Saturday, 11 September 2010


I came across some edible paper in the Sainsbury’s the other day, and picked it up, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but knew I wanted to do something. It was only 99p for a pack of 12 A5 potato starch sheets, which is very decent, so why not. I found the paper very similar to rice paper. It is a little bit more stiff then rice paper, but still quite malleable, and as the serving suggestion suggests, good for cake decorating. It is pretty taste-less, but this means it can take on not only colour, but taste also. One thing I really like about edible paper, is its “third dimension”: taste. It can also be its downfall though, as any liquid added on it instantly dissolves the paper, reducing it to mush. So great care has to be taken with handling it, but otherwise, it’s a great “new” product available in most supermarkets.

So, anyhow… I was playing about with the paper, trying different origami shapes, and one that seemed to hold really well was the origami star. The stiffness of the potato starch paper means too many folds and creases result in tears and weak edges. But the star holds very well, and has a hollow centre great for filling…

There are a few things I could have tried to fill my starts with, but nothing would have been best suited then a sweet, spongy, meringue filling. So I made a few stars, set them aside, whilst I made a simple meringue mixture: 1 egg white; 70grams caster sugar; 1 tsp corn flour; 1 tsp white vine vinegar. I separated it into three and added strawberry flavouring to one, peppermint to another, and lemon to the last.

I got three syringes (left over from the Cherry Bombs) and filled each with a different meringue mixture. I injected a couple of stars, being carful with how much went in, as the meringue filling would expand during cooking. I also had to be careful that they weren’t sat around for too long between the injecting and popping into the oven phase, as the liquidly filling inside would start dissolving the paper. Before they went into the oven, I gave them a quick brushing of natural food colouring mixed with honey and sugar to give them a slight glazed exterior.

They didn’t take longer then 5 minuets, and came out with a crisp finish. I let them cool for another 5 minuets so that making the holes for the sugar spear was made easier.

I made the sugar spear by melting sugar in a pan, till it just started to turn a rich caramel colour. I then let it cool a little till it was just manageable to handle, and plied it to a spear shape. I must add that this was rather coincidental as I was initially trying to create this shape with a spoon, but as it cooled and stuck to my spoon, I tried to twist and pull it away, and thus… this rather perfect shape was created! I made a pierced the stars through with the needle from the syringe, then very carefully let the sugar spear follow through. This was a very delicate job.

Well, it’s not really a filling desert as such, but it was rather fun to create. It’s quite remarkable what can actually be done with edible paper. Used with the right vegetable ink, edible paper can leave suspended txt/images in jelly. This looks very impressive, but is actually really quite simple. You can also buy edible ink (not for all printer types, mainly inkjet Canons and HPs), which doesn’t have the best quality finish, but does mean you could possibly eat a picture of yourself!!! Homaro Cantu’s restaurant in Chicago, Moto, prides itself on being a futuristic, postmodern eating experience, by using inkjet printing on edible paper in their recipes/inventions. Diners order from, then eat the edible menu which is made of parmesan-flavored rice paper which has been imprinted with edible soy ink. Puffed rice and freeze-dried shallots frame the menu, which sits on bed of crème fraiche. Once the presentation has been admired and the food ordered, the “menu” is stirred up and becomes the first course of risotto. Sounds mental… looks it too. Here’s a link to their website: . It’s defiantly worth a gander if molecular gastronomy is your kind of thing. Happy Eatings!

Monday, 6 September 2010


Everyone loves a good BLT, and I’m sure there are a few interesting takes on the classic. I have quite a few: BLT with a healthy spreading of Philly; BLT with dried onions; BLT with mustard and mayo; BLT with a generous dollop of Nando’s sauce…. But this is all dependent on what’s in the fridge really. It’s good to improvise I find. A good veggie take is Baco Bits instead of actual bacon… it’s surprisingly yummy, but nothing compared to real bacon. I have sampled a lot of bought BLTs and none come close to Pret’s. I think it’s the generous filling that does it for me. The equal amount of bacon to tomato and lettuce and the creamy mayo all in between two wholegrain multi seeded buttered slices. I also recommend Madison’s (New Cross). They have a “special BLT” which has the addition of coleslaw, and if you ask, red onion too. The problem with shop bought BLTs is that they tend to use streaky bacon, and as crispy as it is, it’s not as good as a proper rasher of salty, meaty, porkyness. A nice rasher of bacon gives a fullness to the sandwich, so a home made BTL wins hands down, any day for me. It’s something that I think requires a bit of time and dedication. So before my cousin’s engagement do on Sunday, I knocked up a few hearty sandwiches to see us through the day. It didn’t help with getting into our saris, but it kept us content till dinner.

The four essential ingredients: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and the Bread, have to be of reasonably good quality. I used free range, beechwood smoked English dry cures back rashers, from Hampshire Bores. Their meat is known for its tenderness and taste. I got my tomatoes and gem lettuces from the local farm shop. The multi seed bread was bought the day before from our local baker. It really isn’t very expensive to ensure the use of good quality food, it just requires a bit of effort and it’s well worth it in the end. My additions were: Camembert cheese, shallots in balsamic vinegar, oxford sauce and mayonnaise. Oxford sauce is difficult to describe. It’s a little bit like HP sauce, but not really. It goes well with mayo. The BLT works well, cause it has the saltiness from the bacon, the crunch from the lettuce, and the tomato acts as a flavour combiner and natural sauce creator. There are so many things that work well with each element of the sandwich that makes combinations limitless. Like cheese, mayo and butter. All quite fatty, but they go well with the salt from the bacon. The freshness of the salad leaves and tomato cut through the salty fattiness, and cleanse the pallet, ready for the next bite. The shallots were caramelised in balsamic vinegar to rid of any acidity and make them a little sweeter. Shallots tend to crisp up a little to, so also add a bit of texture as well as taste.

To cook my bacon, I got my griddle pan out, turned the heat up on the gas, put a little oil in the pan once it got hot, then once it started to smoke, I placed my bacon rashers down. I gave them less then 30 seconds on each side, took then off and placed to sit whilst I got on with toasting my bread. If I were feeling really naughty, I would have got my toasted bread and soaked it in the bacon juices in the pan. But instead of this, I toasted my multi-seeded bread in the grill, then spread on my special oxford-mayo sauce. I then began the stack:

For food porn lovers… here’s a close up….

Right, so I closed the sandwich… sat down with a big cup of tea and took my time over enjoying ever bite. My mother wasn’t very happy, but she’s a vegetarian and got a cream cheese and salad sandwich. “Why are you taking pictures of your sandwich? We’re already running late.” She did have a point. But it was so yummy, I could have had another one… oh well, till the next BLT… Happy Eating!

Thursday, 2 September 2010


As Autumn comes around the corner, and as less fresh fruit is in season, a good way of preserving the tastes of summer fruits is simply drying them out. I’ve had quite a few apricots and peaches I bought from a local farm in Olney sat in my fruit bowl. I was planning on doing something with them, but just couldn’t make my mind up on what. So a few days passed, and I started to notice my organic apricots were starting to become a little over ripe. I needed to take drastic action. I didn’t want to make apricot jam, as it seemed clichéd and there wasn’t much left to the imagination after the jamming process. So I looked into other preserving methods, and drying seemed the most obvious. Now, the dried fruit you by from the shops tends to have been through a really long soaking and drying process, which I just didn’t have the means of recreating. They also then to have a lot of added sugar in them which takes away from the actual sweetness of the fruit. So I looked into other more traditional ways of drying, but this requited a hot, dry outdoor climate… not going to happen. But I could try and create a hot, dry environment with my oven. This, I found out, could be done by turning the oven up to a very modest temperature of 60°C and leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Also, to ensure the fruits dried evenly, they had to placed on the lower shelf, and straight onto the rack. The cooking process is long, and dependent on how big/dense the fruit pieces are and on how “dry” you want your fruit. All fruit before drying in the oven needs to be preserved in some kind of sugary preserving solution. In mine, I dissolved 1 part sugar and 1 part honey to some water. I placed on the hob till it bubbled and reduced. I then added the pitted and halved apricots and let them sit in the solution for 2 minutes. I removed and placed on my wire rack in the oven. I was initially planning on keeping them in the oven for 6 hours, but after this time, I realised I needed to push the fleshy part of the fruit up a little and let it dry out a little more for a further 2 hours.

Long, yes. But it is well worth it. The flavours are even more concentrated and the skin becomes wonderfully chewy. My apricots were finished by 10 in the evening, and as I had a little munch on my dried fruit whilst watching Top Chef… I had a little brain wave, that just wouldn’t leave the circulating thoughts in my head…. Peach Meringue Roulade. I had all the ingredients… I needed to make it reality. Crisp, but spongy meringue, peach jam, honey vanilla cream, topped with flaked almonds and chopped dry, chewy apricots! I set about making it:

Meringue Base:
5 Egg Whites
300g Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar
3 tbsp Cornflour
1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar

To make the meringue base, I whisked the egg whites till they got to the soft peak stage. I then whisked in the vinegar and gradually added in the cornflour and sugar. The meringue mixture is ready when I becomes glossy and very stiff. I spread out the mixture as evenly as possible at approximately an inch thick on a large piece of greaseproof paper, and then placed in the oven on the middle shelf at 160°C for 15 min. I then turned the temperature down to 110°C for a further 20 min. Once completed, I took it out of the oven to cool.

Peach Jam:
4 Plump Peachy Organic Peaches
200g Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar
4 tbsp Lemon Juice

I firstly got my peaches and scored a cross on the bottom of them. I placed them in boiling water for a couple of minuets. I then removed them and instantly placed them in a bowl of iced water. This process helps making removing the skin a lot easier.

Once skinned, I chopped them up and placed in a saucepan along with the sugar and lemon juice. I read somewhere once, that to keep the colour of any jam, it needs to be cooked on a high heat, and very quickly. So all in all, once blitzed and allowed to bubble, I let it reduce and cook for no longer the 15 minuets. I let it cool by an open window. Once cooled, it becomes more viscous and more jam like. I spread this on the turned-upside-down meringue.

Dried fruit:
I decided to chop up some of my dried apricots to use in my roulade. So I carefully removed, chopped and separated the chewy skin parts and the fleshy inner parts for the apricots. The skins to be used as a topping on the roulade, and the fleshy part to be mixed in with the cream.

Honey, Vanilla, Apricot Cream:
1 Pot Double Cream
1 Pot Crème Fraiche
1 Vanilla Pod
3 tbsp of Honey
10 Fleshy Halves of Apricots
200g Organic Unrefined Icing Sugar

I whisked the cream and crème fraiche together till it became thick. I then mixed in the vanilla seeds, the honey and the apricot halves. I slowly sieved in the icing sugar which I thought I decided to add to give the cream mixture more stiffness… but it became a little more watery at this stage which was worrying. I let it set in the fridge for a good half hour, and nothing changed. It was getting late, so I decided to pour the cream out over the meringue anyways and let it set. I waited another 30 minuets.

The time was coming closer to 2am, and my patience was running thin. I was starting to feel a little tired and run down by the long cooking process. Surely I had the patience to wait, especially after all this hard work…

What can I say. Impatience got the best of me. It was purely a moment of impulse, and if I was thinking straight I would have known, Icing sugar takes a good hour to set properly. I knew it was a destructive reckless moment and there was no way of mending my now very sorry looking roulade.

I was very very upset, but all I could do was make best of what I had. So I plated it up as well as I could, sprinkled my toasted flaked almonds and dried apricot skins over the top. It didn’t look very nice, but it tasted absolutely delicious! It was tangy, sour, creamy, crunchy and so very naturally sweet. They honey and vanilla cream complimented the peach jam very well. The meringue sponge was the right density, but still lovely and crisp on the outside. It was lovely. I think next time I will have to either exclude the icing sugar… or just be more patient, as the next day when I opened my fridge to get some milk, I noticed the cream in the roulade had set nicely to the right consistency… oh well. Made a nice change from Weetabix for breakfast. Happy Eating!