Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Bitter Orange & Almond Cake


Are you hating the holiday season yet? I'm trying to avoid any pre-Christmas annoyance by spending as much time at home or at the gym where I can ignore the fact that the whole world seems to have gone crazy. That and the fact that I didn't and am not planing to make any Christmas cookies this year.
I'm making up for my lack of festive spirit on that front by playing Christmas music pretty much all day long (especially this song) and by making my flat smell of bayberry.
This cake is inspired by Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake but I wanted bitter oranges and I didn't like the idea of having to remove all the pips in the bitter oranges before pureeing. I modified her recipe and I hope you'll like the new, somewhat less dense version as much as I do.
I made this cake for my team's Christmas party and while I thought it was nice that evening, the leftovers were even better the next day. The orange flavour intensifies overnight so while I'm sure you'll enjoy it the day you make it, if you have the time, make it the day before you need it.

Bitter Orange & Almond Cake
2 Bitter Oranges
1 'Normal' Orange
200g Ground Almonds
50g Coconut Flour
100g Flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 Eggs
180g Raw Cane Sugar
80 ml Olive Oil

Wash the oranges in hot water (even if they're organic and definitely don't use waxed oranges here), then put them into a pot with water and cover with a lid. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or so - I doubt 5 or 10 minutes more will ruin this recipe. Take the pot off the heat and allow the oranges to cool in the water.
Preheat your oven to 160˚C and grease and flour a 26cm springform tin.
Once the oranges are mostly cold, juice them and set the rinds of one bitter orange and the 'normal' orange aside. Discard the rest.
Make sure there are no pips left in the orange rinds, then puree the rinds using a food processor or an immersion blender.
Stir the flours, baking powder and ground almonds together.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar until they become somewhat fluffy (they're whole eggs so don't expect too much) then add the olive oil, orange juice and the flour mix. Don't overmix things but try to get things somewhat mixed. Then fold in the orange puree.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. If the cake starts getting too dark, cover with tinfoil.
When the cake is done, keep it covered with the foil or cover it now. You can wrap it in a tea-towel but if you'll be eating the cake at home then just covering it should do the trick. Wrapping it means you can move the cake sooner if you are waaay to later for a Christmas party though (I'm totally going through a purely hypothetical scenario here).
This cake is lovely on its own but thick double cream or ice cream or custard work incredibly well with the slight bitterness of the oranges.
I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week and hopefully I'll find the time to write a bit more regularly :) My excuse is a good one though...the new layout and organisation of the blog is nearly ready and I should be able to share them with you before this baby turns three in January :)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Buttermilk with Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup


In case I have never told you before - I love meals that require only one pot or pan. Partly because for the entirety of my adult life I have not lived in a place with a dishwasher and I really don't like washing up. More importantly, though, I love all those dishes that allow flavours to build and mix and develop. Soups and stews and casseroles - take some simple things, give them some time and you end up with some amazing flavours and leftovers for the next couple of days :)
This soup is one of those amazing dishes - it's incredibly easy, it tastes like home and the last glorious autumn days even when it's already snowing outside, and while each of its ingredients is nice by itself, it is so much more than just the sum of its parts.

Buttermilk with Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
200g Carrots (I used a variety of carrots that pretty much breaks apart when you cook it and that becomes super creamy, normal carrots will not be as creamy but will taste nice as well)
200g Butternut Squash
1/2 Apple
1 small Onion
Olive Oil
Beef Stock (trust me, the beef works wonders here!)
A small glass of white wine if you have some sitting around
Buttermilk (lots and lots and lots - I used 100ml for my bowl)
Salt, Pepper, Crushed Chilli Flakes

Peel and dice the carrots, butternut squash, onion and apple (eat the remaining 1/2 apple while you cook). I don't believe it makes a difference what size you go for other than that if you cut tiny pieces things are going to cook faster.
Heat some olive oil in a pot and sauté the onions until they become glassy, add the carrots, butternut squash and apple. Stir around for a bit, then add the wine and enough beef stock to cover everything.
Cook until the carrots are tender. If you get bored - do you have any more wine left? Remember the other half of that apple from earlier? They should go really well together :)
Once the carrots are tender, puree using an immersion blender.
Season until you are happy.
Put some soup in a bowl and then drown it in buttermilk (don't forget to stir because the buttermilk will sink). If I'm perfectly honest with you I tend to use more buttermilk than soup but then I do love soup with my buttermilk or yoghurt. If you're not convinced - the soup is lovely on its own but you should really try it with some (or lots) of buttermilk!
Oh, and bread obviously works really well with this :)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

First Advent Weekend & Thanksgiving Impressions

Are you excited about the next 23 days?
I got back from the US last Monday and as always I have surprised myself at how bad I am at adjusting to having to get up 6 hours earlier when I don't have the sun shining in my face at 6 in the morning.
This time I decided to put the spare time at night to good use and for the first time in as long as I can remember I have finished writing my Christmas cards and my Christmas shopping before people even got around to lighting the first candle on their Advent wreath. 
Here is what mine looks like this year (I was just told off by Judith that it's not a proper one because it has no candles, but you'll see where I got the idea for this year's theme from later)
Sorry about the really bad colours...but my camera really doesn't like the light spots in my flat....

I thought it would be fun to give you a peek of what I was up to for my belated summer holiday :). I spent a week in DC and Williamsburg, Va. You have no idea how amazing it was to see so many lovely people I get to seen nowhere near enough. Oh, and then I kinda fell in love with Williamsburg (it's like St Andrews but with less rain, a Williams Sonoma and places selling hot apple cider in the streets...I think I went to the wrong university)

How how cute is this place?!?!?


 I have become somewhat obsessed with Christmas wreaths...




 Colonial roosters at Jamestown Settlement


Yes, your plants can have their own tipi, too



©Kathleen Dowling
 Lovelovelove this hat, as you can see in the top right corner of the picture you can also use it as a basket...


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lemony Glazed Carrots


A couple of years back my friend Guill made these amazing carrots for my thanksgiving party. I fell in love with them and have been thinking about them ever since. You see, I normally cook my carrots and then glaze them with some butter, salt, and honey. Not that I don't love that version but sometimes it just gets boring. Guill's version is lemony and sweet and you can taste hints of cinnamon and star anise. It's exciting where my everyday version isn't.
So I used my Fakesgiving party this year as an excuse to finally ask for the recipe. I probably should have done so two years ago because I think this might be the version I'll be making from now on.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I mean with cooking carrots - the stall at my farmers market normally has three kinds of carrots - one variety that tastes amazing in salads but looses some of it flavour when you cook it, one variety that tastes incredibly boring when you eat it raw but once you cook it, it falls apart and becomes really creamy (that variety makes the most amazing soups), and then there's a third kind that tastes ok somewhat bland in salads but really develops its flavour when cooked and unlike the previous one the carrots hold their shape really nicely. I used the third kind when making this.

Guill's Carrots (quantities are approximate)
500g Carrots (I used cooking carrots and some purple carrots)
Lemon Juice (I used 2 tbsp but you might want to add a bit at a time to get the flavour you want)
3 Star Anise pods
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Pinch of Salt
2 tsp Raw Cane Sugar (as with the lemon juice this depends on your preference start with a little and add more if you decide it's not enough.

Peel the carrots and cut them into pieces that are all relatively equal in size (it doesn't matter what size they are as long as they are all more or less the same size. Put the carrot pieces in a saucepan that you own a lid for :) and add some water and the salt. You don't have to cover them but if you use very little water check every once in a while that there is still some left at the bottom of the pan.
Once the carrots are somewhat cooked (but nowhere near cooked through) add some lemon juice, the star anise and cinnamon sticks and sugar (play around with the lemon juice and sugar until you are happy with the flavour). Cover again and cook until the carrots are nearing an al dente stage.
Uncover and keep on the heat until the liquid has evaporated.
These carrots go amazingly well with a traditional kind of meal but they are also lovely with pasta and some hummus if you end up having leftovers.



Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Salon: Taking a Breath

This week I am 'taking a holiday'.
The fact that I am writing should probably already tell you how much lying on the beach or sitting around doing nothing will actually be happening this week but that's not where I want to start off. Let's take half a step back.
Lately, I've been exhausted. I wake up in the morning and I am already tired, I go to bed and half the time I fall asleep with my light on because I am gone the second my head hits the pillow. I'm not telling you because I'm asking for pity but I'm more stating the obvious - if you're spreading yourself too thin and working on too many different projects, sometimes you just need to stop even if the things that you have to stop doing for a while are all things you love.
The reason I have decided to write about this today is because lately,every time I talk to someone we seem to be comparing who's had more migraines over the last feeks or who feels more rundown, who managed to hurt themselves worse while exercising in order to come down after a long day at work. I'm sure this has something to do with the fact that my circle of friends and acquaintances has a fairly high proportion of people who are at the beginning of their career, who have just moved to new cities, who are still trying to find their place in the 'real world'. But is that really it?
Sometimes I wonder - how much of it hast something to do with moving and starting a job and the whole 'real world' thing and how much has something to do with not being able to take a break.
After Preston wrote the last Sunday Salon post I had a whole list of things I wanted to write about, I had a list of people who had losely commited to writing a post, I had a backlog of 10 recipes, all waiting to be written out and uploaded.
And then I realised that I didn't care.
I didn't care whether you got my post on gay marriage exactly 4 weeks before the US election. I mean I care quite deeply about equality irrespective of gender or sexual orientation or religion, but at that point I had stopped caring about whether you care about what I have to say.
A while ago there was an article on the NYTimes opinionator blog by Tim Kreider making the rounds that discussed the idea that we 'enjoy' being stressed and that it's become somewhat fashionable, that it gives us purpose.
When I look at myself, when I look around me, I don't see that many people who enjoy being stressed out - yes, it's always fun to complain about how much you have to do and where you have to be when you have the time to do so, but more often than not people just disappear in that cloud of stress.
When was the last holiday in your adult life where you didn't think about work or brought your laptop or stuff to review or whatnot? Actually, let's include the last year or two of high school.
I had two times when I really didn't do anything for a couple of weeks - the sumer before starting university and then the summer before starting grad-school (but here I already have to make the concession that I went on a summer school at the beginning of that summer...).
There have been a couple of half-hearted attempts to go off the grid for winter holidays and then last year I went on a trip to the US with my mum last year that was supposed to be completely work-free...but neither attempt really worked out - it turns out I can't relax, even remotely when there is no internet whatsoever. I am that person who walks around a room with laptop or phone for better reception, who gets absolutely antsy if they can't check their email for more than 2 days in a row. I'm told it gets quite hilarious for others.
Have I actually become unable to take time off? Am I just a workaholic, or a person with an isolated problem? I don't think so. I am actually convinced that I am just an example of my generation (tell me if I'm delusional in that respect). I feel, unlike the generation Kreider is talking about our generation never learned to deal with having time off and never really learned to say no where work is concerned.
In a way we are incredibly lucky, having grown up in a time of relative prosperity, when so much seemed possible. No more cold war, the beginning of internet for everybody, one European currency...we grew up in an environment that allowed us to pursue our interests and talents. Most of us ended up studying things that weren't really practical but things that allowed us to grow and to develop our talents even further. So many of us were lucky enough to end up in a field that we are interested in and that we identify with (I don't think it matters whether that turned out to be Psychophysics or Political Science or Game Design or Theoretical Mathematics). Unlike the generation before us that, according to Kreider, likes to keep busy what we do has become entangled with our view of ourselves, it is linked to our self-worth. And that is where I think the trouble starts. When you need to take a break because you have no energy left, how does that affect how you see yourself as a person? If you need to slow down and do less of one of the things you use to define yourself, where does that leave you?
I don't know the answer to all of this, I don't know whether I have managed to explain any of those thoughts I've been trying to express. What I know, though, is that I will enjoy my little work expedition to DC as much as i can :)
I hope you have a lovely rest of your Sunday!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Cranberry Shrub


You might ask yourself - what on earth is a shrub? Well, other than the plant in your local park.
The first time I consciously came across a shrub recipe was in the the Maine section (for raspberries) of the lovely new edition of Clementine Paddleford's Great American Cookbook. While I am absolutely in love with that book - reading her stories that come with the recipes you are going on a journey across a country that is very similar to the US these days but at the same time it feels like you are exploring a completely different country. If you like going to those living history museums where you can see how people used to live 'back in the days' then I am pretty sure you will love the book as much as I do (and all the recipes I have tried so far were really nice!).
Anyway, this recipe called for exactly three ingredients, raspberries, sugar and vinegar. I had this somewhat latent plan of making some kind of shrub at some point to find out what this whole thing was about. If I am going to be perfectly honest with you I was not quite convinced by the whole fruit and vinegar thing but a few weeks ago I followed a link on the bitten word and came across guess what - cranberry shrub. From their description it sounded like it could actually be nice and they suggested serving it with vodka, so I decided I could always up the vodka if it was really horrible. Boy, was I wrong!
This stuff is amazing! As I mentioned yesterday, it pretty much tastes like Brause. In all its fizzy awesomeness. Somehow the vinegar does something on your tongue that it doesn't do when you make salad dressing. I don't have a clue how it works but it's amazing. And more importantly, unlike with the dried stuff of my youth you can add soda water and it will taste even more amazing (the dried stuff would always bubble over and spill everywhere on the table and it never seemed to taste as good as it did with flat water but then there weren't enough bubbles...childhood trauma....I'm telling you).
But let's get to the actual recipe, if you are looking for a somewhat old-fashioned aperitif for Thanksgiving (or any kind of dinner party in the near or far future) I strongly suggest you make a shrub. Any kind really. Because I can't imagine shrub made with other fruit tasting any less amazing than the cranberry one I made :)

Cranberry Shrub (adapted from Dunn & Patton, after a recipe in Fine Cooking)
3 cups Cranberries
3 cups Water
1 cup Raw Cane Sugar
3/4 cup Vinegar (I used 25% vinegar and water in a 1:4 ratio to make the 3/4 cup - go for just under 3 tbsp of the concentrated vinegar in that case - otherwise white wine or apple vinegar will be good alternatives)
Zest of 1/2 Orange

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the cranberries have turned into mush.
Take the pan off the heat and wait until the cranberry mixture has cooled down.
Puree with an immersion blender or if you only have a normal blender blend it in batches.
Strain through some musselin to remove the remaining pieces of cranberry skin.

Now, that was nice and easy :)

Soda water goes really nice with this. As does vodka or Chase gin or sparkling apple cider or tonic water. I haven't tried anything else, but  I'm sure there are a lot more lovely combinations that will work.
I hope you have a lovely weekend! I will be enjoying airline food :) fun times!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fakesgiving Impressions

Since I will be spending Thanksgiving with my amazing friend Kathleen and her family, rather than having a dinner with friends on Thanksgiving or the next day (much easier when you're coordinating people who don't get Thanksgiving off work) I had a few friends over for dinner last weekend.
I think apart from last year's party which was small because my suitcase and I had arrived in Berlin the day before this must have been the smallest Thanksgiving-related get-together I've ever hosted.
And it was lovely.


My neighbours helped me with some most of the cooking which was quite impressive because I hadn't expected that you could cook in my teeny-tiny kitchen as a group. I had assumed that you would just be in each other's way all the time. But I shouldn't have worried.
What else could I tell you?


I still don't like rubbing butter under a chicken's skin. I think I already told you last year but I had hoped that it would be one of those things that get easier after the first time.
Yeah, that didn't happen....perhaps next year's party will be totally vegetarian. Who knows. I'm pretty sure people liked it though, because the two pieces of chicken you can see were the only two pieces leftover.

I put too much stuff on my plate so I couldn't actually fit any chicken on there in the beginning...I really need to work on that. That's what happens if everything looks too good :)
Oh, and the glass with a red drink you can see in this picture? That's homemade cranberry shrub. While it doesn't seem to be the proper translation, for those of you who grew up in Germany - think cranberry flavoured Ahoi Brause. I'll tell you more about this in the next few days.
One more picture? I took this the next day because I didn't manage to take any semi-nice pictures of the pie in the evening. But here's one of the pies :)


I hope you have a lovely rest of your week!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Fancy Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping

 © Anna Blanch  (all pictures in this post)
I have a confession to make. I have been meaning to post this recipe for two years now. It's hands down the best pumpkin pie I've ever had. I've made it for Thanksgiving dinners, I've made it for Christmas, I even made it once for no reason other than that I wanted to eat some pumpkin pie.
The picture above is actually from the first time I made it. In a springform tin. Because I didn't have anything else left because I had 25 or so people over for Fakesgiving and believe it or not I don't actually own that much baking and cooking equipment.
It was a special day because it was my friend Anna and my first anniversary of being friends (our friendship had started the year before when I, after having cooked for the entire day, had greeted this person I had met the week before at a formal dinner with the now somewhat infamous sentence 'I can I just bitch for a sec?' - see, I can charm complete strangers into being my friends, mum :)).
It was also special because my friend Sandra showed me how to cram two beer-can chickens into the oven at my old apartment, leaving enough space for the sweet potatoes at the bottom. Actually, looking at the pictures I bullied Anna into sending me the other day, we also had a whole baking sheet full of potatoes dauphinoise but I doubt that was in there at the same time...if it was that oven must have been previously owned by Mary Poppins.
I love Fakesgiving dinners because it not only is the best dinner party of the year but also because it means lots and lots of food and nobody complaining that they have to watch what they eat. And people tend to get really creative when they bring stuff along.
This is what our table of awesomeness looked like two years ago:


                                                                  

I'll be sharing pictures of this year's extravaganza with you later this week, but I am forgetting the pumpkin pie recipe again. I found this in Delicious Magazine (I am somewhat in love with the pictures in there...) but made a few changes for ease of execution :) most importantly I don't see a point in buying whole chestnuts and then pureeing them yourself if some genius person in France does it for you and sells it in pretty tins.
I wouldn't bother doubling the filling for this recipe if you are using a 26cm springform tin rather than a pie dish - make a bit more dough and just use the filling as is but if you're really worried, add another half recipe. If you are using a 28cm tart dish, definitely multiply the recipe by 1.5. The meringue topping will easily spread out to accommodate either of these alternative sizes but since you can never have enough meringue topping (I could just start making Pavlova) you could also make more of that if you feel like it. I can't tell you anything about other dish-sizes because I've only tried these three. They all have a somewhat different character but work equally well (adjust the baking time!).

Fancy Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping
275g Flour
125g Cold Butter
2 tbsp Icing Sugar
1 large Egg Yolk

450g peeled Butternut Squash, cut into pieces
100g Chestnut Puree (get the unsweetened stuff vanilla is nice, though)
200ml Cream
50g + 65g Raw Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Ground Ginger
A pinch of Ground Cloves
50ml Syrup (I've made this recipe both with golden syrup and agave syrup and they're both nice, don't use corn syrup or simple syrup, though...maple syrup should be nice as well, I think)

4 large Eggs,
1/4 tsp Lemon Juice

In a bowl, rub the butter into the flour until your mixture looks like grits. Add a pinch of salt and the icing sugar. Follow with the egg yolk and a tablespoon or two of cold water. Working quickly, bring the dough together. If it helps, use a knife but I find I work faster using my hands. Wrap in cling-film and chill or at least half an hour.
Once he dough is properly chilled, preheat your oven to 180˚C and roll out the dough until it resembles a circle with a diameter of 28cm. Transfer the dough into a buttered 24cm pie dish, prick little holes into the surface and blind bake (use your preferred method) for about 10 minutes or so before you remove whatever you used to hold down the bottom and bake it for another 5-10 minutes.
In a saucepan, bring the butternut squash, 130ml of the cream, first 50g of the sugar to a boil. If the cream does not cover the squash, add hot water until it is submerged. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until you are on the slightly squishy side of tender.
Remove the butternut squash from the pan and boil the cream mixture down until it has the texture of thick double cream. Add the chestnut puree, butternut squash, syrup, and spices. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until it is relatively smooth.
Mix the eggs, egg yolks and remaining 70ml of cream until smooth, then add it to the pumpkin mix. Fill the pre baked shell and bake for 45-50 minutes until the filling is set but the centre has only just done so.
If you over-bake things it won't taste any worse but the filling tends to separate from the shell on the sides and it can start resembling a brick...so err on the side of under-baking here - it will go back into the oven later on anyway.
Whisk the egg whites until they are starting to get fluffy, then add the remaining sugar and lemon juice until stiff peaks form.
Turn down the temperature in your oven to 150˚C, top your pie with mounds of egg whites and return the pie to the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the top of the meringue are golden.
You could eat this pie warm or at room temperature and it would be equally nice. I've had it chilled as well and I wouldn't want to repeat that experience but the other two are equally great alternatives.
I hope you have a lovely rest of your week. I also hope I can share some pictures of this year's party with you really soon.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Mini Chocolate Cakes (avec gooey centre) for Sonja


Some people have told me that it's the friends you make in college that stay your friends for life. I've met some amazing people both during my time as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, but to me it feels like that diminishes the bond you have with some of your high-school friends. You know, the friends who knew you before you got highlights and lost weight and started using probably too much make-up. Yeah, those friends. My friend Sonja is one of those people I became friends with, let me think...I guess nearly 11 years ago. Even though we haven't lived in the same country for the better part of 8 years now (why do people have to move abroad when I decide to move back?!?!) we've kept in touch (thank you, Skype!). 
Anyhow, it's Sonja's birthday today and a while ago she asked me whether I could write a recipe for her. 
Something with chocolate.
Something 'like those mini cakes [I] used to make, those with the gooey centre' (ok, that was a fairly loose translation of the fb message that started this whole thing).
So let's talk about those mini cakes Sonja was talking about.
They're from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess and apparently I made them when I came back home one summer. I think.
They're pretty much chocolate with some eggs, butter, sugar, and flour to hold the chocolate together and you can even make them after a lacrosse game (only potentially still in your sports clothes) while dreaming of all the things you'll eat afterwards. I obviously didn't do any of that because I'm all grown up and organised and whatnot.
Anyhow, let's make some mini chocolate cakes (a.k.a. mini chocolate-mousse-soufflé thingies with a molten chocolate centre).

Note - the original recipe leaves you with mini cakes, I tend to keep them in the ramekins I use to bake them in and eat them like a chocolate soufflé. If you would rather have them sitting on a plate, butter your ramekins and cut out some baking parchment to line the bottoms. Both versions are super easy.

Mini Chocolate Cakes after Nigella Lawson's recipe - enough for 2 cakes
15g Butter
90g Dark Chocolate (use nice chocolate here since it's the main ingredient)
45g Sugar
1 Egg
Pinch of Salt
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
15g Flour

Preheat your oven 200˚C and heat a baking sheet in the oven.
Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. Beat the egg with the salt until it is somewhat frothy. Cream the butter and sugar, then start adding the egg, followed by the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour until well combined. Add the chocolate to the mixture, make sure everything is properly mixed.
Pour the batter into the ramekins and place them in the oven for 10 minutes. 
Nigella suggests tipping them out straight away and eating them with some whipped cream, unwhipped cream, crème fraiche, crème anglaise or ice cream. I really like them slightly cooled just as they are.
Sonja, I hope this cures any chocolate cravings you might have while writing! I wish I could celebrate your birthday with you!



Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Velvety Beetroot Chocolate Brownies


If the thought of beetroot in baked goods leaves you somewhat bewildered, let me tell you one thing - whoever first used beetroot in brownies was a genius! They are velvety, super chocolatey, sweet but not excessively so and they are also quite pretty. I think they even beat the double chocolate ones and the vegan ones. And I would say they are about equally awesome as the aubergine chocolate cake. And they are adapted from a recipe from the same cookbook (Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache). A couple of years ago a few of us in St Andrews were somewhat obsessed with this book. All the cakes in it are made with vegetables (mostly root vegetables) and the all have an amazing texture and taste even better. Most of them actually taste way better than their non-vegetable cousins.
Beets, carrots and courgettes lend these cakes structure and airiness and a sweetness that you don't really get when you are using normal sugar. For those of you who like using agave syrup for baking. I feel like the effect is similar to the one you get when you replace sugar with dark agave in a cake.
Anyhow....I made these brownies after a long day at work. When I came home I found a couple of beets looking at me wanting to be eaten but I had no motivation whatsoever to roast them so I chopped them up, stuck them in the microwave and made some brownies. And after brownie number two I felt like it had been a good day after all :)

Velvety Beetroot Chocolate Brownies (adapted from Harry Eastwood)
400g Raw Beetroot (weigh them after peeled, topped and tailed them)
100g Almond Meal
3 Eggs
220g Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
150g Cooking Chocolate (the dark kind)
70g Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Potato Flour or other kind of starch (rice or corn will work just as well)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 160˚C. Line a large gratin dish (approx. 27x20cm) with baking parchment.

Cut the beetroot into 2 cm pieces, place it in a microwaveable bowl with a tablespoon of water, cover with some cling film or a plate and microwave for 7 minutes (the original recipe says 10, my microwave is from the stone age (a.k.a. really slow) and whenever I have made these brownies and left them in there for 10 minutes I have ended up with mush, after 10 they are cooked through already).

While you are waiting for the beetroot, break the chocolate into pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt until their volume has tripled. If you are using an electric whisk, this should take about 3-5 minutes, if you are using a balloon whisk and are using your own muscle power, I am a) totally impressed with you and b) have no clue how long things are going to take so whisk away until the volume has tripled or your arms fall off :)

Drain the water the beetroot has been cooking in, then puree until smooth. A hand held immersion blender works wonders here. Once you have beetroot puree staring at you, mix in the chocolate, recover the mixture and set it aside so the chocolate can melt.

Fold the almonds, starch, cocoa powder, baking powder and vanilla extract into the eggs. Make sure you have a homogeneous mixture.

Follow this by folding in the beetroot-chocolate purée until combined.

Pour the batter into the gratin dish and smooth out the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Allow the brownie to cool before you cut it into pieces because it breaks quite easily while it is still hot.

Milk obviously works really well here, but so does wine :)

I hope you have a fabulous rest of your week and that your Halloween costume was less ridiculous than mine (the 80s were somewhat alive). I will be back with another (yes, another) chocolatey recipe :)

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grown-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies


When I moved into my flat, 6 other people moved into the building as well. A few of us bonded over the fact that whoever did the renovations had a different concept of what a finished flat should look like (we think it should include ceilings without holes, working lights, oh, and warm water and working radiators tend to be a plus as well...) anyhow in the midst of stressing about builders and not being able to go and buy furniture, I met some really lovely people.
The cool thing about this rather lame story is that a few of us have started inviting each other over for dinner. This week we had a mean shepperd's pie one floor down and I made cookies. But I decided to make cookies 45 minutes before I dinner started and had no eggs or butter left. That's when I remembered that I could just make vegan cookies (well they would have been vegan if there had been soy milk in my kitchen...this way they were just egg free).
These cookies feel somewhat more grown-up than normal chocolate chip cookies because the chocolate flavour plays really nicely with the peppery notes and they are not overly sweet (that said....they're cookies, you'll still get over any kind of afternoon-lull with one or two of these).
The recipe mine is based on is the 'Chocolate Chocolate Walnut Cookie' (cool name, isn't it?) recipe from the fantastic Veganomicon (the original is lovely as is but I didn't have walnuts or almond extract either...) and  in case you are wondering - I like using fleur de sel in cookies because it seems to stay somewhat separate from the dough and you get those lovely bursts of saltiness (not excessively so, but enough to bring out the sweetness of the other ingredients).  


Grown-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Bicarb
1/2 tsp Fleur de Sel
1/2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper (if you use already ground pepper, you might want to use more)
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil (go for one that has a mild taste, canola is a good option)
1 1/2 cups Sugar
4 tbsp Ground Flaxseed
1/2 cup Milk (if you use a non-dairy alternative these cookies are vegan)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Pecan Halves
1 cup Dark Chocolate Chips (again, go for non-dairy and your vegan and lactose intolerant friends will love you)

Preheat your oven to 180˚C and line two baking trays with parchment.
On one of the trays lay out the pecans and roast them until they are dark brown (but not burned!). Allow them to cool slightly while continue with the next few steps.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, fleur de sel and pepper in a bowl.
In a large bowl mix the oil and sugar, once you have a smooth mixture, add the flaxseed, milk, and vanilla extract.
Crumble the pecans into smallish pieces.
Mix the wet and the dry mix. If you start having issues combining them using a fork or whisk or spoon (or whatever you are using) switch to your hands :)
Add the pecan pieces and chocolate chips and make sure they are somewhat evenly distributed across the dough.
If you use a tablespoon measure and use it like you would use an ice-cream scoop (i.e. pile the dough up so you have something resembling a circular sphere) you should end up with 32 cookies. That means you end up with 16 cookies on each sheet and they'll be spaced out far enough.
Pat the cookie balls out a bit so you have cookie disks and bake them for 10-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.
I found that these cookies set quite late so even after 15 minutes I had perfectly gooey cookies after dinner. The next day at lunch I felt like I should have taken them out slightly earlier. So I guess the message is that it depends on when you are planning on eating the cookies.
Obviously, milk is amazing with these cookies, but they work really well with some red wine as well (since we're being all grown-up and stuff).

Do you have a favourite cookie recipe?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Spiced Brown Butter & Apple Muffins


Are you enjoying autumn as much as I am? We seem to be having a lot more gorgeous days than cold and rainy ones and the leaves on the ground are beautiful. Plus, the tomatoes that I planted way too late (i.e. when I got back from Florida in May) seem to be turning into mini-tomato-factories so I feel like it's still summer. That and the fact that I get to see some amazing friends in three weeks (DC and Williamsburg, VA, here I come!) and that I am finally making some progress with the whole blog-redesign mean I'm loving the world these days.
But let's talk muffins - I made these for science-lunch at work the other week and after a bit of a disaster involving sticky apple-cinnamon rolls where everything that could have gone wrong pretty much going wrong (how come the one time I actually follow a recipe it turns out to be a really horrible one?!?), I decided to not listen to recipes anymore and just do my own thing. I got the inspiration for these from the introduction to the brown butter scones in Amy Scattergood's Good to the Grain but I wanted muffins not scones and I had some apples that needed using up....you know how that story tends to end. I like the crumb these muffins have because it is soft and springs back and there is a certain amount of lightness to it without being super fluffy like some shop-bought muffins can be.
Perhaps you should just try them yourself :)

Spiced Brown Butter & Apple Muffins
150g Apples, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
300g Flour
100g Raw Cane Sugar
1tsp Salt
1 tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1/4 tsp Cardamom
125 ml Single Cream
250 ml Milk
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)
100g Butter + more for greasing
2 tbsp Almond Flour


Preheat your oven to 200˚C and butter 15 muffin cups out of 24 (I have two 12-cup tins) - space them out evenly (i.e. don't just use all cups in the first tin and only 3 in the second).
Sprinkle the bottom of each muffin cup with some almond flour. I had originally hoped that the almond mixture would form a somewhat separate layer from the batter and would form a nice contrast. That didn't really work but the almond flavour forms a really nice backdrop to the muffins so the almonds get to stay.
Heat the butter in a saucepan and allow it to brown. Wait until you have brown spots forming at the bottom of the pan and your kitchen smells like brown butter heaven. Take the butter of the heat and allow it to cool down slightly.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I really like how the spices pack quite a punch but it does have quite a Christmassy feel to it so if you want a toned-down version, I would use half the amounts of cloves, allspice and cardamom.
Whisk together milk, cream and eggs and once you have a smooth mixture, add the butter and the vanilla extract if you are using it. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients. Don't worry if you don't have a completely smooth batter - if you overwork the batter the muffins will become dense and chewy and simply not as nice as they turn out if you stop while there are still some small pockets of flour left in there.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester (or a dry piece of spaghetti) comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool down for 5 minutes or so before you turn them out on a wire rack to cool completely.
If you were to ask me I would recommend some coffee with these but I'm sure other stuff tastes really nice with them as well (it just won't keep you awake as well :) )

Monday, 15 October 2012

Plum & Bourbon Jam


I know it has been a while, and I wish I could tell you about all the exciting things I've done, but the truth is I was spreading myself a bit thin so I decided to focus on the 'important things in life' - work, sleep and practice. So it's pretty much been a couple of cereal-three-times-a-day weeks. Actually, that's not quite true - I went to a wedding near Paris a week ago where I had some of the best food I've ever had. We stayed at this amazing castle and it was simply amazing. I might not understand why you need not just one moat, but two of them...but hey...


Anyhow, I made this jam when I was still excited about fall (right now I'm just cold...) and to me it pretty much tastes like one of those sunny-but-still-foggy mornings that scream for warm jumpers and perhaps a hot toddy after a long walk through the woods. I got the idea from this jam but decided that booze is always a good idea, so in went the bourbon. I think any kind of whisky would work quite well here.
I used Zwetschgen rather than normal plums because I prefer them. But rather than writing a paragraph or two about the differences, this time I remembered to take a picture in case you still have no idea what I'm talking about.


A note on sugar. I use sugar that has pectin added so you use twice as much (weight-wise) fruit than sugar. I prefer the jams you get that way even though they are, technically, not jam anymore. I also like the 3:1 type because you get a super fruity spread but the one time I tried to make one myself it wouldn't set, so now I just try to convince people who are good at making that kind of jam to spread the love and give me a jar or two :)
Anyhow, what I am trying to say is - if you are using normal sugar follow the instructions on quantities somewhere like Food in Jars because both the cooking time and the amount of sugar you have to add change.

Plum & Bourbon Jam
1 kg Plums, stones taken out and cut into small pieces.
500g 2:1 Jam Sugar/ Gelling Sugar (Gelierzucker)
5 Star Anise Blossoms
50ml Lime Juice
80ml Bourbon

Mix the plums, sugar and star anise in a large, heavy bottomed pot and let it sit for an hour or two so you end up with a sirupy mixture that smells faintly of star anise.
Next you remove the star anise from the mixture and bring it to a boil over a medium heat. Don't worry, this will take a while. Once the the sugary mixture is boiling, set your timer to 4 minutes and keep stirring. After three minutes, add the lime juice and 50 ml of the bourbon, stir it in and taste. I feel like 80 ml was a good amount of bourbon but you might like things less smoky. If you feel like it could do with more than the 50 ml you just added, keep adding until you are happy with how the sweetness of the sugar and the plums balances with the tartness of the lime and the smoky flavour from the bourbon.
Take off the heat and fill into sterilised jars. I come from a family where we re-use old jam glasses and then seal them by letting them cool down upside-down (which creates a vacuum). I have seen a lot of blogs talk about how the jam won't last as long as it would if you added the extra canning step. I think you should do whatever you feel comfortable with but I have rarely seen a mouldy jar of jam (and the one I actually remember also looked like someone had been hoarding it since the 1950s...) so I think if you're planning to eat the jam within the next year or two it should be fine without the extra canning in a water-bath.



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ragù


Fall is really here. We are still having some beautiful days but more often than not, I am coming home looking for something to warm up my hands and my face. There might have been a lot of stews and soups simmering away in my kitchen lately. I originally planned to make this for my friends Judith and Mimi when they helped me squeeze my washing machine into my tiny kitchen and then build a new sink seemingly around it, but after we had completely re-assembled my kitchen we gave up on the whole dinner thing. And I was stuck with a kilo of minced meat at 8pm, so I decided to not make a quick ragù but something rich and seemingly creamy. I didn't get to sleep until 2 that night, but it was definitely worth it.
I used the recipe from Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy's 'The Geometry of Pasta' as my guide and as always their descriptions were easy to follow (and to adapt to whatever I wanted to make).
Ok, so what should you know before you even start with this recipe - it needs time - if you're really quick with the chopping and browning and stuff make sure you don't have to leave the house for the next 5 hours, if you, like me end up running to the supermarket halfway through the first steps because you've forgotten something, you'll end up needing closer to 6 hours.
It is a fantastic pasta sauce, an even better sauce for a lasagne, it is really nice in pasties (I guess they're not that Cornish anymore once you add the ragù) it freezes really well oh, and it's really nice just with a slice of bread as well.

Ragù (after Hildebrand & Kenedy)
600g Minced Beef
400g Minced Veal
200g Carrot
200g Onion
4 cloves Garlic
100g Butter
60ml Olive Oil
100g Bacon (unsmoked), cut into small strips or pieces
400ml Red Wine
600ml Milk
1kg Tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes, but you could also use tinned ones)
250ml Beef Stock
A sprig of fresh Thyme (optional)

Before you do anything else, find a big pot.
Peel the carrot and dice it. Cut the onion into pieces about the same size. Then, peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices. The original recipe suggests using a large frying pan for the next step but I don't have a large frying pan so I just proceeded with a big pot and waited longer.
Melt the butter and the oil, then sauté the vegetables and bacon over a medium for 10 minutes until they are somewhat soft. Turn up the heat and add the meat in 5 smaller batches. Between additions, allow the water in the meat to evaporate - if you are using a frying pan, this will be relatively quick, if you are using a pot, give it some time. After you have added the last batch, wait for the pan to 'splutter' I know that sounds weird but you'll see - once it starts happening you'll understand. Turn down the heat and brown the meat. You're waiting for some crispy bits to appear which should take about 15-20 minutes if you have that magic frying pan and took closer to 20-25 minutes in my pot.
While you are waiting for the meat, cut the tomatoes into small pieces. If you are using fresh tomatoes and don't like their skins, you could blanch and peel them. I just left the skins on and cut them into pieces.
Add the wine and if you have been using a pan, now you transfer everything to a big pot anyway. Add the milk, tomatoes, and stock. Now is also the time to start seasoning. Add some salt, some black pepper, some chilli flakes (apparently that is somewhat heretical, but who cares?! It tastes nice!) and if you have some, some fresh thyme.
Turn the heat down very low and simmer for 4 hours or so, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add some more stock or water, but you're aiming for a really thick sauce ('as thick as double cream and, stirred up, the whole should be somewhat porridgy' - and you wonder why I love that book?!?!)
Season one last time. I like to add some balsamic vinegar to adjust the acidity.
Now, either go to sleep or dig in :)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday Salon: Something on Grief

Today Preston talks about grief and how there is a space for grief not just at funerals.
Preston normally writes over at see Prestonblog where he writes about art and faith and about writing (because he does a lot of that).
I met Preston through my dear friend Anna who organised for the three of us to have an amazingly fun dinner (you see, the three of us - we like to cook, eat good food, and talk about our blogs). Since then, Preston's writing has made me laugh, has made me cry, has made me think. I hope you get the same joy out of reading his words.


I don’t cry at funerals.

I feel that it’s important to inform you of that upfront. The rest of this would be an exercise in a kind of cheap sentimentality if I did not.

I cry in other circumstances: moments of joy, ordinary graces, when the Host is lifted during the Eucharist, when films end with impossibly true endings—either for the better or the worse. I weep for the sad things, I weep for the sad, but funerals have never moved me to tears. Sometimes before, sometimes after, but not during.

A fistful of dirt upon the coffin. A lily dropped into void. My face offers nothing but solemn recognition, an awareness that something has been lost, but I know then only the smudgness of it, not the something of it.

It is, ultimately, an exercise in self-preservation.

II

My grandmother wore black for weeks after my grandfather died.

I’m not sure many people noticed. It was an old custom, the mark of the widow, the mark of the grieved, but it didn’t translate.

Would you like to try this perfume? Perhaps entice some man?

That was in a mall once, I think but a few months after. I think she had stopped wearing black by then. I think the sales girl who asked meant nothing of offense. I think these things over and over as my grandmother tells me the story and fights not to weep over it again.

I think I should know what to do in this moment, but I can offer nothing beyond what I think is but an empty bowl, outstretched, to catch her words and hold them for a time as my own.

III


And what they have stammered ever since
are fragments
of your ancient name.

Rilke, to God, on the fracturing unwholeness of death.

IV

I am a Christian, so I believe in the resurrection of the dead.

I say that as preface to this other bit I want to focus on, which is not about resurrection but the question of before, or, rather, the question of endurance. The question of during.

In the Gospel of St. John, when Mary and Martha mourn the loss of their brother Lazarus, we glimpse the culture of the day. Their mourning is not in isolation or in measured moments, but with a community around them. Their home, full of those who mourn along side them, who sit and listen, speak nothing, allow grief to be a palpable thing, something that sits in the space with them, speaks to them, threatens, perhaps, to overtake them.

There is the moment when Martha rises to meet Jesus far off, to demand why He did not come sooner, to confront. And this is the image that resonates, the image I think of before I think I am a Christian, so I believe in the resurrection of the dead.

When Martha goes to meet Jesus, everyone who was with her follows. They say nothing, from what we can tell, but they follow all the same. Where her grief takes her, they go. The question of duration. Grief observed, not cast aside.

V

What am I trying to say here?

I am trying, in fragment, to suggest something about how we understand death. Modern culture has insisted that we grieve in haste, that we leave the infirm in their pain until they are numb enough to sit in our alleged peacefulness once more.

Here, my bias is showing, I grant. But what I am saying is this: perhaps we need to be a collective people when grief comes. Perhaps, when I can’t cry at funerals, I can cry in the before and after because tears are needed in those moments, too. Perhaps.

And what they have stammered ever since
are fragments
of your ancient name.

Rilke.

I keep turning it over.

I keep hurtling it up to the vaulted heavens, wondering if it should reach the throne of God.

As I sit, here, beside the one now having lost. As I weep in the before, the after, and ponder this strange place of during.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Zwetschgenkuchen



Growing up one of my favourite cakes was Zwetschgenkuchen (or Zwetschgendatschi if I was talking to those members of my family that live in Bavaria). A thin yeasty dough topped with handfuls of super-ripe fruit (preferably next to some whipped cream) is my idea of heaven.
Zwetschgen are a type of plum. The problem is that the name doesn't seem to translate well. Just from looking at the fruit it looks a lot like damsons do but not completely so I think they are not quite the same thing. The internet is really not helpful here so here is my own description to add to the confusion:
Zwetschgen are a type of plum that has yellow (sometimes even greenish) flesh rather than the reddish hue 'proper' plums have. Rather than being nice and round like plums, Zwetschgen are more elongated. Their skin is a lovely shade of purple and they contain less water than plums.
So whatever you call this type of plum wherever you are, this is the kind I want you to look for when you make this cake.
Now, why am I even going on about the differences here? I think using the right kind of fruit here makes all the difference beween a really yummy cake and a soggy mess. If the fruit contains too much water it starts seeping out too early and the dough has no chance to bake whereas the juice you see in the picture above only started appearing 5 minutes before the cake was done (I couldn't have hoped for better fruit here). My aunt says the ones too early in the season are useless if you want to bake because they still have too much water in them but since I am still too focused on blueberries and blackberries when the first Zwetschgen start to arrive I am only relaying this.
Anyhow, what else can I tell you? The recipe is my great aunt's and most people in my family use her recipe because it's easy and more importantly - the dough to fruit ratio is perfect (lots of fruit and just enough dough).

I use water for this dough but you could also use some lukewarm milk if you want somewhat creamier results.

Zwetschgenkuchen
300g Flour
28g Fresh Yeast (or 2/3 of a pack of active dry yeast)
1 tbsp Sugar (for the yeast)
1 1/2 tbsp Sugar (for dough)
80g Fat (I use butter) melted and slightly cooled
2 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
A pinch of Salt
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2kg Zwetschgen

 Put the flour into a mixing bowl and crumble the yeast into the middle. Add the first tablespoon of sugar to the yeast and mix with just enough water to make a fairly liquid sponge.  Allow the sponge to bubble up for 20 minutes or so. If you are using active yeast, skip this step, add all the sugar later, and keep in mind that you'll need some water later.

Once the sponge is nice and bubbly, add the remaining sugar, fat, egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and knead the dough until it starts having that velvety feel and slight sheen to it that you notice when the gluten bonds are starting to properly develop. If you feel your dough is too dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. If you are kneading the dough by hand this will easily take 10 minutes. Don't give up too early because the dough will be a lot easier to handle later on.

Set the dough aside and let it proof at room temperature for about two hours or until it has doubled in size (you could also go for an overnight proof if that makes things easier for you, keep in mind that you'll have allow for the dough to come back to room temperature before baking it).

While the dough is doing it's thing, wash the fruit, then cut it in half, taking out the stones.
Preheat your oven to 180˚C

When the dough had doubled in size, knock it back slightly and roll it out to fit on a full baking sheet. Yes, in case you are wondering, the dough will be fairly thin. It's supposed to be.

Lay the fruit halves on the dough, skin down. You want them to overlap slightly (about 1/4 - 1/3) so you can fit more fruit onto the cake but don't go overboard - I wouldn't overlap more than 1/2 of the previous row, otherwise the cake tends to become somewhat soggy.

Let the cake sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so to allow the dough to puff up a bit more (super scientific descriptions going on today...), then place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the cake for 25-30 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool before you cut it into generous pieces. Freshly whipped cream works incredibly well with this cake and you could also add a crumble topping before baking the cake (but if I'm honest with you I would just keep the cake plain - that way you can focus on the taste of the fruit).

What's your favourite cake?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday Salon: The Protest

I am very excited about today's guest post - Brittany writes about taking a stand for who you are and what you believe in. Brittany is currently pursuing her PhD  at the University of St Andrews and she's one of those people who make me think that I shouldn't have left before finishing up my write-up. 
I find it frightening that, in a world where we have access to so much knowledge and information, people are judged not based on their choices and their actions but based on how they were born. I am not trying to offend anyone here, but to me that is like saying 'I don't think people who are not part of the majority race should be allowed to go to the swimming pool' (which then later develops into taking away more and more social rights, then legal rights and economic rights). Oh, but isn't that already happening again? Anyhow, I am awed by the strength it must take to stand up in a situation like the one Brittany describes below.

On April 15, 2012, Cardinal Keith O’Brien came to speak in St Salvator’s Chapel at the University of St Andrews.  His bigotry and narrow-minded views preceded him; in response to his previous statements, the University of St Andrews LGBT Society staged a silent, peaceful protest.

Have you read this man’s words? I have. And because of his words, his proclamations of abhorrence and intolerance, I went to the protest. How disappointed I was.  To set the scene: St Salvator’s chapel is extremely old (est. 1450).  The kind of old where pews are in vertical rows, people facing each other rather than an altar.  Ostensibly good for a protest – visibility central! Unfortunately, the members of the LGBT movement were seated in chairs at the back of the church, barely in the peripheral vision of the rest of the audience.

As we filed in and took our seats, the rest of the audience looked on with curiosity – the other students had probably heard of our protest, and those who hadn’t were surely tipped off by the solid-coloured t-shirts in various colours of the rainbow. Their staring was full of discomfort, perhaps from pity, or uneasiness with overt displays of pride, or both. It is already strange to be outcast by virtue of sexual orientation; even stranger to have this ‘casting out’ embodied in a seating arrangement, where we were virtually unable to look the rest of the audience in the eye, people trying and failing to subtly look at us from their peripheral vision.

I’m not one to case wanton judgement. From most of his speech, I could see that the Cardinal was indeed a scholar well versed in scripture. But near the end of his speech, his voice took a hard tone. And his words, his very manner, were so hard and full of hate. My blood was running hot with fury as the ‘normal’ listeners cast awkward glances and pitying looks, fully aware that the subtly virile comments were most certainly offensive to us.

It was the first time (mark it: the first time) that I had ever, ever felt ashamed, judged, or disrespected. A feeling caused by a leader – leader! –of an organization I was raised in, an organization my partner loves and forgives for its firm disbelief in her kind of love. A feeling caused by other members of the audience, who shifted uncomfortably in their seats or snuck glances at us from the corners of their eyes to see if there were any sort of overt reaction.

Now, I am notoriously strong-minded. I like to say what I think, and I like to say it loudly. And there, in that chapel, I considered all the things I would say to this little man after his speech finished. I debated lambasting the University of St Andrews for the role it played in propagating the staring and ridicule. I drew parallels in my mind of Rosa Parks, relegated to the back of the bus, and me, relegated to the back of the church. Oppressed for different reasons, but both the victims of injustice. I thought of Mrs. Parks, and how brave she was when she sat in that bus seat and believed in her equality to the white person who wanted her seat. I wanted to follow her example as best I could.
So I stood.

I turned to the boy next to me, a stranger. “Stand up with me. Really – stand up with me.” So we stood, the two of us; holding hands (my knees were shaking as people stared). My partner stood. And slowly, one by one, with an increasingly obvious scraping of chairs, everyone at the back of the chapel stood as the rest of the audience watched (I will admit to some small satisfaction that nobody seemed to be listening to the Cardinal’s words at this point).

We did not raise our voices; we did not cause a scene. We only stood silently, and somewhat ridiculously, in our rainbow t-shirts, a bright reminder of what we literally stood for.  We held hands with the person next to us (Stranger…if you read this…I’m sorry for my sweaty palms).  We were respectful, but pointed. With that small act of standing, thirty or so St Andrews students demonstrated their worth to a man who actively oppresses them with his ardent opposition to gay marriage, and to an audience who glossed over us in shame.

As the sermon ended, I turned to my left and whispered, “Thanks for being so brave and standing with me”.  The stranger looked at me for a moment, considering my words, and said only: “It felt good”.
Yes. It did.

Brittany Fallon

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chocolate, Pecan & Banana Slices


I could have called these brownies. But that wouldn't have been a fitting description. You see, last week someone brought some banana brownies along to eat after lacrosse practice and I wish I knew who did...but I seem to have forgotten everything about that day other than how amazing these brownies tasted. In all their gooey goodness.
So the idea of doing something similar was born. But as much as I love proper brownies (especially when they're still slightly warm and come with some ice-cream), I don't find them especially easy to handle or to transport or even especially nice to eat the next day when they have cooled down. This is why I made these, a slightly dryer, slightly denser, fudgier (is that even a word?!?), and infinitely easier to handle cousin of the chocolate brownie :)
Oh, and in case you are wondering why I weigh the banana - I have a tupperware container in my freezer that is home to slices of banana. Whenever I buy too many and they start becoming slightly over-ripe, I just cut them into 1-2cm slices (so they are easier to portion later on) and freeze them. That means when I decide to bake something with bananas or that I want to make banana soft-serve as I am walking up the stairs, I don't have to run to the supermarket but can just use the frozen ones.

Chocolate, Pecan & Banana Slices
125g Dark Chocolate
125g Butter
125g Sugar
125g Flour
125g Pecans, roughly chopped
200g Banana (mashed)
2 Eggs
1/4 tsp Fleur de Sel
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Preheat your oven to 175˚C and line a brownie tin (something close to 20x20cm will do) with baking parchment.
Melt the chocolate and butter. You can either be old-fashioned and use a bain-marie or, if you're lazy like me, just melt them in the microwave. I don't see why you shouldn't do that because the whole thing is going to be warm later on anyway as it is baking. I put things into the microwave and heat it 30 seconds at a time (shorter intervals towards the end) until nearly everything is melted.
Whisk until you have a smooth texture, then add the eggs and banana. Whisk until the biggest lumps of banana are gone.
If you like bourbon, add some now. I find booze makes everything better and the bourbon works really well with the banana flavour, and the chocolate flavour, and it will work really well with the pecans, too. Just saying...
Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla extract and make sure things are properly combined until you add the flour.
Once the flour is mixed in, add the pecans and pour the batter into the tin.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out relatively clean - you still want some moist crumbs but you don't want the batter to be relatively liquid anymore either.
Allow the cake to cool for a bit before you cut it into slices - it breaks quite easily while it is still warm.
Personally, I really like these with a glass of milk, or coffee, or tea.

What is your favourite sports-related food? Is there something you can't live without after a competition or do you have a post-training ritual or something similar?


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Pumpkin, Bacon, Onion and Cheese Pizza

Fall is nearly here. We are currently enjoying a few more gloriously sunny days but in the evenings you can already tell - not much longer until we can break out the winter cardigans, cook stews and soups and watch the leaves turn all kinds of amazing colours.
So, to put us into the mood, I made a pizza. With a flavour combination that just makes me smile. The pumpkin and bacon work really well together because the sweetness of the pumpkin brings out all those salty, slightly smoky flavours in the bacon. And together they make me feel like I'm in a cabin somewhere in the woods. Perhaps I should make some pumpkin soup sometime soon (with caramelised bacon sprinkled on top, perhaps).
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as I did and are anticipating all the great things about fall as much as I am.

Pumpkin, Bacon, Onion and Cheese Pizza
1/2 recipe Basic Pizza Dough
1/2 tbsp Flour
1/2 tbsp Butter
125 ml Milk
50g Grated Parmesan
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
2 Rashers Bacon
200g Pumpkin (I used 1/2 of a super cute tiny Hokaido one)
1 small Red Onion
1/2 Ball Mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 220˚C.
Heat the milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and keep it near boiling until the next step is done. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and allow the mixture to bubble away, letting it brown slightly. You're aiming for a golden colour, not something dark brown. Take the flour mixture off the heat and start stirring in the milk. Once the two are combined return the saucepan to the heat and allow things to thicken. Stir in the parmesan, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.
Cut the bacon into smaller pieces (slightly larger than an SD card - sorry, that's the only thing I have on my desk right now that is approximately the right size) and gently fry those pieces until the edges start to crispen up (not any longer, otherwise you'll end up with extra-crispy bacon pieces on your pizza.
Peel (if needed) and cut the pumpkin into slices. Most of my pieces were just under a centimetre thick. Cut the onion into 12 pieces (lengthwise) and dice the mozzarella.
Roll out the dough and lay it onto a lined baking sheet. Spread the cheesy white sauce onto the dough, then top with the bacon, pumpkin, onion, and mozzarella. You can grind some more pepper on top of everything if that is your kinda thing.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is brown in places and the crust looks done (as you can see on the picture above I was really hungry, gave up at some point and just took the pizza our of the oven a few minutes earlier than that....what can I say?! I had just come home from a run...it was slightly undercooked pizza or starvation).

What is your favourite thing about fall?

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