Monday, 21 February 2011


I have this idea (the 'thing'), and am running with it, mostly because I don't seem to have any choice, and it's taking up all of me. Which means I don't have any chat-space in my head. Quite frankly I don't know how some of you manage to do all the things you do, and write blog posts, and get round to visit and make meaningful comments on other blogs. I seem only to be able to do one thing at a time. The 'thing', my writing workshop (soon to be writing workshops, new gig, this one may even be paid), and events in the Middle East are almost more than I can handle.

But, whilst twittering today (Twitter is my news channel) I found this and thought I'd share. It's well worth the 19 minutes it takes to watch and it ends hilariously. Get yourself a glass of something, and enjoy. Actually watch it with the whole family.

Hopefully I'll be back in chat mode soon enough.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

We Don't Need No Lions

Alesa (Part Gilt – Part Gold, check her out, she's great), her friend Khnoum and I have been out on safari again. It's their game but they graciously let me join in. I love it. The rules, if you can call them rules, are that we each pick a theme, go out and shoot, then submit one photo a piece for each of those themes. This time we chose: 'Missing,' 'Consequence,' and 'Landmark' as our themes. Below are the results. Can you guess who chose which theme and took which photo?*


Loss of Heart

I"ll Miss You

How Many Waiters Does it Take to Change a Light-bulb?



Life on the Fast Track

The Consequence


I Liked the Monument Before it Made Me Ralph

Windy Miller's New Pad

Too Obvious

*I'm tempted to offer a prize for the first completely correct guess, because it's just so hard.

Friday, 11 February 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding

On Sunday one of my two bestest, closest, soul-matiest friends will get married. On the other side of the world, in New Zealand, where he and his man moved a couple of years ago, from here in Scotland. I can't be there to watch the nuptials or celebrate with them, but in a way I don't really need to. I celebrate Mark finding John pretty much daily, whenever he pops into my consciousness. John has somehow completed Mark, made him more fully himself, just by accepting and loving the person he actually is. I'm happy for them everyday. That's not to say that drinking champers, on their lawn, in the sunshine and seeing again how happy they make each other wouldn't be delightful, it's just to say it's not necessary.

I thought this poem, by U A Fanthorpe, though not the most romantic of love poems in the conventional sense, felt right for the occasion. So I thought I'd read it for them. Tomorrow I'll make Devil's Food Cake by way of celebration.

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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

ABC Wednesday: D for Deli

I can't afford to travel so in its stead I like to experience the exotic in my imagination and my kitchen. I read cookery books, dream a little, and then try and recreate the dishes of all number of cultures right here in Scotland. This isn't always easy: Scotland isn't known for its culinary sophistication for good reason. I suppose it's just too small to be able to support much diversity.

So, I dream of delis. I can, and do, get all sorts of ingredients on the internet, but there's nothing quite like spending time in a deli having one's nostrils aromatically teased, one's memory stirred. And one of the best things about a good deli is stumbling upon previously unheard of ingredients and bringing them home to experiment. When, years ago, I visited New York the best part of the trip, for me, was Dean and Deluca (I didn't make it to Zabar's, sadly). I came back laden with maple sugar and spice mixtures with names I couldn't pronounce. I had such fun in the following months encrusting chicken and warming casseroles with new flavours, and creating elegant, pale manilla-hued meringues, that we could have suffered the worst storms in living memory and I wouldn't have noticed. The other good thing about delis is finally finding something you keep hearing, or reading about.

For some time ras el hanout has been whispering to me. It's featured in a few of Nigella Lawson's recipes over the last few years, and now I'm reading Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food there it is again. Ras el hanout, ras el hanout, I didn't know what it was but I began to crave it. So I was gearing myself up to order it from Seasoned Pioneers, when up a Glasgow backstreet last Saturday I found Deli Zique. The second I entered I felt at home:

Proper bread. I took home one of the round sourdough loaves and it had as crisp a crust and as springy a crumb as the best I've tasted.

There's a waiting list for these tins, which hopefully means the deli is popular, thus likely to still be there when next I get to Glasgow.

It wasn't easy, but I resisted.

On my kitchen counter: if you ever want to sell me anything wrap it in wax paper.

So, I now have a little envelope of the coveted spice mix.

Apparently, as well as rose petals, lavender and other spices it may contain the golden beetle. I don't know what the golden beetle is, but am sure it's delicious, my only problem now is deciding which recipe to try first.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

ABC Wednesday: C for Cake

Specifically: Chocolate Cardamon Chili Cake. Nuff Cs?

For my brother in law Ron's 50th birthday last November we were to go out for a curry. Ron loves a curry. My sister, not the one he's married to, who I was to pick up from the airport on the way up, asked me to make him a birthday cake. I said yes, of course, not much gets in the way of a real, valid cake making excuse. Why not, I thought, try to make one that will, in some way, compliment the spicy meal? As Ron likes it hot, and I had been experimenting with adding chili to chocolate things for a while (I've made some fabulous chocolate chili cookies), I decided to top the cake with dark chocolate chili ganache. Then I remembered Nigel Slater's 'White Chocolate Cardamon Mousse' (in his book Real Food, I think) and wondered if I could borrow from this for the filling. The only way to find these things out is to try, so that's what I did.

The cake itself was the 'Buttermilk Birthday Cake' you can find in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. Instead of flavouring it with vanilla I crushed the seeds of a handful of cardamon pods (15?) and creamed them in with the sugar and butter.

For the experimentsl filling I crushed the seeds of another ten cardamon pods, put them in a little jug, covered them with milk (about two tablespoons) and heated the lot in the microwave for about 20 seconds. This was then left to infuse for an hour or so. 200 grams of white chocolate went into the microwave next, but as it melts very easily I just started it off there (1 minute on half power) then stirred languorously till it was fully liquefied (never once dipping my finger in to taste). A carton (280ml) of double (heavy) cream was whisked until it formed soft peaks. The infused milk was strained and stirred into the warm chocolate, followed by the cream which I folded in until the three became one. Then it went into the fridge to chill.

For the topping I melted 300 grams of dark chocolate with three tablespoons of golden syrup, then added three crushed dried chilies. Once the chocolate was coolish I added a carton of double cream and whisked like crazy so all became thick and became very glossy. It too went into the fridge to chill a little, not so much, though, that it became truffle solid.

Once the cakes (two sandwiches) were cool I applied the filling to one and topped it with the second. Scraped the chili chocolate ganache over the top and let it drip down the sides, cartoon style. The result was spicy, fragrant, and moist, if a little on the rich side. But the added chili meant it increased the metabolism by fifteen percent for the next two hours, thus burning off some of the calories. It all counts.

Cake for a Spice Lover (sorry about the photo quality, I'd had a glass of champagne before remembering to snap).

Off to Edinburgh tomorrow to see the play A View from the Bridge (Arthur Miller). The tickets were part of Stevie's Christmas present from me; when we first met (1978?) he was always banging on about Death of a Salesman which he'd just done for English A-level, so when I saw this was on...

Let's hope time and experience haven't changed his literary sensibilities too much.

PS I have tried to be clever and make it so if you click on the ABC Wednesday picture it takes you to the site, however this may not work. If this is so click here.