Monday, September 27, 2010

Of muffins and rosehips.

Sunday I was up early, made some apple and white chocolate muffins and decided to cut back the rose bushes in the front garden and harvest the rosehips.

Ok, the muffins. Oven to GM6, or whatever the equivalent is in °C or F. Use a 12-cup muffin tin and muffin cases to fit. Peel, core and dice 2 eating apples. 250g flour, 2tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice, 125g soft brown sugar, 100g white chocolate chips, all stirred together in a big bowl. In a jug, whisk together 60g milk, 100g oil, 2 eggs and 100g warm runny honey. Add the apples to the dry ingredients and stir, then pour in the liquid and mix until just combined; if you overmix the muffins will not be light and fluffy and they will stick to the cases. Divide the mix equally between the 12 cases, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden and just a little bit crispy. Eat while still a little warm. These can be frozen and either nuked or reheated in the oven, say GM4 for 10 minutes, however if they last long enough to be frozen then you're doing well.

Note all the measurements are in grammes, including the oil. It makes life a lot easier when you're using stuff that has different densities on a scale that purports to measure ml; scales do not measure ml accurately when stuff is significantly more/less dense than water, like honey or oil. Go by weight, srsly.

There's an interesting difference between american muffins and cupcakes; the matrix in muffins is really, really fragile but firms up when cold really quickly, to the extent that it almost feels like it has gone stale in under 6 hours. This is elasticity in the gluten, but I need to do more research into why wet (runny) mix behaves so differently to cake batter.

On that note I did notice Sainsers had a digital scale that is accurate to 1g. Tempted, but... my scales are fine, and I rarely need to measure less than 5g anyway.

The dog roses in the front garden have been overgrowing for years; I think I've cut them back about twice since we moved in. So we got out the secateurs and gloves and cut them back, harvesting the rosehips as we went.



After two hours - I originally thought it would take about ten minutes - the roses were cut back to main trunks and we had 3lbs of rosehips. But what to do with them? Well, the obvious answer is rosehip syrup, so I looked at the River Cottage Hedgerow book, which was very unhelpful; 250ml water for every 150g hips, is fine. Then add 150g of sugar. No "per x ml of juice" or anything, just a flat 150g sugar. Obviously this is not brilliant but I had the always helpful "Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables" from the Ministry of Agriculture to hand. Seriously, if you're big on preserving hunt down a copy of this, as it is a fantastic example of taxes going towards something brilliant, and it told me exactly what to do with the hips.

In the end we got 5-and-a-bit jars of syrup (which I've not photographed yet); after top-and-tailing 3lbs of hips and simmering that lot in my big preserving pan, then straining (I discovered my camera tripod is brilliant for hanging jelly bags from), then reboiling the pulp, and straining again, and then reducing and then adding sugar and boiling some more, it had taken about 8 hours of work in total to produce them. But - and this is a big but - the results are so, so worth it. It tastes like childhood. Nothing on earth tastes like rosehip syrup and it's bloody lovely stuff. And all it cost was an afternoon of tinkering in the kitchen and a bag of sugar.

If you have rosehips in the garden it's well worth thinking about using them. They're a great source of vitamin C and if you bottle the syrup properly it'll last for ages.

Friday, September 24, 2010

turkish skiffy and freeform jaaaazzz

Last night I went off to an empty shop to see an art thing, after Elly Snare's market-bombing earlier in the week started persuading people to turn up.

I've mentioned Art in Unusual Spaces before; last night was The Man Who Saved The World. This was very odd. TK Maxx in a shopping arcade has been empty for about six months or so, and completely stripped out. So AIUS took over the space for an evening, fitted it out with dodgy lighting, ten back-projection screens and projectors, and a jazz band, and looped a bunch of clips from Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (a Turkish piece of skiffy that is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made, ever). Seriously, read the wiki article.


Ok, it was very, very odd. And quite well attended, although that may have been the free wine (I was driving). And oddly enough, I sort of enjoyed it. The jazz band were very good, which helped. The filmclips themselves were hilariously poor, and probably only made the film slightly more comprehensible.




So; in a disused shop with little lighting, dodgy Turkish scifi, freeform jaaazzz and a bunch of drunk arty types. That was my evening. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but it was a very odd way of spending an hour. There was probably some serious commentary on the state of society being played out there, or it was the background to a long-running story arc being performed in disused mercantile meccas, but you know what? I think I would be happy just knowing that it was the result of a bunch of drunken ramblings one evening in a shared house in Hyde Park. Someone said "dudes, you've gotta see this DVD I picked up, it's awful" and from that - no long-winded coffee-fuelled ranting by beatniks about Maoism and counterculturalism involved - someone thought that for kicks and giggles this would be a funny thing to do. I really do hope that this was the case; any other - more serious - reason could probably be subject to mockery.

If the space exists, use it. But trying to shoehorn worthy reasons into ridiculous projects is - to a certain extent - self delusional. I enjoyed last night, I really did, and I just want to keep it in mind as just being a daft project that made people laugh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What have I been up to recently

Well, what have I been up to?

1. Bettakultcha video is up. Watch me make facutal errors and wonder if I could actually talk about making lemon curd in 15 seconds.

2. I fed people at Temple Works as part of a somewhat barking Test Space Leeds project.

On that particular Saturday morning I was up very early, but not as early as my chef (who we'll call Young Dave) and his mate Dave who runs Sunshine Bakery; they'd been working in the bakery since 4 that morning. I headed down to my kitchen - at Salsa Mexicana, gawd bless you, Simon - and waited for food to arrive. And waited. And waited. It eventually turned up at 9:30, so we got it in, where I discovered we'd been given a pig's liver, heart, about a dozen tails, 4 trotters and three heads. Three. I wanted one. Cooking pigs head is not trivial; you can't just roast it off, because it's the wrong shape and the snout would be done before the ears and it takes up a huge amount of space in the oven. You have to boil it first, for about four hours, and then roast it to give it colour. So there were two spare heads, and for all I know they're still in the SM kitchen...

We also had proper food; a whole pork loin in four chunks, a whole belly, again in four. A sack of carrots, ditto onions, ditto spuds. A tray of braeburns, bramleys, tomatoes, celery, parsnips. Spices, foraged stuff, lentils, butter, flour, breadcrumbs... Oh, yes. The menu, based on authentic Victorian recipes:
  • Roast loin of pork with an apple and pork stew, game and other birds
  • Crispy roast belly of pork
  • Various cold cooked pork meats; ham, sausage &c
  • Roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions,
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • lentil cutlets
  • stuffed tomatoes

The yorkshire puds were forgotten about until it was too late. Never mind. The head, trotters and tails all went into a big pot with carrots, celery and onions to do a stock. The loins were boned, bones fried off and went into another pot of stock. The loins had the fillets taken out and were put into a bit tray with some water, carrots, onions, bay and rosemary, and seasoning. Bellies, ditto. The fillets were cubed and put into a pot with the usual veg, some bramleys, and gradually topped up with stock. Spuds, more carrots & parsnips par-boiled and roasted off with seasoning, butter, more bay and rosemary. Lentils boiled for about an hour with onions, carrots, garlic, celery, marjoram, mashed together with an egg, seasoning and breadcrumbs, shaped into cutlets and fried until they held together. Mushrooms, mirepoix, tomato pulp, again fried off, mashed with an egg and breacrumbs and stuffed into tomatoes. We had game birds and chickens to do as well, again just coloured in the pan and roasted off on top of some veg.

We were done by 3. In fact, I'd cleaned down Simon's kitchen by 3. Everything was ferried up to Sunshine Bakery so I did a runner and went home for a couple of hours. When I got back to SB the two Daves were taking a breather before finishing everything off; young Dave started throwing things in the ovens and slicing and finishing dishes, I took t'other Dave to TW to assemble the eton mess, then back to SB to load up my car with meat and veg, and then all piled back down, with enough pork and apple stew to feed 60 people sloshing about in my boot, along with trays of sliced loin and belly, a head, three tails and four trotters and a mountain of crackling. We delivered the food, I took the guys back to SB to clean down their kitchen and I went back to TW to rapturous applause and all of the food GONE. I'd been away half an hour and there were a few scraps of meat left, that was it. Surprised? Good grief, yes.

There were lots of people there I knew, but was social butterfly and I only stopped to have a few words with people before doing a runner once the eton mess had been demolished. I took NO photos, but some are gradually trickling in: this one of the eton mess for example. Anyway, I couldn't have done this without Young Dave who made a brilliant chef and we just got on with the job in hand without wigging about it, or Simon for letting me make a mess of his kitchen, or Sunshine Dave who pulled everything together. Bloody brilliant fun and it made me realise that I can actually do this. But I will need to go to catering school to do it properly. The first thing a chef does when getting into the kitchen is make stock and just have a tonne of it bubbling away on a burner at the back of the stovetop, and I'd never really picked up on just how important that fact was before Saturday. I learned a lot.

I got home, realised all I'd eaten that day was an apple, and went to bed.

Reviews: Phil Kirby, Bake Lady, Rants & Ramblin, Stripey Anne, the TS facebook page.

3. As a result of the previous two things I turned up in the Leeds Guide, in two mostly unrelated articles on pages 6 and 18 of the same issue. Hee! Yes, amongst my peers this certainly doesn't make me unique, but still quite pleased by this. I shall have to send a copy to my mother.

4. We had a gas main fire around the corner. I took a photo:

5. I saw Ian Beesley, whose website is still down, talking about documenting the closure of industrial plant. This was a seriously inspirational talk.

6. I made cake for a wedding. In future, I shall not be using fluffy ganache icing on cupcakes. Ever. But even though I'm critical about individual components the overall effect wasn't too bad.
The wedding was lovely, too; two dear friends who are obviously very much in love, doing the public affirmation thing. Married because they want to be, not because it's the next logical step in the relationship. Win all round, really.

7. I have done lots of other things, too, but now I'm full of cold and wanting to hit the lemsip.