Guinea fowl for lunch

For all you who live in London and are looking for something different to do in your lunch break, you should check out the cookery school L’atelier des Chefs. They do 30 minute “Cook, Eat and Run” classes twice a day from Tuesday to Friday. A professional chef will guide you through the recipe and can also teach you many little tips and tricks which you wouldn’t find in a cookery book. And then you can enjoy the fruits of your labours in the dining room.

On today’s lunch menu was this delicious guinea fowl stuffed with mozzarella, served with fennel and sun blushed tomatoes.  Guinea fowl is not something that people usually cook with at home, but it really adds a special element to the dish… provided you can source some guinea fowl that is! The chef did say that you can easily replace it with chicken. The skin was crispy and well seasoned, the meat tender and juicy whilst the fennel and the tomatoes added a little tang to the dish.

All of this achieved in just 30 minutes, of course with the help of our experienced, if slightly cheeky, Chef Louis.

You can find the recipe here and you can book for your own “Cook, Eat and Run” class here. I would love to hear about your experience if you do decide to try it out!

L’atelier des Chefs

19 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1PH

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus/ Bond Street

A lot of pineapple goes into pineapple tarts!

Another Chinese New Year favourite that you simply can’t go without. I have never made pineapple tarts before and there are quite a few different variations of the recipe online. In the end I decided to take my favourite parts from the recipes of A Spoonful of Sugah, Rasa Malaysia and Fresh From the Oven.

The pineapple balls in the photo above are the result of boiling down 3 cans of pineapple (yields approximately 45 small balls).

I used a mini flower shaped cutter to cut out the pastry base. These are smaller than usual pineapple tart cutters and I got about 30 bases from the amount of pastry that I made.

For the pineapple jam
3 cans of pineapple
10 tbsp caster sugar
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
2 segments of star anise
For the pastry
170g plain flour
10g cornflour
120g salted butter
1/4 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp icing sugar
The method can be found here

I actually halved the pastry ingredients to account for the fact that the original recipe calls for 3 whole fresh pineapples and I only used 3 cans of pineapple which I guessed equated to about 1.5 pineapples. I did have a little bit of the pineapple jam left over at the end so the yield could probably have been higher.

Another thing I would do differently next time is to roll the pastry a little thinner as it seemed to expand slightly in the oven which made the pastry slightly too thick.

Some handy tips:

  • If you have time before and after blending the pineapple, try to squeeze as much of the juice out as possible. This will cut down the time needed to reduce the pineapple and will also make the jam easier to roll into balls.
  • Keep a close eye on the pineapple and stir often towards the end of the reducing process as this is when there is very little liquid in the pan and the pineapple could quickly burn.
  • Double egg-washing the tarts, once before baking and once half-way through, will make the pastry even more golden.

I would say that these pineapple tarts need a bit more practice. They’re nowhere near professional looking, and I think the recipes could be refined a bit. I found that the pineapple jam was not quite sweet enough, and the pastry, whilst buttery and almost melt-in-the-mouth, was just that little bit dry. Keep your eyes peeled for take 2 of the pineapple tarts.

In the meantime I’d love to know what are your experiences of making pineapple tarts and whether you have a foolproof recipe you wouldn’t mind sharing :)

Craving a bit of Chinese New Year

It’s so sad that Chinese New Year in the UK is a bit of a non-event. Aside from the usual Sunday celebrations in Chinatown, we don’t have the opportunity to go visiting family, and this year our reunion dinner has been postponed until Saturday. I miss Singapore in the run-up to Chinese New Year, old aunties queuing to buy dried mushrooms and lap cheong, the drumming of lion dance troupes in their open backed trucks rushing to their next performance and the choruses of “lo hei!” echoing from surrounding apartments.

So in an attempt not to miss out on all the CNY fun I decided to try my hand at making one of my favourite CNY snacks, cashew nut cookies, from this recipe courtesy of ‘My Kitchen Snippets’.

The dough uses a mixture of plain flour and cornflour and lots of butter. When I first started mixing it seemed as though there would be too much butter to combine well, but after a fair amount of kneading the mixture came together and was actually quite crumbly and dry, as I expected it would be.

The recipe didn’t specify the size of each cookie, but as the dough was quite dry I decided to make them small (less than 1 inch across).

I decided to apply the egg wash twice, once before putting them into the oven and again  just over halfway through cooking. I found that this gave them a much more even, golden colour.

The result was a delightfully crumbly, buttery biscuit bursting with cashew nut flavour. One thing I would wish is for the biscuit to be slightly sweeter, for next time I think I would add another 50-70g of sugar. However all in all these cookies are very close to the shop bought ones which I would always ask relatives to bring from Singapore for me. :)

A Hidden Gem Revealed

I really wanted fries. And a burger. And it was one of those cravings I knew wouldn’t go away until I had a truly satisfying burger and some killer fries. Luckily for me I was meeting up with some good friends of mine, one of whom is back from studying in Taiwan for the Chinese New Year holiday. He recommended a pub which he had frequented when he had lived in the area during his university days. Admittedly he had only ever been there for drinks in the evening, but seemed to remember a fairly nice menu.

So we found ourselves at Canal 125 at lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon. This spacious little pub is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of King’s Cross and serves up a range of the usual British pub fare including a nice selection of vegetarian dishes. One thing that caught my eye whilst perusing the menu is that their meat is all responsibly sourced. The beef is free-range, the fish is sustainable and the chickens are RSPCA inspected.

I had the beef burger with extra cheese whilst other dishes on the table included an aubergine and mixed veg baguette, huge bowl of frites moules and butternut squash soup with a hunk of fresh crusty bread. And of course all accompanied with a generous portion of fries.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised as I’m not usually a fan of pubs and their food. But this burger was moist and well seasoned with the perfect salad to meat ratio and sandwiched between a soft but slightly crispy at the edges sesame bun. The wonderfully golden fries were crisp on the outside yet fluffy on the inside and more than enough to satisfy my craving :)  I paid about £13 including service and I have to say I would happily pay it again.

So if you’re ever out and about in Central London and looking for a quiet and friendly place to while away the afternoon I would definitely give Canal 125 a look.

Canal 125

125 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9RG

Nearest tube: King’s Cross St. Pancras/ Caledonian Road

A New Chapter

As I’m about to enter into a period of involuntary unemployment it seems only fitting that I should spend some of my spare time trying my hand at food-related blogging. I should be an expert, I am constantly eating or cooking. And perhaps this is the perfect way to celebrate and embrace the fact that I am almost always hungry…