Tuesday, 28 April 2009

When in (self) doubt, make things.

It's funny how a rejection in one area of my life just makes me more productive in others.

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity on all fronts. I not only managed to f
inish some work, ahead of schedule, but also managed to bake and make things.

I promise a recipe is on it's way, but right now I am supposed to preparing work for tomorrow. Until I can share some baked indulgences with you, I'll just post a few pictures from things this week.

When you have pretty flowers, you need pretty cakes.

When you have new seasons, you need a new wardrobe.

When you have a complicated quilt pattern, you need help from your cat.
When you have a busy Sunday evening, you need a lazy indulgent brunch.

Once you've had a lazy Sunday morning, you can enjoy a busy evening.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

He knows me so well

Thank you N, for my beautiful flowers, for supporting me in everything I do, for putting up with me stressing and being a big silly about things. For being downright amazing.

Monday, 20 April 2009

What would Hemingway do?

Well, the stress is over, but not entirely in a good way. I didn't get the job. I'd been stressed because I hadn't heard about it, then this morning I heard, and it was bad news. Oh well. There'll be other jobs and I'm sure this just means there is something better out there. Plus I won't have to worry about moving whilst doing my writing up this summer.

Still, I really wanted that job.

In these sorts of situations I find it helps to turn to my favourite writers for
comfort. I think this time it would be apt to draw on Hemingway's example. How? by drinking lots of rum of course!

Which brings me to the recipe I promised you. One of my very own creations, "Hemingway's breakfast loaf." I've called it this because it's a quickbread designed for w
eekend breakfasts that's both saturated with rum and filled with coconut, a tropical combination that I think Hemingway would have approved of. Plus, it would be his ideal breakfast, sitting in his study in Cuba, with his cats and a hot strong coffee in the early morning as he started to write. He could justify the alcohol because technically, it's in a cake, and not a shot glass. Cunning eh?
So yes, I will be eating a large slice of this with my coffee this morning. The quickbread equivalent of drowning my sorrows.Ed's note: you can of course make this without the rum using more orange juice, as it is quite a boozy cake for first thing in the morning. Then again, that's why weekend mornings were invented, and less alcohol is surely a crime against the cake's muse.

Hemingway's Breakfast Loaf - Makes one 9" by 5" loaf

1 cup Wholemeal Flour
1 cup self-raising flour

3/4 cup sugar (I used caster as it was all I had, but I think soft brown would be great, and will try that next)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dark rum
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg beaten
1 cup dried cherries, chopped in half

1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
1/2 coconut (fresh, shredded)

Overnight, or for at least half an hour before you start soak the chopped cherries in the rum (or if you're being mad and not using the alcohol, soak them in 1/2 cup orange juice instead).

Preheat oven to 170C and line a 9" by 5" loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda
and salt. When mixed well, add the orange juice, egg and butter, then mix until it starts coming together (it'll be really thick, don't worry). Add the cherries and the rum they've been soaking in, stir, and then add the coconut and pecans. Mix until the they are mixed evenly throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for aprox 45 mins. Cover the top with foil part way through if it looks like it's browning too quickly. It's ready when a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, I'd start checking from about 30mins just in case.

Leave to cool on a wire rack, and then serve. It should stay moist in an airtight container for a couple of days due to the coconut.
Enjoy for breakfast with a strong coffee. An extra shot of rum in your coffee is option, but it would make Hemingway proud.

Update: Good reason for not getting the job: staying closer to friends who are amazing and send you flowers to make you feel better. I might not have gotten the dream job, but I'm a very lucky girl indeed.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

I won!

It's been something of a stressful week here, and the mood hasn't been helped by the onslaught of torrential rain. I mean, talk about pathetic fallacy.So, I there I was slumping through the days, when suddenly. I won! Not only did I win, but I was a bonus winner. I'll explain.

At the beginning of the week the lovely Joy of Joy the Baker held a competition. She's nice like that. Very nice in fact because she does things like this all the time, just so show how much she appreciates her readers. Now Joy is someone who pours herself into her blog, her stories and recipes all come from the heart, and quite frankly that heart must be huge. And to top this all off, she makes a mean batch of cookies. You can tell. All in all, a genuinely awesome person. Throw into the mix the fact that she was willing to bake a batch of these cookies for one lucky reader in the US. THEN, add to that, the fact that since she wouldn't be able to include international readers in this, she threw in a spatula giveaway for non-US readers. See what I mean when I say this lovely lady is big hearted?

All you had to do was leave a comment about some of your favourite things. It was
the perfect thing to pick me up out of the stress, as it made me remember all the things I love and appreciate. So I posted, not thinking much of it. Low and behold, on Wednesday, I rock on over for my daily Joy-fix, and there is my name amongst the winners!

What a wonderful thing to cheer me up and lift my rain-sodden spirits. Thus, I thought I would write a little post thanking Joy, not only for the bonus spatula winning, but just for being such a downright nice person, who brightens up stressful weeks.

I should also add, that I think she perfectly sums up the food/crafty blogging world, or at least the small corner of it that I wander around in. Everyone I've met in the last year and a bit has been so welcoming, and encouraging and friendly. So this post is also an extended thank you to everyone.

As a thank you I shall share with you a little corner of my life. This is where I hide out when I'm not in the kitchen...

(I just realised how apt my mug is, since the top half of my notes are about that novel!)

...then tomorrow I shall share something rather exciting. A recipe of my very own, that I made up and when eaten this morning for breakfast was enjoyed very much indeed. Hurrah! The perfect way to start a relaxing weekend and forget about the stressful week left behind, or the one to come.

I hope you're all managing to relax too, you deserve it.

Housekeeping: I got a new header! I've been wanting to change it for a while now, and whilst the brief appearance of the basil was nice and very "spring" it wasn't right. So with much bribery (cake and coffee are a great tool for many things) I managed to persuade N to do some funky stuff in photoshop, and voila! A new look. It feels much more like a reflection of me,
I'm liking it.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Monday, 13 April 2009

A posse of posters, and a posset.

I'm an obsessive postcard sender. I can go away for a weekend, to a place down the road, and my parents still tend to receive at least one card. When N went travelling for six months I sent him a postcard or letter a day, (sometimes three or four) even though I knew he wouldn't be able to actually read them until he returned. That was one helluva pile of post.

So when Molly got in touch to tell me that she wanted to add some excitement to our mailboxes how could I refuse! We are the Mavens of the Mailbox and we like real mail. Proper stamps, nice envelopes, handwritten messages. Au revoir emoticons and hastily rattled off emails. We're bringing the purpose back to post, the merriment back to the mail.

You can find us here.

I'm so excited, and I can wait to rattle off my first round of letters. A lazy bank-holiday evening, a class of wine, and pens and paper, what could be a better way to round off a four-day weekend?

We had a brief window of sunshine today and used it to finally get out into the garden and get our long-overdue planting and clearing done. A little later than we might have liked, but we have at least got some things going. Hopefully the yield will be more impressive than last year (two tomatoes, three raspberries and a handful of very small potatoes).
I did of course promise a recipe today. I've been pondering which of things I've made recently to tell you about. There are a whole variety of things taking up my "to post" file, but I think it has to be the Lemon Posset today. Why? Because it's the most simple dessert I think I've ever made, and yet one of the best. It's adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe and serves two. It looks like such a small amount, but believe me, it is just enough because it's so rich and delicious.

I am also dedicating this recipe to Sarah. I think she'd like it (it's not too sweet) and it's a cinch to make, which I think she'll appreciate, and it takes no time at all, which helps when you're a super busy person. So Sarah, here's a dessert for you to make on Wednesday when your boyfriend comes home!

Lemon Posset.

160ml heavy cream
50g caster sugar
25ml (or a little more if like me you adore sharp lemony goodness!)

Whack the cream and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring every so often to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat so it is just bubbling gently and leave for three minutes, again stirring from time to time. Up the heat slightly and let it bubble steadily, but not boil over, for another two minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Then let it sit and rest for two minutes. Then pour into two small ramekins, or espresso cups, or something suitably cute. Refridgerate for at least an hour, then serve.

Seriously, this tiny dessert packs a punch! I have no picture because it was so quick to make and eat that I didn't have time to grab the camera.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Four day weekends rock my world.

Happy Easter weekend to you all. I hope full advantage is being taken of the fact that we've got four whole days to do whatever we like. I also hope that whatever you're doing it involves either a big ole hunk o' chocolate, or a toasted hot cross bun with lashings of salted butter. If not, you can share ours...Whilst planning a get together with friends this week I suggested I make some Easter goodies. One of them laughed and said "it's any excuse for you isn't it. I bet you've made your own hot cross buns too" to which I bashfully held up a bag of them waiting on the side for toasting. Busted!

It's been rather busy here, and I realise that I've neglected the blog this last week. A variety of things have been the cause, not least the fact that I have my draft back and so am manically back at work again. New deadlines have been made, new word targets set and once again the study has been reclaimed and the books and notes piling up.

I have however taken full advantage of the weekend to pack in some craft projects, and yes some baking. So, I hope to be back tomorrow with a recipe. In the meantime I give you my first ever quilt! Sniff would like to point out that he was instrumental in the arrangement of the panels, and the additional embellishment of muddy paw prints.
I hope you're all being smug at the impending Monday off work. I shall be mostly writing letters. Why? I shall reveal all tomorrow when my involvement in an exciting new thing can take centre stage. Oh, how I tease. Hehe!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Serial goodness

I am definitely a girl with some deep contradictions, and my battle with mornings is probably high up on the list. You see, I think mornings are great, especially in the spring and summer when the sun rises early and you can sneak out into the garden with your coffee while the world is still dozing and enjoy it all to yourself. Except I very rarely do. Why? Because I'm in bed dozing like the rest of them! See, I like mornings, but I like my sleep more and it's an ongoing struggle between these two instincts. I seem to do better on holiday and in the height of summer, but I long for the days when I can rise without grump, and sun myself in the garden with the cat before the midday football match has started!

There's another reason why I am trying to curb the "staying in bed" urge in favour of the "rising enthusiastically" one. I love breakfast. I really do, it's my favourite meal of the day and I h
ave been known, when N is out in the evenings, to eat it for dinner. But I really enjoy it in the morning where it belongs. I'm not a girl who goes in for the steaming piles of food for breakfast, you won't find me tucking into a fry-up in the morning (or ever, for that matter) for example. I like to save those breakfasts for the "brunch" portion of the day, the one that comes in between walks in the woods and secondhand bookshopping. Instead I like a bowl of cereal, museli or porridge during the week (spiced in winter, adorned with fresh berries in summer) and a little something more indulgent for the weekends. Always with a black coffee. Always.
Coupled with my love of breakfast is my love of good museli or granola. I try so hard not to pour myself a massive portion (I so easily could) and often look forlornly at the empty bowl which appears all too quickly. My biggest problem with store-bought granola is that it is so often too sweet for my liking, so when Nicole was kind enough to send me the "Baked" granola recipe a few months, along with rave reviews, I knew I was in for some cereal goodness I could make for my very own.

It took a couple of goes to get it just right (first too sweet, second not enough nuts and seeds) but I think I've cracked it. I don't eat this every morning as it still feels like too much of a treat compared to my high-fibre museli, but once or twice a week with some plain yoghurt it's just right.

Hyped-up Granola - adapted from the "Baked" version. (Makes just over 1 pound of cereal)

2 cups of rolled oats
2tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1/8 C honey
1/8 C maple syrup (I did this by half filling my 1/4 cup with honey, then topping up with syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 C flaked almonds
1/3 C Hazelnuts
1/2 C mixed seeds (I use linseeds, sunflower and pumpkin)
1/3 C mixed dried berries (I used blueberries, cranberries and sour cherries)

Preheat oven to 160C and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone liner.

Place the oats in a large bowl and mix in the cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, honey, syrup and vanilla. Pour this over the oats and mix together until all oats are coated.

Place the mixture on the baking sheet and spread into as thin a layer as possible, leaving clumps if you like clumpy granola.

Bake for 10 mins, then remove from the oven, toss and add the nuts and return for another 5 mins, remove again, toss, add the seeds and then return to the oven for 10 mins. Remove and allow to cool fully before adding the dried fruit.

Store in an airtight container, it should last a week or so (if you can refrain from munching on it at every possible "passing the cupboard" opportunity that is!).