2010 in review – year of chocolate, tortillas and courgettes

The WordPress fairies reminded me of the New Year by sending a little summary of how this blog fared in 2010. They offered to put it up as a post, but the stats don’t seem to tell the story of the year very well, so I’m going to have a go myself.

Mexico

The year kicked off in Mexico, where we went for a holiday in February while our back garden was being renovated.

It was a great break, and the best food was eaten on the beach, with pelicans diving in front of us. Tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a seriously underrated diet. When summer and my birthday arrived, I got hold of Thomasina Miers’ Mexican Food Made Simple and had a go at tacos at home. The main problem seems to be finding good tortillas in the UK – although apparently Thomasina is working on that problem too. I also bought masa harina this year, but haven’t found the time to try making my own tortillas yet. A project for 2011 instead.

Eating out

It seems that there has been more eating out this year – maybe having a new job, and a bit more time has helped. I also have access to a huge amount of great lunch food in my new location. Following the mexican theme, I have had many good burritos this year, but Daddy Donkey is still the favourite. Konditor & Cook and Fleet River Bakery are other great lunch spots in EC4.

As far as restaurants go, I particularly enjoyed the vegetarian Vanilla Black, the all-booth, all-day dining at Bob Bob Ricard, traditional hotel dining at Hix at the Albermarle, the pizza bianca at Polpo, gelato from Gelupo and a family dinner at Middlethorpe Hall in Yorkshire.

Chocolate

This has been a very chocolatey year, and I have found a whole new group of fellow twitterers to share this with. I saw demos by Paul A Young, William Curley, Micah Carr-Hill and Angus Thirlwell. All really inspirational and passionate people, who are really excited to be working with this strange material every day. The biggest eye-opener was probably William Curley’s raspberry ganache, made from just raspberry puree and melted chocolate.

I’ve tempered chocolate at home twice, with help from Katie at Matcha Chocolat, and made truffles and caramels. I even entered a brownie competition – and won even more chocolate!

I’m looking forward to trying lots more chocolate baking in 2011 with my stash, and maybe extending the repetoire beyond brownies…

Garden

This year is the first one in which I’ve had a proper garden, rather than narrow borders and pots. I took full advantage by planting a Rocket Garden, with tomatoes, beans, courgettes, chard, spinach, strawberries, lettuces and peas. I’ve learnt a lot about how the plot works, which I’m hoping to put into practice this year. I’ve also learnt that, despite good intentions, I just don’t pick or eat lettuce, so I should stop growing it.

The four courgette plants were very enthusiastic, giving a glut, as they always do (I saw in a seed catalogue today the words ‘heavy cropper’ next to a courgette variety, as if this was a good thing!). It did mean that I was able to make Clotilde’s eponymous Chocolate & Zucchini cake this year, which was really good, and will be coming out again.

Baking

Other baking adventures included making a lot more bread at home than I remember doing in previous years. I think this comes partly from finally adopting a more relaxed attitude to it, and an acceptance that using dried yeast, not massively wet dough and not kneading it is all fine, and even beneficial. For this, I have the wonderful Dan Lepard and also Azelia’s Kitchen to thank.

I also got to grips with macarons, caramels, many muffins as well as marmalade, jam and chutney.

Well, that’s about it for 2010. Further posts to come on my Christmas truffle making exploits, and plans and challenges for 2011. Happy New Year!

Published by

louise-marston

I’m Louise, and I’m a compulsive baker, cookbook hoarder and a bit of a food geek. I learnt to cook at home, and later at Tante Marie’s cooking school in San Francisco. With a science degree and a background in IT analysis, I like to understand why a recipe works, not just how to do it. Why the rules are there and when they can be broken.

4 thoughts on “2010 in review – year of chocolate, tortillas and courgettes

  1. You’re ahead of me experimenting with macarons! They have the mandatory little foot too. Hoping to tackle those this year.

    What loaf is it Louise? Is it wholemeal? I like the look of the crust, reminds me of my gran’s loaves.

  2. Macarons are tricky beasts, but very satisfying when you pull them off. I hear that Boy who Bakes, Edd Kimber (from the Great British Bake-off) is doing some masterclasses this year, so maybe keep an eye out for those.
    I think the loaf is part rye, but mostly white. To be honest, I can’t remember which recipe that was. It was baked in a pyrex dish, though, as in the NY Times no-knead recipe, which helps to give it that crust.

  3. Thought it had a darker flour in it.

    I’ve come across someone’s experimenting, trying different recipes of macarons including using an Italian meringue v. French meringue which was interesting reading:

    http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/search/label/Macarons

    I’m going to try first using the Roux brother’s recipe (the old guys…sorry mean Senior Roux!) I’ve always had pretty good luck with their recipes in the past and feel some sort of loyalty 🙂 but if I don’t have luck with that then I’m sure I’ll enjoy the process of finding out.

    Isn’t it funny just how they’ve exploded on the scene? The Roux Brother’s Patisserie book was the first time I came across the recipe and the book dates back to 1980’s…and it’s at the back in the Petit Fours section, very humble…now they are centre stage at gatherings!

    1. Hi Azelia,
      Yes, I read through the Humble Pie posts before doing mine. I think the trick is to get a really thick meringue going, and then try not to collapse it too much. It’s much easier to pipe the macarons if the mixture is still thick.
      You also need to make sure they stand to get the shiny tops. See also this one:
      http://he-eats.com/2010/08/16/speculoos-and-milk-chocolate-macarons/
      and this account of his masterclass:
      http://www.meemalee.com/2010/12/edd-kimbers-macaron-class-making-macs.html

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