British Baker

I have never been one for reality television shows. The bugs in the jungle make me squeamish. Elder brother’s houseguests make me yawn. I don’t have time for the constant stream of sob stories that emerge from microphones once designed for talented singers. But one reality programme hooks me right from the beginning. I become thoroughly involved with the contestants, feeling their highs and lows as the series continues. Surely, I can’t be the only Bake Off addict in blogland?

For those unaware of the Great British Bake Off (to give it it’s full title), 13 contestants fight their way through a series of baking challenges to win the coveted title of Britain’s Best Amateur Baker. It is hosted by the brilliant Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, with legendary Mary Berry and infamous Paul Hollywood as the judges.

Bake Off is an exceptional show because it includes the competitive element and tension falsely created in lesser programmes. But it is all based on talent, not a popularity contest. You can cheer on your favourites without being divisive. I personally think it’s a very inspirational show, proving that baking is for everyone and everyone can learn a thing or two.

Tuesday nights are now known in this household as “Bake Off Night”. For me, I do believe Wednesdays will become “baking day”. Cake is harder for me, being gluten-free, but I still relish being in the kitchen, mixing ingredients calmly and having sweet scents fill the house.

Today, flapjack was made this afternoon, using my allocated rations of course.

DSCN1975

DSCN1976

All is well on the rationing front, although a visit from the chap means there is no ham or cheese left – he managed to use a whole week’s ration of cheese in one lunch! I would never begrudge him anything though, and I’ve still got parmesan left over from “pre-rations”. There is still bits and pieces in the freezer too, so I shall not go hungry. Especially with chunks of delicious flapjack in the cake tin. Yum.

DSCN1977

PS I would just like to send out my hearty thanks to all those who left such lovely comments on my last post. Particularly Pam, your comment made my day! Best wishes to all.

Ying and Yang

Today has been a perfect amalgamation of the two areas of my life.

I was on campus at 10am this morning to take part in a group session to discuss the ECP. The Extended Creative Project is the biggest part of my University degree, the big one, the one students all over the country pull their hair out over. Yup, it’s a big deal.

But the meeting this morning was very helpful concerning guidelines and advice. It’s a student-led project, so the more hours I put in, the more marks I shall get. It’s comforting in a way to know that it’s all on my shoulders. My own hard work should reap rewards. I was lucky enough to be allocated my first choice tutor, Judy Waite. She is a talented author who has several published works for children of all ages. Judy is the type of teacher who explains things in a very understandable manner. I find some creative writing tutors expand on their point more than is necessary. Treasure comes out of Judy’s mouth whenever she talks about writing for children, and I feverishly scribbled everything I could in my notebook this morning.

In our individual meeting later on, Judy was very positive about my proposed story. That was a huge confidence boost. I showed her the notebooks and art folders I had worked on ever since I was eleven years old. This is the story that has grown with me and the reason I chose to do this course at University. The story means a lot to me and I am determined to do it justice. I have a lot of hard grafting ahead, but I am looking forward to the adventure. I left the office beaming with the anticipation of the finished article.

After the writer inside of me was set upon an exciting new path, I came home to attend domestic matters. The laundry is complete; washed, tumbled and put away. I went grocery shopping and snared some bargains – more on Friday! And I spent the afternoon batch cooking an almost obscene amount of banana cakes/muffins. The chap had bananas that he said were destined for the bin. I rescued the brown blighters, mashed them up and popped them straight into cake batter. It’s a real heap of cakes – 27 to be exact. My part of the freezer drawer is well stocked and my cake tin is full to the brim. And that makes me smile too.

DSCN1402

It’s always bound to be a good day when I immerse myself in things that I enjoy. This morning, my head was swimming with runaway queens and dashing pirate captains. This afternoon, daydreams of baking and an upcoming beef stew took hold. It’s lovely when life correlates so perfectly.

Happy Dance Muffins

When you’ve finally handed in your last assignment and the world is your oyster, do you:

a)      Go out and get drunk.

b)      Keep writing on regardless.

c)      See how much batch cooking you can accomplish in one afternoon.

This storyteller took a well deserved break from writing and indulged in some time in the kitchen. It’s one of my favourite places to be.

Using some of my 24p bargain bag of parsnips, I made and sweet potato, parsnip and lentil curry that is bubbling away in the slow cooker as I type. It’s got enough vegetables in there to make 4 portions.

The rest of the parsnips simmered happily with some stock and curry paste before being blitzed. I added milk like the recipe said, but I think this thinned out the soup too much. No milk next time. Still, I’ve got 5 portions of Curried Parsnip soup tucked away in the freezer.

DSCN1334

And to round off the day nicely, I finished up with some baking. These are Gluten Free banana muffins, or Happy Dance muffins as I have christened them. Because I have finished all of my Uni work, summer is on the horizon and long days spent in the kitchen await. That’s deserving of a dance in my book!

DSCN1337

Happy Dance Muffins

(makes 12)

75g butter

150g caster sugar

1 medium egg

3 medium bananas, mashed

200g GF plain flour

½ tsp GF baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cases. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Combine sugar, mashed bananas, egg, milk and melted butter in a large bowl.

Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Fold everything together until smooth.

Spoon into cases using a tablespoon.

Bake for 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

DSCN1338

These muffins fit in nicely with my using-what-I’ve-got challenge. No more nipping out to the shop to spend pennies on pudding. There may be no bananas left for muesli, but lots of muffins in the freezer. Success!

PS Just realised, if I have stocked my freezer section full of parsnip soup and muffins (which I have), where am I going to put the leftover curry? :S Oh the woes of being a student!

(Not so) Typical Student

I was dressed for battle this morning. My uniform consisted of black leggings, an oversized jumper and a pair of purple thick socks. My mission was to write 1500 words on status quo within Angela Carter’s The Lady of the House of Love. Armed with my laptop and reams of notes and quotes, I locked horns with my essay.

I don’t mind writing essays, really, I don’t. I do like them to be quick and painless though, which is why I invest time in preparing my research before I start to type. Two and a half hours was all it took to get a first draft of 1400 words. Lunch beckoned but I felt I needed a longer break before the mountainous task of proofreading loomed. What to do on a grey March afternoon, with a (nearly) empty house?

I baked. I baked triple chocolate cookies and it was wonderful. I delighted in wearing my apron, weighing out each ingredient and mixing with a wooden spoon. The whole house smelt of cocoa. To spend time with oneself in the kitchen is, for me, sheer joy. Maybe you could whip up a batch for your own joyous “me” time?

DSCN1109

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Makes 9

Ingredients:

65g margarine or butter (I use Stork in baking and probably always will)

50g caster sugar

25g light brown sugar

1 egg

Few drops of vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon of baking powder (GF)

60g Doves Farm Gluten-free plain flour

30g cocoa powder

40g white chocolate buttons

40g milk chocolate buttons

1)      Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2)      Gently melt the margarine in a saucepan on a low heat. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine both sugars. Then add the melted marg.

3)      Using a fork, beat the egg with the vanilla in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then stir into the margarine and sugar.

4)      Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the bowl and stir. When thoroughly combined, add your chocolate buttons.

5)      Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture onto the lined baking tray, setting the cookies well apart to allow for spreading.

6)      Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies are just firm.

7)      Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

DSCN1111

Is there a lovelier sight at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon?

I shall simply have to squeeze more time in for cooking, I really do love it. After visiting Carluccio’s, I bought the Simple Cooking recipe book from Amazon. I’m hoping it arrives before the next Farmer’s Market on Sunday. Just think of all the dishes I could create with the abundance of fresh produce available. I must have another cookie to stop my salivating mouth!