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Bread Bounty

19 Jan


The aroma of freshly baked bread is one of the most incredible smells, especially if you’ve baked it yourself. Having had a go at a few of James Morton’s Brilliant Bread recipes with mixed success, I was really excited to attend the day breadmaking class at Real Patisserrie in Brighton, an amazing cafe/bakery that make the best fruit danish.

Using a sour dough starter, we made focaccia loaves, rye sour dough, white rolls and baguettes, and learnt all the kneading, proving, dusting techniques of a professional. We also had a tour of the kitchens and learnt all about the running of a successful bakery.

Coming away at the end of the day with new bread-making skills, the mystery of sour dough starters revealed – and a little pot of starter to make our own with, and a bag full to the brim of warm bread, was just incredible.

x Loulou

An Italian Christmas

20 Dec

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This year, my work celebrated Christmas by cooking up an Italian feast. We took part in a one day Italian cookery class at Cucina Caldesi, the cookery school attached to Caffe Caldesi in Marylebone. Arriving to the school, down an old cobbled street, felt like stepping into a Christmas carol – the kitchen was strewn with boughs of holy and ivy, nuts and dried oranges.

We were taught how to make fresh tortelli with two types of fillings, stuffed courgettes, pistachio-crusted baked salmon and a dessert of orange and polenta cake, served with baked figs. Once all the hard work in the kitchen was over, we sat down and enjoyed our meal together.

Here’s hoping for a pasta maker in a Pick Me Up stocking.

x Loulou

Happy Birthday, yeah?

10 Dec

For a girl who loves cake – with turrets, please. Happy Birthday, yeah?

x Loulou

A Passionate Affair

14 Nov

Move over lemon curd, there is a new preserve in town. We’re not sure how it happened, after the first slice of toast topped with The Bay Tree Passion Fruit Curd, Pick Me Up thought hmm this is nice, but then the second quickly followed…and the third… and then there may have been some spooning directly from the jar to mouth and then sponge cakes had to be made purely so the king of curds could be folded through cream and sandwiched in the middle…sigh.  Passion Fruit Curd + Pick Me Up = True Love Forever.

But then the jar was empty.

Dark times followed.

A quest for a new jar sent Pick Me Up to Devon. Yes, Devon*, and all was right with the world again. It is amazing, but you probably wouldn’t like it. Especially not in the middle of a sponge cake. Or even folded through whipped cream and mixed with broken meringues.

Ellie

*Ok this was not the sole reason for the trip to Devon. But nearly.

Bruschetta

13 Aug

Bruschetta is one staple lunchtime treat that has appeared on our plates all summer, in various forms. It makes a simple, thrown-together summertime lunch; toasted slices of fresh bread are scraped with a garlic clove, then topped with a delightful mix of cherry tomatoes, capers, basil, prosciutto, a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon. Another popular variation involves a combination of smashed avocado, chilli, garlic and lemon. Delicious.

I’m already thinking of ways to adapt this into a hearty autumnal snack – topped with a warm chilli or crispy pancetta and chestnuts, perhaps.

X Loulou

Quesadillas

14 Jul

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Were it not for the fact that we were ravenously hungry and keen to get back out in the Sunday sun, I would have photographed the delicious broad bean, pea and new potato quesadillas that we rustled up this afternoon. A photograph from the recipe book, Thomasina Miers of Wahaca’s Mexican at Home, will have to suffice until next time…

To make, tortillas are half-filled with a cheesy mixture – onion, garlic, green chilli, crushed new potatoes, broad beans, peas, tarragon, mint, lime juice and feta – and then folded in half and fried or griddled until lightly toasted on the outside. To serve, the quesadilla’s are quartered and eaten with homemade salsa, guacamole and a green salad.

Ours were all the more tasty due to the proud inclusion of homegrown legumes.

x Loulou

When Life Gives You Lemons

12 Jul

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At Pick Me Up we love a bit of women power. Watching the incredible mini series Mildred Pierce strarring Kate Winslett (who we’ve frankly loved ever since seeing Titanic at an impressionable age), got us a more than a little inspired. Ok Mildred has more than her fair share of troubles to contend with (cheating husband, bratty daughter, dying daughter, another cheating husband, the Depression, a corporate coup…) but she finds out what she is good at and enjoys and builds a successful business from the ground up. So she might not end up rich with a happy family at the end but her talent and resourcefulness remains. And the lemon meringue pies look amazing. So we are taking our life lemons and making some pie (and fresh lemonade).

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Ellie

Layer Cake

21 Jun

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Laced with cream, strawberries and pomegranate seeds, this four-layer victoria sponge answered the cries in my office for something especially sweet and summery to celebrate the solstice this week.

x Loulou

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Cheeeeeese!

9 May

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We generally try to eat pretty healthily here at Pick Me Up but on some occasions are happy to acknowledge that only cheese will do. Not least because it allows us to run through all the cheese jokes we know (there are a lot and unfortunately some of us ahem forget the actual jokes and can only remember the punch lines – importantly we still find ourselves hilarious). A whole baked camembert has got to be one of the most indulgent ways to eat cheese and is a lot easier than making fondu. We stuck a couple of cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme in the top of out camembert before baking it in the oven until runny. Then dipped toasted baguette, chorizo, ham…whatever else we had lying around into the delicious melted cheese.

Ellie

Elderflower Fairy Cakes

5 Mar

A glimpse of spring sunshine has got me yearning for more today. As we turn down the heating at Pick Me Up HQ and try not to get too carried away discarding winter layers, we are officially starting the countdown to warmer times with the taste of English summer in a fairy cake. Evoking sunlit hedgerows, garden parties and pretty picnics, the delicate flavour of the elderflower sponge is ramped up by lashings of elderflower icing with a zing of lemon.

Cream together 4oz of butter with 4oz caster sugar, beat in 2 eggs then fold in 4oz self-raising flour. Finally, stir in 3 tbsp Elderflower cordial (I use Belvoir Elderflower cordial as the bottles are so pretty). Divide the mixture into 12 fairy cake cases in a fairy cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees / gas mark 4 for 12-14 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Leave to cool.

For the icing, cream together 2 tbsp Elderflower cordial, 1 tsp Lemon juice, 8oz icing sugar and 4oz butter. Spread generously on to the fairy cakes and top with sugar flowers and mint leaves.

Ellie

Lamb Tagine

3 Mar

Yesterday, by a twist of fate – a diverted bus journey followed by a long walk home – we spotted this beautiful tagine sitting in the window of a charity shop and took it home with us. This afternoon, Grace and I picked out a recipe to christen the tagine with – slow cooked lamb with preserved lemons, green olives and ras el hanout.

Grace did the preparation: browning diced lamb in a pan with a chopped onion, garlic cloves, ground ginger, turmeric and ras el hanout. Then I was up (I took over so that Grace could dedicate her full attention to the North London Derby). I transferred the lamb into the tagine, added the flesh of a preserved lemon, topped it up with water and placed it in the oven on a very low heat for two hours. The conical shape of the lid is designed to keep all the moisture in and so, like a stew or casserole, the longer you cook a tagine, the better, as the lamb gets more and more tender and the flavours become more and more intense. After two hours, I added the skin of the preserved lemon, a little more water, and a handful of green olives, and returned the tagine to the oven for another hour or so.

When the returning football fans could wait no longer and the kitchen was filled with the most delicious smells, we served the tagine on a bed of couscous, topped with a little parsley, with a green salad on the side.

x Loulou

Goulash Soup of Joy

21 Feb

On a wintry citybreak to Prague, I tried the tastiest goulash soup. Served in a bread roll bowl, this warm, spicy soup was the perfect reviver after a bitterly cold walk around the beautifully frosted castle district.

On this chilly February night, I’m attempting to recreate that cosy feeling of tucking into a hearty bowl of paprika joy. Here’s my recipe (roll bowl optional):

In a thick-bottomed pan, brown 500g braising steak, chopped into chunks. Add an onion, 2 potatoes, 2 carrots, a red pepper and celery sticks, all chopped into chunks, and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Add a couple of bay leaves, 1 litre beef stock, a tablespoon of tomato puree and 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika (we brought a cute little bag back from Prague). Let the pan simmer for as long as you can last, about an hour, or until the beef is soft. Garnish with a sprig of parsley, a dollop of creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon or lime.

x Loulou

Bakewell

26 Jan

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Inspired by this week’s Great Comic Relief Bake Off, a reinterpretation of the bakewell tart in cake form. The combination of almond and flour in the sponge keeps it light but moist.  Sandwiched together with a pippy raspberry jam in the middle and flaked almonds and glace icing drizzled on the top. Delish.

Ellie

Uncle Fred is 85!

9 Nov

Happy Birthday Uncle Fred

X Loulou

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