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So Much News…

Hello.

I’m feeling sheepish. It’s been almost three years since I added a new post to this blog – and a year since my domain expired. Um.

I’m not even sure why I stopped writing the blog to be honest. Things got a bit hectic, then a bit CRAY CRAY, then a bit normal, then a bit WHAT THE FUCK?, then a bit OH YEAH! then a bit OH GOD WHY?! and I just sort of lost the will to throw flour, sugar, butter, honeycomb, bananas, feet, games, cake into the mix and I gave up.

So a really quick catch up for all of my readers who don’t know me personally (currently running at about 3 if my stats are to be believed)…

Son1 is 18. EIGHT fucking TEEN. *SIGH*. You know those times when they’re three and they won’t just GET OFF YOU and then they’re screaming in a huddle on the floor in Clarkes while you try to buy them some new wellies and you try to get them up off the floor and they scream “YOU’RE HURTING ME MUMMY…AGAIN!”? I tell you something, that is a walk on a cool beach while the sun shines down on your skin and you’re holding a cocktail called “relax” and the sea is gently swooshing and all is calm compared to an 18 year old.

Son2 is 15. His party this year was a paintball thing he’d begged to have. The starting time was 8:45 on a saturday morning. I struggled to wake him up at 8am, then dashed round to friend no.1 whose whole family were still conked out – I’m not sure who was more embarrassed about the door knocking, but the mum in her dressing gown certainly looked ashamed when she gazed out at me waiting in the car…I told her to get him sorted and that I’d head for friend 2 and then swing back for friend 1. Headed to friend 2 and sent Son2 out to knock on the door (I wasn’t making that mistake again) and nope. Another knock back as he wasn’t ready either. Off I went to Friend 3 who was actually waiting at the door impatiently. I finally rounded all of them up, dropped them at the paintball and waited for the call to go and collect them.

Oh Partyspanner is dead.

Lovely Po is no more. He died an hour before his appointment with the vet for the big injection. A gentleman to the last. We still miss him.

BUT HEY! We have a new, wonderful, amazing addition to the family, my gorgeous, funny granddaughter Robyn. We’ve weathered plenty of storms to get to the place we’re in at the moment but each raincloud has been worth it because I get to spend some time with this fabulous new person (stubborn as an ox, funny as a meercat) and on top of that I get to spend some time planning some actual parties again…and OH, such parties I plan.

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Chocolate Honey Cake. It’s out to take over the World.

After I had made the Ruby Wedding cake I decided to use up some of the left over marzipan.

I read a lovely recipe which used honey and little tiny marzipan bees! As I still had some almond flakes left over as wings I was all over this recipe.

I didn’t have the patience to allow my butter to come to room temperature in it’s own time so I chopped it into little squares to cut down the warming time. (This might have BEEn a factor in the disaster to come – yeah, it’s another disaster.)

I’m not ENTIRELY convinced this method works

I followed the recipe and beat the eggs and sugar followed by melted chocolate

Gently folding the chocolate. (GIVE UP AT THIS POINT)

I then sieved cocoa powder into the mix before adding boiling water – I’m fully committed at this point. Fully Fucked Up.

Enthusiastic sieving

The batter seemed a bit runny. I remember commenting on it’s consistency at the time. Oh GOD for a time travelling delorian.

This don’t look right – excuse the blurry

And then I had a cake ready for the oven.

Ah, it looks benign.

So into the oven it went.

And then…

!

I’m not sure whats going on here, but it continued in this weird bubbling over fashion for AGES until the top of the cake turned into charcoal while the underbelly of the cake carried on, lava-like, bubbling over.

Dear God.

The cake had actually coated the tin in cake. I love cake as much as the next fat person, but a cake that turns the cake tin into a cake is verging on the ridiculous.

You’ve got to admire it’s balls.

So. I do not have a happy ending to this cake. It was awful and there was no going back.

Cake of awfulness

See the bubbles? That’s honeycombe

It was weirdly delicious. It tasted like a crunchie bar but without all the Friday Feeling.

The biggest, scariest cake I have ever made.

I went to a hen night back in January and got fairly spectacularly drunk.

I’m going to gloss over the worse of my behaviour, but let’s just say that it included sambucca. And a waiter

I offered to make a cake for a friend’s joint 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s 60th birthday party. I was full of my own ability and puffed up with the dizzying confidence of someone who’s downed a bottle of Rose wine and 3 shots of sambucca. Expansive arm gestures waved away the “Cake for 60 people”, and I just kept showing people my leopard skin shoes while claiming that cake making of that level is “no problem *hic*, I love you, I’d de- Be- de-DELIGHTED to make your cake…LOOK! There’s the wai *hic* ter! Less have anover shot yeah?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve offered to do something drunk that I would usually shy away from, but it is the first time it included baking.

So. A cake to feed 60 people. Clearly, I couldn’t make something like my Baby Shower Cake, this one is going to have to be a bleugh fruitcake and fairly traditional. Thanks so much Drunk me. I owe you one.

The cake murdered my sleep for a couple of months, I KNEW I was going to have to make this thing and I knew it was ambitious. I mucked about on the internet for a while looking for a recipe and struggling to know how big a cake I should be baking when a friendly baker told me that I needed a 12 by 12 inch square tin.

So I RENTED a tin. Yup that’s right, I live in a world where I can rent cake tins from my local cakeporn shop.

Suddenly the big day of cake bakery was almost upon me. The night before I prepared the dried fruit.

I weighed out a ridiculous amount of ingredients,

That’s just the raisins.

And soaked the ton of fruit in a mixture of brandy (Christ knows how old this shit is, I found it in the back of the liquor cabinet) and ameretto.

Soaking it for 24 hours in cheap booze will do the trick.

After allowing the fruit to soak overnight I got on with baking the cake.

I actually had to buy a washing up bowl to mix the batter.

Yes. That’s right I was actually making a cake that was too enormous to be mixed in a bowl. I would do a shocked face here, but I’m still too shocked to even type it out.

I started by mixing a daft amount of butter with an equally weird amount of sugar and black treacle in my mixer

Hmmmm, treacly

and mixing it until it formed a light fluffy weirdly split looking goo. I then added 12 eggs. Yes. TWELVE EGGS! Madness had overtaken me by this point and I vacillated between terrible fear and hysterical laughter as I cracked each egg into the, frankly disgusting, mixture.

The time had come for me to mix the wet ingredients with the dry and thus, it was time to move to the washing up bowl.

Yeah. This looks kind of vile…

Once the batter was mixed I poured it into a greased and lined, rented cake tin.

Cor! Note the newspaper and clips – I got rid of those in a moment of lucidity

I then baked the cake for about 3 weeks (5 hours actually) until I was reasonably sure it was cooked through and then I had to turn it out of the tin. This was nerve wrackingly AWFUL! Honestly, I cannot describe the terror of tipping this huge tin upside down and hoping for the best – I also didn’t even have a wire tray large enough to cope and had to use a clean oven tray. I managed it though.

God, it’s utterly gorgeous

This cake is quite “blonde” because it hasn’t had time to mature.

I then went away and got drunk thought about the cake for a couple of days before icing the beast.

Before I could start icing I needed to wrap this behemoth with marzipan.

I did not make my own marzipan (what IS marzipan made from?)

I heated some apricot jam and brushed over the cake before rolling out the marzipan

Amazingly huge ball of marzipan

I managed, in a moment of non-spannery – to roll out the marzipan AND place it onto the cake without anything interesting terrible happening and then I had an enormo cake which needed to sit for 24 hour hours before icing.

The lumps are fruit and nuts – a bit like me.

The day of the party loomed at me.

To the icing.

Have you any idea how stressful it is to roll out a massive ball of icing into a thin layer which will fit a square cake? No? LUCKY YOU!

It’s OVAL!

I managed it. The SKY engineer arrived around this time to change one of our Sky boxes over. I had to hold a conversation about the weather, the government and the price of i-phones while I iced the cake. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Oh! Ain’t she beeeeee-yoooutiful?

The icing needed to set for a day before decorations were added.

I finished the icing on Friday night, the party was on Sunday but the cake was being collected on Saturday afternoon. This was going to be tight, and annoying and MUCH harder than I had imagined.

I’d bought some red shades of pre made icing from the cake porn shop and a gerbera daisy flower cutter in two sizes. I felt that it was flowery enough for a cake, manly enough and it would hide a multiple of sins.

So I rolled out some of the red icing and pressed out the daisy.

GRRRRR!

And I did that for about two hours. It was exciting stuff. I alternated between a cherry red and a deeper, darker shade of icing. I then started by building up the sides of the cake.

Dear GOD this looks awful

I somehow managed to fruit up decorate the terrible brilliant icing and ended up with a cake that looked like this

So close to preferct (<- I KNOW)

Another shot

*polishes nails* (Ignore that slightly skewiff flower on the corner)

I boxed the cake and got it ready for collection

Boxed cake

And then I went to the party.

And watched my friends make arses of themselves

And looked at the cake it’s in glorious setting

Indeed

And then we had a laugh and that, before we got attacked in the car park by a crazy BNP type fella and we all ended up terrified and it was awful.

I have no idea how the cake tasted as it wasn’t cut during the party and I’ve been too pissed off to ask considering the dreadful end to the evening.

That was kind of a downer – on the upside? I finally wrote a new blog post?

Hot Sauce!

I’m sorry, I have been neglecting the blog for the last couple of weeks. This is due, in part, to having had some pretty serious dental surgery (yuck) and also partly to do with sheer laziness.

Anyway, I had a pretty great Christmas and New Year and although I am currently only able to drink wine eat soup through a straw and I’ve also been forced to give up smoking (BAH!) I am unfazed as my eye is on the main prize of 2012. Oh yes, I have booked a holiday to Florida in July and have been researching Man vs Food eateries to visit. *SCREAM*

In homage to this exciting development I have been cooking some traditional American dishes and have started with Tom’s favourite – Hot Sauce coated chicken wings.

I’ve been looking at recipes for a truly HOT hot sauce for a while – our favourite is Louisiana hot sauce but every recipe I found needed the chilli peppers to steep in vinegar for six months in a basement, behind some peaches, at a temperature of 85C.

And then I found a recipe that was far more forgiving of my Not-Yet-Being-In-the-USness…

So I gathered together the ingredients. The original recipe called for four habanero chilli peppers –  I have two hopes of getting hold of habaneros but I have read that scotch bonnets are pretty much on a par heat and flavour wise and these are readily available. I chickened out though and only bought two.

I chopped the red onion into a fine dice and minced the garlic. When chopping the chilli, please make sure to use rubber gloves – those scotch bonnets are vicious. I, of course, used rubber gloves and as I smugly diced the peppers a perfect arch of searing hot juice shot into my eye causing a volcano of swears and violence. So in addition to rubber gloves make sure you have a pair of sunglasses or goggles to hand.

Green and red chilli and the dreaded scotch bonnets

I added the onion to the pan with the olive oil and softened before adding the garlic and chopped chillis

Such lovely colours - they contain FIRE!

I then added three cups of chopped fresh tomatoes to the mix. I used a whole punnet, box, pack of basic tomatoes and did not de-skin them – Life is too short. I then added the vinegar, sugar and salt

Hot Sauce coming together!

Once again the house filled with that horrible vinegary feety smell. This is the major downside of cooking any chutney or sauce with vinegar – it smells vile and makes you want to cough up a lung.

This sauce only needs about 10 minutes now, just long enough for the tomatoes to become mushy and for the vinegar *cough* to evaporate a little bit.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before adding to a food processor

Coo! Look at that chilli!

Blitz the mix until smooth-ish. Then push the mixture through a metal sieve.

*eyes watering*

You then end up with a bowl of excruciatingly hot sauce which can be either added to a plate in the same way as ketchup (but with added agony) or can be used to marinade meat.

It looks so innocent...

I added the sauce to a bunch of large chicken wings (scoring the meat before adding the marinade) and left to sit for a few hours – overnight in the fridge is better; scored, marinaded and frozen for a week is the best.

Soak away my lovelies

When ready to cook, Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a roasting tray. Brush the wings with a little more marinade before placing in the oven.

Now to cooking times – I roasted these at gas mark 6 for well over an hour – these were large wings and  were nowhere near cooked at 40 minutes (as per usual chicken wing cooking time). Use your discretion and keep cooking and basting with marinade – keep turning the wings until you’re confident that the evilness of salmonella has been burned to death and the wings are crispy on the outside but nice and succulent within.

Baste, Baste, Baste

This recipe gave a yield of enough sauce to marinate about 12 large chicken wings with a jam jar full excess which can be poured over the cooked wings if you like it very hot, or kept in the fridge and used whenever you feel like scaring the shit out of your tastebuds.

I'm surprised the lid hasn't melted

I served the chicken with plain green beans, macaroni cheese, and some random sausages that I had left over in the freezer from Christmas. QUITE the combination I’m sure you agree.

Holy LORD

It was bloody LOVELY.

And so begins my concerted effort to cook bundles of American dishes to acclimatise us all before our big trip. We’re all so excited that I’m sure you, poor reader, will be sick to the back teeth of us soon – either that or you could give some of these recipes a go and become enamoured with American cooking as well.

If you’d like to give the Hot Sauce a go have a look here for the full recipe.

Another member of my family.

Sometimes I find it hard to start writing a post. Often I will rub my fingers across the keyboard, hoping that my fingers will suddenly spring into life and the aimless thoughts in my head will take shape and make a post.

Sometimes I’m lucky, and sometimes…not so much. I think that this post will be a “not so much”.

I feel compelled to write something that will force encourage you to sign a petition for Save The Children in their call for more health workers in the poorest countries.

The latest campaign came to my notice via one of my fellow bloggers Salt & Caramel and through her post, I clicked a link to 100 word challenge.

There’s no way I’m going to keep this to 100 words.

I started sponsoring a child back in 2007 via Action Aid. The first little girl I sponsored disappeared from her village in East Africa after two years. Probably married off at the grand old age of 12 and living a life beyond my understanding. I feel so sad that she has gone…and then I confuse myself with thinking that I’m thinking in an “Imperialistic” way and that people should be able to live lives outside our constructed norms…and then I think…12. TWELVE. Getting married at fucking twelve?

The charity switched my sponsorship to a 5 year old boy who lives in South Africa. I have a photo of him. A smiling, shy boy wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and a pair of crocs. Just a little boy. No different to my own and his letters are full of pictures of outlines of his hands and tales of a beloved grandfather.

He should have access to decent heath care.

So please, just sign the petition. It takes two seconds and might make a tiny difference.

On a related note:

If you want to donate to the East African Drought please go to:

UNICEF

or

Oxfam

Thank you.