There's a reason I'm not a poet

Posts tagged ‘the goose is getting fat’

This little light of mine

… It has been a while since I last blogged. I’ve had a nice few months! Work has been great, plenty of fun times with my friends, and lots of good wholesome family moments- really enjoying spending time with the nephew. 

I’m unlikely to say much more than that cause let’s face it I’m a lazy sod. So instead let’s talk about my wee winter trip! I’m just back from a couple of days in the French city of Lyon, which is a really beautiful city. Aside from the fact that it’s the gastronomic capital of France (obviously nothing I’d be remotely interested in), part of the reason I went to Lyon specifically was to see a French friend of mine I’d made earlier in the year. 

I was sitting in the park one day on the grass when a guy comes down and sits next to me. I did the standard British thing of thinking “what does he want is he selling something check if he’s crazy do you think he’s in a cult”, as well as the standard Irish thing of talking away to him. It turns out he’s just really friendly and perhaps was missing his family/girlfriend. Anyway over the few months he was in NI on placement I got to know him and he met my friends a few times. So PJB and I decided we’d pay him a visit in Lyon!

I’ve been to France a couple of times: Paris maybe three or four times, Val Thorens and Tignes for skiing, and Nice earlier in the year. Each time I had a bit of interaction with the French people but it was usually in the form of me being a customer. But my friend invited us round for a family meal and I was able to see what PJB (who’d spent a year in France on her year abroad) meant when she was talking about French hospitality. My previous experience with French people has been somewhat variable when it comes to how nice they’ve been, but it turns out that’s cause most of the ones I’ve met have been Parisians.. The family were so ridiculously welcoming. His niece was being baptised the next day, so we were greeted by his immediate family, his cousins, aunt and uncle, and his kickass granny. I had a wee moment reflecting on how a chance opportunity had led me to having such a rewarding experience. They were all so nice, so attentive, and they ploughed us with so much food. And wine. Oh man the wine. 

That actually brings us nicely to the next topic: the fooooooood. Sweet Lord almighty, did we eat well over the four days. As with anywhere in France, you don’t have to walk far to find a glorious bakery, or a patisserie with a window display that’d make you mug your granny just so you can buy something. We subscribed to the standard Michael philosophy of “why have three meals a day when you can just eat constantly”, and there was no lack of options. We dropped into a bakery at almost every available opportunity, and hunger became a distant memory. Lyonnaise food tends to be a little rich: cured meats, pâtés, obviously lots of cheese. There’s also a classic dessert which is a tart made from candied pralines, and as a result of the sugar the tart is a beautiful red/pink colour. Hoping to make it myself some day! Restaurants commonly call themselves “bouchons”, which are small traditional taverns serving local fare on checkered tablecloths accompanied by lovely bread and the warm greeting of the host. We tried two out and it was definitely worth it. Now that I’m home, the plan is to try and train my body to not expect the constant infusion of butter that it’s been treated to for the past few days. 

The reason we visited Lyon when we did is for their annual Fête des Lumières (festival of lights). In commemoration of the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary, the whole city is covered in lights, be they candles on windowsills or artistic light shows projected onto the beautiful Renaissance architecture of the city. And it’s class! The city is full of hundreds of thousands of people, so there’s a fair amount of crowding/security presence, but it was a great atmosphere and really beautiful. I’ll leave you with a wee snap or two.


M

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Let them drink cake

Monday was the season finale of Game of Thrones. True to form, there were shocks and deaths a-plenty, and as we’ve done with previous Big Deal episodes we stockpiled a bunch of food beforehand to eat during the showing. In the books, George R. R. Martin showcases his tubby diabetic nature and writes paragraphs upon paragraphs about the exquisite food that his characters munch through. One often-mentioned delicacy is Sansa’s fondness for lemon cakes, so often our feast involves several lemon themed noms.

So when thinking of what to make for the finale, I started with a lemon drizzle cake and thought about how I could make it more interesting. I decided to add walnuts, and then decided that the icing would be made better by the addition of vodka.

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Aw yis.

I ended up not really doing the vodka icing as well as I’d hoped, but the rest of cake turned out pretty tasty, so here’s my recipe.

For the cake:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g SR flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 100g chopped walnuts

For the drizzle:

  • 175g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • (Additional bit of vodka if you like)

For the icing:

  • 250g Icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • Splash vodka (better quality stuff messes things up less)
  • ½ tsp vanilla

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Start by shaving your lemons down to their birthday suits and mix the dry ingredients (apart from the walnuts) together before adding in the eggs and milk. Mix until smooth and then add in the walnuts at the end.

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If you’re making a tiered cake, grease two parchment papers and line your cake tins, and put them in the oven at gas mark 4/180. Bake for about 40 minutes or until done.

While you’re waiting, juice your two lemons. To make the drizzle, mix in your granulated sugar, stirring constantly until you get a runny consistency.
When your cake is finished, take it out of the oven and give it time to cool. Spoon the drizzle over the cake evenly while it’s still just warm. As I was doing a tiered version rather than a loaf, this is me putting the drizzle on upside down so it soaks into the cake more and changes the flavour a bit.

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Mix your icing ingredients together, being mindful of the volume of vodka used and the desired consistency of your icing. Once the cake is cooled, ice your cake however you want it and try your hardest to find a use for the leftover vodka.

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Maltan Hot

Northern Ireland is cold and grey and a bit crap.

I love this place I call home, but unfortunately the above were my thoughts when I returned back from a week’s holiday in Malta. My mum had a big birthday and a couple of months ago had the idea of the lot of us going out there to celebrate it. We were more than happy to make the sacrifice.

The place we went for was an all-inclusive hotel, something I’ve not done before. As it’s off-season we got it for proper cheaps: flights, transfers, accommodation, food and wine (and beer and cocktails and rum) all for just over £300! Not bad at all. Flipping glorious some might say.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from all-inclusive. I figured there would be food/drink any time I wanted it, but I guess I kind of thought what was on offer would be pretty basic- cheap-tasting spagbol or Sainsbury’s basics red wine. But I was actually really impressed by how yum everything was, and of the quality of the meals. There was salmon, mussels, an omelette stand at breakfast, pineapple juice on tap, and a cocktail list you could shake an alcoholic at.

Needless to say greed was entertained and kilograms were added.

Malta itself was a brilliant country, with fantastic history and pretty impressive buildings everywhere you looked. Pick almost any point on the island and do a 360 view of the horizon and you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’ll spot one if not several of the 359 churches. They’ve also got a thing about citadels. Having had several different occupiers and being in a pretty strategic naval location, there’s been a fair amount of conflict over the few thousand years they’ve been around. So the fortifications in a bunch of their cities are pretty impressive; and behind these giant walls there are quaint little narrow streets with decorative balconies leaning over you. With their golden limestone buildings the whole place is a great sight to behold.

We visited their “Silent City” Mdina, a former capital with less than 300 residents and streets that you can just about get a car through, the main cities of Valetta and Vittoriso, the nearby island Gozo (which comes with its own history including prehistoric megalithic temples pre-dating the pyramids) and also the custom-made-village film set of the 1980 Robin Williams “classic” Popeye.

I’ll leave you with a wee snap.

 M

Treat yourself to a dumpling

My friends and I were trying to work out when the most depressing part of the year was, to decide when to have our Treat Yo Self day. It’s likely some day in the middle of November, but we couldn’t wait that long. So we went for the first Saturday in February!

The day started off with brunch, cake and a mimosa (aw yeah) before driving into town and getting a taxi from our car. Theme of the day. We went shopping for needless items, drank during the day, found the comfiest chairs in Belfast, and had a Rhianna dirty chip. In the evening we headed out for dinner to Shu which was amaaazing. I didn’t take any photos because oh my god the food was fantastic and I was too busy eating. It was clear that everything on the plate had been carefully selected due to compatibility with the other ingredients. Yum to the max.

The next day we had a few people over for Chinese New Year! I don’t actually really have any Chinese friends in NI so I was kind of just winging it. I’d made some efforts at calligraphy beforehand and stuck them up around the apartment.  

 The plan was to make fortune cookies (which failed abismally because tuile pastry is a d***) and then like 200 dumplings. That bit was much more of a success! We had a good production line going, and managed to make three different flavours of the things. I haven’t made them in a couple of years and previously had been under the fierce watchful eyes of some pros so wasn’t sure if I was really the best person to be teaching. But the team did well and they ended up delicious. And I got to eat my bodyweight all over again. Wode fu dao le.

M

Bake Off

So in case you’re not a food-obsessed greedbag like I am, it was the finale of the Great British Bake Off last night, and so we all got together to celebrate with our very own Geektown Bake Off!

We did this last year for the final, and again at the start of this season. It’s always a fantastic opportunity to challenge your pancreas to make enough insulin, and to challenge your stomach to fit that last piece of cake in. 

  

We hosted it in the new flat and it was great fun. I was happy to see Nadiya take the crown, as the whole series had kinda been about her #journey. 

I ended up making a tiered cheesecake- seeing as it was the final I decided to push myself and go for a showstopper! 

The flavours I went for were white chocolate, honeycomb and ginger and maaaan thankfully it turned out being delicious. Here follows my recipe!

  
I used 13cm and 20cm springform cake tins, and have included recipe quantities for both. The smaller cheesecake would serve about six, and the bigger about ten. 
Total ingredients

Decorations

  • Gold dust
  • Cake dowels or other support system
  • Washed and dried non poisonous leaves- try to pick ones with good veins
  • Icing sugar to dust

Base

  • 4 or 5 digestive
  • 6 or 8 ginger snaps
  • 75g butter 125g

Cheesecake Mix

  • 180mL double cream 240mL
  • 280g white choc 400g
  • 360g Philidelphia or other cream cheese 480g
  • 100g icing sugar 130g
  • Vanilla extract
  • Ginger
  • 50g honeycomb

Blitz the biscuits (3:2 ginger snaps:digestives) in a food processor, then add about 50-100g melted butter to bind the base together.

  
Put in cake tin (lined with paper if not springform) and chill in fridge while making the rest of the cheesecake

Mix the cream cheese and double cream mixture together, add in the ginger (>1 tsp ginger in big, half a tsp in small) and vanilla. Stir well. 
It’s likely you will need some icing sugar to thicken the mixture and allow it to set but be aware this will sweeten it, especially as the white chocolate is still to come. This is where the ginger comes in handy so add some to taste 

  
Melt the chocolate in a water bath saving some for the leaves. Be careful not to burn the chocolate, and most importantly don’t forget to lick the bowl when you’re done. 
  
Slowly add in the chocolate, after allowing it to cool somewhat but not harden. 

Once it’s all mixed together and you’re happy with the taste, gently stir in some of the honeycomb (leaving enough to decorate the cake after) 

It’s important to put in the honeycomb last as otherwise it dissipates. You want a bit of crunch left over but also when it dissolves it leaves a delicious pool of caramel which is brilliant to get on the end of your fork. 

Pour the mixtures into your cake tin(s) onto your now hardened base and if you’re making tiers this is the point when you should cut your dowels to size and pop them in your bottom tier

  

Put your cheesecake into the fridge to chill for a few hours, or the freezer if it’s particularly runny. 

Rub your gold dust over the washed and dried leaves then brush them with melted white chocolate. Refrigerate or freeze while you wait for the rest of the cheesecake to set. When ready, peel them from the leaves. 
  
Decorate the cake as desired with your white chocolate leaves, chunks of honeycomb and goldust, and finally dust with icing sugar as desired. 

When the cheesecake has been refrigerated and has set (you should expect a bit of a wobble when you shake the tin) take them out of the tins and set them up where you’ll be displaying it. 

  
Try to delay setting the cake out and putting the honeycomb on for as long as possible, as otherwise it may melt a bit at room temperature
Enjoy your feast! I managed to take home the title of star baker so will soon be putting the victory oven mits to good use!

M

My new joke

There needs to stop being so much chocolate/biscuits in my house

Slash I need to stop trying to get rid of them

Tis the season to be disgustingly greedy

I haven’t posted on here for quite some time now, been slightly out of whack with my routine over the past few weeks and this is one of the things I’ve let slip a bit. I had some night shifts in November and ever since then I haven’t really gotten back to normal mode.

Nights were interesting: while there were stressful bits, and others were you just generally felt a bit wick because there just wasn’t a way to get everything done, it actually felt quite good to be doing the work of an actual doctor; as opposed to my daytime job of a secretary with phlebotomy skills. I think I was a bit lucky though in that while I had one or two bad nights I didn’t have any horrendous ones, so maybe I’m getting a slightly sunshine biassed version of out of hours work.

Outside of the hospital I’ve been having lots of fun with my friends, eating, drinking and being on the merry side of life. The Christmas market opened up which obviously means one thing: EXTREME NUMBERS OF WAFFLES. Sadly now that I have a job I couldn’t get to the market every day of the week but I certainly gave a decent try. I’ve also been on a few work nights out which were great craic: it’s a good bunch of people that I work with and me getting drunk and making a fool of myself seems to not have scared them off too much.

One of them in particular has done me a big favour and agreed to cover half of my Christmas Day shift. This was actually one of the reasons I decided to come home and work- I figured that if I ended up working Christmas Day, it would be a lot less depression to miss the day and come home to my parents’ house at night than to return to an empty flat in England. But still I figured it’d be nice to get at least some time at home and she kindly covered the morning part of my shift, which unfortunately for her proved to be much more stressful than the evening part! While it was sad to miss parts of the day I should at least be glad I got to enjoy some of them, and importantly got to eat stupid amounts of food.

In the time it’s taken me to write this blog I’ve eaten half of a cheesecake. I may have a problem.

So the plan now is to get back into my good routine, to become a functioning person and do things like exercise, blog, and say no to delicious cheesecakes. I’m gonna be one of those Good People Of The World.

Ah frick- I think I’m making a New Year’s resolution here. Balls, now that is lame.

M