23 December 2012

Almond Ginger Thins

For us Swedes, it is the day before The Day today and most people are probably rushing to finish off all the preparations, but for those of you who celebrate on Christmas Day and fancy a bit of last minute baking, here is an idea.

My grandmother always used to make these slightly more sophisticated ginger biscuits with almonds. She was adamant they had to be sliced very very thinly, fat ones were simply not up to her standards. This year I modified her original recipe slightly, cutting out some ingredients (not sure where I would find potash?) and eliminating the obligatory overnight rest in the fridge. I was worried the result would be less successful, but I have to say these are as nice as the ones I made last year following the original recipe.

125 gms Butter
115 gms Sugar
300 gms Plain Flour
50 ml Golden Syrup
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Cloves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Cognac
100 gms Almonds

Start by blanching the almonds and take the skins off. Let them dry, then chop them quite finely without turning them into dust. Combine the sugar and butter, then add all the dry ingredients and work the dough until it is smooth and shiny. Add the almonds and carry on kneading until the are evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log about 8 cm wide. Wrap it tightly in clingfilm, then press it down gently on two sides to create an oblong shape. Put it in the freezer for about and hour until it is solid enough to slice but not completely hard. Using a very sharp knife, slice the log as thinly as you can. I would aim for about 2 mm. Put the slices on greased baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes - it will smell amazing!

22 December 2012

A Magical Evening

What an amazing feeling to walk out of the office yesterday evening knowing that there are two whole weeks ahead without alarm clocks and to do lists. Instead there will be peace and quiet, family and friends, good food with drinks to match and lots of sleep.

To celebrate the fact that we have got through another year of hard work with plenty of challenges along the way, I met my husband at J Sheekey Oyster Bar for a glass of champagne and a bite to eat. Afterwards we headed to the London Coliseum to see the Nutcracker. I can't think of a more romantic Christmas tradition than this. A truly magical evening.

At the table next to us in the restaurant was a lady celebrating her 99th birthday. I wished her Happy Birthday and got a stroke on the cheek and a compliment which I swiftly returned - she was 10 times more glamorous than me. Wonderful. And that little exchange enhanced the evening and will now be part of this memory.

17 December 2012

Christmassy Shopping

There is nothing like a visit to the right shops to get the Christmas spirit going. For a proper old school Christmas feeling, a reliable friend recommended skipping Harrods and Liberty and heading straight to Fortnum and Mason. She was right - this is Christmas as I remember it from when I was 10 years old. Afterwards a stroll down Bond Street added to the experience with all the gorgeous lights and decorations. The lunch I enjoyed beforehand at the Wolseley with the best company was pretty OK too. Not bad for a Monday!

11 December 2012

10 December 2012

Red Ribbons

The candle consumption is at an all time high this time of year in our house. I think it is a very Swedish thing, having candles lit most of the time to make the darkness seem a bit more bearable. The ribbons are from Sweden too.

7 December 2012

Christmas Card from Columbia Road

On the coldest evening of the year we went along to the Christmas Shopping evening on Columbia Road. The mulled Cider with Rum helped warm us up. I left with one hand painted bauble and a pot of jam. And with a lovely Christmassy feeling inside.

6 December 2012

After Work

At home on the sofa with bubbles. Because Thursday means it is almost the weekend.

4 December 2012

Smoked Mackerel Pate with Chives

I have love smoked mackerel since I was a little girl when we used to buy them straight from the smoke house down in the harbour in the village where we spent the summers. The fish would hang from the ceiling in a dark room and the smell was just amazing. These days the smokehouse is no more, but instead I have my very own smoker.

Back then my favourite way to eat smoked mackerel was on a rye bread sandwich with thick slices of big, juicy tomato and lots of mayo. Although that is still hard to beat, I now prefer a bit of variety and the other day I finally tried making my own smoked mackerel pate. It took about 5 minutes and the result was pretty fantastic if I may say so myself. And although I would of course have the gorgeous whole smoked fish every time, this pate was made using the shrink wrapped supermarket variety and that worked just fine. Here is what I did:

250 gms Smoked Mackerel
100 ml Double Cream
A Handful of Finely Chopped Chives
A Handful of Chopped Spring Onions
Juice from 1 Lemon
Plenty of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Take the skin of the fish and put it in a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until you get a nice smooth consistency that still has some texture. Check for seasoning and serve with sourdough toast, watercress, rocket and apple for a sort of fishy Ploughman's Lunch.

2 December 2012

Happy First of Advent

A crisp, cold, beautiful Sunday perfect for buying the first hyacinths of the season and going for a long walk with a pub lunch as a reward at the end.

29 November 2012

It's beginning to look a bit like...

...Christmas. It has turned bitterly cold and last night I had a hot mulled cider spiced with strong with rum, standing outside with lovely company.

Every Wednesday in December the shops on Columbia Road are open in the evening, there is live music and mulled wine and altogether a really cosy Christmas shopping atmosphere - certainly beats rushing down Oxford Street in a mad panic together with a million other people.

27 November 2012

Montgomery's Cauliflower Cheese

On a day after the night before recently my husband treated me to this amazing hangover curing comfort lunch. Cauliflower Cheese is always really yummy, but making it with Montgomery's Cheddar took this humble dish to new gourmet heights. Montgomery's is a wonderful very mature, slightly chalky, nutty cheese that added some extra tang to the mellow cauliflower and bechamel combo. One for the Christmas dinner maybe?

26 November 2012

A Welcome Sight

Sunrise on Sunday morning - a lovely sight after rain for days on end.

25 November 2012

Apple, Raisin and Cinnamon Cake

The wind is blowing and the rain is hitting the windows hard. Inside we have the fire going and the smell of a lovely cake working it's way through the house. Staying indoors really seems like the right thing to do.

This cake is moist and gorgeous and just hints at some Christmassy flavours. A bit like a warm up - next weekend it is the first of December and then we can all go for it with cinnamon and cloves, mulled wine and Bing Crosby and everything else. Although I still think it will be too early to get a tree - there is an ongoing debate about this in our house and I haven't quite made up my mind yet...

To make the cake you need:

3 Medium Sized Apples
180 gms Sugar
130 gms Butter
3 Eggs
230 gms Plain Flour
100 ml Milk
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
2 Good Handfuls of Raisins

Start by preparing the apples. Wash them then cut them in half and carefully remove the cores. Slice the apples very thinly, ideally you want slices that are 1-2 mm thick. Keep one apple half behind and chop it up roughly together with any leftover apple bits or slices that are too thick or thin, these bits will go into the batter and add moisture to the cake.

Melt the butter and allow it to cool. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Pour in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and milk and stir until the batter is smooth and lump free. Stir in the chopped up apple bits and one handful of raisins. Pour the batter into a greased and breaded cake tin.

To decorate, start sticking the apple slices into the batter at an angle. Work your way from the outside towards the centre. As you get closer to the middle of the tin, you can bend the slices slightly as you push them down to give them that petal look. Scatter the rest of the raisins over the top and bake for 50 minutes at 200 degrees.

Perfect served on its own, but some custard on the side would take it to another level. Dig in!

24 November 2012

Chai Latte Cravings

Recently I have had massive cravings for Chai Lattes and was keen to try making them at home, thinking it must be nicer using proper tea than the powder they have in coffee shops. The other day my husband came home from the shop with some very authentic looking Chai teabags so I decided to have a go. I made some very strong tea, two teabags with only about half a cup of water, and let it brew quite well. Then I added a healthy table spoon of honey and topped it with lots of hot milk and plenty of froth. It was so good! Beats Starbucks by miles. The next step will be making the actual tea mix myself, looking forward to that too - will report back soon!

20 November 2012

Pork and Cabbage Gyoza

How fun it is to try something new once in a while! The other day we went to the Vietnamese food shop down the road to get some sesame oil, and as they conveniently stock plenty of other Asian ingredients it is hard to leave without picking up a few extra things. In the frozen section I found these Gyoza wrappers and got very excited by the prospect of making these gorgeous little things in my own kitchen.

I decided on a pork and cabbage filling. Here is what I put in it:

Minced Pork
Savoy Cabbage
Spring Onions
Dried Red Chillies
Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Sesame Oil

Just chop all the veg finely and mix it all together in a bowl. Then it is time to get folding which is a lot easier than you would think. Put a spoonful of filling at the centre, then dab the edges with water and fold it over, creating five little pleats along the top edge as you go.

To cook them, put a small amount of sesame oil in a hot pan and add the gyoza flat side down. Let them sizzle for a short while, then pour over boiling water so the are almost covered. Wait for the water to evaporate completely, then add a bit more sesame oil and fry for a couple of minutes until the gyoza are crispy underneath. Done!

To serve I made an udon noodle soup with pak choi and oyster mushrooms. Not bad for a Monday night. They are also really good on their own with a soy dipping sauce.

11 November 2012

Bonfire Night

This year we didn't go to see any fireworks, but as I returned from work on Bonfire Night I stopped to watch the display on the Green by our house. It was a cold and crisp evening with that distinctive gunpowdery smell in the air. As I stood watching I could feel the cold air biting my fingertips and I realized it is time to dig out some gloves and hats.

8 November 2012


This is the evidence of a gorgeous Vongole dinner we enjoyed at the weekend. It was eaten way too quickly to get a picture of the food itself, but the empty shells look quite beautiful too. 

4 November 2012

Weekend Breakfast

After a few hectic weeks it feels like I have finally caught up. The weekend got off to a good start with scones straight out of the oven for breakfast, enjoyed in front of a roaring fire. The lemon curd came from the shop but one day soon I will make a spiced one with a hint of cinnamon and cloves.

31 October 2012

Seoul Snapshots

Back from a few days in Korea where the food lived up to all expectations. But still, how nice to be home again.

25 October 2012

October Fruits

English Apples, the last tomatoes from the garden, Cobnuts from Leilia's shop.