Sketch

Friday, March 29, 2013

This week I went out to Sketch with my old time friend Harriet.
Sketch is a really great place to go out, and for any occasion. It's a bar/restaurant/lounge/club/amazing toilet place. Fantastic I tell you.

You're greeted by an extremely funny Irish doorman, who somehow is Harriet's BFF. So many things about this girl...



There are 5 different rooms, or as they call them "Lieus" or destination places, in Sketch. The Gallery, the Lecture Room, the Parlour, the Glade and the East Bar. We had a drink in the Parlour, which is a fancy, cosy, dimly lit and soft music lounge bar. The cocktails taste really good (and are strong!), the waiters are very welcoming and all very hip.



Connecting all the rooms is a gastronomic brasserie, really interesting and original menu. I have yet to try it, but I'll get back to you! Great vibrant decor:


The Lecture Room/Library, is a fancy, two Michelin Star restaurant. I've read rave reviews about it, but it's not exactly student budget friendly!

The Glade is my favorite bar, it's woodland themed, and feels very magical and "Wizard of Oz"-esque. Big tables, good ol' cocktails, lots of friends and good music! What's not to like?


East Bar, is the more Club-like room in Sketch, its a lot smaller than the others, plays louder music, great for finishing off the night and it closes at 2am with a live DJ from 10h30.

And now the best for last... the toilets! It makes sketch truly special. Odd I know. Each toilet is egg-shaped and plays sounds from the animal planet inside the cocoon. 



Oh and French Maids! 

All in all sketch is great for drinks with friends, or for a sophisticated date (I'd pick the glade for a more romantic atmosphere). It's close to all the big Mayfair clubs and really isn't unreasonably priced. 


Come and play at Sketch !

    Windsor

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Term is finally over... Now, this unfortunately does not mean we get 6 weeks of holidays... We get 6 weeks to revise before crunch time, a.k.a exams (did you know aka stands for also known as? I had no idea.)

    J and I thought it'd be nice to take the first weekend off, before studying starts and before I head back home to France. We drove up to his Family's home in Windsor. 



    We started early in the morning by taking the dogs for a walk in the park.


    It was coooollld but the girls didn't seem to mind, we played hide and seek and walked all around the lake. 



    We took rest on tiny chairs, whilst one silly lady rolled herself in the mud: 




    We tested their courage by throwing sticks in the water... and sure enough Boo jumped right in and gave us the best performance of seal-dog I've ever seen!



    Once we couldn't feel our toes and the doggies were a lot less perky than at the start we made our way home. We stopped by the royal farm shop on the way to buy things for lunch!



    Molly was more than happy to stay cosy in the "boot":



    There's something incredibly satisfying in buying products that are locally-grown and farmed. I always feel just a little bit better knowing my carrots didn't spend 12 hours in a plane to get to me.





    And in tastes so much better!

    Now for the "pièce de resistance" as us Francophones would say... Sunday Roast... for two!



    I'm licking my lips just looking at this picture.. take me back!

    After lunch we went for a 'digestive' walk to Windsor Castle. Leaving the animals to rest and warm up:



    And here I was thinking cats and dogs only liked each other on postcards...

    The Castle is the Queen's weekend home and a truly beautiful domain.




    I'll have to come back when it's a bit warmer and when I have the courage to spend time visiting inside! There are still 500 people living and working inside the castle 'walls' and you can see virtually untouched, still functional, 11th century homes. Amazing.



    This is the Long Walk, a 5km 'Walk' south of the Castle. Once again... when the weather permits! Instead we settled for racing back home to roast our toes by the fire...






    Cookbooks, woolen blanket and a roaring fire... I could get used to this!

    Windsor is a great place for Londoners in training who like me, like to escape the city once in a while... 

    The Best Chocolate Cake

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Today is a beautiful day... clearly not because of the warmth and beautiful sunshine we're getting in London... but because my quest for the perfect chocolate cake has finally ended. And what a search that was! Ever since I can remember eating cake for my birthday it's always been the "Betty Crocker - Super Moist Cake"... I know, I know, boxed cake! Blasphemy!



    I always thought it tasted good... this is the white version of the cake with little me!



    Which is why I have been relentlessly searching for a "copycat" recipe, made from scratch. And I've found it. Now I know exactly whats in my cake, and am sure there isn't any nasty stuff in it! And it's way more satisfying to do it right, rather than crack some eggs and chuck in a cup of water into some powder!




    This Recipe can be made into a two layered cake like this one, or some scrumptious cupcakes :





     So much moistyness. Yum.


    The One and Only - Chocolate Cake

    Adapted from : MariasMenu

    Serves 12      Preparation Time: 25 min        Cooking Time: 20 - 25 min

    Ingredients


    • Milk 1 + 1/2 Cups
    • Butter - 100g (1/3 Cups + 2 Tbsp)
    • Oil - 1/4 Cup (sunflower oil)
    • Cocoa Powder - 1/2 Cup + 2Tbsp
    • Self Raising Flour - 1 Cup (or see note)
    • Egg - 1
    • Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) - 1/2 Tsp
    • Sugar Granulated - 1 Cup + 2 Tbsp

    Start by heating your oven up to 180C
    In a pan gently melt your butter with the oil, cocoa, and milk. Don't let it boil! Let it cool whilst you do the rest.

    Mix your flour, sugar and baking soda, use a whisk to get all the lumps out. Beat your egg in a cup. 
    Add everything to the cocoa mixture, beat well! The batter will be runny, that's fine! It's the reason why this cake is so moist.

    Prepare your tins by greasing them, or lining them with cupcake liners if using.

    Pour the batter into your cupcake tins, or your sandwich tins, or in a loaf tin, or in a sheet cake tin, whatever.

    Cook in the oven for 15 to 20 mins for cupcakes, and 20 - 22 mins for sheet cakes. They'll be done when a knife comes back out clean but still damp. 

    Voila! Let cool on wire racks. Ready to ice.

    (Note: To make 1 Cup Self Raising Flour : add 1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder + 1/4 Salt to 1 Cup Plain Flour) 





    For the icing:

    Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 2 cups icing sugar
    • milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Start by melting your butter with the cocoa powder. Add some icing sugar until it becomes stiff. Then slowly add some milk (about 1 tsp at a time) and the vanilla until it becomes smooth. Add more sugar and repeat the process until it has reached a nice smooth spreadable consistency. You can put more or less sugar depending on how sweet you want the icing to be. Just be careful not to add too much milk at a time, because if it becomes too runny its very hard to add enough sugar to get it right again!

    Spread generously, everywhere!



    The One and Only - Chocolate Chip Cookie

    Saturday, March 16, 2013

    When it comes to Chocolate there really is only one man you could possibly listen to - Jacques Torres, or better known as "Mr. Chocolate".

    So when we're talking about picking the world's best chocolate chip cookie it would only make sense to use his recipe!



    There are 4 secrets to this recipe that make it the World's Best Cookie. And you're lucky enough for me to share them with you....

    Secret #1...
    The biggest secret to this recipe is the chilling time... Indeed, these babies need to be made the night before and chilled overnight in the fridge. Such a hassle I know! But bear with me. These cookies have a lot less flour than normal cookies. Which means that when you finish mixing it all up, the dough is super sticky and almost impossible to shape into balls! Hence the chilling time, the butter will harden and the cookies will cook and maintain their shapes, whilst still being super gooey on the inside..... Convinced yet? 

    Secret #2...

    The Salt. Huh?! I know, I know. But yes you must add flakey sea salt on top of your cookies right before you pop them in the oven. It enhances the chocolatey flavor so much! And it's ohhhh so good!



    Secret #3...

    The Chocolate. Lets all be honest here. Its pretty much chocolate surrounded by cookie dough rather than chocolate chip cookie dough. Chocolate Chip Chunk Cookies is a slightly more appropriate name already. But yes, Jacques suggests using his own Chocolate Feves, but I really can't be bothered ordering them online and whatnot, so good quality semi-sweet (40% cocoa) is just fine for me. If you wanna be fancy, go ahead and order here! So yes, Chocolate and lots of it! And in big chunks please!

    Secret #4....

    The Flour, at first I thought it wouldn't make a huge difference to use half strong white bread flour and half plain flour. But it does. As mentioned before there isn't a lot of flour in the dough, and by using stronger bread flour the cookies are more sturdy!

    So now that you now all the Secrets, let's get Cookin'!


    The One and Only - Chocolate Cookie Recipe

    Adapted from Jacques Torres
    Courtesy of New York Times



    2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
    1 2/3 cups bread flour
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
    2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
    1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
    1 Tab bittersweet Chocolate, I use this one.
    Sea Salt, I use this one!

    First things first, cream that butter and sugar. It's got to be my favorite thing to do whilst baking. Creaming butter. I'm easily entertained, fair enough, but still it's so amazing how it comes together all nice and shiny. Yum. 






    Look at that! It's really one of those things that are more than the sum of their parts. Butter alone? meh. Sugar? myeh fair enough. Creamed butter and sugar? YUM.

    Moving on. Crack your eggs, and add your vanilla:



    In a separate bowl, mix in both flours and all other dry ingredients. I cheat and use a whisk instead of sifting the flours. Sifting? Ain't nobody got time for that!




    Mix it all up! And I present you... cookie dough! Sort of. Now, taste to check its not poisoned. Mix. Taste again to get an accurate sample size. All clear? Good.



    Chop up some chocolate:



    Mix it in, dump it all out on a cling film and wrap tightly! Chill in the fridge all night! Or hours during the day. Or if you really can't wait 2 hours in the fridge and 30min in the freezer. Do as you wish really, just let it chill.

    Preheat your oven to 180C or 350F.

    Once the dough is nice and cool, you can shape it into balls! That's another secret actually... we're not talking bite size cookies... these babies are huge! So shape them into bigger than ice-cream scoops balls:



    Flatten them a little:



    Sprinkle with sea salt:



    Pop in the oven for 13 - 18 minutes until golden brown but still super soft to the touch. I usually underbake my cookies because I like them extra gooey...

    And yes that's it! Apply to face:





    Yum.



    I've made variations of these before, you can sandwich a Reese Peanut Butter Cup or an Oreo between two smaller balls of cookie dough:



    Or add Peppermint extract of green food coloring for some "After Eight" style cookies!



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