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Rhubarb Crumb Cake

May 11, 2017


This is a milestone post – the very first of the Shortlists’ storied existence that hasn’t been written on my 2009 MacBook Pro. The old girl can’t handle much excitement these days so processing and publishing a crumb cake recipe was out of the question. Finally downloading the WordPress app on my phone should mean that I post more often and definitely get carpal tunnel. It’ll be worth it. It’ll also mean the formatting may be all off. Win some lose some.

Beyond degrading technology, I haven’t posted because we’re all suffering from the daycare disease – endless runny noses, head colds, dry coughs, and general grossness. Vesper, who’s crawling and pulling herself up to standing, seems unfazed by the constant nasal drip. Me? Not so much.

My true talent of complaining incessantly is reaching Olympic levels. Weeks into my Complain Marathon and what do I have to show for it? I can now breathe exclusively out of my mouth for days on end. I can maintain a scowl throughout an entire SNL Trump cold open. Eric and I can effectively communicate through nothing but grunts and shrugs. So essentially, nothing. I have nothing to show.

Except, of course, this amazing crumb cake!

It’s springtime in London according to the calendar but not the thermometer. (Another complaint!) Rhubarb is just about in season so I jumped joyfully on the bandwagon. Hoping the springtime bandwagon would bring warm weather and an end to my cold. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.) I asked the internet for help with how to showcase rhubarb and the internet delivered this delightful cake, which I seriously can’t get enough of. It’s the only non-human thing that can reliably erase my scowl.


RHUBARB CRUMB CAKE

Serves 8 – 12. The original Recipe is by Bob Vivant and published at Food52. I adapted it liberally but still is moist and scrumptious with just the right hint of almond. It could showcase any fruit really but the rhubarb’s sweet tartness really shines through. It’s definitely going into my everyday cake rotation. Perfect for breakfast, tea or dessert with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream. 

THE CRUMB – completely eyeballed this (these quantities represent an approximation of what (I’m glad) I did, which was double the amounts in the original crumb recipe)

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons slivered almonds or shredded coconut or both

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

THE CAKE

Butter for greasing the pan

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 – 8 stalks)

Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch, deep tart pan / 8-inch round cake pan or 2 7-inch cake pans.

For the crumb, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork or your fingers, gently work in the butter until pea-sized lumps are formed.

For the cake, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and almond extract in a large bowl. Beat on high until the mixture triples in volume, about five minutes. Fold in the melted butter, flour, and rhubarb. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. Bake for around 60 minutes (more or less depending on pan size), until the topping is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the pan when mostly cool.

Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce

March 22, 2017

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Look what I did! From scratch! All by my onesie! And it was delicious!

I don’t know why this particular culinary feat has me so proud, but I suspect it’s because I was sure I’d fail both at the start and at multiple points along the way.  I am American (as I think I make abundantly clear) but not from the places where BBQ is common or authentic. I’d never attempted (or even eaten) pulled pork made in a home kitchen. And not living in the U.S. means the butcher actually has no idea what you want when you ask for “Boston butt.”So we were off to a rocky start.

The recipe I glanced at was easy enough: take a massive piece of bone-in pork shoulder, rub it with spices and cook it slow and long. I decided to cook it a few days ahead (thank Jesus) and add some liquid to the pot. I also decided eight hours seemed like a mighty long time to slow cook something. It was, I found out, not. So I ended up frantically texting my parents at midnight to ask if it’s safe to go to sleep in a house full of children with the oven on (it is) and will a huge chunk of slow-cooked meat left out to cool and not immediately shredded at 3AM when it’s (FINALLY) cooked to perfection seize up and become an inedible lump of gristle (um, no? What are you talking about? Go to sleep).

The pork cooked slowly all afternoon and halfway into the night when I’d set my alarm to retrieve it and left it on the stove top and went the f*@& back to sleep. And because I’ve got a million things to do, most of which I have to navigate while holding a baby on my hip, pulling the pork (two hands required) didn’t actually happen until about 18 hours after it came out of the oven. (It was graciously easy to pull – and snack on – while the BBQ sauce simmered.) Mixing the pork with the BBQ sauce didn’t happen until a whole day after that (see above about free hands). Would it dry out? (NO, go to sleep.)

Eventually, it all came together. Pork was slowly cooked until it fell apart, pulled, and doused in a homemade sauce that, had I known how easy BBQ sauce is to make, I’d have been making all my life. It was served warm with Boston baked beans (I know, not super authentic but still very American and very close to our Bostonian hearts), cornbread (Jiffy!) and coleslaw. Guests brought Pimento cheese dip, deviled eggs and champagne. We ate and drank like we weren’t sitting in a North London kitchen. We had hot fudge brownie sundaes for dessert. We stayed up until all the candles burned down. We fell in love with homemade pulled pork and complained that there wasn’t more leftover.

Next time – and there will be a next time – I’ll just put it in the oven in the morning, cook it all day and remember that it’s as forgiving as it is delicious.

IMG_7749PULLED PORK AND HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE

This recipe takes time, lots of time, but not a lot of it is hands on. The only things you have to DO is rub the rub, put it in the oven, check the internal temperature and then shred. Most of the ingredients (but not method, I did that myself because I think I know better) I pulled from Mark Bittman’s recipe. My alterations are in ellipses. We found it fed 6 adults with leftovers for two. Would be unreal as a pulled pork sandwich.

  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns (or ground pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (I used sweet because I wanted all the kiddles to eat it)
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander (I don’t have so didn’t use)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (ditto)
  • 1 pork butt, 5 to 6 pounds (I used bone-in pork shoulder)
  • water or broth

Mix all the rub ingredients together in a large bowl. Place the pork shoulder in the bowl and rub the rub (!) all over, into all the little crevices. Really get in there.

In the morning or sometime when you’ll have like 12 hours to leave the oven on and not freak out, preheat oven to 120C/200F. Place the pork in a large ovenproof lidded pot. Doesn’t matter if it’s fatty side up or down. (My pot’s lid wouldn’t sit tightly because the pork was so big, that’s OK.) Put a little water and/or broth in the bottom of the dish. I probably put enough to come a little less than way up the pork.

Put the pot in the oven and leave it to do its thing, 8 – 12 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. You’ll know for sure it’s ready – when it will be moist, falling off the bone and easy to shred – when the internal temperature will read between 180-200F on a meat thermometer.

Set aside to cool a bit before shredding by hand. You can do this a few days ahead if you want. Once you shred it, add 2/3 of the BBQ sauce (recipe below) and mix well. Serve slightly warmed with extra BBQ sauce.

HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE

 From Melissa Clark’s recipe. Made more than enough for the quantity of pork we made. Keeps well in the fridge for a few weeks at least.

  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated (I used garlic powder because #lazy)
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • Pinch of cayenne (didn’t have it, didn’t use this)
  • Dash of hot sauce, more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer gently for 10 – 20 minutes to bring the flavors together and deepen the color. Adjust seasoning to taste. Can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spaghetti al Limone

January 31, 2017

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In predictable fashion, all of my iDevices have started to fail at once, like clockwork. One Instagram post sends my iPhone into a speedy tailspin and my (7-year-old!) MacBook decides whether or not it wants to turn on based on, by all indications, the political climate. So not very often.

But here I stand, in my pajamas and slippers, 5-month-old strapped to my chest because, as a foil to the computer, she has very specific requirements about how and where she sleeps, ready to combat this freezing January day by staying indoors and writing a blog post about spaghetti. Bending recalcitrant technology, and my own penchant for extreme laziness, to keep this dear old blog alive.

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This spaghetti is one of Eric’s signature dishes, the one that Stella requests most often and the one he makes with the most relish (and flourish). And this is no comment on Eric’s ability, but it’s also dead simple. It’s a Frank Prisinzano number, first tasted at his restaurant Supper, and then recreated with help from this YouTube tutorial. Honestly, you can stop reading this now and just go straight there to make this spaghetti. I’m not going to embellish anything or even print the recipe; with spaghetti al limone, as so often with pasta, messing with it only detracts.

I really believe there’s something elegant about this pasta – the simplicity and unexpectedness of it. There’s also something approachable about it, as you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now, the few dollars it costs to throw together, and the 15 minutes it takes to whip it together. Most importantly, it’s bright and punchy. A reason not to hibernate in the dead of winter.

 

 

 

 

 

Upside Down Pineapple Cake

August 9, 2016

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At 9-months-pregnant, I am so sleepy. So, so sleepy. Just about the only things that give me energy are cooking and cleaning. Cleaning all the things. And stocking up. Just like last time. So when I see a pineapple going soft on the counter, I need to cut it up and put it away. And when I keep opening the fridge and seeing pineapple chunks in there, I need to bake them. It can’t be questioned.

Which is why I made this pineapple cake twice in two days. One cake used up only half a pineapple, so I had to make another. That, and it was pretty much the easiest (one bowl! eyeballable ingredients!) cake I’ve made in a really long time, and by far the best.

Ok, that’s about as much typing as I can handle. Too tired. Just make this cake. And don’t wake me up.

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UPSIDE DOWN PINEAPPLE CAKE

Makes an amazingly soft upside down pineapple cake. I took a lot of inspiration from this BBC GoodFood recipe but adjusted so much. I also apologize but while I can still bake cakes, I have no energy for converting weight-based units to volume. It’s easy, though! Just use an electric scale and zero the units after adding each ingredient. I remade this recipe with nectarines and apricots and it was amazing, so I had the opportunity to remeasure everything in cups. You’re welcome. Also, I didn’t really measure the butter or milk, I kind of eyeballed and it turned out great. Cake serves about 8 normal people or 2 of me. Keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days.

1/2 pineapple, peeled, core removed, cut into slices or chunks or however you like (you can also used canned pineapple/any other fruit)

200 grams butter, soft

125 grams (3/4 cup packed) brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

140 grams (2/3 cup) sugar

2 eggs + 1 egg white

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

200 grams (1 3/4 cup) flour

1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. If you have a cast iron skillet, use it; otherwise, use a springform pan. (NB: I used my springform for the first cake but it leaked out all over the oven so I switched over to the oven-proof skillet and it worked perfectly.)

Take 4 tablespoons of the butter and spread over the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over. Arrange pineapple chunks on top, leaving as little space between pieces as possible. (The fruit will shrink so really shove it in there.) Sprinkle some cinnamon on the pineapple chunks if you want. I also sprinkled some blueberries in there.

In a large bowl, whisk the rest of the butter and the sugar for a minute until creamy. Add in the eggs, egg white and vanilla extract and whisk for another minute. Add the baking powder and a pinch of salt and mix until uniform, then add the flour, mix; finally, add the milk and mix until uniform.

Pour batter over pineapple slices and bake in preheated oven for 35 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove skillet or pan from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate covered in baking paper.

Serve with ice cream, beaten sour cream spiked with brandy, creme fraiche, whipped cream or yogurt. Enjoy!!

 

Steak Tartare

June 29, 2016

IMG_2389Over the years, the things I’d put on my “last meal” list have shifted. I’ve written here that I’d probably want braised lamb shanks, and I guess that still holds as long as I could do the braising myself to prolong the end of the meal – the end of everything – by a few days. What once was carrot cake might now be tarte tartin, pizza could be swapped for…no, pizza stays. But one thing that I’ll never give up is steak tartare.

If it’s on a menu, I order it. If I happen to be walking down the street and glance at a menu and see it, I go in and order it. I’m a steak tartare junkie but only get my fix rarely these days. (It’s not exactly mainstream and I’m not exactly going out all the time.)

But lately I’ve been craving it, googling “best steak tartare in London” and “steak tartare near me” and “steak tartare delivery”and generally losing my chill.

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Steak tartare – raw meat in general – gets a bad rap. There are many hearty meat eaters who’re scared off by a little raw steak. I totally get why that may have once been a sound judgment call, what with sketchy refrigeration and sketchier meat handling practices, but these days if you’re ordering it at a good restaurant or buying it from a good butcher, you’re good.

It was, originally, a dish made with horse meat, which is lean and develops a funky flavor when cooked. These days, it’s far more likely to be made from the very best beef filet you can buy. While in Italy it’s often served straight up (and called battuta di manzo), I do it the French way – served with a range of condiments, from mustard to capers.

Because the add-ins can be adjusted (or left out) to your liking and taste, and because there’s no cooking (and practically no chopping), this is one of the easiest and best summer dishes around. It’s both hearty and light and makes a stunning first course (even for those squeamish about eating raw meat – just pan fry a patty for a few minutes and your tartare becomes a burger).

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CLASSIC STEAK TARTARE

Serves 2 as a filling main course, 4 as a first course. All of these measurements are approximate, so I’ll list the ingredients first and amounts second – just do what you want with what you’ve got! Just make sure you tell the butcher you’re making tartare and that you want the best filet (fillet in the UK and Oz) for the job. Don’t let this sit too long, make it and serve it right away with toast, crackers, french fries, salad, whatever you like! 

best beef filet, 400 grams/nearly 1 pound (bought as close to when you’re planning to make it as possible; tell your butcher what you’re making and ask for the best)

spanish onion or yellow onion, about 1/4 of a medium onion or 1 shallot

capers in brine, drained, about 2 teaspoons

dijon mustard, 1 – 3 teaspoons

mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon (or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil whipped with 1-2 egg yolks)

worcestershire sauce, a few dashes

tabasco sauce, a few drops

salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL: it’s all optional, really, but you can also add parsley, ketchup, chili flakes, gherkins, egg yolks for topping, whatever your heart desires.

To make this really easy, use a food processor. Otherwise, you’ll have to chop all your ingredients by hand.

First, chop the meat. Using a sharp knife, cut the filet steak into thin slices. Put the meat in a food processor and pulse just a few times (you don’t want to over-handle it). The meat can be as chunky or as smooth as you like. Put the chopped meat in a medium-sized bowl.

Next, in the bowl of the food processor, pulse together the onion, capers and any other hard ingredients you’re using (such as gherkins) until chopped finely.

Now add some of the pulsed onion mixture into the chopped meat and add some mustard and mayonnaise, and some worcestershire sauce and tabasco. Gently mix together with a spoon until uniform and taste, adding more of the ingredients to taste until the tartare is as you like it. It’s usually really flavorful and a little spicy with lovely chunks of caper and hints of mustard, but it’s really up to you.

Serving it is as easy as making it – it’s really up to you. A classic French bistro might serve it with thin french fries and salad or toast. I like to plate it with toasted brioche or pumpernickel crackers, some capers on top and a tiny drizzle of the best olive oil. You can serve this in uniform patties as I did by pressing it into a cookie mold or half-cup (for 4 people) or cup (for 2 people) measuring cup, and plopping it on each person’s plate, or you can just form it into patties by hand.

If you have any leftover tartare, you can pan fry it the next day for an amazing burger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sicilian Orange Cake

June 15, 2016

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This isn’t the first orange cake* I’ve posted here and it won’t be the last: it’s far too easy to make and eat, and just bright enough when London lives up its wet hype. Even my husband’s apparent (though I dare say untested) dislike for orange cake (he texted me back “boooo” when I told him what kind of cake I’d made) won’t stop me.

Why? Because it’s June and rainy and chilly. The rain in London isn’t like other rain. You can’t predict it. The forecast says it’ll be sunny until 4pm, but you’ve got a 90% chance of getting soaked or stuck under a tree at noon. So I’m not taking any chances.

FullSizeRender (2).jpgAlso because I’m 7 months pregnant, staying home with my 4-year-old for the first time and thus need reasons not to stay in a near-nap state all day. Because we’ve just moved across the world (again), our things (including my bundt pan) have just arrived, and I decided to try a “local” recipe. Because I always have extra oranges sitting in the bottom of the fridge. Because it’s raining. Because I can’t find chocolate chips. Because I like a good orange cake. Because I can.

So why is this orange cake so special? It’s not. I just have a thing for everyday cakes that sit on the counter and slowly (but not even that slowly, let’s be honest) get sliced away. Or more likely I just have a thing for having cake in the house at all times, especially when going out for cake means getting wet. And not napping.

This recipe was first published online in The Guardian and seems to have quite the internet following. I liberally (inexactly) adjusted the weight-based metric measurements to the US’ volume-based, left out some things and it still came out perfect. I’m guessing it’s not really Sicilian, based on the butter, icing sugar and just the Englishness of it, but I’m not complaining. Sicily might win for sunshine, but the English know a good cake.

*See German Orange Juice Cake, which seemed a bit too much, and Orange Poppy Seed Cake, which has poppy seeds, which I don’t have and didn’t seem worth a trip outside in the rain.

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SICILIAN ORANGE CAKE

This orange cake has more of a poundcake feel, and takes well to extra orange juice sauce poured on top. Liberally adapted from Rick Stein’s Sicilian Orange Cake recipe. Serves 8 – 10. 

250g (1 cup/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

250g (1 1/4 cups) sugar

4 eggs

1½ teaspoons grated orange zest (from about 4 oranges)

250g self-raising flour (or 2 1/4 cups flour + 3 teaspoons baking powder)

85ml (1/3 cup) orange juice

Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Thoroughly grease a round cake tin or a bundt pan. I used 1 small bundt pan and 1 really small loaf tin.

Using electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes until very pale. Beat in the eggs and the orange zest. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together, then add this mixture to the batter. Once the flour is incorporated, add the orange juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan then gently turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Prepare icing by taking 1 cup (125g) of icing sugar in a bowl and whisking in a tablespoon of orange juice at a time until the mixture is creamy and thin enough to spread. Drip and spoon over the top of the cake, letting it soak in and drip down the sides.

Can be served warm or at room temperature. I served it for dessert with unsweetened double cream and I got lots of praise, even from my skeptical family.

Keeps well for up to 5 days on the counter. If you want it to remain super moist and extra gooey, do what I did: make extra sauce by mixing 1/2 cup orange juice with a few tablespoons of sugar; make holes in the cake’s top with a knife and pour the sauce on top until it all soaks into the cake.

 

 

Best Bran Muffins

February 13, 2016

blueberry bran muffins

Bran muffins are my jam. Seriously. This is my second full post on them. In the first, from over 5 years ago, I recount my long and loving history with the bran muffin and my inability to make them well at home. Feel free to go back and read my lament, but in the meantime just know that only towards the very end of my six years living outside North America did I find decent bran muffins – and only then in a few inner-city Sydney cafes for $5 each. I was frustrated. I was disheartened. So I set to work.

After a bunch of flops, I kind of gave up. Maybe it’s not possible to make them at home. Maybe it takes some sort of bakery magic to get that perfectly dense, hearty, branny muffin. Plus, after 18 months stateside, I’d gotten used to finding bran muffins everywhere (even though, in Brooklyn, they’re still $5 each). But with another imminent intercontinental move, this time to London – where, honestly, I don’t think there will be a shortage of mind blowing baked things – I needed to get my bran muffin strong. Just in case.

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For those of you who don’t know, I don’t do fussy recipes. Well, sometimes I do, but I usually resent (and never remake) them. So when I came across this recipe, which is the classic formula of mix wets + mix dries + mix them together, I didn’t really hesitate. Better a low-effort failure than an annoyingly precious failure or, worse, no bran muffins at all ever again.

Turns out these are the best bran muffins I’ve ever been able to make at home. Hands down. Not only that, they are low-effort, free of refined sugar, full of grains, easily modified and beloved by the whole family. After years of searching, I’m done. The great fear of going without bran muffins is over. The homemade bran muffin is real. And this is it.

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BEST BRAN MUFFINS

Not too sweet but very substantive, these are the best easy breakfast. The recipe is from a site called Farmgirl that I can’t access anymore, but Google it and you may have more luck. This recipe makes 12 biggish muffins.  You can add spices if you want, but I think the nuttiness of the bran gives them a deep flavor. These are even better the next day and perfect defrosted for an hour from the freezer. 

2 cups wheat bran (I’ve substituted wheat germ/oat bran/flour)

1 cup oat bran

1 cup flour (whole wheat or white)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup yogurt, sour cream or labne

1/3 cup canola or similar oil

2/3 cup honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, molasses or a mix (I usually use half honey, half maple)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 – 2 cups additions if you want (such as raisins, fresh or frozen berries, chopped figs, chopped apples, etc.)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients – the flour, oat and wheat bran, baking powder and soda and the salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients – the eggs, yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla and honey/syrups/molasses.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and very gently fold them together until combined. Gently fold in whatever additions you like – raisins, dried or fresh cranberries, chopped apples, frozen berries, etc. I love frozen berries because they’re the easiest, but raisins pre-soaked in hot water (then drained) and chopped apples are good classics, too.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tin, filling up to the top (they won’t rise too much). Bake in the preheated oven for 10 – 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and golden brown on top. Cool in the pan for a few minutes then remove from the pan and cool.

Cool completely before storing or freezing in an airtight container or bag.