Falling Forward: A Girl & Her Lists

31 for 31: Learn How to Make Delicious Cookies

Posted by in 31 for 31, Food Exploits, Projects

I’m a good cook, but a lousy baker. I can just about manage cakes and cupcakes but biscuits and cookies have always alluded me. Since going gluten-free I’ve found it even harder – the science of baking is even more difficult to tame when you’re dealing with tapioca starch and xanthan gum!

Last time I made cookies, this is how they turned out. Not great. I mean, they actually tasted okay but they looked like an absolute mess, ha.

My friend/boss Rob decided to help me out of my biscuit dilemma, and taught me how to make delicious cookies last month. I’ve made them twice now and both times they’ve been great so I’m counting this as a skill learnt! :) Thanks Rob!

Delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe

(adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 60g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 60g dark or light brown sugar
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 1 medium egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 90g gluten-free flour (I use Dove Farms self raising, usually)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon, rock or sea salt is fine. Don’t use table salt!)
  • 100g coarsely chopped dark or milk chocolate

1. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth and creamy
2. Add in the egg and the vanilla
3. Stir the flour and salt into the beaten butter until combined, then mix in the chopped chocolate
4. Cover and chill the batter until firm. It’s preferable to let it rest overnight, apparently, if you can wait that long for delicious cookies. Give it at least 4 hours in the fridge or freezer if you can fit the bowl in
5. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
6. Form the cookie dough into balls about the size of a large walnut. Place the balls evenly spaced on the baking sheet, and press down the tops to flatten them so they are no longer domed
7. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway during baking, until they look about set, but are not brown
8. Remove from oven. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then remove them with a spatula to a cooling rack

The only thing left to do after that is eat the delicious cookies. Om nom nom!

31 for 31: Make My Own Jam

Posted by in 31 for 31, Food Exploits, Projects

One of my 31 for 31 goals was to make my own jam.This was actually the first goal I ticked off the list, waaaay back in July, ha. I just forgot to, um, blog about it for a while. Oops?

I’ve always loved the idea of bottling and preserving my own foods, but wimped out every time the recipe got to the ‘now sterilise the jars’ bit. I’m not even sure why, really, it’s not like sterilising jars is at all difficult – I think I just got snagged on it and convinced myself it was way more difficult than it was!

My mum had some rhubarb in her garden, so rhubarb jam it was. It’s ridiculously simple really – boil up a load of fruit and sugar and shove it in a jar. Jam tarts optional, but delicious. Still, knowing how easy it is has boosted my confidence with preserves. Next stop, marmalade…

Rediscovering Breakfast

Posted by in Food Exploits

I’ve finally hit on a breakfast that I’m happy to eat every day. It only took me 30 years, which is a bit, uh, ridiculous, but hey – better late than never, right? (Granted, I usually eat breakfast between 10-11am so maybe I should just call this the first meal of the day, but still. Regular eating habits, I’ve got ‘em!)

It might not seem like a big deal to regular folk, but I stopped eating breakfast when I was a teenager – partly because I wanted more time in bed, partly because I was a borderline (undiagnosed) anorexic – and I never got back into the habit. Eating early in the morning makes me feel kinda ill, so I normally don’t eat until at least lunchtime, and sometimes if I’m working from home then I won’t eat until about 4pm, which is pretty unhealthy, I think.

I’ve started a new exercise habit (a 10 minute HITT workout every morning, unless I’m doing some other exercise that day) and while I don’t eat before it, I’ve found that I’m hungrier now afterwards so I needed to find a breakfast that I could have post exercise.

The criteria:

  • Ease. If it’s not easy to make then I know I’ll fall out of the habit of doing it because I’m lazy.
  • Cost. Anything too expensive is out since this is something I’m going to be eating every day.
  • The sogginess factor. I hate cereal because I often get distracted and when I come back to it it’s soggy and mushy. Bluergh.
  • Wheat free. Since 2014 is wheat free year it had to be something that fit with that.
  • Light. Anything too heavy makes me feel sluggish and tired, so it needed to be light.
  • Cold. See sogginess – I leave things for ages, anything warm will be cold by the time I finally get around to eating it.
  • Minimal washing up. I hate doing the washing up, so the less I have to do the better.

So, what did I settle on?

20140410-222714.jpg

Greek yoghurt, with honey and at least two types of fresh fruit.

Yup.

Sorry if you were expecting something more, I dunno, interesting? I’ve been eating this daily for the past couple of weeks and I’m actually enjoying breakfast, which is a nice change. It’s filling but not over filling, it won’t go cold or soggy, is delicious, relatively inexpensive and it’s stupidly easy to put together. Whoop.

Here’s to making responsible health choices. Win! :)

Help, I Need Recipe Ideas

Posted by in Food Exploits, My Life In Lists

Laksa Lemak

One of the items on my Life List is make at least one meal from 25 different cuisines. I’m currently up to 20, and I’m stuck. (That photo is our Laksa Lemak recipe – it’s delicious and has become a staple at Chez Chong over the years)

So far we’ve cooked:

  1. Belgian: Carbonnade of beef
  2. Chinese: Egg fried rice (& many others)
  3. Cuban: Lechon asado
  4. French: Tuna nicoise
  5. Greek: Feta and lamb burgers
  6. Hungarian: Pork paprika
  7. Indian: Lamb rogan josh curry
  8. Indonesian: Beef rendang curry
  9. Italian: Tomato, butter & onion pasta sauce
  10. Japanese: Sushi & katsu curry
  11. Korean: Korean sizzling beef
  12. Macanese: Minchi
  13. Malaysian: Laksa lemak
  14. Mexican: Huevos rancheros
  15. Mongolian: Mongolian beef
  16. Moroccan: Tagine
  17. Polish: Golonka
  18. Spanish: Chickpea, chorizo and spinach stew
  19. Thai: French bean and duck thai curry
  20. Vietnamese: Vietnamese lamb shank

Some of those cuisines we’ve embraced and now cook from regularly, which is fun. I have a list of cuisines I’d like to try, but I’m struggling to find traditional recipes for some of them, or recipes where I’d readily be able to access all the ingredients. Putting pineapple and coconut in something and calling it Carribean isn’t going to work here, I think.

These are the cuisines I’m considering but I’m happy to be given other options:

  • Antiguan
  • Austrian
  • Brazillan
  • Carrribean
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Dutch
  • German
  • Irish
  • Lebanese
  • Middle Eastern (I’m not sure if this really counts – does this count?)
  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • Welsh

I suppose if I was being really lazy I could say that we already know how to cook English cuisine and probably something American but that feels like a bit of a cop out.

So! I’m turning to you. Do you have any tried and tested tasty recipes that I can borrow to help finish off my list? :)

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Posted by in Food Exploits

I decided to give up wheat and dairy in 2013 because although I love them both they do not seem to be all that fond of me (*sob*). We cook a lot at home and it’s very much been a trial and error process working out what recipes we can adapt and which ones we’ll have to relegate to the back of the recipe folder for now. I haven’t really found a good substitute for cheese or double cream yet (although I’ve finally found some soya single cream so I can make carbonara again, horray!) – it seems far easier to replace wheat than dairy at the moment.

This is mostly for my record so I can keep track of what we’ve tried, but I’ll try and write up some of these recipes soon for anyone who’s also trying something similar. If anyone has any favourite wheat free and dairy free recipes feel free to share, we haven’t got a large stock at the moment and I’m getting bored of salad ;)

Wheat free and dairy free recipes we have successfully made:
Chocolate chunk brownies
French onion soup
Cherry jam and apple crumble
Pizza dough
Walnut and rocket pesto
Chocolate mousse

Wheat free and dairy free recipes that were a bit of a disaster:
Bread (so many times. Sigh)
Bread rolls
Cookies
Whipped coconut cream (apparently it’s supposed to be just like double cream but it bloody wasn’t for me and I was pissed)

I’ve got a whole board of wheat free food to try, and I recently bought this wheat free and dairy free cookbook so hopefully we’ll be able to find a few more things to add to our repertoire. I must admit, I thought it’d be harder to give them up (it always has been before) but this year I think it finally clicked – the only person who can do for me is me. If I want to feel better I need to avoid the foods that make me feel bad, instead of knowing that and then eating them anyway.

Well gosh, wasn’t this dull? Sorry kidlets.  My blog my rules ;)

What I’ve Been Up To Lately – In Photos

Posted by in A Little Conversation, Food Exploits

I’ve been absent from here for quite some time. Mostly wedding, job and life stress has made me less inclined to post – rather than try and catch up on six months of updates I’m going to catch up from now and try and update as I go. 

We went to London a little over a month ago to eat burgers and catch up with some friends pre-wedding. It’s been a while since I went to London to see someone other than the best friend (our visits normally revolve around pubs and chinese food) so I wanted to take advantage of it and get my grubby paws on a doughnut and a burger. We spotted:

Tiny Singers in the Sea

Singer In The Sea

We popped over to the Tate Modern whilst we were in London and spotted this guy doing an impromptu performance (complete with a mike stand and an electric guitar) whilst standing in the Thames. Like you do.

Doughnuts at St Johns

Doughnuts

Doughnut Eating

Leni

The Boy & Lady Velo

We met up with Ian, Jools, Leni and Owen for doughnuts at St Johns Bakery and Coffee at Monmouth Street before heading to Meat Liquor and meeting up with Aaron to consume some delicious burgers and deep fried pickles.

Alexandra Palace

We also met up with Amy, Anna and Andrew (triple A!) for a wander around Alexandra Palace.

Deer

There are deer there. Who knew?

All of these were shot on the Minolta 35mm. Dreamy little camera. There are more on my Flickr stream if anyone remotely cares.

It’s nice to be able to introduce people to each other before the wedding – it’s only 15 weeks away now but it still feels like a complete dream at this point. It’ll feel real eventually, right?

Things I Learnt To Cook At The Weekend

Posted by in Food Exploits

* Fudge
* Bacon jam
* Mussels in an aromatic coconut broth
* Braised pork with pak choi and leek
* Banana and butterscotch ripple mousse

Dinner party for nine was ambitious but a lot of fun. (phew)

Recipes to Try

Posted by in Food Exploits

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘foodie’ (altho I don’t associate anything negative with the title) but I do love food. I like to cook and I like to find new recipes. I spotted these three on What Katie Does a little while ago but haven’t gotten around to actually making them yet. If anyone has any experience of them, feel free to give me a shout :) Katie’s pictures looked delicious.

Raspberry and white chocolate blondies
I’m sort of ashamed at how long it took me to work out what a blondie was. I had heard people talking about them, and seen blog posts mentioning them and in my head I was imagining a sort of yellow biscuit, I think. It wasn’t until I saw the picture that I realised, duh, they were just a yellow batter brownie.

I’ve never actually made brownies so I’m not sure how good I’ll be at making their lighter counterpart but I’m pretty desperate to give it a go.

Butternut Hummus
I love butternut squash but I never really know what to do with it past making it into a soup or roasting it stuffed with some other veg and some cheese. I like the idea of making a cold dip with it so I couldn’t really pass this one by since I’m seemingly obsessed with hummus.

 As an aside, why are there so many different spellings for hummus? Houmus, houmous, hummus. It makes my head hurt.

Aubergine dip and barbecued poppadums
Q isn’t a fan of aubergine (or dips in general for that matter) so this one might have to wait for a night that we have company. (Maybe Amy would like to come over and try it, I know she likes aubergine :) She did a lovely stuffed aubergine recipe, here). I quite like aubergine but often find the skins a little greasy so I think blending it into a dip might be what I need to really start to love them. Nom.

 I have a folder full of favourites from the BBC Good Food website so expect another one of these in the near future and if you have any suggestions for recipes in the meantime don’t be afraid to let me know them :)

101 in 1001: Try A New Meal Every Week For Three Months [1/3]

Posted by in 101 in 1001, Food Exploits, Projects

I got stuck in a rut of cooking the same few meals over and over again so I decided to try and broaden my range by cooking something new every week. Some were good, some were bad but all were new to me and I’ve learnt some interesting things along the way :)

-

Week One
Meal: Mongolian Crispy Lamb
Difficulty: Medium
Notes: Slightly fiddly, but ultimately worth it. Breast of lamb is a cheap cut and is very fatty, so make sure you try and strain off a lot of the fat when reducing the sauce. We couldn’t get the sauce to reduce to a sticky consistancy, no idea why. Maybe adding some sugar next time would help? I forgot to take a picture of this, oops! The flat smelt so good when this was boiling that I actually had to leave and sit outside for a while.
Rating: 4/5

Week Two
Meal: Pad Thai
Difficulty: Easy
Notes: Next time we won’t use cayenne pepper. My portion was phenomenally spicy due to a ladling error (er, I poured too much sauce on) but Q said his was nice enough. I think fresh chilli would probably be less intense. The prawns were lovely tho. I also forgot to take a photo of this one. My mouth was burning too much for me to focus.
Rating: 3/5

Week Three 

Meal: Huevos Rancheros
Difficulty: Super Easy
Notes: We cooked the eggs for a little too long and the yolks had gone hard. (That bright white bit in the photo is the egg in case you can’t tell, heh). I didn’t mind it but I think Q would have preferred them soft. This would probably be nice with some chorizo and fried potatoes. Nom. This was also an incredibly cheap meal, which is great when it’s pre-pay day and the cupboard is almost empty!
Rating: 4/5

Week Four

Meal: Laksa Lemak
Difficulty: Easy
Notes: This turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never made a malaysian curry before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect but this one came out silky and smooth and full of flavour. You basically make a spice paste of ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli then bung in some coconut milk and tumeric, boil away for a while then throw in some rice noodles and a generous squeeze of lime. It felt healthy and lasted for days which is always an unexpected bonus. I would definitely recommend this one.
Rating: 5/5

Lazy Sunday In Hipstamatic Colour

Posted by in A Little Conversation, Food Exploits

Last Sunday was one of those lazy, lovely days. We lay around in bed for a while, trying to decide what to do and eventually settled on heading out to grab lunch at the New York Deli, after reading a post about it that I can no longer find, sigh. The queue was quite long by the time we got there but it moved swiftly enough and it gave us time to peruse the extensive menu. Having never been before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so  I ended up opting for a Reuben Sandwich – salt beef, swiss cheese, coleslaw and thousand island dressing, with an extra serve of sweet, crunchy gherkins because it sounded good (and seemed like it would be smaller than a hoagie, which are advertised as being for the ‘very hungry’ lol) whilst Q went for a salt beef, ham and cream cheese hoagie.

I think I now understand why American’s are sometimes on the larger side of the scales because holy christ, these sandwiches were massive. Seriously. I couldn’t finish mine, I had to get half of it wrapped to take home with me, ha. Q managed the majority of his but even he was flagging towards the end, which was a new sight to me, heh. I’m not entirely sure why they feel the need to shove their sandwiches so full of meat – is it a desire to seem authentic or to justify the slightly inflated prices? Either way, I could probably have happily done with half the amount of salt beef, but it was very tasty.

We should probably have stopped there but I’d spotted a sign for a cupcakery (best word ever?) and wanted to snaffle out a cupcake to hit the sugar craving. I think mine was cherry and meringue, Q’s was new york cheesecake.

We, er, also stopped for a shakeway milkshake – The Dave is apparently Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Bueno and Cadbury Flake.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that my jeans feel super tight this week – after all I pretty much ate my metric weight in beef and sugar over the weekend (altho thankfully not at the same time, imagine that…)  I’m just hoping the salad I’ve been packing for lunches will go some way towards offsetting the damage ;)

Feel free to share your tales of indulgence – that way I might start to feel better about mine :)