16 May 2013

Simple Chocolate Tart

I occasionally bite off more than I can chew but I'm becoming so grown-up now that I can now usually resist the urge to try to make three courses, look after the baby, tidy the house and do some writing all in the same day. For lunch yesterday this new regime manifested itself in the form of a shop-bought sweet shortcrust pastry tart base.

I never buy pastry unless it's puff, because I think it's a waste of money. It's not hard to make it and it's incredibly smug-making when you do and it goes really well but lunch with five adults, two toddlers, two babies and three dogs it seemed that maybe lovingly making a tart base was a bit too much. I didn't want to buy a pre-made pudding so I thought just the base was a good compromise. The filling was from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver which I've never cooked from before but I'd written a couple of recipes down ages ago and anything with the word simple in the title was going to ideal for yesterdays lunch.

I'm not that fussed about puddings but this was really delicious and actually the shop-bought base was perfect because it was drier than home made which went really well with the rich chocolate filling. I have quite a lot of chocolate left-over but I'm going to whip up some cream, stir it in and make some sort of chocolate mousse... I'll let you know how that goes.

Simple Chocolate Tart

1 sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell baked blind
315ml double cream
2 level tbsp caster sugar
the smallest pinch of salt
115g butter, softened
455g best-quality cooking chocolate (half milk half dark works well), broken up
100ml milk
cocoa powder for dusting

1. Place the double cream, sugar and salt into a pan and bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture has boiled remove from the heat add the butter and chocolate and stir until completely melted.

2. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, stirring in the milk until smooth and shiny.

3. Scrape into the pastry shell, shake gently to even it out and allow to cool for 1-2 hours until it is at room tempterature.

4. Dust with cocoa powder.


11 May 2013

E & O

This time last year I was just out the other side of morning sickness but still in the stage where I was awake for five minutes at a time and only then to eat. So for our anniversary we got sushi delivered I had a glass of champagne, felt drunk and nodded off in front of the tele. As Joe said last night he was 'quite dissatisfied as you insisted we watched things saved on the Sky box, not even a movie'. I was perfectly happy but maybe it wasn't the most romantic of anniversaries... I've always loathed the number three anyway.

This year though was four and everybody likes four. I got peonies, my mum babysat and we resisted the urge to go to the trusty gastro pub round the corner and instead went to E & O on Ladbroke Grove - a restaurant I have wanted to go to for the last couple of years due to a colleagues constant ravings and the fact he never ever goes anywhere else.

Now it did have a bit of a head start in that I have barely been out to dinner with my husband in the last year let alone to a properly nice restaurant and I was amazed by the beautiful people having actual fun and drinking cocktails and looking glamerous so the food could have been a bit below par and I probably wouldn't have minded. But the food was absolutely fantastic - the best I can remember having anywhere.

The menu is a mix of dim sum, sashimi, tempura and things from the grill, the portion sizes are just right and everything we had was cooked to perfection and clearly well sourced. I know I'm not an expert but I eat a lot of sushi and I can tell when sashimi is good or not and this was absolutely spot on fresh and delicious.

We had prawn and chive dumplings, chili salt squid and crispy pork belly with black vinegar to start with. The dumplings were the least exciting but still delicious and perfectly cooked, the squid was absolutely perfect, served in a little wrap of newspaper just enough so you felt you got enough but not too much to spoil your appetite for everything else - this and the pork belly were my favourites. The pork was melt-in-the-mouth cooked with beautifully crispy fat and the black vinegar an ideal match.

Next up was the mixed sashimi - incredibly fresh and simple salmon, tuna and mackerel and wild pink shrimp tempura.

I had to stop there - my nil-by-mouth diet has successfully shrunk my stomach and I couldn't fit anything else in but Joe persevered with sesame and soy po choi and chili chicken with pickled cucumber also delicious apparently.

If I had anything to complain about (I always like to find something) the service was slightly slow but ever so slightly and very polite, no one asked me how my food was when I'd had one mouthful and was mid-conversation (I hate that) and the place was heaving so I really can't blame them for being a little on the slow side. All those people can't be wrong - this place is amazing and well worth going to. It's not cheap (the pink shrimp tempura was £18.50) but for a special occasion or if you don't need to worry about such things, it is worth every penny.

 E&O on Urbanspoon

8 May 2013

Healthy Salmon Burgers

Another recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine. Was very easy to make and yummy served with a green salad. Perfect for when you need to eat later than usual as it's really light - do make sure you add enough salt otherwise these won't taste as good as they should. I halved the amount to make enough for two.

Healthy Salmon Burgers

Serves 4

4 Salmon fillets
1 tbsp Thai green or red curry paste
4cm (1½) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
Fresh coriander, small handful
1 tsp vegetable oil

I used my magimix for this, as instructed by the recipe but you could probably do it all by hand if you don't have one.

1. Put half the salmon in a food processor and whizz until completely smooth.

2. Add the remaining fish, curry paste, ginger, lime and coriander, season and whizz until combined but still retaining some texture.

3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Form the salmon mixture into four equal patties and fry for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through, turning once.

4. Serve with salad, sweet chili dipping sauce and lime wedges.


3 May 2013

The Cottage

My family like things to look nice, my sister is the messiest member and she's an artist, so you see even she wants things to look nice. This means we hoover, we clean, we um and ahh about interior decoration, we sleep for weeks with curtain fabric swatches pinned to the old curtains to see how we feel about them, we update paintwork and maintain exterior walls, upgrade boilers and bleed radiators. My husbands family, who I adore, seem to exist more on the idea that they'll be dead long before anything drastic happens so why bother. This is not to say that their houses don't look wonderful, they really do, but I'm not sure that there's much room for property maintenance in their rather academic brains and they are the base-camp for shabby chic.
Rather scary damp patch over the stairs

My father-in-laws bolt-hole in North Norfolk is the worst hit by this lassez faire approach to home owning. When I first met my husband, nearly a decade ago, it looked rather aged and worn and there were a few cracks. Nothing was done and now ceilings are falling in, carpets are removing themselves and one end of the house is threatening to fall off altogether. Being from a family who likes everything clean and working and I suppose, being a girl, I have been making noises about 'doing the place up' for some time. My husband agrees with me in person, then speaks to his father and they both agree that really I'm just looking for another outlet from which to spend money. Up until now I have been all but patted on the head and told to run along.
The bathroom... my nemesis

That is until the ceiling started to fall in an a rather scary looking drip appeared over the stairs... right where the pipes from the bath run. The bathroom is my bete noir. I hate it. It hates me. It's ill flushing loo, the carpet that shows evidence that this is a mans house and runkles up to shut me in whenever it feels like it. I have had designs on this bathroom for sometime. For my 30th I would like a few quiet minutes with it and a sledgehammer. I may get my wish. These rather scary new developments mean then men in my house have had no choice but to call in the builders and I have persuaded them that there is no point doing things by half. This cottage would be fantastic for renting out some day and doing it up to rental standard is the most sensible thing. This means not only structural maintenance including fixing the roof, but new kitchen, new bathroom, new flooring and completely new paintwork.
Where the ceiling's started to go... over my bed obvs

I have put myself forward as project manager and, because of the beauty of the cottage and it's location, the size of the job, and the wonderful outcome of all this work that I am hoping for, I thought I would blog it occasionally. I've been round taking my before photographs and doing measurements of most of the rooms so I can do costings and have references from London (the fact that all floors need redoing and all rooms repainting make it not ideal for staying long with a baby... that and radiators not working). I hope it's interesting - I'll try to only blog the interesting bits - and that the transformation is successful. Right now, waiting for quotes, it all seems quite daunting, especially as it's not my house. But the only thing to do is jump in feet first so here I go...
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