Saturday, July 28, 2007

new books and cafe


On Monday I turned 34 and then I turned into a bad tempered, irrational mother (again). Is there a remedy for intolerance?

Also on Monday, I ate the most delicious lunch at the just opened
Wiveton Cafe, cooked by wonderful friend and fabulous chef, Ali Yetman. The
Cafe is a delight; brightly coloured inside with views over looking the
growing seasonal vegetables Ali cooks with and part of the North
Norfolk coastline. I've written a more detailed post here.

As with the nature of birthdays, lovely gifts are received and as with most of my
birthdays, books are welcomely received and usually from my in-laws and
brother Matt - thank you. This year I received cook books; Angela
Harnetts Cucina and Clotilde Dusoulier's  Chocolate & Zucchini inspired by the well known food blog of the same name. I'm looking forward to having a closer look and baking something. I haven't baked for ages  (perhaps that's my problem...)

The other book I received from my in-laws was Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing- perfectly timed to encourage me to create in my new and already untidy 'studio' ( I use that term very lightly).


Monday, July 23, 2007

blackcurrant jam


I made endless jars of blackcurrant jam last week. The fruit was purchased from the small fruit farm outside Horsford for only 50p a lb. Seemed stupidly cheap.

Recipe reference for next year.

  • 6 lb blackcurrants - de-stalked and unwashed

  • 5 lb 12 oz granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2  pint water

Place the blackcurrants and water in preserving pan or large saucepan and bring to boil.
Simmer for 15 mins, removing fruit-scrum as it bubbles.
Add sugar and boil for 30mins, stirring frequently to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan.
Blackcurrant jam always sets without any problem, but to check, place a small amount on a chilled plate , leave for a few minutes and see if it 'wrinkles' when pushed. If it does, it will set.
Pour into sterilised jars, I used the dishwasher then warmed in the oven.
Then seal with wax discs and jam pot covers.

third batch


Mum - you asked me this week if I could move on from the macaroons....and finally, I will. Phew. But first I must say that I made a third batch. And, had I bothered to sieve the ground almonds rather than not, they would have looked less lumpy-rustic. Still,  they did look good, only I now think that simple-to-make-bog-standard macaroons using Nigella's recipe, tastes so much better than these airy, sweet, faffy, piped, filled creations. Yes, they look good but they just don't seem to satisfy my almond cravings. Even after eating 10-20 with fillings ranging from lemon curd to peanut butter, they just weren't hitting the mark. Is there something wrong with me?

latitude and gratitude


Last weekend we all went to Latitude Festival, Suffolk. We camped, walked (lots), danced, laughed, ate and drank. We we were invited along as guest with Uncle David and the crew of the kids puppet theatre group doing The Peddlar of Swaffham which was one of the best shows there - I am biased, but comedians Marcus Brigstocke and Dylan Moran even spoke highly of them in their stand up set. I've blogged about the event on All Things Considered so I won't go on... but it's definitely a great festival to take kids to.

On the culinary side of things, I've been quite busy. Fruit picking, jam making, vodka/gin fruit infusing, baking endless types of bread and also I packed off my first baked parcel to my cousins wife Claudia who had just given birth to Marmaduke Gerry. Stuffed in a box were, the 3rd attempt macaroons (I hope she likes them), chunky ginger biscuits, chocolate salty sables and chocolate coconut mini-muffins and topped with a child style, left-handed home drawn card. To my delight and surprise, Claudia is planning on putting in orders for her just-birthed friends. I knew the post birth sugar hit would be a winner.

Friday, July 13, 2007

second attempt macaroons


Having eaten too many of the sugary, crisp macaroons the other night, I lay
awake worrying and wondering about everything and anything for much
longer than I wanted to. So, come the morning, I was rather tetchy
which wasn't soothed by immediately scoffing more of the now soft
biscuits. I was happy to discover, the crispy, toast like macaroons had improved over night and even more so, when I sandwiched with some chocolate Dulce de Leche (which I imagine to a macaroon zealots, is bad) between two biscuits. Oh well, I thought it inventive, it tasted bloody good and involved no washing up.

The recipe I used for Alan Bennett's favourite cup of tea accomplishment, was from Insanity Theory blog which I came across per chance. She uses the Italian meringue technique which is used by adding hot sugar syrup instead of  caster to the egg white. It makes a much more solid 'soft peak' (bit of a contradiction). I've no idea what a pavlova or small meringues would be like made this way, I'll try and find out one day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

latest obsession(s)


I did it. I actually went for a run this evening. Music in ears, hideously unfashionable trainers on and off I went up the hill, around the park and up another hill and finally down one home. I was gone away 15 luxurious lonesome minutes. Whether or not I can keep this up is another thing. If there are noticeable improvements in my moods, my energy levels and my desire to do house work, then running is a good thing and I will endeavor to continue.

So, feeling revitalised, I set to prepare myself a quinoa, cashew, feta and watercress salad (... I know), whilst also trying my second batch of the 2006- blog-trendy, French macaroon. Multi tasking is not one of my strong points.

They are sitting in the oven as I write this and some of the macaroons 'feet' have appeared. Phew. My last batch didn't grow feet which means I failed. It's quite a complex but quick procedure, and every blog that had a recipe conflicted with the other. I've mentioned previously about Pierre Herme, the French king of exquisite biscuits and cakes, who makes some of the most attractive macaroons (see image) is the inspiration behind the popular blog topic. Anyway, just checked mine, the feet are stunted and the second tray to be baked, are totally over cooked and crisp like melba toast (see what I mean about multi tasking?) Perhaps it's my appallingly distressed and over worked oven that is failing, but I doubt it, although it will be interesting to see how our brand new oven (it's been sitting boxed for 5 months) will fair in comparison. I hope to find out one day soon.

creating energy


I wish I could blog daily like other folk but the truth is, I can't. Well I do, but that's another story....

During my days of wearing ear plugs to protect myself from frequent whinging (Evie does have chicken pox so moaning is allowed), I conduct verbal banter with myself about what I'm going to waffle about. Then, when it comes to finally sitting down and writing something, my mind goes blank.

I sometimes wonder if I should set time limits on the use of the laptop - it can be quite destructive. I find the World Wide Web just exactly that. A web so vast and wide, with so many people with so much talent totally daunting. The further I click, the further I get woven in, the further I'm inspired and the further I think I should  just leave blogging and surfing to others as in many ways, not having the time to create is worse than being inspired.

But hey, I've also been considering exercise today. I need to energise my tired body and mind and I think that some sort of exercise/dance could be the solution. The other week I received an email from someone who'd come across the The Bee Hive. Cassie actually lives nearby and has been writing a blog, Rectors Wife Revamp since January about her progression and transformation since getting a personal trainer. Cassie is now getting hooked on running and the photos of her before and after, are inspirational - as I said in my reply email, my trainers are out of the cupboard - a step further to being worn for the first time in 3 years and a second time ever to pound the pavements (maybe...)

Back to food, the thing I'm comfy with, the photo above is of our supper. Broad beans and spuds form our garden, preserved artichokes from last months arduous preparation and goats cheese and b'roo from Asda (the shop people hate but I love, but more on that another day). Why my beetroot hasn't grown this year is a mystery, I have planted seeds four times with nothing appearing but a fashionably minuscule red stemed leaf. Very disappointing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ginger & chocolate biscuits


This hideous weather isn't just making my emotions damp, my eyes weep irratically like a semi broken water feature, but it's also making me want to bake, bake and bake. I counted 9 different types of flour in my cupboard the other day. Is that excessive? And if I don't have flour, eggs, sugar, chocolate and unsalted butter in the house I feel uneasy. I can't work out if it's the constant rain, or the wheat/butter/sugar addiction I have that's getting to me, or just that I'm a mother with two small children trapped indoors during the summer months....

However, I made some buttery ginger biscuits the other day, very similar to my favourite chocolate salty sables from Foodbeam taken from Pierre Herme who incidentally, could be the most stylish baker I've ever come across. The biscuits are quick, easy, freezable and damn tasty and I've now got to add crystallised ginger as another must have security ingredient. Have you ever tried a mug of chopped ginger and hot water? Delicious.

To make the biscuits, weigh out:

  • 175g plain flour, rice flour or 50/50 of them both - rice flour makes a crunchier biscuit

  • 125g softened unsalted butter

  • 50g light brown sugar

  • 75g crystallised ginger

  • 50g plain chocolate, chopped (optional)

  • Maldon sea salt

Preheat oven to 150Âșc.
Using a food processor, add the butter and the sugar and pulse until combined.
Add flour, continue to pulse then add ginger cubes. Pulse until you have the ginger to the size you like. Bigger is best in my opinion.
Take out blade and add chopped chocolate.
Scrap dough out of processor and halve.
Roll each half into a sausage and wrap in cling-film.
Place in fridge until firm enough to slice. (Freeze the mixture at this point if  wanting to use later).
Slice into rounds, sprinkle with sea salt, place on a baking tray lined with silicone paper, and bake for 10-12 mins or until a light, golden colour.
Cool on baking sheet then transfer to wire cooling rack.

If you don't want to add chocolate to the biscuits, you could cover them with melted chocolate instead.