Eating it, cooking it, thinking about it

Either eating it, cooking it or plotting it

Sunday, 24 October 2010

buns, buttercream, business as usual

Halloween theme cupcakes, made earlier
Buried under buns and buttercream all day, then got the urge for another preserve-athon, so rattling through my cupboards for glass jars to pour the goods into (the chutney, not the cakes, obviously) . The house smells fuggily sweet and spicy and the windows have steamed up quite pleasingly. V busy day ( v busy week !,), my favourite apron still to mend (one of the cords ( straps ?) frayed off ( see how busy I must be ...) but good glass of red now and pancakes for tea , exhausted ...wouldn't have it any other way . Looking forward to half snooze-watching Downton Abbey, then electric blanket on ,drift off dreaming up ways to use some new gourmet extract oils I've invested in (note to self - internet shopping when sober would be cheaper) and wake up ready for a New Week Of It All. Hope you've had a good one.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

this week, I have mostly been....

pepsi max rather than diet coke
coffee rather than tea in the morning
pizza rather than burger
cream rather than custard
toast rather than cereal
dark rather than milk chocolate
red rather than white wine
thai rather than chinese
carrot cake rather than lemon drizzle
butter rather than margarine
ribena rather than vimto
roast lamb rather than roast pork
never - liver, seabass, duck or Radio 1
always - parmesan, wotsits, chorizo, sushi, Radio 4
You ?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Edward Woodward, Kenwood(ward) and the best beloved Boxer.

Look, I don't want to bore on about this, but I've been having muffin dramas again. Its a slap of the face and a honk of the nose to me from muffins. I am actually starting to sneak up on the recipe now, trying to distract it before they realise I've gone and baked them. This time, the batch rose , tall and tender, but the tops were completely flat. Like spirit level flat. Ice skating rink flat. It was the lemon and poppy seed recipe again. And you know what I'm going to say - I did nothing different from last time. Weary sigh. Same spot in the oven and all that. Exasperated ( for these muffins only ever do this when they know they are bound for sale in the shop) I made a batch of berry muffins instead (with a little lemon zest* - blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrant, so jammily jewel like when they burst in the muffin, beautiful) and they came out Just As They Should. And very pleased with them I was too. I guess lemon muffins are tired of me taking them for granted. I never take them out or send them flowers, I turn the telly up when they're speaking to me.  They are putting their (flat) foot down. I'll make it up to them somehow. Right after I've finished my honeymoon with Berry Burst Muffin. And as if all this weren't pale shivery nightsweat high drama enough - fasten your seat belts - my best beloved balloon whisk from my best beloved Kenwood mixer has given up the ghost. As ends go, it was a good and noble death, in amongst a batch of chocolate meringue buttercream, working , like Boxer from Animal Farm, tirelessly to the end. One of the metal wires just pinged off ( suspect cahoots with lemon muffins). I've had this mixer for ever - it has Never Ever let me down. Its a Kenwood Chef, its older than I am, (they were manufactured between 1962 and 1976, fact fans) I've never had to replace a part or have it serviced, and its used , heavy duty, weekly. I love it. It has its quirks - it sounds like a whale with tummy ache when its doing its thing, and I have to hit the hinge button thing with a hammer to make the top bit ( I simply have no idea what this bit of the machine is called) swing up so I can attach the accessories. I don't think my baking life would be possible without this reliable, sturdy, no nonsense beast. So I've been looking on ebay for spare parts ( I have me eye on a meat grinder attachment also, I fancy a bit of a go at sausage making. Or to be able to mince pork fat for pates and such) and thankfully, there are some. I'm just not sure I'll be able to throw the broken one away. I see you smirking and thinking I'm being all whimsical, but I bet you'd feel grousy if someone threw away your favourite fork, or cracked your favourite cereal bowl. The lure of the ShinyNew is strong - see the gleaming red of curvy kissable KitchenAid ! - but my heart belongs with my Boxer like mixer. Old is Gold as they say. One box of chocolates and bunch of lillies for the lemon muffins then.

*My reader has suggested that some of my muffin dramas might be due to the levels of acid in different lemons. In most baking recipes where there is acid content, bicarb of soda is added ( aswell as baking powder) to neutralize the acid ( the Edward Woodward Equalizer of the kitchen) and help the stuff to rise (its 4 times more powerful than baking powder  ( Edward Woodward pimped in a cape then, who can now fly and shoots laserbeams from his eyes). So maybe thats why its changeable. Maybe.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sausages, Simply Red & Simpering

If you filter the world and its goings on through the newspapers and tv alone, its almost obligatory to take a pretty dim view of proceedings. And there is a lot of dim and grim, there’s no doubting it. And that, coupled with the wearying routines of most peoples working day leaves little energy for wide eye wondering at well, natures wonders. I get irritated by, rather than amused by, the harmless posturing squealing chatter of a group of actually, fairly decent teenage girls. This isn’t an original sentiment, I know . Its RH Davies "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare" and Ferris Bueller "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" And to be anything other than smartly cynical in the gimlet eyed and purple bloated face of politics, economics, populist entertainment and adverts cashing gold meercats in car supermarkets or whatever ,would leave you wide open to the charge of being the greenest goofiest simpering chump who ever dared evince a Chewbacca like groan. Fair enough, there is plenty, ( and always plenty more to come) to be waspishly cynical and despairing about. Or even just things to be quietly ,intensely sad about - I’m thinking here of some friends who have had recent news of a terminal illness, a thing that can’t be soothed or bargained or loved away. I’m thinking of someone close who’s just lost a job, someone else who’s just had twins but now diagnosed with cancer. Much to be despairing about. And Piers Morgan mugging all over the telly, and Mick Hucknall, warbling mercenary little goblin not having the decency to call it a day. In casual conversation with a wise friend a couple of years ago ( I forget what we were bemoaning - it may have been a State Of The Nation opinion piece - or more likely a theatrically appalled dissection of yet another disappointing meal out. My friend has the most remarkable track record here. She attracts bad food and shoddy service the same way Greggs stock sausage rolls - constant, reassuring, inevitable If we ever get the time ( to stand and stare together), I’d love to give you a run down of her personal top ten bewilderingly thwarted attempts at simply enjoying a meal. One of her recent triumphs was being served the same ratatouille , at 4 distinctly advertised different courses over the duration of an evening. By the cunning insertion of a handful of raisins in one serving, an imperceptible change in temperature in another , serving it in a shot glass in the next and lastly ‘dressing’ the next serving with ( not hiding, definitely not hiding) rice, 4 different courses were indeed claimed by the restaurant. Room Restaurant, Manchester, I’m looking at you. And you’re not even looking away embarrassed are you ? Anyhoo…..there we were, bemoaning something) and we concluded that the best you can do, really, is to make your little corner of the world as pleasant as you can for as long as you can. No more revelatory that than the old adage of Count Your Blessings, but I think we only tend to do it when a crisis is on.... So I consider myself lucky in that I get to be involved in Happy Occasions - baking for weddings, parties, special occasions etc. And I consider myself lucky in that walking through Manor Park yesterday, I saw a lolloping fat brown spaniel chase hopefully chasing a lithe squirrel. And it made me laugh - the squirrel outpaced the spaniel, shot up a tree and sat there in regal regard at the dog. And the chubby spaniel whined and pawed the tree trunk a bit, and then, in what I can describe only as a kind of gallic shrug of his doggy shoulders, literally turned tail , cocked his leg and peed on the tree. Take that squirrel ! And I felt lucky that I saw a home made poster advertising a Hoe Down in a church hall, and I felt lucky to meet someone who is always good company for lunch, and I felt lucky to be able to pause and watch the tail end of a good humoured bowling match in the park. And I saw oak and sycamore leaves on the ground, and properly noticed autumn for the first time. And I’m happy that the Wheat sheaf ( where I had said lunch) has won an award for its sausages . I feel lucky to live in a place where a local pub makes sausages with local ales and local meat and wins awards. I’m happy that people give awards for sausages. And that people bother about community and raising money in church halls. I’m lucky to have been out again for lunch today, with good friends and lucky to be involved in their wedding ( who else would make the cake ?) I'm lucky I remembered to look around. Today the BT Infinity Advert with the shooting star light things make me go soppy. Today I’m the greenest goofiest simpering chump you ever did see. Aside from Piers Morgan.