Izzy Does It

Kichen Chaos, the Izzy way

Month: March, 2013

Spuntino

After months of longing, The Dishwasher and I finally decided to check out Spuntino in Soho. We had been to the first trial night of Russell Norman’s most recent addition to his group of restaurants; Polpo in Smithfield and loved it, so we were eager to try an American take on his small plate phenomenon. We arrived extremely early at 6pm (how uncool) as you cannot book and I was overstimulated by the prospect. On arrival there was plenty of space, but by the time we left at 8pm the queue was out the door, so bear that in mind when visiting. We started the experience with a complementary mug of popcorn with chilli salt (a nice touch) and a Cynar Gin Fizz, which was the greatest cocktail that had ever slipped down my gullet; I would go back for this alone. The Dishwasher had his usual Old Fashioned, but a very good Old Fashioned it was (on closer inspection we realised it was the inclusion of sugar syrup that took it to another level, what a child).

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 Excuse the dim photos – there was low lighting and I was trying to be subtle with my food ogling.

The premises used to be a butcher and they have retained the white tilled walls, and the stripped back trade feel. There are no tables so you will either be seated at the large metal ‘U’ shape bar on stools, or at separate counters at the back. If you can, opt for the bar seating as you can watch the cocktail masters at play.  Now….. my problem with small plate restaurants is that I tend  to use the word ‘and’ too much AND by the time I’ve finished ordering the look of shock on the servers face shames me. Undeterred, I ordered an excessive amount because, really how else am I supposed to describe the food if I don’t try as much of it as I can?

So first up was the truffled egg toast…. Wow. A square of thick bloomer toast, its middle cut out and filled with molten egg yolk, then covered in cheese and truffle. You can’t go wrong with that and this was oh so right. Enough said.

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 The rest of the dishes came pretty much all at once; pulled pork and pickled apple slider, buttermilk fried chicken, mac and cheese, ham hock and shoestring fries.  I wanted the slider to myself as I am obsessed with pulled pork and the pickled apple was an inspired English twist on the American classic. The ham hock was salty and juicy and pink and was devoured by The Dishwasher. The buttermilk chicken had a lingering spice which made it extremely moreish and the fries where nicely seasoned if a bit on the soggy side.  The only dish that didn’t thrill me was the mac and cheese as I like my sauce thick and stringy with cheese and this was a little thin, although the truffle oil did help.

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Our waitress seemed a little appalled surprised that we still wanted desert after all that, but we did, so ordered the Dutch baby and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The faultless Dutch baby (a thick, crispy edged pancake) was served in a hot pan with rhubarb compote and crème fraîche ice-cream, but the sandwich was the highlight.  I ordered it knowing full well that the description was not going to be literal; it’s not that sort of place. And I was right. A lightly sweetened raspberry “jam” (compote) was sandwiched between two triangles of creamy smooth peanut butter ice cream “bread” and covered in a crunchy chopped peanut brittle/praline. This desert is ingenious and designs of how to shamelessly steal their idea instantly formed. I am hoping a copycat version will soon appear on this blog.

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 In conclusion I will be rushing back for some gin, toast and a peanut and jelly sandwich, again and again. Amen.

Blueberry Boy Bait

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It’s hard to know what to pick as your first recipe so I decided to go for my most tried and tested. I have made this simple sheet cake for a gathering to watch the Olympic opening ceremony, a quiet Sunday lunch and because it was Tuesday. Despite the inclusion of blueberries (who’s growing period is from around June – September) the addition of cinnamon (to me a winter spice) and the availability of frozen berries, means this cake works across seasons.

I found this recipe on my most favourite ever ever ever blog;  Smitten Kitchen. This blog, by the nourishment expert extraordinaire; Deb Perelman, is a shining example of what a food blog can be. I have just received her first cook book and I am even more crazy about it than I thought possible (which is saying something as I have been unstably anticipating it for over 2 years). I will continue to wax lyrical about this amazing lady/blog/cookbook so be prepared for more of her creations and a full review of the cookbook to come.

‘My ‘Blueberry Boy Bait’ brings all the boys to the yard’

Let me explain. The story goes that in 1954 a young girl won second prize at a Pillsbury Bake-Off in the US with a version of this recipe which she named ‘Blueberry Boy Bait’ after the effect it had on the on the boys in her area. Smitten Kitchen has taken the updated version (by Cook’s Country) of the original recipe and added to its allure by swapping in buttermilk for whole milk.

Buttermilk is traditionally the liquid left over after cream or butter is churned. Nowadays it is available in the form of “cultured” buttermilk, which is artificially created by introducing a naturally occurring form of lactic acid into pasteurised milk and leaving it to ferment. Buttermilk is tarter and more viscous than whole milk; I can only describe it as a cross between milk and yoghurt, and it lends a lovely tanginess to dishes. Its acid also helps to stop the chemical reaction of blueberries that causes greyish discoloration to batters etc. If you can’t find buttermilk, Smitten Kitchen has a recipe here, to make your own! Ingenious!

Many of my favourite recipes are from American sources and therefore I often list measurements in cups. I would recommend buying some measuring cups as it can make life easier (and you can get them in pound shops), but I have also added metric measurements. I have an electric mixer (my baby) which is a god send when baking. I highly recommend buying one, but if not, you can use a hand held electric whisk on low, or a whisk and a strong arm for a good solid workout.

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Ingredients
Serves 12
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Cake:
250g plus 1 teaspoon plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
230g softened unsalted butter
160g packed light brown sugar
115g caster sugar
3 large eggs
240ml buttermilk
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen do not defrost before using as the juices will colour the batter)

Topping:
½ cup blueberries
60g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Take a 23x33cm (13×9 inch) baking pan, or the equivalent, with sides and grease and flour it.  You may have your own technique for this but mine is to add a small pat of butter to a piece of kitchen towel and smear the pan with the butter, covering all the inner surfaces. Generously sprinkle flour over the butter and shake the pan to evenly distribute. Turn the pan upside over the sink and jiggle to remove the access.

Whisk together the 250g of flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside. Toss half the blueberries with the remaining flour.

Using an electric mixer beat together the butter, caster sugar and light brown sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes on a medium-high speed).  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Reduce speed to medium and beat in the flour mixture and the buttermilk, bit by bit, starting and finishing with the flour (add a third of the flour, then half the buttermilk, then another third of the flour, then the final half of the buttermilk and then the final third of flour).

Remove the bowl from the machine and using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour covered blueberries by hand. Spread batter into prepared pan.

To make the topping, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon until mixed. Scatter the remaining blueberries over top of batter and evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of that.

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Bake the cake on the middle shelf in the pre-heated oven until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean which should be 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto serving platter of your choice with the topping side up. (I tend to use two platters to do this; place the first over the top of the pan, flip it and then place the other platter over the bottom of the cake and flip it again which will leave it topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature as it is or (if you’re feeling that way inclined) with a dollop of clotted cream (as I did) to make it more of a dessert. The cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, if it last that long!

Original Smitten Kitchen Recipe

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The Beginning

Despite this fact that I have no literary training (A-Level English?) and no culinary training; here goes. I am starting a blog. On food. Food that I cook, eat, and covet.

Food for me is a fixation and maybe not an entirely healthy one. It is an obsession that had changed from a rotund child (my mother called me “cherubic”) melting Smarties between her fingers to a woman secretly spending most of a working day reading anything foodie she can get her hands on and dreaming of a life that revolves around her fixation.

I love feeding people, the more the merrier (both of courses and of people). I am beginning to be known for holding events with way too much food (5 different deserts anyone?). I am chaotic and a kitchen with me in it is not a safe place. There will be pans piled on the floor, crumbs/flour/smears and tears on all work surfaces and if the pressure is on there will be a tantrum over a split hollandaise/burnt caramel/mandolin sliced finger.

I am not a great cook, but I am willing to try.  So this will be me trying, it won’t be faultless but sometimes it is more interesting to read about the imperfect than the perfect. I like flaws in things and I hope you like them too.