Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Seasons change...

Well let's face it, summer was little more than a flash in the pan; not that I'm bitter at having had the whole summer off (admittedly ill, but that's not the point) and the weather being almost entirely lousy. Nope. Not one bit. At all. In the slightest. But to add more to the misery, my whole hope for a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness seems to have gone out the window and we seem to have gone straight into biting cold, the only solution for which being tea - lots of it, and of course home-made soups and bread.

Never one to shirk my responsibilities, the first batch of this season's lifechanging soup was made (I really should write to Skye Gyngell, I am practically, single handedly marketing her book(s) for her!) and devoured, quite promptly. The frozen batch of the salty green sludge is being worked it's way through steadily, and the wonderful breadmaker is back in action at least weekly. Hoorah for carbs I say. Although having managed to drop a dress size purely down to stress and ill health maybe not too many carbs. Or too much cheese. Mind you if this weather keeps up I'm going to be almost entirely hidden under layers of thermals and fleeces so I probably have a little grace.

At the start of the year I declared (with foolish amounts of enthusiasm) that this was the year I was going to tackle pastry. Haunted by the memory of the Home Economics teacher from hell I have been convinced that pastry and I are not a match made in heaven. Well I think her words were along the lines of heavy and pointless, at which point she put it in the bin in front of the rest of the class. I nearly wept. In fact, knowing me, I probably did. So to put Mrs Carter in her place this weekend I will be mastering pastry. And going to a Scott Alan signing and *fingers crossed* gig. Who is Scott Alan? I hear you cry.... well fortunately for you, I have managed to locate a video of Stephanie J Block singing Never Never Land which is, it has to be said, one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in a long while. It's sentiment, along with it's melody take me away from the realms of pain, of being permanently cold, and hating having to work in a basement, and allow me to fly, far away... Ladies, and gentleman I give you (another Elphaba) Stephanie J Block.

So after our regular break for musical theatre. Come on, admit it, you would miss it if it weren't there... Well I would, and it's my blog! I wanted to go back to pastry. If I tell the truth, which I try to, I'm terrified. I'm cooking for someone I like for the first time, and although they don't know that they're going to be getting this, they are. I have consulted both Nigella (How to Eat) and Delia (old school mind you, none of this frozen mashed potato business). Both women agree on needing to use lard aswell as butter, and both are comfortingly reassuring. To be honest, I'm currently favouring Nigella from an empathetic perspective as she declares herself intially terrified of the stuff. Both How to Eat, and How to Cook (book one) provide simple instructions for shortcrust pastry, and include helpful tips such as:

  • Put the measured out fat and flour in the freezer first (Nigella)

  • Use the food processor (also Nigella, although I'm not entirely sure what blade she means)

  • Acidulate your water/ water and egg yolk mixture (Nigella)

  • Get as much air as possible in the pastry by seiving your flour from on high (Delia... mental note to self... find the step)

  • Keep cool, yourself and the kitchenas this stops teh fat becoming oily and the pastry too crumbly (Delia) So that sounds ideal for the weather, I'll open a window and wear thermals then

  • Short means light and crisp. (Thank you Delia, I never actually had a clue about this I just got away with smiling and nodding... for thirty one years)

However, unhelpfully, neither woman has a recipe for apple and blackberry pie. For that, I've turned - surprisingly in my mind at least - to Jamie Oliver courtesy of Jamie's Dinners. As I would have expected the recipe is no nonsense, straight talking (none of Nigella's empathy about running away and hiding behind the sofa when faced with a recipe that requires pastry) but one I think I can do. So, I guess now it's a case of finding a pie dish, buying some lard, opening the window, donning the thermals, and watching this space... You do realise if I can do this you will be subjected to (entirely ironic) excerpts from Sweeney Todd?

Oh and I'm also making Shepherd's pie, to a recipe I have memorised from a Good Housekeeping cookbook we had when I was about 14. But I'll post that when done.

1 comment:

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

Nigella's pastry has never failed me. The chilling bit really helps. Even if only psychologically :) I never knew what 'short' meant either. Thanks Delia!

Oh my gosh you're going to the Scott Alan signing. Is that the one that Julia Murney is going to be at? *jealous* have fun! :)


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