Monday, July 31, 2006

Still cooking with beets: Beetroot & Chocolate Cake

We had another round of beets this week and I already had them tagged for a chocolate cake. Considering that I can't remember the last time I made a chocolate cake, it was definately time to break the fast. With Beet (Superfood) Root added to the chocolate batter, I don't think a healthier chocolate cake could be had. Thanks to Miss C over at La Otra Dimension, I decided to try her mistake-made-good recipe, which is a variation of the National Trust's Beetroot and Chocolate Cake.

To me, the cake was like a giant cookie, with a beautiful, creviced top. The beets added a certain moistness to the cake, and a deeper colour. I iced it with an orange cream cheese topping, although next time, I'd use a fluffy, chocolate, butter icing or even leave it plain. It was devoured by Dan's colleagues who are really starting to get spoilt by my baking for Daydream delicious...

Chocolate & Beetroot Cake

120g butter
120g dark chocolate
150g raw beetroot, grated
100g sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cup flour
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Melt the butter slowly, and when melted add the chocolate which has been broken into smaller chunks. When the chocolate has all melted, add the sugar and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs and mix well. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Fold in the beetroot. Bake in a nonstick pan for 50 minutes. Once removed from oven, cool for 5 minutes then remove from pan. Leave to cool then ice. Or serve hot, dusted with icing sugar.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A remedy

I'm a cyclist. I cycle to work, I cycle to the shop, I cycle to the park. I've been cycling since early May, when I was presented with my bike for my birthday. And I haven't looked back. Cambridge is a gem to cycle through. Everyone, it seems, cycles. It's a long standing tradition in Cambridge which is quite clear here, with a multitude of cycle paths winding their way from opposite directions across the town. I like the fact that I can get to work quicker when I ride, than when I take the bus. And, since we don't have a car, I like the fact that my carbon footprint is very minimal.

But cycling does have its downfalls, in that, cycling is far from waterproof. Today was the wettest day that I've seen in Cambridge, and at exactly 5 minutes past 5 (just after I've left work) the skies opened up to reveal big, fat, heavy rain. Within minutes I was completely drenched, cycling along the streets, imagining what the drivers were all thinking in their nice, dry, comfortable cars. My skirt was sticking to my legs, my shoes were full of water and the raincoat was not helping in any way.

I was not a happy girl when I got home 25 minutes later. Straight into the shower I went, clothes in washer, and thoughts of magical ginger juice cheering me up. This natural juice, taught to me by Nerida (my brother's girlfriend), is a wonderful remedy when I feel a cold coming on or a bit down in myself. The health qualities of ginger are widely know and when teamed with lemon and honey a more soothing concoction can rarely be found. It's so good infact, that it's been known to completely prevent me from being sick. This remedy comes highly recommended.

Hot Ginger Juice

Enough for one mug:

A nob of ginger, grated
2 tablespoons of honey
The juice of half a lemon
2 mugfuls of water

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and heat slowly. Steep for about 20 minutes which should reduce the mixture by half. The most important thing is not to boil it, otherwise the ginger won't be as strong. Strain into a mug and sip while curled on the sofa, watching the storm and reading the next issue of your favourite food magazine.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Joy of Suds

In these hot, long, July days, the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot sink, Marigolds on hands, washing dishes. Mind you, the last thing I want to be doing on a cold, short January day is standing over a hot sink washing dishes. But unfortunately, washing dishes is almost as inevitable as the other 2 inevitables. Cooking always equals some sort of cleaning up, even at a picnic or a BBQ.

Washing dishes has become a ritual for me. A rite of passage to a much deserved clean kitchen. I enter almost a trance-like state, my own form of meditation, my anxieties washing away with each crumb, smear or stain to leave an ambient, serene space on the plate.

I enter the dishwashing meditation with a series of exercises. Stacking plates, collecting glasses, cleaning the sink. This follows by filling the basin with pure, hot, sudsy water and emersing all the glasses leaving them to soak, long enough for the water to cool down to a bearable temperature. With my yellow Marigolds on, I begin a fast tempo'd dance, picking up each glass, mug, bowl and plate quickly so as not to burn my hands. The action becomes blurry as I wipe, scrub and wash each and every utensil that has been in use that day. The dirtiest gets a long, relaxing bath, while the rest of the kitchen gets a once, twice or even a third time over.

Some say I'm obsessed, some say I have OCD, but one thing is for sure, if I didn't wash the dishes I wouldn't be able to cook. And then I would be lost...

Friday, July 21, 2006

The perfect pizza

I know, that's a pretty big claim. I mean, what self respecting Italian pizza has malt vinegar in the tomato sauce mix? But believe me, this is one tasty pie. At least, it tastes good to me.

I had been building up to this moment for about a year. It all started when I had a craving for pizza but didn't want the nasty take out pizza which is prevalent here in the UK, and since I had little money, a Pizza Express pizza was in my dreams only. So old trusty recipe scrapbook emerged and the pizza dough recipe that has now became engrained in my memory was brought forth.

The secrets (or not so secret anymore) to this recipe are in the dough and the sauce. The sauce was assembled spur of the moment, with condiments that I had in the cupboard and it has since evolved to bring about this perfect pizza. The most important thing is this - it fits me like a glove, but gloves that fit me don't necessarily fit other people. For example, to this day, Dan and I argue over the sauce, he likes a lot of sauce - I like a thin layer, he likes it very tomato-y - I like it quite sweet, and so the argument continues.

We often make this pizza if we really don't feel like cooking much or we feel the craving for junk food. I try to make everything with as little mess as possible and I've managed it every time without flouring any work surface. It's quick (as far as dough goes) and relatively easy. I'm usually eating within 45 minutes. YUM!

This is how my Perfect Pizza goes:

Pizza Dough

250 ml of lukewarm water
450 grams of flour
7 grams of dry yeast
1 tsp of sugar
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 tsp of salt

In a small bowl or glass, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit in a warm, draft free place for 5 minutes of until foaming. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt and create a well. Pour in the oil and yeast mixture and bring together with a fork. Once it starts to come together, use hands to knead it well adding a little flour if too sticky, although other sources suggest otherwise. Form a nice smooth ball and let it rise for 20 minutes. Once it has double in size, either roll out on a floured surface, or do as I do, and shape it in the air, quickly turning it while holding the top of the dough with both hands in front. Lay it on an oiled tray and top as desired.

Tomato Sauce Topping

3 tbsp of tomato ketchup
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of malt vinegar
1-2 drops of hot chilli sauce (to taste)
1 clove of crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and spread over dough. Easy peasy!

The Rest

Top with favourite pizza ingredients. I go for top quality prosciutto, red onion, fresh mozarella, basil, rocket, and that's about it really....

Cook in a 180 degree Celsius oven for about 12 - 15 minutes and enjoy!

This will make enough for me and Dan for dinner, plus, if we can contain ourselves, enough for lunch the next day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tickled pink with pickled beets

Memories of take-away dinners are highlighted by the beetroot juice and tomato sauce mingling together and dripping down my arms. My lips would be stained red and I would struggle to drink from the soft drink can because, if the burger was put down, it would surely fall apart. Ask an Australian and the best hamburgers are made with beetroot. None can compare to the hamburgers made on the corner shop where it seemed that a kilo of lollies were only 20 cents. They are made with flat, buttered hamburger buns, a meat patty, fried onion, two slices of tomato, two slices of tinned beetroot and tomato sauce. Go for the works and get a slice of pineapple, grilled bacon and a fried egg and don't forget a serving of chips. But it was always the beetroot that tasted the best. I sometimes went as far as to remove the beet slices from between the tomato and lettuce and leave it on the paper saving the best bit for last.

My enjoyment for beets have taken a back burner for the past decade or so, but lately they've made a re-emergence into my world. It all started with a jar of Branston Beets that we came across in the local supermarket. We ate them, unlike other condiments and preservatives in our fridge, within a week. A month or so later, the first bunch of beets appeared in our organic box. We put them in a risotto, in salads, roasted them and boiled them served with butter. But the beets are still coming.

So I decided to preserve them, perhaps to accompany me on my journey for the search of the perfect hamburger. I scoured the internet for a simple pickling recipe, and came back to the first one I stumbled across.

The recipe is from That's My Home and has this little note on the side:

"This is the recipe that started me canning. I still have the original recipe on a piece of notebook paper, all stained and torn. It's like an old friend."

How could I resist a recipe with this sort of history?

I'm going to try to leave the beets resting in the fridge for about a month, until I give in to temptation. I'm salivating, just thinking about them...

How To Pickle Beets

7 or so randomly sized beets
1 cup of white wine vinegar
1 cup of water
3/4 of a cup of sugar
1 thinly sliced onion
some spices

Boil the beets as normal until tender, leaving the roots and about an inch of the stems on - this should take about an hour. Once boiled, run under cold water and sit for about 15 minutes. Trim the beets, peel and slice. Place the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add in sliced beets and boil for about 15 minutes. Pack the beet slices into sterilised jars and top with the pickling juices. Seal and emerse the bottles in a hot water bath for about 30 minutes. Let them cool and refridgerate - until the cravings give in.

- My absolute favourite part was peeling the beets! I like making a mess in the kitchen and what better to do it with than bright pink beet juice? As I squeezed the beets, the skin came free and burst spraying the juices over the counter and over me. It made me giggle, but this is a formal warning.
- For spices I used pepper corns, cardamom seeds and cumin seeds - yet to taste the resulting goodness.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hershey's 1934 Cookbook: Reunited

I blinked, I did a double take. I think I may have even squinted. As I crouched forward, I let out a little squeal. I recognised the binding, the colour, the printing. Flashbacks to my childhood became vivid as I remembered sitting on the kitchen stool lovingly turning each page over as I had my first experience of food porn. I couldn't believe it. What was the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook, Revised 1971 Edition doing on Janet's cookbook shelf? I slid the book out of its place on the shelf and lovingly opened the stiff front cover. A card flittered out - "Dear Donald & Janet, I hope you can find a place in your new kitchen...." A house warming present for Dan's Mum and Dad back from 1977 and all the way from America. "Oh my God", I let out, "this has the most amazing Red Devil's Food Cake recipe!"

I turned to the content's page, exactly as I remember it. Chocolate Crumb Cake, Chocolate Brownie Pie, Chocolate Marshmallow Pudding, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate....

My mother had the identical cookbook, sitting in her cookbook collection back home in Australia. She in turn had either taken the recipe book with her from the States, or had had one sent to her, probably about the same time, 1977. "Have you ever made anything from it, Janet?" I queried when I noticed that none of the pages had endearing food stains across the pages. She hadn't, mostly because all of the ingredients were in US measurements, she explained to me and that she didn't know what corn syrup was. When I asked whether I could copy down some recipes, she did the sweetest thing! She bestowed the book on me!

I am so excited to be reunited with this cookbook and when the cooler weather starts to wrap itself around us, I will begin the journey of cooking my way through recipes I'm very familiar with. And I couldn't help but wonder, had that Hershey's cookbook been sitting on Janet's shelf these past 30 odd years waiting for me to lovingly take it up as my own?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stuffed Cob

Slashfood is packing a picnic and I'm bringing a plate! Well, not a plate per se, more of a loaf of bread, well, no... not that either. A salad perhaps, or a sandwich. Maybe I could call it a salabreadwich. That has a certain ring to it. Sala-bread-wich. No need for those fancy names like "panino premuto".

Although it is all of these things - a salad, a loaf of bread and a sandwich, in reality stuffed cob is a much nicer name. Although, if you're prone to more aggressive thoughts, it might conjure up images of beaten up friends, or in my case beaten up drunk people. Needless to say, over the past 4 or 5 years, this has become one of my favourite picnic plates. I can make it as elaborate as I wish, garnishing it with roasted sweet potato, semi-sun-dried tomatos and olive tepenade, or easy and plain with German salami, plump tomatoes and slices of cucumber. This is all I need on a small picnic, as it's sooo filling (not that I forget the sweets!) It's always a hit, easy to construct and is very portable.

I reckon that you could take one savoury stuffed cob and one sweet stuffed cob for an all round meal. I could just imagine the layers of peanut butter, jam, marshmallow, honey, nutella....

Ooops! This sweet daydream just melted and everything became a big gooey mess. I think I'll leave the sweet one at home.

And for proof that I've always enjoyed picnics...

Monday, July 10, 2006

A labour of love

It was a conscious decision when I decided that I was only allowed to eat croissants if:
1. I had made them myself, or
2. I was in France.

There are two main reasons for this:
1. The obvious health benefits (I was getting a bit obsessive).
2. The best ones I could find in Cambridge were from Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range.

I've taste tested as many croissants as I could possibly get my hands on:
1. Mark's and Spencer's
2. Waitrose
3. Tesco's
4. Donaldson's the local bakery
5. Co-op
6. Costa Coffee
7. Starbucks
8. Cafe` de Paris (very nice but putoff when served margarine in its own container)

and perhaps a few more that I can't remember now. (I would've made notes, but this post wasn't even a twinkle in my eye.)

Well, this weekend was THE weekend. I have been planning this weekend for about 10 months - ever since I read French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. I knew I had to get it right, because judging by the fat content in the recipe, I knew I would probably get enough calories to last me through the whole of the next year. Unfortunately, life has a habit of getting in the way, and I didn't actually get to start the recipe until mid-Saturday afternoon. But I managed.

Sunday morning came around and I was so nervous about the dough exploding in the fridge that I woke up (naturally) at 7am. Yes, I know! 7am on a Sunday morning! Unheard of. But it was oh, so worth it.

What resulted was a soft, flaky, rich pastry. An Oh, My God moment. My life will never be the same again.


Makes 12

260 ml milk
2 teaspoons dry yeast
250 grams sifted plain white flour
3 extra tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180 grams butter

For the glaze:
1 egg
3 tablespoons of milk

For ease of preparation, allow 3 days for the recipe. For a Sunday morning indulgence, start on Friday night.

Day 1:
Warm 65 ml of the milk to a lukewarm temperature. Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour and beat with a fork until no lumps are left. Cover with some plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until the mix has doubled in volume. The time may vary depending on the weather.

Mix the sugar and the salt into the rest of the flour. Warm the remaining 195 ml of milk to lukewarm temperature. Transfer the raised yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl and quickly mix in the warmed milk. With an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn the mixer as high as possible and start adding the flour, salt and sugar a little at a time (but be careful of splash backs). Gradually reduce the speed to a low-medium when the dough is sticky and soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:
Bring the butter to room temperature. Add the 3 additional tablespoons of flour to the dough and work it with hands, finally shape the dough into a smooth square.

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on a clean smooth surface. Flour the plastic wrap heavily. Shape the cold dough on the plastic into a 38x15 cm rectangle. Position the dough in the portrait position, like a letter. Spread the butter on the top two-thirds of the dough leaving a one centermetre border around the sides and top. Fold the dough into thirds, starting with the bottom third of the dough. Turn the dough 90 degrees and reshape into a 38 x 15 rectangle and repeat the fold. Place the dough into a baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 6 hours. Roll out the dough and fold as before twice more. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate over night.

Day 3:
About one and a half hours before baking time, place the cold dough on a floured working surface. Working as quickly as possible, roll the dough into a 40 cm circle. Cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into thirds. With both hands, roll the base of each triangle towards the centre to form the classic croissant shape. Place on a baking sheet covered in nonstick baking paper and brush with the milk. Let the croissants stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Add one egg to the remaining milk and beat together with a fork. Brush the croissants with the egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot. No additional butter is needed.

- Although unsalted butter was called for in the recipe, I used salted which worked fine, and I probably wouldn't change it.
- I felt there was perhaps a little too much butter and will probably use about 150 grams next time.
- This recipe makes what I would call 12 small croissants. I will probably cut the dough into 6ths or 8ths next time, rather than twelfths.
- I would invite some people over for breakfast, as they're at their absolute best straight out of the oven. And there were way too many for 2 people. Reheating wasn't quite as yummy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mini raspberry pavlova

I was ecstatic and literally jumping for joy at the sight of a little punnet of raspberries gracing our organic box this week. We didn't sign up for fruit, but it seems they must have an abundance of berries, for a week ago we had strawberries. My karma must be working well for me.

I wanted to do something tasty with them, rather than just eating them with a bit of cream or yoghurt, but I'm didn't want to break their flesh or crush them by putting them into a batter of some sort. Truth be told, I had already decided to make mini pavlovas. The meringue was to be crisp on the outside and soft, fluffy and moist on the inside.

I've been making pavlovas since I was about 10 using a recipe that was in the Good Cheap Cookbook, which my mother still owns, even though it's made from newsprint, is extremely flimsy and old and returns no results from Google. It's a recipe I shall always remember and will probably take to the grave with me. It's quite simple really, but I remember middle aged women being in awe of my ability to make pavlova from scratch when they've usually resorted to buying a store bought one or using Pavlova Magic. For the large Pavlova, I take 4 egg whites per 1 and a half cups of caster sugar. Using a stand mixer with a balloon whisk, beat the whites on the high setting and add the sugar a little at a time. (I've made this recipe many, many times with a hand mixer, which works absolutely fine, just takes a little longer.) Once all the sugar has been incorporated and dissolved, fold in 1 teaspoon of cornflour, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence. Shape into a circle on a tray with baking parchment. It needs to be round and flat on top like a cylinder. Cook the pavlova in a 150 degree Celsius oven for 45 - 60 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the pavlova in the oven until it has cooled.

For these mini meringues, I used 2 egg whites and proportionally less sugar. I think I could've cooked them a little longer on a lower heat and used slightly less vinegar, as they didn't turn out as crispy on the edge as I would've hoped. But, as they say, live and learn. I gave them a little hat, because I had so much mix left over, and you can never have too much meringue! I made an additional filling as well, mixing together some Philly cream cheese, a bit of Greek yoghurt, some icing sugar and a few of the crushed berries. I basically used up what I could find in the fridge to make this filling, as I didn't feel like popping to the shops, and Dan had used the last of the creme fraiche in the vegetable tart he had just made. I would definitely make the filling again, but just use the cream cheese, berries and sugar, maybe a touch of cream but no yoghurt. It was tasty besides and the berries were definitely the star of the plate - which was the intended purpose.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dear Olive Magazine,

I would like to get involved. I would like to impress you. Please be in touch to tap my local knowledge, ask me to test recipes, new foodie products, cookbooks and gadgets and hear my suggestions for keeping olive fresh and exciting and relevant to the way I eat! Please?

New format and series of Saturday Kitchen has rocked my boat. Gone are the days of me grumbling at Antony Worral Thompson's patronizing and egotistical remarks, only to welcome fresh and interesting perspectives from James Martin. Thanks, BBC.

I first stumbled across B when I was working next door. A sign said, "Sign up now for a food and wine tasting event! Places limited." I'm not one to shirk at invitations like that, so I signed up. We have been a customer ever since. The evening only cost £5 and we were full and drunk by the end of it, critiquing our way to their next menu. Even though it looks more like a bar, I'd call B a gastropub - because the food is wonderful and they don't serve cocktails. B Bar, Market Passage, Cambridge, UK.

Nigel has to be one of my favourite food writers. So fresh, so endearing, so English and so alive. The Kitchen Diaries is a neverending source of inspiration. It's what I strive for. And it's the way I want to live my life.

Southern California is probably one of my favourite places to visit for gastronimical delights. Here I can find authentic Mexican food without the sicky tummy as all restaurants are graded for cleanliness. And besides, who doesn't want In 'N Out Burger and Krispy Kremes on their holiday? Thanks to for the SoCal map.

A local secret (shhhh, don't tell anyone), Cafe` Adriatic is a deceptively large restaurant preparing modern Mediterranean dishes. With the kitchen on display in the shop window, it's amazing how they can prepare such tasty dishes in such a small place. With safe items like pizza for the less adventurous to the more exotic carpaccio of tuna and whole baked sea bream, Cafe` Adriatic is a safe place for new friends, first dates or dinners with parents. Well priced, the service is attentive and the seafood literally still jumping, I'm looking forward to visiting it again soon. Cafe` Adriatic, Mill Road, Cambridge, UK

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil and then some. Add one chopped onion and some squashed garlic and heat on medium until the onion becomes translucent. Add about that much arborio rice and heat the rice through until the rice is well coated in oil. Add a splash of very hot vegetable stock and stir until it has been absorbed into the rice. Add 2 diced fresh-of-the-farm beets and stir through until the mix has turned pink. Add a glug of stock and stir until it has been absorbed. Season with lots of pepper and a little salt. Continue this process, glug-stir-absorb until the rice is cooked through. Add one lemon's worth of juice but beware of the pips. Absorb the lemon juice into the rice. Add a dab of butter and stir through until melted (I didn't do this as butter and I are having an argument at the moment). Serve. (Actual recipe available on request.)

What 5 ingredients would I take to a desert island? Well, if I was sensible, I would probably take a whole lot of fruit and veg, so I could grow them and have an abundant supply. But somehow, I don't think this is the point of the exercise. Thanks to for the pretty picture.

1. Eggs - so versatile
2. Greek yoghurt - milk and cream alternative and oh so yummy
3. Prosciutto - Good source of protein and no fridge required
4. Strawberries - A life is half lived without strawberries
5. Garlic - For it's health benefits and good for flavouring fish

Well, Olive, I hope to hear from you soon! And remember to contact me if there's any other information that you require.

Warm Regards,


Update: 1st October, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, Olive contacted me to let me know that I am now a part of their ReaderPanel. I'm not quite sure where this will take me or what they will ask me to do, but I'm suitably excited and I can't wait to get my teeth into whatever they throw at me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Summer supper

We're always looking for ways to recreate salads, as after a time, they can get a little boring. This salad was far from it. While I sliced up fruit for the big jug of Pimm's, Dan peeled, sliced and grated his way to this gorgeous red salad. With such exciting ingredients like beet, kidney beans, carrot, tomato, and pumpkin seeds, I think the photo speaks for itself. It was a beautiful way to see June out.

Search Daydream delicious...