Tate Modern

we took the girls to the tate modern today. it is their last day off of school. they go back tomorrow. we went to see The Unilever Series: Carsten Holler. the sculpture is a series of slides that you can also slide down. the girls went down the smallest slide and had a great time. the slides in the picture are two largest ones.

Banana Pops

big cook little cook is one of the girl's favorite shows here. the other day they made these banana pops on tv and jodie has been wanting to make them ever since. yesterday on the way home from her dance class we stopped by the market and bought some bananas and came home and made them. here's the recipe...

half banana
popsicle stick (or a coffee stir stick from starbucks)

stick the half banana on a stick and dip it in yogurt and decorate with sprinkles.


Half Term

the girls have been off of school this week for their half term break. it has been nice not having to make my usual three trips a day to school, but we've been having a hard time coming up with things to do with them all week. so far we've made lots of trips to starbucks, eaten at the girl's (and mine) favorite restaurant (belgo in covent garden), walk around hampstead heath for an afternoon (a forest area in london), eat lunch at a pub, watch several movies (Yours, Mine and Ours and Mary Poppins) and eat popcorn on a rainy afternoon, visit friends and do a forest walk with them and have dinner together, and play at the regent's park playground. we still have the weekend and monday left. i'll let you know what we end up doing.

andi and jodie at hampstead heath

andi and jodie at starbucks


Bread Making

andi's school has been holding cooking workshops for parents this week. they've been fun to go to and good way to meet people. yesterday we made soups and today we made bread. the chef made it look so easy and i even got to try making it there. bread making has always intimidated me before. so this afternoon i went out and bought the ingredients and made rolls for dinner. it was really quick and easy and they turned out really well. the chef also showed us how to make pizza dough, foccacia and pita bread, all from basically the same recipe. here's the recipe for the rolls...

1 kilo bread flour
3 spoonfulls white sugar
3 spoonfulls salt
625 ml tepid water
21 g dried yeast

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Put the yeast in the water and stir until it dissolves. Gradually add the water/yeast mixture to the dry mixture while stirring with a fork. Finish mixing with your hands to bring it all together into a ball. Knead the dough a few times. The dough will be damp. Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl in a warm place and cover with cling film. Let rise for 20-40 minutes. It should double in size.

After the dough rises, knead again. Shape the dough in to rolls. Place on a well floured baking sheet. Let rise again for about 30 minutes.

Brush the top of the rolls with milk. Bake for about 12-15 minutes @ 200C.


tonight i'll be having a leftover roll with butter and honey. mmm.....


Crazy Chocolate Cake

i made this for dessert for family movie night on friday. for dinner we had our usual french bread pizza and we watched Freaky Friday. this is a recipe that my grandmother always makes. she usually ices it with a simple chocolate icing made from melted butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. it is really great when iced and eaten right out of the oven. i was out of powdered sugar so i made a chocolate sauce from melted dark chocolate, a little milk and a little cocoa powder. you could also serve it with just a little powdered sugar sprinkled over the top. here's the recipe...

...recipe from my grandmother
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

Sift the dry ingredints into an 8 x 8 inch pan. Make three wells and put oil, vinegar, and vanilla into each well and then pour milk over all of it. Mix. Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes or @325 for 40-45 minutes.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Onions

we had this for dinner on wednesday night. i really liked it. it's nice to have a different way to do roast chicken than what i normally do. the mixture that you rub on the outside of this chicken makes really flavorful pan drippings. you can degrease and reduce the drippings into a sauce or if you're lazy like i was, just spoon the drippings over your chicken and potatoes and onions. i served this with sauted asparagus. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Bistro Cooking at Home
olive oil
dijon mustard
salt and pepper
lemon juice

1 small roasting chicken
1 large red onion, cut into thick slices
4 red potatoes, cut in half or in quarters

mix the first six ingredients together and and smear all over the chicken. toss the potatoes and onions in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. place the chicken in a roasting pan and suround with the potatoes and onions. cook for about 1 1/2 hours at 375 F.


Coq Au Vin

this was good. it was a nice change from baking chicken. i served it with mashed potatoes to soak up all the sauce. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Bistro Cooking at Home by gordon hamersley
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 carrot, cut into small dice
12 pearl onions, peeled
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken leg quartes
freshly ground salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
12 cremini mushrooms, halved
2 tablespoons fresh parley, chopped

In a large high-sided ovenproof saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Reserve the bacon.

Add the carrot and the onion to the bacon fat and saute until the onion has a few brown spots. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes. Take the vegetables out of the pan and put them with the bacon.

Heat the oven to 325 F. Add enough vegetable oil to the bacon fat to cover the bottom of the saute pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the pan skin side down and brown well, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the other side. Transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate.

Return the bacon and the vegetables to the pan. Add the flour, lower the heat, and cook for about 3 minutes.

Put the chicken and any accumulated juices back into the pan. Add the red wine and the chicken broth and the bay leaf, thyme, and mushrooms. Bring to a boil on the stove. Cover with a lid or foil, put it in the oven, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes. Check to see if the chicken is cooked by cutting into a piece, the chicken should be very tender.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and bring the liquid to a boil and cook until the liquid has been reduced slighlty. Spoon the vegetables and the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the parsley.


Seared Duck Breast with Plums and Port

this is what i made for dinner last night. it was the first time i've ever cooked duck and i think it was the first time i've ever eaten duck. it was really really good and fairly easy to make. i served it with some roasted potatoes and a green salad tossed with a simple vinaigrette. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Bistro Cooking at Home by gordon hamersley
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 cups port
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch coarsely ground pepper
4 boneless duck breast halves
1 tablespoon butter
2 ripe plums, pits removed, cut into quarters
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups veal stock or chicken broth
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Combine the soy sauce, 1/4 cup of the port, the shallot, ginger, red pepper flakes, cumin, and pepper in a small bowl and stir.

Trim any extra fat from the edges of the duck breast. Score the skin by making diagonal cuts just through the skin at 1/8-inch intervals. Put the duck breasts skin side up in a pan and pour the marinade over them. Marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour, turning them a couple of times.

For the plums and sauce
Heat the butter in a small saute pan over medium high heat until hot. Add the plums and season them with salt and pepper. Cook the plums, tossing occationally, until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the plums and most of the butter to a plate. Add the remaining 1 cup port and the veal stock to the pan that the plums were cooked in. Remove the duck from the marinade and add the marinade into the pan as well. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until reduced by about half. Add the browned plums to the sauce and continue to cook until the plums are tender. (The time it takes for all of this to happen is about the same time as it takes for the duck to cook.)

For the duck
Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels. Heat enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the duck, skin side down. As the meat cooks the fat will render. Pour this fat off and continue to pour off the fat as the duck cooks while keeping the duck breasts in place. (I just used a paper towel to soak up the fat every few minutes.) Adjust the heat if you smell burning. The skin will be blackened from the sugar in the port and the soy sauce, but you should not smell burning.

Turn the over when almost all of the fat has melted away and the skin is dark and crsipy, about 12 minutes. Cook an additional 2-4 minutes on the other side. Take the pan off the heat and let the duck rest in the pan for at least 5 minutes before slicing it.

To serve
Put the duck breast on a cutting board skin side up. Pour any juices (but not the fat) from the saute pan into the pan with the plums. Slice the breasts across the grain into thin pieces, about 6 per breast. Place the duck slices neatly on each plate. Spoon some sauce and plums onto each plate.


My Favorite Pan

this is now my all time favorite pan, and right now this is my only pan. we've been living with out our stuff for a month now and it looks like we'll be living without our stuff for about another month. my mom got me this pan for my birthday before we left for london. i've been cooking everything in this pan and in a 9x13 pyrex dish. this pan is great for sauteing large or small amounts of food and i can even boil water in it to cook pasta. and it is really easy to clean!


Angel Hair Pasta with Green Beans

this is what we had for dinner tonight. it was simple and easy. here's the recipe...

...recipe my own creation
1/2 pound angel hair pasta, cooked
1/4 pound fine green beans, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, pressed
olive oil
fresh chives, chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheese
truffle flavored olive oil

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes.

In a large saute pan cook the garlic in the olive oil for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss in the pasta and the green beans.

To serve put pasta and green bean mixture on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and parmesan cheese and fresh chives. Drizzle with the truffle flavored olive oil (or just regular olive oil).