Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paris! Paris! Paris!

Image Source

I am really excited. And ever so slightly nervous.

Tomorrow I am going to Paris. By myself. On my birthday. And I LOVE it.

Being in Paris. By myself. On my birthday. Feels a little romantic and very self-indulgent. Sometimes I like to be alone to ponder the world and absorb my surroundings and I totally intend on doing that in Paris. I'm also realistic though in that being by yourself in an all new city, where you don't speak the language, will probably result in some serious loneliness. So luckily my friend Abee is coming to meet me on Friday. So it's just one night in Paris. By myself. On my birthday.

I shall tell you all about it on my return. Jusque là. x

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pancake Schmancake

On Tuesday night, in honour of Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day, I made pancakes. Or more correctly 'griddle cakes' as these were officially called. Said cakes did not make me happy.

I should've known this would happen.

Pancakes and I are friends, but only from a distance. We're more acquaintances. Definitely not besties. You could, at a push, say we run in the same circles. Maybe.

It's not that I don't like pancakes. Au contraire! I love them! But eating them and loving them is different to making them and loving them. I'd like to be better friends but every time we try to work together it turns to custard. No, not custard, custard is good. These pancakes were sad.

I followed an old recipe (2008 is old from an online perspective) from The Wednesday Chef. Now don't get me wrong, I love The Wednesday Chef and my dreary pancakes are no reflection of her talents, tastes or her recipe. They are a reflection of my lack of ability to handle pancakes. I just struggle with them.

Tonight this one even taunted me. Do you see the face? Do you? It is mocking me. It's beady little eyes saying 'why bother? You know you'll never win'. Evil pancake.

Anyway. The only redeeming quality of these pancakes were the chunks of chocolate and sour cherries I added to jazz them up a bit. I don't think these additions were why they didn't work - they were why they were eaten. Without the chocolate and cherries I may not have bothered (to eat the three that I did). They were soggy, sappy, sad messes of pancakes. A wimpy, weak, flaccid example of cake made in a pan. That may sound a little harsh, but it's how I felt at the time.

I really wanted to get on board with Pancake Day but for me it was just a sad reminder that I can't cook them. I think I've had success once. Once. With a buttermilk based recipe. But I am determined not to let this get me down! I will find the perfect pancake/griddle cake recipe. Because pancakes are one of my favourite breakfast (or dessert, or even dinner) items and I don't want there to be beef between us. Here's how I'm going to find this 'perfect' recipe.

Tactics to be implemented by me:
  • Use a better frying pan - it may not have helped that I was using an electric pan that turned itself off once it reached temperature. Why would it do that? Who wants a pan that turns itself off once it's hot enough? That's just silly.
  • Letting my batter sit for at least 30mins before cooking. I'm not sure why I think this is a good move but it feels right.
  • Different buttering/greasing options - butter, no butter, oil etc and also wiping away the butter from the pan and adding fresh butter between each round of pancake frying.
I'm going to attempt these recipes:
And any other interesting recipes I may find along the way. During my research I also found I'm not the only one who makes terrible pancakes - thank you Ms Humble for making me feel a little bit better.

So it's game on pancakes! Batter up. (I couldn't help a pancake pun! There were SO many to choose from. The pun possibilities almost made my poor pancake experience worthwhile). I'll leave you with a half decent picture of Tuesday's sad pancake attempt...this very average photo makes them look better than they were. Raspberries make anything look tasty.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What I've done. Not what I'm going to do.

I've had a really full on week this week. Or maybe I just think it's been full on. There's a lot going on in my head and quite a few plans that need to be made. So I've been putting off writing this week's post. All this 'going on in my head' has meant not much time for working on ideas and what to write about. This makes me feel bad.

Writing, and this blog, is something that I want to take seriously but I definitely feel the pressure to write well and to write something that means something. If you know what I mean. I don't just want to put out crap or a half-arsed post. I'm not saying it'll never happen but if I can avoid it, I'd like to try.

Because of my apparent limited brain capacity (I'm probably at about 90% right now so it's pretty chocca) I've taken some advice from one of my favourite people and one of my hands-down best friends, Abee aka Kitten. At the time she told me this advice (yesterday on the train back from Brighton) she was actually talking about advice that was given to her and her own situation. I don't think she realised she was indirectly giving me advice too, but I'm glad she did! The advice was to take some time to acknowledge what you've done, what you've achieved, instead of constantly looking at what needs to be done. And forever writing 'to do' lists. Lists are great but they can also make you feel stressed out when you take a look at them and all the tasks seem a little too daunting. Too many lists = a lot to do. Simplify your lists people.

When I look back at what I've done in the past year, I feel overwhelmed and a little amazed. Sometimes I wonder if I'm also possibly a tad crazy for trying to squish so much into such a small amount of time. I'm at once tired and energized, but also happy and strangely satisfied. I'm proud of myself for doing so many big, scary things and I'm really glad that I did them.

This is my last year in a nutshell:

I moved to a new city and re-connected with someone I love. I started a new job, I nurtured a passion (cakes!). I then left that 'new' city, quit that 'new' job, and once again dis-connected (location only) from that someone I love.

I moved countries - halfway across the world! I traveled with my mum and sister through France, Switzerland, Italy and Venice. I loved Venice! I loved it all! I drank Champagne in Champagne, I ate fondue in Gruyere, I went to the top of one of the Swiss Alps, I wandered cobbled streets in Bergamo (so pretty) and got lost in the little streets of Venice. I had a charming old Venetian man spontaneously serenade my sister and I with Opera in the middle of the day while watching the Regata Storica. I messed up the video, but can replay it in my head.

My family lost a loved one (not an achievement but something to most definitely be acknowledged because she was very special). This person was also a motivator in making me do many of the things I've done this year - mostly travel and I hope she is happy with what I chose to do! I think she would be.

I got to know my big, loud, fun and fiercely loyal family in London - which is very cool! And I made connections with them that I hope will always be there. (Girls, you know where to find me).

I started another new job, this time in an all new industry (cakes!). I learned loads of new skills, and am still learning. I met some people who I hope I will always stay in touch with because they made my transition to London that much easier and entertain, inspire and encourage me just by being themselves (Zoe, I'm talking about you)!

I also gained a new family back home in New Zealand, thanks to my mum's impending nuptials! And a very special new family member in America - our little Lilah Boo.

It's been a busy year, a completely FULL year. And I'm not going to lie, I am tired. There are loads of other things that have happened that aren't mentioned above and of course, there are always things to come. Exciting things. Scary things. But I'm not going to think about those right now. Right now I will say 'this is what I have done' and leave it at that. Tomorrow I can look at my lists. x

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A little sweetness

Happy almost Valentine's Day everyone! I'm away from my Valentine this year so have no one to bake for, although I may still make some cookies. As my little tribute to the day devoted to lovers I've gathered together a smattering of some of the prettiest, dreamiest, most Valentine's appropriate sweet treats I've stumbled upon on cake blogs recently. Oh and of course Pinterest which I am now officially addicted to...thanks Gigi for the invite!

A completely and suitably indulgent Chocolate Chip Cherry Cheesecake from Raspberri Cupcakes (new blog discovery, yay!)

Balsamic Strawberry Butter Cake topped with macaron hearts, again from Raspberri Cupcakes.

This super sweet cake with a secret from I am Baker. This was too clever not to post. And not as difficult as I thought it would be (says she who hasn't tried it). 

A gorgeous, soft and fluffy ruffle cake from My Sweet and Saucy.

This beautiful, dark, (and dare I say it for risk of sounding ridiculous? I do, I do dare...) SULTRY, Oreo & Olallieberry Cake from Desserts for Breakfast. I had to google what an Olallieberry was.

And finally this saucy little Pink Meringue cupcake with Raspberry Curd from Martha (the lady with her finger in every occasion pie possible).

Have a happy Valentine's Day everyone. May your day be filled with sweetness and a whole lotta spice! x

P.S. I just found another fantastic hidden heart cake example over at Milli's blog. Check out her work, she is very talented. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Borough Markets Adventure

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the famous food haven that is London's Borough Market. My companion was Kristy, my cousin who gets (almost) as excited by food as I do and is up for trying anything, making her the perfect food market accomplice.

As soon as I crossed the road from London Bridge station the smell of barbecue and Spanish food hit me. "It smells like meat! Charred meat!" I said. I was quite excited.

We had a great day ambling around the different market areas, tasting a ridiculous amount of cheese and just devouring food in general, all while taking in the colours, the people, the cultures, the traditions. There were so many gorgeous, vibrant picture opportunities. I tried to capture them as best I could but (disclaimer) I don't think my photography skills did this place justice...

The Borough Market has a long history, having been the location of a food market in different shapes and forms since the 13th century. Given this, the market has a rich, bustling, heritage feel to it and there is a massive variety of food available - including fully feathered pigeons if that's your thing.

There are also some gorgeous fruit and vegetable stalls. I think fruit and veg stalls were the winners on the day when it came to displaying their produce. They have the benefit of colour to work with and the stalls at Borough Market made good use of this, piling the produce high and wide. Like with these oranges.

And all these tomatoes.

And these perfect cabbages.

We tried cheese and bought lard(!) from this happy man below. The lard was, as bad as it might sound to some, pork fat sold in paper thin strips like prosciutto. We were dubious about it and were standing there discussing it's existence when this moustachioed man kindly offered us a taste. We were both sold on the spot. It had a strong, salty, smokey bacon flavour and it was really, really good. He suggested we serve it on hot toasted bread so that it melts into the bread like butter. How could we say no to that?

If buying lard isn't your thing, there are numerous pastries to try. The best I had were some tiny caneles, little doughy pastries with a tender custardy centre and a thick caramelised crust. They didn't look like much but they tasted incredible and I intend on doing more research on these little gems. If you find them and eat them!

My final purchase was a loaf of the pillowy yet crusty Rosemary and Olive Oil bread that you can see below. I spent the next few days eating it with my Aunt's Parsnip Soup and fresh basil, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and olive oil. I was a happy girl.

If you love food and love history, a visit to the Borough Markets while in London is essential. We went on a Saturday and it does get quite busy after midday so I'd recommend getting there around 10am if you can. This way you have a little more time to peruse and chat to the vendors. It's still a great vibe once it gets busy though.

The markets are open Thursday 11am - 5pm, Friday 12pm - 6pm and Saturday 8am - 5pm. You'll find all the information you need here. Enjoy!

P.S. One last photo, just because I think this girl looks cool.