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Salted Caramel Tart with a Lankan twist

I’ve just returned from a very last minute week in Sri Lanka – aka the motherland. My dad’s family were the patrons of a temple in their home village (Kondavil in Jaffna) and the temple has recently been refurbished (in all of the colours) so my dad wanted to go for a pilgrimage. Now, I haven’t been to his (or mum’s) home towns since the mid-80s (you know, war) so I volunteered to go along with him. I know, I’m a saint, it was such a chore heading over to 31c, sunshine, beaches etc etc…

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It was a hugely emotional trip for many reasons – not least because of my current generally emotional state (see previous post). But rather than go into that, instead, I’m going to sing the praises of my new favourite ingredient that I brought home – palmyra jaggery.

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So as you probably know, jaggery is unrefined sugar made from plants with a considerable amount of sucrose – usually sugar cane. But palmyra jaggery is made from the sap of the palmyra tree which grows in abundance in Jaffna. Mum had asked me to bring some home and being a sucker for packaging, when I saw it, I decided to get some for myself too (see pic below – it’s in a case made from palmyra fronds). And what with it being mother’s day yesterday (in the UK, don’t panic, rest of world) I thought it’d be nice to make her something with it because she inspired me to buy it. In terms of flavour, the palmyra jaggery has a really rich deep taste, almost coffee like. Or cinder toffee.

And then I thought, god, this would make an amazing salted caramel which naturally took me to thinking about the lovely popcorn cheesecake recipe by Rosie Birkett. But given I’ve made that about 680 times in the last twelve months (because it’s AMAZING, go on, try it), I thought I’d try something different.

I found a recipe on Great British Chefs which I modified a little because life’s too short to weight out grams of eggs (and I wanted to incorporate the jaggery, obviously). But the original recipe is here if you fancy making it (it also gives you a great option for what to do with seven left over egg whites. Mine have just gone in the freezer). Also this is possibly the tastiest sweet pastry recipe I’ve ever tried – but don’t do what I did and trim it before you bake as it’ll collapse on itself and you’ll have to try and fix it in the oven with a spoon. Hence the slightly wonky base.

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Salted Caramel Tart with Palmyra jaggery – serves 10-12 (or 8, if you’re hungry buggers) 

For the pastry base:
NB this makes enough for two tarts but can be frozen so you’ve got the best pastry on hand all the time – honestly, it’s delicious.  

  • 400g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 4g salt
  • 240g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 500ml of double cream
  • 100g palmyra jaggery (or any jaggery or dark muscovado)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the pastry first – this probably needs to chill for a minimum 5 hours so you don’t end up with a fat bottomed pie.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then pour in the beaten egg and stir till the mix comes together. If it’s a little wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, till it comes together and away from the sides of the bowl. tip onto a clean surface and knead briefly then pat into a flatish disk, wrap in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.

For the caramel filling, melt the caster sugar over a low heat. You may need to swirl the pan to help things along but try not to stir it too much – it may seize. Once the sugar has melted, add the double cream and stir to bring together. Then add the salt, remove from the heat and set to one side to chill.

Meanwhile, grate the jaggery into a large bowl and beat in the egg yolks. Pour over the warm double cream mix whilst continually beating. Then add the pinch of salt. Using a fine meshed sieve, pour the mix through into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Once the mix is cool (30-40 mins), skim off any bubbles from the top of the surface, cover and put into the fridge.

You can do all of this up to three days in advance.

When you’re ready to prepare your tart, remove the pastry (well, half of it) and caramel mix from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150c and prepare a pie tin (I did mine in a 20cm springform cake tin as I couldn’t find a pie tin – worked just as well…) Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm and then line the tin, taking care not to rip the pastry (if you do, simply patch it up with any excess). Make sure you’ve got enough to hang over the edges of the tin – this is where mine collapsed and created a wonky base.

Put it back in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up again, then line the base with greaseproof paper and baking beans, pop onto a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Once the sides are golden, remove the baking beans/paper and put back into the oven for the base to cook and colour (approx 5-10 mins). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 100c.

Once the base is cooked, pour the salted caramel filling into the tart case and put the whole thing back into the oven. The tart is cooked when the filling barely wobbles when you shake the tin. It will take at least one hour depending on how accurate your oven is, but check it after 40 mins, and then every 15 mins after that.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a random selection of macarons, praline and ice cream if you want to be all Great British Cheffy. Or just eat as is.

 

What to do when you can’t do anything… 

You know those terrible memes on facebook “change your status for an hour to prove how much you care about x symptom / illness”? I feel like those are speaking directly to me at the moment. And it’s weird, I’m mostly a positive person with a healthy level of cynicism (general levels of written snark not withstanding)  and don’t find that I need a meme to speak to me but recently those ones about mental health “change your status, check on a friend blah blah blah” have hit a nerve because 2017 hasn’t been the glittering sparkly joy filled year I wanted it to be. And I’ve learned that even if you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s still further you can go. So I’ve been struggling with just shaking it off and smiling through it of late. But anyway. I’m not here to depress you with tales of mental anguish and woe. If you want to hear those, do give me a call, they’re best told though tears and snot. The one thing that’s made me feel better about myself over the last few months has been baking. Which is often the case, but with more time on my hands, I’m trying out recipes that previously terrified me. Like puff pastry. 

I love pastry in all its many forms. I love croissants, I love pies, I love pasties, I love it all. But I bloody hate making puff pastry and I really haven’t found a shop bought variety I like. So I stick to things that work with short crust pastry (pies) and have never attempted my own puff. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time dreaming of Dominique Ansel. Not the man himself, but specifically the DKA. Now a DKA is a kouign amman which is basically (my research told me) sweetened enriched puff. So I thought to myself one cold morning, when I wanted a sweet treat but didn’t want to leave the warm house, why not give them a go? So I did. And sure, there’s no uniformity in the shape and size of them, and they’re obviously not as delicious as the DKA but not bad for a first attempt and has now inspired me to try out making pain au chocolat. 

Similarly, I have been avoiding bundt tins since the great spiced cranberry cake sticking to the tin debacle, but I’ve recently turned out two good bundt cakes, so I’m hoping my fear of them has passed.

 I think whilst I wait for this bout of sad to pass, I’m going to spend some time in my kitchen, confronting fears that can be overcome by practice and hope that those other fears, the ones that keep you up at night and keep you feeling small and insignificant, will in turn be something that will too be overcome. And in the meantime, when I’m back at my desk, I’ll share a few of my top tips for overcoming kitchen based fears.

An addendum on International Women’s Day – thank you to those wonderful women who have been checking up on me and trying to keep me from completely falling apart over the last few weeks. We’d be nowhere without other women, they build us up when the world tries to break us down. 

A love letter to my new kitchen…

About four years ago (on Valentine’s Day no less) my husband and I moved into a house. It was the first property we’d owned together so all exciting and shiny and new. Ish. See, my folks had lived here before us, so whilst it isn’t my childhood home, I’d spent a lot of time here in the previous 15 years so wanted to change some things that I had never liked.

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We got over excited and didn’t take a photo before we ripped out the cupboards, but there were cupboards all along that back wall. Beige cupboards. Yummy.

One of those things was the kitchen/dining room. The people who’d owned the property previous to my parents had built an extension onto the side of the house, leading directly from the kitchen and linking it to the garden and garage. However, they hadn’t knocked the wall through, which I’d always wanted to do (they did put in a  very 1970s hatch though, because why not?) Anyway, we moved in, we got quotes done for the work, we realised we couldn’t afford it (knocking walls through is EXPENSIVE) so we have just lived with it. And it’s fine. But we both love cooking and entertaining and the dining room was not conducive to doing those things. In fact, last Christmas we had friends over who hadn’t visited the house before and one comment involved the fact that it was the biggest laundry room ever (it really was, we’d only ever use it for laundry and leave clothes piling up for weeks… possibly because we’re generally quite lazy but if you’re not really using a room, it just becomes a dumping ground). On top of that, we’ve been using the cooker my parents bought, probably a decade ago. It’s a gas oven and hob. It was shit brown. All the numbers had worn off. The ignition button didn’t work. It was a nightmare and what I haven’t yet mentioned is we have 16 coming to us for Christmas Day.

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horrible old brown cooker.

Fast forward a few months and we’re talking about what I want for my birthday. And I say to Marcel, I want to redo the dining room so it becomes a space we can actually use and I want a new cooker. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is my husband is quite the brilliant amateur at doing DIY shit. I mean, I can hammer a nail into a wall with the best of them, but he’s the kind that’ll measure, and make equations and formulas and drill and rawlplug (or wallplug? I never know) and get the right length screw and hang a painting. So we get to work ordering shit from Screwfix and a kitchen counter company and spend ALL THE TIME at B&Q and then we spend a week doing lots of stuff with rulers and saws and drills and awls. I have no idea what an awl is, apparently it’s Marcel’s favourite tool.

And as of yesterday, the space is almost done. And it’s incredible. So here are some of my favourite bits.

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ta DAAAAAAAAH

We spent a long time talking about shelving. I wanted wall to wall shelving. Now, sometimes I say things like this but kinda just mean like something that looks like wall to wall shelving, even if it is four shelves put end to end to look like one long shelf. But here’s where the wino’s brilliance comes in. He knows of a kitchen counter company that he’s used to make desks before. So he orders in kitchen counters. Lots and lots of kitchen counters. You’ll know, of course, that kitchen counters are a standard width. You didn’t? Wow, embarrassing for you (jokes, I didn’t either). That width was too wide for the shelving we wanted. So we borrowed a circular saw from the neighbour (thanks!) and sliced them lengthways down the middle. And look, wall to wall shelves (and a box to house the washing machine and tumble dryer – clever).

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You may or may not know, I have a tendency towards the dramatic. And I wanted a dramatic wall. So I got to choose the paints, all by myself. And whilst I wanted the glitter addition, I reminded myself I wasn’t 6, so just went for the solid dark, dramatic midnight blue. Yes, it looks black in some pics, but it isn’t, it’s blue. The other walls are in a very bluey light grey so doesn’t feel too much like you’re dining in a box. Also, if you’re going to paint a very dark colour, make sure you don’t decide after you’ve put the first coat on that you can’t live with some tiles you thought you could live with. It makes for a not fun second day of removing tiles and repainting the entire wall.

As I mentioned, I wanted a new cooker – so I got one for myself. A De Longhi range cooker no less. Admittedly, I’m still not used to the size of it, so I only cook on one of the rings, but I’m trying.

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What I hadn’t realised is that lovely wino of mine had also bought enough kitchen counters to replace our other kitchen counters. So we pulled out some cupboards (one gigantic one that made the whole space look really dark), used some of the cupboards from the dining room to replace those, added about another foot of surface to our kitchen countertops and threw in some more shelves for shits and giggles.

And then there’s the light. Oh god, I love that light. I must have seen the light (not like that, fools) in some coffee shop somewhere and it had stuck with me, so I ordered one from eBay. And it was surprisingly inexpensive. Until you buy the Edison bulbs. Then it’s ridiculous. But so dramatic and really warms up the space.

There’s still some snagging to be done (there’s a wire that we’re not sure what to do with), we should probably replace the flooring (I’m trying to convince the wino that a concrete floor will be lovely and modern, he just says ‘COLD’ and walks off. He may be on to something), we need new window dressing (multi shades of green Venetian blinds aren’t really working for me) and I can’t work out how best to display the cook books on the top shelf. Oh, and I am soon to come into my own with a hammer and nails and pictures in frames. But frankly, given how it looked a mere month ago, I love it and I love my wino for being so bloody useful and doing it for me. I’m more than happy to pimp him out, if you need any DIY done.  He’s dead good.

The trouble with crumpets…

I’m British ergo I love me a crumpet. Delicious, bubbly, yeasty crumpety goodness, covered in butter and jam and with a cup of earl grey. What’s not to love?

I went to visit friends in France a few weeks ago – and I was challenged to make crumpets (the French do not love crumpets and my British mates were missing them). Now, I’d never made them before, but hell, I love me a challenge so off I went to my best friend Google who gave me a Paul Hollywood recipe.

We found most of the ingredients in Sue’s cupboard and subbed in some others and started the batter which was supposed to rest for a couple of hours. So we tested it after a couple of hours and whilst they tasted crumpet-y, they did not have that well known bubble top. So we left it another couple of hours. Still no bubbles. We finished the batter the following morning. Still no bubbles.

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See? Bubbles when in the pan…

We did however, see Hagrid in one of the crumpet tops, so any Harry Potter fiends out there, hit me up for your next Potter pilgrimage location.

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Hallelujah/Hagrid

So I’ve been wondering what went wrong (I blame the French ingredients. Obviously. Never my fault) and this weekend, we had a friend over for brunch so I decided to make them again. On my fancy new cooker.

This time, Jamie Oliver was my go-to recipe (thanks Google, I don’t know what I’d do without you). The batter was supposed to rest for an hour and then you make a call based on the bubbles in it. There were NO bubbles in my batter. Well, some but not crumpet levels of bubbles.

So I left it overnight and there were a few more bubbles in it and I cooked it and there were bubbles in the middle but again, there were no bubbles on top.

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Everyone was terribly polite about them and they looked more like crumpets than my french attempt (and tasted just like crumpets) but I need help, bakers, what am I doing wrong?  I think I’m turning them when they’re too wet, needs to be a low temperature for a long time so it’s basically dry on top and you’re just colouring the bubbles?

(I am very sorry for overusing the word ‘bubble’ and ‘crumpet’ but there are very few synonyms for them).

So no recipe yet, I’ll be remaking them again (third time’s a charm?) and if those actually look like  proper crumpet, I might yet post it. But in the interim, HELP ME GET MY CRUMPETS TO BUBBLE. (thanks)

Here’s a picture of the plate of carbs I served for that brunch. Not all bad. Eclairs and pancakes saved the day (PS remind me to tell you about the first batch of eclairs I made that my mum ruined some other time…)

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Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

What I think about when I think about being brown

I mentioned in my last post about how this referendum is making me feel like the country  I was born and brought up in doesn’t really want me here.

But that got me to thinking about all the brilliant things about being an immigrant (or child of) and I thought, hell, let’s write a list. Because I’m bloody pleased that I’m a child of immigrants, and I’m (often – not always) bloody proud to call myself British and here are some reasons why the combination of my two cultures is actually a really good thing.

Something to rebel against

I did not have a bad childhood. Far from it, I had a great childhood. But I can only say that now with the benefits of hindsight. Ooh, I was a nightmare child. I mean, probably no worse than most teenagers, but I always felt the need to push against my heritage by way of rebellion, from wearing Doc Martens with saris to becoming vegetarian just to be stubborn (I get that my people generally are vegetarian what with the holy cow and all but the first gen Lankan contingent were committed meat eaters so being a vegetarian did not make them think I was pious and worthy and instead, it simply highlighted my brattishness). Also, weird shit like dressing me up in a sari and inviting all the locals over to gawp at me when I started my period (not even lying – see photo below) didn’t help me feel like being an immigrant was something to enjoy. My white friends just got given a box of feminine hygiene products and left to get on with it – I had a priest, pouring milk over my head, then getting dressed up like a 10 year old child bride in a sari with (fake) diamonds dripping off me and all of the Lankans in the extended family come over to watch the spectacle of me bleeding. Where are they now, eh? Maybe I should revisit this fun time once a month – they can watch me yell at the husband, cry and binge watch TV whilst eating all the Minstrels, I’m sure I could do that in a sari too.

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So this is me, aged 10 with my ma and pa, on the day they dressed me up as a little bride to celebrate my monthly chum. I am not sure why I’m green, when my folks are definitely brown. Let’s go with embarrassment?

So yeah, whilst I love the mad insane lot of them, being a child of immigrants gave me something to rebel against that helped me develop my personality (I have maintained the brattish behaviour throughout my life) when actually, all things considered, I had a very lovely childhood (and I wish I’d appreciated it more then).

(Swearing in)many languages. 

My mum likes to tell a story about the time when I was in a Sri Lankan shop with her best mate who told me to put something down so I called her a litany of swearwords in Tamil. I was 35. Not really, I was like 10. Possibly not dressed like above (more likely to be in some sort of batwing and legwarmer – it was the 80s, after all. Admittedly I still love a batwing).

Oh, they laughed and were mortified all at the same time. Mortified because the only reason I’d know such filthy language was because my mum had used them on me in times of ultimate brattery. Your fault, mother. But in all honesty, more than swearing, I love the Tinglish of my people – you get them in a room and the words flow in all the languages and make a beautiful cacophony of sounds. It’s just great to be able to understand go to India or Sri Lanka or Wembley or Tooting and understand  people talking around you (not all the people, obviously, there’s a lot of languages there)

A naturally built in community

So I have many communities. Friends, colleagues, the people you see when you get the same train every day, I would say the gym/yoga/running club but that’d be a lie. But you get the drift. But what  I love/loathe more than anything is being able to spot a Sri Lankan Tamil at 100 paces. We have a ‘look’ you see. Depending on who I’m with (mostly my dad, really) you’ll then get the whole ‘which village are you from’ conversation – and invariably, you’ll find out that their mother’s second cousin, twice removed’s husband’s sister’s dog was walked by your cousin’s second wife’s sister’s neighbour. And you’ll be like, whoa, small world. But outside of those almost family members, there’s always all the actual aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins as well as the family by heritage (mum and dad’s friends mostly) who turn up to the opening of an envelope. They’re ace. Annoying as all sin, but ace to know they’re there. It’s difficult to be alone when you’ve got a whole race that could potentially have walked your grandparent’s dog (not a euphemism) back in the home lands.

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Some of my fam making merry and a couple pretending not to know us. We’re that cool.

F(orce)feed Me

I have no idea if this is because they didn’t have much back in the home country (I don’t know that this is true for I’ve been force fed there too), but fuck me, we love to feed people. I get anxious if someone just pops in for a visit if I don’t at least have a bag of Doritos to forcefeed down their throats. Honestly, there’s a generosity of feeding that I blame entirely for my inability to fit my fat ass into anything gorgeous and ethereal and elegant, and instead has given me the delightful dumpy figure I endure today. But in all seriousness, I love that I can pop in to my cousin’s to drop off a bowl and be there hours later, eating all the mutton rolls – it shows such generosity of spirit (and food) and makes you feel part of a family. It’s also considered rude to visit someone without eating something. Honestly, I’m just realising why I’m fat.

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Mutton rolls, fish patties. Actually licking the screen right now.

Saris and shalwars

So as I’ve mentioned (once or twice) I am short and rotund. It’s OK, one day I’ll come to terms with this. But the best thing about that is saris specifically are made for short rotund people like me – you get a blouse made to measure to your specific requirements and then acres of beautiful fabric, folded and draped over your womanly curves to make you look as though you have actual womanly curves rather than gigantic sofa cushions stuffed in clingfilm (thanks skinny jeans and lying magazines). Similarly – having a day where you just want to eat all the food and nap on the sofa – throw on a shalwar kameez. Drawstring pants and baggy tops can still look elegant if a cousin pops over to drop something off/get fed till they explode. And being a child of immigrants means that you’ve got all those outfit choices at the back of your wardrobe along with all the clothes of your adopted country too. It’s superficial, sure, but it makes me happy.

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See? Womanly curves, not lumpy lardy bits (sorry about insane face – whodathunk I was excited about getting hitched?)

 

The opportunities

I should probably say here that had I been born and brought up in Sri Lanka, I may be a step closer to the ‘castle/sprog/Indian version of Dior’ dream I had at 11. But having known my parents for like 40 years now, I don’t know that would be strictly true, but it might have been. I may have been less brattish after all. I grew up here, I got educated, I went to university, I lived on my own, I met my own husband (rather than one being chosen for me). I never felt like the world wasn’t mine for the taking – everything was available to me. Sure, I get that some people don’t have that, but going back to my first point, part of my rebellion was to ensure that I could go out and grab the world, and I never felt like I should be held back (and god help anyone who tried to).

 

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised that not much is simply down to the fact that my folks moved here in the 60s and are brown. These things: generosity of spirit, community, support, multiculturalism, saris; are there for the taking for anyone at all – we’re one big melting pot of cultures and classes and that’s a bloody brilliant thing in my book. But some people don’t like it. And that makes me sad. So my request for all my tens of followers is that you go out and learn something about your own culture or one you want to be part of and you’ll soon see, that we’re all more similar than you think.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

It’s been nearly six months since I blogged. Six months without my bon mots to get you through the dark winter nights and spring showers. How have you coped? Probably completely fine, I haven’t had anyone knocking down my door, begging for the latest installment in my little life.

It’s been a topsy turvy six months – I started a job,  I ended a job, I started another job, I’m soon to end another job. I am on the hunt for another job. We have an obnoxious tenant who we’re having to take legal action to evict. My cat still hates me. My dad was emergency hospitalised, he’s OK now, but that started January off on an extremely stressful note. So life has been stressful  (see job and tenant points above, I’m slowly coming to terms with the cat hatred) but not without some ups in amongst all the downs.

But the reason for my S&BB return is that I’ve realised I’ve been 40 for nearly six months now, and I’ve not had a complete breakdown. A round of applause for me. I’ve been wondering why my mid-life hasn’t involved a crisis (and when it does, I’d like to be in a position to afford a sports car please) though. I mean, I have the crippling pain of not one but two mortgages (thanks, obnoxious tenant), I have chosen poorly with my last two work contracts and thus need to look for another job to pay aforementioned crippling mortgages. I have a cat who hates me (OK, maybe I’m not as over this as I thought), I have a few marital woes, nothing major or that I can write about here (as it’s not just about me, you see – unlike everything else in the world). I have a sickly dad and he’s also old so there’s that constant spectre hanging over the door. What else?

I have been suffering with chronic eczema (due to work and life related stress and possibly because of the evil cat – I have a mild allergy, yet she still doesn’t find it in herself to love me – the bitch) for the last six months, leaving my back looking a little like a lizard. I have truly joined the realms of madness – I think I’m half lizard. Do cats like lizards? Maybe this is the reason for my cat hating me. I have yet to find a cure or anything to stop the incessant itching, despite giving up literally everything to see what is causing it – so I can only put it down to stress. Any cures/remedies – send them my way.

And the country is in the grip of a maddening referendum debate about the EU which has turned into crazy xenophobic scaremongering by the Leave campaign, which is making me feel like the country I was born and brought up in isn’t one that wants me in it. I mean who wouldn’t want an unemployed, scaly lizard person of the landlord classes being part of their country?

And 49 people got killed for their sexuality in Orlando. And an MP got shot for doing her job by someone who believes in Britain for the British (and his interpretation of British does not include the likes of me.) Jo Cox was a 41 year old woman who has done more with those additional 12 months that I have done in my 40 years on the planet. And that brought me right here to talk about my 40 something non-crisis.

From all the tributes, she seemed like an amazing woman – there has not been one negative word said about her, in any of the obits I’ve read. She was determined, committed, compassionate, kind, caring – she just gave of herself to make the world a better place.

And that got me to thinking about where I expected to be at 40 when I was 15. I mean 40 at 15 was a lifetime away. And at 11, I fully expected to be married and living in a castle with 450 screaming brats being looked after by their nannies, whilst I travelled the world and wore Dior and had a matching set of Globetrotter luggage. And none of those things have happened (and Dior doesn’t make clothes for people who have asses the size of mine).

The 25 years since 15 have been filled with a lot like meeting the man I fully intend to spend the rest of my life with (and several ‘frogs’ before him), buying two houses, travelling, building my career (to the heady heights of nearly unemployment now – woo!) and just generally meeting wonderful people who I am honoured and #blessed to call family. Or framily if you want to use a really ugly word. And my actual family – being the world’s best aunty ever takes a lot of work, but that’s work that I really don’t mind doing. Whilst the numbers may have gone up and down over the last 25 years, there are people I value more than life itself amongst my family and framily.

But what else have I actually achieved? That’s the sum total of my 40-something crisis, I think. I’d like to think I’d done good things but the reality is that I haven’t done bad rather than actively doing good. And I don’t really think I’ve ever had proper ‘goals’ (apart from castle, sprogs, Dior). So maybe that’s what I need to do, set myself some goals that’ll help the world be a better place and by doing so, I’ll finally achieve some actual good and go into the next decade with a 50-something crisis that involves more than still wishing that I had a set of Globetrotter suitcases.

The sum total of this post is, I want to do good things and whilst I’m not unhappy with my little life (in fact, I’d say I’m actively contented), I want to be able to do more with it. So watch this space, a change is coming. But not until I’ve caught up on the latest episodes of whatever’s on Netflix to binge on. Change takes time, right?

PS for want of better images, I’m using pics from recent holidays as I find holidays inspiring.