Guardian Girl

Week-end

Posted in Fashion by guardiangirl on February 5, 2010

Same pose today but with different actors. Flavie very kindly wore the required outfit to work and in fact, to my shame, did a better job than me of matching the model.

We both felt it necessary to wear tights though. All these bare legs are most perturbing and totally inappropriate for the weather. I understand the need for fashion to be a season or two ahead of good sense but must a weekly magazine really follow suit?

This season

This season

Last season

Last season

I was supposed to bake a pear tart last night but instead I prioritised the opportunity to go for dinner with my bruv and his lovely lady Ella.

Instead of a recipe photo, a riveting tale (please feel free not to read it – I just wanted to exorcise the memory):

I took a short-cut through Regents Park to get to Soho, assuming it would be full of  joggers, dog walkers, lovers and no doubt rollerbladers. In fact I was the only person in that damn park, other than one gloomy figure who loomed out of the dusk a few hundred yards ahead at one point. All I could hear was distant traffic, and all I could see was a dark, dark path and the occasional satanic form of a tree or sculpture silhouetted against the pale night sky. It was terrifying – so much so that I turned off my music and pressed the “Girlfriend” icon on my iPhone that serves as a hotline to Best Liv. Luckily she answered and I instructed her to phone the police immediately if I got cut off. I felt momentarily safer. But when I finally got to the other side of the park my heart stopped, for I was locked in.

There are times in every girl’s life when she thinks to herself: “This is just STUPID, why am I here? If anything happens to me now, my parents are going to be at least as angry that I put myself in such a situation as they will be sad that their daughter is now in small pieces.” As I scrambled through the undergrowth around the pitch-black perimeter of the park, alone and palpitating of heart, I was silently planning, writing and naturally sub-editing the article reporting my demise. The fence was tall and covered with unnecessarily brutal spearheads (Camden Council: why?). To cut a long and pretty boring story slightly shorter, I had to hoist up my frock, ram my half-broken foot into a gap between two spears, haul myself up so I was pretty much standing on the fence, and pivot over the top without impaling myself. But my foot got stuck at the crucial moment and I only just managed to wrench it out of the gap before landing on the other side. Not being very good at physics I’m not sure what would have happened if my foot had remained stuck, but it might well have involved cracking bones, caved-in faces and unnatural angles. I landed rib-rattlingly on my good foot, noticed a couple walking along the road towards me, brushed myself off and sauntered away in the manner of a cat who has just committed a grave act of foolishness in front of its human family. I was shaking a bit, and late to meet my brother.

We went for a very, very fabulous Malaysian dinner (Melati, Peter Street, highly recommended) and I rejected the late-night pear tart idea. I don’t like pears that much, the supermarkets were shut and what the heck, I always try to have two nights a week off cooking so I can maintain a balanced social life.

Conclusions:

  • Up with tights.
  • Down with spearheads.
  • Is that somehow a sinister combination? Oh dear, sorry.
  • PS My oven glove arrived. It looks more grandmother’s quilted gardening gilet than Chanel’s quilted handbag, and John Lewis failed to include my specially composed gift card to myself. Granted they might have spotted that the name of the sender matched that of the recipient, but that’s none of their business. I paid for the oven glove, now hand over the card, JL.
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Sunday 16 August

Posted in Fashion, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 17, 2009

Big disappointment today as I travelled all the way into town with my French Connection discount chum to buy the blouse in the Measure and found it wasn’t in the shops. What’s the blooming point telling us all how perfect the thing is if none of us can buy it? It looked like a great blouse as well, and French Connection is full of very nice stuff at the moment so it was tough not to cave in and get something. But I didn’t.

Adding to my aggravation was the fact that I was wearing a jumper on a hot day, a requirement of the between-summer-and-autumn fashion shoot this week. Here’s me dicking around in some more undergrowth. The scarf was courtesy of a friend who had it tied around her cat’s carry basket, along with a beautiful Lanvin one. Can you imagine how stylish you have to be to carry your cat around in a Lanvin-trimmed box?

Wheatfield

Wheatfield

 

Whigfield

Whigfield

 

Not really putting my back into it there – relying too heavily on the pastry belly for balance.

And talking of which – here’s dinner. It’s a pie!

I used up a load of vaguely mouldering fruit I had left over from when I couldn’t be bothered to make fruit leather last week. The addition of vinegar to the pastry threw me a bit and the dough stank of it, but the finished product was great. Excuse the blobs of creme fraiche. I forgot to think about aesthetics for a moment.

Apricot

Apricot

 

Money shot

Money shot

Never one to do things by halves (unless they are a pastry recipe), I have an ear infection in both ears at the moment and must leave this desk now to crawl into a dark corner and feel sorry for myself, possibly aided by tonight’s veggie soup recipe and last week’s Dallas boxset. At least the Guardian can look after the poorly among us, even if it can’t consider the skint.  

Conclusions:

  • Ear infection necessitates brevity.
  • Why Measure always so expensive/unavailable?
  • Vinegar in pastry not too rank.
  • Use up old fruit in pie.
  • Creme fraiche not pretty.
  • Nurofen.

Raspberry tarts

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 14, 2009

Last night was the grand finale for fruit tarts, perhaps luckily for my increasingly indistinct waistline, although sadly for my pastry-loving tastebuds. Hugh sure does put a lot of cholesterol in his recipes. I look upon this as a good thing but perhaps I should have undergone a series of Supersize Me-style tests before and after this project. Too late now ( I’ll tell myself). I’ve got a bit cocky by now about the success with which I’m not taking these recipes very seriously, and these raspberry tarts followed the same happy pattern. I keep finding that Hugh’s pastry recipes come out too dry (it’s hilarious to hear myself write that – WI here I come) so I always add extra eggs, water, cream or whatever is to hand, which I think is why I keep ending up with cakes more than pastry. I also realise that the dryness is more likely to be due to my lack of scales than his bad recipes, although I have been using an ace French measuring jug that has marks up the sides for each ingredient by weight, for example Farine 100g etc. You just pour in the flour, sugar or whatever, shake it around a bit and pour it in. I love this jug so much I use it despite it being full of cracks. I’m scared I won’t be able to find a replacement. Terrified. I suppose I should just look in the shops.

Anyway, I did channel my inner pâtissier(e?) at Hugh’s suggestion and glazed the tart/cake shell things with jam before filling them with the homemade pastry cream and berries. They were delicious.  Really, really great, and the pastry cream was simple to make as I ignored such words as ‘clean’, ‘gently’, ‘strain’ and ‘chill’, none of which I have in my vocabulary. My flat filled with acrid smoke when I preheated the oven because yesterday’s supplementary tart filling had bubbled on to the floor of the cooker and was burning, to which my shameful solution was to open the oven door and all the windows, and let the goo mostly burn away before putting the tarts in regardless. They only had a slight taste of industrial fires about them. I’ll sort the oven out mañana.

Raspberry tarts

Raspberry tarts

 

Raspberry barfs

Raspberry barfs

 

Mine could do with a bit more snow, hey? And those neat little turrets around the edge. And some distressed floorboards underneath.

Conclusions:

  • Learning a bit more about pastry has been really fun, very tasty and surprisingly successful
  • All those tubs of cream, packets of butter and cups of sugar don’t go well with the fashion. Hypocrites! I knew it! I’m writing in
  • I think there might be more pies next week but tomorrow I finally get a salad, thank you Yotam

Cherry tart

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 13, 2009

Last night I baked Hugh’s cherry tart recipe.

It was Sunday and I spent shop opening hours searching for summer boots and maxi-dresses, so I missed the big supermarkets. Another peril of this aspirational lifestyle thing – you have to be very organised, and have far more than 24 hours in each day, or no friends.

Tesco Metro had only one punnet of cherries left and no fresh apricots so I threw caution to the wind and decided to put whole dried apricots in there instead. Hugh would probably be cringeing as I reached for the very packet, but he wasn’t there so I chucked them in the basket. There were no ground almonds so, get this, I opted for a big bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit, which I decided to mix  into the pie filling whole. Daring. Tesco had no kirsch, strangely, so I subsituted that with a slug of rum. This magazine following lark is all about bold substitutions, I’ve decided – advice I’d like to share with all those who write into the paper complaining that the ingredients are too hard to find. Just get on with it! Put something else in instead! With that in mind, however, I might have to change this blog’s subtitle to ‘following the Guardian lifetstyle not quite to the letter, but more with a slapdash and arguably pointless level of commitment’.

By the time I got home I was a bit cranky and hungry and all things considered didn’t feel like chilling pastry. I felt like eating pastry. So I skipped that step, sorry. I did everything extra-hamfisted this time, and it came out bloody delicious. I squashed the pillowy dough (which I flavoured with vanilla essence cos El Metro didn’t have pods) into a loaf tin like a kid at the Play-doh and pre-baked it with no beans while I mixed up the filling with a George’s Marvellous Medicine spirit. It came out looking like a bowl of lumpy sick, if you’d been eating emeralds and rubies and opals – those were pistachios and cherries and lumps of unsieved (sorry again) icing sugar. I poured half the mix into the shell, which was really more like a small cake by now as I’d made no attempt to get the pastry thin. Half was left over, so I snacked on a bit of it and decanted the remainder into a baking tin to cook into a sort of floury, lumpy pancake thing. When the ‘tart’ came out of the oven 40 minutes later it looked like a fruit loaf and tasted gorge-ous. Gorgeworthy. Not surprising given that it contained pretty much an entire packet of butter. I ate a fair amount and then packed the spare filling into the cavity, put it in a carrier bag and headed off to see some friends. The verdict from everyone was very positive, although my friend Liv also detected the trademark raw dough taste (I haven’t yet learned my lesson on the oven temperature thing). On our way home we bumped into another mate, Martin, who stuck his thumb in and  pulled out an apricot, which had soaked up some rum and butter and gone all delicious. Turns out they weren’t a bad addition at all, although they weren’t the best bit. The best bit was the fluffy, crumbly, cakey pastry.

Conclusions:

  • If you can’t find the right ingredient, buy the wrong ingredient and throw that in instead. You’ll either regret it or you won’t, but it won’t matter tomorrow, God willing
  • Vanilla essence is another good pastry ingredient
  • Put rum in stuff
  • It doesn’t always matter if you’re impatient – even with tarts. You just end up with a cake instead, and who could complain about that?