Monthly Archives: December 2011

‘Tis the season. To eat.

Christmas is about the food.

Now, before you accuse me of being shallow and gluttonous (trust me, I remember Philippians 3:19), think a little harder about that statement: Christmas is about the food.

a-bout (preposition): blah blah blah other definitions then… 5. on every side of; around.

Christmas happens around the food. And, really, thank God for that. Think about it: you know that annual game of Scrabble you play with semi-senile Uncle Bob, the one that always gets a little vicious around the triple word scores, the one that involves a h*** of a lot of four-letter words? Well, imagine that on an empty stomach. It’d be like an alphabet blitzkrieg. And I don’t even want to imagine where the J would end up.

Food is obviously so much more than comestibles, we all know that (and if you don’t, then get yourself a copy of The Edible Woman right this second and don’t even speak to me till you’re finished) – but especially at Christmastime. Food goes schizophrenic.

Food is the shit-disturber (“Oh, Brenda, how nice of you to bring a jello salad! But really, you shouldn’t have gone to so much effort….”), and the pacifier (“We’ll discuss this later; it’s dinner-time”). Food is the silence-filler (when you don’t know what to say to the great-aunt who just gave you a second-hand negligee from her third marriage to a man with a faux fur fetish), and the silence-maker (anyone with manners isn’t going to talk while they’re chewing). Food is the beating heart of this dysfunctional organism we call “the holidays.” Santa wouldn’t even bother coming if it wasn’t for the cookies.

Speaking of cookies, I made a few little treat-fillled gift tins for some people that I like enough to feed, but not enough to shop for (and who wouldn’t prefer my baked goods to a scented candle?). It was a minor, but thoroughly enjoyable, effort  – and a rather tasty one, as well. May I present:

Double chocolate truffles, rolled in flaked filberts… and Curried Cashew and Coconut Brittle. Yeah, you heard me: curried! And proud of it. Finally, I made something just for me: Marcus Wareing’s second-to-none Gingerbread. (It is like Christmas spirit in sliceable form, seriously.) Tomorrow I’ll drive to my parents’ house and begin the family celebrations but tonight, it’s the Jordi Wieler Christmas special – starring me, some spicy loaf, homemade apple cider, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I found in the teen fiction section of Chapters today. (If food is the heart of the Christmas body, then books have got to be the lungs. Whenever the air gets too tight, or I simply start hyperventilating, I read for sheer survival. I suggest you do the same.) Got some candles lit, got some Louis Armstrong for company, got a pile of presents wrapped and waiting to be delivered. It’s a good day. And hey, it’s almost freakin’ Christmas! What’s not to be excited about? Especially when you’ve got one of these laying around…

And so, I sign off with a full, happy belly… and I hope you do the same. Merry Christmas, everyone. Especially you, Lizzie Erwood! x

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Grazing

I’ve been too busy to bake this week – one of the unfortunate compromises that has to be made when working in retail at the busiest time of the year and trying to write essays at the same time. However, each Wednesday I have something come through my letterbox which gives me almost as much joy as making brownies (almost). 

Graze are a company who make amazing snack boxes, encouraging you to snack more healthily instead of eating biscuits all the time (which I will admit is slightly at odds with the idea of this blog – i.e. eating lots of cake). You can rate all of the different snacks they offer, and from that they choose how regularly to send you different things. My favourite part of receiving these boxes is having no idea what will be inside when I open it. This week I’ve been sent fiery seeds, oatcakes with caramelised onion marmalade, coconut flakes, dried mango and pineapple, and dried cranberries with almonds and chocolate drops. In the past they’ve sent me sundried tomato bread, olives, and tiny breadsticks with basil infused olive oil. All of it tastes so good.

The only bad thing is that they currently only ship to the UK, but hopefully one day they will open a Canadian branch of Graze so Jordi (and all other Canadians) can experience snacking joy. Until then, if you live in the UK, and like the idea of nice food coming through your letterbox on a regular basis, I suggest you sign up! They sent me a cut-out cardboard snowman yesterday as well. Now I know you’re definitely jealous. 

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the alternative use of food publications

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My 7-month-old nieces really got into my “delicious.” magazine.

They couldn’t be bothered to follow the recipes, though. So they just ate the magazine instead. It was, naturally, delicious.

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I’m so proud! Clearly, they take after their Auntie Jordi. They’re going to be readers, bakers, and above all, intense eaters. I love you, my little mooses.

Grey Cup, or something sportishy…

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Last Sunday was Grey Cup in Canada: an excellent opportunity to hang out with friends and/or family and drink cold, refreshing beverages and eat hot, titillating food (and, yes, I realize my references to food often seem sensual; but, I don’t think we can disagree that certain comestibles “excite or arouse agreeably”). Apparently, there is also some kind of sporting event on t.v. during this time but, let’s be honest, I’m in it for the beer and chicken wings. (And if I called it “football” my English friends would get mad, believing as they do that they own the name of a sport. But are we surprised? The English think they own everything – it’s a carry-over from the days of the Empire. I digress.)

My contribution to the get-together was something a little more daring than your average bag of Lay’s Original or 20-pack of Timbits (if you don’t know what these are, it’s time to get your arse to Canada, friends). Pictured above are my apple, turkey, and blue cheese galettes. In the “Fall Baking” magazine that Lizzie mentioned these are called “apple, ham, and smoked gouda galettes” but I took some liberties. They are pretty frickin’ awesome – at least I think so. A gorgeous blend of the savoury and sweet, and that pastry literally melts in your mouth. Mmm.

I’m not going to write down the recipe, though, ’cause it’s super long. Sorry.

But, of course, I didn’t stop there. I also made cheesy millet and black pepper breadsticks (also featured in the same magazine) – except I didn’t actually use millet flour so I guess that’s another misnomer. They were pretty tasty as well, though I think they could have used a bit more pizzazz. They tasted almost healthy, what with all that whole-wheat flour involved. I ate about a billion, because I figured it was okay. And because there was a ridiculous amount of leftovers and I hate waste. Just call me the human garburator. Or don’t.

Lastly, for something sweet, I made an old standby: chocolate-covered mint biscuits. I found these in a “delicious” magazine once and I’ve never looked back. (But why would I? Who would ever want to revert to life before chocolate-covered mint biscuits? That’s just absurd.) These got the ultimate praise at the Grey Cup party: the approval of a two-year-old. Kids are the ultimate food critics, right? ‘Cause if they don’t like it, they’ll just spit it out and tell you it’s gross; they don’t care about your feelings. But Coen – God bless his soul! – took one bite of one of these and said (and I quote verbatim): “Dat’s a good cookie.” I told his parents that from now on I wanted to test all my desserts on him but they said “No, Jordi.” That’s probably because, after about five cookies, their kid was running around and screaming like any normal two-year-old on a massive sugar buzz. Coen: you rock my socks, buddy.

Here’s a not-very-good photo of some of my contributions to the spread:

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And here is the recipe – Jordi-style. (The coating was my invention; the magazine serves the biscuits with chocolate mousse. That’s pretty good too. But seriously, these are like After Eights in cookie form. Awesome.)

3 tsp chopped fresh mint leaves

150 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

2 tsp peppermint extract

100 g softened butter, chopped

50 g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 (350 for Canucks). In a mixing bowl, stir the chopped fresh mint into the flour and drizzle over the peppermint extract. Rub in the softened butter with your fingertips until well blended, then sitr in the caster sugar. Bring the whole mixture together with a wooden spoon to form a stiff dough. (If it doesn’t come together you may have to knead it slightly, but don’t add water or the biscuits will spread and flatten as they cook.) Roll out the dought on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 0.5 cm and cut into rounds using a 5 cm cutter.

Put the rounds carefully on a baking tray (no need to line or grease) and cook in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until a pale golden colour. Remove from the oven and, while the biscuits are still hot, carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the coating: melt together (preferably in a bowl over boiling water – I flippin’ hate microwaves, those things will kill you AND your food) 225 g mint chocolate chips (this is really important! You could use regular chocolate, I suppose, but these are what make the biscuits extraordinary!) and 1 tbsp shortening. Dip the cookies half-way in, while the chocolate is still warm, and place on wax or parchment paper to cool. The fridge obviously helps with this too. It cools stuff down. Like a fridge is supposed to.

Go, uh, team… or whatever. Seriously, I don’t care, just pass the hors d’oeuvres.