31 August 2008

Wickedly Good


Inspiration doesn't just come from cookbooks. When re-reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire a couple of weeks ago, I was struck, not just by what a cracking read it was, and how I was completely unable to function after finishing it, but also by the descriptions of food. There's not a huge amount of eating that goes on in Wicked but what's there is distinctive and evocative and made me want to cook. The food is somehow otherworldly and yet very earthy and imagineable. If they were all cooking up snozzbangers or eating frumblejump soup, amusing as it sounds it wouldn't make for such satisfying reading. Anyway, like the utter geek that I am, I devised Sunday's dinner entirely based upon what I'd read. I sort of hinted as much to Tim (who in fact has been reading Wicked rather fervently himself although refuses to admit enthusiasm) and he sighed in an I-saw-this-coming kind of way. But you know, better that he heard it from me first.

The saffron cream: "They spooned the airy mounds into one another's mouths, sculpted with it, mixed it in their champagne, threw it in small gobbets at one another until the manager came over and told them to get the hell out. They complied, grumbling. They didn't know it was the last time they would all be together, or they might have lingered."

So naturally, I had to try and make some for myself.

I had envisioned a kind of syllabub-style dish, and indeed nothing is stopping you from replicating this without the mascarpone I used - a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream would have been my choice otherwise. I began by macerating a pinch of red-gold saffron threads in a capful of dry sherry, a spoonful of honey for sweetness, and a couple of crushed, fragrant cardamom pods. Interestingly, despite saffron being more expensive per gram than crack cocaine, I spent more or less nothing on this dish. Saffron - gift from Tim. Sherry - a gift from Mum, who instinctively knew I needed some. Honey - in the cupboard. Cardamom pods - another gifty from Mum. As for the mascarpone - well, I had some sitting in the fridge leftover from my tiramisu. And yes, I do get given food as presents and you better believe I love it.

It went from this:

To this...

Look at that gorgeous, golden yellow colour, and not an E-number in sight. My seratonin levels have skyrocketed at the very sight of this stuff. Saffron: I'm just mad about it.

Once strained and folded into the mascarpone, (with the juice of an orange for added zing) it toned down to the palest primrose colour. To go with - because they mentioned biscuits being served with the cream in Wicked - I did a batch of Nigella's fabulous madeleines from How To Eat. I made these for the first time back in October (and do read the post if only to appreciate how my photography has improved) and haven't attempted them since, luckily the silicone tray I bought for them was cheap enough to warrant such reckless neglect. To lift these madeleines out of the ordinary, to make them...wickeder if you will...I added a dash of ras-el-hanout, a morrocan spice blend usually used in savoury foods. It is so fragrant and warm and cinnamony that to me it makes perfect sense to get a little fusion-y and use it in something sweet.

Above: The batter has to wait for an hour in the fridge. And you have to wait for it for an hour. Nigella doesn't say what this adds to the end result. But I daren't disobey.

They were a cracking success, so much so that it's threatened to go to my head and I want to sprinkle ras-el-hanout in everything. I'm picturing it in ice cream, in cupcakes with cinnamon icing, in rice pudding, in biscuits...needless to say, I'm going to give you the recipe because such is the nature of people who read food blogs, I just know that some of you out there have a madeleine tray kicking round. Gathering dust. Giving you the guilt-eye whenever you open your cupboard. Be guilty no longer - make a batch of these.

Ras-El-Hanout Madeleines

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat

(insofar as adding half a teaspoon of spice is adapting.)

90g butter, melted
1 T clear honey
2 eggs
75g caster sugar
90g plain flour, sifted
1/2 t ras-el-hanout (optional, you can of course make these without it.)

Mix the butter with the honey. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl - using a whisk if you dare - for ages and ages till thick, pale, and expanded. Sieve the flour in, then add the honeyed butter, and fold it all gently together. Leave in the fridge for an hour, then take it out of the fridge and sit at room temperature for half an hour. Sometime in this half hour's sitting you want to set the oven to 210 C. If you don't have a silicone mould like me, then lightly butter the indentations. Place a spoonful of now-puffy mixture in each shell-shaped cavity, don't worry about filling it as the heat makes the batter spread. Bake for 5-10 minutes. I find 7 minutes to be perfect. Let them cool slightly before eating...however you like. Sprinkled with icing sugar, dunked into hot tea, a la mode with ice cream or...

...to be used for a loving spoonful of saffron cream.

Of course it wasn't all pudding. My desire for a roast chicken (well, chicken is geting more expensive by the day, I can't even remember the last time we've had it for dinner) happened to coincide with mine eyes alighting greedily upon this passage from Wicked:

"The guests tucked into snails and garlic, roast crest of fallowhen with cilantro and clementine chutney, and...a sumptuous helping of lime tart with saffron cream."

Now, both Wikipedia and Google render the fallowhen non-existent, and I have an inherant fear of gastropods, and I've already covered the saffron cream AND limes are jaw-clenchingly expensive...but after reading this I thought that a plump, free-range chicken, smeared generously with butter that has been flavoured with chopped coriander and orange zest...roasted with garlic cloves and half an orange up it's...cavity...and served with coriander and pistachio sprinkled rice...would be a fabulous precursor to the pudding.

Above: I said generously. My pestle and mortar (or mestle and thingy as ex-flatmate Kieran used to call it) wasn't entirely necessary for this process but made me feel like I was really creating something, and capably at that. I'm certain that Gregory Maguire must have a love of cooking because the food translates well from page to plate: the earthy freshness of the coriander matching excellently with the perky orange zest, the honeyed-yet-grassy saffron lifting the creamy, tangy mascarpone...

Can you believe it's September already? Sorry it has taken me so long to post, firstly I nearly fainted away at the amount of comments I recieved for my tiramisu - an absolute record of Micheal Phelps proportions for this blog - secondly I've just been plain busy. Time is dissolving like baking soda into milk. Like icing sugar into melted butter. Like arrowroot into raspberry coulis. Where was I? It promises to be a splendid week: my best friend is in town for a conference so hopefully we will be catching up for coffee, on Thursday night Tim and I are going to be seeing Bill Bailey's comedy gig, and on Friday we are going to go see The Dark Knight again with some movie vouchers. Uni has started again and we had genuinely spring-like weather today in Wellington. Of course, tomorrow it will probably be back to raining again but you take what you can get...

23 August 2008

Strange Brew

So, (she says casually), I made mascarpone. There's something about creating one's own dairy product that is monumentally pleasing, and makes me feel like a one-woman, fully functional, to-scale fromagerie. I've made creme fraiche before and mascarpone isn't too far removed in terms of method. I heated a litre of cream, till small bubbles appeared round the edge, then stirred in just under 1/2 a teaspoon of cream of tartar, and let it bubble away merrily for about 5 minutes. I then allowed it to cool, and lined a sieve with a couple of coffee filters that Tim had mysteriously acquired for me from Starbucks. This bit is a little cumbersome but not complicated: Sit the lined sieve over a bowl, then pour the cream mixture carefully into the sieve, and leave overnight in the fridge to slowly drain. Or, if your abode is as cold as my flat, you can leave it on the bench.

Seriously, our kitchen is so cold that the olive oil on the shelf by the window has solidified in its bottle. Which is what happens if you put it in the fridge.

Et voila! Mascarpone!

Above: The mound of mascarpone, with the strainer, coffee filters, and drained liquid.

I love how the mascarpone took on the folds and curves of the filters and sieve so it resembles a plump, billowy pillow.

As I said in my last post, I planned on making tiramisu this weekend. I realise this Italian specialty is fairly unexciting and run-of-the-mill these days, but - gasp - I've never tasted it in my life. Let alone made one in my own kitchen. I used a recipe from Cuisine.co.nz but just realised there was a perfectly serviceable one in my Claudia Roden "Food of Italy" book. The two recipes are very similar though, and it would seem that the greatest discrepancy between any of the various recipes I've seen for this occurs in the number of eggs used. The Cuisine recipe only used three eggs, which was a nice, small, non-frightening amount.

Above: Making the zabaglione, rich with Marsala wine.

I am, if nothing else, forever indebted to Nigella for introducing me to the heavenly liquor that is Marsala, and I was very pleased to see that the Cuisine recipe called for it. The whole process of making tiramisu isn't terribly difficult, and I did the whole thing in about an hour. The fiddliest thing is the zabaglione part, which involves all sorts of things that I tend to avoid - separating eggs, fitting a bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't let the base of the bowl touch the water or a kitten dies!) and endless whisking. Despite the pain, it is pleasing to watch the eggy, sugary mixture come together. Into this, I folded the mascarpone, and whisked-till-stiff eggwhites (another thing I dislike - recipes that use lots of bowls. Such is life though.)

Above: Freshly brewed coffee, made capably by Tim, plus the Savoiardi biscuits and the Marsala (I added a splash to the coffee as well. It belongs in everything.)

Slightly untraditionally, I put a layer of grated chocolate in each layer, basically because I had some bitter dark chocolate that needed using up. I also ended up - aided by some judicious spatula work - with three layers of biscuits, which used up exactly one packet, in a regular sized loaf tin.

Above: The biscuits soaked up the coffee very quickly - a deft hand is required. I usually err on the side of undeft, but it's not difficult or anything. The only thing I found taxing was trying not to get crumbs of the biscuits caught up in the cream mixture.

Then of course, the moment of truth - the eating. Not that I flatter myself that my own personal tiramisu is the definitive article, the ur-pudding, but I followed the recipe and everything went to plan, so I'm guessing what I created is more or less what it should have been. And it was delicious. The texture is just...mad. Damp biscuits which crunch hollowly against the most voluptuous, rich cream...oh yum. More please.

The snap of the darkest dark chocolate against the cream is, I think, my favourite part. Oh, and the coffee was perfect - of course!

Yesterday afternoon Tim, Paul and I went to see the Wellington Phoenix play some Melbourne team. We got trounced resoundedly, and to add insult to injury it utterly, without reservation, bucketed with rain on the walk home. I was glad that I'd had the foresight to bake a casserole earlier in the day - using a recipe from my delightful Supercooks Supersavers Cookbook from 1980 - and it was basically the nicest thing in the world to come home to. I had the crock pot ticking away overnight making vegetable soup into which I biffed a lamb shank, it smells heavenly and we are going to have it for dinner tonight along with the leftover casserole (made very cheaply with gravy beef)...much as I absolutely cannot wait for summer to arrive, I do love winter comfort food wholeheartedly.

After eating our delicious casserole last night, Tim and I managed to stay up till 1.30am to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics. I guess it's really saying something if, comparitively at least - it seemed fairly low-key. The reason we persisted in staying bleary-eyedly awake is because Jimmy Page of Led Zep was supposed to be playing, little did we know it was going to be alongside British songstress Leona Lewis, she of the particularly awful song "Bleeding Love." We could not, however, deny that she has an excellent voice...nor that Page seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself as she gyrated beside him. The whole London bit seemed altogether bizarre - here's a bus! And a celebration of our awful weather! And a child descended of multiple ethnicities! And now the bus is turning into a...hey, there's David Beckham!

I'll definitely miss the Olympics, it's astounding to think of all that buildup just for two short weeks. The New Zealand team certainly were amazing, I will not, however, at all miss the pitiful New Zealand reporting/commentating team. Finally, and speaking of rock music, my title refers to the 1967 Cream song, but you know, brew...coffee...cream...tiramisu...a little forced, I know, but it made me chuckle.

18 August 2008

It's Good To Warm My Bones Beside The Fire


I don't have much to go on with, I'm only really posting because I know that Mum will have been checking this impatiently (she even has a nifty spring-loaded shortcut icon to this blog on her desktop) even though she knows exactly what I did this weekend because I flew home for a whistle-stop trip...*waves*

While at home I made the same cookies I am pathalogically incapable of going a week without:

Mum and Dad's new oven is big and shiny and I think this batch was my best yet. They certainly went quite fast. Considering the modest oven at our flat has two options: bake or grill, and probably has carcinogens from 1982 clinging greasily to its door, I haven't done too badly so far under my own steam.

I had a great weekend at home, even though I had an essay to get done (remember, they're more scared of you than you are of them), I still felt as though my batteries had been recharged. And I absolutely basked in the warmth of home, I'm not even talking in huggy figuratives here - it was a deliciously well-heated house. My flat usually errs on the side of chilly, but in comparison to where I've been it's particularly noticeable. Still, it'll make a good story for the next generations - "when I was young my breath would make condensation clouds in the kitchen in the middle of the day, and we had to punch each other mercilessly every morning just to get the circulation moving from the heart to the brain and back again, you don't know how lucky you are..." By the way, the first of those statements is true.

But yes; I had a seriously lovely time, it was fantastic to see lots of extended and immediate family again, so many people in such a short time and so much food, too. Mum bought Tim and I a kilo of pickled pork which I wrapped up in my clothes and took on the flight home; the airport security may have had a minor CSI moment as it went through the scanners. It also reminded me of this Garfield cartoon strip. It was a fine time to be near a television as New Zealand excelled itself at the Olympics, despite being hampered by lamentably awful commentary, I can only be thankful that no-one else in the world has our spokespeople as their first point of contact. Seeing the remarkable Valeri Villi completely eclipse the competition with ease and grace reminded me of when I had to do shotput (entirely under duress, you understand) at primary school, and with my carny hands I could barely grip the leaden thing. You're supposed to hold the ball behind your ear and then thrust it out through the air with a forward lunge...unfortunately lacking in a certain amount of upper body strength (I must have been about 9 years old at the time) I distinctly recall lunging forward and driving the ball solidly into the back of my own head. It didn't do much for my already withering contempt of athletics day.

All painful anecdotes aside, the New Zealand team has really done rather brilliantly - with the ones who didn't get medal placing still being ridiculously high up compared to 99% of the population. And of course we always get to smugly top the 'per capita' tables. Think about it - and I'm barely mathmatical - 6 medals (to date - we've just snagged another bronze!) spread over a scant 4 million people.

Keeping in with the recent theme of distracting you from my lacklustre photography with gratuitous cat photos...and because I do love them...I got quite snap-happy around Rupert and Roger during my time at home.

He's just over a year old. When I first met him in April last year, Roger was a tiny, mercurial (and disproportionately flatulent) sprite of a kitten, named after ex-Pink Floydian Roger Waters. Now he has matured into a broad, sleek, tiger cub who seemed to enjoy mugging for the camera. He also has the wide neck of a rugby prop which gives him a very comical, Easter Island Statue look when he sits upright.

Rupert, on the other hand, we've had since about 1997. He's outlived a few other of our cats, and recently developed cancer of the shnozz, but seems to keep on existing placidly. You'd never have called Rupert a small feline, but I've never seen him this big...

Above: To wit: the size of a piano stool. Heh.

Away from that chilling glimpse into my future (I am predestined to be one of those mad old biddies with many cats) I have managed to scrape my essay together on time and handed it in this afternoon. Tim is watching a Monterey Pop Festival DVD, (was there 'ere a man who so suited orange ruffly blouses as Jimi Hendrix?) and I'm about to head to bed because I have work tomorrow. Hopefully now that I have a bit of space between assignments I can be less hopelessly neglectful of this blog.

Next time: well, sometime this week I want to try and make mascarpone and attempt a tiramisu; I have some Savoiardi biscuits that I bought on an excited whim ages ago and I've just realised that I need to do more and look at them dreamily...

11 August 2008

These Things Take Time


(Yes, that is The Smiths I'm quoting in the title. ) Finally! A new post. It has been a long time coming. Uni is keeping me good and stressed, and I have a presentation and a 2500 word essay to pull out of the air this week...

Above: Bla, bla, chocolate shmocolate. Yes, I made another chocolate cake, this time the Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake from Nigella's marvelous Feast for Emma's 22nd birthday; the cake was amazing, the photos weren't, but I rather liked this swirly shot.

I'm sick of seeing sweet things on this blog, and I'm sure you must be too, but bear with me - I'd hate to lose a reader for want of a sausage. (heh!) Because I'm temporarily relying on our old digital camera which is really...not very good (I know, artist - tools - do not blame) and our actual camera is still unavoidably detained, the only way I can take blog-worthy photos is if there is natural light. Considering our flat gets about 14 minutes of natural light per day in winter, and that it has been raining non-stop for the last month or two...well. It doesn't make for snap-happiness. Plus, it's always dark by the time I start cooking dinner. During the day is when I bake. So that's what you get to see. It's a pity, because if I say so myself, I've been making some pretty nifty dinners lately - pumpkin and black bean curry, corn chowder, bobotie, raw salad with hot and sour dressing and sesame noodles, mushroom risotto...but for you: more sweet things.

There were some blackened, rock-hard bananas that had been in the freezer forever. Because our freezer space is limited at best, and because they were just sitting there balefully, annoying me, I decided to turn said bananas into some muffins. Sounds dull, sounds obvious, but once you bite into one - fresh from the oven, with the warm tickle of cinnamon present in your throat and the flavour of honey flooding your tastebuds - it makes me wonder why I don't encase this fruit in lumps of quickly-stirred batter more often. They're squishy, they're sweet, they take five minutes to make, and they freeze well. This particular recipe of Nigella's is quite apt for the current economic downturn - minimal butter and sugar, no eggs...

Banana Muffins (from Nigella's equally warm and cinnamon scented How To Be A Domestic Goddess, my love for this book is intense!)

30g melted butter
60mls (1/4 cup) honey (I sometimes use half honey, half golden syrup)
3 large, very ripe bananas
150g flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
Good dash cinnamon

Heat oven to 190 C. Mash the bananas, add the butter, honey and cinnamon. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients. If it looks tooooo dry add a couple of tablespoons of milk. The main point is not to overmix them. Spoon evenly into a 12-bun muffin tin lined with paper cases (or use a nifty silicone one like I did) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave in the tin for five minutes before removing. Eat.

Not revolutionary...but delicious.

Because it seemed as though on this particular day we were going to get more than our 14 minutes of natural light, I decided to really go nuts (yes, this is my version of living it up) and make cupcakes. Wait, it gets better - Pina Colada Cupcakes.

Nigella's cupcake recipe has served me well. In each of her 6 cookbooks (all of which I own - ker-ching!) she includes one or other form of cupcake, and between the simplicity of the recipe itself and the amount of times I've reproduced it I hardly ever actually consult the text. Not everyone is as vigilant as I though. This variation on Nigella's ur-recipe runs thusly - take 125g each of butter and sugar, cream thoroughly, add either a drained can of crushed pineapple in juice or about 200g chopped real pineapple, then two eggs, 125g flour, 2 t baking powder...a teaspoon of Malibu if you like, and a splash of milk if the batter needs it...divide between 12 cupcake cases, bake at 180 for 15 minutes. I iced with a slapdash buttercream (you know, butter, icing sugar, bit of water) to which I added a pinprick of Boyajian orange oil...finally I strewed some coconut over the fragrant cupcakes to complete the Pina Colada effect.

Even though I didn't soften the butter enough and so it sort of affected the baking process, the finished cakelets tasted fabulous. There's something about coconut and pineapple, they're such a classic combination. Which is why I've appropriated it here and then tried to take all the credit for something really quite unimaginative...

I realise it's bordering on churlish to complain about my rapidly diminishing time and then talk about a film that I watched, but I couldn't spend the whole weekend doing schoolwork. Anyway, Enchanted - you know, that self-reflexive Disney film - has come out on DVD and I rented it from the video hut down the road. I ended up watching it alone because Tim's a hater, but it was actually really very good. I laughed out loud more than I expected. And it has Idina Menzel in it! She doesn't even sing, she just acts, which is pretty cool. It's a small but relatively pivotal role, and they could have gotten, oh I don't know, Demi Moore or Rachel Griffiths or...I don't know, even Hillary Swank to play the role, it's not like they didn't have the budget for it. Anyway, Idina is very cool in the role, she looks gorgeous and it's nice that she didn't get the "bad stepmother" story arc. James Marsden, as the uber-prince Edward, is hilarious. He manages to wring every drop of physical humour out of his role, and I love how he exaggerates the trad Disney prince. Susan Sarandon, for someone so awesome, is surprisingly...meh...Patrick Dempsey does a decent straight man, and Amy Adams is really likeable. I'd seen pictures of her and she didn't look like she had a lot of spark, but she lights up on screen. Timothy Spall is as nifty as ever.

Speaking of movies, okay, so I often catch the cable car into Lambton Quay for work. On the swipe-card turnstiles there are these signs saying "No Entry for Small Children." Every time I see those signs, I think to myself, "Gee, I should buy No Country for Old Men for Tim. It's violent, Oscar winning and Coen-penned - he'll love it!" And then I think happily about Javier Bardem for a spell. And then I soberly nay-say myself, refusing to be jettisoned into capitalism by a suggestive sign. Don't fall into their trap, I think with caution. This can go back and forth. And it happens every time I go to work. I've tried to catch myself in the act, but those signs get me every time. You know what I'm talking about, right? (*small voice* just me?)

9 August 2008

It Might As Well Rain Until September


Sorry to keep whining about the weather, but give me a break. I'm probably going to start growing gills soon. Just a quick post about nothing to say that uni assignments are keeping me seriously busy and camera woes are keeping my photos sadly unusable.
In other news, hot damn the Olympic opening ceremony was mind-blowing. Say what you like about its political leanings, but China can really organise. The sycronisation of the dancers was ridiculous. How adorable were those little girls? And the children of the 56 ethnicities? (I love me some PC pandering come Olympic season.) And how about those fireworks? (I'm guessing anyone on the organising commitee who dared to utter "carbon footprint" was dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly.) And don't even get me started on the slightly incongruous presence of one Sarah Brightman, who was sporting some intense hair extensions. The whole thing didn't even start until shortly after midnight here in New Zealand, and because we were roughly 3997th on the list of countries walking on I wilted before I got the chance to see them. Not that I was that bothered, I'm far more interested in seeing all the little countries that you only hear about at this time (ironically, I'm sure there are people out there saying "Oh yeah, New Zealand! You only ever see them at the Olympic opening ceremony!")
I got an A on an essay about the cultural relevance of the Spice Girls and their biography's contribution to social history. Somewhere in the ether my ten-year-old self is crying "VINDICATION!"

On a "no day but today" whim, and because it was much better value than in the shops, I bought myself the RENT coffee table book off Fishpond. It arrived on Wednesday, but I forced myself to keep it in its plastic shrinkwrap until after I submitted an essay due yesterday. It was worth waiting for - what a stunning book. Astounding photos, the full libretto, interviews, a real celebration of Jonathan Larson's work. I found out things I never knew (such as in the Life Support meeting scene, three of the characters are named for friends of his that died of AIDS) and saw photos that I never knew existed.

So, this weekend is going to be more or less dedicated to schoolwork, however, I might be able to fit some baking in there somewhere...

3 August 2008

Aint No Sunshine


Another day, another chocolate cake. Seriously, I've eaten more chocolate cake in the last month than I normally do in a year. It has continued to rain steadily in Wellington - indeed, over the whole country - and there was even a sizeable slip not far from where my flat is. But on Saturday morning I felt the oddest sensation. I woke up with the sun streaming through the windows. I didn't know what to do with myself at the sight of blue sky. I felt like a babushka from Old Rumania, shucking off my winter cloak to prepare for the feasting of Springtide. Well, it wasn't so much "sunny" as "not raining" but Tim and I took the opportunity to zoom into town to do some jobs and that afternoon, while there was still more blue than grey in the sky, I made a cake.

I had some cream cheese leftover from the cheesecake I made for Tearaway magazine, and although it would have been entirely more economical to use it in some pasta sauce or something, I decided to build a chocolate cake around it. And no, I didn't use it in the icing, which is more conventional, but in the actual cake mix. The recipe comes from the bountiful Nigella's Feast, a cookbook which keeps on giving. No matter how much batter I shmeer on it, its pages never get stuck together. No matter how many times I read it, I always find something new I want to make now. In this case, the Tropical Chocolate Cake, which hosts an intriguing mix of pineapple, chocolate and coconut flavours.

I decided to modify Nigella's method somewhat. She makes an enticing two-layer cake sandwiched and slathered with a coconut meringue frosting. She says, a little snippily, to "lose the Bounty connection" if the idea of meringue palls somewhat, but I decided against it because I just couldn't be bothered. Instead I made one bigger, bungalow-type cake smothered in a coconut custard buttercream. Still sounds good, right? In fact that's all I'm-a talk about today, uncharacteristically. Because this cake is the only thing I've managed to get decent photos of.

Above: This isn't exactly photographically sound, but then the food-processor shots don't really have to be, do they? In fact they don't even offer anything at all; they are what my media studies lecturer would call a "kernel," that is, a sort of light, C-plot segment that doesn't move the narrative forward but offers light relief from the main thrust of the action. Consider yourself schooled!

Tropical Chocolate Cake, adapted slightly from Feast

1x400g can pineapple pieces in juice
75g cream cheese
200g butter, pretty soft
200g flour
100g sugar
100g brown sugar
40g cocoa
2 eggs
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 T malibu or juice from the can of pineapple

Set the oven to 180 C (360 F) and line a 23cm Springform. First you want to whizz up the pineapple and cream cheese. Then add the rest of the ingredients, scraping occasionally with a spatula. Pour this alluringly delicious mix into the caketin, bake for roughly 40 minutes, maybe more. And uhm, that's it. Simple, no?

I iced it with a mixture of 40g butter, 1 T custard powder, enough icing sugar to turn it into a cohesive substance, 1 t coconut essence, and a tablespoon each of milk and water. And then I thought I might as well dust it with chocolate sprinkles that I found in the cupboard. They were a year or two past their best before date, but how bad can sprinkles get?

It is moist, fragrant, delicious, and a genius combination of flavours. Very summery too, with elements of Pina Colada and Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreen. This hardly a bad thing; I say this as someone who can happily pass several minutes' time sitting there inhaling the scent of a bottle of SPF 40+ (truly, it's gooood.) As soon as I finished taking the photos of the cake it started raining again and hasn't really stopped (it's now Monday.)

Since the little tacker was so popular last time, and because Tim managed to catch this doozy of a picture, I thought we could be graced by the presence of *cough*Oscar the non-existent kitty*cough*.

I love that flagrant disdain he has for the laws of, you know, breathing.

Next time: well, the bread photos weren't so crash-hot, hence their lack of presence here. Who knows?