Well, what did you think I looked like?

Well, what did you think I looked like?
It was a late night!

Friday, 18 June 2010

I am.....supporting Slovenia

Lets face it England suck!

Anyhoo, after a mammoth macaron session this afternoon, smiles and tears , hair pulled out by the roots, we still have more failures than successes, but: the successes were successful. Photos will follow, but I have the batter almost right now, or at least when its wrong, I know why its wrong ( over beating mostly). Next is getting the temperature right for MY oven, it seems 160° is the best, with tin foil over the top shelf to prevent it getting too hot top down and browning them, as I have a fan oven I am going to try lowering the shelf one more from middle next time see what happens.
I got smooth domes....without feet
I got feet....with cracked domes
and I got some, just right.
Frankly I refuse to obsess too much over this, I don't want to become another macaron blog, truth is, they all taste nice if they don't look perfect, they are not for sale; they are for eating, so who cares.
fillings were:

  • Raspberry and milk chocolate ganache
  • Peach and white chocolate ganache 
  • Coffee and dark chocolate ganache 
I sneaked a taste of one, sorry this 24 hours in the fridge, whilst correct, is a killer. They are divine. Colouring is a thing I must practice, what starts off as way too vivid , pales so much during whisking and then baking, it will take some practice to get the starting colour vivid enough to survive to come out just right.
As I mentioned, I refuse to become obsessed, I shall persevere, but no more posts about them until I manage the perfect batch, there is more to life than the quest for baking the perfect macaron.........like eating non-perfect ones!

meanwhile anyone having trouble with macarons should, I INSIST, read this article it was invaluable in my quest as to understanding the mechanics behind these little delicious blighters!

oh and the photos? well the macarons didn't last long enough , sorry!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

I am Sugar Rushed...

Too much ice cream tasting, everything seems to taste of sugar.

my fingers are itching to make another batch of macarons, I ate the last one this afternoon after opening the fridge about ten times and telling  myself NO! I could resist no longer and nibbled at it whilst watching the football, and my gods they are not kidding when they say they are better after being in the fridge for 24 hours.
So I got cracking , ha ha ! and separated some eggs ready for tomorrow, and they are busy 'ageing' in the kitchen for tomorrow. I have trawled the internet all day for hints and tips and think I have found the explanations for the failures in batter consistency in the first attempt, we shall see.
I am going to go for plain vanilla shells for this attempt so that I can practice without wasting too many ingredients.
meanwhile, on the ice cream front, I made David's Chocolate Sherbet to which I added 1 egg white whisked to a meringue consistency which has given it a smashing mousse quality, I combined this with a Pear and White Wine sorbet, in little plastic shot glasses as moulds.

The idea of the plastic cups is not so much as a mould but to create individual portions, the boys have been doing serious damage to the ice cream tubs, and this way they can just pull out a portion of the flavour they like , rather than partially defrosting a whole tub each time.I did however have to take a photo of how pretty this looked . The flavours go well together, however the pear flavour is very subtle and could do with intensifying.
Having picked up a bunch of over ripe bananas at the greengrocers cheap, I then proceeded to make a batch of Banana & Brown Sugar ice cream, very sweet, but totally delicious.
Surely this has to stop!!
But no....I have lychees for sorbet, and peaches for ice cream still to do, although I may set a peach or two aside for a macaron filling .

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

I am Impressed......sort of.

So there we were, 10 am and nothing to do. So son#1 and I went shopping and brought the few things on my cookery list that I could afford. More eggs was a must, for more ice cream. Plus a few other bits including a baking tray for my upcoming attempt at Macarons.
While he finished off the first batch of raspberry ripple, insisting that I would need the container so it needed emptying ( yeah right!); I got on with the first batch. Result? disaster! serves me right really, I had halved the ingredients as it was a test batch, and must have got them wrong, because the batter was way too thick. We cooked them anyway to see what would happen, and whilst they were in no way macaronsthey were edible and scrummy so we kept some to crumble into the next batch of suitable ice cream.
Well I wasn't about to give up, so I trusted myself to David's expert hands and tried again; full ingredients this time. Result? success! Ok not a rip roaring success, they didn't have 'feet' and a few had cracked. Also I think the mixture was still ever so slightly too thick because the little peaked caps didn't sink, however the meringue mixture this time did actually look like meringue, and the folding in went well.

Not perfect, but I don't care. This is the first ever attempt at meringue, let alone macarons: and I at least got a feel for the mixture which I can now 'perfect'. I think it had too much air in it because bubbles were an issue on the surface, so maybe a slightly looser mix, and letting them sit for longer may help; the second batch were definitely smoother having sat for 30 minutes before they went in the oven.
I made a delicious coffee ganache for the centres, which son#1 hates so his had Nutella in! there was far too much of the coffee filling though so I froze a large amount, I hate waste so I hope it defrosts  as usable.
A tasting session when son#2 came in from school declared them to be 'DELICIOUS!' so I took the photo quickly as there are now of course none left.
I need a decent piping bag though, so the next attempt will have to wait until next week, I will definitely be making them again and son#2 is already thinking up flavours to try out. Whilst they are a lot of effort to get right, they are well worth making and the perfect way to use up all the egg whites left over from the ice cream making. Next of course I will have to perfect the 'feet' and try to make them without the 'caps' although, I have to say; they do look cute.

Next of course was the empty tub of raspberry ripple that need replacing. My first one had been made with custard powder, and whilst the kids loved the taste, I was unhappy with the texture. Of course now I am expert at a home made custard base, it behoved me to try again. Unfortunately the raspberry has spread into the ice cream rather than rippling, but..........it looks nice and tastes divine so a happy accident really.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I am ......Organised

I have finally finished sorting out my layout, it ain't perfect mind, but at least everyone's links are showing now; sorry to all the peeps I follow for the delay.
Well this afternoon wasn't as bad I thought it was going to be. I have been referred to do some charity work, so at least that will start to get me back into the swing of working hopefully.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch allotment; I have affixed a Swiss flag to the shed door , declaring our neutrality in the ongoing saga of 'who has a vendetta against who'. Honestly! I knew allotments could be cliquey but....worse than kindergarten?
The runner beans, or at least half of them have finally managed to struggle high enough to reach the strings on the wigwam. I was close to giving up to be honest , this is the third lot after the first two got killed in the late frosts; but they seems to be catching up slowly and one has its first flowers on, as do the Borlotti and some of my Maris Piper potatoes.The peas have pods so they are doing well now, and the garlic looks like it might be ready early! ( either that or its dying, which I doubt seeing as it survived the winter). The first two courgettes are forming, and we have another gherkin. why they can't come a few at a time is beyond me, I mean you can hardly pickle one gherkin; and they are not really freezable, so I will have to come up with a cunning plan.
Having harvested another 300g of broad beans for the freezer, son#1 is still gamely trying to overcome his dislike of them; eating the small ones raw as I shell them, whilst washing them down with a taste of SBC ice cream. Personally I think the whole thing was just an excuse to get more ice cream, but it does mean he daren't complain when I put them on his plate next time.

And so to dinner, which; having spent so much time in the kitchen this weekend, I wanted to be quick and easy. Now I love cooking, but that's the hobby part; and sometimes the daily grind of doing dinner is not always fun, so anything that can be prepared in 10 minutes and cooked in 5 is perfect. Tonight it was noodles.

When our local Woolworth finally closed its doors, we speculated for a while as to what would open there? there were wild rumours of an Asda, maybe an Aldi; or ,joy of joys; an Iceland! and what did we get?  well imagine the local chagrin when a Chinese wholesalers took it on !!!
Oh the comments:  'what do we need one of those for?', 'they will never last' etc. etc.  and so on, ad infinitum.
I was dead chuffed!!! all that cool stuff on my doorstep? seventh heaven, and we make very good use of it too; curry sauce concentrate for when you really crave a bad curry, noodle types out the wazoo and chili oils and sauces to die for; coconut milk and cream at a fraction of the price in a Tesco or Sainsbury.
I will eat noodles several times a weeks as a snack and a big pack will last me a good fortnight, having bought the same ones several times now; I never noticed the 'Point of Origin'.....

OMIGODS!!!! are they serious? I can hardly eat them for laughing! anyway, once I had wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes I stuck them in boiling water for 2 minutes; added sliced mushrooms, shredded Pak Choi; diced spring onions, sliced radishes and a couple of handfuls of prawns; 2 minutes more and it's drain nearly all the water off and stir in Spicy Szechuan sauce (Lee Kum Kee) . Voilà.
Instant spicy gratification, just in time for the football.

I am Invisible.....

Yes its THAT day again. I have been moping around the house this morning, filling in the form with all the jobs that weren't available and I couldn't apply for over the last two weeks; and am due to go in for my bi-monthly humiliation this afternoon. Still enough of that....

...and on to this.
My first attempt at caramel, and I was very impressed. I was making it for an ice cream recipe, one of David's of course; and followed his instructions to the letter. Well as far as I could not owning a candy thermometer or anything, but he makes it easy without having to own a professional kitchen full of fancy gear; so I was chuffed that it all went so well. The sugar bubbled away happily, didn't burn ; or seize and although I think I maybe should have cooked it a tad longer till it was slightly darker, I was impressed with the result. The only problem I had was the salt all seemed to end up in the middle, despite sprinkling it in and not stirring; so I may leave it till its poured next time and sprinkle it over more evenly.
Not owning a baking tray ( although I could have sworn I had one in the cupboard), I had to use a pizza tray which has holes in it; hence the greaseproof paper. However once oiled that proved a bonus as the caramel lifted straight off beautifully and I just ran over it with a rolling pin to break it up. It probably could have been more 'burnt' tasting, but I am not a fan of it too harsh so actually it was just fine.

The recipe I was attempting was this one Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, and the second lot of caramel was more involved; so I wisely followed David's advice on his Caramel page , and lined up all the ingredients in order of use; took a deep breath, borrowed a long sleeved tee-shirt form son#2 ; and dove in!
Imagine my surprise, not one mistake; no lumps, no seizing; nothing left in the strainer, perfect caramel! There is no doubt the man is a genius and has some weird psychic ability to affect my cooking skills for the better. Off it went into the freezer, after the first hour I whizzed it once through with the hand blender; then again after the second hour. I have found this gets enough air in to give it the nice creamy consistency I like. After that I use a fork to gather in the frozen mixture and smooth it each hour till I can barely stir it. So, at midnight ( again) there I was; stirring in the caramel bits and loading up the container for the final freeze; with enough left over for a small bowl before bed whilst catching up on David's last few posts. I have now read his whole blog from day one. A quick look on Amazon and I ordered his book 'The Perfect Scoop' and it was off to bed, to dream of ice cream.
The end result.

Now , tell me that's not making you yearn..to churn.

Monday, 14 June 2010

I am exhausted.

Why? well It might have to do with the fact that we have kittens again. Izzy ( cat #5 and the 3rd generation youngest) gave birth Friday night at 11pm....then again at 12 pm....followed by 1.30 am and 3 am, by which time I couldn't get to sleep anyway; so I stayed awake and read till it was time to get up and get down to the allotment.

After a morning weeding and avoiding the annoying vendettas and politics going on there at the moment it was home to make ice cream, but as that took me till midnight to finish ; once again insomnia kicked in and I only got 2 hours sleep before it was time to go shopping, then back home to MORE ice cream making; followed by cooking dinner, which was a yummy Gammon steak covered in home made onion sauce.
After clearing up with the usual complaining , but getting on with it; from the boys, it was back to my mammoth task of reading all the way through the archives of David Lebovitz' blog. I am at present half way through 2007 and catching up fast, it is extraordinarily amusing; informative, envy-making and full of the most fantastic ice cream ( and other dessert) recipes.
This morning whilst prowling through it , I got to thinking about empty nest syndrome.....don't get the connection? well it goes like this:
as the boys have got older I have endeavoured to at least instill in them the basics of cooking, so they never have to get married just to get a decent meal; my delight in cooking and trying out new things has been re-awakened and the fact I can now make a decent sauce without panicking half a day over it ( I can knock one out at the last minute now with out having to refer to a recipe even), discovering the joy of being able to make a NON-lumpy custard base from scratch in seconds; led me to ponder why I am bothering to try and educate my children's palates at all? and then it occurred to me, that maybe subliminally it had nothing to do with educating them at all! maybe, just maybe I was starting to panic that at 14 and 16 they would soon be leaving the nest and what would they need to visit me for? So that delicious home made mint choc ice cream, was not so much a treat as a future-bribe/ insurance; something they would always remember, never be able to replicate and would always need to come home for; and bring their children with them to sample.

Could my mind really be that devious? am I turning into Marie Barrone ?  quite possibly. So with that in mind, I now realise why I feel the need to attempt Macarons next weekend; despite the fact I have never even tried to make a basic meringue-y type thing ever in the past!
After all, if they go horribly wrong that is to be expected anyway; and nothing is lost, and if they come out right; well then I have one more object of bribery in my culinary snare and I am again the cookery genius my youngest son declares me to be ( may he never be disillusioned, bless him and his washing up and chopping skills).
Well it just might work, you never know.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

I am an Ice Cream Maniac!!!!

As usual when I find a new thing, I do it........to death: and this home made Ice cream business is as addictive as any of my other 'new thangs'.
In my defence however who knew it was sooo easy? and cheap!
I am after all on a very tight budget and supposed to be losing weight, but chocolate is my downfall. Especially ice cream, with a dowsing of double cream ( I know, I know...). The fact that I have learned to make a non-lumpy custard base from scratch is enough to fascinate me, but aside from the eggs; milk and sugar; all of which I have to buy anyway, it's amazing how many flavours you can make just from stuff you have in the cupboard and garden. Chocolate of course has proved the most expensive, a LARGE bar of bournville is a must cos I like my chocolate rich and dark; but even just made with nesquick it comes out a nice milk choc treat for the kids; with added grated chocolate instead of expensive choc chips.

so far I have made in two days alone:

  • Chocolate chip for the kids, nesquick style
  • Vanilla with tiny, tiny pieces of shredded chocolate; and a touch of cinnamon.
  • Raspberry Ripple, just plain vanilla with runny raspberry jam.
  • Mint choc chip, fresh mint leaves from the garden and grated dark choc.
  • Chocolate with ginger and chilli ( a whole bar of bournville, super rich and the best yet)
  • Cappacino
  • Lime sorbet ( used up all the egg whites I have left)
  • Honey and Ginger
  • Chocolate sorbet, again a whole bar of bournville; but I would have bought one and eaten it anyway so ice cream was a good compromise.
Too much?

possibly, but who cares; each tub is just over 500ml, that would cost at the very least a £5 if it was Hagaan Daaz and this tastes SO much better.
we managed to get some waffle cones from Tesco this morning, seeing as in Britain waffle irons are few and expensive; but this afternoon we will be attempting home made cones, a sort of cross between a crepe and a waffle type; after all, i need something to hold all this ice cream we have!

Who knows what flavour we will come up with next? already tinned pears, lychees and others are springing to mind;( when I ran out of ingredients last night, we even considered carrot and broad bean; it was definitely time for bed). Roll on pay day.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

I am Mr Softy.........

The ice cream guy.

Its been a hectic week , hence the lack of posts and the weather has be so variable not much has been done at the allotment.
However, today the weather was lovely so off we went and got on with acres of weeding that needed doing; after that it was back home for the football ( of course!!!!).
This week I have discovered home made ice cream, not something I imagined I would make because I really only like chocolate ice cream; so why bother?
It all started with a post on ice cream in a bag. After that and one of my epic meanderings on-line I found a blog by David Lebovitz and I was off.
I don't own an ice cream maker, so it was the old fashioned freezer method for me; although I have fashioned a makeshift churner from a large pasta tin, with a smaller coffee tin inside ( worked really well too); but the freezer proved easier and more convenient.
So far we have had chocolate chip sorbet, vanilla with shredded chocolate gelato; and I have a nice raspberry ripple and mint chocolate chip prooving as we speak, made with handfuls of fresh mint from the garden. Any more taste testing and there wont be any left to freeze!!!
The boys are loving it, especially the grown up flavours. Tomorrow I shall get some more milk, and make chocolate chili ice cream and maybe some coffee flavour......with chocolate in it somehow, I am sure by now you get my fixation with chocolate.
I will try and get a quick photo of them before they either melt or get grabbed and eaten.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

I am Spartacus........

........Robin Hood and several Marvel heroes all rolled into one.

After slaving all weekend on the allotment, all to good effect; and suffering from an almost Mediterranean tan due to the fantastic weather, I took the evening off to watch a few films with the boys and catch up with 'Blood and Sand' . Kick Ass was awesomely funny and led to me re-watching a few marvel faves like the Punisher and Elektra, I will watch Ghost Rider tomorrow.

I wish I was a super hero, or if not; I wish I had my youth back so I could take up free running. I often free-run in my dreams, only I had no idea that's what it was called. Even in dream it gives an immense sense of freedom.
Dinner was stuffed chicken in a white mustard sauce today, very nice.
Also brought home so many broad beans there were 600g when shelled, I popped those straight in the freezer.
everything seems to be coming along nicely now, catching up after the slow start we had this spring.

Time for new sons of anarchy now, then bed. Must ring about exam tomorrow.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

I am Content....

I was content yesterday too, after what was the perfect day at the allotment; glorious sunshine, weeding watering; doing things that needed doing, and drinking laughing and having a fantastic time with friends...but I felt unable to post after getting home and seeing the news........enough said, I cant post on it without completely ranting so I won't; except to say, what a waste of lives.

And today, much the same; sun, beer; and laughter, weeds; water and digging. What more could you ask for? no need to fantasise today, life is EXTREMELY good; and I am alive and well, as are all my loved ones.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Whooo Hooooo!!!! Today I am ....

.......Percy Thrower!!
the sun is out at last, and we are off up the allotment, its veggie time.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Today I am an Idiot.....

.....Four months after giving up smoking yet again, I got myself into such a state over my revision that I gave in and bought some!!! I am disgusted with my lack of willpower but a lot calmer.

Dinner was fantastic. After waiting for what seemed like hours to sign on, one person on the desks and 20 waiting to sign and some stupid young girl making the guys life a misery; I finally got out and made the mistake of popping in for some cream, £20 later and deeply depressed I headed for home to start cooking.

Steamed Pak Choi, sautéed fine green beans; roast potatoes and chicken breasts stuffed with sage and onion, wrapped in the last of the dry cured ham and  covered in a delicious onion; mushroom and tarragon, white wine and cream sauce.

Totally delicious!

After that it all went pear shaped after I decided to get on with the test paper I needed to get done. I hate this particular course, I am sure others find it easy; but anything with maths in it is a disaster for me, I cannot cope with numbers and although I am very good at spreadsheets the functions themselves are a nightmare if they are too complicated. More fool me. I asked Son#1 the math genius to double check my work, he huffed and puffed like I am a moron cos he was playing some stupid game on the computer: and the next thing we are in an almighty row, both kids involved and me shutting myself in my room. Five minutes later I am at the shop buying smokes.

Maybe I should stick to gardening and cooking, at least I am good at those; not many jobs you can get though without qualifications in those areas, which is what got me on this blasted IT course in the first place.
I wish today I was Einstien...............

Hooray!! today I am Yosser Hughes..............

He of the Black Stuff.......
Signing on day, have filled in the depressingly blank job search form with the non-existent job vacancies I could apply for. At this rate my new Biro will last five years at least :(

I have been a tad slack lately taking pics of the allotment, and so missed taking any of our first harvest; it looked pretty much like these which we collected this morning.
The Pak Choi has been a great success so far this year, and the radishes from the old site of the composter have been stellar; these are the smallest ones so far, as we are clearing out the first rows; the previous ones were twice this size.

Anyway its now time for bed, Tuesday tomorrow; signing on day :( . Ye Gods I hate being made to feel so useless.
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I did try to link across from Picasa webalbums, but that was a pain, better to upload direct from pute, otherwise the linkage goes all odd and the whole post was a link!!!
Never mind, this is just a snap of some of the things we produced in the garden last year. I love this pic, its a real still life; one day I may have to paint it.
This year has had such a bad start, we will be hard pressed to beat this at the allotment; pity as we had so looked forward to this first year.
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I am David Bailey at midnight

This is a pic of our allotment when we first got it last October.
I thought it would be interesting to see how easy it is to upload via Picasa?
Pretty easy it would seem.
The poor slave in the back ground is Son#2 starting the digging over, and no; I am not really that cruel, we had it rotivated a week later.
I shall take another Photo this week so you can compare, and sort out some sort of album for the rest.
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