Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Playing with my Food: DBs do Macarons

Playing with my Food: Matcha Macarons for the Daring Bakers
When our hostess this month chose macarons, I had to laugh, seeing as just a few weeks ago I was making macs for Jamie's mac-a-thon. I pretty much hadn't made macarons since I became obsessed with figuring them out a couple of years ago and now here I was making them over and over again. Back when I was trying them out, I'd made a number of traditional flavors, but hadn't gotten around to making matcha-flavored macs.
Matcha has been of interest to me ever since I participated in a traditional tea ceremony on one of the several occasions I visited Japan. I don't remember all the details of it, the only part that stuck with me being how you have to turn the bowl twice clockwise with your right hand as it sits on the palm of your left hand several times throughout. It's a beautiful ceremony and an activity that merits the detour if you ever have the opportunity to see it being done or participate in it.

It didn't occur to me to use matcha as an ingredient until I tasted green tea ice cream and became fixated on green tea mochi many years after the above-mentioned ceremony. Then at Sadaharu Aoki's shop in Paris I had one of his green tea-chestnut pastries, on one of the rare occasions when I wasn't having his yuzu tart (be still my beating heart), and fell in love with the combination. Of course the sugar-daddy of them all, Pierre Hermé, also makes a green tea-chestnut macaron, but as I've never seen it in his shop I haven't tried his (keep reading).
Playing with my matcha macarons
So when came time to pick a flavor for this challenge, I decided to make matcha macarons with sweet chestnut paste filling. It's a perfect fall combination in terms of both the flavors and colors and is a perfect companion to a chilly afternoon cup of tea or coffee. Making the matcha version was uneventful, but this is the part where I'll admit that I then tried to make Pierre Hermé's chestnut macarons (to pair with a matcha buttercream) which basically consist of making an Italian meringue and adding sweetened chestnut paste to the almond/meringue batter, and the result was not macarons but sweet meringue cookies, quite puffy but without any feet whatsoever. It's quite possible that, having followed his recipe faithfully, I'm now intrigued enough to try and make chestnut macarons shells again, but I might not use sweetened chestnut puree, I might just dry and process chestnuts into a powder and add that to the shell batter instead. There's no telling what I might do really, I can be stubborn like that.

Anyway, I should have added more matcha powder to the batter but I only used one teaspoon (I couldn't remember the recommended amount) and didn't add any food coloring, resulting in very light green shells. Once the shells were ready, I decided to play with my food, and therein you see the result. It was fun actually, I have at least three ideas I couldn't execute for this post for lack of time but I think it might almost be more fun to make macaron shells just so I can play with them rather than eat them, I'm just saying...
Matcha-Chestnut Macarons
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Food Blogger Connect Update - Speakers & Agenda


… is up to you!

You’ve heard it being twitted about and seen it posted on Facebook. Wonder what all the buzz is about? Food Blogger Connect 2009! And you can be a part of it!

So far, the response has been electric and we’ve reached further than we ever dreamed; food bloggers are not only training in from all parts of London, not only driving in from all over Great Britain, but they will be flying in from as far away as France, Germany, India and Singapore! And you can be a part of the fun, exciting speakers and great food! Just RSVP as soon as possible and hop aboard!

Food Blogger Connect is a fabulous party/conference being held in London on Saturday, November 28 at the Lebanese restaurant Levant. This is your chance to meet your fellow food bloggers face to face over a great meal, get to know them better, share ideas, network, plan. We will have an incredible line-up of speakers – some of whom you can help choose depending on what food-blog-related topics you want to hear about – with time for questions and discussion. And as a plus, we are all meeting up on Sunday for breakfast and a morning foodie tour.

Please note: We are calling for your ideas, and we look forward to hearing from you about the topics you’d like covered and who you would love to see cover them. Food Blogger Connect is the first Food Blogging conference to take place in the U.K and we need you to take the lead. 

Here are the nominated topics and speakers. (Your vote counts and so does your opinion. If you think we've missed someone who would be a great speaker or overlooked an important topic then please be sure to let us know by emailing us foodbloggerconnect@gmail.com.)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

A Chocolate Creme Caramel Break

Chocolate Creme Caramel Break

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

- Adrienne Rich

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Food Bloggers Connect - First UK Food Bloggers' Conference

We’ve shared recipes, great meals eaten and glimpsed into each other’s lives through our food blogs, we’ve shared photos and revealed personalities on Facebook, we’ve given cooking tips and encouragement on Twitter. Now isn’t it about time that we met?
In this day and age of the internet, we have lost our connectedness. Friendships are made and lost, love affairs carried on across oceans, bonds created though on different continents, fans found and clubs joined, yet how much of this is 140 spaces maximum or quick status updates? Disconnected and discombobulated, we can only carry on so far in the blogosphere.
So let's meet! Some of us have already met but there are still many of us who haven't. Everyone and anyone is invited from long-time bloggers, newbies or even people thinking of starting their own food blog. Food Blogger Connect 2009 is the time to connect: get to know your fellow food bloggers and meet new ones, share tips and ideas, network and organize projects. And have a blast doing it!
Food blogging no longer need be a lonely, individual sport. Forget those days when you feel like it’s going no where, when you wonder if you really belong to that great, funny, passionate family of bloggers out there. Come and connect, be inspired, partake of our favorite food group!
Food Blogger Connect 2009 is the first meet up of its kind (the first official conference being held in the U.K) and is being held in London on November 28, 2009 at Levant from 1 p.m to 5 p.m, serving delicious Lebanese cuisine. Don’t miss it! After all, Food Bloggers share!
Please note:  On October 28th, we will call for your ideas, and we look forward to hearing from you about the topics you'd like covered and who you would love to see cover them. Food Blogger Connect is the first Food Blogging conference to take place in the U.K and we need you to take the lead. We are also looking for people to help spread the word. So, if you are interested in posting about this event on your blog, then please email foodbloggerconnect@gmail.com and we will be happy to send you a flyer with all the pertinent details. You can RSVP @ www.rsvpit.com. The event number is 2009.
 Here's a quick recap:
WHAT: Food Blogger Connect
WHEN: November 28th, 2009,  1 PM to 5 PM
WHERE: Levant Restaurant, London, W1
WHO:Everyone who is or wants to be part of the Food Blogosphere. Food Blogger connect is open to all, and you don't have to be a long-time blogger to attend. This event is open to Non-UK Food Bloggers as well. 
HOW MUCH: £30 for food and 1 glass of wine. This is the only fee and it covers the meal.
WHERE CAN I RSVP: Go to www.rsvpit.com. The event code is 2009.  

We can’t wait to meet you in person!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing & the Winner of the Ottolenghi Cookbook

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
My apologies for posting this a little late, it's been very exciting and tiring at the same time around here between Baby Saffron saying her first words (Dada and Yaya -the best way she can say her own name right now) and her first two teeth imminently about to burst through, resulting in rather rough patches.

The days are distinctly colder now, it's time to cover up, the fall colors are out and putting on their best show (well not necessarily here but I know in a lot of other places they are) and it's time to start eating comfort foods and waging war on our waistlines, but such sweet war it is. While I love going on a picnic on a hot summer day, wearing a sundress and maybe, if we are so lucky, having some place to swim after we eat, I really do prefer early fall days when the sun still beats strongly enough to overcome the crisp, somewhat biting air but the atmosphere has already been cleansed of the polluted haze left behind by the unblinking heat of summer.
You know those days, right after the rain, when the sky is an unfaltering deep blue, the breeze nips gently at your face and hands and the air smells fresh.

On such days, it is possible to feel invincible as a child does when he is let out of school and can run free through the park with his scooter, his nanny running wildly after him.
Boy at Battersea Park
On such days, it is possible to be brought to tears by some of the comments you left me to be eligible for the giveaway in the last post. This is where I have to tell you that I want to give each one of you an Ottolenghi Cookbook so that no one is left out, particularly when you gave me such precious or delicate gifts. Alas, that cannot be, but I want you all to know that in my head I'm giving you each a book. The actual book will travel to Mumbai (Bombay), India to Shaheen of Purple Foodie. Congratulations Shaheen, please send me your address so I can dispatch it to you! I hope you will let me know how you like it when you've tried some of the recipes in there.

In the giveaway post, I promised to give you the recipe for Ottolenghi's apple and olive oil cake with maple icing because it is sinfully good for such a hearty cake, particularly the icing. It is the perfect cake to take with you on a picnic to a nearby park on a gorgeous fall day, or to simply bake to have with tea or coffee on a grey, rainy day best spent at home. I like to think it's the sort of cake that my grandmother would have baked for me as an after school treat, had there been a Persian tradition of baking such cakes.
Apple & Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Exciting Things and a Giveaway

To be clear, I'm just going to reiterate it, I love Baby Saffron more than life itself, but, I'm currently working on setting up my first work project since she was born, which project would take place in a few months, and I'm so excited. I can't say what it is yet, but I can give you a hint:
Fox Glacier, New Zealand
This is on Fox Glacier on the South island of New Zealand. You'd think, from how much I hate the drab London weather, that climbing up one of of these things would not be my cup of tea, but you'd be wrong.
Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Anyway, I thought that to celebrate good things it would be nice to do a giveaway: If you feel so inclined, you can vie for an Ottolenghi cookbook.
Ottolenghi Just in case you haven't heard of it somehow, Ottolenghi is a lovely restaurant/delicatessen with 4 outposts in London, the main and largest one being in Islington. The food is genuine, hearty fare heavily influenced by Mediterranean cuisine, such as the red rice and quinoa salad posted by Heidi (101 Cookbooks) here, and the desserts range from their signature cinnamon hazelnut meringues to the best granola EVER (I used to eat it almost daily while pregnant). To read a bit about the two chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, you can read Keiko's (Nordljus) post about the cookbook.
Ottolenghi If there's enough time between adding the icing and its disappearance in company's tummies, I'll add pictures of the apple and olive oil cake with maple icing to this post tomorrow. Revised: The recipe and proper pictures will go up when I announce the winner. It's too good not to post it, seriously.
Apple and olive oil cake with maple icing

To win the cookbook, all you have to do is leave me a comment by midnight on Monday October 12th telling me about something good that's happened to you recently or something good you'd like to happen to you. Maybe if we all band together, only good things will happen to us all.

PS: I will send this cookbook anywhere in the world, so don't be shy because you live far away.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Battersea Park

So what does it say about me that every time I started to write the name of this park we regularly go to here in London which is called Battersea Park, I typed Battery Park which is in New York. The mind has a weird way of nudging you even when it knows that a nudge is not required.
There's not much to tell about Battersea Park,  it's just one of the parks I like best of the ones available to us because it's usually less crowded than other parks, it's on the water, and there are fountains and installations there which are fun to photograph. Even though I love Fall, it's nice to think about the summer that is now gone...

Now it's too cold to eat an ice cream cone in a London park.
Battersea Park

The extra-furry dog below is one of our two; she's the spazzy, brings-the-crazy, younger one. The odds of catching her in a moment "at rest" where I can take a picture of her are akin to those of your average politician being honest, so, when I see an opportunity, I take it.
Battersea Park

Sometimes, flowers that are monochromatic are more soothing to look at for me than ones bursting with vivid colors. I don't know what these are (anyone?) but I especially liked the way they looked against the color of the plants behind them.
Battersea Park

This little guy was the antithesis of our spazz-fest (whose name is Myrka by the way). He was just like tranquil water to her lively fountain.
Battersea Park

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