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Note to self: when making salad dressing from a recipe, do not forget halfway through that you are making a half-quantity. Nobody minds double ginger, because really there is no such thing as too much ginger, but double grated raw garlic was a bit much.

Note to self 2: you know perfectly well the kitchen timer is knackered. Don't set it and then wander off, or that quinoa will end up cooked for far too long.

You know, lunch today was actually surprisingly all right, all things considered :)
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Thanks to all those of you who offered advice on my pudding and egg white dilemma last week. Apologies to those whose advice I subsequently ignored :)

I actually went ahead with the crazy winter pavlova idea, and it actually turned out reasonably nice. (At least, I thought it did. And other people said they liked it, though they may have just been polite.) I had some leftovers the day after, and they were definitely at the "leftover" stage, a little soft/soggy for meringue, but not to the point of inedibility. But the pavlova coped fine with being assembled around 6ish and eaten around 9ish.

[livejournal.com profile] deborahw37 requested a picture, but I'll put it behind a cut in case the rest of you have had quite enough of my culinary excess this month.

Show me the cakey! )

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Ok, ok, I admit it. Over the Christmas period I watched the festive editions of Bake Off, and was once again sucked into thinking "oh, that looks fun".

Shoe Reef )

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It may surprise people who know me to hear that I watch The Great British Bake Off. Yes, I know everyone and their biscuit-loving dog watches it, but I am famous for my non-TV-watching. I do, I admit, watch it in a slightly half-hearted way (I'm at least a week behind) but for me that's a pretty major commitment.

I am perhaps less famous for my massive love of Viennese whirls. So when (several weeks ago now) they featured as a Technical Challenge[*], I watched it and figured that it didn't look all that difficult at all, really. This was just before my knee went all icky and peculiar, so I felt I probably had enough walking in me to make Viennese whirls.

So I set a timer for 90 minutes and headed to the kitchen. The GBBO contestants had only just squeaked in under the hour-and-a-half time limit, and I had been surprised. Surely it couldn't take that long? The challenge was to make 12 "sandwiches" (two biscuits, glommed together with butter cream and jam) having made everything (including the jam) from first principles.

On the plus side, I'd watched the programme so had heard the experts' advice, and I had a rather fuller version of the recipe from the BBC website. I didn't have a pair of highly critical judges waiting to get on my case, and I didn't have camera crews, tension or drama to contend with. And I was in my own, familiar kitchen.

On the minus side, I didn't have everything nicely laid out for me and would have to locate ingredients and equipment as I went. And I'm not actually any great shakes as a baker. So I figured it would all even out, and 90 minutes was a fair challenge.

ChrisC did try to make it fairer by sporadically getting in the way, pushing a camera in my face, asking daft questions and providing corny jokes. Mercifully, it turned out he wasn't actually filming so the footage is not available ;)

I started making my raspberries into jam, and hit the first snag: GBBO contestants never suddenly realise that some terrible shopping list omission means they have run out of granulated sugar. Well, it's only jam. Soft brown will surely work just as well. Actually, the recipe called for "jam sugar". Sod that - (a) I don't have any, and (b) jam in my house gets made with granulated. Or, of course, soft brown if that's what there is.

Maybe if I'd used jam sugar (which I believe has added pectin) the "boil for 4 minutes" would have even been accurate. As it was, it took more like 20 before the jam showed the least inclination to set. Dammit. Behind schedule already.

(As a side note, in this case I would have been much better off with the sketch-recipe given to actual contestants, which just said "make jam". Instead, I followed the detailed directions without registering that it asked for 25% more sugar than I would have put in. It also made considerably more than was needed, so now I have a large quantity of outrageously sweet jam.)

Next up: make, pipe and bake biscuits. That icing sugar box looks rather empty. Oh dear. I'm pretty certain that Viennese whirls' sugar requirements are quite specific. I looked rather dejectedly in the Spare Things Cupboard and found that for once the commissariat was functioning correctly, and there was a new box waiting.

Then we hit snag 2. Ordinarily, my approach is that if I've made some biscuits then you can have one if you'd like, but you don't get to complain if they're a bit mis-shapen or different sizes. But I was playing by the rules here, so that meant 24 "identical" biscuits, and that they had to be piped rather than dolloped.

I dug out a piping bag, and a star nozzle, and realised very quickly that my star nozzle (size unspecified) is not "medium". It's designed for piping little fiddly icing bits, not biscuits. No amount of violence was going to get the biscuit dough out of that nozzle in a coherent manner. Ah well, I'll just use the piping bag as is, without a nozzle. So my biscuits were not as beautifully swirled as your average GBBO judge demands.

I made the butter cream while they were in the oven. I took them out, and fanned them and glared at them, and at around the 80 minute mark made a decision. I couldslap the butter cream and jam in them and be done in 90 minutes. But they were too warm, still, and the butter cream would melt. So I decided just to accept I'd very slightly failed, went and had tea, and then assembled them later (again, without the requisite star nozzle for the butter cream).


Then Cathy came round with a bottle of vinho verde, which turned out to go beautifully with Viennese whirls :)

Conclusions:
1. I am not the stuff of which GBBO contestants are made.
2. I really do not care that much about presentation so long as something tastes nice.
2a. Apparently neither do my guests (or perhaps they are just polite).
3. I actually prefer Viennese whirls as plain biscuits, without the jam and butter cream.



[*] Note for anyone who actually isn't familiar with GBBO: it's a competitive cookery show. Each week there is a section where the contestants have to make a particular item, for which they haven't been able to prepare, from very minimalist instructions.

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Last week, while dining in a perfectly respectable local restaurant, ChrisC and I had a great idea for a meal. Yesterday, he went to the fishmonger to buy pollock so we could try it out. They had none, so he did a little local tour of shops until he eventually tracked down some pollock fillets in our local organic macramé muesli shop.

So for tea today we had Pollock pollock.


Yes, it's entirely possible it would have been better as a throwaway comment. Tasty, though.

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The story begins at Day 1. The short version: I ruptured knee ligaments mid-February and am still shuffling about on crutches (but slightly less slowly and slightly less painfully).

Day 26 )
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A couple of weeks ago, in between a slew of jolly nice 40th birthday parties (others', not mine) I tried to make cheese.

Cheese! )

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Most uncharacteristically, I bought some groceries at M&S at the weekend. Among them a packet of green beans. At least, I thought they were green beans. The packaging informs me they are Boston beans.

To me, Boston beans are baked beans. But fair enough, I'm willing to accept they are an obscure variety of the green things. "Especially chosen for their dark green pods", says the label. I am unclear why a dark green pod is a desirable thing. Also they look perfectly average bean-colour to me. Anyway.

Whilst lobbing some into a pan of water last night, I noticed a further bit of text on the packet. "This product must be cooked," it said. "Do not eat raw."

What?

I frequently eat green beans raw. So do many people, but apparently they are mildly toxic. But even Wikipedia can't help me out with how toxic they are to someone with no ongoing digestive/immune issues. ("may be harmful if consumed in excess", you say. Of course they are, that's what excess means. If you suffer no ill effects, it wasn't excess, it was just a lot.)

Today has not been wasted: I have learned something. I don't imagine I'll stop nibbling on the occasional green bean, though.
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The weekend before last, I was seized with a sudden whim to have treacle pudding[*] to follow Sunday dinner. Although I'm sure I've been involved in pudding-making with the mother, I think I mostly did the fancy string-and-greaseproof-paper part at the end rather than actual cooking, so didn't have a favourite recipe.

The BBC is usually a good bet, so I took this recipe as a starting point. The executive summary is: put treacle in pudding bowl, top with 4/4/8 sponge mixture, do the fancy string-and-greaseproof-paper part (instructions in recipe), and steam for a couple of hours. Sorted.

Pudding! )

[*] Just to make sure we're all on the same page: a treacle pudding is a steamed sponge pudding made with golden syrup. If you're reading in America, then my understanding is that there's no direct equivalent of golden syrup. Recipes I've found direct you to mix two parts corn syrup two one part molasses, but most of them also recommend you scour your local shops for the proper stuff first.
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Today, my lunch involves sandwiches containing leftover ham[*] from the weekend's roast.

At the glazing stage, I realised that we had run out of maple syrup. And honey. And mustard. And pretty much anything else any sensible person would use as a glaze.

In the end I used bucksfizz marmalade and some generic creole seasoning. It's come out surprisingly well :)

[*] I went to buy a gammon joint, got excited because there were actually bacon joints available and bought one of them instead, cooked it and now it's ham. Pigs are confusing.
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When I was little, conversations about Easter eggs tended to happen in our house around August. They tended to start with the mother demanding whether I was ever going to get round to eating them, or whether she should throw them out[*]. As a result, the parents habitually give me a present at Easter rather than an actual egg. It is, of course, still referred to as an Easter egg. This year my Easter egg was a cookbook.

I noticed a month or two ago that Itsu had produced a cookbook, and requested it for Easter.

Itswho? )

Trying it out )
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Once long ago on LJ, I made braised red cabbage and remarked that it was so lovely "I don't know why people don't eat it all the time". That was at the beginning of 2007, and I don't think I've made it since :(

Anyway, at the weekend I picked up a red cabbage at the greengrocers with the intention of braising. Sunday didn't go quite to plan so the cabbage with Sunday dinner just got boiled[*], but later in the week there was time for braising.

I no longer live in the house with the cookbook I used last time, so instead used this recipe. Well, I say used. More read, and then approximated. And gosh, isn't the cider I bought from the lovely microbrewery in Lancashire explosive when you open it?

Anyway, braised red cabbage is still awesome (I had it with sausages this time). But my new discovery is how exciting it is if you put sour cream on it. One bowl hot red cabbage, one dollop sour cream... an excellent accompaniment to a plate of ham sandwiches.

[*] .. which with the kale and the carrots did mean that the rather random and unplanned dinner served to [livejournal.com profile] leathellin was borderline psychedelic in its multicolouredness.
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Last week, I was stopping overnight at a friend's house and - because she did - I watched the Great British Bake Off. Those of you who know me will be staggered to hear that, this week, I voluntarily watched it in my own house.

(For those of you who don't: I basically never watch telly. I struggled a little to find the GBBO on the V+ box's catch-up TV menus because, er, I don't think I've ever interacted with them before. And we've had the V+ box for four years.)

Having mentally filed GBBO under "reality TV", without having ever seen it, I was surprised to find that the contestants all appeared to be normal, likable people. And the judges - though sometimes harsh - seemed out to offer honest criticism rather than ritual humiliation. I could still live without all the dramatic pauses and close-up face shots, but overall I enjoyed it.

And, like (I imagine) a substantial portion of the country, I set on this weekend to see if I could do a better job of custard tarts )
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On Sunday last weekend, we used up a Groupon thingy which was in danger of expiring, and took ourselves to the London Motor Museum. It's kind of localish, being in Hayes, and a very simple train ride away (and a slightly more complicated walk back along a canal and through some parks and some shopping streets and so on, but that was optional. The walk did feature a wireframe elephant, though.)

The London Motor Museum )

Visiting friends and cooking disasters )

The Levellers @ Cheltenham Town Hall )

Right, I think that's the mad catch-up done :)
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At Christmas, someone gave ChrisC a Green & Black's cookery book. While he waded through recipes for cakes and mousses, I peered over his shoulder and got excited about the Chilean Pork and Chocolate sausages.

We waste no time round our way, so barely four months later we checked whether our excellent local butcher would sell us sausage skins. He would!

So, here are the raw ingredients:

Contains raw meat, so don't click here if you don't want to see that )

And the rest... )

Of course, the biggest problem in our household when undertaking this kind of project is solving the question: what music do you listen to when making sausages? After the Adam Green song which mentioned "sausages and eggs, and hot and sour soup" we kind of ran out of ideas. Later on, we clutched at straws with the "hot dog, jumping frog" of Prefab Sprout. Better suggestions welcome :)
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Well, as some of you may recall my task last weekend was to work out how to make beer cake. Cake which tasted like, and contained, beer.

Preliminary results from the beery-cake investigation board are now in.

The report is quite long. It does contain pictures of cake. )
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On a whim, at the weekend, I picked up a guinea fowl for Sunday dinner. I was milling about in the butcher's wondering what to buy and figured well, why not. I've never cooked guinea fowl before, so had a little hunt through the cookbook shelf and decided to go for a pot-roasting recipe of Jamie Oliver's. Mr Oliver himself may well be an irritating little sprunt, but his recipes are usually decent.

Guinea fowl pot-roasted with blood oranges[*], celery and sage gave me a few problems, though. The recipe could have been written a lot more clearly, but the issues were all to do with actual bird-wrangling. Maybe there's something obvious which you lot all know that I don't.

Guinea juggling )

[*] OK, so I didn't quite play by the rules. I don't like oranges (and they don't like me) so I used lemons.
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In between Christmas and New Year, I...

Was off work, and quite enjoyed myself )

And today I was back at work. First Great Western celebrated this momentous event by putting my ticket price up and cancelling the train I was hoping to catch. My bike expressed its distaste at having been locked up by itself for a fortnight by hiding an enormous quantity of water in its saddle, then carefully disgorging it while I rode to work.

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