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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Malteser meringues aren't for the faint hearted. Word.

I'm a girl. Technically I'm supposed to love chocolate. Well I just don't. I like it. A bit.

I can't eat a whole bar of chocolate, not ever. It makes me feel sick. I could eat a whole block of cheese, three packets of Starburst, a multipack of corn based snacks and drink a whole bottle of wine but a single chocolate bar? No. Which means that I have to do something with the vast amounts of chocolate knocking around the Onion household following the selection box frenzy that was Christmas.

So I started today. I stuck two fingers up at the January diet, fat free soup brigade and launched into some hefty baking involving a lot of sugar. And it felt good.

Sweet things allegedly release happy chemicals in the brain. If this is the case then these sticky, sweet meringue treats are the equivalent of all all night rave in a darkened warehouse. Be warned.

Malteser meringues with chocolate ganache and malteser cream

For the meringues.
4 organic egg whites
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar
teaspoon white wine vinegar
teaspoon vanilla extract
1 packet of Maltesers

For the chocolate ganache
100g good quality dark/plain chocolate
4 tbsp double cream

For the malteser cream
300ml double cream
1 pack maltesers

  • Preheat the oven to 140/gas mark 1
  • Lightly oil a flat baking tray, line with greaseproof paper and lightly oil the greaseproof as well.
  • In a very clean bowl whisk together the egg whites with the caster sugar until stiff. This usually takes at least 3 minutes
  • Add the icing sugar, vinegar and vanilla extract and whisk again for another 3o seconds or so until glossy.
  • Crush a packet of Maltersers in a bag with a rolling pin and then gently fold in to the meringue mixture.
  • Spoon onto the prepared baking sheets swirling around with the back of a spoon and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven and open the door, leaving it open for another 10 mins for the meringues to gently cool in the oven.
  • Carefully lift out the meringues to finish cooling on a rack
For the Ganache
Simmer some water in a pan with a heatproof bowl on top. Add 100g plain or dark chocolate stirring gently to melt.
Add 4 tablespoons of double cream and stir into the melted chocolate. Put to one side to cool slightly.

For the Malteser cream
Whip the cream until thick and add a packet of crushed maltesers.

Now all you have to do is sandwich the meringues together with the chocolate ganache and whipped malteser cream. And die happy. You little raver.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The best fried egg sandwich in the world......

My sister is five years older than me. The perfect age gap. A five year age gap as teenagers means you don't argue, not much. The older one is too concerned with 'older' stuff to bother fighting with the little sister and the little sister is trying too hard to impress the big sister to fight at all. Perfect. Having a sister five years older than me also meant that I looked up to her and thought that whatever she did was what I should do (apart from that dodgy perm in 1991). Some examples:

She loved Prince. A lot. She played his music. All the time. Which meant that I had to listen to it all the time. Which meant that I loved him too. Which was probably why I was the only 12 year old singing all the lyrics to 'Get Off' in the Youth Club disco without quite understanding the full meaning of what I was saying whilst wondering why the rampant 15 year old boy I had a crush on was suddenly so interested. Thanks Annie.

Drinking and smoking.
She was cool. Very cool. Her friends were in bands. She took me on magic mushroom picking outings (many hands make light work) before I even knew what magic mushrooms were. Our house became the house where her and all her trendy friends would hang out, eat pasta, drink wine and smoke Marlboro Lights when they were supposed to be in school. Which inevitably became what I wanted to do too and which sometimes, rarely but magically she let me join her and her gang. Cheers Annie.

Fried Egg sandwiches.
When I was 12 she went away with her friends (3 boys naturally) to Greece for a holiday. Instead of choosing a resort packed with drunken British teenagers vomiting all over the streets after drinking cocktails named after sex positions they chose a picturesque ancient village where they stayed in a whitewashed apartment, drank in authentic Greek bars and adopted a three legged dog. She came back beautiful and bronzed and talked me through the (censored) photographs. I was impressed by their apartment and wondered if they cooked there. It turned out the only thing they cooked in the apartment was Fried egg sandwiches. I had never eaten a fried egg sandwich and so to me, from that day on, Fried egg sandwiches became cool. In my twelve year old mind I didn't connect them to greasy spoons. I connected them with chic teenagers, drinking wine, smoking Marlboro Lights with an adopted three legged dog in a whitewashed Greek apartment in an ancient village. And I've loved them ever since. So look, it's not Michelin starred cookery here but I give you:

The perfect Fried egg sandwich

1 egg
2 slices of handcut bakery bread buttered with real butter
Some grated vintage cheddar
Sliced gherkin
Finely sliced red onion
Sweet chilli sauce
Thinly sliced tomato.

Butter the bread
Heat some vegetable oil and a small knob of butter in a frying pan and crack in the egg.
Fry until a little bit crispy underneath and then flip for 2 seconds so that no gloopy white remains.
Place fried egg on buttered bread and sprinkle the cheese on. (This is important, you want the cheese to slightly melt from the heat of the egg!)
Top with gherkin, sliced tomato and onion and pour a little drizzle of sweet chilli sauce over it.

So there you have it. The very best Fried egg sandwich in the world. Fact.

Don't thank me. Thank my sister.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

I love Christmas. A lot.

I have a slight issue with it being a finite time though. I find it difficult to deal with. It's a bit like a holiday romance. You keep trying not to fall in love but you can't help it. And then you realise it's too late, you've fallen in love and it's time to go home and you're at the airport crying into your pint of over priced warm lager. And deep down you know its over. Until next year.

This is how I feel about Christmas. I let myself fall in love with it every year. I get swept away with the twinkling lights, the rich food, the 80's movies and endless booze on tap. And every year I get hurt when it goes away for a whole other year. So rather than sit here and cry into my glass of Alka Seltzer I'll reminisce. I'll remember the good times. In no particular order:

Christmas on vinyl.
Mr Onion came back from town with a haul of Christmas records. Tijuana Christmas, Band Aid, Wham, Frank Sinatra, Elvis sings Christmas. Within hours my lovely shop neighbour 'Guitar shop John' had set up a record player and oversized amp in the corner of Onion. Ah, Christmas had arrived.

Stalbridge Christmas.
I am blessed. Not only are my friends amazing in most ways, they also know how to cook, eat, drink and be merry. We get together at Cheese man's house every Christmas for an orgy of food, wine and any other booze we can get our greasy paws on. Last year it was Goose and so much booze that many of us barely remember the meal. This year was more refined. We tucked into the biggest Rib of Beef that I have ever seen, creamed cabbage and sprouts, carrots with cumin, crunchy as hell roast potatoes and some towering Yorkshire puds. God, it was good. We danced badly to Christmas tunes, drank the house dry, argued about whether Miranda was any good and got told off by my four year old spring onion for being way too noisy. The bonus? Waking up the next day hangover free. Unlike some of the others who report stopping to throw up in various laybys up and down the country on the way to family homes. Bloody lightweights.

The big day
Look, it doesn't have to snow on Christmas day to be a white Christmas, as long as snow is on the ground then I'm happy. And a perfect day it was too. I went through a phase for the last few years of being a Christmas control freak. This basically entailed making my family come to my house and doing things 'my way'. Goose not turkey. Shredded sprouts not whole. Anyway, I gave the baton back to my wonderful parents this year and had the best Christmas day we've had in years. The shredded sprouts stayed, the goose went. Result - spending precious time with my lovely parents, sister and her family and my very own family too eating a magnificent Christmas dinner instead of spending the whole morning in the kitchen and drinking too much champagne. Us kids did the washing up and the grandparents got to play with the kids high on e numbers. We walked home, the spring onion rode her new retro red bike. We saw three people in shorts and a man on crack.

Boxing day
Woke up to noises of the spring onion trying to rebuild a flattened box in my bedroom. The reason? 'It's Boxing Day mummy'.
I love Boxing day. A s a child it is the day where your parents leave you alone to play with your toys in peace. As an adult it is the day where you can truly relax, especially when you are going to someone elses house for the party. This year we went to the Batmen's house. It's quite strange really. Mr Onion's brother fell in love with my sister's best friend from school and now we all live in the same city and so get to play all together on occasions like this. It's top. We had a pate off, dipped cold roast potatoes into cold bread sauce and accidentally booked a table at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons after drinking too much white wine.

The time in between.
Drinking fizzy pop watching Karate kid, making cushions with my daughter, reading in bed, Mr Onion making me hazlenut lattes every morning, watching Agatha Christie adaptations on TV, playing with lego, croissants, continental breakfast with ham boiled in Coca Cola, falling asleep on the couch waking up with my face stuck to the leather with drool. Having and making no plans..... God I love Christmas.

New Year's Eve
The original plan - go to a bunkhouse far far away with friends where we can do what we want and make as much noise as we want leaving the spring onion in the the trusted care of my parents.
The actual plan - Have a couple of people over for civilised food and drinks, keeping the spring onion with us
The actual (amended) plan - as above but leaving the spring onion in the trusted care of my parents. The company was great as was the food - marinated chicken kebabs, prawns with chilli and garlic, feta and roast veg tart (made by my gorgeous friend who claims to be a crap cook but pulls out the stops every time), prunes stuffed with mascarpone and wrapped in bacon, asparagus, parma ham and pecorino, crispy pork belly squares (Marks and Spencer and actually really good), tortilla, olives, sunblushed tomatoes, bread...a veritable feast indeed.

Those of you with offspring may agree. It can be dangerous to have an overnight babysitter. It is like the pre offspring days. Only much worse. Because you go crazy. Because it is such a luxury to wake up and to only have to worry about yourself. So you go mental. Which is why the civilised food and drink evening ended in madness and why I had to cancel my family coming around to my house for New Years Day lunch and instead, as soon as I finished being sick in the bath had to go to my parents with my head hung low and ask my mum to make me some toast.

And now it's over. Christmas. New Year. Both now in the past tense. Both great. I knew it would come to an end. And it did. Many great things do. So here I am. Sat in my unChristmassy living room, my bare beloved tree cold and brittle in the Christmas tree graveyard in the park, the decorations already in the attic. The Christmas vinyl has been put away, the neat little piles of presents transferred and dispersed into various rooms. My holiday romance over. And God it was good. As a wise man once said, 'it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all'.