Sunny days and buffalo wings

I have to confess that "global warming" sometimes confuses me. This week, it was blamed for a decade of upcoming summer washouts at the same time as warnings that Death Valley is to exceed the hottest ever recorded temperature on Earth!

The clear message is that any good weather must be savoured because it will soon be either too hot or too wet to spend any serious time outdoors. This weekend was particularly gorgeous, so I decided to give in to the urge to break out the buffalo wings, a real guilty pleasure for me and as close to barbecue food as I can achieve in a 2-bedroom London flat with no garden. 

I should warn you that these little beauties are addictive, but there are a couple of key tips (1) add a little honey to the sauce (it adds another flavour and helps the sauce stick to the chicken), and (2) turn the wings into "lollipops" to make the eating less messy - take a look at this video to see how.

Other than that try my ultimate buffalo wings, crack open a beer and enjoy. 



Valentines - say it with chocolates

Chocolates and roses: enough to get any man out of trouble

Chocolates and roses: enough to get any man out of trouble

St Valentine's Day can be traced back to ancient Rome, where Emperor Claudius was unimpressed with the increasing impact of women on his pillaging.  He believed romantic liaisons were impeding his efforts to recruit and retain the soldiers he needed, so he banned both marriage and engagement.

Finding this a little extreme, a local priest defied the ban and continued to perform marriages in secret.  When his actions were inevitably discovered, Saint Valentine was sentenced to death.  

Whilst on death row, the priest fell in love with his jailor's daughter and, before being clubbed and beheaded on the 14th of February, he left a romantic farewell note signed "from your Valentine". 

...of course, it's also possible that Valentines Day was invented by a greeting card company to increase sales in the quiet post-Christmas season...

Whichever version you believe, why not brush off your cooking skills and impress the person you love with this little Valentine's treat

Childhood memories: homemade sherbet

I was at a fantastic wedding recently and the happy couple handed out favours to the guests containing small bags of sweets from the 1970's - think flying saucers, black jacks and refreshers - leading to drunken reminiscences of childhood confectionery. Sherbet fountains were my particular favourite, partly because they looked like sticks of dynamite, but also because they were two sweets in one. Recreating them isn't exactly haute cuisine, although the Fat Duck (once voted best restaurant in the world) does give all of its guests a retro sweetie bag to take home, so I thought I’d give it a go.

As any good chemist will tell you, there are four basic ingredients in sherbet:

  • icing sugar: for sweetness
  • bicarbonate of soda: for fizziness
  • citrc acid: for sourness
  • dehydrated fruit: for flavour and colour (although this can be omitted if you want a “plain” sherbet)

Just take 100g of icing sugar, 2 level teaspoons each of the bicarb and the citric acid and 15g of whichever dehydrated fruit you prefer (raspberry or strawberry would be my choice - just look in the baking section of your local supermarket). Blitz in a spice grinder and you are done. You can play with this basic recipe depending whether you like a sweeter, fizzier, more sour or more flavoursome result. If you want to go the whole hog you can also make the liquorice, although I just bought a bag from the local health food shop to make this a 10 second recipe.

Just one word of caution though, most online advice is that citric acid can be bought in pharmacies. When I asked my local pharmacist I was told that it is used by drug dealers to “cut” their wares, so UK chemists have been instructed to stop selling it… however, I did find it in the spice section at my local Asian supermarket.

I am not sure if this information is most useful to drug dealers or sherbet makers, but either way it should stop you being embarrassed next time you are in Boots the Chemist...

See strawberry and passion fruit sherbet recipe. 




Celebrating the kids' first birthday with the help of Charlie the patissier

Last weekend saw the start of a week long celebration to mark Jules & Sophia's first birthdays. We spent Saturday with 20 family and friends, enjoying a picnic in the beautiful Dartmoor National Park.  After the recent bad weather, we were fairly sure we would be faced with a washout, particularly as it was a bank holiday, but instead were treated to a glorious weekend of non-stop sunshine. From a food perspective, the undoubted stars of the show were the two birthday cakes made by good friend Charlie Shand of Cafe St Honore. He made a Fraisier for Sophia and a pistachio, white chocolate & apricot entremet for Jules.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to tell which was better as they were both devoured within minutes. It's on to Leamington Spa next weekend to celebrate with Jay's family - then six months of enforced dieting!

Chocolate sponge with a fancy name - what's the excitement about brownies?

Every week for the last six months, I've combined my fruit & veg run with a sneaky chocolate brownie.  

I have never had a particularly sweet tooth, and always thought they were overrated - just chocolate sponge cakes with a fancy name. That was until I found these chocolate brownies. Handmade in my local bakery, ridiculously gooey and stupidly moist. Finally, I've seen the light.

Following intensive research, I am now glad to confirm that it is physically impossible to eat more than one great brownie without crossing the line from inane grin to gut-wrenching-stomach-ache.

However, as I can't get my local baker to share his magic, I have decided to develop my own recipe to take him on. So, after a bit of research, and a few practice runs, here is my gooey double chocolate brownie recipe.