Diary, day thirty-two

It’s a beautiful spring day… so beautiful that we’re putting together a picnic of burgers, roasted vegetables & basmati rice… a couple cold pear ciders, & heading down to the beach to lay in the sand & play with the dog.

Sometimes the biggest pleasure in life are the simplest of moments. I don’t know where life is going, or what tomorrow holds. I just know that right now, I’m going to get lost staring at the waves & let the calming sound of the sea sweep over me. Maybe take a nap, laying on the beach & soaking up the sun.

  

I don’t know what the future will bring me, but I do know I will enjoy today.

…& just to let you know, today the great Bob Dylan is playing the soundtrack to my soul.

Diary, day thirty

It was a long & intense day…

For as many times as I scripted a speech. Revisited it. Made tweaks, & eventually narrowed it down to several key questions, it all had to be redone.

We started shooting the talking part of the video today. The part that helps me get my point across & explain what it is exactly I’m trying to do. I thought I was completely prepared. As we started filming & talking through it, I realised I kept tripping up on my words & nothing had a good flow. I was either repeating myself over & over again, or one segment wouldn’t lead into another. It just wasn’t making sense.

All I have to say is, I’m lucky I have the videographer I do (seriously, if anyone needs one in Athens Greece, I would love to recommend him to you). He sat down with me, & we re wrote the whole thing. We found a way to make it click. To answer the questions, without repeating myself, & make it sound natural. It did end up being scripted, but I’m hoping it doesn’t sound that way in play back.

I still catch myself making weird faces on camera though. I have this way of contorting my face, & the more I try not to do it, the more awkward I look. I know I have an expressive, almost comic way of reacting to situations, but seriously, I need to get this under control!

Stay tuned!

Also, I’m starting to think up next weeks video. If anyone wants to weigh in & make a request, I’m all ears. If not, I’m leaning towards doing something sweet, since last week was savoury, & I’m playing around with the idea of either making dark chewy brownies, or an apple flower cake. I can’t decide. Or maybe I don’t show food & I post up another rant, this time on my favourite kitchen utensils…

Diary, day twenty-nine

The new video is up!

Now I’ve already stated this before, but let me state it again. The whole thing is in high-speed, or fast-forward, or whatever you want to call it really. I know it comes across as comic, but I didn’t know how else to condense 30 minutes worth of cooking into five minutes or less. & let’s be honest, if you’re anything like me, your attention starts to dwindle after the first three minutes.

I’m not saying you have a short attention span, I’m saying I do & I respect that others might as well.

I also had no idea of just how much my GoPro was picking up. Usually when I cook, I use my sink as a convenient little trash can & then clean it all up in the end. You’ll notice this in the video. I hadn’t thought that it would show up so I just continued to toss things in there as normal. This is just habit since it’s conveniently close & I don’t want to leave a mess on my counters. I’ll keep it in mind for the next video though so it doesn’t look like an eye sore.

Really at this point, I think what I would like is some feedback. I want to know if my “viewers” (all six subscribers) prefer it when I’m on one of my epic rants, or they like my silent, fast forwarded tutorials that show the prep. I really can’t tell yet.

Right, I don’t think I have any more comments, just the recipe.

Pizza sauce, ingredients:
– 1kg tomatoes
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp black pepper
– 2 tsp dried oregano
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
– 1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped

Pizza sauce, directions:
1. combine everything except the basil in your blender & puree. You may need to do this in several batches so you don’t end up with tomato juice all over your blender & counters.
2. transfer the puree to a large pot, add the basil & bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes on high heat & then reduce down to medium-low & simmer. You will need to cook it for an hour or more, or until all the excess liquid has evaporated & you are left with a thick tomato paste. Use what you need for the pizzas, the rest can be stored in the freezer.
***TIP: I always make this in a large batch, usually enough for 6 to 8 pizzas. It is the most time consuming part of the pizza making process because it takes time to cook off all the extra liquid, so, knowing this I make it in bulk so I can satisfy my pizza cravings pretty instantly. You want to cook off all the extra liquid, this is important because if it’s too runny, you’ll just end up with a soggy pizza crust. ***

Pizza dough, ingredients: (makes 2 pizzas, I can eat a whole on by myself, but I’m a champion eater, so really this can serve 3 people)
– 45g brown rice flour
– 50g buckwheat flour
– 45g sorghum flour
– 90g tapioca starch
– 1 tbs instant yeast
– 1 & 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp paprika
– 20g sugar
———-
– 60ml warm water
– 1 egg + 1 egg white
– 20ml olive oil

Pizza dough, directions:
1. combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Give them a quick whisk to combine, & then create a well in the centre.
2. place the water, eggs & oil in the well. fit your mixer with the dough hook attachment, & let it run until everything is thoroughly combined.
3. remove the bowl from your mixer. Bring all the dough together to form a ball, lightly coat with olive it & place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with clingfilm & place in a warm place to rise for 1 to 3 hours.

Pizza toppings, ingredients: (this is just what I like, you can top it with anything you like!)
– 200g cheddar
– 200g mozzarella
– 1 sweet red pepper
– 1 small red onion
– 5 button mushrooms
– 4 strips of bacon
– a handful of frozen spinach
– 2 eggs
– 1 tomato

Pizza assembly, directions:
1. cut 2 round pieces of parchment paper the same size as your pizza stone. Place your pizza stone in the oven & preheat the oven to 250C
2. cut all your vegetables & bacon to the desired sizes you want. I like long, thin strips, but that’s just my personal preference.
3. take one round of parchment paper, dust with flour (any of the above flours will work). Place had of your pizza dough in the centre, dust with more flour & roll out to fit the size of the parchment.
4. cover the dough with a generously heaped spoon of sauce & spread it evenly bringing it to all the edges. Lightly drizzle with olive oil.
5. begin to pile on all of your toppings (except the egg if you choose to add it).
6. once the oven has reached temperature, transfer the pizza onto your pizza stone (along with the parchment) & bake for 12 minutes. At 12 minutes, add the egg to the centre of your pizza & bake for another 3. If you don’t want an egg on your pizza, just bake the whole thing for 15 minutes.
***TIP: I know an egg on your pizza sounds weird, but trust me, it’s amazing. It’s cooked just long enough for the white to be completely cooked, but the yolk is still runny. Trust me, when you cut into the pizza & you can dip it in that yolk, it is heaven. ***

Diary, day twenty-eight

Beautiful sunny days call for good music. A few days ago I couldn’t get enough of Hall & Oates. Today, I have this spinning around in my head

It was a gorgeous sunny day too. Nothing better than Greece in the spring sun. I also had a really good day trying to get the first part of my kickstarter video recorded. I say “try” because we didn’t actually manage to do it. Turns out there was too much ambient noise in the background that was distracting, & we didn’t have an external mic. We did use the time to set up & try & figure out location & how to shoot it.

Looking at the test shots, I’m happy. We figured out that if my videographer asks me questions, then I can talk about the project naturally without sounding forced or rehearsed. I think that’s so important. I loved my first video, but it was stiff… & more importantly, I was awkward. I hate feeling like I’m talking at people. Any way. He’s getting a mic sorted & we’re going to try again on Thursday. After that, we have a lunch dat to set up & also recording of the prep. I’m excited for this video.

Can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been working on! In the mean time, watch out… tomorrow is pizza day. The video looks comic because it’s all in fast-forward so that I could condense it down into less than five minutes (be honest, anything longer than that & your focus dwindles), but I’m happy with it.

Diary, day twenty-seven

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I’ve always looked at GoPro cameras in the shops & thought they were pretty nifty. Of course, I’m not much of a sports enthusiast so i could never justify buying on, but that didn’t mean that the camera enthusiast in me didn’t lust after them just a tiny bit all the same.

Now I find myself living with someone who owns a GoPro. Problem solved. I don’t have to justify the expense, it’s just part of my beautiful little collection. It looks sweet & obscure next to some of the vintage models I have hanging out on the shelf. Still needed an excuse to try one though.

Did I tell you that the other afternoon I was laying in bed attempting to take a nap when I thought about whether or not I could successfully use a GoPro for the cooking videos? Well, I was. I even did a little research on google & it seems that I’m not the first person to have thought of the idea. Go figure. Actually, I’m not surprised, it’s a good idea, of course it’s been done.

Well, seeing as I didn’t eat the pizza I had planned to eat yesterday, I figured I would go ahead & make it today. After all, if I left that dough rising any longer it would turn into a sourdough…. & I’m not sure if that’s a level of flavour I want to add to my pizza just yet. Although it is worth storing in my memory bank to try & experiment with at a later date.

Any way, I hooked it up & with some minor tinkering was able to figure it out. I think it went well. It recorded much more of my kitchen than I had anticipated, but that’s ok. I’m going to play with the footage later & see if there’s a cooking tutorial in it for Wednesday.

Happy Monday everyone!

Diary, day twenty-six

Lazy Sundays!

It was supposed to be my pizza day. I had the whole prep done, the dough rising, my appetite was growing…..

& instead I went for a coffee in Kifissia which turned into a couple of cold amarettos.

The summer sunshine was intoxicating. The heat on my skin. Good company. Plenty of laughter. Sometimes, just enjoying the weather is all you need.

What I’m trying to say is, there was no cooking. I ended up eating creamy yogurt with blueberries, strawberries & toasted pistachios. Not the big extravagant meal I had planned, but just as satisfying with absolutely no prep involved. I ate that watching action movies & I think of it as a very successful night!

Hope you’re enjoying the weather!

Diary, day twenty-five

11147110_10152919895975208_209174771631641227_nI remember the last time I made moussaka. Well, if I’m being honest, I didn’t so much as make it, as watch my mother make it. I was 15, living in London, in Knightsbridge to be exact… & my best friend Taynor was coming over for dinner. I remember my bedroom was about the size of a shoebox, & thinking that my mother had made us enough food to last all week. Then again, I always managed to forget how much Taynor could eat. My mum & I consumed 1/3 of the baking dish, & Taynor ate the other 2/3s by himself.

Man could that guy eat. Thin, tall, long dark hair, & he could put away food better than a competitive eater.

It’s funny the things you can remember.

Today I’m venturing on making moussaka for the first time in 14 years. Keep in mind, I didn’t actually make it back then either. Sure, I’ve eaten it a bunch of times over those many, many years, but for some reason I was just never compelled to make the dish myself.

I also have to confess that whilst I know the basic concept of what compiles a good moussaka, I’m kind of winging it. Seriously, I know there’s mince meat, béchamel & aubergines. Aside from that, not a clue.

If it turns out alright I’ll attempt to post a recipe tomorrow… although maybe that’s not such a good idea. I can only give quantities for a few of the ingredients, the rest I kind of just eyeballed.

Wish me luck!

Diary, day twenty-four

Dealing with taxes is stressful enough. Having to deal with the Greek tax office? Beyond stressful. You walk out of there after two hours of arguing, & you’ve accomplished nothing… except more paper work & the promise that you’ll be throwing away another two hours in the very near future.

What I’m trying to say, is, it can suck all the creativity out of a person.

I literally only made tuna salad for lunch… & that barely came together. Snacked on a 3 day old cinnamon roll, & treated myself to a blackberry & apple cider.

Yea. That happened.

Sorry this isn’t more eventful & entertaining.

Diary, day twenty-three

I’m finally seeing it. All this posting on a regular daily basis is pulling the creativity out of me. In the beginning I was struggling quite a bit. You all know how silent my blog has been the last two years… most of that time I was in a slump. Well, not in a slump, I mean, I still had genius ideas, they just weren’t coming out of me at any real speed or consistency. & worst of all, I kept using photography as an excuse not to publish anything. If I didn’t have a good picture, I wasn’t going to post. It was as simple as that.

Clearly, as you can see, I’ve decided to ease up on the photography side. Most of the pictures I’m posting are instagram snapshots that have way too many effects & filters over them. I don’t care. I mean, I do care, but I don’t care enough to prevent me from posting. The way I see it, if I just keep at it, eventually the photography will find me again & I’ll be producing images I’m proud of. For now, you get instagram & that’s ok.

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So back to the infusion of creativity that I’ve been receiving as of late. This little gem hit me the other day hanging laundry. A task that holds no real significance, except for the fact that I hang mine on the balcony, & my balcony just so happens to be in perfect alignment with the tops of two orange trees. So I’m sitting there, sorting through the pile of wet clothes & trying to match socks… & the intoxicating smell of orange blossoms keeps hitting my nose. Then something else hit me… these are edible! Ah yes, now we’re talking!

I kept fantasising about orange blossom ice-cream… but eventually my lack of patience won out & today I realised I couldn’t wait any more, I had to make something & it had to be done now. Right now. So really it was a question of what ingredients were lurking in my pantry… not much. Tomorrow is the laiki (vegetable market), which means today my cupboards & fridge are pretty barren & bare. Jam it is.

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This loot came out to about 90g (2 & 1/2 cups)… & took nearly 2 hours to collect! I would have gotten more, but I grabbed every open blossom within my reach… sometimes wondering if I was just going to topple off the balcony. Made me glad I live on the first floor. The strangest thing kept happening though, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the oranges that wouldn’t grow because I was thieving their flowers. I eventually got my mind off that trail of thought by telling myself no one eats these oranges any way… but then I managed to start thinking about the bees I was robbing of nectar. I mean seriously. I don’t know what sort of hippy high my mind was on, but those were the thoughts plaguing me. Clearly, I got over both issues, or you wouldn’t be looking at the bowl set before you.

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This is the fruit of my labour. I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to class it as a jelly (since I used the strained juice of the orange), or a preserve seeings as there are whole pieces of flower petal in there. Or is it a marmalade since it’s with orange? If anyone has the answer, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m also still in search of the long lost answer to why people strain the water from their soaking almonds & add new water to make almond milk. I mean, that just sounds counter productive. So if you have that answer, I’d appreciate it also.

Any way, back to this. The taste is good. Great. I think I miscalculated however. I’m used to bringing my jams & preserves up to 114C… for some reason, I’m now starting to think that a jelly should be cooked to a lower temperature. I’m going to need to do some research. Worse case scenario.. I just mix this into a bottle of gin & let it dissolve. NOW I’m talking!

Enough of my ranting. I’ll share the recipe when I answer the question to the conundrum I’ve just presented myself.

Diary, day twenty-two

cover image

My first youtube video where instead of talking, I actually show you something…. (& not talking at all)

& I completely blew it.

I should have known it was going to go this way. The gods of baking were against me from the beginning. This morning just as I was ready & all set up, my laptop died (as you know, I use my laptop as my video camera), & of course, of COURSE, I couldn’t get it to charge. So precious time with perfect lighting was slowly ticking away… & my cinnamon roll dough was still rising.

Now of course, my next dilemma is I decided to pre-mix the filling… instead of what I usually do which is to spread the butter over the dough & the dust the surface with the cinnamon, sugar & xanthan (yes, I add it to keep the filling in place so it doesn’t ooze out)… & it turned into a thick glob. Guess who’s out of butter & can’t make any more filling!?!?! Yea, you guessed it. Me. I had to pipe it onto the dough instead (as you’ll see in the video & you’re probably going “WHY?!?!”)

Too late to back out now. So the lighting is off. The rolls don’t have a nice even spread. I couldn’t get them to cut into round shapes. I mean, my skills as a chef look as amateur as my ability to make a video.

I’m ashamed. My head is hung low. I’m determined to show you my failings though. Learn from my mistakes. Yada yada yada

Let’s not even get into a debate about my ability to use iMovie to piece it all together….

Any way, I’m putting it out there for the world to see. I’ve decided that it’s a learning experience. Here is the recipe shown in the video. I made some tweaks, such as using pistachios instead of almonds (which I list in the recipe), it makes the dough green which isn’t that visually appealing, but man does it take good.

Ingredients, dough: (makes 16)
– 50g sugar
– 250g raw, blanched almonds (or raw pistachios)
– 250g buttermilk
————–
– 1 tsp powdered gelatin
– 60ml cold water
————–
– 1 tbs instant yeast
– 110g oat flour
– 200g tapioca starch
– 125g potato starch
– 1 tsp xanthan gum
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
– 30g unsalted butter, melted
– 2 large egg whites
– 1 tsp vanilla

Directions, dough:
1. combine the sugar & pistachios in your blender or food processor & process until fine. Add the buttermilk & continue to process until it is a smooth paste. Set aside.
2. In a small, microwave safe bowl, place the gelatine & cold water & put it in the fridge. Allow it 10 minutes to bloom. Once bloomed, microwave in 10 second bursts until all the gelatine has dissolved. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add all the remaining ingredients as well as the gelatine mix & pistachio paste. Use a dough hook or a K beater & mix until thoroughly combined. Remove the beater & wrap the bowl tightly in clingfilm. Leave in a warm place & allow to rise for 12 to 24 hours.
4. Once risen, cut a pieces of parchment paper approx. 40cm x 50cm. Dust with oat flour & transfer your dough onto the parchment. Roll the dough out to the size of the parchment.

Ingredients, filling:
– 60g unsalted butter, melted
– 2 tbs ground cinnamon
– 50g brown sugar
– 1 tsp xanthan gum
– zest of 1 orange

Directions, filling:
1. pre-heat the oven to 50C
1. brush the rolled out dough with the butter until it has a nice even coating.
2. combine the cinnamon, brown sugar, orange zest & xanthan gum together & then sprinkle it evenly across the dough, on top of the butter.
3. pick up one edge of the dough (the length closest to you) & fold over about 1cm onto itself. Continue to lift the edge of the parchment to encourage the dough to roll into a long tube & then cut into 12 to 16 slices.
4. place your rolls in a large baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper. Wrap your baking dish tightly with cling film & place it in the oven on the centre rack. Place a pot of boiling water on the bottom of the oven & allow the rolls to rise for an hour. The steam from the water & the heat from the oven should be plenty.
5. remove the rolls from the oven when they are double in size & remove the cling film,  pre-heat the oven to 175C. Place the rolls back into the oven & bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Ingredients, glaze:
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 40g unsalted butter, melted
– 45ml buttermilk
– 250g icing sugar

Directions, glaze:
1. place all the ingredients in a bowl & beat with a mixer to combine. Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls as soon as they emerge from the oven. Allow them to cool slightly before eating!