Sunday, June 26, 2011

Baking Hot Bake Day (aka How I Stupidly Agree To Things & Then Do Them, Stupidly)

Chocolatey goodness 

Wowee what a scorcher! Today in London, it has been super mega hot. I've been sweating like a hott mess today - mainly due to the production of these beauties, a classic Hummingbird recipe, natch.

Stupidly, STUPIDLY I agreed to bake some cakes for someone's birthday at work on Tuesday. I'm busy tomorrow night, so it meant that I spent this afternoon slaving away over a hot oven to crack out these chocolate bad-asses.

I know, I know. I am nothing if not selfless.

 Get ready for your close up

I convinced myself it was a great idea to try and use all the batter I had to fill 12 cases even though I knew deep down I was overfilling. I know, what an idiot.

So it meant that they all exploded out of their cases. Which meant I then had to trim them all to a normal size with a knife and hide all evidence of my handiwork with oodles of frosting.

I then stupidly proceeded to go ahead and make far too much frosting. So basically I have a bunch of cut off cake bits, and a whole cup of leftover frosting sitting in my fridge right now. I'm calling it "Chocolate Cupcake: Deconstructed" and serving it up as such to my unsuspecting housemate.

Coffee and Cake. 

But it's ok, because only you and I will EVER KNOW. I think I've done a good job of hiding my stupidity on this occasion. Now don't go telling anyone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Very Knitted Birthday

 Storm: A tunic with eyelet panels

BEHOLD! For I hereby present to you what I believe to be the best quality knit I ever did knit! And how did this great work of craftmanship come about? Well, I'll tell you.

It all started about 6 months ago. At Christmas, when descending on the rental unit's house for the festive period, I brought with me every knitting pattern book I own, and presented them to my mum with one simple prospect.

"Mother!" I exclaimed, for that is her name. "Mother, I have a proposition for you. I hereby agree to knit you one item of clothing, for your birthday in June. This will be your present. But you have to choose which pattern you want from these mags. Get cracking - I need a decision by January 1st. Loveyoubye!"

 The button, the button, whose got the button?

And choose she did. The pattern was 'Storm' from Kim Hargreaves Heartfelt collection. I love Kim's designs and eagerly await any new pattern books released.

Her designs are always fresh contemporary, modern designs, inspired by current trends and what is showing on the catwalks each season - about as far removed from what anyone normally thinks of when they think of knitting patterns. A pullout from the middle pages of 'Yours' magazine, this ain't!

Follow the eyelet stitched road? No? No. You're right, that doesn't work.

ANYWAY, back to Mum. She'd chosen Storm, and the colour of wool, so the challenge was set. Her birthday was in June so I had six months to complete something half decent, worthy of gifting as a respectable present.

Storm was an interesting knit as you end up knitting it all in one piece, by joining the two front panels at the back neck and just keep knitting to complete the back. So there is no seam on the shoulders. This made it quite easy, and it ended up being quite quick as its a big chunky knit too. 

Sleeve me alone

So, I had visions of this being something that was being knitted right down to wire - staying up all night to get this finished on time, amped up on coffee. But no, no, it was all ready and finished in plenty of time. It got packaged up and sent to her for her birthday last week via the medium of Dad's Courier Service and all was well.

I haven't yet seen her in it, but I am told that it fits really well, and that it keeps her warm (a knitted item of clothing providing warmth? WHO KNEW?!). However, I was horrified to learn that it was also apparently, when worn on her actual birthday last weekend, slightly dampened by an impromptu rain shower!!! Yes! Yes! I know! This is bad! Wool and water do not happy bedfellows make! But don't panic - I have been reliably informed that it has in fact recovered with no visible damage. Phew.

Although, I did of course warn that this can never happen again or I might have to confiscate it. Because, I'm quite proud, it's turned out real good. Which when you're knitting for someone else, is always best.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Brunchfast Club: Kentish Canteen

Of course, the coffee was mine. 

YES! It's a new post about brunch! High fives everyone! I know I know, I've missed it too.

As a new resident of North London, the main benefit of this, (aside from the vastly reduced commute to work) is the multitude of yummy exciting eateries within easy reach.

Salads and tings 

Last weekend, in need of brunch-like sustenance, housemate and I decided to check out Kentish Canteen on the recommendation of our new pretend BFF/obsession Giles Coren.

Mere metres from the tube station, Kentish Canteen offers a pared down simple menu with all the usual brunch suspects available. As soon as you walk in, the theme of homage to the NW5 locale is prevalent, announcing the postcode in huge letters above the door, and the wall dedicated to large arty photography of the surrounding area.


I'm a huge advocate of local eateries versus chain restaurants, so I liked that this place takes its inspiration from good old K Town, which has that London-village type feel. When done well, this approach can create and enhance the neighbourhood feeling and create a real community space, and when centred around good honest food done well, I'm a big fan.

Eggs Royale 

So yes, the food. Housemate and I both went for various egg/hollandaise based dishes - I the Eggs Royale, and he the Eggs Florentine. We both agreed that the hollandaise sauce was amongst the best we'd had. Rich and velvety, it went beautifully with the perfectly poached eggs.

Poached eggs - action shot 

I thought I'd also make a point about the service. I noticed amongst reviews I've seen that while generally the food has got the tick in the box, there are a few negative comments around the service received. As far as I could tell while I was there, the service was absolutely fine. The staff were friendly, and even offered us our second drinks for free as there was a slight delay in our eggs coming out (to put this in context, I hadn't noticed there was a delay at all - so it must have been very very slight as I am notoriously impatient when it comes to food!).


After eating my delicious Eggs Royale, I was starting to feel a little full. But then I locked eyes with the specials board. 'Lavander Creme Brulee!' it declared. That is nothing if not a call to action, I was powerless, POWERLESS to resist. There are few greater pleasures in life than tapping the top of a pristine creme brulee caramel top until it cracks into those gorgeous golden shards of sugar glass, like some kind of stained glass window of a gingerbread house. I defy anyone to be able to pass that opportunity by.

Housemate and I decided to share, given our full stomach situations and I'm very glad we did as it was HUGE.

HUGE but delicious. I'm very fussy when it comes to creme brulee: as we all know when done well it can be but heaven itself. But if the skill is not there, it can be a big fat mess.

No mess here, the top was perfectly caramelised, with a smooth rich creamy vanilla custard underneath with just a hint of the subtle lavender which gave it a lovely flavour.


And so, with that lovely post-brunch full-stomach fug looming over me, I left Kentish Canteen with a happy belly. And I will most definitely be returning.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

Opposite Ground Zero 

There are only a handful of world events that will take place in my lifetime that I imagine that I will be able to recall in weirdly vivid detail exactly where I was, what I was doing when the news reached me.

Sunday May 1st 2011 was one of these, and one directly related to another such event. I was getting ready for bed, in my hotel room in NYC, having spent a wonderful evening at the theatre and eating cheesecake. I switched on CNN, for background noise more than anything, when it very quickly became clear that something major was on the brink of being announced.

St Paul's churchyard

It was being reported that the president was about to make an announcement, tonight. Nothing was confirmed but it was reported that supposedly Osama Bin Laden had been killed, and the information that was coming across the newswires was that it was due to US military action.

I stopped what I was doing and waited. This was huge.

The morning after, there was no question about it. I had to go to Ground Zero. The pictures the night before, at the White House, in Manhattan, cities all over America, had been of defiant jubilation. The chants of 'USA, USA, USA' echoing into the night sky.


But the next day, at the site that bore the awful pain of the event that started this all, there was no ugly bullish arrogant chanting by the keg-swilling frat boys. 

There was quiet relief. There was recognition that whilst this victory would not be the full stop to this, the gratitude that justice had been done for New Yorkers today was thick in the air. It is all too rare in this world that evil gets its comeuppance, so the sense of dignified karmic retribution was one to be thankful for.

Land of the free and home of the brave

I've written my thoughts on 9/11 before, about as eloquently as I am capable of, so I'm not about to rehash it here. But suffice to say, as I think is clear from my ongoing laments that I don't live in New York anymore, this city means more to me than any place ever has in my life, in ways I couldn't even have imagined. 

So to be there, for this moment of triumph over the spectre that has hung like deathly shadow over the city for the past 10 years, was very special, and something that I will never forget.

This was my last day in New York City this time, but I'm happy to say that it was easier to leave it this time. Because as my dad (that font of all wisdom!) always says, if you don't leave - you can't come back again. And I will... and it won't take three years next time.