Foodie Things in London: January Edition

January for me is always a refresher. I loathe to say a new start as my mid-year-motivation seems to always occur around October so I'm in full swing of a couple of new habits by January but it is still a wonderfully rejuvenating time. Not least because the days are ever so slightly getting longer but the city seems to be brighter with its gritty determination of just getting on with it, as we do so well. 

Although it seems like food festivities would be slowing down after all that fun in December, I've found a few lovely little things that'll keep your tummies going for the next few weeks at least!

New Opening: Kricket, Soho (5th)

A selection of Kricket's finest... www.kricket.co.uk

A selection of Kricket's finest... www.kricket.co.uk

After all that meat and ten veg business, it will be wonderful to try something new in January and the opening of Brixton stalwart Kricket in Soho will be most welcomed indeed. Using the best of British ingredients fused with their knowledge and history of working in Mumbai and all flavours that India has to offer, Soho is lucky indeed to get them here! Their first permanent location the menu is already up online so you can pick what you'd like before you even get there - top tip - get everything. In particular, the samphire pakoras and the sulla venison rump with burnt onion raita look incredible but what really stands out to me is the Espresso Chaitini... You all know how fond I am of the Martini version and indeed of Dishoom's chai so this has certainly got everything I'm looking for in a drink. I'll be heading down as soon after the 5th as I can and hope to see you all there...

Bread Ahead Courses

Ready for a lesson! @breadaheadboroughmarket

Ready for a lesson! @breadaheadboroughmarket

Rather than get specific about which one to sign yourself up for I'd say close your eyes, point at the calendar and head to that! Whatever you learn at Bread Ahead will stay with you for life and with tips and tricks they use themselves, you will be well on your way to baking brilliance. They've recently opened another location for the school so if you're a Westie, the Sloane Square branch means you needn't have to travel so far to get your pillowy doughnut and bakery knowledge fix. The New York lesson with bagels & pretzels (7th or 13th x 2) and the Croissant Workshop (4th, 26th or 27th) are two really good ones. Getting specific and nailing one technique is something I find invaluable when having a professional in front of me giving me all the pointers I may need. The calendar is chock a block for choice so log on to www.breadahead.com/courses to check them out and book yourself on!

The Elmore Jam with Ryan Smith (12th)

The Elmore Jam is father and daughter team Nick and Ro who really know what makes a good night. Fusing an amazing roster of chefs with brilliant live music, they create an atmosphere any dinner party host would envy. This month, it's the turn of New York chef, Ryan Smith, to create a midwinter special menu. Fresh from his executive chef position at NYC's Vintners, Smith is using London as his base for the next year while staging across Europe. For only £66 on the 'Hackney side of Islington', you can sample his 5 courses including wonderful wine pairing throughout with things such as warm bone marrow and house made truffle and porcini ravioli on the menu. To buy tickets and to see the full menu, head to Nick and Ro's GrubClub page here.

La Fromagerie's Burns Night Supper (25th)

At my current 'Place of the Month', it's time to celebrate the famous poet, Robert Burns with a wonderful menu of all these Scottish including a whisky-spiked Cock-a-Leekie soup, haggis two ways and of course some Typsy Laird to finish! With whisky drams and wines included for only £65 this is truly a bargain, not least to sample some of La Fromagerie's own oatcakes and cheeses that'll be sandwiched in there somewhere. Grab your tickets by giving the Marylebone store a call 020 7935 0341 and prepare to address the haggis! 

Things That Make My Life Easier: Baking Edition

This is a new series all about the tools and gadgets I have in my kitchen to make my life easier! I am a lover of course of the classics and for some things, no modern invention will compare but for others it is just foolish in my opinion, to not accept help when it has been so brilliantly designed! This baking edition features my top 3 things I can't go a recipe without so I do hope they make your baking lives easier too. 

Microplane Grater

I'm not going to tell you over and over to go and get one of these but my lord you have to. You know those slightly old lemons that are soft to the touch and so barely grate on a normal box grater? They'll be shaved to perfection with this dude and it makes light work of mincing garlic and ginger too- perfect for savoury cooking as well as sweet. 

Silicone Spatula

There's many spatulas out there but even the supposed professional red handled ones from Nisbets cannot compare to the usefulness of one like this. The end is wonderful and thin with proper corners so you can actually get the last of the mix out with no effort whatsoever! They're super easy to clean and I just hang them straight up to dry after use.  

Disposable Piping Bags

These little guys are so useful! Not only are they are dream for all the classic uses such as icings and macarons, they are also my key to making things look more professional. Piping cheesecake mix into jars for example or even putting my base layer of frosting on a cake - all made super easy and even with a piping bag, even if it doesn't have a nozzle in! A snip off the end does just the same!

Hallow's Eve Baking

It's here it's here! The night's are drawing in, I've not quite got out my big coat but I still feel as if time is running away with me - it must be Hallowe'en! The spookiest night of the year and one that I have always baked for every year without fail. When I was younger, the best parts were the Hallowe'en parties where a huge variety of freakish food and games kept us entertained, rather then walking round in the cold and dark to knock on stranger's doors in the village! 

I recently found out however that the trick or treating tradition did not come from our American counterparts, as I had wrongly always assumed, but indeed from further in the Pagan and then Christian roots that Hallowe'en prides itself in. It was once a form of begging for 'soul cakes' where the poor would visit the rich's houses and beg for these cakes in return for prayers on all the souls that lived at that address. This was done on Hallow's Eve from the Medieval period all the way up to the 1930's. Originally practiced on both Hallowe'en and Christmas, it soon turned into a request for food or coins and paired with the fun of dressing ghoulish became a firm favourite for Hallowe'en both here and in the States. 

I was also interested to learn that our beloved carved pumpkins were in fact originally carved turnips! Emigrates to the US soon learned that pumpkins and squashes of all kinds were far easier to carve and so took their knives to those instead. Some of the original imagery of carved turnips are even more terrifying than the big friendly orange faces we're used to today; definitely something to do with turnip's wonderfully craggy skin and deep colour range from purple to milky white. 

But enough of history! Back to baking... I've always had a pumpkin cookie cutter (lord knows why) and so have always found myself baking treats for trick or treater's as opposed to heading out and buying a mixed fun-size bag of mars bars [side note: whoever named them 'fun size' was obviously having a complete laugh...]. This year, I decided to branch out from the usual glace icing covering and work with royal icing as we've been doing so much detail piping at the bakery recently it seemed a good way of continuing with classic 'baker's piping hand cramp'! I love making a complete spread of a variety of bakes and so changed the design for a few and added some fondant pumpkins for a bit of texture. 

Flying Tiger, as usual, came up trumps for my little spiders and ghosts and I couldn't not make reference to Harry Potter's most famed evening could I? Hence the little RIP, Lily & James Potter mini-pumpkins too... Another famous Hallowe'en Party is of course the one in 'Mean Girls' so I couldn't forget that either! Karen's 'K' diamante applique being one of my favourite moments of that film as well as the now legendary line, 'I'm a mouse, duh!'... 

I used my classic shortbread recipe as I do for most decorated biscuits. It's so easy to do and has such a delicious flavour it can really work well on its own without much icing or it pairs well having a little more sweetness added to it with fondant or royal icing as I made here. My royal icing recipe is the most simple part of this whole thing - no weighing needed! I simply take as much icing sugar as I think I'll need and then add egg whites until I get the correct consistency. You're looking for a relatively thick icing to pipe outlines and words with and then you can always add another egg white or just a drop of water to let it down for filling in or 'flooding' as its properly called. I'll do a little icing tutorial post soon so you can see some videos of the correct consistency for different ones as well as how to get the lightest, fluffiest buttercream icing ever!