Finishing books and making cakes

This week I’ve…

a golf-themed birthday cake made by Emma BairdMade cakes! The man in my life turned 50 this week, so I made him a golf themed cake—mainly because the decoration didn’t seem too complicated. Green icing*, a golf figurine and some golf ball wafers equals job done.

I’m not a talented baker. It requires precision whereas my first instinct when I look at any recipe is to wonder what would happen if I switch one ingredient for another and double up the cheese quantity specified.

Cake tins

Then there’s that whole cake tin thing, where every single recipe for cake appears to use a different-sized tin. True. Do proper bakers have room in their kitchens for a dedicated cake tin cupboard stacked from top to bottom with tins of varying sizes? Luckily, I found this handy conversion calculator on CakeBaker which gives you ingredient quantities for your size of tin.

I made a Madeira cake as that’s one recommendation for celebration cakes—sturdy and minimal crumble, apparently. The filling inside is home-made lemon curd (see this super easy microwave recipe here) and the cake’s iced with lemon butter cream and topped with green fondant paste.

Taking to the hills

Did my first trail run. Pounding the pavements can get awfy boring after a while, so I ventured up into the hills behind my house this week. It’s seriously hilly, but the deal was I could walk in places just like proper trail runners do. Another added bonus is that you don’t take in lungfuls of exhaust fumes.

Trail running is supposed to benefit your training regime as you use different muscles and it gives your brain more of a challenge as you tackle varying terrain.

Moved out of my comfort zone. On my list of ‘to do’s’ this year was to do a book event. As an introvert, I prefer hiding behind my laptop when book promoting. The arguments in favour include the ability to reach far more people and it’s much less time consuming/a better return on investment. Nevertheless, you don’t grow as a human unless you venture out of the places you find safe, so I approached my local library and asked if they’d be willing to run a Q&A event where I and another writer talk about our books, our writing processes and self-publishing.

And they said… YES.

Times and dates are still to be confirmed, but the event will take place during Scottish Book Week, 19-25th November. Yike-sy. More details to follow.

Beautiful biters

beautiful biters Finished a book—or the first draft of it, anyway. I’ve finally written ‘THE END’ (among the world’s most satisfying sentences to write) of Beautiful Biters. It started life as Beauty and the Vampires and then got a name change half-way through. It’s a story about a 16-year-old living side by side with vampires and doing make-up tutorials for them on YouTube as I wanted to give it a modern feel.

Now my least favourite part of writing begins; the rewriting bit. Ker-ist. I’d rather pluck my own eyeballs out. Or start another story so Beautiful Biters can meet the fate of all my other books—rusting away, forgotten and neglected, in the back of my hard drive.

Ate delicious Indian food. Sandy and I went out with his family to celebrate his half-century. The Dining Room is a local restaurant you’d be within your rights to describe as a “wee gem”. It’s tiny, so we were the biggest party in there and everyone joined in when we sang Happy Birthday. My go-to with Indian restaurants is saag paneer and Tarka dhal. Indian and Pakistani cuisines do amazing things to vegetables, and make the prospect of full-time vegetarianism do-able.

Tomorrow, to continue the birthday celebrations, we’re off to Edinburgh to see Brexit and eat in Sylvester’s. As it’s August, the place will be heaving. Unfortunately, I booked this excursion before realising the Scottish Premiership season starts this weekend and Rangers FC is to play Aberdeen on Sunday. I married a fervent footie fan and I fear my wee surprise won’t be greeted enthusiastically…

Ah well!

What highlights has your week brought? And what’s your favourite dish in an Indian restaurant?

*I say ‘not complicated’ but the air around me turned blue as I tried to fit that f*****g fondant paste on the cake.

Eat Out; Be Happy Together

On the Twitter-sphere a few months ago was a post about the five things you need to say to maintain a happy relationship – Can I Help You? I Love You. I’m Sorry. You Look Great and Let’s Eat Out*.

Simple but true? You must explore it all for yourself and work it out, but commenting on the last one – why definitely! As one half of a couple and so speaking for myself, I LOVE food. For example:

  • I plan meals and menus all the time
  • I find cooking incredibly soothing and relaxing
  • I get a kick out of writing the weekly shopping list (no, really)
  • our TV finds itself tuned into Channel 260 a LOT (the Good Food Channel through Virgin Media)
  • I buy food magazines a lot
  • I read cookery books in bed.

As a two-some, eating out is a big part of our life. I find myself pitying celebrities – so many of them are on such restrictive diets that the joy of regular eating out is a no-no. I’d say 75% of our relationship is made up of food – the talking about, the sharing, the cooking for each other and the eating out.

And we eat in a lot too – yes, I know well of course we eat in regularly really, but it’s such a joy to make it a special occasion. You plan a special meal, buy the ingredients (even if it involves trekking out the way of your usual food shop of choice) get dressed up and light candles. I’m also my mother’s daughter – she had a horror of TV dinners and I too would rather eat at a table (though we switch on the TV to watch in the background, sorry mum!).

I’ve been lucky enough to eat out a lot in the four years I’ve been with my partner. It’s not a luxury available to all so I so know how fortunate I am. We’ve had some brilliant experiences (Charcoals, New Lanark Mill Hotel, Fifteen Cornwall, the Ashoka Ashton Lane, Tulloch Castle… I could go on) and some not so brilliant – I won’t list them here, as it’s better karma to write nice, not nasty things. I always feel very cheated though, if I order food that I could have made myself in a much better way.

Yup, the way to a man’s heart – sticky toffee pudding and red wine…

And when eating in, some of my cooking experiments have worked incredibly well (Good Housekeeping, BBC Good Food and Delicious magazines all do fab, almost fool-proof recipes, as does darling Delia Smith). Some though – and they tended to be the ones where I thought, “only one tsp that’s a bit mean” and started wandering off ingredient-list – weren’t so great. But y’know tomorrow is another recipe!