Tag Archives: at home

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.

 

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..

we’re terribly sorry…

10 May

We’ve been out of action for the last few days because we’ve been doing up our garden..

Here’s the results! (predominately down to our amazing friend Jon at The Welcome Gardener we will hastily add)..

Before / Mid way through removing 100 tonnes of earth…

and finished!

Here’s hoping for a little sunshine now so we can enjoy it!

 

a tale of two cities

4 May

Part of my job working for a radio station is being able to understand what makes people of all ages and different backgrounds tick… i.e. what floats their boat and if we should start talking or promoting it, will they tune in for longer… or turn that dial?

Reading between the lines I pretty much see this as a permit to be nosy.. in the ethnographic, not the ‘News of the Screws’ sort of way I’ll hastily add.

The factors that shape people’s behaviour are vast and well over my head, but I wanted to share two really fascinating books that give an insight into how the lovely city around us shapes our lives.

One is based upon a single street in London, and the other on Tokyo. Although far apart and very different, as experiments on cities go, these are two petri dishes that are as good as it gets for a social anthropologist.

‘The Comfort of Things’ by Daniel Miller is a portrayal of one street in modern London. In a city where we interact with our neighbours less, religious and social communities are looser than years gone by when you start to think about it, it can be difficult to describe what defines us and the society around us.

By interviewing thirty households on a single street, investigating what lies behind front doors and importantly the possessions within, the writer creates a great portrait of what matters to us as a modern society in London.

Rather than showing that modern life has been wholly corrupted by consumerism, these brilliantly written accounts frequently demonstrate what we possess actually express our aspirations and importantly cement our relationships with family, friends and thecity around us.

One person describes the importance of their Christmas decorations, and how the tree symbolises their chronology of Christmases. Every year the youngest child of friends and family makes a new decoration to hang on the tree. So they get to plot and remember Christmases across children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

‘Tokyo: a certain style’ is a photographic book by Kyoichi Tsuzuki along the same lines. Showing how our fellow mega city dwellers in Japan live, makes it a great comparison to Daniel Miller’s book.

As one of the most expensive places in the world to rent or own property, apartments in Tokyo are what you could describe as “cosy”.

Getting an insight into how people manage to live and function in apartments so compact that they sometimes don’t have a bathroom or toilet, yet still be able to own SO much stuff blows my mind.

Indulge your nosiness by peeking at the various spaces, this one above of a living /bed/study/dining room of a Manga artist (and no, this isn’t the bedroom of a ten year old boy)..

Originally I actually bought this book for my sister as a present (she’s an interior designer that loves clean, clutter free lines), but I had to buy myself a copy.

Mainly because I couldn’t stop leafing through it before I handed it over, so I had somewhat tarnished that “new” feel to it.. it is a few years old, but should you be able to get your hands on a copy do so.. A great gift for neat freaks, or those that complain that their flat is too small.

a song for friday lovers…

27 Apr

A beautiful cover of The Flamingos “I only have eyes for you” by Beck…

You’ll probably recognise part of the melody as The Fugees sampled it on “Zealots” from their album The Score.. happy Friday everyone.

herby goodness

24 Apr

I once read an interview with a high profile chef who said “never trust anyone who recommends using dried herbs in a recipe”. Now I couldn’t be any more on board with using fresh herbs, as flat leaf parsley is basically the only concealer of my otherwise bland creations..

Sometimes however, getting your hands on bread and milk can be a struggle in my local supermarket, let alone fresh tarragon or oregano, so unfortunately Nigel, dried herbs often do come into the equation..


I always used to buy bunches of herbs, but not use them in one go. So I’d store them in my fridge only to find them limp and dank a day or so later and pretty unappealing to use.

Now I’m not sure if this is a common trick, but I was taught by a wise Greek Cypriot this method for keeping your herbs perfectly fresh, which has been used from times as far back as to when Greece didn’t have a budget deficit (longer than anyone can remember).

So, simply cut the end of the bunch of the herbs

Pop them in a fresh glass of water

Ideally stick a sandwich/ freezer bag over the herbs (we’d run out so I used a normal carrier bag).

Pop it in the fridge, and voila your herbs will stay fresh for days (just remember to change the water regularly)… bland food banished, and celebrity chef kudos ahoy!