Recipe: Vietnamese-Style Caramelised Pork Mince & Rice Noodle Salad, with Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce

And the award for the longest recipe title goes to….

Yep. I could have just said “Asian Pork Salad” or something similar, but it really wouldn’t have sounded quite so delicious. In fact, despite me making a royal mess of cooking the rice noodles (I still can’t even fathom what I did to them), this was one of the most delicious date-night meals I’ve cooked in a while.

This is perfect for a light dinner, yet it still feels like a big treat. Of course the sugar quantity isn’t exactly small, so best not to have it too often, but it is delicious enough for me to overlook occasionally! To make it even easier and quicker you could use bought chilli-sauce, but the results are so much better with homemade.

And, okay, so this probably isn’t strictly authentic. But it is delicious. Sweet, but with deep savoury flavours. A real hit of spice. Freshness from the salad. Definitely one I’ll be making again and again.

Recipe – Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce (makes enough for 2x quantities of the pork dish, freezes well)

  • 4 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60ml cider vinegar
  • 75ml water

Making this sweet chilli sauce is surprisingly simple, and it tastes SO much better than bottled shop-bought stuff. Simply pop all the ingredients in a blender (I used a mini-chopper) and whizz until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and reduce until the sauce is syrupy – stirring constantly. Mine took around 15 minutes, and the fumes are quite potent so pop your kitchen fan on! Set aside to cool, probably best to transfer to a bowl as it will stick to your saucepan.

Recipe – Caramelised Pork & Rice Noodle Salad (serves 2)

  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice and zest 1 lime
  • 100g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • ½ cucumber, peeled into ribbons (discard the really watery middle)
  • 2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks (I use a julienne peeler as it’s SO much easier) 3 salad onions, cut into thin rings
  • 1 small handful chopped, fresh coriander

Heat a small amount of oil in a large wok, and fry the pork mince for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Meanwhile you can prep the veg, and toss it together with half of the lime juice, the lime zest, fish sauce and half of the coriander. Cook the rice noodles via the instructions on the packet.

When the pork is nearly ready, addd the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and half of the sweet chilli sauce. Stir to combine, then add the lime juice to taste. Season well with salt and pepper, then served sprinkled with coriander, along with the salad and rice noodles.

Are you a fan of Vietnamese Food? What other recipes would you recommend?

Review: Posh Pizza at Hai Cenato, Victoria

These monthly pizza reviews could become a bit of a ‘thing’ here – I certainly enjoy writing them at any rate. Any excuse to eat cheesy carbs…

Today’s review is perhaps a little overdue, given that it was another place I visited on my birthday (basically, the day it’s completely acceptable to eat alllll the food). Especially since the pizza was so damn good and, actually, I’d been thinking about it ever since.

Hai Cenato, Jason Atherton’s New York-Italian restaurant and cocktail bar in Victoria, has been on my radar for a while. We met the main man at Pollen Street Social back in April last year, and *really* enjoyed the food there, so I was intrigued to try his take on pizza. With a decent selection of white pizzas I’m only surprised it took me so long to visit!

My beautiful friend ordered the Margherita – with San Marzano tomato, London mozzarella, basil & parmesan. Obviously I didn’t try any, but it both looked and smelt delicious, and it all got eaten so it must’ve been tasty!

And if my pizza was anything to go by, it was certainly tasty. I ordered a pizza with the description “mozzarella, guanciale, egg yolk, black pepper, confit potato.” I mean, egg yolk on a pizza?! How could I resist?! Guanciale turned out to be Italian cured pig cheek, so vegetarians perhaps should be a little wary when ordering, but I have to say it was delicious. A world away from the last potato pizza I tried at Mother LDN, both lighter and more indulgent at the same time. There was just enough potato to be substantial without making me need a nap, the egg yolk was rich and added creaminess and the base was cooked to perfection. I’d put this in my top five pizzas of all time – though the order of which I’m not sure I could commit to paper/a screen.

As for the atmosphere, this seems to have been plagued with criticism in online reviews. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Service was friendly (plus they bought me a complimentary ice-cream with a candle in as I’d mentioned it was my birthday!), the music buzzy without being overly loud. The toilets were also insanely pretty, to the point I regretted not taking my phone so I could Instagram them…

Would I head into Victoria ‘just’ for a pizza again? Yes I would. It’s not going to replace our go-to treat on payday (cheers Dynamo), it’s the perfect date-night spot, and the perfect place to get a ‘special’ pizza. I know I’ll definitely be dragging W there asap!

Have you ever visited Hai Cenato? Where’s your favourite pizza spot?

Food: Favourite Foodie Instagrammers and Hashtags

One of my favourite past-times is scrolling through Instagram. Sure, it drives me mad as I’m finding it impossible to grow my own platform, but I love looking at people’s food styling, people’s pretty plates, yummy bakes and creative dinners. I quite often do round-ups of my favourite accounts on my Stories, but thought I’d do a proper, more permanent one on here too…

What I’ve done is included an embedded picture on their account – choosing on of my favourites from recent weeks. I hope you find new accounts you can follow! (above photo is the un-squared version of my most liked ‘gram of 2017)

Figs & Pigs – blog link

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Rebecca is one of the people that has really inspired my own photography style – I’ve followed her for a while, but her dark photography really stood out for me. It’s the styling that does it as it always looks both perfect, effortless and totally in keeping with whatever plate of yumminess she’s snapping. And her recipes sound delicious too. I mean, Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Sourdough, Leek and Pancetta Stuffing

Onelifetobake – blog link

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Hazel’s grid is the perfect mis-match of food and lifestyle photos – very much a heavy focus on food, but like me she seems a sucker for a pretty building! One of my favourite things about this feed is the captions – it’s like a mini-blog and I love the personality it gives! Oh, and she has a recipe for Gin & Tonic Cheesecake. Nuff said.

Kaanunalmiser

I genuinely don’t know how this profile doesn’t have more followers! Every single picture is perfectly thought out and styled, everything looks yummy. I love the usual backgrounds used too – not the usual tea towel or chopping board (I’m guilty of both!).

LettuceFlourish – blog link

This one is quite different from a lot of the styles I love – I’m really into dark and moody photography, this is lighter, brighter and more cheerful. But how damn good do Annette’s Turkish Eggs look?! Her pics almost always make me click straight through to her blog and I plan to make a lot of her recipes.

Nordic Food Tales – blog link

I mean, just go and look at this feed! It’s absolutely stunning, I could spend hours scrolling down it  – and yep, it was a real struggle to only choose one recent photo to embed. In the end I couldn’t resist this photo of a sexxed up hot chocolate. They’ve made a bog standard hot chocolate completely seasonal with chesnut puree and orange. If someone could whip me a great big mug up right now that would be very much appreciated, please and thank you!

And that’s it – a quick round-up of just some of my favourite Instagram accounts. And now onto hashtags – I love #darktablemood, #darkfoodphotography, #foodandflatlay, #foodieflatlay, #beautifulfood, #storyofmytable, #scrumptiouskitchen, and #platedpics.

I’d love to know your favourite Instagram accounts and hashtags too!

Recipe: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Just before Christmas I wanted a quick and easy cookie recipe. Something that looked special, tasted amazing and was reasonably “wintery” or festive looking. Something that meant mince pie haters (ahem, me) wouldn’t feel left out at a mulled wine and mince pie gathering. I found a recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, tweaked it a bit and came up with these beauties.

Chocolatey without being too rich, soft and chewy, and so pretty to look at. They were perfect, easy to make (if not overly quick due to needing a spell in the fridge), and went down so, so well. They also kept for a good few days in an airtight container – I originally made around 80 and not unsurprisingly we couldn’t quite eat them all straight away! As an added bonus the rolled dough, without the icing sugar dusting, froze well too. I’d recommend defrosting slightly before coating and baking.

Recipe – for around 25 cookies, easy to divide and multiply

  • 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, for rolling

In a bowl, stir together sugar and oil before blending in the cocoa powder – I find it best to do this gradually as it can go a little lumpy. Beat in egg (again, I do this gradually) followed by the vanilla and salt. Sift over the flour and baking powder, then folder the mix together. Note that the mix will be a lot more fudge-like that normal cookie dough! Pop the dough into the fridge for at least two hours.

Use teaspoons to scoop out portions of the mix, then roll into balls (they should be around 1 inch in diameter). Roll each ball in the icing sugar until fully coated, then place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. As these cookies spread, I’d avoid putting them too close together! Bake the cookies in batches at 175 for around 11-13 minutes – they will look gooey in between the cracks, but should firm up when cooled. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy at any time of the day – we made have had these as a cheeky breakfast on my sister’s birthday!

What’s your current favourite cookie recipe?

Recipe: Duck, Apple & Cucumber Salad with Malt Crumble (& The Importance of Eating Locally)

One of the big buzz words this year is sustainability. Whether it’s cutting down on your plastic consumption (I always, always travel with a bottle of water in my bag for this very reason) or making more ethical food choices, it’s quite clear that sustainability is going to be a BIG thing in 2018. And that’s something I can get on board with.

One of the easiest ways to eat more sustainable is to purchase local, seasonal produce. Veggies and fruit grown in the UK will have a smaller carbon footprint than imported produce (and let’s face it, imported strawberries eaten in the depths of winter just don’t taste that good). You can say the same for meat too. Sure, you can argue that it’s not really possible to eat meat ethically, but going vegetarian just isn’t for me (more on that another time). This is a compromise. My butcher can tell me the exact breed of cow, the exact farm my steak hails from. And of course, cutting meat-eating down to just a few times a week goes a long way to eating more sustainably, plus it cuts your food budget too. Winner, winner, no-chicken dinner if you ask me!

With all this in mind, I was asked to create a dish made from locally-sourced ingredients, and worth of a dinner party. Living in London makes this a tad more difficult that it perhaps would do elsewhere, but I’d like to think we managed okay-ish. I will say the cucumber was not local – I have an in-built fear of UK-grown cucumbers (my Granddad had an allotment for years and years, and the one thing that was pretty much inedible was the cucumbers, always so bitter!) so this was imported direct from Sainsbury’s shelves. For a completely local dish it could be left off, or you could try your luck with a UK-grown one! The duck came from our local butcher, and we were assured it hadn’t travelled far. The kale was from a local market, but you could easily use another leafy green vegetable that’s more seasonal/local. The malt crumble was the star of the show. We picked up the malt from a brewery in Bermondsey – and I’m so looking forward to introducing it into other recipes. For more tips on eating ethically, have a look here.

The resulting dish is absolutely delicious. Inspired by a recipe from The New Nordic (one of the most beautiful cookbooks on our shelves), the combination of ingredients sound like they shouldn’t work – but they totally too. The cucumber mellows the sharp apple, so the tartness blends with the dish. At the same time the cucumber adds a welcome freshness, cutting through the rich duck. The malt crumble adds the most wonderful texture, and it even has the combination of crunchy and soggy that the best fruit crumbles have. Here we’ve simplified the original recipe a tad – whilst it looks and sounds impressive it’s decidedly easy to put together!

Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as a Starter, or 2 as a Main with some good bread)

  • 1 granny smith apple, half cored and thinly sliced into water with a squeeze of lemon (to prevent it from browning), the other half left whole
  • 1 large duck leg
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 200ml chicken stock (if you’ve used homemade, you can leave out the carrot and celery above)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 50g salted butter
  • 60g oats
  • 1 tablespoon malt
  • 2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 150g kale – we prefer to buy whole leaves and leave them chunkier, rather than the bags of shredded stuff you can buy
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a hot frying pan (don’t add any oil), brown the duck legs, skin side down, until they have rendered all their fat and the skin is golden brown. Turn them over and cook for 1 minute before placing with the whole half apple in a casserole dish. Sauté the carrot and celery in the duck fat and then add the stock and vinegar. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits stuck to the base, then pour over the duck. Cover the casserole with a layer of foil and then top with the lid, then cook at 170°C for 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the crumble by rubbing together  the butter, oats, malt and flour. Spread out the mix on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.

To make the charred cucumber, preheat a grill (we used a George Foreman). Halve the cucumber lengthways and remove and discard the seeds – I find it easiest to scoop them out using a teaspoon. Cut each length in half to give you 4 batons. Place them skin side towards the heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until soft and lightly charred. Transfer to a food processor, add the yoghurt and plenty of seasoning, and blend briefly. You want the mix relativity smooth, but still retaining some texture. Set aside. Best not to make this part too far in advance as I find it can go a little watery.

When the duck is ready, use two forks to pull the meat apart. Return the meat to the cooking juices to keep it warm. You can discard the carrot and celery, as these were just used to add a base note of flavour to the duck – however if you’d prefer not to waste them you could leave them out. A bit of a tip – if you make your own chicken stock, we keep a bag of offcuts (celery/leek ends, carrot peelings) in the freezer to simmer with the chicken carcass to reduce food waste.

Wash and pat dry the kale, chopping it into smaller pieces if necessary. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot, almost smoking, then add the kale and sauté for less than a minute. Drain on paper towel.

Arrange the drained raw apple slices, shredded duck and kale in serving bowls. Dollop around some cucumber purée and drizzle over some of the juices from the pan. Serve immediately.

This is exactly the kind of thing we like to cook on our date-night evenings in. We love to spend an evening in the kitchen together, cooking up a plate of fancy food. This resulted in something that was both cosy and warming (and perfectly hygge) whilst still being light and clean-tasting thanks to the cucumber. We’ll definitely be making it again!

*This is a sponsored posts, however all opinions are my own as always!

Are you keen on eating local and seasonal food? How do you eat more ethically?

Recipe: Bacon, Feta & Lentil Salad (warm or cold)

This is an absolute staple in our household. We make a big batch at least once a month, usually doing me for a week of lunches, one evening meal for the two of us and possible W’s lunch group (for 5) too. It’s tasty, filling and healthy – a portion or so of veg, plenty of protein and just general yums.

What’s even better is that it works hot and cold. W in particular loves it warm, with sausages and steamed green veg. I love it cold of a lunch time, with plenty of spinach. It’s also great with a spot of extra stock, turned into a bit of a soup with leftover roast chicken. Mushrooms work well too, as does a spot of roasted kale. It’s so, so versatile. If we don’t quite have the ‘right’ ingredients we can switch things up – leave out the celery, use a different kind of stock, different herbs, add mustard, add white wine vinegar. Be luxurious with a splash of cream. Leave out the feta. Leave out the bacon. Ad different cheeses, extra bacon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and that’s why we love this recipe so much.

Recipe – makes around 5 big portions

  • 200g dried brown lentils
  • 4 rashers thick streaky bacon, or equivalent rate of lardons
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Herbs – I like a combination of thyme and tarragon, but rosemary also works well
  • Chicken stock
  • Handful of Greek feta, crumbled
  • Optional – dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, mushrooms etc…

Fry the bacon in a little oil until starting to crisp. Meanwhile, chop the veg finely, before adding to the bacon and frying over a low heat until soft. If you’re using dried herbs, add with the veg. Add the lentils to the pan, then add chicken stock until they are just covered. Stir in any fresh herbs, if using, then simmer for around 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked to your liking. If adding them, stir though a teaspoon of dijon mustard and a scant teaspoon of white wine vinegar, tasting to adjust to your liking. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, before serving warm or cold, scattered with feta. I also find it goes really well with baby spinach leaves.

Do you have any similar recipes that are good for batch-prepping lunchboxes?

Review: Pump Street Bakery, Orford (Suffolk)

Quite clearly this is a post that has been sitting in my drafts for months, seeing as we visited Suffolk way back in September. Whilst this visit was a reasonably long time ago, I couldn’t not share this like gem of a place. Not only is the village of Orford perfectly lovely – quaint cottages, gorgeous countryside and friendly locals that actually smile and say “hello” (can you tell I’m pretty much a fully fledged Londoner these days?!), but this bakery-come-cafe is enough to want to make me move out to the sticks.

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Painted in a candyfloss pink, with a modern yet rustic interior, the main eating area features a large communal table. This is the kind of dining I love. Relaxed, with good conversation. We met a delightful couple who were in the village to dry-dock their boat from the quay for the next year whilst they travelled the world. It was this couple that persauded us to stay for lunch, rather than just a drink and a pastry. I’ll be forever thankful to this couple.

Both of us ordered the hot chocolate. Pump Street Bakery are also one of the limited amount of people within the UK who make their own bean-to-bar chocolate. As a lover of proper, artisan chocolate this really excited me – and we shelled out (£6 a bar) to bring some home with us. I can confirmed it is VERY good chocolate, though the price still makes me wince. The hot chocolate is perhaps a slightly more purse-friendly way of trying it out – rich and chocolatey without being cloying. The homemade marshmallow added just the right amount of sweetness. It was YUM.

But maybe not quite as yum as our actual lunch.

It’s a pretty limited ‘eat in’ menu, but what is there is beautifully thought out. W chose the sandwich. Made with their own sourdough, it packed in local Suffolk salami, roasted fennel, rocket and aioli. The bread was substantial, soft but firm as a soughdough should be, with a chewy crust that wasn’t too hard and dry. The fennel in particular worked so well in the sandwich, adding both a crunch and some freshness. Probably my top sandwich of 2017, if I’m being honest!

I went for the cheese toasty. Having booked a cheese toasty van for our wedding evening food, it’s safe to say I love this snack – and this one didn’t disappoint. A mix of cheddar and Ogleshield cheese, it was both strong and stringy. With shards of crispy cheese and perfectly crisp sourdough, it was rich and decadent and oh so delicious. The date chutney was the perfect foil to cut through the cheese – though perhaps a bit of salad on the side would have made this absolute perfection.

Having been recommended the chocolate doughnuts, we were very disappointed to find them sold out. We grabbed the last jam one, along with a custard version too (y’ano, for the blog!). Eating them later in the car we realised we’d have to make a return trip the next day for a chocolate one! And we did. And I regret it, because no doughnut will ever, ever be the same…

Where’s your favourite bakery?

Food: How My Cooking & Ingredient-Shopping Has Changed Over Time

I started this blog way back in 2012, before I headed off to university, before I was responsible for my own food shop. I’d like to think my cooking has gotten a lot better in this time (it’s certainly got a lot more adventurous!), but I know a whole lot has changed about what I buy, what I cook, what I order in a restaurant. I’ve grown up and my tastes have changed – which considering I was probably only 17 when I started writing makes a whole lotta sense!

Budget

Back when I started university, and in fact most of the way through my degree, my weekly food budget was a maximum of £20. And it worked. Most weeks I spent around £15, some weeks it would be £25 but more often that not I came in on budget. Nowadays I am part of a pair, but our weekly food budget is still a fairly thrifty £50. We try to include “housekeeping” in this too, be it loo roll or cleaning items. Obviously there’s weeks it’s over, like the time someone (ahem, me) accidentally over-ordered in the butchers to the tune of £40 worth of meat for what was meant to be one meal – there’s still nearly half of that in the freezer. I actually quite like sticking to a budget, it’s made us more inventive, we eat more seasonally (it’s noticeably more expensive to buy out-of-season and imported produce) and when we do treat ourselves it feels more special.

Herbs

This is where I’ve probably changed the most. At the start of my cooking journey, a tub of dried mixed herbs would do for everything and anything. Yep. It actually makes me cringe to think back as I’m sure most of my dishes must have tasted exactly the same. As I started to enjoy cooking more and more my dried herb collection grew, but now I’ve gone in completely the other direction – fresh herbs. Whether it’s coriander to garnish curries (usually blitzing the stalks into the paste), or thyme up a roast chicken’s bottom, the flavours are just so much better.

One of my major points of embarrassment is that I used to try and replace fresh coriander in recipes with the spice. Nope. Just no.

Spices

Likewise, my spice rack has grown considerably. I’m pretty sure my go-to spices when I moved to university were curry powder, cumin and chilli flakes. Which was probably more than some of my housemates had in first year (given the amount of times they used to go ‘missing’), but even so – I know have a whole cupboard dedicated to spices. And it’s not even a small cupboard. From the individual whole spices (so we can make our own distinctive blends of curry powder no less), to two types of paprika, three jars of cinnamon (not entirely sure why), and fancy thinks like za’tar and sumac. I genuinely don’t think I’d get through a week with such a basic spice rack anymore!

Meat

Now, I’m not ever likely to be vegetarian. I love animals, I really do, and I’m also very environmentally concious – but I also recognise that my body runs best when I eat some meat. However over the last year I’ve cut down the amount I eat and started buying from local butchers rather than supermarkets. No doubt about it, it’s pricier BUT I can tell you want farms it has come from, exactly how the animal is kept and it also tastes so much better. We try and eat vegetarian dinners at least twice a week, if not more, and I am absolutely loving experimenting a bit more with veg. Expect a lot more veggie recipes in 2018!

Things I “Don’t Like”

When I met W at 16 I was a reasonably fussy eater – in particular I ate no fruit, and was picky about what vegetables I ate. I didn’t like peas or carrots, cauliflower was a no go and I never really ate pulses. Nowadays I’m a lot better. I still don’t like plain boiled/steam carrots, but will eat them roasted, stewed, raw or stir-fried. I’ll eat roasted cauliflower. Peas are no problem. My fruit intake is better (not that that’s difficult!) but I do find it irritates my stomach so don’t eat a huge amount. I do now like cooked fruit through – helllooooo crumbles!

I also really, realllyyyyy used to dislike fruit in savoury dishes – however the above Cauliflower, Caramelised Onion and Pomegranate Salad is one of my current fav lunchbox dishes!

Fruit & Veg

Keeping on the topic of fruit and veg, I know buy a LOT more. We try and buy loose pieces where possible, to avoid excessive packaging and also to pick out the freshest bits. We also try to eat seasonally – it’s not always easy, given you can pretty much buy anything your heart desires in the Sainsburys aisle, but we do try. Our next plan is to find a veg delivery box we are happy with. We’ve tried a couple and been sorely disappointed so any recommendations would be great!

The long term plan? I’d love to have an allotment or veg patch to grow our own. This isn’t going to happen for a long, long time, but it’s been a dream of mine for a while. My paternal Granddad kept an allotment until very late in his life, and I guarantee there is nothing better than vegetables picked on the day. Homemade grown rhubarb in particular is a delight.

Buying Premium

As I said earlier in this post, we do still stick to a budget when it comes to food shopping – living in London means despite my good graduate wage we don’t have a huge amount of spare cash. However there are some things we do splash out on. We buy decent eggs, particularly for breakfasts. I’ll still buy supermarkets own (free range, of course) for baking, but I’ll treat us to some extra special ones with bright golden yolks for a good brunch. Our biggest “extravgence” however is pasta. Own-brand pasta just doesn’t cut it for us any more, so we’ll buy premium brands or make our own. I think it’s because we don’t tend to have hugely flavoured sauces, veering to more delicate choices (like this Fennel Linguine) – so the pasta needs to taste good. This brand is particular good (available in Sainsburys).

And that’s pretty much it. On the whole I’ve got a lot more adventurous with my cooking, trying out new cusines, new flavours, new recipes. How has your cooking style changed over the years?

Recipe: Homemade Marshmallows

But marshmallows are so cheap, why would I make my own?! That’s the first thought I had when my fiance suggested we make rather than buy for a dinner party dessert. The answer, though, is pretty simple. They are just so much better than shop-bought. Softer, fluffier. Quicker to melt in a mug of hot chocolate. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with anything other than homemade again!

And they aren’t actually as complicated to make as they seen. Sure, it involves heck of a lot of egg whisky (a stand mixer is ideal for the job) and making a sugar syrup (I have a bit of a fear of working with hot sugar so I need moral support for this recipe). But it’s quick, simple and the results are amazing.

Of course, once you’ve got the basic recipe sorted you can make all sorts of ‘gourmet’ marshmallows. Add rose water, or even some citrus extract. Swirl in some food colouring. The possibilities are endless and I’m looking forward to experimenting!

Recipe – makes a large 20x30cm tray

  • 50g cornflour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g liquid glucose
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 10 sheets of gelatine
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 vanilla pod

Sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a bowl. Finely sift half the mixture over a deep 20x30cm tray and set the other half aside. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a small pan with 125ml of water.

Mix the liquid glucose and caster sugar together in a pan with 250ml of cold water, and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar syrup is clear, turn up the heat and allow the syrup to boil vigorously (don’t stir). When it reaches 110°C on a sugar thermometer, place the gelatine pan over a medium heat and stir until dissolved.

Whisk the egg whites in a free-standing electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. Once your syrup has reached 122°C, very carefully and slowly pour it into the mixer (with it still whisky), then slowly pour in the dissolved gelatine.

Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pods, add to the mixer bowl, and continue to whisk for 5 or so minutes The mixture should be increased in volume and very thick, but still pourable. At this stage you could add flavourings and/or food colouring.

Either way, pour the marshmallow mixture into your prepared tray, then sift over the remaining mixed cornflour and icing sugar. Leave to cool until set, then slice with a knife (or use cutters to make interesting shapes). If giving as gifts you’ll want to dip the cut sides (they’ll be sticky!) into more icing sugar/cornflour.

 

And that’s it! Reasonably simple, and the result is pretty special. We mainly enjoyed these as part of a S’mores dessert (blowtorched marshmallows, chocolate soil, whisky ice-cream and a chocolate sauce), but they were also amazing when used to top a hot chocolate. In fact, typing this has reminded me I have all the ingredients available. And seeing as it’s currently snowing, I think a hot chocolate is really rather appropriate, don’t you?!

Have you ever made homemade marshmallows?

Food: My Kitchen Goals for 2018

As a food blogger I’m pretty much always in the kitchen or reading cookbooks. Thinking up new flavour combinations, easier ways to make classic dishes. Or I’ll be reading some of my favourite blogs, putting even more restaurants on my list… either way, food is a massive part of my life and there’s still so much more I have to try. Here’s just a few of the things I want to tick off in 2018!

Embarrassingly, some of these I’ve probably mentioned as goals before on this blog. However, as it’s a New Year, let’s wipe the slate clean and start again!

  • Improve my cake decorating skills. I shamefully tend to get W to ice any cakes that need it (case in point: my birthday cake last month). I’d love to be at the stage where I feel comfortable with a piping bag, although I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve such a goal this year!
  • Make our our pasta more often. It tastes SO much better than shop-bought.
  • Eat amazing food on our honeymoon. I don’t actually know where we’ll be flying off to, as W has booked the whole thing as a surprise, however I am pretty damn sure that there will be yummy food involved! Stay tuned in October and you’ll find out!
  • Make a “proper” pie from scratch. We quite often have a pie during the week, but the filling will be a quite casserole of leftovers, with a sheet of puff pastry baked on top. I’d love to make a pie from scratch, with pastry all the way round the perfect filling.
  • Learn more about Chinese and Asian cooking. In particular I’d love to give dumplings a go!
  • Tick off one or two more Michelin Starred restaurants. I managed to visit Pollen Street Social and Galvin La Chapelle in 2017, so I’d love to try a few more this year. Where would you recommend?
  • Make sure I eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. We’d like to make our meat purchasing more ethical, but to do that we need to eat less of it purely from a cost perspective!
  • Find a decent fruit and veg delivery system. Do you get a weekly food box? We’ve tried a couple and haven’t been overly impressed so would really appreciate some recommendations!
  • Actually manage to make and keep a sourdough starter alive. It’s alluded us several times in the past…

What do you want to achieve in the kitchen this year?