Tuesday, 1 October 2013
So, you guys. I have to level with you. I don't really know what to do with this blog any more. Although I set it up in January I really got into writing it this summer, when I had time to do exciting 'ETC' style posts & wanted a space to talk intelligently about art. Now that I'm back at uni, fodder for ETC posts is woefully lacking & since I spend most of my time thinking about art for my degree, I don't tend to want to write about it here. What I do want to write about, however, is food.
Food is, without question, my main passion in life. I'm always thinking about it, and I the only kind of blogs that I really like to read any more are food blogs. And there's no point blogging if you're not blogging about your passions, right? And, frankly, party at gatsby's as a blog title just doesn't lend itself to exclusive food blogging. So, with that in mind I've decided to set up a new blog - the hobbit kitchen. Although I do plan to keep party at gatsby's up, this is primarily where I'll be posting more frequently from now on - sharing the foodie recipes that I love to make & to eat.
Hope to see you there.
Posted by holly ; the hobbit kitchen at 15:12
Monday, 30 September 2013
One of my favourite things to do is to nosy about in other peoples bedroom. Back when there were all those livejournal communities dedicated to people posting pictures of their bedrooms - oh man, I spent hours trawling through stuff like that. Especially when you're a student, so much you goes into your bedroom & I really feel like you learn so much about a person by what they stick in their room.
Fortunately, one of my other favourite things to do is talk about myself and document every apsect of my glittering, glorious personality. You lucky things! So, here is my final student bedroom in my new and lovely university house. I obviously had absolutely no say over things like the carpet, furniture or wall colour, so I've done the best with what I have. The sheets, which are unbelievably soft & very luxurious, are actually from the ASDA Elegant Living range, by which I am very impressed. If you'd like to know where anything in particular is from, just leave a comment below & I'll do my best to answer.
*and by magic, I of course mean nothing.
Friday, 27 September 2013
So, okay, yes. Two cake recipes in a row. I know, I know, what am I doing to you, right? I'm sorry.* But I feel sure you'll forgive me.
I rewatched Matilda recently, which is a film I used to adore as a kid but haven't seen in years. On the train back up to university it was so nice to revisit that childhood love, and to find that in spite of all the time that's passed, I still know all the words. But we all know what the actual best part of that film is: Bruce and the chocolate cake. I remember watching that scene as a kid and being horrified and jealous in equal measure. Now that I'm an adult and can legitimately just buy cake and eat it whenever I want to because that's what adults do, I'm mostly just jealous. It's often occurred to me that Bruce might be my spirit animal.
When I instagrammed a picture of this cake, my friend Mike just commented "Matilda?", and rightly so. This is the ultimate chocolate cake, to make Bruce proud. I made this for a big family gathering and was essentially the favourite of the day. It's unbelievably dense, incredibly chocolatey and extremely grown up. I wouldn't make this for a childrens party or anything like that, but for serious chocolate afficionados this cake is essentially The One. A huge amount of melted chocolate goes into this alongside a small amount of coffee - which you can omit, if you'd like, but I wouldn't recommend it. The coffee flavour is entirely undetectable (I hate coffee cake), and it just gives this cake an unbelievable depth and richness alongside the intense chocolate flavour. It's sandwiched together & iced with a thick chocolate ganache, bringing the total of large chocolate bars used in this recipe to four. Melted chocolate is mostly used to give it the serious chocolate punch, but there's also a small amount of cocoa powder in there for that truly dense, fudgy element. We've also got two different types of flour, two different types of sugar... Basically, there's nothing diet-y about this cake at all, and it's wonderful. After a summer of trying my best to convince myself that I love! Eating! Clean!, it was so nice to take a giant slice of this cake and revel once more in the pleasure that only processed flour, mountains of butter and a veritable fuck load of chocolate can provide.
We need these indulgences. We need to remember that cake is not a thing that has to be "earned" by going for an 8 mile run before hand, and it's not a thing that you have to punish yourself for by only eating lettuce for 3 days afterwards either. It's a delight, a joy, a pleasure, a treat. And those are all good words, and not ones that we should be afraid of. If you want the cake, eat the cake. Screw the rest.
*I'm totally not sorry.
FOR THE CAKE.
- 200g good quality dark chocolate.
- 200g butter.
- 1 tbsp instant coffee granules.
- 85g self raising flour.
- 85g plain flour.
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda.
- 200g light muscovado sugar.
- 200g golden caster sugar.
- 25g cocoa powder.
- 3 medium eggs.
- 75ml buttermilk. If you can't find this, feel free to just use milk & lemon juice instead. Just google 'home made buttermilk' to find out how to make it; it's incredibly easy & works just the same way.
FOR THE GANACHE.
- 200g good quality dark chocolate.
- 284ml carton double cream.
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar.
Writing this at 9.21am on a Friday morning was probably a bad idea, because I've just had a pitiful bowl of fruit & fibre for breakfast and now I'm staring at all that butter and chocolate and drooling. Anyway; I digress.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees celcius for a fan oven; 160 for a conventional oven. Begin by breaking up your chocolate into pieces and putting in a medium sized pan. Next, cut your butter into pieces, then mix 1 tbsp instant coffee into 125 ml cold water. Warm through over a low heat until is everything is melted together. Make sure to take your time with this, stirring it slowly and regularly and making sure it doesn't overheat. There's no rushing a cake like this, so put some music on & take your time. Baking really is all about the love of the thing, so the more care you put in, the better it'll be.
Whilst the chocolate is melting, mix together the plain flour, the self raising flour, the bicarbonate of soda, the muscovado sugar, the golden caster sugar & the cocoa powder in a large bowl. No need to sift, just use your hands to get rid of any lumps. Then, in a seperate bowl, mix together the 3 eggs & stir in your buttermilk.
You should now have a pan full of buttery melted chocolate, a bowl of dry ingredients mixed together, and another bowl or jug with your egg & buttermilk mix. Simply pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into your bowl of dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is blended together & you have a fairly runny consistency. Don't overmix - just make sure it's all smoothly blended together.
Next, seperate the mixture into two baking tins lined with baking paper (or greased, whichever you prefer). In the original Angela Nilsen recipe she recommends you put the whole thing into one giant cake tin & seperate it after, but that just seems like too much bother to me.
Now, make sure you keep an eye on this cake as it bakes, as the time it takes will vary according to your oven. This, by the way, is a good rule of thumb for all baking activities. Watch the cake, not the clock. In my oven, I put them on two seperate shelves in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, then swapped them over and they took about another 10 minutes to both be evenly done. Just, please keep an eye on them & after about 30 minutes take them out of the oven to test. I'm sure you already know this, but just in case you don't, your cakes will be done once you can slice a clean knife or skewer into the center and it will come out clean.
This is not the worlds prettiest cake, so they'll probably come out fairly cracked on top. This is absolutely fine. This cake is not designed to win Great British Bake Off - it is designed for eating, and absolutely not for sharing. Leave them to cool in the tin for a few moments, then tip them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
As your cakes cool, get started on the ganache. I've used a couple of different ganache recipes, but this one is my favourite for this particular cake because it's every bit as dense and chocolatey as the cake itself. It's not a particularly runny, shiny ganache, but feel free to use whatever ganache or icing you like. I've made this cake before with a thinner ganache & butter cream icing in the center and on the top, and that was lovely as well. It's all about preference! For the particular ganache you see here, chop up 200g dark chocolate in a bowl. Next, pour your double cream into a pan, add in the 2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar, and heat until it's just about to boil. Then, remove it from the heat & pour it over your chocolate, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. This was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I stared at the outcome like someone staring at a lover they've not seen in years.
Once the cakes are completely cooled, use a generous layer of ganache to sandwich the two cakes together. Pour the rest over the cake - if it falls down the side, cool, if it doesn't, that's cool too. Either way it's going to be absolutely derishush.
Serve with thick double cream, and know that I will accept all flowers/cards/monetary donations as a thank you. You're welcome.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
So, okay. Firstly, how on earth do people maintain blogs whilst at university? Seriously - do any of you know?! I've been back at St Andrews for over two weeks now & whilst I have been busy, I was also busy at home, so that's not it. For whatever reason, I don't seem to find that the uni environment facilitates any kind of productivity for me - which is a pretty bad thing, really, since I'm in 4th year now & have to be more productive than ever. I just don't seem to be in the blogging mindset when I'm here, and I'm hoping that will change because I miss you delightful people and I miss readings your blogs. Nothing changes unless you change it, so, yes. I'm going to try and change it.
Anyway. A few weeks ago now I visited London, as those of you who drooled over my Patty & Bun post will remember (I have looked at those pictures countless times since, honestly). Whilst there, I visited the V&A which, to my shame, I'd never visited before. Being an Art History student I inevitably spend a great deal of my time in museums and galleries and that sort of thing, and I'm really picky about them. I think about presentation and theme and curation and all of that sort of thing, and I'm not easily impressed. However, I really liked the V&A.
A good museum should make you feel ignorant. It should make you feel unbelievably stupid. Every thing within it should surprise you, and you should leave feeling invigorated; like you have so much left to learn about the world. The V&A absolutely did that for me. It is the ideal museum to wander around without agenda, simply looking and learning for the sake of looking and learning, not feeling like you have be some kind of marvellous intellectual in order to understand what you're seeing. It's a stunning building and it's used beautifully, with the natural light that filters in through the windows not intruding on any of the displays. It's a masterfully executed and stunningly curated. Seriously, I was so impressed.
Of course, being me, I also firmly believe that a good museum should come hand in hand with a great cafe. And god damn, the V&A didn't let me down there either. I didn't manage to photograph all of the goodness they had on offer, but every thing looked fresh and delicious, and there was a wide variety of food available. I consider myself quite the conoisseur of the cream tea, & the scones in this cafe were a total delight. Like the rest of the building, the cafe is also a beautiful, light, airy space. If I lived in London, I think I'd be spending a frankly ridiculous amount of time there.
I'm so ashamed it took me so long to go to the V&A. It certainly won't take me so long to return.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
One of the things I've been trying to do recently is cut back on white floor. I'm certainly not trying to lose weight, because I couldn't give really two tiny little fucks about that, but I know it's bad for you and just kind of, sits on you and doesn't really go anywhere, so. I'm not militant about it, but I have been trying to cut back, & I feel better for it. I generally find that brown bread is nicer than white anyway, so it's not been too tricky. What I really struggle with is... Cake.
Cake is my weakness. My Achilles heel. Cake and I, we have an ardent love affair that will last a lifetime. But obviously, most good cakes use white floor, so I was pretty excited to find this recipe for a wholemeal honey cake in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Everyday cookbook. Now, this isn't diet food. It's got mountains of butter & white sugar and really does taste better when served with double cream, but healthy eating isn't about depriving yourself of the things you want - it's about making the things that you do want to eat wholesome & delicious. Which this is. I've got a lot of thoughts about healthy eating, but that's a post for another time.
- 300g unsalted butter, softened.
- 250g caster sugar.
- 4 eggs.
- 150g self raising wholemeal flour.
- 1 tsp baking powder.
- 150g ground almonds.
- 50g flaked almonds.
- 4 tbsp runny honey.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c, & begin by greasing the outside of your cake tin with wifi & lining the bottom with parchment paper. This is a fairly integral step because this badboy does tend to stick to the tin with real ferocity. To do this, just put your tin on top of the parchment paper, draw around it & then cut the circle out with scissors. Easy.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter together into a cream. Next, add the sugar & beat thoroughly until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
Then add the flour & eggs. To do this, add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour - beating until the mixture is thoroughly mixed together before adding the next.
Once mixed, sift in the flour and the baking powder. When you sift wholemeal flour you'll be left with the little brown grains in your sieve - tip these into the bowl as well. Then, carefully fold together, before stirring in the ground almonds until everything is evenly mixed together.
Finally, pour the mixture into your baking tray & top with the flaked almonds. Bake for about 20 minutes - though, as always with baking, and as any good baking blog will tell you, watch the cake & not the clock. Once cooked, drizzle four tablespoons of runny honey over the cake as soon as it's out of the oven & before you're removed it from the tin. Let it cool for a little while so that the honey can soak down into the cake, and serve warm with raspberries & fresh cream, feeling very smug indeed about your white-flour-free life. It's practically health food! ;)
(P.S. The keen eyes among you will be able to tell that there are actually no flaked almonds on top of the cake which is photographed at the top of this post. In fact, it rather looks like that cake had its little head sawn off before being served. And, well, you would be correct. I cooked this cake in the worlds most dreadful oven, which has a tendency to burn the outside of the cake whilst not cooking the inside. So, unfortunately, the almond topping was lost. Given this abject failure I wasn't going to blog about it, but honestly, this is such a good cake that I really couldn't not.)
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you that I go on and on and on about how much I love street art. I think it is so important, and so necessary, and so exciting and new and interesting, and part of the reason I love the city of Bristol so much is because of it's genuine enthusiasm for graffiti. But, honestly? I don't know anything about it. It's a world, or a subculture, which is so vast and so varied and, by its very nature since it keeps getting painted over, fast. I read blogs like vandalog & unurth & juxtapoz and ache to be so well informed, but I simply am not. Thus, I've only just discovered the work of female Spanish street artist, Hyuro.
Side note: I'm well aware of how sad it is that I felt I had to put "female" in that description, since I wouldn't have bothered putting "male" if that were the case. But it's true that the overwhelming majority of street artists are male and with such a gender neutral name I immediately presumed she was a he before I read around - but the tides they are a changing, ladies!
The images I've shown here are of some of her latest work - simple, thought provoking images of fairly two dimensional women in various intriguing situations. They're beautiful, and beguiling, and seem both suited to the built environment they find themselves in, and also completely at odds with it. I'd love to show her work to those that continue to associate "street art" with ridiculous nicknames scrawled on the sides of derelict buildings in vomit-green bubble font, and see if such people continued to rail against it. Street art can be so much more than that, is being so much more than that in so many places all over the world, and it democratises art in a way that the art world really, really needs. I can't be the only one who'd rather sit on a sunny street in Valencia and let my eyes roam all over beautifully decorated buildings than wander through an over-air-conditioned gallery and look at paintings behind glass, can I?
I'm not saying anything revolutionary here - I think most people with even a slight awareness of contemporary art know that street art has been "where it's at" for several years, now. But I thought these images were beautiful. So I just wanted to share.
Thursday, 12 September 2013
So I'm not 100% sure how it happened, because I swear it was only May like two weeks ago, but I'm back at university. All my stuff has been unpacked from storage, I'm having to cook my own meals again, and it's been less than 48 hours since I arrived and I'm already in the library. This is primarily because I'm sans internet in my house until the 18th of September, but either way way, I've not exactly missed these sterile white walls...
However, being back at university isn't without perks. Firstly, friends. Secondly, stuff. Mum took me on a big back to school shop just before I left and, well aware that since it's my final year I won't be able to do this again, I stocked up on some not-so-essential essentials.
Knitwear. This goes without saying. I've endured three Scottish winters in my time at St Andrews, & I'm not looking forward to the fourth. So these not-so-essential essentials actually are pretty essential. This navy blue jumper from Oasis is super soft & cosy, with just enough sparkle to brighten up winter days without being too ostentatious. I was also on the hunt for a cardigan that was more like a blanket, and this cardigan ticks that box. The giant fluffy blue scarf was a bargain at £4 from Primark.
But of course, I don't spend all my time at uni bundled up in jumpers & scarves sipping coffee in the library - in fact, I spend quite a lot of it at the pub. So, for dressing down in the day or up in the evening, I picked up this gorgeous floral tea dress from Zara. Whenever the autumn comes I think a lot about the look of Keira Knightley & Sienna Miller in The Edge of Love, where they both spend a lot of time frolicking around the cold Welsh beaches in floral dresses, cable knit jumpers & wellies. I was thinking about it when I bought this dress, which I can't wait to wear with a cardigan & long socks in the day, or pretty black heels at night. Annoyingly, I can't find it on the website, so you'll just have to go shopping. Oh no!
This silk playsuit, also from Zara, is probably my favourite thing that I bought because it essentially feels like pyjamas. So soft, so comfy, and so so flattering. I can't wait to wear it.
Ah, boots. Beloved boots. My mum & I have a bit of a running joke about brown boots because it is ridiculous how many pairs we have between us. But no two pairs are the same! And I couldn't leave these behind. Both from New Look, they're sturdy enough to last at least one winter, comfy enough for trekking back and forth between home and the library, and will go with essentially anything. Frustratingly enough I can't find either of them on the New Look website either, but the shops are essentially packed with these sorts of things. Go forth! Spend!
Socks. Tights. This is self explanatory. You can never have too many. 40 denier for night time, 1000000000000 denier with fleece lining for the day, and lots of long over the knee socks to go in beneath wellies & boots. All of these are from Primark.
And finally, the main thing I wanted to stock up on was all this hair & beauty stuff. I picked up some got2b Schwarzkopf argan oil, which is only £3 and works just as well as some of the more expensive brands of oil that I've tried; a Trevor Sorbie thickening leave in conditioner which works wonders on fine hair; Sally Hansen's airbrush legs (which I've not actually tried yet, so we'll see); heat protectant from Boots; James Brown shampoo & conditioner because it smells nice and works well so what more do you want, really; Neutrogena visibly clear moisturiser for the day time; an intense moisturiser & facial oil set from the Body Shop for night time moisturising; a Radiance Boosting scrub & primer set from the Body Shop which I really, really like; Shea Butter & Honey shower gel from Original Source, which is the only shower gel I'll ever use because I love it so; Scandaleyes eyeliner in black for the night; Rimmel kohl eyeliner in brown for the day; Maybelline's brow drama gel, which gives you serious Cara D eyebrows and, finally, Maybelline's Rocket Express waterproof mascara - which is so very, very waterproof that I still can't get yesterdays off. Potentially an issue, but when the rain comes - which it will - I know I'll be thankful.
Now, all I have left to do is write my dissertation & I'll be fully sorted. Sooooo... Heeeeeelp?!