Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Traveling Desserts: Vanilla Pudding and Fifteens

What do you do when you're living at an AirBnB and having super foodies over for dinner? I was faced with this predicament when I was in Scotland for the summer (more on that later!), trying to make new friends by impressing them with my foodie skillz. :) It turns out, without an oven, or many of the conventional tools and ingredients of the trade, one can still turn out a simple but fun dinner party!

The main star of dinner was chicken soup, which sounds like a funny main! But, I had promised a good expat friend of mine (of easiest chocolate chip cookies fame) who pined for American-style chicken soup that I would make him some when I visited, so soup it was. The rest of the menu was cobbled together by whatever looked good in the local markets:

Chicken noodle soup
chicken (from a local butchery), celery, carrots, fresh tagliatelle

Pan-roasted butternut squash salad
ras el hanout-spiced pan-roasted butternut squash and red onion, sliced D'anjou pear, bee pollen, rocket, honey dijon red wine vinaigrette

Bread & cheese bruschetta
pan-roasted cherry tomato and garlic, mature Scottish white cheddar, sourdough toast

For dessert, my friend was going to make brownies to bring over, so to complement the chocolatey squidgy-ness of the brownies, I put together vanilla pudding pots (for which you really just need a whisk, pot, and jars!), with kiwi coulis and fruit. These were also a joy to make in a country in which vanilla paste is actually a standard and easy ingredient to come by! Yum. :)

Finally, I also made some fifteens, which are an Irish cookie! that another one of my Scottish-based expat friends made for me during my visit. Fifteens are a no-bake cookie that is made out of crushing other cookies (ahem, "biscuits") and mixing them with more ingredients. It's like cookie cannibalism! Traditional fifteens have candied cherries and coconut, but my friend, Jefferson, made them with candied citrus peel and almond, which I thought helps cut the ultra-sweetness of the cookie well. So here is Jefferson's version of fifteens!

Hope everyone is having a super fun summer. If you find yourself traveling but in need of a few super simple but totally yummy dessert recipes, here you go!

Happy ☀️!

read on for recipes...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Victoria Sponge Cake

People often ask me what my favorite dessert is, and I get stumped. I mean, how does one choose?!? Victoria sponge cakes, though, are often at the tip top of the list. Especially in June, when beautiful summertime fruits start appearing in all of their glory. The cake is like a perfect demonstration of how simplicity is often the key to classic deliciousness: what else does a dessert really need besides cream, buttery and fluffy bites of cake, and the best, very minimally-fussed-with fruit that the season has to offer?

Victoria sponge cakes traditionally are two layers of buttery yellow cake, sandwiching layers of cream and jam. I like to mix it up, maybe putting the fruit on top, or changing the jam to a rhubarb-raspberry-peach-saffron compote, or topping it with fresh berries, or adding in some sourness of creme fraiche in the cream. The cakes are like beautiful slates for painting on--little flourishes go the longest way, and I always have to pull myself back from doing too much except the smallest little tweaks here and there. Also, let's talk butter. Regular butter is fine, but if you want to experience the full glory of this cake, it's European-style, 85%+ butterfat butter all the way, okay? Please do try it that way. It's worth it.

Also, can we have a shout-out to Annelies, of the food poet blog, for finally getting me back in the kitchen and behind a camera to do some food creating and shooting? I have missed this dearly, so thank you, Annelies!

Grab some tea and a slice of cake for June! And stay tuned. Summer travels are coming up, so there will be lots to share! I hope you all have exciting summer plans, too!

P.S. If you have any recommendations for must see/eat/drink/visit places in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Montreal, and Savannah, please, please do leave them in the comments!

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