london1967: (knocker)
The first outing of the month was on the first Friday; in the evening after dinner at Vico's we went to the Royal Academy to see "Painting the Modern Garden:Monet to Matisse".

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It was our first visit to the Royal Academy! We really loved the exhibition: there were some great paintings.

On the Sunday I made some bugie - traditional Italian fried-pastries for the Carnival. I took some into work the following day, and on the Tuesday I used the other half of the dough to make more for Adrian's Italian class.

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The following Friday it was the long awaited trip to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see Sheridan Smith in "Funny Girl". The show sold out in a matter of hours when I booked it back in August.
We had the meal deal: dinner followed by the show.

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I must say that the show was absolutely brilliant!
And being in such a small and intimate space is always a bonus.

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Then of course there was Valentine's Day, celebrated at home.

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3 days later it was my birthday.
Adrian surprised me the night before with a yummy cake, decorated for a disco diva! LOL

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I had booked the afternoon off work on my birthday, and I met Adrian at Hammersmith tube station to go to the the River Cafe

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where we had the most beautiful meal! It was great to see that the 'hype' that has surrounded this restaurant in the almost 30 years of activity was well deserved.

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The food was delicious and the service very attentive.
Adrian mentioned to a waitress that it was my birthday and my dessert arrived suitably adorned!

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After lunch we travelled to Victoria, to catch the end of the RHS "London Early Spring Show". We got there at 4:35 pm but most of it had already been dismantled! (it closed at 5 pm).
Luckily the tickets were free (thanks to Richard, who had gifted us an RHS membership for Christmas) but we were a bit disappointed.

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Nevertheless, we bought a little something: 2 bulbs of Sparkling Striped Gloriosa Lilies.

We hung around near Victoria after the show, since we had booked tickets to see "A Bigger Splash", at the Curzon.
The film, by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, features Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson and is set on the Italian island of Pantelleria.
It's beautifully shot and, erm, there is lot of nudity, full-frontal! LOL
The cinema opened almost 2 years ago and is very comfortable (and expensive!), and we had never been before.

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(Sadly I don't have any of the pictures I took on my birthday as my PC decided to fry the camera's memory card.)

As it was my birthday, I thought it would be fun to cook a Piemontese meal at the week-end. We invited Chris and Michael to join us.

I suppose I was a bit over-ambitious at cooking 9 courses (and making bread, and filled pasta) but I managed to do it. I cooked all day on Saturday (and a bit on Friday evening) and I have to confess that I was utterly exhausted.
It took me the whole day on Sunday to recover! I guess I am no spring chicken any longer. LOL

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Bread making:

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A bit more baking the following week: Adrian went up to Leeds for a couple of night mid-week, and I thought I'd bake him a coffee and walnut cake (his favourite!) as a welcome home surprise.
I'd never baked it before because I don't like coffee.

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(The pretty plate is a birthday present from Michael and Chris)

Surprisingly, I didn't mind the taste of coffee at all in the cake and had a couple of slices.

And the month ended with another meal at Vico's on Friday (probably the last one for a while now that my 25% discount card has run out!)

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followed by theatre

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(the play was great fun! we enjoyed having a box to ourselves although it meant leaning over to be able to see the stage)

and some more baking on the Saturday.

We had invited a new acquaintance/friend for tea. Adrian baked scones and made sandwiches, and I tried a new cake which required quite a lot of work.

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A choko-berry fraisier (cocoa Genoise sponge, filled with berries and a very sinful crème de cassis crème mousseline, topped by a thin disc of marzipan stuck with blackcurrant jam, and a chocolate mirror glaze).
I dread to think about the calories!

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london1967: (knocker)
January, arguably the longest month of the year, is behind us.
We did quite a bit, in fact we've been out every single Friday night (and also had a busy couple of Saturdays).

The first Friday was Adrian's sister's birthday. She came down to London for the week-end, so that she could also see the Panto.

We - and our dearest friend David, in London for the panto - went out for dinner at a local pizzeria, Sicilian Art Pizza. The food, as always, was excellent and a good time was had by all.
I managed to sneak in a cake I had bought from Patisserie Valerie but we didn't embarass her (or ourselves) with a rendition of Happy Birthday!

That was reserved for the following day, when the whole Panto audience sang! No picture of her blowing out the candles as I was carrying the cake.
We recreated the scene at home later that evening, although it was only the 3 of us and David.

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"Cyril the Squirrel and the Magic Nut" went really well.
Yes, there were a few complaints that they couldn't quite hear at the back but apart from that it was a success.
It was thrilling to see my 'work' performed and people enjoying it.

Here are a few photos from the performance plus a portrait of my very own Panto Dame. Doesn't she look familiar? LOL

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Well despite having the scripts in their hands, some of the actors managed to forget their lines, etc. Although in a way it added to the merriment.
One of the characters was called Verbena Vixen but at some point Kitty Furball called her Vergina. Corpsing ensued, and I can still laugh out loud now just thinking about it!

The following Friday Adrian met me straight after work and we first went for a steak and lobster dinner at a restaurant at the Hippodrome Casino. A touch of Vegas in the heart of London!

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Then we wandered around Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, St. James' Square and Piccadilly, and later King's Cross for  for "Lumiere London", a free light festival.
We expected it to be busy (some streets were closed to traffic) but not so ridiculously crowded!
We only saw about half of the sights and after King's Cross we had both had enough of the crowds and decided to call it a night.

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The following Friday it was dinner and opera.
We had an early dinner at Vico, a "bustling trattoria in the heart of the West End, where Soho and Covent Garden meet. We serve Italian food, The Appian Way – from along the Via Appia, which connects Rome through Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia to Brindisi in the South. We serve simple food cooked with heart, and are located in a perfect spot for dining before or after a show, or a meal in town“.
It's round the corner from work and I have a 25% discount card for 'locals' until the end of February.
We had been once before in September when it had just opened and it was noisy, had a sort of industrial look with plenty of empty space and stools to perch on, and you bought your food at the counter and ate it with plastic plates and plastuc cutlery!! I thought it could have been a place where teenage skateboarders from the rich Italian bourgeoisie would hang out.
Obviously the concept didn't work and now it has been refurbished like a proper restaurant. And we enjoyed it much more.

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(the courgette chips were to die for!)

Then we went to see La Traviata at Covent Garden, the 3rd time we've seen this particular production over the years, but always very enjoyable even from our £14 seats up in the gods.

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Last Friday it was culture again.
We went to see the "Celts: art and identity" exhibition at the British Museum. It wasn't too busy and we really enjoyed it.

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After a quick Mc Donald's, we went to the cinema to see 'Youth', the new film by Paolo Sorrentino. We absolutely loved it!

On the Saturday, we had invited Roberta (Adrian's Italian teacher) and her brother Carlo (visiting from Italy) for afternoon tea, so we had a busy morning and early afternoon of baking, but it was fun and we enjoyed a few very pleasant and chatty hours, drinking tea and prosecco, and eating.

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london1967: (knocker)
Shock and horror it's been over a month without a post on LJ! (and I haven't kept up-to-date with my friends either - sorry!)

Since my last post, I finished writing the panto and we had the first 2 read-throughs, which were quite fun.

We had some visitors (Adrian's sister, and then Sue), and I went to a mosaic-making workshop, which I really enjoyed.

I made a coaster

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and a panel with a mirror:

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And of course there's been some baking too:

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(White chocolate, mascarpone and raspberry tart)

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(A zesty cake with grapes)

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(Apricot frangipane tart)

I have quite a few pictures to post!
london1967: (knocker)
When I look at the pictures taken during the last few weeks, I see a lot of food. But I'm positive we did so much more than just stuffing our faces!

The last Friday in April we went to Roberta and Gianfranco's for dinner. Roberta is Adrian's Italian teacher, but needless to say we didn't speak much italiano!
I got there straight from work and when I took my coat off we all laughed because both Adrian and myself were wearing the same M&S shirt (I had bought mine first, but as Adrian really liked I bought him one too). The children were rather amused by our 'uniform'!

On the Sunday, we went to evensong at Southwark Cathedral.
The service was rather long (and at one point I nodded off slightly); when the service was over we gathered outside to witness the internment of the ashes of our neighbour Jo. Both Adrian and I thought that the place was anything but peaceful with the constant din from the trains passing on the nearby viaduct, the noise and the smell from the adjacent Borough Market, and the people eating on the benches but it probably suited our late neighbour.

May started with a book launch. Bobby, a neighbour of ours, launched his book "Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages" at the "Gay's the Word" bookshop. It was packed.
Before the launch Adrian and I had dinner at a nearby Strada:

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Then we had the 'excitement' of the general election (LOL!) and the first get-together for the Residents' Association's Panto (I decided to write another one: "Cyril the Squirrel and the Magic Nut").

The following week was very busy:
- Paul, an old friend of Adrian's, coming for the afternoon and then dinner on the Tuesday
- dinner and theatre on the Thursday
- exhibition at the National Gallery on the Friday
- gardening all week-end (lifting the bulbs and planting dahlias, lilies and a number of seedlings)

We went to see "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - The Musical" which was excellent and very funny:

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We had a pre-theatre set dinner (tapas serves à la afternoon tea) at Salvador and Amanda's in Covent Garden:

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The exhibition we visited at the National Gallery was 'Inventing Impressionism': "the UK’s first major exhibition devoted to Paul Durand-Ruel, the entrepreneurial art dealer who discovered the Impressionists".
We both really enjoyed it.

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After the week-end of gardening, we went to the local garden centre/cafe' on the Sunday evening for a 'meet the neighbours' event. I baked some macarons to take round.

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Last week was somewhat quieter, although we both had dentist appointments and Adrian had to go for laser treatment on the eye which had undergone cataract surgery a few years ago. The treatment went well and now he can see clearly again!

It was also Eurovision week and our friend Richard arrived on the Friday to stay for a few days.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Gregory ([livejournal.com profile] isledemoi) on the Saturday.
As Richard was visiting, we invited Gregory round for a cuppa on the Saturday afternoon, rather than suggesting meeting in town.
I'm afraid the 'spread' wasn't quite as abundant as on previous occasions (no scones!), but we had sarnies, a chocolate cake made with Old Speckled Hen (a 'fine ale'), lemon curd macarons and orange natas.
We were all in agreement that Gregory was a very charming guest!

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In the evening we watched Eurovision with Utku, a neighbour of ours. It was fun but we were disappointed that Sweden won (quite a boring song, in my modest opinion).

Sunday was spent finishing planting the dahlias, etc. and Monday (which was a Bank Holiday) was spent at home again for me (Adrian and Richard went shopping - when they got back they found some freshly baked scones waiting for them).
And now it's all back to normal, although tomorrow evening we have another meeting re the Panto (meeting the actors to discuss their involvement, so that I have an idea when writing it. This time we have 2 professionals in the cast - no pressure! LOL!) and on Friday we're invited at Mike and Alex's in Streatham for dinner.
london1967: (knocker)
Last week-end Adrian's friend Sue was visiting us and we had also had arranged to see our friend Jean (from Annecy, in Haute-Savoie) and his new Swiss boyfriend Urs.
They came for afternoon tea on Sunday: our friend Michael was also invited round.

So, I spent Saturday and a few hours on Sunday baking.

I made:
- Lemon curd macarons
- Religieuses
- Helsinki caramel cakes
- Orange natas (Portuguese custard tarts)
- Pistachio and raspberry tarts filled with frangipane and crème pâtissière
- Chocolate and crème de cassis cake

I was very pleased with all of them, apart from the caramel topping of the Helsinki cakes. It was the second time I made them: the first time the sauce was too runny, this time it was toffee-like but perhaps next time I'll get it just right.

The cake, the pistachio tarts and the religieuses (Mary Berry's recipe) were all first attempts and turned out really well. The macarons were my best to date and Jean said that they were just as good as the Ladurée ones, which was a very kind thing to say.

Adrian made two type of scones (cheese and fruit) and all the sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese, coronation chicken, smoked salmon and cream cheese) and set the table beautifully as always.

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We spent a few hours eating, drinking and chatting, and not long after Jean and Urs left, Michael's partner Chris arrived. So the party was over at around 10:30 pm!
Yesterday I felt a bit tired but all the baking was worth it!
london1967: (knocker)
We have been rather busy for the past few weeks. Now I've started to feel a bit more relaxed: it's my last day at work for almost two weeks.

This is a summary of what we've been up to in the last few weeks: you'll see a lot about baking and about our Blooms of Penge stall.

The first week in November we went to see Anne Reid and Stefan Bednarczyk in "Just in Time" a cabaret that "celebrates the lives and work of American lyricists Comden and Green," at the Studio at the St. James Theatre. It was an enjoyable evening.

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Then it was time for the first of 3 Christmas fairs we took part in.
This one was at our local church:

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The following week-end I decided to re-paint the bathroom. "Jasmine" satin-wood on the sloping wooden ceiling and "arsenic" on the walls.
It was much a harder job than I anticipated, especially as the bathroom is so small.
After doing the first coat of satinwood paint on the Saturday bending at strange angles to reach some awkward corners (please feel free to insert your jokes here!), I woke up in the night with my back blocked and almost unable to move. In the morning I could only walk with the aid of a stick, but I decided to do the second coat regardless, and somehow it eased off the stiffness.

In the afternoon the three of us (Adrian, myself and my stick) went to see
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at a small theatre above a local pub. It was hilarious!
And we learn a new description of Penge: "Penge is where London vomits over Kent!"

The walls were painted in the week after work, and my back also gradually improved to go back to normal after about 10 days.
And here's the finished bathroom! (It was straw yellow before)

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The following Sunday we took part in the "Diggin' Design" fair at the Garden Museum.
Here's a grumpy Adrian (he is not a 'morning person'!) on the bus looking like a very posh bag lady! LOL!

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Sales were very disappointing: maybe our cards/calendars are just too old fashioned (like us, perhaps).
One certainly couldn't blame the layout and look of the stall: Adrian always does such a stellar job.

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The week-end after, we spent both days at the Alexandra Nurseries our local garden centre/cafe'/vintage shop for their Christmas fair.
Saturday was the coldest day this autumn; luckily as we were a couple of minutes away from home, every so often one of us would go back to thaw in the bathroom (the warmest - the only warm! - room in the house)

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The week before the fair, Adrian applied his talents to decorate our home for Christmas. He put so much work into it and these pictures don't do it justice.

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I took Monday off work to have a rest from the fair, and start baking!
That week I baked every night after work and all day on Saturday, often past the witching hour. After the last push on Sunday morning/early afternoon, we were ready - just in time - for our "Sparkling Christmas Afternoon Tea" at 3 pm.

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(Adrian baked the scones and the Chocolate Guinness cake, and made all the sandwiches, and set the table, etc.; I baked the other cakes and the patisserie)

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A few people didn't turn up: some were ill and some forgot, so the house wasn't too crowded. And I even managed to enjoy myself! The last guests left at around 11 pm.

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And this is from Wednesday night. A smaller party for Adrian's Italian class (this time everyone contributed with food).

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And now, I think, we deserve a rest! LOL!
london1967: (knocker)
Apart from our trip to Prague and mine to Turin (and of course work), the last 4 weeks have been busy with a few things.

First it was the residents' association's Arts & Music Festival which consisted of an afternoon event (art and crafts stalls mainly) and of a music and dance evening.
For the event we provided one cake each (and we were not the only ones of course).
Adrian made a lovely Raspberry and Buttercream Victoria sponge

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while I baked (second time) a Chocolate Genoise Sponge filled with Italian meringue and hazelnut praline buttercream.

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It took me a few hours (no-one can say that I don't love my neighbours! LOL) but it was very well received.

In the afternoon we were there with our Blooms of Penge stall:

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and Adrian was MC for the evening event, which turned out really good!

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A few days later before heading off to Prague, we went to the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square

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for an evening of Italian silent films, all shot in Turin.

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5 movies were about 100 years old, filmed just before Word War I, while the 6th (not listed there) was new. The director of this last film was there to introduce them all, and the composers/orchestra that provided the music for it also accompanied some of the other features.

One of the films showed Turin during the 1914 (or 1913) Carnival and it was very interesting to see Via Po crowded with people and Piazza Vittorio Veneto with a roller coaster (although at the time was named after King Vittorio Emanuele I - Vittorio Veneto in one of the few victorious battles in WWI).

A small rinfresco followed the projection:

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(I think Adrian was munching on a hard tarallo, hence the expression!)

Yesterday we entertained a couple of the Italian taxpayers who made that event possible, our friends Carlo and Lucia.
We invited them round for afternoon tea and... well we got baking!
Michael and Christopher gave Adrian a recipe book entitled "80 Cakes from Around the World" and we used it as our inspiration.
I baked Bara Brith (Wales), Macaroons (France) and Helsinki Caramel Cakes (Finland) - pictured below - and added some fruit tarts too.
Adrian made all the sarnies (Coronation Cicken; Cucumber and Cream Cheese; Smoked Salmon) and baked a batch of fruit scones and one of cheddar cheese ones. And of course set everything out just so beautifully.

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Our friends were quite impressed and we all had a lovely afternoon/early evening chatting and eating!

Ciabatta

Aug. 27th, 2014 09:34 pm
london1967: (knocker)
Inspired by last week's episode of the "Great British Bake Off", I decided to bake ciabatta (Italian for slipper!) bread on Saturday afternoon, as our neighbour Peter was coming round for dinner.

I used Paul Hollywood's recipe. Thank goodness that I left lots of time for the dough to rise!
In this recipe he allows 1 to 2 hours but we both distinctly recall hat on this TV programme a couple of years ago, it was an all day job (we thought at the time, why bother?), and indeed I have now found an older version of the recipe also by him where he says "leave it to rise for at least six hours at room temperature." As Ricardo would say "confused.com"!!

Anyway the dough is extremely wet

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and it took 4 hours to get from this

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to this

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Maybe I could have left it even longer, but as our guest was going to arrive soon it was time to bake!

It is very difficult to shape it as you can see here!

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Luckily no soggy bottom and a lovely crust! (and - Adrian said - an authentic taste too)

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london1967: (knocker)
The week-end was anything but restful.
Saturday was spent baking and cooking, and Sunday at a TV studio.

On Wednesday "The Great British Bake-Off" will return to our TV screens for a 5th series, promoted from BBC2 to BBC1.
They say that it is more than just a mere programme: a cultural phenomenon.
The GBBO stands apart from other TV cookery programmes because it is done with a certain sense of humour and the people in it (presenters, judges and contestants) are really nice. In a way it is quintessentially British (I do wonder how and if the format works in other countries where it has been exported to).

This year they decided to produce an ancillary programme "The Great British Bake Off - An Extra Slice" , where a "celebrity" panel led by comedian Jo Brand discusses what happened on that week's GBBO episode, interviews the contestant kicked out that week and looks at bakes brought in by the audience.

We had decided a while ago never to go again to a TV recording but as we both love the GBBO we succumbed to the temptation.

When we got the confirmation e-mail for the tickets, we had to submit a questionnaire with pictures of some of our previous bakes and tell them what we would bring along.

On Friday I got a phone call from a researcher on the programme asking us to go earlier (12 pm instead of 2 pm) so that he could inspect our bakes. Then we would have time to go out for lunch and go back at 2:30 pm, without having to join the general queue.

So on Saturday we baked.

Adrian baked a beautiful lemon Victoria sponge decorated with dolly mixture.

I decided for a rather ambitious (and new to me!) Italian recipe: a chocolate Genoise sponge, cut in 3 layers, filled with a cream made of Italian meringue, hazelnut praline paste and Italian hazelnut wafers. Then covered in chocolate ganache and hazelnut praline.
As I couldn't find any hazelnut paste, I made the praline on Friday night, put some aside to sprinkle on the ganache and reduced the rest to paste.

I took me about 3 hours on Saturday to make the cake. The Genoise sponge doesn't have any raising agent so you need to incorporate as much air as possible to make it rise (there's no butter either; only 3 whole eggs and 8 yolks plus sugar, some flour, cornflour and cocoa powder).

I was very pleased with the result as it all worked out. The sponge rose beautifully and it was well cooked, the cream was fluffy and delicious and even the ganache turned out OK.


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Yesterday we managed to get to the TV studios with the cakes intact.
We - and another 30 people or so - talked to the researcher about our cakes, and after quite a a wait to - I think - a producer who was running late.
By the time all this was done it was already 2:30 pm - no time for lunch on the South Bank.

We managed to get a couple of sandwiches before getting back in the building and going to watch this week's episode of the GBBO. By this time all the general audience was in and there were no seats left for us who had been there since 12 pm.
Adrian got a bit crossed as he was worried about my knee (we had been standing for the most of the time) and managed to get a stool for me, while he squeezed on a bench. Bless him!

We were very pleased that the show still has exactly the same format, and we loved it.

After that - and another long wait, a few people got picked and were whisked downstairs to the studio in the "bakers' area". Then it was everybody else who had been there since 12 pm and their guest; we got 2 of the last seats in the bakers' area but some of the people who had been there since the beginning ended up in the audience. I am sure that there were not pleased at all about it, as we had been promised that there were enough seats for us all!

Anyway, the recording started at around 6 pm and was quite fun.

I am sure we were not in any shots because we were sitting on the edge, partially obscured by a piece of furniture.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't mind that my cake wasn't picked.
There were some fantastic cakes and fellow bakers has put lot of time and effort in them, but at the end of the day the choice that the producers made was really all about appearances: cakes with unusual ingredients or that look like something else (or someone), and on the other end of the spectre disastrous bakes.
The taste didn't come into it at all.

We would have stood a better chance if we had decorated a cactus with black icing to resemble a (spiked) dildo!

The recording ended at about 8:30 pm (by that time we had lost the will to live!) and we got back to Penge at around 9:45 pm, went for a McDonald's on the High Street and then home, exhausted and to some extent rather disappointed.

Does anyone fancy a slice of cake? (Luckily the air con was rather icy at the studios, so our cakes were still OK when we got home. I had a big slice)

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---

On Saturday apart from baking, we also hosted a dinner party.

It was a menu with a 'retro' feel.

We started with Campari cocktails (Negroni for Adrian, Michael and Christopher, and Campari Orange for lightweight me).

We had Prawn Cocktail to start with, followed by Mary Berry's Chardonnay Chicken with Artichokes.

Then a palate cleanser: a mango sorbet with lime, red chilli and an ingredient from our garden - electric daises!
(Glasses decorated with nasturtiums)

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I've grown these daisies from seed. They are not beautiful flowers to look at but when you eat them, your tongue and mouth tingles and numbs (they contain a mild anaesthetic!)

For dessert we had Cherry Meringue Pots:

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It was a lovely evening and Michael and Christopher were very appreciative of the food, which is always really nice.
london1967: (knocker)
I've been doing quite a bit of baking/cooking in the last few weeks and it's been fun (everything was edible and was well received).

Two Saturdays ago I baked some little Chantilly cream pastries



and some Ricciarelli



to take to Jill and David's house-warming tea party (they have moved from one of the cottages on our road to a much larger house, 10 minutes away).
The Chantilly cream pasticcini reminded me so much of home where they would be part of a large tray of dainty pastries for special occasions.

That batch of choux pastry didn't puff up as expected but I did much better when I baked the profiteroles for the individual croquembouches that were part of the 'Papal lunch' the following day.

We had invited Michael and Chris for lunch on the Sunday. Inspired by both a TV programme and a book we have at home, I designed this Papal menu



and cooked all the food (I also made some 'carta di musica' - a very thin flour and semolina Sardinian bread - using a new manual pasta machine I had bought a couple of weeks before).

Adrian set the table beautifully as always





(this bouquet had been sent to Adrian by an 'admirer' for Valentine's day)


(4 glasses for the aperitivo and the different wines for 3 the courses).

The lunch turned out really well and it was great fun. Our guests were not poisoned and were very appreciative of the food and the 'concept'.

On Tuesday evening I used the new pasta machine (an Imperia) to make what we call bugie in Torino, fried Carnival pastries.
I made some plain ones and some filled with my mother's cherry jam (they looked like fried ravioli)



We kept a tray for ourselves and one was taken by Adrian to his Italian class.
Roberta - the teacher - said that the bugie were 'fantastiche'. Maybe Adrian was teacher's pet for one night! LOL

Our lovely friend Ricardo is visiting for a few days and yesterday I decided to make a small croquembouche again.
He was very impressed and loved the white chocolate and limoncello creme patissiere/whipped cream filling.



Needless to say all this food is not doing my figure any favour... I guess I'll just have to go on a slimming diet at some stage before the beach holiday at the end of June. Or perhaps not: I'm too old to care! LOL!
london1967: (knocker)
It was a Bank Holiday today, the last before Christmas and we had visitors.
First Paul, and later Michael and Christopher - they did overlap for a while and it was all very social.

Adrian baked a smashing cake: "White chocolate and raspberry melting cake", a recipe by John Whaite, last year's Great British Bake Off winner.



It was superb. The sponge was unusual: made up with melted butter and white chocolate, and with whole raspberries in the mix.
Adrian put the ganache not just in the middle but also on the top. I think he improved the original recipe!

I managed to make something as well. My first bit of baking/cooking in 9 weeks!
Orange Natas (Portuguese-style custard tarts) from the same book.



They were very well received, and I'm glad I baked them, although I found it quite exhausting with my limited mobility.
(And this evening I made tomato and basil crostini).

I like this picture of Adrian with the evening sun



And now I have to get in the mood for work (from home) tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I'm also going to see my GP to get a referral letter (hopefully) for some private physiotherapy through the medical insurance I have from work. Nothing wrong with the NHS (they have been excellent and I am very grateful) but it's really to speed things up.
london1967: (knocker)
At the week-end we had a visitor, Adrian's friend Sue. They have known each other for 28 years and they shared a flat for a couple of those.
Last time we saw her was at our civil partnership, 5 and a half years ago!

On Saturday I made Nigella's Cranberry Bakewell Tart 



and it turned out rather yummy!





The sharpness of the cranberries is balanced by the sweetness of the almonds (present both in the filling and in the pastry) and the icing. The icing is set but not solid and when you cut into the tart, the crunchy noise makes you think of walking on snow. 

On the Sunday we were invited to a 70s-themed party in Crystal Palace. 
I didn't want to go (I don't enjoy parties, unless we host them) but neither Sue or Adrian took no for an answer (they are bossy! lol)
We all made an effort (very last minute in my case) to fit in











but it turned out that not many other people did apart from the hosts.
We stayed for about 4 hours and I didn't enjoy myself, although the food was very nice. 
One of the hosts is a singer (a tenor) and a number of guests were a bit pretentious (including a guy who bellowed to the whole of Crystal Palace and most of south London that he got his shirt from Elton John at an auction), and I just couldn't be bothered talking to anyone I didn't know. 

Sue had a great time though. She's very outgoing, especially after a few glasses of wine! lol
london1967: (knocker)
Yesterday we hosted a little get-together for a number of friends and neighbours: 28 people (plus us two).

This year the 'theme' was Chilli & Chocolate (last year we had Chilli & Cheesecake).
Adrian prepared 2 lovely chillies, a chilli-con-carne and a vegetarian version with a cornbread topping, all served with Yorkshire puddings and small roast potatoes.

I prepared most of the sweet offerings


including my very first croquembouche 



which - apart from not being a complete cone (not enough 'balls'!) - was quite a success: the filling made of lemon custard mixed with melted white chocolate and whipped cream was delicious (if I'm allowed to say so myself).
The pink macaroons were this time sandwiched with a chocolate and maraschino cherry ganache and were very much appreciated.

Adrian made a Chocolate and Guinness cake, and I baked a hazelnut and Nutella Torta alla Gianduia.

Something else that went down very well is this Salame di cioccolato; it almost looks like a real salame (a couple of guests thought that it was one!)



Oh yes, our lovely guests! (Only the ones that got here in the first couple of hours; l then stopped taking photos as I was too busy playing waiter! lol)











I rather enjoyed the party, although I missed some of our friends who couldn't make it on this occasion for various reasons.

Sunday

Nov. 26th, 2012 07:02 pm
london1967: (Default)
Saturday it was a wash-out but yesterday the weather behaved itself and followed the weather forecast to the letter: sun between 9 am and 4 pm and then rain.
We went to our local garden shop and café’ before lunch and we purchased a very small spruce to plant outside in a pot. It will be our Christmas tree! 
We have had one for years but it committed suicide by growing too big for the pot.

When we got home, we did a bit of pottering in the garden.
I planted even more bulbs and the wallflowers that Adrian had purchased.
With the wallflowers in, the pots in the front garden look less bare. 

P1080843
Now we’ll have just to wait for winter and spring to work their magic.
I expect a colourful explosion of tulips, narcissi, croci, muscari,  hyacinths, snowdrops and wallflowers. 

When it got dark, after a snack and a shower, I decided to do some baking.
I have always loved the ‘funghetti’ you get in Italy. A ‘funghetto’ is a choux pastry filled with chocolate cream and made up of two parts stuck together to look like a mushroom, and sprinkled with cocoa powder.
According to a newspapers article I read the very tiny ones are a speciality of Turin but they get bigger the further down the peninsula you travel. Judging from the size, mine must be from around Tuscany.
I experimented with the filling. A recipe I found had a very chocolate-y filling, almost like ganache. It was way too rich and too thick. 
I then decided to whip the remaining cream with some melted chocolate and I think it worked rather well (better than the other option of filling them with chocolate custard) but next time I have to remember to put in some sugar too.

P1080847
I am looking forward to tasting them tonight. Last time I just couldn't face eating them… I took some round to Sue and PJ, two neighbours a couple of streets up from us.
I also found time to write a few Christmas cards. 
Last night I was exhausted and slept very soundly!
london1967: (Default)
Adrian's up in Leeds this week-end, and to keep out of trouble I baked, and baked, and baked! lol

It's because the residents' association organised another Taste of the Cottages Sunday where a few houses open their kitchen and other residents go around and eat!

It wasn't as successful as last year's event in terms of number of hosts but the people who took part had fun. 
I enjoyed the baking too, even though yesterday after a few hours I felt I had quite enough.. but I had to soldier on!

Here's what I made
- Linzer Torte 
- Zuppa inglese 
- Baci di dama
- Meringue kisses
- Zabaglione and amaretti cups
- Chocolate and pistachio fudge
- Pink almond macaroons
- Ligurian focaccia
- Home-made lemonade

P1080693

P1080677 

P1080651 

P1080664 

P1080671 

P1080688

Some people didn't quite seem to believe me that I had made all of this on my own, but what can I say, if you take part you have to do your best (and couldn't let Adrian down! we have a reputation to uphold! lol).
Besides, if I put my mind to it, I can be a V.E.Q. 
I made the fudge on Wed night, the Linzertorte on Thu night, the Baci di dama on Fri night, the focaccia today and everything else yesterday.

Now I think I'll hang my oven gloves for a while!
london1967: (Default)
Cinnamon meringues which are going to be sandwiched with a dark chocolate and sour cream filling tomorrow (we're having a small party).

P1060113

P1060116
london1967: (Default)
So here we are on the last day of the Diamond Jubilee week-end.
It's also the day of our local street party. It is dry so far but the weather forecast is far from encouraging this afternoon. 

It may also be Adrian ([livejournal.com profile] london1952)'s last event as the residents' association's social even co-ordinator as he resigned a few days ago. I think he's burnt out and a bit fed up with the apathy: not many people are bothered enough to help or even reply to flyers and e-mails, but everyone expects smashing events and are always ready to moan. But that's human nature, I guess!

Putting aside all this negativity, I hope that the street party will be fun!

There's a "Grand Trifle Competition" and since it doesn't seem there will be many entries, I made a trifle to boost the numbers.



It started as a traditional trifle but along the way got a Piedmontese twist with zabaglione (instead of custard) and Chantilly cream on top. I've decided to call it "Double-trouble trifle" due to the large quantity of alcohol used not only to soak the sponge base, but also to make the zabaglione.



How will it fare against Adrian's "Anglo-Italian trifle"? (which is my favourite to win). Will we come home with a prize or in disgrace, with no alternative to moving away from the area? Only time will tell!

I also made some "patriotic" almond macaroons...

It all started well with two eyes (reminiscent of the Trip Advisor logo) staring out of the Italian meringue




The bake produced mix results but there were enough good ones to make these





The colours are not quite right but well, what can one do?

More bugie

Feb. 21st, 2012 10:14 pm
london1967: (Default)
They say that practice makes perfect so tonight another batch of bugie



But the main reason is that Adrian wanted some for the Italian class tomorrow evening
(hopefully they won't refuse to eat them as it'll be Ash Wednesday! LOL)

I hope that Adrian's going to be

london1967: (Default)
for Valentine's Day!

Time consuming but quite fun to bake. And Adrian says "even better to eat!"





london1967: (Default)
When you are on your own in a freezing house, the best thing to do is to keep moving. And switch the oven on! lol

So today I spent some time baking a cake.



This is the 'Hummingbird cake' from the 'Hummingbird bakery cookbook' and is made of 3 banana/pineapple/pecan and cinnamon sponges, sandwiched with and covered in cream cheese frosting.




If you are worrying about my cholesterol, thank you but fear not! I only had a tiny slice. Honest! I gave the rest to 5 neighbours!

Then I went into town to the YMCA to practise my swimming.
I'm pleased that I feel more confident in the water - the goggles made a lot of difference: it looks pretty underwater!

The weather forecast was very accurate and it started to snow at around 6 pm when I left the Y.

Fighting against my instinct of getting home as soon as possible (a must for any sensible Londoner as we know from bitter experience that just a sprinkling of snow will cause train armageddon), I walked down to Trafalgar Square to have a look at the ice on the fountains.





I love the changing colours











Talking of sensible, these two were anything but. The lions are on a high pedestal and climbing up there in this weather? Tut tut!



The snow is not of the fluffy, soft variety. It's ice and it hurts your eyes. I almost wore my goggles! lol



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