2 June 2013

A painting moment: oil tiles

I've turned my hand to "ceramics".  Well, that would be art ceramic tiles in oils. 

Prepped and primed up 5 inch by 5 inch canvas panels and began painting ordinary objects and still lifes.  Nice and quickly so you get the essence without the detail.

I liked them so much I decided to make a series.  I've painted about 30 so far, and will continue on until something else takes favour.

I've double framed them all in crisp white fashion, ready and waiting for my art exhibits this weekend at both the Bath Guildhall with Beckford Fine Art and the bi-annual Cheltenham Open Studios event. 

I've also been invited to sell them at an art venue near Cahors in France.

So if you are in Cheltenham or nearby, I'm at Venue 7.  You'll be most welcome to take a tour of the studio.


11 March 2013

Dan Lepard & David Whitehouse's Celebration Wedding Cake: mascarpone & coconut sponge with buttercream & redcurrant/ raspberry sauce

What's the best cake I've tasted? 

Dan Lepard & David Whitehouse's Celebration Wedding Cake:
fluffy, indulgent, sweet, creamy, special, light, understated glory with a hint of coconut.

Red Nose Day is fast approaching over here, and people are generously supporting the quirky, funny and imaginative fund raising ideas that are put before them.

My studio painting partner Lella was keen to host a cake sale at her winebar The Retreat asking friends, family and fellow Suffolk Parade traders to contribute something baked.
And I knew which one I wanted to make.  It had to be special enough to sell well.

Obviously I wondered if I had the skills to recreate Dan's wedding cake, but thought "what the heck" & bought the 23 & 25cm cake tins and piping bag for the task.  I believed I had every kitchen gadget - well, seemingly not so.

To deliver the cake, Tony had to drive me just 200 meters, whilst I cradled it on my lap, and nestled the coulis between my feet in the foot well.  

It was worth the care to see my friend's face.  She exclaimed "Gill!" and placed the sweet piece in the centre of the table, saying it deserved a profile.

I returned a couple of hours later to see it hadn't been cut into and was looking most precious.
Lella had sold a quarter to a lady, and upon the buyer's return, was hoping she would be inclined to purchase the entire cake.  I thought that unlikely, so cut the quarter out of the cake and reserved it for her.
I also needed to photograph those inside layers.

15 minutes after cutting the cake, not much remained.  Lunchtime diners wanted it for their dessert & it flew away.
I sat with Viv for a moment, she's a potter and art school owner, who'd supported the event by eating 6 cakes.
But got little peace as a woman wanted my business card thinking I was a cake maker, and others sought me out to congratulate me on the cake I'd brought.

I confess to indulging in feelings of pride for the remainder of the day.  Is that really sinful of me?

David Everitt-Matthias at the Champignon Sauvage round the corner also contributed a Dutche treacle tart with coconut and molasses which I tried.  Delightful.

Dan's excellent cake recipe can be found here at his Guardian column.

And this is how I followed his steps over two days:  

boiled the desiccated coconut & milk
melted the oil and white chocolate
added the 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks into the ingredients mix
folded the 4 egg whites carefully

with a metal spoon
poured into a lined 25cm baking tin

baked till spaghetti skewer comes out clean
trimmed and sliced in half for the buttercream layer

boiled the mascarpone

added sugar, butter and icing sugar

made the raspberry and redcurrant sauce
which you purée and strain

piped the cake
cut the cake
3 pieces left
Notes: I used 2/3 of the sugar in the stated recipe (I always reduce the sugar in recipes)

27 December 2012

How to make Turducken - a 4 bird roast

However you say it or spell it, I've wanted to create this dish every time we discuss our Christmas dinner options.
And, for our 2012 celebrations, we decide to make the Turducken.
The internet of course is usually a great source of information, but not really so when it comes to making this dish.  
I watched videos and blogs, but remained unsure about the crafting of the bird.

Until I came across a post at the food in my beard, and Elizabeth's Youtube video.
Both excellent guides, cutting through the flannel, and getting right to the heart of the exact details I was looking for.
I do appreciate an informed link that anticipates the needs of the reader.

So, after dithering somewhat, I choose to use turkey + guineafowl + chicken + pheasant in that order, and losing the ducken, which changes my poultry turducken into a distinctly gamely one.

Next up, I work on my stuffing,  I figure it's essential in keeping moisture within the meats, adding more taste, whilst also accentuating the layered lines.
I'm trying to avoid adding in even more meat, and eschew minced pork suggestions and go with a Spanish feel of lambs liver/ baked mushrooms/ Oloroso sherry/ thyme and shallot, soaked overnight in the booze, which I then purée to a paste the following morning.

And on Christmas Eve morning, I begin the deboning task, after sharpening my knives and watching Elizabeth's video link once more.

6 kilo organic turkey

The primary principle of deboning the turkey is to keep the skin intact.
Therefore, it's important to note that the blade of bone between the two breast areas gets very close to the skin.  Extra care is needed when working around this part, in order not to pierce the skin. 
But otherwise, it's a stress-free task if done steadily, which takes about 20 minutes using one filleting knife. 

I should also point out The Food in My Beard's tip of using breast meat when filling the turkey shell, rather than deboning any of the other birds you are using.  So, thereafter, it's a simple case of removing the fillets from the pheasant, the chicken and the guineafowl, reserving their carcasses for the 2 stocks: turkey and game.

deboned, thigh bones removed but leg and wings attached

I saw plenty of videos of cooks home and professional packing the bird to the max, one even tearing the skin in doing so.   
I decide to under stuff the bird, and to keep the vulnerable central back channel where the blade was housed stuffing free, and to pack just along the sides.
I also lay the chicken, guineafowl and pheasant breast left to right, feeling that the bird will have more form and structure running opposite to the turkey breast.  I season with the paste and salt and pepper as I work.

A tip.  Put your salt and pepper into a little pot, and throw away the remains which have been contaminated with raw meat.

the turkey is packed and stuffed, seasoning as you go along

Cocktail sticks are not enough to hold things together.   But as I'm putting the turkey back on my own, I need them to give me some security as I work with string and a darning needle.  Use pliers if the needle struggles to come through.
This element proves a bit trickier than I anticipated as it's a two person job, but the task is done thanks to my not overstuffing the bird.

pinned and trussed

Flip it over carefully, and admire your ability to still make it look like a Christmas turkey after all.

place on your trivet and baking tray

Tip: At this point you need to think about keeping the structure, as there is nothing really holding the bird together save the skin.
I slide two metal skewers through the body, wing - wing, and leg - leg.  It causes no harm, and helps with thorough, even baking too.

Frustratingly, cooking instructions for turducken generalise and vary from long slow roasting for 10hrs, to fast impatient baking for 3.
But I feel the easiest way to approach this is with a thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 70-75 to be sure.

roasted covered @170 for 5hrs 10mins
Tip: use two roasting tins.  After each baste, switch oven trays and wash out the grungy one.

I roasted my 9lb bird for 5hrs10 @170deg, reaching an internal temperature of 79 when I got round to testing.  
Removed from the oven, and rested the joint in 4 layers of foil wrap for 1hr30, whilst I made the sauce and vegetables in the freed up oven.

the skewers helped tremendously

Slice carefully, I'd recommend removing the wings and legs as the bones got in the way for me.

slice after resting

And serve your turducken with Jack Daniels enhanced gravy, parsnips, sprouts, roast potatoes, chipolatas and a plum jam.

Christmas Dinner

15 November 2012

woman&home's 100 best food blogs, and Gillthepainter

Popped onto Facebook this morning, whilst waiting for my aromatically frooty tea to cool, to see how my little niece and her teenage mates are getting along.
They can't hold water on there, and I get to know things in the family before others find out sometimes.

So I'm a fan.

For a change, something of real interest caught my eye @ Woman&home's 100 best food blogs.  
I particularly like to click through these awards rankings to add fine blogs to my RSS food feed for early morning eye guzzling.

Kavey, Cherrapeño I've already subscribed to, that goes for Matthew Fort too.  Anne's Kitchen, I do like her new profile photo, exactly illustrating the difference between an amateur and a professional [photographer] at their work.

But I was stunning to find my own blog placed at #59 in the listings.  
I haven't the foggiest how my weblog got there, although these publications employ researchers in the field I imagine.

& I'm still tickled about it several hours later.

25 October 2012

Conkers conquer spiders

It's been a poor conker crop this year, meaning conkers are in short supply.
And conker championships have either to be cancelled, or are to use sprouts.

About this time of year, we usually swoop upon a goodly bag or two of conkers.
But our digging and scraping in the fields this week yielded barely a couple of handfuls.

Why do we bother with such slim pickings, then?

Well.  Placed randomly around the shed and the bike cave, conkers keep the spiders away.  
No more cobweb threads over the face when fumbling around for garden equipment, nor jumpy glimpses of long, scurrying legs to be seen out of the corner of your eye.

Which is heaven when you're a card carrying coward around spiders, such as I.  
And the conquering spiders conker affect lasts for the duration of the year.

Conkers also help keep moths at bay when placed in wardrobes and cupboards.

15 August 2012

potluck soirée invite

I often hear about bloggers who eat out at the homes of their neighbours, and entertain regularly themselves.  Creating food bonds that go beyond friendship.

Although this strikes me as engaging, it has never been a part of my life.

Well, we've been invited to our first dinner party in about 10 years, and more importantly, accepted.
Our habit isn't to go house to house, we keep to ourselves usually.
The offer came out of the blue from a couple my husband knows from morning swimming in the Lido.  And I returned home at the weekend to the following brief:  cook and bring finger food for a potluck garden party on Tuesday. 

I asked some food friends for advice and got excellent suggestions - but couldn't cook it all, much as I wanted to.

So, simply, here are the foods prepared in my little kitchen.  It looks a lot, and, for my inexperience, it was too much.
But in reality, I took a sensible 2 x platters of nibbles. 

sourdough focaccia

Shipton Mill ciabatta flour gives the focaccia an excellent soft airy crumb

Clive's artichoke hummus and Joan's Lyonnaise cervelle de canut/ herby creamed cheese
pesto pinwheels
a simple potato tortilla
with parmesan cheese topping
20g mini-pittas the size of a biscuit

baking nicely
ready to be griddled and filled
apple sponge
with Spanish vanilla custard


pinchitos de pollo con salsa de menta
sourdough mini-pittas with spicy chicken and a mint dressing
As the pittas were the star of the evening, here's my recipe and method

pinchitos de pollo con salsa de menta

cumin, oregano, pimentón, thyme, saffron, a little curry powder, crushed garlic, salt and lemon juice
chicken, chopped
mango relish
salt and pepper

marinade the skewer-sized chicken pieces in the above dry ingredients for an hour or more
brush with olive oil and bake for 10 - 15 mins at 180, or grill
mix up the yoghurt mint and mango relish dressing, and pour it over the cooked chicken pieces
gently grill your pittas, slice in half through the middle, and fill with the pinchito pieces, dressing with the remainder of the sauce

skewer with cocktail sticks for ease of handling. 

sourdough focaccia bread - print recipe here

560g Shipton Mill ciabatta flour (roughly ground to promote air pockets) or T65 or white bread flour
200g/150g white leaven @100% hydration
350g water
4g salt (you'll add sea salt later)
a dash of olive oil
sea salt and rosemary to garnish

@200g leaven, knead the dough ingredients well, and cover and rest it overnight in the fridge
or @150g leaven, rest it covered on your counter for 6-8hrs 
press the dough into a rectangular shape 1 inch deep and lift it onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment (not greaseproof paper)
cover and rest for 1hr30mins till nicely puffed and risen

oil your fingers and hands and sprinkle chopped rosemary over the surface, pressing it lightly in
push holes into the dough using your finger tips (rather like a pianist)
dribble evoo over the surface of the focaccia
sprinkle over sea salt 
place a little water bowl into an oven heated to 200deg to preserve the softness of the loaf, and bake for 30 - 35mins
turn the oven off and allow it to cool for 5mins in the oven, before removing the loaf and cooling it on wire rack.

serve with a dip of your choice