Tag Archives: friends

When life is topsy turvy, make upside down cake

We’ve just said goodbye to some friends who popped over for a visit from LA. We were more of a pitstop on their way to the more glamorous climates of Sri Lanka but still, was lovely to have them here. Their trip coincided with a lot of familial upheaval so whilst we endeavoured to feed them proper home cooked foods most days (I say most days, at least two days they were here I was too hungover to leave my bed – I’m a classy girl), we often failed and left them to their own devices. I did, however, get around to trialling the bundt pan chicken I’ve seen on various blogs recently. It’s basically like beer can chicken but on a bundt tin instead of a beer can – the idea is that it stays moist all over and the skin gets crispy as the air circulates around it. It was good but think I overstuffed the base of the tin with potatoes and onions as the skin on the legs didn’t get that crispy. So when I’ve perfected the potato to chicken to tin ratio, I’ll post my very own variation. I cleverly froze the carcass like some kind of weirdo who freezes bones and yesterday, I used it to make bone broth. Well stock but bone broth sounds fancier.

Anyway, they’ve left and we’re left with lots of fruit (mostly because that was what I lazily fed them on) so yesterday, I decided to use that fruit up during a lazy Sunday of baking and brothing.

Also related, I bought a basil plant from the supermarket a few months ago. I am not green fingered. I have a beautiful herb garden in our garden that flourishes in the summer months but then dies in winter and is never the same. I just don’t have that gardening bug. Anyway, I bought this plant, fully expecting it to be dead in a few weeks – but a few months later, it looks like this. This is very exciting news to me, I haven’t killed a plant. I need a medal. Anyway, a girl can only have so much pesto so decided to use the basil in this cake.

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Look at the size of that bad boy.

So below is my recipe for an upside down cake. I did two variants – one plum, one cherry but the cake and topping recipes remain the same. You can use most any fruit with this – apples and harder fruit may not cook down to the lovely softness of stoned fruit though.

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Upside down cake

Preheat your oven to 160C

For the topping

  • 50g softened butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar

Mix this together until it’s light and creamy then spread on the base of your tin. If you’re making the plum and basil variation, lay a line of basil leaves down the centre of a loaf tin then slice 3-4 plums and layer this over the basil, pushing down slightly so it’s stuck to the topping. Put in the fridge whilst you make the cake batter.

For the cake

  • 120g butter
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 x medium eggs
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy then add the eggs one by one until just incorporated. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and combine. Spoon the batter on top of the topping and flatten the top then put in the oven for 25-30 mins until a skewer inserted into the top comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then loosen the sides of the cake, place a serving plate over the top of the tin and invert – the cake should come loose and be ready to serve.

We ate ours warm with Haagen Dazs Belgian chocolate ice cream which I can confirm is a total win. But sure it’d be fine with cream/vanilla ice cream/marscapone/on it’s own/cold out of a bowl for breakfast. You choose.

 

Two months of good times…

After last year, I made a commitment to myself to celebrate the small stuff more and not get bogged down in ‘woe is me’ and it seems to be working.

So here’s all the awesomes that have happened in 2015 and the things I have to look forward to in March…

Starting at the very beginning, the wino and I completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw which we started on New Year’s Eve. Got to admit, I did wonder about what had happened to us (for the last few years we’ve either thrown amazing parties or gone and stayed in beautiful country cottages for the festivities) but staying in, eating nice food, drinking pink champagne and doing a jigsaw with the love of my life was exactly what I needed! And it meant that I could be a good daughter for the first time in about 30 years and take my dad to the temple on New Year’s Day. Oh yeah, already winning at 2015.

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I know I’ve hardly said anything about it at all, but I also went on a fantastic holiday in January. You can read all about it, if you’re so inclined, but what was particularly awesome about that trip, other than it being utterly gorgeous, were the wonderful friends we made whilst sitting by pools and drinking gin.

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I’ve had a lot of fun days out with fabulous friends in London – all day drinking (twice) in Soho (and food obviously – ramen at Bone Daddies, pizza from Pizza Pilgrims, brunch at Balans), lunches in Granary Square (and playing in the fountains obviously), a day out at Borough market, brunch at Riding House Cafe and drinking a lot of gin on one day.

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There’s been a lot of quality family time too – my cousin came over from Canada for a spell to visit his mum. We celebrated his birthday this week at a delicious local Sri Lankan restaurant, which was only mildly ruined by the “Greatest Hits of the 1980s-2000s… on pan pipes” CD they insisted upon playing.

I took my darling niece and nephew on a half term day out which included Big Hero 6, Wagamama and Shaketastic. They are too cute for actual words. And we had neon sugar pancakes on pancake day.

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I have started to build up my work portfolio and feeling confident that I may actually be able to afford to get my hair cut and nails done soon. Because, whilst looking like a crazed mountain woman is fine when you’re working from home in your pyjamas, people in actual offices don’t seem to appreciate the wild eyed insane look. Lord knows why.

I had a midweek daytime trip to Ikea (actually not hell on earth then, if you can do it) and have finally got around to framing some of the prints that have lived in tubes for years and bought some lovely new plant pots and succulents to give me something else to look at whilst I work my day away.

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And coming up in March – I’m hosting a gigantic dinner party, my dear friend turns 40 so most of the rest of the month is celebrating him (not nearly enough time to do him justice, quite frankly), I’ve got a couple of friends coming to stay and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes up to surprise me.

Life is looking a lovely shade of pink at the moment – there’s been some downs too, but what’s the point in reminding yourself of those? It’s all about onwards and upwards and putting a smile on. And getting a haircut.

What do you have to be grateful for so far this year? And what’s coming up to put a smile on your face? I’d love to hear about it.

x

Gin Gin Gin Gin Gin.

The title of this post was the description of the second to last photo I Instagrammed on Saturday night, after a day filled with drinking gin. I’m pretty sure I thought I was being eloquent and interesting with that but given the last Instagram photo was at McDonald’s, I don’t think my brain was working as well as I thought.

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I like gin. I like gin and tonic. I like gin and ginger. I like gin martinis (dry, with three olives, since you asked.) I like gin in cakes (weird right? But gooooood). I like that it is great in winter or summer. And a discovery in recent years botanicals a gin can make, so the rise of artisan gins has opened up a whole new world of alcohol(ism) for me. And let’s be honest, I’m a bit of a gin snob.

So when my dear friend of 30 years, Sue, who is also a big old alcoholic gin fan suggested we attend The London Gin Festival, I was more than happy to oblige. For education purposes only, of course.

We've been friends for 30 years. This scares me a bit. We're OLD.
We’ve been friends for 30 years. This scares me a bit. We’re OLD.

The London Gin Festival took place at the Camden Centre in Kings Cross last weekend and I believe it pops up around the country inspiring people to try artisan gins. The event is sponsored by Fever Tree, which if you’ve got tonic snob tendencies (I do) is amongst the best tonics out there.

Love this building
Love this building

We were booked in for the evening session, with Sue’s friend Jo, so the three of us sensibly met at lunchtime in order to line our stomachs. Which we did – at Plum and Spilt Milk where we had quite average bar snacks and not bad coffee, followed by a swift round of cocktails at the Gilbert Scott (always a delightful treat), followed by lunch at the Fellow (my favourite Kings Cross boozer) with too much wine. All told, we’d had a few ‘refreshers’ before getting to the gin fest so I’m not sure I was in the right frame of mind to be educated. But I was definitely up for drinking.

The Honeybee at the Gilbert Scott

The £10 entry fee to the Gin Festival presents you with a gigantic glass, a badge, a pen, a catalogue and a order form. In order to get drinks, you need tokens at £5 a pop – so we bought four each. And then another two each later in the evening. We were basically saint like in our gin intake.

The Gin Festival is home to 100+ gins from all over the world. There is no way you’re going to get through 100 gins (at least, not if you like your liver at all) so if you make it to a future event, it’s worth having a look through the catalogue on arrival and choosing a handful that sound interesting to you. It gets quite busy, as you’ll see from the pictures below, but the layout means you’re never really queuing for a drink, you’re mostly being annoying looking at the different gins on each bar.

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We were given a free shot of Brockman’s when we arrived. This had quite a fruity taste, which wasn’t to my liking but one that you could probably drink neat if you like that sort of thing.

We then moved to the nearest bar where I had a very drinkable Steam Punk gin. This was a good every day drinker, nothing to annoy the senses but lots of subtle botanicals including lavender which is one of my favourite things in drinks. Sue had an Old English which again was really simple and delicious.

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We then headed to the American Gin bar and tried three different gins from St George. Wow. These were mindblowing – gorgeous flavours, fresh scents, transporting you to a different world. The Terroir was my favourite with piney, herbal aromas.

There were a couple of others that passed me by – absolutely fine but nothing of note. Until we discovered Opihr. Pronounced O-peer, this was a spiced, perfumed delight, that evoked memories of the Spice Routes and old Asia. With a splash of ginger ale,this was my absolute favourite drink of the evening. So much so that I bought a bottle. I don’t think it’ll last very long.

Pride of place on our booze tray

There was an amazing stand of vintage gins which sadly weren’t for tasting, but lovely looking bottles.

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And if all that gin became too much, there were hot dogs and fancy pants crisps for eating. And there was a band, but sadly the acoustics in the room made it difficult to hear them unless you stood right in front of them.

Gin and crisps

All told, if you like gin and fancy a relatively inexpensive day out where you can discover new drinks and become a gin bore, this is the event for you. All future events are listed on the website here: http://www.ginfestival.co.uk/events/ and you can follow gin news on Facebook and Twitter.

My food youth

My parents came to Britain from Sri Lanka in the 1960s and for as long as I can remember, my family has been made up of those related by shared ancestry and those who are as close as blood relatives simply due to the fact that their surnames have a lot of letters and cause no end of fun when you’re spelling them for the 17th time to a call centre employee who inevitably asks “oooh, how long did it take you to learn that then?” And then they ask you to pronounce it, to which my standard response is ‘how it’s spelled, obviously’. Because that’s just it.

Anyway.

Because of this large and sprawling family unit, food and feeding people has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Weekends in Peterborough meant all the Sri Lankan families within my home town getting together at one person’s house, bringing a dish each, shoving all the children into a TV room upstairs whilst the women gossiped and the men folk drank whisky and solved all the problems “back home”.

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Wherever these dinners took place, the format was always the same.

The grown ups would be of similar ages, brought together by a shared heritage.  Within each family unit, there’d be at least one kid each, usually two. My sister was often the oldest, I was often the youngest. As there’s only four years between us, as grown ups that’s hardly anything, but as kids it was a lifetime apart.

The kids would always get shoved into a room together to ‘play’. If we were lucky, the house we were in would have a TV in a bedroom so we could all watch something together – Blind Date or Noel’s House Party (TV in the 1980s left a lot to be desired) and not have to play but if we did have to play something, it inevitably ended in tears for someone.

You’d be given a bowl of crisps or peanuts, a bottle of Coke or Fanta and left to get on with it. When dinner was ready, you’d be called downstairs and because no one had a table big enough for us all to fit around, we’d sit on the stairs because it’s weird to eat a plateful of curry in a bedroom, right? Whilst there were always variants, the basic meal was always the same – rice, a few vegetable curries, always paripu (dhal) and at least one meat curry – and if the meat curry was perceived to be too hot, one of the aunties would have roasted some chicken with milder spices ‘for the children’.

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Desserts were also much the same every time: someone would have made a traditional Sri Lankan pudding – wattalapan was the worst (like a sludge coloured, spiced baked caramel pudding – I realise this doesn’t sound that weird, but my god it was disgusting). Or biscuit pudding – Marie biscuits soaked in milk, layered with chocolate mousse (actually not bad). Or pineapple fluff – sickly sweet and weirdly pink. The best of all dessert options was if someone had bought a Vienetta for the kids because it was the 1980s and that was the best dessert ever.

Whilst those regular gatherings stopped for me after I moved to London for university, it’s still incredibly lovely when the whole clan gets together for meals or events. The men’s conversation hasn’t changed – still solving the problems of the world, and the women continue to cook and feed us all. And I’m often still considered one of the kids – refreshing when you’re too old to shop at Forever 21…

For the last few months, I’ve been looking to do something that nourishes my soul and I’ve realised that cooking and entertaining is ingrained in me and energises me. I love to gather together groups of people I love and feed them until they are close to exploding, then forcing another small morsel down their throats. In a nice way. So that’s what I’m going to do. But more on that later.

Reasons to be thankful. 1, 2, 3.

I’ve been doing a lot of complaining and bitching and moaning this year. In fairness, it has been a crappy arse of a year.

However, on Sunday, I officially entered the last year of my 30s and for the last month I’ve been on gardening leave, so it’s been a long period of reflection and contemplation. A little like Lizzie in The Walking Dead, I’ve been looking at the flowers (thankfully, I don’t have a Carol in my life though) and I’ve realised I’ve got a bucketload of things to be utterly grateful for. So here they are in no particular order.

  • My family (immediate and extended). They are an utter bunch of weirdos but I wouldn’t change ’em
  • Mr Wino (aka the husband). Slightly less of a weirdo than the above, but still peculiar in his own special and indeed fabulous way
  • Forever buddies/chums/gangs of awesome. Yes, sometimes they drive you insane, yes sometimes they let you down but let’s be honest, you’ve done the same to them. Ultimately these people are your brothers and sisters and whilst they may take a bullet for you, they’re just as likely to laugh at you when you fall over. Perfection
  • Rekindling old friendships and forging new ones
  • Autumn. Living in a world where seasons exist is something to be stupidly grateful for, particularly in Autumn when the skies are blue and the clouds are fluffy and there’s dew on the grass and a nip in the air
  • The Supermoon. This summer’s supermoon was incredible, watching it rise and glide across the skies above my garden was a treat
  • Discovering far flung places. We’re so lucky to live in a time where it’s affordable to jump on a plane and in a few hours, experience something so utterly different to the world we live in and learn from that. Or just to go shopping.
  • The internet. If you can’t jump on a plane, you can still learn about the world at the click of a button or a well worded search. And you can buy clothes and look at pictures of cats/food/clouds/doge or watch videos of animals doing ridiculous things. What else do you need?
  • Books. I’ve had a Kindle for a number of years, but I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of actual physical books. I’m in awe of people who can craft words into beautiful phrases that make your heart sing with joy
  • Being a woman. This is a short list, so I’m not going to go in depth here, but being a woman is fucking awesome for reasons that I’ll explain in a future post. I’m sure you all agree with me anyway
  • Being a woman of colour. As a woman of colour, fast approaching 40 who felt like there was nothing out there that spoke to her as a teen, I’ve been inspired by the likes of The Aerogram and Brown Girl magazine for giving young Asian women today a voice and hopefully helping them realise they’re not alone
  • Having a roof above my head and food to eat. Obviously.
  • My cat. She’s got a number of curious quirks and strange habits due to being abused (we assume) but there’s nothing that makes you feel more loved than when she miaows at you until you feed her. And then ignores you.
  • Being frivolous. Often it’s wise to ignore the voices in your head that tell you that a beanie with a veil is utterly nonsense. If it’s going to make you happy and you’re not going to starve yourself for a month to afford it, buy it. We all deserve a treat now and again.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m leaving it there for now for fear of becoming one of those list people who can only write in bullet-ed form. Which is a distinct possibility.

What are you grateful for? Let’s fill this page with joy and wondrousness. And until then, here are some pictures of my ridiculous cat. It is the internet, after all.

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