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Digbeth Dining Club- the only club I ever want to be a member of.

Britain has finally caught on to the street food phenomenon and, whilst Edinburgh is a little slow on the upkeep, my home town of Birmingham is embracing the craze with open arms. The Digbeth area of Birmingham seems to have had somewhat of a bohemian makeover in the past few years. Now the home to several vintage shops, indie clothing stores and the jack of all trades The Custard Factory , it’s seemingly the place to be. So its pretty fitting that an area at the forefront of underground cool is embracing this street food trend, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.

*Warning this post contains a severe overuse of superlatives*

After a gander in Big Yella aka cow vintage I wandered over to the Spot*light forecourt and was welcomed by the sight of three wholly different but equally intoxicating food vans. First up was The Meat Shack whose twitter bio sums up all too accurately the awesomeness of their burgers- DRIPPING FILTHY GOODNESS. I went for the ‘Jam Pudding’ Burger, a beef and black pudding patty with bacon chilli jam, dutch cheese, smokey chipayo sauce, and pickles, served on the most amazing Brioche bun. Watching meat sizzle on a grill right in front of your very eyes is street food at its finest. If possible I would consume a Meat Shack Burger for every meal and on every day of my life. Their flavour combinations are insane (making choosing just one a formidable task) yet I was extremely happy with my decision. The meat was juicy and tender with the condiments forming the right mix of sweet and spicy, and did I say how awesome the bun was? Seriously  SO. GOOD.

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At this point I should mention I had an eating accomplice and, whilst I did consume a hideous amount in one sitting, it was shared with another, so your judgments shouldn’t be too harsh.

Right, next up was El Kantina, a mexican and southern food truck specialising in pulled pork…pulled freaking pork. The choice was extremely wide, ranging from ‘cones of love’- potato wedges and pulled pork- to chilli and nachos. The service was excellent, the woman working there was so friendly and eager to talk about what was on offer (and I love a good foodie chat) Due to her enthusiasm, myself and my accomplice decided that we couldn’t just order one thing. We went for the pulled pork cone of love, a combination of (or should I say- beautiful relationship between) smokey pulled pork and spicy wedges. As well as some half and half nachos, one half being pulled pork (can’t get enough of the stuff!) and the other half chorizo chilli. Spicy but not too spicy, smokey but not too smokey, El Kantina were spot on. Another excellent choice.

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Finally, despite the plethora of food already consumed, myself and my accomplice decided to round off the night with some spicy chicken wings and ‘slaw from Van29. Whilst I’m not opposed to meat on the bone, its not a choice I would normally make. But my wings from Van29 have revolutionised my eating life. Yes, they were a sticky mess, but it was most definitely worth it.

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Digbeth Dining Club is my kind of club. It’s on almost every friday from 5:30pm till 10pm with a rotating selection of food trucks present. The three I sampled have set the standard pretty damn high so I can only expect the other participant trucks are excellent too. If you’re a Birmingham native, or you find yourself in the area on a friday evening check it out. It’s ridiculously well priced, with most dishes coming in at between £5 and £7, and you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck.

www.digbethdiningclub.co.uk

Spot*light, Unit 2, Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth (Opposite Air Nightclub)

 

 

Coconut Key Lime Pie.

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I have never made Key lime pie before and by Key lime pie I mean ‘lime pie’ as it’s pretty damn hard to get Key limes in Britain. I did, however, have an abundance of desiccated coconut. I love that the coconut is ‘desiccated’- it just sounds so extreme. If I make this again (and I probably will as it was so ridiculously simple it shouldn’t be classed as cooking) I would put coconut cream in the baked filling as the overall taste was not that ‘coconutty’. Would make a killer dinner party desert with minimal effort.

Coconut Key Lime Pie. (adapted from the bbcgoodfood website)

Ingredients:

300g digestive Biscuits
150g butter , melted
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
3 medium egg yolks
finely grated zest and juice of 4 limes
300ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
extra lime zest, to decorate

To make it coconut: 75g desiccated coconut, plus 10g more to toast for decoration.

Method:

(1) Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Crush your biscuits, this is easiest in a food processor, or you can adopt the old fashioned approach and bash them with a rolling pin.

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(2) Mix with the melted butter and then, using the back of a metal spoon, press into the base and up the sides of a loose-based tart tin (I used a 22cm tin) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, remove and leave to cool.

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(3) Place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and whisk for 3 minutes with an electric whisk. Then add the condensed milk, whisk for a further 3 mins, finally add the lime zest, juice and coconut and whisk for another 3 mins.

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(4) Pour this into your now cool base and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes, until set. Leave to cool and then refrigerate for a minimum of three hours.

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(5) To decorate: Lightly toast your desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until golden brown, set aside to cool. Add the icing sugar to the double cream and whisk until soft peaks. Pile on top of the centre of the pie, sprinkle over the extra lime zest, some toasted coconut and some non-toasted and eat!

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It’s been such a beautiful day in Edinburgh today so I have spent the day soaking up as much sun as possible. I have to share this picture of my walk to Uni today as well as a song by The Lumineers, who make perfect sunshine soundtracks (and the song is so close to having my own name as the title)…

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Starter news (day three and four)

My two successful days in the world of starters must have gone to my head because I royally cocked up my third. In a state of tiredness following a 6am five hour train journey to Edinburgh (clutching my starter, affectionately known as Garth, the whole time) I misread Dan Lepard’s instructions and made the (hopefully) common mistake of misreading ‘tsp’ for ‘tbsp’. So Garth the starter was massively overfed. However, rather than start all over again I have decided to persevere with Garth, and today (day four) he is looking exactly the way he is meant to. So maybe my mistake was more of a cheeky blunder than the mammoth cock up I had previously described it as.

Day Three. 

Dan Lepard says that by day three the raisins will have stated to break down and you will have started to notice a light, coffee coloured ring around the area in which they sit. He also says that there will be the odd pinhole of fermentation on the surface. All of which Garth had pre-train jostling, but the photograph does show some of these signs.

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So to proceed with Dan’s method on day three you must…

Ingredients:

100g water and 20 degrees

4 rounded tsp strong white flour

4 rounded tsp rye flour

Method:

1) Add the water, stir well to combine.

2) Then add the flour and stir well again. Dan says the mixture will look frothy but that is just from the stirring. Cover and leave for another 24 hours.

Day Four.

By now the froth of fermentation should be beginning, but the aroma of acidity should be only slight. Apologies for my photograph it was very dark in my kitchen, but hopefully you can see the fermentation well enough.

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Ingredients:

100g water at 20 degrees

125g strong white flour

Method:

1) Remove and discard three-quarters of the mixture.

2) Add the water and stir well.

3) Strain the mixture in order to get rid of the raisins, pour the strained mixture back into your kilner jar and add the flour and stir well.

4) Cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

The Starter of Something New (Day one and two)

IMG_0788Most people’s New Years Resolution’s are to quit something, learn something new or exercise more. Mine is slightly different, mine is to cultivate a live microbiological culture which actually performs fermentation in bread… simple! Having read many horror stories of how volatile sourdough starter’s are I am pretty dubious to how successful this resolution will be. However, after thorough research (and not being swayed by the fact I received a copy of his book for christmas) many people recommend Dan Lepard’s approach as the easiest for sourdough novices.

So here goes, day number one and day number two have been completed and so far so good (I think)

DAY ONE

Dan Lepard suggests to use a Kilner Jar (which I did) of a minimum of 500ml.IMG_0784

Ingredients:

50g water at 20 degrees

2 rounded tsp rye flour

2 rounded tsp strong white flour

2 rounded tsp currants or raisins

2 rounded tsp live low-fat yoghurt

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together in your jar. Cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

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Day one!

DAY TWO.

So Mr Lepard says that at this stage there shouldn’t be a perceptible  change, he says the surface should look shiny as the solids serpent from the water and sink down into the jar. Which I think mine did, although my photograph isn’t of the best quality.

Day Two!

Day Two!

Day Two’s Ingredients:

50g water at 20 degrees

2 rounded tsp rye flour

2 rounded tsp strong white flour

Method:

Stir the ingredients in, starting with the water and the the flours. Cover and leave for a further 24 hours at room temperature.

I have four more days of actively feeding my starter and on day six it is apparently usable. However, I think I’ll leave baking my first sourdough loaf (if this is successful) till the following weekend as many of Dan Lepard’s loaves are very time consuming. Will post again in a few days to document my process.

Yes Michael, I ‘wanna be starting something’ *tenuous song link, but surprisingly no ballad has been written about a girl and her sourdough starter.

Bread Christmas Style aka Stollen and a Christmas Round Up.

Christmas starts for me with a mug of Glühwein and a slice of stollen so this year, after a year of bread making,  I decided I should make my own. After much research and deliberation I decided upon a Dan Lepard recipe, I’m obsessed with his guardian website page and his recipes are always easy to follow and informative. Bread is his speciality and his knowledge seemingly knows no bounds, so I felt like I was in safe hands having never attempted to make stollen before. His recipe uses a ten second kneading method which is repeated several times. I was dubious about this at first as the dough was very moist and sticky, but I persevered and the end result was great so I will no longer doubt it in future. The recipe I used yielded two large loaves, which can be frozen and do store well, but you may want to half the recipe if you’re already too full of christmas fare.

Stollen. (adapted from Dan Lepard)

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Ingredients:

Dan Lepard’s recipe uses the ‘sponge’ method, where the yeast is left to ferment in a separate mixture before being added to the main bulk of the ingredients.

For the Sponge:

50g strong white bread flour IMG_0690
1 tsp caster sugar
2 level tsp easy-blend yeast
100 ml warm milk

For the Dough:

450g strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 tsp salt
50g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 tbsp spiced rum
175g warm milk
250g raisins
125g mixed peel
250g golden marzipan
melted butter and icing sugar to finish

For variation you could add other dried fruit in place of raisins, such as dried cranberries or apricots

Method:

1) For the sponge; mix together all the ingredients in a bowl, leave to stand in a warm place for 30 minutes, the mixture should be bubbling.

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2) Meanwhile, place the flour for the dough in a  wide mixing bowl with the cinnamon, lemon zest, icing sugar and salt. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until all the lumps disappear.

3) After the sponge has been left for 30 minutes, beat the egg, rum and warm milk into it and  then pour this into the flour mixture. Add the dried fruit and stir everything together. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 10 mins.

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4) After 10 minutes lightly oil the work surface and your hands and gently knead the dough for 10 seconds. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for another 10 mins. Repeat this light-kneading twice more at 10-min intervals. Once done, leave the dough covered in a warm place for a further 30 mins.

5) Then divide the dough into two pieces and form each in to a ball. On a lightly dusted work surface, roll each ball of dough out into an oval using a rolling pin, roughly 2 cm thick. Take the marzipan, divide it in half, and roll each piece into a sausage the same length as each oval of dough. Place the marzipan along the length of the dough, and then fold the dough in half so that the marzipan is covered. Press gently around where the marzipan is  to seal the marzipan in. Place each stollen on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, leaving space between each of them so they don’t merge when proving. Place the tray in a carrier bag to create a pocket of warmth and moisture and leave in a warm place for about an hour, or until the stollen have almost doubled in volume. Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

IMG_06956) Bake the loaves on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 mins, reduce the heat to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 and cook for a further 20 mins. Like bread, turn over a tap to see if the loaves are hollow and thus cooked. Remove from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. While still warm, brush each stollen with melted butter and dredge heavily with icing sugar, then wrap in greaseproof paper and tie with string. Store in a air-tight container. The loaves keep for up to two weeks. If making again I would definitely half the recipe, although I did make a stollen based bread and butter pudding with the second loaf.

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So I’ve been pretty bad with blogging this festive season, bad internet coupled with busy christmas plans has lead to a neglecting my duties. So here’s a cheeky photo montage of christmas baking and general foodie-ness. Highlights include the two Christmas Puddings  made earlier in december, puff pastry mince pies, my new gorgeous anthropologie measuring spoons, chocolate orange star biscuits, turkey pie, my new le creuset pestle and mortar, Moran family pickles, red onion and cheddar soda bread and stollen bread and butter pudding.

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Buckwheat Cookies, Food Blogs and Cake Dates.

Trawling through food blogs is my biggest procrastination method. I spend, on average, an hour a day clicking through recipes and tantalising photographs, bookmarking as I go. My reading list  has more recipes saved than I could cook in a lifetime. My current favourite blog is a fellow wordpress user by the name of the little loaf. It’s packed full of bread, cake and cookie recipes as well as some hearty meals, all accompanied with beautiful photographs and informative tips. A recipe of their’s struck my fancy a few weeks a go using buckwheat flour, something I have never cooked with before. Buckwheat flour is gluten free and, having an increasing number of gluten-free friends, is definitely an ingredient I should incorporate more into my cooking and baking. Much like thelittleloaf my attitude toward cookie recipes is fickle at the best of times. After a few harrowing experiences of biscuity or cakey cookies, I was reticent to try again. But in the past year I have experimented with many great recipes, and my interest has grown to the extent that I now profess a new love for a different recipe each time. But, for now at least, I will be sticking with thelittleloaf’s Buckwheat Cookies, the brown butter adds a further dimension to the nutty flavour and the perfect balance of sugar, flour and fat makes for chewy and beautifully crinkly looking biscuits!

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After months of missing the mark with cookies, I did some research to find out what individual ingredients within the recipe did, in an attempt to correct my many catastrophes and the following is what I have learnt:

Sugar- The more sugar you add the thinner, and subsequently crispier, your cookies will be. This is because the sugar will melt, and it it makes up the majority of the recipe will leave you will flat cookies as they spread in the heat. If you use Brown sugar, the cookies will be chewier, as it absorbs more moisture.

Eggs- If you add too many eggs your cookies will be more like cakes. I try to avoid putting more than one egg in per a batch. I liked thelittleloaf’s recipe as it had one egg and one yolk, this extra yolk makes the mixture richer.

Baking soda-  makes the cookies rise, which is essential, but too much can leave them with an unfortunate after taste.

Another food british food blog I adore is The Cake Hunter.Her current posts about christmas foodie gifts are brilliant, I can’t wait to get my exams over and done with so I can try out a few of them. I also appreciate her blog as she shares a similar taste in chefs, including Irish food blogger, tv chef, and all round dreamboat Donal Skehan. Following her recommendation I will definitely be baking a swedish apple cake; the recipe looks simple and has very few ingredients, but the outcome is beautiful and the cake looks ridiculously moorish!

Finally, myself and my fellow baker and flatmate have started a new tradition, Cake Date Tuesdays. It’s our final year at University (in the very beautiful city of Edinburgh) and seems such a waste not to sample its culinary delights before we depart post graduation. Edinburgh is full of tiny tea shops, bakeries and patisseries. Yes we do have chain (and in my opinion, mundane)  bakeries and coffee shops , like the vastly underwhelming Patiserrie Valerie, but we also have a plethora of individual and offbeat eateries each more quirky than the last, it is these fine establishments we intended to dine at every Tuesday. We started off with a trip to Lovecrumb , with slabs of cake larger than your face. Last week’s cake date we spent in New Town, on recommendation from a friend, at French Fancies. Its a small, hidden, french patisserie, and is well worth searching for! We had a choux bun which was filled with the greatest vanilla cream I have ever tasted as well as a delectable dark chocolate tart.

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Say Goodbye to Cockroach Pie – Book Launch.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the launch of a new student cook book- ‘Say Goodbye to Cockroach Pie’. Complied by two Edinburgh University Alumni and featuring recipes from their friends from all different universities, it’s the perfect combination of typical student grub and foodie delights. The launch took place upon a beautiful vintage London bus, which took us around Edinburgh’s highest hill ( I would argue mountain, having been slightly hungover when I first climbed it, it didn’t feel like a hill) Arthur’s Seat.

It stopped along route for a few canapés, glasses of wine and some delicious brownies, all enjoyed with a beautiful view of the city.

We also got a chance to chat with the two authors of the book-Rosanna Kelly and Casilda Grigg, who told us how this book has been twenty-five years in the making and shared some tales of their time spent at Edinburgh University in the 80’s.The cookbook ( priced at a very reasonable £9.99) not only shares pearls of wisdom regarding cheap eats and curing a hangover, but also has a variety of different cuisines from all over the world at student-friendly prices and without any hassle or skill required. To top it off its beautifully illustrated with quirky drawings depicting the dish, the inspiration behind it or sometimes a cheeky joke. Having been given numerous ‘student’ cookery books upon my move to University three years ago I have noticed a common theme among them is to present mundane, uninspiring dishes with almost patronisingly simple instruction, ‘Say Goodbye to Cockroach Pie’ couldn’t be more different. It’s unique style and quaint illustrations coupled with some intriguing recipes ( I can’t wait to try the Pão de Queijo- Brazillian Cheese Breads) has left me itching to get into the kitchen. Check out their publisher’s website and order yourself a copy, student or not, it’s a great addition to your cookery book shelf and a real bargain.goodbye-cockroach-pie

And many thanks must be extended to the Authors for the invitation to the launch, it was such a lovely event to be a part of.