Saturday, 13 October 2018

Pancakes at The Diner, Spitalfields

Bridget enjoying her pancakes at The Diner

We love pancakes at our house and Bridget in particular, always chooses them for birthday breakfasts or anytime we're eating out for breakfast or brunch.

One cold morning in the early part of the year, Bridget and I had to head into to Shoreditch for a little job Bridget was doing in the area (she does the odd modelling assignment) and I promised her we could head for some pancakes when we were finished. 

After seeking out ideas from Twitter, someone mentioned The Diner in Spitalfields which is where we ventured too. Unsurprisingly enough, it is in the style of an American diner in decor, all red leather booths and menu, from the breakfast options, shakes, and the range of burgers, dogs and other diner-esque cuisine. It reminded me of the fantastic Tick Tock Diner in New York; hearty well-cooked food but with a friendly service. 

Visiting with a then 3-year old, the staff, all of which were dressed in definite Shoreditch hipster attire, were very welcoming and pleasant. Our kind waiter made helpful suggestions and promptly brought an activity pack with colouring in for Bridget which immediately made him a friend.

Bridget and I both chose pancakes - me the simple buttermilk variety, with maple syrup and honey butter and a side of crispy bacon; on holiday these are always my guilty breakfast indulgence and they didn't let me down here. Perfect fluffy pancakes only improved with the salty crunch of bacon and the sweetness of maple syrup. They were simple, hearty and absolutely fantastic on a snowy-cold February morning. 

As it was a treat, I allowed Bridget the chocolate chip pancakes, which were as mine but enhanced with generous chunks of milk chocolate. Also served with maple syrup, which Bridget hadn't had before, she was beside herself with this decadent dessert breakfast/brunch. She chose an adult sized portion as the chocolate chip variety weren't available on the children's menu, which meant three large, fluffy pancakes; and she eat two of them and some of the third which I think is testament to her verdict. I naturally tried them too and they really were delicious. 

Buttermilk Pancakes at The Diner

The Diner offers reasonably priced children's menu too which includes a single buttermilk pancake, a cheeseburger, chicken strips with fries, mac and cheese and even a vegan burger, and we will definitely return to try some of the other items on the menu.

I paid around £20 for our pancakes with a latte, sparkling water and juice for Bridget and will be sure to return. I would love to try the thick shakes or a coke float, for a trip down memory lane next time.

The Diner is a cosy, welcoming American diner in the heart of Spitalfields and when the weather is cold and damp, I doubt you'll find a more welcoming port in the storm.

Sweet Drip Cake

Sweet Drip Cake

I'd like to begin by saying that I made this with absolute pleasure for Bridget's fourth birthday cake. It was by no means perfect in terms of appearance compared to some of the Insta-delicious and Pinterest-perfect creations I sought inspiration from (Ange des Sucres, Rosie's Dessert Spot, The Kitchnn I'm looking at you!) . Having said that, it tasted fantastic, was enjoyable to make and my two little girls were delighted with it. 

The drip icing was quite difficult to master, and master I didn't, my 'drips' were rather large compared to the desired result, but again, I was pretty chuffed with the end result.

I made a very simple all-in-one Victoria Sandwich cake filled with raspberry jam and then iced it with a simple buttercream. 

For the drip effect having referred to various sites and resources online, I chose a white chocolate ganache with a little food colouring to give the peachy colour required. Making it into gloriously unctuous and glossy icing was actually quite easy, but I think a few more attempts before I get the neat and tidy drips.  

The fun thing with these cakes is you can top them with all of your favourite sweet things, I used an array of jelly sweets, some Party Ring biscuits, pink macarons, pink wafer biscuits, marshmallows and a couple of lollipops but the choice is endless.

Here's how:

The sponges: 

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
The filling
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam

The buttercream:

  • 300g salted butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Tiny drop of peach food colouring

The ganache drip icing:

  • 160g white chocolate
  • 140ml double cream
  • 3-4 drops of peach food colouring
The sweet toppings:
You can use a combination of any of your favourite sweet things, I used:
  • Rose macarons
  • Pink wafer biscuits
  • Party Ring mini biscuits
  • Jelly sweet assortment
  • Marshmallows
  • Lollipops

Firstly pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and then grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins with parchment paper. 

As this is an all in one cake add all of the ingredients to a large bowl or mixer (sift the flour) and mix well until completely blended. Pour half of the mixture into each of the sandwich tins and then level out as best you can so they are fairly even. Pop into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until they have risen and bounce back if pressed lightly with a finger. You can use a skewer to check if they are baked through, if you spear the cake and it comes out dry you know they are ready.

It's important that you completely cool the sponges before icing so be sure to turn out onto a wire rack or if you haven't got one a flat chopping board will suffice just as well. Set aside and cool for at least an hour.

I like to prepare my cake on a cake stand, but if you have a cake turner this will be great here, or a simple plate or board is also fine. 

Spread the jam generously onto the top of one of the sponges - don't scrimp here, this is an indulgent cake.

Now carefully and as evenly as you can muster, place the second sponge on top of the first sponge.

Firstly make the ganache icing so it has a little time to cool. Break up the white chocolate and place into a heavy-bottomed pan with the cream and place on a low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until fully melted and glossy. Do not allow to boil. Once you're happy with the consistency, remove from the heat and add the food colouring of your choice and stir through to ensure you're happy with the colour of the icing. Set aside for a while so you can make the buttercream and cover the cake.

To make the buttercream combine all of the ingredients and mix well until thoroughly blended and smooth - you don't want to see lumps here. 

Now you want to cover the cake and then use a pallette knife to smooth the icing around the cake. You want as smooth a finish as possible here as it fits the style, and particularly the top does need to be as flat as possible. Once you are happy set aside for the moment.

Sweet Drip Cake before the ganache

Once the white chocolate ganache is cool to touch, you can begin the icing work here, give a good stir and you're ready to begin.

Firstly spoon on some icing at the edge of the cake, a good tablespoon, then gently push a little over the edge to create your first drip. Repeat this process all around the cake until you have lots of drips and then spoon over the ganache on the top of the cake and ensure it is covered on the top.

Now decorate with your choice of sweet things in any design you fancy. This is the time for fun and indulgence so don't hold back. I added a gold 4 candle to mine, and you could do the same with the appropriate age or even add a sparkler or any other kind of decoration to add to the fun of this sweet drip cake. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Sag Paneer

This is a lovely vegetarian Indian dish that works as a stand-alone main course or to go alongside a curry dish such as Chicken Dhansak or Beef and Lentil Curry perhaps.

Paneer is a lovely cheese that really absorbs flavour like a sponge and this is a delicious dish - although it took me a few goes to find the right spicing and I pinched from BBC Good Food, Jamie Oliver and The Guardian to make this plus some of my own experimentation.

Sag Paneer

Here’s how:
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1 large green chilli
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 500g spinach
  • 400g paneer
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp ghee (butter will do just as well if you don’t have ghee)
Firstly melt the ghee or butter in a bowl and mix in the turmeric and chilli powder.

In the meantime cut the paneer into cubes and then toss into the melted butter and spice mixture. Ensure they are coated all over.

Place the spinach into a colander and pour over freshly boiled water. Allow to drain off and then place the spinach into a clean tea towel or muslin and squeeze off the excess water. Chop roughly.

Chop the tomatoes and set aside for the minute.

Make a paste by roughly chopping the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and adding to a blender or Nutribullet and blitzing.

Now add the paneer to a hot frying pan and allow to cook on all sides, getting colouration on each side. Cook for 7-8 minutes and then remove from the pan but leave the pan on the heat.

Add the cumin seeds to the pan and allow to cook for a minute before ading the onion mixture and them allow this to cook for ten minutes until the onions are beginning to caramelise.

Now add the chopped tomato and garam masala and cook for a further three minutes or so to allow the spice to cook out.

Now add the spinach to the pan seasoning generously with salt and white pepper at this stage. This will cook in a minute or so and now it will be time to add about 3 tablespoons of water to unleash all the delicious flavours from the bottom of the pan.

Add the paneer at this stage, and squeeze over the lemon juice and cook for a further 3-4 minutes; remove from the pan and serve immediately. Enjoy

Bridget and Bea’s Mild Chicken and Vegetable Curry

Me and Glen love curries in all their glorious forms but we are both prone to up the chilli heat to a level that wouldn’t be enjoyable to our girls just yet.

Both of my girls love helping in the kitchen and Bridget has often helped me with various tasks appertaining to a hot curry and asked if she could make one for her and Beatrice. The below is a very simple recipe and uses plenty of vegetables and chicken so has a whole load of nutrients in there. It’s an adaptation of my Mum’s long-standing family favourite curry, just tweaked for a younger palate.

You could omit the chicken for a vegetarian option and switch around the vegetables according to what your little ones like best or what you have in stock too.

My Mum always stirs through 1-2 tablespoons of double cream before serving which gives a lovely rich and creamy finish, but I’ve omitted here. If you find the curry is a little spicy though this trick will help to make it slightly milder and natural yoghurt or crème fraiche work just as well too.

The below makes 4-6 small children’s sized portions which freeze really well too.

Bridget and Bea's Mild Chicken and Vegetable Curry

Here’s how:
  • X2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumbnail piece of ginger
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 courgette
  • 6 tomatoes
  • Handful mushrooms
  • Small pack of baby sweetcorn
  • Tin of coconut milk
  • 1 level tablespoon mild curry powder - I used Schwartz
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Couple of cloves
  • Drizzle of rapeseed or vegetable oil

Firstly add the oil to a heavy bottomed pan and place onto a low heat.

Now peel and dice the onion finely, mince the garlic and add to the pan to gentle fry.

Peel and finely slice or grate the ginger and add to the pan too.

All this mixture to cook down and soften and once the onions are soft and translucent, add the curry powder, turmeric and paprika. Allow to cook for a few minutes and then use a slotted spoon to remove the mixture and place into a bowl for the time being.

In the meantime chop the tomatoes into small cubes, slice the courgette and pepper and set aside.

Now dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add back to the now-empty onion pan. You may need a drizzle more oil here. Allow the chicken to colour on all sides, moving around with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Once the chicken has been seared on all sides, return the onion, garlic and ginger mixture, and the rest of the vegetables to the pan.

Pour over the coconut milk and add the cloves and cinnamon stick.

Add sliced mushrooms for the final five minutes of cooking time.

Allow to cook for twenty minutes, stirring every few minutes, and then try to remove the cloves and what is left of the cinnamon stick.

Serve with your choice of accompaniments. Bridget and Bea love rice or a jacket potato with a little naan bread for dipping into the curry sauce. Enjoy! 

Chicken Dhansak

I have recently started cooking this delicious curry at home, and whilst it’s a touch too spicy for the girls, it’s a great meal for Glen and I and has fast become one of our favourites.

I originally used this Olive recipe, but have made a few slight adjustments over the last few times of cooking, adding extra spices from research amongst other recipe resources.

Originally four types of lentil were used but I’m sticking with my favourite - the simple red lentil as they do the job, taste great in this dish and what’s more they cook in very little time compared to other types.

I also use chicken thighs as find this meat is always tastier and retains its’ moisture better - but you can use chicken breast if you prefer, and the traditional meat here is actually lamb or mutton.

Serve with rice, naan or just a simple cucumber and tomato salad.

The below serves four.

Chicken Dhansak

Here’s how:
  • 300-400g skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chillies
  • Fresh ginger - about a 3cm long piece
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • Generous handful fresh coriander leaves and stalks

Firstly whizz up the paste by placing the green chillies - seeds and all, peeled ginger and garlic cloves and roughly chopped onion into a blender with a smidge of cold water - I use my Nutribullet for a really smooth paste.

Add the oil to a wok or heavy bottomed pan and place on a gentle heat and add the paste - cook for about ten minutes or until the paste is colouring to brown.

Now add the dried spices and use the knife to bash the cardamom pods up a little, then add to the mix and cook for a further few minutes.

Now add the chicken and cook to colour for a few minutes, then turn each thigh or piece and colour on both sides.

Now add the lentils and stir well to ensure they get a good coating of the base mixture, cook for a minute.

Now add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, stir well and allow to gently cook for twenty minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through. They will puff up to almost double their size, so it’ll be easy to tell.

Before serving remove from the heat and stir through half of the coriander and then use the rest as a garnish on top of the dhansak.

Serve with your choice of accompaniments. Enjoy!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

King Prawn Linguine with Chilli and Saffron

This is a delicious prawn pasta dish I've been tweaking over the past couple of years, but this version is just an absolutely winning crowd pleaser. 

If you read posts here often you'll know that as a family, we all love seafood and especially prawns and this has to be my favourite prawn pasta dish, I do make a few variants! 

This can be on the table in less than twenty minutes too - win, win.

For my family of four, I make the same as the below minus the red chilli for the girls, but you could always add a little extra creme fraiche to balance the heat. Make sure a finger bowl and towel is at hand as peeling them can be a little messy especially if the little ones attempt it - I tend to peel their ones for them to save the drama.

King Prawn Linguine with Chilli and Saffron

Here's how:

  • 15-18 king prawns, raw and shell-on
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  • Handful cherry tomatoes
  • 400g passata
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Pinch of saffron strands
  • 1-2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300g linguine
  • Few sprigs parsley

Firstly boil the kettle or place a large pot of water on the hob to boil for the pasta. Once boiled, add the linguine and cook for 10-11 minutes, or according to the pack instructions.

Now finely slice the spring onions, garlic, and chilli, and throw into a pan with the olive oil on a medium heat.

Now cut the cherry tomatoes in half and throw them into the pan once the onion, garlic and chilli have began to soften.

After two minutes add the passata and the tomato puree and season generously. Stir, and then allow to bubble away for ten minutes.

Now add the prawns, you will see the pink colour creep up the prawns as they cook, turn over after 1-2 minutes and allow to cook on both sides.

Before draining the pasta, add 1-2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce, this will help to loosen it and coat the pasta well.

Add the pasta to the sauce, still on the heat and mix well. Then finally stir through the creme fraiche - 1 tablespoon is plenty for us, but if you taste to gauge the heat level at this point, you can always add a little more if you'd prefer it slightly less spicy.

Mix through thoroughly, then dish up and add a sprig of parsley to each. Enjoy!

King Prawn Linguine with Chilli and Saffron for the family

If like us you love a prawn dish, here are a few other ideas for you:
Prawn Saganaki
Chilli and Prawn Chorizo Spaghetti
Spanish Prawns with Chorizo and Tomatoes
Prawn and Chorizo Carbonara
Skinny Spicy Breaded King Prawns
Gourmet Seafood Burger
Honey Ginger and Chilli Prawn Stir Fry
Prawn Summer Rolls
Vicky's Special Seafood Stew

Mary Berry's Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake

My daughters love to cook with me but over all else, they love to bake. This morning, before heading out for the weekly shop, I gave my eldest, Bridget, Mary Berry's Baking Bible to rifle through and select something for us to bake together this afternoon - she chose this Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake.

It is a fairly simple bake and results in a lovely crumbly texture with a rich iced finish. It went down incredibly well in our household - whilst I'm more of a Lemon Drizzle Cake girl, everyone else loves a chocolate cake.

I took this from Mary Berry's Baking Bible in the 'chocolate cakes' section - aside from a couple of very minimal modifications, this is Mary's to the letter.

Mary Berry's Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake

Here's how:

  • 225g softened salted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 level tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons warm water

For the icing:

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 100g butter
  • 80g milk chocolate

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a 3 pint ring mould generously. I use a silicon mould as find them easier to remove cakes from after baking that metal tins.

Omitting the cocoa powder and water - place everything else into a mixing bowl and fold in and mix well.

Once everything is well mixed, take a tablespoon and place 1 scooped tablespoon of the cake batter in the mould, and then repeat around the circular mould with small gaps in between each mound of batter. Use about half of the batter - this will help with the marbled effect.

Now pop the cocoa into a tea cup or mug and add the water and mix well, to an almost paste like consistence. Now add this to the remaining cake batter, and spoon over the batter in the gaps and all around until it is all in the mould.

Place the mould onto a baking tray and into the oven for 30-35 minutes. Test with a skewer that the cake is cooked through, and if so remove and leave in the mould for 5-10 minutes to cool a little. Then turn out carefully to cool completely - I place onto a wide chopping board as it's an easy place to ice the cake shortly.

For the icing, break the dark chocolate up and place into a bowl, with the butter and water. Place above a small saucepan of boiling water and allow to slowly melt, stirring with a wooden spoon to help it on its' way.

Once melted, it should have a beautiful glossy sheen to it, then spoon or pour over the cake to completely cover it. Now set aside somewhere cool and allow it to set for about an hour.

For the final part, break the milk chocolate into another bowl, and then place above the saucepan with recently boiled water. Once melted, transfer it to your piping vessel - you can of course use a piping bag, but I don't have much luck with them, so I just used a food bag and snipped a small hole in it.

Then finally drizzle over the cake in any pattern you'd like - the beauty of a homemade cake is the rustic appearance so let the children get involved and go crazy. Enjoy! 

Here are some other cakes and bakes you could attempt with your children as an activity during the holidays:
Simple Double Chocolate Traybake
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Guilt Free Apple Cake
Pig Face Cupcakes
Chocolate Cornflake and Marshmallow Cakes
Banana and Berry Breakfast Muffins
Deliciously Ella Sweet Potato Brownies
Monte Carlos Biscuits
St. Clement's Drizzle Cake