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Wednesday
Feb202008

raspberry and chocolate meringue stack

chocolate-meringue-cake.jpg

meringue is a favourite of mine and whenever i’m cooking for friends i often consider whether or not a i can squeeze a meringue pudding into the menu. eton mess is a particular favourite and i now have something that i can use when the soft fruits of summer are not available.

this meringue stack was inspired by a nigella lawson recipe although she uses a chocolate crème patisserie filling and sprinkles her stack with shards of pistachio. my version is definitely not a healthier option but it less time-consuming, relying on a filling of double cream whipped with a bought chocolate sauce.

and what a chocolate sauce – i used napa valley belgian chocolate sauce with cabernet sauvignon, a gift from a well-travelled friend. the alcoholic kick added an additional touch of decadence making this the perfect dinner party dessert.

hopefully it is also perfect for foodie chickie ani's event in honour of her passion for nigella lawson. it’s not a nigella recipe but i think it fits perfectly with her philosophy of decadence and short cuts where practicable!

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Sunday
Feb172008

pea and rocket soup

pea-rocket-soup.jpg 

at the moment i’m on a mission to use up all the food in our freezer. this includes the many bags of broad beans and peas (the frozen version of both are fantastic, try them if you haven’t already) which i’ve stashed in there, with thoughts of summer risottos in mind.

sadly the weather is not playing ball so i’ve been forced to consider more robust and warming meals. hurrah for robust and warming - this pea and rocket soup is truly fabulous and definitely worth trying!

the best bit is that i now have a new favourite food. okay, it’s true, i do change my mind about what qualifies as my favourite food several times a week, but it’s still quite exciting. or maybe the best bit is that this involves a vegetable which i rarely eat. and a cheap storecupboard vegetable at that.

or maybe, and actually i think this might be the clincher, the best bit is that it tastes delicious topped with crispy pancetta or, to ring the changes when you eat it two days in a row (guilty as charged m’lud!), a gruyere-topped crouton or two.

you should make this soup.

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Thursday
Feb142008

dumplings… or should i say jiaozi...

dumpling-soup.jpg

growing up, dumplings were always the best thing about some of the soups that my mum used to make. chicken and vegetable soup with fluffy dumplings was a comforting dream of a dish. i still occasionally indulge myself but all too often chicken stock and leftovers get turned into a healthier miso broth which is served with noodles.

however, i have a new plan – chinese dumplings! in honour of the recent chinese new year celebrations i have been looking east for inspiration and i made up a couple of batches of jiaozi. both were scented with ginger and spring onion but half were a combination of pork mince and prawn while the others were prawn and wood ear mushroom. both were served in broth made from good homemade prawn stock and both were delicious.

i’m now planning an afternoon making up several batches of dumplings which can be frozen and then quickly served in broth, steamed or shallow-fried. my cooking mojo is back, with a bang, and it’s all thanks to dumplings!

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Tuesday
Feb122008

new flavours, new inspiration

orange-thyme-chicken.jpg 

over the past few weeks my cooking mojo has been a bit elusive. too many longstanding and faithful dishes have been the focus of my cooking and, while some have continued to be truly fabulous, i’ve been feeling thoroughly uninspired by others.

time for action! i spent a few hours at the weekend going through a couple of magazines and a pile of torn/printed out recipes and drew up a hit list. top of which was a skye gyngell recipe for chicken with orange peel, black olives, tomatoes and thyme.

orange is not something i use very often to flavour savoury dishes, relying more on lemon for a citrus tang, so it was nice to try something a little different. the peel is added to the sauce and it gives it a subtle fragrant taste, which lightens the more traditional casserole flavours and injects a hint of sunny days yet to come.

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Sunday
Feb102008

penelope, new york city

new york on a crisp january day... sadly the person indulging herself was not me but my lovely friend judy. during her trip she discovered a fabulous breakfast place, which she wants to tell everyone about. over to you jude…

an oasis in the midst of an unassuming area of mid town, penelope’s was a gift from the gods. staying in the definitive budget hotel on east 30th, our first task was to find that morning cup of coffee for me and tea for my friend kay. it was not looking good. on one corner was the brazil coffee shop: tea-less and the food wasn’t quite what we had in mind for breakfast. while we stood on that cold corner deciding whether to head up town, go to starbucks or take a chance on one of the diners, the sun shone on penelope, the paint work a little worn, the canopy needing replacing. we crossed the road just to see what it had to offer. the menu promised everything we could hope for and coffee and tea for every persuasion. the test was whether it fulfilled its beguiling promise so desperately needed to boost our flagging spirits and, in particular, my caffeine levels.

up the rickety steps to a swell of lively chatter, the young woman waiting there looked like a student from julliard ready to burst into a song of welcome. the ambience was vibrant and warm; and the smell of coffee captivating.

hurrah we were in new york and the city welcomed us. we had fruit juice, pancakes and maple syrup served with a side of fresh fruit (strawberries, blue berries and melon). the double cappuccino convinced me i was in heaven. i had more. following our initiation, we used penelope’s for our early morning fillip for the rest of our stay and enjoyed a different dish of fresh and well cooked ingredients every day: perfect eggs, bacon crispy but not teeth challenging, interesting sausage and not a favourite, irish oats – porridge to you and me, french toast, delicious jam and wonderful pumpkin waffles., all served with a infectious smile and breathtaking willingness.

from the moment we found penelope’s our visit took on a different hue because we knew that if all else failed - and in the usa the food experience is very similar to buying a lottery ticket - there was somewhere to go for succour.

penelope

corner of east 30th street and lexington avenue, new york

www.penelopenyc.com