Work has been overtaking my life lately. Time for reading? Yeah right. Time for seeing friends? I don’t think so! Time for going on cultural excursions? I wish! So I apologise for being rather remiss as a blogger of late. Even if I did have time to write anything, I haven’t really done anything worth writing about! I have been toying with the idea of giving up and admitting that I can’t really maintain this blog any more. That would make me incredibly sad, but it would remove yet another pressure that is weighing heavily on my shoulders. Even so, the pleasure it brings me when I do have time to write something outweighs the worry of needing to write something or catch up with replying to comments, so I shall be here for some time yet I think. I just need to work out a better system that ensures I have time to devote to my hobbies as well as my job. It’s not easy finding a balance in the teaching profession, but I need to sort it out soon otherwise the rest of my working life is going to be pretty bleak!
Tonight I decided to give myself a night off. I bought this wonderful cookbook in Tescos the other day; I was just popping in to buy some chicken, but as usual I ended up leaving with a bag bulging with treats that had jumped out at me on my way around the shop. I am a marketer’s dream! The Hummingbird Bakery is typically associated with those sickeningly sweet, incredibly cloying cupcakes piled high with sugary frosting that you see for sale on every New York street corner, but this new collection of recipes offers much more than that. There are a huge variety of American inspired cakes, cookies and desserts, and the pictures are so tempting that even a lazy and ineffectual chef comme moi was inspired to get baking. When I got in from work this afternoon, I had a flick through and decided to make ginger and chocolate cupcakes. A quick search of the cupboards revealed a need to return to Tescos, so off I went to pick up the ingredients. While I was there I bought a cheap Tesco Value electric hand whisk (£5.50!), as the one annoying thing about this cook book is that none of the recipes are particularly achievable by hand, unless you want to spend hours building up arm muscles to give Arnold Schwarzenegger a run for his money!
On my return home, I got going. I thought it would only take me half an hour, but I was very wrong. Those of us without fancy kitchen equipment suffer when it comes to making cakes. My big glass casserole dish and my cheap and cheerful hand whisk had no hope of containing the colossal amounts of cocoa powder involved. One touch of those rotating metal attachments and a minor nuclear explosion overtook my kitchen. Who knew cocoa powder could travel so far, and so thoroughly cover every single surface, including the lining of my nostrils and my hair? After spending half an hour cleaning up everything in sight, I went and got some cardboard from an amazon parcel and rigged up a makeshift screen to contain the cloud of sugary dust as I continued whisking. This worked well and eventually I was able to produce something akin to the description in the recipe. Twenty minutes in the oven revealed some deliciously springy, light cakes that smelled divine. While they cooled, I began the next phase; the frosting. This was another faff with the hand whisk and my cardboard barrier, but the results were impressive. I felt very proud of myself as I finished spreading the frosting on my neat little cupcakes, even if I was surrounded by chaos and a good hour’s worth of washing up. Sometimes, you’ve just got to take one for the team!
Speaking of cooking, remember I said I was going to try cooking some 1930s recipes from Ambrose Heath’s Good Food? Well, that’s another thing I haven’t had time for. But, if you’re interested, March has some intriguing dishes. Heath is particularly taken with March’s seasonal meat, duckling, which features in a wide range of meals, including Roast Duckling with Orange Salad, which actually sounds quite tasty. If duckling isn’t to your taste, you could perhaps try Salt Cod a la Indienne, which also sounds promising; the sauce is made from butter and flour, saffron, curry powder, milk, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Typically for Heath, there are no exact measurements or instructions given; as such, it does require you to be brave and make sensible guesses to achieve the desired results. I might have a go at making Poires Flambees, which involves cooking pears in alcohol of your choice, sugar and vanilla; I feel you can’t really go wrong with that!
I might not have been cooking from the 1930s, but I have been reading from the 1930s. My long term reading project is Matthew Hollis’ wonderful biography of Edward Thomas, but as my late night marking sessions have given me little time to concentrate lately, I’ve been dipping out of a recent naughty ebay purchase, E M Delafield’s General Impressions. This is a delightful compendium of some of Delafield’s columns published in the quintessential mid century magazine, Time and Tide. There are some mini short stories, hilarious snapshots of contemporary life, and some particularly interesting essays on men, women and children in fiction. I’m enjoying it very much, and there are definitely some real undiscovered gems in here. When I get a little breathing space, I’ll copy out some sections for you.
Finally, I am starting to plan some fun for the Easter holidays. I can’t wait to see this brilliant sounding exhibition about Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum, and I have tickets to see Peter and Alice, which I am really excited about. If the weather holds out, I’d love to drive down to Charleston for the day and go for a walk on the Sussex Downs, and perhaps I’ll make an overnight trip of it and stay in Eastbourne so that I can go to the Towner Gallery and see some Ravilious paintings while I’m at it. Happy days are ahead!