The Painted Lady

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti

The Simplicities of Shortbread

Have you ever craved something irresistibly sweet and then you think about the effort that goes into making it and then laziness rears its unattractive, yet addictive face? Well I have; many, many times. So, imagine my delight when my baking buddy shows up with her wonderful book of treats! Whilst gushing and oohing and aahing, we stumbled upon a recipe for shortbreads. Good ol’ wonderful simple shortbreads. You see, shortbreads are very dear to me because they appeal to my emphatically lazy side in that I don’t need to step out of my pantry and my house to get any of its handful of ingredients.

Despite its simplicity, I do feel it’s important to be indulgent when it comes to the ingredients. Which is why I had a huge fat smile on my face when my friend whipped out the french butter that she had brought with her! YAY!!!! IT really does make a wealth of difference when you use top notch ingredients for simple things like shortbread.

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So here’s the recipe that created the crumbly, buttery goodness that I unregrettably chomped down once they were out of the oven. All thanks to the Williams Sonoma Baking Book (Very good book by the way)

This recipe makes however many bars you want – Depending on how thick you’d like them of course.

  • 250g room temperature unsalted butter
  • 30g Icing Sugar
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 235g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 150°C.

I used an 8 inch square baking pan that was greased within an inch of its aluminium life.

Firstly, sift the flour and the salt together, then set aside. Secondly, using your arm muscle or an electric/hand mixer, cream the butter, the icing sugar and granulated sugar till its quite pale. Dash in the Vanilla extract, mix it in. Then gradually fold in the flour and salt mixture until the mixture is doughy. All that’s left is to press and shape the dough into your pan (using floured hands of course); sprinkle the extra granulated sugar on top and chuck the pan into your preheated oven.

All they need is about an hour in the oven, the edges will have a golden hue (just the edges!!). Immediately you bring the pan out of the oven, cut your shortbread however you like then LET THEM COOL. Like I’ve said before, I do not have the patience for this bit so into my mouth they went!

P.S: Remember to eat them delicately.

P.P.S: Try not to shamelessly gorge on them like I did.

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The comforting scent of butter and Cinnamon – Snickerdoodles

I find baking a pleasurable experience and I have to thank butter for that. I don’t think there’s a more fluid ingredient in the world than butter. And I mean true, unadulterated butter- not spreads, not ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ but BUTTER. I mean, let’s face it, as good as ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ might be, I can and do believe that it’s not butter. If you’re going down the savoury route, butter is round the corner; if you want a rich moist cake, butter is there to hold your hand. And most importantly, when you’re done in the kitchen and you wipe the sweat off your brow, what do you smell of? Butter. Boy do I love the smell of butter. This, and the warmth that spices like Cinnamon bring are one of the reasons why I will never stop being enthusiastic about food. I really do thank God for the gift that is butter.

Now down to business – I baked some snickerdoodles today. The soft, cakey, cinnamony ones that, after just one bite into them, make you wish that you were in their soft pillowy centre. And I have to thank Nigella’s How to be a domestic goddess (again!)  for these dear, dear cake-cookies.

 

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(Don’t you just love the specks of cinnamon!)

So, Voila!

  • 250g plain flour, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar:

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C and line and lightly grease two baking sheets. If you are fortunate enough to have parchment paper, then by all means use it instead. If you’re even more fortunate to have cookie sheet, well, I might envy you.

First of all, sift the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt together then set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in a standalone mixer, or even your glorious upper body strength, cream the butter with the 100g of sugar until light and pale in colour, then beat in the egg and vanilla.

Next slowly add the sifted dry ingredients until the mixture becomes doughy. After this, chill the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge or if you’re impenitently impatient like me, chuck it into the freezer for 15 minutes. You do this to make the dough more firm when handling.

Whilst you’re tapping your foot waiting for the dough, you could reluctantly clean up like I did and also mix the cinnamon and the sugar together in a bowl.

Now, take a small piece of dough and roll it gently between your palms to form a ball of about 1 inch or so; if you are a meticulous person much unlike myself, you could use a tablespoon to measure the dough before rolling. After this, roll the ball in the cinnamon sugar and then place the ball on your baking sheet. Carry on doing this till you’ve used up the dough. Make sure they are about 2 inches apart from each other. Slightly press the top of each ball to stop them from being too ambitious when rising.

Now all that’s left is the baking, which is for about 10-15 mins or until they are puffy and have set.  You need to be as watchful as a hawk at this point because any little distraction on your end could lead to your cookies cracking. You definitely don’t want this to happen because it will make you forfeit the soft centre, which is the main reason why I love these cookies.

Take them out of the oven and leave them to rest on the baking sheets for 1 minute, or again, if you’re impatient like me, eat them fresh out of the oven. If you’re not, transfer to a wire rack to cool and then eat them.

The good things about these cookies is that they keep well in an airtight container/cookie jar (provided that you don’t have busy hands that keep reaching to them).

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

 

 

Breakfast the way I like it.

So I bought a new type of cheese and I absolutely love it. Cheese has been one of those things that tend not to let me down in the kitchen. You over grill it, it still tastes great; it’s going mouldy, you cut off the mouldy bit and you’re good to go.

You’re feeling peckish and you need a snack? Cheese seldom fails. Oh dear, I’m getting flustered…I do love my cheese.

Anyway, I had heard of Tallegio through the grapevine, was curious, so I bought it. Tallegio is mildly-flavoured but has an aggressive aroma, so if you are sensitive to strong smells, this cheese in its aged form is not for you. Contrast this with the slightly sweet flavour of Gruyere in eggs and you have a breakfast to live for (a massive exaggeration of course, there are other things to live for).

Eggs, of course, are the easiest things to prepare, as Delia has taught me :).

The added cream gives the omelette the extra velvety smoothness it deserves and the butter used for frying it makes the eggs soooo buttery, you’d wish your breakfast never ended!

A word of advice – please go easy on the salt, you really don’t want salt to overshadow the taste of the added cheese. The black pepper on the other hand, gives the omelette necessary warmth/heat.

Lastly, If you’re overly concerned about the amount of carbs in there, chuck a a slice or two of ham. I definitely wasn’t…ah well!

brekki

Serves 1 very hungry individual.

Talleggio and Gruyere Cheese Omelette

  • 2 fresh large Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of double cream
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of butter
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of oil
  • About 25g of Talleggio
  • About 25g of Gruyere
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 6 inch base frying pan

Pre heat the grill. Slice the cheeses into thin slices.

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the salt and black pepper. Then use a fork to gently merge the yolks and the whites. Over-mixing the eggs is BAD, BAD, BAD! Your eggs would be disastrously un-fluffy and flat if you do!

Turn the heat of your hob to medium heat, let the pan get quite hot then add the butter and the oil.

Once it melts, swish the pan around to coat it. turn the heat it up till the butter foams. Pour in the eggs, tilt the pan back and forth to spread the eggs evenly around the base of the pan. Wait for 5 seconds, during this time, the edges of the eggs will begin to frill. Once this happens, tilt the the pan, use a spoon to draw the edge of the omelette into the centre- let the liquid reach the edge of the pan. Then tilt the pan towards you and repeat the process. Keep doing this until there’s 50 percent eggy liquid left.

Lay the cheeses on the top of the omelette, place it under the preheated grill so the cheese melts.

Once the cheese is melted, tilt the pan, fold the omelette twice, slide it off the pan into your plate, push the side of your fork into your omelette gently, watch the cheese ooze out slowly, et viola! you have your soft, squidgy, breakfast the way it was intended.

Ps: Enjoy and eat delicately.

P.P.S: You can of course have your omelette plain. Just keep tilting till there’s no eggy liquid left. Fold the omelette and that’s it really.

P.P.S: Smile as you eat!

Patience is A Virtue that I am Yet to Adopt.

I made my first batch of brownies today! It is not my intention to sound exceedingly arrogant but I have to say that they tasted delightful – Even better than pastry shop ones. They were gooey, squidgy, soft and all things chocolatey. Immediately they were done, instead of being a demure domestic goddess and waiting for them to cool, I shamelessly stabbed it with a knife and took my first piece. I am unrepentant and I haven’t looked back ever since.

I have nothing against plain brownies, but I much prefer fussy, fancy ones with a bit of crunch to them so I added shredded coconut to mine. Whatever you choose is fine – be it cute little chocolate buttons or anytime type of nuts, it really is up to you.

(Excuse the chipped nail- Constantly losing points on the domestic goddess scale)

Speaking of domestic goddesses, I looked to Nigella for inspiration because of her unapologetic love for comfort food- She never holds back, she just lets the love flow( and by love, i mean rich rich sugar, chocolate and butter 🙂 )

So here’s the recipe, knock yourselves out my non-existent readers 🙂

Easy to make Brownies ( adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess)

  • 375g of soft unsalted butter
  • 375g best-quality dark chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 coconut, shredded (optional)

Equipment: Tin measuring approximately 33 x 23 x 5.5 cm (Rectangle tin)

Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line the tin with foil or parchment paper (Doesn’t really matter- either is fine)

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large pan. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.

Once the chocolate mixture has melted (be careful not to burn it!) let it cool for a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar. After this, add the coconut and flour. Mix until smoothly combined and then pour every bit of this sweet sweet mixture into the lined tin.

Bake for 25 minutes- You’ll know it’s ready once the top is dried – the inside will be dense and gooey- THIS IS PERFECTLY FINE! –  brownies carry on cooking as they are left to cool. Seriously, do not over cook. You really don’t want the 3D Brownies – dry, disgustingly dull brownies.

Now don’t do what i did, which was to dive straight in. Let it cool before you mark your territory with your knife!

Now, Smile as you eat!

The Act of Eating

The first thing you should know about me is that I’m a whore. For Food.

Pick a number. Multiply by 150, and you’ll get the number of times I think about food in a day. I don’t just think about the art form that is food, but the act of eating it. The feeling of pushing my fork into its form, tasting its spiciness or sweetness, testing myself on whether I can guess what ingredients and flavours have been married to create it.

Eating isn’t just something we do for sustenance or just to fill our little (well, not so little in some cases) tummies when they growl for attention; it is a way of life, an art form and most importantly, a necessary decadence that everyone is entitled to.

I remember when I was a very young schoolgirl and a classmate said to me, ‘In order to shed weight, we are supposed to chew our food 15 times before swallowing’, I laughed AT her and asked her why anyone would waste their time chewing every bite as life passes them by. She is half-right after all. Well, the latter part of her statement is.

How can we ever enjoy our food if we don’t take the time to savour every bite our food? How can we ever appreciate the various ingredients on a plate that has been placed in front us without paying attention to the act of tasting?

On that note, i implore you to treat each meal like it’s your last meal. You owe your taste buds that much.

Oh and finally, welcome to my food space. I needed an outlet for my many food thoughts, so expect a lot of ramblings. As you might have been able to tell, I am not a writer.