Tags: baking, cake, Coconut, Coconut Mushroom, Jam
I saw the light in Marks & Spencer. A beauteous bag of coconut mushrooms spoke to me, and what they said was good. And what they said was, ‘Lady, you will make a coconut cake, and anoint the top of this coconut cake with us, the sweets of heaven’.
So yeah, I bought the bag of coconut mushrooms, ate half of them and saved the rest to put on top of my cake. I used this recipe, but I didn’t bother with the lime syrup and I substituted an 8 inch round cake tin for the ring tin. Once the cake was cool, I slit it in half using a bread knife and spread raspberry jam on the base. I made a simple water icing by mixing icing sugar and water ( I didn’t bother measuring out the icing sugar, but I should have used more to make a thicker icing). As my icing was much thinner than I wanted, after securing the coconut mushrooms to the top with a bit of jam, I sifted icing sugar over the top.
Tags: Avoca, Belfast, Bewleys, Boyne, Coco, Dalkey, Drogheda, Dublin, Father Ted, Giant's Causeway, Ibis, Ireland, Salt, Waterstone's
Ireland: land of leprechauns, Guinness, potatoes and poetry. Well, yes, but, as any Father Ted fans will know, ‘Der’s more to Ireland dan dis’.
The main purpose of my trip was to meet my great nephew, Jamie, who was born in Co Louth in January. However, I also wanted to see more of the North, as having been to Dublin seven times, I was getting slightly bored of it (sorry, Dubbers).
Originally, as I cherish my time alone, I was going independently, but my dad came with me in the end (I’m nearly thirty, but he still worries). We hired a car at the airport and stayed at the rather expensive Bewley’s Hotel, five minutes from the airport. It was nice, but frankly not worth the money.
The next day, we set off about ten for Drogheda, a rather boring town which, nonetheless, has the historically significant River Boyne flowing through it, named, of course, after the battle. Its saving grace has to be its proximity to Newgrance, the Irish Stonehenge, if you like, and a surprisingly nice shopping centre (within which lies a rather lovely Waterstones).
After I met the lovely chap above, Dad and I made our way to Belfast. After checking into the IBIS Castle St (more central and better value than Bewley’s), Dad chilled in our room and I made my way into the town, where I looked up the newly refitted Waterstones on Fountain St and was interviewed by BBC Radio Belfast.
That night, having been recommended Home on Donegall Sq for a good meal, but not being able to get in (always a good sign), we went to Coco on Linenhall St instead. The decor was fabulous – my favourite piece of art depicted a cigarette packet with the words, ‘Religion can seriously harm you and others around you’. Usefully, the food was even better: Dad had beetroot risotto and I had chicken liver parfait to start, then we both had shoulder of lamb, which was divine.
After breakfast on Tuesday, we drove to the Giant’s Causeway. It was freezing at the very north of the country, but worth it to see the amazing stones, which really are hexagonal. The visitors’ centre, rebuilt and redesigned in 2012, was impressive too. Dad enjoyed seafood chowder and I wolfed down soda bread pizza.
Back in Belfast, after an afternoon of reading, we headed to Salt Bistro in the Cathedral Quarter. Unfortunately, my meal was disappointing: the bread served was unsuited to my tapenade and hummus starter, and my thai vegetable curry also contained mussels and prawns, which the waitress suggested I had ordered.
On Wednesday morning, after a delicious breakfast of berry and cinnamon scones and sweetened cream in Avoca on Arthur St, we headed south again. Dad fancied seafood in Howth, but as time was getting on, we headed through Dublin Bay to Dalkey. Again, our food was pretty ordinary, but not a bad end to another lovely stay in Ireland.
So, do I prefer Belfast or Dublin? It’s got to be Belfast!
Tags: Bergerac, Nigella, Soup
On Tuesday, I was sick. Every time I moved, I felt like the oldest person in the world. I spent the entire day under a yellow cellular blanket watching Bergerac.
Until, that is, I needed nourishment. The sort of nourishment which can only come from soup. There’s nothing quite like the warming spiciness of an Asian broth when you’re besieged by flu. However, as I a) failed to find my fail-safe Nigella recipe and b) had no pak choi or noodles, I decided to invent my very own Sick Lady Soup.
The following recipe is just a rough guide. Hey, I’m not going to dictate what goes in your own Sick Soup. Let your tastebuds and fridge, feeble as they may be, decide.
2 x stock cubes, vegetable or chicken
Ginger, either fresh and grated or powdered, to taste
Salt and pepper
Mushrooms, whichever variety you like, chopped
4 x fat spring onions or 2 pak choi heads, chopped
Spaghetti or noodles
1) Place stock cubes in a medium-sized saucepan. Pour over boiling water until pan is half full.
2) Add salt and pepper, then grated ginger. Stir.
3) Add mushrooms. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes.
4) Add spring onions.
5) Chop 1cm-sized lengths of spaghetti into your pan, of add quick cook noodles. Cook for another five minutes.
6) Pour soup into a bowl. Squeeze in some lime juice.
6) Eat soup, preferably whilst watching Bergerac.
Tags: Flu, Insomnia, Irish History, Partition, Spaghetti Bolognese, The Guardian
So. I can’t sleep. A fairly common problem for me, exacerbated by flu, a child with an unpredictable sleeping pattern and an overactive mind. So I decided that instead of aimlessly tweeting, I might take advantage of my insomnia and learn something. This is what I have learned:
1) The six counties of Northern Ireland;
2) The largest county of the Republic of Ireland;
3) The perceived difference between a Loyalist and a Unionist;
4) When the Act of Union was;
5) The 10 best Irish history books;
6) The 10 best Irish novels;
7) The recipe for an authentic spaghetti bolognese.
So, food & history: these are the things which keep me awake at night.
Tags: Annie Bell, Apple, Cookery, Crumble, February, Food, Frugal, Gorgeous Desserts, Recipe
Today, children, I made, in my humble opinion, an almighty apple crumble.
As a child, my mother used to make the most fantastic rhubarb crumble: the rhubarb was just the right side of sour and the topping was caramelised and crunchy.
However, rhubarb is not a fruit to eat raw (although I must declare a penchant for sucking on those deliciously sour stalks of goodness), and thus, unless one intends on cooking with it, it is not a foodstuff one would have in the house by chance. It is not a frequenter of fruit bowls.
So, why did I decide to make this apple crumble? Well, in the spirit of limiting food waste, instead of throwing away the browning apple segments which Jude refused, I decided I would actually use them. And, as luck would have it, I had all the ingredients I needed.
I’ve adapted a recipe from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Desserts. The original recipe uses apricots, but I used apples for reasons I’ve already explained.
4 apples, whatever variety you like (I used Coxs and no sugar), peeled, cored and diced
160g unsalted butter
150g golden syrup
150g rolled oats
1/2 tsp sea salt
Tbsp light muscovado sugar
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4.
2) Melt golden syrup, salt and 150g butter in a pan on a medium heat. Stir in oats.
3) Put apples in a medium-sized dish (although I used a cake tin lined with baking paper, so you can improvise) and dot remaining butter around the dish.
4) Place oat mixture over apples. Scatter over muscovado sugar. Cook for 30 minutes.
And that’s it. I ate this for breakfast and later on cold from the fridge.
Tags: Cookery, February, Food, Frugal, Lemon, Pancakes, Recipe, Shrove Tuesday, Sugar
I’m not the most amazing person in the world when it comes to food wastage. Indeed, I’m ashamed to say that, just last week, I threw half a loaf of bread away. So I’ve started February determined to cut down on what I throw away, and finally to dip into the seemingly endless supplies which my sister Jools left me when she moved to Australia. Don’t worry, it was only a couple of months ago…..
It being February, and its best before date being Jan 2013 (I always think that one can exercise a little common sense with best before dates), I decided to start with this:
An easy recipe, obviously, and not one to inspire the most exciting of blogposts, but what I love about pancake batter mixes is that it makes everything so EASY. And it’s CHEAP! Hooray for ease and cheapness! Plus, pancakes are so versatile. You can have them for breakfast or pudding, and pop in some fruit to help you or your offspring reach that five a day target. Or you can stuff them with some delicious cheese and ham, as I once ate one in Amsterdam, and have them for dinner. Who doesn’t like pancakes?
Tags: Dating, E M Forster, Internet, J D Salinger, love, men, Observer, Online dating, Only Connect, relationships, The Powerbook
Ah, the Internet (or t’internet, if you’re feeling affected). It’s revolutionised our lives, allowing us to browse shoes, men & car insurance deals effortlessly. It was J D Salinger’s dream, surely? For with the internet, one need never leave the house: just buy your food and friends online (don’t forget your vitamin D tablets).
But, and I concede that this is not an original point, I fear that poor old E M Forster, beloathéd of A Level English students everywhere, would have a (quietly British) fit. Only connect? Only disconnect, more like. Because the internet has reduced us to window shoppers, browsers of the browser; there is no need to pay up or or fully commit to anything, whether it be a pasta bake or a person. Not only have we been reduced, but our emotions and actions have also: we can like, follow and unfollow, block and unblock in seconds.
Internet relationships are unique, and I have been intrigued by them ever since I read The Powerbook by the wonderful Jeanette Winterson, surely a prescient novel given the fact that one in five people now meet online I have tried online dating, and I am trying it now, but mostly, I am bored by it all. I know that many have found love online, and good luck to them, but it is such a cutthroat process: it’s so easy to scroll through hundreds of people and not be interested, as though they were merely a pair of shoes. Don’t like the photo? Ignore the person. Simple.
I left Facebook because people have started to use it as a ranting forum, and I am considering leaving Twitter because dirty messages and declarations of love from strangers don’t really do it for me, thanks very much. For the internet is an enabler, like alcohol: it can make us too impulsive for our own good.
Tags: Blitzkrieg, Dictator, Education, History, men, Nietzsche, Stalin
My friend Tania and I used to perform something called the Nietzsche Test when on a first date. Basically, if you hadn’t heard of the great Nihilist, we weren’t interested. Well, it looks as if I’m going to have to rename it the Stalin Test.
Have you seen this man? (Last spotted circa 1999 in a GCSE textbook, I imagine.) Not in the flesh, obviously, but you know who he is, don’t you? Because, dear reader, there are people out there who have NO IDEA. The conversation which follows illustrates this fact:
Ignorant Man: I saw you walking towards the beach and thought you were going skinny dipping! Guffaws. An embarrassing silence ensues.
Ignorant Man: So, what do you do then?
Me: I work in a bookshop.
Ignorant Man: And what’s your five year plan?
Me: I’m not Stalin.
Ignorant Man: Who’s Stalin?
Me: You know, Stalin? Stalin the DICTATOR?
Shaking my head in disgust, I stumble off into the sunset to drink onion-flavoured gin. You don’t even want to know what that tastes like.
How has this happened? How are there people out there who can name every Big Brother contestant ever but have never heard of a 20th century dictator responsible for millions of deaths? Yes, I had a brilliant History teacher whose method of demonstrating Blitzkrieg I have never forgotten (after explaining its characteristics, he asked us to use a board pen to show what it would have looked like: kinetic, visual & aural learning simultaneously, PGCE students). Stalin’s Five Year Plan didn’t exactly thrill me, but I would be appalled if I had no idea who he was.
We are becoming stupider by the day.
Tags: Guardian, Linda Grant, Mobile, Phone, Phone Call
It is rare for me to mourn the dominance of the written word, but the fact that it has overtaken its spoken equivalent with regard to phones, as Linda Grant points out in her excellent article, upsets me somehow. No one enjoys the PDETR (Public Display of Emotional Telephone Ranting), of course, nor overhearing pointless telephone calls of the ‘I’m on the train’ variety, but there is something sinister to me about the phone being used for everything apart from its original purpose: talking.
Earlier in the year, I wrote a paean to my IPhone, & it is smartphones in general, with their countless apps, which Grant implies are to blame for the decline in telephone conversation. We are simply too busy emailing, Twittering or blogging that it is our fingers, rather than our lips, which we prefer to move nowadays.
My phone, like Grant’s, rings rarely nowadays: friends prefer to tweet or text, & I am the same. My reasons, however, are perhaps different from theirs. (Certainly, there is something to be said for the opportunities to procrastinate which texts and emails allow, whereas the telephone call, like a toddler demands your attention immediately.). I rather enjoy, and have enjoyed always, the sound of silence: whereas my best friend enjoys the television as background noise, I would only have it on twice a week if possible.
According to a 2011 Ofcom article, 1 in 7 houses are landline free now, and I can count myself as part of the literally rootless generation. But think on this: some of the world’s most stunning art would not have existed without it. Sylvia Plath’s ‘Words heard by accident, over the phone’ would not have been written had the landline been extinct in the 1960s, and Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone would have looked rather different had it had a Blackberry at the centre of its design.
I will not miss the landline: I would only buy one myself as decoration (this retro Wild & Wolf design is particularly lovely), but it certainly seems that the more forms of communication in which we indulge, the less qualified we become to actually talk to each other.
Tags: Guardian Weekend, The Breakup Project
There were some poignant but funny reasons for ending a relationship in this Guardian Weekend article: not a recent piece, but one that has been waiting patiently, in the nook of my coffee table, to be discussed. They were taken from The Breakup Project, a truly democratic website which allows you not only to sever ties with that no longer ‘special someone’, but also with the rather more abstract concerns of death, God & fear of rejection. My favourite was this one:
We break up because communists always break up with me. We broke up because you are so busy being a communist, you forgot how to be a person, how to treat people. We broke up because there hasn’t been a revolution yet.
If I ever met this man or woman (but somehow, I think it’s the latter), I would ask her these two questions:
1) Just how many communists have you dated that you are able to utter the phrase, “because communists always break up with me”?
2) Are you going to stop dating communists now?
Karl Marx 1, matching Ikea bedside tables 0.
But I think the one to which I could relate most was this:
We broke up because you love the feeling of falling for a girl more than you loved me.
What touches me so much about that sentence is the way the tenses move from the present to the perfect. This is you now, this is the behaviour from which you can’t escape; that was you then and can only ever be you then.
Here are my most bizarre reasons for ending relationships:
We broke up because you were obsessed with World War Two, and I wasn’t.
We broke up because you wanted a civil partnership, and I had to break it to you that, being in a heterosexual relationship, we didn’t qualify for one of those.
We broke up because you ran away from the chavs in Coventry city centre. And then told me I was ‘just perfect’.
We broke up because you thought that aura photography was an actual career.
And the most bizarre of all:
We broke up because you had a vitamin D deficiency.
So come on, spill: what are the weirdest reasons for your relationships ending?