Diamond

I actually remembered an umbrella this time. Usually I risk going out without one, but this time I remembered I had one in the door pocket of my car and black clouds were building. So it was quite satisfying to walk into town and briefly feel the rain on my face before sheltering under it.

I was walking up a busy street, up the hill towards food and a coffee, when I saw this small hooded figure. I didn’t think anything of it at first, in fact I nearly walked past her. I stopped because I heard her small, old voice say: “help me”. She was in her seventies in a padded coat, slowly getting wet and leaning on an aluminium crutch. Her face, now I think about it, was quite plain and drawn, like a tear falling upwards. She had that far-away look too.

“Help me down this hill would you? Otherwise I think I might fall over”

I brought her under my brollie and asked her if she was ok. She told me she needed to get to the bus station to get home.

“I don’t think I can do it on my own”

I took her by the arm and started walking back down the hill. She told me all about her life in the short distance to the bus station (which we got to the long way round). Her Jewish parents fled Germany before the Second World War broke out, changing their names too just in case Hitler ever made it across the Channel. Before she knew it people were taking advantage of her in her old age. Schizophrenia gave everyone the idea that they could help themselves to her money. Men told her they loved her and left with her possessions. Others sold her overpriced kitchen utensils and she bought them jewellery.

“I didn’t let them get the better of me” But she never said how she did that – It felt like they had.

It was difficult to see the truth in it all. Who am I to say that it was all a lie? While she was talking she seemed to forget her ailments, whatever they were and walked quite normally unaided by the crutch that dangled from her arm. I was glad that I could give her the time.

We got to her stop at the bus station and the rain stopped. My arm was aching from holding her up.

I offered to stay with her until the bus arrived but she had ran out of stories.

I said goodbye, she said: “Call me Diamond.”

Memory Loss

At work I hear dozens of stories every week. They range from the uplifting to the crushingly sad. To say that I have a roller-coaster ride of emotions everyday would be about right. Not the big loop-de-loop kind every day, more like the travelling circus kind that puts your heart in your mouth only once or twice is closer to the mark.

Anyway what I’m trying to say is that some stories really hit you and stay longer than others. They get the gears working.

I heard about a woman who has anterograde-amnesia last week. She hit her head and rattled her brain to the point where she forgets her day every time she falls asleep. She has a diary that she has to update, what the children are doing, why her knee hurts, what she’s spent money on…

I felt immensely sad. She thinks she’s hit her head every time she wakes up and goes to bed kissing her children, knowing she will see them a little bit older tomorrow and at first not understand why. She has to read about her life with an extra day each time, which she has to convince herself happened.

Her husband is a strong man. He stands by her, takes her hand, and guides her through her life.

I did consider the positives. Those little things that annoy you must melt away. You can choose to remember the good things and forget the bad. It can be whatever you write down or believe when you wake up. It reminds me of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Short-lived, but fruitful. I suppose she is a living reminder that today can be different to tomorrow and will be yesterday soon enough. Reminds you to make good memories and not sweat the bad ones.

Exploring the ‘Others’

The reason I always wanted to call this blog ‘Food and Others’ was to cover my love of food, but also to cover anything else I may feel compelled to write about. I wanted wiggle room in case I stopped writing about food. Guess what? I stopped writing about food. You may have noticed I’ve not written about trying new recipes in a really long time. I logged into my account (amazed that I could remember the password because it’s been so long) and found you are still here, looking over the 30 or so recipes. Thanks for that.

I just stopped. I can’t explain why. As with most personal projects in my life, I’m excellent at making a good start, let it rumble on, But then eventually it to glides away or dies. Which is why I’m amazed this one survived so long. Well I’m not going to let it limp on anymore. I’m going to fill it with more me. It’s not going to be groundbreaking writing, I can tell you that much. I’ve been talking to fellow blogger Alice (who is exceptional at this). She says the writing is the important bit, write for yourself, then if people notice it’s a bonus. So if you do, let me know. To ease in I will write a post once a week. Something interesting is bound to happen to me at least once a week right?

I want to explore the ‘Others’. The wiggle room. Show you the other parts of my life and learn to be proud of them through this process.

So I’m sending this out into the vast internet void, to be the start of something (possibly) or to disappear into it.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This is a classic recipe which I made a little more chocolatey! It was one that I wanted to try because I know they can be hard to get right. In the past I’ve found that if left for a minute too long in the oven they can go too hard. Also, too much bicarbonate of soda and they become too cakey. This is also a recipe that you can use to make any cookie you want. My key tip is make sure they are soft in the middle when you take them out because once they cool they become the right texture. This recipe makes about 30 depending on how big you want them.

Ingredients:

150g Softened butter

80g Light brown muscovado sugar

80g Granulated sugar

2tsp Vanilla extract

1 Large egg

175g Plain flour

50g Cocoa powder

1/2tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

1/4tsp Salt

200g Plain chocolate cut into chunks

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Preheat the oven to 180Degrees Celsius and line two or three baking trays with grease proof paper.

Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and mixed in. Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg. Don’t worry at this point, it will look wrong but now you sieve the flour and the cocoa powder in. Add the salt and the bicarbonate of soda at this point too. Mix well and then add the chocolate chunks. Make sure the chocolate is evenly mixed into the cookie dough.

Using two teaspoons, put little mounds onto the baking tray. I usually put nine to a tray as they spread quite far. make sure the mounds are around a teaspoonful, they will be a good size even though they look small at the moment. Put the first tray in the oven for about 9mins then prepare the next tray.

Get a bit of a production line going so that when one batch comes out of the oven the next is ready to go in. You’ll only have to do it a couple of times and this way each cookie has enough space to spread and not meet another.

Let the cookies cool on the tray for a few minutes then put them on a wire rack to cool.

Have a few with a nice cold glass of milk! 🙂

Challange: Passion Cake

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To change things up a bit on here I have been asking people for challenges. So in the coming weeks most of the new entries will be challenges. I have quite a list and some of them will be really difficult! My friend Kate was one of the first I asked and she said Passion Cake. It’s her favourite so I wanted to do a good job. After doing a bit of research I found that it is quite a dense cake, a lot like banana bread. It’s packed full of ingredients and this recipe makes a big cake so there’s plenty to go around. I was worried it was going to bake properly because it was so big. But being careful and watching it in the oven I managed to bake quite a good one. Everyone at work loved it! Including Kate. Challenge successful!

Ingredients:

150ml Sunflower oil
300g Self-raising flour
1tsp Ground cinnamon
1tsp Baking powder
300g Caster sugar
50g Desiccated coconut
2 Eggs beaten
2 Egg whites
140g Carrots grated
432g Canned crushed pineapples in juice
100ml Milk

For topping and Drizzle:
Icing sugar and juice from the crushed pineapple
200g Soft Cheese
100g Butter
25g Caster sugar
1tsp Vanilla extract
3 Passion fruits

Equipment:

I used a large loaf tin for this, but you could always use round cake tins if you wanted.

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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease the loaf tin with oil and a piece of baking paper for the bottom.

Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, half the sugar and the coconut together in a bowl. In another bowl beat the eggs, grated carrot, milk, oil and the crushed pineapple (keep the juice from the tin). Then beat the egg whites until stiff, add the rest of the sugar and beat again until shiny. At this point you should have three bowls of mixtures: dry, wet and the whites.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones and mix together really well. Then gently fold in the egg whites until it just comes together. Pour into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for a good 50mins. If you divide the mixture, divide the time and keep an eye on it. take out of the oven once a knife can come out of the cake clean.

With the pineapple juice add a table spoon of icing sugar one at a time between stirring to make a syrup. Prick the top of the cake with a knife or a skewer and pour the syrup on top (whilst still in the tin). For the topping, mix the butter and cheese together, then mix in the caster sugar and the vanilla extract. scoop out the seeds from the passion fruit and mix into the topping.

Take the cake out of the tin and put on a wire rack. Then spread the topping on. Slice and devour! It’s a moist, sweet cake. Enjoy!

Vanilla and Poppy Seed Sponge Cake

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This is a classic Victoria Sponge recipe with a twist. Again, this is something I made out of seeing what I had left in the cupboards. I flavoured the cream inside with some tangerines that were in the fruit bowl. You can pretty much do whatever you want with this recipe. See what you can come up with!

Ingredients:

200g Caster sugar

200g Softened butter

4 Eggs beaten

200g Self-raising flour

1 tsp Baking powder

2 tbsp Milk

1tsp Vanilla extract

A good sprinkling of poppy seeds

For the filling:

150ml Double Cream whipped up

The juice of one tangerine

Equipment:

Two 9in sandwich tins are the best thing to use. There’s no need to use spring form tins, just make sure you line and grease them properly so the come out.

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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease the sandwich tins. Cut two discs of baking paper for the bottoms too, it makes it easier to lift them out.

Put all the cake ingredients into a mixer and mix until fully combined and smooth. Add the vanilla and poppy seeds and mix through. Add as much as or as little as you want to taste.

Divide between the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake on the same shelf for 20mins until brown and a knife comes out of it clean. Leave them to cool for a few minutes in the tins, then turn out onto a wire rack.

For the filling, whip up the cream and mix in the tangerine juice. Sandwich the two cakes together and put in the fridge. (the filling can be a slightly runny but it holds together after chilling. If it’s too runny add a little icing sugar).

Absolutely lovely with a cup of earl grey tea!

 

 

 

Leek, Potato and Stilton Soup

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I must admit that I am not a huge fan of Stilton. But for some reason I had the urge to get some and put it in a soup. To avoid the other thing I’m not very fond of (broccoli) I decided to try it in leek and potato soup. It’s creamy and tasty and if you’re not a fan of blue cheese add another kind or just leave it out. As usual I always make a recipe enough for seconds to go in the flask for lunch the next day!

Ingredients:
3 Medium sized leeks chopped finely
6 Good sized potatoes peeled and quartered
A medium sized onion diced
2 Cloves of garlic chopped
2 Pints of vegetable stock (2 stock cubes)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
150ml Milk
100ml Double cream
50g Stilton

Equipment:
A nice big pan and a stick blender.

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Melt a knob of butter in a large pan. Add the onion, leek and garlic, turn the heat down to medium and sweat with the lid on for 10mins. Give it a stir and add the potatoes. Season, and cook for another five minutes with the lid on.

Boil the 2 pints of water and dissolve the veg stock in it. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Once there turn down the heat and simmer for another 10mins with the lid on.

When the veg is soft whizz it up with the stick blender. Give it another good season and add the cream and milk. Keep tasting keep seasoning until it’s got loads of flavour! Crumble in the Stilton now and stir until melted. Keep back two pieces of the cheese for the finish. Add as little or as much as you like. I must say it really does add something to the soup.

Bowl up and enjoy!