Sunshine and Wild Garlic Anyone?

Even the cat takes advantage of sunny days...

Even the cat takes advantage of sunny days…

Here’s one of the nice things about being a freelancer. A lot of the time you can work round the weather.

I live in a part of the world that isn’t blessed with a great deal of sunshine (and that’s putting it mildly). In common with many of my countrymen and women I have an absolute obsession with the weather forecast and checking it frequently. I look up the five-day forecast on Monday and spot that Thursday has a big yellow sun on display. Hooray! By Tuesday, that sun has been replaced by the cloud and by Wednesday the forecast is cloud and showers. Boo!

So when the sun shines here, it’s almost obligatory to take advantage and roll out the garden furniture, strip off a layer or two or go out for a walk/cycle run. We did that a couple of days ago and, in proper foraging style, came back with a haul of wild garlic and watercress. Wild garlic is pretty easy to spot – your nose will take you there – but general advice around picking is available here.

Post-wedding, the diet is a little less urgent but I used the wild garlic to create a healthy, easy cook dish that I’m sharing here:

Tofu and Wild Garlic stir-fry – serves 2

Chillies, garlic and ginger - yum!

Chillies, garlic and ginger – yum!

160g pkt Cauldron Foods marinated tofu pieces
100g mushrooms, sliced
Half a red pepper, sliced
Half a courgette, sliced
8 spring onion, sliced into 4cm lengths
50g asparagus tips, sliced in half
Large handful wild garlic, rinsed
1 chilli, sliced (keep the seeds in if you like hot food)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1tbsp rapeseed oil

Heat the oil in a wok and add the mushrooms, pepper, courgette, spring onions and asparagus tips and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add in the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for another minute. Stir in the wild garlic and cook until wilted. Add in the marinated tofu and stir-fry another minute or so. Season to taste with a little soy sauce (you won’t need much as the tofu pieces are already seasoned) and serve with cooked noodles tossed in a little bit of sesame oil.

Words Vs Cake: Cake Wins

 

Delia Smith's Sachertorte - yum...

Delia Smith’s Sachertorte – yum…

Post wedding I need other topics to write about (*sighs*) so I decided to make my blog about cooking and writing.

Should the two pair together you ask? Writers, I believe from a quick straw polls of friends, are the kings and queens of procrastination… They have turned it into an art form and cooking is the ideal tool for procrastinators.

Picture the scene. You sit in front of your screen staring at the blank document in front of you. You stare into space for five minutes or so. You write 15 words. You re-read them. You discard them as utter, banal rubbish, highlight them and delete. Repeat ad nauseum.

Picture the scene two. You do all of the above, but after the 15th time of staring into space, you think to yourself: “Aha! My partner/family/friends/cat has always hankered after a home-made pork pie, one that needs many ingredients, complicated pastry techniques, tricky meat jelly developments and HOURS AND HOURS in the kitchen.”

As a writer, you abandon your screen with joy. “Hooray!” you say to yourself. “My partner/family/friends/cat need me to create said, complicated home-made pork pie. The demanding so-and so’s! I must jump to it and get myself into the kitchen ASAP. This could take DAYS.”

Do you see then the natural affinity that writing has with cooking? Baking seems to be a particular favourite. In theory as the writer cum baker allows their home-made pastry to rest in the fridge, a good 500 words or so could be bashed out while waiting.

I think not. The baker cum writer hovers by the fridge, tidies the kitchen surfaces so that said pastry can be rolled out and does a quick check of friends’ social media updates.

Which leads me neatly to complex recipes. I have scoured the internet for the complicated, the multi-ingrediented, the tough of task and the time consuming. Here they are (writers you can thank me later):

Macaroons
Sachertorte
Millionaire’s shortbread (well, of course I’m going to reference my own recipe)
Gravadalax
Christmas cake 
Swiss roll

 

Followers? Not Just A Matter Of Chance…

Do I own the only cat in the world who likes cupcakes??

Do I own the only cat in the world who likes cupcakes??

Luvvies – so wonderful to talk to you once more.

[I feel I must now use these kinds of words now that I’m a creative type, albeit a creative type who is yet to make any money and who watches her ever-decreasing bank balance with a slight touch of gnawing anxiety.]

Several weeks into my new life as a freelance writer – ta-dah! – and my happiness knows no bounds…

This benefits not only me, but my beloved (we wed two weeks ago) who is enjoying daily compliments and increased housework effort on my part*, and the cat, whose strenuous efforts to steal food from my plate are now greeted with “Aw, are you hungry Freddie?”, rather than shrieks followed by a quick squirt of the water spray.

I say freelance writer, you’ll note, but not paid freelance writer so all of this happiness is all very well, but it’s no good without the moolah, hmm?

Blogging has been a learning curve. In my pre-married naivety, I imagined I could write a few wee, witty words** about weddings, people would flock to my site in their hundreds of thousands and et voila, a new writing career would emerge.

That’s right friends, I thought the good folks out there would stumble on my blog BY ACCIDENT, sifting through the billion and billions of sites out there and think to themselves, “Goodness me, what a stroke of luck! I like this woman’s witterings so sign me up instantly for regular updates!”

And then I would find myself batting off contacts from companies. “Yes, yes Clinique you are welcome to advertise on my site in return for a year’s supply of your clarifying lotion”, and “Really, Green & Black’s, you will pay me money AND give me a never-ending supply of your fabulous Butterscotch chocolate?”

At which point, I would play tough negotiater and demand that Green & Black involve me in their product development, namely tasting, from now on.

Oh reader, it did not happen… I have been investigating many of the ways one can use to get one’s blog noticed, read and followed. Australian business coach Casey Gollan has plenty of useful advice on unusual ways you can use to get your posts noticed. Tweeting old posts for example, promoting your post on LinkedIn and to your relevant LinkedIn groups and mentioning contacts on Twitter. He also suggests interviewing someone very influential in your field to creating a ‘how to’ video for YouTube.

[I have visions of me, Delia-like in my kitchen, happily laying sugar paste on a cake whilst instructing the viewer on the do’s and don’ts. Said picture might be spoiled by the cat jumping on top of the rolled-out sugar paste and leaving a dirty paw print in it.***]

Casey also recommends file-sharing sites such as SlideShare and Scribd, as these are sites people can go to find answers to questions, or if you have written something that answers a common question – say, how to put sugar paste on a cake – why not share it on Yahoo Answers, making sure that you include your blog URL?

So there’s a lot to learn, but it’s pretty interesting and exciting. Now I need to go and put some of these ideas into practice…

 

*Ladies and gentlemen – ironing was carried out. Red wine stains were banished from the floor. Rubber gloves and a face mask were donned so that maximum strength industrial cleaner could be applied to the oven and three years’ worth of grime removed.

**Hopefully they were witty words chums.

***Reader, this happened… I cut out the offending piece of icing.

Goodbye The Bridget Jones Years… It’s Been Fun!

Regular readers may dissent, but my blog was originally wedding-themed – mine specifically – and started last year ahead of the big event which is now in, ooh, today.*

Wedding planning is a little bit fun and a little bit bonkers. There is a fluffy pink rollercoaster of a ride waiting to sweep up the unprepared and gullible bride to be as she sets out in her preparations. “Ooh,” you find yourself nodding along sagely to a saleswoman/man, “y’know that horse-drawn carriage complete with plumed horses and footmen does sound pretty unique and romantic, now you come to mention it.”

Reader dear, I resisted most of it. I batted off people trying to flog me table decorations, I ignored the pleas of wedding stationery retailers and I decided against an on site make-up artist. I also felt an engagement photo shoot was not necessary (can you imagine, you walk into our house to be greeted by a huge portrait of me and my beloved grinning at each other cheesily – it would put you right off your dinner) and we certainly would not need a wedding video.

I had a budget in mind and I stuck to it** so I’ll share with you the wisdom of moi a la the home-made bride:

Red Velvet wedding cake

Red Velvet wedding cake

Make your own cake! No, really decorating it the day before is so soothing, so relaxing so guaranteed to bond you and your beloved together as you saw through half-frozen cakes and argue (gently) over the smoothness of your sugar paste.

On the plus side, the ingredients cost £30, plus I had to splash out on £17 for two cake tins. A quick Google search reveals your average three tier wedding cake costs upwards of £250.

Create your own favours. Now this I write without mockery – this particular endeavour was a great deal of fun. In October last year, we stockpiled local brambles, steeped them in sugar and vodka and left the mix in kilner jars under the stairs for several months. Following a quick pre-wedding quality control check (hic!), the liqueur was pronounced fit for consumption and we ordered bottles and labels online.

Two for tea - and bramble vodka for one

Two for tea – and bramble vodka for one

Favour 2 (for the ladies) was little bits of millionaire’s shortbread cut up into tiny pieces and individually wrapped, then presented in a china tea cup and saucer, obtained from several trips to charity shops. (The ones in the posher parts of Edinburgh yielded the best results).

I even went so far as to make my own chocolates too as prizes for a game. Tempering chocolate isn’t difficult, though it is rather tedious but you get much better-looking results as you can see from this picture. Instructions for tempering chocolate in the microwave (and other ways) are available here.

The difference between tempered and untempered chocs...

The difference between tempered and untempered chocs…

My brother-in-law is a talented graphic designer so he designed the invites and I emailed these out to save on postal costs.

For the beauty stuff I booked in to a beauty counter in John Lewis for a long-lasting make-up lesson. (Bobbi Brown – it’s really informative, but make yourself be firm about just how many products you are going to buy at the end).

And finally the flowers, we bought vases from Ikea (ten of, £1.75 each) and the day before, we went to the local supermarket, bought five cheap bouquets and divided them up amongst the vases for the table.
As you read this, I will be about to say ‘I do’. I will bid a fond farewell to the single/unmarried years (hey, they were fun…) and hello to Mr and Mrs Life. Another chapter of life begins.

 

*Marvellous modern invention – scheduling so I’m cheating by writing this a day ahead.

**More or less, A few more items of skincare and make-up than were strictly necessary crept into my shopping bag.