Brownies

Brownies

There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to thenibble.com brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.

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Egg & Chips

Eggs

You don’t need to say a word.  I know exactly what you’re thinking.  Glamorous.

But you know what, I don’t know of anyone who has start from scratch, home made food, seven days a week.  Of course that could be because I don’t know the right people, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that everyone likes an easy to do meal every now and again.

Unfortunately, the egg I prepared for my own plate, decided that it would perform an act trapeze artists would be proud of, and flung itself, with vigour and gusto, onto the floor at the precise moment that I was extrapolating the other eggs, (fried, naturally), from the pan.

Thank goodness the chips were those oven ones.  And just as a little aside, isn’t it amazing how a cup of tea always tastes extra specially splendid with chips?

And finally, joining the plate, was a thick slice of buttered bread.

Quite frankly, who could ask for anything more?

Magic and Sparkle

decorated Christmas Cake

So here it is, at last, the day before the day.  With only one more sleep to go until the big man flies by, we are ensconced, with family, in a place none of us have ever been to before, but that has enough comfortable sleeping spots for everyone to fit in.

We have released the Christmas Cake from it’s catacomb of greaseproof paper and tin foil, and duly covered it in the requisite marzipan and icing. Then, just for good measure, we have sprinkled a little edible glitter on the top.

Of course we haven’t, as I write this, managed to wrap all the presents yet, but then it has become tradition for himself and I to leave some wrapping for the dying embers of Christmas Eve.  I remember one year I was still wrapping presents on Christmas Day as the family were walking up the drive, which does somewhat eradicate the notion of being ‘ready for Christmas’.

To be honest, I’m never quite sure what ‘being ready’ means, although I must have been asked the question more than fifteen times over the last week.

To which I always reply, ‘no, not quite’ and raise my eyes skyward.   It’s a tradition.

Meanwhile, the wee boy has managed to spend the whole day, once again, in his pyjamas, whilst son #1 is experimenting with various drinks combinations, most of which include pepsi – a drink he is only allowed on special occasions – all of which, in my humble opinion, taste vile.  I don’t however, have the palette of an 11 year old boy.

The chocolates, nibbles and various other food items we don’t buy any other time of year, have all been opened, and we are slowly devouring our way through the lot.

If we’re not eating food, we are talking about it.

Gradually, throughout the day, we have sashayed from drinking tea, to coffee, to something that sparkles.

And so the magic begins.

Only one more sleep to go…

Sharon

Sharon

If you took a look at this piece of fruit, would you say it looked like a Sharon?  No, me neither.  Not that I particularly have an idea in my head about what a Sharon should look like, but still, it’s not the most immediate name for this glorious fruit.  That said, I absolutely love the fact that this wonderful orange sphere has, as one of it’s many moniker’s, the name Sharon.  It makes me smile every time.  Anyway…

I don’t know about you, but for some reason I find it more challenging to eat my quota of fruit when it’s cold.   To be honest, I naturally veer towards cake at any time of year, as it compliments tea so well, which is wonderful all year round. So often, autumnal fruit needs working on before you can eat it, which can be off putting when it’s dark – hmmm, not too sure I can truly justify that explanation, but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that it is perfectly logical…

As it becomes more of a chore, mentally, to chose fruit over cake, I have found that you need to put in place a couple of tricks to make it all look more inviting.  And this is where Sharon, or Persimmon to some, comes to the fore.   You have to be patient with Sharon fruit, so buy a few and let them sit in a bowl, ripening for a few days. As they sit there, they will gradually cajole your mind into thinking that they look rather inviting as a snack.  Unlike the pear which will suddenly go off and become inedible when you nip out to the shops, Sharon will continue to glow a deeper orange, gradually.  Like a well lit fire.

Even when they are squidgy to touch, Sharon never tastes over ripe, in fact the sweetness is glorious.   I have even read somewhere that Sharon can help stave off heart problems, which is interesting, as normally, fruit which naturally sugars when it ripens, such as bananas and grapes, are seen as the devil incarnate to health.

For those of you who may have seen Sharon, but not yet tasted the fruit, I highly recommend you pop down to the grocers and get yourself a couple.  They are in abundant supply at the moment which usually means they have not been force grown and are therefore in much more of their natural state.  I have to say, I eat the skins as well, just like an apple.   However, similarly, just like an apple, the skin can often be a little tough and bruised, and so, in this instance, it is best to peel them.

However you chose to devour your Sharon fruit, the wonderful thing about them is their soft fruitiness which accompanies perfectly, their beautiful colour.   So evocative of summer.  So complimentary to autumn.

Why not give them a try and let me know how you get on?

Apple Picking

photo (97)

I am feeling a little fuzzy today.  And consequently, despite it being our “me and you’ day, the wee boy and I have just done small things which don’t take that long, so that each trip can be interspersed with a sit down and a cup of tea.  That is what happens when you venture out in the evening with loved ones on a ‘school night’.

I would like to say, in my defence that I came home at a reasonable hour, but made the mistake of watching, and then listening, to the Scottish referendum results.  It was possibly a once in a lifetime event though, which is my justification.  But these decisions have consequences.  Hence the fuzziness.

However, this afternoon was apple picking at the wee boy’s Kindergarten.  So we ventured along and arrived just in time for the last few apples to be picked.

To be honest, I didn’t do much except chat to lovely people and internally worry that I was speaking too loudly.  The wee boy had transformed himself into Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars is absolutely where it’s at in our household) so spent the time protecting the universe whilst also making sure no-one left with his lightsaber.

Being totally unprepared, we didn’t take a bag with us to carry the apples so Anakin and I made the decision to just bring seven apples home with us as we both like that number.   Now we have to decide what to make with our pickings.

My money’s on apple crumble.

Tea and Toast

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One of my favourite snacks is tea and toast.  It fulfils so many areas that a snack should.  It’s quick, comforting, filling, tasty, adaptable, warming, welcoming… I could go on.  But probably the thing I love about it most of all as a combination, is the emotional satisfaction it gives, every time.

So today the wee boy and I are cleaning.  We’re not just doing  ‘a quick flick around with the hoover’ as my mum used to say, oh no.  Today we are full on, no nonsense proper taking things out and putting them back, cleaning.

Every time I bring myself round to doing this most laborious of tasks, I reprimand myself at the lackadaisical attitude I have which has caused the unseemly fug surrounding all surfaces close to the cooker.  Well, not all, but those things like the ceiling and the lampshade.  As a consequence of not doing a regular wipe round I have to put a huge amount of effort into getting things to have the ‘tv sparkle’ I’m looking for.  Although in all honesty, I have never quite achieved that look.  However.

We have, so far, accomplished a complete clear out of the herbs, spices, oils, vinegars and unknown others cupboard and deep cleaned around the cooker. I say we, what I mean is I have done that and the wee boy has re-enacted many scenes from Star Wars.  Details aside, we took a break and indulged in the wonders of tea and toast.  Actually, the wee one enjoys a splash of honey on his, I am happy either way.  Satisfied and replete, it is now time to move on to the next job.

I think I’ll just make another cup of tea first though…

Afternoon Tea

photo (50)

I’ve always loved the idea of afternoon tea.  It conjures up an image of well dressed ladies in hats and gloves gossiping whilst sipping perfectly brewed tea, poured from a porcelain teapot into porcelain cups which sit perfectly on their matching saucer, accompanied by a three tiered cake stand of sandwiches with their crusts cut off, and cakes, iced to perfection.

The Great Gatsby.

I’m also a huge fan of the meals in between meals idea.  Morning coffee, elevenses, afternoon tea, supper.  In all honesty though, if I were a devotee of preparing every delegated nomenclature of food times, there would be little time left for the million and one other things to do in a day.

However, there is nothing like treating yourself to one of these ‘added extras’ every now and again.  And so it was today, that the wee boy and I took a trip to the park to partake of afternoon tea in the glorious sunshine.

As with all al fresco foods eaten at another location in the sunshine, there is a balance between the food being edible, and it being melted.  A small window of opportunity.  So with this in mind, I put all the elements into the fridge until we were ready to depart, then filled our flask with boiling water, packed mugs, teabags, milk, scones, jam, fresh raspberries, butter and clotted cream into the cool bag and strode off to the park.

It was a wonderful afternoon and felt ever so slightly decadent.  Of course on our return the butter had succumbed to the heat and sprawled over every possible surface it came into contact with.  But butter is an accommodating soul, and our temperamental fridge will make sure it reconstitutes itself in time for it’s next outing.

Perfect.