The question I always tend to ask myself before baking something is: would I eat this if I was offered it? This stems from back in the day when I found myself making things because they looked pretty in the magazine but that didn’t ‘really’ appeal to me, in terms of ingredients. It’s these types of pitfalls of experimenting we sometimes fall into, especially if you are on the first try of a dish and you are doubtful to begin with about it’s taste. Another one of those pitfalls is the ‘how hard can it be’ thought and ‘this looks fancy, must be delicious’. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m easily charmed by nice pictures for example, there is something about a lovely glossy piece of fruit or meat that gives an instant gratifying feeling and you wish to extend that feeling as long as possible by making the meal as soon as possible.
One thing that has never disappointed me is chocolate. It’s the (sometimes) solid brown or white rock that I can always count on to taste just as delicious as I imagined it. In any shape or form it has always delivered on it’s promise. Till this day I have yet to taste chocolate, melted or otherwise, that was not good.
While tinkering in the kitchen on a batch of cupcakes as a gift for a friend I decided I would try out the mother of gruesome chocolate-y tasks: tempering my own chocolate for decorations. I wanted to make letters to spell out her name and after watching about a dozen YouTube videos on the subject I was confident, only a little, that I could pull it off. With no candy thermometer on hand ( or any thermometer at all really ) I worked my way through 2 bars of 250 grams of chocolate. In the end I managed to make the chocolate do what I wanted and the result was exactly as I hoped: sweet, delicious chocolate that snapped properly and looked lovely. The wasted chocolate was a small price to pay for this success, and even if my first decorations were quite small they brought plenty of joy that cannot be found in a packet in a store.
My love for sweet foods and desserts really has no bounds, sadly sometimes that love is unrequited. I once managed to make my whipped cream into a nice pile of butter ( it was actually pretty good but obviously I needed the cream more than the butter). Sponge cakes where never a breeze until I found a recipe that managed to produce THE best sponge ever and after that my luck seemed to change, I manage every cake recipe now. Before I could make crepes there has been a lot of batter wasted and eventually I managed even that, including the flip in the pan.
I have a love/hate relationship with meringues: I love to eat them and they hate me with a passion. It’s a swing or a miss situation with them, every single time. Logically speaking I probably had a lot of mishaps with wrong eggs, wrong temperatures and wrong utensils. But in the back of my head I started considering other options when another batch of Pavlova or meringues failed. Obviously there was a weekly meeting in Meringue Land where they would collectively decide that person A would have great ones this week, person B would see theirs collapse and person C will have burned ones. I would picture the little meringues sitting around a table discussing the fate of mine while giggling in an evil high-pitched tone. Frankly, without this vision, I probably would have given up on them a long time ago.
It should be one of the easiest things to make, with only 2 ingredients: 3 egg whites and 150 grams of fine caster sugar. I always add the juice of half a lemon in the mix also, seems to work great in making the whites stiff and glossy. Also important, bowl and utensils should be crisp clean without any residue, fat or water. Great way to achieve this is to use the same lemon to coat the bowl and your whisks. And after that it’s simply a matter of whisking the egg whites to soft peaks, adding a spoon of sugar at a time and keep mixing until the whites are stiff and shiny. I usually whisk until the sugar is dissolved before adding the next spoonful and always end up with a smooth meringue. You can test if its smooth enough by rubbing a drop between your fingers, if you can still feel grains of sugar you better keep on whisking. After that there is not much that can go wrong anymore, bake the meringue in a 100 C oven for 2 hours and they are ready. Today I have chosen the simple approach of whipping up some cream with blueberries and just filling my meringue circle. I would say it was a breeze but I would be lying to you and to myself.
When discussing food in a group of friends I’m always the first to admit that my no-nonsense approach to cooking is hardly the ‘right’ way to work. I admire people that can create elaborate meals that are a joy to eat, but I have a bigger admiration for people that can create elaborate meals without a nervous breakdown in the process. It probably has to do with my upbringing: my mother took great pride in her cooking but was seemingly allergic to following recipes. To be fair, her taste buds are trained and she has infinite patience, which I both lack. Growing up I saw her taste and toss ingredients while cooking and she never broke into a nervous sweat on any occasion, be it for Christmas, birthdays or dinner parties. I was quite aware I had pretty big
shoes pots to fill.
As the years went by and I started a family of my own I found myself looking for shortcuts in recipes, debating replacing a difficult ingredient with a simpler one and pretty much trying out whatever I could to avoid stress behind my stove. I haven’t mastered the art of substitution quite yet but I did achieve to keep my outlook on food exciting and fun. Cooking is not a chore for me, and never will be, the prospect of a gratifying feeling and a nice dish in sight keeps my sanity intact.
Today I had very little time and found no breadcrumbs anywhere in my pantry. This resulted in my assaulting a packed of crackers that I did have and seasoning them generously with some dried rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. I coated my chicken for lunch with it and had enough left to store for a later time, and other meats. It was delicious and may even replace the breadcrumbs in some dishes. Placed on some baby spinach leaves with a dressing of white wine, olive oil, fresh rosemary, mayo and garlic it was the perfect lunch for an busy day.
I’m not the most punctual person in the world. Some of my friends would even say I’m not punctual at all, arriving a standard 5 – 15 mins too late to any appointment. It is a flaw I work very hard on to change but for some strange reason I haven’t managed to fix it. The reason for this is very simple: I always find something to do. Even though I am very aware that I have to leave in 5 mins I always, without fail, find myself cleaning something at the last minute or writing something down for later. Maybe it comes from a huge fear to forget something, who knows.
Today we are picking up a new closet down town, new meaning it’s second-hand but still in great condition. Ours is pretty much falling apart and I dread the reorganizing and folding of the clothes. But it has to be done. So for lunch today we needed something that picks you up physically and mentally. Hence the cream cakes with warm cherries.
The most easy pancakes in the world are created with 225 grams of all purpose flour, 200 mls milk, 100 mls of cream and 2 eggs. I can do this with my eyes closed. As for the cherries, I had a jar of cherries in the cupboard and it was the last one. I figured I would save them the loneliness of being in the cupboard all alone, and so they ended up in my saucepan with 2 big spoonfuls of icing sugar. They were divine to say the least. And made me horribly late for picking up the closet. It seems I can’t win this battle.
The birthday season has started for us, for some strange reason all of our friends and family were born in the months February to June. This means lots of projects on the way, both in and out of the kitchen. Even though I like shopping for presents and make it a point to not give anything boring I also like to make something, be it a cake or something else, to add to the purchased gift. This also means that I will be doing much more nails then expected, aside from the orders there is a little rasta project for a good friend of my husband and cupcakes for a new friend in our circle. I thrive on days like these, when I am preoccupied with only fun things. It’s so easy to find joy in something beautiful and I hope the recipients will be pleased. I sure was when I was making it.
My best friend once said: If a country existed where desserts where the primary food you would probably rule that country. And this is very true. Quite often I find the ‘rules’ regarding what is considered breakfast, lunch and dinner a bit too.. tight? I’m no stranger to eating something for lunch that would fit better in a dinner. Or switch my decent breakfast with something more non-breakfast-y. Today is a day where I was more in the mood for the lovely Pavlova I made yesterday instead of my bread and omelette. I regret nothing.
I used the recipe from Taste.com ( which by the way is a brilliant site! ) minus the circle drawing. It seems I’m more of squares kind of girl ^^
We have left Easter behind and with that said goodbye to another few days of good food and quality time with family. I spent Thursday and Friday pretty much in the kitchen, my little but crowded domain on days like these. And after brunch yesterday we went home with a satisfied yet slightly stuffed feeling. Rest was needed and the food for today would be rich in flavor but light in every other aspect. We decided to go for a chicken salad for dinner, sweet, simple and just what we needed after the rich meals of the past few days. It’s never a challenge for me to figure out what to do on ‘simple’ days: as long as I have some fresh veggies in the house and some piece of lean meat I’m ready to go.
For this salad I chopped up some iceberg lettuce, a yellow bell pepper and a pair of thin spring onions. The chicken was coated in some breadcrumbs and an egg, grilled and sliced. And the dressing stayed in the light theme: just a tablespoon of non-fat mayo, dill, pepper, salt, and very finely chopped parsley. A squeeze of a half lime gave it an extra kick. Very enjoyable!
The busy week is finally over, weekend is here and we are preparing for Easter celebrations. With friends and family coming over for a late brunch I decided to add something deliciously sweet to have with our coffee and teas. A super easy Apricot Spongecake that honestly was a breeze to make, with a summery feel. We are in dire need of summery things at the moment, the weather insists on being gloomy and very anti-Spring.
The best part about this that you don’t have to stick to the apricots. If there are certain fresh fruits in season I use those as a layer instead of the jam. Keep in mind if you do this the fresh juices will be soaked up by the spongecake so it’s best to bake 2 cakes instead of cutting one in 2 halves like I did for this one. Below the recipe for cake and filling.
The weather is still extremely horrible, to say the least. We have a saying here: April rears it’s ugly head, and it’s very true. Tonight the temperature will drop below zero and I’m not liking it one bit! Nevertheless I managed to have an extremely productive day. Not only did I get birthday presents for my sister in law ready for next week, I decorated them too with some horrible glitter flowers that are sure to make her scowl at me for a good few minutes. I cannot wait to be very honest ^^ The afternoon was filled with packing layers and layers of polish on my new sets and I’m happy that they turned out the way they did. I still need to find some small and thin brushes, going to try to find those this weekend.
My superhero collection is almost complete ^^
The shop is finally open and frankly, I’m very scared. It’s bad to have insecurities, especially about something so close to your heart. But at the same time I’m pleased I did it. Yes, it will be very busy but I like keeping myself occupied. There is nothing better than being able to express yourself and see your ideas come to life. New beginnings, exciting and terrifying!