Wednesday, June 28, 2006

London: A Picnic on the Heath

There were a couple of kids (the gorgeous Anna-Luisa and Lucas... see below) staying at Clarice's over the weekend, so on Sunday we all went for a picnic at Hampstead Heath.

We made Nigella's storecupboard chocolate cake (How to be a Domestic Goddess), her double bean and courgette salad (Forever Summer), as well as a random pasta salad, and ham sandwiches made with pain poilane (fab, fab bread) and leftover ham in cherry coke.

The chocolate cake is ludicrously easy - just melt and mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan, and then bake in a lined and greased springform tin. The recipe stipulates marmalade, but according to Clarice, who has made this cake many times before, cherry jam is a much better alternative. (Apparently, sweetened chestnut puree works really well too, so give it a go).

As for the bean and courgette salad - you roast yellow and green zucchini in the oven, boil green beans and (shelled and podded) broadbeans until tender, and then mix them all together with lemon juice, olive oil and basil.

Storecupboard Chocolate Cake

We had a punnet of fresh raspberries too (of course!), which were very nice eaten with the cake.

Ooh... you can see all of London from Hampstead Heath!

London: Ham in Cherry Coke

From my How to Eat Project, gammon (i.e. raw ham) was one ingredient that I couldn't find. When I made the ham in coke and the ham in cider, I substituted Vietnamese pickled pork. It worked well in the first instance, and not so well in the second. So when I came to London, trying out some real gammon was on the top of my foodie to-do list.

Here is the beautiful hunk of gammon that we got at Borough Market.


The first step in transforming gammon into ham is to de-salt the gammon. You do this by covering it with cold water, bringing it to the boil and discarding the water. Next, you cover the gammon with cherry coke (we used about 5 Buddy sized bottles), add a halved and peeled onion, and boil it for a couple of hours. (Total cooking time depends on the size of the ham - there is definitely a time guide in How to Eat and also, I think, in the Christmas Ham recipe for Feast, although I can't be sure off the top of my head.)

Cooked in coke

Once the ham is boiled, you remove it from the stock, and can either proceed straight away with the glazing, or leave it to cool in the fridge overnight, and glaze the next day. We were busy, so we did the overnight thing. One of the benefits of boiling the ham in advance is that you can cook red cabbage (mmm... I love red cabbage!) in the stock. For this, you just shred a head of red cabbage, and simmer it in the stock for about an hour.

While it was simmering, we glazed the ham by stripping off the rind and brushing it with a mixture of cherry jam, red wine vinegar and sweet paprika.

Being glazed

Then you need to cook it for 40 minutes at 180C. (If you're proceeding straight after the boiling stage, without letting it cool overnight, then you cook it at a much higher heat for a shorter time).

Cooked - Check it out!! Drooooool!

While the ham was resting, we boiled some green beans and finished off the cabbage. Nigella says to be careful not to let too much liquid escape during the simmering process, but we cooked it for ages, didn't cover the pot, and my cabbage remained very very wet. Not to worry though, it was a simple matter to strain off the excess liquid.

On ze plate with beans and cabbage

The ham in cherry coke is amazing! And this is coming from a girl who hates cherry coke and Dr Pepper with a passion (ew... tastes like medicine!). It doesn't taste overtly cherry-like, but rather, has a subtle cherry aroma, which enhances the sweet and burnished glaze. Similarly, on the page, the red cabbage sounds like it would taste absolutely munting, but it was actually delicious. It was slightly sweet, but not sickeningly so. It went with the ham incredibly well.

So, the recipe definitely gets the thumbs up... and the ham makes fabulicious leftovers, which you shall see in the next few days...

Monday, June 26, 2006

London: Borough Market

Borough Market is amazing. It's open on Friday and Saturday, and is near London Bridge tube station. It's highly recommended by such super-chefs as Jamie Oliver, and with good reason - it rocks! Clarice and I went there on Friday, and it was a totally exciting and amazing experience for me, because I got to see all these fab ingredients that I couldn't get in Australia during my How to Eat project. They have fresh fruit and veg stalls, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and patisseries, coffee stalls, and BBQ-type stalls selling things like gourmet sausages, burgers and so on. I was in food-blogger heaven.

German Sausage

Chorizo, roasted red pepper and rocket sandwich

Chorizo, roasted red pepper and rocket sandwich - inside

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cambridge: Baking up a Storm

On Wednesday afternoon (that is, the day AFTER the May Ball - hangover alert!), Clarice was holding a picnic at her house for her drinking society, the Scorps. It was initially supposed to be a "punt and picnic", but after realising that 40 people would be coming, and that 40 people would not fit on one boat, the party was relocated to Clarice's back garden.

All of the savoury food was provided by other Scorps, and we baked the sweets.

1. Free-form scones
2. Mini raspberry-topped cheesecakes
3. Coca-Cola cupcakes

The first two recipes are from Nigella's "At My Table" column in the New York Times, and the coca-cola cupcakes are from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I've made them heaps before.

We did a double batch of the cheesecakes, and quadruple batches of the scones and cupcakes. The advantage of all these recipes is that they can be done almost totally in advance, and require minimal or no last-minute preparation. We started them on Monday, and finished them off on Wednesday morning.

The scone dough can be made in the processor, rolled out and cut out, and frozen. You can bake the scones direct from the freezer.

The coca cola cupcakes are my usual coca cola cupcakes, which I made and iced all on Monday night.

As I was getting on with the cupcakes, Clarice made the mini cheesecakes. Again, these can be made in the processor, and are a pretty normal cheesecake mixture. The point of difference with these cheesecakes is that you bake them in mini-muffin tins. It's fiddly, but it's worth it.

Here we are preparing the cheesecakes and cupcakes in front of Rush Hour on TV.

I covered the cupcakes with hundreds and thousands, little lip-shaped sprinkles and silver cachous. Clarice has a fab stash of cake-decorating goodies.

That is a lot of scones!

On Wednesday morning, we split the scones and stuffed them with cream and jam, and Clarice decorated the mini cheesecakes with a raspberry each, affixed with raspberry jam.

Mini Raspberry Topped Cheesecakes

Free-Form Scones

The verdict on the recipes is that the cupcakes are fabulous (as usual), the cheesecakes are gorgeous and tasty, and that the scones taste good, but are quite difficult to work with. If you overwork them or bake them for too long (you must be vigilant), they turn quite hard and biscuity. Sadly, we did have to bin a few trays because we didn't keep a close enough eye on them. Nigella says to roll them 3/8 of an inch think, which seemed quite thin, but once they were sandwiched with cream and jam, they looked fine. And in fact, although Clarice and I were feeling a bit insecure about the scones, they went down really well.

Sangria & Beer

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cambridge: Slut-Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly

We made this the other day because I'm obsessed with fresh English raspberries. It's a Nigella recipe from Forever Summer, and is quite easy to make.

Firstly, steep some fresh raspberries in a bottle of good fruity chardonnay...

Then strain the wine off, heat a split vanilla pod in it, take it off the heat and let it infuse.

The next stage is to remove the vanilla pod from the wine, soften some leaf gelatine in water, squeeze it out, and whisk it into the warm wine. You put the raspberries into little containers, pour the liquid over, and let it set in the fridge overnight.

Once it's set, you can eat it! We had it with cold double cream, which was heavenly. It's a gorgeous dessert - light and fresh and fruity. One warning though, the little hairs on the raspberries do look quite unattractive suspended in the jelly, so make sure you only use super-clean, fabulous-looking raspberries.

Cambridge: Random Food

Home Delivery Curry from Cafe Naz

Garlic Naan

Ostrich Burger Stand, Cambridge Market

Ostrich Burger

Roast Beef Lunch @ The Anchor Pub

Someone Else's Ploughman's lunch @ The Anchor Pub

Steamed Syrup Sponge with Custard @ The Eagle

Bangers & Mash @ The Green Man

More Raspberries

Panini with Polish Sausage, brie and caramelized onion at Caizima Polish Cafe

Chocolate Brownie at Caizima Polish Cafe