Yelly Writes

Life was made for lazy Saturdays

The trains are buggered today.  Well, they’re not exactly buggered.  Train services are suspended because Network Rail are “improving” current rail infrastructure.  They have suspended train services between Manningtree and Shenfield, so basically, I’m stuck in Harwich.  My question: why couldn’t they let the trains get to Colchester, at least?  But c’est la vie!  It’s cold anyway.

So I shall be couch potato, pretend I’m a Nigella-esque and cook delicious food (baked chicken with gravy and rice for lunch today, roast pork shoulder and roast vegetables for supper tonight, corned beef hash for lunch tomorrow and leftovers for supper) this weekend, read a book (probably that new Julia Quinn book, if I can be bothered to download it) and bake (I have chocolate cake in mind…mmmmm fudge!).

Oh and I’ve got to iron.

Yelly Writes

What snow?

I love snow.  But only when I don’t have to walk in it.

There’s something magical about fluffy precipitation.  And only if you don’t want to walk in it!  As I discovered this morning, as I trudged very carefully in the melting slush that was falling snow last night!  I let out a few panicked yelps as I discovered that my choice of footwear did not have any proper traction!

The next thing on my to-do list: find boots that I can wear to work that has traction!

And, yes, despite its obvious dangers, I still love snow.

Snow bench

P.S.  Harwich has not had any snow worth mentioning though.  I can’t help feeling that I’ve been left out by Mother Nature!

Yelly Eats

Baking for medicine

I’ve been feeling under the weather for quite a while now and I’ve been battling this illness for a few weeks now.  Lurgy has been making its rounds in the office and so far, I’ve not gotten sick (knock on wood) except for sniffles and the occasional coughing fit.  But since Friday, I’ve been feeling really poorly and since Sunday night have not been able to sleep.  In 72 hours, I’ve only had about 7 hours of sleep in total, I think.

Baking has always been cathartic for me and I’ve always felt better after baking.  So last night, after Alan helped with the fruit prep, I made pear and apple crumble.  I was hoping that it would do the trick.

Pear and apple crumble

Not quite.  I woke up this morning – and I use the term “woke up” quite loosely as I only had about an hour and a half of sleep last night.  So tonight, it’s banana oat spice muffins.

Banana oat spice muffins

Let’s hope tonight I can catch some sleep.

To sleep, perchance to dream…well, maybe not dream as I’ve been having nightmares lately.

Yelly Eats

The flat white from Flat White

There are a lot of reasons why I’d love to live in London.  There’s something about the frenetic activity of a world-class city that makes one feel alive.  For one, the shops don’t close at 5 or 6PM.  There’s always something to do and there’s always something to happen.  What I love about my London trips is that you literally walk in history.  Each corner and cobblestone may have had a place in history!

And the food!  London is such a cultural melting pot that one is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where and what to eat.  You have a choice of going to a restaurant chain or going to an independent one-of-a-kind shop.

I love my coffee strong (some might say strong enough to stand one’s spoon in!) and while I will always somehow feel a certain loyalty to Starbucks (sometimes Starbucks coffee can leave me wanting more), London offers a wide variety of choice when it comes to places where one can get a brilliant cuppa.

One of my favourite street food purveyors of great coffee is Bean About Town.  Their coffee is strong and robust and you get the perfect caffeine hit.  I’ve been known to head to South Bank when a headache rears its ugly head just to stop a migraine from coming (obviously only when I’m actually IN London)!  I remember once my migraine really was starting and we were in South Bank  I was very disappointed that they’d run out of beans and I couldn’t get my caffeine fix.

One of my favourite coffee places of all time though is Flat White.  It’s this little coffee shop nestled in between vegetable stalls and fabric shops on Berwick Street in Soho.  It serves, well, flat whites (of course!), cappuccino, lattes, and a selection of other coffee based drinks.  They also offer a great selection of teas.  If you’re feeling peckish and need a little something to have with your cuppa, they’ve got a selection of bread-based eats and baked goodies as well.

I love Flat White.  Mostly because they make a good flat white – strong and not at all too watery or milky.  For those who haven’t had a flat white, a flat white is a coffee drink developed in Australia in the 1970s and further developed in New Zealand in the 80s.  It’s prepared by preparing steamed milk with small, fine bubbles into a shot or a double shot of espresso.  Flat White a smallish narrow restaurant that has a long L-shaped banquette.  But what I appreciate most about this little gem of a coffee shop is that even though seating is limited, the atmosphere is very laid back and no one rushes you to gulp down your drink, inhale your food and free up seating space.  You’re allowed to chill out and linger over your coffee.  The staff are wonderfully friendly (no question too silly!) and you are served with an amazing efficiency (the music is not too loud and brilliant to listen to!)!

Table Flat White

If you’re ever in Soho, and you’re dying for a cup of coffee, mosey on along to Flat White.  It will definitely be worth it!

Flat White's flat white

 

Yelly Eats

Pizza night!

There are benefits wanting to bake more savoury things.  I had a portion of gammon joint left in the freezer from New Year’s Day lunch and a can of pineapple rings lurking in my cupboard and fancied a pizza.  So off I went and made a pizza base from scratch!

Ingredients:

  • 300g strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7g yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 200g hot water

Directions:

I am using my trusty Kenwood Chef because my hands aren’t well today (oh the joy of recovering from carpal tunnel decompression surgery!) but this can be done by hand entirely!

In a bowl, place flour, yeast and salt (making sure the salt and yeast are on separate sides so that the salt doesn’t kill the yeast) and make a well in the middle.  In the well, place the oil and water and mix.  If using a mixer, on low speed, with a dough hook, mix the ingredients together.  When fairly combined, scrape the sides of the bowl and, still using the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed for 5 minutes or until elastic and smooth.  The dough is going to be sticky so I add up to 3 heaping teaspoons of flour while the dough is kneaded.  If kneading by hand, on a floured surface, knead for about 10 minutes.  Turn the flour into a ball and cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes until the dough has risen.  You don’t really need to proof the dough if you’re making thin pizzas.

pizza dough

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C (fan).  Roll out the dough to your desired thickness (dough can be divided into 2 balls to make 2 10-inch thin crust pizzas).

desired thickness

Tip: I sprinkle a teaspoon of coarse semolina on the pan (which I line with baking parchment) so that the pizza dough doesn’t stick.  The semolina also adds an interesting texture to the dough.

semolina sprinkle

Top with whatever topping you wish.  I recommend using a pre-heated baking pan or a pizza stone if you have one for a crisper base.  Bake the pizza for 8-10 minutes until crisp.

topping favourites

When the timer buzzes, all you have to do is bring out the pizza, slice and enjoy!

pizza

Yelly Eats

First bake!

I did say that my goal was to bake more so that I could blog more.

The first bake of the year is my take on the traditional stollen.  A stollen is described as a yeasted cake containing dried fruit and marzipan.  I love stollen!  While it is a joy to bake (the smell of dried fruit and mixed peel soaked in brandy is amazing!), sometimes, one needs instant gratification and a store-bought one provides the instant pleasure.  I was gutted however, when I found out that Lidl had run out completely of stollen AND stollen bites.  I don’t know about anyone else in the UK, but I think Lidl sources great stollen and panettone!  I’m not sure where they source their stollen from, but whoever makes that stollen, they have a cracking recipe.  The lack of store-bought stollen necessitated the baking (which wasn’t such a difficulty because baking stollen is a pleasure!).

I used Edd Kimber’s stollen recipe from his second book Say It With Cake (I have written about Edd Kimber’s recipes before.  I love his blueberry crumble pie and his red velvet cake recipe is to die for!).  Edd Kimber’s stollen recipe is probably my favourite recipe from all the stollen recipes so far.  I’ve been relatively successful with it (lately!).  But this year, instead of rolling the marzipan into a log to fill the center of the loaf, I’ve rolled the dough into a log with the marzipan forming a swirl pattern when the loaf was sliced.  I thought it would be good to spread the marzipan all over the bread to distribute it better so that you didn’t get a huge lump in the middle of the bread.  And I think it works!

I think this means I’m going to bake stollen again.  It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to bake stollen, does it?

Stollen with marzipan swirl