Peanut and Rosemary Cookies

May 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Baking, cooking, food, Recipe | 4 Comments
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I love a good biscuit. They beat chocolate and crisps in culinary scissors, paper, stone every time. You’ve got the crunch of something savoury combined with a sweet hit: heaven.

Salty sweet food is one of my favourite things: I always get a mix of popcorn at the cinema, and Marks & Spencer’s Salted Chocolate Caramel Bar is divine.

However, this post is about something more sophisticated that chocolate and salt: salt, sugar and rosemary. I adore rosemary, but don’t often make dinner, and I prefer to use it in unconventional ways. So when I saw Dan Lepard’s recipe for Peanut and Rosemary Cookies, I knew I had to try it.

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This is such a lovely, stess-relieving recipe. Everything is in one bowl and the cookies don’t take at all long to cook: a massive advantage when you’re as impatient as I am. 15 minutes, however, is too long: even 10 might be enough in some ovens. Mine are slightly overcooked, but still taste delicious.

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Spaghetti Omelette

May 14, 2012 at 11:37 am | Posted in cooking, food, Recipe | Leave a comment
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So you’re thinking, ‘What??? Spaghetti omelette?’. Admittedly, it sounds bizarre, but it’s really not so far removed a concept from Spanish omelette, which I love. And if you’re anything as bad at spaghestimating as I am (say, making enough pasta to feed 10 Alsatians & a Jack Russell), then this is the recipe for you.

1) Remove your pan of congealed spaghetti from the fridge. Snip the spaghetti up into 1cm chunks. This is essential: you will be able to mix your eggs into the pasta much more easily.

2) Add eggs: I went for 4. I would say 2 per 50g spaghetti is about right.

3) Add some vegetables/herbs. I’m being annoyingly vague, because it really is up to you. I’m not going to tell you to add onions if you detest them. I only added some fresh oregano and fresh ripped basil (ripping releases the flavour better than tearing), as my spaghetti was a courgette and basil carbonara in its first life.

3) Pour the mixture into an oiled pan and cook on medium until the base is firm and a good even cover. This will really depend on how much pasta you have: I had about 150-200g (cooked weight) and it took 20 minutes.

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Syrup Tins

May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Book Signing, books, food, History, Recipe | 2 Comments
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I have a incessantly sweet tooth. When I am stressed, I wander down to Waitrose for fizzy strawberry laces, sucking the sugar off each one until my tongue is sore. I’m much the same with chocolate raisins, letting the outsides melt in my mouth until only the shrivelled raisin remains. And do you remember Pop Cakes from The Magic Faraway Tree? I was so disappointed to discover that they were entirely fictitious.

So you can imagine how excited I am that the authors of The Sugar Girls, Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, are coming to my shop, Waterstones Tenterden, to do a signing. The book has been extraordinarily successful and there have been calls to turn it into a Call the Midwife style miniseries.

I’m planning a window display largely dependant on Tate & Lyle tins, so if you can send me any empty golden syrup or black treacle ones, I’d be enormously grateful. Recipes using either of those would be wonderful too. Email me at amysmith500@hotmail.com and we’ll sort something out.

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Oh No, Love, You’re Not Alone

May 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Posted in Friendship, internet, Loneliness | 6 Comments
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In this week’s Grazia, Bibi Lynch poses the question, ‘Have we become Generation Lonely?’. Or, as I prefer to put it, are we spending most our lives living in J D Salinger’s paradise?*

For I believe that J D Salinger would have loved how today’s world is enabling mankind to be ever more reclusive. He’d have loved internet shopping and online banking, and relished the fact that he need never leave his house again. Although conversely, I am sure he would have hated how much, arguably, writers need to promote themselves in today’s increasingly self-promoting society. Unlike Dickens, whom I’m sure would have been all over Twitter and Facebook.

I digress, however. Unlike Salinger, Lynch believes it’s time to ‘create actual – not virtual – relationships’. I certainly agree with her that, were we to keep it purely for housekeeping, the internet would be phenomenally useful. Yet she makes a good point when she says that those who think obsessive Twittering and Facebook stalking counts as a social life are ‘[D]elusional’.

But here’s the thing: unlike Miss Lynch, who, as a writer, may well while away a whole day having not ‘uttered a single word out loud’, as a bookseller, all I DO is talk. I talk on the till, I talk to recommend, I talk about books to my colleagues (obviously, sometimes I have to do dull officy things, but you get the picture). So when I get home, to my lovely little house which I have all to myself three evenings a week, I don’t particularly want to have any real human contact, thanks. Sure, I see friends a few times a week, and I enjoy their company. But I wouldn’t want it every night. If you know me (and I suppose by that I mean ‘in reality), you’ll know that I can be positively misanthropic at the best of times: I have been known to avoid acquaintances in the town as I can’t stand small talk.

So thank you, Bibi, for your concern that I may be part of ‘Generation Delusional Lonely’. But if I wish to spend my evening in the company of strangers, after a day filled with real human contact, then I’m sure it won’t make me any more lonely than those who frantically fill their diaries with dinners and dates for fear of being alone. Aren’t they, in fact, the deluded and lonely ones?

*Couldn’t resist the Coolio reference: I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since I drunkenly asked him, outside Warwick Student Union, if he wanted to come to Tesco to buy wine.

Kissing For Idiots

May 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Posted in Emailing, Kissing, Texting | 2 Comments
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If you hang out (can you do so beyond the age of 23?) in the cool set in my home town, a continental kiss (a peck on each cheek, if you’re not cool enough to know) is an obligatory greeting. Only one member of this set is actually French, but those are the rules: it’s the tactile equivalent of calling everyone ‘Darling’.

Carole Midgley’s article on textiquette in today’s Times 2 is what lead me to write this post. If you are unsure whether or not to ‘X’ at the end of a text, or are interested in why we may or may not follow this practice, then read it.

I am firmly of the ‘Darling’ camp: shamelessly, I scatter my missives with ‘X’s and ‘x’s like a polyamorous canine, marking my territory. Even my boss gets a textual kiss, although were she not female, I very much doubt that that would be the case.

Midgley has her own rule for ‘X’ing: only to family and people with whom she has sexual relations (can one utter that phrase without thinking of Monica and Bill?). I would add that you shouldn’t give a written kiss to anyone you wouldn’t kiss in real life (a peck on the cheek, of course: I’m not talking about a full-on Frenchie). But then, I’m much more likely to ‘X’ the page than your face, as I’m not the world’s most tactile person.

There are no rules, basically. My niece doesn’t ‘X’ me, but fittingly, all my exes do.

Bicep Bulging Banana Cake

May 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Posted in Baking, cake, cooking, food | Leave a comment
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There is something you may not know about me: I only like bananas when they are just ripe. Combined with my optimism when shopping, this means that I am often greeted with a bowlful of browning bananas just begging me to use them in a cake. And so this evening, I did just that.

I adapted the recipe from The River Cottage Family Cookbook. The ingredients are as follows:

100g butter (salted or unsalted, I’m not fussy);
125g light brown soft sugar (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall specifies caster, but I prefer a richer taste);
200g self-raising flour (I used a combination of that and plain flour as that’s what I had: unless you’re making something which depends on a certain flour for texture, like Victoria sponge, it doesn’t matter);
3 browning bananas;
100g raisins soaked in tea (HFW suggests 50g sultanas and 50g chopped dried apricots, but I had neither. The tea softens the raisins, but won’t add any flavour unless you leave them to soak overnight.);
1 lemon;
2 eggs

Leave the raisins to soak in a mug of black tea.

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Cream the butter and the sugar together in a large mixing bowl, ideally using a wooden spoon. I had only a tablespoon and had to work much harder than I would have done, hence the recipe’s title.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix.

Zest the lemon and add the zest to the mix with the raisins. I don’t have a grater at the moment, so I used a knife (ordinary table knife) and it was fine.

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Add the flour, sifted or unsifted (it really won’t make a huge difference) and mix.

Line a loaf tin and add the mixture, tapping the tin on the surface a couple of times to level it out. Bake for 1 hour at Gas Mark 3, or 160 degrees in electric, I believe.

This was the result. My stomach, as well as my eyes, was pleased.

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