Monthly Archives: October 2009

Quote of the day

Ryan, ever tolerant, in reference to this video of a Bear Grylls dinner (warning, not for the faint-hearted):

“I would much rather eat delicious rare moose steak cooked over a fire than to take a bite out of a still beating heart.  To each his own.”

– Anna


Muffins revisited

Nothing like a bad day that makes me bake – ironic that I attempt muffins again considering my previous misfortunes with muffins.

Anyways, here I go again but this time armed with Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, a most wonderful book that will undoubtedly be mentioned again and again (by me mainly..). Straight forward, crucial baking tips in the beginning from why sometimes it’s important to use a wooden spoon rather than a metal spoon and vice versa, why temperature of ingredients is important (otherwise watch it all curdle up) to great illustrations throughout.


So off I went to make some chocolate chip muffins and the result you can admire above.  Some progress compared to the nutmeggy disaster before but still not entirely happy – primarily because they are not quite sweet enough and once again my oven was a wee bit too hot (they’re a bit too dark for my taste). Anyways, edible and progress – not much more I can ask. And lessons learned? Don’t overbeat the dough, barely mix it (which is where the wooden spoon comes into play), and when the recipe says softened butter, that does not mean warm butter but simply not icecold butter that is soft enough to rub it into the flour.

Hippo Muffin

Hippo Muffin

This one lookes like a hippo I thought….

– Stef

Fishy dilemma

In a nutshell – I have no idea what fish is good fish, enviromentally speaking. I realised that when I was doing my weekly shop ( still in pursuit of that elusive dream of a weekly mealplan) and realised that most of the time I have chicken, chicken, oh and once in a while chicken. Fish is healthy, right? And different.

But standing in front of the fish shelf and I realise that a) I don’t know fish names in English (pollock is a FISH?) and b) I’m well confused about which fish is a good choice both ethically and taste wise.  Salmon is already problematic, farmed or not farmed, already tricky. Then white fish, which I really like and would like to cook more with, but that’s even more complicated. Now, cod I understand we’ve pretty much overfished, so better stay away. But then there is haddock, plaice, pollock – ARGH I don’t know the difference and which one I should chose without causing extinction?  Or is fish just not the right choice anymore?

There should be a ethical fish choice guide (and there probably is one if I could be bothered to look). I went for plaice in the end simply because I never made it. Wish me luck.

– Stef

I did not know that: soy sauce

Recipe Redux in the NYTimes takes a look at a classic recipe from the archives each week, gives a little history, and comes up with a modern take on the old favorite. This week: Worcestershire sauce. Read the article for the full story (bottom line, 19th century mistake in an apothecary in Worcester), because I’m here to talk about soy sauce.

Courtesy of Flickr user Fotoosvanrobin under a Creative Commons license

Courtesy of Flickr user Fotoosvanrobin under a Creative Commons license

The original 1876 recipe calls for shallots, allspice, mace, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, anchovies, vinegar – and soy sauce? I was incensed for a few minutes, sure that the Times must have updated the recipe to include only ingredients that could be sourced now (though I don’t know the last time I saw mace in the spice aisle). Surely that’s not the point of this exercise. Surely soy sauce wasn’t commercially available to a Times-reading audience in 1876.

So I looked it up, and lo and behold, soy first made it big in Europe in 1737, when the Dutch East India Company brought 35 barrels of shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) to the Netherlands. However, it had been around even longer than that. According to the no doubt impartial Soy Info Center, the first known European reference to soy was made by none other than John Locke in 1679.

Shoyu was quite expensive, but imports increased across the continent over the next century until it was overtaken by cheaper Chinese soy in the mid-1800s. In 1886 the Kikkoman Corporation sent someone to Europe to look into increasing the market for shoyu, but by then it was too late for Japanese soy sauce. Chinese soy sauce, however, never looked back.

In Britain, soy-based sauces like Worcestershire were all the rage, from as early as the late 18th century.

Who knew?

I’d also like to add that all this talk of Worcestershire sauce has made me desperate for Chex mix. What in the world is the UK equivalent of Chex?


Cakes gone wrong..

This blog really brightened up my Friday to no end

Cake Wrecks – When Professional Cakes go horribly wrong..

and the New York Times kindly made a gallery of the best ones…


– Stef

Asda banana price war

Felicity Lawrence not only wrote tons of good books about food (“Eat your Heart Out” one of my favourites) she also wrote a sensible comment in the Guardian as Asda and other supermarkets (Hi, Tesco!) continue to undercut the value of bananas at the expense of the producers.  Some of the comments to her article make me cry as too many people are not only heartless but plain dumb. BBC Breakfast invited some stooge from The Sun to make sure someone can “salute” Asda for their continued excellent value and service to the people. Because sure, that’s all they care about, service to the people …not making millions in profit whilst squeezing their suppliers until they hand over bananas for free.  Depressing..

– Stef

BBC Good Food versus Olive

Battle of the Titans really – two such heavy weights of the culinary world. I only recently started looking at magazines on  cooking but as I continue with my desperate attempts to learn how to cook, educating myself with the help of magazines seemed sensible.

I always jealously eyed up Olive at other peoples’ home it all looking more glam and glossy than BBC Good Food. But having finally spent the money on a few editions and comparing it to BBC Good Food my verdict is that for amateur cooks and someone who’s really only clamouring onto the bottom rung of the foodie ladder, Good Food is the winner. Olive is great for people who have experience and actually gladly read extensive features and articles. Whilst cooking dummies like yours truly really benefit from the straight forward recipes, lists and explanations in Good Food.  And their 20th Birthday edition is especially recommendable – tons of recipes in there that beginners like myself can handle.

– Stef