although the table next to me did get served by three men all at once, all bussing low with their undercrackers and jeans. Perhaps I am showing my age and this is how we roll at fashionable Soho eateries.

    All in all it was good and it looked like a stint at the bar would be fun too if there was no time or previous booking for food.

    Arriving home after being spat onto the Central Line post dream I devoured two of my homemade cupcakes. It made me think of it as a twist on that line partnered people use to explain their choice to ‘eat in’; why eat out on hamburgers when their is steak at home? Perhaps it wasn’t too good a dream after all. 

  9. Earl Grey Cupcakes

    I know, we’re probably a little bit drunk on pomp and pagentry at this point of this year. So trying out this recipe - cupcakes flavoured with the delicate bergamot taste of Earl Grey tea - and plonking them in red, white and blue cases certainly won’t get me standing out from the crowd right now.

    What interests me is getting delicate flavours into food and I love the smell of bergamot. If you know your aromatherapy you’ll know that bergamot helps to de-stress in the same vein as lavender. The difference between the two is that bergamot is uplifting, lavender is calming. Both have their place but there is something so courageous about a scent that will calm your anxieties and then attempt to raise you up. To push you on to fight another day. 

    In trying this recipe from the Hummingbird bakery book I can’t work out how much bergamot or tea I can taste. The recipe makes good buns. The icing is thick and sweet. Almost too sweet. Perhaps in a day or two the fragrant taste will resonate. In the meantime I have some very regal looking cakes that will certainly uplift by virtue of being good sweet cakes.