Month: April 2012

Everyday magic

I made scones today. Twice, because two seems to be a trending number these days. Same recipe, except for five extra grams of milk.

And somehow, no matter how long I have been a pastry chef for, I’m still amazed by how details matter. In those moments, pastry feels like a celebration of the ordinary. All those things we take for granted, all those things we often overlook are in fact what we should care the most about.
His lips brushing my cheek, the dance of falling blossoms, that instant when the sky slowly turns pink, the wishes we make for every blown dandelion.

And this is what gets me going really. The everyday magic.

Scones are all of that. The way they bond with clotted cream and jam as if they’d always been kindred spirits.

Yes, definitely everyday magic to me.

What’s your favourite topping for scones?

Now, don’t judge, but I’m partial to a thick layer of wholegrain mustard and a rustic brunoise of green apple. See you later with the recipe and tips to make the best scones ever!


Oops #2

I don’t know what just happened on ebay, but I seem to be the newest owner of – not one but – two Le Creuset cocottes. I guess the advices my friend Richard gave me on how to win a bid kind of worked!

Oh and by the way, if you want to save me from a life made of misery and every-single-day-pasta, please go over there and outbid me on that one.

Please. Thank you. From me and my bank account.


Bonjour avril

[Hello April]

My weeks have been made of Sundays lately. And it really feels like walking with my eyes closed and crossing my fingers at every step I take.

Not unlike getting lost. Not unlike falling in love.

And to be honest, it was all making me a bit so-so. A bit outside of me; behind of me, really.

But I wrote into my moleskine. And I painted asparaguses (?) and a lonely beetroot.

And I had a gin and tonic, or two, but who’s counting? And I kissed him back of stairs made of stone.

And I talked to a friend over a glass of wine and a plate of manchego with those capers I’m so deeply fond of.

And I baked a loaf of brioche. And I fried some beignets too. And I’ve started writing the book that will keep me from feeling so-so ever again.

Yes, belated bonjour avril. And bonjour book. I love you already!

No list for this month. It’s a bit too late anyway, May is just around. And hopefully the beautiful days that are usually made of party confettis too.

Oh, just one more thing: I’m dying to try my friend Rachel’s chocolate mousse. One more thing on the to-do. One more gooood thing to be accurate. See you soon!


The end – Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake

The end. Of this, that is.

I was writing when the timer went off. Upstairs, sitting cross-legged in front of my laptop.

It wasn’t as cold as the outdoors would suggest. Perhaps, from the oven. Or the sweater he must have draped over me while I was reading words that once were thoughts.

A cake getting plump, the syrup bubbling over. A distant bip. The sound of an opened oven door. The scent of just-brewed coffee and hot chocolate too.

Yes, it was all happening without me.

And before I knew it, we were burning our tongues. One spoon each. One half each. It felt like playing Battleships. With a small cloud of steam for each hit. No miss really.

After a chocolate war he won, we layed on the bed; our heads upside-down, looking at the rain pour. Yes, at times, it all does down to this. I told him I really liked the idea of the cake we just devoured. Those two layers which melt together and yet not quite at the same time.

In fact, as I think about it now, I can’t help but imagine a banana cake in a pool of caramel sauce. Or a chestnut flour cake, with some kind of green tea syrup.

Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake
Adapted from Donna Hay’s Seasons.

As with most recipes I make on rainy days, this cake is almost instant. The syrup gets made in a little over ten seconds. And the cake batter can be made in one bowl (although I would usually advise to mix the powders separately, but, come on, we’re making cake for the sake of it today, not for a dinner party).

We actually made half a batch and it fit perfectly into our 20cm enamel pie dish. But I would understand if you don’t want to use half an egg, and have some leftovers, which we somehow regret now…
In case, you go the half way too, make sure you beat the egg before weighing out 25g (=half egg). And make sure to check your cake after 15 minutes in the oven. As soon as the cake feels baked and the syrup starts bubbling over, it’s ready. Get a spoon. And enjoy.

Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake

serves 4

for the syrup
90g light brown sugar
25g cacao powder
200g water

for the cake
125g milk
35g butter, melted
one egg
150g plain flour
45g light brown sugar
30g ground almonds
one tbsp instant coffee
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a small pan, bring the water, sugar and cacao to the boil. And pour into a 20cm baking tin.

Whisk the milk, melted butter and egg together. Add the flour, sugar, ground almonds, instant coffee, baking powder and salt, and mix until just combined. Pour over the chocolate sauce. And bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the point of a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Do you have any great recipes for self-saucing cakes?


Through the wrong end of a telescope

I look through the window. And this is all I see. Rain and trees that snow.

The very spectacle of April happening before my eyes. But no matter how breathless it makes me feel – every single year – I somehow wish for more.
A more I can’t quite define. A more that is so far and unreachable I sometimes wonder if it was real.

I have a cake in the oven. Of the self-saucing kind. It promises all sorts of wonderful.

See you in a bit.


On thunderstoms and first kisses – Caramelised Jerusalem artichoke velouté

It’s been oh-so-quiet around here lately. Perhaps, that’s what happens when I have too much to say, too much to do, too much to look forward to.

But last night, I saw the dark sky turn into fireworks. And I heard the thunder grumble. And I smelled the earth get damp through a window that has been open – if ever so slightly – for weeks now.

And I might have been half-asleep when that happened (so much for non-drowsy cough syrups) but it felt like the most beautiful dream. Only it wasn’t one.

It was there, around me.

Thunderstorms are a thing so rare in London they become treasures you remember like a first kiss.
And while I could tell you about how he made me forget everything I thought I knew, I’m here with a soup instead.

As a reminiscence of cold winter nights and unspoken words. As a celebration of the smell of rain, which we might disregard now that pims-and-lemonade days are ahead of us.

As my winter comes to an end – for good this time – so many other things do too. Bruises on my legs and cuts on my fingers; journeys over the Thames, late at night…

But I have the feeling you’re going to see a lot more of me these days.

To new beginnings!

Just peel a handful (300g) of Jerusalem artichokes and gently fry them in butter – or even better, goose fat – until golden brown. Deglaze with 300g of chicken stock and 300g of whole milk. Simmer until tender. And blitz until smooth smooth smooth. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Serve piping hot. Preferably with a drizzle of truffle oil, more-than-a-drizzle of crème fraiche, and some butter-toasted croutons.

And in front of you will stand a bowl of the soup that is not just a soup; but a concentrate of winter, and kisses under the rain, and goodbyes that makes your perfect eye-lined eyes get a little more grungy.