Thursday, 28 February 2008

Proven Right or Wrong Depending on Your View

After my moan about cooking in a student kitchen I decided I was being a wimp and that I should try again. Walking past a veggie stall also helped to change my mind. I ended up making Potato and Leek Soup with Sweet Potato Rolls. Or at least that was what the recipes called them.
The sweet potato bread came out reasonably well, although I misread the instructions and didn't shape them correctly. I think the only thing I would change about this recipe is more salt and more potato as unfortunately to me they didn't taste of anything , not even bread.

On to the soup. Deep breath now. Half way through I discovered one key thing. I don't actually like potato based soups. Fine time to find that one out, I hear you say. In my defense i had no idea, having never tried one before. So all in all a bit of a disaster really. Not helped by the fact that I forgot to take out the rosemary before blitzing the soup, needless to say large parts of rosemary are not a good part of soup. Therefore this is probably not a recipe I will be trying again. I did take a picture but its too horrible to show.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

When is an aubergine not an aubergine?

When its in America! Yes I appologise for the bad pun but I couldn't resist. English has become the international language for the internet but what happens when the English is a mixture of American and British? Most of the food blogs I read happen to be American. Unfortunately this is yet another area where Brits are behind the US again although it looks like we're getting there gradually.

The real point of this post is the confusion I often get with American recipes. I'll be happy reading it until I reach: Eggplant or Zucchini or even more confusing Cilantro.(Aubergine , Courgette and Coriander) What on earth are they? and even worrying how much do I use? Cups are not the standard measurement here although it is easy enough to find them they're not the automatic assumption you come to.

Once that muddle is sorted out another alien word pops out: Broiling. My immediate association is London Broil and that's only because of South Beach. After much Googling I discover it means grilling. Which in turn creates more difficulties , as for Americans grilling is the UK equivalent of barbecue. Fine , you say to yourself I'll use an oven that'll be the same. Apparently not. UK and most of Europe use Celsius, America uses Fahrenheit. First time I saw a recipe that said to heat it up to 475, my first thought was i don't think my oven goes that high.

I know this confusion goes both ways , some of the more popular European blogs give measurements in cups to help. What we need is a glossary for American-British cooking terms and food names. If anyone knows of one, please send your answers on a postcard (or the comments section). On the other hand we could go back to the Latin names. (grin)

Maybe after all that I should stick to translating Spanish blogs instead. But instead the American blogs suck me back in with the sheer diversity. Now where did i put my American-British dictionary?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cooking in a Student Flat or Why I have 197 recipes bookmarked on de.lic.ous.

I am a student. Fair enough you might say , whats your point? This makes cooking slightly tricky for several reasons.
Firstly , i have very basic cooking equipment and most of what i do have is missing/misplaced/used by the last person who cooked and didn't wash it. Therefore I have to be very tolerant and have to make sure that when the urge strikes to cook something requiring a recipe (as opposed to pasta, rice or spag bol. No pot noodles though , sorry to spoil your stereotype) that I'm willing to wade through mounds of washing up that isn't necessarily mine.

Secondly (and i don't see this improving afterwards so i appreciate its not just a student complaint) the kitchen is small. Postage stamp small. So much so it takes two steps to go from the fridge to the cupboard/work surface. Sideways. This is complicated by the fact that there's usually someone else cooking at the same time. So you can either dance around them and try not to bump into each other.... or come back at another time. Preferably at 3am.

Thirdly (and i promise this is the last one) the stove is temperamental. Both the hob and the oven have a will and a mind of their own. One takes forever to heat up but when its heated its searingly hot so you can burn something in under 10 seconds. The other will cook things at undefinable times. For example brownies which were supposed to take 35 minutes took 20. A baked potato destined to take an hour and a half actually took 2. Most irritating was an apple pie that was supposed to take 45 minutes and ended up almost black in 15. Yes, i am using the right temperature. I checked. Repeatedly. Incidentally it was probably for the best as I later found out id forgotten to peel the apples. Unfortunately this provides a good reason NOT to cook at 3 in the morning.

Therefore , in order to cook and cook well, I have to wait till I return home. Hello Mum , mind if i cause havoc in your kitchen? There's a recipe i want to try (or 200).

Monday, 18 February 2008

Skirts and Politics

I just looked at this and realised I hadn't posted for a week. Even though its only a record of projects there's no point developing yet another bad habit.
The skirt is in pieces. Everything is cut out and pinned together I just need to insert the zip , which is going to be tricky as it is an invisible one. Hmmm. The design has also changed , instead of a short-ish skirt with ruffles it has turned into a knee length a-line. I think its for the best.

In politics Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia. While I can see both the political and Serbian side indoctrination by the British media about the beauty of independence has made it slightly harder for that side to be covered. Which is pretty ironic considering all those colonies we oppressed. When the issue of all the other separatist movements comes up the standard answer is "well Kosovo is a special case , don't expect it to happen again" yet again showing that the threat of violence and being what America wants will remove all boundaries.

I really hate British and American foreign policy sometimes.

I appologise for the rant but after watching the UN discussion and listening to various excuses and disclaimers of well we would of preferred to of reached an agreement through diplomacy I am a little aggravated with the politics of this world.
And don't even get me started on Croatia's statement!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Books as Therapy

I just found this article mentioned on another website and I think its amazing.

The reading cure

It talks about how reading groups are being used to alleviate symptoms of depression , arthritis all manner of things. Its not just the social side of it but the books themselves, saying that its the immersion into the story.

It's great that the power of books is finally being recognised and being used to help people as a group. There is nothing like a book for taking you out of yourself and into a different world entirely. You can analysis behaviour of characters and in a sense be talking about yourself and your perception on the world without feeling exposed or vulnerable.

Roll on Books I say!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Plan

I am a tomboy. As strange as it may seem considering i like to cook , sew and knit, at heart I am a tomboy. When I was a child I climbed trees, fell in ponds , came home covered in mud or otherwise usually found attached to a Sega or as I got older, Playstation. This nature does not lend itself to the wearing of skirts. They're either a nuisance ( at best) or a down right embarrassment. The fact that I'm over 6ft doesn't help matters either. So when an urge for a skirt came over me not only was it rather shameful but it was rather problematic to solve.

Skirts are apparently the easiest thing to make without a pattern. Me being me decided to make it complicated. This is a close approximation of what i had in my head. It was sparked by a scarf I saw in a charity shop. Unfortunately while its wide for a scarf, as a skirt its a bit short , therefore I had the bright idea of adding ruffles or pleats conveniently forgetting i had no idea how to make either.

This is the scarf and this is the fabric i bought to go underneath.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

We interupt current schedualing for a news announcement ......... or rather a political rant

I was intending for this to be simply a place to catalog my experiments , all the lighter things I'm interested in. But unfortunately politics intruded and i feel the need to comment in the only place open to me.

"Work or Lose Home" says minister

The government is planning to link employment to state housing. Competition has finally gone mad and any possible shred of socialism in this government has disappeared without a trace.

This seems to follow the current trend of cutting off those who are worse off and leaving them to fend for themselves. Yes, the amount the government spends on welfare is high but it is needed. Yes, there will be people who are simply too lazy to get a job but for every one of those there are 3 that working either forces them even more into poverty or already struggle to find a job. Removing these people from a source of housing will make that even more difficult as nearly every job needs an address.

I understand that the government needs to find some way of reducing the amount of money spent on welfare especially when the current workers retire and providing pensions becomes an even greater problem but I don't believe this is the way. Providing ways for people currently on benefits to learn new skills is a step forward but providing more and more hoops for people to jump through to get assistance isn't.

Surely there's a better way than the so-called "Third Way". We may be competitive and we may stay competitive but i wouldn't say much for our quality of life if it continues.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

First Cooking Post or Bad Mood Brownies

I have always found brownies a tricky thing to master. The first time I tried to cook them I didn't know they were meant to be still gooey when you pull them out of the oven and left them in for far too long. Needless to say they were rather inedible not to mention writing off the baking dish. Every previous attempt has resembled something out of Goldilocks , too sticky , too stodgy and so on.
Apparently it takes a bad mood to produce the perfect brownie ,at least in my experience anyway.

Classic Chocolate Brownies (taken from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkinson)
amounts halved from original recipe makes 12

100g plain chocolate
110g butter
100g sugar
2 tbsp strong black coffee
2 eggs
35g flour
1tsp vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and/or line a 12cm x 21 cm dish. Break chocolate into small pieces and add to butter in a heatproof bowl. Heat over simmering water until the chocolate and butter are blended together and smooth with no lumps. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. In another bowl beat the eggs coffee and sugar together until smooth and them slowly add the chocolate. Add flour, salt and vanilla and mix again. Pour into dish and cook for 20-25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Leave to cool and cut.

These tasted much better after I let them cool overnight however I couldn't resist taking one (or two) before.The orginal recipe was for 24 and required 225g of butter sugar and chocolate and 75g of raising flour. It also mentioned adding walnuts (150g)