Monday, 28 March 2011

Number 13: baked alaska

I think the best thing to day about that is that I was so surprised that it worked, that the photo is TERRIBLE.

The preface to this one is a confession that I like to read recipe books. I'm not quite sure when this began, but I have it in the same category as my ability to spend hours looking at maps. There is a ton of social history in both of them and I seem to get absorbed in weedling it out from between the precise measurements and contour lines.

I found this recipe for baked alaska in the mighty Good Housekeeping tome while flicking through looking for wedding cake recipes. Sponge cake, topped with raspberries, then a huge mound of ice cream, covered in meringue and baked.

Baked ice cream. The stuff of Margot Leadbetter legends.

The 70s are a clear enough memory for me that I am pretty sure I haven't eaten this before, probably because it was ridiculous even then and my parents have a post-doctoral grasp of chemistry which is enough for any sane person to know that meringue needs more than four minutes cooking.

Brushing all of this to one side, I spent Saturday afternoon making a fatless sponge (turns into crisp trifle biscuits if you leave it unguarded for more than 5 minutes) and marinating raspberries, ready for the evening. After a huge curry, while we were all on the edge of nausea after too much naan, what better thing to rustle up than dry cake topped with raw egg?

I piled the meringue on top of the ice cream, put the oven up to scorchio, and chucked it in for the regulation four minutes. And who would have guessed it, it actually turned into something that looked edible! The guests started with small bits, but when no-one instantly vomited people actually had seconds.

The scorched bits had turned into a sweet chewy layer and the cake/ice cream/raspberry combo was enough to mask the (still scary) layer of sugary, gloopy meringue. And the good news is, no-one was dead the next day either.

The 70s came to visit for the evening, but, while it was fun, I think baked alaska might be safest put back into its flares.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Number 12: canoeing!

Check. Me. Out.

I was worried whether this would count as a true 'first' as technically I have briefly been in a canoe before while working as an outdoor pursuits destructor in Wales when I was a teenager (more years ago than I care to confess to). But I wouldn't say it was either willingly or successfully, so I am considering this a first in that I am proactively choosing to do it. I should also add that I have a huge fear of murky water - I'm happy in a swimming pool, but who knows what lurks in the rivers and sea. Shopping trolleys? Ford Fiestas? Jaws? Brrrr.

Tim got an inflatable canoe last year, which is far more substantial than it sounds. The main advantage for us is that we can fit it into a Mini and it has been used a fair bit, between canal boat holidays and quick trips on the local waterways. But thus far I have always been a pedestrian rather than paddler.

Helped by an absolutely gorgeous March day, we got the boat down to the river and I managed to get into it without topping over the edge. The paddling was easy once Tim remembered that it was better to kayak with one paddle rather than use the two-ended one. I only panicked once when I could hear a weir coming up and made Tim do a handbreak turn as soon as I realised the current was pulling us towards it (at 1 mile an hour) and then had a very wobbly moment when a swan took a dislike to us, but other than that it was lovely.

To the credit of the Environment Agency there was not a shopping trolley in sight and Tim managed not to scare me. Pretty good all round.

Film 2010: The Social Network

New film in the bag - review is under the tab at the top.
Do I have your attention...??!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Number 11: produce something to sell in a shop

I know this is getting a bit repetitive, but this week has been a real flurry of activity in my normally teeny tiny crafting world, and it is very exciting to report that my local (and lovely) craft shop and gallery, Grapevine,  has asked to stock my mini bunting!

This all happened very quickly as I only got in touch at the end of last week (by phone as despite walking past at least twice a week, I was too cowardly just to walk in - how rubbish is that?). I popped in for a chat a couple of days later, and a couple of days after that I was dropping in ten strings of mini bunting, all packaged and ready for sale.

There are two strings of big bunting ready to go at home too, but I have packaging failure so it is awaiting new ideas and materials on Monday.

It's amazing how much it can mean when someone likes the things you have made. There are millions of things for sale all over the place, but my little bunting being for sale in a lovely shop is somehow almost unbelievable. I like this first a lot :-)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Number 10: making a Battenburg

I had never even considered making a Battenburg before today, but once it had occurred to me, not even the expiry date of 2006 on the food colouring in the cupboard and complete lack of suitable cake tins could put me off. Google would provide...

A quick hunt around the BBC recipe sites brought me to this recipe from Simon Rimmer, in which he has the genius idea of adapting a square cake tin by using a barrier of tin foil down the model. Cake tin problem, solved :-)

So, I mixed the lot together, split the mix, coloured half pink (red in truth, but with an expiry date of 2006 I figured it would have faded to a suitable colour), and piled it into my newly adapted cake tin.

Problem 1 - my portion control is outstandingly poor. FAR more pink than white. No going back with that one, so I piled it in anyway

Problem 2 - tin foil can't withstand the greater weight of pink cake...

Problem 3 - cake removal from tin needs a delicate hand. The white survived my efforts, the pink came out in about 15 pieces (note to self - should have adapted my 'first' to a trifle at this stage)

Struggling ladyfully on, the cake cooled while I rolled out the marzipan and melted the jam to stick it all together. Looking at the mess of the pink cake, I did extra jam. At this stage, I almost fooled myself that things might actually get back on track.

The assembly began. I cut the white cake into batons and made an approximate effort at fashioning batons out of the pink one. Then I liberally applied the jam and, with a hand made unsteady by my own (now uncontrollable) giggling, I starting piling the bits together.

By the time I had finished, the pile of unused cake was huge and the Battenburg was almost small enough for Mr Kipling to individually wrap.  If you look closely you can see that I tried to dress it up with a dusting (lumping?) of icing sugar. The main achievement of this was to make myself laugh even more.

And just look at all that mess!

All in all, a very funny way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and against all the odds, it even tastes good :-)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Number 9: my first online sale!

While I *know* this isn't entirely in my control, I'm going to count it anyway as it is so very exciting - I have sold my first string of bunting to someone I don't know. A proper, sparkly, new customer :-)

There is a bit of background to this, as I first sold some strings of bunting in the run up to Christmas, just sending an email out to friends and family to let them know what I was up to. Then I set myself up with the Folksy shop which is open to anyone and I never really expected it to do anything until I did a bit of marketing for it.

But, someone has found me, liked something and bought it - ta daaaaaaaaaaaaa!
They bought the 'National Anthem' mini bunting, which is what I have pictured here, to mark the occasion.

Thanks Folksy it's Friday :-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Number 8: football at NCFC

I am almost ashamed to admit this one...

Despite having grown up in Norwich and lived here for a fair part of my adult life, I have never seen the local guys play. I have been to business events at Carrow Road and been caught in matchday traffic more times than I care to remember, but somehow managed to avoid a match itself.

Yesterday, courtesy of the vast generosity of the lovely Karen, I had a seat in the Jarrold stand for the Norwich vs Preston match.

First impressions - it was smaller than I expected. My last stadium experience was see The Police at Twickenham which is just h-uge.  At NCFC, even though we were quite high in the stand, it all felt very close up. As an idea of scale, I could hear the goalie shouting and the green and yellow of Delia's scarf, whereas Sting may as well have been in a different county.

Second impression - I wouldn't want to be an away supporter. A lot of the songs (which you have no chance of catching ANY of the words to by the way, other than the occasional 'on the ball city') get yelled straight at them. 23,000 people bellowing your way can't be much fun.

Gaffes - I asked who the chicken was (it's a canary, the mascot - they are called the canaries for goodness sake), I joined in clapping with the away supporters once (we were sat near them and I was just following a lead - I stopped when I noticed it wasn't our corner), I got distracted when I realised you could see tiny people on top of the Castle and I found it hard not to watch the kindly grandad looking chap in front of me who got a bit sweary at critical moments.

Great fun though. A nice 52 in the bag!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Film 2010: Inception

Another of the top 20 films of last year bagged last night!

I've put a tab at the top of the page to do little reviews of each as I go (mainly to prove I'm not cheating or sleeping through all of them, no matter what Tim may say!). Main discovery so far, I'm no Mark Kermode.

Number 4.1: more scavenging

So, here are the results of the February photo scavenger hunt. It was all going so well until I realised I had completely forgotten to take a picture of a park bench, last thing at night on the last day of February. We were watching the new series of Blue Bloods on Sky Atlantic and Tim pointed out that there were lots in Central Park, where it was being filmed. So, a bit of cheating later, I had my park benches.

Must do better next time...

I'm enjoying doing these so I've put a tab at the top to put all of them together for scanning through as time goes on.

Here's the latest:

If you want to have a go, the host of the challenge is Postcards from the PP. Enjoy!