Well I suppose that first and foremost I should apologise for the radio silence. I would like to be able to tell you that the lack of communication has been due to the fact that I spent the last month on a cookery retreat in the Italian lakes but that would be a lie. I have in fact just been trying to sort my life out which has turned out to be more difficult, and taken far longer, than I thought it would. It’s not completely sorted out but we are on the way.
The break from writing however has not meant that I have been neglecting my kitchen duties. It also doesn’t mean that I haven’t been eating out in many and various restaurants in both the metropolis and in Leigh-On-Sea of all places. Yes people, I have been to Essex.
I have also been attempting to spend less money when I shop which has had varied results, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. It did result in a rather yummy new dish of pork steaks with sweetheart cabbage, red onion, chickpeas and chilli though.
The other week I ate at the Salt Yard on Goodge Street which despite a rather inauspicious start was fantastic. Why an inauspicious start you say? Because I had to wait 15 minutes before anyone asked me if I would like anything to drink. The answer: most definitely, I was getting rather concerned that I might have expired if I had to wait any longer. There is another reason why I was so anxious to procure a beverage; because I was sat waiting to be joined by my boyfriend and was starting to feel rather like a lemon and would have preferred to have been occupied to some extent. I have to say that Alasia Sec Muscat was absolutely delicious, as was the food that followed, and well worth the wait.
The food was brought to the table in the perfect order and the slightly shaky start was forgiven. We had the chorizo and the pistachio salami, a selection of Manchego cheeses with Membrillo (I seem to be developing a slight obsession with this), crispy squid, Jamon Croquetas and the Patatas Fritas all of which were eagerly devoured. We also ate dessert which I do not believe met the same standard as the savoury food but that was nice none-the-less. I am anxious for a return visit to Salt Yard and would highly recommend it to anyone who has not been there before. It is well worth a visit and I love the sociable nature of the food. It is extremely popular and rightly so, so I would definitely try to book a table in future. We were very lucky and they managed to squeeze us in but to avoid disappointment, I would make a reservation in the future. Not only is the food and wine of an incredibly high standard but it also has a lovely atmosphere and a real buzz because the restaurant is always packed yet it manages to maintain a level of intimacy where you are not overly aware of everyone else in the restaurant despite their close proximity.
I have also baked for the first time since taking up my temporary residence in Hackney which is rather exciting. It was something of a baking frenzy relatively late on Sunday night which despite the lack of any equipment (including a distinct lack of mixing bowl) had reasonably good results. It did feel good to bake again and it was rather experimental by my standards. It was my first foray into the world of the red velvet; with hindsight, the marvellous thing that it is, I would have put in considerably more red food colouring as my cakes just looked more chocolatey than red which is no bad thing of course. If I may say so myself, the icing really was a triumph. The sponge was not my best ever, not quite as light and fluffy as usual but the cakes were still moist – there is nothing more disappointing than a dry chocolate sponge. For the icing I combined a tub of mascarpone cheese with some softened unsalted butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract and it was absolutely delicious. The cakes were then decorated with blueberries or maltesers. My preference was actually for the blueberries as I have always been rather partial to combination of chocolate cake and blueberries but I felt sure that there would be those who “don’t believe in blueberries”. I had been thinking that strawberries would be nice and I did look at them in the supermarket but then it really isn’t the right time of year and they did not look at their best so I left them.
Since making my cakes I have been musing over the demise of the fairy cake in favour of their American cousin the cupcake. I have even found myself adopting the term which is most unusual as I largely seek to avoid the use of Americanisms but apparently even I am susceptible. I have always been a strong believer in the fairy cake but the fashion is for cupcake, I am just not quite sure how this came about. Interestingly, I was musing on this with my mother who informed me that she had been listening to a radio programme on this very subject and that the rise in popularity of the aforementioned cupcake is often attributed to Sex in the City and that apparently the next big thing will be jelly. Fortunately I am well prepared and I already have individual jelly moulds so we shall see what success I have with jelly.