Three days in London and we are already planning which neighborhood our future dream apartment will be located in, which stores we'll shop in to furnish it, and which pubs will be our local hot spots. Of course this will probably won't be the only European city we practice such an elusive, fantastical day dream in but for now we are in London, so we live and breath London as if it was our own. We arrived Saturday at 6:45 am, bright and early, doe-eyed, smelling like crap, cranky, and excited to finally be here. 8 hours on an overnight bus accompanied by screaming babies and sweaty people, we had only managed to sleep a couple hours between the two of us, Onni and myself. Although reasons for that could also be contributed to the fact that I stayed up reading Room by Emma Donoghue by the dim fluorescent glow of my single overhead light. I have always been a somewhat committed and adventurous reader since childhood, despite my slow pace, and if I get hooked on a book I just can't stop. Yet I increasingly find myself without the time to read or with an excuse not to, which is silly. Whenever we went on holiday my sister and I always had the responsibility of choosing at least two books to bring with us. The pleasure and excitement I would get out of choosing my selection was always something I looked forward too and what always seemed to indicate, for real, the beginning of a trip. So Onnika, Adam, Lori, and I went to Waterstones after work on Friday and picked out a few books to accompany us to London and France. Onni and I ended up splitting three between us, Room, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and High Rise by J.G. Ballard. I am hooked on Room. 260 pages in three days is a testament to that. As I said I am a slow reader, and such a feat is accomplished by me only by means of reading every waking free moment I get. It has given me a chance to calm my mind, sort some things out in the brain, and refocus.
It might not come as a surprise that I usually approach everywhere I go with food in mind. I usually try to find the best of everything. The best cakes, the best scones, the best donuts, the best of everything and anything that defines a destination's food culture. This is why I try (and fail) to follow things like sugar free and carb free diets before embarking on trips in order to prepare for all the butter, sugar, and flour intake. Of course this is enormously difficult when you work at a bakery and are consistently left by your lonesome with nothing but cake and brownie off-cuts.
We spent the first day navigating the vibrant and bustling stalls of Portobello Road and Borough Food Market. My jaw was eternally dropping at the sight of the vats of steaming paella, stacks of cookies, cheese, and bread; the sounds of stall owners calling out orders, and cooks flipping hot toasties on the grill. We explored the British Museum and trekked across Soho in search for lunch and window shopping. I finally managed to make it to Jamie's Fifteen for lunch, which was fantastic. We delved into plates of short rib puff pastry pie, gnocchi, potato cakes with aioli, and roasted carrots with yogurt. For desert, chocolate mouse with peanut butter crumble and buttermilk ice cream. We walked around Shoreditch, exploring the Box Park and window shopping on Redchurch street and Brick Lane. The sun revealed itself to us for a quick minute, before hiding behind gray clouds that would occasionally shower a mixture of rain and hail.
I am back in Kensal Rise again. For 12 years nearly I have been coming back to this neighborhood to visit my family. I have such vivid memories of walking down these never-ending streets lined with rainbow houses sitting all in a row. Ines, my cousin Honor, and I spent countless hours in Queen's Park. I always find it astonishing how much smaller the park seems every time I come back. It always surprises me how your spacial memory is influenced by your literal size, and to an extent by your imagination. I love being with family, my aunt, my uncle, my cousin Honor who is easily a second sister; I feel like it reconnects me to my childhood in some way, as many of my happiest and strongest memories are from holidays to London, France, and Spain to visit family.
I also had the pleasure of doing some baking with Honor. I love, love, love teaching people how to bake pies. Not that I am in any way an expert, obviously, I just love to share the practice of baking my favorite thing with my favorite people! Honor holds a natural interest in and instinct with baking. Also it seems that I am trading pie these days for housing and food quite often, so here I decided to teach her Four and Twenty Blackbirds trademark pie, Salty Honey. You can find the recipe below!
The Salty Honey Pie
things you'll need
one 9-inch pie dish
one large mixing bowl
Single Crust portion of Pie Dough
for the filling
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter melted
12 cup (100g) caster or cane sugar
1 tablespoon white cornmeal
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste or extract
3/4 cup (255g) good quality honey
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons flaked Maldon sea salt
what to do
first, preheat your oven to 375˚F/190˚C, then grease your pie dish with butter. roll out your pie dough to about a quarter inch thickness. use your pie dish to determine if you have rolled it thick enough by flipping your dish upside down and holding over to measure a border of about 2 inches, for the crimping. then, line your pie dish with the dough. you should have some crust hanging over the edge. you may need to chill the dough for 10-15 minutes in the fridge before continuing to work with it. then roll the excess dough around the rim of the dish underneath itself and press slightly to seal. you can either crimp or press down the edges with a fork. put back in the fridge to stay cold.
second, in the large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. then add the melted butter and honey, whisk to combine. add the eggs one by one and whisk. incorporate the heavy cream and vanilla before adding the vinegar, and whisking to combine.
lastly, take the chilled crust out of the fridge. strain the filling into the crust through a sieve. then place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 45-55 minutes, turning half way. baking time will depend on your oven and so will your oven temperature. fan assisted ovens can be hotter, which means shorter baking time, such as the one I used here. so if you are using a fan assisted oven then bake at 325˚F/160˚C, always check the pie about 15-20 minutes in, and turn once it looks like it is starting to set as supposed to being completely liquid. then bake until the custard wobbles slightly but is set at the edges, you don't want it to ripple like water, and it should have some color to it. if it is getting too dark cover with aluminum foil. once baked let cool to set for at least an hour and a half. then slice up and serve with freshly whipped cream.