That New Year’s day feeling

The Christmas tree is on its last leg, slowly losing its dark shade of green.

All the presents have been opened and played with so I filled the space at the foot of the tree with a rusty candlestick holder and an old hat box.

I’ve been saving that last Ferrero Rocher for the New Year…
I’ve definitely earned it

A wonderful fortnight of parties, feasts and beverages shared with loved ones has left me somewhat exhausted, so I know how the tree feels!

So I’m not sure what came to me this morning when I decided to christen my new macaroon-making equipment with a long and elaborate baking session.

Maybe I was being a bit too ambitious to tackle such a technically challenging experiment on 1st January, especially after 5 hours’ sleep, one single cup of coffee and a fried egg (on) next to toast.

how NOT to make macaroons: work the meringue too hard and you’ll get cracks

I covered the kitchen surfaces in icing sugar and the cupboards in chocolate in the process. The result looks nothing like the £3 each Ladurée macaroons, but they taste absolutely delicious of course.

the best 3 prototypes were used to achieve this highly professional photo-shoot

so you can see how good they are, a close-up of the same 3 prototypes

The other more ‘unique’ ones will have to be eaten really quickly to get rid of the evidence of failure.

A very happy new year and special thanks to you all for reading.

Here’s to many more inconsequential blog posts and baking disasters in 2012.

Featured image at the top via Parisien Salon.




Kitchen tête-à-tête

A party at my sister-in-law’s house on Saturday was the perfect excuse for an overdue reconciliation with my kitchen this weekend. In my frenzied mission to decorate the flat, my time spent in the kitchen had recently been reduced to the strict minimum required for survival. But once I got started this weekend, there was no stopping me.

First off, the Jamie Oliver brownie filled my flat with the mellow scent of chocolate goo that was hard to resist.

Luckily our lunch preparation created a much-needed distraction from the delectable sticky substance that was cooling down on my windowsill.

Nigel Slater came to the rescue with a glorious mussels and leek chowder. I have to explain here I collect Nigel Slater’s tomes avidly and I admire the man so much I sometimes drop him a line to thank him for making my relationship with my kitchen so special. One may describe this as stalking behaviour. I call it “awe”.

(so quickly after the washing-up and before running out of the door to fulfill our social duties, I did find the time to transmit my reverence to the almighty Nigel. One always has to be grateful for a hearty lunch. – I blame technology.)

with love and chocolate goo from Gaelle

So celebration brownie cut and tinned, and pre-function lunch out of the way, I left my kitchen behind as there was a gazebo to build at the party venue. The gazebo serves the unpredictability of British summer so well, it would have been a shame not to. So as Bob Dylan was sound-checking in the park down the road (probably to Buckets Of Rain), I was trying to control my hair with one hand and a turbulent gazebo cover with the other on a blustery roof-terrace. I was actually delighted when the first shower of the day hit Harringay as soon as we tied the last piece of string to the balustrade. Our efforts had been duly rewarded as the guests were arriving and the playlist commenced.

The party was perfect with a constant and joyful flow of people, food, drink and laughter. The homemade burgers, jerk chicken, marinated lamb kebabs and brownie all went down a storm – and so did the red wine on my part…

I was nevertheless ready at 9am on Sunday for my next date with the kitchen. Before tackling some cinnamon French toast with blueberries, I spotted a response email from the great Nigel Slater in my inbox! It goes without saying I was beside myself, and what should have been a lazy Sunday morning was suddenly filled with a lot of jumping around and squealing in a most excited and childlike manner.

The thrill sent me straight back into the kitchen to manage my next culinary project: chocolate macaroons, courtesy of Nigella Lawson.

The remainder of the weekend was spent giving my taste buds a bit more TLC with these miraculous little chocolate wonders, and a good helping of catch-up TV and soothing fresh mint tea.

So I’m pleased my kitchen and I are on talking terms again, as I’m sure you’ll agree there is nothing better than some good homemade food to share with your loved ones.

I know Nigel would agree.