Thursday, 27 September 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Hiya lovelies,

Apologies for the silence since June. I have gotten to the point where i have so much stuff to write up on here I'm rather overwhelmed by it all, so have been employing my usual strategy of avoiding the issue, whilst feeling like a total blog-based failure and stressing about it at the same time. But today, I've decided to take a step forward and do a post from last night. I'm going to hope to make up the gap at some point, because i have loads to share with you, but i need to start somewhere, and here it is.

One of my favourite websites to browse on my lunch break is www.foodbeast.com. Although it has loads of stuff that isn't really relevant to us in the UK, it shares my obsessions of bacon and peanut butter and always has some bizarre food stories on that make me laugh.
Little balls of cheesecakey goodness ready for the oven

Today we've had a World's Biggest Coffee Morning at work, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try something new. I've never been consistently good at cookies or biscuits, so I thought I'd make some cookies. Well, when I saw a recipe for Oreo Cheesecake Cookies on foodbeast, I just had to give these bad boys a go. I stuck to the recipe pretty much exactly, and oh my, what a result. Gooey, chewy, and really sweet, these are a real American style treat.
The finished product. Loooooovely.
They were pretty well received at our Macmillan Coffee Morning, and help to contribute to our pretty decent takings for the day- so far we've counted £73.50, which is pretty good considering there were quite a few people who couldn't make it today, and also that we have some people who haven't yet paid up.

Speak soon,

Hayley xxx

Friday, 22 June 2012

Hayley's Film Club- Prometheus


Dudes, it’s time for a film review

“on a baking blog?!” i hear you ask... Well, i know but theinside of my head isn’t organised enough to keep to the one subject all thetime. And  everyone else in the worldseems to be posting about this film, so i am ungracefully leaping on thebandwagon. I warn you, there will be spoilers.

The film in question is Prometheus. Now, I’ve never seenAlien or any of the other Aliens, Alienz, Aliens & Friends, Alien Partyseries but i’m told that some are good and some are rubbish. So, on the basisthat Prometheus is a Not-A-Prequel-But-Actually-Really-A-Prequel sort of film,I thought it might be worth a shot.

Before you start reading this if you can be bothered, ithink it’s worth saying that on the whole i did enjoy Prometheus. I did getquite into it when there was running around alien goo shizz going on, but thenthey kept stopping running around and talking about God and Important Stufflots, which lost my interest every now and then. It seems like a few of my points have been discussed already on the t;interweb. But hey ho, here are my thoughts for your reading joy:

So, off we go. Whhhheeeee we’re flying through New Zealand,and now there’s some baldy geezer wearing weird pants made of bandages. Andhe’s drinking some wormy goo stuff, and then bad stuff happens to him. And hisDNA goes all floaty light into the water and so life is born. Wor Ridley hasapparently said this:
“No, it doesn’t have tobe. That could be anywhere. That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing isacting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is thedisintegration of himself.
But but but but but but.... ummmm, so the camera swept overthis landscape, which we all really know is New Zealand, AND THERE WERE PLANTSTHERE ALREADY! Lots of them! So baldy geezer could have made them. And why doeshe look like Voldemort? Why isn’t  RalphFiennes playing him?


And here’s the main issue: Those pants. If these baldyfellas, sorry engineers  (and where arethe lady engineers?) can make life happen just by drinking some tarry stuff,they have no need for genitals surely, especially if there are no ladyengineers lolling about on chaise longues anywhere. And if there’s no genitals,why do they feel the need to wear pants? And even if you did have genitals, ifyou knew fine well there wasn’t any life on a planet BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T MADEIT YET, wouldn’t you kick back, relax, and wander around  letting it all hang out JUST BECAUSE YOUCOULD? It’s the equivalent of getting home, drawing the curtains, and wanderingabout in your underwear because you can’t be bothered with getting dressed whenno one is going to see you anyway. And, let’s just say that these guys are deadclever and all, and have created life, surely they can create some stylish formof boxers to wear instead of those godawful white wraparound bandage-y affairs.

So then there’s some people on a ship, and then they get tothis planet and some stuff happens. Most of which i don’t understand, but whichis in the main quite entertaining.
Then, shortly after having fairly major surgery involvingstaples, Noomi wifey is wandering around in a matching set of bandage-underwear(seriously, they don’t even have underwired bras in the future?!?!?),apparently from the same designer as that of the engineer in the first scene.Eh? After 2000 years, pant design hasn’t moved on at all and still doesn’tappear to involve elastic? Anyway, whilst shambling around, wifey stops in thekitchen for a nice chat with someone. And herein lies the revelation ofPrometheus, the real life lesson that it is trying to teach us:

And the Lord said unto them “ Thou shalt create a line ofkitchen ware which is stylishly clever in its design. And lo, it shall last forhundreds of years, and it shall be named Joseph Joseph, Amen.”
Whatever they were nattering on about (oh, what a surprise,they were on about God again) i got a bit bored with looking at them and wasgazing into the background, and observed that their kitchen was equipped with anice Joseph Joseph hanging utensil kit. So, obviously it’s worth investing in anew chop 2 pot as now we all know that they are such good quality they willstill be there in the future.

Now, i don’t purport to be any sort of archeological expertor anything, but i am fairly aware of the fact that if you’re going into animportant historic site you need to be fairly careful about  conserving the environment if you want toproperly research it. But nay, our hapless crew are blithely traipsing about,breathing everywhere, stepping where ever they like, and just generally beingrather retarded. “we’ve changed the atmosphere in here” wifey says, and this issupposed to be something to do with human evilness and a Space Jesus. Well, yesdarling you have changed the atmosphere, but it’s nowt to do with Jesus... Thedoor’s been shut for 2000 years, i imagine it did get a bit musty inthere.  And i should imagine a bit offresh air along with all of your fresh breaths would change the place a bit.
Oh, and i’ve also read somewhere that the dead head theydecide to electrocute asplodes because it can’t bear the pain and anger at howterrible the human race are. ORLY? Nothing to do with the fact that it’s 2000years old, exposed to a whole new atmosphere, AND HAS JUST BEEN ELECTROCUTED?
I’m actually not even going to start with the most obviousplot hole-  how comes her oxygen doesn’trun out when it said it was going to and she doesn’t appear to recharge itwhilst she goes off to see what behbeh is up to?
And thank fully my friends, that is all for Hayley’sbakingbeautiful film club this time. Think yourselves lucky i actually did likethis film- imagine how long a blog post there would have been if i feltotherwise.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Walking in Glasse Slippers- Chapter Two

So, the first step in modernising Hannah's recipe was conversion. Her recipes include huge quantities, presumably because they would be feeding a large household for banquets. A quick glance at the recipe made me panic slightly... what on earth is a peck? a pennyworth? aaargh!

So the only solution was to grab a calculator, do some googling for conversions, and make a table.

I found the following conversions:

1 peck= 9.09 litres
1 pound= 453.6 grams
1 ounce = 28.3 grams
1 quart= 946.4 mls

So this was my starting point. And from , the Grand Table Of Ingredients was born. I thought I would divide the whole thing by 4 to make a reasonable sized cake.



Ingredient
Original recipe
Original recipe- metric
Metric/4
Fine flour
¼ of a peck
2.27 l
0.56L
Butter
1 ½ pounds
0.68kg
170g
Carraway seeds
3 ounces
0.085kg
21.25g
Eggs
6
6
1.5
Cloves
1/8 ounce
0.07087kg
17.5g
Mace
1/8 ounce
0.07087kg
17.5g
Cinnamon
Pennyworth
?
?
Sugar
1 pound
0.45 kg
112.5
Rose water
Pennyworth
?
?
Saffron
Pennyworth
?
?
Yeast
1 ½ pints
1.5pints
1.5 tsp baking powder
Milk
Quart
946.6mls
236.6mls

 ....to be continued....

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Walking in Glasse Slippers Chapter One

Next month's Clandestine Cake Club is going to be a very special affair. It's part of the Newcastle EAT festival, and people have snapped up tickets for the event at only £10 each for all-you-can-eat cake. The theme for this meeting is 18th Century Cakes.

Last year, someone told me about Hannah Glasse, who I had never heard of before. She was an 18th century food author who wrote a book called The Art Of Cookery Made Plain And Easy. And as she grew up in Northumberland, it seemed like a good idea to try out some of her recipes.


During a quick scan of the contents of the book, a seed and saffron cake caught my eye, so I decided on making that one. The recipe?

To make a fine ſeed or ſaffron-cake. YOU muſt take a quarter of a peck of fine flour, a pound and a half of butter, three ounces of carraway ſeeds, ſix eggs beat well, a quarter of an ounce of cloves and mace beat together very fine, a pennyworth of cinnamon beat, a pound of ſugar, a pennyworth of roſe-water, a pennyworth of ſaffron, a pint and a half of yeaſt, and a quart of milk ; mix it all together lightly with your hands thus : firſt boil your milk and butter, then ſkim off the butter, and mix with your flour, and a little of the milk ; ſtir the yeaſt and ſtrain it, mix it with the flour, put in your ſeed and ſpice, roſe-water, tincture of ſaffron, ſugar, and eggs ; beat it all up well with your hands lightly, and bake it in a hoop or pan, but be ſure to butter the pan well. It will take an hour and a half in a quick oven. You may leave out the ſeed if you chuſe it, and I think it rather better without it, but that you may do as you like

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/glasse-making-cakes-15.php
Copyright © celtnet

I had assumed that there would be a modern version of the recipe, but after a fairly lengthy search, I've been unable to find one. However, I was determined that this was the recipe i was going to use. So I got my calculator out....


.... To be continued.

Cream Tea Scone Cake

I wasn't intending on going to last month's cake club, partly due to the diet but mainly due to my lack of organisation which meant i didn't get my name down on the list in time.

However, I bumped into Nelly (of Nelly's Cupcakes fame) on the way into work one morning and we had a bit of a chat about cake club. Then it turned out that her guest cancelled on her so i could go as her non-baking guest- Hoorah!

The theme was An English Country Garden. Although i was a non-baking guest, I wasn't doing anything the night before so i thought i would bake a cake, see how it turned out, and bring it along if it was ok. It was a nice feeling, as i didn't have any cake-based pressure. If it didn't work, I just wouldn't bring it, and no one would ever know of the failure, yay!


This begged the question: What am i going to bake? Well I thought about the sort of ingredients you might find in an English Country Garden, but i thought that would be the sort of tactics everyone else would be using. So then i thought- what would you do in an English Country Garden? Well the obvious answer is afternoon tea. So I struck upon the idea of making a giant scone with cream and strawberries.

I managed to find a recipe from good old BBC Good Food, which is here. And the cake turned out beautifully.


I assembled it when i got to cake club, added a couple of fresh strawberries, sugar daisies, and patriotic picks as it was nearly the Jubilee weekend. It sounds daft, but because it was cake sized i expected it just to taste of cake, even though it was made using different techniques. However, it really did taste like a scone, a really massive one. I got quite a few complements from the other bakers, which is always really flattering considering how they are all such good bakers. And, the most pleasing of all was the fact that there was NONE leftover AT ALL by the end.

A highly recommended recipe, if only we could get the weather to match.

Hayley's Italian Kitchen

Mamma Mia, a new addition to my kitchen family arrived the other week:


A shiny silvery new pasta machine! I sort of bought it by accident- we were planning to make homemade pasta again using the bicep building pastacise method we've used before. But, we were having a bit of a wander around the metro centre and ended up in Lakeland, where it was quite reasonably priced.

So we made lasagne, entirely from scratch. I've never really made lasagne that often in life, as it seems rather faffy- by the time you've made the ragu, you've then got to put it in the oven, but you could have been eating it already if you were having good old spag bol. When I have made it in the past i've just used jars or pasta sauce and white sauce, with dried pasta sheets.

This time however, we made everything. Red sauce, white sauce, and pasta. Short of rearing the cows to milk them then mince them, we couldn't have homemade anything else in this lasagne.

The pasta dough is made

My saucy kitchen
The finished product was definitely worth all the effort- much better than a mangey microwave lasagne. The pasta was beautifully cooked, and it just tasted so much sweeter with the smugness of knowing you've made it all yourself.


Nom nom nom

Hayley's Life Lessons: Film Reviews

Welcome, dear folks, to the second installment of my Hayley's Life Lessons series of posts.

Not content with simply preaching the best way of slicing pizza to the world, I now want to teach you to be VERY suspicious of film review quotes.

I think everyone does know to be suspicious of the one word quotes that appear on film posters: "BRILLIANT!" the poster says. And most people do seem to know that this may well actually be taken completely out of context and the actual quote may have been "Brilliant this film is not."


I came across a much more complex (and disturbing) example of this same thing recently. As part of a research project for work, I’ve been looking at some information sources about a particular doctor who operates in the US. His name is Stanislav Burzynski, and he claims to be able to cure cancer with his antineoplaston therapy. I’m  going to attempt not to make any judgements of him or his treatment in this post as its a bit of a complex issue and i can be a real bore on the subject. I just want to share with you this tiny part of the whole affair that i’ve come across.

Supporters of Burzynski point to a film made by Eric Merola  (The Burzynski Movie- Cancer Is a Serious Business) as evidence of the benefits of Burzynski’s  (expensive) treatment, despite a lack of robust, reproducible trial evidence. If you were to go to the website for the film, you would see a range of seemingly impressive reviews from various newspapers or film review websites.

Let’s just pick one of those: The New York Times review seems like a good place to start. According to the website they’ve said:



Wowser: so from this we can see that The New York Times thinks poor, stoical Dr Burzynski is struggling to use his highly effective treatment against the will of the evil FDA and Big Pharma.  Shall we have a little look and see if that is what they’ve actually said? If you want to, you can find the actual review here. I’ll pick out the main bits here:

"Plain, plodding and relentlessly expositive, “Burzynski” tries to wrestle medical clarity from a snarl of science and human suffering. The price paid, however, is a documentary as visually arid as it is topically fertile.

Like a bloodhound following a redolent paper trail, the director (and writer, cinematographer, editor and narrator), Eric Merola, presents Dr. Burzynski as a stoic victim of patent fraud, government harassment and scientific sabotage. No one appears to contest the efficacy of his treatment; the problem, the film suggests, is a pharmaceutical industry with nothing to gain — and much to lose — from the introduction of a highly successful, nontoxic competitor to chemotherapy and radiation."

And so, with a few words taken out the Burzynski website seems to suggest something completely different to what the review is actually saying.  With any other film it would be funny, but the sad fact is that desperate, ill people are turning to this problematic form of evidence to make treatment decisions. 

Porter Cream Pie

Our last Private Pie Club meeting's theme was "Local Tipples"

I am a HUGE real ale fan and always have been, so this theme really excited me. Beer and pie are obvious partners but i was really excited about how our members were going to be creative with the theme.

I had set my heart on making a sweet pie with beer, but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. As usual, the first step in researching was google, and i stumbled across this beer cream pie blog post. I knew this was the one.



I was fairly short of time, so I ended up making the pies for the meeting the night before without doing a practice run. I was a bit nervous to start with that it was all going to go horribly wrong, which may explain the events that followed.

I merrily made a chocolate shortcrust pastry and blind baked the crust. Nothing untoward here.

Then I mixed the melted chocolate with the porter and brushed a good thick layer of this divine stuff onto the pastry case. Again, all went smoothly. The porter i was using was Hadrian and Borders Ouseburn porter.



Then it came to making the custard. Here, total panic and disaster struck, as the custard just wouldn't set at all (in reality, I think i was too impatient and didn't really let it cool down as much as i should before taking action). For some reason, it seemed like a good plan to put some gelatin in... So in went one sachet... Then i thought i needed some more (again i clearly hadn't left it for long enough to make this decision rationally)... and some more.... so in total i put in three sachets of gelatin.

Eventually, the custard started setting... And then it continued setting, then set a bit more. Undeterred, I
went ahead and decorated the tart with some of the leftover porter chocolate mixture and some gold leaf. It looked pretty good in the end:


The verdict at pie club was that it tasted nice, but had a very odd texture. Emergency gelatin really wasn't a good plan at all. One member put it very nicely: "I think you might have invented a new material for breast implants"

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hayley's Life Lessons: Pizza Cutting

Yes my dears, I am binge-blogging again. no posts for ages, then a deluge of insights into the inside of my head. 

So I'm thinking I'm going to start a new mini series of posts on this here humble blog: Hayley's Life Lessons aka Things Most People Have Known Already For Years But I Have Just Learnt Recently Because I Am A Simple Dog. I think it might even need it's own logo or something. I'll do that sometime, honest. 

These sorts of posts will wildly veer between the mundane and useless to the life changing and hugely important. Alternatively, I'll forget that i ever started this mini series after 2 posts and that will be that.

Anyway, this first post is one of the most amazing, life changing tips I have ever come across in my entire life. 

Have you just cooked a pizza? About to use an unwieldy knife or an always disappointing pizza roller thingy? STOP!!! Think again! Get back to the drawer and instead pick up the scissors.


That's right- the subject of today's revelation is cutting pizza with scissors. Much more accurate and ridiculously easy, this concept had never, ever occurred to me before but the part of my life devoted to the cutting of pizzas has become so much better because of it. 

Just in case you were wondering what scissors actually look like.
Of course, you'll note my utter selflessness in telling you this knowledge when I have been banished to the realms of diet food from now on. No gooey, cheesy, doughy goodness for me. Now off you go, good people, and enjoy all of that time you're now going to save.

In which I attempt to lose weight

I am, as a twitter friend put it so poetically "built for comfort not for speed". 

I have zero willpower, am useless at being organised, and lazy. All of which adds together to mean i usually end up eating crap most of the time. This situation isn't particularly helped by my sedentary office job.

I did get down to a nice weight a few years ago. at this time i was working in a really stressful job in community pharmacy- always on my feet and never with any time to eat. I ended up just eating one meal a day (obviously neither healthy nor sustainable), and in addition to that i was going to the gym three times a week. Now, I sit on my ample backside amongst a plentiful supply of biscuits every day.

I've been going to the gym a bit more often, and doing my kettlebells, but i thought it was time to really do something about my useless eating habits.

Ages ago, I went on slimming world. While I really enjoyed the food, I found it really difficult to prepare everything from scratch along with working full time and everything else in my life. This definitely isn't an option for me now as i do so many locum shifts and travelling (not to mention being a social butterfly =D) that i just wouldn't be able to stick to it. 

So I've taken the plunge and gone for Diet Chef. This is a scheme where all of your meals are delivered to you on a monthly basis, so you don't really need to think about preparation. I've gone for the 4 monthly option as it's cheaper and according to their website i need to lose 2 stones, which is likely to take a LONG time. You then need to buy your fresh fruit and veg to have alongside the meals, which are stored at ambient temperature so great for at work or on the go. 

I did do a week's trial of Diet Chef back in January, and i was actually pleasantly surprised by the food,which was tasty and quite filling. I particularly enjoyed the breakfasts, which were yummy porridges or granolas or mueslis. I thought i'd show you a couple of pictures of the evening meals i've been having to prove that you actually do get quite a bit for each meal, once you added the veg.

I'll probably be having most weekends off from Diet Chef as i'll be gallivanting in London or the boyf will be here, and i'm not convinced that Private Pie club or Clandestine Cake Club, or a peanut butter addiction will fit into the new regime particularly brilliantly, but i know that i'm much more likely to be successful if i'm fairly relaxed with the rules.

Diet Chef sausages in gravy, with mash (probably more than the regulation amount but really, who cares) and herby balsamic runner beans
What i'm really enjoying is actually bothering to make vegetables- something that i must admit i was absolutely terrible at before. I'm not bothering to weigh accompaniments or veg that i'm having at this point in the diet- i figure whatever i'm having now is still much better than what i was eating before.

Diet Chef pasta carbonara with chinese leaf lettuce and sesame soy shallots and runner beans
I lost 4lbs in the first week- hardly life-changing, but a tiny win nonetheless. Just in case anyone wants to give it a try (NOT that i am saying that any of you need to, you understand), just type in this discount voucher code:
 MYHCIGIW

And you'll get a tenner off any orders over £190. Better than a kick in the teeth, eh? Wish me luck with my *hopefully* slow but steady weight loss. I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes, without being too boring.

Apple Streusel Cake

I'm a lazy, lazy person. Occasionally, I like to have very lazy days where i barely leave the house (I don't think a trip to the bins is classed as an expedition these days, especially when the bins are about 2 metres away from your flat). Usually on these days i am suffering from that most terrible of ailments The Hangover.

One thing i do like to do on these days, except for watching full DVD box sets of Dexter or House MD, is to bake. So then I have to attempt to find something to bake for which i already have all of the ingredients in the house.

So, the other week I had some cooking apples left over from the toffee apple cider pie I made for Private Pie Club (I will post about this sometime soon). I also had some pecans and bits and pieces leftover from the not-so-vegan-vegan-tart, so i decided to make an apple cake.

Of course, good old BBC Good Food obliged me with a recipe, and a-baking i went.

The result:


Apparently I have a lop-sided cake tin :-S

It looks pretty rustic, and it collapsed a bit in the middle, but it smelt of spicy appley goodness. To be honest, I've no idea how it tastes as it's now all wrapped up in freezer awaiting a last minute cake emergency situation.

Hayley's Little Helper

No, for once I don't mean gin.

I adore baking, I really do. It's calming, relaxing and very satisfying. There is one aspect to baking though that I really can't be bothered with.

Lining The Cake Tins.

This dreaded task, which requires geometry, patience, and construction skill, really does my head in. I recently ran out of my supply of My Little Helper, but now i can breathe a sigh of relief that i have more in my possession:


And so, with only a few pounds whisked out of my bank account, my life has just become easier. You can buy these great little cake tin liners from Lakeland and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

NB: Lakeland!!! Look at meeee!!! See how i am recommending your products to my lovely followers! Give me free stuff! Pretty PLEASE!!!!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A not even vegetarian vegan tart.

I am a staunch meat eater through and through. And, probably partly due to my job, i'm highly suspicious of new age faddy diet sort of stuff, like raw food diets.

So imagine my surprise when i found myself making a raw, vegan chocolate tart one evening.

What on earth happened there?! Well, I happened to have the TV on while i was doing an online food shop the other week, and it was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's vegetable programme that happened to be on at the time. In this episode, he went to visit a raw vegan food place, where a raw chocolate ganache tart was made. It actually seemed quite intriguing, and i was interested in how it would all work, and taste. Apparently, as no baking is going on, you don't have to be as exact about quantities, and a lot of the process involves senses rather than times etc. So, before I knew it, I had looked up the recipe and was buying all the ingredients I needed. I am a sucker for trying new types of foods and playing about with ingredients i've never heard of before. I mean, what on earth is agave nectar?

Well, I say all the ingredients. It turns out that Asda don't do coconut oil. Undeterred, I did a quick google scan to see what i could use as an equivalent. One website recommended a mixture of butter and lard, and in a few clicks it was ordered. I know I can hear you all screaming at me about using lard. I am a total ignorant philistine, and to be honest, it totally never even occurred to me that not only is it not vegan, IT'S NOT EVEN VEGETARIAN. What can I say, except for that I am a total and utter retard at times.

Making the tart was pretty easy. The base is a mixture of pecans and dates, whizzed together in a food processor until they turn into a nice pastry sort of texture. I think i may have whizzed them for a bit longer than i should have, as the pecans started to release oil. However, the "pastry" texture was still good, so i went ahead and pressed it into the tin. "What's this?" I thought, staring at my hands, which were covered in a delicious smelling sheen. "Why i appear to have made a lovely hand and nail oil as a side effect". The pecan oil was really moisturizing, and smelt lovely.

The hardest part of making the filling was that the only night i could make the tart was before the avocadoes had had a chance to ripen properly, so it was a bit of a struggle to prepare them. I was a bit worried that the texture of the filling was a bit too lumpy because of the unripe avocadoes, but it turned out that this didn't make a difference in the finished product.


Licking the spoon after putting the filling totally blew me away. I was expecting a bland, blah sort of a taste, but it was rich, creamy and very delicious- a total show stopper. Into the fridge it went, where it sat there overnight awaiting its fate at my workplace the next day.


After I unwrapped it, and undid the springform tin, my cynical head said that the whole thing would fall apart into a raw, anemic mush. However, it held it's own and stood proudly and chocolatey. It sliced beautifully.


Everyone at work was eager to have a try, and the feedback was really positive. We decided that the base was rather too salty, so i would reduce the amounts in the recipe (I didn't used pink himalayan salt either). Everyone loved it except for the poor vegetarians, who i emailled in a flurry of excitement, before they calmky enquired about whether the lard included was vegetarian lard. I felt absolutely terrible- after all i had metaphoically just dangled a (very tasty, very chocolatey tart shaped) carrot in their faces and then snatched it away from them at the last minute.

Will definitely be trying this again. you can find the recipe here.

Easyville Stir Fry

Hi my lovelies,

Just thought I'd quickly tell you about this great little recipe. It's a REALLY easy and delicious stir fry which is just brilliant for a hearty but healthy mid-week post-work tea.

this stir fry was made with a standard stir fry veg pack, and topped with sesame seeds.
It's from a bento box book that i used to use all the time back in my bentobeautiful*days. The original recipe just uses beef and green peppers, but this stir fry is really versatile and great with any veg and/or any meat.

I dust beef strips with cornflour and stir fry with some garlic until just about nearly done. I'll then chuck in my veg, and stir fry for a few minutes until just nearly done.

Then, throw in your stir-fry sauce. to make this, mix together 1 tsp of oyster sauce, 1 tsp of rice wine (sake or mirin will do nicely- i usually use mirin as i end up swigging sake, lol) and 1/2 tsp of soy sauce.

Top with either sesame seeds or crushed black sesame seeds, if you wish.

beef with green and yellow pepper, topped with crushed black sesame seeds.
Stir fry for a few more minutes, and voila, a delicious, filling, healthy meal in minutes.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sticky toffee + Cheesecake= "The Best Cheesecake Ever"

Well really, who knew that such a wondrous thing existed in the world. A recipe for a sticky toffee cheesecake.

Obviously, this needed to be attempted. I had sort of assumed, however, that it would all go horribly wrong, following the same rules as my Gin & Tonic Cake Theory- that through combining wonderful things into one baked good, a wormhole of awesomeness would open in the fabric of the universe, therefore mother nature intervenes to ruin any attempts at baking perfection.

The base of this cheesecake was made of crumbled shortbread, which was a concept i'd never come across before. Then we placed little bits of fudge all over the base:


Recently, I haven't had a huge amount of success when it comes to baked cheesecakes, but it came out of the oven in all its glory and begged to be smothered in a thick layer of caramel, with a dusting of grated chocolate.


Well, we were understandably eager to stuff our faces with some of this delight. And we were most definitely not disappointed. The only thing was that the shortbread biscuit base was rather soggy, but this seemed to be remedied the next day, after it had been left in the fridge for a while. Boyf and i seriously loved this cheesecake, and boyf's housemate also gave it his seal of approval, branding it "the best cheesecake ever". We just used a ready made caramel sauce for the top, but i think this would be even better with a home made caramel, if you have the time.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

In Which The Gateshead Mutant Spider Puts In An Appearance

So, following my recent move to my new flat, I decided that a civilised gathering of a few friends was in order. Stop laughing, it’s not a typo, I really did mean civilised, not “completely drunken and debauched”.


Two of my bestest friends came round. There was nibbles, cupcakes (to be discussed in a future post), lovely lemon shortbread (made by my friend Joanne), and most importantly, Pom-Bear crisps. I am telling you, if anyone knows how to do civilised entertaining, it is I.




As my outdoor space is still a novelty, I had thrown the doors wide to invite in the invigorating outdoor air into my homely little apartment during the day. Mmmm, fresh air, with only a small hint of gas scent from the nearby gasworks.

So, after a lengthy conversation about tactics for surviving zombie attacks, it got a bit chilly, so i thought i’d better close the patio doors.

What followed was a large amount of panic when said doors appeared obstinately opposed to the idea of locking. After about an hour of huffing, puffing, as much brute force as we could muster, and a panicked text to the landlord, we decided to have a rest.

My friend Adriana was sat on a pouffe (yes darlings, I do have a pouffe) which was pushed up against a wall. As we sat merrily sipping our tea, all of a sudden she jumped and declared “something just brushed against my back!” Well now, when it comes to ghosties and other paranormal sorts of things, I am a total wimp, so I was all “Don’t even TRY to suggest that there are ghosties in here”.

Moments later, I happened to glance down to see a sight resembling something like this:

Artists Impression of the Gateshead Mutant Spider.  Not actual size. The spider was MUCH bigger than this.
  
Allow me to introduce you to the Gateshead Mutant Spider. Forged in the local gasworks, this spider grew to be enormous, with a special superspider ability to prevent the locking of patio doors to gain entry into people’s new flats. Clearly, this was what brushed past Adriana’s back. Honestly, I would rather have had ghosties. What followed went thus:

-I totally freeze
-Joanne takes action to cover the Spider with a wine glass (a Jamie Oliver one no less!)
- The reality of the terrifying mutant then registers with Joanne, who quickly retreats to the safety of the kitchen bench.
-We proceed to watch the spider crawling about within its glass enclosure, then decide to cover it all with a tea towel so it can’t see us whilst we plan our next move (?!)
-We then worry that the spider is so big it’s going to be able to knock over the wine glass and attack us all by sucking our brains out of our jugular arteries, or something similar.
-Adriana takes control, and armed only with a Ritz cracker box, manages to manoeuvre the spider into a trap.
-under my watchful eye, Adriana is then made to take Gateshead Mutant Spider as far down the street as possible, before ensuring that she runs like a bat out of hell back into my flat before the evil creature can scuttle back in before her.

Needless to say, Joanne had nightmares about having to try and lock my patio doors in the event of a zombie invasion, whilst i lay wide awake in my bedroom, imagining the spider tapping on my window and trying to break the glass. Since then, Gatehead Mutant Spider hasn’t put in another indoor appearance, but i am constantly looking over my shoulder, just in case.


April 2012? What? Where? Who? What do you mean it's gone already?!


As you may have noticed, I am exceptionally behind with my little blog, leaving you, my lovely bloggie friends severely neglected. My humblest of humble apologies to you all.

Life seems to be particularly manic at the moment, what with ridiculous amounts of travel for work, and lovelife purposes. (i write this post en route to London for a mixture of both. I live in fear of East coast wi-fi giving up entirely). In the midst of all this, I've also managed to move. I'll admit that this was a rather unexpected turn of events, as i truly did love my old flat, which was right slap bang in the centre of Newcastle. I find urban living suits me entirely and i was lulled into sleep every night by the sounds of squeaky trains going past my windows mixed with sirens and drunken revellers. 

City centre living is, however, rather expensive, so in an unexpected turn of events i have skipped across the river to Gateshead, to a lovely little flat with a bit of outdoor space all of its own. I have a few friends who live in the area also, all of which seem to have decided that i am now their personal on-call baker. Expect some "i baked this, but alas can't eat any of it as it's for my neighbours grrrr" posts, along with some about my utter ineptitude when it comes to green fingered antics. I would love to do a little bit of planting and growing, but alas it seems even the lonely packet of tomato seeds i got for free is proving too much for my concrete-loving mind, and i have absolutely no idea what to do with them.

Alarmingly, I now wake up to the sound of birds chirping. And that’s it. No squeaky trains, no sirens, no smashing bottles, nothing. I am told i will get used to this, but at the moment it seems very bizarre indeed.

Needless to say, I welcome any hints and tips you may have regarding How To Live Like An Actual Adult, One Who Does Gardening And Stuff.

Ever faithful to you, my blog friends (if rather inattentive at times),

Hayley

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Chocolate fudge cake

Just browsing though my photos and i realised I haven't posted about our foray into the world of chocolate fudge cake baking.

Boyf and I made this ages ago, and it was delightful. I'm not going to say much else, except that this is the recipe for it, and that it tasted luscious. Nom nom nom.



That is all

Hayley xxx

Little Louise Cupcakes

Greetings,

Yesterday it was my friend's birthday gathering at her lovely new house. Usually, when there is a house party, particularly if birthday related, I like to bring some cake along. This time i needed to make something quite quickly because i was at work in the morning, and only had a couple of hours turnaround before my lift to the party, including time to go shopping for ingredients.

I did a bit of research at work. Initially i thought of making a chocolate fudge cake, but then i realised this would take too much time to bake the cake, and wait for the topping. Cupcakes are much quicker, so i started having a look at cupcake recipes. When I came across some Little Louise cupcakes, I just new I had to give them a go- my friend whose birthday it was is called Louise :)

Basically, Little Louise cupcakes are plain vanilla sponge cupcakes with a jam filling. The cupcakes turned out pretty good:


Then a meringue topping is applied to the cakes, and they are popped in the oven for 35 minutes or so to bake. If I'd have had more time, I would have put a bit more care and attention into tidying up the topping, but then i suppose they do have a sort of rustic charm about them.



They don't make for the prettiest cakes, but they did taste really quite good, and were happily received by my friends. I sprinkled them with edible gold powder and put them on a nice new pink cake stand to pretty them up a bit. The recipe i used was from the good old BBC Good Food website. I halved the amount of milk in the recipe based on the comments that the jam fell to the bottom of the cakes. The resulting mixture was sturdy but easy enough to transfer into the cupcake cases and spread over the jam. I also left out the dessicated coconut because i wasn't sure if everyone would like it.

These little cakes are definitely worth a try. I would probably recommend eating them with less wine than i did, as I've ended up with an utterly horrendous hangover today.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Gin & Tonic Cake Mark 2

You may recall that my offering for my very first Clandestine Cake Club visit was a gin and tonic cake, and its safe to say there was scope for a lot of improvement in the recipe.

Well, when I heard that the theme for this month's Newcastle Clandestine Cake Club was Baking With Beverages, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to give it another shot (haha, see what I did there?).

Last time, I thought the sponge was a very dense odd texture, the topping was too runny, and it just didn't taste of enough gin for my liking.

So i did a bit more research, and i found this blog by BakerGal. As you can see from the link, she tried a lime based sponge recipe, with the gin and tonic syrup, and a cream cheese cream topping, with gin in it of course. However, she also had a few improvements to make, so I used her recipe as a basis, did the suggested tweaks, and made the odd change here and there as i saw fit.

The result? Well, the cakes turned out fine. I put a smallish (probably actually quite large) dash of gin into the cake mixture to go along with the zesty lime sponge. It smelt rather nice and seemed to have a good texture when it came out of the oven.

As BakerGal suggested, I omitted the water from the gin syrup, and added about 50mls extra.

I fed the cake, then fed the cake again, then, when it was clearly at saturation point thought to myself "You can never have too much gin, even if you are a cake" so I sloshed another load on, only to have a huge crisis of panic that the cake was going to turn into a gin-flavoured mush. I spread a layer of lime marmalade, then went on to deal with the topping.

Again, I went along with the suggestion of BakerGal and substituted the whipping cream for sour cream. I also used half mascapone and half cream cheese. But the topping ended up being a total disaster, to be honest. Admittedly, it was a nice tasting disaster, but it ended up looking awful.  In a deja vu moment, the topping ended up far too runny, so it dripped, squidged, and flopped all over, producing a not-so-attractive totally miserable effect. If I were to make this again, I think I'd just omit the cream from the topping. I put less in than the recipe asked for anyway so goodness only knows what it would have turned out like had i put the full amount it. Without, it was a stiff, cream cheese butter frosting with a dash of G&T syrup, which probably would have been totally fine on it's own.

drip, drip, drip :(
But, never fear, for I had to hand a) some edible glitter b) some writing icing c) a variety of cocktail based tat.

NB: The cocktail picks around the outside are cleverly disguised as decorative, but are actually there in a desperate bid to keep the cake from completely disintegrating.
And so, with only a moderate amount of shame, and quite a lot of concern about the fact that it may entirely disintegrate on the way, I took along my cake to this month's Clandestine Cake Club, where it was promptly adorned with even more glitter and cocktail tat.

Cocktail umbrellas make everything better.
It made it in one, rather sloppy piece, but on cutting was actually surprisingly resilient, with quite a good texture. It had a very pleasing gin and tonic taste- you could tell that there was gin in it, which was what i wanted. None of this subtle flavouring malarkey for me, I want to know that there is GIN in my CAKE, dammit!

The reception at Cake Club was mixed. People were either "OMG GIN IN A CAKE" or responded with a slightly queasy "ummmm, I don't drink gin", evidently in most part due to memories of epic hangovers of days past. The general gist from those that tried it was that it was nice, it most definitely did taste of gin, and that the texture of the sponge was MUCH improved compared to the previous attempt at gin cake. However, it wasn't a show-stopper, or a life-changer, and there is still definite room for improvement where the topping is involved.

There is really only one explanation for this high failure rate in gin and tonic cake technology. And I think that is physics. allow me to explain:

gin + tonic+ cake= pleasing treat
gin + tonic+cake+prettiness= something so amazing a wormhole will open and the universe will eat itself in a blaze of sulphurous fury.

Allow me to apologise right now by the way, but I have NO pics at all from this month's cake club. I forgot my camera, and my little Blackberry is severely lacking in the camera states. The Venue was the amazing dining room at Blackfriars. It was a really brilliant room, with two long banqueting tables just perfect for displaying such a huge range of cakes. But alas, the lighting in there was quite dim, and my little flashless Blackberry just couldn't cope. I shall let you know when some other cake clubbers add some posts to their blogs, so you can peruse their beautiful pictures of this cakey heaven. It was great to see and meet some new faces, and to catch up with some familiar faces.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The New Exercise Sweeping The Nation: Pastacise!

This weekend, we decided to make some pasta.

If you've no idea what this is about, you seriously need to look here

But, instead of taking the easy open packet and boil route, we thought we would make some from scratch.

Now I don't have a pasta machine. Nor, indeed, do I have enormously strong Italian Grandma type arms (although they are getting much, much stronger thanks to Nancy and Tony at Newcastle Strength and Performance) So if I'm honest, I didn't hold out too much hope for a brilliant result.

However, any excuse for a trip to Mmm Newcastle, so we purchased our tipo 00 flour, bunged it in a bowl, and cracked a load of eggs into it.

And that's it. only those 2 ingredients. I had assumed that pasta would be made with all sorts of complicated ingredients, and I really couldn't believe that it's actually only 2, really simple ingredients. However, we started to mix them and realised that the result was THE most sticky substance known to the human race. I mean, this stuff even trumps the inside of Tunnocks Tea-Cakes and Marshmallow fluff in the sticking stakes.

We soldiered on with kneading the dough, and after a long time of a lot of hard work and effort, we ended up with a nice, smooth pasta dough, which we cut into tagliatelle. I swear, making pasta really does give your arms a brilliant toning workout. I can feel an exercise DVD coming on!

It cooked really nicely, and whilst it was quite thick, when paired with this delicious Nigella Lawson recipe ragu (and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese), it made for a really satisfying meal.


Good Ol' Potatoes

Many moons ago, (11 years to be exact- urgh) I packed up my little knapsack (several loads of stuff in my Dad's car),  and away i trudged to learn my trade (pharmacy) in the big wide world (Sunderland).

Before they waved me off (jumped for joy), my parents (mum mainly, dad was just pleased to get rid, bless him) wanted to reassure themselves that I would be able to fend for myself in urban jungle of Sunderland. And that would involve feeding myself. They invested in a number of student cookbooks for me (I still remember one which basically said for everything "If you can get it tinned, why bother cooking it?"), along with Delia's How To Cook Book One. Yes, that is the one that tells you how to make toast properly. 

So one of the things it was decided i would do was to Cook A Meal. I agonised over what to make for a long time, then decided on a chicken, bacon and cheese wrap thing, and Delia's Potatoes Boulangere. Because that sounded proper posh. I also made an apple cake

There was a LOT of panicking, particularly to do with timing, and a lot of whining for interventions from my mum, but in the end, I managed to pull together something edible. And imagine my joy, oh joy of joys, when my diners even asked for SECONDS! 

Since then, potatoes boulangere has become a firm favourite of mine which never really fails to disappoint it's eaters. It's really, very simple, and i'm not sure quite what it is about this dish, but it does always seem to win people over. It's rather easy to make, but can take a long time to cook, so may take a little bit of organisation to fit in with whatever else you're making with it. I think it's very deliciously comforting, because it is so simple. 

Because there's no use in reinventing the wheel, especially where Delia is involved, here is the recipe. I do have a few small adjustments to make to it though. I tend to sprinkle a bit of garlic over the top layer, and will apply a small (rather large, actually) sprinkling of cheese onto the top a few minutes before it's due to come out of the oven. Because what recipe is not improved by liberal amounts of cheese?

Why am I telling you all about this? Well, because I sort of recreated this historical meal at the weekend, except for the apple cake. And the potatoes were appreciated as much as they usually are.

So far, this dish has a 100% success rate!


Firewalk With Me.

Hi folks,

So as you may know, on March 8th, I did a firewalk. Well, in actual fact, I did three firewalks. I thought I would tell you all about how fantastic it was.


Firstly, why did i decide to sign up for such an event? Well, I have developed an obsession with the TV programme Coach Trip, and on one of the episodes I saw, the coach trippers went firewalking. It looked very easy, but rather fun, and without thinking about it too much, I thought "oh, it's obviously just a trick and not that hot, but it looks fun and i'd like to try it sometime"

Fast forward a few months and a spam fax arrives at work: it's an advert for a firewalking event in aid of The Stroke Association, and it's being held just 20 mins or so away. Well, before I knew it i had signed myself up and paid the entry fee.

Of course everyone at work thought I was crazy. And then they looked firewalking up on the internet. It's only then that I realised that actually it's NOT a trick, and the coals really are rather warm ridiculously hot at between 400 and 500 degrees celsius.

I raised loads of money from all of my wonderful friends, colleagues, and family. In total to date I've raised about £296, which is really, really brilliant. I think people were so stunned by my stupidity at signing up that they just threw money at me hoping that i would actually use it to get my head seen to. Or for a nice shiny wheelchair after my feet were burned to stumps. If you would like to, you can still donate to my cause here. It would be REALLY awesome, in an OCD sort of way, to hit £300.

In  the days leading up to the firewalk, I started having weird dreams, many of which involved fire of some description. One notable dream included a rather horrific fiery death for a colleague at work, involving some fireworks :-S So I think it's safe to say that i was actually rather worried about the whole affair.

On the day, I finished work early and headed to my parents house. They wanted to come along and see me perform this wonderful feat. Actually, my Dad did seem generally rather worried about the whole thing. In order to distract myself, I straightened my hair. Whilst doing this, I almost burnt myself on my hot hair, then thought "oh Christ, this is only 220 degrees." So then the next most logical thing for me to do was to paint my toenails.

It was only after i had a set of beautifully, carefully painted lilac sparkly toenails that my Dad decided to remind me about how flammable nail polish is. Eek.

Then off we went to the venue. And lo, in the corner of the car park, we saw this sight:


Ummmm.... reassuring... ahem.

Too late to back out now though, so off I went to register, leaving a trail of panicking parents in my wake. The man who registered me seemed really very impressed and touched about the amount I had raised, and even gave me a hug to say thank you.

Then it was time for a firewalking seminar by UK Firewalk. All during the seminar I tried to be calm but felt more and more panicked. I thought it would all be about technique, and meditation, but it was actually very relaxed. We learned about a few key points which are absolute musts for successful firewalking:

1. Fire connection- you have to know that it is a real-life fire, not a trick, and that it is going to be really, very hot. We were encouraged to go and hold our hands above the coals so that we knew that it was hot before walking. Apparently, if you tell yourself it's not hot, it just doesn't work.

2. A belief in a theory. You need to have some faith that it works, and that you're not going to end up with charred stumps. The instructor went though a number of reasons why, from physics to auras, we are able to walk on fire. It doesn't matter which you believe, as long as you believe in one. I went for good old physics, where the conductivity of the coal is less than your feet, so there is a delay in transfer of heat to your feet.

3. Intention to walk. You need to stand at the start of the walk, and know and want to walk across the fire.

by this time i was rather terrified. We all went outside and the temperature of the coals was read... 540 degrees. But, as the first few people did their walk, I got more and more excited. So off I went...

The pictures make it look much less hot than it actually is!
Now I'll admit it... I did rather loudly swear half way through the first walk. I actually wasn't intending to walk again but there was a bit of a queue in my way to get back to my shoes, and the longer i waited the more i thought "Again, Again, Again!"

So off I went again...


And.... again....


The best way I can describe the feeling is, that it feels exactly like you would imagine walking over a barbecue would feel like- there is a background rather warm feeling, with little pinpricks of extreme heat. But, by the time you've registered this, you've already carried on walking, so the really hot bits are constantly shifting, so you don't really burn your feet in the end.

When I got home, I washed my feet and they really stung as i was washing them. Then i had a tingly, stinging sensation for a few hours, as if i had sunburnt feet. But, no blisters at all, and no burns.

The verdict? I want to do it AGAIN!