June 25, 2014

Muddiest of all

Farm Feast 2014
 
As the calendar and finally the weather is calling summer, various food events begin to take place all around the country. They are like mushrooms after the rain, sprouting up everywhere: in a vibrant city center as well as in the smallest town. On a far-away farm, in middle of a park, near by a beautiful beach, in the old town hall, and even inside of a church. 
 
Farm Feast 2014

People tend to say that if you went one of them, you've been to all of them. Same concept, same scenario, same events, same producers settled under the same tents offering same edible and non-edible goodies. Let's say it's true, but being too enamored of various images of food, or simply never too tired to make another walk around the stalls filled, stacked and loaded with the most beautiful flavors, I am still tempted to visit them all. Well, at least as many as possible. Cause even though very similar in nature, they all have a slightly different vibe. Something unique and exceptional could be found in each and every single one of them.

Like this Farm Feast, for example, I visited... oh well, already a month ago. It goes into my list as being the muddies food event I've ever been to (thanks to the rainy English May), but just as well it was a place where I found that delicious chili and lime smoked mackerel, remarkably moist brandy fruit cake, balsamic vinegar I couldn't stop dipping my bread in and that terrific Blood Mary chutney which, let's agree, doesn't need any other explanation.

Farm Feast 2014
 
Farm Feast 2014
 
Farm Feast, 2014
 
 
Farm Feast, 2014
 
Farm Feast, 2014
 
Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014
 
Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014


Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014

Farm Feast, 2014

 

April 17, 2014

Sugar-shocking "Cake & Bake Show" in Manchester


Even if it means sacrificing my only day-off, waking up before dawn, getting on the bus still half-asleep while simultaneously trying to chase away any kind of signs of those weariness-determined questions 'why and do I really have to go there?', I would still not let myself to miss a food event. Any kind of it - a festival, a tasting, a fair or a show - that brings together those who treats this simple act of eating not only as a bare mean of survival, but as a quality of life. As pleasure and the purpose rather than something that can be taken for granted. I think, it might be called a foodie disease, when everywhere one goes and everything one does is being conceptualize by food. Places, people, atmosphere, even the relationship. And that is me. Incurable. Irreversible. For life. Cause I look for food before I look for anything else. I want to see it. I want to smell it. I want to know it. Read about it. Learn about it. I want to taste it and eat it. Eat it and appreciate it. All at once. All the time. Day in, day out. And most of all, the sweet side of it.

So when I heard that Cake & Bake Show was going to happen in Manchester, I knew I was going.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

And so, I went. Drooled over that enormously superb amount of sweets that was covering the place - from the finest handmade chocolates, incredibly rich and gooey brownies, heavenly silky cheesecakes and the most sinfully sticky  toffee puddings, to a whole range of giant meringues, elegant and stylish cupcakes, sophisticated pastries, the cuties mini sponge cakes I have ever seen, sumptuous French classic -  macarons,  the lightest and fluffiest hand-crafted marshmallows, the creamiest fudge pieces, a few lavish occasional cakes and a collection of gorgeous ice creams, sorbets and crushes that, as they say, appeal even to the most discerning palates. Next to all that, there was also an exquisite collection of various locally made jams, chutneys, curds, spreads and butters, high quality oils and vinegars, a whole range of English, French, Italian breads bursting with absolutely amazing flavors and textures,  velvety cheeses only British know how to perfect, traditional savory pies, puds, and sausage rolls as well as a great selection of finest teas and freshly roasted coffees.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

My personal favorite and by no means the best discovery was Joe & Seph's Gourmet Popcorns. An absolutely gorgeous thing! Perfectly crunchy, well coated with caramel, and fully packed with all kinds of natural flavors and flavor combinations that sometimes might  seem a little bit wild and offbeat, but without a doubt, extraordinary unique and delicious. Peanut butter, double salted caramel, maple syrup & roasted pecan,  caramel macchiato & whisky, goats cheese & black pepper, cheddar & smoked paprika, and Thai-style curry would be my first pick, but beyond these, there is a plenty of other choices. What about the combo of strawberries & cream, smooth caramel & Belgian chocolate, honey & hazelnut, gin & tonic, toffee apple & cinnamon, or olive oil, mozzarella & tomato? If only the movie theaters were selling these...

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

However, I have to admit, no matter how badly I enjoyed being surrounded by cakes and cupcakes, there was a moment when I desperately needed to turn away from all those sugar lures otherwise my blood pressure would have jumped into the very sky highs. So, when I was not watching John Whaite making his famous Stromboli buns from his latest book (which is, by the way, just as amazing as the first one)  or enjoying fabulous Paul A. Young demonstrating his hot cross bun brownie pies and giving away a few extremely valuable tips about chocolate, I feasted my eyes on an absolute army of vintage crockery and various home décor attributes: from beautiful and classy knives, personalized cutting boards, artisan bread making tools, a whole range of excellent professional baking equipment, a selection of different natural food flavorings and various cake decorating utensils to luxurious tea pots, elegantly curved porcelain cups, chic and graceful tea sets, delicately hand-painted mugs, unusual fabrics and tea towels, unique aprons,  and all kinds of other stylish vintage accessories that every kitchen enthusiast would pleasurably introduce into her kitchen.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

I must confess, by the time I was leaving, the only thing I desperately craved for was a super salty and super juicy tomato which could just wash away every single trace of that incredible amount of sugar I consumed during the day. However, it doesn't change the fact that the show was really amazing leaving me with only good memories, a great amount of inspiration and loads of new ideas to be processed in the future. So, if you're around London on 3-4 October, you might really want to consider popping in the Earls Court, cause that's where the next stop for Cake & Bake Show is going to be. I promise, you will not regret it!

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)


Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)
 

February 18, 2014

For love and out of love: Chocolate Profiteroles

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

I spent a morning in the museum, wondering through the history of Liverpool, it's cultural background and the biggest shining moments of the past. It was a good day. Well spent day. One of those days that you notice not only by the sequel number on a calendar, but also by the impact it made for your self-being. To be honest, I'm not a museum-type of person. I need to be in a (very) right mood to go and truly enjoy it, otherwise I will be just one of those people who blindly scans through the paintings or exhibits (however valuable they are) while intensively thinking about where I should go for lunch later on. However, once I'm in a right rhythm to dance according to the music of the past, I try to make the most of it. After all, Lois Lowry is right by saying that: "we have the museum to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old.” The more you know - the more you appreciate things. The more you appreciate - the more you acknowledge and notice. The more you notice - the more you are aware of life, and in turn - the more you live, the more you breathe in, and the bigger your breath is. 

So, I breathed. Historical facts. Epoch-changing moments. Odd truths (did you know that the main character in forming the Scouse (aka Liverpudlian) accent, I have to admit, I still sometimes find difficult to follow, was the potato). Fundamental achievement as well as memorable quotes, one of which, as a matter of fact, clung on me for the rest of the day. It was words that April Ashley, Liverpool-born Vogue model and world transsexual icon, said about love. I tried to find the original quote online, but after spending almost two hours scanning the internet all the way through, I simply gave up and put my trust on the memory. So, aside the precision, the core meaning of her words was that, when a person is in his mid-twenties, the most important thing for him is to love. Not to be loved, but to love, cause that is the time of selfishness, and only by loving one can satisfy this egocentric demand. Being loved, on the other hand, does not give anything.

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

It got me thinking that the same goes not only for mutual love between people, but for the love in general. For that enchaining feeling of passion. Desire. Rage. Fury. For that unconditional determination that keeps you hungry. That makes you wild. Fierce and flaming. For that immense devotion. Fire inside. Drive to break walls. Climb mountains. Reach the sky.

Once you have all this, world is a much easier, much pleasant, much satisfying place to live.

That being said, let's talk about profiteroles which for me are the core remarks of that kind of love I have in my life. Love for food. Pastries, desserts and baked goods in particular. For the creativity that hides behind them. Artistry. Imagination. Detail. Precision. For all of those things you put inside before there is final product on a plate to please your eyes and, in my case, somebody else's taste buds.

This time, it's chocolate profiteroles with orange crème patisserie and chocolate sauce.


Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Crème Patisserie and Chocolate Sauce

for the choux pastry:
90 g (3.17 oz) strong flour
20 g (0.7 oz) natural cocoa powder
175 ml (3/4 cup) water
75 g (2.65 oz) butter
2 g (0.07 oz or 1/2 tsp) sugar
2 g (0.07 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt
2-3 eggs, beaten

for the crème patisserie:
250 ml (1 cup) milk
finely grated zest from 1 large orange
1 egg
50 g (1.76 oz) sugar
25 g (0.88 oz) soft flour
5 g (0.18 oz) cornflour

for the chocolate sauce:
10 g (0.35 oz) cornflour
250 ml (1 cup) milk
10 g (0.35 oz) natural cocoa powder
65 g (2.3 oz) castor sugar
5 g (0.18 oz) butter

To make the profiteroles, in a large bowl, sieve together the flour and cocoa powder. Set aside. 
In a heavy saucepan, combine the liquid, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture the a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until all the flour is well incorporated. Return to a moderate heat and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. You can speed up the cooling process by mixing the dough either by had or with a mixer on a low speed.
Once the dough is still warm, but not too hot to touch, slowly add the eggs. Add no more than a quarter of the beaten eggs at once, then mix well until they are completely absorbed before adding more. The paste should be of dropping consistency, so you might need to stop adding more before all the eggs are used or you might as well need an extra quarter of the egg.
Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F) temperature. 
On a lightly buttered baking sheet, pipe 2 cm (3/4 inch) bulbs of choux pastry. Bake in 220 C (425 F) oven for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190 C (375 F) and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden and hollow when tapped. remove from the oven and, using a skewer or a toothpick, make a small hole in the bottom of each ball, then place them back in the oven for 2-3 more minutes to dry out. Transfer on a wire rack and let cool slowly in a warm place.
To make the crème patisserie, pour the milk into a heavy saucepan, add the orange zest and warm it up a little bit, but do not boil. Take out from the heat and leave for 10-15 minutes to infuse. 
In a meantime, a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until almost white. Sift in the flour and and cornflour.
When the milk is well infused with orange flavor, bring it boil and then temper the egg mixture by slowly beating in the hot milk in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the heat and once again bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat, pour into a clean bowl, dust lightly with sugar and cover with wax paper to prevent a crust from forming. Leave to cool.
To make the chocolate sauce, dilute the cornflour and cocoa powder with 50 ml of the warm milk.
Bring the remaining milk to a boil. Pour a little bit of the boiling milk on to the cocoa mixture, then return everything to the saucepan.
Boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
Take of the heat and mix in the sugar and butter. Leave to cool.
To assemble the profiteroles, when puffs are completely cool, slice in half horizontally each of them. Transfer the crème patisserie into a piping bag and pipe the cream into each profiterole, though, do not do this more than 2 hours before serving cause they will get soggy. Once all your profiteroles are filled with cream, place them on a plate or a serving tray and pour the chocolate sauce over.


Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce