Saturday, 28 June 2008
Eighteen days without posting. Oh dear.
I've been busy.
First there was Sylvies hen day/night which required more preparation than I might have imagined a hen day/night/event/thing could have ever necessitated. Who knew it was possible to send and receive so many group emails? After what felt like weeks of irrate and desperate planning, Lindsay, Gemma and I finally managed to cobble together a day of hen-shenanigans involving cup cakes, sylvie masks, bright yellow rain ponchos and Edinburgh tour buses. Don't ask. I'll say this much - if you live in a country where the weather is unpredictable to say the least, don't plan a picnic.
PRETTY CUP CAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (cakes adapted from a recipes from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat)
125g self-raising flour
125g unsalted butter - very soft
125g caster sugar
1-2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
few tablespoons milk
For the cream cheese frosting:
50g butter - very soft
150g icing sugar - or to taste
200g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia - you could use light if you want but then where's the fun in that?)
a few drops good vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons of juice and the rind of a lemon
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a 12 cake tray with paper cases.
Put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor (or you can use an electric whisk), adding a pinch of salt, and blitz furiously.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of milk and process again until you have a smooth flowing cake batter.
Using a spoon and rubber spatula, divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases. There doesn't look like there's going to be enough mixture but there is - remember these will rise.
Cook for 15 - 20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the butter and enough of the sugar required to make it pale in colour and light and creamy in texture. I used an electric hand whisk for this.
Add the cream cheese and beat well, adding sugar until you have reached the desired sweetness.
Add the vanilla extract if using. You can add a few drops of hot water loosen the mixture up a bit if it's a little thick. Alernatively, add the lemon rind and lemon juice to loosen the mixture.
When the cakes have cooled, spread the frosting thickly on top using a small spatula or pallet knife.
Decorate however you wish - we used fresh cherries with their stalks still attached - pretty pretty pretty.
I have also been to Denmark and back since I last checked in, where I consumed my body weight in fish, cheese and rye bread. These people know how to eat. Particularly breakfast. Mmmmmmmm.
Then last Wednesday was the day I went to London to be part of the audience on Market Kitchen! It has been pointed out to me that it's not necessarily altogether normal for a young girl (ok, 31 year old girl) to get quite so excited by what is effectively a cookery programme but I say bollocks to that! I love food tv. I once spent three whole days on a sofa with a boy, two bottles of whisky and some cheese, watching nothing but the UKTV Food channel. We didn't even move to go to bed. We just slept right where we were. Oh yes, that is the way to my heart indeed. But that's another story for another time...
I recieved an email from one of Market Kitchens researchers - Andy - on Monday, saying that there would be a nice lady from the W.I on the programme hosting a cake contest, and as such they were looking for someone to bake a Victoria Sponge to be marked and scored.
Now then, I was clearly getting a little bit carried away with myself, because I offered to bake the cake. Why? Who knows. Because I was having fantasies about producing a cake of such majestic beauty; of being such a natural and charismatic force on camera that they'd snap me up and give me my own TV show. I'd be the next Nigella Lawson. Cooking with Carine. I'd beat Gordon Ramsey on The f Word. Ooh - I could co-present Saturday Kitchen with Anthony Worrall Thompson and finally get the chance to tell him we're meant to be together! I'd have a series of cookery books - kitchen bibles if you will which Nigel Slater would render indispensible in his kitchen. Perhaps I could write a column for Olive. I could just see it...
However my plans of TV stardom had one tiny flaw: my last attempt at baking a Victoria Sponge was not great to say the least. Lemon drizzle cake? Yep, can do those. Flourless chocolate cake? Check. Coffee and Walnut cake? Hell yeah. But Victoria Sponge? Not so good. Regardless, I put myself forward like a lamb for slaughter. Later in the afternoon Andy got back to me to say that someone else had already offered to bake the cake. My TV career seemed to be disappearing before my eyes when he said that if I'd like to make a back-up cake - 'just in case' - that would be great. It was fate!
And so it was that at ohmygoditstooearlyoclock on Tuesday morning, I dragged myself out of bed to buy the ingredients required for a Victora Sponge. Two Victoria Sponges in fact - just in case. Several hours later, my kitchen resembling the scene of a first year Home Economics class, out of the oven came four layers of what can only be described as Bricktoria Sandwich rather than anything resembling the light fluffy sponges produced by the W.I, or anyone else who bakes. This was an unmitigated, though if honest not enitrely unexpected, disaster.
The notion of dragging either of these over-sized biscuits to London with me, to potentially have them seen - nevermind tasted - by anyone at Market Kitchen was not good. I know they were just supposed to be stand by cakes, understudies to the role of leading cake, but frankly they would be unable to appear. I made the selfless desicion to sacrifice my burgeoning career as the new Delia and do all at Market Kitchen a service by sparing them the horror of them.
I sent Andy an email apologising profusely for any inconvenience my lack of a Victoria Sponge would cause. I was sure the lady baking the main attraction would turn up with a beautiful sponge worthy of ooohs and aaahs and there would be no need for a 'just in case' cake. I'd be happy to sit in the background quietly mortified and jealous. Oh - what if her cake was so good they offered her a permanent slot?
And so on Tuesday afternoon, slightly frazzled, I got in the car and drove the four hundred odd miles to London where I met Carrie in Islington. After a very welcome bowl of pasta we did our usual and blethered until 2am when we conceded that sleep would be wise given that we needed to be up at 6am to get to the studio for 8.20am as it seems to take at least an hour to get anywhere in London.
If you've done your maths, those who know me will at this point know exactly what's coming. Four hours sleep? It might've been all Margaret Thatcher needed to run the country (that might just explain things...) but for me - try at least seven. Seven and a half is better. Eight is just dandy thanks. Oh yes, I need my sleep. Not enough sleep makes Carine a very tired girl.
Another disaster. I'd never be spotted as the next Jamie Oliver looking like I was about to drift off.
And that I was. After arriving at the studio and meeting Matthew Fort and Tom Parker-Bowles, the exhaustion quickly set in. Once the initial excitement of being on set (just like it is on the TV, but smaller), and the prospect of all the lovely food to come had dissipated, I can honestly say that my prevailing memory of the day is feeling well and truly knackered. If you watch Market Kitchen on Monday 7th July, I'm the girl in the red and blue checkered dress with match sticks keeping her eyes propped open, next to the beautiful blonde girl looking like she's not sure why she's there but is enjoying Paul Rankins Raspberry and Elderflower Trifle. Sorry Carrie. However, if you are approached for TV stardom I will never speak to you again.
Still, the food was tasty and it was interesting to see them make a TV programme. Tamasin Day Lewis made a delicious dish stewing chicken thighs with summer vegetables which I'll definitely make at home and I'll post the recipe when I do so. It's true what they say - there's a lot of standing around and waiting but they really looked after us and kept us supplied with plenty of refreshments. If you're a food programme geek like me, I'd recommend going along.
Needless to say, the lady who did bake the Victora Sponge, produced a marvellous specimen worthy of winning first prize as it did. Then one of the shows producers told me I should have brought along my disasterous cake to use as an example of 'what not to do'.......... gasp! The cheek of it. Can you imagine Nigella doing that?
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Quite aside from the impressive foliage my little strawberry plant is showing off these days, it is also now proudly displaying its first flower. I am quite beside myself.
The tomato plant continues to thrive...
...but perhaps the most exciting news of the day is that I have been selected to be part of the audience at a recording of Market Kitchen! How marvellous is that? I am dragging Carrie along with me - I say dragging because a) she isn't moved to hysterics by Matthew Fort as I am, and b) filming starts at 8.30am.
Watch this space...
Monday, 9 June 2008
This weekend saw more sunny weather in Edinburgh and as a result I spent most of it outdoors and not in the kitchen. However, the thing about sunny weather is that it always has me hankering for the sort of food you eat when you're on holiday: any sort of tapas, food which you eat with your hands and is more often than not accompanied by a glass or two of something ice cold, fizzy and alcoholic - be it champagne, prosecco or a good old chilled bottle of beer.
The saturday morning farmer's market on Castle Terrace was bustling as usual, and the stalls were buckling under the weight of the beautiful fresh produce. I bought enough vegetables to feed a small army and decided to chargrill them. This isn't something to make if you're in a hurry but if you've got a spare hour and you feel like slaving over a hot griddle then you're in luck. That evening, once the sun had finally started to make it's decent, I sliced up aubergines, courgettes, red onions and great big meaty portobello mushrooms and griddled them until they had a pleasing criss-cross scorch marks on both sides. Juicy red, yellow and orange peppers were scorched on the naked flame of the hob and then steamed in a bag before being peeled of their charred skins and added to the rest of the layered vegetables in a dish. I mixed some finely chopped chilli and a couple of smashed garlic cloves with a good few slugs of olive oil and poured this liberally over the vegetables before allowing them to marinate in the fridge overnight. Hummous, tomato salad, buffalo mozarella wrapped in parma ham, toasted wholemeal pitta and the marinated vegetables made Sunday lunch a tasty affair.
I came across a recipe for Muhammara the other day, which is a Middle Eastern spread I had never heard of before. One of it's main ingredients is pomegranate molasses which is a store cupboard staple in this house but one that I don't get the opportunity to use nearly often enough. And so it was that I found myself pounding away with my pestle and mortar late on Saturday night, wondering whether it might have been a better idea to leave the experimental cookery until the morning... If you have a food processor you can throw all the ingredients in there and blend until smooth.
Serves 2 - 4
3-4 red peppers
12 tablespoons toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
4 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 red birds eye chilli
salt and pepper to taste
Roast the peppers over a naked flame until charred all over. place in a plastic bag and seal, allowing them to steam for 10 minutes. Remove from bag - the skins should come away easily. Half and discard the seeds. Chop through thoroughly until mushy before transferring to a pestle and mortar and pound until smooth. Place in a bowl.
Pound the toasted walnuts in a pestle and mortar and add to the peppers.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. You might want to adjust the amount of pomegranate molasses of you don't want your muhammara to be too sweet. If it is too thick, thin down with a little water.
Not sure how many of you have seen this in the press over the weekend but Tesco are trying their utmost to block Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign to highlight the plight of factory farmed chickens.
In a bid to force supermarket executives to face public criticism at their AGM, HFW bought a stake in Tesco plc last month in order to enable him to then submit a resolution challenging their claims about poultry welfare and urging them to set new minimum welfare standards. Tesco (one of the biggest retailers in the country) have said they'll only take the resolution to their AGM if HFW meets the costs of distributing the relevant papers to their shareholders (despite being entitled to waive this fee). The costs mount to £86,888 to distribute the paperwork to all 269,000 shareholders.
HFW has already put forward £30,000 of his own money and is now trying to raise the rest. Please click here for more information on this cause and how to donate. There is an online auction to help raise the money and the top prize is to have HFW himself come to your home and cook a roast chicken (not one of Tescos I should imagine...). The deadline is Wednesday 11 June - two days away.
Hmmmmmm, I wonder if he'd stuff it full of lemons and garlic for me?
Thursday, 5 June 2008
That's it. Half marathon training officially starts next week. Sensible eating, no booze (Sylvie's wedding will be an exception to this rule. Oh, and my visit to Carrie in London. Ah, July might actually be an exception to this rule come to think of it) and lots of water etc will be de rigeur for the next twelve weeks.
So this evening I made a HUGE lamb burger from scratch, sandwiched it between toasted ciabatta and topped it with a lovely dollop of tzatziki and fresh salsa and devoured it with zeal.
However my conscience remains intact because it was followed by this: fresh, british and deliciously sweet
Monday, 2 June 2008
We seem to be having one day on / one day off with the weather here - on Wednesday the heavens opened and remained that way all day, then Thursday saw the kind of weather more typical of the tropics. Well ok not quite, but you get the picture. After Friday's subsequent downpour, Saturday was a gloriously sunny and warm Summer day. Needless to say today is blah. Not hot, not cold, not wet, not warm, just blah.
This year, Channel 4 are hosting their annual taste festivals all over the country, and the weekend saw the second to be held in Edinburgh. Having missed out on this last year, I was determined to get in on the action this time around.
Saturday morning came and, as I have already mentioned, it was a scorcher. Perfect weather for strolling around the meadows, glass of champagne in hand sampling the wares of Edinburgh's best restaurants and finest chefs. I tried to round up some friends but to no avail. I phoned five - FIVE - different friends and not. one. of. them. answered their phones. Texts were sent but unacknowledged. Hello? It's me - you know - me! Your friend? Carine? Apparantly not. I resigned myself to another year of missing out and went off for a sulky walk when I stopped, had a long hard talk with myself and decided I would go to the ball alone. Or the Taste festival anyway. Now then, I'm not someone who shys away from doing things on my own - I'm very independant as it happens. Dinner on my own? Check. Cinema on my own? Tick. A drink on my own in a bar? Been there, got the t-shirt. Anything on my own is fine but for some reason a sunny day in the park felt like something to be shared with friends. Ah well. Off I went, solo.
Well, what a marvellous time I had to myself! Armed with my 'crowns' (official taste festival currency) I perused the various restaurants - Martin Wishart, Ducks at Le Marche Noir, The Tower, Santini, David Bann, number one at The Balmoral, the Plumed Horse, The Kitchin... all proud examples of Edinburgh's finest culinary hotspots. Amongst other things, I tasted braised shin of Ross-shire beef, pearl barley and root vegetables; shoulder of lamb with aubergine caviar, rosemary, tomatoes, black olive and beans and dark chocolate and Pedro Ximenez pot with roast hazlenuts and sugared doughnut. And the best part was that I didn't have to share any of it with anyone.
There I was, happy as larry, thinking how wonderful it was that I could spend as long as I wanted doing whatever I wanted without having to consider what anyone else wanted. Marvellous. And that's when it happened. The clouds parted, the heavens opened and everything was suddenly bathed in a soft glorious light. The world went very quiet but for the gentle singing of angels and the sound of harps. There they were in black and white, on page 7 of my wee taste guide, in the listing for the 'taste theatre' where renowned chefs were giving presentations. Those three words. Three precious, wonderful, beautiful words.
Anthony. Worrall. Thompson.
Now, before you all scoff and mock AWT's lack of super-duper-michelin-chef-uber-cool-credentials I must point out that it's not really his food I'm interested in (though I do think he is very good at what he does - good honest food and all that). No, it's not his culinary skills that do it for me. It's (and you may have to sit down here, I grant you) HIMSELF I'm interested in. Oh yes. I can't recall when it started, and I can't really put my finger on what it is, but I have a bit of a crush on Mr Worrall Thompson. It could be his ginger-esque colouring (I have had one or two run-ins with red haired gentlemen - none of them good as it happens), or it might be his unconventional (ahem) good looks (I've also had my fair share of run-ins with 'unconventional' looking gentlemen - none of them good as it happens), it may be a strange father-figure issue - call it want you want, but there it is. In fact no, I'm not being completely honest. I'll come clean. I do know what it is. He looks a bit dirty. But in a good way. A bit wrong. A bit like he knows what to do with his hands. Oh yes, My Name Is Carine And I'm An AWToholic.
And he was going to be there, in the flesh, at 14:20 until 15:00. Forty minutes of pure, unadultered Anthony. Thank god I came on my own. My friends all know about my AWT fantasies but it's fair to say that they are all a little - how should I put it? - horrified by them. Whilst they would of course have been more than happy to accompany me to see him, I do not doubt for a minute that at least one of them would have found a way to mortify me to the core. There would have been nudging and poking and giggling and snorting and possibly even some dry heaving. Again, thank god I came alone. And oh, thank god I remembered my camera.
I made my way to the taste theatre where Martin Wishart was finishing off his demonstration. Nearly 14:00 - another twenty minutes to wait. I was just considering going off to find myself a drink to calm the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach when to my horror I realised that people were already taking their pews for my beloved - what if I didn't get a good seat?! What if I was left standing at the back, craning my neck for a glimpse - and at 5'1" I don't have height on my side. There was nothing else for it - elbows out, I pushed my way to the front with all the gusto of a desperate housewife in the turkey aisle at M&S on Christmas Eve. I narrowly missed a seat at the front (oooooooh!), when I saw an elderly lady make a bee line for the bench on the second row - no you don't! I launched myself stage-dive-stylee, landed belly first and claimed it as my own. Result! Whilst I couldn't do much about the couple in front of me, I did have a prime spot. Phew.
A girl from Aberdeen and her friend came and sat next to me, they seemed nice enough, we introduced ourselves and started chatting. She had also been to the festival on Thursday evening where she saw Jean-Christophe Novelli. She clearly thought - as quite a lot of women do (not me) - that he's a bit sexy. So excited and caught up in the whole 'sexy chef' chat was I that I blurted out my wee crush on AWT. Said girl and her friend from Aberdeen looked all at once a) startled, b) nauseated and c) disturbed. Funny, their chat dried up a wee bit after that.
And then out he came. Every inch as dirty and wrong in real life as he is on the TV. Marvellous! And he did not disappoint. Whilst I couldn't really recount what he cooked (yes I can - goats cheese and beetroot starter, cod main, chocolate cake dessert) I can tell you that his chat was so outragous, so deliciously inappropriate I think I fell in love with him a little bit more. I won't bore you with the details but between the story about his great grandmother dying at the Boxing Day dinner table of his youth, the horror stories about going to the loo after eating beetroot (I know, I know) and his colourful language throughout, I was enraptured. He made many a pop at Gordon Ramsey: 'you could sail a canoe down the lines on his face' - ouch - which prompted lady from Aberdeen on my left to shout 'pot kettle black'. I just stopped short of shouting 'I'm not with them Anthony'. I swear to god I caught his eye and he smiled. At me. At ME.
And then his forty minutes came to an end, sigh. Excitement over, photos taken, off I went for more food. I bought Martin Wishart's new cookbook and then I even stood in a queue to have him sign it. Because I could. Because I was on my own. Have I mentioned I went on my own?
As I was walking back home in the sunshine, the phonecalls came. The various friends had hangovers from hell from various nights of debauchery, and had spent the beautiful sunny day in their various beds, curtains drawn. And while they were festering away in darkened rooms I was salivating over my little ginger unconventional looking Anthony Worrall Thompson. Well you know what they say, there's no accounting for taste.