Friday, May 30, 2008

L'Opera Cake

So I'm a complete dunce and thought that the posting date for this challenge was this weekend... and that is what happens when I try to be proactive and finish challenges several weeks, rather than several hours before the posting date... But honestly, I had really high hopes for this month's Daring Baker's challenge, but I think I really mucked it up this time. I enjoyed the process but the final product was FAR too sweet and really had no other discerning flavor than sugar. My initial urge was to make a raspberry, lemon and white chocolate Opera Cake but that seemed too similar to the Perfect Part Cake from a few challenges ago (and Tesco was out of raspberries....). So I bought some canned peaches and figured I'd go in that general direction. At home I realized that I had some Southern Comfort liquor left over and wouldn't that just be the best mix of flavours!? Southern Comfort is a whiskey flavoured with spices and fruit, among them peaches; so I figured I had hit flavor combo GOLD. I started having fantasies of my boyfriend's(who is a true southerner at the core) reaction to this amazing and unique cake: he would declare it his favorite and I would have to make it every year for his birthday.

I started this 5 part cake with the Butter cream since I'd already had some success with it in the Perfect Party cake challenge. I went with Dorie's recipe and flavoured it with the Southern Comfort. It came out DELICIOUSLY. Honestly- Kris and I could not stop sticking our fingers in the bowl for just one last bite.

Next I made the syrup next and infused it with the syrup from the canned peaches. I now believe that the syrup I used wasn't actually peachy enough to do the job and I probably should have mashed up some peaches or added more peaches elsewhere since the cake tasted NOTHING like that yummy summer fruit.

The joconde seemed really promising: ground almonds mixed into a meringue base! But mine came out very very sweet and a bit mushy (which might due to lack of jelly roll mats and a proper oven). I also managed to sear one with the other one's pan...
The Chocolate Mousse seemed promising and was ultimately pretty good. I even liked my chocolate ganache which I managed to make the exact color I was hoping for!

The assembly was a bit challenging- actually, my pieces weren't really straight and by then I had had several mojitos... which in retrospect might have been my demise

DONT DRINK AND BAKE PEOPLE- It's just not worth it.

After 3 days in the fridge and having produced a belly ache to anyone who dared taste even a bite, the Opera Cake was ceremoniously killed and discarded.

And despite this experience I wait with anticipation for the next Daring Baker's Challenge.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yeah, We sold that- The Art History Edition

Some of you might be aware that a couple weeks ago, a Lucien Freud painting was sold for almost 34 million dollars making it a world record price for any living artist sold at auction. Although we could spend hours debating whether this painting is worth that much money or is even pleasant to look at, what shocked me was when I came the world record for a living female artist

Lucien Freud
Benefit Supervisor Sleeping
Sold for: $33, 641,000
World record for any living artist

Louise Bourgeois

Sold for: €2.888.250
World record for any living female artist

And in the category of "Works to make you scratch your head" we have:


Bear and Rabbit on a Rock
mascot heads, acrylic fur, metal armature, foam rubber, formica pedestal106 3/8 x 74¾ x 51 1/8 in. (270 x 190 x 130 cm.) Executed in 1992.

Sold for: $1,496,000



paintstick on Belgian linen 102 5/8 x 45 in. (260.5 x 114.5 cm.)

Executed in 1977

Sold for: $132,000

Work no. 200: half the air in a given space
12 inch white balloons and air dimensions variable: Choose a space. Calculate the volume of the space. Using air, blow up white 12 inch balloons until they occupy half the volume of the space.Executed in 1998.

(IE: You're not physically buying anything)

Sold for: $90,000

Merda d'artista no. 19
signed and stamped with the number 'Piero Manzoni 19' (on the lid of the tin)sealed tin and printed paper label height: 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm.) diameter: 2½ in. (6.5 cm.)Executed in 1961. This work is number nineteen from an edition of ninety.

Sold for: $96,000

Maybe these items make more sense if I tell you that they were all part of a sale called: "BEYOND- Selections from the collection of Pierre Huber" and that I just HAD to keep a copy of that catalogue; because, COME ON! No one would believe that some of these things can be considered Art! But the piece that started that started it all is this:

Constantin Brancusi
Oiseau dans l'espace
Sold for: $27,456,000

From what I remember from my Art from 1945 class in college, this sculpture caused the first debate on "What is Art" when it was being brought through customs. Apparently, there are no taxes to be paid on Art going through customs, but these customs officers saw the sculpture as a piece of machinery and definitely not art. I think the debate actually ended up in court (although a quick google search won't pull up any evidence to that effect....) and the jury voted that Oiseau dans l'espace was indeed art. A small triumph for humanity, I'd say.

Friday, May 23, 2008

BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4

Since my college buddy is visiting from the States, we've been telling her all about how incredibly boring our 4 available TV channels are. So we turned on the tube, trying to prove the point and the first thing she heard was : "... one of the premier figures in British botany today"

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Go ahead- Ask me if Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal skull was worth downing a Red Bull at 11pm while being harassed by PR people wanting to give me free drinks if I just go to their club, waiting for a bus in a delirious state of jitteriness from said Red Bull at 3:30am and then waking at 7:00am for work. No really- go ahead. Can you tell I'm still a bit "off" from the whole experience? I left that movie last night so confused that you could not shut me up for the next hour. I thought the people on the bus just might throw me off for ruining the entire movie to anyone within earshot, but I just couldn't stop.

I knew we were in trouble with the very first shot. The mountain in the Paramount logo (the vintage one mind you, which i did appreciate) fades to a similarly shaped mole hill from which emerges a hedgehog. A CG hedgehog. A CG Hedgehog who, I swear, looks at the camera and makes a silly face that says: "Look at me rocking this opening shot! And my mom said I would never break into live action after my work in Over the Hedge!". And people, this is really just an intro to the hedgehog because you will see him TWO MORE TIMES! He becomes a reoccurring tertiary character akin to Satipo played by ALFRED MOLINA in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You get to meet his whole hedghoggy family minutes later when Indy and a Russian soldier are exploded out of a mountain from a rocket on wheels.

But I'll stop bitching about the freaking hedgehogs, because we have bigger problems. If someone asked me to tell them the plot of the movie in one sentence, I would be completely unable to do so. It might go something like this: "So- Indy has the KGB on his tail because they want him to locate/help/be generally useful to them in maybe finding/acquiring something in South America related to the Mayans but maybe its really related to Aliens but in any case it's certainly super magnetic and Cate Blanchett is psychic or really wants to be." I think that might be a run on sentence, but I didn't major in English and I don't care. Basically, the plot SHOULD be simple like every other Indiana Jones movie (IE: get Ark before Nazis, get magic stones and save children, get Grail before Nazis) but they refuse to lay it out like that. You get a lot of back story on the mythology but some crucial details are missing at times. One scene, and I'm sorry that I can’t recall which plot laden one, but it definitely involved someone telling everyone what “needed to be done”, made my brain yell out: "OMG THIS IS LIKE WATCHIGN LOST. WHY ISN'T ANYONE ASKING WHY?!!!"

This is the part where you might want to stop reading if you don't want any SPOILERS

I wanted to know WHY Indy was so quick to help the KGB every time he got caught? WHY Mutt had to bring his “hog” to South America? WHY they stopped the entire movie for a bug scene that didn’t advance the story? WHY Marian completely disappears during the car chase/fight scene in the jungle only to turn up later as an escape vehicle, WHY Mutt FREAKING SWINGS THROUGH THE VINES LIKE A MONKEY WITH MONKEYS? WHY the Russian soldiers weren’t even remotely frightening? WHY Indy let Mac tag along after being betrayed 3 TIMES?? Also- someone please tell me WHO were those cave dwelling warriors? WHY were they killed off so easily when they were WAY scarier than the commies? And most importantly WHY OH WHY did Spielberg find it necessary to shove Indy into a fridge to survive an ATOMIC BOMB?!

Kris has just informed me that I’m sounding a little crazy and I really don’t doubt that at all. This is what the movie did to me. I might try to explain myself again tomorrow when I’m a little more coherent, but right now I’m hitting that mid afternoon-I-haven’t-slept-yet-slump and I’m afraid it’s going to be downhill (pun totally intended) from here….

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mojimbo Chicken

My boyfriend is a bit of an idiot. I'm not sure if he actually dislikes "fancy" stuff or is just afraid of "fancy" people, but he always acts oddly round anything one might consider "upper crust". He very sweetly booked a table a Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridge's for my birthday last month, but when we got to the hotel I basically had to drag him in. He seriously turned white when confronted with the mere suggestion that he speak with the maitre'd to ask for our table. I don't really mind since I'm pretty comfortable in these situations and find his utter fear almost endearing. Even his brother, who aint never lived somewhere fancy like London, has a better grasp on this environment: "You just have to act like you belong- just like the ghetto."

So when my mom started making Mojitos a couple summers back, Kris wasn't quick to accept them and simply refused to call them by their proper name. "What? one of them Mobimbos? Watcha call em? Myhipo?" The drink eventually became known in my household as a "Mojimbo"- because that name apparently makes it fall in line with fried chicken, baked beans and corn puddin' (his mom's kind and not mine).

This is being made in a vase, with gin instead of white rum.... *shame*

Although I haven't mastered the art of "Mojimbo" making (as the picture clearly shows), I've made this Mojito Chicken a couple times and it's pretty darned delicious. Add a side of mashed sweet potatoes and if you don't wanna scare the simple folk...

Mojito Chicken

  • 1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) chicken
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Marinade, recipe follows
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Mojito Glaze, recipe follows

Remove backbone of chicken with poultry shears; flatten chicken out by pressing firmly on skin part of chicken so it will sit evenly in a pan.

(When I did this the first time, I spent a solid 20 minutes pondering where the head and butt used to be on my chicken in order to properly remove the backbone. In the end I took out the breast bone and Kris never let me live it down)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine all the dry spices and rub chicken with spice mixture, especially under the skin. Put into a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for the marinade, then add chicken to marinade and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove chicken from marinade and shake off excess marinade. In a large saute pan over medium to high heat, add 4 tablespoons of extra- virgin olive oil. When oil is hot, place chicken skin side down and sear.
When skin is golden brown flip chicken and add 1/2 cup of marinade into pan; place pan in oven and cook the chicken for 25 minutes or until chicken has internal temperature of 165 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the chicken from oven and brush with Mojito Glaze. Place chicken under broiler for 5 minutes. Remove from broiler, cut and serve immediately with more glaze on the side.


  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl.

Mojito Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In medium sauce pot, place rum, chicken broth and brown sugar. Reduce by 1/3 over high heat. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together water and cornstarch. When rum mixture is reduced, add cornstarch mixture slowly to simmering liquid and whisk for 3 minutes, until 50 percent thicker. Keep in mind that you might not need all of it. When glaze is at desired thickness, add mint leaves and transfer to small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Tequilla? huh?"

When the clerk at the convenience store asked Kris to clarify which bottle of liquor he wanted, Kris was too embarrassed to explain he wanted the one with the red Sombrero on top.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I went to Dublin?

Yes- About a month ago, I took my two visiting buddies to Dublin. Well, if we're being honest, Anna had been there before, so maybe she took us with some help from our Time Out guide... And once I find that guide I will finally be able to add names to all these lovely places!

St Patrick's Cathedral

La Maison des Gourmets with a killer French Toast ou Pain Perdu
The Spire- don't you dare call it a spike!!
Kilmainham Jail
with a good dose of Irish History thrown in

I learned 4 things at the Guiness Brewery:
Guiness is made up entirely of : Hops, Water, Barley and Yeast
I'm ready for Jeopardy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nikon D80

The camera I want costs as much as my monthly rent. N0- seriously.

Monday, May 12, 2008

If I had a Twitter Account

I would post about my random thoughts- but since I don't, I guess this will just have to do...

I ate TWO Cadbury Crunchie bars today. In a row.
My god they're delicious.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wonderful Weather

Can we just talk about how happy this weather is making me? Between the wonderful sunshine and the Frappe Latte I just inhaled from Cafe Nero, I'm in a pretty darn good mood. So I thought it might time to share a delicious dish my mom and I made for Easter this year. And although it totally snowed that day (COME ON!) this is perfect for a springtime brunch

Poached Eggs on Brioche

  • 12 large eggs (or 24 small eggs)
  • 12 brioche slices, lightly toasted
  • 12 thin slices Canadian bacon or smoked ham
  • 12 slices tomato (from 2 to 3 tomatoes)
  • 12 thin slices red onion (from 1 medium onion)
  • 3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Preheat broiler. Line 13- by 9-inch baking dish (or large rimmed baking dish) with aluminum foil.

Over high heat, bring large pot of water to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Crack 4 eggs, 1 at a time, into simmering water. Poach until whites are set but yolks are still soft, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Poach remaining eggs, 4 at a time.
In baking dish, place 12 brioche slices. Top each with 1 slice Canadian bacon, 1 slice tomato, 1 slice onion, and 1 (or 2 if using small eggs) poached egg. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon Cheddar and 1 tablespoon Swiss cheese. Broil until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle each egg with paprika and serve immediately. Can be prepared in advance and placed under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

See that? That's my mom's hand pointing out what a properly poached egg should look like

And this is how you effectively get the fruit out of a pomegranate

And this is my mom trimming the eggs to make them look all purdy- because that sort of thing matters to us.

Just have to add all that lovely cheese

And just a dash of paprika

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

Someone told me that this holiday was actually invented by Corona and that it's not really observed in Mexico. I'm sure I could use the "internet" and "look it up" but I don't really care because any "Mexican" holiday gives me an excuse to eat nachos, drink margaritas and watch a western. So we kicked off this year's festivities at my local (and perhaps only) Mexican restaurant: Crazy Homies- which I really thought was a joke. I mean, could a restaurant in the States EVER get away with that name?

Since Crazy Homies is literally within shouting distance of my flat, the boy and I go quite often. Well- we try. When my mom and her friend were in town we managed to snag a table at 6pm. When we tried to go with some buddies a couple weeks ago at about 8, we were told to maybe come back in about 1 HOUR and 45 MINUTES- Come on! he would barely put our name on the waiting list. The problem with this joint is that the people who work there can't handle pressure and just don't care to please the customer. One review for the place said that you shouldn't take it personally if you're ignored- you just need to claw your way in and grab your waiter when you need them.
My mother, thoroughlly enjoying the mexican atmosphere

But the food is really great- super fresh and pretty authentic, despite some olives and radishes sneaking onto my "burros".... There's a great range of tequillas to choose from and the cocktails are a double- which almost excuses the £6.95 for a Classic Margarita.

On the first thursday of every month, DJ Wheelie Bag guests spots with his "original shopping trolley sound system" playing some R&B, Willie Nelson, Julia Lee, Rockabilly and what Kris called "old Ska".
Since Kris and I can't always afford our Margarita craving, we had to find our own recipe and this is pretty damn close:

The Classic Margarita
  • 1 Cup Tequilla
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Lime Juice

  • 1/3 Cup Triple Sec (such as Curacao)

  • Rimming Salt

  • 1 Lime cut into wedges

Mix the first three ingredient in a shaker with some ice. Shake vigorously. Use the lime wedge to moisten the lip of the glass. Dip the glass into a plate of rimming salt. Pour the drink into the glass and serve with the lime wedge.