Monday, December 28, 2009

Chocolate Teas and Salmon Terrines

Several months ago I used up the last crumbs of Dark Chocolate Tea made by genius confectioner Lan Wong of Petits Noirs in Milton Freewater, Oregon. This was black tea blended with yellow rose petals and infused with the dark chocolate- a really delicious treat when you want a little taste of chocolate but nothing so heavy as hot chocolate.
I thought I might not find another for a long time, but just last week I stumbled upon a very good facsimile in Toppers Chocolate Teas- a blend of chocolate, coconut, almond, vanilla, rooibos and black tea. I found it in West Hampstead at the Kitchen Stores on Mill Lane, a great little gourmet food boutique that carries items ranging from recent harvest olive oils, to fine charcuterie to responsibly sourced meats.
Of course, the Petits Noirs tea is much more caffeinated but the lovely warm mug of subtle flavors wrapped in earthy chocolate flavor is still there in the Toppers tea. What better thing to curl up with midday when you're in need of a warm beverage?

Especially in your new MR Tea mug from Folksy...

Back in 2007 I first became aware of St├ęphane Reynaud when a good friend gave me a spare copy of Pork & Sons, she's a food writer so always seems to have spares of amazing cookbooks sent by the publishers, lucky girl. I immediately pored over the recipes wishing I had access to a fresh whole hog so I could make my own black pudding and when I found myself at a good friend's farm a few weeks later I was able to successfully roast pork shoulder in hay with jerusalem artichokes... the pork frenzy went on for months. So it should come as no surprise that when it was hot off the presses I bought the next cookbook installation- Terrine. But the end of pregnancy and the beginning of being a parent what they are I found myself a little too busy to put my beautiful lapis Le Creuset enameled work horse to, em, work. But in the past weeks I have brought the cookbook off the shelf and given it the coveted position of window ledge of the kitchen, where only a few other books reside. Just ask me for the list, it's short.
For Christmas Eve dinner, I wanted to have something involved that we could all enjoy, but that wouldn't produce too too much food. I do have one of those very tiny refrigerators and leftovers during the holiday season have to compete to the death for storage space with the fresh, raw ingredients that have yet to be made into holiday memories.

I bought some lovely smoked salmon, fresh salmon and turbot from my fishmonger, some asparagus from our local produce stand and tore into the recipe with grand results. Some fresh grated horseradish and creme fraiche poured over the top of slices and it was the perfect meal. And the perfect snack on Boxing Day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas cookies- a recipe ready for a transatlantic move

I have to admit it, I love my copper cookie cutters.  They're heavy enough to cut through clay, shiny and perfectly formed.  But they are seasonally themed- a reindeer and a snowflake.  So I get very little opportunity to pull then out and put them to use and when they come out, I have to show off the pretty pretty cookies they make.

My favorite cookie to make this these are ginger molasses spice, but molasses is a bit tricky to find in London, black treacle's not quite the same... but the cookies turned out tasty although the tiny changes in the dough made the cookies not as sharp as my US versions.  I have a year to find a better short recipe, hopefully I'll remember my challenge to myself and find the perfect chemistry.  And what a fun task to sift through the recipes that might bring me to the perfect reindeer cookie in 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A busy summer: lots of eating, not much picture taking

As I grow more and more aware of how much time has passed since my last post, I am equally guilt ridden and proud. Guilty that I neglect my blog so much, proud that I have been having too much fun dining and cooking and enjoying life to post. Or perhaps I'm merely lazy. You be the judge.

Waaaay back in October I picked a morning that I thought I could get to Billingsgate Market to shop. They open at the crack of dawn but stay open until mid morning. There are many markets in London that do this. But I am quickly finding that if you wait until the last few hours of trade, there will be no one around. Seriously. Crickets. That was the case at Smithfield at 10:30. The market is advertised as staying open until noon, but I think that they only mean the doors are left unlocked until then. By the time we arrived not only had the trade closed but everything was hosed down and tidily put away. Like I said, crickets.

Billingsgate Market turned out to be still bustling in their final 15 minutes of open hours. About half of the traders were still selling, while they were putting things away, mind you, but they were also hawking some very good deals. I bought the last of two gorgeous varieties of clams for £10. It seemed to me that was around 3 kilos I brought home. Also, there was a gorgeous salmon which was wrapped up for me with the greatest of care in a black garbage bag (read in sarcasm), but who had crystal clear eyes and every scale intact. I believe that was £9. Wow. It was a mob scene in there at the end, so I imagine that during the peak of trade it's much like Columbia Flower Market- the only air space is overhead.

I wish that I could boast an elaborate presentation on the clams and the salmon, but no. The clams were steamed with wine, butter, garlic and herbs. The salmon was slathered in butter and green herbs for one side and olive oil, ras el hanout and paprika on the other side. All delicious.

I do plan to return to Smithfield Market during peak trade one day, which would mean some interesting tube riding at 5 am, and once I have I shall report back as soon as I can.

Other things I have eaten since my last post:
The Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Fat Duck
Bones and Offal at St John
On the bone Lamb Shank Pie at The Fox and Anchor

One day when I am feeling inspired enough to compete with much better writers I may wax on about the meal at Fat Duck. It was inspired theater combined with culinary prowess. Worthy of the high price tag indeed. In fact I would go so far as to say that it was a steal at that price!
Who can resist a picture of a well baked Dutch Baby?