Barefoot in London

London Cocktail Week…and a dodgy laptop.

cosmopolitan

Well it’s been one mare after another over here; my laptop has decided to go on a mad one which means I now have an unholy build up of recipes and posts that are desperate to see the light of day. This is not one I planned, however, but necessary all the same because not only does it fling my dodgy technical issues out there (for a girl who works for a digital company, I do not get anything that isn’t paper and ink…) but I couldn’t let London Cocktail Week pass without saying something.

There’s something really lovely about an evening that isn’t about your usual beer, wine or spirit & mixer combo but, rather, about something entirely more special. There’s something luxurious about cocktails that doesn’t just come from the above average price tag; it’s the colours, the fruit, the layers of flavours and – my personal favourite – the glasses. I know, it’s weird, but I definitely inherited my Mama’s penchant for pretty drinking vessels; long stems, coupe, coupette, martini and even the humble tumbler makes me pretty happy. Particularly if it contains a potent wee cocktail of gin and sourness. Or, anything alcoholic now I think about it…

Around London this week are various pop-up bars, taster evenings and master classes (like a daft sod I picked this week to just be busy every evening so can’t attend any of this frivolity myself) which you should definitely check out if you get the chance. Or, just stay at home and use this as a perfect excuse to mix yourself up one of your favourite tipples.

I think it’s so worth investing in decent alcohol, particularly if it’s something that is a main component in your preferred cocktail. For me, I like to make sure we have Cointreau in the house because despite loving a great many happy hour offering, a Cosmopolitan (with extra fresh lime!) will always be the very best way to my heart! And the if you’re going to treat yourself to a cheeky cocktail of an evening, you may as well make it with the best ingredients you can.

See my perfect recipe for a foolproof Cosmo below…

limes

Make sure your vodka and cranberry juice are nicely chilled.

50ml vodka
25ml Cointreau
75ml Ocean Spray cranberry juice
Juice from ¼ of a lime

1. Pop some ice in your glasses a couple of minutes before pouring in ingredients so that it’s nice and cold. You could shake it all up in a cocktail shaker but I don’t really like doing that for my cosmos, I find it dilutes the flavours a little too much.
2. Chuck out the ice and squeeze in your lime and add a slick of the juice around the rim of the glass too.
3. Pour in your remaining ingredients and stir. Alternatively you could muddle all your ingredients together and then pour into your glass.
4. Garnish with an extra lime (you really never can have too many limes) and enjoy.

What’s your favourite cocktail?

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Spicy Summer Chicken with a Mango & Feta Salad

 

 

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Autumn is starting to roll in and it’s making me nostalgic already for the lovely summer we’ve just had. And whilst I’m starting already to crave soup and bread and all manner of hearty, or cinnamon-spicy things I find myself harking back to some of my favourite summer dishes as I look over my camera roll on my phone. I have been the most horrendously absent food blogger this past three months but it isn’t that I’ve abandoned my kitchen, I’ve just been less attentive with the writing up of my culinary creations. Ergo this little gem of a recipe slipped through the net.

 

I ate a variation of this for my birthday lunch and since then I’ve been a little besotted with the sweet, salty and spicy combination; with its melee of textures and flavours. It’s an incredibly easy dish and the only thing that really takes time is the marinating of the chicken and even that’s just dependant on how long you plan on letting it marinate for. I try and go for doing it the night before  but, if you’re short on time, an hour or so is fine.

 

What’s been your “taste of summer” this year?

 

Recipe;

 

8 chicken legs

6 chilli peppers

5 spring onions

3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

6 tbsp clear honey

Juice of a lime

Fresh coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Salad;

 

1 large mango

Feta cheese

Romaine lettuce

Balsamic glaze

 

  1. Chop up your chillies and pop into a mortar with the coriander, crushed garlic and spring onions and half the lime juice lime juice. Use your pestle and bash everything up – this should release all the favours and the smell will be incredible!
  2. Add the contents of the mortar to your honey and stir in the rest of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Score the skin of your chicken lightly and massage in the marinade. Refrigerate over-night.
  4. Preheat oven to 160, cover the chicken with tin foil and cook for 20-25 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven, remove the foil and drizzle with a little of honey before turning up the oven to 200 and popping back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  5. The chicken should be sticky and crisp when you take out of the oven.
  6. Chop up the lettuce, thinly slide the mango (a potato peeler does this beautifully) and crumble over some feta cheese. Drizzle on the balsamic glaze and top with your chicken hot or cold. A squeeze of fresh lime wouldn’t go amiss here either then — enjoy!

Bonkers for the Bake Off

Bake off

 

I barely watch anything on the TV in “real time”. I watch a lot of Netflix and I’m partial to films but…TV is another matter. I may watch things on catch-up and I may record them for another day but very rarely is something so good, so important and so necessary for me to watch as it actually first airs on the TV. But then…Bake Off season starts and I go as excitable as a fanatical football during their team’s penalty shoot out.

I can barely watch as upside down cakes are slid out of tins, macarons are attempted and I genuinely find nothing more stressful than seeing a contestant making a fatale flaw during the technical challenges.

I love the quirky bunch of characters put together; the people you see and wouldn’t necessarily think BAKER. I love watching people flourish and get teary-eyed about becoming Star Baker or a particularly unsuccessful batch of crackers. I love Mel and Sue, Mary and Paul more than I know what to do with and find myself wishing we had our own Bake Off version of the Xtra Factor (you know, that show after the X Factor).

Another excellent part of this show is learning to love the contestants and picking your favourites (I was genuinely heart-broken when Beca and Glen left last year!). This season I’m kind of in love with;

Martha; she’s so young and fresh-faced – she totally had such the potential to be a precocious madam but I actually find myself loving watching her bakes and seeing how experimental she is.

Iain; he’s beardy, Irish AND a baker. I simply wasn’t going to not love him.

Luis; it feels like it’s taken until this week – bread week – for him to really shine but that man knows his stuff. He seems very on-point about his technical stuff and his flavourings.

Richard; that pencil. The man is a builder and a master baker. He just seems so darn lovely.

Nancy; she’s excellent and clearly naturally a really strong baker who knows her stuff but isn’t a cocky devil about it.

The others are all really lovely too and I can’t wait to see how this batch of bakers fair.

Now, I have been meaning to write this wee ode to my favourite reality show for a while (and I could probably go on and on for a good few more paragraphs) but the point of this is I’ve decided I’m going to attempt to bake what they bake each week so tomorrow night it’ll be bread ahoy in my kitchen. And hopefully I’m more of a Luis and less of a Jordan (…if you’re a watcher, you’ll totally get what I mean…).

Do you watch the Bake Off? Who’s your favourite?

Rhubarb and Mint Julep

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I’m going to start off by saying I don’t really think this is much of a julep. I don’t know if I’ve even ever had a proper julep. In fact, I think I just really bloody enjoy saying the word julep. But what this is, is a refreshing and summery wee cocktail that would be perfect for sipping in the garden on one of these gorgeous evenings, of which there are plenty of as England seems to be playing ball with Summer this year!

You have to make up a wee rhubarb simple syrup first – which can be used to flavour no end of cocktails! – and, well, as the name suggests, it’s very bloody simple to make. Too simple, in fact, y’all going to think I went and got lazy…

And then it really is a case of pouring, muddling and drinking. And who doesn’t love all three?

 

Recipe

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

3 large stalks of rhubarb

4 tbsp granulated sugar

300ml water

  1. Chop the rhubarb up nice and small.
  2. Pop rhubarb, water and sugar in a pan and whack on the hob on a low heat.
  3. Allow to simmer and bubble away until the rhubarb is soft. Strain the syrup and allow to cool.

 

The Non-Julep Julep

6/8 mint leaves

50ml gin

Rhubarb syrup

Crushed ice

Soda water to top up

  1. Pop mint, syrup and gin in a glass and muddle together.
  2. Add a little ice and continue to muddle.
  3. Fill the rest of the glass with ice and top up with a little soda.
  4. Garish as you see fit and enjoy!

 

 

Lemon and Oregano Lamb Kebabs

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This was a Greek inspired dinner; I have to admit – despite having some the very best food I’ve ever tasted in a wee family-run restaurant at the top of Olympia (honestly, also one of my favourite memories I think I have too) – that Greek food is not a staple at my table. I’m not sure I could really say why it hasn’t been previously but I think I’m going to try and include it a little more often.

It has been an age since I went to Greece. As a twelve year old I spent a month out there whilst my Dad was working and then a few years ago, after interailling through Eastern Europe, I spent a couple of weeks wandering around the Peloponnese. The history, the scenery and the people are just all so fantastic. I wasn’t wild about Athens but I loved meandering around fishing villages, travelling up through the mountains, camping in olive groves and spending many a day on the beach. Food and family and spending long, lethargic evenings around the dinner table are values so engrained into the Greek lifestyle that I couldn’t really help but fall in love with the place.

What’s more, I was cooking for friends when I made the kebabs and, as Greek is one of Lorna’s favourite cuisines and as I was taking over her kitchen for the evening, it seemed polite to make something I knew – hoped! – she’d enjoy!

This dish is full of light, summery flavours and these kebabs would be perfect for shoving on the BBQ. They’re bright and colourful (seriously, look at those photos, gorgeous colours) and really rather tasty if I do say so myself!

 

Recipe

500g Lamb rump

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

3 cloves of garlic

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

A handful of chopped, fresh oregano

1 red onion

3 peppers (I tend to go for any colours except green)

1 courgette

A punnet of cherry tomatoes

 

Recipe

  1. Pop your olive oil, lemon juice and rind, crush garlic, oregano, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well.
  2. Chop your meat into nice cubes, leaving the fat on, and place into the marinade. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Chop up your peppers, courgette and red onion nice and chunkily; doesn’t have to be particularly fancy, or perfect, just nice big bite-sized pieces.
  4. Take your skewers and layer with the meat and veg. Try and make sure the fat on the lamb is all facing the same way.
  5. Make a slit into the tomatoes and place in the bottom of a baking tray; sprinkle with salt, chopped oregano and drizzle with a little oil. Place your kebabs over the tomatoes and empty the remaining marinade out over the kebabs.
  6. Pop under the grill, with the fat on the lamb facing upwards. Grill for 10-15 minutes before covering with foil (you don’t want to dry the meat out!) and putting in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes.
  7. Take out the oven and enjoy!

We served with pitta bread, humus, tzatziki and olives

Cheeky Wee Coconut Macaroons

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Would you believe I’d never even tried a coconut macaroon until a couple of months ago? My lovely cousin brought some for me to taste and from that moment on, I’ve been pretty hooked. I think it’s the texture; the gooey, mushy mouthful of sugary coconutty goodness cannot be beaten.

I think I’m having a bit of a love affair with coconut as of late. A fruit that barely – hang on, is it a fruit? Or, as its name so openly suggests…a nut? – made a blip on my radar until recently has suddenly taken over my kitchen life. My mama even called to tell me she had picked up some desiccated coconut so that when I go back to visit, in a couple of weeks time, I can make yet more of these cakes. Addicts, the lot of us.

This was my first attempt at trying out this recipe and I have to admit, I’m a wee bit proud. I seemed to get them down straight away and family and co-workers have confirmed there tastiness.

PS. These are also great for folks who don’t do flour because, well…if I’m honest, there’s none in them. Makes sense, hey!

 

Recipe

600g desiccated coconut

600g caster sugar

3 egg whites

75g ground almonds

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate

This makes about 12 good-sized macaroons.

  1. Preheat oven to 140.
  2. Whisk egg whites until they’re nice, firm peaks.
  3. Stir coconut, sugar, vanilla and almonds into the egg whites until it’s all lovely and combined. It should be sticky and almost dough like.
  4. Get your hands in there – you don’t have to but why miss an opportunity to?! – and take chunks, roll together so it’s nice and tightly combined, then pop on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. You don’t have to do balls like I did, you could make them any shape you darn well like, I shan’t judge! 😉
  5. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they have a slight golden, toasted edge.
  6. Once your macaroons are cooled, melt your chocolate; I tend to melt three quarters of the chocolate, take it off the heat then stir in the final quarter. This helps to bring down the temperature of the chocolate, leaving it shiny and glossy – a cheat’s way of tempering chocolate!
  7. Dip the base of the macaroons into the chocolate, allow to cool and enjoy!

Hear, hear, Julia Childs.

Now, as with most things I stumble across on the internet, I’m going to take this with – excuse the pun – a pinch of salt. I don’t know if she actually said this, but it certainly seems like something she would say from what I’ve read of her, and it reminded me so much of my own thoughts on plates of food that look far too fancy for their own good that I had to share.

 

“It’s [Food] so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

– Julia Childs

I cannot stand the thought of food being touched too much. Of it going through ten thousand processes before it finds it’s self on my plate. I like things to look a little rustic, a little down home, a little less than perfect. I like my cooking wholesome and from scratch. Jamie Oliver’s bish bash bosh approach is more my style than Heston’s scientifically-crafted art. And whilst I have a respect for the other, I can’t seem to quite embrace it. Restaurants that serve it make me feel alittle uncomfortable, a little out of place and, Kitchen Gods preserve me if I ever attempt it!

What about you? Are you a fan of fancy dining?

julia childs

Raspberry and White Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich

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I don’t know about you guys but, for me, sometimes recipes are just kind of guidelines. Especially when it comes to flavour combinations. Obviously baking requires a little precision, a little science, but I think you should definitely take a wee bit of artistic license once in a while. Recipes are what I tend to use for inspiration, rather than instruction; I browse through blogs and books and wait for a little light bulb to ping above my head. I take a little of this, a little of that and throw in my own tastes – et voilà! Dinner/dessert/lunch/unnecessary but tasty indulgence is served.

With regards to this particular recipe – because I’m not the biggest fan of overtly sweet foods – I’d probably use a really nice dark chocolate next time instead of the white. Whilst I love white chocolate and raspberry together, I think the tartness and sweetness of the raspberry/lemon filling requires the bitterness of dark chocolate. But, you know, guidelines. Personal preference. All that jazz. Smother this wee treat in any kind of chocolate you prefer.

Recipe

4 egg yolks

400g sugar

300g plain flour

300g self raising flour

1 tsp salt

450g butter

300g raspberries

3 tbsp sugar

Juice and rind of a lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 180.

  2. Pop your raspberries, sugar and lemon juice/rind in a saucepan over a low heat. Just let the raspberries fall apart and turn syrupy, then take off the heat and pop to one side to cool.

  3. Shortbread; cream the butter until it’s soft and fluffy then stir in the egg yolks.

  4. Stir in the flours, sugar and salt to the egg and butter mixture. Get your hands in there and knead for a little – don’t overwork the dough though.

  5. Take half the dough and flatten it into a tray then slather on the raspberry mixture.

  6. With the other half of the dough create an almost breadcrumb-like consistency and sprinkle on top of the raspberry.

  7. Pop in the oven for thirty minutes until it’s nice and golden then leave to cool.

  8. Melt your chocolate, drizzle on top of your shortbread and enjoy!

 

Rough Puff Pastry

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Because, well, normal puff pastry? To quote that famous internet meme – ain’t nobody got time for that. Well I’m sure some of you do and, furthermore, I’m sure it’s flipping tasty but I struggle to spend time with pastry. Yes, the hard work is rewarding and, yes, it generally is incredibally tasty when you’ve slaved over it for an afternoon or so but…I’ll take a short cut where I can – and it’s not too often you’ll hear me say that in the kitchen!

This makes a gloriously crisp, flaky and buttery pastry that can be used for a multitude of things and can be whipped up in an hour or so if you’re really pushed for time. So. You know. No excuses!

Recipe

500g plain flour

1 tsp salt

500g unsalted butter

250ml cold water

Tip; maybe keep your water in the fridge if you know you’re going to be making this. Really, really cold water works a treat.

  1. Allow your butter to come to room temperature – not super warm and squishy but malleable – and pop in a bowl with the flour and salt. Rub all ingredients together until it resembles chunky breadcrumbs.

  2. Slowly add the water and mix together with your hands until it’s all combined. You don’t really have to knead at this stage – seeing flecks of butter is totally normal. Good, in fact. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for twenty minutes.

  3. Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll out into a rectangle. Fold a third of the pastry into the middle and then fold the remaining third over the top of that. Roll the whole lot out into a rectangle again and fold once more. Pop in the fridge again for 10/20 minutes and repeat the folding and rolling process again. Try as hard as you can not to over-work the pastry.

  4. Let the pastry rest in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

  5. Use an egg wash (one beaten egg, mixed with two tablespoons of water) to glaze the pastry before popping into a preheated oven (190) for thirty minutes and enjoy!

 

Cracking Coconut Cake

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Coconut cake. Who knew it was so popular? I made a batch last week and they seemed to disappear in record time. I wasn’t even aware I was a coconut fan, if I’m honest; it’s a fruit I tend to just not think much about. But yes, my spongy wee cakes topped with glorious lashings of bright white, coconut cream cheese frosting went down a bloody treat.

Now, I start my new job tomorrow down in that there big city of London so am currently back at my Dad’s for a couple of months, however, before I left my mama did have one final request…more coconut cakes. So, after waiting until the very last moment to pack (because I’m literally averse to packing for anything in good time), I knocked out another heap of cakes.

This would be lovely as a loaf, or occasion cake, but I made cupcakes because, well, that’s my prerogative!

Recipe

175g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs (beaten)

3 tbsp coconut milk

50g desiccated coconut

  1. Preheat oven to 180.

  2. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.

  3. Gradually add both your flour and baking powder and beaten eggs to the butter and sugar.

  4. Mix in the desiccated coconut and milk until everything is combined. It’ll be a little lumpy because of the coconut, don’t fret.

  5. Pop the batter into your baking tins, turn the oven down to 170 and cook for 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

For 12 cupcakes.

200g cream cheese

50g butter

300g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp desiccated coconut

  1. Beat together the cream cheese and butter until combined.

  2. Stir in your icing, vanilla and coconut.

  3. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least 20 minutes before using.

I tend to make this frosting just after I’ve popped the cakes in the oven, that gives me a good 30-40 minutes (with cooling time) for it to firm up nicely.

 

 

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