Thursday, 27 August 2009

Welcome - Violet Sparks and a return to blogging!

I have my very own, properly related to me niece. The dark haired, mysterious beauty is called Violet and she looks perfect. Sadly I haven't yet met her due to the cursed Atlantic ocean, really expensive plane tickets to Denver and no job. It is vexing as the lack of a job means I have tons of time to visit my big bro, his annoyingly sexy wife and the munchkin however it also means a reduction in funds which means no happy trips. I am trying to figure out how to get someone to pay me for doing bugger all as I enjoy the freedom of no work but miss the benefits of an income.

Anyhoo I was trying to decide the best way to celebrate a new niece, Harry thought something along these lines:

But then Harry's idea of celebration is always some sort of running and grinning like a loon on a beach. And yes it is a bad picture but you try taking a good one of an insane Labrador running as fast as a hayfever suffers nose when you only have a tiny camera and there is a force 5 gale...

I thought, as her name is one of those lovely old-fashioned names, something along the lines of afternoon tea would be more the ticket.

To that end we made my favourite jam tarts - almond pastry, homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Can't you just hear the heavenly choir start up on that note!

Crumbly, buttery shortbread, the proper stuff with semolina in the recipe.

Ina Garten's lemon bars - I just love lemon bars so the Americans have given us something other than Violet!

and a wonderful almond and lemon cake with an amaretto whipped cream and raspberries.

So the arrival of Violet has also heralded the arrival of even more thigh fat for me which is bad news as I have to get Kate Moss thin for my wedding in November. Eeek. This blog is going to become '100 Ways to Eat Beans'.

Welcome to the world Violet and this is your first lesson in just how late your cool British aunt inevitably is. XXXXXX

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Marmalade Soup

For the second time this year my jam / marmalade has refused to set. I have, however, invented marmalade soup and damn delicious soup it is as well! It may have something to do with the 3 day extended making period, I started on Friday by slicing the oranges and soaking them in a little water along with the pips. I also started the SP sauce which inevitably makes the house reek of vinegar and cloves.

Saturday morning I fished out the pips and was about to start the whole process when we decided to nick up to Stoke so that Harry could gorge on disgraceful amounts of food. Labrador heaven in other words.

Harry's bed is now too small for him due to the copious amounts of food eaten by him this weekend. (Before any Labrador Rights people start to leave threatening comments this is not Harry's bed. This is in fact a puppies bed, Harry kicked the puppy off in order to curl himself up as small as he could and pretend to be comfortable whilst the puppy slept on the hard floor.)

We returned on Sunday after eating far too much pie, drinking too much gin and sleeping badly on a smaller bed than we are used to. No one should have too sleep that close to someone else! The house still reeked of vinegar and the oranges had come to no harm.

I did all I should - boil, add sugar, boil some more, boil for a bit longer, panic about the colour, have a shower, boil more and so on. I thought after about half an hour enough is enough bottle and be damned. Even after half the day in the fridge it is still soup. To add insult to injury Bobo took one look and pointed out that my thin slices were quite long and should they be, I pointed out boiling hot sugary things and insults not clever.

I am re-boiling tomorrow.

The SP sauce is fab - pictures tomorrow for I have missed the light.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I AM BACK!!!!!

Well that was a long break in the states! Well not really, after the wedding of the year (only because I didn't have a pirate wedding of my own) and a small road trip round the states I then had to do re-writes on my dissertation and couldn't face writing another word until now.

So I understand I have probably lost anyone who ever read my blog and will have to start from scratch again but hopefully some nice photos and good food will tempt y'all back. I am going to stop relying on Bobo to take all the photos and try to learn how to handle a camera for more than shots of what is in my mouth. And I am going to try and cook more than just cake - that may be harder than the camera bit but my ever expanding waist line is more than a little unpleasant, if I were to go on the beach I might just get dragged back into the ocean by Greenpeace.

I will be posting my first recipe this weekend probably for SP sauce - home made HP sauce (a little like A1 sauce for all you Americans out there) and chili sauce - insanely hot and good with cheddar....Toodles for now.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Coming soon......

I will be back! I am leaving the US tomorrow and will really try to update my blog once I get used to UK time again.

The next month is going to be really hectic - I need to start and finish my dissertation - but there are lots of recipes I want to try and photos are required for our new business Crushhouse so I promise to make it worth your while if you hang in there.

I also need to go back and grovel to the lovely Daring Bakers and see if I am still allowed to call myself one.....

First new post with holiday piccies next week.......

Friday, 14 March 2008

Big Brother Rocks!

Sorry not that big brother but my big brother (pictured with the lovely Lucy)! Hurrah I am going on holiday! Well I am going to Boulder to see my brother so leaving one damp, cold place for another cold place but I will get to see snow, drink Jamba Juice (god i miss it in the UK) and stroll round Wholefoods. I can't wait!
I had fantastic sushi last time I was there so I am looking forward to repeating that as well as the most wonderful hot beef Salvaggio's Sandwich Shop experience. We also had great BBQ, so great I am salivating at the thought!

Trouble is I am on a diet for his wedding in June (I ordered the bridesmaid dress a size too small as incentive) so I may have to stick to the salads or save for lipo...
Anyway I shall be baking hard this weekend to get my next Daring Bakers challenge done and photographed before I leave on Tuesday. I will also try to post some of the other bits and pieces I have cooked recently just in case anyone is reading!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Mothers Day Pudding Cake

Mothers day is on the first Sunday in March in the UK and since I have had my own house it is tradition for Mummy to come to us for the day. This year she and Pa slept the night much to Harry's delight - he loves his Auntie Mummy! For me it was a great excuse to pop out and buy new bedlinen, a new passion, as well as candles, nice soap, a mummy's day gift and best of all plan what we were going to eat.

We had turkey, an enormous monster I couldn't resist buying on Christmas Eve when they were all reduced. I braised peas and lettuce, made fab bread sauce, great gravy, sprouts, roast potatoes and yummy purple sprouting. Wonderful, just like Christmas without all the panic! Pudding was the most glorious light lemony cake courtesy of Nigella.

I love this cake it is meringue covered cake filled with whipped cream and lemon curd, what could be better? I love a lemon pudding and this one feels light and is easy to make ahead. Sorry about the photo but none of us could wait while I took one of the whole thing and this was all that was left over after 5 of us had attacked it...
Lemon Meringue Cake
(Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
125g v soft unsalted butter
4 eggs separated
30g caster sugar
100g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
zest of 1 lemon - I don't use this as I am not a fan of zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
150ml double cream
Large splosh Amaretto (about a single measure)
150g lemon curd

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line and butter two 21cm sandwich tins.

Mix the egg yolks, 100g sugar, butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb and lemon zest in a processor. Add the lemon juice and milk and whizz again. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, there won't be much mixture but it will just go so spread it out as evenly as you can.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form then slowly whisk in 200g of sugar. Divide the mixture between the two tins, spreading the meringue mixture straight on top of the cake batter. Smooth one flat with a metal spatula and peak the other one using the back of a spoon. Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

With a cake tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all the way through. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tins.

Unmould the flat-topped cake onto a cake plate, meringue side down. Whisk the double cream with the Amaretto until thick but not stiff then set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first cake with the lemon curd, then spatula over the cream and gently put the other cake on top. Cut with a very sharp knife otherwise you can get sliding.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Daring Bakers - French Bread

This is Sarah reporting for the Daring Bakers the time - 15:00, the date - 29th Feb, the challenge - to make French Bread that takes about 10 hours and blog about it today!!

Step by Step

Bread & I are not friends. I can make a fab no knead loaf and a brilliant low GI seed loaf but they both have one thing in common - they are easy. They represent no challenge to anyone, you simply mix, leave to rise and then cook. Julia Childs French Bread on the other hand is a long winded as a French lunch break.

15:05 - I have messed up already. I have halved the recipe as we don't eat much bread and I am not certain enough to give any away. I forgot to halve the water. I was wondering why the hell the dough was sloppy, its because I used double the amount of water I needed. Instead of being intelligent and just making up more yeast and measuring the flour I have been daring (stupid) and just added until it feels right. Oh God this is going to be a disaster but for comedy's sake I will continue with the challenge.

15:24 - maybe everything will be fine I have battered the dough gently with my dough hook and it feels silk soft maybe a little tacky but my add flour instinct may be right after all. I am putting my baby to bed for the first rise, I will walk the dog during this period.
15:25 - Maybe everything won't alright I have no plastic with which to cover my bowl to enable my baby to rise. I hope aluminum foil will work just as well....

16:30 - It rises! It rises! I couldn't resist peaking, I am nervous and excited what if I don't love my baby?

16:50 - I am going to need drinks to see me through this long dark night. I am thinking raspberry daquiris and lemon drops will help. I am going out for supplies.

17:30 - I have my first bubble. I can't stop peeking which may of course ruin the end result...

17:35 - My first bubble has deflated. I must stop peeking...

18:30 - It appears to be growing warts, I am not sure I am going to love my baby...

18:54 - Dough deflated and turned into a puffy, yeasty pillow. Have sent boyfriend to collect drinking, I mean baking buddy for the evening. I can not leave such a young baby on its own.

19:00 - I must make supper, starting to chop tomoatoes for salsa, need to make burgers, potatoes and salad. Must also make a start on cocktails oh yeah must do that!

19:30 - 1 lemon drop down, 1 bag of chips with guacamole and 1 quesadilia. Oh yeah baby is rising again tough little sucker!

20:00 - Another lemon drop, scared but take a peek at baby. Its time. I remove carefully whilst Claire makes more drinks. The blender is off putting but I manage it without mishap. I shape the soft baby into 2 vague rounds. (Lemon drops are potent, 2 shots of lemoncello & triple sec in each). Now I must, no they must rest....

20:30 - Another lemon drop. We eat homemade burgers, a little dry, with rosemary potatoes, a little overcooked, I forgot the garlic - damn. I must not cook when drinking!

20:40 - Rise my pretties. Rise.

20:50 - Another lemon drop.

21:10 - another lemon drop.....

21:20 - another lemon drop.....must rise, please rise....

22:03 - must put in oven, must have another lemon drop. Have now turned doughy pillows and placed in oven hoping for the best. Bugger have also burnt my finger. Double bugger have also drunk best part of a 2 bottles of booze. Also burnt thumb, I hate my baby.

22:21 - last lemon drop. Me & Claire now tired need sleep, bloody baby keeping us awake. Could do with another lemon drop or hot chocolate with cream and whiskey.

22:35 - Finally it is done. History will either celebrate or curse me. I can not try it until tomorrow .

22:54 - I am tired. I must go to bed. Please excuse the poor pictures but the professional photographer I live with has left his cameras in a safe at work. The shame. I will update tomorrow after tasting the unattractive baby.

Goodnight and sweet dreams. X

UPDATE: My bread was surprisingly good! The crust was crispy and it had a nice crumb and good flavour. I always get a great deal of satisfaction making bread but it was a very long recipe! Thanks so much to Mary and Sarah who must have spent hours making it such an easy to follow recipe and for challenging us with an 11 hour recipe, I really enjoyed it.