Monday, 30 July 2007

Weekend bake-fest

I baked my socks off this weekend. Jose had his leaving party at Club Romano on Saturday night so I set about making a good haul of party cakes (and a load of dips/veggies) for that. Here we have some butterfly fairycakes (feeling the need to regress to childhood party treats!)...

... some white choc/raspberry brownies....

...and some millionaire's shortbread. I got part-way in to the shortbread making when I realised there was no semolina around, so I used polenta instead and I can tell you that it worked absolutely fine. The filling is condensed milk boiled up with some butter and sugar, and the topping is made by dolloping spoonfuls of milk/white/dark choc over the top and then swirling a skewer through it. Ooh pretty!

And once I finally rejoined the land of the living after a cup of coffee late on Sunday afternoon I got the urge to bake bread rather than do the housework. I followed Jamie Oliver's basic dough recipe (1kg flour, 3x7g yeast sachets, 625ml water, 30g each of sugar and salt). After proving the dough, I split it in two and shaped each half into a rectangle. One was spread with pesto and the other with banana and chocolate. You then roll them up, cut into slices and arrange cut side up to prove again before baking at 225 for 15 mins. A resounding success! The banana/choc one was especially yummy when just out the oven and still warm. I might try it with a bit less salt next time though.

PS I bought my train tickets for a week-long work experience trip to River Cottage, first week of September. I CAN'T WAIT!! VERY VERY EXCITED!! Hmm, I'm sure nobody will notice my absence at the last day of the Cell Signalling conference in Dundee, I'll be well away on the train by the time the talks start on Sunday, knitting and thinking of all the foody fun that awaits. Hehe!

A new WIP

...(that's Work In Progress - Diane's been teaching me some knitblog terms!). Can you tell what it is yet?? It's Florian Fox from Lucinda Guy's book And So To Bed. I got the two enormous balls of wool I'm using from the charity shop at the top of the road, and borrowed the pattern (thanks Diane), so this one's going to be nice and cheap. He's coming along very quickly as well, although I'm not looking forward to the sewing up stage. Speaking of which, I finished and stuffed my first cube to go with the baby blanket yesterday - I'll post pics when I've done the rest.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Lamb on the beach

A couple of weekends ago Elton bought an entire lamb from a farming colleague of his, and we set about producing a big lamb feast. Thankfully it had already been butchered, so we were presented with a large heavy box crammed full of lamb bits - not particularly my cup of tea but it seemed to awaken some primeval instincts in the boys, they were all very excited. They hauled it home between them on Friday night and set about dividing it up to be cooked in various ways at various locations. Then on Saturday afternoon we all piled into cars and drove down to Broughty Ferry beach, many travelling with just-out-of-the-oven joints of lamb or trays of roast potatoes on their laps!

Don't ask me why but Peter and I went for a quick dip before lunch (VERY glad I bothered to find my wetsuit), and then we got down to to the serious business of having a lamby picnic feast. Jane and I used the ribs to do an AWT sticky ribs recipe - and in fact we used AWT's very own ketjap manis which was part of the Taste Edinburgh haul. Our big Alessi pot came in very handy for this one too.

Blanket done, yarn stash bigger than ever.

I finished the blanket on Tuesday night - hurrah! It's quite a monster actually, I hadn't realised just quite how big it would be with all the squares joined together. Once the were connected (crochet rather than sewing), I picked up 200 stitches along each edge and knitted the garter stitch border. Weaving in all the ends at the back took most of the day on Sunday because of all the colour changes, but I got there in the end. I'm now working on a set of knitted cubes with the leftover yarn, which will help it take on the status of a 'play mat' since it's a bit big to be a cot blanket. Fingers crossed the parcel makes it through the postal strike.

I was very bad last week and did a lot of shopping on Ebay. I happened to check the yarn category just when loads of 10 ball lots of nice stuff were being sold so I set up a sniper to swoop in at the last minute and bid on 3 of them for me. I was expecting all of them to go for less than my maximum bid but I actually ended up winning all 3 (darn!). So quite an expensive week, although I go each of the lots for about half the price that the yarn would have cost in a shop so it's definitely a bargain! I got some Louisa Harding Grace in petrol, some Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk in a light greeny colour, and some red Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere - it looks more red and less pink than in the photo. Hmm, what shall I knit next?...

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Killer cheesecake

To celebrate the blog reaching the ripe old age of 10 weeks to the very day, I though I'd share my chocolate cherry cheesecake recipe. There's no escaping the fact that this is rich and dirty and very unhealthy, but it makes a handy dessert to take round to other people because you actually need to make it the day before so no worries about day-old baked goods letting the side down. Also a very small slice is enough of a chocolate and dessert hit to last a week so it goes a long way.

I'm not normally a fan of the canned fruit as an ingredient by the way, but this time it works perfectly.I made a variant of this cheescake to take round to Diane's this evening for dinner and knitting - plopped a few raspberries into the mix before it went in the oven and put a whole lot more on top instead of the cherry stuff.

Chocolate and cherry cheesecake

  • 2 packets double choc cookies, crushed
  • 75g butter
  • 400g cream cheese (I use FULL FAT philadelphia)
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 1 can black cherry pie filling

  • Melt the butter, mix together with biscuit crumbs and press into the base and up the sides of an 8in springform tin. Chill until required.
  • Beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth, add eggs one at a time beating well.
  • Beat in the cream, vanilla extract and melted chocolate.
  • Pour into the tin and bake at 180C for around 1h15. You'll probably need to put some foil over the top to prevent burning in the last 15 minutes or so. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in it overnight, then refrigerate until required. It'll collapse quite a bit during cooling but no worries - the topping hides all manner of sins.
  • Top with the cherries and their goo at the last minute. Best served with something like creme fraiche or yoghurt to cut through the clag!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Fancy a new car? Knit one

check this out. Someone has knitted a ferrari for their honours project. Now why isn't my PhD this fun?? Article here.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Taste is over :(

Taste is all over - very sad! I met some lovely lovely people and had loads of fun. Not much writing from me tonight though becuase I'm a jibbering zombie wreck barely able to form sentences, but here's some photos from Taste of Birmingham...

Some yummy strawberry tarts from Opus. I made friends with the guys on the stand and they kept our crew in good supply of these, and lemon tart/brownies too. Would like to give their restaurant a go sometime. Bless them and their patisserie. Andy - that pic is for you, amazing!

Jean-Christophe Novelli in action.

Here's Matteo cooking some crew lunch between sessions. Was really great to sit down to a proper meal around the table with everyone, and even the sun came out perfectly on time.

Sorry John, couldn't leave this one out!!!!

The girls out on the razz in brum...

...but I somehow managed to get up early enough to make a cake for the last day

Sunday afternoon thunderstorm, it certainly wasn't a light shower

Chef's Theatre lads

I was quite excited coming in to land over Dundee this morning on the way home, got some good views. Here's tentsmuir forrest just over the river from Dundee - porcini goldmine - and also a view of Magdalen Yard Green and the Law in the background, I drew a crappy wonky red circle around home. Pretty cool. I think the steward thought I was quite strange!

Dilly in the sun this afternoon. Not Taste-y but definitely cute.

Jane was quite happy with Jean-Christophe Novelli's apron that I brought home for her! Also in the picture is Aldo Zilli's chitarra that Cleere very kindly let me have. Will be testing it out and making some linguini at the weekend, pics will follow. Judging by the manic look on my face I think it's time I went off to bed and caught up on a few weeks sleep! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jane's pan bagna was the only thing that persuaded me to come in to work for a few hours after arriving home.

Bobbin technology

Here's the pic of the peg bobbins I promised. It works extremely well, I'm very pleased with it. 8 squares of the blanket done, 8 to go and the baby is due in a week. Argh! Urgent and prolific knitting required. I started joining together the finished ones on the way down to Birmingham - it was pretty quick and easy with a crochet hook, but there are an awful lot of ends to weave in. Better get cracking...

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

8 squares down, and seaweed mastered

The blanket is coming along nicely, I've done 8 out of 16 squares now, just in time to take along with me to Birmingham TASTE. I've decided to leave the knitting needles behind and concentrate on joining together the ones I've got so far... fingers crossed they let me take a crochet hook in my hand luggage this afternoon! I took a pic of the peg bobbins in action the other day, will be posted soon.

Completely unrelatedly, I also have to report on the most recent carrageen experiment, think I've cracked it this time. I used half as much seaweed, a bit more sugar and a bit more cream (300ml, to 200ml milk). The texture was softer and nicer, and almost like a mousse. This time I skipped the lemon and basil and went for a teaspoon of ground cardamom for flavouring instead. It worked very nicely - somehow matching the texture better than the lemon/basil combo - and was particularly good after the curry we had first.

I'll be on a plane heading down to Bham for the final TASTE fling in a little over 3 hours. Excited! And I've got a nice big bag with me this time to bring home plenty of goodies, unlike London. Quite excited about flying from Dundee airport too, I'll try to get a few pics as we take off...