flor and flores

Salt-Baked Chicken + Pear and Honey Tart

I baked a whole chicken in a salt crust scented with lapsang souchong tea leaves, accompanied with cauliflower cheese.

Followed by a pear and honey tart, served with vanilla ice cream.

Seduction cuisine for bachelors and a recipe for Devilled Kidneys

from The Times October 22, 2009

Seduction cuisine for bachelors, by Alex Renton

When I first started to cook for women, I was impressed by a pasta-for-dummies book that featured the simple sauce — a dressing, really — aglio, olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli). The blurb ran: “This exquisitely simple yet elegant supper is a favourite of the Roman bachelor, who might make it in his apartment for a lady friend on returning from an evening at La Scala.”


I pictured myself dinner-jacketed, humming Verdi as I briskly chopped the parsley to finish the dish; perched on the kitchen counter would be Sofia Loren in an off-the-shoulder dress, the look on her face as she watched my deft hands a tumult of hunger and desire.

The reality, of course, was more hum-drum. “Would you like to come back to my place for spaghetti with garlic and chilli?” I would suavely ask my date as we left the movies. “You what?” she would reply, deeply sceptical. “You call that dinner?”

“Well, I’ve got some Parmesan.”

But the spirit of this dish is right. Bachelor cooking should — in the Playboy world where Cary Grant or Sean Connery wields skillet withoutbreaking sweat — be elegant, simple and apparently effortless. Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, only published one recipe: it was for scrambled eggs with fines herbes, served with pink champagne. I had a mate whose reputation was built on just one kitchen trick, but that was a perfect cheese soufflĂ©: it would appear without fuss, immaculately risen and a golden tropical tan on top. A sure-fire pulling dish — a tightrope recipe executed with insouciance.

Classic bachelor cuisine is spicy and eye-opening: the man-about-town’s store cupboard needs anchovies, capers, truffle oil, smoked roe and Tabasco in it. Perfectly formed savouries — devils on horseback, kidneys, anchovy toast, a spicy welsh rarebit, an immaculate mushroom sauce — are proper chaps’ dishes. But they’re not necessarily useful for seduction. Girls are more moved by artifice: my wife’s fondest memory of food for love is a perfect mango, beautifully cut (not by me).

I’ve asked lots of women what was the first dish a boyfriend cooked for them. Many complain that the kitchen revealed the caveman: slabs of meat or fish to prove the potential mate’s skill as a hunter-gatherer. I used to do surprising risottos: squid, ceps and chianti was a favourite. This had its failings but it came out a wonderful purple. I would serve it with a radicchio and chicory on white plates amid mauve candles. That was the 1990s of course. I looked up GQ magazine to see what today’s young buck is cooking — or what style gurus think he should cook. What I found was a recipe for “beer-braised beef”, a dish for lads, not suave bachelors.

Gentlemen, of course, cook mainly offal. The writer William Coles, who has just published a life of that kitchen bad boy, Lord Lucan (Legend Books), claims to have uncovered the dish that Lucan would cook late at night to bolster his spirits after a ruinous evening at the Clermont Club. It was devilled kidneys. Some people can’t stand kidneys: the smell and leathery texture closes a door on many women. But devilling, with its Raj-era spicing is a gorgeous way to serve any pungent meat.

Here I’ve slightly adapted Fergus Henderson’s recipe for kidneys, which comes from his great “nose to tail” cookbook The Whole Beast, which every red-blooded bachelor should own. Henderson suggests eating them for breakfast with Black Velvet (champagne and Guinness, mixed 50/50); but I like serving them at the end of a dinner party, as a savoury.

Devilled kidneys
8 lambs’ kidneys (two per person is quite a lot)
3 dessertspoon flour
1 tsp hot cayenne
1 tsp Colman’s mustard powder
Knob of butter
Worcestershire sauce
30ml chicken stock
Wholemeal toast

Clean the kidneys until their skin fat and gristle is gone (the butcher may do this for you). Cut them in half lengthways with a sharp knife (or smaller if you don’t like kidneys pink in the middle) . Mix all the spices with the flour and roll the kidneys in them until well coated. Melt a good chunk of butter in a hot pan, and cook for two minutes each side, with a hearty splash of Worcestershire sauce. Then add a further splash of chicken stock. Remove the kidneys and put them on the toast, turn up the heat so the sauce reduces and emulsifies, and pour it over.

I am not sure that --even if Cary Grant had served me-- devilled kidneys would have done the trick...

Launch of the American Fashion Cookbook

'My colleague keeps a packet of chocolate buttons on her desk and every Friday - as a treat - eats half of one'

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have launched the American Fashion Cookbook.
Great, your average food adverse fashionista needs a cookbook, like a fish needs a bicycle. It contains the favourite recipes of 100 designers.

 read more

bouchons chocolat

bouchon = cork

3 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Guanaja 70%, chopped 3 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger 99%, chopped
1 ¾ cups cake flour
1 ½ Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli

Adjust a rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-well muffin pan or mini popover pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates together, stirring occasionally. When the chocolates are just melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set it aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a mixing bowl), beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate until well incorporated. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, stir and fold in the dry ingredients in three additions. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine. The batter will be quite thick.

Divide the batter between the wells of the muffin tin or popover pan. Bake the cakes for 15-18 minutes, or until they still feel quite soft in their centers when pressed lightly with your index finger. Do not overbake them, or they will be dry.

Remove the pan from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the pan and cool completely before eating or storing.


when i have my dream house, which of course will have a dressing room/boudoir especially pour moi (!), it will have wallpaper like this...

or this

available from Rockett St George

Irving Penn RIP

There are just too many beautiful Penn photos to choose from. One of the world's greatest photographers, without a doubt.

my dream garden

if I could have my dream garden, it would be one with enough nooks and crannies to hide behind;

deep borders in which to plant rows of cottage-style flowering plants of all shapes, sizes and heights;

some lawn on which Flor can rolypoly upon to her heart's content (and G to his too);

some trees from which to hang a couple of hammocks and where the gatitos can (literally) hang out like leopards;

and maybe even a pond (though Flor fat-head can't swim so that might be a no-go).

more than anything though, what i'd really love is a secret garden, tucked away at the back, accessible by a gate strewn with honeysuckle. sigh.

my bulbs just arrived -- tulips, anemones, hydrangeas, paeonies, bearded irises, crocuses...this weekend (if the rain holds off) will be dedicated to gardening.

calligraphy updated

I am dying to find a reason to use these scripts...

both from Betsy Dunlap

Why don't my always skinny Gap jeans look this good on me?!!

this is my kind of shoe tree (courtesy of Roger Vivier)

fashion queen

sleeping in the sun

birthday dinner

Grand Marnier Souffles

Having put this off since my cooking class at CulinAerie, I finally took the plunge and attempted to recreate some Grand Marnier souffles....I amazed myself - they came out well! No explosions, no sunken messes, and no centre-less crusts! Success. I made a creme anglaise to put inside and that gave it an added touch of deliciousness.

Yorkshire Puddings and Roast Beef

Incredibly, I had my first homecooked roast beef and yorkshire pudding in the States just last week.

I'd never made yorkshire puddings before so it was a bit nerve-wracking. Like with meringues, the formula is really simple but also has enough science in it to render it nigh on impossible to get right.

Mine were okay, not great, but they held their shape and tasted good. The only thing I didn't like was that their bases weren't crisp enough.

I roasted a shoulder of beef - also very simple, just salt and pepper, stuffed in a few garlic cloves and popped it in the oven. It came out nicely.

The gravy was also homemade using the fat and juices from the meat. That was probably my favourite part of the whole meal.

The World of Flor

You'll often hear French Bulldogs described as 'gregarious' or 'friendly', which is usually a polite euphamism for 'they're sort of slutty and will ditch you for the first person to offer them a scratch on the head'. So true. Tart.

Did you ever wonder why stubborn people are referred to as 'bull headed'? Implacably stubborn, always determined to get their own way, and a challenge to obedience train, Frenchies prefer things be done their way, or not at all. Flor is the queen of manipulation and cunning. When she really doesn't get her way she will sulk (with the occasional pissy grunt thrown in in case you've forgotten that she's there, still sulking, 10 mins later).

You know that rare oriental carpet that you're so attached to? Well, your Frenchie just peed on it. Oh, is that a toy under the table? No it's a pooh. One of the most incredibly difficult breeds to housebreak. Goodbye carpeting, hello wooden floors (and Cesar Millan's odor destroyer spray now purchased by the gallon).

The advice: Accidents WILL happen. If you catch her right in the midst of the act rush her outside.
What happens in real life when I follow the advice: Trail pee all around the house as you dash with puppy in your hands with arms outstretched trying desperately to avoid pee ending up on your head, clothes, feet - and by the time you get outside, the peeing is over and the puppy is wondering what the hell just happened, and why your hair is wet.

You're getting ready for bed, and suddenly you hear it - Is it an animal caught in a trap? Someone/thing choking to death? WTF is that horrific screeching/screaming sound? It's just Flor, expressing her opinion about being put to bed earlier than she thought fair. It's called the Frenchie death yodel. Nice.

They said: Watchdog - Somewhat. Will bark at perceived dangers. Dangers? Oh, you mean the flowerpot that fell on her head after she headbutted it to get to the plants inside it. Or even the can of mosquito spray that fell over and made a little tinkling sound when it landed. Or the leaf that blew past her nose a little too quickly for her liking.

They also said: Energy level is Moderate. Low impact dog. Enough energy to act silly, play a bit, take a walk and curl up on his owners lap. LIE LIE LIE. Flor is the most active little s*** on the planet. Nothing wears her out except for obedience training when her poor little brain is exhausted after 10 mins of Sit, Sit, SIT, Staay, Staaaaaaaaaaaaaay, STAY SIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTT NOOOOOOOOOOOW. Otherwise she will run/skid/tumble for 30 mins, walk fast continually for an hour, sit for 20 seconds, roll on a dead mouse, then start all over again. And low impact? More like ability to crack my skull open with one small misplaced butt of the head.