Cake

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I had a need to make cake today. It struck at lunch time and I’ve spent most of the day dreaming of a damp moist chocolate cake with flowers on it.

Oddly I have no desire to eat it, just to make it which is why it’s still sitting in the kitchen whole and intact…despite the rugby result.

Yay !

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Yay ! I have contact lenses…I feel like me again…but more of that another time…

I love this time of the year. I think I mentioned last year that I like Halloween, but not for the trick and treat, for the food. And Bonfire night ! I love Bonfire night but not for the fireworks but for sausages and baked potatoes and toffee…planning on going to a party weekend of the 7th purely because they are offering a hog roast…but back to Halloween.

I did not this year make the Ghoul Graveyard cake as Halloween clashed with my Dad’s birthday party. So instead I borrowed an idea from Domesticali and made some ghostie lollipops for nearest and dearest and closest small people. We had a wonderful scary pumpkin carved by Husband and I have a fridge full of pumpkin carvings waiting to become soup…but they will have to wait as I also have a fridge full of leftovers due to overbuying for half term (Teenager came to stay for most of it).

My Dad is a very lucky boy as due to a diary clash he gets to celebrate both this weekend (31st) and again on the 7th. My brother couldn’t make the 31st as he had another party to go to, whereas we couldn’t make the 7th as we were hoping to go to a Mercedez day at Brooklands (shhshh, don’t tell Spider but Lewis Hamilton might be there).

Tried to make a cake that might keep the week and still be nice…and that always means gingerbread but as a concession to the fact most people eating it will be under 7 he has Nigella’s chocolate gingerbread, which is nice but not as nice as liberkuchen…but that is an obsession to talk about another day…as is my liking for gingerbread in general (the only Starbucks coffee I have been known to drink is their gingerbread latte…I love the autumn !).

So yes I can see and all is well in my little corner of the world… oh and a picture of a very very brown cake to follow when I can find the camera which has gone walk about again – SPIDER !!!

Bananas

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Bananas present an interesting problem to those in the UK who try to eat both seasonally and locally. Unless you have a super heated and large greenhouse it is highly improbable that you will be able to grow your own bananas, even if you do manage it they are unlikely to fruit. Furthermore, as far as I can establish there appears to be no one trying to do so in this country on a commercial basis.

As for seasonal, well once you’ve accepted the fact that bananas have to be imported then they are pretty much available all the year round… So what are you to do ? Well you either ban the carbon traitor from your diet or you accept that fact that you are unlikely ever to achieve carbon neutral nirvana and salve your conscience a bit by buying fair trade. The other thing you can do, having accepted that you’d rather not live without bananas in your life (which my friend Wingnut is more than happy to do, considering them as “the evil yellow devil herb”) is to make sure that you don’t compound the carbon sin by letting them go to waste.

If I haven’t got the time to incorporate banana into muffins, cake or breakfast pancakes prior to freezing then I have been happily skinning them, quartering them and sticking in a plastic bag for several years now. What I had not tried until recently was to follow the Economy Gastronomy trick of freezing them whole, skin and all. For those that try it please note, if you are in a hurry the skin is difficult to get off, and if you leave them to defrost you end up with a nasty black slime all over your work surface….they also take up more room then their quartered brothers.

We are ODing on bananas at the moment as in addition to buying a large bag of bananas at the weekend I decided to start clearing out the freezer prior to Christmas and the first thing I was confronted with was a number of EG style frozen bananas. So I have been working my way through recipe books. I didn’t try on this occasion, but I have in the past tried Nigella’s healthy banana muffins. (the original recipe doesn’t have the chocolate)  My recommendation is “don’t”; they sacrifice taste in the pursuit of healthiness, would rather eat less and enjoy some flavour (interestingly her Banana and Butterscotch muffins are nice).

Alternatively a healthy muffin that is surprisingly nice are the Banana Bran Muffins from “Economy Gastronomy” – yes there is a reasonable amount of sugar in them, but they do make over 24 reasonably sized muffins and the mixture keeps in the fridge so you can make them in advance and cook them when ready and freeze your leftovers. Disadvantages are they are more complicated than usual muffins and take longer to cook. Recommendation from Spider is that they are nicer warm.

Nigella’s Banana Bread is nice, thought Tessa Kiros’ banana bread from “Apples for Jam” would be nicer due to use of brown sugar but there was no marginal difference. Susan Austin’s Banana Pancakes are what breakfasts were invented for, and they freeze. I’ve also tried the Banana and Oats Smoothie from Leon:Allegra Mcevedy which…I am hoping to tempt Spider with at the weekend.

Finally this is more a serving suggestion than an actual recipe and has been known in my family for at least 35 years as “Banana’s Valentine”. Take a skinned banana. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Pour over a reasonable amount of evaporated milk, leave to stand for a few minutes. Eat with enthusiasm.

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.

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…

Cooking with children

My son has a Fairy Gothmother (FGM), he also has a Not Quite Godfather (the NQG) and a VIP (very important person in life aka KT Cupcake). People who know this about me and about Spider are therefore quite surprised to discover that I have a goddaughter.

Yes, I am a godmother, possibly not a very good one because as KT Cupcake sometimes likes to recall at the time of my goddaughter’s (Cookie) christening I was actually on the other side of the world and 18 metres under water – actually because of the time difference I was probably tucked up in a hotel room somewhere snoring my head off, but that’s not quite so good a story. The idea behind me being a godmother was that Cookie’s parents wanted her to have an adult influence in her life of someone with a different attitude towards life than her parents.

Her mother is a talented artistic person. I am not. I like making cakes to make people smile, KT Cupcake spreads happiness in other ways. Anyway, for Cookie’s  last birthday I gave her a voucher for a mornings cooking together and since her 7th birthday is now approaching at speed, we thought it was probably about time that she cashed it in.

Now, since I am feeling guilty about the fact that I have been a bit of an absentee godmother since Spider was born, I was planning on making it a special occasion, perhaps buying in some fancy cooking bits from the Pink Fairy Cake website, but as usual in my life things were very last minute “are you free tomorrow ?” “why ?” “Cookie’s ballet has been cancelled, can she come and cook with you saturday morning ?”

So had to make do with a container of 4 different sprinkles from Budgens, food colouring and some gold and silver foil cake cases dug out from the back of the cupboard (dating from when I got married I think)…I also managed to find a little whisk shaped like a chick in an egg which I bought as something for Cookie to take away with her as memento.

The house was also a mess and needed an early start saturday morning to ensure that the house could receive visitors and the kitchen declared fit enough to cook in and no longer a health hazzard.

The jury is out on whether I have provided her with a different approach to life after one morning together but I have at least introduced her to a few new things. She had never cracked an egg before and thought that you needed a bread maker to make pizza…

We made:

Since Saturday I have been in and out of bed with a stress related problem…I don’t think it was related to cooking with Cookie, who it would appear had a fantastic time and wants to do it again – soon. We had fun, but I don’t think teaching cooking to children is going to be my route out of debt, not unless I want to spend all my spare time chipping icing off the sink… I actually had fun too and am planning to make more of an effort to cook with Spider and to live up to my godmotherly duties…currently trying to overcome my make and do phobia and make a little scrapbook for Cookie of our morning together plus the recipes.

Photos to follow – I have technical gremlins at the moment