8 May 2008

"And Wednesday, don't mention Wednesday..."

______________________________________________

In the words of our Dave Dobbyn, "not a good one at all!" Yesterday was a bad day for me. Oh sure, a decent enough day in a global sense (still trying to get my head around the nightmarish Myanmar disaster) but, on my own terms it was pretty rough. .


I had Photography. This was all well and good until we had to display our assignment photos (that we'd handed in on Tuesday) and get critiqued, one at a time, by the teacher. The teacher told me that my photos were completely unsuccessful, in front of the entire class, and now I guess I'm just waiting to see if I failed or not. I wasn't the only one, she didn't seem to like anyone's efforts, which made for an incredibly uncomfortable 3 hours. After all the time I put into the photos it was all I could do not to burst into tears (which I am wont to do at inopportune moments) and run screaming from the class. Mercifully I held it together, but really what do you say to someone when they tell you that your photos are terrible? Are you supposed to say "thankyou so much for that valuable insight! Now I'm all fired up for the next project!" The point is, she may well have been right - the photos probably weren't that great - it is a bloody beginner paper after all- but her opinion counts because she's doing the marking.


Catharsis over! On the upside I was pleased enough with my Media essay that I handed in yesterday (managed to slip in "the subordination of women" although didn't find a place for "juxtaposed") and I saw the Magic Dog on my way back to the flat. The magic dog is this snowy white Samoyed that lives down the road from us and Tim and I get a bit worked up when we see it. Trust me, it's one majestic beast. Tim and I decided this dog was magic and assigned it properties as such - you know, if it sniffs you, you will never die from drowning, where it urinates shall spring forth an ancient oak tree, that sort of thing.




When I was a lot younger I had this nightmare about the Donny and Marie Show, which is odd because I've never in my life seen an episode. They starting singing I'm a Little Bit Country and A Little Bit Rock'n'Roll. Marie then sang "I'm a little bit crunchy," turned into a giant Crunchie bar and Donny bit her head off. It was this that I reminisced still-nervously about as I made homespun Crunchie bars.

By the way - oh the irony! - the above is a very special photo for me because it's the first one ever where I've managed to manually do that sharp-foreground-blurry-background thing that has so long eluded me. Hello macro button! I've finally found you! No more complaining about it, I promise. Thanks for all the advice, too :) If it wasn't for that I wouldn't have known that the macro button was capable of such wizardry.

This recipe is so easy yet so rewarding. First of all, the kitchen smells like caramel while the sugar is cooking. Then you get to watch the mixture whoosh up when you add the baking powder. It's fun, and stress-releasing, to bash the finished product into shards and chunks with a rolling pin. It tastes amazing. Oh, and there's only three ingredients...


Cinder Toffee (Nigella's words, not mine) from How To Be A Domestic Goddess

200g caster sugar (I used regular to no obvious ill effect)
4 T golden syrup
1 T baking soda



Above: does making this for a Type-1 diabetic with sore teeth make me a bad person?

Liberally butter a 21cm square tin, although this will fit into whatever you've got around that size to be honest. Mix the golden syrup and sugar to a granular paste in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and then cook it over a low heat. This takes a wee while but it is fun to watch the sugar go all melty and ripply like in the picture above. Simmer gently for about 3 minutes, it will darken but you don't want it to be too dark. Once it has bubbled away for a while take it off the heat and using a fork or something stir in your tablespoon of baking soda. It's a bore, but it might pay to sift the soda into a small bowl first so you don't end up with lumps. The caramel will foam up awesomely. Quickly spread into your tin and leave it to set, which will take at least an hour. Tip out of the tin, bash with a rolling pin (don't even try to slice it!) and dip or drizzle with chocolate as desired.




Above: It tastes so good, just like proper Crunchie bars. Which I happen to love.

Now that I've put the kibosh on baking and puddings it seems I'm making more than ever. Isn't that the way? But I had this idea that folding some honeycomb into the batter for one of those self-saucing puddings (or as I knew it as a child, "Chocolate Floating Pudding") might be kinda cool. It wasn't, I have to admit, entirely successful - I think I had unnattainable dreams of a butterscotchy sauce with chunks of still-crunchy honeycomb in the finished product - but it still tasted rather good.




Above: Mmm, gooey and calorific. I had planned to make a pudding last night as a "Yay Wednesday's Over For Another Week" kind of thing but was too exhausted in the end. Mayhaps tonight...Oh and just in case you're worried I've been spending the last couple of days cleaning my teeth with muscovado and washing my hair with treacle: We have been having worthy, healthy dinners. Not quite soul food, but definitely brain food.




Above: This lentil and pumpkin take on shepherd's pie came from Jill Dupleix' Lighten Up, and while it can't replace the real thing, it was very pleasant and warming and just stupidly healthy. It had five vegetables in it. And if lentils weren't enough...I'm a little ashamed to admit this...I added a handful of rolled oats to the mixture. Well, they sort of disappear, so it's not like I was being insanely militant. It's just that if I'm eating pudding I like my dinners to be exponentially healthy. The good thing about this dish was that between the lentils, the pumpkin, and the oats, there were more than enough long lasting carbs for Tim so I didn't have to boil up some rice or anything. We had this with roasted cauliflower, just to bring another vegetable to the party and to make me feel better about the ever-decreasing pile of honeycomb...

Speaking of roasted cauliflower, the next night I repeated the Orzotto for dinner - barley being cheap and superhealthy - and managed to cram in spinach, capsicum, and carrots to the mixture. It looked so depressingly earnest that I didn't even bother to get photographic evidence, but it tasted pretty good.


By the time I got home last night I knew I wanted pasta and had decided on carbonara until I realised we had no cream. So instead I used the rest of the bacon that I splashed out on for my birthday, and fried it in butter till crispy. I then added a generous slosh of Marsala, more butter (hey, it had been a bad day and I was feeling needy) and served it over spaghetti to which I'd added some peas. Alongside was roasted beetroot and broccoli, and it was...just what I wanted.




Above: I find pasta SO comforting. I suppose nothing beats a bowl of buttery mashed potatoes, but for low effort, quick balm to the soul, pasta is my carb of choice.


It's not all dire as far as my education goes though. I got an A- for an English essay I did...and if nothing else my photography assignment has introduced me to the awesomeness that is Richard Maxted whose work I was inspired by. Don't try and google him - he has a lamentably low profile on the internet. In a moment of "why the heck not" I sent him an email using the contact address on his site...and *squee!* he replied, was incredibly nice, and even answered some questions to provide quotes for my assignment. Seriously, he's kind of a big deal in the photography world (though he has no Wikipedia page!) so for him to actually reply was very exciting. If you feel like looking at ridiculously good photography go to his website and wait for the red asterisk to turn fuzzy (you then click on it to enter the site.) I had planned on uploading a couple of my own photos here but now I'm far too disillusioned so I'll leave you with one of Maxted's rather more reliable works instead.



Above: Guess what this is a photo of.
.
..
...
....
.....
....
...
..
.
Toothpicks. Clever, yes? Hopefully his help can save my grade...*update* 9/5/08 - Thanks for the kind words! but I'd just like to make clear that (having had a sense of the-teacher-is-always-right instilled into me at an early age by my mother, who teaches) it's not exactly being told I was rubbish that I object to (it sucks! but if they're technically bad photos then that's that) it's the fact that it was done in front of the whole class for three hours. I am sure there was a less heartbreaking way to do it. Didn't want to make it seem like I was on some kind of woe-is-me, heat-of-the-moment vitriolic rampage (heck, I'd cooled off thoroughly by this stage. Can you imagine how worked up I was at the time?) But yeah, the teacher was of course well within her rights to give me her unadulterated opinion. Cheers :)

18 comments:

  1. OOOoooo I've always wondered how they make Crunchies! This reminds me of my favourite flavor of ice cream... Hokey Pokey. Unfortunately we don't get it up in the northern hemisphere.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Laura,

    Sorry to hear about your photography teacher being a poo-face! I obviously don't know how your class is run, but it seems that during the semester she should have been giving you feedback and telling you how to improve? Anyway, I guess you'll be more prepared for the next paper. :S

    On a happier note, how much does the macro button rock!

    I made Nigella's vegetarian chilli from Feast last night, which was surprisingly satisfying. The broken down red lentils give the minced-meat-effect and it was very tasty and healthy. I'll have to try the Dupleix-shepherd's pie.

    xox Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh dear Laura, hugs (()) must have been horrible for you! Silly teacher!
    That's a really cool photo of the toothpicks and all your food looks so good - I am going to try and remember the oats trick! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Marc - hokey pokey is a bit of an NZ icon (inasmuch as ice cream can be a nation's icon!)...honeycomb is pretty easy to make, you could fold it through some vanilla ice cream... :)

    Sarah: Thanks, the macro is indeed my friend! I've only made the carnivorous chilli but it's really good...I love the cornbread topping :)

    Anna: Thanks lol, she knows what she is talking about but it's hard to have perspective when you're on the recieving end though! I'm on a real oat kick at the moment, I end up putting them in everything.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah man, I love the hokey-pokey flavour at New Zealand Natural ice-cream! The one closest to me closed down for renovations, and that made me sad.. :(

    xox Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow those crunchies look amazing. How horrid of the teacher, sending you hugs.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ok, let's see--forget what the teacher said. Art is subjective, and to tell someone they're doing it all wrong should earn her a smack upside the head. Everyone has their own opinions of what's beautiful and what isn't. You should be taught the ins and outs of using a camera and lighting, etc--and then be off and on your own to experiment and see what you like best--without being critiqued and told that your stuff stinks. You can be guided without being insulted.

    We need a tree in the front yard. Can we borrow the Magic Dog?


    I think I want to make toffee now! It looks addictive.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That macro mode button is really hands for food photography. That cinder toffee looks really good!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ah well,(I have been known to have been wrong occasionally...)put it down to experience - and maybe remember that when you are critiquing someone else's work/cooking/cookbook/music that they could be feeling a little as you do now. What were your photos of? Maybe you should have used the one of the creme fraiche or hokey pokey - hard to fault those. And remember, the Beatles were turned down by the first recording company they approached... my point being that someone else may find your photos worthy. Can you put somne of them on your blog?


    Love the look of your hokey pokey by the way. Have you got a good recipe for chocolate floating pudding? Haven't made it for years.

    Yay the weekend!

    (And to think my last camera had macro and I never ever used it - and now the camera has packed up and I've replaced it with a simple "point and shoot" variety!)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sarah - I found some of that brand when I was in England. Yayy! So delish.

    George - cheers, and they definitely were delicious!

    Elle - Hee! I'm sure the magic dog would oblige.

    Kevin - thanks, and yes, I love macro! For some reason it was quite hard to find on my camera.

    Mum - and Fred Astaire got told he couldn't dance (Elton John got told his hands weren't right for playing piano too...) I use Nigella's recipe, it's really good. Yay for the weekend indeed...more essay writing to do though :(

    ReplyDelete
  11. you fried your bacon in butter

    you are my hero

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love it when the cinder toffee foams up like molten lava, a wicked treat but you can't not love Crunchies.
    I love the tooth pick picture, I would never have guessed.

    ReplyDelete
  13. love the toffee pics!! mmmm

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your food looks amazing, especially the crunchies. What a nasty teacher! Lots of love,
    Vicky xxx

    ReplyDelete
  15. CEF: Sometimes I fry butter in butter too.

    OM!AP!: I know, I love watching it slowly grow! And yes, isn't it a clever photo!

    Diva: Why thank you :)

    Vicky: Thanks...they disappeared very quickly I assure you!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh Laura, Ya know...that teacher is simply one person's opinion. Another teacher may perhaps say something completely different. If it wasn't constructive in nature, then I'd throw the whole lot of it in the proverbial garbage! You talented gorgalicious thang, you!

    I'm imagining the smell of that caramel and dying a little inside, so I guess I best make it myself. I adore caramel, Nigella, and all things that stick to my teeth.

    Best,
    Ann

    ReplyDelete
  17. Laura, just FYI, this picture made the tastespotting weekly roundup (thats twice now!!!) so you must be doing something right!!!!:)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I meant your 'crunchie' picture!

    ReplyDelete