Gastronomy Economy

Cooking in this house has been a bit routine and dreary of late. I haven’t had any desire to write about anything for awhile hence the relative inactivity on this blog. I have been a bit depressed too due to “events” which admittedly did have the strange effect of making me feel that I needed to buy a cookbook (Falling Cloudberries:Tessa Kiros, in case you were wondering – I didn’t as I can’t justify even spending £1 at the moment let alone £10 (on offer)).

The slugs eating my basil followed by a solicitors letter killed my desire the other week to make cake. I have to make something this weekend as its Teenager’s birthday, and we have friends visiting in the evening and I have promised there will be leftover cake. My current plan is one culled from Caribbean Food:Levi Roots which from reading the recipe appears to a combination of Nigel’s double ginger cake combined with the icing from Nigella’s ginger cake but using lime instead of lemon – now this really did get my taste buds waking up.

The other thing that has pricked my culinary interest is that Allegra McEvedy (ex Leon) and Paul Merret (his book about his allotment and cooking from it is currently on my bedside table – I got it for my birthday, it is a slow read for me, his literary style is not doing it for me) have a series coming out next Wednesday called Gastronomy Economy, there is also, surprise surprise a cookbook... if it stops raining I may do a car boot sale and treat myself with the proceeds.

Do slugs eat basil ?

 I have a need for cake. I haven’t had this for awhile, I haven’t felt the overwhelming urge to make cake for weeks and I’m putting it down to the fact the weather is truly abysmal and there are far too many grey skies up in the sky.

I want a sunshine cake – something that shouts Mediterranean sunshine at me, of food from hot countries…it might be tropical…its definitely citrus based…lemons, maybe oranges…I can definitely see olive oil in this cake and rather bizarrely basil (maybe I’m actually thinking of a pasta dish !)

Maybe its just I’m thinking about what I know I have in the house at the moment – and basil is one of the few things I have grown this year – not sure how its doing in the garden at the moment. Do slugs eat basil? They eat everything else !

More tea vic ?

I didn’t in the end make the Marmalade cake as yesterday we celebrated the fine weather by having a barbeque with our next door neighbours, the wonderful queen of make and do and flapjacks (who ran out of golden syrup mid week and came round for some emergency supplies), and her family.

At 7pm I took Spider back home for milk and a story, with the intention of using the phone as a baby monitor but instead collapsed on our bed after reading his bedtime story where Husband found us both some 3 hours later snoring our heads off.

The side benefit of the barbeque is that I have managed to sneak some salad into the house, lettuce, cherry toms and some spring onions – although the boys don’t mind vegetables they are deeply suspicious of “green stuff”.

Today we have visitors, Husband’s brother and fiancee and  I was about to start beating some eggs when Husband decided that he would finally cut his birthday cake… now I know my limitations, and much as though I would have enjoyed making his cake, a 50th birthday called for something special, so I asked the Fairy Gothmother to weave her magic in the kitchen (she made our wedding cake) and she came up with this…may 2009 040

Stealth Cooking…

Making  porridge for myself and Spider insists that he should share it so I search the fridge for something to stir into it to make it less hot and foolishly I say “I’m putting marmalade in it, is that ok” at which point he informs me that he doesn’t like marmalade.

Strange. He likes jam. He likes orange and orange juice. What is marmalade but orange jam ? Anyway I think nothing more about it and instead stir condensed milk into the porridge. Yes I know, bad mummy ! Think of the effect on his teeth, yed but think of the effect on his cholesterol levels all that lovely oatey goodness…am sure my addiction to porridge is why I don’t have to worry about my cholesterol level (apparently).

Anyway, later I get to thinking about Spider not liking marmalade, and well it seems like a challenge. Am  fed up of my family announcing arbitrarily that they don’t like this and they don’t like that and I’m sure that most of them are very specific for example my husband doesn’t like anchovies but does like worcester sauce which is made out of anchovies.

It seems a bit strange to be trying to sneak marmalade into someone’s diet, most parents are trying to sneak vegetables into their children’s food whereas my son has been none to shoplift carrots… it is however a perfect excuse to make Nigel Slater’s  Frosted Marmalade cake, but tonight not now, tonight when my little monster has gone to bed and he can’t spot the marmalade being added to the batter !

One Left ?

Tomorrow, hopefully I get my first pay it forward item in the post to Mrs L…not having many more takers and having rather too many things on the go (my garden is a building site and I want to hold a 50th birthday barbeque in it in August for Husband), my second pay it forward, since noone has yet commented is donation of some spare needles and wool to a charity in sheffield that is trying to assist alcoholics byknitting therapy…

My third and final pay it forward may be the fact I have offered to knit Coraline’s star jumper for the Welsh Goddess (5ft 11 of vavavooom !), so if anyone else was wanting something handmade and for free then they have until just before she emails me back to put their bid in….waiting for your comment…I do make very good cakes and the knitting is ok check out Being Frank

Cooking and not cooking

Not a lot of cooking has been happening in this house this week – at least not by me at any rate.  I think I made a carbonara at the beginning of last week, which then meant I couldn’t do any baking until I had a moment to pop to the local shop as I’d used the last of the eggs…I was feeling slug like and far too lazy to go shopping, so no cake.

Not that I needed to make cakes as we were working our way through leftovers from the party.

Husband has been cooking – a lot. So far this week, he’s done steak, a shepherds pie and there is bolgnaise gently blipping away on the stove for tomorrow…

I did find a spare moment to make a cake for Spider’s actual birthday party. Despite the fact it was a small family only party he was angling for another pirate related cake – I went for an easy option and did the usual 6:6:6 sponge decorated to make it vaguely look like a ships compass – ran out of icing sugar though before I’d finished icing the top. Fortunately I had a yoghurt cream desert half way through construction in the fridge so I just smoothed it over the top instead of icing as the background of the compass.

The yoghurt desert is based on a Tessa Kiros: Apples for Jam recipe – can’t remember what its called but basically all you do is add a little orange juice and some condensed milk to some greek yoghurt, whip it up, leave it to set in the fridge and then serve it as a base for orange slices – we didn’t have any greek yoghurt so I’d left a carton of normal yoghurt (almost passed its sell by date) being strained through a sieve and a muslin square to remove some of the liquid.

Anyway this is the end result. Birthday Cake no 2, year 4:march-2009-003

Oh and I finally finished those dinosaurs in time for Spider’s birthday, Flapjack Princess is getting hers a month late as “I didn’t know quite how long it would take for them to hatch…!”march-2009-002

“You’re the best mummy in the world !!!”

Princess and Pirates Party 2009

Princess and Pirates Party 2009

Possibly not the words he will be using again in a hurry, but for now I’m going to hang on to these words and the look on Spider’s face and hug them close to me  in my memory to get me through the dark blue days.

I have been in bed for the last 5 hours after coming back from the party, 28 children and adults, we had no refusals…perhaps not something I’ll do again in a hurry…maybe I’ll wait 12 months…

The on again off again birthday cake

The birthday party cookery for various reasons has not been going as planned, but I’ll write about that another time possibly. The main thing I wanted to do this week was to make a basic sponge cake and to then ice it in the shape as a skull and cross bones – really simple and easy, the only difficult bit is trying to turn the white fondant icing the right shade of black.

Anyway this week has not been good for me, I wake up tired, I am tired all day at work, I go to bed tired and I fail to sleep as there are far too many things floating around in my head. So last night when I was meant to be making the sponge cake I was instead trying to have an early night, which didn’t work out for various reasons (see yesterday’s post)…I left the butter out intending to make the cake in the morning, but as I mentioned previously someone tried to be helpful and tidied it away back into the fridge for me – and my hand held mixer can’t cope with fridge cold butter (how I miss my kenwood mixer).

At lunchtime Flapjack Queen phoned up to say that the party bags we had bought ready filled cos its cheaper are actually quite small and 2 slices of cake probably won’t fit in the bag…I agreed with her that instead we would break with small people’s party tradition and serve the cake up after the rest of the food for eating then and there. I also decided that I would copy her idea and turn Spider’s birthday cake into a pile of cup cakes instead a la Nigella.

7.30pm there was a further change of plan back to the original skull and cross bones cake due to the difficulty of persuading a certain small boy that it would be better to have the big cake on his actual birthday when he has his second party “family only”…

So spent the next 30 minutes trying to make 12oz of victoria sponge cake mixture in a too small bowl with a hand held mixer and then fitting 4 cake tins in the oven…there was more mixture on me and the walls of the kitchen by the time I had finished.

Anyway, early start again tomorrow…may be an even earlier trip to Saino’s or Tescbury if the fondant icing I’ve had in the cupboard for over a year turns out to be off…or anything else goes wrong between now and 2.30pm…

Yo ho ho me hearties, I’m off to bed to dream of pieces of eight and making people who cut you up in traffic walk the plank…

Hayley’s Gran

Hayley’s Gran was a glorious set of coincidences of going to university in a particular city, choosing a particular course, a particular set of Hall’s and then the randomness of university accommodation allocation. I was very lucky in my neighbours in the first year of university and ended up living with them for the following 2 years. We are all still in touch some 20 years later, but with children there’s not really the time to keep up.

Hayley was (and still is) a Valkyrie of a welsh girl, 5ft 11 with long auburn hair, amazing blue eyes and a stunning sense of style. She came from a small town about 30 miles away from Cardiff and as a result of such relative closeness she tended to see her parents about every 2 weeks. In the first year I too saw my parents quite often as they only lived a train journey away in Reading…unfortunately they moved to Anglesey half way through my second year !

I lived for sunday evenings, if Hayley had been with her parents as she always came back with food and often within the various bags and packages she came back with there was a batch of Hayley’s Gran’s Welsh cakes.

Despite many attempts over the years I have just never managed to match the splendor of these little sultana dotted cake biscuits and this evening has been no different…if only I’d asked for the recipe and the method when I was at university.

This evening’s attempt was using a recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess on the new griddle – they burnt…they were at least drier and less “fried” than usual, but it wasn’t Hayley’s Gran’s standard. Didn’t bother with a photo as they were disappointing – am still eating them though as I need some sort of consolation for the fact that Spider has refused everything I have made today, that really makes me feel worthless and no good at my “job”

What goes with Jam and Bread ?

Tea. Apparently. It also goes very well with cake, and in cake… I read somewhere the other day that “afternoon tea” is making a comeback. That lovely ritual of small sarnies, little cakes or scones or best of all a toasted teacake. It would appear that in times of crisis, despite the rise of coffee in the last 10 years, the Brits, especially the English reach for their cuppas.

My day is punctuated, almost timetabled by important cups of tea which help me get through the day. The gasper, the first cup on waking, drunk in the dark as I slowly collect my thoughts together to tackle the day. The catch up cuppa with my parent when I drop Spider off. The procrastinator, the one I drink when I reach my desk as I sort the inbox into urgent and delete…

The Teenager is itching to cook with it, or correction he wants to try smoking food in a biscuit tin, having watched Jamie Oliver at the Food Show I think, woodshavings however make me think far too much of the bottom of a gerbils cage, so come summer (as I don’t fancy a kitchen thick with smoke) I may let him experiment with a biscuit tin and some loose tea…

I spent my lunch hour cruising the 4 floors of this building trying to cadge an Earl Grey teabag as I’m planning some budget cooking not involving a muffin…I have some not particularly good dates, some sultanas and some prunes to use up. The plan is Bara Brith…a real “tea” cake.