Long or Round : Beetroot Salad w/ Yogurt Dressing

Beetroot Salad w/ Yogurt Dressing
Did you know that not all beetroots were round? Some are elongated, not only that but they come in several colours, white, golden yellow and all shades of red with the darkest being purple.
Though fascinating as it is, there is more, their taste vary too. Sadly in the shops when beetroots are found they are red, round and pickled. So it's a matter of hunting markets or use your power of suggestions on friends with an allotment.

Personally, it's until I tasted fresh beetroots that I started to like them as I find the pickled ones rather unpleasant. Vacpack is possibly the best way to cook beetroots.

I boil them until soft rather than oven cook them. It might be a crime but somehow it's quicker. The trick is to make sure not to pierce the skin and to leave 6cms of tail and leaves so that the roots don't bleed.

Once cooked, let them cool and delicately push the skin away from the root, slice, season and serve with a dressing. Yogurt dressing is the best for this dish
Simple Yogurt Dressing for Beetroot Salad
  • 250ml natural yogurt

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (white is best, black is fine)

    Mix all the ingredients together, it's as simple as that. If you have the time, let the sauce to infuse but that is not highly necessary.

    Cake Pops and Cupcakes


    Baking is proving an endless source of fascination: not only bakers demonstrate a wealth of creativity, produce beautiful goods  which we crave for but the world of baking is proving as vicious as that of the Bolshoi.
    Take cupcakes. They were around for ever, ignored and languishing on shop shells, when suddenly, they enjoyed a revival with a little bit of help from "Sex and the City". The whole story is reveal in this extremely well crafted article of  New York by Adam Sternbergh.
    For a while, everyone thought that cupcakes will reign supreme for a long time and the myriad of contenders would never dethrone them until the beginning of this month, when the craze started to peter out.

    To everyone amazement, a New York based cupcake shop and one of the major player "Crumbs Bake Shop" closed suddenly all its stores.This leaves Cake Pops with a chance to be the next cupcake.

    My money is on this moist center cakey bite. After all, it decorates as well, if not better than cupcakes. It is smaller therefore should contain less calories and with a few tips, it is not very difficult to make at home. If you use cake left overs it can be very economical.
    So what do you need to know before you start?
    Tip 1: To bind the cake mixture, use cream cheese, it's lower in fat than most recommended addition.
    Tip 2: Make sure that your pops are small enough, if you have a melon scoop use it to get all cakes equal in size.

    Tip 3:  Before inserting your sticks into your chilled cake balls, dip the end of each stick into the coating. This is the major tip, the last thing you want is doing all the work only to watch the cake pop to fall off its stick.
    Here is my first attempt at cake pop and as we now know, I am probably not going to win "Baker of the year" or if I do that will be the wooden spoon. But with Cake Pops, my confections were applauded and there were smiles all around on tasting

    Basic Cake Pops
    I use the leftovers of the coconut and strawberry cake I'd made previously

  • 80g unsalted butter, softened
  • 40g cream cheese, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  •  Lollipop sticks
  •  dark chocolate - melted- though you can use coloured chocolate buttons or a whole variety of covers
  • To make the cream cheese frosting
        1.    Cream the butter and cream cheese together.
        2.    Gradually add the sugar, then continue to cream until light and fluffy.
        3.    Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
    When this is done,
    crumble the cake and mix the cream cheese frosting in. The texture needs to be a little like clay.
    Break off a small piece of the mixture and roll into a ball with your palms, it should be 3cm in diameter.  Place each ball on a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until they are firm.
    Melt the chocolate until smooth and dip each lollipop stick in, up to about 3cms, insert the stick in a ball straight away. This will "stick" the cakepop.
    Coat each cake pop by dipping them in the melted chocolate, shake the excess and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.
    Use floral foam to stand the pops during the drying process, you could "dry" them upside down but then you would get a flat top.

    Further reads
    More on Crumbs closure here
    and from one of my favourite bakers Daffodils Cookies Pops

    Vote for Pebble Soup

    One of Pebble Soup's recipe is a finalist
    Thank you for all who voted. 

    Beef Thai-Style

    I don't know what other people do with their spice collection but with mine it's a constant battle. The number of little phials is growing every time I look and it seems impossible to keep it down. Not unlike books and music tracks which I suspect are reproducing when left alone.
    You start with a few, next thing you know, you spend hours trying to organise them in a sensible (to you) manner, blink and there is thousands of them, of course each as important as the next.
    When spice-blends appeared on the market, I wasn't too sure if they should be applauded or loaded. Take tandoori: that's not an every day dish, therefore having a little pot, all nicely labelled "tandoori", ready to use, with the correct proportion for each individual spice has to be an advantage, right?

    Weeelll, may be, that's if you overlook the threat of an spice invasion.

    For the following recipe, individual herbs and spices are listed however Bart does a blend called "Aromatic Thai" which fits perfectly

    Beef Thai-Style

    Serves 4
    2 rib-eye steaks, about 400g
    1 tsp sesame oil
    3 red shallots, finely sliced
    12 cherry tomatoes, halved
    3 tbs lime juice
    2 tbs Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
    1 tsp sugar
    1 lime quartered

    Herbs & Spices:
    2 lemongrass stalks
    1 small red chilli, finely sliced  
    3 tbs basil leaves
    3 tbs coriander leaves

    Prepare the seasoning by trimming and slicing the lemon grass.
    Chop the shallots and chilli
    Tear the basil
    Mince the mint and the coriander
    Mix the lot in a medium bowl

    On the other hand, use 3 tablespoon of Bart Aromatic Thai Blend

    Smear the steaks with the spices, keep a quarter in the bowl

    Use a grill or a non-stick pan brushed with sesame oil and fry the steaks to your liking. Slice the steaks. Transfer the slices to a serving plate

    Add the tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce and sauce to the bowl. Toss well and tip on the top of the steaks


    Le Bouchon - A True Bar à Vin - Review -

    What was The Curry Garden in Blackheath (SE3) is now Le Bouchon, owned by wine expert Jean-Philippe Tessier. 

    First things first, if you think that "un bouchon" is type of restaurant in Lyon offering traditional Lyonnaise cuisine such as tripes, quenelles and coq au vin, you are perfectly right.

     Now it's where it becomes confusing: Le bouchon in Blackheath is not "un bouchon", it's a bar à vin but not a wine-bar as we know them in London.

    To start with in this bouchon, there is no cooking going on, food is delivered to the premises once a week, by cheese and meat specialists. In view of the fact that bouchons lyonnais pride themselves on their cuisine, we have a misnomer. Once you've realised that, you are fine.
    Le Bouchon though not Lyonnais has a typical French feel: wooden tables inside and outside. The tables "en terrasse" are a vivid reminder of bar-cafés. There are large windows opening on the pavement, slate board with "les vins du jour", lots of wood in the décor and it's all very pleasant.

    Le Bouchon offers a selection of amuse-bouches priced between £2 and £5, Charcuteries and Cheeses at £15 for 5 pieces, desserts made by "la fromagerie Beillevaire" and gorgeous, gorgeous bread baked next door by Boulangerie Jade.

    La piece the resistance is the wine. With over 120 different wines on offer there is a glass, a carafe or a bottle for everybody. I like the idea of a carafe, usually a pint or so, common in France, less so this side of "La Manche". The staff are all experts and will advise according to your preferences.

    All the food is of excellent quality. Personally, I discovered saucisson au Comté which I didn't even know existed. If you want a natter after work over a perfect glass of wine accompanied by a snack or three  or you are meeting friends up before heading somewhere else, if you have a romantic "rendez-vous", this is a good place to stop by.

    Le Bouchon
    72 Tranquil Vale
    Blackheath Village
    SE3 0BN

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    Disclaimer: I enjoyed the hospitality of Le Bouchon and was treated to the Blogger's menu.

    Redcurrant Tart

    Food writing has changed my life in more ways than one. When I used to write for the blog, people didn't pay much attention, dinner invitations where coming loosely and freely.

    Enter the magazines. It was a little bit more difficult to get invited. Sort of "shall we invite her or not? Will the food be good enough or not?". Needless to say it didn't make any difference to me, good or disastrous, I am always happy to be invited.
    Then came the books and now my face is being scrutinised at every mouthful. One of my friends, cleverly got round the problem. Having invited us, she emailed her main ingredient for pudding and asked for the best recipe I could think of.  
    The onus was on me, if it all went wrong then it would be my fault. As cooking with redcurrants is not something I do everyday, I had a moment of panic. I almost suggested that she used bananas instead and make my famous Banoffee tartlets. But I knew that there were no banana growing in her Cambridge's allotment.
    Red currants are indeed very pretty. They are also incredibly tart which makes these shiny little berries  rather difficult to accommodate. At the end, I opted for couple recipes of the same dessert. The pudding was a triumph, declared by her partner, "As good as the Banoffee pie" which I would have shared with you if it hadn't been devoured before I had time to grab my camera.
    Redcurrant Tart
    For the sweet pastry 
    • 200g  plain flour
    • 100g  butter
    • 50g caster sugar
    • 1 medium egg
    In a mixer add flour, butter and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg when you get a dough stop mixing. Roll it up in a Clingfilm. Leave it in the fridge to rest until you are ready to use it, minimum 30 minutes.

    Tip: don't use a roller on sweet pastry, you are going to end up with a mess. Use the palm of your hand to flatten it and push it with your thumbs. Repeat.

    For the filling:

  • 340g  almond paste or marzipan (ideally 50 per cent almonds if available)
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g  plain flour
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 300g • 11oz redcurrants, rinsed and de-stalked

  • Stalk the redcurrants, reserve
    Put all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and blitz until smooth, transfer to a bow and add the currants without breaking them

    arrange the pastry into tart mould, bake blind for 15 minutes 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 
    Remove from oven, leave it to cool add the mixture and cook for 25 minutes, it will rise. Leave it to cool before sieving icing sugar (optional) 




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