Hot Cross Buns!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Last week the lovely team at the Good Housekeeping Institute invited me down to their new cookery school in Soho to learn a few Easter recipes.
Aimed at both beginners and experienced cooks, the one day courses range from mastering macaroons to improving your knife skills.
I found the team put me instantly at ease, which helped when you don't have a first clue when it comes to baking.
Here's their recipe for Hot Cross Buns, which unbelievably I re-tried at home over the weekend with the same results!

Hands-on time 1hr, plus proving. Cooking time 18min. Makes 12

300g (11oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra to dust
1tsp mixed spice
25g (1oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra to grease
50g (2oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
1 x 7g sachet fast- action dried yeast
170ml (6fl oz) semi-skimmed milk, plus a dash more if needed
1 medium egg
 75g (3oz) sultanas or mixed fruit for the cross topping
1tbsp plain flour
1tbsp golden syrup, to glaze     

Put the strong flour, mixed spice, butter and 1⁄2tsp salt into a food processor, and rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers.

Add the sugar, lemon zest and yeast and stir to combine.

Empty the mixture into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gently heat the milk until it’s just warm, then add the milk and egg to the flour bowl and stir quickly to make a soft dough. If the mixture feels too dry, you can add a little more cold milk.

Dust a work surface with flour, then knead the dough for 5min or until elastic. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm, and leave in a warm place to rise for 1hr.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead in the sultanas (you may need to flour the work surface again).

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 30min.

Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball, then flatten slightly.

Arrange the balls on the baking sheet, spacing them a little apart. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 45min.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan) mark 7.

To make the cross topping, put the flour into a small bowl and mix in just enough cold water to give it a smooth, pipeable consistency (about 2tbsp). Put the flour mixture into a piping bag (no need for a nozzle), snip off the tip and, working quickly, pipe a cross on top of each bun.

Bake the buns for 15-18min, or until golden and risen. As soon as they come out of the oven, brush with golden syrup. Then allow to cool completely on a wire rack – or eat warm with lashings of butter.


No Is The Best Word To Know

Friday, February 20, 2015

There's a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of yes.

From the release of Jim Carrey's 'Yes Man' to numerous 'say yes to get more out of life' articles, many women feel they must welcome every opportunity that knocks at their door in fear of missing out.

The word 'yes' isn't afraid of new experiences, It attracts positivity and makes life richer, fuller and more vibrant (so we're told).

The word 'no' often takes courage to say. It is hard to receive. It is negative.

With International Women's Day approaching, I started to reflect on the Western feminist movement which has taught us how to declare a confident ‘yes’ to the world. Yes, we can be in 
the boardroom, yes, we can work and mother, yes, we do have a choice. Over the ages women have fought for our voices to be heard, and have opened doors for us with a resilient 'can do' attitude.

However, a collective ‘no’ has also been a powerful form of feminist protest. From the recent sex strike in Liberia to housework strikes in India and the notorious Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968, the world seems shocked when women stand up and say 'no'.

I read a quote by US business magnate Warren Buffett last week that has stayed with me. She said, ‘the difference between successful people and very successful people is
 that very successful people say no to almost everything.’
 To me, and many others, this quote directly applied to time management.

Although time is the most precious possession in the world, most women give it up more readily than we ever would our money, food or clothes - despite the fact these things are all replaceable. Time is the only possession any of us truly have, and if wasted, we'll never get back.

It’s not just about saying no to others. We need to learn to say no to ourselves. I consume a huge amount of media communicating how wonderful it is to bake from scratch, how worthwhile making curtains from hand is, that volunteering will enrich your life and if you don't travel to all 5 continents by the age of 30 your life simply isn't complete.

Every woman has that house-wife nagging voice in their head. Regardless of age, class or politics, if you are born a woman, you will be trained to host. When the prospect of a celebration, dinner party or family birthday is imminent, we all too frequently burden ourselves with plans; we'll hand ice the cake, we'll pop to the farmers market in the morning, we'll bake the bread the night before.  We see this as our
 work, not because men necessarily tell us so, but because we feel like a failure if we don't. We haven’t yet learnt
 to say no to ourselves, let alone others.

We need to remember that every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time. Ask yourself, “If I had to do this today, would I agree to it?”. It’s not a bad rule of thumb, since any future commitment, no matter how far away it might be, will eventually become an imminent problem.

Consider the following puzzle, a variant of which was set by Paul J Ferraro and Laura O Taylor to economists at a major academic conference back in 2005:
Imagine that you have a free ticket (which you cannot resell) to see Radiohead performing. But, by a staggering coincidence, you could also go to see Lady Gaga — there are tickets on sale for £40. You’d be willing to pay £50 to see Lady Gaga on any given night, and her concert is the best alternative to seeing Radiohead. Assume there are no other costs of seeing either gig. What is the opportunity cost of seeing Radiohead? (a) £0, (b) £10, (c) £40 or (d) £50.
The correct *answer is posted below - it was also the one least favoured by the economists.

In retrospect, perhaps the word ‘no’ is the most powerful, and least used, weapon us women have.

*Answer: Going to see Lady Gaga would cost £40 but you’re willing to pay £50 any time to see her; therefore the net benefit of seeing Gaga is £10. If you use your free Radiohead ticket instead, you’re giving up that benefit, so the opportunity cost of seeing Radiohead is £10.

Bone Daddies - South Kensington

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When I worked in Soho I became addicted to Ramen. 

One of my favourite places was the ever popular Bone Daddies, serving big bowls of hearty comfort food. 

Having moved office I was thrilled to hear Bone Daddies opened a pop up in Whole Foods, Kensington, just a few stops away.

The new restaurant is MUCH larger than their Soho branch, which will be welcoming news to those who have endured the winding queue in Soho (yes, even on a Tueaday). 

Service was fast, as usual. We started our meal with steamed buns. The star of the evening for me was the fried chicken, slathered with kimchi mayonaise and topped with pickles. 

I added an extra egg and bamboo shoots to my T22 ramen which made the meal into a feast, whilst a side of cock scratchings bought heat to the dish. 

My old favourite, Sweet 3 Miso Ramen, disapointingly disappeared from the menu last year. Will it ever be bought back? Who knows... 

I left feeling full, satisfied and craving more buns filled with that addictive kimchi mayonaise. 

The Duke's Vegetarian Brunch

Monday, February 09, 2015

A few weeks back I visited The Duke, Wanstead, for brunch with old school friends. 

To our surprise a vegetarian pop up had taken residence. Apparently once a year chefs come over from Barcelona to run the kitchen at The Duke, whilst the head chef and their staff get a well deserved week off. 

We started with a Smoked Bloody Mary to get in the swing of things, and I can honestly say it's the best I've ever had. 

Delivered to the table under klotches containing earthy smoke, the cocktails were infused with a strong, yet not over powering, smokey aroma. 

Following this the whole table opted for the Veggie Brunch Burger - a skilfully made tower containing brioche, poached egg, hollandaise, green tomato, aubergine mushroom and halloumi. 

As if that wasn't enough, we finished the meal with a crust-free bourbon and pumpkin pie, served with cardamom crème anglaise. 

I hadn't heard of a brunch dessert before, but I think The Duke are onto a winner... 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal: the service was fast and friendly, and atmosphere relaxed and inviting. 

I'm looking forward to visiting again to try their seasonal menu. 

Cold Brew Coffee

Saturday, January 17, 2015

If food trend reports for 2015 are anything to go by, there's a cold coffee trend brewing. 

About to take the beverage world by storm, I've followed Sandow's journey from when they landed their first deal with Selfridges. 

Named after the iconic Victorian strong-man Eugen Sandow, each bottle of Sandows is brewed, filled, capped and labelled in London. 

 Unlike slushy frappés or regular iced coffee, made of conventional hot espresso cooled down and blended with ice, milk and syrups, cold brew involves infusing 12C to 18C water with ground beans for 16 hours. 

The coffee is then triple-filtered for a strong flavour with lightness and real coffee clarity - there's no need to add milk as the coffee is surprisingly smooth.

Cold brew coffee produces smoother, less acidic coffee, making it ideal for those suffering from acid reflux or sensitive stomachs. 

I chill mine overnight and drink it straight out the bottle on my commute to work - utterly refreshing once summer hits the hot-pot that is the Central line. 

 Wake up and smell the cold brew - it’s certainly no ordinary joe.