Coconut biscuits!

A raining Sunday is perfect for experimenting in the kitchen.

I love baking, both my grandmothers were great bakers and gifted us with lots of time together in the kitchen making things together.

I didn’t have enough coconut for macaroons so I decided to get creative with what I did have.

Ingredients 

120g Plain Flour

50g Desiccated Coconut

50g Ground Almonds

100g Sugar

120g Butter

 

Going for easy options I went for simple combinations, and an even easier method.  Fingers crossed.

Method 

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  I also added some cinnamon because it is my favorite, you could add nutmeg or vanilla if you wanted to.

Gently melt the butter, don’t let it bubble.

Combine the butter with the dry ingredients until it forms a dough.

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Roughly shape into balls (about a teaspoon amount of mixture) and lay on baking paper.  Press down with a fork.

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Bake in the oven for 18 minutes or until golden.

 

Pretty tasty, hope you enjoy.  let me know how yours turn out.

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Learning to roll sushi

We’re off to learn how to make sushi like a pro.  We’ve signed up to the Yo-Sushi School and arrive at Brunswick Square ready and hungry.

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Solomon is our teacher and he shows us how to create cucumber Maki with its lovely square shape, as well as California rolls…which involves flipping the nori over and hoping that your rice doesn’t fly off.

We spend nearly 2 hours creating our sushi, with Solomon being very patient and helpful along the way.  At the end of the course we opt to take ours home….there is so much of it!

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You get to leave with a note book detailing the folding, rolling and rice squishing methods you need to do it all again at home.

For More information on the Yo Sushi School click here

 

Elfy Sushi

For a long time I have been trying to work up the courage to make my own sushi.  So tonight, is the night.

For preparation, I have ordered a bamboo mat for rolling the sushi, sushi rice and the nori sheets.

Ingredientsimag2416

Nori sheets
Sushi rice
Salmon filets x 2
½ bell pepper
Garlic
1 x can of Tuna
2 tsp Tahini
Avocado

Method

Pre-cook your sushi rice in advance so that it has a chance to cool right down.  I cooked about a cup of rice and this made 4 rolls.

Gently fry the garlic and bell pepper in a pan, add some chilli if you like a bit of spice.  Add the salmon in the same pan. once cooked though allow to cool in the meantime, mix the tuna, tahini and a little oil.

Lay the bamboo mat out on a clean surface or chopping board.  Lay a nori sheet on the top of the bamboo mat.  Spread a lay of the sushi rice on the nori but leave a good 3-4cm at the front of the sheet.  Spread a decent amount of tuna on the end furthest from you, lay some sliced avocado along side the tuna and roll towards you tightly.  Slice up.

Repeat with the salmon, slice it and lay across the prepared nori and rice.  Add the bell peppers and garlic across and roll.

Yum.

It tastes amazing, its fresh and healthy.  The first roll is not tight enough and a bit fiddly to eat.  I will definitely make this again.

 

Disaster in the kitchen Elf

Nougat a wonderful soft, chewy, sweet and decadent treat and the perfect homemade Christmas gift for friends and family.

So, I set about researching for a recipe that is easy enough for a first-time nougat creator and a recipe that does not insist on lots of crazy equipment.  I settle on one from Good To Know

So, I set out my ingredients, and at the start everything is going IMAG2241 (1).jpgwell.  I follow the instructions.  Bit by bit it becomes apparent that I need 2 more sets of hands.  Whilst trying to keep an eye on the temperature of the syrup, I realise the almonds are starting to burn.  I quickly whip them out of the oven.  Phew, rescuable I just take out the few almonds that are beyond it.  Then I start to separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites.

Now, I do not have a standalone mixer, just a hand held…this is where it starts to go terribly wrong.  I’m desperately multitasking, trying to watch the syrup and whisk the egg whites.  The egg whites are ending up everywhere as I resort to trying to keep whisking whilst holding the thermometer in the syrup.  The temperature does not seem to be rising at all, then suddenly its burning…I’m not even sure how, it doesn’t look like its burning but the fire alarm is now going off so it must be!  In a last ditched attempt to rescue the situation I try to gently and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites…whilst whisking.  I definitely do not have enough hands I can’t hold the heavy syrup pan and whisk…it’s not physically possible.  I imag2245am spilling boiling sugar everywhere!  EVERYWHERE! I give in and try to do it in batches.  A last minute hopefulness takes over as it seems the mixture is setting.  It’s quite brown though…that’s not right…. Anyway, I pour the mix into the trays line with rice paper (oh, yes, forgot to mention I miss-clicked and ended up with a garish green rice paper rather than the pale green Christmas colour I had hopped for).

The mix sort of sets, we try it.  It is horrible, genuinely I have never baked anything that tastes more like the scrapings of a fire place.  It goes in the bin.

I try again… because I am mad.  I haven’t yet gotten the sugar syrup off the benches!

The second attempt is mildly less manic and terrifying, helped by enlisting Mr Elf.  This time however, the mix just stays like a rather melty ice cream looking smuch between garish green paper.  It tastes good this time, which is something…. I think.  In any case, it too goes in the bin and I make shortbread instead.

I recommend buying your nougat at the supermarket and enjoying as a treat that does not leave you wondering how you got egg whites in the toaster!

 

Elf’s 3 things to do Luang Prabang

Our favourite three things to do in Luang Prabang.  In no particular order.

One – Cooking school

This might not be for everyone, but we love taking cooking classes when we travel.  I think it is a great way to explore local ingredients and traditions.  Having read some of the reviews we decided to book in with Tamarind Cooking School.  The group is quite small which is nice, we head off to the main market which is Phousi Market.  It is a complete sensory overload, the smell, the colours, the noise, it is great.  We then drive up into the hills and to a lovely cooking school hidden up in the hills surrounded by streams and ponds, there is beautiful lush forest around us.  We cook five different dishes and lots of sauces to accompany them.  the setting its lovely, we are outside and I especially enjoy love cooking on the outside fires.  The food is delicious, the teaching easy to follow and we even leave with a book of the recipes we have tried out today.

Two – Waterfalls

There are lots of waterfalls to choose from, we visited two Tad Sae which is less touristy and easier if you want to take a dip.  It is so beautiful it’s hard to believe.  We also visited Kwang Si waterfalls, also beautiful, it takes a little bit more of a walk to get to the main falls, but its lovely.  At Kwang Si there is also the bear rescue centre which is wonderful, the bear rescue relies on donations to continue their work and actually receives no money from the entry fee to the waterfalls.  There is a strict modesty etiquette at all the waterfalls, there are changing rooms and bathrooms.

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Three – Alms giving ceremony

Every day at dawn the monks from all the temples in Luang Prabang to collect alms.  I take up a quiet spot on a stair to watch.  The devotees start to appear as the sun is rising, they take up positions kneeling on the sides of the roads, they bring offerings, normally of rice although some will offer fruit or other items.  The monks pass in silent single file past the devotees, the monks take the offerings and place this into their metal bowls, this is the food that they will have for the day.  This is a lovely and beautiful spiritual experience.  I find it very moving and feel very privileged to have experienced this ritual.

Elf at the Farmers’ Market

Brixton Farmers’ Market, has recently become its own organisation and is technically the Brixton Market Traders Federation.  The market runs on Sundays by the railway bridge.  It’s a small but perfectly formed market, the stalls vary slightly each week, but the general staples are butchers, cheese stalls, bakery goods, fresh vegetables and fruit, wonderful coffee and cakes.

We head down on a beautiful sun filled weekend and wonder amongst the stalls, picking up some wonderful looking quiches, pastries and sausages.  The stalls are an eclectic mix but all the stall holders know what they are talking about and everyone was happy to chat and enthusiastic about their produce.  This made me so happy.  Everything tastes better when you know where it has come from.

imag2144-1We sit outside at the craft beer bar.  The sun is shining, everyone is happy and chatting away in a wonderfully neighbourly way.  Everything is bright and shiny and somehow new.  The market small though it is, is wonderful.  This week there is a burrito stand that smells amazing a couple buy a massive, amazing looking burrito and stroll along munching together.

The craft beer is delish, we choose summery pale ales and enjoy watching the wold go by.

There was some talk recently that the market was going to close, I have to say I am so happy that the Federation was created and they have managed to bring it back.

If you want to get your hands on the magical lamb shanks sold at the Borstal stand you will positively have to be there at opening time.  But otherwise it was a lovely morning that stretched into the afternoon.

Head along and sample the deliciousness.

Beesting Elf

Beesting cake or Bienenstich is a yeast based desert that is similar to brioche in its consistency. Some people say the name comes from the bees that are attracted to its honey topping, others say that to be a true beesting it needs to have been stung by a bee!

Anyway, aside from that it is Mr Elf’s favourite and after lots of years without this cake I have decided to take on the challenge and create one for his birthday. I have been researching recipes and there are many variations out there. I have gone for a combination recipe taken from a couple of different sites (BBC good food and Good To Know websites) and combined them to make a recipe that is not to custardy (yuck!) and fingers crossed it will work out.

The recipe is a yeast based cake although if this seems daunting there are non-proofing recipes out there that I am sure would work just as well.

Ingredients for the dough:IMAG2076

250g plain white flour
125g butter (cold ish)
2tsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
7g easy-bake dried yeast
3 medium eggs

Lightly butter a Medium baking tin. Mix the flour and butter together to make breadcrumbs, by rubbing the butter though the flour with your fingers and thumbs. Next add the sugar, salt, yeast and eggs and knead it in to the mixture until combined (take a little time to do this). Turn out on to a lightly floured surface form the dough into a ball, use a little extra flour if you need. Put the dough into a bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Once it has risen knock the dough down, shape it into a ball and put it back into the baking tin you are going to use in the oven. Cover and leave to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size

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Ingredients for the topping:IMAG2079

50g unsalted butter
50g sugar
4tbsp honey
Pinch of salt
80g sliced almonds
Vanilla extract

Bring the butter, sugar, honey, and salt, together in a non-stick pan on the hob and bring to a gentle boil. (Keep an eye on this or it will boil up over everything and this is very hard to get off!) Let the mixture reduce slightly then remove from the heat, and stir in the almonds, making sure that all the almonds are evenly coated in the honey mixture. (You can add extra almonds if you feel like it). Spoon over the dough making sure you get an even coverage. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Ingredients for the filling:IMAG2080

250g Double cream
Vanilla extract
1.5tbs honey

Make sure you allow the cake to cool right down to room temperature before you try to add the filling. Whip up the cream until thick and slowly add the honey and vanilla. Cut the cake in half (extra hands might be needed) and spread a generous layer of cream inside. Sandwich back together serve.

You could use Crème fraiche instead of cream, or you could go the custard based filling and make a thick custard instead. Don’t be afraid of this delish cake. It is remarkably easy and just needs a little bit of extra time and planning to allow for the proofing. (I didn’t remember to do this, and was baking in to the night)

Elf tip: Make sure your eggs are room temperature. Cold eggs make for sad yeast.