Monday, 19 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged

During the week the lovely Alison over at Hungry Squirrel Cakes tweeted me to say that she had tagged me in her blog...which is totally drool worthy...I went over to have a look...and there was her Food Bloggers Unplugged post! Not only had she mentioned me in her post, but tagged me to take part too! 

Over the last month or so I've really enjoyed learning more about the fantastic foodies whose recipes I swoon over and can learn a little more about moi! 

What or who inspired you to start your blog? 

21st century urban housewife started as a creative outlet and a way for me to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada.  When David and I moved in together (over 2 years ago now) my visa restrictions meant that I  wasn't able to I embraced my "housewife" role and decided to start this blog as a record of that experience.  Since then, I've grown, it's grown, my cooking has improved and certainly developed, the blog has been neglected and then pampered to soothe any hurt feelings.  

Who is your foodie inspiration? 

In real life it has to be my mom and my Aunt Sandi...everything always done to perfection.  In celebrity food world...the great Yotam Ottolenghi...his food is to.die.for...his recipes are to.die.for...the food styling is to.die.for...if I could convince David to graze and eat our way through platter after platter of middle eastern mezze I would be in heaven.  

Your Greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?

This is really hard to tell...the cookbook in the worst condition is my Canadian Basics cookbook...broken spine, stuck together pages, missing index...This is my go to cookbook if I am unsure of long to cook chicken, what the ratio of flour to milk is for pancakes...that kind of stuff.  It also has a killer recipe for butter tarts. 

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it? 

In the spring of 2006 my mom came to visit me and we popped over to Paris for a week (as one does). The day we went to the Picasso Museum it was absolutely pouring with rain so we ducked into the nearest cafe for was local, it was dark, it was crammed with was atmospheric.  Once we were seated it became very clear that the landlady was trying to offload the must have mentioned the Canard 5 or 6 times, but it worked! Mom had the Canard and I had the most incredible platter of goats cheese and beetroot salad with toasts.  It certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was probably the closest I will ever come to having a home cooked french meal.  

Another Food Blogger's table you would like to eat at? 

I think this is probably the hardest question of the bunch. the UK it will have to be Dom over at Belleau Kitchen.  I am consistently amazed at the stuff that he produces...and...they are his own recipes! I am no where near brave enough to experiment like he does.  And...if I was jetting across the pond I would die for an invite to Sue's table from The View From the Great Island ...think seasonal, think comforting...think heaven!

What one kitchen gadget would you like from Santa? (Money no Object)

I'd love to say an AGA or an ice cream maker or something totally over the top...but in reality I'd love it if Santa brought me...a big balloon whisk (this is what I desperately need) and a set of electric beaters...I know it might seem strange but I don't have any!!!

Who taught you to cook? 

My mom.  She always allowed me to help...and was for the most part encouraging, except for that time with the chocolate mousse...when it never really set and dessert was ruined.  When I was at university and living at home I cooked one meal a week for the family, I planned it...made the shopping list (and mom paid...chaaaachingggg) and then I cooked, somethings were great, somethings weren't so great.  But I learnt a lot.  I also spent a lot of time watching The Food Network in my spare time, so Mario , Jamie , Nigella and Ina...kudos to you too!

I'm coming for dinner, what is your signature dish? 

Does cake count? I don't know what I would serve...depends on the season?!! I just know that I would finish it off with a big fat layered and iced devils food cake with ice cream! 

What is your guilty food pleasure? 

This is easy...and disgusting...Kraft Dinner (or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or Cheesey Pasta) with ketchup and a cold can of Coke.  Or hot dogs in bread with Lays ketchup chips...

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn 

When I was in university I had a life sized cardboard cut out of Jamie Oliver in my room.  Come to think of it, he only went into the recycling a year or so ago when I was at my parents' house and was forced to get rid of everything I had left there.  Poor Jamie.  

And now I have to tag 5 other Food Bloggers to answer these questions

Katey at Edinburgh Eats
Cherry at Cherry Ann Art
Linda at Linda Wilks Art
Michael from Me, My Food and I

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mince Pies...the cause of a minor meltdown

I've been waiting for this weekend for months and months and months! My parents arrive at some point on Saturday and then...the festivities begin!! In preparation for the big arrival I planned on making some luxurious mince better to welcome my parents to Christmas in Edinburgh than with fresh homemade mince pies.  

I've never made mince pies...I've never made mincemeat, either...David's not a fan and I'm quite partial to the M&S Classic pies anyway. 

A few weeks ago the fabulous Hilary over at My Monkfish posted an incredible looking recipe for mince pies...with a twist!! It was the twist that got me drooling (that and the WI seal of approval)...a little dollop of cream cheese under the lid! 

Now...I think I need to insert a DISCLAIMER here...despite the disastrous escapade that ensued Friday night and the tears and flour throwing that inevitably occurred...these are HANDS DOWN the best pies I've tasted and EVEN DAVID LIKES THEM (which is saying a lot since previously he has insisted that I buy mini apple pies for him instead of mince pies).

Because David and I were barely home over the last week we agreed to a cleaning party on Friday night to prepare the flat for my parents' arrival...and I thought, I don't really have the time to make my own pastry and since these luxurious mince pies call for luxurious store bought mincemeat I thought surely I could use shop bought pastry...mistake number one...I was so so so upset with the way that everything turned out.

Wasted 1/2 a jar of mincemeat, 1/2 the batch of cream cheese...all the out came the cold butter, out came the flour, out came the caster sugar and in went my WAY TOO HOT hands...and I got on with making my own flipping pastry...Mymonkfish's recipe uses orange rind and orange juice to make the dough (which I didn't have) so I added a cap full of almond extract...and...while the assembly leaves much to be desired...the taste is INCREDIBLE! 

After moaning on twitter my spirits were lifted by the lovely Jac over at Tinned Tomatoes, thank you Jac! Rustic-looking surely is so much more welcoming than pristine Michelin Star Mince Pies!!! 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Raisin Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Last year at this time I was thinking about my new year's resolution...what changes in my life did I want to make...and while I didn't decide to actually give anything up or vow to be a better person or anything...I did, however, resolve to make a conscious effort to make my own bread.  I haven't been very consistent, I'll admit it, and after our big move up to Edinburgh I have been spending every second of my free time exploring.  

David's been really proactive the last few weekends, waking up early getting the dough going and I'll admit it, I've been slightly jealous of the loaves and buns he's produced.  I wish I had baked more bread over the last year, I wish I had been brave enough to experiment.  

This week David's been so busy studying for his exams that he "allowed" me to make the bread! I seized my chance and attempted a raisin cinnamon sugar bread.  

I can't remember where I originally found the recipe, it is scribbled down in my recipe book as "White Loaf with variations", that's all the info I have..that and the instructions for making the dough using the dough hook on my KitchenAid.  

It is a basic recipe...500g strong white flour, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp yeast and 300ml warm water.  Before adding the water I added 1/2 cup of raisins and upped the sugar to 1 Tbsp.  

The KitchenAid was a no-go today (sob) since David studies in the kitchen and he has deemed it too noisy...weep.  And so, I overcame my kneading by hand phobia and got on the with job...and BOY was it satisfying.  The kneading was slightly exhausting but it was so so so enjoyable.  I have been converted! 

After the first rise (and the second kneading session) I rolled the dough out to a rectangle about 1inch thick, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then folded the bread in thirds into a loaf shape and left to rest in the tin.  Before popping it in the oven (200 degrees, 30-35 mins) I brushed it with milk and sprinkled again with sugar and cinnamon.  

It tastes great...not sweet at all...but I think that next time I would just add the cinnamon at the beginning with a bit of extra sugar. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mini Florentines

My Christmas Menu has been set for a month or so now (ok ok ok a good FEW months) and I have just been waiting for the time to arrive when it is reasonable to START the baking and preparing and all that.  I've ordered all the non-parishables and freezable goods to come early next week and all that is left to pick up are fresh veggies, cheeses and...of course...the smoked salmon (mum and dad's job) and now that it is only a couple of weeks until Christmas the baking has commenced!! 

I made a batch of pretty sad looking gingerbread last weekend and have conceded that they will have to iced in some form (I am not a fan of iced gingerbread...but aesthetics demand it this time around I am afraid!) and yesterday afternoon I turned my hand to making mini florentines.  

It took my practically all afternoon to turn out 3 and a half dozen chewy, buttery, chocolate coated two-bite florentines. And because they only bake for like 5 mins it was impossible to do anything else except sit in front of the oven...

I've seen florentines baked on tv and I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of the batter spreading (plus my baking sheet is dinky) so I used a mini muffin tin instead! It was great...but it meant that I had to wait for each batch to be totally cooled before I could pry them from the tin, which is what actually took the longest amount of time.  

I halved the quantities from  this recipe from BBC Good Food substituting Golden Syrup for the honey.  I love the idea of pouring the mixture straight into a baking tray and then cutting out shapes, which I think I will try next time.  I also have it on good authority that this recipe from The Pink Whisk is awesome as well.  

These were a first for me.  They were tricky only because they require a huge amount of patience and accuracy. Accurate measurements, accurate baking, patiently waiting for them to cool, patiently painting on the chocolate coating, patiently waiting to devour them at Christmas.  

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Buche de Noel disasssster

I've been feeling pretty rotten lately.  On Sunday I was feeling somewhat better and decide to really challenge myself (mistake number one) so out came the cookbooks...and the search began.  I was searching for something chocolately, something to test, something that could be shortlisted for my Christmas meal.  I was flipping through my books, my clippings and my basket of mags...and then I came across Stephane Reynaud's Buche de Noel from 365 Reasons to Sit Down and Eat. Perfect! Buche de Noel...with a choice of fillings- chocolate or chestnut cream.  

Done done done! The filling had to be chocolate...David's request and mum doesn't like chestnuts and I am already putting them in the stuffing and with the she needs a break! The cake was easy to make (even after I realised that I had bought XL eggs...grrrr) and it rolled up really nicely.  So...once cooled I got onto the chocolate cream filling....and this is where it all went wrong.  

The instructions in this cookbook are minimal.  For the most part there isn't much cook's intuition needed, but man I was waaaaay off on Sunday.  The instructions say to melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler and then add in whipped cream.  Not a word about letting the chocolate cool...I should have realised...I mean I kinda did...I let the chocolate cool a little...but well...I guess you can imagine what happened.  The chocolate was too warm and totally melted the whipped cream!! So I tried to rescue it by whipping it all up again...but the butter made it a little bit greasy.  Anyway, I managed to spread enough on the cake and roll it up, cover the top and get it all in the fridge to cool and set.  

While it looks presentable it is not going on the Christmas dessert shortlist...back to the drawing board I go! 

Monday, 5 December 2011

St. Andrew's Day and our first Haggis

I was really looking forward to our first St. Andrew's Day in Edinburgh.  Not that I was hoping to go out to a party or anything...I was simply looking forward to cooking haggis for the first time.  I love haggis...there I've said fact, both David and I love haggis so that isn't an issue.  The issue is the Neeps! EURGH!!! There are few vegetables that I don't like, but unfortunately Swede a.k.a Rutabaga is one of them (along with Parsnips if you are interested) Neeps was most definitely off the St. Andrew's Day menu.

To make up for the dastardly Neeps I cooked up some carrots and mashed them into the tatties, along with some thinly shredded cooked cabbage...a kind of makeshift clapshot.  

I'll admit that the Haggis was a name brand purchase from Waitrose...if I had had more time (and money) I would have ordered one from the local is hard to get there afterwork on a cold and dreary Wednesday.  Hold excuses, the brand name one did us just fine.  It was seasoned well, the texture was great and the end it IS lamb offal so it can't really be that fancy!! 

To bring it all together I made a whisky cream sauce by warming some cream and then adding whole grain mustard and a good shot of Wiser's 18 yr. Canadian Rye Whisky to it. 

The great thing...we can do it all again in January on Burns night!!! 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hubby's buns!!! (oh and loaf)

That David has done it again! I fear I am quickly being demoted to apprentice baker in this house as hubby soars up to master baker status!! Last weekend I watched as he skilfully measured out all the ingredients for his seeded loaf (new flour...Waitrose crunchy seeded white bread flour) kneaded it all together, left it to rise, lovingly moved the bowl to a warmer location, kneaded it again, popped into a loaf pan, built a temporary structure to rest it on beside the oven while it was heating up...and then baked it.  It was like watching someone who had baked bread time and time again...but this was only his second loaf! I was in awe...and a little bit more in love (if that is even possible).  

We agreed that this loaf was better than the first one.  The texture was nicer, the crust was crunchier and because it was white flour it rose just that much more.  We pretty much gobbled most of the loaf up with bowls of chunky leek and potato soup...but there was some left for the odd bit of toast! 

This week he tried his hand at know...buns (teeheee) with great success.  I totally distracted him at the final stage (I was getting supper ready) and he forgot to brush milk over the tops so they are a bit "dull looking" (his words)...but man do they taste great!!!