Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Snug

One of our favourite places to meet after work on a weeknight is The Snug - a petite little bar famous for its cocktails. With a cocktail menu larger than it's food menu, it's become very popular with the local professionals, foreign students taking their parents out and groups of women at the start of a "girls night out". We like to go in and try a different cocktail or two each time, but Dan is particularly fond of a good mojito, and good these mojitos are! (See the picture above.) I personally prefer vodka or gin based cocktails and especially the ones combining both and the martinis are served just the way you like them - and very potent.

Rarely found in England, The Snug also boasts of table service - perhaps to cater to its multitude of American patrons and as if to listen to demand, the menu sways slightly to resemble a menu that you would easily find across the Atlantic. With delights such as breakfast pancakes, brownies and Mexican quesadillas, the food tries hard, but unfortunately falls short of the type of standards that the cocktails achieve.

All in all, a plesant and relaxing non-smoking bar with friendly and mostly attentive service, The Snug is a great place to come for a much sought after cocktail - just be prepared to pay for them. We will continue to visit The Snug on a regular basis.

The Snug
01223 367684
67 Lensfield Rd
Cambridge, CB2 1EN, United Kingdom

Monday, April 24, 2006

IMBB25 - My very first!

I was considering not entering this months IMBB international food blog event, as I didn't think that I would have the blog up in time, nor the stale bread to do it. But, as Dan is a whizz on the graphics side of things, the blog was looking great by Saturday night. So, with a loaf of overdue multigrain bread in the cupboard and a few apples in the fruit bowl that had been in there longer than I care to admit, I decided to give it a whirl.

With multigrain bread and apples in mind, on hand I also had some mixed dried fruit. From various thoughts of inspiration came Autumn Pudding.

The main inspiration and shape was from a traditional English Summer Pudding and I thought that this might be the solution substituting the berries for apple, but when I discovered that the Summer Pudding wasn't cooked, it didn't quite appeal to me as much. That's when I remembered that we used to make stewed apple and sultana toasted sandwiches as children, I therefore, stewed the apples, buttered the bread and created the pudding.

I was really nervous through the cooking as I wasn't sure if there would be too many juices and cause the bread to go soggy. But patiently, after only about 25 minutes and after digging around the edges with the knife, I decided that it was probably about right and if it was in for any longer it would probably burn.

It turned out exactly as I expected - like an elegant-looking stewed apple toasted sandwich and if swathed in custard would've been the perfect treat on an Autumn evening when the apples are at their best, and comfort food is becoming more desirable. The multigrain bread also gave it a lovely, crunch texture on the outside, but I'm sure any type of bread will work. Of course, it's only Spring now, but I'll be recreating this recipe come Autumn!

Autumn Pudding

5 small apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
about 1/4 cup of mixed dried fruit
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of water
juice of half a lemon
7-8 slices of the bread in your cupboard buttered on one side.

Place the apples, the dried fruit, brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stew on a medium heat until the apples are soft. Add the lemon juice and mix through gently. Cut the crusts from the bread and line a pudding dish, pressing the edges of each slice together to create a firm seam. Make sure the buttered sides are facing out. Put half of the stewed apples in the base of the pudding, straining the liquid with a straining spoon. Place another slice of bread on top of the apples (I thought this would be a good idea, as it will give it more stability and soak up some of the juices). Top with the rest of the apples and spoon some of the juice over the top. Seal with 2 more slices of bread - butter facing out, and cook in a 180 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until well browned on top.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Basic Bread

There's nothing better than Basic Bread straight from the cooker.

I'd been hankering to bake some bread for a few days, and on Friday night, I decided it was time. Especially since I'd already decided that we were having soup for dinner - and nothing goes better with fresh soup than a loaf of freshly baked bread straight from the oven.

I'd seen Jamie Oliver cook this recipe on his various shows and thought that it was basic and easy and that I'd give it a whirl. He also uses it as a base for all of his other types of bread: foccacia, stuffed bread, baguettes etc, etc.

Probably the best thing about it, is that it only uses 5 ingredients and there is minimal washing up to do. Basically, the dough is prepared on the bench top by making a well out of the flour and filling the well with the rest of the ingredients (water, yeast, salt and sugar). The bread rose perfectly (thanks to the use of my airing cupboard) and handled like a dream.

The bread worked wonderfully and had that real sense of being proper bread. I've made bread before - many times, but there always seemed to be something lacking - this was just right.

The soup I made was a leek, potato, pea and spring green soup - using 3 of the ingredients from our vege box. It was a wonderfully tasting, subtle soup, which, on hindsight could have done with a touch of garlic.

The Basic Bread Recipe

Friday, April 21, 2006

Grape Cake

While I was feeling a bit poorly over the weekend, Dan, knowing I'm a bit of a grape monster, brought some grapes home. Now, because I wasn't feeling too well, I didn't really eat them and they started to turn a bit overly ripe.

I've never cooked or baked with grapes before, and because it would be a great shame for the grapes to go to waste, on the Tuesday, I decided to cook something with them... I was thinking either a crumble, pie, torte, something that seemed quite versatile. When I googled "grape recipes", this grape cake recipe from Recipe zaar showed up - and as I had all of the store cupboard ingredients on hand, I decided to give it a go.

The cake itself turned out very well - moist, and juicy around the grapes. The only problem I had with it was that it looked a bit dated, but the recipe was from the 1970s. I used a square cake tin (as that's all we have) which worked out completely fine.

Here's the recipe I used:

Grape Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened (I would suggest unsalted)
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon rind (I didn't have any lemon, so omitted this, and it was absolutely fine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted flour, sift before measuring (I just used 1 cup unsifted, as it was a bit finicky otherwise)
1 1/3 cups green seedless grapes, about 1 lb (or pretty much as many as I thought looked good)

Cream together the butter and the ¼ cup sugar until the mixture is pale in colour. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon rind and vanilla. In another bowl, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the ½ cup sugar, 2 tablespoonfuls at a time and continue to beat until they hold stiff peaks. Stir one fourth of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in the remaining whites. Sift the sifted flour over the mixture, folding it in gently. Transfer the batter to a buttered 8 inch round cake pan. Sprinkle the grapes over the top of the batter. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 25 - 30 minutes or until it is lightly browned and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack until barely warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings depending on how you cut it.

We had it while it was still quite warm and the grapes were wonderful hot (who woulda thought?). It was great with an afternoon cup of fresh coffee or tea.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chocolate & Zucchini

Much inspired by Clotilde's website: Chocolate & Zucchini, I think my blog is going to take a food direction (hence the reason why I've moved it), as food is pretty much my biggest hobby at the moment. Dan and I are both really big foodies and we spend much of our time trying to decide what we should eat next.

The other day we just signed up for an organic vegetable delivery service from Wild Country Organics that brings fresh seasonal vegetables to our door on a fortnightly basis. The vegetables are all seasonal, and random, so we don't actually know what we're going to get until we get it.I was the lucky one on the initial delivery, being the first to get home, and I was delighted to find a box full of knobly carrots, wild rocket (definately wild with all the grass that was mixed in with it) and the juciest, sunniest, most tastiest cherry tomatos that took me back to being a child for a few minutes. The box also included a fennel (our last fennel experiment was a disaster - so we have to think of a new recipe), some courgettes, capsicum, mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, and lots of lovely salads.

Probably the best thing about getting our veges in this way is that we know where they're coming from. All the veges are straight from the farm that delivers it to us, and they're only about 6 miles from Cambridge. I don't think you can get better than that without having a car or a farm yourself.

Search Daydream delicious...