Honey and
food and travel

Saturday, 30 November 2013

November snapshots

Friday, 29 November 2013

5 Things

I've been struggling to stay positive and full of cheer this week. So here's a list of little things that have made me smile:

1. Hot apple juice from le Pain Quotidien.
2. Coffee & a sugar crusted brioche with maman at Monmouth.
3. Flower shopping (even if they were for work) at Bloomsbury flowers.
4. Somerset House looking perfectly Christmas-sy with its ice skating rink. Ironic given that ice-skating is something I avoid like the plague.
5. Maria Elia's mac 'n cheese with greens from her gorgeous book 'Smashing Plates'.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Spelt Flour Brandy Brownies

We're off to visit our (not so) little brothers this weekend. I need to take them a small token of our affection, hinting at our appreciation for them taking time away from essay-writing to show us round the city of spires. So brownies they will get. I had every intention of following the London Bakes recipe for buckwheat flour brownies, but failed to find buckwheat. So I used spelt flour, making a couple of other alterations along the way. 

Spelt Flour Brandy Brownies (barely adapted from London Bakes)

Shopping list:

20cm square tin
150g butter
125g dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
120g brown sugar
4 eggs
Splash of vanilla extract
Large splash of brandy (or maybe two)
40g cocoa powder
80g wholemeal spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
Scattering of ground hazelnuts
A couple of generous pinches of salt


1. Heat the oven to 180C
2. Grease your cake tin
3. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, adding the brandy towards the end
4. Pour into a larger bowl
5. Mix in the sugar until well combined
6. Mix in the eggs one by one
7. Add the vanilla essence
8. Fold in the remaining ingredients until just combined
9. Bake in the oven for about half an hour - they should be bouncy when touched (but not collapsing under the light pressure of your fingers)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli

It has become a normal weekend event. It began with talks after holidays to Tuscany and Sicily, with  admiration (and idolisation) when buying dinner at the wonderful Burro e Salvia, and was ascertained as a sure-fire meal to impress after a class at Cucina Caldesi one Saturday evening.

Fresh pasta.

B's first batch of orecchiette took too many hours and too much stress. The result was a saddened B: the texture to chewy, the cooking time too long. Harumph. Resilience required.

Following the discovery of Smitten Kitchen's seven yolk recipe, a second batch was made. A success.

We were hooked. Tagliatelle alla norma; pasta con pesto; rocket and parmesan ravioli.

A few hours at Cucina Caldesi led us to understand and perfect the simpler, more traditional, and less rich pasta dough recipe: 100g flour to 1 egg. Mix it up to form a dough. Knead for longer than you want to. Roll. Shape. Done. A many layered lasagne was put together by the group: rich and meaty, creamy and crammed full with herbs and deep, embedded flavours. And finally we understood the art of making stunningly simple spinach and ricotta ravioli. A huge excitement for me as (as my family and B will tell you), this has been my desert island dish (obviously followed by apple crumble), for as long as I can remember. Folded over and frilled with a fork, finished with a drizzle of sage butter and a sprinkle of parmesan. Heaven.

As you may have picked up on, this is what filled last Sunday, with the help of some lovely Cambridge friends. A simple Sunday supper turning into a feast which took hours to prepare. B took on a teaching role and his students were most obliging. A kilo of pasta finally cooked and we didn't want to think about food for several days. (That's a lie, I woke up starving, but that's how I feel should have felt).

So this Saturday evening, at B's home home, his parents had requested a viewing of our new pastaficcio skills. We were more than happy to show. Lara the lion watched on, purring her approval. Spinach and ricotta ravioli it was. Little P gave us a helping hand. 'A quick learner' in her older brother's words. Only 10 minutes later than the allotted dinner time, we sat down to a veritable feast. Followed by Tarte Tatin and an evening lying on the sofa in front of Strictly, contented doesn't do justice to how we felt. No doubt this will be repeated in a week's time.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mayfields Wilton Way

Friday night. 7pm. Mayfields. 52 Wilton Way.

Where has November run away to?

With the sudden realisation that I could count out the number of November evenings left, I turned to B and announced that on Friday we would be going to Mayfields. I couldn't finish the month without my November to-do list being complete. Slight neurosis on my part.

Friday night saw a very long, very slow bus journey all the way from the 'office' in Covent Garden. Finally, almost an hour later, we reached Hackney. I am obsessed with this area of London and dream of living there some day soon. But this bus journey did manage to make me slightly more content with my current home in Bethnal Green.

We stepped inside this simply understated tiny white box decorated only with a jagged wooden wall dotted with lights. The week was sighed away with a quince gin fizz and a seat at a teeny tiny table. So many people have commented upon the size of their seats, complained about being squashed and uncomfortable. Honestly, it's not worth whining about. These small seats is what means the restaurant can exist as a business, can make enough money and turn enough tables. What's more, they also enable the relaxed, busy atmosphere that comes with that number of people in that sized space. London rent prices as they are, you're just going to have to get over not having a whole banquette to yourself.

Quince gin fizz; gin and tonic

After the wonderful new use of quince (to be made at home) in the gin fizz, and B's G&T, we scoured the menu. A simple list of ingredients made up the description of each dish. No hint at how anything was cooked, how it would be served. The only size indicator was the slight change in prices among the plates. They recommended 4 or 5 plates between two. Reluctantly we obeyed, leaving the other half of the menu to our imagination.

Quince gin fizz; bread

Potato, Rocket, Chestnut & Ginger merged typically British seasonal produce with an added buzz thanks to the exotic, warming ginger (another of B's favourite ingredients).

Potato, rocket, chestnut & ginger

Ricotta, Anchovy & Buckwheat was slightly too salty and dry - too much fish to ricotta ratio. And yes, we are slightly spoiled with ricotta expectations after our trip to Sicily in September. Herring, Horseradish, Salsify & Watercress redeemed everything and we were back on track. Vivid dabs of greens, delicate, metallic diamonds of herring, and a Bridget Riley-esque plating.

Turbot, Carrot, Pumpkin, Walnut & Ricotta was Instagram perfect and reminiscent of The Young Turks food in its ability to be delicious and beautiful. So often restaurants (rather like Frances of GBBO fame), place style over substance. As we all learned from Paul Hollywood's incessant repetitions, this is not what the customer wants. It is a marvellous, giggle-inducing surprise when such a pretty plate is so full of fascinating flavours.

And last but not least was Cod, Lardo, Leek, Mushroom & Jerusalem Artichoke. The muddy, dark flavours of the artichoke and wild mushrooms was balanced beautifully by the sweet onions, salty lardo and fresh cod.

The much shorter journey home saw me house-spotting again. The bus journey had been forgotten and I would happily add an extra half hour on to my commute if Mayfields could become my 'local'.

Highlight: beautiful presentation which matched the flavours
Lowlight: Ricotta, Anchovy & Buckwheat

Monday, 18 November 2013

Spiced apple custard tarts

Fighting the Sunday night blues, we hosted a Sunday night dinner party. Homemade pasta in ridiculous quantities took hours of rolling and delicate shaping. B and other B's determination to make the longest tagliatelle in the world prolonged this exercise even longer.

While they covered one half of the flat in flour, I had decided to bake Lily Vanilli's irresistible little spiced apple custard tarts in the other. I'd made the pastry the day before and assumed that was the hard work done. Mais hélas, I should have read more of the recipe. I needed to make custard, crumble, caramelised apples and leave it all to set and cool. Deep breaths (again - yes, they do seem to be becoming a daily occurrence). The custard could have done with a teeny bit longer in the fridge, but it and I and my lovely university-friend guests coped. The pasta building took longer than planned (B's pupils very willing but in no rush), giving me a much needed extra hour.

The circular (and rather rustic) end results were the perfect end to a perfect Sunday with some perfect friends.

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