Monday, 17 October 2011

Project Spectrum - September

I was looking forward to September and it's yellowness. 

Again I started off with the card to MG.  Yellow is her favourite colour and she was looking forward to the yellow month

Her reply to my 'are you going to do something yellow'  was ' I might do'.

This lovely yellow fellow was being used by the fishmonger at Whitstable Harbour to draw people in.  LC and I had a wander around the harbour and did indeed go in to look at the fish.  So it worked.

Golden flowers, again from MO's garden where I think she must have flowers for every colour of the rainbow.

And then I decided to be artistic.  This is the result of a whole afternoon of me arranging and re-arranging bits of yellow fruit and photographing them from every angle.  If I had one I would be telling myself  'don't give up the day job'.

AJ and MG made the final photographic decision.
And thanks to our lovely, short but lovely, indian summer there were still a few remaining sunflowers in MO's garden

October Project Spectrum is Aqua/Cyan but I might not do that one.  I seem to have lost interest a bit.  November is black and white, I'll see how I feel when November arrives.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Book 6 - The Tent, The Bucket and Me

This was my antidote to One Day.  I bought The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy last year but somehow it got into the wrong pile of books and I didn't realise I hadn't read it.  After I had read One Day and was putting it into the bookcase this book  caught my eye and I picked it up.  It's occasions like that which make me wonder if there is a benevolent universe looking out for me after all because this is the funniest book I have read in a while.  I laughed out loud. Real giggling, body shaking laughter which is an interesting experience when reading a hardback in bed at night.  At first I thought it wasn't perhaps a good idea to read something so funny before going to sleep but I only read a few pages at a time and I had some of the best nights sleep afterwards.

Emma has written about a period in the 70s when her parents bought a tent and decided camping was the way to go holidaywise.  She chronicles the disastrous  holidays they had in such an expressive  way that it was like watching a film.  I could just see it happening.  She says in her introduction that she has frequently been asked if she had made any of it up and her reply is 'Sadly not.  In fact, I wish I had.'

Emma was conceived on her parent's honeymoon in a badly erected rain lashed tent.  Her first family holiday aged three was in 1970 and consisted of collecting a doom laden Welsh granny whilst driving an extremely dodgy bargain car on the way to a strangely deserted  campsite set on the edge of a cliff in Wales.  A tale of gale force ten winds and rain, dead sheep, a bucket of wee,   a caravan with seaweed in the toilet and near death unfolds which is hilarious.  It is a foretaste of each holiday the family takes, whether in a tent or in a gite,  throughout the seventies, minus the Welsh granny who decides one trip into hell is more than enough.  These tales include a school camping trip which is just as eventful as her parents holidays and nicely  illustrates the confusing biological information a seven year old can hold as being true and the innocence with which they will pass this information onto a gobsmacked adult.

I love the theatre and film as much as I love books but I am not at all keen on farce, to the degree that I generally avoid anything remotely farcical.  What stops this book being pure farce is the quality of the writing and the fact it is a first person narrative.  It has the same biting humour that a good episode of Frasier has.  It is observant and being written in the first person the reader is party to Emma's thoughts and feelings about each and every holiday disaster and this gives it a certain depth and of course, it's personal. It's a book I will keep on hand for when life is being unkind and I am in need of a good laugh because I could easily read it again and still find it funny. 

And I am so, so  glad I have never been camping and I never, ever intend to start.

Friday, 7 October 2011


In need of some therapy I settled down the other evening to make Beetroot Chutney with the beautiful beetroot I bought at a farm shop during a rare excursion into the countryside. Except, after I had added to my preserving pan 1.1 litres of vinegar, 900g sugar, 450g onions and 700g of apples all nicely chopped where necessary, I found I didn't have the 1kg beetroot I asked and paid for, I had a mere 600g.  Ooooer I thought, oh well I will have to make it up with more apples and onions and see what happens.  So that is what I did.

Eight jars of 'jamney' and a veryveryveryveryveryvery burnt preserving pan is what happened.

I quite like the taste of the jamney, but then as I have said before, I like the taste of my cooking usually, so my dear friends L and B H have agreed to be Beetroot Jamney testers for me and give me their honest opinion.  I think I'm looking forward to that.

However, I am more concerned about my burnt preserving pan.  I  have no idea how to rescue it.  So far I have tried soaking it in warm soapy water overnight, heating it gently on the cooker for a short while, scrubbing with a brillo pad and three days and nights soaking it in vinegar. All to no avail.  The significant ex has informed me that I need to heat it at a high temperature and then when it's hot enough add a few drops of water.  Hmmm.  He does know about these sorts of things having gained a combined degree in chemistry and maths but I am a little anxious about putting an empty (apart from burnt bottom) pan on  a cooking ring and turning it up full.  And how hot is 'enough'.  I would have to stay in the kitchen the whole time in case it explodes and if it explodes what about me!  So before I attempt that piece of advice  I am going to go and get some coke - that would be cola by the way - I don't where to go for the other kind - and try soaking it in that.  I believe genuine coca-cola, as in fat not thin and not a copy, has remarkable stripping qualities.

My sanity is at risk if I can't get back to the theraputic effects of making chutney so if anyone out there has a foolproof tip for  rescuing burnt preserving pans I would be very grateful if you would let me know.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Great British Bake Off - episode 6 - Desserts

I'm with Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) on  this one (actually  I  have a bit of a  soft spot for Henry Winkler and would probably be with him on most things really).  He was on Something for the Weekend a while ago and was invited to make the dessert.  His reply was 'Pudding? We have pudding? I love pudding'.    So I was really looking forward to this episode. And isn't it funny how there is always room for pudding.

The signature challenge this week was a Baked Cheesecake, the technical challenge  a Chocolate Roulade and the show stopper a Croquembouche.

Well, there was no way I would be making this was there

so that's the showstopper out of the way. 

I know a roulade and  swiss roll are different but they both need to be rolled and, again going back to school days, my only attempt at a  swiss roll ended up with a perfectly  square one.  Also I don't have the right size tin for a roulade.  So I shall be making a Baked Cheesecake then. 

Janet made a Rhubarb and Ginger one, Mary-Anne's was Tutti Frutti Curd Baked Cheesecake,  Jo's was Rum and Raisin and Yasmin's Amaretto while Holly made a Father Christmas Baked Cheesecake. They all looked lovely but  I wanted to make Jo's Rum and Raisin Baked Cheesecake and I so hoped the recipe would be on the website and, oh joy, it was.

I have to say nothing went wrong with the buying of the ingredients.  The actual preparation went according to plan.  I somehow managed to actually follow the recipe without incident so the making of it went well and it's time in the oven seemed to agree with it although it was slightly overcooked at the edge and it did crack.  I did add more butter to the biscuit mixture because it seemed a bit dry and to my everlasting surprise when I went back to look at the episode (again after I had made the cheesecake!!!) Paul Hollywood told Jo that she should have added more butter to hers as it wasn't packed enough - yay me!

This is Jo's Rum and Raisin Cheesecake

and this is mine.

The crack looks a bit like the one on Amy Pond's bedroom wall doesn't it (a Dr Who reference for non-aficionados).  Oooops you can see where my oven gloves went into the sauce on the top.

It's still in the tin because of transporting to MO's for Sunday dinner where  I forgot to photograph it when we took it out of the tin until it was sliced and served and JT, bless him,  said 'have we taken a photo?'  I dashed for the camera and here it is sans tin.

I am so chuffed to say my cheesecake was very much liked and I was given 10 out of 10 for it.  The taste of rum was especially appreciated although I don't think I would have won points from Paul Hollywood for it as he felt Jo's was nicely delicate and not overwhelmed with the alcohol.  I soaked my raisins overnight in the rum.  I like overwhelming alcohol and so did the MO and JT household.  I'm going to make it again definitely.

Sadly The Great British Bake Off has now ended. The finalists were Holly, Jo and Mary-Anne, Yasmin having been eliminated this episode and Janet in the patisserie round.  They all did so well but Jo was the winner.  And now my Tuesday nights will be a little bit empty but I have Nigel Slater on Fridays and Lorraine Pascale on Mondays to watch, plan and cook from.  I got so behind with my self imposed Bake Off challenge that I'm two episodes behind but I'm still going to make something from both although I don't know when.  LP, a  lovely member of my family, is giving me the book of the series for an early Christmas present so I might be able to get different recipes to try.  Exciting baking times ahead methinks.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Great British Bake Off - episode 5 - Pies

I like pies so I was really looking forward to this episode.  Actually, so far I have really been looking forward to all the episodes.  What can I say, I love cakes, biscuits, tarts, pies, puddings, breads and anything else of a fattening nature.

So many pies, so many choices - Holly made Three Cheese, Potato and Caramelised Onion Pie,  Rob made Chicken and Mushroom, Yasmin a Family Fish Pie, Jo also made fish pie, a yummy sounding Salmon and Asparagus, Mary-Anne - Chicken and Bacon, Janet - Chicken and Chestnut, Jason - Brown Down Chicken Pie, all with either flaky or puff pastry.  The required element/ technical challenge was to make Paul Hollywood's miniature pork pie with a quails egg in the centre.  Six of them.  I made a hand raised hot water crust pastry pork pie at school.  It was notable for being a success.   The showstopper was to make a sweet meringue pie using either the French or Italian method. 

Sadly Jason and Rob were eliminated this time.  Jason, who was so sweet and enjoying the experience so much, but  was only nineteen and as Mary Berry said he just lacked the skill and the background.  Rob's charm failed him on this occasion. His showstopper failed miserably, it sort of fell apart because he got his timings wrong again and unfortunately he had used up all his chances with Paul Hollywood.  Paul said he loved their passion for baking and there was a lack of youth in his industry at the moment so when Jason said it was what he wanted to do he was keen to encourage him.

So, to pies.  Again I was limited to those recipes printed on the website so because it looked so nice, was different, I loved all the ingredients and she  used flaky pastry I decided to make Holly's Three Cheese, Potato and Caramelised Onion Pie.

This decision was made a couple of weeks ago but I hit a problem.  The pie fed eight.  I am just me.  So in my usual generous way I invited friends round to eat said pie. Unfortunately they couldn't make it so I made the offer elsewhere.  Unfortunately they couldn't make it either.  I seem to have chosen the busiest two weeks in September as no-one could could come round for pie.

I was now quite behind with my Great British Bake Off challenge.  At this point I really should have looked at my options such as halving the quantity at least, or looking at making another pie which I knew would freeze well (wasn't sure this would).  Instead I developed an obsession.  I would make this pie and I would make it as per the recipe.  What I would do with a pie that big I wasn't going to think about because it was very important I make that pie.  

And make it I did.

And here is where I really should leave it at that and go  on to the next overdue episode.  Pie made, onto dessert.

But I'm not going to.  Dear reader I am going to tell the sad and sorry tale of my pie. 

I made the pastry.  I haven't made flaky pastry  for quite some while as you can now buy quite good ready made pastry in the supermarket.  I had forgotten how much I like making it.  So that went well.  I made up all the different bowls of ingredients for the filling.  A bit fiddly but it went well.  So then I started the layering.  ' Step 11 Layer one quarter of the potatoes, a third of the onions and a third of ...'.  Onions?  Onions? What onions?  I had  completely by passed step 7 - lightly caramelise the onions.  Sigh. Off I went to the cooker to caramelise my onions. Lightly.  And resume layering. I was just about to put the final layer of potatoes on when I glanced round and saw - the remaining two thirds of the caramelised onions.  Softly glistening with butter and still in the saucepan on the cooker. Sigh.  I couldn't bring myself to unlayer so I just dolloped them on top, covered them with the last of the potato and put the pastry on top.  And put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 220 and then for one hour at 180 or until golden brown.

This is Holly's pie going in

and coming out after presumably one and half hours cooking


this is my pie going in

it has character!

and coming out after just an hour in the oven

(yes I remembered to turn it down, I think I should have checked on it sooner - I don't have a glass door in my oven - that's one of my excuses)

I know I was going to embrace the quirkiness of my cooking - but really, with this, I think not.   Just as well nobody took me up on the offer of pie.

So, next episode is desserts.  I like desserts.

I am also having computer issues - again.  It took me an hour and forty-five minutes to load these photos.  It took me thirty-five minutes to get into my blog.  I keep losing Internet access mid sentence.  It is a little frustrating not to mention slow.  Hopefully I will post desserts tomorrow (especially as it's the final Bake Off tonight and I still have Patisserie to do before I post that).