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Banananananana Cake

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

I really needed to use up some bananas tonight but I also really needed to use up an aubergine and some mozzerella. I wanted to make the layered aubergine/mozzerella bake but that would mean I couldn’t make the banana loaf cake due to them both using the same baking tin. After recalling the words of many a cook book, i.e. never tamper with a baking recipe, I decided to see what happened if I made the banana cake in muffin cases.
Mountains of banana cake Banana cake interior

Recipe notes:
This follows this recipe for banana cake from the Guardian. I used two very ripe bananas so increased the baking powder to 3 tsp. I also only sieved the flour, baking powder and spices once because I couldn’t be bothered and I used the all-purpose handblender rather than any whisk (attached or otherwise). The key difference, however, is in the actual “getting it into the oven” stage. In my version this reads:
Put the muffin cases into the muffin tray.
Spoon 6 tsp of the mix into each muffin case.
Bake at 200C for approx. 20 minutes.

I’m the first to admit that, technically, these are just more elaborate muffins than my usual rough muffin mix. I’m fairly sure this would also be an excellent light loaf cake as well. Now I need a recipe for Jamacian ginger cake…

Want One…

Monday, 4 September 2006

TigerThat’s the female tiger at Paighton Zoo. The chap and I went there on Saturday in order to see the Sumatran Tiger Cubs. The cubs turned out to be remarkably shy but we were lucky enough to watch them playing for a few minutes. Kirana, the female, was vicously and brutally attacking a fallen tree branch and, when that failed to fight back enough, her mum. Topan was rather more interested in playing with his food. They were exceptionally cute, especially the way they lolloped about. They were near impossible for me to get a photo of though.

Otherwise, it was mostly monkeys huddling together against the drizzle. And a red panda sulking in a tree, complete with a sign reading “The red pandas are normally up this tree”. For lunch, we went to the restaurant which was like a motorway service station canteen. The chap pointed out that not only did we stand out due to our indie jackets with badge-laden lapels but that we were the only people over 25 there without kids. It was some kind of damp hell. But worth it for tiger cubs at play.

Meanwhile…I made a pasta sauce. With no recipe or anything, and using up some leftovers. I’m presenting it here as it is a significant step forward in the How to Cook Like a Grown Up program.

3oz pasta, to be boiled whilst making the sauce
2oz butter
1/2 tsp beer mustard
6 or 7 chestnut mushrooms, chopped up
the last bit of a brie wedge
pinch of italian herbs
Melt the butter over a low heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add mustard and herbs. Cook for another minute or so, then add the chopped up brie. Stir constantly until the brie is all melted into the mix. Stir in cooked pasta.

OK, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but I’m a bit pleased that I looked at the fridge and the shelf and produced that without reference to any cookbooks.

Cooking for Grown-ups – the after-effects

Monday, 14 August 2006

I’ve seen you try to laugh at all of my bad jokes
And I’ve cooked you seven meals: six of them on which you’ve choked
I Love You, The Pipettes

The after-effect of the How to Cook Like a Grown-up training is that I am becoming ever more confident in playing with my food. Take the humble ‘American style’ pancake. This began as a careful following of a Nigella recipe (allowing for the fact I have to halve it to make the right amount for one or two people instead of a family). Within weeks it gained complexity, with a very ripe banana smooshed into the batter mix. Yesterday, it also gained some vanilla essence. The main disadvantage to making them is that we are rapidly using up my supply of Miel de Palma – either we track down the Canarian expat shop in London or I start begging friends who are off to Gran Canaria to bring me back large bottles of it from the airport. Of course, we could eat the pancakes with maple syrup but that seems to be taking a step away from the successful formula.

My tomato sauce base needs some rejigging to allow for the absence of onions whn cooking for myself and the chap: I need to find another way to bulk it out and I’m not sure what to try. I will persist though, since I’m finding the whole cooking thing actually enjoyable these days.

I’m also starting to consider various minor changes to the kitchen. It was custom-built to suit my requirements five years ago, but now I have new needs – like a little storage space for all the essences used in baking – and need to look at adding more shelves etc. This coming weekend is a free one (when I am not in London and the chap is not in Exeter) so I have been compiling a long list of Things To Do. If I manage even half I shall be impressed.

At some point I really ought to put in some hours writing as well.

What Are We Gonna Do Now?

Monday, 29 May 2006

Sunday eventually was re-ordered so that I did the alterations to the frock, cycled round to the supermarket and sat in their cafe to finish beta-reading Contractually Obligated Thing, came home, did the corrections and was on time for a meal in Cafe Paradiso in the evening. I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment, stalking down the street in my fab dress and tres chic heels with my continuing confusion of St Thomas with the Lower East Side. Luckily, I was not splashed by a bus bearing a large banner ad of myself.

Herself_NYC is over from, er, NYC so Law and I went for the nice meal and then today Law suggested I tag along on the trip to see Dartmoor Prison (where the real horror is the painted gnomes in the prison visitor centre’s shop) and have chips on Sidmouth seafront. So the day drifted away.

I’ve also, in a moment of insanity, offered to bake cookies for a friend’s birthday party. I made up half a batch of the crack cookie dough and spent the morning experimenting with it, then making Herself and Law try the results. Both the standard and the ginger-and-sugar-coated versions were a success and I have the remainder of the dough awaiting trials with white chocolate chips and cointreau. Then next weekend, I bake a full size batch of the best ones.

The trouble is, with COT handed in, I feel lost. There’s always this post-completion lull. All the projects that look so tempting when working, and which thus become great distractions from actually doing the writing, lose nearly all their appeal when the WIP is no longer there. Despite having a dozen things on the to do list (finish the baking experiments, get out the R43 and refresh my hair, sort out the garden, finish making notes from the overdue library book) I’m still sat in front of the PC thinking “What Are We Gonna Do Now?”

Morning Muffins & Tense Changes

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

muffins The Ladylark has turned me into some kitchen-freak. I will be reading Nigella Lawson cookbooks… I am reading Nigella cookbooks.

As part of the Cooking Like a Grown Up project (maybe we should write a book?), Naomi had me making fresh breakfasts. Me being a “does it have caffeine in it?” kind of breakfast person. The most common thing I make is pastries (get them ready, put in oven, go for shower, come back down and burn mouth on hot jam filling) but this week I’m home all week so I made muffins this morning, enough to last the week. These have forest fruits and a teaspoon of orange essence as well as vanilla essence to give them a bit of zip.

The cooling rack goes onto the hob like that due to an unfortunate incident involving brownies, Moosifer Jones, Mischa (the neighbour’s cat), and kitchen chaos. Admittedly, these muffins do not contain anything liable to get a cat into a “hungry? eat cake! hungrier! eat more cake!” feedback loop but I now automatically distrust cats and cooling baked goods. The hob is on the worksurface which is a good 6 inches higher than the table where the Great Brownie Hunger Incident took place.

I’m in the midst of a big rewrite of the Contractually Obligated Thing tonight, having pleaded with the editor for a few more days. Part of the rewrite involves shifting the tense in a couple of places, having read Rosina Lippi on tense changes and, when I reread the COT, seen that I could solve some of my unhappiness with it by tweaking the tenses. Also by seriously reworking the middle. I went to my usual lunchtime haunt today, sitting in the Boston Tea Party with a red pen. After 40 minutes, I’d only covered the first 4 pages of the 8 page story so I suspect tonight will be a late one…

Am I going mad, or is A Century of Elvis by Belle & Sebastian (hush, nos…I know they are evil indie Scots who have lured me in) about a cat? And I’m still mysteriously missing two Divine Comedy CDs (Casanova and Fin de SiĆ©cle) which I distinctly recall picking up from the desk in order to take back to the CD shelf downstairs…

eggs over easy

Sunday, 14 May 2006

I went to the big supermarket a mile from here just now, to stock up on stuff which I should have bought yesterday from Stokes, the local grocers, but didn’t for various reasons. I shudder at how much more the fruit and veg is, and how much further so much of it has come (why are the potatoes from Israel? Why?) but:

  • I was amazed how my only thing not from the fresh section was the frozen puff pastry for making the morning pastries. This is the influence of the How to Cook Like a Grown Up weekend, I think. My cupboards now contain all the dry essentials and I have zero urge to buy any ready-made things. Not that I had much urge before, I just wasn’t confident enough in my own cooking skills to know I can make a healthy meal from scratch in the same time as I’d be waiting for a readymeal to cook.
  • I can cycle back from the supermarket with all my food in my rucksack including a carton of eggs. I am rather chuffed I managed that. I also didn’t change gear on Old Vicarage Road whereas a month ago I used to have to go up one on the slight rise. But I think cycling a mile with a carton of eggs without breaking them is pretty damn cool.

I have rewarded myself with a fresh fruit smoothie. Banana, apple juice, orange juice, lime juice, ice and a dash of milk.

It’s sunny enough to cycle in a tee, pedal-pushers and little girly ballet shoes as well, which is deeply satisfying after a winter using bicycle clips to keep my cords out of the chain. It’s clothing which suggests cycling is fun and doesn’t require sepcialist equipment. I saw a speed cyclist on Old Vicarage Road and I’m sure the goretex top, tight leggings and special shoes are great for speed but they do suggest cycling is a specialist sport instead of a way of getting from A to B and back.

Ha! I am retagging all my music, and Housewive’s Choice (mp3) – a theme which practically screams “cycling along country lanes like the Famous Five” – came up. Thanks to being back on the desktop, I’ve reorganised the organically evolved filing structure this PC has to match the more structured filing system of the laptop. This means my music has moved from \samples\songs to \music (because when I first got this PC I didn’t keep music on it – the mp3 revolution happened afterwards) and therefore needs retagging into playlists. I have a surprising amount of ska and french yeh yeh.

I am also working on the Contractually Signed Thing. I’ve ended up going back and combining elements from two drafts and I might pull in some things from the third attempt as well when I get that far. Amazing how a deadline concentrates the mind.

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