Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Foodie goes North

Angel of the North, Lake District, Hadrian's Wall, Yorkshire moors....Yorkshire pudding...Yorkshire tea...

I think you know where I'm going with this. The five hour something train journey up to visit my boyfriend bought a whole new culinary experience; though not all of it traditionally Northern, might I add. There was a good bit of Chinese food and Polish food (I think?) thrown in there too.

Now let's see... first experience of Northern food was Pret, much of the same, really. Crayfish sandwich and JalapeƱo chicken wrap for him, butternut squash and spinach soup for me (no pictures unfortunately - would look rather touristy taking photos in Pret, I feared). However, it was still REALLY YUMMY. Maybe it was the Northern weather, maybe it was the company, maybe it was the E numbers and MSG; it was goood. But, as I was inspecting my napkin (thought I should pay it some respect before viscously crumpling to wipe my hands with), the message of "Pret creates handmade natural food avoiding the obscure chemical, additives and preservatives common to so much of the 'prepared' and 'fast' food on the market today." let me conclude that it was definitely the first two reasons as to why it was REALLY YUMMY.

Getting on to photo-worthy food, Thursday involved a trip to Betty's and Taylor's of Harrogate (pictures taken stealthily - don't really think paparazzi would be Betty's cup of tea), for a Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down.

It being the home and producer of Yorkshire Tea; I immediately went for that, and my boyfriend opted for the Yu Luo white tea - sharing the name last name as him, which is fate. Obviously. We shared a Yorkshire Fat Rascal scone, still hot from the oven, served with creamy white butter. I have to say, never has tea serving been more confusing. The tea come in a teapot (fine), with hot water to top up and a jar of milk (all fine), but there were these strainers that looked like standard headgear of the The Saucepan Man from the Faraway Tree. I figured it was to pour the tea through. And that is what we did. And boy, was the tea good; there must be something about Betty's water supply.

Now, the scone was one a different scale. All crumbly and buttery and rasiny, perfect.

I've just realised the next bit's not in chronological order, but I just HAD to share the Betty's bit first. Before filling ourselves with tea and cake (what a combination), we went to watch the much anticipated Toy Story 3. I won't get into the details, but this is definitely a Pixar triumph and worth the 10 year wait between the movies.

So in terms of movie snacks, we stumbled across a strange Polish shop selling all kinds of things that I couldn't read. It looked colourful, it looked cheap, it looked interesting, so we went in. Well, definitely cheap, as a 1.5l bottle of ice tea came in at 59p. Taste, on the other hand, was yet to be questioned.

So, in the strange new shop, I saw something that caught me eye. Banana? Chocolate? Banana chocolate? Yes please! Banana is the only fruit I really like with chocolate; it's just the right amount of creamy to fit the texture of chocolate. Anyone agree?

But, like I said, taste was yet to be questioned. When I tasted this, it was...slightly strange. The banana was a layer of jelly like substance that tasted more mint-beer than banana, and I'm not sure what the chocolate on the outside was (my Polish in unfortunately still in it's early learning stages, I can just about manage 'vodka' ^^). It was Nestle though, so I'm guessing some kind of dark chocolate Kit Kat like exterior would be best to describe it. Anyway, I ended up chewing round the edge and just eating the chocolate, leaving a gooey yellow...thing in the wrapper. Rating out of 10 would probably be a 3; nothing compared to the Elderflower cake my boyfriend bought me in Betty's!

This pretty much concludes the culinary side of my trip Up North. I haven't included much of the Chinese food, but it included a visit to Red Chilli (possibly the best Chinese restaurant I've been to) They had xiao long bao dumplings, nuff said. On top of this, boyf's household were lovely, and I took back zhong ze (glutinous rice in reed leaves) to stuff my face with at home =)

Lesson learned today: Don't buy banana chocolate. It's weird.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Chocolate Spice Gingerbread

I am going to visit my boyfriend today. Unfortunately, he lives in The Lands Of The North whereas I am down in The Sunny South, so I thought I should I should bake accordingly. Having almost run out of transportable recipies, I came across this delightful one: Chocolate Spice Gingerbread. I mean, gingerbread is traditionally eaten when it's cold right? It's cold up north right? Right. Perfect! So off I went.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

10 things you didn't know you could do with chocolate

1. Wear it.

This picture is from the 14th Salon du Chocolat (Paris Chocolate Show) in Paris in 2008. Everything that was worn was either made with or layered with chocolate, and featured many famous French models who wore fashions 'from today and the past' (or from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). Good thing they're models, I suppose.

2. Use it as fake blood.

In Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 movie, 'Physcho', chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the shower scene. Yum.

3. Get high (or pretend to).

Some chocolate contains anandamide-related lipids, which act as cannabinoid mimics and can cause a positive drugs test. Thing is, you would have to eat 11kg of chocolate before you actually did get high. You'd probably explode first.

4. Seduce someone.

Chocolate is an aphrodisiac due to having high levels of phenylethylamine and serotonin, which produces the same feeling you get when doing the dirty. It's been scientifically proven! The king of the Aztec's (whom amongst the Mayans, were the first to harvest cocoa), Montezuma, apparently had a reputation for being a bit of a goer. So may I innocently suggest a three course meal of:

Starter: Chocolate soup
Main: Chicken mole with chocolate shavings
Dessert: Chocolate and nougat mousse
Finish with mocha coffee and chocolate macaroons

(No kidding, these are all in my G &B's cookbook).

5. Replace your blusher with it.

I came across this video on YouTube claiming that hot chocolate powder can be used for "kissable cheeks", so I decided to try it out. Not having hot chocolate powder at home, and not being prepared to buy some solely for the purpose of slopping it on my face, I used cocoa powder instead. And not wanting to get my blusher brush dirty, I just smeared it on with my fingers.

All I can say is LOL. I looked like I was wearing warpaint. And 3 hours later everytime I turn my head I get this nauseating chocolate smell wafting up my nose, which, like I said, is nauseating. Had I followed her instructions, it would have probably gone okay, and I could have worn it to go out tomorrow. But I think I'll just stick to Maybelline. Try for yourselves!

6. Write your life story.

Once upon a time, I decided to buy some 99% cocoa chocolate, just because I wanted to know what it tasted like. It wasn't very nice. HOWEVER, I did manage to find an alternate use for it.

(Photographed using 70% due to none 99% readily avaliable - but if this is what you can do with 70% imagine the novel that will flow when you use 99%!)

Ditch your biros, highlighters and fountain pens; chocolate is where it's AT.

7. Pimp your ride.

Need I say more?

8. Kill a dog (not recommended)

Theobromine found in chocolate is a stimulatant, and can be too much for small animals, thus sending them to the grave one howl at a time.

9. Make soap.

The potash from the cacao pud husk is mostly used for making soap (or as fertiliser). The husk, when fresh, is left in the open to dry out for a few wekks, then incinerated in an ashing kiln. So all you need to do is find a cacao tree, build a plantation, et voila! You'll be busting out soaps faster than Brad Pitt can say 'Fight Club'.

10. Cure the common cold.

Just kidding.

Lesson learned today: next time I'm stuck for what to wear, just sew together a couple of bars of galaxy. Also, chocolate does not cure the common cold, no matter what google says.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

As my uni friends were coming to stay for a few days, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to bake some serious nom. I hadn't attempted this recipe before for two reasons: no way on earth would anyone in my family eat this (they're too asian and anti-chocolate), thus leaving me with 14 people's worth of tart to eat myself (not good); and that I had to make caramel from scratch. But there's a first time for everything.

I have to warn you now though, to cut them into slices BEFORE serving/eating them. They are rich, but deliciously mooreish. The chocolate ganache isn't overpoweringly sweet so that the caramel taste really comes through, and the bite from the pastry provides some buttery crunch with the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the topping. Beware, after a few days in the fridge, the pastry goes a bit soft, so, uh...don't leave it unfinished for too long....

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Green & Black's - where it all began

Okay okay, not quite. I got into baking ever so slightly before that, but this 16th birthday present has, for almost 3 years, just about solely dictated my use of the oven, my chocolate consumption and unfortunately, my waistline. It was sometime about a year to so ago, when I was just a mere 20-something recipes into the book, that for some crazy reason I decided "hell, let's bake EVERY SINGLE recipe in here". And so it was done.

First aim in life: bake every single recipe from the Green & Black's cookbook (second aim in life: own a Mercedes SLK).

Today, after a few (thousand?) hours of mixing, folding, melting, rolling, frying, whipping, a fair few kilos of 70% chocolate, many a run of the dishwasher, and lots and lots of trips to ASDA, I am proud to say that I have slaved my way through 72 recipes, with 25 to go. It's a pity that I started blogging so late in my journey, but never fear, for as an end of first-year-of-uni present, my lovely friend gave me the "101 Best Loved Chocolate Recipies" by Hotel Chocolat. These include dishes like 'White Chocolate and Truffle Risotto' and the 'Truffle Reviver' (which uses Champagne chocolate truffles as its main ingredient). And me being me, I'm determined to bake my way through them too. Bastard.

Now, this seems to be turning into a rant against baking, but actually, I love it. I love Green & Black's. I love the small of freshly baked cookies. I love the happiness that spreads through the room when you walk in with a tin of brownies under your arm.

The Green & Black's cookbook is sectioned into an assortment of chocolate-inspired moods, from Magical recipes for impressive entertaining, to Old Timers that will 'never let you down', to Create a Stir recipes that include Chilli Vodka Chocolates! It's taught me alot; like how you can put chocolate into pretty much any dish in the world and pass it off as 'mystical', and that there is much, much more to your average chocolate sponge cake.

Hopefully this blog will share my kitchen experience, and then my guilt of aimlessly baking and cooking with no results to show for it will reside. Then maybe I can concentrate on something (arguably) useful, like my degree.

Lesson learned today: baking isn't a waste of time. Not if you blog about it.