North Parade #BittenStreet Night Market

“It’s like a glorified take-away” I heard a woman mumble as she made her way through the crowds. I would have attempted a come-back if I wasn’t busy stuffing my face with the Secret Pizza Society’s Christmas special. (Which was excellent as usual – this one had pancetta, chestnuts, and sage. Absolutely the best pizza I’ve eaten in this country. It cost £7 if my memory doesn’t fail me.)

Street food has been making some more regular appearances in Oxford recently, thanks to the great people at Bitten Oxford, and I’ve been going on about their events to anyone who will listen. This time it was a joint effort with the North Parade market people, for an evening market. The weather co-operated as much as it possibly could in late November, there was music and there was great food for not very much money at all.

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We started off with a lamb and salsa verde roll (£5) from Ross & Ross which I failed to get a picture of as I was too hungry, but I’m sure you can imagine a lamb roll. The lamb was slow cooked and then crisped on a hot plate, and there was plenty of herby sauce to cut through the richness. It made for pretty messy eating.

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We then managed to piss off everyone in the queue behind us by having the very last bits of pork belly from Smoke Yard Kitchen. That’s not the best photo in the world, but there are slices of pork belly, smoked in a Green Egg I think, in a Yorkshire pudding (£5ish). That’s pretty genius, so much nicer than a normal roll or bap, and I regretted my sharing strategy. We had it with some coleslaw topped with extra pork crackling, and I couldn’t resist a small portion of their macaroni cheese (£2).

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I was gutted to miss out on the Barefoot Kitchen‘s bacon brownies – apparently they disappeared before they had even finished setting up! I’m heading straight for them next time. I took a slice of the pecan pie home to console myself and had it with some whisky. Delicious, though probably not the wisest on a schoolnight.

The next event is this Saturday 20th December at the Oxford Castle Quarters, from midday till 8pm. I’m planning on going for lunch, braving the Christmas shopping crowds because I’m disorganised and leave everything to the last minute, and then returning for dinner. You should too.

An update and a cake

I haven’t given up on this blog yet. It might look like it, but I’m still around. I just figured that, given that I didn’t spend any time lying on the beach this summer, I probably shouldn’t be spending any time writing blog posts either. Which is to say, I didn’t go back home and I am gutted. But I’m getting there.

A few weeks ago it was my birthday. I survived the day thanks to several glasses of wine at Alimentum and friends that were nice enough to put up with my complaining about being old and not being in Greece.

The day before, my boyfriend and I made me a cake, which wasn’t a great success. It looked a bit sad for a celebration cake, and it tasted just ok. A bit too damp, not chocolatey enough. I decided to take it to the office the next day anyway, as I had promised cake and it was at least edible.

I took the cake with me to coffee and it disappeared pretty rapidly (it is cake after all). Then, one of the senior people asked me if I made it myself and complimented me on a rhubarb cake I had made a few weeks ago and taken to an office garden party. I was surprised he remembered and, of course, vainly proud. So, even though most of my spare time nowadays is spent stressing about not working hard enough, I made that cake again. I like feeding people and, let’s be honest, I like cake.

The recipe is very simple to put together and quite versatile. A sponge is topped by rhubarb and then crumble. You could of course use any fruit you like, I reckon peaches or strawberries would be pretty nice. My sponge is made from a simple cake batter, with equal amounts egg, sugar, flour and butter. I think Americans like to throw some buttermilk in there too, but I never have any handy.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

For the cake

150 gr butter
150 gr sugar (I like to use a mixture of caster and soft dark brown)
150 gr self-raising flour
3 large eggs 

Cream the butter with the sugar(s) until smooth. Add the eggs and sift in the flour. Whisk until incorporated.

For the rhubarb

400 gr rhubarb, cut in inch long pieces
2-3 tbsp caster sugar

Mix the sugar with the rhubarb and let it sit while preparing the rest.

For the crumble topping

100 gr cold butter
150 gr flour or a combination of flour and ground nuts (add slowly until the texture feels right)
80 gr brown sugar (or to taste)

Mix with your hands until it crumbly.

In a oven-proof dish, layer the cake batter, then the rhubarb with all the sugary juices and finally, top with the crumble. Bake in a 180 C oven for 40-50 minutes – you might want to start checking after 35-40 minutes by inserting a knife in the middle. It needs to come out almost clean.

You can serve this with custard or cream or ice cream or be weird like my boyfriend and have it with loads of evaporated milk. I quite like it as it is, with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

There’s been a serious amount of baking on this blog and in my house recently, but this weather is begging for a slice of cake and a cup of tea to get through the afternoons.

Recently, I was given a very generous amount of Total yoghurt to sample and I tried to think of different ways of using it up. It is lovely by itself drizzled with some honey and I’ve been having a dollop of it on top of a lentil curry (recipe coming) for the last couple of days, so now I thought I’d bake something with it. I’ve used yogurt instead of sour cream in Nigella’s Guinness cake before, but the chocolate and stout are quite overpowering and I wanted something simple to let the yoghurt come through.

I slightly adapted a recipe for a Gâteau au Citron from Orangette, leaving out the lemon zest and juice. I had a jar of some brilliant Greek sour cherries in syrup (spoon sweets we call them in Greece) and thought I could pour some of the fruit and juice at the bottom of my tray and cook the cake on top of it, flipping it over when cooked for a lovely caramelised topping. Instead of the spoon sweet you can just use whatever fruit in syrup you fancy, either homemade or from a can.

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (I used full fat Total, but 2% will do too)
1 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almond
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower oil

3-4 Tbsp sour cherries in syrup (or other fruit you like)

Whisk the yoghurt, eggs and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, almond and baking powder and combine. Finally, mix in the oil and vanilla extract and give it a bit of a whisk until smooth.

In a round pyrex dish, spread the syrupy fruit and add the cake mix on the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes to an hour (the original recipe said 30-35 min but both times I made it it was way too liquid after half an hour), until a knife comes out clean.

When it’s out of the oven, cover the dish with a plate and quickly flip the cake over. The top should be sticky and caramelised and the cake will have a lovely soft and pale crumb. Enjoy!

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Holborn

Even if the Cambridge food scene isn’t very interesting, I feel like I’m not allowed to say such a thing, having yet to visit places like Midsummer House and Alimentum. It’s just that in London the choices multiply and the prices (at least for the quality you’re getting) drop. I can’t but love it.

A weekend in early June we found ourselves heading down to the capital for a little food adventure. After stuffing our faces with the brilliant (and unexpectedly large) lunch at Launceston Place, we headed to our next stop: Bea’s of Bloomsbury. I had never heard of it before, but a friend works nearby and had great things to say about the little cafe in Holborn.

We were booked in for afternoon tea which includes a scone and several mini brownies and cupcakes. I started with the mini raspberry meringue, which turned out to be my least favourite. It was pretty to look at and lovely to eat, with a crumbly texture, but I found it a little too sweet for my liking. I still hadn’t recovered from lunch though, so maybe that was the problem.

The scone, obviously served with clotted cream and jam, was one of the best I’ve had. It’s been over two months since then but I can still remember the moist, crumbly texture and the slightly salty taste that went perfectly with the sweet jam. It was rich but somehow still light and I could have eaten them all day.

I was hoping that my Lapsang Souchong would help me digest my lunch and manage some of the cakes but, after having the scone, things started to look pretty desperate. Thankfully, we all agreed we’d rather take the rest of the cakes away and try again later in the day. When we did manage them, I was pleasantly surprised at how moist the sponge was and how fruity the icing. It was a close competition but the favourite was probably the passion fruit one.

If I had to complain about something it would have to be the place itself. We were there on a hot summer’s afternoon and since there was no air conditioning it was quite stuffy. I am sure that’s not a problem for most of the year, thanks to the glorious British weather, but maybe it’s worth looking into it for the few summer days we get. I did like the fact that from where we were sitting we could see the kitchen; it makes you feel that they haven’t got anything to hide!

Bea’s of Bloomsbury does afternoon tea for just under £10 per person and it is well worth it for the quality and amount of stuff you get. You can add savoury mini baguettes for an extra £3. Or you can just drop in and choose a slice (or two) of cake to take away.

Orange and rhubarb cake

One of the most annoying questions in the world is the one that begins with “What’s your favourite…”. It’s also one that I love to ask, not so much to get a proper answer but just to see the person’s reaction to it. How do you pick your favourite film (although that’s easy for me, it’s the one that I watched 5 times in 4 months), your favourite band or your favourite food? More importantly, how on earth are you supposed to pick your favourite cake?!

No one should ever have to choose between a moist chocolate cake, a fragrant orangey one or a beautiful, summery, fruity cake. Notice, I said fruity cake. Not fruit cake. Fruit cake makes me feel cheated –  you take a bite hoping for sweet, soft carbohydrate to satisfy your crave and you end up with dry bits of overly sweet fruit sticking all over your teeth. And there’s loads of them, you can’t even pick them out! Fruit cake should be banned.

Fruity cake, though, is a whole different story. I’m talking about the usual sponge cake turned into a lemon or orange cake, with real bits of real fruit (berries, please) or even banana to turn it into a decadent moist loaf. The beauty of it is that you don’t even need a recipe. The rule is simple: equal amounts (weights) of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, a teaspoon of bicarb of soda and one of baking powder, a splash of vanilla extract and your base is ready. (If you want real measurements, 3 medium eggs, 150 grams of sugar, flour and butter will do).

Now go crazy! Add lemon or orange juice and zest, fresh or frozen berries, chocolate chips, or mashed bananas. Just remember that if you add more liquid stuff you will need to compensate for it with a bit more flour. And if you add the bananas, double the baking powder as it will be harder to rise. If you’re a fan of nuts, replace half of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts.

This is my standard, no-fail cake recipe. The variation I’m sharing with you below comes from the Masterchef cookbook and, although this is the first recipe I’ve made from it, it has loads of good looking things and I will be using it more soon. It also looks like there is an identical recipe on the Waitrose website so I don’t even feel guilty for putting it up here. Did Waitrose steal it off the book? Or did the Masterchef contestant cheat a little? Who cares? It’s delicious.

Orange and Rhubarb cake

Ingredients (enough for a 23cm diameter cake)

400g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
50g caster sugar

150 gr caster sugar
150g butter, softened
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and a juice of 1 orange

a handful of flaked almonds

Mix the rhubarb with the 50gr of sugar and leave on the side for 30 mins while preparing the cake mix.

Whisk the butter with the 150gr of sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, the flour and the almonds and whisk until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and, finally, add the rhubarb and its juices and combine.

Butter and line a 23cm tin (or butter and flour a tray like I did), spoon the mix into it and scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.

It’s lovely eaten by itself with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The cake is sweet and fragrant and the tart rhubarb balances it perfectly. As it’s not overly sweet, it’s also really nice served as a pudding with some cream, chantilly or custard.


Note: For the cake in the pictures above I have added some frozen berries as I had only a little bit of rhubarb – they worked nicely together.

Orange and Chocolate Cake

My love for Nigella is no secret- her recipes always produce great tasting food with not much fuss. But it’s more than that. Her shows are almost addictive, and her over-the-top, almost sexual attitude towards food makes them more fun. I doubt she actually does get up at 3 in the morning, makes some french toast and strawberry coulis and then, leaving the kitchen in a mess, goes back to sleep. I don’t believe it, but I like it. It would be fun if you could do it, not get fat and not wake up to find a filthy kitchen.

I’ve only got one of her books, Feast, although I’m coming to believe that Nigella Express is one of the must-have cookery books. I love reading Feast. I haven’t cooked much from it yet, but I’ve probably read it cover to cover. The way she talks about food would make anyone fall in love with it.

Last year I discovered her Guinness Chocolate Cake and loved it. So dark, with a great texture and the Guinness influence, although not strong, adds an earthy flavour to it. It’s become a favourite and everyone who has tried it has loved it.

A year later, I found myself looking for a recipe for another chocolate cake, for the same friend’s birthday. In Feast, I found the recipe for an Orange and Chocolate cake, a combination that I really like. It looks so simple, it’s almost worrying.

You see, what you have to do is boil some oranges, then pop them in the food processor, and then add all other ingredients in there too. Oh, and bake it. Gregg would stuff it in his mouth and then proclaim that “cooking doesn’t get easier than this”.

Orange and Chocolate Cake (from Nigella)

Ingredients

2 oranges, weighing approximately 350 gr
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g cocoa
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

optional: orange peel to decorate

Boil the oranges (whole) for about 2 hours or until soft. Cut them in pieces, get rid of any seeds or hard bits and pop them in the food processor. Meanwhile, line and butter a round cake tin (23 cm) and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Pulp them until smooth. Let cool for a bit (I left it in the fridge for a few minutes) and add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Place in the tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When it’s ready, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Have you noticed that it has no butter and no flour? Perfect for the gluten intolerant and, although I’m not going to pretend this is healthy, it’s certainly not as bad for you as other chocolate cakes. The oranges make it so moist you won’t able to tell there’s no butter in there and the taste is quite strong, unlike other orange cakes that only use juice or zest. You can make a ganache for it if you like but I don’t think it needs it. Some ice cream would be nice with it, although we had it plain and it was gorgeous.

Ladopita (Greek #5)

Do you like Marmite? I don’t, although I’m trying to get used to it slowly, somehow it feels like it is something I should enjoy. My point is, this cake is like Marmite, as in you either love it or you hate it. So far, a handful of my friends say they enjoy it, while the rest could happily survive without trying it ever again in their lives. But don’t let this put you off; you should give everything a go. Especially something so traditional and local and simple yet special as this.

As far as I’m aware, this cake is made only on a small island in Greece, on which I grew up. It is made by grannies on villages in large batches and then given away as presents to family and friends. At least that’s what happens in my family. It really is a matter of pride, to be able to make one of those well! People grew up on this stuff, because it involves such cheap and common ingredients and lasts well for a few weeks. Everyone knows what one should taste like, and they are very critical of any alterations of the recipe (even substituting honey for sugar is frowned upon!).

My mum attempted making it once. I was about 10 years old. I remember a lot of running around in the kitchen, some panicking and a lot of vigorous mixing. The end result was nice I think, but it didn’t compare to my granny’s version and I think my mum decided she would never manage to make one as good as the original one. Having been so critical of other people’s efforts, she decided to not put herself in that position again.

So what chance did I stand?! Although it could well be a failure, I was safe in the knowledge that my parents would not have to taste it and any criticism would come only from people that didn’t really know what a good one tastes like. And myself.

But I’ve just realised I haven’t even told you what I’m making yet! This Greek “cake” is called Ladopita. And that translates to “Oil Pie”. Olive oil of course. I wonder how many people have just closed this tab. Oh well. There you go:

Ladopita

Ingredients (This is a quarter of the standard recipe and makes about 20 pieces. It’s enough, trust me.)


2 glasses of water
1 3/4 glasses of olive oil
1 glass caster sugar
around 500 gr all-purpose flour
sesame seeds
ground cinnamon

I know that using glasses isn’t really the best way to measure things, and I have already expressed my disliking of the cups method, but this is a traditional Greek recipe. I wouldn’t dare spoiling it by making you use scales! It’s easy to estimate what half a kilo of flour is from a 1.5 kilo packet. Just use a standard water glass, about 250 ml. You can decide how much flour you need by judging the consistency of the mixture.

I am including quite a few rubbish pictures to help guide you through the process. First, heat up the oil in a big pot. Add the flour slowly and mix until smooth and creamy. It will look a bit like this:

Now you need to keep stirring over a medium heat to make sure you cook the flour without burning it. It might take a bit. Don’t get impatient, this is very important. In the meantime, pop the sugar and water in a pot and let it boil for 5-10 mins until it becomes a bit syrupy.
 
Your mixture is starting to look darker. First a bit like chestnut paste, and then it should take a brown-ish colour.
 
This is where I stopped. I think it needed a bit longer. If you keep stirring it won’t stick to the bottom, so you can wait until it gets a bit darker.
Now, add the syrup in batches. You should probably take the big pot off the heat. The first batch of syrup you add is going to make the mixture go mental. You’ve been warned hence you’re already more well prepared to do this than I was. This is how it looks after you start adding syrup. I think there is a drastic change because the hot syrup cooks the flour really quickly. It is very important that you keep stirring so it is all smooth, although this step won’t take more than 5 minutes.
 
You can now add a bit of cinnamon to the dough. Take a baking tray, sprinkle a few sesame seeds on the bottom and spoon in the dough. 
 
It looks all messy on the top so you need to take some baking paper, pop it on the top and then press down on the dough with your hands so it all becomes smooth and flat, like this:
 
Then, you sprinkle cinnamon, sesame seeds and a bit of sugar (preferably granulated) and, using a knife, cut it in diamond-shaped pieces, all the way to the bottom. This is very important as it will be quite hard to cut it in pretty pieces after it’s cooked.
 
Pop it in the preheated (200 degrees) oven for about an hour. You can check with a knife if it is cooked in the middle. It should be looking golden brown on the top.

You can enjoy it as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee, especially if dinner is still a long time away and you’re feeling a bit hungry. It’s quite filling! It should be crumbly on the inside without being dry. It keeps for at least a couple of weeks out of the fridge. Just cover it with some cling film so it doesn’t dry out.

I think overall mine was a good effort! It wasn’t as hard to cook as I thought it would be, it was just a bit intense for a few minutes when I added the syrup. Certainly not time consuming! It was of course no match for the original version and I probably wouldn’t dare serve it to my granny, but I think I could convince my parents to have a taste without feeling embarrassed. 
If you decide to give it a go –  and you should! –  I’d love to hear how it went.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Cheeeeeesy!

Yaaaar!

This weekend I was supposed to be writing a talk. Instead, I spent all of Saturday baking a cake and all of Sunday recovering from a hangover. I thought it might be more interesting to talk about the first one.

It was a friend’s birthday a few days ago and his girlfriend decided to throw a surprise party for him. Apparently, the friend with the birthday likes pirates (hmm..), so there was a theme. Sophie and I spent ages getting excited about the prospect of making a cake in the shape of a pirate boat, although I have to admit I was terrified that it would be a complete disaster. Hoping for the flavour to compensate for appearance, I suggested we made one of my favourites, Nigella’s Guinness and Chocolate Cake.

It is a really easy cake to make, and I think it is also quite a safe one too, given that the first time I made it I managed to put the oven on 110 degrees rather 170 and only realise after it had been in there for half an hour. It still turned out great.

So, the recipe (from Nigella’s website):

Ingredients:

250ml Guinness
250g butter
75g cocoa
400g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
2 eggs
275g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
vanilla extract

Basically, it’s a one-pot cake. You melt the butter with the guinness. At this early stage, it looks disgusting. When it’s all melted, take it off the heat.


Then, you add cocoa and sugar and whisk, and it’s starting to look amazing, really really dark and smooth. Next, you beat the eggs with the sour cream and the vanilla extract and add to the mix. Finally, sieve the flour and bicarb soda and whisk until smooth.

We made an extra 50% to make two cakes. The recipe is supposedly for a 9″ tin and that will give you a tall cake. We made two of them.

Then, the fun started!

Basically, we cut each cake in half, stuck the two halves together with chocolate icing and put them in the freezer for an hour or so. That gave us the two boats, which looked a bit like this after we covered them in chocolate ganache:

At that point I was just a bit worried that no one would be able to tell what our cakes were supposed to be, and that they would probably be put off by the way they looked too. But thanks to Sophie’s creativity it turned into a real ship battle!


She decorated the rest of the table too. It was a great party, especially after Phil decided to make some more punch. But that’s a different story.