After some rather delicious kaiserschmarren at Boopshi's the other week, B continued on his bugging of me to make these kaiserchmarren he had spotted in the FT many weekends ago. And for some reason he had decided they were to be breakfast. I didn't tell him about the splash of rum; it was a Sunday after all, so no harm done.
Fluffly, meringue-y egg whites folded in to the rich, bright mix, then bubbling gently in a deep pan, tossed, lightly golden, torn into almost perfect shreds, dolloped with some freshly made blueberry compote, dusted with icing sugar. Super delicious, super easy to work your way through platefuls of them. And then kid yourself that they're not too bad as the only sugar is whatever you scatter on top. Typical of the always rather health conscious Rose Carrarini.
Perfect breakfast, perfect brunch, perfect pudding. Any excuse.
B has instigated a bit of a polenta obsession round here lately. And he's done such wonderful things with it I had to prove myself by using it too. Sharing a delicious slice of orange and chocolate polenta cake in the office last week made sure that this weekend, polenta and cake were going to meet.
Leith's Baking Bible was called forth from its parking space on the shelf. I didn't have the exact ingredients so fiddled with it slightly. But only slightly. And I'm making the poppy seeds essential. They should not be optional. Neither should a dollop of crème fraîche to serve.
I'm trying to overcome my fear of meringues. I can't seem to ever get them to the perfect balance: I panic they'll be too chewy and soft and end up making them too crisp, or I worry they're crisping up too quickly and they end up squidgy and with no protective outer shell. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. The Meringue Girls cookbook is helping: everything inside it is so beautiful, I want to make it all, and can spend far too much time sitting, admiring, oohing and aahing at each and every photo.
I had a tough time choosing what to cook for a visiting T. Eventually I settled on this pile of heaven. Chocolate meringue (which was this time slightly too crisp - time to try again...), dollops of mascarpone and swirls of salted caramel, sweetly poached pears, toasted walnut pieces and melted chocolate, all built up in the Jackson Pollock approached demanded by the gorgeous Meringue Girls.
Do I need to tell you it was fabulous? Probably not. It was. I cannot wait for the leftovers this evening.
But I realise that I have missed Valentine's Day and so that this is perhaps no longer relevant. But these rather large treats are heart shaped, so there's no escaping it. And I wouldn't want to lie to you.
They also provided me with an opportunity to buy a jar of Nutella. A big jar. Just in case I ran out. So they give you the opportunity to do the same, now that this red heart filled day has passed.
Taken from the ever-inspiring Deb at Smitten Kitchen I set about toasting hazelnuts, shelling them (it's true that I didn't do this as thoroughly as Deb may perhaps have liked), mixing in dark sugar (also darker than Deb may have wanted), and pouring flour everywhere as I rolled and cut, impatiently waiting for them to cool before spreading them with lashings of Nutella and munching as I went. A spoonful of Nutella for the biscuit, a spoonful of Nutella for me.
Perfect with tea, and then with coffee, on a slow Valentine's weekend Saturday morning. My Valentine was suitably smiley.
I think almost every other London-based food blogger has already told you to go to Boopshi's. So I'm going to be super unoriginal and do the same. Stripped back and bare (but without the recycled wood that snag your tights every single time); light and buzzy with glass walls and lights shining through the semi-transparent interior; tucked into a small corner right in the centre of town, and serving lethally delicious drinks and fabulously enormous schnitzel, there is no reason not to go. Unless you're a vegetarian. Then I might let you off. But you should still go and have many drinks and many spätzle and cheese.
We have decided we need to return to try the two cocktails we didn't get to on the list. And the Prosecco on tap. I was too distracted by the cocktails as big as my head, the colours like a Panetone colour guide, that were far too yummy, to be thinking about Prosecco.
Pork schnitzel for me, chicken for B. Mine with a duck egg and capers, his with a hen egg. With spätzle and cheese, and a bit of speck for good measure, and a house salad, which, that day, was crunchy fresh leaves, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and roasted walnuts with a zingy dressing. The portions poured over the sides of the oh-so-trendy enamelware plates. There was no attempt at pretentiousness. They do schnitzel. They do spritzers. And they do it so well.
Just enough space to share some kaiserschmarrn for pudding (which I didn't photograph as it wasn't the most beautiful plate of food) left us with that lasting happy memory you search for in the final moments of a smiling evening. I'd go back next week: schnitzel and spritz are a new favourite.
Highlight: those cocktails
Lowlight: the blast of freezing air every time someone opened the door. A small detail. But it was chilly.
Okay. New resolution. Must stop getting obsessed with certain things. Lily Vanilli overdose (I, personally, don't think that's possible, but I appreciate you may not agree) on this here little blog at the moment. I apologise. (Not very sincerely).
Anyway, I had a whole Sunday free. So I had to bake something extravagant. And Lily's towering Zebra cake looked so perfect I couldn't help myself. Soon enough I had turned this little East End kitchen upside down and constructed a less than perfect triple layered marble cake covered in vanilla buttercream, and sprinkled with roast pistachios and dried roses. My marbling effect looked nothing like in the book. Nor did my buttercream. But that just means I'll have to try again soon.
It was then that I realised that there were only two of us, faced with a very big cake. I then had the most ridiculous worry that we were going to have to throw it away as we wouldn't get through it all before it became inedible. As if that was going to happen. Sometimes I really do question the workings of my mind. Very strange.
So it seems that I've gone from an overdose of cake on this blog to an overdose of fish. I promise this will be the last one for a while. Please bear with me!
I've never been much good at cooking meat. I guess you could say that I am pretty much a vegetarian. But I will happily munch my way through a roast chicken, a baby quail, lamb chops, and, very rarely, a perfect steak, if I'm not the one who's had to deal with the flesh, and as long as I know where it comes from and can be reassured that it had a happy life before it landed on my plate. A flexitarian, some may say. So when it comes to cooking a more 'decadent' meal, especially when B is around and wants more than our normal veggie fare, I find myself heading to the fishmonger. Fin and Flounder on Broadway Market is our favourite haunt. Leaves us with the excuse of picking up many other goodies that we don't really need but can't resist at the same time.
Last week it was these little rainbow trout. Actually not so little. But just small enough to be acceptable to eat one each. They looked so perfect, their pink flesh and bright scales shimmering in the lights. I didn't do much: turned the oven on, and put whatever I had in and on them (this time it was lemon, thyme, butter, garlic), and shoved them in the oven until they were done. What has come to be known in this little East London flat as 'Mary's potatoes' came with them. Boiled baby potatoes, chopped and mixed with lashings of greek yoghurt, horseradish (a lot, if you're like me), a dash of white wine vinegar, olive oil, lots and lots of dill, a couple of handfuls of capers, and of course, S and P. A winner every time. And it always puts a smile on everyone's faces: the explosion of flavours far from what's expected of the standard, British potato salad. Some crunchy leaves and a couple of toasted pine nuts for some colour, vitamins and bite. Et voilà, my kind of Sunday roast.
It's approaching Saturday lunch time. I had a night with no sleep, which was followed by a much happier breakfast in bed with the sun streaming through the windows. I forced myself out for a long run, looking forward to the sun shining on my face. This was not to be. As soon as I arrived at the park the heavens opened and the wind tried to blow me many, many miles away. I have returned home, bedraggled and exhausted, dreaming of the blue skies and sun we saw only a fortnight ago in Barcelona. It seems like it was months ago. And all of a sudden I have a craving for another Saturday lunch at Can Maño.
From the outside it doesn't look nondescript, it looks unappealing, it looks like the kind of place were you peer in to the fogged up windows and see the plastic tables crammed together, the crumbling ceiling and floor, the chairs which have been there for longer than I've been alive (and not in a good way). The kind of place where you stick your nose in before turning to the person standing next to you and telepathically agree to keep walking. However, this is Barcelona, this is Spain. And if there is one thing we learned on our short trip, it was that a sleek, chic restaurant does not mean good food. I think, in his role as economist, B has drawn a graph in his mind which shows this relation between décor and food, and according to that, this restaurant was going to be one of the best. It was.
In many of the reviews we had read it had said that this place did not welcome tourists; that the service was unpleasant and abrupt. Sounds perfect. We were shoved up against the wall, a menu thrown down, and drinks plonked next to us. A beer for B. A bottle of wine for me. I asked for a glass and was a little taken aback when he bought me a bottle. I looked around. Everyone else had a bottle. It's a dangerous system: he gives you a bottle, you drink what you want, and he estimates how much that is. The whole bottle is only €4.50 so it's never your wallet that will suffer. Just you.
Locals filled the rest of the tables, which were adorned with water glasses (no sign of wine glasses here - far too much of a faff), and plates and plates of fish and sea food. So we followed suit, trying our best to imitate their orders, trusting that the regulars knew best.
Fried aubergine and peppers appeared first. Any nutritional value removed in the cooking process. They tasted so good that I soon got over my neurotic watch on vitamin intake. A plate of six sardines, perfectly aligned, staring up at us, immaculately shining, beautifully simple, drizzled with a parsley butter sauce. Alongside them, a mackerel, cut open brutally, yet perfectly down the middle, baring its heart to us, covered in the same speckled green sauce. There was little conversation as we ate, working our way round the bony fish, eating every scrap of flesh, desperate to not miss a single mouthful. Eventually we were left with just a pile of bones, very full stomachs, and a smug feeling that we had discovered a miracle. And a slightly sad awareness that we wouldn't be eating as well as this for a very long time.
Highlight: the freshest of fresh fish. Oh, and the added bonus that the bill only came to €17.
Lowlight: the décor. The décor is not the reason you visit this place.
Can Maño: Calle de Baluard, 12, 08003, Barcelona (Barceloneta)
Too many components to that title. And I was beginning to feel resentful to all those components as my entire afternoon was spent following step after step after step. Flicking between pages. Using up all space in the flat and turning the sofa into a temporary counter top.
Make pastry. Then crumble. And caramelise some oranges. Oh and don't forget the custard. So my Saturday afternoon was spent. The oven facing the opposite way from the telly so the rugby wasn't in view. There were panicked moments as I realised that the custard in fact needed four hours in the fridge, and, unless we were going to be eating Spanish time, that just wasn't going to happen. I wasn't going to risk the chemical explosions that might happen if I put it in the freezer. So runny custard it was. Deliciously runny, with crunchy pastry, beautiful bright oranges, an a sweet crunchy crumble decoration. Lily Vanilli, you amazed again. I guess it was my own fault for not guessing from the title quite how many hours this challenge would take.
Recipe can be found in Lily's book 'Sweet Tooth'. It should be on your shelf, if not, buy it you fool.