Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Into the thick of it.

How on earth do you working people blog so prolifically?! I'm sending out some serious respect to all of you working bloggers, especially those who are dedicated enough to be managing things like this!
Yes, I am now in the realms of work. Not exactly the nine to five, as it's more 8.30 until whenever things get done. But I'm loving it, which is a good sign. Okay, I'm only two days in, but they've been long days, with a steep learning curve, and so far so good. I'm hoping that once my body gets over the initial shock I'll be right back to the ridiculous amounts of baking and preserving that have graced this blog in the past.But, no fear, I do have a recipe for you today, and lots of other things to share. Firstly, I shall admit to spending the five days after hand-in very well indeed; in the beautiful sunny hills of Italy. We ate too much food, and drank far too much wine, and it was fabulous. The perfect little treat.As ever my photos were mostly food, and frankly with produce as stunning as that from Italy who can blame me. It wasn't quite autumn there, but the gourds were already out in force, showing off their deep oranges and dusky yellows. The grapes were heavy on the vines and the coffee and pastries divine. Mmmm....I also have seven things to share with you as hinted at in the previous post. I was very kindly given the kreativ blogger award by Liz, whose lovely blog occupies this corner of the web, and I think it's about time I share the seven fact about myself. Hmm, it's hard thinking of these things, but I'll give it my best shot. I just hope they're vaguely interesting.

- By the age of 11 I knew I wanted to do a PhD, and by the age of 14 I knew what I was going to do it in. Weird huh?!

- One of the reasons behind wanting a PhD was so that when I was a great rock and roll bass player people I could be called Dr, like Dr Dre or Dr John, and I'd actually be one. I haven't even picked up my bass for ages.

- I don't mind rodents or spiders, I love snakes. However, I am terrified of s
lugs and snails. They freak me out, and I have been known to freeze and squeal at the sight of them. I kid you not.

- One day I want to own two sheep. One called Eddie, the other called Bill.

- I'm bit odd about white and yellow foods. Eggs are only okay if cooked into cakes, I don't like bananas, and am very particular about creams and custards. It's a texture thing. Blah, slimy.

- I have competed in a national fencing competition. I came second to last.

- I'm not a huge fan of potatoes, or any other carb apart from fresh pasta or bread, but I crave good chips rather more often than I admit to.

And speaking of which, I give you a recipe:
These were perfect just before we went away. Baked rather than fried and seasoned with lashings of salt, pepper and paprika. Amazing. They may seem simple, but try them.

Baked paprika chips.

One large potato per person
2 tsp oil per potato + 2 tsp (I used olive)
black pepper
smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 220C. Coat a large roasting pan with 2 tsp of oil and place in the oven as it warms.

Slice the potatoes into small strips, making them like fries rather than traditional British chips. Once the oven has reached temperature spread the chips out into the pan and drizzle the remaining oil over it, grind some pepper and salt over them and toss. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the chips are golden brown and crisping. You'll need to toss them about every fifteen minutes. Mine took about 45mins.

Remove from the oven. Douse in paprika to your own taste (I like a lot). Return to the oven for two minutes to bring out the flavour of the spice and then serve tossed with more salt and pepper.

See, I've finally given you a recipe! I promise more, honest. Apparently there's a tradition in the office that every Friday someone brings in some sort of cake. Guess who's getting in on that immediately!

As for passing on the award, I have a theory. So many of you out there are creative and blogging, that passing it on to just seven people would be a little cruel, and as it happens I know many of you have already either received the award, or something similar. So, I shall instead just try and pass on my enthusiasm and love of all things creative and hope to continue reading about all the amazing things you are all already doing that inspire me daily and make me realise that no matter how long the days at work, coming back to this little space makes me grin and motivates me. Thank you everyone, for your reading, and for your writing.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Beating a retreat, smugly.

Ta da!

Gosh, I can't quite believe I've done it. It's all done.

For now at least. I still have to sit the exam in a little while, but right now I am going to revel in the fact that it's handed in and I can relax. Well, until next Tuesday when I start my first ever 9-5 job.

Don't worry, I'll be making the best of it until then.

See you in a little while...

(p.s. sorry, photos from my phone so not the best quality)

(p.p.s. I promise I'll get to the lovely award and other things, I just need some space for my head to explode, then I'll be back!)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

When in doubt, make pie.

In my usual bleary-eyed early(ish) morning email and blog checking I suddenly noticed that it had been ten days since I'd posted. Ten days! How on earth had that happened? Then I mentally tracked back across those hours and it gradually became clear. What a ten days it has been.

There's been a flurry of strange happenings around here lately and as a result the last week or so has disappeared never to be seen again.

First, Sniff decided that since the tiny bird clearly wasn't impressive enough, he needed to try harder. Enter the rat. Yes, I did say rat. Now, it was a small one, but still twice the size of a mouse, and Sniff conveniently herded it into the study, the smallest, most full, room of the house. Great stuff Sniff, thanks for that. Cue a frantic hour and a half of trying to chase, maneuver, and encourage said rodent out of the place. The relief of its final exit was brief as I returned to absolute carnage. Books off shelves, fabric from my stash on the floor and a broken bobbin case. It was not a good afternoon.

Then after that debarcle came the big stuff, about jobs and all sorts. Followed
by stressing over some teaching.

So, what did I do to ease these troubled times? I did the only thing I could. I made pie. On the first of September it was as if the god of weather himself had flicked the switch and made it autumn. The air was chilly, the leaves beginning to crisp and fall, the afternoon light slightly weaker. Great! I thought, now I can get back to pies and sausage and mash, and roasts. Then came the curve ball, it suddenly got warm again. Talk about messing with my seasonal excitement.

So I made the pastry, and it sat in the fridge and went unused, until I couldn't stand it any more. I needed pie, I needed hot fruity bubbling pastry-enclosed reassurance on a plate, covered in cream. I needed something homely and comforting to remind me that despite the rats of this world things are indeed very good.

Now, my only issue with this little pie (well, galette really as I was trying to cut down pastry consumption) is the filling wasn't quite as bubbling and fruity as I expected. Probably by fault as I just adapted the filling of something else. However, when we had it the second day it was much better. Weird, but good of course!

My real delight came from the pastry. I wanted something a bit different
, and my experiment worked perfectly. I can't wait to make it again, this time to use with a proper pie filled with British apples.

As a result, I recommend you try the pastry, but use with your own filling recipe, just to make sure. I used 2 cups of blueberries (with some raspberries to make up the amount) 2 tbsp of cornflour and a dash of lemon juice and it just wasn't quite right. In fact it was very much "alright" and next time I'll be back to good ole apple pie, and no messin'

Cinnamon pastry (makes enough for one 8" galette, but could easily be doubled.)

3oz cold butter, cut into small cubes/chunks
6oz plain flour
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
1.4 tsp cinnamon

In a medium bowl, place the flour, cinnamon and sugar and mix. Rub the cold butter with your fingertips so that it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (I used my new pastry blender, and I'm so in love!) The slowly add a little milk at a time until the pastry just comes together - I make it so it still seems a little dry.

Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before using.

Alternatively you can make it in a food processor, but I'm afraid I don't have one, hence the hand instructions.

oh, oh, oh, how could I almost forgot, I won an award! Thank you Liz! So, in the next post you'll get seven things you might not know about me...(and I promise it won't take as long this time around!)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Rescue mission

Some days I'm trying to be a domestic goddess, some days I'm trying to be an academic, some days I'm just trying to stay awake, and then some days I'm trying to rescue tiny birds from the jaws of a ruthless cat.

This tiny tiny thing was brought in by Sniff today. He was stroked and soothed by me the best I could (I have no experience with birds, but hoped that very gentle stroking would calm it down) and the with Sniff locked in the flat the bird was taken outside. I think he was okay, no obvious wounds other than a little redness where Sniff had carried him. He tried to fly, but was fluttering on the ground and then disappeared under the fence into the grass next door. I keep telling myself that it will be okay, and so far Sniff as returned to the flat empty-jawed, which I can only hope is a good omen for such a sweet little bird.

I love Sniff so much that my heart aches when he eeks unhappily, and bursts when I wake up with him sleeping full length on my chest. But there are times when I wish I could explain to him just why I'm not pleased with his presents. Poor thing looked so sad when I took his toy away.

Things are manic right now, and for once I've been so busy I haven't busted out the baking tins in more than a week. A week, people! A tragedy, I know as alas, not even a three day weekend yielded the usual flurry of activity in this north London kitchen. But I promise I'll try harder, and hopefully have a recipe up in a couple of days.