Thursday 30 October 2014


So, we had a bake sale at work to raise money for Macmillan – one of their coffee mornings, in fact – and I reckoned I ought to bring something in. 

As I have said so many times on this blog, I suck at baking.  Like properly suck.  At university I once made a loaf of bread – I thought it would be an economical and homely, hipster-y thing to do.  I ended up with something that resembled the soul of my shoe and which tasted foul.  Later than academic year I attempted a tarte tatin that that burnt to a crisp on top whilst leaving the apple crunchy.  Then there was the pie crust (another one from that year now I think about it – I certainly attempted a lot of baking in my 2nd year) that had to be cut open with a hacksaw – not kidding.  I think after those triumphs I was scarred for life in the baking department, and now the closest I get is readymade puff pastry pie toppings – that's good enough for me. 

Anyway, I decided I would attempt it nevertheless – it's for charity, after all.  So I attempted cookies – which are, I think, quite possible the easiest things to bake.  They turned out well good, actually – Mrs Grubster ended up eating most of them before they got to work.


125g butter (plus extra for tray greasing)
100g soft brown sugar
125g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour
100g chocolate bar (get the good stuff)
Pinch of sea salt

The butter needs to be up at around room temperature for this one.  Chuck it in a bowl with the sugars, vanilla and the egg and, using an electric whisk, cream so that it is light and fluffy.

(I actually had to look up what was meant by "cream until light and fluffy".  Apparently it's a bit like this.  I expect someone will come along and say, "oi, that's not light and fluffy" or "that's not creamed", but whatever - the cookies came out decent, didn't they?)

Sift in the flour, add a pinch of salt, and stir the whole lot together until fully combined.

Smash up the chocolate bar into pieces of about the sort of size you want to find lurking in a cookie.  This is totally your call.  Mix that lot into the dough – you now have a bona fide cookie dough.  You should resist the temptation to eat this all now – although there's a great little spot in Texas (Torchy's) where you can get lumps of this stuff deep fried and oh my god is it good.

Get the oven on to 180ºC. Grease a non-stick baking tray.  Dollop lumps of dough onto the tray – the lumps should be about the amount that you scoop out with a dessert spoon.  You'll need to leave a good gap between each cookie – these buggers get big as they slop out in the cooking process.

Into the oven they go for between 7 and 9 minutes – it varies from oven to oven, but each batch will be about the same so watch that first batch LIKE A HAWK.  They turn very quickly.

Cool on a wire cooling rack.  Resist temptation to eat the whole lot in one sitting.

 - GrubsterBoy -

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Balsamic Chicken Salad

This is an ever-so-simple meal for a quick and easy weekday supper.  If you can be faffed then you should get the chicken in the marinade before you go to work, knowing that it will be ready and waiting for you when you get home – ready, even, to go straight on the grill. 
The proportions will feed two as a main meal or four as a starter – but it's terribly easy to increase.
2 chicken breasts
50ml olive oil (plus a drizzle for the sweet tatties)
50ml balsamic vinegar (doesn’t need to be uber expensive)
2 medium sweet potatoes
½ tsp cayenne pepper
50g pumpkin seeds
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 lime
100g rocket leaves

(In the pictures below I have used pine nuts.  Ignore this – Sainsbury's were out of pumpkin seeds.  So sub in pumpkin seeds wherever you see pine nuts.)

1. Lay the chicken breasts flat and slice them in half horizontally, so that you're left with two pieces of chicken of the same proportions but half the thickness.  Place these in a large, flat bowl, pour the oil and vinegar over them and stir it up so that the chicken is properly coated.  Leave them to marinade for at least an hour.

2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut them up into fat chips.  Drizzle the oil and sprinkle the cayenne pepper over them then stir to ensure they're coated.  Stick them in an oven at 175ºC for 45 minutes or until cooked (ie. soft inside and slightly crispy / blackened on the outside).  They'll need turning a few times during the cooking process. 

3. About 15 minutes before the potatoes are done you'll want to cook the chicken, so you probably want it to come out of the fridge about 15 minutes before that to come up to room temperature.  Get a griddle pan on the heat (mine is properly screwed so I've used a frying pan instead) and get it hot, but not screaming hot like you would for steak (otherwise the chicken will stick to it like superglue – hence why mine's so screwed).  Get the Chicken on the griddle and cook for about five minutes aside, or again until done and a little crispy on the outside.  When it's done the meat will need to rest of a few minutes.

5. Whilst the chicken rests you can cook the lime.  Slice it through the equator and stick it on the griddle.  At the same time, lay the pumpkin seeds out on a baking tray and toast them in the oven.  Be careful here – they need only a couple of minutes.  Overdo them and they'll be minging – crusty and burny and not at all nice.  So keep an eye on them.  When they're toasted pop them in a freezer bag with the paprika and the tiniest drop of olive oil and give them a big shake.  You'll find that the paprika sticks pretty good.

 6. All of your elements ought to be done by now, so it's just a matter of assembly.  Slice the chicken into strips, being careful not to lose any juices that run out.  Put the rocket in a big bowl and heap the chicken and any escaping juices on top.  Add in the warm sweet potatoes and the pumpkin seeds.  Squeeze the lime over the whole lot and toss the salad.  You may want to add a drizzle of oil if you don’t feel it's dressed enough, but I never really think it's worth it.

Serve the salad whilst it's still warm.  It's good for all seasons – summer and winter alike.

- GrubsterBoy -

Thursday 23 October 2014

Sweet Corn Stand, Borough Market

Whilst we're on the subject of sweet corn, I thought I'd mention this little spot in Borough Market.  I actually found this when I was looking for wild mushrooms from Turnips (which ended up as my Chicken of the Woods experiement) - it's a new stall, and one I haven't happened across before.  I mention it only because I think it's awesome.  I love sweet corn generally, but what they've got going on here is wicked.  Basically, you've just got a dude BBQ'ing ears of corn and then they get served to you lathered in melted butter, lime and chipotle sauce.  Awesome.   

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Sweet Corn Fritter, Smashed Avo and Poached Egg

I made these just because.  Fantastic brunch, lunch or easy supper.  I'm told that, once cooked, they freeze well and can be easily re-heated in a frying pan on a medium gentle heat.  I don’t doubt it.  They are also super easy to make.  This recipe will feed 4 to 6, depending on hunger levels. 


400g sweetcorn (about 3 cobs)
75g plain flour
50ml milk
4 eggs
1tsp baking powder
1tsp paprika
1tbsp caster sugar
2-3 spring onions
2 avocadoes
4-6 ripe tomatoes
Chilli sauce (see this post for advice)
A handful of grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Chipotle ketchup (optional)

1. Start by stripping the corn off the cobs.  You can do this by holding the cobs upright in a big bowl and cutting the kernels downwards vertically, like shown.  This will make quite a lot of mess and the kernels will fly off everywhere, so the bigger the bowl the better.  Watch your fingers as well, and pick out any rogue bits of husk that turn up.

2. You now need to make a savoury batter to bind the fritters together. In a big mixing bowl sift your flour, baking powder, paprika and sugar together.  Season lightly.  Beat 2 of the eggs and all of the milk together in a cup then pour this into the mixed dry ingredients.  Use an electric whisk to beat the mix into a batter.

3. Pour the corn kernels into the batter.  Slice the spring onions as finely as possible and chuck them in there too.  Mix the whole lot together.  Your fritters are now ready to be frittered.  Told you it was easy.

4. Right, time to make the smashed avos.  Your avocadoes need to be properly ripe, not ripe like those lying bastards in the supermarkets that write "ripe and ready to eat" on the packet.  Squidgy – but not too much so or they go all weird and stringy.  Avocadoes are so hard.

Anyway, peel and chop and stick them into a mixing bowl.  Dice the tomatoes relatively finely – about 1cm cubes.  Add them to the mixing bowl as well.

Grab a potato masher and mash them just enough so that there are no big avo lumps but roughly enough that some texture remains.  Splash in a lug of chilli sauce and mix together, tasting the mix to see if it's right.  I'd always say start conservatively with the sauce, as you want it to be hot but not sting.  You can always add more – it's taking it away that's tricky (although a squeeze on lime will take the edge off, you’re straying into guacamole territory – not necessarily a bad thing, but there it is).

5. Boil a pan of water to poach your eggs in.  Grab a large, heavy bottomed frying pan for the fritters and get that on a medium heat.  Throw in a lug of oil.  I had some food rings kicking around so decided to cook my fritters in those – don’t go thinking you need to do the same, you can totally freestyle these.  When the oil is hot, dollop a tablespoon of the batter into the pan.  Repeat for as many fritters you have space for.

They need two minutes and a half on the first side.  If you're using food rings (a) don’t be so pretentious; and (b) after two minutes trim around the inside before lifting them off.  Either way, wiggle a spatula underneath and flip 'em over.  They need another two minutes on this side so as soon as you've flipped them, start poaching the eggs.  A kitchen timer (or two) would be helpful right about now. 

6. Assemble: Fritter on place, avocado mulch on fritter, egg on top.  If you're feeling flush, finish with chipotle ketchup (as I did) and/or cheddar cheese.  Serve asap – it's much better hot.

 - GrubsterBoy -