Sunday, April 11, 2010

Homemade Burgers

Both sides of the kitchen we suffering a bit yesterday. This past Saturday was the most gorgeous day of the year so far and when we left the flat, basically, we felt invincible. That feeling continued throughout the entire day. Through a picnic with friends and severals bottles of beer, through making homemade burgers and then going for a dance afterwards. Absolutely nothing could ruin our day.

When we woke on Sunday with a dry taste in our mouths and smokey smell in our hair, we looked at each other expressed the same thing...."We were too drunk to enjoy that amazing burger, weren't we?". To cope with the terrible pang in our hearts we quickly came to the decision that we had to make burgers again. We still weren't right until we got to the grocery store and actually had the ingredients in our hands. We came home and pretended it never happened, burger wise. End of story.

There has been a gradual curiosity of burgers coming from Ben's side of the kitchen for a while. About once a week I'll receive an email from him with a link for a certain burger picture, blog or recipe. He'll want to discuss burgers in great detail and will absolutely swoon over menus, books and websites dedicated to the Great Patty. So, backed by weeks of research, a desire for the perfect burger and lots of love, we created a burger that went into my top 5 best burgers ever. Things we found really helpful are here. I don't want to give away too much information because I think that it's best to find your own way in the burger realm. Don't follow a recipe- just know that you want a kick-ass burger and go from there. You can't go wrong.

We didn't want a lot of fuss- just good beef, the appropriate bun and a few, select toppings. Some roast potato wedges on the side and good glass of beer. It's all a hangover needs, really.

To prepare the beef we took enough raw ground beef for two (quite big) patties and added about 1/4 cup bread crumbs, an egg yolk and some seasoning. Liquid smoke is nice but not necessary. A hot grill pan, skillet or frying pan will do the trick. If you have a cast iron skillet I highly recommend using it. We avoided adding salt to the mixture until after the patty was formed, one of many great tips we learned from reading the website linked above. And Ben reckons that it takes about six minutes each side to cook through and still be slightly pink in the middle.

Basically, this past weekend grilling meat was all the rage. The sun came out and Manchester said, "I want meat!" We were so pleased to wear t-shirts outside without jackets, dust off the sunglasses and sit on a blanket without wanting to wear it. Amazing.

So go make a burger already.....and send us a picture of it if you can:)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegan Sweet Potato Muffins

From the title of this post it may seem as though I've reverted back to my vegan baking ways in hopes of convincing my dear readers that dairy and sugar substitutions are as good, if not better for making delicious baked goods. Well, to be honest, that wasn't my intention here whatsoever.

On this side of the kitchen a major detox is happening. For the past week and extending to the end of this next week I've cut out dairy, meat, refined sugar and booze. I've nearly forgotten the reasons for this detox by now and am starting to become quite wary of my murderous thoughts when I enter the corner store and smell the chocolate croissants cooking in the back. And poor Ben is probably tired of my unenthusiastic remarks about his dinners. "Oh, great, homemade spaghetti bolognese. Can we talk about my hot yoga class and brown rice instead?" He might be envious of the fact that I have to pee every ten minutes from drinking liters of lemon water, or his stomach might growl when I talk about my steamed vegetables and fresh fruit- but thus far, I haven't suspected a hint of jealously or heard any rumbly tummies when describing my extravagant feasts. Despite the fact that I'm unable to make my friends and lover envious of my detox, I have been able to feel a bit better, think slightly clearer and spend a hell of a lot less money on food this past week. Now, contrary to what you might be thinking- I'm not starving myself in the least. I'm just eating fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and no added crap. The week wasn't hard at all. The weekend was a different story. I normally relax on the weekend with glasses of wine while simmering lovely butter laden sauces and eating nibbles of cheese and bread- then wake in the morning to cure my hangover with fried eggs and possibly some sort of fried pork product. I was a bit lost on Saturday morning: hangover-less, eating a banana and able to remember every single detail of my completely dull Friday night.

Note to reader: I'm completely aware that there is a bottle opened wine in the picture above. I'll just go ahead and fess up to having a glass of wine last night. Ok, a glass and a half. And it made me completely tipsy then extremely drowsy. In my defense, it was part of my initial rules to allow myself a little wine over the weekend. I may have boasted to certain people that I didn't want it in the days leading up the weekend. I lied. Then Ben said, "It's Saturday, have some wine. It's not the end of the world". Thanks for taking care of my sanity darling.

Today, Sunday, was a typical grey day and I wanted to treat myself to something nice without breaking my detox rules. You know, those -set in stone I'll die a thousand deaths if breaking them- rules. Veeeeerrrry strict. Anyhoo, I can't tell you my thought process which got me in the kitchen making sweet potato muffins, but I'm glad my brain had the sense to make those connections. After a nice walk around Streatham Common I baked up these treats and was able to satiate my craving for something sugary without actually breaking my rules. The old days of vegan baking came in handy here and I started to think that I should do it more often. Should do, could do....anyway, regardless of your dietary preferences, this recipes is amazing. I used the recipe here as a guide, but ended up adding some oil and more sweetener because hey, if I'm going to cheat, I'm going to take it to the cheating max.

These muffins are like survival food. Dense, complex and earthy. They weigh more than your average muffin giving the impression that they will be like eating rocks. However, because of the amount of oil they maintain a certain richness. Open them up warm and spread some vegan or regular butter on these guys. You won't be disappointed nor will you feel guilty. You're welcome.

This recipe made 16 muffins for me. Fill the batter right up to the top of the tin- they will rise, but not that much. And I'm sorry for you American's reading this- I've completely adopted to a UK measuring kitchen. The conversions aren't hard to figure out though and will turn out just as good.

Sweet Potato Muffins:

4 small or 2 medium/large sweet potatoes
100 ml vegetable oil
460 grams flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 heaping tsp cinnamon
200 ml agave nectar + 2 T good honey (omit if you are a strict vegan, of course)
100 ml soy milk (without added sugar)
handful of raisins and a handful of chopped nuts (omit if you don't like them or add more if you like!)
2 T flax seeds
75 ml water
1 tsp good vanilla

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees

Wash the potatoes, prick with a fork and wrap in foil. Place in the pre-heated oven for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside

Then, in a blender mix the flaxseeds and water until frothy and set aside

Heat the agave and honey in the microwave or on the stove- put the raisins in and set aside

Once the potatoes have cooked through and have cooled a bit cut them up with a knife then blend them with the oil until smooth. Lower the oven temperature to 170 degrees and grease your muffin tin

Add the agave mixture, flax mixture, soy milk and vanilla to the blended potatoes and mix until throughly incorporated. Then pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, add chopped nuts and mix until completely blended.

Pour into muffin tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Cool slightly before eating. Will store for a few days and will probably freeze well, though I don't think mine will live to see a freezer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fish Finger Sandwiches

Welcome to our new blog! Our, you say? And isn't that fish? Coming from sweet-tempered, the lady who once upon a time wrote posts about vegan cake and pies? Then moved to London and tried to tell us about the food she was eating, but just couldn't manage to spit it out? Yep, that's me. While I've been skipping around London from kitchen to kitchen, managing my school course and errrr, not paying attention to my blog, I have found the one! Yes, the one. The man who will share a kitchen with me. Maybe you sensed the chemistry/food tension when I told you about Marmite Guru Ben this past summer- him, smearing my toast with butter and marmite with me, swooning over his British accent. No? Well, we've fallen in love, decided to take that big step (combining our cutlery and wine glasses under one roof) and he's agreed to help me write a blog about all the lovely food we cook. While Ben and I share with you the union of our kitchens please join us through our culinary adventures, mishaps and panicky moments looking across the kitchen at each other and asking, "Will there be enough food???"

Pictured here is a fish finger sandwich. Those American's out there will know fish fingers as fish sticks (they are the exact same thing- like the name chicken fingers). You can only imagine how many 'tomato-tomato- you've never had this!? i've never had that!' moments we have when discussing our favorite foods. It's fun and exciting to be able to share those foods with someone- especially foods that comforted us as children and now, as hungover adults. I know fish fingers to be accompanied on the same plate with macaroni and cheese from a box, canned vegetables of some sort like peas and carrots or french cut green beans (with generous pats of butter, duh) and splats of ketchup. Ben knows fish fingers to be soaked with salt and vinegar, placed in-between two slices of white bread that has been spread with tar-tar sauce or salad cream and topped with a bit of lettuce. Just like my version can ebb and flow, with elements like gratin potatoes (again from a box), canned peaches or potato chips being substituted for any of the above mentioned, the fish finger sandwich can also have different variations. Ketchup works, a few slices of tomato are nice, or you can be completely naughty and throw in some cheese slices. On this particular day we ate our fish finger sandwiches as following:

makes one sandwich:

4 fish fingers, cooked according to the package, then doused with malt vinegar and salt
2 slices of white bread (I've been instructed white is the only way to go here)
tar-tar sauce liberally spread on each slice of bread
2 leaves lettuce (something crunchy and low in nutrients like ice berg or romaine)

Pile it all together with care and cut into your favorite shapes.....we highly recommend rectangles. They were paired with crisp salads but let's be honest here, what we really wanted were chips/french fries to go with them. I'm sure we made up for our loss in chocolate and crisps later in the day. Moderation is key, and no one knows this better than us.

I must say, I didn't really miss the mac-n-cheese or canned fruit in cling syrup with my fingers/sticks. The sandwich is nice and compact- perfect for stinking up my train carriage in the afternoon. Want to try a fish finger sandwich variation? Let us know! We're very much looking forward to a lifetime of fish finger foolery together and hopefully making you privy to these amazing of gastronomical adventures of ours.