Tuesday, 22 December 2009

chocolate cake... gluten free

300g bitter chocolate 70 per cent
150g unsalted butter
6 organic eggs
4 half oz caster sugar

Set oven to 180 c /350 f

Line the base and sides of a 20cm springform tin with greaseproof paper.
( this is essential as you cannot turn this cake out due to the absence of flour)

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl, over simmering water. In a seperate bowl whisk egg whites
with 2 tbsp sugar then gradually add the remaining sugar until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
Once the chocolate mixture is melted and cooled add a small amount of egg white to loosen the mixture,
then add the remaining egg whites quickly but carefully trying to incorporate as much air as possible.
Once thoroughly mixed turn into the tin.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 mins or until firm on the top.

Do not loosen the tin until the cake has cooled then turn out and transfer to a plate. A liitle patience is needed here as it is fragile.

Dust liberally with icing sugar, serve warm if possible, with pouring cream or icecream....

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

why does guinness have a ball....!

Have discovered the mystery of why guinness contains a white plastic ball...

Not being a drinker and having no technical understanding whatsoever the explanation
could possibly lead to me to drink. Something clever to do with fizz and co2...!


Monday, 14 December 2009


With the welcomes done, the room pretty much full and everyone seated it was time to eat...

Pumpkin cases and plates all came back empty which is what every cook wants. Dessert was
hoovered up !

It was a warm feeling to hear the easy chatter and laughter as the wine worked its magic. The
temptation to hide in the kitchen is a strong one but not only is that impossible in my tiny flat
but it's also ungracious. The whole reason my diners have come is to experience something more personal than the usual restaurant setting.

THANKS must go to my charming daughter who did a superb job at playing 'waitress' & social butterfly.

Thankyou to all who made the effort to come out on such a cold night after a tiring working week.

I look forward to welcoming you and your friends again.

Please read Graphic Foodie's review of the evening!
Fantastic photos by Sebastien Dehesdin - http://www.onedayforever.com/

Tables are laid, candles are lit and the room has been transformed into a 'restaurant'.
Now all I need are my brave guests ! It's an odd feeling waiting for the bell to ring knowing you are about to welcome complete strangers into your living room. You can only guess at their thoughts...

Certainly you wish not to let them down.

The days before....

I am dreaming in 'food' !

Supper night is looming nearer and with all places taken it's now down to me to live up to my promise of actually applying myself and cooking and welcoming all those who are to make the effort of coming to sit in a strangers living room. Let's all pretend it's 'normal'...!

Sourcing the promised pumpkins were not too problematic, carrying them home on the bus was challenging to say the least. Much to the amusement of other onlookers the bags proceeded to spilt and I watched in weary resignation as they rolled up the aisle and under the seats where they nestled happily, grinning and winking at me, as I and my fellow passengers collected them up.
Don't worry...all were washed before being bought to the table !

After a long dry spell Oxtail and similiar cuts that require long slow cooking have made a
welcome return to our tables and are now popular once again. This also means they are a little
harder to source. My preferred butcher has them on permanent order from Scotland but
couldn't help me in time, so to Waitrose it was. I didn't have time to wait for them to be trimmed so I dealt with this myself. Thankfully it wasn't too difficult as my butchering skills are pretty poor. I was cooking this in Guinness and was curious to find a white plastic ball within the can.

Meant to ask my diners if they knew why but I forgot....any ideas ?

On to the best bit...DESSERT.

I love making this cake, it is quick, simple and with so few ingrediants you can't quite believe it
will deliver, but it always does. It tends to deflate a bit once out of the oven ( well at least mine does ) as it relies only on the egg whites for volume but this certainly doesn't detract from the soft gooey chocolate interior.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Quick chocolate fix..

Even though I can't eat these I have done simply because they are fantastic..

Bens Cookies - in the centre of town is almost like a covered stall where they bake on site a selection of american style cookies. Large fat and flat they are best eaten straight out of the oven, but if you buy them cold just warm them when you get home. They are so gooey they sort of stick to the roof of your mouth, which is part of the appeal. Well for me anyway !

For all your specialised dietary needs

For those of us who are bound to follow a special diet, be it gluten/dairy/wheat/sugar free then Infinity Foods in the North Laines is a must.

It has held its own in Brighton long before we were educated about these things. It is run as a cooperative and supports many of the local farmers, egg producers and small local businesses. There really is every possible alternative food available and the staff are usually always knowledgable.

Sadly it's not cheap, but then organic/decent produce never is. It will be interesting to watch its future as supermarkets start to increase their 'free from' produce. Hopefully they will not drown them out.

more tea and cake plus coffee

Thought I would expand my list of good places to have coffee/tea and cake...

The Mock Turtle - near Old Steine is one of the long standing success stories for afternoon tea. It is a classic old fashioned tea shop, I imagine as they used to be. It is sort of like sitting in your grannys front room, ultra cosy. The window is always enticing from traditional sponge cakes to huge flavoured meringues.
As far as I can see the kitchen, general setting and decor has remained unchanged for years, and that, I think, is part of it's appeal. A million miles away from the sanitised chains that now dominate our high street.
It is a great place to take a visitor from abroad as it gives them a real taste of England.

The Tea Cosy - off St James St can only be described as mad ! It is an ode to patriotism in it's purest form. Every possible wall space, ceiling, toilet is covered in memorabilia in honour of
our royal family, past and present. There is a self playing piano which randomly plays the national anthem. Standing is expected on Sundays !

The menu has to be seen to be believed as does the page on 'Etiquette'. Forget about trying to answer your mobile, let alone actually use it. You will get short shrift from the camp, unpredictable front of house, complete in nail varnish, frilly shirt and snarl of derision.
The portions are huge, plentiful. Tea is served by the pot, again large, complete with tea cosy.

If you happen to require something gluten free it's not for you, as we are talking wheat overload here, and asking for such recieves a fairly dismissive reply depending on mine hosts mood.
It is all part of the theatre, very Brighton and a great place to take ' open minded' visitors.

Coffee 33 - in Trafalgar Street is a bit too trendy to make me want to linger, but very stylish all the same. Their open display of cakes and savouries are good quality and they offer gluten free...well done. They are also the only place in Brighton that I know of that actually understands what a 'flat white' is and how to make it. I normally have to wait for my visit to Sydney to get that!

Spinelli - tucked away in Kemp Town is another lovely coffee shop. A little more corporate looking, it is owned by the lovely Carlo and partner. (They also own Enzos, the hairdressers, just around the corner in the village). They take coffee seriously. Offer great cakes, at least two gluten free and brownies handmade by Carlo himself, as are some of the savouries.
These men like food...with Italian and Polish heritage they have to !

It deserves the success it has had as they are so friendly, always willing and understand totally the concept of 'service', so lacking in England. You are looked after, remembered and chatted to.
Free internet downstairs.

I wish them every success with their new venture in St James Street, complete with a kitchen so more food I hope.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Risotto and Arancini..

This weather is really miserable. It is rare that I emerge from my front door and am not
entranced by the majestic view of the sea, ever changing in colour and form. True, today it really is wild and untamed, but the wind... I really hate it, especially after spending so long on my hair
for it to look intially mediocre at best and then to be flattened in a second with salt sea spray !

I need something warm and comforting, something starchy. Have decided on risotto which I
will then transform into arancini. Two dishes from one. Pea and pancetta it is... I love peas and
they sweeten the rice beautifully, nestling in it like little buttery jewels.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hot chocolate puddings

For anyone who hasn't tried these perfect little desserts I recommend you do...
So quick and easy. They look really pretty too and you can either leave them in the ramekin
or after buttering the inside turn them out and watch the centre ooze out into a
puddle of thick hot chocolate...the ultimate comfort food.

I use 70per cent chocolate with added sugar, but not everyone likes the slightly bitter taste this gives. You can replace this with the chocolate of your choice, remembering the lower the cocoa solid the less likely it is to need any added sugar.

Serves 4 - or 2 if your having a bad day....!

100g chocolate - see above
100g caster sugar - see above
20g plain sifted flour - ( gluten free works as well though the end result is a little denser.)
100g butter
2 organic eggs

Preheat oven to 2oo deg

Butter the inside of 4 ramekins and set aside. Place chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water until melted. Leave to cool.
Beat eggs, sugar and flour then add the chocolate mixture.
Pour mixture evenly into the ramekins almost to the top ( cleaning of any spillage. as this is set in the oven making it hard to remove and looks unsightly.)

Place dishes on a baking tray for approx 10 -12 mins. You want to see them risen and slightly
firm to the touch whilst keeping them gooey inside. If you are not successful the first time, don't
be disheartened just take them out 2 mins earlier next time. Remember they will continue to cook once out of the oven.

They will be too hot to eat immediately so after 5 mins either remove them from the dishes and dust with icing sugar or leave them as they are.

I serve them with either very cold pouring cream or ice cream. The sensation of both warm and cold seems to complement.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

My favourite things....the sea , summer, boats and red shoes !

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Spanish Inquisition on Friday 13th...

My second venture onto the Secret Restaurant scene was to Fernandez and Leluu's supperclub at a secret location in Hackney.

We were welcomed by the lovely Uyen who offered us a glass of wine and showed us to our table. We were sharing with another couple but despite being in someone's home and only about 20 other guests it very much feels like a normal restaurant and so after a friendly hello no one feels obliged to chat to eachother.
The meal was a 6 course Spanish themed feast served prettily on mix matched china. We started with roasted almonds followed by Catalan tomato bread with salami on top. Then some delicious roasted chick peas in cider and russian roulette peppers accompanied by a potato salad. The next course was a very tasty garlic soup with pine nuts and apple

followed by tortilla with salsa piccante and chorizo in wine, there was definately some squash in the tortilla and the salsa piccante which gave it a delicious flavour.

The savoury courses were finished off with monk fish wrapped in serrano ham with squid ink rice. Delicious! This was by far the prettiest course so a photo would have been appropriate but I only managed to remember once I had eaten the lot! Dessert was two scoops of ice cream, one cardamon and one green tea, both scrumptious.

All in all a delicious meal, lots of interesting flavours and I have found that there is something oddly enjoyable in just having the food bought to you with no choice in what you eat.

Guests are encouraged to write on the bathroom mirrors with the general gist of messages along the lines of "will you marry me?", "yummmmm", "can I move in with you?".

Supper started at about 8pm and finished around half 12 so be prepared to miss your last tube (as I did) but if its fast food you are after there is a McDonalds around the corner...
Not a transvestite, Tina Turner impressionist or anything at all odd it sight...An altogether very different experience to The Pale Blue door but equally as enjoyable.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Chocolate guinness cake

A friend sent me this recipe so I tried it out yesterday.. Very good, it has an unusual flavour because of the guinness. Sort of nutty. It is kept moist because of the stout and the added sour cream .
I did a cream cheese topping which sort of looks like the head of the guinness but I think I will try a chocolate icing next time.
I often find cakes are better warm and this certainly lends itself to that especially after a couple of days.

It's not a gluten free recipe but I simply replaced the flour with a gluten free option.. and voila !

Recipe and photo to follow....

Tea and cake...

For those of you local to Brighton or just one of the many visitors, I thought you might like some
suggestions for somewhere good to go for afternoon tea... so often it can be a bit of let down, especially when outside London.

Metro Deco in Kemp Town is relatively new as a cafe but has been an art deco furniture shop for quite a while, they have now cleverly combined the two. There is an eclectic mix of furniture and sculpture for sale.The feel is a mix of sitting in someone's home and an art deco tea salon.
It could easily be pretentious but avoids this by the welcoming, easy going ladies who run it.

There is a good choice of cakes on offer and I am always encouraged to see a gluten free option and not the usual odd, dry offering either, but something that anyone would want to eat. There is usually more than one cake on offer, lemon, chocolate and a delicious pineapple one, plus meringues. They have a wide and unusual selection of teas plus coffee of course.

As with most places gluten free only tends toward the 'sweet'. Finding a sandwich, pizza etc remains elusive even though there are several palatable breads available now, sold in all the supermarkets.
Change takes time , so ...heres hoping

Igigi in Hove is a real favourite, again a shop downstairs with a fabulous elegant staircase leading you upward to the delights of the cafe. Everything is displayed with a casual
rustic style that seems easy to replicate yet is clearly incrediably well thought out. It makes you want to go home and immediately redecorate !

This follows through into the cafe, with an open style kitchen where everything is on show, hard on the staff as you tend to watch them, without meaning to as the setting dictates. Fabulous cakes and pastries are displayed opulently under huge glass domed covered cake stands. The staff are knowledgable and very upbeat.

Always a gluten free option and I have even taken my own bread where they will happily toast it for you to go with their soup or salad.
So sensible...10/10

Monday, 9 November 2009

Supper club night - Winter warmer

Have decided to be brave and launch my first supper night. Bit scary to be honest but hopefully
with a warm welcome and a full tummy people will leave happy !
As it's so chilly out now I have decided on a hearty menu to include pumpkin soup ( served in their original cases ). Oxtail as a main, which I know is not that common these days, but I think it makes a delicious meal as it's cooked on the bone and the marrow makes it unctuous to eat. It is one of the cheaper cuts so needs long slow cooking which means once in the oven you can busy yourself with more important things...like dessert ! Which if left to me I would eat first. !

I have opted for a flourless chocolate cake, which resembles a fallen souffle of sorts, it's delicate
because of the absence of flour, but fingers crossed, the end result should be a cross between a cake and a mousse.
Friday December 11th...... wish me luck !

Vintage Afternoon Tea is next.... menu and date to follow

Friday, 6 November 2009

A new venture

After my visit to The Pale Blue Door, I've been thinking....unless I am wrong, despite being such an eclectic town, it seems that Brighton doesn't yet have an underground dining scene, (I can only find one at present) so I thought to open my door and offer something similar and gauge the response.

Working on a warming winter menu now, will let you know details as soon as I can...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Pale Blue Door

It seems the new and popular way to dine out is at a secret restaurant, which are popping up in people's homes all over London. If you are unfamilar with this, it is people enthusiatic about food who open their homes as an 'illegal' eating venue for the night. Menus vary, from home cooked fare to professional chef standard, hosted in anything from a lock up to a stylish apartment.

My daughter and I chose to dip our toes into the world of the secret restaurants by going to The Pale Blue Door...and dove in at the deep end! We arrived in Hackney and ventured down a precarious looking alleyway in search of the infamous Pale Blue Door. The door swung open to be greeted by our fabulous transvestite front of house. Tables and chairs all crammed in to the garage style house, table clothes and napkins made of old shirts, walls strewn with various bizarre 'collectables' by set designer Tony Hornecker.

Encouraged to wander around we climbed the make shift staircase up to the host's bedroom to be greeted by two people seated for a 'date' at a miniture table for their dinner in the bedroom.

Dinner was a simple fare of greek salad, roast beef and crumble, all delicious and cooked in a tiny kitchen shrouded in virtual darkness.

Mid meal entertainment was provided by our lip synching transvestive with a fabulous rendition in Tina Turner drag of 'Simply the Best'. No one appears uncomfortable, all enjoying the surreal surroundings, the waiting staff friendly but not interferring.

Highly recommended, I think I will return....

Saturday, 8 August 2009

First time cooking on a boat

Went to London to visit my daughter who lives on a fantastic houseboat opposite Canary Wharf in South East London. Such a dinky little thing all painted out in duck egg blue and white washed inside. Lovely old working wood burner keeps it toasty, original port holes giving a great skyline view of London. You climb onboard and really are transported to another world. She doesn't notice it but you can feel yourself swaying from side to side which is a real reminder that you really are living on water!

Time to eat...made a pastry dish. Puff pastry, serrano ham, roasted vine tomatoes and balsamic glaze and crumbled feta cheese. Really delicious.

Completely normal standard fitted kitchen but there is the odd quirk...whatever goes into the oven or on the hob tilts slightly to the left! Your choice, perfect, or smile and enjoy!

Brownies for dessert, courtesy of my daughter. BEST BROWNIES EVER. If you like rich, gooey, moist, chocolate brownies this is the recipe for you, even better warm with ice cream. Not only that but they are gluten free and you would never know.

Gooey chocolate brownies (gluten free)
300g plain chocolate, broken up
250g butter, plus extra for greasing
5 eggs
300g caster sugar
250g plain gluten free flour
200g chocolate chips
1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove from the heat, stir gently until smooth and allow to cool. Butter a shallow, rectangular ovenproof dish and preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
2. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a separate bowl. Once the chocolate is cooled, stir in the egg and sugar mixture. (Make sure the chocolate is cool or it will cook the eggs.)
3. Sift the flour over and stir evenly into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into the prepared dish (also nice with broken up dime bars. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until just set, I always find slightly undercooking it makes it even more gooey and delicious.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Summer wedding

Back from the market

Had the honour of being asked to ' add creative touches' to the wedding of a friend this summer.
The most bountiful of seasons with flowers at their most beautiful. Between us we chose an informal country style look, perfectly suited to the big showy blooms of the peony, large headed
roses and accompanying sprays of variegated foliage all loosely tied up with some gorgeous vintage lace I had found, hopefully something for her to keep. The overall look was one of a bouquet almost in soft focus naturally complimenting the happiest of brides.

The venue was decorated simply with a mix of field flowers , gypsophila, peonies, roses and
hydrangeas, all casually arranged in a mismatched retro jugs, bowls and tea cups.

I had also found a lovely old typewriter, I then got bride and groom to write a love letter to one another in secret.. Placed on a corner table, it was a tender moment to see their
faces. A memory and future keepsake.

Chocolate shoes and added teapot spilling over with big blooms give the onlooker something to smile about...edible too !

Happy memories...hopefully I didn't let them down...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Preparations for the vintage tea party

Invitations have gone out. Having sleepless nights over my eccentric tea party organised in the Kemptown Enclosures. Totally weather dependent. No shelter from the wind. O my goodness what am I going to do if it rains!

Have been asking my daughter and friends for regular weather updates. The girls understand why, she hasn't got a clue and is becoming increasingly irritated with being weather monitor.

Gathered everything together and found my spot in the gardens, leaving table and various heavy bits which I've lugged in and out of the car, across grass in the hope that they will remain dry and safe til the next morning....

Brighton is a windy place at the best of times but predications for tomorrow are for gale force winds!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Eureka moment!

As my daughter, Bella, is to be married I wanted to mark it with a tender memory. Something to include her favourite things, friends, food and fun.

....thought of a tea party using Kemptown Enclosures. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 1 May 2009


Cooking and entertaining for friends and family has been a source of real enjoyment for me over the years. Everyone loves to eat, especially to be cooked for, which really encourages me to try new recipes and friends often suggest new things to taste and try.

Not being able to able to eat gluten and put off by the weird unpalatable choices on offer it is encouraging to at long last see an increase in restaurants and cafes offering decent gluten free options. This still tends toward the sweet variety but well recieved all the same. As demand increases and people become more knowledgeable I am confident it will become mainstream.

Blogging is a new and slightly weird concept to me but I am reassured by my hip, house boat living daughter that it's the way to go, so speak soon !