Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Baking Challenge

It’s taken me a little while to get going on Steph’s baking challenge due to having my kitchen packed up ready to move but now I’m settled in I’m giving it a go. Clem usually works on Saturdays so it gives me plenty of time to get my bake on without the distraction of Lord Flash-heart trying to eat bits before I’m finished (Clem would like it to be noted that he is in full support of the baking challenge and will happily taste test anyone’s baking, should they need him).

Clem channelling lord
flashheart "hello queenie, you look sexy,

I’ve done an average amount of baking before but not of particularly high quality. When I was at primary school I had a friend who was keen and we would make something every time she came over to play. The most memorable being the hot cross buns where we forgot to put the currents in until they were already rising in the airing cupboard so ended up with a layer on top (they tasted fine). We also tried scotch eggs, butterscotch and various cakes as well as flapjacks and rice crispy cakes. We used Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes until it was falling apart and enjoyed ourselves immensely but I wouldn’t say I’ve moved past year 9 food tech level of success (grade C).

After that I went off it a bit before reaching college when some of us went through a phase of making each other massive OTT chocolate cakes covered in haribo to take to the pub and share with everyone. My favourite was when Sarah and I attempted to make a friend a goth cake but ended up with dreary grey icing not only on the cake but all over Sarah’s parent’s kitchen. That was the end of those endeavours.

Bacon &
chocolate muffin

More recently I’ve made Bacon and Chocolate muffins (first batch amazing, second batch dubious) and very successful cheesy dinosaurs. I tried a lemon and poppy seed cake but after rising and looking like a winner it then well and truly sank and then flopped out the pan like a brick. Too much lemon juice I think.

Lemon and poppy seed
loaf :)

I’m using Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake on Steph's recommendation and it looks pretty easy to get on with. I like the focus on breads and pastries as I already have plenty of books about making cakes and cupcakes and I’d like to try something a bit different. If it turns out I don’t get on with his style of recipes, I’ll revert back to this baby:


To start with, I chose something I’d made before from various recipes and I knew would taste good even if it went a bit wrong – Banana loaf. The instructions were easy to follow, and there weren’t any complicated ingredients. Using the electric whizzer made the mixture very smooth and it showed in the finished loaf. He suggests putting walnuts in, which I was going to substitute with chocolate chips (or maybe have both) but I forgot to get either when I went shopping so it ended up being quite plain. Still very nice, but a bit of difference in texture would make it that much better.


Which one is mine, which one is Paul Hollywood's?

Can you tell the difference? I used a silicone loaf tin so as the mixture was quite heavy, it bulged. It's also a bit more burned that Mr Hollywood's but both my tester and I agree that the edge bits are rather nice.

Verdict: Successful bake but room for improvement – 6/10


Monday, 4 February 2013

Dinner Parties for the Deceased

The other day Steph was asking about fantasy dinner parties. This, funnily enough, got me thinking about fantasy dinner parties. It's supposed to be five but I couldn't decide. 

So, providing all these people are capable of behaving themselves in polite company yet also willing to divulge information they probably never would, plus also being deceased, I would invite to my dinner party the following guests:

P1010112- Loire Valley

Eleanor of Aquitaine. She must have been quite a woman to negotiate the royal politics of her time. She travelled to Constantinople and Jerusalem, she was a patron of the arts, she co-managed the running of England and France all while being kept busy having ten children and occasionally marrying and divorcing powerful Kings and Princes. She might also have a different perspective on the antics of Robin Hood than we are used to. She keeps popping up in documentaries and information panels at castles, so she must either have been very influential or she's my spirit royal. (I still don't approve of the crusades though). (And just because I'm interested in it, that doesn't mean that I approve of the concept of monarchy either.)

Anne Boleyn. Because she always my favourite of the wives. It would be interesting to hear her version of events as we’ve heard so many interpretations from others. Plus I want to see her wear the original of the black dress I wore and see how she carries it off. I know I'm doubling up on Royals here but I had to sneak in a bit about when I got to dress up as Anne Boleyn and it was awesome.

Thomas Paine, Lewes

Thomas Paine – a bit of a local hero round these parts; we like someone who challenges received wisdom. Best wiki quote: “Marylander James Chalmers said Paine was a political quack and warned that without monarchy, the government would "degenerate into democracy”” Gosh, how awful.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth GarrettAnderson. If it wasn’t for people like her, our society would get nowhere. She was the first English woman to qualify as a doctor despite immense opposition from the establishment. Then when she’d finished Doctoring about, she went and became the first female English mayor. I’m choosing her over the Pankhursts because I’ve read less about her so would like to get to know her at my dinner party, plus her daughter Louisa was a suffragette so she’d probably be able to dish the dirt on the Pankhursts anyway.

Mrs Beeton.

Mrs Beeton. She might not have been quite such a fighter against gender roles but I still need her tips and advice – especially if I’m the one who has to cater this dinner party. Although thanks to people like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson at least now the washing up is shared. (I could invite this guy to cater though I suppose. I can't find a picture of the menu he created for the Prince Regent at the Pavilion but it was NUTS).

Still standing

Marie Stopes – thank you, Marie Stopes. She’s mainly here so I can feed her lots of delicious food as a thank you for helping contraception become acceptable which is in my opinion the turning point where we started moving towards equality (see also: tampons). (I’ve never read any of her poetry though, it could be awful).

I'll Awyays Be a Wild Thing - RIP Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak. Sendak only just gets an invite since he died last year, but we are all pleased to have him here and he represents all the children’s authors and illustrators who I could have filled a canteen with.

Musical interlude:

Woody Guthrie's New Years Rulin's

Woody Guthrie. When we get cats I want to name them Arlo and Woody (Clem wants a big ginger one called Jonesy). But in the meantime it'd be fun to sing some protest songs with Woody. "I've suffered for my music. And now it's your turn" as Neil Innes would say. Maybe we could do some good in the world. It would be nice if Marjorie could come too to give a fuller perspective on their lives and experiences, as well as being an interesting and intelligent person in her own right.

After dinner literary session:

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens. He must be kept as busy in the afterlife as he was in life doing after dinner readings but nevertheless he is invited to come to mine and let us know who it really was what done in Edwin Drood (or did they?) There are many many authors who could fill this spot but Dickens is so accessible, classic and entertaining that he wins as usual.

Aphra Behn, dramatist and writer

Aphra Behn – for bawdy jokes and lighter entertainment, as well as gossip on Nell Gwyn, but mainly because as Virginia Woolf said "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Benn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."

Post dinner analysis and commemoration:

Freud explica...

Sigmund Freud – We can debate feminism (I will attempt to summon the spirit of Simone de Beauvoir to join in).  I will ask him after the party to comment on the psyche of each guest. And then I will cut out pertinent articles from Psychologies magazine and send them to each guest with their thank you cards.


Edward Hopper – I would like him to paint a picture of our evening with us all looking suitable atmospheric and melancholic. He may wish to confer with Freud as to what to include.

Special Mentions who’d all probably have some interesting anecdotes, perhaps they could drop in for coffee and the cheese course:

Anne Lister – being a lesbian in Victorian times took some serious effort.
Edward Johnston– another local connection. Johnston designed the London Underground typeface, was well into calligraphy and I wanted someone from the Arts and Crafts movement but I thought William Morris might be too busy and I do really love that typeface.
Chuck Berry – I’d REALLY like to see a young Chuck Berry performing his hits but he doesn’t get an official invite because he’s still alive and because of the time he got done for underage sex which is not condoned in this house.
Freddie Mercury – he’d be really fun and could duet with Chuck Berry but he’s already going to Steph’s dinner party.
John Nash – nice architecture, mate. Build me a house?