Mother’s Ruin: Gin and Tonic Cake

imageThis this was a second attempt at a gin and tonic cake. The previous being a triumphant roaring success and the second simply woeful. I’ve used this recipe both times with a 50% success rate. Simply because I’m not one for strictly sticking to recipes. Beginners luck was on my side last time. This time I couldn’t remember exactly how I’d previously flounced the rules, and I got scared of the vast sugar content and tried to dodge some of the drizzle. When it’s good this cake is really damn good, just don’t waste your best gin, like I did, it’s only baking! Serve it fresh out the oven still warm with a scoop of lemon sorbet…Perfection.

 

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Artichoke gratin

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I can take absolutely no credit from this recipe. It was introduced to me by a good friend at a tipsy gathering at university. The dish was presented to us and decimated within seconds. The same has happened every time I’ve made it since. It’s the simplest of recipes but it gets hoovered up like its the last meal on earth.
I have not included any quantities here as it depends on the size of your oven proof baking dish, but you need enough artichokes to cover a thin layer of whatever dish you have to hand.
You need to find prepared artichoke hearts to keep things easy. Either in a tin or as antipasti (for this variety you’ll need to drain the majority of the oil. Roughly chop them into smaller chunks and separate the leaves. Spread them out to cover the base of a baking dish and set aside. In a small bowl mix some mayonnaise with some fresh minced garlic, or if you can find it, some smoked garlic. The flavour is worth the hunt for some specialist ingredients. Season with black pepper a small pinch of salt. Mix together and spread over the artichokes. Stir the mixture until thoroughly combined and compact it down to press out all of the gaps. Then sprinkle a generous amount of grated parmesan on top and bake in the oven until it slightly crisps on top.

Baked cinnamon pear oat cobbler

pearThere is nothing I hate more than a grainy pear, that texture when you bite into it and discover that its like eating sand is a horrid feeling every time. I was lucky enough to be given a bag of Wallis pears fresh from picking, but they took forever to ripen and after 2 weeks of rock hard fruits I decided it was time to make a crumble. I looked up many a different recipes and ended up using my own judgement (by judgement I mean haphazardly throwing ingredients into a mixing bowl), and the end result was perfectly edible.
I baked all of the pears cut into chunks with a tiny bit of brown sugar and cinnamon and half a cup of water to steam through in a baking dish. I love cutting through a pear horizontally to discover the tiny star in the middle. I made a cobbler topping out of oats, some flour, butter, cinnamon and raisins and scattered over the top and placing in the oven until it was crunchy on top. Sadly the pear liquor soaked into the topping a fair bit which meant that the fruit wasn’t nearly as soft as I’d hoped for, but it was absolutely delicious never the less. Overall with a spoon full of yogurt it was basically a fancy warm muesli!

Pork and leek potato pie with cheddar and mustard mash

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Neither a cottage, nor a shepherd’s pie, but a pork and leek one. Its exactly the same format as any other potato pie, but outdoes its competitors by a long mile. You can use minced pork, or if you feeling idiotic like me you can painstakingly hand cut pork into smaller pieces. Fry it of in a hot pan to remove the fat, and add some garlic, a chopped onion and diced leeks. Allow this to cook off before adding a small amount of stock to thicken up into a sauce. Meanwhile you can add some chopped potatoes to a pan of boiling salty water until al dente. Drain and mash, with a proper mashing utensil, not a fork. Add a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard and mix well. Pour the leek and pork mixture into the bottom of an oven proof dish. Cover with the potato and use the back of a fork to create ridges and grate some cheddar before placing under the grill to crisp up.

Birthday BBQ by the lake

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As you can see from the ominous clouds in the background of the burger shot below, the weather DSC_0118wasn’t exactly perfect for a BBQ. Nevertheless it was my birthday and I will grill if I want to. We have been donated mister Smokey Joe, an awesome little portable grill so its been a goal to fit in as many opportune grill parties into our miserable summer as possible. I normally have a BBQ for my birthday and this year was no exception. Lakeside at the park in Wollishofen was a bit of a location upgrade, if only the sun had decided to power through. It didn’t prevent us from whipping up some scrummy grilled treat and carb heavy salads to accompany it.
We had my favourite halloumi flatbreads, and a brute of a burger made with cheddar cheese and caramelised onion jam. We whacked out a pesto and spinach penne salad with sundried tomatoes. A stonking spiced couscous jewelled with dried fruits that will be a side dish for plenty of meals for the remainder of the week because I can never correctly portion couscous! To top it all off I whisked up a potato salad with baby new potatoes, yogurt and mint. This is another favourite with only a sprinkling of fresh chopped onion and garlic. I would much prefer some spring onions but this is Switzerland after all and nothing is open on a Sunday!
A lovely day was had by all sipping ice cold apple cider with frozen raspberry ice cubes and the new favourite beer, Brand Löscher, perfect for any BBQ. Once the rain extinguished the grill (pardon the German translation pun) it was time to head over to our favourite pub quiz at the Shamrock Irish Pub. I’m not an expat bar fan but this quiz is superb. If you’re at a loss on a Sunday evening for entertainment in Zurich, head there to get your brain working. A wonderful Swiss birthday indeed.

 

The first fruits of the year

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Now this isn’t exactly a bumper crop but with the balcony gardening failings I’ve suffered this year, these 4 raspberries have made me proud of my minor success. Luckily this should be the first of many, my raspberry plant already has at least 30 berries and more to come. There is nothing more rewarding than growing your own plants and eating the produce. A lot of my plants died earlier this year but my tomato plant has gone berserk and looks set to produce some monster sized beef tomatoes. Very happy with the first fruits of the year indeed. Hope there will be many more to come.

Spatchcocking a chicken

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So turns out there is a right way and a wrong way to spatchcock a chicken. Luckily for me it was a 50/50 chance that worked out in my favour on this occasion. I simply used a strong pair of kitchen scissors and snipped through the centre of the breast until it had split in half along the middle. Then I unfolded it and hey presto it was as I had pictured it. On a separate occasion I manged to cut through the bottom leaving the breast intact. When you unfold it this way there is nowhere for the thighs to go and you end up with a rounded lump, so be sure the check before cutting.
The greatest thing about spatchcocking is that the chicken cooks evenly throughout because it is now long and flat, with a fairly even thickness. I simply crumbled a chicken stock cube over the skin, drizzled some olive oil, squeezed half a lemon, and sprinkled some rosemary and thyme before massaging it all in. The result is seriously tasty crispy skin, and if you leave the lemon in the dish it steams into the whole chicken. The juices then run out with all the marinade flavour ready to make a gravy, a sauce or a broth. Its ready in only an hour but transforms any average roast chicken into a super tasty one.