31/01/2012

Dessert in a hurry!

Did you ever have one of those days where you started off with the greatest of intentions, and planned out what you were going to bake, only to oversleep and have to do it all in a rush? Well, that was my Saturday.

It was my own fault, I went out clubbing and we got to bed very late, er, early…okay it was about 3am.

I had planned to get up early and make a Parsnip Cake that I had seen on the wonderful Sabrina Ghayour’s blog.

http://www.sabrinaghayour.com/2012/01/23/parsnip-honey-walnut-cake-divine/

She put it together for the Portobello Market ‘Roots Festival’ (Fri 27th & Sat 28th January) and, having tasted it, I can very much agree with her that it is indeed divine. However, I woke up at midday, and we still needed to go out and get all the ingredients, so that minor oops put paid to my fine cake baking idea. I will still be making it though, just at a more leisurely pace.

I needed a dessert that would be quick and very easy, using only ingredients that can be found at your average corner shop. So one jaunt later we came back with two Jamaican Ginger cakes, one long Madeira cake, a carton of ready made custard and a jar of fine shred Breakfast Marmalade. As we already had eggs in the fridge, I did what Simon calls my Ready Steady Cook impression and cue the assemblage!

Cake and Butter Pudding

or

“A conceptual variation on bread-and-butter pudding - alternating slices of madeira cake and Jamaican ginger cake, glued together with marmalade and then covered in a marmalade-and-custard mix, and then baked.”  ~ S Stacey, Jan 2012 

2 x Jamaican Ginger cakes

1 x long Madeira cake (or two smaller ones)

1 jar fine shred marmalade (sweeter kind, not too bitter)

1 carton of Ambrosia custard

2 tbs Bells whisky

3 eggs

Slice all the cakes up into 1/2 inch slices. Ginger cake is much easier to slice if it’s been in the fridge!

Feed some of the ends of the ginger cake to patient boyfriend. Eat other end yourself.

Empty the marmalade into a microwaveable jug or saucepan. Warm gently to loosen and stir in 2 tablespoons of whisky.

Sandwich the cake slices together with 3/4 of the marmalade mix and arrange them in a deep baking tray. I did alternate slices because it looked pretty. The madeira cake does tend to make it look like you have a pan full of Paddington Bear’s marmalade sandwiches.

Mix the custard with the rest of the whisky’d up marmalade, and beat in three medium eggs. Douse the cake slices liberally with this golden, creamy stickiness.

That is pretty much it as far as the prep goes! I baked it at around 170ºC in a fan oven for about 1/2 an hour. Just long enough to cook the eggs through and make it all bubbly. This deserves a bigger photo.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and very filling. This fed 6 of us at a dinner party later that day, and two of us again the next day, served cold with some ice cream.

Now obviously this is not an everyday pudding as it is certainly no lightweight but for a quick and luscious hit with no fuss? Perfect. You could vary it easily as well – lemon and vanilla cake with lemon curd or lime marmalade perhaps with limoncello, or chocolate and ginger cake with cherry jam and Kirsch – whatever you fancy! It is your dessert after all.

Photos courtesy of Simon Stacey, full set viewable at http://dancefloorlandmine.smugmug.com/Food/2012-01-28-Cake-Pudding/21240512_dcG7Rq#!i=1690793004&k=cTBk55F

09/01/2012

I expect I will regret this but...

...there's been a few things in the media this week that have really touched some nerves, and I'd better get it out there before I explode. I'm going to make a pot of tea first, because frankly, that's only proper. Of course, to satisfy the fat haters out there, I would have to make it with skimmed milk (an ABOMINATION) in case I put on an ounce. Oh and have a quick run around the block. Should I happen to want to have one of my home made, free from preservatives and additives digestive biscuits, which I make only rarely, as in maybe once a year, why then I'd have to do at least an hour on a treadmill, just to ensure that I don't offend society by becoming fat.

Oh. Wait. I AM fat. Apparently I can offend many people in Society merely by my appearance already. I find this an absolutely awesome thing. Jeremy Clarkson actually has to SAY something before that happens, so that makes me much more influential than he is without even putting in any effort so I shall revel in that for a bit. See me revel. Look, me, revelling I am.

On to the Media. There is a person called Ros Reines who writes for The Telegraph in Australia. I think she is the equivalent of our Liz Jones in The Daily Mail here. Sad, definitely screwed up over her own life, and quite bitter with Serious Issues. She decided to have a go - AGAIN - at Julie Goodwin, winner of the Australian Masterchef competition. Coincidentally, I believe Ms Reines had just lost a lot of weight with the Jenny Craig program, so she might have felt the need to crow a little. Julie bit back, eloquently and quite rightly so. You can read her response here. I tell you now, I know who I'd rather have dinner with.


Of course, that response brought out some really rather horrible replies. I'm happy to see that quite a few of them are gone now, but I read them, and they went mainly along the lines of fat people are lazy and greedy and do no work. They should get to the gym, stop being so lazy and soon they will be thin.

Oh thin! Glorious thin! How we should all strive to be thin, then all our problems would fade away. We would be lithe and wonderful, and we could be 'ourselves' at last, or at least that's what the lastest spate of Weightwatchers ads would have us believe. Do you know what we really would be? Thinner. That's it. We don't stop being us, our problems don't go away. We're. Just. Thinner.

When I got married, I weighed in at 20 stones. I saw my wedding photos and I died inside. I dieted. I managed to get down to 15 stones and there I stuck. Induction Level Atkins for two years AND I STAYED THE SAME. I went on to eat more foods, because you do get very bored on the Induction level and I still eat low carb generally. I put on a couple of stones but have now stayed at the same weight for roughly 4 years, regardless of how I eat.

Do you know what I have now? A far more comfortable experience when I sit on a hard seat, that's what, and added neuroses about what I eat. Neuroses about being SEEN eating. Food is forever divided into good or bad, not just food. If I deny myself anything, I feel great. If I give in, I like what I eat, but I feel bad. In what way is this better? Before I lost it, I actually didn't care about my weight. I didn't really notice it, to be honest. It was other people who pointed it out. Other People seem to have no problem commenting on my weight, or on anyone's weight for that matter. "Oi! Eat some pies!" shouted at a skinny person is just as bad, just as damaging as "Oi! Fat bitch!" shouted at a fat peron.

Growing up, I was told I was fat. As an adult, looking back at school photos, I had the shock realisation that I hadn't been fat after all. I was bigger than the other kids, but that was it. Bigger. Taller, larger feet, wider, and more broadly built. Kids being kids of course, I was fat. To my Nan, I was fat. Thankfully, to my wonderful mother, I was just me.

I do distinctly remember squishing my stomach together with my hands once, and saying to my dad "I have all this to lose!" I would have been about 7 at the time. Of course what I was doing was squishing skin, not fat.

Adults used to say to me "Oh you'd be so pretty if only you lost weight." as if that is an okay thing to say to a ten year old child. I wasn't amused about that, and I believe I told the man so, in no uncertain terms. I admit that I do still look at my face in the mirror, and try to see the thinner face undeneath, but that way madness lies, so I do stop if I actually catch myself doing it.

The point of all this rambling? I'm not sure if there is one, but there is a worrying emphasis on BEAT OBESITY these  days, instead of BE HEALTHY. It's like Obesity is the new Evil Thing that must be vanquished. Even the esteemed Michelle Obama has gotten in on the act.


I can see where she is coming from, but villifying a nation of children because of what they look like is not the way to do it. That just makes them targets, as if they weren't targeted enough already. Teach people, teach the parents how to cook properly, and to eat well, that is the way to go. Teach health, not size.  If you teach someone to cook with real food, to avoid the processed, high sugar foods out there (you look just how much sugar is in one of those 'light' cereal bars) then weight loss MAY OR MAY NOT follow but that wouldn't be the object of the exercise would it? Getting healthy would be the object. You see, it's what is on the inside that counts. The outer layers are not always indicative of what is going on inside, and I'm a bit fed up of everyone assuming that being overweight means that a) you eat and eat and eat all the time, and b) that you are not healthy. 

I fully accept that there are people out there who DO eat and eat and eat, and weigh far too much than is good for their poor bodies. If you eat six big bags of crisps every day, and a pizza or two every night, with extra added takeaways and snacks and sweets, well, yes, of course you are going to be fat. 

Or are you? 

I have seen many people eat like that who do not put on weight, but I cannot see the inside of their arteries. The same way that you cannot see the inside of mine, yet people assume that I am unhealthy, even though I don't eat anything akin to what many thin people do. Thin and Unhealthy exists, believe you me, just as Fat and Healthy does. Talking of Fat and Healthy, let me introduce you to another inspiration of mine, Ragen Chastain.


Just watch her dance, read her words. I don't need to say anything more about her, not really.

The other thing that I have a problem with is all of these Help the Fat People programmes. You see, they always choose people who eat terribly badly. Even the Food Hospital, which is normally very good, the one time they showed a lady who genuinely had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which inhibits fertility and makes weight loss very difficult. I know. I've got it.) they chose a girl who ate nothing but white bread, crisps and cheap sausages. Once she started eating vegetables and fruit, cooking properly and cut out the processed foods, hey presto, she lost weight, the acne cleared and the PCOS allegedly got better. Why not choose someone who has PCOS, is overweight, yes, but eats right and yet still has all the problems? Now that is a challenge, but that doesn't make for a very interesting TV show, does it? 

If you show a table, laden with goodies, pies, cakes, takeaways, all sorts of high sugar, highly processed foods, and have a glib, suave, THIN presenter saying "This is what you ate IN A WEEK!" and there you have just painted a picture for the nation. That is what all fat people are like. Must be, it's on the telly innit?

Fat people crying also seems to make for good TV as far as I can tell. Watching these poor people on display while they get shown what they 'truly' look like with a camera on a stick? "THIS is what your stomach and stretch marks look like from way down here!" Well, nobody looks good from that angle, not even Angelina would look good from there so I suspect it is a proper scare/repulse tactic.

They get put on exercise machines that terrify them, they are shown being bullied and screamed at in a truly horrifying Fat Camp. "Hell yeah!! Let's laugh at the chubbies getting what they deserve! After all, it's all their own fault for being lazy and greedy, right? All fat people are dumb and slow aren't they? Ha ha so funny. That girl's got great hair though, and he looks like a jolly chap. I'm sure they don't mind."

NOT SO.

Fat people are the same as thin people. We have fears and pains and hurts and terrors, just like anyone else. A heavy exterior doesn't make for a thick skin. Oh we laugh it off, and come back at the haters with a sharp, witty retort but it still knifes deep into us. Victimised for a thing that may not be our fault, but we are ALWAYS told that it is. 

Are you ill? It'll get better if you lose weight.
Do you need that piece of cake?
Should you be eating that?
Losing weight would make you feel so much better! Surely you can see that?
You have asthma? Lose weight.
You have PCOS? Lose weight.
Lose weight first, and then we'll see about looking into the other stuff. No, really, we will.
Did your leg fall off? Oh I'm sure losing some weight would make you feel better.

If a fat person goes to the Dr, all the focus is on the weight, and not the actual illness. That is NOT the way it should be but it is, and many times we don't get taken seriously unless we raise merry hell.

I even got told by one consultant that he didn't understand why I was fat, his daughter had PCOS and she wasn't fat. Then he showed me a photo of her. Showing a photo of a beautiful, flawless, slim girl to a person who felt worthless anyway? Nice one.

Genes, baby. Genes. She had a very slim, very pretty, Asian mother. He was a fat, round Jewish guy so it could have gone either way, and she got the thin genes. Don't even get me started on this Gillian McKeith/Nigella Lawson comparison photo meme that's doing the internet rounds. The only physical difference between the two photos is that one is of a lady that got good genes and the other is a photo of one that didn't. Oh and one lady is all dolled up for an evening out, with make up and hair all done, whilst the other is in a photo taken after days in a jungle eating bugs and feeling sick. I might not agree with what she does, but damn, that was harsh and pointless.

I found his dietary advice to be non-existant. It amounted to "Take these fat loss pills, you eat too much." despite the fact that I had already managed to lose 4 stones, told him what I ate and STILL had all the physical problems that PCOS gives you. Which is why I was there. But apparently Xenical would make it all better. I did not let my insurance company pay his bill.

At least no-one has tried to tell me that my MS would get miraculously better if I lost weight. That would probably not go well for them.

Anyway. This has all gotten a bit too poor me for my liking, so I'll finish with what the real problem is.

Fat Hating is a trend that is alarming. Jamie Oliver, as much as some people dislike him, made it all about the health, and not about picking out just the fat kids. What Mrs Obama, and our own Mr Cameron are doing is, sadly, picking out the fat kids. The Fight Against Obesity is all very well, but what then happens to the thin kids? The ones who get missed, because they can't be unhealthy, they aren't fat so they must be doing just fine, right?

The answer to that is no. Thin children lacking in decent nutrition will suffer as much as a fat child lacking in decent nutrition. They can be fully fed at every meal and yet still lack the vitamins they need to keep their brains and bodies on track. We owe more of our appearance to our genes than to our diets but our health is dependent on a good diet. By that I mean a way of eating, not a diet as in that thing that thousands of us go on in January and give up in March.

Thanks to my genes, there was no way that I wasn't going to be this shape, need glasses and go grey prematurely. There was no escaping it. It's time to stop victimising the fat people because of their appearance, and start trying to work on how to make PEOPLE IN GENERAL more healthy. Fat, thin, or inbetween.

Making people feel that they are useless, and that their appearance, their very bodies are all wrong, and that they are a waste of space or useless or ugly unless they become thin, that is never going to be the right way to do things.

I'll say this now. Anyone says to me that nothing tastes as good as thin feels? They are going head first into a vat of Nutella.

EDIT:
Yes, an edit, for clarification. In case it wasn't clear - and I fully accept that it might not have been because, you know, RANT - by no means do I think that saying  "Fat Acceptance!" when people cannot walk properly, or breathe, and get carried oiut of the house on a trolley when they've had to take the doors off its hinges to do so is in any way proper, right or natural. If you cannot walk because your fat is in the way of your own knees, or your fat is actaully suffocating you, then you need serious help and assistance. How you got there I do not know, but support is needed. 

Being the fattest woman or man ever is not an aim to aspire to. When I've seen shows like 1/2 Ton Dad, I am both horrified that they got this way, and desperately sad for them too. I cannot imagine how they got there, or how they are going to get back to anything resembling 'normal', and live a life with their families again. 

But there people out there in the world who are large, but functioning perfectly well, eating healthily and doing fine medically, being villified by the press and by the medical profession based purely on appearance. Size is not always an indicator of health. I have had one person close to me recently suffer a heart attack, and he was on the low side of the BMI, ate well and still had blocked arteries. The Dr missed it. Well, he looked slim, yes? Judge a book by its cover, and you will forever miss what is going on inside.

Home made digestive biscuits

I am a great fan of digestive biscuits. I always have been, especially with a nice chunk of cheese to accompany them. I will admit to dunking them in tea as well, but not when they have cheese on them of course. That would just be a waste of cheese. And tea. Neither of which should ever be wasted.
Hang on. I haven’t had any tea today. Wait right here will you? I won’t be long.

[the potter’s wheel interlude film goes here]
Right then.

I found this recipe a few weeks ago written up by Marianna over at Swirl and Scramble.

http://swirlandscramble.blogspot.com/2010/01/homemade-digestive-biscuits.html

It was originally from Pascale Weeks, posted here:

http://scally.typepad.com/cest_moi_qui_lai_fait/2006/01/digestive_biscu.html

I never got around to making it, because I usually get the Baking Urge early in the morning, and using the food processor to grind the oats is too loud a job to do at that time of day. So I kept forgetting about it. Until yesterday. It was the weekend, I was awake, husband was awake, I had all the ingredients and so off I went. For once I followed a recipe exactly.

They are utterly delicious. No they are not McVities, but they are a definite close runner up and they DUNK. I will say that I made them thicker than 3mm, because it was quite difficult to get the dough to spread out, but then that just makes for fewer but chunkier biscuits. You can roll it out under cling film, so I did that initially and then patted/pushed it out further by hand. It squishes together beautifully if there are any cracks, and it’s so easy to push the left over bits together so you can cut out some more.

It also occurs to me that if I add a bit more brown sugar, and only grind half the oats, they will essentially be HobNobs without the trans fats and corn syrup, or whatever it is they use to get you addicted these days. This does of course mean that I can make chocolate covered digestives and hobnobs, as the lovely Sarah from www.sarahbakes.co.uk did here:


I haven’t made Sarah’s recipe yet, but that’s only  because I don’t have any wheatgerm in the house. There will be a forthcoming experiment, never fear.

Anyway, to the recipe!

Digestive Biscuits

100 grams wholegrain flour
100 grams porridge oats
1 teaspoon baking powder (I will cut this to 1/2 tsp next time)
50 grams brown sugar
100 grams salted butter, softened (I used Lurpak with Sea Salt, because it’s what I had in the fridge and it needed using)
2 tablespoons milk

Put the oats in a food processor and grind them until they take on a powdery texture.

Put them in a bowl, and add in all the other dry ingredients.

Mix in the butter with your hands, or a pastry mixer, or a fork – oh well, however you want really -  until it becomes crumbly. I might try this in the food processor next time on a low speed.

Add the two tablespoons of milk. (I reckon Golden Syrup instead of milk would make them truly into HobNobs…)

Squish it all together into a big, flapjacky ball then wrap it in a plastic bag and out it in the fridge for 15 minutes. 20 would be okay too, but no longer else it goes rock hard.

Take it out of the fridge after the allotted time, and then roll it out on a lightly floured surface as much as you can, or just spread it out with your hands. It is quite sticky, but when you cut out the circles (I used a 6cm cutter) they do hold together. It’s quite a well behaved dough.

Place on a non stick baking tray and bake at 180C for 15 minutes. I put a non stick liner on the tray just in case and I set a timer. TOLD you I stuck to the recipe this time.

They are fabulous – and I really love the salt/sweet taste. If you want them sweeter, just add a little more sugar.

Close Up   Tower













06/01/2012

There is such a thing as beauty in commercial design.

And this is it.

Coley Porter Bell Beer can     Coley Porter Bell packaging

I love these designs, and the others across the range, so much, that I just sent an email to the company who came up with them for Morrisons. Yes, I know, I’m a sad old art student but they are so good.

People who buy the value ranges shouldn’t be made to feel less than anyone else, and some of those value ranges really are a very poor example of customer focussed design, pointing the focus back towards the Brand and The Company instead.

My email to Coley Porter-Bell.

I have just seen your designs on this site

http://www.thedieline.com/blog/2012/1/5/m-savers.html

and felt that I simply had to email you to congratulate you on a fantastic job.
So many other brands are BRAND and COMPANY focussed, and these designs are so totally not that. They are not about the Company, but about the product and the customer and I have to say, they are truly wonderful.
As as ex-design student of old, they almost made me tear up a little because they were so utterly perfect. Clean, beautiful lines, and lovely drawings. You even used a proper old pint mug! They relay such a feeling of warmth too.
Bravo to you all. Fabulous job. I will be finding a Morrison's, purely because I want some of your designs in my home. Plus, also, you know, Jam.
Pat yourselves on the back and have a big cookie each. Marvellous.

Bloody good show, Morrison's and Coley Porter-Bell. Credit where credit is definitely due.

EDIT 09/01/2012 – A Reply from Stephen Bell, Creative Director.

Dear Lisa,
Thank you so much for sending your email about our work for Morrisons M Savers range. I can't tell you how much it means to get such lovely feedback. Myself and the whole team here have worked incredibly hard on the range and are very proud of it.......interestingly your feed back pretty much summed up what we are trying to achieve with the designs.....real foodiness, a touch of 'modern retro' and of course pure and simple appeal. We hope that Morrisons customers have the same reaction you do.
Thank you for brightening up our morning and taking the time to comment. Our designers are delighted!
Kind regards
Stephen

Yay!

05/01/2012

Mediaeval Mince Pies

Seven years ago, I decided to have a go at making 'real' mincemeat. I saw it on a TV show and thought oooh yes. I love fruit and meat together so why not? I also detest most shop bought mincemeat so I thought making my own would make sense.

Thanks to a lovely lady called Barbara who transcribed the recipe from the River Cottage TV show for me I got started.


Here it is.

'Real' Mincemeat


  • 1kg lamb mince
    Generous slosh of apple cider brandy (I used a good cup’s worth)


Mix these together (making sure to break up the mince - as he says, you don't want mini hamburgers in the middle of the pies!)

  • 1kg dark brown sugar
    1/2 kg raisins ( I sub sultanas as I really don't like raisins)
    1/2 kg diced Cox's apples
    A cup and a half of suet
    Mix these in to the mince


Then he added his personal touches:

  • 1/2 cup of mixed peel (I chopped this as finely as I could, as I hate bits of peel)
    1 tsp grated orange zest
    1 tsp grated lemon zest
    1 cup of chopped Medjool dates
    4 heaped tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • A good grate of nutmeg.

I also added in a cup of chopped glacé cherries.

Mix all this together really well,  and leave for at least a week. I made some pies with it at the time and it was nice, then I packed it away in the fridge and, quite literally, forgot about it.

Seven years on and it’s STILL ABSOLUTELY FINE. I mixed in a good few tablespoons of dark rum as it did need more liquid, and then made Mediaeval Pies with it.

The Pastry by my friend Sue.

  • 185g plain flour
    95g butter
    95g caster sugar
    1 egg
    30ml water (you will probably need much less than this - just use it to bind it together).


Mix the sugar and flour together, add the egg. Add the butter and work until it’s at the fine crumb stage. Bring together with the water.

I used these amounts:

  • 370g plain flour
  • 190g butter
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50 ml water

I will say that it made a very, very soft pastry, so I worked in more flour until it got to a rolling consistency then put it in the fridge overnight. It was a dream to roll out once it had warmed up a bit! Next time, FAR LESS WATER!

It is a very short pastry, almost like a shortbread in texture.

IMG_4993    IMG_4996

They ended up as flying saucer shapes because I didn’t have proper pie pans, and they are actually far easier to eat that way!

Apologies for the formatting here, I have no idea what’s going on!

For Cambridge people who are veggie/have allergies

This is a heads up on where NOT to eat, from a friend of mine who, sadly, did and regretted it.

This is a very poor show, and certainly not what Customer Service is meant to be about! Allergies are not something to be laughed at, people don’t have them for fun.  Would they have laughed and eye-rolled at someone with a severe nut allergy? Not for long, I suspect…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, if you have allergies *do not* go to the Wok'n'Grill/ Coach and Horses in Cambridge, ditto if you are vegetarian.

I asked *specifically* if they had a veggie wok, and they told me they did, put my food in a sieve then put meat in a sieve on top of it. When I pointed this out, they rolled their eyes and I told them I had a severe shellfish allergy, another eye roll, they then took the same wok they had just fried oysters in, put a spoonful of water in it and swirled it around, then threw my (newly collected plate of food not covered in meat from the sieve) food in.

I asked *again* for a veggie wok and said I had allergies, and with more eyerolling they told me they had just thoroughly washed the wok - it still had pieces of food in it! They had one wok and two pots of what looked like water or soup that they just threw everything into without separating it in any way or making sure there was no cross contamination.

Had I not been paying attention as much as I was, I could have ended tonight in hospital or worse.

It was lovely seeing folks, but even though I ate only the veggie prepared food there (rather than the fresh stuff they tried to kill me with) I have a severe headache and nasty upset stomach, nausea etc. - all the symptoms I get when having eaten meat products, so I bet the rest wasn't separated properly either.

Yes, I am reporting them. This isn't just an annoyance, the shellfish thing is dangerous.”