Guardian Girl

Eggs, flour, crutches

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Interiors, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on November 23, 2009

A report on the end of last week, shortish on words and longish on pictures.

First, a miraculously tasty and mechanically successful two-course dinner that also provided Liv and I with a Eurostar picnic on Friday: Yotam’s delicious and not that tricky Crespéou omelette mountain followed by Dan Lepard’s bananarama tropicana cake, which was alive-tasting (not in a cannibalistic way), like a lardy version of a piña colada only less saccharine. Mine was a little uncooked in the middle and overcooked – perhaps even burnt – on the top, which I think means I need to get more involved with foil.

Crespeou

Crespeou

Crasspeou

Crasspeou

Tropicana banana cake

Tropicana banana cake

Botty-rama banana cake

Botty-rama banana cake (I despair of this caption as much as anyone, yet can't stop finding the word 'botty' funny)

Next: finally a fashion photo that reveals my new, cutting-edge space boot:

A walk on the wild side

A walk on the wild side

A limp on the mild side

A limp on the mild side

As I traversed Antwerp in this get-up, Liv consistently got the hysterics about how small my other foot looked compared to the hopalong foot. It made me know how the dog feels when the humans laugh at its ear, which has turned itself inside out.

And finally: the results of a tired, late-night interiors styling session. Check out my cosy open fireplace in particular.

Glass extension

Glass extension

Arse extension

Arse extension

Black interior

Black interior

Slack, inferior

Slack, inferior

Raising eyebrows

Raising eyebrows

Erasing eyebrows

Erasing eyebrows

Now a few boring sentences I feel obliged to write for the sake of structural consistency. I wouldn’t bother to read them if I were you.

This week’s first impressions are affected by two significant factors.

1) I was in Antwerp having a wonderful time all weekend so I didn’t buy the paper – Adam is saving me a copy and I checked it out online on Monday instead.

2) I have very little cash this week so I suspect that shipping actual tons of dried fruit and brandy into my flat to bake stuffy Christmas foods that nobody much likes anyway will be low on my agenda, as will buying £250 bottles of men’s fragrance. I’d like to try to make at least one xmas treat as it’s nice to turn up bearing foodie gifts for one’s family and take some of the culinary strain off the hosts, but we’ll have to see how practical it turns out to be this week. I wonder how many Guardian readers pulled their fingers out on Sunday and actually baked xmas cakes.

I notice that the Measure sends mulled wine and minced pies up the list this week so perhaps I’ll be more likely to get in some shopmade delights and eat them instead. Liv is taking me and my busted foot shopping at Tesco’s in her little blue van tonight so I’ll ask her hallowed advice on the matter.

The fashion spread on Hitchcock heroines is one of my favourite looks and I’d usually be in my element, but I imagine the spaceboot will undermine most of the glamour of a pencil skirt.

Conclusions:

  • I love Yotam, I do.
  • Cakes are just as good as they were last time I tried them.
  • Fashion is hard enough to achieve with an average paycheck and an average girth, but just you try adding a leg brace and crutches to the equation.
  • While we’re here, it’s amazing how many people stare at you when you’re in this condition, and even more amazing how many burst into laughter directly afterwards. You get used to it pretty quick. I have of course swiped at a few select people with my crutches in response, which is something I learned in an assertiveness workshop.
  • Interiors schminteriors. ‘Tis is the season of just trying to keep warm.
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Banana caramel cream pie and a week off consuming

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Recipes by guardiangirl on October 20, 2009

On Friday night I cooked the remaining recipe for last week: Dan Lepard’s banana caramel cream pie.

Sainsbury’s was out of bananas but for a load of very green ones or a massive multipack of fairtrade ones, which I bought. When I got them home I realised there was no weight on the packet so I had no idea how many to use. I plumped for one in the sauce and another sliced up under the meringue. I added a very, very liberal amount of rum and brandy, and used a mixture of thick chantilly cream and mascarpone. I made the meringue properly (good girl, no slacking) with my hand blender, which worked a treat.

Liv arrived a bit later, we finished off the labneh with celery sticks (and she pronounced it delicious), then we tucked into the pie in front of a DVD. After one slice each we were pretty tipsy – not sure if this could really have been the pie’s doing alone, as we were drinking the remaining brandy with 7up as an accompaniment. It was delicious anyway, however intoxicating, and a spoonful of mascarpone on top cut through the sweetness a bit. As much as I complained when I had to eat pie every day, you can’t really beat a good one, and this was that.

Banana caramel cream pie

Banana caramel cream pie

 

Rum and brandy pie

Rum and brandy pie

I woke up the next morning to discover that I was 30 years old, so the rest of the pie made a good celebratory breakfast before I popped out to buy the paper. To my delight I discovered the whole mag is given over to a retrospective of the noughties this week, which means no cooking and no shopping all week – just outfits. It was a much-appreciated birthday present. Off I trotted to the pub in my party dress, and there I stayed, with all my pals, for a very long time. What a brilliant night – I have yet to recover. Here follow this week’s outfits so far:

Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw

Barry Bradshaw

Barry Bradshaw

 

Skinny denim

Skinny denim

Chubber denim

Chubber denim

The It bag

The It bag

 

The nosebag

The nosebag

 

Bling is the thing

Bling is the thing

 

Grim is the bling

Grim is the bling

Conclusions:
  • Alco-pie: a grand foodstuff.
  • Labneh: gets nicer with time.
  • A week off cooking, reorganising furniture and searching for elusive garments: sublime.
  • Being 30: yes.

First impressions

Posted in First impressions by guardiangirl on October 5, 2009
  • Fashion – jumping good, leather and fur bad – not for ethical reasons but because I hardly have any.
  • The Measure: Eucalyptus, fine. I popped straight to Fresh ‘n’ Wild or Whole Foods or whatever it’s now called and got myself some appropriately fragranced shampoo and shower gel. I needed that stuff anyway and now I can be safe in the knowledge Burberry would approve of my washing habits.

The River Cafe Italian cookbook was nowhere to be seen in my local bookshop, which was a double good’un as it meant I didn’t have to spend extra cash or cook a risotto that night.

I did take terrine round to a mate’s house for the X-Factor though, which was made entirely worthwhile by the phenomenon that is Sinitta wearing only leaves. My vote would be with Miss Frank, if anyone cares.

The May Fair hotel sounds expensive, although I’m not savvy/sophisticated enough to know any more about it than that. I’m planning to go for a cocktail there with some mates on Thursday night so we’ll see how that pans out. Turn up, drink a £20 bevvy, walk home and eat plain rice for dinner.

Pretty much everything else in the Measure was stuff I hadn’t heard of ( so uncultured), so I’ll do a Googling session and report back after I’ve educated myself. This blog is turning into a sort of modern geisha training, which appeals enormously.

  • Lauren’s stopped doing her make-up masterclass, which permanently absolves me of the obligation to post four close-ups of my face every week, since I can’t afford to buy and try the products she recommends each week. I won’t deeply mourn the loss of this section.
  • The Space feature is all very well on the surface of things but I can’t see myself finding the time to get hold of a bit of plasterboard and cover it in fabric, or start a cork collection big enough to make a noticeboard, or even go begging for a rice sack to make into a chic cushion. I’ve written this bit off straight away – getting through my washing up and laundry backlogs is enough of a craft project for me.
  • Food: as usual Hugh is pansying about with preserving and pressing and bloody bottling things that ought to just be fried and eaten. I once lived in the iron age for two months and believe me, I appreciate the joy of skinning a rabbit as much as the next man, but we’re busy people Hugh. Yotam’s recipe looks as tempting as ever while Dan Lepard’s made me cry a bit by mentioning a small, deathly thing called an ‘anchovy’ . Would I be letting myself down if I left it out? I think not. He did say it was optional.

Thursday 6 August

Posted in Fashion, Recipes by guardiangirl on August 7, 2009

Hehehe, check out today’s outfit. I don’t have a fur stole to hand so I had to make do with the tiger I’ve had since I was eight or so. I thought of pinning him to my shoulder but this might have been distracting for the others in the office, so I just balanced him there for the photo and then he went back in my bag. To be honest I removed most of the accessories – bar the belt – once the shutter had closed.

I quite like what the woman in the picture is wearing but if you’re going to go mad on accessories like that, they really need either to coordinate or clash properly, or you just look like you’ve gone mad.

Coordinate

Coordinate

 

Reprobate

Reprobate

 The jumper is FARHI by Nicole Farhi menswear and is lovely for belting cos it’s made out of very soft, draping fabric.

I got the loopy bit of the hairstyle on the wrong side of the head. Before this project began I thought I knew my left and right, but I get muddled up between cameras and mirrors or something. It’s OK, I’ll pick it up eventually.

I was extremely excited about getting home because I was making Dan Lepard’s rocky road rock cakes. Gahhhh, just look at the recipe! I’d been looking forward to this all week. My usual casual chopping style left mine looking more like Alpine goat-path cakes after a mudslide, but we know it’s what’s inside that counts. I was a bit more careful about my measurements than I have been before after Dan Lepard linked to my blog on his baking forum and a legion of po-faced bun experts came barrelling over the brow of a cyberhill brandishing rolling pins and admonishing me for using the wrong equipment and overcooking stuff. I think they were being helpful. So yes, I was more careful (more careful, not necessarily actually careful) about quantities. However because I used such big chunks of chocolate and walnuts, the dough couldn’t really be made into golf ball-sized scoops. This is where I used my initiative and made one big blobby cake in the bottom of the tin instead, which I then cut into smaller pieces after it came out of the oven. I couldn’t wait for the chocolate topping mixture to cool before I stirred in the marshmallows, which meant they melted into a marbled swirl. I’d just walked six miles in the bucketing rain, hadn’t eaten since lunch and was standing over a pan of  hot, glossy, ribboning chocolate gloop to dot it with little-fluffy-cloud marshmallows. How was I supposed to wait for the thing to cool? I also tasted it liberally before it made it to the pouring stage, by which I mean I ate nearly all of it – along with the marshmallows and peanuts that didn’t go into the recipe. This meant that by the time I came to eating the rock cakes, I already felt slightly sick. But that didn’t matter because the cakes were so, so good. Eating a mouthful was like inching into a just-too-hot bath – a spreading feeling of semi-religious pleasure tinged with the slightly guilty suspicion that what you’re doing probably isn’t that good for your veins.

arrghghhghhghhrghrgrhhgr.

I put what I couldn’t eat in the freezer, but not before I had a second go at them after they’d cooled, thus making myself feel sick twice in one evening. Some people never learn.

Another great thing about these cakes was that they were easy to make, even for me, and the process was quick – except the whole palaver of getting things to this and that temperature (I hear in some places they call it ‘cooking’), which I could afford to ignore because I alone had to eat the result. Oh yeh, and also, if you make them, do put at least some salted peanuts in (I used a mixture of peanuts and walnuts) cos it makes them taste of Snickers.

I turn 30 in a few months and I might actually bake my own cake just so that I can have a whole mountain range of these. I could get in some real goats to climb around in this mountain range, as I love goats. It’d be like a budget version of the Arctic scene, complete with snow leopard, that I heard Jocelyn Wildenstein had in her house. And I could get some surgery for my birthday too, so I look more like my cat, George. My life plan is suddenly coming together.

Rock cake

Rock cake

 

Boulder cake

Boulder cake

 

Conclusions:

  • What a brilliant day! A tiger on the shoulder and the most enjoyable-ever chocolate cake stuff in the belly.
  • The path to enlightenment isn’t a path after all, it’s a stream – of condensed milk, melted chocolate and butter.

Thursday 30 July

Posted in Fashion, Recipes by guardiangirl on July 31, 2009

Today was a very special day for outfits. My dear friend Cari had given me some navy silk hareem pants in order to keep up appearances with this ‘being current’ endeavour, and today they were the most matching thing I had in my wardrobe – or the most matching thing I could still fit into, rather – so it was time to look like the office clown.

Cari liked them, and my friends Adam and Thomas liked them when I did a catwalk show for them the previous evening. The girl I sit next to at work graced me with a “You can just about pull them off” while wrinkling up her nose and talking about how much she dislikes people who wear hareem pants, but no matter.

Unfortunately the below photograph would, if it were to be used in court, likely fall into the category of ‘evidence against’, but that’s partly because I’m standing as if I’ve shat myself. Plus the angle is a bit unflattering.

Since I’m being a bit crass today I’ll admit that I’ve always thought hareem pants look like their purpose is to disguise elephantiasis of the labia, and I’m not sure if I’m yet convinced, especially looking at this picture, but I really like wearing these, comfort wise. I almost think they’d be better in the sunshine with a pair of flip flops and a vest, rather than dressed up. But what the Guardian says, I do. Sad when you think about it in the cold light of day.

Trousers

Trousers

 

Pants

Pants

 

Looking it it again, I’m retching a bit. They honestly don’t look this bad in real life. Or in mirror life, anyway, which is not real life, which is always a perturbing thought.

The jacket over my shoulder is an amazing garment – another of Evi’s FARHI by Nicole Farhi creations. It’s a shame you can’t see the detail because the shoulders have cool rosette-ish bits on them. Wearing a navy and white outfit with a navy and white jacket, I felt very matchy – far more than I would ever naturally be. I also felt a bit like Andy Pandy but that’s fine with me – we have much in common.

For dinner I made Dan Lepard’s blueberry almond bars. It could be my measuring problems but this was so sweet and sugary it was like eating an enormous boiled sweet out of the glove compartment of a hot car. Or out of Wonka’s river, even. IT stuck to my teeth (I’ll leave that typo in because the idea of getting information technology stuck to my teeth while eating dessert is better than the idea I’m trying to say) and made me feel sick (I did eat about four portions though, so we’ll leave that aside) and it actually hurt my tongue, i think. I put some cherries and blackberries in it too. My baking tin was a bit bigger than the 20cm square one he suggested (20x30cm was the best I could do) so it was a bit thinner than it should’ve been. You know I feel bad blaming the recipe because Dan Lepard has such a nice, smiling face and he’s a cake expert, whereas I’m a girl in a small kitchen who can’t use a measuring jug properly. I got the feeling it would’ve been great had it been less sugary. As I was pouring in more and more of the stuff, rubbing in an enormous chunk of butter and stirring in the nuts I was seeing the calories clock up in front of my eyes like the pennies on a petrol pump. I am not one to worry about calories – I only really found out what they were a couple of years ago and I never count them unless I’m looking for a more urban version of sheep to clock up when I have insomnia. I’m more of a magical thinker when it comes to food. I judge it by size and emotional significance, so a massive plate of salad is often the same as a massive plate of cake, unless I really like the salad ingredients or don’t like the cake, in which case the cake is probably healthier. Well, you know. Anyway despite my nutritional ignorance, this cake did scare me a bit. And trust me when I say it really takes a lot of sugar to scare me. Once I got a dud packet of Tangfastics and they all had wormholes through them where the sour stuff had eaten them away, and as I ate them they started to do the same thing to my mouth, but I polished off the whole packet anyway, and now I charge cavers £4.95 a piece to look for the Witch of Wookey in my tonsils.

I am tough.

Blueberry and almond bar

Blueberry and almond bar

Here’s mine:
Blueberry and almond bar

Cavities and obesity

Conclusions:
  • Harem pants are better than I suspected but your office folk must be pretty progressive to accept them without sniggers/second glances.
  • I spell hareem two ways, because we should exercise freedom of choice or we might lose it.
  • Cookery conclusion remains the same as ever: one must measure, measure, measure darling! And when will one ever learn?
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Carrot and cumin burger buns

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 20, 2009

I took the ingredients for Dan Lepard’s carrot and cumin burger buns to my friends’ house the night before Latitude festival and cooked them by way of saying thanks for looking after my cat.  They  must’ve been chuffed, eh.

I’d got round there late and we started on some wine while I began my prep (more tearing, scraping and stirring than chopping, peeling and kneading). The recipe called for a considerable amount of rising time, which didn’t suit our appetites one bit, so in the end I just poured in rather more yeast than was required and hoped for the best. I forgot to bring butter so I simply poured in a randomly selected quantity of olive oil instead. I left the dough balls, which looked more like bhajis than buns due to my haphazard and occasionally dangerous chopping style, to rise for about 45 minutes, which was the length of time Adam and Thomas could bear to distract themselves with Youtube clips and yet more  empty-stomached wine drinking before they fainted. The ‘buns’ went into a muffin tray followed by a hot oven and came out 25 minutes later resembling cakes. Why does everything I cook turn into a cake? I’m like a slightly rubbish, less rich version of King Midas. According to DL the buns should’ve been bouncy, soft and moist. Moist was pretty much the only one I managed to nail this time. They actually tasted pretty good – if a little yeasty – filled with some herby burgers that were on special offer and a bit of wilting rocket out of the boys’ fridge. They were surprisingly filling, too, which is pretty much my number-one criterion for food.

Here’s how they should’ve looked:

Carrot and cumin burger buns

Carrot and cumin burger buns

 

And here’s the result, photographed in a drunken state as my stomach digested itself in anticipation. As you could see I couldn’t even muster the energy to slice it properly at this point. I just tore at the thing with my claws until it sort of divided in two.

Carrot and cumin cakes

Carrot and cumin cakes

 

Conclusions:

  • Where on earth Sainsbury’s keep their sesame and poppy seeds I don’t know. They must have them
  • A point of interest: while I was looking for the seeds, a man standing next to me piped up: ‘Excuse me, do you know if you can make icing sugar by putting normal sugar in a food processor?’ I replied that I had no idea and had never considered it before, to which he replied: ‘Oh well, my cooking has so little hope of turning out right, there’s really no point worrying about it.’ If he’d been within 40 years of my age, I would’ve married him on the spot. Imagine the dinner parties!
  • Olive oil seems to work nice in buns
  • The further I get from following these recipes, the more fun I have
  • Yeast probably isn’t among the many ingredients you can throw into the mixing bowl with gay abandon
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Clotted cream shortcake

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 9, 2009

Last night was my first attempt at the recipe side of all this and I had high hopes, what with two tubs of cream being involved. The ingredients cost me about seven quid. Unfortunately neither patience nor precision are my strongest points, which already causes me problems because I’m a sub-editor. Turns out I’m not only ill suited to my chosen profession, I’m also ill suited to the life of a baker. I forgot to buy baking powder. I forgot to buy baking parchment. I forgot that I don’t have a baking tray. I didn’t measure the ingredients, which I already know to be the cardinal sin of baking. Basically anything with ‘baking’ in it went wrong. Nevertheless I mixed up a bowl of crumbly yet gluey dough, greased a muffin tray with a rancid butter wrapper I’d put in my fridge when pretending to be domestic, squashed the dough on to the tray and smacked it absentmindedly until the edges started to squidge off. Then I put it in my oven, which burns one half of any given circular object and leaves the other half raw (i’m thinking particularly of pizzas) and left it in there for 15 minutes while I ate most of the strawberries I was supposed to fill the shortcake with.  I couldn’t be bothered to get the hand-blender out just to whip some cream, which does make me wonder what I think it’s meant to be for, so I just shook the tub until I got bored. Don’t try this – it doesn’t work. Then it was time for the shortcake to emerge, looking gloriously golden on one side and pallidly similar to this week’s make-up look on the other. I broke it in half, shoved it on a plate, put the strawberries on, poured over the double cream and hurriedly took a photo before squirrelling the plate away to my room like a Freaky Eater. It was mostly raw inside, I admit, but if you made sure each mouthful had enough cooked bit and plenty of cream, it was pretty nice.

Here’s what it was supposed to look like:

Clotted cream shortcake

Clotted cream shortcake

 

And here’s my attempt at culinary mimicry:

Clots who love cream can't bake

Clots who love cream can't bake

I like the way the photo has an element of the paranormal.

Conclusions:

  • I need scales
  • I need patience
  • Raw dough tastes fine as long as it’s sweet
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