Belated Festive Post #1 – Stollen Wreath & Cola Ham

Get in the hole!

Get in the hole!

It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…

‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.

This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).

Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.

The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.

Stollen Wreath

As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.

Rum soaked fruit - always a good shout.

Rum soaked fruit – always a good shout.

Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.

The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.

I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.

Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze

I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.

After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.

Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.

The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.

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‘South African’ Eggs Benedict with Parmesan Hollandaise / English Muffins

The Daddy

The Daddy

As a breakfast, I didn’t think regular Eggs Benedict could be topped until I tried this (yes, even by a Full English). As far as I’m aware, there is no such thing as South African Eggs Benedict. I have just only ever eaten this or seen it on a menu at The Peech Hotel in Jo’berg. Hence the imaginative leap to the name of the dish.

In total I think I’ve stayed at the Peech for seven nights over the space of a year. Six times I’ve had this breakfast and once I regretted my foray into omelette territory. Not that it was bad, but a far cry from the above.

I knew I must recreate this dish at home. The difference being between a regular Eggs Benedict that instead of spinach, avocado is used. And of course the parmesan that goes into the hollandaise. I had thought bacon instead of ham was also an innovation but apparently this is a more common exchange.

For this, I also made a batch of English Muffins (veering for a change away from the safe doughy hands of Paul Hollywood and using this recipe instead). You can obviously use store bought ones (in which case skip the below), but I’d urge you to give it a go. They were dead simple to make.

English Muffins

Having never made them before, I was expecting oven baking to be involved but was more than pleasantly surprised to find I’d be shallow frying them in a ton of melted butter.

Golden brown, texture like buns

Golden brown, texture like buns

 

I cannot implore you enough at this stage to cut one of these open while they’re hot, slather it in butter and make it your bitch. Muffins done.

The Eggs

First things first is the hollandaise. There are tons of ways to make this from quick cheats to slow cooking. I figured as I’d bothered to already make the muffins, I should probably give this a full going over too so I went for the latter option, reducing down some white wine vinegar and water with a bay leaf and pepper corns. Boiled it down to about a tablespoons worth.

I’ve made hollandaise a few times now and it can be a cruel mistress if you’re in a hurry. The eggs will curdle at a moments notice if they get too hot. Use a bowl like the above, moving it on and off the top of a boiling pot, using the steam as heat. If in doubt, slow it down until all the butter has been slowly added and set aside. While you cook the bacon and eggs, occasionally bring it back over the heat to stop it solidifying.

Apologies for the photo above. For the assembly, toast the muffin and thinly slice just over two thirds of an avacado over the top.

As the bacon crisps up, poach the eggs in boiling water (with a dash of white wine vinegar) for exactly 3 minutes. Make sure you use a whisk to create a swirling vortex before sliding the eggs into the water.

Add the cooked bacon as per the above. You might want to depress the middle and do your best to create a dent for the eggs to sit in, or they will slide off.

Add the eggs on top and at this point grate some parmesan into the hollandaise. If you don’t want to use all the hollandaise at this stage, section some off and add the cheese to this otherwise the main mix will curdle. Then, whisk it up for about a minute to get it nice and thick (something I neglected to do).

Revel in its buttery decadence!

 

Bigotry and Pasties

The other day I received some detailed feedback to my blog which I have in turn shared below:

‘Right mate, while I can appreciate you put alot of effort into this I don’t see any mention of the northern classic, the meat and potato pasty.

I’m not talking about any fancy rubbish that makes you slobber like pavlov’s dogs or whathaveyou, son, I’m talking about greenhalgh’s own. Follow it down with a pint of bitter or few and bob’s your uncle.

Perhaps your palette isn’t suited to England’s true culinary delights, perhaps italian and french quisine is more your cup of tea but the thing is mate, the time to learn is now. As an aspiring food critic you are no doubt constantly looking for ways to improve your ability to evaluate what the culinary world has to offer, well let me tell you now boyo, the greenhalgh’s meat and potato is the bee’s bloody knees. It’ll take your tongue to places unimaginable and line your stomach good and proper while it’s at it.

Now you might be thinking, eh, greenhalgh’s, why don’t I just skimp and go for Gregs, it’s the same, right? Well, you’d be bloody well wrong. Greg’s pasties are an affront to pastry and supporting that defiler of the north’s greatest treat is a travesty against food that even Houdini couldn’t escape. My mate Chris saw a spider crawl across the pasties on display in the front of Gregs and let me tell you mate, I’ve not let their produce touch my lips since.

Let the taste of meat and taters take you to paradise.

Also, now I’m fine with people being up for “playing for either side” in bed mate but if you’re going to drop such blatant hints as ” Plus plus, I’m a massive sucker for anything that includes black beans on the side. A truly spectacular affair and I’m salivating right now more than the collective of Pavlov’s dogs just thinking about it. “, you may as well just come out and state your new orientation bud. We’re all behind you bud, don’t you worry, you’ll be no less of a man.’

Given the length of the comment, my immediate reaction was that this must be one of my friends. However, upon further investigation, it turns out that this chap (who goes by the username ‘Ghostymudy’) is a completely random reader and obvious pasty enthusiast. I am flattered he has taken time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts and, amid the occasional grammatical slip and thinly veiled homophobia, he does make a point. I have neglected the pasty.

Shame on me as I talked of scotch eggs, sausage rolls and pork pies without even tipping my cap to this cornerstone of Great British snackery. So I thought I had better rectify that fact with the below attempt, although I fear I haven’t done Greenhalghs proud…

Cornish Pasties

Battle lines are drawn

Battle lines are drawn

I didn’t exactly use the same recipe as on the link here but I think I probably would have been better off if I had done. It seems to pay much more attention to the creation of the pastry which was my ultimate undoing. The proceedings started positively enough though as I sliced and diced my way through onion, potato, rosemary, thyme, skirt steak, carrot and butternut squash. All into 1cm pieces. Chuck in a bit of nutmeg and plenty of seasoning/olive oil and we’re looking rosy:

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

With the filling quite frankly nailed down to a tee, I swaggered over to the mixing bowl to begin the pastry. Plain flour, butter, water. Seemed simple enough especially after all the bread making. Naive fool I was and quickly found myself with a sticky ball of unusable gloop. Having run out of flour though, there was no turning back. The depressing montage below speaks for itself:

Six packages of pure disapointment

Six packages of pure disapointment

2013-06-23 14.19.48 2013-06-23 18.55.47I ate half of one of these an hour before having to play football. The undercooked innards plagued me well into the final third of the game.

Well Ghostymudy, we can but try…

Raita Here, Raita Now

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of phantom hands

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of the hash-tagging phantom hands

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a tipsy man in possession of a good hunger, must be in want of a curry.’

Amen.

I had started to rack up an increasing food debt with a few friends of mine so I decided to wipe the slate clean and have an Indian themed bash. Amongst these friends (above) lurks a vegetarian and I had been somewhat nervous about how to cater for a majority of carnivores with him in the midst. My main issue was that my go-to dishes for entertaining normally involve a massive hunk of meat with trimmings bringing up the rear.

I’ll admit in my weaker moments planning this evening,  part of me wanted to fob him off with a Linda McCartney Bean Burger and be done with it. However, as he had put on two stellar Mexican evenings round his in quick succession, I thought I had better step up. And what better cuisine to step up with than Indian; the home of vegetarianism. So here’s what I did:

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Starter

Poppadoms with homemade raita, homemade piccalilli and mango chutney

Piccalilli presence - raised a few conservative eyebrows

Piccalilli presence – raised a few conservative eyebrows

Raita - simples

Raita – simples

Main

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Curried Chicken Skewers

Dry Chili Paneer

Mushroom Bhaiji

Homemade Naan Breads with mango and raisins (not exact recipe on link but more or less, real one in Bread)

Basmati rice

Paneer - didn't quite soak up the flavours as I'd hoped

Paneer – didn’t quite soak up the flavours as I’d hoped

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

 

Mushroom Bhaji - suprising star of the show

Mushroom Bhaji – surprising star of the show

Dessert

Haagen-Dazs (apparently all that was left at Sainsbury’s on the way up…but at 1 a.m. was pretty decent)

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The food got demolished which is always a good sign. Unbelievably the whole meal only cost £52. It fed 8 but could have stretched to more.* No wonder people decide to be veggie!

Post-dinner it was into the lounge for a heated game of Trivial Pursuit (won by yours truly and the veggie, our erudite pairing seeing off two other teams of three). The question that swung it: who was Darth Maple?

Then as the evening wound down we tried to make a cocktail out of what remained in the fridge and our eclectic collection of half-drunk spirit bottles. Three different rums, concentrated lemon juice, soda water, caster sugar and a huge amount of mint might have tasted good at the time, but it made the tidying up the next morning a Herculean task.

*George – if you’re reading I am truly sorry.

 

Maneesh Flat Bread with Baba Ganoush / Chunky Chilli con Carne

Laura (girlfriend and occasional fussy eater) hates minced meat and lamb. Minced lamb, don’t even go there. If I ever suggest eating mince, I get a face that looks like I’ve just asked her to swallow slug pellets. Apparently its the texture.

I, on the other hand, think mince is one of the greatest comfort foods available to mankind. Spag bol, shepherd’s pie, chilli, lasagna, moussaka, meatballs, tacos etc. Needless to say, its a bone of contention and I frequently find myself, like a thief in the night, rustling up a bolognese sauce if she’s ever away for a weekend to get my fix.

As hideous things like Quorn substitute don’t even bear thinking about, I’ve been forced to do some bobbing and weaving to find some of the favourite recipes above, but adapted for mince-racists. We had some marked success with this Cheese and Bacon Lasagne but I’ve been meaning to make the title dish (Chunky Chilli con Carne) ever since I had it at a mate’s house a while back. The key to the dish being its use of chunks of braising steak rather than mince.

I’m aware I haven’t mentioned the bread yet and that this is rather arse about face as its in the photo above. I made these two dishes separately, the bread and dip for a (slightly laborious) Saturday afternoon snack and the chilli for a slow-cooked Sunday dinner, but in retrospect I think they’d partner really well as a starter/main for a shindig.

Browned stewing beef - is there a more promising sight?

Browned stewing beef – is there a more promising sight?

But back to the chilli if I may. I normally find Ramsey’s recipes a little on the arduous side for home cooking as they involve too many ingredients/steps. However, this one was pretty straightforward and bloody delicious.  I’d say its more of a cross between a beef bourguingon and a chilli as it uses half a bottle of wine. Ramsey wants you to use Pinot Noir (flash bastard) but I just dumped in some Gallo left over from having people round the night before (cooking minesweeping = classy).

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

I like my spice and this was pretty bang on. If you prefer things a bit milder, I’d put less cayenne in the beef marinade to start with though. Critically, it passed the Laura taste test and I have to say it was much better than a regular CcC, although is more of an effort.

Baba ganoush - the poor man's caviar

Baba ganoush – the poor man’s caviar

Apparently (according to Paul Hollywood) Maneesh bread has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East. I can see why they persevered with it. Its bloody tasty.  Hollywood has put the recipe online here.

Likewise with the Baba ganoush, quick/easy to make and full of flavour.  Just roast some aubergines and mash it up with salt, plenty of garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon and oil. Job done.

I did have a bit of a mare with this though as by the time I actually finished the bread/ganoush I only had time for few mouthfuls before going out for dinner. It was fairly rank reheated the next day. Eat it fresh and don’t store it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sneak a lamb chop before Laura finishes watching Revenge…

Parma Ham, Mozzarella and Basil Brioche Couronne

The Yeasty Beasty

The Yeasty Beasty

I’m just going to put it out there, this butter enriched Brioche Couronne contains roughly 3,429 calories. That’s around 7 Big Macs. Its for the big dogs…and its totally worth it.

Its another one of Paul Hollywood’s masterpieces but he’s really outdone himself here. Containing a whole block of butter, 3.5 balls of mozzarella, 10 slices of parma ham, a large handful of fresh basil and good sprinkling of Parmesan this is by far and away the most ambitious and delicious bread I have set out to make on my Pollan-esque ongoing quest for the perfect sourdough loaf.

Typically a sweet bread, the Couronne here (literally ‘crown’ in French) has been adapted with oozing cheese to offset the buttery, flaky bread. I have to say I didn’t quite nail the aesthetics (as displayed more elegantly by a fellow blogger here) but the flavours were spectacular.

Because there was so much egg, butter and full-fat milk in the dough from the get-go, it made it very difficult to handle and shape. In fact, Hollywood recommends using a food mixer with a dough-hook attached but, despite my increasingly whimsical and frequent visits to Dentons Catering in Clapham North, I am still to acquire one of these bad boys. So I set about it by hand, gently canoodling the pieces of room temperature unsalted butter into the sticky dough yellow cube by yellow cube.

Then once it was mixed, popped it in for a first proofing into a greased cake tin into the airing cupboard. It emerged doubled in sized (going smoothly so far) and then I dumped it out onto the surface for the serious business of rolling it out and decorating with ham, cheese and basil. A holy enough trinity to transform even the humblest dough.

Pre-proof 1

Pre-proof number 2

This is when it started to go a little pear (or more specifically doughnut) shaped as I tried to elegantly roll, split and then tie the two stuffed dough-sausages into a crown shape. It was supposed to overlap like two pieces of rope but instead I just lost patience and mashed it together. Still, apparently doughnuts are the new cupcakes so I’m bang on trend with this monstrosity.

The couronne/doughnut was left to proof again (as per above pic) and then came out for a quick egg wash and generous coating of Parmesan (as per below pic). Needless to say, I was getting pretty excited at this point. Even timing my walk upstairs to the airing cupboard so I could garner praise from my housemates and visiting brother, feigning nonchalant. “Oh, what this old thing?”

Pre-oven

Pre-oven

Into the oven for 25 mins and the BOOM, the money shots:

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

I forlornly binned the last mouthful of this fine companion this evening as it was getting a little dry and my waistline was getting a little stretched. Fat-Bastard Special mention should go to my brother though who, on Saturday’s birthday visit, stumbled back to my house at 7 a.m on Sunday morning to demolish over half of the remaining loaf. I make that 3.5 Big Macs. Not bad.

God Save the Cream

First off, I should probably begin by apologising for the pun in the post header. I was also tempted by something like ‘God Save the Queen! / Send her Victori[a Sponge Cake]’ but I think I chose the lesser of two evils in the end.

I’m struggling to think of the best way to start this post as it has been brought on by a trio of events all centred around the common theme of our dear old Queenie, Liz II. The three events in chronological order being the Diamond Jubilee 2012 (and some homagely cooking), a play called The Audience and also the anniversary of the Coronation on 4th June 2013.

Also known unofficially on the global stage as: - Mother of all People (Canada) - Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois) - Paramount Chief of Fiji - The White Heron (New Zealand) - Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

Still got it. Also known unofficially on the global stage as:
– Mother of all People (Canada)
– Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois)
– Paramount Chief of Fiji
– The White Heron (New Zealand)
– Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

The temptation is to start with the food (as this is supposedly masquerading as a food blog) but before that I wanted to give the play a mention. I’m not sure if this story broke abroad, but for those of us in the UK I think the most recognisible association with The Audience is when Helen Mirren went more Iron Lady than Queen Liz as she gave a band of over zealous drummers a good tongue lashing in full costume during the interval. I’d argue good on her but, whether you agree or not, it definitely boosted publicity for the show.

I’m not going to pretend to know a thing about reviewing theatre, but I thought it was incredible. Funny, insightful and also a more sombre and reverential reflection on the institution of the British Monarchy over Queen Liz’s reign. The whole play centres around a confidential weekly meeting between the current PM and Queen. Helen Mirren plays the Queen throughout the ages, interacting with 12 different PMs, each of whom confide in her their own respective crises of their term. From an aging Churchill to an insecure John Major and a charming Harold Wilson, you’re privy to the whole brilliant spectrum.

But I think what struck a chord most with me was the private struggle of the Queen herself in her total dedication and sacrifice of her life in service to her subjects and country. To become a perfect emblem from the age of 25 and never veer from that path for a nation is rightly heralded, regardless of the opulence of her surroundings. Now the obvious counter-argument to this slightly gushy sentiment is the cost to the taxpayer, again a theme explored in the play. However, as an unbreakable link of present culture to past traditions surely this is a price worth paying? If not, I fail to see the difference between tearing down the monarchy to tearing down all the expensive music venues, museums, art galleries and public spaces that we all hold dear. Or perhaps I’m just naively making sweeping statements from a comfortable middle-class existence in Clapham? Well yes that is also probably true.

Anyway, coming back to the food, the play reminded me of an awesome (both in taste and appearance) cake that Laura created for the Diamond Jubilee last year:

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

It was more or less done using this Victoria Sponge Recipe and then covered with white icing and decorated with a black icing pen and silver balls. Needless to say, she’s much more artistic than me! Continuing a similar vibe though, my contribution consisted of a Diamond Jubilee twist on the classic Coronation Chicken. Tasty stuff.

So to round off with the third event, come the 4th June lets all raise a glass, whether pint or flute, to HM in celebration and gratitude of her service to us. And if that sounds like another deplorable waste of tax payers money to you, then at least enjoy the excuse to drink guilt-free on a Tuesday.

Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle / Rye and Spelt Loaf

Basking in an amateurish Instagram light on our living room table, here are my first two physical contributions to this blog in all their finery: a razzle-dazzle Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle and a juxtaposingly sombre Rye and Spelt Loaf. Let’s kick off with latter.

Rye and Spelt Loaf

This was taken from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book. Despite his recent streak of philandering he is still the ultimate yeast machine and, who knows, maybe the marriage had just gone stale (zing). I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever given bread making a try, anyone who has thought about giving it a try or even anyone who has simply lusted after the smell of freshly baked bread. Word of warning: leave your bread makers at home (or rather in the cupboard), this is hand-made only. Bring your A game.

Because its taken from a published recipe book, I won’t post the details here. What I will say though is it uses both Rye and Spelt flour (obviously) but with a side of Strong White flour to help bind and rise. The most interesting aspect though is it employs an old sponging technique that I was unfamiliar with, at least since I used to steal my mates’ baked beans in my student days (zing 2). It essentially involves pre-proofing (without kneading) an amount of dough. Similar to a Sourdough culture I imagine although I am yet to take on this challenge.

I got a bit nervy on this bake. The loaf came out like a brick and only at that stage did I notice I’d forgotten to add olive oil at the start. However, it was seriously tasty and absolutely perfect with crab pate (which I had handily been gifted by a Chilean customer only the week before). Amazing, crunchy crust.

Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

This tasty little number (link to the Good Food site recipe above) was born out of a Mexican themed dinner party I went to last Saturday in Peckham. The hosts always put on a spectacular feast (despite being a veggie, my mate Oli cooks a mean bit of Chorizo). I normally just turn up, scoff my face, win at Trivial Pursuit (no biggie) and leave. This time I thought I’d bring something to pay my way. In the end it was this cake plus a fiver. But I did in turn receive a six-pack of the best sausages in London from Peckham’s Flock and Herd Butchers. They’re nestled comfortably in our fridge and I shall be chomping on them this evening along with mash, red onion gravy, broccoli and (of course) lashings of Colemans. Excited.

Back to the cake. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert cake maker by any stretch of the imagination but fortunately a friend of mine is and she was happy to dish out advice. Specifically around the unusually long bake time (1hr 20mins). However, this is it at a very low heat 140 fan assisted plus we figured (rightly or wrongly) that the Greek Yoghurt would retard the baking process. Which it (or something) did.

It was meant to serve 12 but nearly all of it got munched by about half that number in the space of an hour. Result. Plus the brittle looks dead swanky.

Whims (the first of many I hope!)

On starting this blog my girlfriend has referred to me, not for the first time and probably not for the last, as Mr. Toad. I always took this to be a double-edged compliment as I remember him as a whimsical (albeit bloated) creature of fancy, hence the inclusion of the word in the name of this blog. However, having delved more into the Wiki link above, I perhaps should try to distance myself from the ‘narcissistic, self-centred almost to the point of sociopathy, and completely lacking in even the most basic common sense’ referenceAlthough I suppose all bloggers/writers have a slight tendency towards narcissism whether they admit it or not, but from my very limited experience this also comes with a hefty, offsetting dose of wracking self-doubt as to whether anyone cares about what you have to say or, even worse, does enough to criticise.

Which brings me to my reason for writing this. I’ve started three novels, two short stories and the briefest of screenplays (if you count three pieces of dialogue and a setting). I finished none of these, which of course fuels the increasingly accurate Mr.Toad caricature. However, what I hope this has taught me is that I’d be much better suited to two things; the first is blogging in short bursts may suit my nature as I’m clearly not cut out to write full blown Tolkein-esque epics and secondly, that I need to write about something that I’m passionate about. If you’ve carried on reading this far I hope you can guess at this stage that this is food, drink and anything in between.

At the moment my current whim is baking. Specifically bread but also the odd cake. I’ve baked five loaves in the last few weeks and I’m completely addicted. I fully blame Michael Pollan’s Cooked, not just for the bread-baking obsession but also for this blog. If you care a jot about cooking in any form (Fire/Water/Air/Earth as Mr. Pollan argues) then you need to read this book. Its up there with my top three books of all time. He’s also over in the UK at the end of the May in London for lectures. GO! He’s the man!

Finally, I’ve been asked what I hope to achieve by writing this food blog. As many people like to point out, everyone in London seems to write a food blog these days. Well, the truth is I have no idea. I just wanted to put my thoughts down somewhere and this seemed like the best place.

Now where to begin…maybe with some pics of recent baked goods. Seems sensible. And a picture of Mr. Toad (as I remember him) to toast this new venture!

Senor Toad