AN OVERDUE UPDATE PART 1


So, it’s been a few days since I last posted anything. Ok, so maybe a month. Or two. I realise that I am hopelessly flaky when it comes to posting on my site but I have not been resting on my proverbial laurels.
I have been stripping the spare bedroom down to its floorboards, painting the walls bright sparkling white and attempting to remove all traces of black gloss paint that the previous owners thought made the house look ‘traditional’. Here’s the skinny for the previous owners: it didn’t. It just looked dark. And a bit creepy.
During the process of removing the carpet, I have found my new sworn enemy: carpet gripper. For those not familiar, it is a thin strip of wood that runs around the edge of the room, studded with sharp little tacks that grip the carpet in place. Once you have pulled the carpet up, this carpet grip becomes a hateful, spiteful stabbing beast. My feet are now overly familiar with the bed of nails sensation. Not pleasant. Still, the room is slowly wiggling on and with an impending visit to Ikea on the cards, it should be looking really very lovely in a week or two. The plan is that Coney will choose to sleep in this redecorated room, rather than at the foot of our bed. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about sharing our room with a greyhound (and now a Jack Russell as well!), it’s just that, well, she seems to have qualms about sharing it with us. And we’re getting a tiny bit weary of sleeping with a legs tucked up under our armpits whilst she enjoys the lions share of the bed. And she’s moodier than a teenager so we have to tread on eggshells for fear of snarling repercussion. Of course, these are just things that make her even more adorable. Well, with the exception of her pilchard breath. Not pleasant.
As for cooking, I am still trying to cook something new everyday but with temperatures outside reaching an unbelievable 40c, it is simply too hot to contemplate baking cakes or cookies. This means I have to resort to raiding the chocolate drawer (yes, our fridge has a drawer devoted to that heavenly deity, cacao) instead. I shouldn’t really complain: England is renowned for it’s schizophrenic weather. Next week it will probably be snowing AND raining.
Whilst I haven’t been writing about food very regularly, I have been photographing (poorly) most things that we’ve churned out. Of course, my husband’s freshly baked loaves of bread are the most photogenic: he is attempting to make bread on a weekly basis but has now burnt out two electrical adaptors because he overworks our poor KA. So, until payday, he will be getting more exercise than usual and kneading the dough entirely by hand!
As for me, I have been perfecting my shortcrust pastry (and when you stop thinking about how complicated pastry must be to make if you can buy it ready prepared from the supermarket, you realise that it’s only three ingredients, flour, butter and water. And really, how difficult is cutting some butter into flour and then mixing in some water?). I have recently made what I consider to be the ultimate picnic food: smoked haddock and watercress tart. It looks really flashy but is just a simple case of poaching some smoked haddock, flaking it and adding to a béchamel/egg sauce, tinged emerald green by the watercress which in turn repays the tart with it’s peppery, almost metallic flavour. We served it with bashed new potatoes that had been heavily seasoned with olive oil and sea salt. So delicious that we ate three quarters of it!
In addition, I have been working my way through my favourite cookbook of the moment, The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. She runs a bakery-come-cafe in Texas and the book is filled with recipes that she serves her customers. They are good hearty recipes: dense bundt cakes, sticky pecan bars, scones enriched with double cream. I am particularly fond of this book, not so much for the recipes, but more for the style, which is approachable, generous and friendly. After all, cooking is about sharing with people and the reproduction of recipes should be no different.
The first recipe cooked by myself from the Pastry Queen was about as complicated as they get from this book: Big Hair Lemon/Lime Meringue Tarts. Lemon Meringue Pie is a great British favourite, although it suffers from people using those pre-packed lemon fillings with the oil ‘pill’ that supposedly encapsulates the ‘essence’ of lemon within it’s little gel walls but in fact tastes a little bit too synthetic. Couple that with a soggy pastry bottom and undercooked meringue and it can taste like your worst nightmare.
Anyway, this recipe uses freshly made lemon/lime curd (painfully easy to make), a hazelnut crust (which I completely ruined as my husband got sticks of butter confused with the UK packs of butter (for the record, there are TWO sticks of butter per one English 250g pack) and had to quickly make a pate sucree (posh name for sweet pastry), and Italian style meringue (which is where the egg whites are heated over a bain marie with caster sugar to stabilise the whites making a stiffer meringue). The Big Hair element comes from the meringue, which is piled on top of the curd filled crust and then teased as you might tease a bouffant hairdo. It is then zapped with a blowtorch (or in my case under a very, very hot grill) until it is coloured. They look funky but taste like the best lemon meringue ever!

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