Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Miso Breakfast Soup and a New Kitchen

It has been a funny old time over the past month.  For the first time ever,  Tom and I have had to struggle through without a working kitchen.  As always in life,  the appointment we had with the plumber was rescheduled as he faced his own life challenges. We had to be patient.

DIY on a Saturday.
The shelves are wedding inspired made from our sharing platters.  Need to sort out the wall sockets though.
This may explain the sudden need to cook with extravagance for three meals a day as though we are playing catch up. To be honest I have been desperate for a vegetable that wasn't a mushy pea. Takeaways are not our style other than the occasional trip to the fish and chip shop or the odd hangover quenching Thai.

This morning,  I followed Tom's recently furvished need to eat umami.  He found a cool website,  Japancenter.co.uk and picked up seaweed,  miso and chilli.  I added to this supply by visiting the Asian supermarket in York Chi Yip to pick up some Kimchi,  tofu and radish.

Korean and Japanese breakfasts have followed, much to the horror of my sister when she came to see the new place.  We curbed ourselves over the weekend and did eggs and avocado.

Miso breakfast soup

Miso Breakfast Soup

1 tbsp oil
1 flat mushroom
A bunch of green beans
1 sweet red pepper
1 cup kimchi
1 tbsp miso
2 cups boiled water
2 tbsp dried seaweed
Spinkle Japanese chilli powder
1 cup diced tofu pieces

I fried off the vegetables for a couple of minutes to soften the sliced pepper,  mushroom and beans.
I added the kimchi and stirfried for a couple of minutes.
I added the miso and water and stired in the paste until dissolved in the water.
I added the tofu and simmered for 8-10 mins.
I then turned the stove off and sprinkled with dried seaweed and chilli to taste.

The seaweed rehydrates as the boiling soup levels off to a palatable temperature.  Leave it to stand for 5 mins.

Serve with Japanese pickles or radish.  You could serve with rice as a more midday meal.

Almost but not quite finished

We are more than pleased with our new kitchen. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Chocolate and Coffee Torte

Moist and rich chocolate deliciousness. Dark chocolate gives this torte a luxurious taste fit to quash even intense chocolate cravings.

Chocolate and Coffee Torte

200g Unsalted butter

200g 75%+ Dark Chocolate

3 tbsp of filter coffee

75g soft brown sugar

75g caster sugar

5 eggs

50g plain flour

50g ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Simmer the chocolate, butter and coffee in a bowl over hot water. Allow the steam to melt the contents and stir to combine the coffee and chocolate which will appear to separate. Don’t allow the mixture to become too hot.

2. Separate the eggs and whisk the brown sugar into the yolks until creamy and light in colour. Combine the caster sugar into the whites in a clean bowl by beating until they make soft peaks.

3. Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg yolks and fold to maintain the air in the mixture. Add the sifted flour and ground almonds and combine thoroughly.

4. Take the egg white mixture and fold this in carefully until completely combined. You do not want any white lumps left over in the chocolate mix. Pour into a lined cake 18cm tin. Bake until a skewer comes out almost clean for around 40 mins. If you like a gooey texture then check after 35mins.

5. Serve dusted with cocoa and with a raspberry coulis or whipped cream.   

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Yorkshire Parkin

Yorkshire Parkin on a Winter's night

A traditional hearty ginger sponge eaten in the winter months in Yorkshire. This recipe contains oats and flour but can be made entirely with oats for a denser texture. You can add rum or whisky to your recipe for a toasty flavour.

Yorkshire Parkin

400g Scottish oats
100g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp mixed spice
400g golden syrup
100g treacle
60g butter
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
2. Mix oats, flour, salt and soda, ginger and mixed spice in a bowl.
3. Simmer the syrup, treacle, and butter in a bowl over boiling water. Allow the steam to melt the contents and stir to combine. Don’t allow the mixture to become too hot.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
5. Add the two beaten eggs and stir in.
6. Pour into a lined 25cm square or equivalent round baking tin. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Store overnight loosely covered for the traditional flavours and stickiness to develop.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Cakes and Pies at the Heart of the Proceedings

Wedding Pies
Following on from the amazing BBQ post, I thought I would share the final installment of our wedding feast! We asked some of our lovely guests to contribute a pie or a cake for the desserts and evening buffet tables in the marquee. Some opted for homemade favourites, some chose to carefully carry a pie from their local butchers. One group of friends clubbed together and ordered a custom made 'friendship' pie!

Guests contributed to the pie evening buffet
The display was impressive, but more impressive was the fact that there was very little remaining by the end of the night.

Lancashire cheese and onion pie
Aunty Sharon's cheese and onion pie was a big favourite and it had already disappeared by the time word got round quite how good it was.

Sliced wedding cake
I made my own wedding cake much to the dismay of a few experienced brides who denounced me for taking on more than I could chew. But I loved making my own cake to the same recipe I have used for friends and family in the past. It was tried and tested and I knew it would make a lovely moist cake which we decided to serve with a massive cheese board! Unfortunately no pictures of the cheese board seem to have materialized. I fed the cakes with two different liquers. Two layers were lovingly glugged with Yorkshire Tea and brandy while the middle tier was fed with Taylors of Harrogate coffee and ameretto.

Guests provided homemade cakes for dessert
I didn't realise until quite late in the day that a couple of the bridesmaids had printed some flags for the cakes with pictures of family childhood parties. Photos pictured us dancing and singing at various parties and all of them a precursor to this very big party!

Wonderful Jenny made some chocolates
Jenny Culver, my fantastic and talented friend made a selection of handmade chocolate truffles and caramel cups.

Love the names on the flags.
My Homemade fruit wedding cake to accompany the wall of cheese

Gorgeous cake display and photos

It was a fabulous spread, I was so proud of everyone who made such an effort to produce a wonderful selection of scrumptiousness!

I'll meet you in Strasbourg!

As a pre-wedding treat I took the chance to spend some time with my bestie. We looked for some cheap and cheerfully accessible city breaks. The usual Amsterdam and Dublin options were proving evasive as the times were all wrong and a few very obscure places later, Soph and I settled on Strasbourg (not to be confused with 'The Hills are Alive', Satlzberg). We knew very little about the city other than that fact it houses the EU Parliamentary buildings.

On arrival we realised we could be in trouble as we struggled to speak French to a group of youths and the lack of planning sunk in. We had no idea where our hotel was other than the fact it was near a rather large cathedral. We wandered through the old town’s twisting alleys lined with crooked half-timbered houses and the breath taking cathedral which sat opposite out hotel emerged. The whole place was like something from Grimm's fairy tales and the little timbre houses reminded us of Hansel and Gretel. It was later that we noticed all the references in the gift shops to gingerbread and the Black Forest! Doh!

Hansel and Gretel-esque Liz
 An education followed. Strasbourg is located in the Alsace region of France, very close to the German border and the influences of both are found all over in the architecture, food and culture. The region has it's own defined dialect and we certainly felt the passion the inhabitants had for their unique region. Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grand Island, was classified a Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. 

 Our hotel, L'hotel Rohan was the quirkiest we could find. The dining room was a bizarre mix of highly designed furniture and mounted animal heads. For example what hotel has a stuffed fox holding a drinks tray in the reception. The room was small but well dressed, clean and tidy. The location was amazing. A one minute walk to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. A gorgeously tall (sixth tallest church in the world) Roman Catholic cathedral, with architecture inspired by Romanesque and Gothic influences.

We tentatively entered a tavern down near the canal side and we were greeted with fluent french to which we again both panicked as we had completely forgotten anything Monsieur Pepper had taught us at school! The menu however was pretty easy to fathom as even English restaurants use a great deal of French and I had looked up the local cuisine if nothing else (standard)!  Choucroute is a local variety of Sauerkraut which is left to ferment in wooden barrels. Traditionally it is served with pork sausages or smoked knuckles. Served alongside are often roasted or steamed potatoes or dumplings. I can only describe our meals as 'hearty' and the German influence was more than apparent in the volume of meat on the plate! 

The following morning we had a wander down by the canal side into Petite France which was delightful! You felt as though you were in a movie set. We walked around for a few hours and then realised that without any guide book or knowledge we had very little insight into anything and we wanted to know more!

So... we signed up for a Segway tour. Now one thing I can say about spending time with Soph is that you literally can't envisage what will happen but something fabulous always does. The girl attracts glamour and attention wherever she goes! This occasion was no disappointment. 

One City Tours were happy to oblige us on our Segway adventure, only one problem, our one hour tour may be a little longer as the French version of 'The One Show' would be filming us on our way round. Would we mind?? Hell no, this would be fun!

Segway Tour

 About 5 hours later, Soph had made her debut appearance on French TV, my legs would no longer function, Soph had also gone head first into an antique shop window and thank goodness nothing dramatic had happened to neither the window or my friend

Once we had got the hang of the slow moving road use and the fast paced pavement moves we were away. I have to say though, during all the commotion of filming and retakes we learnt very little about the city other than the location of our tour guides favourite cookie shop and a great many visits down a great many courtyards and windy streets! The cookies were bredele. The tourguide told us in three languages, that if you have the pleasure of being in Alsace at Christmas time, many home cooks make numerous batches of small cookies in an incredible variety of shapes and flavors. These are mixed together to make a collection. Our guide, the situation and the randomness of the tour proved hilarious and we laughed the rest of the weekend! 

Strasbourg Tour

The cookie knowledge provided outside various bakeries were in fact very impressive. A massive amount of gingerbread filtered its scent into the narrow streets and the sweet and spicy breads looked amazing. It was a window into German Christmas and there was even a shop selling purely Christmas themed gifts. 

Alsatian Breads

Gateaux l'opera in Alsace

The breads included Kougelhopf, a yeast risen cake similar to brioche bread. Every family has their secret recipe and you will find all sorts of variations. The French spice breads, were on every street corner in boulangeries which each seemed to have a different display. You can buy a loaf, or just a square from a huge block! Either way, it is authentic and delicious. We also had lots of fun exploring the Patisseries and tasting all the amazing Gateaux and l'operas.

Wine caves
  On the second morning we set off on foot, I feared my leg muscles had wasted away. We searched for the historical wine cellars of Strasbourg hospital which were not easy to find. Dating back to 1395, this brick-vaulted wine cellar hides beneath the hospital. It was originally built in a time when wine was considered a cure for all illnesses and now hosts a wine merchants selling Alsatian wines from Rieslings to sweet Muscats. One of its historic barrels is filled with a 1472 vintage and is locked up behind bars.

Enjoying a street cafe

No trip to France would be complete without wasting a few hours in a street cafe eating some measure of cheese. The croque monsieur was the perfect candidate. A baked or fried ham and cheese dish. A soft crust, topped with grated continental cheese. The bread is optionally toasted before and then dipped in whipped eggs, then the whole sandwich is finally baked in the oven so that the top cheese can melt and brown. It originated in French cafes and bars as a quick snack so we figured it would be rude not to try one! We enjoyed one of these while chatting about the hen party and other wedding gossip. But it was then that we determined we needed to seek out La Clouche a Fromage.

World's largest cheese cloche
La Cloche a Fromage or 'cheese bell', is a family-owned restaurant nearby the Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg. The restaurant loves all things cheese and so they have installed the worlds biggest cheese-board according to the Gunniess Book of Records which houses between seventy five and one hundred and ten cheeses (depending on the seasonality). We nervously approached it at the front of the restaurant which honourably works with artisan cheese makers. The display is amazing!

Strasbourg Crepes with Nutella and Banana
Our final foray with food in Strasbourg was a hearty crepe reminiscent of ski trips to the Alps. This and an ameretto coffee to wash it down filled our boots and prepared us for the journey home. Trying to buy a ticket for a French train also proved rather difficult and inspired me to brush up on my basic french. It was mortifying to fail so badly!

We had the best time in Strasbourg and I cannot recommend it enough for a weekend break or if you want to live in a fairytale town!