Archive by Author

baking pride

17 Jul

My name’s Ollie and I’m competitive.  Yes I admit it, if there’s a challenge I’m 100% in, and I’m pretty embarrassing to be around.

I wish this competitive streak had an off button, but unfortunately it doesn’t and it also stretches to the work environment. I don’t think it’s by accident I sit on a desk with one other (very placid) person, isolated from the rest of the team.

Now for some unbeknownst reason there seems to be a big group of  home baking ‘fans’ in our office, who take it in turns to conjure up all manner of amazing goods. Ever so recently this group has turned from sweet toothed (and natured) baking friends into hardcore competitors that makes Iron Chef look like a quaint village fete.

As a loose member of this fraternity (read desperate to belong), any opportunity to try and impress them with my baking skills I’ll bloody take it.

So as it was my placid desk friends 40th Birthday, I thought I’d try and bake a rainbow layer cake. I’d seen a few pics about these online recently, and thought if I wanted to be seen as mover and shaker in the office baking circle this might be my chance..

Not the sort of cake you’d bake for anyone with issues about artificial colours (or hyperactivity), but for cutting the cake “wow” factor, its hard to beat.

I think it turned out pretty well – my table mate was pretty ‘proud’ of my efforts and you’ll be pleased to know the baking fraternity are beginning to talk to me a little more…  as too are the LGBT group bizarrely.

 

ola stranger

5 Jul

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to Secret Screenings – the new(ish) arm of the incredibly popular ‘Secret Cinema’.

For the uninitiated (if there is anyone left out there that hasn’t heard of this great concept), at Secret Cinema you buy a ticket to a film but you don’t know what it is. There’s always a big interactive element to the experience, but you don’t know what it’s going to be and the only thing you know is that it’s going to be pretty special.

The screening last night was of ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ – a documentary about a musical legend from Detroit you’ve never heard of.

With a voice and sound that’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan fused with Nick Drake, yet completely individual, Rodriguez recorded two albums in the late sixties / early seventies which, although a critical success, sold barely any copies. Rodriguez was subsequently dropped by the label and he disappeared.

Yet somehow his albums made it to apartheid era South Africa, where the songs, protest themes and lyrics connected with those that opposed the regime. Unbeknownst to Rodriguez his records sold hundreds of thousands of copies, he inspired a generation of musicians and was literally more famous than the Rolling Stones (he never received a penny for any record sales).

The crazy thing about his huge fame was that no one knew anything about him and legend had it that he committed suicide on stage. This amazing documentary follows two South African fans searching for the Sugar Man and the unbelievable discoveries they made.

All I’ll say is that after we had the pleasure of watching this great film, we were treated to a very very special performance which practically blew everyone in the audience’s mind.


This is one of my favourite songs from Rodriguez – as they say in the doc, one of the saddest, most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear.

Sign up to @secretscreening and @futurecinema on twitter for future events.. And also make sure you go see this doc when it’s released.

we’ll probably get hung for treason..

1 Jun

But we had to share this given the impending Jubilee weekend..

Have fun one and all.

diamond jubilee strawberry “easecake”

28 May

 

We all do stupid things when we’re young, and for me one of the most idiotic (that I’ll divulge here anyway), was thinking it’d be a good idea to take a job picking strawberries for a month or two, so I could pay to go on a surf trip to France.

Irrespective of having to hunch over plants in ridiculously hot poly-tunnels (it was just my luck that we experienced one of those mythological “Indian Summers”), the worst impact of the job was the self imposed 50m barrier between strawberries and I for the next five years due to eating so many whilst working (and that I associated the taste of strawberries with searing back pain).

Having finally gotten over my ‘issues’, I now fully embrace the strawberry again, especially when they’re in season, taste great and are sold off at the end of the day down the market for 20p a punnet.

Here’s one of those ridiculously quick recipes I nicked from a magazine (I call it a four song recipe.. because fairly obviously that’s how many songs you listen to whilst prepping it) for a very summery dessert. I made this on the weekend and thought it’d be perfect to share prior to the impending Jubilee celebrations.

Strawberry & Lemon “Easecake”

As named by my good friend Laura.. who I think possibly ignored a calling to be a pun writer.

200g strawberries – this is just under a punnet full..
1 tsp caster sugar
4 digestive biscuits
100g cream cheese, easier to whisk if it’s at room temperature.. but unless you’re a wimp you’ll probably manage if it’s straight out the fridge.
2 tbsp icing sugar
125ml double cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 wine glasses

First chop the strawberries into small pieces. Put these into a cereal bowl, sprinkle the caster sugar over them, put a plate on top and give a couple of gentle shakes so they begin to macerate.

Then ideal if you’ve had a rubbish day and need to vent any frustration, put the the biscuits into a freezer bag and smack it with a rolling pin until you have a sandy bag of crumbs…then divide equally into your glasses.

Measure the cream cheese and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk – try and not get icing sugar everywhere as I invariably do.

Then add the cream, lemon juice and vanilla, and whisk gently to combine – it should be a nice smooth consistency – not too runny or stiff.

Now the hard part (and the bit that takes the most time..) divide the cream between each glass, and try not to get any on the sides of the glass.. it’s impossible I swear.

Then finally pop your chopped strawberries in the glasses, and sprinkle with a little chopped mint. Serve and impress friends… bending the truth at this point in regards to how long they took to prep always helps.

I’ve also found that out of a punnet of strawberries you have just enough fruit left over for your glass of the best summer drink going a Sipsmith Summer Cup.

 

hallelujah for the weekend…

25 May

It’s been a glorious week here in London town and thankfully it looks like it’s going to be an amazing weekend too.. the BBQs will be out, the parks will be packed and no doubt there’ll be a few beverages consumed too..

One of the vital elements for any weekend sunshine soiree (in my opinion anyway) is the musical accompaniment.. setting the right tempo, feel and tone to the gathering and time of day..

Here are a few of my personal choices for the weekend that may well complement a weekend outside..

First and foremost, if it’s sunny and you’re rocking one of London’s many green spaces this is a surefire hit..

This is a lovely laid back mix that’s perfect for playing at a BBQ – it’s an hour long so you don’t have to worry about changing tunes, plus the opening track by Bobby McFerrin is something really special.

Once the sun has gone down, this is a great segue from day to evening.. upping the tempo a little.. and will maybe even bring a little Balearic vibe to the city..

And finally for Sunday morning when it’s still sunny and you’re sitting back with a coffee and life is good, praise the lord with this euphoric soul gospel number!

Have a great weekend everyone..

happy clappers

23 May

As a self-confessed nerd  i’ll happily admit that I pretty much love the internet..

If you ignore the plethora of porn, the tonnes of trolls or the flocks of fraudsters (so basically I’m asking you to forget 99% of the ‘net), enabling billions of people to publish their thoughts, advice and ideas is amazing.. Pretty much on a weekly basis I’ll see something that friends have recommended or I’ve stumble upon that is brilliant and makes my life easier / funnier / less productive.

Two examples for you all.. As you may have noticed we’ve been doing a little theatre going recently (some good, some bad), and in the process of researching & booking I found these two sites.

Theatre monkey.

 

A friend recommended this nerdy gem to me – although it covers a huge amount of information, I love the venue seat opinions section to each of ALL of the theatre venues in london… I don’t know about you, but when I’m booking seats I spend way too long procrastinating whether a seat is worth the £5 premium.. So having this nerd sage’s advice on where to sit and which are the best seat is a god send..


Audience Club

Now this is something really special.. I’ll be upfront and say there is a waiting list to join, but its worth signing up because when you get on this gravy train there’ll be no looking back..


Have a read of the screen grab, but simply put, as there are always left over tickets at theatres, promoters want to get rid of them so the place is full and this site is where you can get your hands on them for dirt cheap (roughly £2.50 a ticket)… In your face ticket booths!

To join you pay a yearly membership fee (less than £20) and top up your kitty with a tenner.. i.e. Four tickets to a show… so the going to one performance is worth the joining / kitty fee alone!

Cynics might question the quality, but the brilliant thing is that these tickets aren’t for bad shows, crap seats or random pub theatres in Wood Green. We’re talking proper West End “must see” shows, as well as comedy, Opera, Ballet etc.

So happy clapping everyone (Because you can see perfectly and the show cost you less than a pint).

his and hers paris… for a day

19 May

One of those cliche lines Londoners use on visitors when extolling the benefits of living in this beautifully flawed city is its close proximity to Europe and that “it’s so quick and easy to pop across to the continent for a weekend”… In reality we all know that we’re as likely to pop to Barcelona as we’re likely to travel from Brixton to Broadway market to meet a friend for brunch… i.e. not very.

Having cast a very cynical view on how far we spread our European wings, to celebrate the final leg of the His and Hers week of birthdays (Jane’s), we decided to take advantage of the proximity of Paris and take a day trip to visit our Gallic neighbours.

With the trip by Eurostar taking less time and money than it does for me to return home to North Devon (ridiculous I know), by catching a 7.15am train from St Pancras and returning from Paris at 9.15pm, you can pack a lot into a day.. Here’s a little photo journal of our day!

 

Some last minute itinerary planning (please note the homemade Paris “handbook” – one half of the His and Hers has organisational “issues”)

First stop of the day was the Musee Rodin – there were certain tell tale signs that helped us find our way there..

Seeing all of the roses starting to bloom in the garden (or should I say jardin), really made it a special way to start the day

We couldn’t have asked for better weather to appreciate such classic sculptures – Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’

 

And George coming face to face with the realism of Rodin’s work

After the joys of Musee Rodin, we were all in need of a caffeine pick me up, so we hit a cafe to sample a french cappuccino (way too frothy) and catch up on Paris’ view on the morning news..

 

After possibly a little too much caffeine, we got a little childish with our photo ops in Jardin des Tuileries…

A wander down Rue Saint-Honoré via Colette (parting with too much money) and into the Marais…

Taking in the magnificence of the Pl. de Vosges – impossible to do in one photo!

And after a full day of walking, a little respite to take in respective news from across the channel..

We were slightly disappointed in the meagre selection of brie in the supermarket….

But we made do and had quite a piquenique on the Eurostar home!