Monday, 27 February 2012

Giving up SWEARING for 40 days & 40 nights...

This year I'm giving up swearing.

If I swear I will fine myself, 20p or 50p depending on the severity of the word.

Dec11 - Profile pic for twitter, facebook
Swearing: it's not big, it's not clever & it's not funny
I tend to swear out if laziness, I know there Is always a better (non-sweary) word I could think if and use, but I just don't. That's just lazy.
And it's about time I stopped being lazy.

All of the money I raise will be given to charity.

Since the 1st day of lent (Wednesday 22nd February) I've been fined just over £2, I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Winter on the allotment

It may be February and too cold to plant anything, but this little lot has just come from my allotment today: sprouts, leeks and turnips.
I love my allotment & clearly my allotment loves me.
I don't spend as much time looking after it as I should, because I get so much from it, not just the food.
Thank you allotment.

Monday, 13 February 2012


This has been adapted from a recipe from Heston Blumenthal's Times Online 2005
I made this for our valentines day meal, we decided to have it on Sunday 13th February (not Monday 14th February) because I have a night class on Monday.
Serves 4 (but you will probably want it all for yourself)
  • 75g good-quality chocolate
  • 50g unrefined caster sugar
  • 235ml double cream, chilled
  • 265g mascarpone
  • 300ml black coffee, cold and fairly strong
  • 4 tbsp (or to taste) marsala or amaretto (optional)
  • 125g sponge fingers Cocoa powder
Chop the chocolate with a knife, or if you prefer, you can grate it, then leave in a cool place.
Dissolve the sugar in 100ml of the double cream over a gentle heat, then set aside to cool. Lightly whip the remaining cream in a cold bowl and set aside.
Work the mascarpone with a spoon until it has loosened up a little, then carefully incorporate the whipped cream and the cooled sweetened cream. Add 4 tbsp of the coffee to taste — more if you prefer. It is important to add enough to get the flavour you want, but not so much that it loosens the mix. Pour the rest of the coffee and the alcohol, if using, into a flat- bottomed bowl large enough to lay the fingers in. Place a few fingers in the coffee mix and turn over a few times — they need to be soaked. Place on a plate, and repeat until all the fingers are done. If necessary, make more coffee.
Once soaked, place enough fingers in the bottom of a serving bowl to form a single layer. Spread a quarter of the cream mixture over them and smooth out, then sprinkle with some cocoa powder and a third of the chocolate. Repeat until all the cream is used up. You should have four layers of cream and three of the cocoa-chocolate mix. Smooth over the top layer of cream and place in the fridge for a couple of hours. Just before serving, generously dust with cocoa powder.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Music (and music purchases)

I'm always keen on trying new music.

A snippet of my CD collection
If people recommend music, that they think I'll like, I'm always excited (by the prospect of a new tune/band) and that they've actually thought of me.

I can't really say what my preferred musical type is, I'll pretty much try anything, and give a damn good reason why I do (or don't) like something: the beat, the bass, the lyrics, the haunting tune, the vocal, the energy, the kitch, the funk, the noise, the magical way it takes me to another world...etc

I tend to do the listening bit through free online music sites, such as YouTube or Spotify or LastFM, before making the decision to buy the album (I don't buy singles these days, explanation below).

If I like at least 2 or 3 of the album tracks I'll seriously consider buying the album, on CD mind you, I want something real for my money.

I don't like downloading music, I believe that an album was made as a whole - to be listened to in its entirety, each track ordered for a reason, and buying individual tracks seems against what the artist was trying to do. Well that's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it.

I've also decided to try and write about each album I buy in 2012

My name in...Liquorice allsorts (the coconut ones)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Cinema review: Don't Think

If you love the Chemical Brothers music you'll love this film.

If you want to be immersed 90mins of Chemical Brothers 'block rockin beats' sounds, vocals, images and artistry then you'll love this film.
In December I wanted to see it.

When the limited cinema locations were announced 'Metrocentre Odeon, 10pm' I was disappointed - The Gate would have been more convenient for me, and I could have made more of a night of it. Mr Lisa wasn't keen, "if you sort it out, I'll go" so I sorted it.

There was about 60 or so in the audience, no pre-show adverts, just a warning to Tweet at #dontthinkmovie and check in with FourSquare and comment in the event page in Facebook, and a warning that there would be strobe lights throughout.

And there was light.
This light was so bright.
This light was awesome.
In front of us danced images of horses, spoons, falling forks, knives, camera flashes, haunting clowns, marching robots, butterflies, people, colours and shapes.
Our eyes were wide.
We saw everything.
Vivid, huge and hypnotizing.
We could not turn away.
We could not not look.
We were there.
And the music wormed into our ears.
It penetrated our heads.
It flowed through our veins.
And with each beat our bodies twitched.
Controlled by the music -
We were there.
It was a wondrous sight.
It was a wondrous sound.
It was our religion.
This was not a film.
This was not a sit and watch show.
This was an experience.
Sitting still was not an option.


It began with toe tapping, and nodding in appreciation (Yeh, i know this track) and as the tracks were mixed, mashed and spun, the toe tapping and nodding became sit-down dancing, arm waving and spontaneous clapping.
Someone climbed onto a barrier in the cinema and danced, and we cheered...


By the end of the film the space in front of the screen was now a dancefloor, shadows were cast by people dancing at the back, and the people in the middle were going for it with arm waving and whooping.

The Chemical Brothers finished their set and we collectively cheered for an encore, for that time we were the audience in the festival...we were there, at that festival, part of that show, and it was amazing.
It has to be one of the best (& surreal) cinema experiences of my life.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Problem pastry - a epic tale

I baked for Private Pie last night, a jolly gathering meeting pie lovers and enjoying a drink or two over a pie (of the sweet and savory variety). It was a lovely event & fantastic venue (the cinema room in The Town Wall pub). The blog about the actual event is to follow, but my road to private pie was fraught with episodes I'd much rather forget.  
The short version is here:
Baked pie, took pie, ate pie.
For the long version, full of emotion, feeling and rollercoaster ride of triumph overcoming absurdity (and adversity) - read on...

The theme for this meet up was Pies of the World, so I chose Mississippi Mud Pie.
According to many a pie-pedant it's not technically a pie, it's a flan/tart.
Before Private Pie I would have wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment, but I have actually wanted to make a Mississippi Mud Pie for a long time.  If I baked it at home i'd be the only person eating it and Private Pie is about sharing your pie amongst friends. So I let my pie rule my head in this instance.
Here's my story...Many moons ago I worked at Lewis & Cooper, a grocery, wine, meat, glass & China specialist in Northallerton.  I had an after school/evening job there, mainly cashing up tills but during the holidays I worked in their Pattiserie counter, making & selling sandwiches, fresh cream sweets, tray 'bake' biscuits and serving slices of bought-in cakes and gateaux. My favourites were: Death by Chocolate, Pecan Pie and Mississippi Mud Pie.

And from this love of serving it (& buying a big fat slice or two) I found a recipe and made Mississippi Mud Pie at home. But that was then and I didn't have a recipe, the only thing I remember about the recipe was the addition of 'Camp Coffee Essence' so when I decided to make it for Private Pie I was very particular about finding a recipe with coffee essence.

You'd think it'd be easy 'let me Google that for you' but most recipes had a chilled base (crushed biscuits) and chilled filling. The one I wanted had a proper pastry case and cooked filling.
I found about 3 recipe combinations and decided to mix things up. Adding extra chocolate, vanilla and coffee essence.  To be perfectly fair the filling was pretty spectacular it looked like mud and had a rich caramel coffee chocolate taste to it (this is uncooked mind you, quite dangerous for the very young, very old and pregnant folks). But this was the least of my woes, I had to make a pastry cake....and that's when the trouble started.

Chocolate pastry, easy. Blind baked pastry. Not so easy.

I don't have baking beans so I used mung beans (bigger than rice/lentils) on greaseproof paper.
I thought that would be fine. But the sides shriveled away, the base grew a big bubble and when I went to tip the beans out the pastry almost slid out of the dish, baking and cracking in the process. To be honest it looked ugly and I wasn't happy.

Cue epic ranting, you may wish to ignore this bit....
I sank to the ground in a folly of despair and heavy hearted depression, wringing my hands and calling to the pie gods, pastry gods and oven gods "why, oh why?" And I sank to the door of the oven as if to expect the answer to be revealed through the glass door of wonder and thermal insulation technology magicness.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I spent a few minutes swearing and cursing but decided to just finish it off, cook it and keep everything crossed.  Fortunately the raw filling was a supreme success, I could happily drink that from a glass: 350g sugar, 200g chocolate, cream, eggs, vanilla, coffee essence, butter & cocoa powder.

It cooked, it was 'gently' set and it accompanied me to private pie, and there were no leftovers, shall I say that again. No leftovers. Worked for me!