The nuggets make nuggets

We have settled into the school holidays now, but for a while there I was going a tiny bit bananas trying to come up with *things to do*. Possibly because there was a rainy week or so, which is always a killer, but beyond plodding from park to picnic to garden London isn't heaving with FUN! for me + two smallies and a wallet on the thinner side. So to the kitchen... we made gnocchi! It was extremely messy but simple, fun, and great for kids to get involved in. Even Indiana got stuck in. Literally.

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Sweet Potato Spelt Gnocchi

600g sweet potatoes
200g white spelt flour + more for dusting
1 egg
 

Chop the potatoes in half and then boil in their skins for 20 mins. Drain and leave to cool, then peel the skins off and mash. This was Pablo's mashing outfit...  

he insisted on slippers, in the middle of summer... but god forbid he wear trousers

he insisted on slippers, in the middle of summer... but god forbid he wear trousers

Mix the mashed potato with the egg and flour. Ours was incredibly sticky, and we just kept adding a little more flour until it became doughy. Make sure your work surface is very floury, split the dough into three and roll out into sausage shapes.  Cut into pieces approximately 3cm long and roll them in your hand to make a little gnocchi nugget. Pablo was in charge of all this so ours were....varied in shape and size a bit. He especially enjoyed squishing them with a fork, which is supposed to make them look even more gnocchi-esque, but in our case made them look completely bonkers.

Drop the gnocchi into boiling, salted water in batches and boil until they float to the surface - a few minutes. Drain and then dust flour (we went for a flour/semolina mix for that bit). We then pan fried the gnocchi in a little oil until it was golden, and served it with some pan fried cabbage, cream, lemon and a bit of white wine. It was scrumdiddliumptious. Worth having to clean up gnocchi-dough monster hands for an afternoon....

Actual best cookies ever

In my hand-scrawled recipe book (started circa 2001) I have this recipe down as "Best Choc Chip Cookies (Actual Best!)" and as far as I've experimented over the decades they really are. I have absolutely no idea where they came from, but what a find! On Sunday Konch's oldest pal Mark popped over to see his little god-daughter and I realised at the very last minute that we barely had a withered carrot in the house to offer him. These took about 15 minutes to whip up and were gone again almost as quickly. One batch makes a LOT o' cookies but the dough refrigerates like a dream and freezes great too.  They are crunchy *and* chewy and everything they should be. I've made it so many times, often with way less chocolate than the recipe calls for and they still turn out scrummy, so they are great for just making at the last minute with whatever chocolate...nuts...etc... you've got. On Sunday I used choc chips, raisins and chopped pistachios in place of just chocolate and it was a magical combo...

eeeeeeat meeeeeee

eeeeeeat meeeeeee

225g butter, room temp (soft)
200g caster sugar
220g packed brown sugar
2 eggs
10ml vanilla extract
375g flour
5g bicarb of soda + 10ml hot water
3g salt
335g chocolate chips (I find chopped up good quality dark choc works better)

Heat the oven to 175C. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. Dissolve the bicarb in hot water and add along with the salt. Stir in the flour and chocolate/nuts/raisins/whatever you fancy. Bake for 8-10 mins, then leave to cool a bit before trying not to eat all in one sitting.

lady lunch

Had a tasty lunch this week at my friend Laura's beautiful home, and caught up with friends and babies and home made whoopie pies from heaven (THREE, I ate three...) We even had a glass of prosecco, then about thirteen coffees. The babes had a lovely time exploring and it's crazy how fast they are all growing. Special honorary male guest was teeny tiny Tor Albion who stole everyone's hearts...

Indy mostly got her kicks by trying to tumble down stairs. Luckily she was thwarted. 

Indy mostly got her kicks by trying to tumble down stairs. Luckily she was thwarted. 

note the enormo-me reflected in the toaster, pre-whoopie-binge...

note the enormo-me reflected in the toaster, pre-whoopie-binge...

Christmas bake

The couple of weeks leading up to Christmas were INTENSE, mostly due to baking commitments (ok, and whims...) Here's a few things we got up to:

L-R from top...

  1. cutting heart shaped doughnuts
  2. double choc 70th birthday cake
  3. making christmas biscuits with Elton John
  4. incredible rolls by Konch
  5. red velvet christmas cake
  6. finished doughnut heart
  7. cassis mince pies (with cinnamon-chic ice cream)
  8. our gingerbread cabin
  9. proud biscuit baker
  10. all iced and packed up for the school party
  11. cinnamon-choc ice cream getting going
  12. satisfying gingerbread poke by Pablo

thanks oh thanks oh thanks

Yes, I'm English and live in London... but I'm also in love with food, and I grew up in the States. Therefore I love Thanksgiving! It is a big, wonderful excuse to gather together with friends, force yourself to feel grateful for things, and eat stuff that is not at all savoury enough to be served as a main course.  My brother Xander or I often host a big get together, but this year I was asked to do a Thanksgiving pop up at the local pub by friends who run the E17 Pop Up Project. Kind of scary but a chance to learn some new cooking skills and get a bit of catering experience. I roped Xander in to help, and his wife Zara for decorating back-up, and we set about prepping Thanksgiving for FORTY TWO!

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I have never been particularly keen on cooking turkey. They are MASSIVE! They take up entire ovens and never seem to cook properly and often end up dry and are regularly a huge disappointment. I had to find a way not to disappoint my 42 paying customers, though, and after extensive turkey research I found the most amazing recipe. I will never cook turkey another way again. It came out absolutely perfect, moist and scrumptious - and I don't even like turkey, as a general rule. Just in time for Christmas I've copied it out below. Seriously it's nuts how good - and easy - this is...

Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze

original recipe from bonappetit.com

Glaze
160ml barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
60ml malt vinegar
6 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Brine
4.5 litres water
400g coarse sea salt
3 x 340ml bottles/cans of stout 
1.5 cups barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
thyme

This recipe will give you enough for a 14-16lb turkey/8-10 servings. Multiplying it for more was simple. Also we prepared two giant turkey crowns, not a whole turkey, but I can't see it making much difference.

Brining the turkey helps to infuse juiciness - there is a full on technical explanation of the whys here - and is crucial to the success of this recipe. I am never not brining a turkey again! You need to  brine the turkey for about 16-18 hours so start the day before. Pour the water into a non-reactive pot. Add the salt and stir to dissolve, then add the beer and malt syrup. The original recipe calls for you to then place two oven bags (one inside the other) into a large bowl, rinse the turkey inside and out, place in the bags (in the bowl) breast side down and pour in the brine. We had so much turkey I just brined it in one immense pot. Either way, chill the turkey in the brine for the aforementioned 16-18 hours. I chucked in some thyme sprigs for kicks, as I rather over-bought it. After brining dry the turkey and, if possible, return to the fridge to further air dry for an hour or so. 

Brining the night away

Brining the night away

You can make the glaze in advance too. Bring the malt syrup, vinegar, herbs and pepper to boil in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer until the glaze coats the back of a spoon (5ish minutes). Mix in the butter. 

Cook your turkey at 170C for 20 mins/454g plus 20 additional mins. Add a couple of cups of water to the pan and keep topping it up if it dries out. For gravy purposes it is a good idea to add some celery, onion and garlic to roast with the turkey, but actually I didn't get round to it and the gravy was awesome regardless. Leave the turkey to cook for a couple of hours before opening the oven and brushing with the glaze. After that continue to brush with glaze every 20 mins until cooked. Remove the bird an hour before serving (ideally) and cover with foil to rest the meat. For gravy I poured the sauces from the roasting tin into a jug, separated the fat and returned it to the tin on the hob, added a handful of flour and made a roux, then slowly added the reserved juices plus about a bottle of red wine. it was DELICIOUS and took about five minutes... 

A big shout out to Smitten Kitchen whose faultless recipes I relied upon for sweet potato biscuits (which were un-be-lievable), the best homemade pumpkin pie I've ever tasted, and the best excuse to finally attempt homemade marshmallows - s'more pie. IT WAS EPIC. And it turns out marshmallows are not that difficult to make! An extra shout out to my brother, who lugged big tins of pumpkin and bottles of corn syrup over from a trip to New York so we could be as sickly sweet as we could. 

Now I never want to see another orange food again. Until next November, maybe...

sunday sunday

Lovely family brunch - buttermilk pancakes, fruit salad, eggs benedict, bacon, bucks fizz, coffee galore. Pablo was showered in Halloween goodies by his Grandpa & Grandma, and Uncle Xander & Auntie Zara. Brunches are also the best because the whole afternoon still exists for lying around watching films.

sunday sunday

Transient

We have made a vague family decision to try and have a *proper* lunch or brunch together every Sunday over the autumn and winter, and even though it was technically still September it was dreary enough outside to kick things off. Lovely Jo, a friend for three whole decades as both our dads were journos based in Brussels together back in the VERY early 80s, came over to see us (especially Pablo, who has a bit of a crush on her) which was a great excuse for feasting. Konch made Jamie Oliver's pot roast pork with fennel, our first goose-fat parsnips of the season, buttered leeks and peas, and some little roasted salad potatoes. I decided to attempt Mary Berry's Queen of Puddings - have been lusting after it since the Great British Bake Off technical challenge a couple of weeks ago. My jam may have been a tiny bit runny but otherwise it was impressive and easy and a lovely hot winter pud. We ate it ALL, and the super super sweetness was a hit with Pablo until he decided he needed to take his top off to show Jo his muscles, then promptly dropped a spoon full of hot-ish custard onto his tummy. Whoops.  After pudding it was compulsory to spend the rest of the day sipping wine and soaking up the dregs of fennel sauce with fat slices of ciabatta, grabbing little kips and watching cartoons.

I'll eat you up I love you so

Chocolate Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwiches

I don't think I"m a glutton, but one of my favourite things is eating, for pleasure as opposed to fuel. With two smalleys circling and squawking at me every three and a half seconds these days, good food's presence in my life has dwindled. Exhausted evenings are too often cheese-on-toast-y; meals are scraped together in a hurry as a solution to low blood sugar and its associated whinging; things best dipped in ketchup play far too hefty a role... The ultimate treat has become a good excuse to devote some precious energy to preparing something truly tasty, and a stretch of varyingly child-free time in which to do so, preferably on a Sunday soundtracked by Cerys Matthews and Jarvis Cocker (Heaven). So YAY our lovely friends Leo & Leonie said they'd pop over for Sunday lunch and provide such an excuse. Since it's (supposedly) summer and I'd spent the past two days at my mum's devouring THIS pistachio ice cream (one of the most gorgeous things on this earth, promise), I opted for a twist on a recipe I'd seen on Pinterest that week for chocolate fudge brownie ice cream sandwiches! The below is a variation on that recipe from Good Life Eats.

For the Brownies
113g unsalted butter
225g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa, plus a bit extra for the pan
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon proper vanilla extract 
85g plain flour
pinch o' salt

For the Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 litre ice cream - I went with 500ml vanilla and 500ml pistachio but you could go with anything as long as it's lovely, quality ice cream - slightly softened
300g proper dark chocolate - I used Green & Blacks 70%
1 tablespoon(ish) butter
couple of handfuls of pistachios, chopped
wooden popsicle or kebab sticks

Pablo assists in breaking up the dark choc yumminess (and eats a whole load when I'm not looking...)

Pablo assists in breaking up the dark choc yumminess (and eats a whole load when I'm not looking...)

First of all, PLEASE start the night before. There is all kinds of thawing and refreezing to be done, and the beauty is that you can get the whole lot prepared nicely in advance of guests arriving, so you don't have to spend half an hour sweating, drinking and trying to hold a conversation whilst you add the finishing touches to something mid-course. 

Start with the brownies. Preheat the oven to 170 C and grease & paper a 13x9in pan. Rub the parchment with butter and then dust with cocoa powder. Shake off any excess powder.

In a mixer with paddle attachment cream butter, sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa, then add eggs one at a time, giving a good little mix after each. Next add the vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt. Mix until just combined and then spread in the pan. Bake 10-15 mins, until top is shiny, and allow to cool completely.

Once totally cool, cut the brownie in half and spread one half with the ice cream. I mixed it up so some would be pure vanilla, some pure pistachio and some half and half (these were the best). Top with the other brownie half, wrap in greaseproof paper and cling film and freeze for minimum 4 hours (in my case, overnight). 

This is what you get after all that refreezing. My brownies were decidedly un-fudgy - they were more like chocolate cake - but this worked perfectly taste-wise. You could definitely substitute a favourite brownie recipe though!

This is what you get after all that refreezing. My brownies were decidedly un-fudgy - they were more like chocolate cake - but this worked perfectly taste-wise. You could definitely substitute a favourite brownie recipe though!

In the morn, remove the brownie/ice cream blocks and cut into smaller pieces. Insert popsicle sticks and re-freeze. This was the moment I realised I had absolutely no popsicle sticks in the house, so used wooden kebab sticks instead, which was absolutely fine. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. I deviated a bit from the original recipe here, which called for melting choc chips with oil in a microwave, because we don't have a microwave and I preferred the idea of butter. Therefore my measurements here were guesswork, but you could play around with amounts of butter added. Only crucial thing is not to get any water into the choc/butter mix (not even a drop!) as that will spoil the texture. 

Dip each sandwich in the chocolate mix and sprinkle all over with chopped pistachios, then place on parchment and re-freeze until ready to serve. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!

I still dream of these...