Guardian Girl

Labneh with olives and pistachios

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on October 16, 2009

Dinner: Yotam Ottolenghi’s labneh.

I didn’t strain my own yoghurt to make cheese.

I did this sort of thing with goat’s milk when I was inhabiting an iron age hill fort for a few months and I tell you what, it was foul. I also find that everything you need to know about straining is contained within its name. Leaving something to drip might not require much effort but it’s all those clean cloths and string and thinking about things 24 hours in advance that I find so offensive. I was out for dinner the night before I wanted to eat the labneh so I didn’t even have time to get the ingredients and begin the process.

I might have started off on the wrong foot but I ended on a right one, of sorts. I got a pot of natural yoghurt and a whorl of soft goat’s cheese and mixed them together in a big bowl, then I stirred in most of the other ingredients, including some sunblush tomatoes but excluding lemon zest (I looked at some lemons for a good five minutes, thought about the pile of washing up in front of the cupboard door where I keep my grater, and concluded I couldn’t be bothered), fresh oregano (where do you get this? Paxos?) and chilli flakes (I’d now reached a state of total unmotivation).

Anyway it made this surprisingly tasty dip. I got two crusty loaves – one granary and one white – and tried a bit of each with it. Really quite nice and the whole thing took me about ten minutes.

Labneh with olives, pistachios and oregano

Labneh with olives, pistachios and oregano

 

Lavvy with olives and pistachios

Lavvy with olives and pistachios

I’m sorry about the unimpressive presentation – it looks like an unappetising mess and I hope this does not bring too much shame upon me and my household.

Tomorrow I will not only buy the paper as usual and plan out my next week, but I will also become 30. Expect a new, epic and entirely appropriate level of commitment to perfection.

Conclusions:

  • My bastardisation of this recipe makes a big, tasty dip to share with people. I’m going to have the remainder with Liv tonight before cooking banana caramel pie à la Dan Lepard.
  • With dips, you’re supposed to pay attention to the presentation to avoid that “waste product” effect. Another thing to add to the list of lessons learned from the Guardian: the importance of garnish. I’ll put some herbs on the leftovers for Liv’s benefit.
  • You’d perhaps have thought that yoghurt mixed with goat’s cheese would be a bit bleurghy but I thought it was pretty nice.
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Wednesday 12 August

Posted in Fashion, Make-up, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 13, 2009
Lady

Lady

 

...and the Tramp

...and the Tramp

First things first – sorry about the impenetrable block of text below. I’ve gone through putting returns in three times and it still doesn’t work, so will investigate further and sort it out soon.

On this day in history… a simple black dress, ballet pumps and an up-do. Mercy me.

I have no white stockings with origami-like ruffles up the back, but can I be expected to? It’s another case of getting the details wrong, I’m afraid. I might soon resubtitle this project ‘My failure to succeed at becoming a Guardian cliche’, which, for a twenty-something, white, middle-class media professional, is really saying something about my ability to fail.
For all my recent bosating about getting better at doing my hair thanks to Priscilla Kwateng, today’s effort was a bit of a shocker. I pinned the plaits messily to my head so there were frizzy ends and kirby grips sticking out all over the place, and the top knot was more of a top tangle.
Before going home for the evening I had another little Measure mission to fulfil, which was buying the Dallas box set. Or one of them. I planned to find a burgundy silk blouse to really get into the spirit but the only one I found, in M&S, had no shoulder pads. That must be the first time I rejected a possible purchase on the basis that it didn’t have shoulder pads.
I found a kind-of wicked blouse in River Island with crazily big, frouffy shoulders and a nice print and shape, but it wasn’t very silky and or very burgundy – plus, after looking at my reflection for a while and hearing that American baseball game countdown music ringing in my ears,  I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such big shoulder puffs.
I was also haunted by a premonition (if that’s possible) of being sniggered at by my colleagues. I guess around Dalston no one would bat an eyelid but I like to be able to go to work dressed as myself, unedited in the main, and this top would have to get the red pencil. So I didn’t buy it. Incidentally I can’t find the blouse in question on the River Island website but the fact that they classify garments under the heading ‘bar tops’ says a lot about what’s wrong with a) River Island and b) bars.
I resisted another tempting purchase in HMV when I realised there are about eleven Dallas box sets, all at the bargain price of £12 each. I’m not even sure I like Dallas. Apart from some atavistic knowledge of Sue Ellen, who shot JR, the dream thing and the playground version of the theme song, I don’t actually have any familiarity with this programme. I might hate it, although it seems unlikely. So I was good, listened to my retail palpitations and just bought the one box for now.
I also bore in mind the impression it might make on visitors to my small flat when they walked in to discover that the only DVDs I owned consituted the entire history of Dallas, taking up half the sitting room. Bit weird, no?
The one remaining obstacle to success on this matter was that I didn’t have a DVD player or a laptop. I went to Argos and discovered you can get a portable player for £60, with the screen built in, so I bought it. This might sseem a bit financially irresponsible if considered in the context of needing to be able to watch Dallas to comply with The Measure, but I think it’s actually quite a wise purchase. At the moment I survive on a cultural diet of the Guardian (which already pulls more than its weight of influence on my life these days, that is quite clear), my record collection and Resonance FM.
These things are all fantastic in their own ways but they lend an austere atmosphere to my life compared to the days of old when I lived with two boys and got addicted to Dog the Bounty Hunter (purely my own doing). The addition of a film or two in the evenings would be nice, I admit, even if I won’t let a telly through the door.
So I took the DVD player home in the faith it’d add a little technological luxury to my life and baked mysefl a celebratory yoghurt pie.
So far I’ve found Yotam’s recipes to work pretty well even when followed lackadaisically, and this one certainly didn’t taste horrible. But there were a few things I did – or didn’t do – that marred the end result a bit.
First, I forgot to soak the vine leaves and thought it wouldn’t matter too much. But actually without blanching they were a little tough and very salty, as I used the ones in brine. I also missed the part about cutting off the tough bit at the stem, which is a shame as they made the pie difficult to slice – and chew. It was no real obstacle for me but I’m glad I wasn’t cooking for guests that night, as a slightly more fussy eater would have found this texture offputting.
The filling was nice, although a bit thick, I think because  I put too little yogurt in (ate the rest with honey while pie was in oven, surprise surprise). I couldn’t find all the herbs I needed in Sainsbury’s and the filling could have been seasoned better.
Also I topped the pie with a whole packet of dried breadcrumbs rather than only a tablespoon or two, because I thought they’d go off if I didn’t use them, and I don’t like to waste. I guess they would’ve frozen OK in retrospect, as bread does. I thought they’d go all crispy-gooey and lovely but the pie was altogether too dry and it just went very crumbly and sandy, really. Not great.
On the plus side, Yotam’s tabbouleh from last week, which I’d blasphemously made using couscous, made a pretty nice hot dish to go alongside the pie.
Pie

Pie

 

Dry

Dry

 

Mine actually looks kind of good in the comparison here, but only because I photographed my copy of the Weekend magazine so badly. I’m sure the favourable appearance wouldn’t stand up to a taste test.
And finally, this week’s Lauren Luke look.
I’ve really been enjoying this, actually. The photos don’t illustate what it actually looks like but I have some lovely purple Lancome eyeshadow and am finding for once that the primer Lauren suggests is really making a difference to how bright the colour looks and how long it stays on. I like wearing black eyeliner on just the lower lids – it makes me feel, if not look, a bit Bambi eyed. And the addition of some pink lipstick (in my case free lipgloss off the front of Zest magazine about five years ago) is making my face look like more of a sweet shop than a sweat shop for a change, rather than the usual pelted-by-tom-thumb-drops-travelling-at-high-speed look (see last week’s if you don’t know what I mean).
Violet

Violet

Violent

Violent

 

Special gratitude this week to Michelle, who did my photoshopping for me from all the way across the globe in Korea because my new design regular Jonny is poorly. AMAZing girl.
Conclusions:
  • Blanching vine leaves makes all the diffference, I imagine.
  • I’m getting a bit tired of the limited scope of the Sainsbury’s fresh herb selection. Isn’t everyone using them since Jamie Oliver started ripping them up and bunging them in everything? I’m sure they’d sell fine.
  • Experimentation with quantities isn’t always going to work – and with dry breadcrumb topping it didn’t.
  • River Island has the odd nice blouse. As always with that shop, though – stay away from naked flames.
  • Can’t wait to climb into bed early of an evening with that night’s recipe and a new episode of Dallas. Does this mean I’ve become old before my time? Undoubtably.

Saturday 8 August

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Make-up, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 10, 2009

This week I was in good company for the grand moment of opening the Weekend magazine to see what magic was on its way – my friend Adam was up from Brighton for a few days. He’d already read the magazine that morning, lending the event even more ceremonial weight as he knew what was coming and I didn’t.

However the suspense was mainly in vain as this looked to be a pretty unremarkable issue.

So…First impressions

Fashion

Where’s the usual fashion story? There’s only All Ages to be seen this week. It’s quite a relief as these outfits tend to be much more wearable – not to mention the poses being infinitely more poseable. Plus it’s all black this week. What could be easier for the average girl? Adam had also very thoughtfully brought me a belt and geek-chic glasses frames so I could more accurately follow the fashions later this week… watch this space.

The Measure

Wide, pale belts

No complaints – a nice Jigsaw belt by the looks of things, although doubtless not cheap.

Hiking…

…boots with heels? Insert retching noise here. I guess the ones in the picture aren’t that bad, maybe with pale-ish skinny jeans and a baggy vest or something. Oh, I dunno, I’m sure I’ll like them if I see them often enough, but whether these will ever make it to the high street is questionable.

The Rachel Zoe Project

I see, it’s a TV programme, which is why I knew nothing of it when it was mentioned before (no TV). While I think this woman is pretty and I sort of want to be her in the same unthinkingly ridiculous way I sort of want my bum to look how it did when I was seven years old, I fundamentally hate everything this woman stands for and think she usually looks like a doll in a dishcloth. I can’t imagine it being in any way healthy for me to watch this programme, so it’s a damn good job I don’t have a telly. And I think buying one for this purpose goes too much against my time-spending ethics. I’d far rather spend three hours baking the perfect meringue for my Cotswold Mess or chopping parsley into 3mm lengths than spend three hours sitting on my rump watching a shiny-haired vacuum in an off-the-shoulder dress parade up and down a shop floor, or whatever goes on in Rachel Zoe’s Polly Pocket world*.

*I’m sure she’s a really lovely person, though. I’m sure she is. Only slightly responsible for getting a generation of 14-year-olds hooked on laxatives. We all have our flaws, after all.

Brown legs in white dresses; sea views and bougainvillea

Enough! I used up all my holiday this year already so my forthcoming five-day break in Hamburg will have to do. But my god, those words, so evocative.

Dallas

I’ve only ever seen Dallas in 2-min clips on Youtube so I might actually break through the paper walls of my Amish lifestyle and buy a cheap DVD player with a screen inbuilt so I can watch this box-set in bed. Whoopeee – hairspray, lipstick, drama. Oh heck, maybe I should start watching Rachel Zoe after all.

Moaning

So from now on, each time someone asks me how I am, the answer has to be ‘AMAZING’. This will be interesting. I don’t mind losing a few pennies or my self-respect during the course of this experiment, but I hadn’t planned to lose all my friends…

“Overboard”

No worries  –  I don’t own no deck shoes.

Thigh boots. On men

Hooray for not having a penis – it would be impossible for me to get this one wrong.

Bulky rolled-up sleeves

Damn it. I have bulky rolled-up sleeves about 94% of the time as I’ve recently found myself to be  consistently too hot and inappropriately dressed. Anyway I like the Duran Duranity of rolled-up sleeves. But this Warehouse blazer sounds nice so I’m willing to buy it in and give it a go if the rest of the week is relatively cheap.

Lauren Luke’s purple eyes

Yay! Those readers of this blog who bought the paper itself will know that Lauren looked really pretty with her indigo peepers this week, and I already have a fair amount of midnight-purpley eye make-up that I love wearing. So this is the only make-up look so far other than the Dita von Teese one that I’d naturally choose for my face. Thank the lord, it’s going to be a good week on the cosmetics front if nothing else. And talking of nothing else…

Fruity little numbers

Hugh has aggravated me this week (boo hoo, I hear him sob) by spending far too much time boiling fruits and berries. I don’t like boiling fruit and berries for a long time! It makes me uneasy to leave an unwatched pot, plus it uses up lots of money on my pauper’s electricity meter. I predict from the off that I won’t be making proper preserves as they also involve sterilising jars and waiting months to eat things. If I can’t wait ten minutes for chocolate sauce to cool, do you think I can wait four months to taste a drop of homemade Ribena? Tsk.

The new vegetarian

Yum, yoghurt pie, mmmmmm.

Black olive gougeres

Looking like something I’d love to eat and hate to bake. Is that most things? Possibly, but I’ll give these a whirl. Maybe they’ll be one of those things that fall into the category apparently defined by souffles (Nigella says so), whereby they seem tricky and impressive yet are basic to do as long as you follow the… oh, wait, you have to follow the recipe. That is tricky.

Wine

Quite reasonable, cheapish and easy-to-get-hold-of suggestions here.

This column will change your life

Looks like another one where you read Oliver Burkeman’s article, think how very interesting it is, stare into space with a wry/wistful smile for a while and conclude that what you can best take away from it is to continue in exactly the same vein as you were before. The kind of advice I like, really. However I will try to put more into the practice the wisdom discussed here about the relative futility of turning over a new leaf – especially given that I am such an avid turner over of leaves I’m practically a strong breeze. Hmm, symbolic.

‘It was a bit of a pipe dream’

As interors features go, probably not much for me to do here but stand in a sleeping bag and have my photo taken.

 

So all in all, the conclusions are that the fashion and make-up will be much as I would usually go for, the cooking is largely going to irritate me and encourage me into improvisations so far from the original recipe as to be humorous, and I might get to buy a few nice bits of clothing. Pretty simple, pretty dull, pretty all right by me.

After first impressions had been harvested and shared with Adam, cider had been drunk and crosswords had been laboured over in the sunshine, we decided to get a few jobs out of the way so we could relax. The first tasks to tackle were a belt from Jigsaw, as seen in the Measure, above, and the commitment to start saying ‘AMAZING!’ whenever I’m asked how I am. I can tell you, as I’m writing this account on Monday, that it feels very much at odds with my character to gush in quite this way so early in a conversation, but the phrase sticks like mud on a wall or whatever the right phrase is. Adam and I ended up describing pretty much everything as AMAZING! all weekend, which was much less irritating for us than for anyone in our vicinity, expecially since the ‘joke’ increased in volume and horsiness as it did in frequency. My mum called up just now for our usual Monday chat and when she asked how I was, I told her I was ‘AMAAAAZING’ and she sounded so mum-pleased, which made me feel guilty as I don’t actually have much to report and am not particularly amazing after all.

But rewind to Saturday and the belt. We were in Dalston and Jigsaw was in Oxford Circus or Charing Cross. Neither shop was moving towards us at any great pace and we were unwilling to move towards the shops, so we went into an internet cafe and ordered a belt online instead. With P&P added I spent about 30-odd quid on this belt, and it was even in the sale, I think! I forget the original price. Nice, though. They only had a medium one left, which makes me nervous. Apparently the belt has been dispatched, so in a few days’ time we’ll discover whether it fits. I hope so.

I spent most of saturday in my weekend slobbing clothes but changed into the Guardian outfit ready to go out later. We decided I looked like Sharon out of EastEnders in this get-up. Witness:

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Albert Square

Albert Square

We were planning to go out to meet my bro at a night at which this outfit would, I reckon, have been very poorly received. Perhaps even dangerously poorly received. Luckily (although sadly in terms of not seeing my brother), Adam and I decided to lie on the bed and ask each other questions  from my Brainbox quiz (recommended for ages 12-13) before we went out, which sent us to sleep, and the outfit never made it further than the corner shop to buy gin for that night’s recipe….

…which was blackcurrant liqueur. Adam, usually a confirmed follower of rules with exactitude, was having a mini-break in Reckless World, so we decided we’d simply empty a bottle of vodka, a bottle of red wine, some sugar and two jars of blueberry jam (high fruit content stuff, mind) into a massive pan and heat it up for a while. Then we poured it over gin and ice and got pretty drunk. It was delicious, but it was like drinking jam, I warn you, in case you should decide to do the same thing yourself.
Blackcurrant liqueur

Blackcurrant

Abhorrent

Abhorrent

Conclusions:
  • Bit of an unexciting but restful-looking week – or is it just that I’ve been doing this experiment more than a month now and it’s wearing a bit thin?
  • Black outfits are easy to copy.
  • Purple make-up wins easily against green or blue.
  • Liqueur is fun to make in terms of mixing, but the sieving and cooling and sterilising sound more like vet training vocab than cooking words to me. Stay out of my kitchen, vet training!

Monday 4, sorry 3, August

Posted in Fashion, Recipes by guardiangirl on August 4, 2009

Today was the last day of my bikini wearing and I’m afraid I chickened out slightly and wore a vest for my photo. Mind you that’s pretty much the closest thing I have to the ridiculous garment the model’s wearing. I imagine most people would just be slightly irritated if you walked past them in that swimsuit by the pool at your average all-inclusive. There might be the odd cry of ‘Borat!’ as well. If I tried to wear it I’d look like a cross between Linda Lusardi and a trussed-up chicken, which is rarely the effect I’m looking for.  Never say never, though.

As a footnote, I didn’t go to work in this. I would be sent home and it’s a busy time. I put a little black dress and a jacket on. Know your limits.

Get a black swimsuit

Get a black swimsuit

Get a black cloak. Please.

Get a black cloak. Please.

 I wasn’t really into the pose but I did kind of try, a bit. You can’t see it properly in the photo but I was holding a wooden owl who’s made a previous appearance in this blog. He’s my one ornithological prop.

And that’s it! No more swimwear. For the time being, at least, and here’s hoping.

The photo was taken by dear Liv, who came over for dinner. We had another of Hugh’s marinades, with lamb (a combination of chops and kebabs to try out both his suggestions) served with green salad that tasted as if Sainsbury’s had washed it in mould, pitta bread, hummus and tzatziki. By the time I met Liv I’d already eaten most of a packet of pitta bread, I was so hungry. I bought that and some wooden skewers from the Turkish supermarket but it closed its shutters mid-shopping list, hence my escape to Sainsbury’s. Sadly this is the power of the global conglomerate. It can afford to stay open until I’ve walked home from Paddington to Dalston.

Once home I polished off most of the dips while Liv chatted to a bus tour guide on the phone. I did save her some though. The eating of the dips meant we were able to wait at least haf an hour for the lamb to marinate but we had to eat and digest before bed and couldn’t give it much more than that. I could make these marinades and add the meat in the morning before work, but we all know that time is for sleeping and plaiting one’s hair into complicated styles.

The lamb came put pretty nice, if a bit less tasty than his other recipes so far (see the previous few posts). Also not sure about grated onion. I think it gave the yoghurt a bitter taste. The lamb was tender though. Not bad; not the best.

Conclusions:

  • Thank the gods and goddesses for the end of beachwear week.
  • Marinades probably do work better if you have time to leave them a while.
  • Onions are made for chopping or slicing more than grating.