Friday, 23 November 2012

Time to give thanks...

It’s traditional at this time of year (if you’re American) for families to get together and give thanks for the good things in their lives. Rather than bleat on about Strictly (although will give thanks that Richard and Erin finally left – liked him, tolerated him, tired of him!) I thought I would take this moment to give my own thanks for things I am grateful for. So, in no particular order, I am incredibly thankful for my lovely husband and loopy children, Jasper Fforde books, fluffy slippers, dodgy celebrity reality shows (yay, I’m a Sleb is back), chocolate covered popcorn, sleeping more than 4 hours at a stretch (thank you!!) and finally Christmas.. only just over a month to go – yeeha!!
So this week, in celebration of all things Thanksgiving, I am going to attempt Pumpkin Pie – I think this could break me… although the Whoopie Pies almost did. Good golly – they went sooooo wrong, not slightly wrong but let me show you in picture form:

Which ones do you think are mine? Yup – mine are the flatter than pancakes, nowhere near enough cream, stuck to the plate disasters to your right! I don’t even know where I went wrong which is the sad thing – I followed the recipe but as soon as I started to put them on the baking tray, I was clear something had gone horribly wrong. Believe it or not, and am thinking more ‘not’, they tasted ok and I think if they’d turned out right, I would be a big fan. I am going to blame my cold which prevented me making them on Sunday like normal and having to rush job them on Tuesday night. Maybe some time, far away in the future, I might reattempt but will walk away for now!
So, pumpkin pie eh!! My recipe calls for tinned pumpkin – really can’t see that getting stocked in the UK so am going to have to roast and puree one. Given that Halloween was three weeks ago, am a bit worried I might not find one but can always use butternut squash if all else fails? I have never had it so hopefully all my tasters will be just as virginal and not know if it’s going hideously wrong!
I would like to take this moment to say well done to Theresa Nelson from Versailles (in America rather than the French city) who won this year’s bake off at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest. It is also the home of the biggest ever pumpkin pie which was baked in 2010 and weighed in at an absolutely massive 3698 kilos – check out that bad boy! Much kudos to the team and thank you to the official site of the New Bremen Pumpkinfest for the picture!
In a Thanksgiving stylee and about as cheesy as it gets:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
Robert Burns


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Whoopee – it’s Whoopie Pie time!

Who would have believed that the beautiful Kimberley would be in the bottom two of Strictly – not I, that’s who! I am guessing everyone thought she was safe but makes me sort of sad that the ‘great’ British public would rather vote for Michael Vaughan and Richard Arnold – what is up wit’ dat? Obviously, from the two at risk, the right one went home (and I wasn’t sad to see the back of Fern’s overhanging back skin – she looked amazing but that dress didn’t do her many favours, to be honest!) but Michael is still in it – there is no justice! I am embarrassed to admit that my favourite was Nicky from Westlife – he just sold it and I don’t want to like it, partly because he never seems to thank his partner or acknowledge anything she does but mainly because my husband thinks Karen is smoking! She did look gorgeous on Saturday though <sigh>
Right, empanadas! I’m not quite sure what went wrong with my pastry, but something definitely did in that it was elastic and kept pinging back when I tried to roll it out so it was too thick when I finally made them and dry and just not right L The filling was pretty yummy and they were demolished by my husband and daughter but I think (well, I know) I need to work on it. I think pastry is one of those things you need to practice so of course, this week I am avoiding it like the plague and going back to my favourite – chocolate and coconut!
Whoopie pies (or BFO’s – Big Fat Oreos!) are apparently the next big thing to hit us from America – I’m not too sure about that but they sound pretty good and seeing as they may be considered either a cookie, pie or a cake, pretty much covers all my favourite kinds of sweet things! The addition of coconut into the cream just makes me salivate and so I am going for broke! They are apparently the official state ‘treat’ of Maine – see, that’s why I love America, each state has an official treat in addition to the state dessert, which in Maine’s case is Blueberry Pie. I think I could live in Maine, well except for the horrendously cold winters - minus 50 has been recorded - the crazy hicks and bigfoots that live in the forests and the fact no-one else seems to live there, the Northwest Aroostook territory has an area of 2,668 square miles (6,910 km2) and a population of 27!
So this week sees two big events both on Friday; Children in Need is taking place and Aviva has been lucky enough to be selected to host a call centre, taking pledges and donations across the night. It promises to be a lot of fun as I am gutted I have to miss it… but, the reason I can’t be there is we have a big family wedding which is really exciting. Almost ten years in the making, it is going to be the first occasion when we get proper dolled up as a little family of four – my daughter has got silver mouse shoes and my son has a tie with skulls on, we are going to look ace. So, in honour of my lovely Brother in Law and future Sister in Law:

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

Dr Seuss.



Friday, 9 November 2012

Empanadas or bust!

Another week, another person exits Strictly Come Dancing and this week, I can’t say I was sad to see Colin and Kristina go. When Kristina first joined the Strictly team, she blew me away – she was exciting and ‘gave it’ more than any other professional (except maybe Brian Fortuna who partnered her in those first couple of series!) but I have found my soft spot for her slowly hardening up.. I guess it’s perhaps a hangover from all her bad partners, but I find her routines are very ‘Kristina’ focussed and don’t showcase her partner enough! Ah well, she’s gone again for this year – shame Colin had to go though, now there was a man whose voice I could listen to all night!

Good grief – the Plum Pudding wasn’t a disaster by any means, but it took us almost 17 hours to steam the thing… 17 hours! Our house was like a roman baths and because it also turned into this enormous thing, we didn’t have a pan big enough to steam it in so used our brand new wok – which is now wrecked! I honestly didn’t expect it to be such a hassle (my poor husband was up until 4,30 in the morning, topping up the water, checking to see if it was finally cooked!). I am most definitely having myself a slab on Christmas day, even though I’m not actually a big fan – give me chocolate log every time! Sorry – no picture this week, but in it’s current state, it’s just a big pudding basin covered in cling film so not much to see!

On to this week and as mentioned last week, I haven’t done much savoury baking – I certainly have a sweet tooth and for me anyway, that’s the joy of baking. However, I thought I might take the plunge and so have decided to try and create some empanada’s. These lovely little Portuguese pockets* sound fairly straight forward although I will be heading into the world of home made pastry.. I’ve always used shop bought before (why wouldn’t you!) but it’s a skill I need to perfect if I’m ever going to start banging out quiches and tartlets and pies!

As always, like to do a bit of digging around my chosen bake and who’d have though it, but there is a province in Argentina which hosts its own empanada festival! The Tucaman national festival of the empanada is held every September and has quite strict rules – for example, the meat filling must be minced into 3mm pieces! – but sounds like a great excuse for a party! You can even go on the Ruta Empanada Tucumana, a tour around several big Tucaman cities eating nothing but juicy, spicy meat pies – yum!

To sign off this week and keeping in the party spirit, I love this!

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”
J R R Tolkien

* They come from all over as this entry shows but I liked the way Portuguese Pockets sounded!

Friday, 2 November 2012

He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum…

Well, it wasn’t a surprise to see Sid Owen leave Strictly as he’s been a little bit dodgy throughout.. I think he was one of those to have a lucky dance early on but then never fulfilled that potential. Not overly helped by Ola’s choreography although she should stop apologising as if she’s the reason they were voted off – he was bad and that’s why, Ola! Anyway, it must be Michael’s time to go really soon. I dislike him intensely for no reason at all except he was sooo very bad and is still in it and yet, Johnny Ball went out first L

My millionaire shortbread was a bit of a winner, even if I say so myself. The biscuit could’ve been crumblier but was nice and the caramel and chocolate were about right – shame I can’t quite get the hang of marbling! It went down well, especially with my son who couldn’t get it in quick enough… he is a true Stewart

Talking of which, look at this beauty! Obviously, during a rather odd time in the 70’s, I penned this lovely seasonal cookery book. Reading through it, it’s really rather dated and I appear to have a slight fascination with game and innards, but perhaps I will find something to bake in there; I haven’t done much savoury baking.

So this week I have nooo pressure (?) as I will be making the Plum Pudding for the family Christmas. It’s a pretty big affair too, there’ll be 9 of us I think. Unfortunately, this does mean I won’t be able to let you know how this turns out for some time yet. But, I will of course post a picture.
I know Christmas is still quite a way away but I do like getting into the spirit, whatever the occasion! Halloween this year was extra special as I spent it with two wonderful women I don’t get to see enough. I wish I’d dressed up as the kids looked fabulous – as did the amazing hosts. And I have been buying lots of Christmas presents this week too which has got me very excited and wishing it wasn’t quite so far away. I do have four family birthdays between now and early January as well as a very exciting wedding so I expect the next couple of months will be a bit of a whirlwind! Yes J

I didn’t realise there was quite such a religious reason behind the humble Xmas Pud but apparently it must be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction – thank you, Wikipedia! It did remind me that in my childhood, my mum always put 20p’s into the pudding. I am sooo doing this as it’s is believed to bring wealth in the coming year. Our lottery syndicate won £72 today, so I am thinking we’re only going up from there!
Right then, time to go chop prunes to soak in tea and bung loads of other dried fruit into beer and stuff (this might take overnight but that’s bearable - it takes 8-10 hours to steam this thing, that’s my Sunday sorted!). All in the name of food, but then again…

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food”

George Bernard Shaw