Sunday, 30 May 2010

There are Times Not to Shush

The squeals of delight emitted from my six year old son, as he spotted my picture in the newspaper, brought the local newsagents to a standstill. He raced up and down the queue, crumpling the still unpaid for paper shouting look, look mummy’s famous. I didn’t shush him

Writing weekly for the Northampton Chronicle and Echo is just what I need to keep me focused. Developing the recipe for the paper is a process of perfection. I made the jam, wrote up the recipe, re made the jam, altered the recipe, repeated the process and to my mind perfected it.

The radio on the other hand is a whole different matter. The subject that I was invited to talk about was barbecuing, but what exactly what aspects we going to talk about? You can’t perfect a radio interview. It just happens. I decided that the best way to talk about the food was to actually recreate the food and just before I set off to the studio I set to barbecuing John’s lunch. Luscious lemon grass skewered sausages, Chicken breasts marinated in fresh marjoram and garlic, and of course a homemade beef burger with a large dollop of Spiced Tomato jam. Still warm as I arrived, the food went down a treat, and so did the the interview. BBC Radio Northampton's afternoon show with John Griff was just brilliant. He is a man with an appetite, brilliantly engaging, I found after a few minutes I really started to enjoy myself. In fact, it was over all too quickly and for those of you who know what a chattery person I am you will know my frustration on running out of time to talk. Luckily I have been invited back again on the 9th of July. The next subject is Picnics... I’ll have time to practice on the kids first.

For anyone who wants to listen to the Spot on The John Griff Show you have just 5 more days to catch it on i player click here - it starts after 13 minutes.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Accidental Jam

I abandoned the 2kg of rapidly softening tomatoes after an email arrived confirming that I am to be the new recipe colomist in the local paper. I was so excited about the first recipe that I dropped the jam in favour of spiced bread idea I have been considering. It was ok. Not the knock out I had been expecting. I dismissed this idea and thought I’d try out a similar based spicy cake on the Saturday Cricket crew instead.

What I tried to create was a fast batter cake based on Peshawari nan bread. Desiccated coconut, almonds, and spices mixed in. I was rushing. I am somewhat used to turning out culinary success at a wiz of the mixer, and I left the house armed with what I assumed would be a winner cake by 9am. Not this time. I arrived at the cricket club with the still hot cake. Inevitably the hungry chaps looked on in anticipation as I served..... spiced Gump. It was under cooked. I was mortified - luckily the man I was serving was charming. There is lesson here .... test before serving.

Returning it to the oven I baked it for a further 15 minutes despite knowing it was a heavy cake. Later people came along and ate the odd slice; some even said they liked it, to the point that made me wonder if I was perhaps being a little over sensitive. On the way home I called in to Cathinka’s. (Closest girlfriend.) She took one bite, and to my relief, the self doubt was confirmed. She delightfully pronounced it dull.

Sunday afternoon I was at a loss as to what would make east meet west. It had to be simple, charming, seasonal and not overly expensive. I set to on the tomato jam recipe. While the tomatoes were being peeled and the pressure of needing to use them abated, I had a eureka moment. I realised that by adding the spices into the jam the combination would serve to hit the right note. You can't really go wrong with Jam, however this mix was like when a major chord is played on the piano and it hits all the right notes simultaneously. Sweet, intense, tart, and aromatic I couldn’t wait to get it on to a mellow cheddar I had in the fridge.

Realising perhaps the best way to thank the Editor for taking a chance on me I shall send him a pot tomorrow. We’ve eaten two pots already so I think I had better get back to the kitchen and retest the recipe .. you know just in case..

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Scone of All Fears

I have picked up a book and started reading it. In true form I have been distracted from my mission to write today; however, it is not unrelated. The book is called Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob. I haven’t even got through the first 3 pages and I have started making notes.

Asking a simple question in the first few pages as to why I want to write a recipe book in the first few pages had me reaching for the kettle and a rather deep review of my motives. Well, there is the inevitable ego rush of “Gosh what a good cook am I.” Then there is the desire to pass on something to my children, not the book, but the approach to life. But the real reason is that I believe I have a unique expertise worth sharing. I am convinced.

Knowing my passion for food, I was asked recently, by a friend who owns a group of care homes, to help a boy, who, some time ago, was attacked and set on fire. He had shown remarkable resilience in his recovery and demonstrated some interest in food and cooking. She wanted this curiosity stimulated. So today I went to meet this young chap whose circumstances in life have failed him

My nerves have been up all week. I have been fretting about the inevitable feelings of over privilege and how much guilt I would experience for being fortunate. I needn’t have worried. These were the last things on my mind as I drove home.

We made cheese and caraway scones and an impromptu bacon pizza.

What is remarkable is the way in which food affects us. It stimulates comforts, nourishes and fulfils us, and I am not talking about the eating of food. I am talking about the making of food.

The pride on this lad’s face as he set out his culinary achievements was priceless. I can only imagine from the sounds of the kids gathering around the table that the eating of it was even better. As I left luscious wafts of baked cheese and oregano filled the house. My parting thoughts were not as I had feared; they were simply ...what a pity I can’t stay for lunch.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Test Cricket

According to Wikipedia, Test cricket is generally considered the ultimate test of playing ability and endurance in the sport.
I suppose testing a recipe first thing on a Saturday morning, with three children and a husband to breakfast and get out in time for Cricket could be considered the ultimate test of my recipe and endurance too – So a fitting blog title for my 100mph Batter cake.

Did it work? Well yes and no. The 100mph bit did work. I literally threw it together.

The main problem was the reduction of 14 plums, bought especially, to just 2 overnight. It’s difficult to get cross when I have an open fruit bowl policy in the house, and the culprits are no doubt evenly distributed. So I had to add in emergency rhubarb. This mix worked.

Arriving early in the morning with homemade cake inevitably elicits an oooh or an ahh which makes me feel like a fraud. Each time these appreciative noises are cast my way I have to explain that it is not actually impressive to throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, wiz then bake. Believe me this is not simply your classic British modest self depreciating response. It really is that straightforward.

I was warmly greeted this morning with expectant enthusiasm from two non breakfasted chaps. It’s just the sort of motivation I need. I am unable to resist feeding hungry people. Well not just hungry people.. anyone willing to eat really. I realise that I get as much pleasure from watching someone enjoy food as I do cooking it. Good job really... the alternative image of a mardy cook unwilling to share the grub is somewhat worrying.

So the batter cake needs retesting.

I wonder if the cricketers would mind eating some more next week?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Shoot now, Eat later

Tidy clean, tidy clean, cook cook cook. Getting the opportunity to write anything this week so far has escaped me. Although the photo shoot went really well on Tuesday, the preparation and the clearing up afterwards was significant. I acknowledge my husband publicly at this point for his help. As I promised to honour and obey in my wedding vows, I recall he promised to wash up and skivvy.. no really .. I am sure he did.

It’s been about five years since I last did any photography with a very talented and artistic chap called Tony Hardacre; I find him as dynamic and responsive as ever. Thank goodness... because when he arrived to see the piles and piles of food ready waiting to be shoot he looked a little apprehensive. This look turned into a brief moment of fright as I presented a list of 14 different recipes that I wanted to get done in just over 2 hours. I was convinced for a moment that he was going to grab his camera and make for the door at speed. Luckily the instinct to eat is great, even in alarmed photographers ... it must have been the delicious smell of roasting chicken, fresh baked bread and quiche that persuaded him to stay and we got to straight to it.

If you could do a photo shoot at 100 miles an hour this was it. I am tickled pink with the results, and even Tony admitted that despite the initial shock at the speed of the whole process there is some serious “life” in the pictures. I am a firm believer that controlled pressure hones your instincts and the focus results in spectacular work in life, and in the kitchen. This certainly was the case with these shots. Thank you Tony.

I shall put some up with each new post as tasters .. but sadly I will have to stay diciplined and save my favourites for the book ... ahhh the anticipation.....

Tony’s website

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Too Much Cardamon makes a girl sad...

I shouldn’t be disappointed. But I am. The cardamom in the cake knocked out the Rhubarb. Yes yes.. there were plenty of compliments and even a helping of seconds but the trio combination was cardamom heavy. The cake should have been lighter and it was a mistake to add cardamom into the chocolate topping .. I guess I got carried away. Don’t get me wrong .. it wasn’t disgusting .. it just didn’t have the balance I was hoping for back to the cooker to do another one.

I am thinking as I am writing. I really need to get some testing sheets written and tasting sheets. If they are anonymous then tasting sheets I think will give me a better response..people are just too polite to say .. Yeah you are right it’s not great. As I am asking of the cardamom is too much then it is something which may have been fine until I asked.

So I shall be up later starting on the tasting sheets and a standard testing sheet for the recipe testing.

Also I have bought a book on how to write recipes called the recipe writers hand book by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann. I have only just flicked through it so I am looking forward to reading it later .. perhaps in the bath. I wasn’t initially taken with what I read .. it looks tedious.
The Allotment is just 50 yards from where the Birthday party was held so I dashed up and picked more Rhubarb. My 6 year old son very kindly took a photo ..well actually he took several pictures and most were of my nostrils .. so I put him on a chair and bent down to show off my posy of stems.

The geraniums as decoration looked lovely.. I will use that idea again with the photo shoot on Tuesday

Breakfast Muffin and Cricket

I’ve been working with Rhubarb. With the Cricket season in my two eldest are cricket mad. My son especially .. I almost have to prize the ball out of his hands even whilst asleep. The Cricket Club the children attend is just exceptionally good, and with a wide selection of Breakfast deprived parents staying to watch I have a captive audience to try out a breakfast muffin.
I threw together a batch of what was initially going to be just a Rhubarb Muffin .. to find that I have slaughtered my poor plants. There was no time to dash to the allotment .. so I picked the only stem that was anywhere near ready to be used and threw in a pear to make up the shortfall.
Now I do have a sweet tooth .. so to me the muffins lacked in sweetness... but to every one I asked it was deemed sweet enough.. too much sugar it the morning is not great.

I have put together the finishing touches in just minutes for this afternoons cake and whilst having time to grab a cup of tea and Blog . My husband has come into the kitchen and taken a picture .. which I shall share. .. I shall post tomorrow regarding the cake with cardamom .. I am fretting now .. I think it may be too sweet... we shall see!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Mmm Cardamom

Today’s recipe has been a synch to write. I could make this with my eyes closed .. however, as easy as you may think it is, transcribing a recipe to paper it does take time.
My thrill of the day today is the jam recipe. My non jam making sister in law took to see if the instructions were clear. Needless to say it was a success. However I missed out a few important bits like when to put the lids back on the jars.
Mum popped in and I read her the recipe, which resulted in several alterations. Certainly reading something out loud really makes a difference. Sister in law is tickled pink with the jammy result ... as is my brother. Note to brother ... You OWE me .. I got your wife to make Jam! (I shall milk this later. (
Friday night and husband will be walking in the house any minute. Oh boy is he going to be cross when the house smells of cardamom and baking are wafting through and he realises that I have frozen the cake and haven’t started supper yet. I am in the doo .. So I must dash and work out a way to feed them all .. and quickly at that. Mmm Cardamom.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

One Year to Write a Recipe Book

It is Thursday 6th of May 2010 and yesterday I decided to stop work and write a recipe book.

Why?  Well I suppose that I just feel that there must be more to life. It's a huge financial decision and my husband and I have talked through the cost of doing this. This is going to be the biggest gamble I've ever taken and I wonder where I will end up?

So this is the very start of my adventure. I have butterflies and twizzles beading around my tummy. I have no idea what the future holds .. and what the inevitable ups and downs will be of taking this idea and turning it into reality.

Actually I have no idea where to start. I bought a book about writing a recipe book that and read that blogging will improve my chances of getting published. So I googled the word blog, found this here Blogger site and here I am. Am I improving my chances of getting published?

Is it working ?

What made me decide to to write a recipe book ?
Well the thought process started as I was watching Sophie Dahl.. or rather standing up and shouting, whilst pointing at the television much to everyones surprise in the room - she totally maddened me with her terrible kitchen skills. I told my friend Gill, who then said hoiw strange I should be maddened by her as she found me rather like Sophie. Well that stopped me dead in my tracks! - Fortunately she went on to explain that her comparison was due mainly to the fact that I am so bubbly - and that is true. I could see her point then.

Yes Sophie's style is cute, some of her recipes are lovely and she clearly has an army of helpers, however, I know am far better cook than she is. ( Having trained and worked as a chef from age 18 - 24.) So if she can do it then certainly so can I. Also I have the added benefit of understanding real life. I have three children under seven. No assistants. no photographer, no cleaner and my fan on the oven is broken .. so I ran the idea past my sister, Fleur. Her main reservation is that I am far too much like Nigella. She suggested that I dumb it down a little. Yes yes I can see that .. yo yo recipes in the hood darling.

According to what I have read so far I have to find a publisher, an agent, develop recipes, test them, write recipes, and then become well know enough for people to want to find out more and buy the book

I have to come up with original dishes. Trust me this is going to be fun and frustrating. I have a photographer Tony coming to take photos of the first five recipes on Tuesday, he is coming along as a favor.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I am giving up a whopping salary in something I am really good at, but since the very first moment I decided to do this it felt right. I know this is going to be a success. I can feel it. I can change my world. 

However a dash of this a splash of that, thrown in a chug and ounce and a couple of grams, is not going to work here. It’s about precision. .. not my forte. I am creative. An artist in the kitchen. It’s instinct. How do you write down the instinct?

I know that in reality I am actually writing this to myself right now .. but if anyone else is reading this .. I will keep posting.