Friday, 30 July 2010

Au Revoir?

For now, this post will be short as it is not my happiest, albeit I hope it doesn’t give a depressed feel either.  I guess I'm just feeling a bit nostalgic, dreaming of the days when decisions weren't so hard to make or implement, and friends were conveniently clustered into one easy to reach area.  The time has come yet again when mass goodbyes are to be had.  Not only am I returning to my beloved Oxford, but a colleague at work is also leaving.  Unlike me though she is definitely leaving whereas I am still not sure.  Like the Terminator, I will be back... maybe.  It's a sad time, and doesn't appear to be getting any easier.  Just as I re-acquaint myself with everyone in the bustle of Southampton and get to love them all again, I up and leave them once more.  I guess I miss belonging to one area as well, it's strange being a drifter - finishing university is a lot more than just no more lectures, it cuts one loose like one can not ever have imagined.  Suddenly I am asking myself where I belong, must I move on? Settle where I am? Go back home? Or is now really the time to break free completely?  Scary.  I suppose I will feel better once I find a job and when my lack of income can stop making me feel so insecure.

In the meantime though, I continue to bake and write in my blog, and below is a variation of the chocolate sponge cake  I thought I would try out for my leaving colleague.  Once again I had issues taking the cake off the DIY cake rack and was sad to see that icing sugar made the whole thing horrible to look at, so take two on the other side of the cake, I used my remaining flaked almonds and some sugar to dust the cake instead.  Result? Better, but I need to find a way to stop my cake sticking.  Maybe next time I will cool the sponges on sugar dusted greaseproof paper, which is what I do when I make Swiss rolls.  I made the cake in the evening, so no natural light was to be had, I tried dimming the flash a bit but to no avail.  So if you all see a psychedelic cake, I apologise in advance.  It looks normal on my monitor…

Lemon Sponge Cake
 (serves 8)

100g Self-raising flour
125g Caster sugar
4 Large Eggs
1Tbsp Water

Zest of  Lemon
Juice of half a lemon
25g Butter
3 oz Icing sugar
25g Flaked almonds
Sugar to dust

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/170C/350F
  2. Over a gentle double boiler, whisk the eggs, lemon zest and sugar together until tripled in bulk.  This took me just over 5 minutes to whisk by hand using a large whisk.
  3. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
  4. Dribble in the water down the side of the bowl and sift in the flour.  Using a figure-of-eight motion, fold in the flour with a spatula or metal dessert spoon until just incorporated.
  5. Pour evenly between the two sandwich tins, level and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and beginning to shrink from the sides.  If the sponge springs back when lightly pressed it is ready.
  6. Meanwhile, allow the butter to soften before beating and gradually adding the sifted icing sugar.  Add enough lemon juice to make a spread able consistency.
  7. Turn the cakes out onto cake racks to cool and sandwich together with the lemon butter icing, then sprinkle with almonds and sugar to garnish.

NB: You could sprinkle the almonds onto one sponge before it enters the oven to get toasted almonds - they might stay on better as well.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A Time to Relax

Church today was filled with kids, which means summer holidays must have begun.  The service was filled with laughter as we tried to learn a bible verse (Luke 19:v10) and failed miserably, with the adults mumbling and stumbling in unison, much I feel to the amusement of the surrounding children.  I had coffee and a quick chat afterwards with my new friend then had to dash off to buy bread before heading home for a quick lunch which happened to be homemade grilled pepper soup (recipe below).  A friend of mine was coming from Oxford today to see another friend of mine in Southampton, and we decided to meet at the docks, so waltzing out again, I set out to meet them.  After a bit of hunting I spotted them wandering in a park close to the agreed rendezvous, it turned out they had gotten a bit lost en route.

Seagulls gliding along the water

My friend who has now lived in Southampton for close to a year still didn't know the docks properly so off we all strolled towards the Mayflower Park.  This place is spectacular on sunny days and watching the sun set over the sea is just breath taking.  Sometimes, it sets over the hill which is equally wonderous to look at.  We siddled down the concrete slope leading to the waters and perched on the edge to while away a few hours watching the seagulls flutter over bread and watching the water ripple over the seaweed and concrete slope edge.  With the sun warming out faces and feet we caught up on people we haven't seen in a while and the current of state each other's lives, shortly interrupted by a drunken wanderer who started joyfully proclaiming the tastiness of pigeons and seagulls.  After a brief polite and rather amused conversation with him, he happily ambled off away down the pier leaving us once again to the calm quiet of the sea and seagulls, a gentle warm breeze blowing against our shoulders.

The Mayflower

After some time with the sun still strong behind the clouds, we moved on to Harbour Lights for a well deserved coffee on the terrace overlooking the boats.  We caught the tail end of the Inception crowd but once we were served our coffees in their colourful and mismatched cups, we settled down for another few hours outside looking at the rows of shiny white boats all safely docked, bobbing gently up and down.  Isn't it amazing how fast time flies when with good friends? Sadly the day came to an end and we walked our seperate ways, the Little Lady getting a bus home and the Anthropologist making his way back to Southampton Central train station going back to Oxford.  Overall, a very good end to the week I feel.

 Looking out onto the docks

Grilled Pepper Soup
(Serves 2)

  • 2 Small Onions
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Carrot 
  • 4 Small Red bell peppers
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • A generous pinch of mixed herbs
  • 1Tbsp Vegetable oil 
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Bread and Butter to serve
  1. Over a low heat, add enough oil to coat the base of your pan.
  2. Chop the onions and carrot, crush the garlic and add to a pan and gently fry for 5-10 minutes with the lid on, stirring or shaking occasionally until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes and pepper, removing the pepper seed and lay skin side up on a grill pan.  Set the grill to high and grill them until their skins are charred and remove to a bowl and clingfilm until cool enough to handle - about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Peel the pepper and tomatoes and chop roughly and add to the pan along with the herb and about 1 pint water.  Bring the pan to the boil and lower the heat simmering the soup for 25-30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  5. Blend the soup roughly, season with salt and pepper and serve hot with bread and butter.
 Grilled pepper and tomato soup

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A slice for you and I

I decided to stay home today to accompany my mum who's still recovering post-surgery.  We spent the day shredding my private documents which had accumulated over the space of a few years and oh my goodness; we filled two bin bags and that was excluding blank envelopes, leaflets, catalogues, etc... I have to say though, looking at my room you still can not tell I have just removed two bin bags worth of junk from it.  Once we had dumped the contents into the recycling bin, I decided it was time for tea.  A tea break sounded amazing, but tea with cake sounds even better so off to the kitchen I trundled with subtle positive encouragement from mother dearest.  Once there though, I had problems thinking of a cake to make - you see, recently my sister has been on a bit of a diet and I've noticed that my eating habits have not been much better so I wanted to opt for a healthier cake.  I thought of a swiss roll but I really dislike the ones with nothing fresh in them, and I really didn't want to walk to the shops, so I pondered some more... Wouldn't a chocolate cake be amazing with a cherry filling? Mmmm, now there's an idea, maybe a fat free chocolate sponge? That should work!  A brief rumage through my baking draw and out came all the ingredients needed for a chocolate sponge, I'm doing well today it seems. 

Amazingly, the mixture doubled in bulk in the oven and didn't collapse

Normally when I'm home with my parents, my mum, sister and I go to town and take a tea break whilst there.  This usually consists of the mentioned tea and a naughty slice of cake, but since my mama's surgery going to town hasn't been possible, but she's getting stronger everyday so hopefully we'll resume our trips together soon.  In the meantime though tea is taken at home which suits me just as much as it gives me an excuse to get messy in the kitchen.

Morello Cherry Conserve

I do not bake sponges often, but I can confirm that beating eggs with a whisk until tripled in bulk is possible by hand, it's just slightly quicker with an electrical whisk.  I can happily admit I am a sloth at heart, therefore I use a hand blender with a whisk attachement.  I must say though, if you have time on your hands, it's quite satisfying seeing this eggy gloop turn into a beautiful fluffy mass and doing it by hand in my opinion gives it a glossier appearance.  Today is the first time I tried the whisking over a double boiler over a low heat- this is simply a small pan of some gently simmering water with a bowl over the top with the sugar and egg mixture in, gently warming the mixture without burning or scorching it - in this case scrambling it.

So far so good, cherry conserve on one side and buttercream on the other

The scent of chocolate permeating the air is something a cafe can't recreate and moments like this I do cherish.  Mama was right when she said nothing can beat homemade cakes, or homemade anything come to that.  It's not just the taste and texture, it's the whole experience from thinking about what to make to serving your finished creation.  Teatime is just so much more satusfying with homemade goodies- not that I object to the occasional teatime out, some cafes have their own little charm- just look at the Art House Cafe

I am happy to say that the cake turned out almost perfectly, ignoring the slight incident with the cake refusing to let go of the cooling rack (aka my masquerading grill rack).  After much teasing and coddling, they let go and continued their journey to become one.  At this point, I would love to acknowledge the miraculous ability of icing sugar to hide scars and holes - icing sugar, I commend you.  I would also like to take this opportunity to praise the morello cherry conserve - it was sweet but not overly so with a tart kick which went wonderfully with the chocolate sponge.  Whilst the cake was cooling, I decided coffee was better suitor with chocolate and cherry so out came the cafetiere, and about an hour after my first thought of a tea break popped up, cake and coffee was served.  My verdict? Scrummy and guilt-free as no butter went into the sponge, just a smidgen in the buttercream.  Mum's verdict? She wanted seconds!

That didn't last long...

Chocolate Sponge Cake
(Serves 8)

  • 100g Self-raising flour
  • 25g Cocoa
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 125g Caster sugar
  • 85g Icing sugar plus extra to dust
  • 40g Butter
  • 1tsp Milk approx.
  • 2-3Tbsp Cherry (Morello) Conserve
  1. Grease and line the base of two deep sandwich tins (around 20cm) then preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F.
  2. Set a pan of water (about 2cm deep) to a gentle simmer and place a bowl over the top, keeping the heat very low.  Meanwhile, mix the flour and cocoa together until well combined.
  3. Add the egg and sugar together in the bowl and whisk until tripled in bulk and thick enough that a trail is left behind when the whisk is lifted.
  4. Remove from  the heat, and continue to whisk until cool, about 2 minutes.
  5. Fold in the flour and cocoa, divide between the tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  The sponge should spring back when lightly pressed and be beginning to shrink away from the sides.
  6. Turn the cakes out to cool and make the buttercream by beating the butter until soft then gradually beating in the icing sugar, thin with some milk and continue beating until all the icing sugar is gone and a smooth buttercream appears. 
  7. Before spreading the conserve, give it a stir to loosen it up and spread on one of the sponges then spread the buttercream on the other sponge.  Sandwich the two together then dust with icing.  Don't worry if the sponge appears to be stuck to the rack, coddle it a bit and it will come off intact - if it doesn't icing sugar is a beautiful thing - the cakes's equivalent to concealer.
Not long at all!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

La bohème

Today I met up with a new friend I met last Sunday before in church. Having arrived too late for the first service but too early for the next I was left wondering the hall like a little lost soul. I was rescued from sitting in a corner alone pretending I didn't mind by this wonderful person, and somehow carried out a whole conversation whilst being half asleep on my part. Anyway we decided to meet up during the week, and I was struggling to think of a cafe to dawdle the afternoon away that wasn't a Costa or Starbucks. Whilst thinking out loud my colleague at work casually suggested the Art House Cafe situated at Above Bar Street just on the outskirts of the city centre. "What a fantastic idea!" I thought, it has been too long since I gave the place a visit- and I had forgotten what a hidden treasure it is.

The Service Counter

Southampton isn't known for much sadly, and the council have chosen to promote it for it's less than stellar shopping districts and have chosen to strangle art and culture out of it under the guise of the credit crunch. Small businesses have struggled including my lovely cinema Harbour Lights after the announcement that £25,000 was being retracted from out funds. Fortunately the powers that be have decided to keep us open for now and I have faith we will survive in the long run despite the Council's best efforts to screw us over.

Beautiful layout with the option to sit in the window
Going back to my visit though and the rediscovery of the amazingness of The Art House Cafe, I am surprised I don't go there more often.  Then again I am rarely in Southampton so this might explain some things.  Upon entering the cafe, the first impression is of a homey lounge decorated liberally with books, original paintings for sale and Edwardian type chairs and decor.  Everything is beautifully mismatched yet in harmony and even the window display box contains a table and chairs to make a sunny area to enjoy afternoon tea in, ideally located so that the tea (or coffee) drinker may admire the latest work of art created by local artists.  Currently on display is a giant blue spotty teacup sporting a vintage swimsuit draped across its rims and plates of teatime cakes such as angel cakes made from washing up sponges.  Sadly I didn't think to take my mobile out again to snap it up, maybe next time!  My friend and I snabbed a wooden table with elegant high backed chairs and I went up to the service counter to examine the selection.  After much kerfuffle with the drinks selection I chose tea and a scrumptious apricot ginger cake for myself and a pear juice served in a colourful plastic tumbler and chocolate cake for my friend whose order I took from across the not so large space.

My wonderful tea

The service was wonderful as tea was brought out to us at our table.  Here laid another pleasant surprise as the mismatched quirky china were placed out.  My teapot was a black cat! Novel but somehow fitting for such a creative place.  I get the impression they like their cats as lying next to our menu holder (cutely proclaiming "run for love not for profit") was another china cat which turned out to be a quaint sugar pot.  We spent the afternoon there easily enjoying out organic treats, and my teapot I must say gave me plenty of entertainment much to my new friend's amusement I'm sure.  This cafe adopts the view of being green and ethical which I support so strive only to sell organic and fairly traded vegetarian and vegan products.  More importantly, it supports the importance of a good slice of cake and I must say, my slice was delicious in a homey way stuffed with fruit and moist. 

In case you're wondering what the slogan "run for love not profit" means, the Art House Cafe is run purely by volunteers to enable a creative space for artists and cultural people to come to and host multi-diciplinary art events.  The Cafe supports the local community by promoting sustainability, culture and local events as well as non-political environmental groups.  Places like this seem rare these days and I truly think this is a hidden gem, and deserves more attention than it gets.  So if you're ever in need of a quiet place to think, or just need tea this is the place to be.  The prices are cheap and cheerful, the atmosphere relaxed and even the customers are a joy to look at as they flounce in with flowers and wreaths in their hair, closing the door as if to their own home when the street work outside got too noisy. 

Apricot ginger cake in front of the menu holder and sugar cat
Today was fantastic and to top it all off I went to my own cinema home in the evening to watch Inception with some old friends and I have to say this film lives up to the hype.  The film challenged morality, stretched your brain as it tried to take in what the characters were saying and had a sweet plot to boot.  At the bar whilst waiting to drift upstairs to the screen, I saw the group of Art House customers who were in the cafe earlier on buying drinks which brought a smile to my face- so that's where they trundle to when the cafe closes at 5:00!  All in all a fun-filled day I can't wait to repeat!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

My love affair with lemon drizzle cake began one day as I was browsing through my housemate's old Somerfield magazines.  I had a few lemons that needed to be used up along with this disgusting light sunflower spread I stupidly bought one day.  The recipe popped up as a feature for easy to carry picnic treats and I read the recipe without much interest believing it would require a long list of ingredients I didn't have - but alas my eyes locked on to the one ingredient which convinced me I needed to give it a try: sunflower spread.  A good way to use mass quantities of horrible goop and hopefully turn it into a yummy tea time treat.  So I set to work, and was happy to discover I had all that the recipe required, I just had to half the quantities as I only had a 1Ib loaf tin at the time.  Just before pouring, I had to admit the mixture did not look promising - the sunflower spread had liquified itself in the mixing process and I was slightly sad to think I had wasted an egg and lemons, but what's done is done and the oven was set so I shoved it all in anyway.  Boy was I glad I did.  As if a pixie was in the oven working some magic, the mixture doubled in bulk and turned out to become an amazingly light and delicate sponge.  I drizzled the lemon syrup on thinking my luck would run out and the syrup would collapse the damn thing but lo and behold, a perfect lemon drizzle cake came into being.  The kettle went on and tea for two was promptly made, and carrying our plates and tea into the lounge, we cautiously took a forkful worried that the whole thing would just taste of lemon flavoured sunflower spread.  All my fears were for nothing, my first mouthful was a spectacular burst of lemony goodness and needless to say that the poor cake did not last the day.

Since then, I have made the cake frequently and it has also found its way into my mama's heart.  She recently came home after surgery to treat her cancer but I'm happy to say she is on the mend and her first request to me when she got home? Yup.  Lemon drizzle cake please.  I was more than happy to oblige.  Since the sunflower spread days, I have moved on to butter as I refuse to buy the stuff again.  The result is a richer sponge and I would say I prefer it, but butter in anything agrees with me.  At my parents' home I use a tray of eight mini loaf moulds which is equivalent to a 2IB loaf tin.  We bought the tin on an impulse when browsing the baking section in TK Max and truely I thought it was one of those things we'd never use but once again I happily admit my error.  The tin makes the perfect individual sized cakes, perfect with a cup of tea.  Oh lemon drizzle cake, how I love thee!
Lemon Drizzle Cake
(Serves 8)   

(For a 2Ib loaf tin)
  • 100g/4oz Margerine/butter
  • 150g (5.5oz) Caster sugar
  • 5ml/1tsp Baking powder
  • 175g/6oz Self-raising flour
  • 2 Large-ish eggs
  • 60ml/4Tbsp Milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 25g/1oz Flaked Almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon 100ml
  • 50g Granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F then grease and line your tin 
  2. Cream the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Beat in the eggs then fold in the flour, baking powder and zest plus milk 
  4. Pour the mixture into your tin and bake for 30-45 minutes until the cake looks lightly golden and springs back when lightly pressed and beginning to shrink from the sides.
  5. Whilst the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup which just involves mixing the juice and granulated sugar together until mostly dissolved. Pour the syrup slowly over the cake as soon as it leaves the oven (I like to poke holes with a fork or skewer to allow the syrup to really sink in) and allow to cool the tin before removing.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Mela Festival 2010

Mela Festival 17-07-2010
Noodle Milkshake anyone?  Strange combination I do accept, but one I bravely tried whilst perusing through our yearly Asian festival in Southampton.  This Indian sweet snack is known as Falooda and upon questioning I discovered it was actually quite an old recipe evidently well loved by the Asian locals judging from the rate of which they were made and sold.  I was dubious to begin with I must admit, but wouldn't you be as well?  The sweet snack drink consisted of vermicelli - more like rice spagetti (although a look at the good old Wikipedia says it's made from arrowroot), tapioca seeds, an ice cream made purely from milk and topped up with- in my case strawberry milkshake and drizzled with a beautifully coloured rose syrup.  My verdict?  Not bad!  Everything I thought wouldn't go together came together in an interesting mix of texture and flavours not at all unpleasant once convention is thrown out the window.  Would I try it again? Quite possibly, although my usual drink of choice would not be as sweet, and usually non-dairy, but every now and then I feel the need to break the mould and try something different, and where better to break it than at a sunny Asian festival? 

The making of falooda
The day was filled with art, dance and the alluring smells of mainly Indian food.  Most of which I was happy to see were 100% vegetarian.  There were dancers and performers on stilts, of both the elegant and comical variety, stalls hosting an array of brightly coloured scarves, saris, pashminas and intricate handmade wooden items as well as henna artists.  I was ecstatic to find my favouritte pashmina seller there again this year.  Having bought three last year which have served me so well I was eager to top up my collection with more colours and designs.  At 3 for £10, I really couldn't go wrong and from experience these pashminas stand the test of time and feel heavenly soft and warm. 

Beautiful actors on stilts
No Asian festival is complete without exotic performances in the form of dance and music, and this festival was no exception. There were local schools performing traditional cultural dances, little children from clubs and talented adults all singing and dancing, bringing the event to life with their sound, colour and talents.

A cheif making a Masala Dosa
What a fantastic day, and a beautiful time to see people from all races enjoying the day together, sampling the local cuisine and watching the performances from their settled positions on the grass or picnic blankets. I can't wait for next year!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Alicante Alicante!

After exams, a group of my dancing friends and I decided to take advantge of the happy sun in Spain, as based on sad past experiences, England is not known for it's sunny summers. Typically, this is the year that England enjoyed an Indian summer, but let's not go there... Overall the holiday was OK but I must say the place we ventured into was a tourist trap and a half, but if sunbathing, swimming and lounging on the beach for a week with no culture is your idea of fun, then this place is definitely a winner for a cheap holiday.

Despite the lack of local culture, the food I must say was rather good, although it saddened me to see that the main restaurant strip was filled with pubs and restaurants found in England.  Cuisine ranged from Italian, Chinese, American, even Irish but ironically none were Spanish which happened to be the Country we were actually in.  We even found cheese from Iceland on sale in a local newsagent!

As I mentioned though, the food was good along with the service and presentation so we did get our euros-worth in value.  Dishes included a lovely salmon parcel poached with red peppers, onions, carrots and potatoes. 

Salmon and vegetables oven baked inside a foil basket

I must say though, the star attraction in the food arena in my opinion was the ice cream.  Once I discovered the quirky parlour, I made an effort to visit it daily on a mission to sample their entire delicious menu.  Unfortunately I did run out of days as the undiscovered gem of a place was found- in my opinion too late.  But some of the delights sampled are shown below and the last evening of my holiday was concluded with a traditionally fun banana split shared with my fellow ice cream appreciater friend.

It wasn't all about ice cream though!  Lack of culture Alicante exhibited but the landscape was beautiful.  We went for awesome walks down the coast, along the cliffs, down the highway... and saw all sorts of weird and wonderful things including snails sunbathing on the fences. Like I said weird.  Wonderful things included a crystal clear sea, isolated rocky plains to sit on with friends to study the bible, cliffs high enough to see the different contrasts of the sea and landscape...  It's times like these when the full magnificance of Creation just hits me, leaving me in awe, a strange sense of connection and of serenity.  With that, I finish my memoir of Spain - viva Espana! 

Far Right: Snails on a fence

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Wine and Food Festival 04-07-10

I went to my first foodie festival last week with a friend and oh my goodness, it was quite amazing, although it was definitely more a wine than food festival. There were much to taste and try, and my favourite stand was probably BRAMLEY and GAGE, which hosted a whole rainbow selection of fruit liquers and gin, yum =)

BRAMLEY and GAGE display stand.

Small things amaze me, and so came about my first introduction to what my friend classed as "latte art".  Who knew a paper cup holding hot chocolate could look so pretty? Our one had a delicate leaf like pattern on the top, which I have since looked up how to create.  I have to say though that upon practicing it, it looks a lot easier than it is! My first three attempts have ended up in a messy spill of coffee everywhere or a very ugly cappuccino.  Sad times.  Before I return to the Ford though I do hope to have mastered how to create a semi-decent one at least! 

Mmmm... "Latte Art" on top of a hot chocolate

We also got free tickets for a champagne and chocolate tasting masterclass, I never thought the two went together but I stand corrected, it was a beautiful combination!

Champagne and Chocolate tasting masterclass
It was a lovely day out and I would definitely love to go to other food festivals; although perhaps more focused on the food element rather than the alcohol, the 2 hour journey home on the train was rather a jolly one!
A view from my train chugging me back home

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Summertime and the picnics are waiting

One of the many joys of summer are the numerous fun ways of dining. Recently I organised a picnic with some friends I love to go dancing with. The feast included homemade rosemary and onion seed focaccia, stuffed with homemade marinated grilled peppers with pesto, salad and mozzarella. Juicy fresh apricots, satsumas, apples and strawberries with cream added a fresh and healthier tone to the day balanced out with butterfly fairy cakes made with a yoghurt frosting and strawberries.

Part of our Picnic Feast

The day was wonderful filled with sun, laughter and dancing - a perfect day! I look forward to similar days whilst England continues its summery trend.
Sandwich Focaccia with Rosemary
(Serves 8-10)
 -adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

  • 2 Cups Warm water
  • 2.25tsp/7g/1 Sachet Dry yeast
  • 1tsp Sugar
  • 3Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
    -plus extra to glaze
  • 1.50tsp Salt
  • 1-2Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 Cup Wholemeal/Brown flour
  • 5 Cups Plain/Bread Flour
  • About 2Tbsp Cornmeal/Polenta to dust
  • 1Tbsp Black Onion Seeds
  1. Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water and leave until foamy - at least 10 minutes.
  2. Pound or chop the rosemary until finely minced and add to an oiled bowl along with the yeast mixture, wholemeal flour, salt and olive oil.
  3. Gradually add the remaining flour until a dough forms and turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Return the dough to an oiled bowl, coat in the oil by rolling then cover with a damp tea towel or cling film.  Leave the dough to rise until doubled in bulk - At least an hour.
  4. Oil a baking sheet/pan and dust with fine cornmeal/polenta, then roll out the dough to roughly fit the pan.
  5. Press the dough into the pan until about even, cover and let rise for another hour or so.  The dough should be tender to the touch.
  6. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F during the last 15 minutes.
  7. Dimple the dough with fingertips, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with onion seeds or more rosemary and bake for 30 minutes in the bottom third of your oven, or until lightly golden.
Marinated Grilled Peppers:

  • 2 Large Red peppers
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
  • Vegetable oil to cover - About 100ml
  • 10 Sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
    -or reconstituted from dried
  • 1-2tsp Sundried tomato puree/paste 
  • 1-3tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 dried chillies, crushed
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Half and seed the peppers then lay skin-side up under a hot grill.  Grill for about 5-10 minutes or until the skin blisters and becomes charred in places.
  2. Remove to a bowl and cover with clingfilm until cool enough to handle - about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile make the marinade in a small pot (about 200ml) by mixing together the sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, tomato puree, herbs, chillies, salt and pepper.  Dilute with 1-2Tbsp vegetable oil.  Any cheap oil will do here as it only acts as a flavour carrier. 
  4. Peel the peppers and slice thinly.  Mix into the marinade well, coating all the slices and compact into the pot.  Add more oil until just covered and leave for a few hours, preferably over night in the fridge.  The smell and taste the next day is amazing.
Mediterranean Focaccia Sandwich:
(Makes 8-10)

  • Focaccia Bread, cut into sqaures (See above for recipe)
  • Marinated grilled peppers (See above for recipe)
  • Pesto (shop-bought or homemade)
  • Sundried tomato paste/puree
  • Mozzarella, sliced
  • Salad Leaves
  • Brown/Greaseproof paper and string to wrap

  1. Slice each focaccia square in half and spread with pesto on one side and sundried tomato paste on the other.
  2. Drain most of the oil off the peppers and layer with the marinated sundried tomatoes onto one side the focaccia. Layer some salad leaves on top then some sliced mozzarella and more salad, place the other half of the focaccia on top, wrap in brown paper and tie together with twine or kitchen string.
Although it sounds like a lot of effort, I got so many compliments on how wonderful they looked and they made transportation of the sandwiches easy as I didn't need to worry about them falling apart.

Friday, 9 July 2010


This is my first blog ever and I have to say I am kind of excited. The purpose of my blog is to share my passion for food, art and the odd science fact.  I want to record down my culinary adventures, complete with recipes and experiences and I hope whoever decides to read it will enjoy following me on my journey.