Monthly Archives: April 2012

My Sunday evening of culinary indulgence

The drying rack in my kitchen is a good indication of just how excessive my evening cooking/baking  spree was. It’s overflowing with dishes. That and my exceedingly full stomach.

This evening’s menu consisted of Homemade Gnocchi with Walnut Pesto followed by a very indulgent Stout and Chocolate Cupcake. I only managed one cupcake, I think the lengthy cooking and baking process had me full before I even started eating, but my flatmate was very excited about the prospect of eating them.

I'm jealous of how tanned I am!

Guisy (r) and me (l) in Rome in 2008 - I'm so very jealous of my tan

When I spent my Erasmus year of University in Padova in Italy I lived with a lovely Italian girl called Giusy (short for Giuseppina which she hated). Contrary to many Italian’s her cooking wasn’t particularly great, except for her excellent sugo di pomodoro  (tomato sauce) and her espresso, the aroma of which woke me every morning. Anyway, her family was from Naples and her mother was an absolutely fabulous cook, the results of which we often indulged in.

One Sunday afternoon in the summer Giusy and I decided we would make gnocchi from scratch, something neither of us had done before. She called her mum, got the recipe and we proceeded to open a bottle of wine, not just regular wine, but potent local wine from her home town which got us tipsy very quickly. After a glass or so we painstakingly made the gnocchi; boiled the potatoes, added flour and mixed it all together, rolled it out and cut the pastry into pieces after which we put them into boiling salted water.

We were very unprepared for the gooey mush that ended up in the sieve after a few minutes of boiling. It was literally slightly cooked mashed potatoes. We had absolutely no idea what we had done wrong. But thanks to the bottle of wine and the delicious sugo Giusy had already made we managed to rectify the meal with some quick cook spaghetti.

My gnocchi before cooking

My gnocchi after with Walnut Pesto

Today for the first time since that memorable day I decided once again to try my hand  at cooking gnocchi from scratch. This time without a bottle of wine and with a recipe book (it turns out you need an egg as well as flour and potato to make the mixture). The only thing that went wrong during today’s culinary experiment was that the batteries of the weighing scales decided to give up on me half way through cooking. Thankfully it wasn’t that crucial and the result was surprisingly tasty, especially with the Walnut Pesto which I made with capers, parsley, garlic and loads of Grana Padana.

Stout and Chocolate Cupcakes

But before I even started making the gnocchi I was busy baking my Stout and Chocolate Cupcakes  topped with chocolate ganache, which turned out to be seriously good if I may say so myself.  My boyfriend has cleverly developed a sneaky habit of sending me recipes, usually of cakes or biscuits, the message of these recipes not being particularly subtle. He’s lucky I like baking and even more eating the result, so I usually oblige!

The cupcakes were supposed to be topped with chocolate covered pretzels, but they are apparently a speciality that is not to be found in London, so I had to do without.  They were pretty straightforward to make, my only slight problem was that the recipe was in cups and my absolutely awful maths meant that it took me ages to figure out the measurements and then I had to halve them as I didn’t want to make 34 cupcakes, but it all ended well.

As for my choice of stout, there was never going to be a question about that, it was always going to be Guinness! I added a few espresso granules and vanilla extract to balance out the bitterness of the Guinness, added flour, eggs, sugar and cocoa and hey presto, 20 minutes later a tray of gorgeously moist and chocolaty cupcakes came out of the oven.

So all in all a pretty successful and very indulgent evening of cooking. I’ve already got some ideas for next Sunday … watch this space!

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Twilight vs The Hunger Games

Don’t you just love when you find a book that you literally can’t put down? Even better a trilogy you can’t stop reading? Well I most certainly found that in The Hunger Games.

It was strange, after I finished my marathon reading of the Twilight Saga last summer, I was at a loss for what to read next. I wanted something equally fantastical and gripping, so while on my way to Waterstones I text my friend in Holland to ask her if she had any suggestions. She recommended that I get Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games.

So off I traipsed to the now all too familiar teenage section, although in hindsight I don’t really think The Hunger Games qualifies as a teenage book, it’s pretty dark. Anyway, I picked up the first book, read the synopsis on the back cover  and put it back down again. Never one for too much blood and guts the idea of people being made to kill each other for other people’s entertainment counted on my list of unnecessary gore.

You might well ask why then did I decide to read it after all. I guess the main reason for that was due to the fact that I had been so dismissive of the Twilight Saga before I read it, but when I finally did, I was hooked. Based on that and my curiosity over the film’s hype, I decided not to let my prejudice get the better of me this time.

Turns out, I made the right decision. To start with I bought the first book about two weeks ago, but within a few days I was back for more. Katniss Everdeen, the enigmatic and fearless heroin, who I now rate as a serious hard core female role model and her fight against President Snow and the Capitol had me gripped. Literally; on the tube, before I went to bed, when I woke up, I was constantly reading.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

I finished the last book, Mockingjay this afternoon, I stayed in bed with a cup of tea until 2pm finishing it, something I haven’t done in ages. When I read the line of the book I felt lost, I wanted to read more!

Now I’m going to be controversial and just say it, I think that The Hunger Games is better than the Twilight saga! There I’ve said it, agree or disagree, that’s my opinion!

Mockingjay

The next thing on my agenda is to watch the first film, I’m sure some of the gore will be too much for me to handle, but I really want to see it. I make it a policy not to see a film before having read the book, despite the fact that I’m always undoubtedly disappointed by the film. However, I’m under good authority that it’s very good. So much so that one of my female friends admitted that she now has a girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence, who I’ve heard is fantastic as Katniss. Unfortunately I am now going to have to wait until next weekend to watch the film, it better be worth the wait!

Now all I have to do is to find an equally gripping book to read next. I’ve no idea where to start looking though, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know what I should be reading.

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