Pastry, Baking Blind and a Nice Big Tart

I’m not a pastry maker. More of an eater, for sure, but making it and deploying it seems to be one of life’s mental blocks. Discovering you can make it in a food processor made the Making easier, but the deployment? I’m still pretty cack-handed.

This is never going to be me.


However, I have finally succeeded in making pastry that’s edible, not reminiscent of dwarf bread, and crisply short.

Thank you, Jamie Oliver, for this recipe.


I made it in the food processor, adding 1 tsp vanilla extract to it, and watched in wonder as it all came together in a pale gold ball. I it wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to rest.

While that was resting, I made a frangipane filling. Tex loves bakewell tarts, so I wanted something along those lines. For that I turned to Mary Berry.


For the filling:

75g (3oz) butter, softened (I used salted as that’s what I had)

75g (3oz) golden caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

75g (3oz) ground almonds

1 tsp almond extract (we really like almond flavour)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Rolling the pastry out is usually where it goes wrong. This one was very well behaved but the edges seemed to crack a bit. No matter. It draped into my new fluted Le Creuset pie dish nicely. (Thank you Karen!)

I did the rolling pin over the top thing,. but that just seemed to squash the pastry rather than cut it. I expect the pie dish’s sides are too thick.

Put baking parchment in, (I scrunched it up foist so that it was more malleable)filled with lentils and baked blind for 15 minutes, then removed the lentils and baked for another 15. That SHOULD have been another 5, but I misread the recipe because I was over-excited.

It still came out very nicely. A bit brown, but tasty.


I spread spiced apple butter over the cooled base, filled it with the frangipane, angsted that there wasn't enough and baked it anyway.

The offcuts were made into 2 small tart shells, baked in a Lakeland perforated silicone mould then filled with fresh cherries and more frangipane.


Definitely one to make again! Judging by Tex’s reaction, this may be one that doesn’t get taken to work to share out…

Frangipane and apple butter tart


Melty Nutella Ice-lollies


It’s all Kavey’s fault. Yes it is.

She runs a lovely blog, and has a Bloggers Scream For Ice-cream monthly challenge. This month it was ice lollies.

My first effort was nice, but way, way too sweet, and failed totally at coming out of my make-shift moulds. (Condensed milk mixed with rhubarb and custard jam topped with peanut butter.)

So I tried again. I wanted rich, but not heavy. Summer to me always means Italy, and Italy means hazelnuts and hazelnuts mean…


These are easy, though I admit they would be much easier with silicone lolly moulds! I only made enough for 2, as that was all the room I had in the freezer.

Melty Nutella Lollies

100g Nutella

100ml hazelnut milk

1 tsp hazelnut flavour syrup (the kind to flavour coffee)

Whisk all the ingredients together.

Pop a dollop of Nutella in the bottom of 2 plastic cups.

Pour the mixture into the cups up to about halfway.

Put them in the freezer.

When frozen enough to insert a stick, er, insert a stick. I didn’t have a stick. I used what I had.

When frozen solid, cut the cup open and release the goodies!

These really are very melty, though it being 25C in Romford today probably didn’t help.



My next idea involves filling the cup with Nutella, making a well in the centre, and filling it with the hazelnut milk/Nutella mixture. Because it would be FUN. (The Nutella freezes more solidly than the milk mixture.

(And also buying proper lolly moulds…)


Jet2holidays Country Cuisine Challenge

I was asked if I wanted to take part in the Jet2Holidays Country Cuisine Challenge, and when I saw that Larnaca was one of the regions on the list that we could choose from, I jumped at the chance.
My father was born in Larnaca and even though, sadly, I’ve never been to visit, just passed through the airport, I still find I have a small link to it though the stories that Dad used to tell me from when he was a young boy there. My mum now lives on the Turkish side, so I don’t come via Larnaca any more. The food is very similar though because, let’s face it, we’re all from roughly the same part of the world, and we all eat bread and houmous, just via different recipes.

Cyprus is beautiful, and is said to be the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. I would very much recommend a visit, and once you've been, you will find yourself wanting to go back again and again. Jet2Holiday's Larnaca page is here, so go and have a good rummage and  choose where you want to go! http://www.jet2holidays.com/cyprus/larnaca-area 

Cypriot cuisine has Middle Eastern overtones. There’s a very good Wikipedia article here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypriot_cuisine 

We’ve been invaded by just about everyone, and kept a lot of the culinary influences. We might not have wanted you as our overlords, but we’ll take your spices thank you very much!
Cumin is one of those spices. Mix it with cinnamon and you have a heady, rich blend that, to me, just says Cyprus. They are the spices in Hirino Spithkasimo (Homestyle Pork) which is a great favourite of mine. Good and hearty, and another one of those dishes that just gets better over time. It was a bit too warm today to have the oven on for any length of time, so I thought I’d use the same spices, but on lamb chops. You know how Greek people love their lamb, right?

Given the lovely weather, chargrilled meat and salads just seemed the right thing to do so I went to my local Turkish shop, who stocks lots of things from Cyprus, to see what I could find. I never really plan ahead, I just go and see what looks good.

There was gorgeous broadleaf spinach, sweeter and less iron heavy in flavour than the small leafed variety. Potatoes still red with the earth they were grown in, small cucumbers, more crisp than the English ones. Greek yoghurt too, and lovely Cypriot anari cheese, made in Larnaca.



There is something about those potatoes. Not just their flavour, which is creamy and rich, but the fact that they are covered in the earth of Cyprus. They are usually sold with a heavier covering of earth, and that keeps them fresh. It makes me smile to have that dirt on my hands.

So. Lamb was my choice of meat, and anyone who has been to Greece over Easter will be well aware of how the smell of lamb cooking over the coals permeates the country. Lamb cooked on the barbecue it had to be. Coals, not gas.

The butcher had gorgeous chump chops in stock, so four of them found their way into my shopping basket.

Cumin and Cinnamon Crusted Lamb chops

4 chump chops, fat ON (never de-fat meat that’s going to be barbecued. That’s pure flavour and juiciness.)
3/4 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs dried mint
1/2 tsp sea salt

Put the chops into a bowl, douse with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle in the herbs and spices. 

Make sure every surface of the meat is covered with the spice mix. Don’t be scared to add more if there are gaps in the coverage.

Leave them to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight if you can.

Take them out of the fridge half an hour before you want to start cooking.

I lit the  bag of charcoal, and after about 20-30 minutes it had a fine covering of white ash.

Got the chops from their marinade, placed them in the middle of the grill of the barbecue and cooked them for around 10 minutes on each side, then moved them to the edges to cook a little more but at a lower heat. (I put the flatbreads on once I’d moved the lamb.)

They ended up sizzling, juicy and slightly pink inside.


Lemon Potato Salad

Cyprus is covered in lemon trees. Everybody seems to have one, and there is so much fruit everywhere. I imagine that people must get fed up with them, there are so many.

Every gathering I went to as a child seemed to have potato salad on the table. Usually dressed with a lot of lemon and olive oil, and with chopped parsley. I wanted something like that, but lighter, so I added a few more vegetables for crunch.

IMG_3714 copy

I had a lot of garlic and lemon oil left over from cooking garlic courgettes on Friday night, so used that, but any good full flavoured olive oil will be fine.

2 large Cyprus potatoes, peeled and boiled til soft, drain and keep warm

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small cucumber, chopped

1 stalk celery, very finely chopped (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the warm potatoes in a bowl, pour over the olive oil and lemon.

Add a shake of salt, the rest of the vegetables, then mix well.

Keep this one at room temperature.


I had to do something with that lovely spinach. I knew that I had half a jar of roasted aubergines to use, so a spinach aubergine salad came to mind.


These jars are well worth looking out for. Most Turkish shops will stock them. The aubergines are roasted, smoked and peeled, and chopped. I had a beautiful soup made from them when I was in Cyprus, and still have the recipe that the café owner gave me, written in a scrap of paper, tucked into my spice box.

This is not a pretty salad by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a very tasty one.

Spinach and Smoked Aubergine Salad

1 large bunch of broadleaf spinach, roots chopped off and VERY well washed

1/2 a jar of roasted aubergines

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan, and gently cook the garlic until translucent.

While that’s cooking, chop the spinach finely and give it a second rinse. They do seem to hold sand.

Put the chopped spinach into the oil, and cook it down. Lots of water will come out, so tip most of it out, then add in the aubergine and keep cooking.

More moisture will happen, but keep cooking and eventually it will evaporate.

A little liquid is fine, as that keeps it light.

Taste it and season to taste with salt and lemon. This is very nice when it’s warm, as the smoke seems to come through more.


A Cypriot meal wouldn’t be a meal without bread. I didn’t have time to make a whole knead, rise, knead, rise loaf so flat bread was an option, plus I wanted something that I could cook on the barbecue. I HATE wasting the heat left in a barbecue once the main cooking’s been done.

I did a search for ‘quick flatbread’ and found a Jamie Oliver recipe for Navajo Flat Breads. Easily adaptable, so some of my immense supply of Cyprus mint went into them.


I certainly didn’t want 10 of them, as there was only me, so I halved the recipe.

Navajo Flatbreads

300g strong white flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp dried mint

1/2 tsp ground cumin

3 tbs olive oil

75ml warm water (or more if needed)

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and herbs or spices in a large bowl. I use a dinner knife for that bit.
Make a bit of a dip in the centre, then pour in the olive oil and the warm water. (I found that I needed more than the 75ml)

Use the knife to gradually bring in the flour from the edge of the bowl, and add another splash of water if you think it's too dry.

Once it starts to combine, wet your hands and use them to really bring it all together until you have a cohesive ball of dough.

Dust your hands and a clean work surface with flour and knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. (I oiled my hands, that helped a lot.)

Pop the dough back into the bowl, dust it with a bit more flour, then cover and leave to relax.

After about 10 minutes, divide your dough into 5 equal-sized balls, then lightly oil your hands and press each ball between your palms to flatten them slightly.

Dust with a little flour as you go, and pat and slap the dough from the palm of one hand to the top of the other. Turn and twist the dough about in a circular movement as you go and keep slapping from hand to hand – each flatbread should be about 1cm thick. (I admit that I didn’t do this. I just flattened them and then rolled them out.)

Then I popped them onto the barbecue until they were cooked through. They puff up a little bit.


I’d made the dessert earlier in the day, to give the flavours a chance to get to know each other.

Anari, Rose, Pistachio and Honey Dessert

1 package of fresh anari cheese (you can use well drained ricotta)

5-6 tbs Greek yoghurt

2 tsp rose water (add 1 first and see how you like the taste. If you don’t like rose water, use orange flower water.)

5 tbs honey

Mash the anari, and mix in the yoghurt. It won’t go completely smooth but it will even out.

Add in the rosewater and the honey. Taste it, and see if you need a bit more honey.

Leave it to sit in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Pile into a dish, and top with toasted pistachio nuts and a bit more honey.


All in all, it was a very successful dinner. I felt that I had done my Dad proud, and managed to get the flavours that he would have recognised into my cooking.

Miss you, Dad.

The flying ants descended just as I finished dishing up, so I decamped inside. I appear to have a very well behaved cat, as she totally ignored the food, and went back to sleep again.


This lot also did me for a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner! Anari dessert with tinned peaches is rather lovely for breakfast.

Thank you to Jet2Holidays for providing the budget for my shopping.


The Greek Larder

Greek Larder

There are days when I just want Greek food. Not food that I have cooked, but food where I do not have to do the clearing up afterwards.

One evening earlier this year, the sun had been shining all day, and I just craved lemons and olive oil and fish. Then The Greek Larder Tweeted a photo of their fish platter, and that was that.

Called Dining Partner, and we decided to go.

It’s only a bus ride from my work to King’s Cross, and then a short walk over the canal. This time we nearly got blown over trying to get into the restaurant. It’s on the corner and, believe me, the wind fair gusts in through their front door, so do ask for a table away from it. We suffered that night from a raft of people either unable to close the door, or who wanted to stand and hold it open whilst they chatted, and it got very cold after a while as we were sat behind some open shelves that provided no shelter.


That was the only thing that I would have a moan about, because everything else was perfect.

I’m just going to link to the menu, because there were so many things that I wanted to try, that choosing was almost unbearable, but we managed. Eventually. http://www.thegreeklarder.co.uk/menu/all-day-menu/

We didn’t have bread, because we knew what would happen. Eat all the bread, fail to fit anything else in. I didn’t want to miss anything!

It made sense to order the Aegean shrimp & squid fritto, slow cooked button onions, tomato & Santorinian capers , seeing as that was what had started me off on this route in the first place.


I am not a fan of prawns cooked with their shells on. Ok, cooked, maybe, but served with them on, not so much, unless they are really big and I can shell them easily. These ones did have their shells on, but they were so fine, and delicate that I could eat the whole thing.  So I did. It made my life much easier.

The squid was perfect. Tender, and clean tasting. I’m not sure the onions were needed, but I ate them anyway, as they were so juicy.

The next plate was the home cured salt cold starter, and it was utterly beautiful. Crunchy batter, with salty steamed fish inside, but with a good bite to it. Yes, salty, but in a good way. How your lips taste after a dip in the sea, and redolent of sunny days on the beach.


The skordalia underneath it was the best that I have eaten, and I could have eaten a bowl of that on its own with a spoon and some bread. Not too garlicky, but smooth and rich. I just didn’t want it to end.

Now, I will admit that I hated salt cod as a child, but I expect that came from having to spend two days in a house smelling of fish while Dad soaked the plank of cod and then cooked, skinned and deboned it.

I was happily converted by salt cod croquettes in Italy, back in the late 70s, and this dish surpassed that memory.

Simon had the Kefalotiri saganaki, with smoked red onions, and candied chanterelles.


I have never eaten a candied mushroom before, and this was a revelation. Very sweet, but with a musky back tone to it. Plus what’s not to like about smooth and tangy fried cheese?

Next – the mains. I tend to choose by way of what I wouldn’t cook at home. Cuttlefish is not something that I could attempt, mainly because I have a contact allergy to fish and seafood.

The Casserole of cuttlefish and artichokes was destined to be mine. Sounds very simple, and it was but the amount of flavour they got into that stock was unbelievable. Deeply savoury, but light, fresh and lemony with a good hit of herbs. This came under the heading of a ‘loathe to share’ dish.

The cuttlefish was meaty, with a good bite to it but it was not in any way tough.  


Simon ordered Seasonal filo pie, fennel salad & tzatziki. The filling was spinach and feta, so he was a happy boy. There was a lot of pastry crust, but it was very good pastry, so all was well.


We really did not need the side salad, but it had dakos in it, so…there you go. Plus I adore griddle lettuce, so a salad of Griddled little gem lettuce, fennel, pistachio and Cretan rusks was going to be a winner for me.


Dessert? Not a chance. It was time to roll home.

All in all, a lovely evening. I even had a foray into the deli counter and bought some lovely smoked metsovone cheese to take home. I’m not allowed to buy olives at the moment, I have enough from my own tree to get through.

Go, and go soon. This place is so good, and I will no doubt be back a few times to see how the menu changes with the seasons. If it’s winter though, just don’t sit by the door!

Lemon and olive oil cakes

There are days when you just want cake. Saturday was just such a day, and it seemed that every TV show did its very best to mention cake, or have cakes in it.

It was too hot to actually make any, but oh boy did I read about baking. Nigella’s Chocolate Hall of Fame in Feast went some way to assuage the cake craving. The photos on their own contain a month’s worth of calories.

To be honest, though, what I really wanted was Bakewell tarts, but I didn’t want to make pastry. See the above too hot comment.

Today was a lot cooler, so baking happened. I love lemon, and obviously I adore olive oil. The two together in a cake is a very good combination. A quick Google netted me this blog: http://www.olivetomato.com/greek-lemon-cupcakes-with-greek-yogurt-and-olive-oil/#ixzz3fhs9GtfG

The smell of fresh lemon zest hitting an olive oil laden batter is rather heavenly, so I made them, but with my own adjustments. Of course!

Lemon Cakes with Greek Yogurt and Olive Oil.


2 cups flour (I used self raising)

4 teaspoons baking powder NO WAY. Ugh.

1/2 cup fine brown sugar

1 cup olive oil

200g thick Greek yogurt

2 eggs

Lemon juice from 1 ½ -2 lemons

Lemon zest from 2 lemons

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon extract

Lemon curd


Preheat oven at 350 degrees F (180 degrees Celsius)

Line a muffin pan with muffin liners.

In a large bowl mix sugar and olive oil and whisk well.

Add the eggs and whisk again.

Add in the yogurt, zest, lemon juice and extracts and mix well.

Add the flour ½ a cup at a time to the batter while mixing.

Put a tablespoon of batter in each case, pop on a 1/2 tsp of lemon curd, then cover with more batter until just over 2/3 full.

Bake for 30 minutes, until risen and golden. (Toothpick test fail, as it hits lemon curd.)



Getting sticky with Paul Hollywood

Yes, that Paul Hollywood. The Silver Fox himself.

I am aware that many people aren’t enamoured of him, but I’ve been watching him on TV for a lot of years, and he won me at ‘Cyprus’. He may be a rotter, or he may not, I have no idea, and am not bothered about his private life because it’s, you know, PRIVATE, but he talks with such affection about his time in Cyprus (6 years living there) and about baking that I just like him. It also helps that I find him very easy on the eye. (Bike! Bike!)


Plus he’s friends with my lovely Tonia Buxton, and that counts for a lot.

I’ve recently been reading some of his books. It started with my watching his series about baking and bread again, and realising that I now have a Kindle. This makes things a lot easier when cooking in a kitchen with very little work surface.

How to Bake and Bread were soon purchased. So was a lot of flour.

I often say that I don’t eat a lot of bread, but when I do, I want that bread to be tasty, and as good as it possibly can be. Baking good bread myself has eluded me over the years, except for my Turkish acma, which is gorgeous every time, but not the bread I wanted to bake.

Tex loves bread with a crisp crust, and I could never seem to get it right.

Until Mr Hollywood’s books came along.

‘Bread’ was the first book I read, and I decided to try the bloomer, because Tex likes those. I know a lot of people say to use the methods where you don’t knead as much, but I wanted to do it the hard way, from the start, to prove [ha ha ha] that I could. Also, I am not an accomplished baker, so it makes sense to get used to the feel of dough, and to stop being scared of it.

I have found Paul’s recipes to be very well written, nicely clear, and confidence building. They make me feel that every recipe is within my grasp. I don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, so it’s all got to be done by hand anyway. Using a food processor with a dough hook was a NO, and we won’t talk of it again. Well, maybe a bit.

I followed the directions to the letter. I know I am usually one for tweaks, but when it comes to the mystery that is bread I’m not going to mess with it. Not yet, anyway, but…well…I didn’t have enough strong bread flour, so I had to make up the shortfall with plain. I panicked a little, but then got on with it.

I’m going to put the whole recipe here, with my adjustments, because it just worked, and his way of writing is, to me, perfect.


If you’re new to bread-making this is a good recipe to start with, as it shows you the key techniques you need to master. It’s vital to knead the dough vigorously to develop the gluten and give the dough stretchiness, and to knock back and shape the loaf well. All this strengthens the structure so the dough can rise upwards without a tin. The loaf gets its name from the way it rises and ‘blooms’ like a flower in the oven. The term also describes the lustre you get with a well baked loaf that has a crisp crust.


500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting (I had to use 300g strong, 200g plain)

10g salt (It seems a lot. It’s not. It works.)

7g fast-action dried yeast

40ml olive oil, plus extra for oiling

320ml cool water – (Yes, COOL water. A revelation.)

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Pour in the oil and 240ml of the water and use the fingers of one hand to mix the ingredients together. Use a clawing action to stir the water into the dry ingredients, so you gather in all the flour.

Once you’ve got going, add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a soft, sticky (but not soggy) dough and you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the water; it will depend on the absorbency of the flour you’re using. (Bear in mind that the dough will become less sticky as you knead.) 

Pour a little oil onto a work surface. I use oil rather than flour to stop the dough sticking to the surface as it keeps the dough soft and does not alter the balance of flour to water. A wetter dough is harder to handle at first, but produces better bread.

Knead the dough for 5– 10 minutes (or longer if you’re a beginner). It will become less sticky and eventually turn into a smooth ball with an elastic texture.

(I re-oiled my hands when it got a bit too sticky, and boom! It worked! I could feel the dough change texture under my fingers and become much more elastic. )

The time this takes depends on how vigorous you are with the dough. It is ready when it is really stretchy: if you pull a piece of the dough between your fingers you should be able to stretch it to at least 20cm. (I never quite got it to that stage.)

Put the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rise until tripled in size – at least 1 ½ hours, but it can take up to 3 hours depending on the temperature. A slow rise develops a better flavour, so don’t put it in a warm spot. (Yes, I know, goes against the grain doesn’t it?)

The ambient temperature in most kitchens is between 18 ° C and 24 ° C, which is perfectly adequate.

Place the risen dough on a lightly floured surface. You now need to ‘knock back’ the dough by folding it in on itself several times and pushing out the air with your knuckles and the heels of your hands. Do this until all the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth.

To shape the dough into a bloomer, first flatten it into a rectangle, with a long side facing you. Fold the long side furthest from you into the middle of the rectangle. Then fold the long side closest to you into the middle, on top of the other fold. Turn the loaf over, so you have a smooth top with a seam along the base. Tuck the ends of the loaf under to make a rough oval shape. Rock the loaf gently so you form the loaf into its bloomer shape. The bread is now ready to prove.

This second rise of the shaped loaf is one of the secrets of great bread, enabling the dough to develop even more flavour as the yeast ferments and giving it a lighter texture.

Put the loaf on a baking tray (lined with baking parchment or silicone paper if it isn’t non-stick). Put the whole tray inside a large, clean plastic bag, making sure there is plenty of space above the surface of the dough so it won’t touch the plastic when it rises. Leave the loaf to prove, or rise again, until doubled in size; this will take about 1 hour.

To check when the bread is ready for the oven, gently press it with your finger: the dough should spring back. While the bread is proving, heat your oven to 220 ° C and put a deep roasting tray on the bottom shelf to heat up.

Lightly spray or sprinkle the bread with water. Dust with a handful of flour, smoothing it all over the top of your loaf with the palm of your hand. Be gentle – you don’t want to knock any air out of the loaf.

Using a very sharp knife, make 4 diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf, 2– 3cm deep and at a 45 ° angle. This gives your loaf the classic bloomer finish: on baking the loaf expands, so the slashes open up. If you do not slash the top, as the bread continues to expand once the crust has formed, cracks will form around the bottom of the crust. (My loaf was a bit misshapen, and possibly the slashes were too deep and straight but hey ho.)


Just before you put the loaf in the oven, pour about 1 litre water into the roasting tray. This will create steam when the loaf is baking and give it a crisp crust and a slight sheen. (This is a lot of water, and I wasn’t sure about it, but it definitely works!)

Place the loaf on the middle oven shelf and bake for 25 minutes at 200 ° C.

Then lower the oven setting to 200 ° C and bake for a further 10– 15 minutes, until the crust has a good colour.

Hold the loaf in a tea towel and tap the bottom. If the loaf sounds hollow, then it is ready. Put the loaf on a wire rack and leave it to cool completely.




Hollywood, Paul (2014-09-11). Paul Hollywood's Bread (Kindle Locations 320-332). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Apart from the flour, I followed this to the letter. And I am really glad I did!

Basking in the glow of this success, I tried mini baguettes. I did have a bit of an equipment fail, with the Food Processor Incident of which we are sort of not speaking. [sigh] Yes, the dough was very wet, so it essentially snaked up the internal column of the processor, over the top and down again on the inside of the internal column. [sighs again] I managed to clean it all off, and just finished the kneading off by hand in a very sticky fashion.


BUT I persevered, with very, very sticky dough, and this happened.


And then this!


I cannot tell you how pleased I was to present Tex with a light, crackling crust bread, as the poor chap worked on the weekend.


I’d obviously gotten carried away with all this baking.

It’s true what the man says “Be warned: many people find that baking is addictive. Once you get into it, you just want to bake more and more. It’s not just about wanting to get better. There’s also something magical about the transformative nature of baking. You start off with a slop in a bowl and end up with something crisp, warm and full of flavour that goes with anything.”

I just wanted to bake. Cursed with a Waking Up Very Early few weeks, bread happened again.

This is a Cob Loaf.



I think I might try baguettes again soon. Without the food processor…



It’s been a bit of a week. Monday 8th, I had a wisdom tooth out. Not such a big thing you may say. Take a fear of dentists, an utterly hair trigger gag reflex (yes, even the simple act of brushing my teeth makes me almost Be Unwell) and you have a person who is most definitely not going to have a wisdom tooth out with just a local. Add in the fact that it was an impacted tooth growing the wrong way…and you get the picture.

My instruction to my lovely dentist was “Knock me the hell out, and I’m all up for the op.”

She agreed.


Monday came, they did indeed knock me the hell out, rough me up, stitch me back together and send me home.

Monday = no food, but mostly sleep. I think a chicken cup a soup happened, and I put in some trahanas to soak for soup in case I felt up to it.

Tuesday = OW OW OMG pills pills pills. Once they’d kicked in, I set about making smoothies. I’d stocked up on lovely Turkish yoghurt, nice and tangy, and lots of fruit. I’d also made up a big batch of almond butter. (3 cups roasted skin on almonds, drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, whirr in the food processor for longer than you think.)

Thinned down trahanas for dinner.

Tuesday Smoothie

1 punnet of strawberries, about 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbs honey and 2 scoops whey protein powder. Absolutely what I needed. Light, easy to drink, and extremely fresh and tasty. Believe me, you want something fresh tasting when you can still taste the stitches. This made a fabulous breakfast and lunch.


Wednesday = more improvement, still woozy as anything.

Wednesday Smoothie

It needed to be a bit more substantial this time as I felt a bit  better and was hungry.

10 fresh apricots, 2 white doughnut peaches, 2 tbs almond butter, 5 heaped tbs yoghurt, almond milk again to thin it a bit and 2 scoops protein powder to make it more filling. I added in rose and vanilla extracts and honey.

This one blew me away with how good it was.  It had an almost mousse like texture, which was very satisfying. The rose lifted it into a heavenly realm for me.



Thursday Smoothie

By the Thursday I was back at work, as the last of the sedative had more or less left my system. I bought a smoothie for lunch but it couldn’t match up to my own ones.

My one was 5 white doughnut peaches, 1 banana, yoghurt and almond butter with added honey, plus vanilla and almond extracts.

No photo, I drank it far too quickly, and it looked  just like Wednesday Smoothie , to be honest.

Friday night I managed a small dinner of *woohoo* solid food, and even though I’m not back to 100% normal yet (it’s Saturday today) I can eat most things, so long as the pieces aren’t too big., as I still can’t fully open my mouth.

I realised though that I really missed my smoothie today, so I’ve made another one for breakfast. It’s in the fridge now. I feel ridiculously organised.

My Not Out of Necessity Smoothie

2 bananas, 1/4 cup oats, 2 tbs almond/peanut butter, 1 scoop protein powder, almond milk, honey. I want to drink it all now.

Next up, I think, will be trying out almond milk with dates, cinnamon and orange flower water.

I also want to do a lighter one with watermelon, strawberries and rose.

Bananas and coconut milk with maybe some lime zest will also happen.

This is turning into a huge amount of fun. And no, there will NOT be one with kale in. Or beetroot.


Chop Bloc, Chelmsford

I heard about Chop Bloc via Gary on Twitter. I’m not sure how a new steak place opening up not that far from us managed to pass me by, but it had. We’ve eaten at Miller & Carter in Chelmsford quite a few times, and have always found them to be of excellent quality, and good value, so we decided to check out Chop Bloc to see what they were like too. And, you know, because Steak.

Their location is a little tricksy, as they are in the town centre, so the SatNav got confused, then so did we. (I called them. Park in the carpark by Mothercare, head over the bridge, and they are just beyond Giraffe)

They’re in a corner with a few other chain restaurants, but they are built into an 18th Century grain house, so they look sufficiently different.

It has a dark feel, lots of exposed brick and wood floors, but it feels comfortable. I do love a good bit of brick.


We were shown straight to our table (they have a staircase, but they also have a lift. Yay Accessibility!) We sat for a bit, breathing in the smoky scent from the Josper charcoal grills/ovens.There’s a lovely roasting beef scent to the place, as you would expect. And they really know their beef.

To quote Gary;

“Sourced from an supplier of Hereford cattle, they take the unusual (for the UK) move of dry aging the meat onsite. There’s storage for over three tons of beef in the building, which gives the chef great flexibility to portion the meat when it’s at its finest.”

THREE TONS. Sounds like a beautiful thing to me.

Now, when steak is sold by the gram, I get confused, and preoccupied with working out how much it is in ounces, and then thinking “Would I really pay that much for a steak?!” quite a lot. It takes a while to get over that.


It would be very, very easy to spend well over a ton here, without really noticing, in the first five minutes.

However. We eventually settled on the ribeye, as that’s our benchmark steak. Medium well for Tex, medium rare for me.

I love that each steak has a stick in it so you know which is which.


I am not sure a starter would be wise, even though they all sounded very tempting, especially the Panko Pork Belly.

Tex got chipotle fries with his steak, and a side salad. I had poutine, because I’ve never had it, and plain corn.

The Ribeye

I was very, very happy with my steak. Very.

The corn was very nice. A smoked taste to it, which can get a bit samey if everything has it, but then I love smoke, so I didn't mind at all. The small pieces of spring onion give it a nice tang.

WARNING KLAXON: The Poutine is huge. It really is a dish to share. Honestly. We did point out that perhaps a warning should be put next to it on the menu.


That’s fries, with cheese curds, drenched in an amazing gravy. It’s rich, very dark, and made from all the bones, including veal bones.

The Gravy

That’s not simply the bottom of the pot in there, that’s beef jus. If they sold just a cup of that with some bread, I’d buy it. One of their sides is mash and gravy. I am so having that next time.

I do think that a side of a simple salad would be useful. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber. Just that. Tex’s salad had lots of things in it, half of which he picked out. (Green pepper shouldn’t be thing.) Miller & Carter do an Iceberg wedge, with a choice of dressings, and that’s perfect. Good and crunchy to cut through the richness of the steak.

Have another corn photo. Yes, I liked it that much. It didn’t need butter, it was tasty enough on its own.

Barbecue Corn

The only drawback was the noise level. The room that we were in seemed to be exceptionally echoey, not helped by a table of shouty men by us. The lack of anything, acoustic-wise, to absorb the sound, was extremely noticeable and, to be honest, it hurt my ears. Everything seemed to be amplified. It needs some nice carpet! (I know it doesn’t go with the look. But it does. Or at the very least some acoustic dampers like wall hangings.)


All in all, it was a very nice dinner. I think, for me, it would be a destination more for a special occasion, as yes, it is a bit expensive, but this is very, very good meat, and worth paying for.


Mabel’s. Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

I can’t remember now how I heard about Mabel’s. I think it might have been on Facebook, but I am ever so glad I did hear about it.

I signed up to their site, and got given a 50% off voucher for my first visit. We booked it up for the 14th of May, there and then.

It’s walking distance from work for me, which is a bonus, so I wandered along, went in and fell in love with the way they have decorated the place.  I very much mourn the demise of the Covent Garden Bar and Grill (sister restaurant to Porters, also sadly gone) on Henrietta Street, because I felt so comfortable there, but I think Mabel’s might replace it in my affections.

Maiden Lane needed some new blood. There’s the English plushness of Rules, which must never, ever change. A very good Thai restaurant called Thai Pin, and the Italianate hipness of Polpo, with its sharing plates, tattooed staff and scrubbed wooden floors.

Now there’s the Big Easy, looking like a be-neoned club, pumping smoke and grilled seafood scents into the street.

I think there’s still a GBK in the middle, and at the other end we have The Porterhouse which is a quite nice pub but very busy, and the inauthentic but still tasty La Tasca. La Perla do Mexican style food, and Fire & Stone are also along there. I admit their pizzas are very good. I’m just not a huge pizza fan. I might eat it once a year.

Mabel’s has taken over what used to be a cocktail bar, I think. They’ve done the place out in a very nice fashion, with lots of old pictures, mirrors

2015-05-15 17.56.18    20150514_123145

and a terribly overblown chandelier.


It all sounds a bit twee, but it really works. Not every chair is the same, but they blend in.


THEY USE PLATES. This is very important. If the food comes on a board or a tray for serving, as our first course did, they also give you a small plate.

There are no jam jars with handles to drink out of. Thank goodness.

When you first walk in, you enter a bar area, with high tables and stools. I thought someone was sitting in there working during their lunch, so didn’t pay proper attention, but it turned out to be a staff member trying to get my attention. Oops.

She was lovely, and was quite happy to seat me at a different table on their mezzanine floor, so that I wasn’t sitting with my back nearly up against a fire extinguisher, and almost in the doorway.

There’s a bar on this floor too, and the coffee machine is also there, which leads to an awful lot of banging when they thwack the coffee ground holder very hard to empty it. [narrows eyes] Yes, I jumped every time they did it as by Jove it echoes in there.

All very minor blips though.

There’s yet another seating area beyond the bar, so I might go in there next time!

Full marks ahoy for the food which, let’s face it, is what we were there for.

There’s a decent amount of choice on the menu, without being overwhelming. We had quite a hard time choosing, everything sounded so nice.

These are just the sandwiches. I wanted them all. I also want a cheese called Ogleshield. Because Ogleshield.


I want to go back and try the salads.


Finally we made a decision.

Duck Egg and Chive Mayo with Asparagus and walnut bread to share, then I chose Half a Smashed Chicken, and K had Battered Whale Haddock and chips.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.


The egg mayonnaise is rich, but not cloying. The chives lift it, and the eggs are very tasty. The Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is a perfect addition, and the asparagus was very nicely cooked. Tender, not soggy at all.

There was a lot of the mayo, so I am glad we shared, because oh my there was a lot of the main dishes.


Salt baked potatoes are a thing of wonder. They retain all of their goodness, and the skin is soft, but beautifully flavourful. Not overly salty at all. The chicken was very tender, with properly crisp skin, and a hint of smoke to it. It was also very nicely chicken-y. Not bland in any way.

The apple and fennel coleslaw needed to not have large chunks of spring onion, but for a fennel hater, the rest of this was a revelation. Fresh and light, with hardly any anise flavour at all but with a gorgeous crunch. I loved it. Once I’d pulled out the onion pieces.

We were a bit taken aback by the fish. Cor, mate.


Yes, that batter is as crisp a shell as it looks. It was light, not greasy, and the fish inside was perfect.

Now I know everywhere does chips, but these were lovely. They tasted properly home cooked, very, as Kath said, Chip-y. Nicely done all round.

Dessert wasn’t going to happen. So we’ll have to go back.

My only complain, if you can call it that, is that the drinks options for non-alcohol people are a bit limited. They have an extensive cocktail list, and wine/beer/champagne list, but no non-alcoholic ones at all.

Tea, coffee, Fentimans juices, which I find way too sweet, or water, really. You do get tap water without asking, which is good.



I would have loved to see a small list of pretty mocktails, like Hush has, but they aren’t on there yet. Ok, ok I am being picky, I expect but not everyone drinks.

We were told that of an evening you can ask the bartender and they'll make you something.

I love this list at Hush. It’s seasonal too, I believe.


Overall, it’s a 9.5/10 for Mabel’s. I honestly can’t wait to go back and try more things from the menu. I very much enjoyed the experience there, it’s a very nice place to sit and chat, and eat lovely food, so thank you Mabel’s!