I'm doing a baking book after a while in the hope that it will shed some light on my pineapple cake dilemma. You see tonight's the night, when my creative juices have to flow (I have another day to bake it but even then, I need to finalize on something today).
There are decisions to be made, tins of pineapple to be picked up and double cream to be found. But before that I want to tell you about another book that means the world to me. Especially if you have guests you want to impress.
If you watch cookery shows as feverishly as I do, then you'd have definitely seen Rachel Allen on TV. I'm not a fan of her recipes, but the tips she gives during her shows are keepers. On one such episode she's interviewed Isidora Popovic, a baker in London who has a stall in the Portabello Market in Noting Hill and sells the most amazing tarts and quiches. She called herself Popina.
The episode went on to show how Isidora's crust is different, much lighter and easier to replicate and how are topping are to-die-for. How each week they crack 6000 eggs by hand and how she comes up with fun recipes that use organic ingredients which are used to bake fresh everyday.
Anyhoo, as is my obsession I quickly went online to check all about Popina. I learnt that Isidora began baking from home. That her little apartment in London was filled with table top ovens. Any empty space had an oven. And that she'd make everything from scratch and sell it at the market. And it was in 2000 that she received help from Prince Charles' Prince's Trust and started catering for private functions after graduating from an Art's course. That she was an artist-turned-baker.
I felt inspired and was completely in awe of her. And then in a couple of days totally forgot about her. Until, while browsing through a bookstore, this book fell off a shelf and on to my head, quite literally. Popina! The name sounded so familiar and when I flipped through the book, I realised she was the same person.
The first picture I saw was of a plum tart. It looked delectable. The second, was of a mushroom tart. Needless to say, I bought the book.
And what a find this book is! The recipes are original, the ideas are different and most of all, she is so encouraging and inspiring. In one of her interviews Isidora had once said that she never cooks from a recipe instead she relies on her instinct and how visually appealing she finds it.
Yes, there's a lot of savoury baking - Isidora teaches you how to make cheese straws - with cheddar and Granny Smith apple - a sweet and sour snack that is really quite out of the world. She teaches you how to make crackers, cookies - ginger and chilli - a combination that sounds odd but is totally awesome. The savoury baking is not an after thought here - it is the thought. The spinach and garlic muffins are incredible as are the feta and tomato muffins. I've never eaten roast potato and spring onion tartlets or aubergine, red pepper and tomato tart, but both are packed full of flavours and so unique that you cannot help but make them over and over again.
But never has it been mentioned how awesome her chocolate recipes are. There's a recipe for her award-winning brownie - the chocolate truffle brownie. And I don't know how to say this - but that brownie is so rich, so sublime that you'll only trade it for a pound of flesh. And then there is the chocolate cake - a gluten-free recipe that calls for rice flour and is another recipe that you'd have to walk over my dead body for.
That said, the pictures are amazing. Really amazing. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautifully shot picture. The language is simple, making the recipes easy to follow. And the best of all, here's a person like you and me - with a story - who made a beginning doing something she loves. And look at her now, she's a celebrity chef.