BF Bites July Roundup

A Vida Portuguesa

BF Bites 7.17

Warm welcome at A Vida Portuguesa

To say that I was blown away by my weekend in Lisbon might be an understatement.  Having only spent one particularly unmemorable holiday in the Algarve many years ago, my expectations of Lisbon were reserved.  But from the moment I stepped of the plane and was greeted with the most incredible light, followed by three days of walking through a sensory overload of colours and beauty both old an new, it was clear that Lisbon was the design destinations of my dreams.  The highlight, outside of lunch at A Cevicheria (thank you Joanna Brennan for the recommendation) and consuming a years supply of Pasteis di Nata from Manteigaria was A Vida Portuguesa. A shop specialising in all thing Portuguese from speciality foods and their aspirational packaging to stationary, games, homewares and of course tiles.  With three destinations all offering slightly different collections it is a must visit on your Lisbon getaway.

 

The 5cm (2 inch) Squeeze and Release Ice Cream Scoop

This inexpensive, indispensable piece of kitchen equipment is the secret weapon of cookie success. With swift scooping of each batter it allows for perfectly even sized cookies time after time. No more batter covered fingers or the need to be particularly adept at the 2 spoon scoop method.  And it allows the cute balls of raw dough to sit in the freezer ready to bake for any emergency cookie needs.

 

Pics peanut butter

BF Bites 7.17

photo Pic’s Peanut Butter

I am aware of the frequency with which I wax lyrical about local, seasonal food, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and revel in the imports.  Its the 80/20 rule right?  I do buy this incredible New Zealand peanut butter locally so I hope it at least counts that I walk to to the shops to buy it (and anyway peanuts are hardly indigenous to the UK).  I first discovered Pics at Maltby Street Market, but luckily it is now stocked at my local speciality delicatessen, Panzers where you can buy just about anything you never thought you needed and now cannot live without.  We do keep a regular stock of what seems like an endless variety of nut butters in this house, but this one wins the peanut category hands down.

 

Kaffeine

BF Bites 7.17

Signage greetings at Kaffeine

The 17 year old Pavoni coffee machine has pride of place on my kitchen counter.  It is the first thing you see as you walk in, and has its own designated space far away from the rest of the crowded collection of kitchen machinery that lives at the other end of the worktop.  And while it still consistently produces multiple excellent coffees a day for me with perfect foam (not the milk kind), I still go quite far out of my way at least once a week for what I consider to be London’s best cup.  Greeted by the best of all chalk boards, always with something tempting from the in house kitchen at the counter for breakfast, lunch or just a little pick me up, and consistently good coffee with just the perfect milk foam, Kaffeine is the place to go.  There are only 2 venues (funnily enough around the corner from each other) and they are worth travelling across town for.  And of course while I am there I can pick up my favourite beans to enjoy at home.

 

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every time I think I have discovered the ultimate cookie recipe, another one sneaks into my line of vision that I must try.  Before you accuse me of cheating on the older model, the new flavour of the week can live happily alongside my number one favourite. Call me fickle, but sometimes a thick double chocolate nut filled treat is is what’s needed, while at other times only a nod to the nostalgic toll house variety will do.

And everyone knows, the only thing that beats a chocolate chip cookie is a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. This summer’s discovery of my newest chocolate chip cookie recipe — the ideal combination of chewy and crispy — also happens to make the perfect ‘witch.

Not every cookie suits a sandwich. A thick-and-chunky cookie makes the whole ensemble too big to take an elegant bite when stuffed. The crunchier cookie breaks easily making assembly a challenge and impractical to eat without coating yourself in ice cream, problematic for not just the perfectionists of this world. But I am pleased to say that I think I might have found the answer. And I stumbled upon it purely by accident.

Despite always searching for good dairy free desserts (minus toxic fat substitutions), I irrationally resisted the olive oil cookie recipe for a very long time. I make a variety of cookies with no fat at all for the dairy free occasions, but for some inexplicable reason the olive oil cookie always made me a little nervous. Until I found the food blog with possibly one of the best names on the planet – The Displaced Housewife (aka Rebecca). She puts my cookie production to shame, and has an enviable number of chocolate chip varieties on her site. Rebecca raved about her olive oil chocolate chip cookies. So much so that I decided to bite the bullet and give them a go.

Like Jacques Torres winning cookie recipe, strong flour (usually used for bread baking) is the key to ensuring the cookies hold their shape. Much tinkering and many test batches later, I now have what I believe to be a cookie as irresistible straight out of the oven as it is snuck out of the freezer stuffed with ice cream. And I promise you won’t miss the butter.

A Few Sandwich Tips:

  • Soften the ice cream so that it scoops very easlity onto the bottom cookie.  
  • If you churn your own ice cream, freeze it on a lined rimmed sheet pan and once completely chilled cut into rounds that fit just inside the cookie.  
  • Keep a batch of cookies in the freezer at all times for emergency ice cream sandwich assembly.
  • The cookies will need to freeze for a good 4-5 hours before they are set enough to eat once filled.

Sometimes when procrastination gets the better of me and there is no the time to chill the sandwich, a bowl of ice cream topped with a freshly baked cookie will suffice, but really nothing beats the real deal.

 

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip cookies

180ml (¾ cup) good extra virgin olive oil

150g (¾ cup) light brown soft sugar

150g (¾ cup) caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

160g (1 ½ cups) strong white bread flour

65g (½ cup) wholemeal flour

65g (½ cup)  plain white flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp maldon salt

200g chopped dark chocolate in good sized pieces or chocolate calettes (chunks are good in the cookies)

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine olive oil, sugars and eggs. Beat on medium to high speed for 2-3 minutes until completely incorporated.

Meanwhile combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and stir together.

Add vanilla to oil mixture and mix followed by the dry ingredients. Mix until no flour shows but careful not to overmix.

Stir in chocolate.

Cover and allow the mixture to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours or preferably overnight to harden.

When you are ready to cook, preheat your oven to 190C

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and scoop the cookies with an ice cream scoop (I use a 5cm one) into balls well spaced out on the baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. They will still be soft but golden on top, so be careful not to overbake. They will harden as they cool. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to continue cooling.

Notes:

If wholemeal flour is not a staple in your larder,  you can replace it with plain flour.  I just like the added nutty flavour.

The cookie dough is very soft and needs to rest before it is baked to prevent the cookies spreading too much during cooking. You can either do this by letting the whole mixture sit in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight before scooping and baking. Alternatively you can scoop them straight after mixing and freezing the raw balls of dough on a lined cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the dough is frozen you can pop them in a freezer bag and bake as you need them.

 

Enjoy!

Cornbread with Chilies and Spring Onions

cornbread

Cornbread ranks highly on my list of comfort foods. A current staple at any outdoor feast and a hit at our recent July 4th Supper Club, many iterations have featured at meals over the years.

My cornbread hall of fame ranges far and wide. From the infamous Moosewood cookbook recipe made regularly in our house during the vegetarian era of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s to accompany chili sin carne, to the cheesy jalapeño versions consumed in mass quantity while gallivanting around the States in my University days, to the many versions discovered in bread baskets in every region of the Mediterranean while vacationing in the sun.

Table set for our July 4th Supper Club. Photo: Nikos Tsogkas

Without a doubt, the golden squares available at the Ottollenghi establishments dotted around London wins the prize as the most memorable cornbread to land on my plate. Theirs will forever remind me of the surprise 60th birthday party they catered for my mother when I was a blossoming 800 weeks pregnant with G3. Itamar (then head chef at the Notting Hill outpost, now of Honey and Co fame) took charge of the entire shebang with calm and ease despite my obsessive menu consultations discussed with with true hormonal zeal.

Nine years later, that cornbread is the only dish I can remember consuming with gusto while watching Itamar grow whiter over the course of the evening in absolute fear that I may possibly deliver the baby right there and then on the kitchen floor. Their cornbread scattered with aromatics is one of the few recipes they keep under lock and key.  The Nopi cookbook has a sweet version, which while more-ish lacks the punch of the savoury version available in the various Ottolenghi establishments.

cornbread

July 4th Supper Club in full swing. Photo: Nikos Tsogkas

I have tried various different permutations over the years testing ratios of cornmeal to flour to liquids, returning to the challenge last month in preparation for our July 4th Supper Club, and the guests left us barely any leftovers.  I borrowed the addition of aromatics from the 60th Birthday Party cornbread. And here is the result.

The best bit? It is baked in the oven before you even put on the BBQ coals.

cornbread

Cornbread with Chilies and Spring Onions

Inspired by the cornbread available at all Ottolenghi eateries.

Notes:
Feel free to add a good handful of grated cheddar for full on Americana (although I prefer it without).
If you want to make this dairy free, replace the melted butter with olive oil and the buttermilk with one 400ml can coconut milk stirred together with the juice of 1 lime.

1 tbsp olive oil
100g (1/2 cup) fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 red chilli
3 spring onions
115g (1 cup) plain flour
150g cornmeal or polenta (not quick cooking)
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F)
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan or skillet on a medium to high heat and add the corn. If you are using frozen corn you can add it to the pan straight from the freezer. Heat the corn until it starts to brown all over (it will pop a little).
Meanwhile, slice the chilli and spring onion into thin rounds.
When the corn starts to brown all over add the aromatics to the pan and keep cooking for another minute or two until they release their scent and start to cook. Take off the heat and put to one side while you make the cornbread.
Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a 20cm (8 inch) caste iron skillet or other oven proof pan or cake tin, and pour the oil around to line the base and sides. Place in the oven to heat while you mix the ingredients.
In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, cornmeal or polenta, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Mix together the eggs, buttermilk (or coconut milk and lime) and melted butter (or olive oil).
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Add 3/4 of the corn/chilli/spring onion mixture and stir through until evenly distributed.
Carefully remove your skillet from the oven and pour in the cornbread mixture. Sprinkle the remaining corn mixture over the top of the batter and quickly return the pan to the oven.
Cook for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden on top and the centre is just cooked through. Careful not to overcook or it will dry out.

Serve warm or room temperature. Cornbread is best eaten the day it is made, but also makes a delicious snack toasted the following day with lashings of butter.

Enjoy!

cornbread

Moosewood cornbread days in the vegetarian household

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