17 February, 2012

A Birthday Celebration

Last Thursday I turned thirty-three and quickly tried to forget it. Feeling like death from a glorious midnight shift and not getting in until 4am (thanks George) it was hard to feel nothing but, well, old.

Undeterred, Ian made sure I enjoyed a relaxing morning before he whisked me off for an afternoon of cinema fun. I was treated to a film at the The Electric Cinema in Birmigham to watch The Descendants. Going to the pictures is bit of a busman's holiday for us, but when it's someone else's cinema you quickly forget your day job and can enjoy watching some quality cinema, regardless.


Ian booked us a sofa where we ordered drinks and nibbles, to be served just as the film started!

And the film! If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching it, I urge you to go out now and view it immediately. Mr Clooney's dubious wardrobe didn't detract from his performance and the vulnerability of his character made me love him a little bit more. I'll admit I cried a little throughout. OK, a lot then. But it's hilarious too, so don't let my uncontrollable blubbering put you off.

When the film ended, and the little old lady waiting for the loo and I had finished discussing the films highlights ("George Clooney, WOOOOO!", her shrieking words not mine) Ian and I headed over to Moseley where a table was booked at a lovely Caribbean restaurant, Carib Grill.

With our bellies full of rum punch, delicious jerk chicken and curried goat, it was the perfect end to my birthday, and what a fine ending it was. Thank you Ian!

13 February, 2012

Weekend Baking

Sometimes it crosses my mind that I'm not as adventurous a cook as I'd like to be. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while I get the urge to bake something new, something different. That little gem of a recipe hiding away in a cookbook will occasionally reveal itself to me, but, more often than not I find myself reaching for the familiar recipes in my repatoire.

It's no secret that I have a lot of cookbooks. I, unfortunately, haven't utilised them as best I could so, I have made a decision. I am going to revive weekend baking in this here house, to try a new recipe each week from a book of my choice - a recipe that I may not have tried before.  

How d'ya like them apples? In a pie. Got it.

I can't promise that this will be an interesting 'Julie & Julia' project. I can't even promise to make each recipe with the energy and enthusiasm of said project, a la Julie. But I will channel my inner Julia (or Delia, depending on how I feel) and she will emerge, bringing sexy back baking back to my kitchen. I may not be able to keep up the promise of weekly baking, but I'll hang on in there, feebly attempting in my quest for delicious baked goods.

Are you in?

07 February, 2012

Wales v Ireland

In terms of sporting loyalty, I had a tough weekend. Here... I'll try to explain:
How does a Welsh girl born to an Irish mother make the right decision in choosing which team to support when the most exciting match of the
RBS Six Nations kicked off on Sunday?

Image found {via}
 I'll admit I'm not much of a sports watcher (I leave that up to my Mr. Emma) but when it comes to the Six Nations, I love it! But the Wales v Ireland thing has always been a source of debate growing up in in our house. Am I more Welsh because I was born in Wales, or am I more Irish because of my Mum? Oh, I don't know. What I do know is... they both put on a good show!

Much to my Mum's horror I declared I was supporting Wales. I could hear the disappointment in her voice - I wonder, can one be too old to be put up for adoption?

Anyhoo, to keep in with the Welsh theme, my weekend baking should've included some old favourites such as Bara Brith or a few little Welsh Cakes. But that would be too obvious, and I'm afraid I don't work like that. I have this terrible condition where my belly takes over everything. So, once my gut had literally spoken, a Spiced Date and Walnut Loaf it had to be.

Trying to stop myself inhaling the hot-out-of-the-oven cake was truly one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, with the exception of having to wait a whole day before I could eat it, of course.

The delicately spiced sponge was studded with pieces of crunchy walnut and moist dates, and the top was lovely and sticky. I substituted the ground mixed spice for some ground allspice for no other reason than I didn't have any to hand. 

It was not as moist as I'd anticipated and could perhaps have benefited from being taken out of the oven sooner than the recipe asks (I checked it after 1 hr 20 mins and the oven was set at about 140°C) but the cake was delicious and was improved greatly with a steaming hot mug of tea and a triumphant Welsh win!

Spiced Date and Walnut Loaf
The Delia Collection: Baking
Delia Smith

4oz (110g) pitted dates
2oz (50g) walnuts
4oz (110g) butter
2oz (50g) black treacle
6oz (175g) golden syrup
5fl oz (150ml) milk
2 large eggs
8oz (225g) plain flour
1 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C
Lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin

Chop the walnuts and dates into small pieces and set aside.

Place the butter, treacle and syrup in a saucepan and melt slowly over a gentle heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then add the milk. Beat the eggs and add these to the mixture.

Sieve the flour, spices and bicarb into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the syrup mixture into it. Whisk on a slow speed until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the walnuts and the dates, and pour into the prepared tin.

Place the cake in the centre shelf of the oven and cook for about 1 ½ hours. Once done it will have a rounded and slightly cracked top. Allow it to cool in the tin for about half an hour before turning out onto a wire rack then once cold, keep in an airtight container. The cake will improve with age so try, if you can, to not eat it straight away.
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