Strawberry Rum Cheesecake

Well, it certainly has been a long time since posting though not for the lack of cooking, eating and making memories but more for the uncontrollable business of life!

Since last writing, I am so excited to announce that the fresh start on life I’ve been aiming for these last two years has finally arrived! I have now left the home of my lovely parents and moved into a little place of my own- and, if I may say so, it’s lovely!

I’ve already gone cooking crazy since living here! I’ve indulged in old favourites such as Thai Red Curry and Chicken Pathia, naturally had Josh and Stephen to visit for Wholegrain Maple Gammon, and on my first weekend here I had my parents to dinner to show my gratitude for everything they have done to support me, where we had a starter of Mojo Chicken, a main course of Beef Bourgignon and a dessert of Retox Pie.

But all those recipes are to follow soon! Last, I had my cousins Sarah and Samantha to stay and we indulged in a simple favourite- Chicken Fajitas! Sarah’s birthday passed recently on 31st May so I thought it would be nice to treat her to a favourite for dessert. Having exposed her more than once as a psychotic cheesecake thief, a strawberry cheesecake seemed the only option! And then there was this bottle of rum just lying around…

AND SO STRAWBERRY RUM CHEESE CAKE WAS BORN!!

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Good News and Goodbyes

24 May 2015

Well, I’ll start with the news about my Nature Guide exam!

I passed my practical!

It was actually an incredible drive, down more to luck than anything else. As soon as I entered the reserve, I found a pack of six lions hunting. I followed them all the way to the watering hole of Kwantu’s only hippo, who we could see peeking out the water. “He’s fine” I thought “He can see the lions. He won’t put himself in any sort of danger.”

Then, to my amazement, the hippo got out the water, marched right up to the lions and chased them all away with their tails between their legs! I mean, I knew hippos were territorial but… Wow! It gave me plenty to talk about!

Next we saw some rhinos, but didn’t stick around for long as the examiner was keen to see me do some tracking…

We finally found some droppings which I stopped to take a look at and, just my luck, I’d never seen such a type before! I used my guiding and tracking tools (in other words, a book about poo) and although it took some time and very careful examination I finally (and correctly!) identified them as Eland!

It wrapped up with a beautiful view in the valleys and a few teas and coffees!

That afternoon was my practical exam which, if I’m honest, I felt less than prepared for… I’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks but to be honest, I feel more than satisfied following that practical!

After the exam, Densely took us students on one last unforgettable Game Drive

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Before dropping us off at dinner, where they recognised me on the Kwantu register by my recent CORRECT title!

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Thank god I did that “practise pack” on Sunday though, because after an early morning three hour drive and the adrenaline of a two hour written exam I was ready to drop, and frankly good for nothing. So the next morning, I got up a little earlier to pack my bags and say my goodbyes to the Kwantu staff that had really made my time there as enjoyable as could be!

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Cape Town Day 3: Mzoli’s!!

03 May 2015

Today, we had a cheerio with Lena who (after 9 months of travelling!!) is finally returning to her family in Luxembourg. So for our final activity, we went on a Free Tour of Cape Town.

As we had already discovered in the Slavery Museum yesterday, Cape Town has a dark and fascinating history and has made significant social growth in the short time since apartheid rule has thankfully been defeated. I was particularly interested in the benches outside the Cape Town courthouse

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I’ll never be able to comprehend the logic (or lack, thereof) that was applied here.

Finally though, after wishing Lena a fond farewell, Sofia, Tilly and I ventured out to a Cape Town Township of Guguleta to visit a whispered about area for lunch called Mzoli’s.

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FUDGE DUDGE

There was one more festive fudgey favourite I could resist making this Christmas…

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Inspired by the Christmas classic The Grinch, this was a special fudge for my Mum and Sister who, like me, can not get through Christmas without our annual tradition of watching The Grinch and proceeding to quote it at each other non-stop for the remainder of the holiday!

To make Grinch fudge you will need…

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Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tart with HOME MADE PASTRY!!

The other delicious thing I brought back from Amsterdam was a couple of lovely Dutch cheeses. A scrumptious Gouda with Pepper, and an irresistible Goat’s Cheese.

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The question of what to do with Cheese The First was answered very quickly

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And as for Cheese The Second? Last weekend, Stephen hosted a cheese and wine night at his home… The perfect excuse to make some delicious cheese-based snacks for all!

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One of the reasons I enjoyed making this is that it reminded me of my days working at Gresham College- the early days, that is, back when Barbara Anderson was the Academic Registrar! We would occasionally host events that had marvellous drink receptions at them which included copious amounts of wine and, when we were lucky, delicious canapés produced by Fine Taste Caterers. One of these canapés would be a miniature Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tart! They were outstanding and along with the never-ending pour of red wine, I was in heaven! More often than not, these evenings would feature a spontaneous 30 minute break consisting of Barbara and I hiding in the kitchen, guzzling wine, gossiping and scoffing these delicious canapés! Unfortunately, such delights retired along with Barbara eight months later, but the memory remains as strong as the cheese! I knew these would be a favourite for Stephen’s party!

Another reason I enjoyed making this, or perhaps I should say was proud to make it, is that after much threatening I finally made my own puff pastry! So this recipe contains a step by step walk-through for that too, and I hope more pastry lessons are to follow!

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Lewes Bonfire- Tips and Tricks

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If you haven’t heard of Lewes Bonfire, then you’re missing out on one of the most strange and memorable nights in the British calendar.

A series of impressive, amusing, albeit highly controversial effigies are marched through the usually twee and quiet small town before being burnt at the stake in designated areas through-out. Your job as spectator is to enjoy and cheer the fire parade before charging off to see one of the many burnings followed by a Fireworks Display to rival that of Disney, Universal Studio’s and London NYE.

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It really is an incredible experience, and to my mind the last of its kind in England. I implore anyone to see it at least once in their life, but before you do take note of the following advice:

LEWES BONFIRE TIPS AND TRICKS
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Feas Pudn

Your Village Needs You

Today was a grand day in the village of Long Buckby- the Annual Buckby Feast! Despite this apparently going on for the last 100 years, I only really became aware of it when the challenge to make the traditional “Feas Pudn” was posted through my door- a challenge I quickly accepted.

The making of the Feas Pudn carries with it a strict set of guidelines. Here’s a copy of the lark that was posted…

BUCKBY FEAS PUDN- HISTORY AND HINTS

No, it’s not a typo! We’ve reverted back to the original name in old Buckby language! Feas Pudn is an old country recipe made by country people with ingredients found in houses or specially bought for the Buckby Feast. People would return home for the celebrations and eat as much pudding as was offered while visiting family and friends!

Here are some helpful hints (and a bit of history) to help you make your Feas Pudn.

  • BREAD – was proper bread. Our sliced cotton woolly type didn’t exist, thank goodness, and will NOT get a successful result. Adams white or brown, or any homemade white or brown will be suitable.
  • SUET – vegetable or reduced fat did not exist. Please use beef suet (other fats are not suitable).
  • DRIED FRUIT – currants, sultanas, raisins (these were called dark sultanas as distinct from light ones). Glace cherries did not exist- DO NOT USE THEM
  • CANDIED PEEL –  Was homemade- orange and lemon. Ready prepared is quite suitable.
  • EGGS – Were not size graded so medium or large can be used. Too large or too small are not a good idea! Hens eggs, duck eggs etc- as you please!
  • MILK – Was full fat but using semi-skimmed does not affect the recipe, using skimmed however might!
  • MIXED SPICE Use basic cake spice and/or nutmeg. Please be generous with it as the taste should be noticeable. Many other spices were not available then.
  • SUGAR – Can be white or light brown.
  • The bread should be torn or rubbed by hand. No one had processors, though coarse graters were sometimes used. It is soaked overnight in milk/water and must look very well wetted!
  • The mixture will be very runny and lumpy when all the ingredients are mixed in before baking.
  • The Pudn was cooked in eartenware bowls, 2 – 2 1/2 pint size kept especially for the purpose and used only at Feast Times. If you have something like this, use it. Failing this, an oblong Pyrex dish, a lasagne dish, a roasting tin or even a thick 8″ diameter tin would do. Pudding basins are NOT to be used. Whatever the container you use, grease it very well. It can be lined with greaseproof paper as well, as this helps when turning out the pudding.

People took their puddings to be cooked overnight at the bakehouses- the Co-op in Church Street, Palmers in King Street, or Bob Clarke’s in Brington Road. This was done after the bread had been baked and the oven was still hot but embers starting to cool. This was still being done at the end of the 1940s.

Well, needless to say, after that delightful little read, I was ready for action! Step one. Bread…

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Chocolate Bombe

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After the recent development of an obsession with Rick Stein and Thailand, my parents bought a recipe book called “J. Sheekey Fish”, based on the London restaurant by the same name which has received oodles of praise from Rick Stein himself. One day when my father was thumbing through the dessert section, he was blown away by the idea of this “Chocolate Bombe”. I knew at that moment I had to make it for him on his birthday.

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Well, my Dad always says, every day’s a school day…

Last night, I decided to cook myself a healthy Whole Fish Salad for my dinner. I’m still in London for the next couple of weeks and I’m exhausted with all the packing! I decided I needed something both to pick me up and to reward me for the hard work so far.

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Now, if you’re going to make this, please first learn from my mistake. I forgot to say one essential thing to the fishmonger I bought this from, and when I got my lovely piece of fish from the fridge to cook later that evening I learned, to my horror, that it wasn’t already gutted for me!

Luckily, my lovely chum Stephen Swinnerton previously worked as a fishmonger at the supermarket Waitrose. With his teasing and guidance via telephone, I managed to achieve a thorough gutting.

FISH GUTTING- NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED

Swinnerton Instructs

If the fish is slimy, give it a quick rinse under the tap. Otherwise, you risk slipping and cutting yourself.
Find its butt-hole (I’m not kidding). Insert the knife, and cut all the way along to the head
Open it, and remove the… Well, the guts.
Along the spine, you will see a long dark vein. Cut all the way along it to break it, then remove the blood.
Finally, the gills. Hidden under the flaps at the back of the head. Lift the flap and slice the fleshy gill, then remove it using your fingers. Watch out! They will be spiky!

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MASSACRE

Yikes. Clean it up a bit.

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As gross as it was, I’m frankly please this happened. I learned a new skill, and as I’m planning on a trip to Thailand next year where catching you own fish for dinner is part of the package, I’m glad I learned this skill in good time, rather than exposing myself as a sissy mid-adventure. However, until then, I think I will definitely remember to ask the fishmonger to do the dirty work for me!

SO! Now we’re past that little massacre, on with the recipe!

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