Tag Archives: food

baking pride

17 Jul

My name’s Ollie and I’m competitive.  Yes I admit it, if there’s a challenge I’m 100% in, and I’m pretty embarrassing to be around.

I wish this competitive streak had an off button, but unfortunately it doesn’t and it also stretches to the work environment. I don’t think it’s by accident I sit on a desk with one other (very placid) person, isolated from the rest of the team.

Now for some unbeknownst reason there seems to be a big group of  home baking ‘fans’ in our office, who take it in turns to conjure up all manner of amazing goods. Ever so recently this group has turned from sweet toothed (and natured) baking friends into hardcore competitors that makes Iron Chef look like a quaint village fete.

As a loose member of this fraternity (read desperate to belong), any opportunity to try and impress them with my baking skills I’ll bloody take it.

So as it was my placid desk friends 40th Birthday, I thought I’d try and bake a rainbow layer cake. I’d seen a few pics about these online recently, and thought if I wanted to be seen as mover and shaker in the office baking circle this might be my chance..

Not the sort of cake you’d bake for anyone with issues about artificial colours (or hyperactivity), but for cutting the cake “wow” factor, its hard to beat.

I think it turned out pretty well – my table mate was pretty ‘proud’ of my efforts and you’ll be pleased to know the baking fraternity are beginning to talk to me a little more…  as too are the LGBT group bizarrely.

 

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diamond jubilee strawberry “easecake”

28 May

 

We all do stupid things when we’re young, and for me one of the most idiotic (that I’ll divulge here anyway), was thinking it’d be a good idea to take a job picking strawberries for a month or two, so I could pay to go on a surf trip to France.

Irrespective of having to hunch over plants in ridiculously hot poly-tunnels (it was just my luck that we experienced one of those mythological “Indian Summers”), the worst impact of the job was the self imposed 50m barrier between strawberries and I for the next five years due to eating so many whilst working (and that I associated the taste of strawberries with searing back pain).

Having finally gotten over my ‘issues’, I now fully embrace the strawberry again, especially when they’re in season, taste great and are sold off at the end of the day down the market for 20p a punnet.

Here’s one of those ridiculously quick recipes I nicked from a magazine (I call it a four song recipe.. because fairly obviously that’s how many songs you listen to whilst prepping it) for a very summery dessert. I made this on the weekend and thought it’d be perfect to share prior to the impending Jubilee celebrations.

Strawberry & Lemon “Easecake”

As named by my good friend Laura.. who I think possibly ignored a calling to be a pun writer.

200g strawberries – this is just under a punnet full..
1 tsp caster sugar
4 digestive biscuits
100g cream cheese, easier to whisk if it’s at room temperature.. but unless you’re a wimp you’ll probably manage if it’s straight out the fridge.
2 tbsp icing sugar
125ml double cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 wine glasses

First chop the strawberries into small pieces. Put these into a cereal bowl, sprinkle the caster sugar over them, put a plate on top and give a couple of gentle shakes so they begin to macerate.

Then ideal if you’ve had a rubbish day and need to vent any frustration, put the the biscuits into a freezer bag and smack it with a rolling pin until you have a sandy bag of crumbs…then divide equally into your glasses.

Measure the cream cheese and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk – try and not get icing sugar everywhere as I invariably do.

Then add the cream, lemon juice and vanilla, and whisk gently to combine – it should be a nice smooth consistency – not too runny or stiff.

Now the hard part (and the bit that takes the most time..) divide the cream between each glass, and try not to get any on the sides of the glass.. it’s impossible I swear.

Then finally pop your chopped strawberries in the glasses, and sprinkle with a little chopped mint. Serve and impress friends… bending the truth at this point in regards to how long they took to prep always helps.

I’ve also found that out of a punnet of strawberries you have just enough fruit left over for your glass of the best summer drink going a Sipsmith Summer Cup.

 

secret streets – golborne road W10

1 May

Portobello Road Market on a Saturday is full of Italian tourists spending that overly inflated Euro or die hard Hugh Grant fans on the lookout for their foppish prince (if you fall into this category, he does not actually live in Notting Hill – we have only ever seen him once, at the Electric Cinema chuckling at Keira Knightley’s acting in A Dangerous Method. True story.)

And if I had a pound for every time someone has asked me for directions to the blue door or the travel bookshop, it would be me on that Sunday Times Rich List, not Roman Abramovich.

Basically, for locals, Portobello Road is an absolute no go zone on Saturdays, which is why we often head north to Golborne Road when we don’t want to stray too far from home.

Golborne Road has traditionally been a somewhat down-at-heel Middle Eastern strip, but is slowly being gentrified. Halal butchers and clothing boutiques now sit side by side. Many cite the arrival of Pizza East as the first nail in its coffin, and local traders believe it won’t be too long before Golborne Road becomes just an extension of Portobello. For now at least, it is still a fun place to spend a Saturday (and you will more than likely see a member of the Tory cabinet!).

We usually start with an espresso and a super cheap pastry at Cafe O’Porto…

his and hers

Check out the ‘too expensive but oh man I really want one’ handbags at Ally Capellino*…

And wander through ‘antique’ shops selling the most bizarre wares imaginable…

So don’t change too much Golborne Road… we like you just the way you are. Oh, that’s Bridget Jones, not Notting Hill. Same thing.

* Ally Capellino is technically one of the ’boutiques’ mentioned above, but anywhere selling handbags gets a free pass from me.

herby goodness

24 Apr

I once read an interview with a high profile chef who said “never trust anyone who recommends using dried herbs in a recipe”. Now I couldn’t be any more on board with using fresh herbs, as flat leaf parsley is basically the only concealer of my otherwise bland creations..

Sometimes however, getting your hands on bread and milk can be a struggle in my local supermarket, let alone fresh tarragon or oregano, so unfortunately Nigel, dried herbs often do come into the equation..


I always used to buy bunches of herbs, but not use them in one go. So I’d store them in my fridge only to find them limp and dank a day or so later and pretty unappealing to use.

Now I’m not sure if this is a common trick, but I was taught by a wise Greek Cypriot this method for keeping your herbs perfectly fresh, which has been used from times as far back as to when Greece didn’t have a budget deficit (longer than anyone can remember).

So, simply cut the end of the bunch of the herbs

Pop them in a fresh glass of water

Ideally stick a sandwich/ freezer bag over the herbs (we’d run out so I used a normal carrier bag).

Pop it in the fridge, and voila your herbs will stay fresh for days (just remember to change the water regularly)… bland food banished, and celebrity chef kudos ahoy!

 

 

exmouth market – all day ideas

12 Apr

For a number of years I had the joy of my place of work being located a stone’s throw from Exmouth Market.

Photo credit: Alan Stanton

You might think “joy” is a slightly exuberant word to use to describe a street, but in my opinion it’s one of the few streets in London that you can visit at any point in the day or any day of the week and go somewhere interesting, independent and of a good standard (also fitting that my office is now based right on Leicester Square.. which is a long way from joyous).

Exmouth Market is in no means a hidden gem, but it still surprises me how many people haven’t visited.. I think it probably has something to do with there not being a tube stop in the close vicinity (Angel, Farringdon and Kings Cross are a 10 min stroll away).

So here’s the His and Hers recommendations of spots in the vicinity, by time of day and activity.. this is in no way exhaustive (unfortunately we’re going to miss some spots, otherwise this would be the longest post ever..)

Weekend Breakfast & Brunch: Starting with the obvious here… one of the more recent additions to the market is Caravan (which we recommended here). Run by a group of antipodeans it’s the spot to get breakfast and top notch coffee (lets face it, there’s two things you can expect Kiwis to be great at, coffee and beating everyone in rugby). Tip: If you don’t like waiting, turn up early, or in pairs.. if not, prepare for a bit of a wait.. it’s popular.

Weekday Lunch: Not technically on Exmouth Market but just around the corner, Clerkenwell Kitchen, frustrates me. Mainly because it’s so good and I don’t get to go there as often as I’d like (it’s only open weekday lunchtimes). With a real focus on sustainability, the team that run the kitchen change the menu daily. If it’s sunny make sure you sit in the courtyard out the back (bordered by the kitchen’s herb garden).

Weekend Lunch / roast: Again just off Exmouth Market on a very quiet residential street (this post should possibly be renamed “Side Streets around Exmouth Market”), The Easton is a gastro pub, which, due to its slightly hidden location, will always guarantee you a spot even if everywhere else is rammed.. which maybe implies it’s a last resort, but it definitely isn’t, especially based upon the quality of the Sunday roast we had there recently.

Early evening with friends: Cafe Kick – The spot to have a post work beers and then get way too competitive on their table football tables.  You reserve and pay for the time on the tables, as opposed to sinking quid after quid into hungry machines, which makes things a little less expensive.. but the likelihood is that you’ll probably spend the equivalent on beers working up a competitive thirst (no halftime oranges here)..

Evening – “Catch up with friends” dinner spot: Morito is the little sister restaurant to possibly my all time favourite restaurant Moro (it’s next door). Unlike its bigger sibling which is probably for more special occasions, Morito is all tapas, you can’t reserve a table and there is a very relaxed vibe to proceedings.

Due to its pedigree and no reservations policy, it is always extremely busy from opening. However, due to patrons’ keenness to eat, I’ve actually been a couple of times a little later in the evening, Spanish style (maybe after a game of table football/beer or two), and never had to wait… however the danger of this approach is a tendency to get carried away with the ordering… “7 plates per person yeah?”

I could carry on with recommendations but I won’t, so go explore for yourself – you might even find “The Secret Pub”.. and this place is infamous.. the one with the best beer garden, cheap drinks, great food and no crowds.. I’m not going to tell you where it is here, but if you invite me for a drink.. I may just show you.

Exmouth market – from central London (Charring Cross Rd / Tottenham Court Road) take the 38 bus and it’ll drop you right at the end of the end of the market in about 15/20 mins

the perfect devon scone

2 Apr

Knowing Ollie’s mum was coming up for the weekend, and remembering the scones she baked on our recent trip to Devon very fondly, I phoned her to ask if she would mind bringing up the recipe.

She went one better – bringing with her some fresh Devon clotted cream and an offer to spend Sunday morning teaching me to make Devonian scones.

Ingredients

200 g self raising flour

60g butter

250ml milk

A pinch of brown sugar

We had some honey and ginger (fresh from the Caribbean!), so we decided to add this in as well. If you want to go crazy, you could add 60g of dried fruit for fruit scones, or 60g of cheese and some cayenne pepper for savoury scones.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Start by mixing the flour and the butter (we cheated and used the Magimix), followed by a tablespoon of honey.

Transfer everything into a mixing bowl and slowly add the milk.

Knead everything together and use a knife to divide it into sections (only cut to about halfway). Brush with a small amount of milk (we just used our finger – Jamie Oliver style), and drop a pinch of brown sugar on each section.

Put the scones in the hot oven for twenty minutes….et voilà!

These were inhaled before they even had a chance to cool down. The perils of living with two boys!

let’s make like k middy and head to richard ward

31 Mar

Kate “The Duchess of Cambridge” Middleton is quite a polarising figure but the one thing people will cross party lines over is that she has undeniably good hair. And you would have to be pretty out of the loop (or at least not checking into

the Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame over your morning coffee), not to know that the Middleton tresses are due to the wizards at Richard Ward.

Keen to have a piece of the Princess Pie, I cycled down to the Kings Road to spend the morning at Richard Ward, where I basically asked them to cut my hair like Kate’s.

I was shown into a ‘waiting bar’ (no, this definitely isn’t CoolCuts) where I treated myself to a latte, and read about Kate Middleton’s  exciting week.

By the way, this ‘latte’ set me back six pounds. Do NOT order a coffee if you come here.

I was then collected by my hair stylist, a man who essentially looked like an Italian count who’d just stepped off a yacht (cravate, deep tan, chinos…you get the drift). I told him how I wanted my hair done. And for the first time in a lifetime of trips to the salon, he did exactly that. My hair looks amazing. I’ve fallen completely in love with my reflection (well, the hairstyle part).

Keen to show off my new lid, I had a quick mosey around the nearby Partridges Farmers’ Market. This is on every Saturday and is jam packed with treats from all over England.

I don’t get down to the Kings Road very often but I always love it when I’m here. Every man is wearing coloured trousers, the kids are dressed in matching Bonpoint (it’s rare to see a boy under 12 who is not wearing a blazer) and the overheard conversations are hysterical. If you’re unfamiliar with the local species – the Sloane Ranger – have a quick look at this video (it’s so spot on it’s basically a documentary).