can you really afford to buy quail eggs?

My pocket is a  bit tight these days (England, PhD, you figure it out).  And just now, my labmate Srin asked me 'can you really afford to buy quail eggs?'

Maybe, maybe not.  But what I do know is that they are something I have never tasted, but really (and badly) want to do in the coming days.  Susan Murray raved about them a few days ago to me, and I'm keen on buying some.  Incidentally, I took notice of quail eggs in the butcher's shop on the Cowley Road.  

Any recipe ideas are welcome.  Scrambled, I say no to that.


my very own fresh pizza dough

Fresh out of the oven.

Topping up with ingredients: mozarella, Dutch salami, bacon, sliced red onion, diced red pepper, garlic, and fresh Greek basil (with a dash of salt).

The dough base with olive oil organic tomato sauce with freshly ground pepper and a touch of salt.

I called my mother to ask her about her pizza dough recipe, and the first thing she told me was 'Honey, it will just be easier to buy pizza dough'. I was shocked! She's so Americanised. Mama Hodges actually gave me an important tip when it comes time to rolling out fresh dough. Corn flour. Sprinkling a tad bit of it over your dough ball allows for a smoother rolling of the dough itself.

I will post my very own recipes from last night, including the fabulous New Haven inspired white pizza with mashed potatoes, bacon, and garlic!


i ate at McDonald's

I admit it.  Nothing more to say.  The sinful act was committed last night approximately at 11pm. 


ganache alert

Derek Poirier, one of Canada's finest pastry chefs gave some of the following advise recently to Amy Sherman (from Cooking with Amy). I'm going to test his technique and see how it holds up to mine and get back to everyone.

He explained that ganache is an emulsion because cream is mostly made of water and chocolate is mostly comprised of fat. The taste test of ganache made with melted versus non-melted chocolate made everyone a believer. In addition to impressing the heck out of me by using a laser thermometer, here is what I, as a non-professional learned from Chef Poirer:

1. In order to make the best tasting and most stable ganache, use the rules for any emulsion, make sure both the chocolate and the cream are warm (35 degrees Celsius is the fusion point). This means you need to melt the chocolate before combining it with the cream and to beat it vigorously with a hand blender to emulsify it.

2. In order to fix a broken ganache, heat the base if the temperature was too low, and add more cream if the temperature is fine.

3. When beating cream or egg whites, do so at 3/4 speed, not full speed. Why? Smaller bubble structure will lead to less collapse and better texture.


best chocolate cake (in the history of mankind)

What do you get when you have a dark chocolate cake made with double cream that has fresh white chocolate mouse poured over it while it comes out of the oven, and then top it with a milk chocolate ganache, along with grated chocolate? Heaven on earth. Humility out the door, my chocolate cake is a work of art.

The following recipe was again an experiment, tested on my lab mates as part of Eirini's birthday celebration last week. I was going to go for something more white and fruity. Thought about a sponge cake with a butter cream filling and raspberry compote, but opted for something far richer. So, it was chocolate. Anyone on a diet or orders by the doctor to cut down on their cholesterol should click away from the blog.

This cake is a happy medium between a sponge cake and a really compact chocolate tart. The secret to its moistness is the white chocolate mouse that you pour over the cake as it comes out of the oven.

200g dark chocolate , Fair Trade (~70% cocoa)
300g butter , cut into one-inch pieces
1.5 tbsp instant coffee granules (Nescafe) diluted in 100ml of warm water
200g self-raising flour (sifted)
1 tbsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (may not be necessary if you don't have it)
300g dark brown sugar
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs (organic/free range is better)
100ml double cream
150g milk chocolate bar, cold (for decoration on top)

200 Belgian white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp caster sugar
200ml double cream, softly whipped

200g good quality milk chocolate
280ml double cream (basically one carton off your supermarket shelf)
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat your fan oven to 160 degrees C (each oven has its own personality, but for conventional oven I'd go 170). Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and dust some flour all over the base. Cut the dark chocolate in pieces (makes melting much easier)into a medium-size sauce pan. Add in the butter and coffee, and over low heat, allow the chocolate to melt as you slowly stir all three ingredients with a metal spoon. You are looking for a smooth, liquid consistency.

Mix the flour, the baking powder, and the bicarbonate of soda, along with the sugars in a very large bowl (if you don't have one, a big pot where you make pasta will work well). It's good to use a whisk to do this. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs using a fork and stir in the double cream.

Take the egg/cream and melted chocolate mixtures and add them into the flour mixture, and use a hand mixer (or whisk vigorously) just until everything is well blended. You're looking for a smooth consistency again. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 1 hour. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR THE FIRST 45 minutes of baking.

With cake in oven, prepare your white chocolate mouse. Melt your chocolate in a heatproof bowl (I use a big glass salad bowl) over a small pan of simmering water. It's important not to let the base of your bowl touch the water. When the chocolate has melted and has a nice smooth texture, set to the side, and ensure it doesn't harden (read this whole recipe through once before you begin). Beat your egg yolks and the caster sugar in a medium size bowl until they're mixed well and you get a thick texture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until nice and fluffy. Take a large metal spoon and fold the white chocolate into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in the double cream (which you have whipped up with a hand held mixer). Last step is to very carefully fold in your egg whites, and mix the ingredients gently.

Take a toothpick, open the oven (~50 minutes), and place in the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done and take it out. Place on a wire rack, and after 2 minutes take a fork and lightly stab the top of the cake all over. You are looking to go about 1/4 inch deep into the cake with your fork. This is a critical step. Immediately pour the white chocolate mouse on top (which you have prepared while the cake is in the oven). Let the mouse set for about 5 minutes and then remove the ring. It may get a little messy as some mouse drips off. It's all good!

For the ganache, cut the milk chocolate into very small pieces with a sharp knife and add into a medium size bowl. Pour the double cream into a small pan, add the sugar, and heat over medium-high flame until it is almost boiling. Remove from heat and pour it over the chocolate. Keep stirring with a fork until all the chocolate has melted and you have achieved that smooth, rich, velvety consistency. Pour it over the cake as you did with the white chocolate mouse.

To finish off, you want to get that WOW factor. You must top off the cake with chocolate shavings. I like to use a vegetable peeler along the side of a chocolate bar that has come straight out of the fridge (or a pile of chocolate curls (which you can buy from your local cake decorating shop).



good bye my porn star friend

Sunday night, I cooked a glorious feast for my dearest mate Mixali (from Yale) and his girlfriend. He's really not in the adult industry, but he shares a last name with one of Greece's most famous porn star. I fed him on his first night in Oxford two years ago, and again on his last. We are all going to miss him dearly. The world's your oyster, thirio!

The menu was as follows:
  • Rocket and spinach salad with mango dressing

  • Sliced tomatoes with crumbled feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with oregano

  • Roasted mushrooms stuffed with haloumi cheese, spring onions, garlic, and a bit of balsamic

  • Pastichio (my Greek lasagna)

  • Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream

  • Fresh raspberries with caster sugar and Grand Marnier


maple syrup from Canadia (and cake)

This is a recipe given to me by a colleague in the lab from Canada, Max. His friend Laura gave it to him, and it's in the category of divine (Srin, that's a shout out to you, babe). I'm thinking of adding my own creame cheese frosting to eat. Simon, what you think? Here it is. Update tomorrow on the outcome.

1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1 1/2 cups double cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 175 deg C
First, make sauce: combine maple syrup and double cream in saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes until it begins to thicken, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Batter: Cream together white sugar and butter. Beat in eggs and stir in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture. Stir in cup milk.

Pour about two thirds of the cool sauce into a 9x9 cake pan, or a deep round baking dish. Spoon batter on top of the sauce and spread (using a spoon) until it covers all the sauce. Pour remaining sauce on top of the batter.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.


the tardy recipe (spanakopitakia)

The following recipe has my own added touch of parmesan cheese, which deviates from the traditional Greek version of exclusively using feta cheese. Filo pastry can be bought from any Greek or Middle Eastern shop, but frozen filo is becoming more common at some of the chain supermarkets.

200g feta cheese crumbled
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 kg fresh spinach, washed, strained, and chopped
4 spring onions, washed and finely chopped
2 large eggs, beaten (you may want to go 3 if you want a little heavier)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (I am not a fan of parsley in spinach pies, just dill)
2/3 cup melted organic butter
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup milk
12 sheets of filo pastry, thawed if frozen
1 tbsp of rice (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Thoroughly clean fresh spinach with cold water. Drain by squeezing spinach to get the water out, and then dry with a paper towel. Break off the stalks of the spinach and keep the spinach leaves. Chop the leaves finely.

Place the chopped spinach along with the onions, cheeses, dill and rice in a large glass bowl. Mix with a fork, and pour eggs and olive oil. Add the pepper (so much better to add freshly ground), and mix well.

Take out filo pastry out of its plastic wrap and unfold.  Cut the pastry sheets in strips about 2x12 inches. Keep them stacked one on top of the other to prevent them from drying (very important).

Brush a strip of phyllo with melted butter, lay another strip on top and brush it as well. Put one big teaspoon of the filling on the short end of the strip (on your right), facing you, and fold over one corner to make a triangle. Keep folding pastry strip from side to side in the shape of a triangle until the entire pastry strip covers the filling. What you end up is a nice triangular pie. Do this until you have used your entire filling. You probably will end up with around 18 pies.

Add the pies on a baking sheet (you'll need probably 2 trays), and brush each pie with milk. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

I like the pies to cool for about 10-15 minutes before I serve them. They are also unbelievable at room temperature. You can freeze afterwards for months, and they also keeps well in the refrigerator for about 3 days.