Archive for the ‘food and drink’ Category

Day of baking; Day of Baking; Feed me ’till I want no more.


OK. Tomorrow is the Hardwick Gardening Club Annual Village Show. It wasn’t on last ear due to building work at the school. The year before that I became the first bloke to win the baking cup. So this year I have to try and defend it.

This year the Women’s Institute cup isn’t on offer, and since my two main competitors battle it out for points towards that cup I thought I’d be OK. But no, talking to Karen (she collects the entry forms) the baking categories are looking stronger. For example, I’m putting in blackberry jam in the “1 jar of Jam – soft fruit” class. I’m not good at jam making (I over cook it – I need more practice) but last time there were only two other entries. The cup works like this: first gets three points, second two, and third one. Then the points from your highest rank in each baking class are added together. The cook with the most points gets the cup. You can enter two items per class, though I’m not doing that this year. I know of at least three other jams in the “1 jar of Jam – soft fruit” class, so I’m staring down the barrel of nil points 馃槮

Anyway, I’ve taken today off work to get down to baking. Here’s the plan.

E1: Home made dessert – own choice (include recipe with entry)

I’m aiming for laser etched cr猫me br没l茅e. I’ve three to hone my technique on today, then I’ll use the last two to get it right tomorrow morning. How long do they last once caramelised?

E2: 1 jar of Jam – soft fruit

Done – blackberry

E5: 1 jar of Lemon Curd – cellophane covers only

Do this afternoon

E6: 1 jar of Mincemeat

Done. Delia’s recipe is wonderful. I always get favourable comments about it at Christmas.

E7: Fruit Tart (pastry top and bottom, undecorated) on a china/glass plate

Apple pie. I’ll make the pastry this morning and the pie this evening.

E10: 5 Biscuits

Oh dear. I’m awful at this but I will keep trying. I’ll probably make this this morning.

E11: Victoria Sandwich Cake with raspberry jam filling, caster sugar topping (recipe at back of schedule)

Yeah. The formula one of the show. First year I was nagged by the judges for not having a doily! Last time I won this class. Fingers crossed!

E12: Orange & Carrot Cake (recipe at back of schedule)

It’s a good recipe, but the middle can be soggy. I’ll do this sometime today.

E13: 5 Cheese scones

I’ve brought in buttermilk. I’m hopeful these will be good.

E15: Rich Fruit Cake (recipe at back of schedule)

Done – but only this week. I should have done this a month ago so it could mature. It cracked a bit on top too.

E16: Home-made Bread – white or brown (not machine made) displayed on board

Me and another guy battle for first place each year – he does white and I do brown. I won last year, though his looked amazing. I’ll kneed this over and over and over again through the afternoon and evening and then leave it to rise in the fridge overnight.

E18: 5 Jam tarts

I’ll use some sweetened pastry for this. Baking this evening.

E20: Lincolnshire fruit loaf (recipe at back of schedule)

I made this yesterday which doesn’t give it much time to mature. But It has no fat in, so I don’t think it needs ages. Sadly its base cracked as I took it out of the tin so I’ll need careful presentation.

I’m missing the other classes – you have to stop somewhere! There’s a class that only gentlemen can enter (I guess to encourage blokes to have a go), but since my main competition are women I think it would be bad form to enter that.


Laser etching crème brûlée for the Hardwick Village Show


I’m collecting cr猫me br没l茅e recipes. Delia’s doesn’t seem to set, so I’ll pick between Simon Rimmer’s or Paul Merrett’s (or the Jamie Oliver one in “Happy Day’s with the Naked Chef”). It’s the village show on Saturday and I’ll be defending the baking cup. One part of my plan is to enter the dessert category with a cr猫me br没l茅e laser etched with the Hardwick village crest. So yesterday Stuart taught me how to use our laser cutter in the hardware lab. Now I’m panicking somewhat. The lip of the ramekin’s will interfere with the laser head; will the laser burn or cut the sugar (I may need to manually defocus); how long will cr猫me br没l茅e keep once the top is caramelised?

So on Saturday I’ll either e able to report a ‘HOWTO’ on laser etching cr猫me br没l茅e, or I’ll have provided a particularly high calorie addition to the Mardas Gap!

Project Idea: Arduino Sous-vide Cookery


“Sous Vide Machinery” by
Ginger Gross

We’ve been glued to the BBC 2 series The Great British Menu We came across it during the week where Sat Bains and Glynn Purnell fought it out to represent the Midlands. They both used a strange cooking technique that I had not encountered before whereby meat is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag and then cooked for a very long time in a water bath at a constant surprisingly low temperature. The results seemed amazing. I asked Fabien (a knowledgeable food-loving colleague at work) and he pointed me to the whole new word of sous-vide cookery. I haven’t yet explored the cost of a large water-bath (or a vacuum packing machine) but it did strike me that this may be a great project to try on the Arduino, and I found an example water-bath electronics project online that may help.

Assam tea – the elixir of the Gods


I love tea. When we lived out near Seattle I tried swapping to coffee but while it is a good drink it left me feeling unwell. Kate and I drink a lot of tea, I get out of bed every morning and make us each a giant mug which we drink in bed while we chat through the coming day.

Back when I was much younger, and Kate and I were dating, we use to pop up to London at the weekend and stop in The Tea House in Covent Garden (it’s still there) to stock up on different teas. Our favourite was black cherry flavoured (they don’t seem to do this one any more 馃槮 ) Then in the week, after SEEVIC, Luke Stoneham and I would walk home and sample various brews. I’m not sure I remember this correctly, but I think our favourite was Formosa Oolong, though we were partial to a nice Lapsang Souchong too.

Now I’m much older (42 not 17) and I find my favourite is Assam. The one pictured at the head of this post is from The Tea House in Covent Garden again, Will and I picked it up before Carmen at the RoH. It’s their posh one: 2nd Flush. Excuse the bits floating on the surface, visible in the photo, I’d refreshed the pot with more boiling water – the first cup looked much better. Assam is amazing. It is a robust tea, best drunk (I think) alongside food. It has real subtlety and can stand up alongside anything from a thin slice of Madeira Cake through to egg and chips. The revelation for me came supping a cup at The Alpine Coffee Shop in Betws-y-Coed. Don’t be fooled by the name, their teas are amazing. And don’t be fooled by the look of the place either. It looks like a friendly, clean, but functional cafe for tourists and hikers to get a cheap bite to eat. But it is more than that. Throughout my childhood whenever we went on holiday Mum and Dad would take us to umpteen tea shops, and it’s a habit I’ve kept alive. So I do know my tea shops. But I wasn’t prepared for just how exquisite the single estate Assam that they serve is. I jotted down the details so I could hunt it out but they’ve fallen out of my wallet long ago. Amazingly (it has nothing added save milk) you can taste lychee underneath the tea flavour. Do go to The Alpine Coffee Shop if you find yourself in Betws-y-Coed, and keep ordering their posh Assam!