Stuffed (us and the chicken)

September 4th

I had invited my best London friend and her husband round for dinner before they jetted off on their second summer holiday! Shocking I know. I had recently seen a cooking show where someone did saltimbocca, and rather than cooking veal, I decided to do a similar dish, stuffing chicken and wrapping it in pancetta. But what to stuff the chicken with?

I decided to stuff it with a mixture of sundried tomatoes, basil and olives blended to form a paste. This would then be served with whole-wheat spaghetti tossed with spinach and cream cheese.

I didn’t follow a recipe but here is what I did:

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

12 slices of pancetta

1 tsp of light cream cheese

3 tsps of sundried tomato paste

3 tsps of black olive paste or olive tapenade

a handful of shredded basil leaves

pinch of black pepper

Method:

Slit the chicken breasts down the middle and lay open.

Mix the cream cheese, basil, tomato paste and olive paste. Stuff into the inside of the chicken breasts and close.

Lay out 4 slices of pancetta to almost the same width as the chicken breast, making sure that the pancetta overlaps slightly. Then lay the chicken breast onto the pancetta and roll up, like a sausage roll, so it looks like this:

wrapped and ready to go

Bake in the oven for 30 mins or until the juices run clear. I served it with boiled whole-wheat spaghetti tossed with some more light cream cheese, sundried tomato paste and a bag of spinach. Unfortunately it was gobbled down so fast I didn’t get any pictures. If i would do anything differently it would be to make more of a sauce for the spaghetti, otherwise yumtastic.

In case you are interested this meal was sandwiched between a starter of homemade garlic and rosemary pizza bread, and meringue fruit sandwiches. It should be noted that I did not make the meringues, despite spending hours trying to the previous sunday, the skill still eludes me. It was accompanied with both red and rose wine, and Budweiser and Cobra beer, so something for everyone.

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Graffiti and East London delights

So I’ve been writing these posts for a while now, but never found the time to upload them, so please forgive the sudden burst of posts. I love to bake and cook, always have; it’s a fantastic way to de-stress. As I finish my PhD my housemates will testify that there are more and more baked goods appearing on the coffee table. It’s not really the act of eating the finished thing that I’m that bothered about, but the process that goes into making something wonderful. I’ve started trying to make something new about once a month alongside other cooking and baking and these experiments will be posted here, hopefully all successful, but sometimes not. These are the experiments from the last few months.

July 15th 2012

I regularly meet up with an old school friend and we do some photography in London, choosing a different theme each time. This Sunday’s theme was ‘urban’ London, and we had decided to hit East London and photograph some of the amazing graffiti that can be found there. In a rather anti-graffiti move I found an iphone app with a map which pointed you toward graffiti hotspots. Its somewhat the antithesis of graffiti BUT it was incredibly useful and stopped us spending too much time searching. My friend is also a foodie, working in the food industry, so our get togethers are always interspersed with the search for some good food/new coffee shops etc. We stumbled upon this amazing little coffee bar in the bottom floor space of the design agency Protein; the coffee bar is run by DunneFrankowski. The guy (one cute half of DunneFrankowski) was really passionate and knowledgeable about coffee and it was a delight watching him work, and listening to him recommend coffee to my friend. Unfortunately I do not like coffee, and possibly rather insultingly asked if he could do me a tea. Thankfully he had some Darjeeling and produced a very aesthetically pleasing, and tasty cup of tea.

Refreshed we hit the streets again and after an hour or so, stumbled onto Brick Lane. I’ve never actually been on market day and it was a real experience to nosey at some of the bric a brac you could pick up, I wanted everything and needed nothing. Again we stumbled into a really paired down coffee shop Brick Lane Coffee Shop, very basic with an emphasis on the drinks and food and ordered the most divine slice of red velvet cake. I wanted to die.

Brick Lane Coffee Shop’s Red Velvet

 

Stumbling out of there, bellies full I remembered I had wanted to pick up some bagels, not just a few, a dozen and where better to go than Beigel Bakery, the queue than generally run outs of the door is a testament to the cheapness and the yummyness of these bagels. Buy and load and freeze them is my tip, then just eat them as you need, or in my case eat bagels all week.

So back home, inspired by the graffiti I remembered I had wanted to try Lorraine Pascale’s graffiti cake that I had seen on Saturday Kitchen the other morning. Now I’ve managed to loose the exact recipe but here is an Americanised version of it:

For the cake:

  • 7 ounces butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:

  • 3 1/2 sticks or 28 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 cups powdered sugar

FOR THE GRAFFITI:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup liquid glucose, available in specialty baking stores
  • Food coloring
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Where I differed is I used golden syrup and not liquid glucose, it worked just as well though you have to be careful not to burn it.

So whizz all of the cake ingredients together and divide into two round cake tins. Bake for 20-30 mins at 180 degrees Celsius. Cool and then put them in the freezer for about five minutes. In the meantime make the sugar syrup.

Remove the cakes from the freezer and brush both tops with sugar syrup and put in the fridge. Meanwhile make the butter cream by whisking all the ingredients together. I used icing sugar where it says powdered sugar. Remove the cake from the fridge and place it on a cake stand. Use a bit of the butter cream between the cake stand and the bottom cake to make it stay. Spread the top of one cake with butter cream. Sandwich the other cake on top. Then set to work covering the whole thing in the rest of the butter cream, using a knife to smooth it all off.

Leave aside and put all the sugar syrup ingredients in a pan, boil, and then simmer for around 10-15 minutes being careful not to burn the mixture. Pour into a measuring jug. Lay out a long sheet of baking paper on a surface making sure it is the same circumference as the cake. The carefully pour the slightly cooled syrup onto the baking paper making graffiti patterns that are continuous and the same height as the cake. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then gently peel off the baking paper, use a knife if needs be. It should come away in one long piece, which you can wrap around the cake and cut off any excess. Ta da!!

Graffiti cake

So I liked the look of mine, and the cake tasted yummy, but I burnt the syrup, so after this photo was taken I peeled it off and we just ate the cake.