A Bite of Barcelona

I went for a minibreak in Barcelona earlier this month, and wow, the food alone was a good enough reason for visiting. It never went wrong.

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I had booked an impulse holiday after being curled up under my duvet, tired after work, feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t even know why I picked Barcelona. I hadn’t planned on visiting, and on checking the weather forecast before we left, I was disappointed to see that rain, rain, and more rain were looking likely.

However, things were looking up as the plane pulled into Barcelona airport to blue and sunny skies. A balmy 25˚C, the beach was thronged with the tanned and happily wearing shorts instead of coats.

We started out with the best burgers you could have imagined, they even rivalled my London fave Patty and Bun. Not very Spanish, but cheap and cheerful, and oh so dirty.

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Then a trip to the famous La Boqueria market, full of possibly everything you could ever imagine eating, as well as a lot you possibly never could!

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Then the finale to the trip was the most memorable meal at La Estrella, a nondescript bistro serving the most beautifully cooked plates of food, all made with seasonal and local ingredients. DSC_0980The calamari was perfectly cooked, and not in the slightest bit chewy as can sometimes be the risk.

DSC_0984The duck dish was fabulous – the contrast in textures and flavours was spot on. Then a classic dessert to finish, a tarte tatin, beautifully caramelised apples in a sea of cream. 
DSC_0987Then in between all this, plenty of meandering through the streets of the old town, munching on chocolate-filled xuxo, a delicious doughnut-like confection. We found some time to fit in a bit of culture too – visiting La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, which was truly stunning to behold, then the Picasso museum and the museum exhibiting the history of ancient Barcelona.
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The only disappointment on this trip was the hotel I booked. I found a deal online, and rashly booked it without consulting the previous reviews. Let’s say it offered great views of Barcelona, but not much else.

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So for a short holiday away,to get the tastebuds tingling and the mind refreshed, this was a trip that did not fail to impress.

Autumn Comforts and Apple Pie

It’s such a luxury having the time to gently potter away, and fritter away the hours doing a bit of relaxing cooking. Not the kind that involves furiously thinking about how to use up the fridge odds and ends into something vaguely edible in fifteen minutes, but the kind of lovely slow stirring, stewing and baking that only a slow day at home can give.

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With autumn well underway, it’s time for comforting foods. I roasted up a batch of tomatoes for a roasted tomato soup based on Sophie Dahl’s recipe. It smelled delicious in the oven, but the tomatoes could have done with a bit more flavour. I’ve got my eye on another tomato soup recipe with the addition of sundried tomatoes and pesto.

DSC_1013Then the glories of sticky toffee pudding, which I have blogged about previously last year.

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Thanks to a massive bounty of windfall apples, I’ve also been baking multiple apple crumbles, and with the last of the lot, also decided to bake an apple pie. I adore the Hawksmoor sticky toffee pudding recipe, so was keen to try out the apple pie recipe too, which also sounded delicious.

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The pie had an unusual pastry recipe with 120g of sugar, and double cream instead of eggs used to bind the mixture together. It was more akin to a cookie dough on being handled, and on baking, was soft, slightly cakey, and the overall effect was a little like eating an apple cake. Possibly not my go-to recipe for apple pie in the future, but very tasty all the same.

Now that we’re coming towards the end of October, I’m starting to get little excited thoughts that Christmas really isn’t so far away. I love the idea of making the flat as cosy as possible, and with this, need to resist the temptation of all those delicious-smelling Anthropologie candles  – when they are packaged up so prettily, how is a girl to say no?

Lemon Viennese Whirls

Annual leave, yay! The weather has been properly disappointing in parts (rain rain, go away) but it’s so wonderful having the luxury of time to potter around doing very little, with the odd bake thrown in here or there.

I wasn’t sure whether to blog about these viennese whirls as they were a bit disappointing. Whilst I love watching Bake Off, the downside is there’s nothing like watching a couple of showstoppers to make me feel a little inadequate in the kitchen when things don’t work out! I also didn’t have my proper camera (making do with phone pics) but hey ho. Sometimes it’s worthwhile mentioning when things didn’t go right.

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So I had baked a batch of really luscious viennese whirls earlier, and filled them with cherry jam and vanilla buttercream. As I was eating them, I thought they would be great in a lemon incarnation too, but it was those of the lemon variety that didn’t turn out quite as planned.

They were far too crumbly, breaking up into powder on just gently being touched. The biscuit also tasted strange, not quite lemony enough, but a hint that reminded me a little bit of citrus washing up liquid.
IMG_1581The homemade curd was delicious though, very tangy, with a strong lemon flavour that would probably work very well in another bake. I used Nigel Slater’s recipe found here.

I packed the viennese whirls into an airtight container, and they firmed up considerably overnight. You could eat them without ending up with a pile of sandy crumbs all over the floor, hooray. They just didn’t taste particularly great. The original recipe is fantastic, so I think it’s mainly a case of tweaking my alternative flavourings a bit more, and potentially doubling the lemon zest.

I might use up the remaining curd in some macarons. I’ve been baking a plenty of macarons, but they’ve been causing me a more trouble too, hmm!

My Favourite Brownies

I’ve had two missions in life lately. Number 1: bake some deliciously lip-smacking brownies. Number 2: bake them successfully in my rickety gas oven that burns everything on the bottom.

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I tried out the Ottolenghi recipe last week but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Instead, I went back to a recipe for brownies that I have been baking since I was at university. They were basically the only foodstuff I could combine ingredients together and cohesively turn into something edible. Over the years, I’ve refined the method a little, upped the quality of the ingredients, and along the way they have stayed my favourite brownies.

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I found a tip online about baking the brownies at the very top of a gas oven to help with the heat distribution, and I think it noticeably helped, so no more baking on the middle shelf round here!

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This recipe is best baked in a rectangular tin. I used to only have a square tin, and there was always a little batter leftover for a mini microwave brownie. Here, I find each slice has just the right amount of crust to goo ratio. I cut this batch into fifteen, all slightly different sized rectangles. Even the corner squares have a delightfully meltingly soft centre, a characteristic that will make A happy.

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I love throwing in a handful of milk and white chocolate, because the little nibbly nuggets form such a delicious contrast to the melting richness of the brownie itself. I can’t wait to make a chocolate-orange version with a little orange zest and some chopped up orange-flavoured chocolate.

Recipe from the Hamyln Student Cookbook, found here

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On a side note, I’ve re-vamped the blog layout recently, and gone with something that I find easier to read – with a plus of bigger photos so even more to look at! Hope everybody likes it.