Jamie Oliver’s Butternut Walnut Cake

February 27th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Jamie Oliver is a food god. A king of the culinary. I was hesitant about this recipe but it turned out better than expected, the perfect combination of crunchy walnut, sweet butternut pumpkin and little bursts of brown sugar lumps. Resist eating this straight out of the oven, it tastes better after the flavours get to mingle and know each other for a day or two.

ingredients:

  • 400g butternut pumpkin with the skin on, it seems odd but it works
  • 350g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • sea salt
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
  • handful of walnuts
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 175ml extra virgin oil

for the frosting: (I love that word, frosting, so much better than icing)

  • zest of 1 clementine, I used an orange instead
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 140ml sour cream
  • 2 heaped teaspoons sifted icing sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split length ways and seeds scraped out
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F. Line muffin tin with paper cases, or grease cake tin.
  2. Whiz the squash in a food processor until finally chopped. Whiz for 30 seconds with the walnuts. If your food processor is big enough, add the sugar, salt, eggs, flour, cinnamon, virgin olive oil and baking powder. If it’s not, mix all of these in a big bowl until everything is combined and moist. Don’t over-mix, you don’t want this to look like cake batter.
  3. Fill the muffin tin or cake tray with the mixture. Bake for 20-25 mins. If a wooden skewer comes out clean, it’s cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Make the runny frosted topping by mixing the clementine zest, all the lemon zest and the lemon juice into a bowl. Add the sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla seeds. Mix well and taste. If you think you want more sour, add more lemon juice, if you want more sweet, add icing sugar. It’s a personal taste. Put it into the fridge. You want to put the toppings on just as the cakes are served, otherwise it doesn’t keep that well. Jamie recommends decorating with rose petals and dried lavender flowers, but I didn’t have any around.
  5. Eat and know that you’ve done your healthy deed for the day. Yum!

The recipe was taken from the wonderful book Jamie at home.

Karin Elizabeth; neuropsychologist, photographer, blogger extraordinaire

February 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Karin ElizabethKarin Elizabeth is smart, funny and gives an air of beauty that so far only Kate Winslet has managed to capture. Her self-portraits are amazing, her words are sharp summaries hidden in book reviews that remind me of Jane Austen’s style and tone. In short, she is a woman to be admired.

I talked to her about her neuropsychology degree, her career in photography and her blog, Reading and Reviewing, a self-described ” creative book reviewing series”

My first question, what, exactly is a neuropsychologist?

“A neuropsychologist specializes in the relationship between brain and behavior. The brain is still not one hundred percent figured out; neuropsychology is a field always actively in research. One of my passions has to do with learning more about Parkinson’s disease and how to improve quality of life for patients. It will always remain fascinating to me. But it’s hard to find work in psychology here [in Netherlands]. In these current economic circumstances, where unemployment grows, it’s even harder. At some point I decided to let go of the small chance that someone will give me the benefit of the doubt and give me a job. Instead I wanted to focus on working independently in that other field I love: photography. I’ve always felt I’d be more suitable for a freelance career where I can put my creativity to use so this is a more natural route for me.”

“Living in The Netherlands is probably the same for me as it is for an American living in the United States. It’s home, it’s normal. I love to travel and I try to do this when I can, because it does enrich my life, but for myself – I have already experienced everything I needed to experience at age 17/18. It wasn’t always easy, the year abroad [Karin stayed in South Dakota] – to be honest I think it was the hardest time of my life. I was young and had to deal with things I didn’t expect to deal with before I went abroad. But I learned to persevere through good times and bad, to believe in myself and to count on myself. And to trust my own heart and instincts.One thing I have learned since living in the USA is that it doesn’t matter where you are, it’s who you are that matters… and who you are with.

Karin Elizabeth

Through a fluke of luck, this year Karin shared her birthday with Obama’s inauguration.

“Oh that was one of the most exciting days for me. I always feel a birthday is an an opportunity for change – which is what Barack Obama stands for, for many people (mostly Americans but also other citizens). I always try to set goals for myself on my birthday and I try to celebrate all of the good things I have accomplished the year before. I haven’t always made the best choices or handled things well, but as I’m growing up I’m learning to just be proud of myself for trying. My birthday feels like a bit of a new start. What better way is there than to celebrate the day ‘with’ the person who represents hope and change the most at the time?

So what makes her blog tick?

A blog is a great way to connect to like-minded people; lots of avid readers also blog.

“[I started my blog because] Books have always been important to me. I love browsing bookstores, bringing home books and when the time is right, open one of them up and read. It’s kind of my own private ritual and the whole process calms me. I figured it was time to add to this ritual by writing reviews to become more aware of what I am reading. The photos add a personal touch to it.

“Apart from hoping to provide other people with well-grounded book recommendations, it’s also very inspiring for myself. Since I’ve started this project (Jan. ’08), I’ve been reading twice as many books as I have the years before I started this! That alone has made it worthwhile to me. In the meantime I’ve also started reviewing books for authors and I joined a reviewing program for a bookstore. It would be fun to take this further, I’m definitely open to it, but whatever happens, I know I will continue this project because I just love it.”

Being a blog writer requires a lot of motivation during the week, when you’re feeling despondent, how do you move yourself to post?

“I think about how accomplished I feel each time I’ve completed an R&R. What brings me down the most is feeling useless, so why not do something that makes me feel useful? Writing reviews does that. So the best way to beat feeling down is to post.

What inspires you?

“Other people! Whether it’s their work, or their personality. I can look at someone’s photography and the wheels in my head start spinning. But beautiful people also bring out something in me – and with beautiful I mean the way they carry themselves and how they are on the inside. People fascinate me, always have. Finally, I notice the world around me. Ever since I’ve started photography I’ve been so much more appreciative of the things that used to slip by me before.”

Considering that your blog is based around self-portraits, how did you get over that initial awkwardness of critiquing what you look like in photos as well as critiquing your pictures objectively? Do you still get those moments where you go “oh, that was awful!” or are you more accepting and forgiving these days?

“I think I’ve always been okay with myself in photography. It’s usually been more about composition or something, not so much about how I appear. I just embrace my dorkiness. I can be such a goof. Most of the time when I put myself in front of the camera, I’ll pull a crazy face at least once and have a couple laughs when I go through my photos to select which to post-process. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then what is there? I don’t mind acting like a complete idiot in regular life either and I don’t fear embarrassment. I’ve spent years apologizing for who I am. I didn’t want that anymore.

What Women of the Web would you recommend?

The ladies of the Female Self-Portrait Artists’ Support Group take self-portraits and share them with each other. And they also listen to each other’s doubts, and share in one and other’s joys. I don’t spend enough time there. I should.

Previous women featured:

Tahlea Moonwater, modern witch

Gemma Palmer, writer and ex-photojournalist

Lemon Vodka

February 22nd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

If I could use four words to describe this recipe it would be: simple, easy, tedious and time. Don’t let the tedious part deter you, I did this while watching T.V and it took half an hour, I’ve been reaping (a.k.a drinking) the benefits for the last three months and it has been yum!

You’ll need:

  • 2 liters of vodka
  • 12 lemons
  • a peeler
  • a big jar
  • a strainer
  • someplace dark
  1. Wash all the lemons. Get a scourer and rub down the skin with soap and water. We’re doing this to get rid of any pesticide or wax. A thin layer of edible wax is put on the lemon skin to preserve them for longer and to deter bugs. If you get lemons from a farmer’s market, or better yet, your own backyard, you’re laughing. Make sure each lemon is blemish free.
  2. While the lemons are drying, fill the biggest pot you have with hot water and bring it to a rolling boil. Put in your big jar and it’s lid for ten minutes. Drain and leave to dry on absorbent paper. This sanitises it so you eliminate any chance of mold growing on your vodka. A dishwasher on the highest temperature setting will have the same sterilisation.
  3. Start peeling your lemons and putting the rind into the jar. This is the tedious part so watch T.V or listen to an amusing podcast at the same time. DO NOT get any of the pith (white stuff) into the jar, avoid it like the plague. It’s bitter, nasty stuff. The lovely lemon flavour only comes from the zest. Once all the lemons are peeled, fill the jar with vodka. Keep the original vodka bottle to refill when done.
  4. Place in a dark corner for six weeks. Once a week, give it a swirl. Marvel at the change of colour. The vodka is going to suck out all the good stuff from the peel. You’ll know your vodka is ready when it’s a bright yellow colour and the lemon peels are drained white and brittle when you break them.
  5. Strain the vodka twice into the original vodka bottle. It’ll smell and taste like lemons. Yum. Enjoy the potent mix.

If you want to be really decadent, make a simple sugar syrup by boiling a cup of water, taking it off the heat and mixing it with two cups of white sugar. Wait to cool then mix this with a liter of the lemon vodka and shot it down like an Italian, or even better, with an Italian.

Last night I went over to a friend’s place and made a Lemon Vodka mojito with mint, sugar syrup, 7-up, loads of ice and lemon vodka. It went down a treat and didn’t leave me with a nasty hangover this morning. The options are endless.

Mark Twain

February 15th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Crispy gourmet pizza

February 14th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Make the extra effort to do this recipe. You won’t regret it. It could be your staple dish to make when people come over. The great thing is once all the toppings are on and you’re good to go, you leave the pizza to rise one more time for half an hour. That gives you enough time to clean up, platter up some appetizers and have a beer.

You’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Semolina (make the purchase, it’s worth it)
  • 1 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 41/2 – 51/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of basil, chopped
  • chives, or any herb you prefer
  • artichoke hearts
  • char grilled capsicum (red peppers in U.S land)
  • sliced red onion
  • sliced ham and/or Italian sausage. Use chorizo if you can find it.
  • sliced mushrooms
  • goats cheese, sliced
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • cheery tomatoes, sliced in half

  1. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Smear olive oil on the sheet and dust with semolina. In a mixer bowl, whisk by hand the warm water and yeast. Let it stand for three minutes so it disolves.
  2. Whisk in sugar, eggs, oil and salt. Add flour, mix with a wooden spoon and knead if necessary to form a soft dough. Put the dough back in the bowl, sprinkle a little bit of olive oil on the top and cover with cling wrap. Put in a warm place, such as the top of the fridge, for 1/2 an hour.
  3. Chop all of the toppings to any size you like. In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, garlic and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and let rest for ten minutes. Lightly roll out the dough to a large rectangle or circle.
  5. Brush the surface with tomato paste mixture. Distribute toppings.
  6. Turn oven to 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius). Cover the pizza with cling wrap again and let rest for 30 mins.
  7. Bake until golden brown on the edges, approx 25 minutes. Cut, enjoy.

A bit of sanity on Valentine’s Day

February 13th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I need to watch this numerous times after all these advertisements that simplify women into two dimensional girls and pressure men to buy silly sparkly things.


The Terrifying Truth Behind Valentine’s Day — powered by Cracked.com

Well, this made my night.

February 6th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Obama

Obama

Easy choc chip cookies

February 6th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Some cookie recipes require you to mix, fridge, cut, fridge, cook, cool. Well, I say “screw that!”. I know you want to cook a Sunday indulgence, but nobody wants to stand around for that long. This is a basic, delicious choc chip cookie that will keep for a week and a half, if you have any sense of control that is.

These were delicious, soft and doughy on the inside with a crisp, brown sugar taste on the outside. Next time, I’m adding more choc chips!

Gather to your bosom the following:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups baking flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, pack it in baby.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups choc chip cookies
  • 1/2 cup of any nuts you like, I put in sliced and toasted almonds.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 Farenheit or 190 Celsius. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Put the butter and white sugar in a bowl and using a mixer, beat until it’s incorporated well. If you’re feeling like the hulk, whisk by hand. Add the brown sugar and mix again. Add the teaspoon of vanilla extract, more if you like your vanilla.
  2. Break and add the eggs, beating after each one. Don’t taste it by the spoonful after this.
  3. In thirds, add the flour mixture. It should be really thick now. It will taste floury but don’t freak out. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix in the choc chip chocolate and nuts. If you use your mixer, be wary of blitzing the choc bits into tiny, tasteless pieces.
  4. Plop tablespoons of the mix onto an ungreased baking tray. The cookie will expand to nearly triple the size of what it is now, so leave space accordingly.
  5. Cook for nine minutes, leave to cool on the tray for two minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
  6. Eat two immediately with a glass of milk.

When storing left overs, use an air tight container with a slice of bread. The bread controls the moisture, making sure your cookies stay fresher for longer.

You can store the uncooked dough for a week in the fridge and two months in the freezer.

Let me know if you make it!