Foodie Adventures: Damson & Co

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Birthday weekends. The perfect one is hard to achieve, but you can go a long way in the right direction with a good brunch. So on the day after my birthday Helen (my official brunch buddy) and I headed into deepest Soho in search of something delicious. We were actually heading for a bigger establishment, but met with the Saturday lunchtime crowds we wandered away and found this place instead.

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The menu was substantial, ranging from breakfast items through to various dishes more reminiscent of lunch – I believe meatballs featured – and we both had trouble settling on just one thing to order!

In the end Helen ordered a green shakshuka (a spinachy omelette thing, with the eggs baked whole rather than beaten) and I had the eggs royale (poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on an English muffin). My food was really delicious and everything was prepared perfectly. I couldn’t really fault it.

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I also ordered a banana smoothie. The smoothie was okay, but to be honest it wasn’t as tasty as similar ones I’ve made at home, so I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. Helen had better luck with her coconut milk mocha – even as someone who doesn’t really appreciate coffee I can tell you it was amazing. Rich and creamy with a real depth of flavour, and beautifully presented.

Service was good and fresh tap water was generously provided – one of the little touches which really makes an experience better. The prices are on the steep side, but what you’d expect to pay in this area of London really.

The verdict? Definitely give Damson & Co a try if you get the chance.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?  But all chocolate chip cookies are certainly not created equal. I actually actively dislike supermarket cookies. They are horrifically sweet (and this from somebody with a very sweet tooth) and taste resolutely artificial. But here is a chocolate chip cookie that is all grown up. Or as grown up as a chocolate chip cookie can be. Chunks of dark chocolate leave milk chocolate chips in their wake in this particular context I’m afraid. And the flakes of sea salt take the edge off the sweetness and add an extra layer of deliciousness.

Do enjoy with a glass of milk though, because who actually wants to be a grown up anyway?

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This recipes makes about 14 fairly decent-sized cookies.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (165 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) plain flour
1/2 pound (225 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks
Flaky sea salt, to sprinkle

Directions

  • Heat oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with grease proof paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and the vanilla, beating until incorporated, and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  • Beat in salt and baking soda until combined, then add the flour until just mixed, and then fold in the chocolate chunks.
  • I scooped the cookies into heaped tablespoon-sized mounds, spacing them apart on the baking tray.
  • Sprinkle each with a few flakes of sea salt.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside but still soft on the inside.
  • Let the cookies rest on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring a cooling rack.

Tip: I froze extra dough in scoops on a plate lined with greaseproof paper. Once they’re solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag.  This allows you to pin a note onto your noticeboard saying ‘Bake frozen cookies for 11 minutes’ and feel like a domestic goddess whenever you take advantage and have freshly baked cookies within 20 minutes.

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Listening to Hello by Adele (obviously!),  Totally by Joe Stilgoe and I’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you by Black Kids.

I adapted this recipe very slightly from Smitten Kitchen, but it’s originally from Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt. The photographs and other words are  © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Lemon and elderflower biscuits

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Monday was a big (ish) day – it was the first time I baked for my colleagues.  I will admit that I do pride myself on being a half-decent baker, so I really wanted to make a good impression! I thought for ages about what to make, bearing in mind one colleague’s nut allergy and another’s aversion to raisins, and also the fact that it’s pretty hot in England at the moment.

Then I remembered that we’d recently had some rather disappointing lemon biscuits in the office, which had led to an impassioned discussion about how a good lemon biscuit should be. It needed to have a crunch, but most of all, it needed to be completely and utterly, blow your socks off, lemony. There is little worse than a less than lemony baked good. It’s particularly insipid. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this…?)

So I settled on creating the most lemony of lemon biscuits to raise spirits on a Monday morning. I found these on Bake then Eat after rather a long time trawling the blogosphere for something that sounded like it could work, and after a few tweaks I ended up with rather a lot of perfect lemon biscuits. They are a little like shortbread in their texture – with a crunch, but also with a crumble. And best of all, they are incredibly lemony (even more lemony than the original recipe, I was insatiable).  The elderflower cordial in the icing was a last minute thing, but it gave the icing a glorious tang – it’s completely optional, and you can just use more lemon juice in its place.

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Ingredients

  • 250 grams butter
  • 140 grams Icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 375-400 grams plain flour
For the icing
  • 70 grams icing sugar
  • Enough lemon juice to make a dripping consistency
  • A decent dash of undiluted elderflower cordial (optional)

DirectionS

– Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, using a stand mixer or handheld whisk.

– Add in the icing sugar and mix until well combined.

– Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk until the mixture is pale and creamy.

– Add the zest and the juice of two lemons, and use a wooden spoon to distribute evenly.

– Fold in 375g of the flour to bring it all together.  This will firm up a little while chilling, but at this point mine was still very wet, so I gradually added about 25g more flour until I had a biscuit dough consistency.

– Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

– Preheat your oven to 190C / 170 fan / gas mark 5 and take your dough out of the fridge. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

– Roll the dough out until it is about 5 mm thick, and cut out 2 inch (5 cm) rounds.  Place them on your baking trays with a little space between them.

– Pop them in your oven.  Mine took about 10 mins to be evenly cooked and beginning to brown very slightly, but I’d recommend watching very closely as they’ll get very brown very quickly

– Transfer to wire baking racks to cool.

– In a small bowl place your icing sugar, a little lemon juice and a dash of elderflower if using and mix all together. Add more lemon juice a little at a time to get the right drizzling consistency.

– Drizzle over your cooled cookies however you like.*

– Kept in an airtight tin these cookies will stay fresh for… well… 5 days so far and mine are still fine.

*Tip: I got the effect on mine by placing greased proof paper under my wire cooling racks and then drizzling from left to right across the whole row of biscuits. I kept going back and forth until I had an effect i liked, with the greased proof paper catching all of the drips!

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Listening to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, My baby just cares for me by Nina Simone, Fever by Ray Charles and Natalie Cole.

This original recipe is from Bake then Eat.  I’ve made a few changes, mainly adding way more lemon juice/elderflower. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Crispy chilli beef with red peppers

This is an attempt at a classic Chinese takeaway dish — my boyfriend’s favourite in fact.  He loves it, and although this isn’t exactly the same, it’s delicious in its own right. I’ve made it twice now, and it’s a firm favourite in the lovely-treat-but-healthier-than-a-takeaway dinner category. It’s has a little heat to its thanks to the chillies, but I have a feeling that if you left them out you’d still be left with a deliciously sticky sauce perfect served with fluffy white rice. The red peppers are my own edition — what can I say? I’m my mother’s daughter and can’t often bring myself to create a meal wholly devoid of vegetables!

This is the kind of recipe that can seem a bit complicated at first, but after your first attempt it soon becomes more straightforward. In fact, most of the changes I’ve made to this dish were to simplify it from its even more complicated original! I didn’t have any black rice vinegar…

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Ingredients

For the crispy beef

  • 200g of beef steak (the thinner the better)
  • 100g cornflour, seasoned with salt and pepper

For the marinade

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 egg

For the sauce

  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger,  finely chopped
  • 2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Dried or fresh chillies to taste, very finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Optional garnish

  • Spring onions, sliced

Directions

– First make the marinade. Mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and the egg until well combined.

– Cut the beef into strips a couple of inches long. Add them into the marinade, swish around and let it sit for a couple of minutes.

– Heat a decent couple of slugs of cooking oil of your choice (I used rapeseed) in a deep frying pan over a medium heat.

– Meanwhile, add the seasoned cornflour to a shallow dish. Once the oil is hot, dip the beef pieces into the cornflour, shaking off the excess before adding to the pan. Fry until crispy and browned. Drain off the excess oil on kitchen paper and set the beef aside.

– In a clean frying pan, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli gently on a low heat. Mix together the soy sauce, tomato ketchup, balsamic vinegar and honey and add to the pan. Add the red pepper and turn up the heat. Bubble the sauce for a few minutes until thickened slightly.

– Return the beef to the pan and coat with the sauce.

– Serve immediately with rice and a sprinkling of spring onions.

Listening to Mr Hurricane by Beast,  Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon, Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert and Speaking a Dead Language by Joy Williams.

This recipe is quite heavily adapted from the Food Network website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Caramel {Millionaire’s} Shortbread

When I was in sixth form I once tried to make caramel shortbread when my parents were away. Yes, I was the teenager who embarked on ill-planned and over-ambitious baking in the absence of my parents. Crazy parties? Nope, flour in every corner imaginable and slightly ruined baking tins were more my style.  Anyway, it went quite wrong. I can’t really remember why, I think it got stuck in a tin which I wasn’t meant to be using anyway or something. Anyway, I thought I’d try again. Not to take this too seriously or anything, but with caramel shortbread it’s all about ratio. Ask any self- respecting lover of this traybake, and they’ll happily go into great detail about how much of each mouthful should be shortbread, how much caramel, and how much chocolate. Shop bought versions tend to be woefully uneven in this respect: think, a massive wedge of shortbread and comparatively inconsequential layers of both caramel and chocolate. A travesty. This recipe, on the other hand, gives you the perfect levels of caramel vs. chocolate and shortbread. Also, they’re super tasty. Well, I think so anyway.

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Glorious layers

 

Ingredients

For the shortbread

50g sugar

150g butter (unsalted technically, but I basically never have it in and salted was fine)

250g plain flour

 For the caramel

175g butter (again, should have been unsalted but I used salted and it was fine)

175g sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

397ml condensed milk (standard tin size)

For the topping

300g chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark, because that’s what I had lying around. I think all dark would be fine, but you might want to avoid all milk since it might tip these over from deliciously sweet to downright sickly)

– You’ll need the oven at 160 (fan 140, gas mark 3). Line a standard rectangular tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that there is some overhang at the edges – it’ll come in handy when you come to lift the traybake out later.

– Make the shortbread. Place the sugar, butter and flour into a large bowl – mix it all together, and then get your hands in and rub the fat into the flour/sugar until all of the lumps of butter are gone and you’ve got a soft breadcrumb type mix. It should hold together if you squeeze together a clump in your palm. (If you have a food processor, use that – I don’t though, and the hand mix option worked fine!)

– Tip the mixture into the lined tin, spread it out and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it down gently; you want it to be even and smooth.

– Now pop the tin in the fridge for about twenty minutes to harden things up, before baking for around 35 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool.

– Next, make the caramel. Place the butter, sugar, condensed milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat— heat gently and stir to combine all of the ingredients.

– Once the butter has melted and the ingredients have combined, you’ll need to keep stirring right to the bottom of the pan to make sure that the caramel doesn’t stick or burn. Bubble for about 5- 8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened considerably – it’ll be thick, but still of pouring consistency.

– As soon as it’s ready, pour the caramel over the shortbread, and spread into an even layer if need be. Leave to cool.

– Melt the chocolate however you like – you could use the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water trick, but I favour the microwave. This works just fine as long as you cover the chocolate vessel and check/ stir it regularly to avoid burning.

– Pour the melted chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread it out into an even layer.

– Now just leave it all to cool. Once the chocolate is set, use a sharp knife to mark out and then cut into squares.

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Arty angles

 

If you write a blog, now is the time to wander around your flat looking for the best natural light. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to put something vaguely attractive in the background; probably not that pile of receipts/bills or that tin of baked beans. Anything pastel or crafty is probably a good call. Even better if you have things that are pastel AND baking-related. If you’re truly dedicated, sprinkle some chocolate chips around about. Now, arrange your baking in an arty way, and take ridiculously-angled photographs until it looks pretty. Ignore the sceptical glances of anybody you may live with, surely they should be used to this by now?

If you have no need for arty and beautifully presented images of your creations, then feel free to just eat them. Much more sensible.

This recipe is adapted slightly from BakingMad.com. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Homeslice, Neal’s Yard

A little while ago, just before Christmas, a good friend and I went to the South Bank Christmas market; after working up an appetite browsing the stalls we wanted something to eat. Predictably, all of the nearby restaurants were packed and we decided to head somewhere off the beaten track in the hope of finding a table. And perhaps something a little different. We wandered quite far in search of the above, which I’m beginning to discover in earnest is something of an elusive quarry in London.

Eventually though, we came across Homeslice. We had to settle for a table outside, but we were suitably bundled up and the setting, on a tiny side street, meant that we were pretty sheltered and actually quite cosy. The service was fast and friendly —  and the waiter patiently deciphered the hipster chalk prices for us (yes, I am middle-aged, I know this) and brought us a generous bottle of tap water without any eye-rolling whatsoever.

We ended up going for one slice of each of the first three pizzas to share: Margherita/ Salami, Rocket & Parmesan/ Mushroom, Ricotta, Pumpkin Seeds & Chilli Flakes. As someone who is really not very adventurous, especially when it comes to savoury food, there were ingredients there that made me a bit antsy. Mainly ricotta and pumpkin seeds. I’ll admit I was sceptical. But I’m glad I branched out: the pizzas were all lovely. No grease in sight, just great flavours and ingredients which tasted really fresh. The base was light and just the right level of chewy vs. crusty in my opinion. And by buying by the slice, we had the perfect amount of food for a pretty reasonable price. (£12 altogether, so £6 each) The flavour combinations all worked perfectly, but my favourite was definitely the mushroom/ ricotta extravanganza that I’d been so wary of — adventurous choices rewarded. Homeslice’s website is here: you should definitely pay them a visit!

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Delicious, delicious pizza

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: The Haberdashery, Crouch End

Last weekend, my lovely friend Helen came to stay. We share an ardent appreciation of all things vintage, pretty and higgledy-piggledy — we spend a lot of time exchanging links to beautiful tiles and extravagant baking projects. Mainly on Pinterest. You get the picture. And so when she arrived off the train at King’s Cross from my home town, I really wanted to make the most of having her in London and go somewhere adorable and awesome. A quick Google search of something along the very predictable lines of ‘cosiest cafes in London’ yielded The Haberdashery: the name had me instantly hooked. It was only an easy half hour bus ride from where we were to Crouch End, so off we went.

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I didn’t manage to get my own photograph of the amazing interior; this one is from the cafe’s website

We loved it! The interior is stunning; vintage and chintzy in all of the best ways with excellent use of Victorian fireplace tiles and coffee bowls (yep, we saw people getting hot chocolate in what looked like breakfast bowls, heaven) hanging eccentrically behind the till. Our drinks came in glass bottles, and our food arrived on charmingly mismatched vintage plates. AND our butter came in an ancient looking ceramic tub that once contained ‘Sainsbury’s Freshly Made Bloater Paste’, which it turns out (thanks, Google) is a kind of fish paste made from Bloater fish, which is traditionally eaten on toast for afternoon tea. No actual fish paste on offer, sadly, so I had a Breakfast Roll with bacon and egg. The bread was lovely —  exactly the right level of toasted — sweet and chewy. The egg was fresh and cooked to perfection — the bacon just as good. I know, I know, it’s an egg and bacon sandwich. But that just seems like a massive understatement: it really was unlike any I’ve ever eaten.

I also had a yummy Elderflower Soda Jar, which of course came in an actual chunky jar with a handle. Again, it was like Elderflower cordial I’d had before, but just somehow better. The cakes looked amazing, but we were just too full after our delicious mains to sample any! I have vowed to return for afternoon tea very, very soon. Here’s the website: if you ever find yourself in Crouch End, definitely pop in. Actually scrap that, it’s worth making the journey especially, if only just to avoid another soul- destroying “Oh, I suppose we’ll just go to Starbucks, then” moment. I’ll certainly be back!

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

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Elderflower Cordial in a handy-handled jar

Helen with 'The Colonial' Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

Helen with ‘The Colonial’ Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015. Except the first photograph, which is from The Haberdashery’s website here.

Home Time is Pudding Time

A couple of weekends ago, I went home. Sadly, home is now not the house where I lived the last ten years of my life- the home I left to go to high school, then sixth form, then university. When I moved to London, my parents also moved house: so going home meant going to a place I’d never actually lived.

But, it was wonderful. I left when the house was full of boxes and looked like a storage unit. And I returned to find that my parents had made it really lovely (of course). And, stupidly, I was surprised to find that, because they were there, it felt like home. It was home. All the home feels were perfectly intact, even if the place was unfamiliar. And home time is, of course, pudding time.

Not just any pudding though. The QUEEN of puddings. Here’s my mum’s recipe (originally from a glorious ‘full- colour’ 1970s cookbook which I forget the name of…) for Queen of Puddings. It’s a wonderfully traditional British pudding, a concoction of milk and bread and jam and meringue. It may sound weird, but trust me, it’s fabulous.  You should make it.

Ingredients

425ml (3/4 pint) milk

2 egg yolks

1 egg

75g (3oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

37g (1.5oz) sugar

(For the topping)

Raspberry jam

2 egg whites

100g (4oz) sugar

Directions

– Preheat oven to 160c (325F)

– In a large saucepan, heat milk slightly and mix in the whole egg and the egg yolks. Fold in the breadcrumbs and the sugar.

– Pour into a baking dish and bake in a bain-marie for around 45 minutes, or until set.

– Spread the top with raspberry jam.

– Make the meringue topping: whisk the egg whites until very stiff, then gradually beat in half the sugar. Fold in the remaining sugar.

– Pile the meringue on top of the pudding.

– Flash bake at 200c (390F) for 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue peaks are lightly browned.

– Serve immediately, and enjoy immensely.

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 Just look at those layers…

 

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Carrot Cake on the Underground

Twice this week, I’ve found myself on packed commuter trains clutching a gigantic Tupperware box containing varying amounts of carrot cake. On Thursday, the cake was complete in all of its cream- cheese frosted glory. Children gazed longingly up at it, adults looked quizzically down at it. The guy giving out the free Metro newspaper asked wryly if it was for him. At one point a very friendly man asked if I’d like to put it in the overhead luggage rack. I tried hard to hide my horror, fending off the visions of the cake splattering onto the train floor as I politely declined, preferring to clutch the box protectively to my chest. When I arrived at work and complained about my aching arms, serious discussion ensued about how I could transport cakes to the office more efficiently in future: Tupperware on wheels, a Tupperware rucksack, and a Tupperware headdress were all suggested.

On Friday, I brought about a quarter of the carrot cake home. Again, everybody stared. Less admiration this time, more confusion. And as my friend pointed out, I looked like I’d taken a very indulgent packed lunch to work, and hadn’t quite managed to finish it. But personally, I think more people need to open-carry cake on the Underground. People love it when unusual things happen ‘down there’: there’s even a Buzzfeed article dedicated to it (!) London work days very often seem to begin with something along the lines of ‘You’ll never guess what I saw on the Tube’ –  it gives us something to talk about. And to complain about, of course: ‘Who the hell takes a carrot cake in such a massive box on the Tube in rush hour?’

But all the staring (and honestly, people really did stare very intently) made me realise that we begin and end our days surrounded by complete strangers. And we sit, on the whole, in silence. But we must all be wondering about each other. We spend this limited amount of time glancing at each other, apologising to each other every time we bump elbows, getting annoyed at each other for not standing clear of the doors, and then as soon as the Tube stops we all pour out, and never see each other again. I find that strange, somehow. But maybe that’s just me.

In any case, back to cake. In case you too want to make a super- duper fabulous carrot cake for your colleagues and then get it to them using the mode of transport of your choice (no cars please, people, that will not brighten anyone’s day, or give anybody something to grumble about) then here’s the recipe that I used from Sally’s Baking Addiction… Super Moist Carrot Cake.

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I even won the ‘Stab Baker’ congratulations spoon. Yes, it’s meant to say ‘Star Baker’, ala The Great British Bake Off, but my friend struggled with the ‘R’ and this version is a lot funnier.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014