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Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Saturday Squirm

Saturday squirm - noun. Rotation of the body back into the foetal position upon realisation that it is Saturday, often accompanied by adjustment of bed linen to form a cocoon around the body.

I don't know about you, but Saturday mornings inspire the same feeling in me every time I open a bleary eye anytime before 9am - oh it's Saturday, I'm going back to sleep. This thought is then accompanied by serious re-arranging of limbs until I find a position I'm happy to spend several more hours in. When I finally feel sufficiently guilty to leave my bed, and realise that we're well into the afternoon and I haven't eaten in 10 hours, I feel compelled to make something sweet, and wonderful, and epic. Here are a few things I've made on a lazy Saturday morning.

Fluffy cloud pancakes with mixed berries. Feeling tired of flat pancakes (and how defeatist they look), I found a great recipe for fluffy pancakes here, and folded 6 fluffy, beaten egg whites into my normal pancake mixture for added height and softness. Since I don't have an electric mixer, beating those egg whites was a great upper body workout!

Giant cinnamon scroll cake. Ever since I saw this recipe, I've been dying to try it. Not because I love giant things (I actually prefer miniatures), but because it's the perfect combination of two of my favourite pastries - pain au raisin and cinnamon scrolls. It has the soft, fluffy, doughy texture of a pain au raisin (which you can just rip apart) and the heavenly smell and taste of cinnamon scrolls. I wasn't too sad about losing the raisins - it was sweet and buttery enough without them.

The only thing I didn't like about this recipe was the waiting. Waiting for the initial ball of dough to rise, and waiting for the assembled scroll to rise again before baking. But boy was it worth the wait. And honestly, seeing the magic of dough rise before your very eyes is pretty special too. Sort of like watching a child grow up, but without having to change any nappies.

Hope you all have wonderfully lazy Saturday mornings!

Cheese, baby, cheese.

There are some things in life that you just develop an unhealthy addiction for - caffeine, sugar, Facebook, unrequited crushes - and there's just nothing you can do about it. No matter how hard you try, you can't stop. It's a drug seeping through you, filling your veins, infiltrating every inch of you until you're paralysed, immobile in its grasp. That's essentially how I feel about cheese. I'm aware of its high fat content (thanks Google) and I know how big my portions should be, but my awareness of those two facts somehow diminishes in the looming shadow of two infinitely more important facts:

(a) I have more cheese (200g, in fact); and
(b) the cheese tastes so damn good.

So, as usual, in the constant struggle between my tastebuds and my conscience, the former defeats the latter, and I add more cheese. As part of my acceptance of my growing problem, I have included photos and recipes from my latest cheesy exploits for fellow addicts out there. Enjoy!

Balsamic-glazed salmon with mushroom and pea risotto. The easiest dish in the world! Stir-fry garlic and onions until fragrant and slightly translucent; add mushrooms until they gain colour; add cooked rice, peas and a cube of chicken stock, then when everything is warm and slightly golden, add grated cheddar cheese to the pan at the very end, and mix through the rice until slightly melted. Et voilà - the cheesy, salty richness of risotto without the pain of stirring stock gradually into a pot for hours on end. The balsamic on the salmon cuts through the creamy cheesiness, leaving a nice tang on your tastebuds.

Spaghetti cake. I found this recipe on Jamie Oliver's website (here) and it was super simple to make. Simply mix sun-dried tomatoes, chopped baby spinach, minced garlic, grated cheddar, goat's cheese and cooked spaghetti into cream and eggs, pour the entire gloopy mess into a greased cake tin and watch it crispen to perfection. The one thing I would change about the recipe, however, is reduce the amount of cream; the recipe called for 600mL, but I found this excessive. Otherwise, though, a lovely dish!

Until next time.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Winter wanderings

Cambridge sometimes feels like a snow globe - small, beautiful and claustrophobic. So every now and then, it's important to leave the bubble and get lost in another world. That is exactly what I did for a month over Christmas - yield to my wanderlust and savour the sights and smells of new scenery.  There is something unspeakably peaceful and serene about travelling, about being a foreigner in a strange land, knowing no one and recognising nothing. There are no expectations, no pressures, no burdens to bear. You're just an unknown traveller, floating through, cocooned in anonymity. Pop in your headphones as you saunter down the street, and listen to the soundtrack of your own life being carved out by each new footstep. It's refreshing and renewing and amazing. Below are a few snaps from my own recent travels. Enjoy! 

Nuremburg Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market)



Paris, Champs Élysées




Frankfurt Weihnachtsmarkt

Wiesbaden hot springs

Wine Cellar, Kloster Eberbach
(900 year old monastery)


The Larder, Edinburgh - best granola ever

Malteser Cake, Toast Cafe, Edinburgh 

View from Edinburgh Castle

Torch procession, Edinburgh 

Breakfast plate, Peter's Yard, Edinburgh 

Edinburgh Zoo 

To swim or not to swim?

New Year's Eve, Edinburgh 

Key Lime Pie cocktail, The Living Room, Edinburgh 

Haggis - actually very delicious! 

Walk to Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

And to avoid finishing this post with a picture of haggis, I shall leave you with photos of my most recent baking - ugly Christmas sweater cookies for our Christmas sweater party, and a miniature gingerbread village. Happy Holidays!

These little babies took about 4 hours to bake, assemble and decorate. But they were worth every minute!

Happy New Year!