oh well

Well, I’ve already failed in my aim to post every day, but I have been discovering some wonderful new things everyday:

Flight of the Conchords. Possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen since the Mighty Boosh (which was about 4 years ago now). Go check them out.

iKnit. Possibly the best knitting shop I’ve been to. Ever. Its more about the location and the atmosphere of the shop, although they have a fantastic range of bamboo needles and yarns. If you can get to Vauxhall train station, you should pay them a visit.

Sweet Paul. Possibly the best food photography sight I’ve seen (but I’ve only seen his). There are some very inspiring photos of cakes on there. Do you need to know more?

Cupcake Bakeshop. Possibly the best baking site I’ve seen. This crazy woman does nothing but post about cupcakes with wacky tastes and colours.

And I’ve started knitting this:

Convertible

Its called convertible and you can find it on http://www.knitty.com. Its a gorgeous lace shawl which can be buttoned in a variety of ways. It’ll be perfect for me if I can knit enough repeats without frogging it too many times, but its been a b*gger to start. I’ve used a provisional cast-on as the yarn I’m using is much more fine than the original and I’m not sure I’ll have enough, so I figured this way I can always add more to the ends. There are some gorgeous examples on Ravelry too.  Anyway, enough of my ranting, its late – I apologise if this post seems incoherent! night.

Blinkin duckberries

You see, I have become a recent slave to the seasons. I’m a little addicted to foodie magazines at the moment and the current foodie trend is seasonal eating. Quite how the british can justify eating bananas is beyond me if you look at the world in those terms, but maybe we can work out some moral loophole.

Anyway, the recent faddy thing for me has been gooseberries. No idea why. However, I was all set to make Sarah Raven’s Gooseberry tart, except for some reason there were no gooseberries. Not even in Waitrose. bum. So I bought rhubarb instead – Rhubarb tart, how terribly middle england. Now, since rhubarb is slightly more dense than the old gooseberry, I thought I’d poach it very gently in orange juice and ground ginger. Except I got a little distracted while I was making it and ended up with rhubarb sludge. So I bunged it all in the oven and got rhubarb quiche. It went down very well at last night’s gig I can tell you.

Rhubarb Quiche

Shopping List
400g untrimmed rhubarb
juice of 2 small oranges or one large one
1tsp ground ginger
caster sugar to taste (i used about 50g)

Pastry
1 egg yolk
150g plain flour (I use Shipton Mill)
50g caster sugar
75g fridge-cold butter
ice-cold water

custard
3 eggs
284ml double cream
100g caster sugar
zest of 1 large orange or 2 small ones

method
first, trim and chop the rhubarb into 2cm cubes. Pare the rind from the oranges and set aside. Juice the fruit and add it to a saucepan with the rhubarb and ground ginger. Add some caster sugar and leave to simmer until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Use your judgement here – I prefer my rhubarb a little more sharp than others, but you may prefer it sweeter so be careful with the caster sugar. Leave to cool once cooked.

Now, make the pastry. Briefly mix the sugar and flour together in a food processor. Add the butter in small chunks and pulse very carefully until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Be careful not to over mix as you don’t want to warm the butter and create the pastry in the processor. Turn the breadcrumbs into a mixing bowl and add the egg yolk. Mix with your hands and add only enough of the water to create a dough. turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll the pastry so you can line a 22-23cm flan tin. Don’t trim the pastry! Put the tin on a baking try and leave to sit in the fridge for 30mins.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on the lined flan tin and add baking beans. Place the tin in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes.

While the tin is cooking, mix the cream, eggs, sugar and orange rind together until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cooled Rhubarb. When the pastry is finished in the oven, take it out and leave it cool slightly. Add the rhubarb mixture and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the centre is set and the tart is starting to brown lightly.

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Can I rant?

One of the drawbacks of performing at functions so often is that you often end up eating the same typical celebration food, usually leg or breast of chicken (corn-fed or not) in a white wine sauce with a medley of seasonal vegetables. We refer to it as a ‘substantial chicken dish’.

Or worse, if you’re in a hotel, sandwiches and chips. That particular combination is the bane of my life. For some reason, this classifies as a hot meal in a hotel. I mean, would you offer sandwiches and chips to someone in place of dinner? No, probably not.

Then why is it customary to feed this to the wedding band who have driven up to 2 hours to get there, have to sit around for another 2 because the wedding is running late, have to remain sober because they’re driving but put up with the drunken rantings of the wedding guests, play I Wish for the 18 millionth time in their life, explain why we can’t play for another hour for free and then drive the 2 hours home. Yes, we’re getting paid but considering we have to pay 22% tax, 8% national insurance, petrol and subsistence costs, and that we might only gig twice a week, then £150 per musician is a fairly reasonable amount of money. PLEASE can you feed me something other than sandwiches and chips or a substantial chicken dish? After all, the hotel or caterer is probably charging you about £5 a head and when you think they probably make it for about £1.50 a head they’re taking quite a cut. Get your money’s worth.

Rant over.

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that sunday lunchtime jazz gigs normally mean you get fed a roast lunch. I’m not arguing about that. It just meant that after today’s jazz gig I didn’t feel like another roast when I got home so I made this light lentil soup.

Light Lentil Soup
500ml chicken stock
2 bayleaves
1 large glass white wine
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2tbsp chilli oil (mine is fairly mild – dilute yours with vegetable oil if necessary)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
250g Red lentils

Method

Fry the onions in the oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and after 60 seconds add the ground spices. Toast them for another minute or so and then add the lentils. Coat them until they are glistening with the spices and oil. Add the wine and simmer until reduced and then pour in the chicken stock and add the bay leaves. clamp a lid on and simmer gently for 30 mins.

*snuffle*

I’m sick.

With a chest infection and some kind of sinus problem. Its my own fault, I shouldn’t have started training for a 10k race so soon after my cold, but I can’t change that now. Instead, I am taking it easy and am on a serious immune-boosting trip. So I’ve included a few recipes of what I’m dosing up on.

Melon, Orange and Lime smoothie
As well as being full of beta carotene, this is full of Vitamin C and the lime juice gives it a nice tang.

Shopping List
1 quarter Charentais melon
2 juicing oranges
juice of half a lime

destructions
Peel and chop the melon flesh. Juice one of the oranges. pare the Orange rind off the remaining orange using a knife. If you don’t want to use a knife then you can peel it with your fingers but make sure to remove all the white pith – it’ll taste bitter if you leave it in. Put the whole lot in a blender and blend until smooth.

Pancakes with summer berry sauce
yes yes, I realise this is not the healthiest recipe around but it is one of the most comforting and there is some fruit in it!

shopping list

Pancake batter:
50g flour
1 egg (make sure its at room temperature)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 pint of milk
(I used semi-skimmed as that’s what I had in the house but please don’t use skimmed, its like white water. Do you even realise how little fat there is in a pint of milk?)

Fruit sauce:
160g summer berries
2 tbsp caster sugar or to taste
1/2 tsp arrowroot
juice of one small orange (literally 2-3 tbsps)

Destructions
Add the flour to a mixing bowl and crack in the egg. Whisk the egg into the flour and then add the olive oil*. You should have a sticky mess at this point. Add the milk little a little at a time, each time beating until the mixture is smooth. If you do it this way you will avoid a lumpy batter. Once all the milk has been added leave it to sit for about 20-30 minutes.

If you don’t have someone to help you eat this as you go then heat up the oven to the lowest temperature possible and stick in an ovenproof plate. When you’ve made one pancake, stick it on the warmed plate in the oven, and cover it with a sheet of baking paper to separate it from the next. Don’t use foil as it will make the pancake sweat.

Pour it in to a jug or use a ladle to help you cook the pancakes. Add a little oil to your pan – it only needs a little – and heat it until it is smoking. you can use butter but make sure you add a little oil to prevent the butter burning. You will only need a couple of tablespoons at a time in the pan, and make sure the batter distributes evenly around the pan when you do add it. After a minute or so, try jiggling the pan. If the pancake can be dislodged from the bottom, its ready to flip over. Give it a few seconds on the other side, slide it onto your heated plate and warm up some oil for the next pancake.

The Fruit sauce won’t take very long, so do this once your pancakes are cooked. Add all the ingredients (except the arrowroot) to the pan, and cook over a medium heat until slightly softened and the sugar has dissolved. It shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes, but do taste the sauce to check the sugar level, and bear in mind you aren’t trying to make a fruit coulis. Take off the heat and add the arrowroot, mixing until it has disappeared completely.

Serve the pancakes with the warm sauce and some greek yoghurt, although creme fraiche and cream would work just as well.

* I’m sure a food chemist would tell me not to add the oil at this point but if you add it at the end after the milk, the oil sits on the top and mostly ends up in the first pancake, which defeats the point if you ask me… ———————————————————————————————————————————————-

I have done some knitting on a grey cardigan, but then realised I’d done it wrong so I undid it rapidly and havn’t found the energy to do anything with it.

Sorry.

My Apologies

I had all but disappeared from the web for a while there. Sorry about that. It’s been too hectic to keep up, mostly because all my teaching started, my friends all moved house and needed help, and I left my job all in the same 3 weeks! I should be able to post a bit more regularly these days.

However, its all going OK I hope. I’m not going to tempt fate and assume I’ll be fine in September since being self-employed means you can’t count on any money until it arrives in your account… I’ll leave that train of thought there, so don’t anyone ask me how things are going!

Anyway.

I have had a little time to make a few things:

My First Mayonnaise (made with tarragon vinegar)

My First Mayonnaise

And some marshmallows… These were so much fun to make! In fact, I can’t believe I had so much fun. Perhaps if music doesn’t work out I should think about becoming a pastry chef. I reckon the hours are pretty similar and there’s always someone shouting at you so there’s nothing new there.

In fact, following my recent attempt to remove some of my finger whilst cooking I’m probably going to book myself on a short knife skills course at Leith’s catering college. It should be fun, although I do wonder whether cookery classes will become another hobby-addiction. I’ve been on a massive foodie trip recently, possibly my subconscious trying to distract me from the insanity that is quitting regular work. I’ve been re-reading all my Elizabeth David cookbooks and have recently discovered Jane Grigson too. I’d forgotten how many stories can be told through food. It can really say a lot about a people. Although I wonder what my current addiction to puddings really says about me.

Marshmallows

But back to the point, it feels surprisingly normal to be totally self-employed, although I am suffering from low-level anxiety whenever I’m not occupied. So I try to stay busy. Tonight, I have a rare saturday night off. It should be spent practising and then watching DVDs after 9pm but we’ll see if it actually works out that way…

Well I should head off. I have to learn some hebrew for a batmitzvah tomorrow. I promise to post more often from now on!