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Archive for the ‘Pudding’ Category

Kindles and Rocky Road

This week I have been thinking a lot about Kindles. Mostly I have been thinking why would a person buy a Kindle? I do understand the allure of thin gadgets. When I first came into contact with an iPhone I immediately started surreptitiously posing with it, making pretend calls and whizzing through the contacts list for no reason. It wasn’t even my phone.

Whilst the iPhone is the natural and sexy successor to bulky Nokias from days of yore, the Kindle is not sexier than books. Hear me out. Is there really anything more amazing looking than a pile of books all higgledy-piggledy? I keep piles of books round my flat as part of my interior design scheme. If I break an ornament I just stick a pile of books in its place.

Books are things of beauty. If someone offered to remove all the art and posters from your home and replace them with a single gadget containing all your pieces in digital form, you would probably say ‘no thank you crazy person’. If the Kindle takes off then what will happen to all the books? Homes will look dry and sterile and you won’t be able to impress guests with your complete set of Muriel Spark novels or a random book on German limewood sculpture that you never even read.

I am not such a superficial person that I only value a book for its cover (and its new book smell, and the ribbon page-marker things, and the joy of cracking the spine for the first time). I also think they are quite practical. Proponents of the Kindle claim that it is less cumbersome, lighter and more ‘user-friendly’ than a book. Well, I’m sorry but we’re not all reading The Count of Monte Cristo in the dark. I tend to take normal-sized books on my commute. That’s why I still haven’t finished Wolf Hall. If you really are the type of person who is going to droop under the weight of a 400 page book then might I suggest a novella? Simonetta Perkins by L P Hartley is both a delightful read and, at 134 grams, is lighter than a Kindle (yes, I weighed it).

A few weeks ago I was randomly looking through some books and when I flicked through Gulliver’s Travels out fell a book review I’d written when I was about 12 (judging from the hand-writing). Wow, I thought, I was a super cool 12-year-old. And also, what will happen when Kindles take over the world? Where will all the embarrassing notes and love letters and chocolate digestive crumbs be stashed?

Clearly this post isn’t about food at all. I just wanted to share my thoughts on Kindles. Here is a picture of a rocky road I made to make up for it. It has stem ginger in it. It’s a bit of a Nigella recipe in that you just melt down chocolate and throw other confectionary in before putting it in the fridge. It’s still delicious.

Melt dark chocolate with some butter and syrup from a jar of stem ginger. Stir in crushed maltesers, mini marshmallows, chopped stem ginger and anything else you fancy (kit kats, dried fruit etc). Pour the mix into a suitable container and refrigerate until set.

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Lavender Ice-Cream

The MasterChef final provided the usual mix of thumping beats, slow mo, tough cooking, Florence & the Machine’s ubiquitous warbling and contestants crying. Good on old Dick for refusing to shed a single tear even when goaded by the judges. Stoicism seems to be viewed as equivalent to emotional retardation on these reality shows and it was a delight to see someone like Dick Strawbridge, a man who never once mentioned a dead relative, go so far. I can’t not mention his moustache because it is utterly fabulous; a joy to behold. I’m not sure that a man with a ponytail hanging from his upper lip should really be cooking professionally though.

Like a lot of people I was rooting for Christine Hamilton to win and I’m sure like a lot of people I never thought I would root for Christine Hamilton to win anything. Lisa Faulkner did it in the end though and good on her. At times I was seriously concerned she might pass out from dehydration the sheer amount of bloody crying she was doing. It was quite pretty crying though, a sparkling tear elegantly sliding down her cheek rather than snot flying all over the shop. It’s so important to do the right sort of crying on these shows.

My highlight of the programme was when John Torode compared Lisa Faulkner’s panna cotta to a bosom with what can only be described as a filthy look on his face. John being more excited by a pudding than Greg the Green Grocer is unprecedented. Future competitors should take note and start designing puddings that look a bit like boobs; it’s a one-way ticket to the final.

Whilst watching Friday’s show I was also making some lavender ice-cream. This is a flavour that wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It is very floral and delicate but also densely creamy from the custard base. Now if I can just find a way to shape it into a bosom…

I used the recipe here. It mentions including glycerine and then doesn’t say when to put use it so I just stirred it in before freezing the mix. My father followed the same recipe without using the glycerine and it didn’t make any difference so it really is optional. I don’t own an ice-cream maker and I really don’t think you need one when making an ice-cream with a custard base.

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I have never liked chocolate cake much which, as a woman, is like saying that I’m not keen on kittens, Brad Pitt or Cheryl Cole (for the record I think kittens are delightful but I’m totally indifferent to Brad and Cheryl). I either find chocolate cake too plain or too rich and I have yet to find a middle ground. Usually, when confronted with this information people want to force-feed me their own version in the hope of changing my mind but trust me it will not. From Sacher Torte to Cadbury’s Flake Cake my universal reaction has always been ‘meh’.

People who like chocolate (I refuse to apply the word ‘chocoholic’ unless you have actually mugged an old lady in order to buy a half-chewed Yorkie) sometimes make moaning noises when they see, say, Chocolate Fudge Cake on a menu. As someone who isn’t sexually attracted to chocolate I can’t tell you how annoying this is. I understand that our tongues taste things differently but there is something of a herd element when it comes to the modern, usually female preoccupation with chocolate. Chocolate has been around for a long time but the claims of addiction and preference over sex/your children/all other food is a new thing. I wonder if there are any other women out there who are willing to put their hands up and admit that whilst chocolate is nice it isn’t worth getting hysterical over.

My friends are all spies.

It was my friend’s birthday party at the weekend and I was in charge of cake-making. When you have a food blog you can’t really avoid these responsibilities. I settled on a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting despite being advised to make ‘something chocolaty’. I refused to do so. If Dolly Parton was made of cake I like to think she would look like this.

I made the cake late at night so my decision to make four tiers was not an entirely sober one. I chose a recipe from the Epicurious website but used smaller cake tins to make the four tiers instead of two. I used just blueberries between the layers of cake and raspberries on top as I thought it was more visually striking. I also dusted the frosted cake with desiccated coconut in order to cover up my not entirely smooth frosting.

The cake was yummy but I would say the sponge was a bit too dry. I think next time I’ll try more butter and buttermilk. Dry sponge aside this cake was good and it survived the car ride from Clapham to Belsize Park I think purely because of the sheer weight and solidity of it. As they say at Epicurious, definitely a keeper.

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molatoffee

 

I really wanted to love the Icecreamists, the self-proclaimed agents of cool bringing ice cream, rock and gratuitous nudity to the masses from Selfridges until the 1st  November. On two occasions I lured friends there with the promise of ice cream-themed excitement. Unfortunately on both occasions the experience was a bit of a let down.

 

For the record the ice cream itself is very good and so surely anything more is just an added extra; the literal cherry on top of the knickerbockerglory. The Icecreamists certainly have added many cherries by marketing the venue as not just an ice cream parlour but also a pop-up, a music venue, plus there are allusions to fashion pretensions on the website. There is a fun punk theme and on the first night I was there a lady stood awkwardly next to an ice cream van clad in nothing but leather underwear and an American style police hat looking as if she had just stepped off the set of a George Michael video. I know some people love a token nude female, a few of the back-packed tourists who had somehow wandered down to this den of iniquity looked thrilled, I however find it really boring and about as modern as a Miss World contest.

 

Rose ice cream

Rose ice cream

 

I first visited on the opening night. I had requested tickets on facebook and, through a combination of the fevered message of congratulations I had received on ‘winning’ and my own excitement, I really thought we were in for a treat. Instead we stood in a queue for a while with a bunch of people who seemed as confused as we were. I won’t go into the ins and outs of where it went wrong but basically our names were never taken and a boy of about 15, skinny jeans worn so tight I feared for his fertility, led us nonchalantly to a large communal table. The boy seemed to have as little idea of what was going on as we did and at one point asked us where some other customers had gone. He thought they had left without paying but I explained to him that he had never actually taken their order and after about 15 minutes waiting they had left.

 

On this evening the alcoholic ice cream cocktails were off the menu as they were still in development so we settled for a rose flavoured ice cream which was an eye watering £5 a scoop. The £5 gets you a generous scoop in a plastic cup. No cream, no biscuit, no plate, not even real cutlery like you get at the Wimpy. With prices as high as they are you need never forget you are in the basement of Selfridges. The music was good but loud which is weird outside of a club.

 

Absinthe in a drip - if they had actualy injected it into my vein that would have been fun.

Absinthe in a drip - if they had actualy injected it into my vein that would have been fun.

 

 The following day I saw that the organisers had apologised on facebook for some of the teething issues and so I decided to email them about it. As a result I was offered another opportunity to visit and try two ice cream cocktails on the house. So last week, with a spring in my step and a new-found faith in the power of complaining, I descended into the depths of my third favourite department store. This time the place was dead. There was no band and the staff outnumbered customers. Clearly Tuesday is not the night when the cool kids go for ice cream.

 

The staff were very helpful and pleasant. We were treated to the Sex Pistol cocktail and something which I think was called the Molatoffee cocktail, £19.99 and £16.99 respectively. I know, my hands are sweating too. These are probably the most expensive cocktails I have ever ordered, and I can only thank the very generous organisers for offering us these. If I were to spend £20 on a cocktail in real life there would be some pretty hefty stipulations including, but not limited to, a crystal glass; inclusion of all the major spirits; some sort of gold leaf flotsam; a side order of nibbles; a very comfy chair and a breath-taking view. So naturally the ice cream cocktails were a little disappointing.

 

The sex pistol cocktail was two scoops of delicious ‘viagra’ ice cream in a martini glass with a shard of James Martin–style melted sugar on top. The waitress dragged along a medical drip with two bags filled with absinthe attached. She then decanted a shots worth of absinthe from the drip to a glass. This we were instructed to pour over the ice cream. Likewise the Molotoffee ice cream was served in a martini glass with a shot of brandy on the side. The Sex Pistol cocktail was nice enough although we couldn’t help but feel we’d just ruined a £20 portion of ice cream by covering it in medicinal booze. As to the claims that this cocktail was a natural Viagra, let’s just say no insatiable lust was apparent at any stage of the evening. The Molotoffee ice cream was a combination of incredibly sweet and incredibly alcoholic. I’m sorry to say it just didn’t work for me. Neither of these were right as a cocktail but I expect with prices like these they are rarely ordered.

 

The Sex Pistol cocktail.

The Sex Pistol cocktail.

 

I think there is a great idea here that, with lower prices, could be brilliantly marketed at teenagers who want to socialise somewhere that isn’t a cinema or a shopping centre. It can be tiring trying to look over 18 and a trendy ice cream parlour with live music could be a great solution. While the high prices and the basement location didn’t do it for me I think maybe I’m not the target audience, there are a lot of teenagers in Selfridges who wouldn’t blink an eye at a £5 scoop of ice cream.

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Pear and Malteser Crumble

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Everybody likes crumble. Well, maybe there are a handful of murderers, paedophiles and terrorists who aren’t keen on it but as a rule of thumb all right-thinking people love crumble.

 

Crumble reigns supreme over other puddings because it is so impossible to make a mess of. No matter how depressed, stressed or tired you are feeling. No matter if you are a child, elderly or infirm. Nigel Slater has written very movingly about his mother’s crumble in his memoir Toast and since reading this book the very act of preparing crumble always gives me a fleeting lump in my throat. Crumble was already a sentimental and bucolic pudding and Nigel Slater has now connected it inextricably with Mums.

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I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about possible crumble recipes, I tend to throw in some ginger, cinnamon or chocolate with whatever fruit is available. Maltesers however came to me in a flash of inspiration and I bought the ingredients with this recipe in mind. The result is a pear and chocolate crumble but with a gooey, slightly chewy malty taste which is delicious.

(more…)

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