Monday, 29 March 2010

so, last night...

I made tomato, basil and ricotta risotto. delish!

After the risotto, we had turkey stuffed shells with arrabbiata sauce. This dish was specially made for my friend Adam who doesn't eat poultry. And I am determine to convert him. I thought I'd start with something not too obvious like roast chicken or duck. He liked it and I was very pleased.

We took a little break, and then it was time for desserts. I made Jamie's bloomin' easy vanilla cheesecake. I've made this before and the second time was YUMMIER! I love the addition of orange and lemon zests to the cheesecake. Megan has this phobia of orange and I did mention it to her about the zests in the cake and guess what?!? She had a second slice. It must have been nice then :)

And according to my friend Helen who never had cheesecake until last night, it was "too delicious for words!!!"

The cheesecake supposed to be served with cherry compote, but I couldn't find cherries anywhere, so I substituted with fresh strawberries instead.

In my attempt to recreate that oh-so-good dessert I had in London few weeks ago, I made my version of tiramisu cream served in shot glasses. Yes, more food. Don't say I never look after my friends. :) The tiramisu cream was out of this world. I love anything tiramisu. If today was my last day on earth, and I had to choose one last dessert, it will be tiramisu.

Today is day 210, recipe 96. leftovers for dinner. yum.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Saturday brunch

Sometimes the only thing that gets me up in the morning is the prospect of a good breakfast; and I cannot wait to get up this morning!

People say it all the time, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. I agree, but unfortunately, during weekdays I’d only have a cup of coffee and a couple of toasts if I’m lucky enough. Saturday brunch I think is the perfect time to have friends over and share the importance of morning meal.

Yes, I am well aware that having people over at 10.30 in the morning on Saturday sounds completely outrageous. I don’t do this all the time, but it’s nice every now and then.

I don’t mind spending a few minutes preparing the things I’m gonna have the night before. And this for me is crucial, because I do like my sleep. Yesterday, I rolled some store bought puff pastry and chocolate to make chocolate croissants (thank you to Nigella Express), ready to be baked in the morning. Also the night before, in a casserole dish I layered some bread, mustard and ham; then pour a mixture of eggs, cream and cheese (I use parmesan, smoked cheddar and mozzarella) over the bread. Cover with cling, put it in the fridge so that everything can be absorbed overnight. And in the morning, all I have to do is bake this croque monsieur strata in the oven. Delish!

I have to have coffee in the morning. If only I can have my iced caffè latte with hazelnut everyday I’d be so happy. In a big pitcher I mix sweetened instant coffee with coffee liquor, hazelnut syrup and milk. Pour the mixture over ice and serve immediately.

Nutritionists would agree that my breakfast/lunch isn’t particularly the healthiest, but hey, let’s live a little.

Anyway, Mark and Anna will be here any minute. So gotta go now...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


I got home from work at about 8.15, took off my coat, got a bowl, whisked an egg yolk with dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice to make mayonnaise for what Jamie said to be the ultimate prawn cocktail.

I'm allergic to prawns but I like prawns. I can afford few rashes. Don't worry, it's nothing serious.

Anyway, I've been thinking about Jamie. I never met him before, but I feel like I already know him. In my head, he is nice and down to earth and real friendly, just like on the telly.
I was talking to a friend about my cooking project and I suddenly said, 'well, Jamie told me...'. And then my friend said, 'what do you mean Jamie told you...?'.

Whilst cooking and reading the recipes, I feel like Jamie is talking to me, showing me what to do, teaching me; even though it's just me talking to myself.

Have I gone mad?

Maybe. I don't know...

The prawn cocktail was absolutely delicious.

Good night.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


This is a quick one because I'm still sleepy. I had some friends over yesterday for dinner. Leo and Merlyn are regulars at my place. Ayesha came for the first time and she is a vegetarian.

It wasn't difficult at all for me to plan what I'm gonna cook since I always have meat-free dinners anyway, two or three times a week. I could easily be a vegetarian if it wasn't for bacon... and duck... and...oh, who am I kidding?!? I can't be a vegetarian. My favourite animal is cow. They're cute and tasty.

Anyway, I found a very nice recipe by Dave Barker in Jamie's magazine, leek, wild mushroom and spinach lasagne (the sound of it makes me drool). YUM! It truly is a real comfort food. Thanks Dave!

I also made ciabatta bread for the first time and it turned out pretty good :) YAY!

After dinner we had (fifteen) chocolate brownies; followed by pear and apple crumbles with Jamie's proper custard.

I love custard but it's something I never made before. I usually get it in a tin. It's just amazing how easy it is to make from scratch with only 5 ingredients: milk, cream, vanilla, sugar and egg yolks.

And I, once again, succeed to almost stuffed my guests to death. MUAHAHAHA.... (my evil laugh)

This morning, my friend Helen got some free cinema tickets and we went to see the blind side, and if you have not seen it, go and see it!

I'm going back to bed now...

and one more thing: Happy Mother's Day. I love you Mom!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

cauliflower and peas

At the cooking class yesterday, Jamie taught me how to make minted peas under oil and roasted cauliflower with cumin, coriander and almonds. Delicious! served with lamb steaks and couscous.

The recipe for the minted peas calls for 4 to 6 handfuls of peas and 200 ml olive oil. At first that doesn't sound right because the peas will be drowning in oil, but Jamie told me to just go with him; and I did. The result: Yum. Though next time I think I need to put a little bit more mint leaves.

Roasted cauliflower with cumin, coriander and almonds
is self-explanatory. Crunchy, salty, spice-y coating... just delish.

That's for now, until my next meal...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

dinner-lady carrots

The only thing that keep me going at work and running at the gym today was knowing that I'm gonna eat well in the evening.

For dinner tonight, I had roasted chicken wrapped in pancetta, savoy cabbage with Worcestershire sauce and dinner-lady carrots.

The carrots were delish. It's flavoured with garlic, orange, parsley, white wine and then baked until perfectly cooked. yum...

Today is day 190, recipe number 86.
I think I'm running a little behind, but I keep reminding myself that the idea is not to just make all the recipes, but to 'master' them. There are many recipes from the book that I have made 5 or 6 times; some because they're delicious and some because I need to get them right. But still, another 78 to go. I better get cooking!

Monday, 8 March 2010

braised peas

so this is what I had this evening, braised peas with spring onions and lettuce.
It's harsh to say that it's not the prettiest dish, but its taste blinds you, like love. hahaha... I'm feeling a little corny.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Banana Bread for everyone

For most of my life I cherished the view that you were either a baker or a cook. Not to discriminate any bakers, I even regarded them as quite a separate species. Cooks thrive on improvisation and prefer the unstructured flow of whatever is to hand. Bakers like formulas, often regarding cooking as messy and unpredictable.

My mom is wonderful baker and I must admit that I’m not big on baking as much as I love to eat the finished products or sometimes even the unfinished one (most of my chocolate chip cookie dough never made it into the oven). I’m just not keen on measuring ingredients; following the rules to mix wet to dry, vice versa; and waiting whilst the goods are in the oven. However the past couple years something changed for me and I was pretty sure it was just a matter of time before I caught the baking bug.

Baking is indeed different from cooking. You cannot be as laid-back about a cake as you can be about a stew. How many carrots or chunks of meat you put into your casserole will not effectively change the entity you produce. You can alter the flavours -- and that's the joy of it -- but you are not messing with its essential properties. When you bake a cake you cannot suddenly decide you feel like putting in three eggs rather than two, or half a cup of flour instead of the cup and a half the recipe calls for.

But if baking requires obedience, it does not require military-style discipline, as my earlier prejudice had led me to believe. Once you understand what the component parts of a recipe are, you can play with them.

My banana bread here is an example of that. Depending on my mood, or frankly saying the nearest pan within reach, I can make this into muffins as well.

The whole recipe is very basic and as long as you keep the main structure as it is, you can alter the flavours and character of the bread. You can add raisins or chopped dried apricots, soaking them in coconut rum or orange juice to make it more special. Adding some chocolate chips – dark, milk or white – and chopped walnuts and it truly is irresistible.

What I had not realised -- and bakers keep this a secret for obvious reasons -- is how easy baking is. Many people say that they resent cooking because you spend hours on a meal just to have it demolished in 10 minutes. Well, baking is the reverse. A cake takes scarcely five minutes to mix, you do nothing to it while it bakes and then you have a glorious creation in your kitchen. Plus, one of the best smells in the world is the scent of fresh baked bread.

Those who remain unconvinced should definitely start off with the banana bread below. There is nothing complicated about this, trust me: it’s just a matter of mixing flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, bananas, butter, eggs and vanilla; and pouring the batter into greased loaf pan and bake.

From experience, I learn there are very few rules to remember in baking: First, all ingredients -- unless specified in the recipe -- should be at room temperature before you start. Second, the oven must be preheated to the correct temperature (though you would be surprised how much variation there is in ovens, so always be ready to take a cake out earlier, or leave it in longer). Third, the size of the pan should be right. Stick to these strictures, and there should not be disappointments.

I cannot tell you how great the rewards are. It is very easy to buy cookies or bread from a store, but nothing gives you the feeling of calm and satisfaction and, indeed, deep pleasure from making your own. For someone who has always held that shopping can be the hardest part of cooking, it is a bonus that the ingredients you need are easily kept at hand. You do not need a big kitchen to make sure you always have flour, eggs, butter, sugar, some chocolate chips and cocoa. And while gadgets -- a processor or a mixer -- can help, a bowl, a wooden spoon, a few pans and an oven are all you really need. Those and a willing spirit, maybe. The great thing about baking is that anyone can do it. I should know. Tempting isn’t it?

200 grams sugar
125 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250 grams all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt

1.Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
2.Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.
3.In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a tablespoon of milk and ground cinnamon.
4.In another bowl, measure and mix the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
5.Add the mashed banana to the creamed butter sugar mixture, stir to combine. Then add in the dry ingredients (This is the perfect time to add in the special additions).
6.Pour batter into buttered loaf pan (or muffin tin) and sprinkle with a mixture of ground cinnamon and sugar generously. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

You should really let it completely cool before slicing, but I’m never good with rules either.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


I was in Birmingham for another conference for work the last few days (I can really get use to this ‘jet-set’ lifestyle). It’s my second time in Birmingham and I didn’t really know my way around but luckily I have two dear friends, Adam and Claire who live there and took me around. Adam and I studied together and he also used to work for the university. Claire is his fiancée who also used to study at the university in Sunderland. I haven’t seen them for over a year and it was nice to catch up. Thank you guys so much!

Mark and Anna came over today for some GLEE (yes, I know that I watched it too many times now, but it’s an awesome show) and food. I enjoy having them around because I just know that I’d have fun and absolute decent time. For some snack whilst watching the show, I made BBQ chicken wings with cream cheese and chives dipping sauce. Yum.

For dinner, I’ve been wanting to make tender-as-you-like rabbit stew with the best dumplings ever for some time now but I couldn’t find rabbit anywhere, so I use chicken thighs instead as allowed by Jamie. The stew didn’t take long to make and it was very comforting; the chicken was so tender, falling off the bone. Yum... I still want to make the stew with rabbit next time though. The stew is a perfect meal by itself, but I wanted some veg on the side, so I also made buttered peas with bacon.

After some food, wine and lots of laughs and lots of GLEE (such a great show and we cannot wait until April when the show starts again), then it’s time for cakes. This morning I made vanilla cream cheese pound cake, a recipe by an American Chef David Waltuck (the recipe can be found below). I love this particular pound cake recipe not just because it’s super easy but also very moist and I love the texture of the cake.

Anna brought a yummy chocolate cake and we all had a slice. Thanks Anna! Both of you are welcome any time.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Preheat the oven to 325F / 160C. In a free standing mixer or hand mixer, cream 375 grams butter with 250 grams cream cheese. Gradually add 700 grams of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Next, add 6 eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by two teaspoons of very good vanilla extract. The last ingredient is 375 grams of plain all purpose/plain flour. When everything is well combined, put it in a buttered heavy pan and bake the oven for about an hour. Let it rest in the pan for about 20 minutes before you take it out. Enjoy just by itself or with a light dusting of icing sugar and berries.