Monday, 18 October 2010


Have been listening to the Afternoon Play on Radio 4, an account of
Antoine de Saint-Exupery crashing his plane in Libya in the 1930's.

I remember watching the Miss Canada Pageant on TV in 1966 or 1967. Miss Montreal, the eventual winner (Marie-France Beaulieu, I believe), recited a passage from Saint-Exupery's Le Petit Prince for the talent competition. It was only a few years ago that I realised that Terre des Hommes (Man and His World in English), the theme for Expo '67 (the Montreal World's Fair) is the name of a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Chocolate (again) and Cookbooks

Discovered that there is a Paul A. Young Chocolates shop in the Royal Exchange building near Bank when I went past it on the bus this afternoon. I will be sure to check it out at the next available opportunity.

While I was browsing in a vintage bookshop I came across copies of two vegetarian cookbooks that I think were very popular in the 1980's before I left Canada - The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two by Anna Thomas, and the New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson. I read on the back cover of another cookbook that I was browsing through, that the author had a collection of something like 750 cookbooks! Where did she keep them all.

I also got in some browsing of more current cookbooks in Waterstones, and I came across copies of Cook in Boots by Ravinder Bhogal, and Flavour by Vicky Bhogal. Both have some good dessert recipes, including chocolate truffles, white chocolate and blueberry crumble muffins, and rhubarb and rosewater fairy cakes. I guess in this particular section the books were arranged in alphabetical order according to the author's surname, and I don't really remember which recipes are from which book. I've had a quick look on the internet though, and found that Vicky Bhogal has a website with a download of a few recipes from Flavour, which includes the Rhubarb and Rosewater Fairycakes recipe.

The link is here.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Happy Easter!

One of the Easter-time traditions in our house is that D makes hot cross buns on Good Friday. I can't remember exactly when he started it, but I think that I was living in a house without central heating at the time, and since the weather around Easter in England is often cold and wet, it would usually be mid-afternoon before the dough had risen sufficiently. After a few years of this, he realised that the dough would rise more quickly if he put it somewhere warm, so now we usually get our hot cross buns before lunch time.

The recipe is from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook that used to belong to his Mom.

The recipe calls for plain flour. I have to say that if I was making this recipe for the first time, I would be tempted to use bread flour with anything that is yeast raised, but D has always used plain flour, and it works perfectly well.

Hot Cross Buns
recipe from Good Housekeeping Easy-Stages Cook Book, Ebury Press, London, 1968.

2 t. dried yeast
5 oz. warm milk
1 t. sugar
12 oz. plain flour
1/2 t. salt
1 oz. lard (or margarine)
2 oz. caster sugar
1/2 t. mixed spice
1 oz. dried fruit (we usually use raisins or currants)
1 egg
1 oz. lard (or margarine) for the pastry crosses
2 oz. sugar and 2 T. milk for the glaze

Dissolve the 1 t. sugar in the warm milk. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk, stir and leave for 10 - 15 min, until frothy.

Sift the flour and salt and rub in the 1 oz. lard. Stir in the 2 oz. caster sugar, the mixed spice and the dried fruit.

Break the egg into a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the milk and yeast and the egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually work in the flour to form a soft dough. Beat well until smooth, cover with a cloth and put to rise.

Grease a baking tray.

When the dough is risen, turn it out onto a floured board and knead lightly. Divide into 9 pieces. Flour your hands and form each piece into a round shape. Flatten slightly and put on the baking tray.

Cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Rub the remaining 1 oz. fat into the 2 oz. plain flour and add a little cold water, until the mixture forms a firm dough. Knead lightly, then roll out thinly on a floured board and cut into thin strips 2 inches long.

To make the glaze, dissolve the 2 oz. sugar in the 2 T. milk and boil until syrupy.

When the buns have proved, moisten the strips of pastry with a little water or milk, and lay 2 on each bun to form a cross.

Bake at the top of a hot oven (425 degrees F, Gas Mark 7) for 15 - 20 min, until golden-brown and firm to the touch. Brush at once with glaze and allow to cool.

Makes 9 buns.

If time is short, omit the pastry crosses and mark a cross on each bun by making 2 deep cuts.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, 13 February 2010


February. The first daffodils, Valentine's Day, usually Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day over here, and this year Chinese New Year - the year of the Tiger - as well.

Well, we actually saw the first daffodils on the 30th of January when we were out for a walk, but they don't really count because they were in containers. The daffodils in the ground are way behind this year compared to recent years, and they aren't anywhere near flowering yet.

Valentine's Day is usually associated with flowers and chocolate, so today I am giving you a link to a recipe for a very yummy but easy to make rich chocolate desert, called Truffle Torte.

The recipe is here, at Delia Online. The recipe is also in two of Delia's books - Delia Smith's Christmas and The Delia Collection, Chocolate.

I made this for Valentine's Day last year, using a 200g block of Valrhona's Manjari couverture chocolate that I had bought in John Lewis, so I scaled the quantities of the other ingredients accordingly.

As the recipe says, the torte was well behaved and remained in one piece when I turned it out of the tin onto a plate. I dusted the surface of the torte with Green and Black's cocoa powder.

We served the torte as suggested, with some single cream poured over it, but we didn't add any flavoring or liqueur to the single cream.

I apologise for the photos - the torte does look rather just like a chocolate blob, and when we poured the cream over the slices of torte, the cream and cocoa powder didn't mix, so the cream just sort of slid off the top of the slice and formed a pool around it. But the taste didn't disappoint, and there is a much nicer picture of the torte in Delia Smith's Christmas.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Seville Oranges

Thank goodness, the last of the snow has melted, at least here in London, so at least for the time being, we are having a respite from the worst of the winter. Several people have been telling me they remember the winter of 1963, here in England. No doubt we will be remembering the winter of 2010.

One of the things I always look forward to in January is the appearance of Seville oranges in the shops. I first started looking for Seville oranges not for making marmalade, but because I had some Mexican and Spanish recipes that called for Seville orange juice. Since I didn't come from an orange-growing country, I had no idea at what time of year they might be in season. Of course, once I managed to find some Seville oranges and extract the juice, it seemed a shame not to make marmalade out of the skins. Now we regularly look forward to Seville oranges in January. We freeze the juice for use in cooking, and we make marmalade. These days, D is the marmalade maker in our house. I have recently been noticing several recipes which make use of marmalade, such as Marmalade Gingerbread, from Rachel's Favorite Food for Friend's, a chocolate marmalade cake from Rachel Allen's Bake, and an orange marmalade cake recipe from Jane Asher's Beautiful Baking.

The first marmalade recipe that I had bookmarked, however, was a recipe for Orange Marmalade Ice Cream from Sophie's Table by Sophie Grigson. At first I thought it was a bit strange. In all my years of ice cream eating in Canada when I must have tried just about every flavour of ice cream produced by Baskin-Robbins I had never come across orange marmalade ice cream. But every time I leafed through the book and saw the recipe, it grew on me a little more. I thought that the flavour combination might just work. Apart from that, the recipe was very simple, just double cream and marmalade. I also thought the texture of the marmalade might just help to prevent large ice crystals forming when the ice cream freezes, an important consideration since we don't have an ice cream maker. So I decided to give it a go, and we were delighted with the result, both taste- and texture-wise. Here is the recipe.

Marmalade Ice-Cream with Walnut Sauce.
Recipe from Sophie's Table by Sophie Grigson.

For the ice cream:
375 g Seville orange marmalade
300 ml double cream

Put the marmalade into a large bowl and beat. Whip the cream until stiff, then fold into the marmalade. Freeze.

That's it.

The ice cream doesn't need beating as it freezes, and it is soft enough to serve straight from the freezer.

The book also gives a recipe for an orange and walnut sauce to serve with the ice cream, but since, apart from the occasional banana split (it's actually many, many years since I had one), I usually eat ice cream on its own, I decided to give it a miss. The ice cream was very rich and perfectly fine without the sauce.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Warming Winter Food

Wednesday afternoon was another winter wonderland scene outside, with everything covered in snow from the night before, and more fat snowflakes coming down. I haven't seen this much snow since the first winter I was in England. Today when I ventured out it felt cold and crisp like a Canadian winter. Brrr.

This recipe for Sauerbraten is just the kind of warming food one needs on a cold winter's day. I had never had sauerbraten before, but D said the taste reminded him of a beef stew he had on a family trip to somewhere like Austria or Romania when he was a kid.

Recipe from The Time-Life Holiday Cookbook, 1976.

Serves 6 to 8.

4 lb. boneless beef roast, preferably top or bottom round or rump, trimmed of fat

For the marinade:
1/2 c. red wine
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
2 c. cold water
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5 black peppercorns
4 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 t. salt

3 T. lard
1/2 c. finely chopped onions
1/2 c. finely chopped carrots
1/4 c. finely chopped celery
2 T. flour
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. gingersnap crumbs

To make the marinade:
Crush the peppercorns and juniper berries coarsely with a mortar and pestle.
In a 2- to 3- quart saucepan, combine the wine, wine vinegar, water, sliced onion,
peppercorns, juniper berries, bay leaves and salt. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat, then remove it from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Place the beef in a deep crock or a stainless-steel or enameled pot just large enough to hold it comfortably, and pour the marinade over the meat. The liquid should come at least halfway up the sides of the meat. If necessary, add more wine. Turn the meat in the marinade to moisten it on all sides. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days, turning the meat over at least twice a day.

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade through a fine sieve set over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Discard the spices and onions.

In a heavy 5-quart flameproof casserole, melt the lard over high heat until it begins to splutter. Add the meat and brown it on all sides, turning it frequently and regulating the heat so that it browns deeply and evenly without burning. This should take about 15 min. Transfer the meat to a platter, and pour off and discard all but about 2 T. of fat from the casserole. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery to the fat in the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, for 5 - 8 min, or until they are soft and light brown. Sprinkle 2 T. of flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 or 3 min longer, or until the flour begins to color. Pur in 2 c. of the reserved marinade and 1/2 c. of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Return the meat to the casserole. Cover tightly and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, or until the meat shows no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Transfer the meat to a heated platter and cover with foil to keep it warm while you make the sauce.

Pour the liquid left in the casserole into a large measuring cup and skim the fat from the surface. You will need 2 1/2 c. of liquid for the sauce. If you have more, boil it briskly over high heat until it is reduced to 2 1/2 c; if you have less, add some of the reserved marinade. Combine the liquid and the gingersnap crumbs in a small saucepan, and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, for 10 min. The crumbs disintegrate in the sauce and thicken it slightly. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, pressing down hard with a wooden spoon to force as much of the vegetables and crumbs through as possible. Return the sauce to the pan, taste for seasoningand let it simmer over low heat until ready to serve.

To serve, carve the meat into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange in overlapping layers on a platter. Moisten the slices with a few tablespoons of the sauce, and pass the remaining sauce separately in a sauceboat.

Serve with dumplings or boiled potatoes and red cabbage.

Sauerbraten may also be cooked in the oven. Bring the casserole to a boil over high heat, cover tightly and cook in a preheated oven at 350 F/175 C for about 2 hours.

I think that this would be even better made with some of the less tender cuts of meat, such as beef shin, that would benefit from the marinating and long cooking time.