Meet Teresa Baranowski

Here in Britain things have moved on from the days of Fanny Craddock.  Cooking has become sexy, both with men and women.  The guys we are spoiled for choice when it comes to home-cooked loveliness.

First there is the slightly dreamy (ok, dippy) Sophie Dahl.  Lovely girl, nice curves, gorgeous smile, but somehow lacking sizzle.

The new girl on the block is Lorraine Pascale.  Gorgeous looking and great at baking, she is the kind of girl who would really impress your mum.

But the runaway winner has to be the mother of all Domestic Godesses, Nigella Lawson.  Somehow her raven hair and endless flirting with the camera just captivates us.

But the latest sexy chef is one  who may knock the others clean off the radar.  You have met blondes and brunettes so now meet the flame haired vixen.

Teresa Baranowski hails from Charlotte, North Carolina, and is not your typical housewife.  She trained as a figure skater before forging a successful career in Healthcare.  Sadly no photo of her in the nurses outfit is available at this time.  She later went on to become the star of several independent movies and a vocalist.  But she is also a wife and mother so has to devote more time to domestic happiness.

Has cooking always been your passion in life?

Yes, I have always had a passion for cooking.  However I only recently had the time to practice it.

What is your favourite thing to cook for the man in your life?

Most recently, it has been Spaghetti Carbonara. So rich and creamy…

Is cooking a big part of seduction?

Certainly! There’s something very seductive about feeding someone, whether with one’s own hands or by making them a meal.

Does America need to eat healthier?

We certainly need to make an effort towards more healthy eating.

What are you planning on doing next?

Not entirely sure, other than my new column at gunaxin.com. I always have ideas floating around, but with my growing family, one has to have priorities.

You can follow Teresa and learn more about her on Twitter


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Yorkshire Tea takes on America

Everybody knows Yorkshire Tea is the best in the world.  Of course it is, it is what we do best apart from queue and complain.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic it is very hard to get decent tea.  I mean they have Twinings if you are lucky and they call that real tea.  Pah!

So one Yorkshireman, little Urn saddled his horse (well converted ice cream truck) and went to seek his fortunes way out west.

He has spread the word of Yorkshire’s finest product far and wide, down to Miami and straight through to Las Vegas.  In Nevada he had a special task as they have the hardest water in America.  Luckily he had on hand some special Yorkshire tea bags designed for hard water areas.  By all accounts it was the best brew they had in ages.  But the Americans still think Brew means a beer.  There are some things you can’t teach them.

To follow Urn’s ongoing travels check out their facebook page

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Cheaper eating

Welcome to February boys and girls.  We’re all still paying off Christmas and now a whole lot of us are unemployed or under employed.  What I am getting at is money is short.

So what can we do?  We do what we, as humans, have always done.  We forage for food where we can.  A lot of it is going on, and with the revolution of social networking, it is becoming more co-ordinated.  Not only that, it is part of a wider network of cooks and volunteers who have been educating the growing numbers of poor in how to sustain themselves cheaply.

Using Google maps they can pinpoint an apple tree in, for example, Moseley down to the last leaf.  They can network volunteers, and co-ordinate pickers, bags and boxes, ladders and transport.  Re-distributed fruit is then either eaten fresh or used in preserves and pickles.

So I had a look at their main press release (of sorts)  it reads:

Abundance Birmingham is a voluntary run project that collects and distributes soft fruits that grow unharvested around our city on trees and bushes in both public and private spaces.

Fruit is distributed to groups, volunteers and the local community.  Damaged fruits are turned into juice, preserves, jams and chutneys. Any money raised is put back into the project to help with running costs. We are also creating a detailed reference map of Birmingham with location and tree information for future harvests.

As part of the project we aim to raise awareness of the great abundance of local tasty and healthy food that is available for everyone and for free!

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Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are a part of any good cooked breakfast, and they are a much healthier alternative to fried or scrambled.  It is easier to show how in a video than it is in pictures so here goes.  Roll VT Bob:

Hope you enjoy them.

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Canadian Spotted Dick

Winter just seems to refuse to go away this year, so we can feel less guilty about the calories and go mad on the stodge.  Let’s face it, we need the body fat for insulation!

Plus we are all flat broke so we need something pretty cheap to make.  With that in mind I made my first Spotted Dick pudding.  It wasn’t bad, but I felt it could be tweaked a bit to make something a bit more original.  So I added Apple and Maple flavours for a change.

So for this recipe we will need:

Flour

Suet

Water

Raisins

Apple (grated, sauteed or if you are rushed and on a budget, canned fruit pie filling)

Maple Syrup

Take a large mixing bowl and a fork.  Fill the bottom with two cups of flour and one third of a cup of suet.  Add the tin of apple, or the equivalent of a cup.  Add two large shots of maple syrup.  Add a cup of raisins.  Use the fork to stir the mixture very well together, really go to work on it, get it all together.  If the mixture looks too moist, add more flour.  Too dry?  Add water.  Avoid adding more suet or the thing will grow in the pan like a bad B-movie!

Once you have a nice big ball take a sheet of cling film (or shrink wrap) and place it on a flat surface.  Using your hands or two big spoons, place the ball on to the cling film.  Wrap the cling film around the ball and tie up the ends.  Take a second piece of cling film and wrap it again, from another angle, so the ball is completely covered.

For the next bit we will be using a steamer pan.  Please exercise caution when using these pans as steam burns are painful and can leave nasty blisters and scars.  Use a cloth or oven gloves to remove lid.

Take a steamer, add boiling water to the bottom of the pan, and add the top bit with the holes (sorry, I don’t know what you call it!).  Heat the water at 190 degrees celcius.

Place the pudding ball into the steamer and cover.  Leave it all to steam for about 40 minutes.  Check on it from time to time to make sure the pan isn’t burning itself dry.  The pudding edge will gradually look more brown.  After 40 minutes remove the pudding (using gloves) and place it on a plate to cool.  Only remove the cling film when the pudding has cooled down a lot.  And even then use scissors to open it and remove the cling film.

And there you have it, a nice, reasonably cheap, stodgy winters pudding.  Serve on it’s own or with creme fresh, cream or custard.

Enjoy!

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Grab a Pub Lunch with Matt Waldram

There is no getting away from the fact that the Great British Pub is in serious trouble, with a seemingly unending stream of closures hitting the headlines daily.

Luckily one man thinks they are still of some value.  Matt Waldram has the idea of a new TV talk show set within this great British establishment.  After all they have the space, comfy seats, and plenty to drink.

Matt Waldram likes a pint and a chat.

Pub lunches have been improving in recent years.  With the advent of the smoking ban pubs have had to revamp themselves more as a place to eat than a place to drink.  The menu has had to stretch further than the traditional Ploughman’s lunch and frozen Lasagne.  The gastro-pub is very much on the rise.

Matt has already signed his first guest, Leigh Dovey, the writer and director of the Fallow Field.  This recent UK independent production has won over reviewers with it’s stunning cinematography of the Surrey countryside.

So I grabbed Matt for a quick pint and a chat:

Do you think this show will do something to attract people back into the pubs?

Well there is definitely a chance that it could remind people of just how many nice pubs there are in this country.  Although the pubs aren’t necessarily the stars of the show, they’re certainly an integral part; you can’t have a pub lunch with no pub.  Well you could, but it would just be lunch.  And I bet it would be crap.

Will this show be a big boost for the proprietors of the venues?

I hope it will.  That’s certainly the tale we’re telling them anyway.  What’s great about this show is that we will absolutely not be discriminating in terms of the venues we choose.  There’s just as good a chance that we’ll be filming in a large ‘chain’ pub as there is of us rocking up in some gloomy old tavern in the middle of a forest.  As long as the food and drink is good we’ll be there.  Of course there will be a little bit of info about the pub at some point in the episode, and we plan to push some of the geosocial networking stuff that’s so prevalent right now, so people who decide to follow the show will know where we’re filming.  Who knows, if they’re nearby they might come down and heckle us.

They’d better not do though.

What is your favourite pub meal?

Easy.  Sausage and Mash.  It’s my comfort blanket; I always go in with good intentions – ‘this time I’ll try something new’ – but it’s always there in the centre of the menu.  If there’s nothing else worth having on a pub menu, you can almost guarantee that bangers and mash are knocking about somewhere.

It’s a bit of a double-edged blade though; there’s nothing as painful as when somebody gets it wrong.  I feel violated and dirty if somebody serves up rubbish sausage and mash.  One day you’ll see me on Sky News behind a caption of ‘Breaking News: Man goes mental and stabs waiter with a fork’.

How will you raise the money for all of this?

Well we’re coming at this from a couple of angles.  Primarily we’re talking to established television production companies, selling them on the merits of the format and seeing if we can persuade them to commission a series.  We have a good idea of the sort of show this will be, and so we’re talking to the people who we think will want to make such a show.

At the same time we’re talking to some breweries to see if they’d be interested in a sponsorship arrangement of some kind.  We don’t necessarily want to enter into any sort of exclusivity situation, as that would negate from our ‘don’t discriminate against the dirty little pubs’ motto, but we’re always happy to negotiate.

Finally, we’re trying to raise some money ourselves.  I say ‘by ourselves’ but that’s a bit of a misnomer.  We’re having a dabble in the art of crowd-funding.  Which, in essence, means we’re asking complete strangers – beautiful, lovely, generous strangers – to donate money to our cause in exchange for non-monetary perks.  Different sums of money are rewarded with different perks, so somebody who donates $200 would expect something grander than a person who donates $15.  It’s all run through a company called IndieGoGo so it’s all very well managed and above board.

I’m not a huge fan of this whoring myself around lark, waving my arms and shouting ‘look at me’ and then asking people for money – it doesn’t sit right with me and I worry that people with whom I’ve built up a nice little network (on Twitter for example) will suddenly feel used and dirty.  I don’t like that.  But people have been so great, and the fact that anybody at all has contributed to our cause is just amazing.  People are amazing.
Have you any other confirmed guests?

As well as Leigh Dovey we have a  more, let’s say, ‘seasoned’ film and television producer, Steve Abbott, confirmed for our pilot episode.  Leigh has just been working hard on a gruelling festival season promoting his debut feature THE FALLOW FIELD.  Whilst people will know Steve as the BAFTA Nominated producer of beloved British movies such as AMERICAN FRIENDS, BRASSED OFF and the Oscar Winning A FISH CALLED WANDA, as well as his many beautiful television shows.

What’s great about Steve and Leigh is they both sit at opposite ends of a filmmaker’s spectrum, with Leigh being much more new to this world and Steve being very well-travelled.  Both have a lot to say, and both are really lovely, charming and funny guys.

We’re talking with two more people for the pilot episode, one is a well-loved British actor who has starred in some of the biggest movie franchises in modern history, and the other is a Director whose debut feature received critical acclaim throughout 2010 and who I can guarantee has some interesting stories.

I’ll let you know as soon as I confirm then.

What channel and what time are you aiming at? Daytime?

The shows would all be shot at daytime – lunchtime, obviously – but we’re not pitching this as a daytime television show.  We’re pushing for a late-evening slot.  The beauty of this format is that we really are letting the guests drive the conversation in each episode; we absolutely don’t want to censor them, and we won’t be able to achieve that on daytime television.

In terms of channels, we’re not especially fussy, as long as the show is treated right.  We have an idea of where we’d prefer to see it, of course, and there are channels that it almost certainly wouldn’t fit in with.  For example, I can’t see Playboy TV picking it up.  Sad as it makes me to admit that.
Who is your target audience?

Anybody who has a hero.  Surely by now we’ve all played the ‘here are my five ultimate dinner guests’ game.  Well this might actually get somebody close to that.  Okay it’s a long shot that we’re actually going to book your five people all on the same show, but we might get a couple of them, and we might hit the other three on subsequent shows.  You’ll get to see them in something close to a ‘normal’ setting and you’ll get this fairly unique fly-on-the-wall experience of what it would be like to be sat around a dinner table with, potentially, some of your heroes.

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Posted in Bars, Pubs and Clubs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pannetone Bread and Butter pudding

For christmas every year we seem to get given one of those boxed Italian sponge cakes with currants.  Pannetone as it is called, is actually rather good lightly toasted with a little butter.  But it also has one other use.

Bread and butter pudding is a British mainstay of the winter months, very thick and stodgy and leaves you feeling nicely full.  But I thought I would give it an Italian twist, and use Pannetone for the bread.

Quick update:  Now Christmas is behind us you can use the Hot Cross Fruit Loaf as a substitute.  Available in all good supermarkets.  And Waitrose.

So you need one large oven proof dish, like a lasagne dish, and one saucepan.

And the following:

One Pannetone

Three quarters of a pint of milk and cream, gently mixed

Three Amaretto biscuits

Two eggs

One whole slab of butter

One vanilla pod

Nutmeg

Cinnemon

Honey

Slice the Pannetone thickly into slices and place into the dish.  Slice the butter into nice equal pieces and slot them between bread slices.  Next break down the Amaretto biscuits in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle them lightly over the bread and butter.

Set a hob to 180 degrees.

To the pan, add half a pint of milk and half a pint of single cream.  Gently whisk together, don’t allow it to boil.  Crack and add the eggs.  Continue to whisk together for a minute until the yolk has broken up.  Add a tablespoon of honey, a pinch or two of cinnamon and a little grated nutmeg.  Now the dangerous bit.  On a chopping board take the vanilla pod and split it very carefully with the tip of the knife.  Scrape out the contents of the pod and place into the mixture.  Stir together for about five minutes, so the flavours have had time to mingle.

Very slowly and evenly pour the mixture over the bread and butter, making sure you soak it all, even the corners.  Cover the whole dish with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.

The next day set your oven to 180 degrees and bake for 40 minutes, checking from time to time that it is going just golden.  If it is blackening, reduce heat immediately.

Now take a look and make sure that the egg inside is completely cooked, it should have a few white bubbles along the edge.  If you feel the need to, check the middle with a knife.  If it looks runny inside, bake it a little further on a slightly lower heat.

Finally remove from the oven and allow to stand for about ten minutes.  Divide it into portions and serve, if you like with a little cream or custard.  The top side will be crispy and the bottom half should be nicely creamy.

So there you have it, an Anglo-Italian fusion dish.  Not bad for the Midlands eh?

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Chili Con Carne

This Great British favourite is one of those recipes that everyone likes to do differently, and everybody I know has their own secret ingredients.  Some like using melted chili chocolate, others swear by Scotch Bonnet chillies.  Some people produce bottles of authentic chili sauce they bought in the Caribbean over the summer.  I have a really simple ingredient that improves the flavour.  Time.

This recipe is designed to serve two people.

So we will need the following:

One large onion,

one punnet of mushrooms,

one red and one green or yellow pepper,

a pound and a half of good quality minced beef,

one tin of decent chopped tomatoes,

one tin of kidney beans,

two glasses of red wine,

a handful of grated cheese,

salsa sauce, oregano, crushed chillies, paprika, black pepper, salt, sugar, worcestershire sauce, or anything spicy that you can get your hands on.

Start by dicing up the onions and peppers and cut the mushrooms into chunky slices.  Remove mince from wrapper and open the tins of tomatoes and kidney beans.  Drain the salt water out of the tin of kidney beans.

Take a large wok. add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat gently.  Add one piece of diced onion.  As soon as it starts to sizzle, add all the diced onion.

Slowly stir the onion around the pan.  Keep it moving so it doesn’t burn, but occasionally spread it flat throughout the pan so it browns.  If you see any black bits, reduce the heat immediately and remove pan from the hob for two minutes.

As soon as the onion is brown, add the thickly sliced mushrooms.  These will soak up the excess oil.  Continue to stir and the mushrooms will cook and shrink quickly.

Add the peppers for colour, and continue to stir, as they cook.

Next add all the mincemeat and break it down with a spatula, so you don’t get any big chunks.  It should be nice and even.  Stir it in well until the mince  is completely brown.

Add your tomatoes and kidney beans.  Continue to stir and mingle all the ingredients and flavours.  Keep the tomato tin and half fill it with warm water.  That way you use up the rest of the tomato juice.  (Thanks, Nigella, for that one.  You sexy minx.)

That’s the basics, this is where it get’s personal.

Take two glasses of red wine (approx 175ml), add one to the pan.  The other one, you drink.  Cheers.

Add a sprinkle of salt, the same of sugar, a light dusting of black pepper, the same of paprika, oregano, a tablespoon and a half of crushed chillies, a tablespoon of salsa sauce and two tablespoons of worcestershire sauce.  Mix it all in well.

Reduce heat and allow to simmer.  Stir occasionally.  If it is drying up add some of the tomato-water.

Boil a kettle and add water to a separate saucepan.  Fill two cups with rice, about four-fifths full, and add to the boiling water.  Allow the rice to simmer for ten minutes.

While the rice is doing it’s thing, test the chili con carne.  Is it too sweet?  too salty?  too bland?  Add more spices, seasonings or sugar to suit.  In extremis I have known people to add brown sauce, marmite or ketchup.

Set your oven to 190 degrees centegrade.  Spoon the Chili into two oven-proof dishes and sprinkle with a handful of grated cheese.

Bake in the oven for five or six minutes.

Meanwhile drain the rice of the water.  Take a yoghurt pot and spoon the rice into the pot, packing it down hard.  Carefully press the pot onto an overturned plate, turn it back over, and remove pot carefully.  Hopefully you will have a nicely sculpted rice mountain.

Remove the chili from the oven using a thick cloth and place it on the plate next to the rice.  For garnish, add a sprinkle of paprika to both.  You may also serve with tortilla chips, but these are an optional extra.

Chili con Carne always tastes better the next day, so don’t throw away any that you have left in the pan.  Spoon it into a container and allow to cool on a high shelf in the fridge.  Have it on a jacket potato or in a faijita.

Hope you enjoy it!

The hottest chili I ever had was the Rufus Valdez chili in Malia, Crete.  It contained more scotch bonnet chilies than I have ever seen.  My tongue was numb for hours!

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Hot Chocolate Disaster Area

Well normally I am pretty handy in the kitchen, it is one thing that I pride myself on.  But I do have the odd day when my brain just goes off on a tangent and comes up with crazy unworkable plans.  This was one of those days.

In honour of General Winter, who has been rather busy of late, I decided to make the Ultimate Hot Chocolate (trademark)!  Basically it would be Quality Street in a mug.

Well I had about three different types of chocolate powder cluttering up my cupboards so I decided to use them all up on a project.

In a Heston Blumenthal moment I decided to layer three different types of hot chocolate in layers in the same latte glass.  So therefore I would need three separate saucepans to mix them in.  That was my first mistake.

For the bottom layer I would be using Ciobar, Italian hot chocolate that is served really thick.  You find it in Italian ski resorts such as Courmeyer.  Into this I melted two pieces of Terrys Chocolate Orange.  I stirred it well and brought it to the boil.

For the middle layer I used Spanish hot chocolate, which is rich and dark.  I mixed it with milk and a cap-full of butterscotch schnapps.  Because it had to be of intermediate thickness I made a solution of cornflower and water of medium thickness and added this.  It gave it the consistancy of gravy.

For the third and final layer I decided to go with an Irish theme.  Butler’s Chocolates have made delicious hot chocolate and served it in their outlets for years.  My better half loves the white chocolate variant.  It comes in solid form and you have to melt it in a pan with milk.  The shop-bought form is in fact much better.  Anyway into mine I added a minature of baileys that I happened to have handy.

By this time the other two pans were starting to burn so I very quickly had to serve up.  I filled the glass one quarter full with the Italian hot chocolate.

Then, using a barspoon, I added a layer of spanish hot chocolate, again, one quarter full.

Thirdly I slowly poured in the Irish hot chocolate.  It wasn’t quite layering as well as I thought but never mind.

Finally I added a topping of canned cream and decorated with Amaretto biscuits and sweeties.

How did it taste?  Well, very, very sweet.  The flavours had layered, but only into two layers.  It looked good though.  At least my photography skills are coming on.

Then I had to wash up.  Oh.  My. God.  Nothing, no amount of fairy liquid or hot water would remove the burnt chocolate from the bottom of the pans.  It just stuck like a carpet of brown limpets.

In the end, after soaking them in scolding hot water and fairy liquid for over an hour it started to come off.  It took two reams of wire wool, more fairy and a lot of elbow work, but finally the metal base began to show itself.  I will never, ever make this again.  But hey, it was a fun afternoon.

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Mulled Wine

There is nothing better than decorating your Christmas tree with the aroma of warm, soothing Mulled wine filling the room.

Mulled wine has been around for centuries and is generally considered to be a continental invention. It is very popular in Germany and the Alps, especially during the festive season. It is an occasional drink, in that it is meant to be drunk by many people at once. Usually it is rolled out at parties and civic receptions.

So what the hell is it and how do you make it? Mulled is German for mixed, so basically it is red wine mixed with base alcohol and many fruit and liquor flavours.

The following is my guide to making Mulled wine. Note the word guide here, as opposed to recipe. I have never made this in the same way twice.

You will need one large saucepan, into which you must add:

One bottle of good red wine. I am using Mavrodaphne Red Wine of Patras Greece as it is nice and thick and sweet. Perfect for something like this.

100 ml base spirit, on this occasion I am using Williams Chase Gin.

15 ml of up to four liquors. Anything fruity, like peach schnapps, creme de cassis or apricot brandy works fine. Never include anything creamy, coffee or mint flavour.

The juice of two large oranges and two lemons. Don’t through away the husks, lob those in the pan too.

Half a spring of ginger, chopped into small cubes.

One large carton (approx 500 ml) of cranberry juice. Orange juice, or apple juice can alternatively be used.

Two large cinnamon sticks, each snapped in two.

One lemon or orange chopped into wedges. Stud the wedges with cloves by gently pushing them into the flesh of the fruit. You can also add fresh cranberries or soft fruit to the pan, if you have any.

Add one tablespoon of honey or brown sugar.

Gently heat the mix, for approximately 12 hours. Taste occasionally. If it is too sweet add lemon juice or margarita mix. If it is too sour add honey or more sweet fruit. Then allow the Mulled Wine to cool. Reheat your Mulled Wine an hour before you need it. Never allow it to boil, it will ruin the delicate flavour.

To serve, I normally ladle the Mulled Wine into a Latte glass. However the Italians invented a wonderful vessel known as the cup of friendship. As you can see each person gets their own spout to drink out of a communal cup. They like to fill it with grappa or coffee and pass it around at parties. However it is also ideal for Mulled Wine

So enjoy this seasonal cocktail, a true mix of European cultures.

Disclaimer: Never include in your Mulled wine any of the following – industrial alcohol, absinthe, or potcheen. I know people have in the past and it landed them in hospital.

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Posted in Cocktails | Tagged | 6 Comments