Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mrs Beeton menu

Mrs Beeton still delivers the goods! Today I cooked a three course dinner (she recommends eight...) from my 1920s Mrs Beeton's Household Management. I thought the food would be bland and stodgy but it was tasty and very approachable. Starter was puff pastry cheese twists with anchovy paste, then chicken wrapped in bacon with tartare sauce and finally chocolate blancmange. I loved blancmange as a kid and this was both dead easy and tasted just like Cadbury's Dairy Milk. To make...heat 1 pint whole milk in a pan, melt in 100g dark choc, then melt in 7 leaves gelatine, add 1oz sugar and splash vanilla. Put in a bowl and set in fridge for a few hours.
Only difficulty with Mrs Beeton is adjusting to old measurements (a gill?) and instructions like 'over a clear fire'. But with over 1000 pages, I'll be back for more...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Coffee Cake Crisis

The lemon loaf cake from my Dan Lepard cookbook was a great success (if rather small) but the coffee cake is a b****r. First time it was overcooked, flat and biscuit like. This time after reducing temperature and time it seemed Ok texturally but rose up in the oven then collapsed, still in the oven, 5 mins later. I think it must be the tricky mix with the veg oil and whisked egg. Do I keep making it obsessively until I crack it or should I move on? I FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER BOTH TIMES! I will fill the dents with buttercream and hope no-one notices...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Cold cure

An infallible and delicious cold cure is the traditional Scottish Hot Toddy.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon of honey in a mug of hot water. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of whisky, a clove and put in a cinnamon stick for stirring. Better than Lemsip. It worked for me.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Vintage Blatherings

A two part post. Firstly to say, should you ever be in Belfast, do nip into BestVintage. A great little shop just off the town square and Very Cheap (almost a miracle in most vintage shops now). I got a fab little black cropped wool jacket for only £7. Great stock of dresses and footwear, menswear. There is also a fab
Secondly, if ironing linen drives you Crrrazy, use spray starch on it. I was given mine at my hen-do to use on my better half 'on the wedding night'. If you can't imagine what for you have led a rather sheltered life....

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Surreal Heston

The chocolate marble cake was good, if I say so myself.
Strongly recommended for cooking enthusiasts is Heston Blumenthal's new Series 'Feast' on Channel 4. The first was a Victorian feast based on Alice in Wonderland, which is one of my favourite books. Heston is a crazed genius and the food was beautiful, beyond weird and very bizzare. The sequence with the jelly and the sex shop was one of the funniest things I've seen for years...I would love to meet Heston and eat his food as I feel we have a similar odd sense of humour.
The first episode is available on

Monday, 2 March 2009

New cookbook!

Triggered by my enthusiasm for the Guardian Baking Guide (excellent, if now crusted and stained) I just got 'Exceptional Cakes' by Dan Lepard. It is a fantastic baking book with lots of detailed instructions, chemistry and explanations and glossy pics and only £5.99 bargain. My first project is chocolate marble cake, tomorrow on my day off, and will work up to the tricky stuff like choux pastry with any luck. I like cookbooks with pics and lots of blerb otherwise I can't tell if the things have worked out right. Will report back on progress.......