Warning: Long Post Ahead. Anyone reading this who knows me will be used to this...anyone reading this who doesn't know me...Welcome!
Yesterday was that rare, rare thing in Wellington: A sunny day without wind. Unfortunately it was pretty much wasted on us as Tim had work all day at Starbucks. Nevertheless, we made the most of what time we had and went to the vege market in town to get a tray of free range eggs (definitely worth it, even if you are on a budget - plus we have a strict "happy chicken only" policy in our flat) They were white eggs, which is pretty unusual these days, although contrary to popular belief brown eggs aren't in any way superior to white ones, it's just that, (like people I guess) brown hens seem to lay brown eggs and white hens lay white ones.
So, while Tim toiled away making syrup-cinos for people, I went back to the flat, sat out on our sunny courtyard (with sunblock on and with my head in the shade, by the way) and read some Shakespeare. I was so busy basking in the sun and feeling self-satisfied that I almost forgot to read but it was a nice way of studying whilst not missing out on the weather.
I had started making some Proust's Madeleines from Nigella's How To Eat before I started studying - this is because they require an hour's sit in the fridge. I know of the late Proust but not about him; a bit like when you get a word in Pictionary that you know you could easily spell but not draw a description of. A quick Wikipedia search reveals him to be an asthmatic, gay French novelist who expounded the delights of this little cake in his novel, À la recherche du temps perdu. Since I have recently acquired a natty silicone madeline tray (at the same time I got the steamer) I wanted to try them out, and enjoyed the sense of history behind my baking venture.
The recipe is pleasingly simple. I don't know if anyone out there has a madeleine tray and would appreciate the recipe - let me know if you do. Firstly, one beats a couple of eggs and some sugar till thick. Nigella recommends using electric beaters, and so do I, in hindsight, but I decided to pursure with a mere whisk, not only in the hopes of dovetailing making cakes with excercise, but also to keep in the spirit of Proust himself, whose madeleines most likely preceded the invention of the electric beater.
Above: the whisked eggs and sugar, with How To Eat behind the bowl.
To this one adds sifted flour and some melted butter with a tablespoon of honey mixed in. I used some manuka honey that Mum and Dad had sent in a parcel. This needs to sit in the fridge for an hour, and then out of the fridge for half an hour, to get to room temperature. I don't know what the reasoning behind this is, but I dutifully did it anyway. This isn't something one could make spontaneously, but is definitely not taxing if you have the time, a bit like making bread from scratch. So, while it sat patiently, I went and absorbed myself in Shakespeare's Cybeline. To help out with our learning, Tim and I have been watching lots of movie adaptations of the plays we have been studying - the lavish Branagh Hamlet, the reliable BBC Richard III (both over four hours long.) A particular gem though is a 1960s, avant garde take on A Midsummer Night's Dream which not only features a young Helen Mirren as Hermia, but also has young Judi Dench as Titania, queen of the fairies, naked but for a few strategic flowers and covered in green and silver paint.
While this was happening, I was defrosting some mince and some frozen raspberries - the one for dinner, the other to go with the madeleines. After I had had enough Shakespeare, I started to make the crepes for the Crepes-Canneloni from Nigella's Feast. It may seem rather taxingly fiddly - mince rolled up in crepes and baked in a tomato sauce - it couldn't be simpler. The crepes take all of ten minutes to make and are reliably easy to flip, even for someone as cack-handed as me. I put them on a plate to the side, and used the same pan to brown the mince, which is then rolled up in the crepes and placed in a roasting dish. As for the tomato sauce, it is just a large can of tomatoes mixed with a little sugar and milk. This goes over the top and then you bake it. At any rate, it's much easier than lasagne...
The madeleines only need about 6 minutes to bake, which meant I had to be hovering round the oven keeping an eye on them. As soon as they look brown on top they are done. The silicone mould meant that they slid out easily and retained their characteristic shell-markings. But first things first: Dinner, which I served with beans and some bulghar wheat (a little pan-European, but it meant extra carbs for Tim, plus it is fast and I couldn't be bothered cooking rice or pasta.)
Above: Crepes-canneloni - delicious! One is supposed to use buffalo mozzarella on top, which we absolutely didn't have...so we used colby instead. Still great.
As for the madeleines, they were fantastic! Soft, puffy and redolent of honey. The raspberries, which I had sprinkled a little caster sugar over, had formed their own syrup once defrosted, the tartness of which went beautifully with the cakes.
Above: The Madeleines, with the raspberries sitting darkly behind. Proust would have been proud.
Not to be outdone, Emma, who has been making quite a bit of jelly recently, produced this number: Orange jelly with orange pieces suspended within. Last week she made a gorgeous-looking raspberry jelly with raspberries in it, but I never got a photo of it. However, here is the jelly from last night:
Above: Emma's jelly. Tim unmoulded it a little lopsided, yes, but no-one else can do it.
It tasted really zingy and summery, the orange pieces somehow completely lifting your everyday orange jelly. It was made from a sachet of sugar free jelly to boot - good for diabetics and celiacs alike! Hoorah!
As if all that was not adventure enough, after dinner our entire flat drove to Brooklyn (next 'burb over from town) where there is a playground, complete with flying fox. It is actually three flying foxes (foxi?) set up next to each other so that three people can go at the same time. We had so much fun whizzing up and down (even I did, and I am intensely suspicious of anything that reminds me of OPC.)
After that we hit the actual playground, and while Emma and I rediscovered the simple joy that a good swing can bring, Kieran, Tim and Stefan (especially Kieran) attempted to garrot themselves on the spiderweb climber. Our downfall was probably jumping on the seated merry-go-round and taking her as fast as she could go. All of us emerged queasy and unable to walk in a straight line. A go on the see-saw seemed to put the internal organs back in place and we drove home happy and tired to watch the DVD of Outrageous Fortune, season 2. (Purchased like this: Tim and I decided to walk past the sales at the CD shop to practice not spending our money on crap. Ten minutes later, we had bought the DVD. We need to work on this.)