I have a special relationship with coffee. I imagine I would be bereft without it. An espresso is my favourite, a cappuccino just mmmm.
So imagine my absolute socially isolated embarrassment at having bought decaf. By mistake! I don’t believe in decaf…it’s like sucking out the core of coffee to make people feel somehow healthy about their decision. Not. For. Me.
I thought I did well, strength no. 4 (tick), ground to save me pouring in beans and pressing a button (tick), coffee machine cleaned (tick) and packet carefully opened. In went the coffee to the little thingy and I pressed it down with my pressy down thing before pretending to be a barista and attaching it to my coffee machine.
Whilst still pretending to be a barista, by pouring milk and sticking in the steam spout thingy, I looked wistfully over at my packet of coffee. The world slowed down. Noooooooooooooooooooooo (in a slow motion sounding no). It can’t be. It bloody well is. That says decaf. On strength 4 coffee. My head did not compute.
Probably due to the clear lack of caffeine I was about to drink.
You know when you are standing arguing in your head about something that you have clearly done. That was me. There was no getting away from the label. Other than blaming the company for making the words decaf a little too small. My fault though. Agggghhhhhh so very annoying. I am usually quite discerning about my coffee choice. How did this happen? I blame….anyone and anything other than myself….Ok I blame myself.
Is there any point to decaf coffee?
Asking for a very stupid…ahem…friend who now is drinking it (due to her not wasting things issues).
That is not a photo of my cooker, my one is more normal looking. It is now official that no one should let me near to any cooker including my own. Hobs I am fine with but the oven though always creates a disaster. This disaster involved a missing fish slice.
As a (very long) side note I am not a 100% sure that is what you call it. I sometimes call it a spatula but realise this may be a baking implement. It was a plastic one, not a metal one but I still think it should be called a fish slice. Oh gawd – yes I am an adult. I am over 40 and I am still rubbish at anything cooking related. To be honest it is a failing in life I couldn’t care less about.
It would help if I was in a relationship with a chef. Although I dated one once and am convinced he dumped me for my disinterest in anything cooking related unless it involved eating his food. That sentence could have ended completely differently but I should also note a rising (stick that word at the end and it also applies!) disinterest in him….I would have dumped him if he hadn’t done it first. Just saying.
I lost my fish slice a fee weeks ago. I found this fact really perplexing. Where can a fish slice go?! I spent numerous occassions pondering this. My kitchen is small. My flat is not massive. I didn’t (I was pretty sure) take it out the kitchen. Why would I? Despite this logic I searched a bit around the rest of my house before giving up due to the impending doom of insanity at my actions. How would I explain this one to any psychiatrist when they took me away.
So I gave up searching and assumed it was lost with no explanation. I logically put this in the ‘oh well’ category of life’s little mysteries.
Until…. I used my oven. A rare event (did you read my baking post) and one that usually involves disaster. Due to an even more rare event as I do weirdly eat pretty clean (just involving hob things). A pre-packed meal. I was tired and needed macaroni so in to the oven went the supermarket meal.
The macaroni was good. Moorish and just what I needed to refuel. The oven however seemed a little off. It was a bit smokey. I think this happens sometimes. Does it? Does anyone else’s oven smoke a little on occasion? Is that a cooking thing?
On investigation I found something unusual. A blob of what looked like plastic. On inspection of the said blob I couldn’t figure it out (honestly I am really quite sharp minded at work!). After dinner and a bit of sofa chilling realisation struck. It was that bloody fish slice. Back I went and found the slice bit of the fish slice at the back of the oven. It must have just been the handle that melted.
Why I put my fish slice in the oven is a mystery. Why I didn’t take it out is another one. But I now just think that there is a really good way to avoid any repeat of this. Just don’t use the oven. Ever. Not even 6/7 times a year. So I am now done with the oven and have bought a new fish slice. If. Big if…I ever leave it in the oven again this one is metal 🙂
Boredom can lead to troubling actions. I have baking in the category of things I only ever consider when I’m bored. As in really bored. The ‘I am so bored I will consider doing things I never normally do’ type boredom. On Sunday afternoon I decided it would be a good idea to bake a cake. I should have remembered that not everyone bakes. A lot of people (me included) can’t bake.
I can hardly cook never mind bake so I should put this type of good idea in the bad idea bin. It never turns out well. But after, what was meant to be, a relaxing Sunday morning I got to the afternoon and decided I should do something. Eating cake is not part of my current health drive; so of course this was what I settled on as something I should do.
How hard can baking be?
I should point out that I have baked things before. The last event of this type was probably 10 years ago. I also watch baking type programmes and realise these can lull people into thinking that it is not that hard. In reality I have no clue what I am doing so I messaged my dad to obtain my grandmother’s recipe book. Then off I went to Tesco with my list of ingredients. This list included wine. Granted it is not a cake ingredient (that I know off) but it was essential to the whole thing.
I had settled on two recipes. One of them had to work out ok. My choices:
‘Fruit Loaf’; and
You can easily guess which one I was hoping would be edible…a little edible.
The problem with baking on a whim is that it takes ages. Measuring, mixing, beating things, greasing tins and then the cooking.
But after a couple of hours – voila! Two fruit loafs and one chocolate cake later I was feeling very smug about my achievement. I took a photo and sent it off to various family members.
I think they were in shock for a bit but the replies came back in with oooh’s and aaaggghhh’s. It may not be as majestic as the image above. I also don’t think you will make the same ooh and aaagghh type appreciation noises – but here is my photo anyway:
Note to self – Never bake
Especially not Cake!
The smug feeling was short lived. Cutting a slice of the chocolate cake was a slap of reality. I can’t bloody bake. It was more like a biscuit…risen…but still biscuit like. Thankfully the fruit loafs’ tasted ok. The thing is I was really wanting chocolate cake. My chocolate cake was binned. I also remembered that I am trying to eat healthily so stoped at 2 slices of the fruit thing.
There are lots of reasons as to why I don’t bake. I don’t want to bake. I can’t really bake. My baking attempts are fruitless; or in my case cakeless. Baking when bored is a bad idea. I know the rest of the world is good at baking. It’s clearly just not one of my strengths.
My kitchen is small and, let’s be honest, it suits me due to the fact that I don’t often cook. Im a picky and plain eater. Whipping up amazing creations in the kitchen is for other people. I prefer to grab the wine glass and watch those folk.
I also try not to eat much bread in my constant goal (which doesn’t always work) of trying to eat healthily.
So for some unknown reason, during my food shopping yesterday, I was looking at bread flower and yeast. It was a notion…about bread. I figured it isn’t actually that hard to do. I might be going slightly mad; not so mad that I forgot to pick up a good bottle of Malbec. But even better than the flower and yeast and whatever other stuff may be needed, Tesco had a seed mix pre-prepared. Since this seems much more fancy than an attempt at plain white or brown (I told you it was a notion), I decided to go for it. Bonus points for the instructions on the packet. More bonus points for the fact the packet isn’t plastic.
Bread mix (Tesco’s do it so I assume most places will be the same);
25g of butter;
320ml of warm water;
a little oil; and
a little flour;
Or if you want to do it all yourself then just supplement the bread mix with bread flower and fast acting yeast. There are loads of recipes on line for people who are more creative than me.
You will need also need: a mixing bowl, surface for kneading, scales (for the butter), measuring jug (for the water), a bit of strength, and a bread tin or oven tray.
Prep time is about 20 minutes for the dough, 2hrs for the proofing (knocking and second proof) and 30 minutes for the baking at 230 degrees Celsius
How Easy is Easy?
The easy bit
The instructions….pretty clear. Just tip in to a big bowl the mix and add 25g of butter then mix (fingers work here) till it looks like breadcrumbs.
Then add some (well 320ml to be specific) warm water . I figure (this might be totally wrong) that warm water from the tap is somehow not ok. Typing that out loud sounds wrong, and probably also a little mad, but I don’t even think I’ll google that. I just boiled the kettle and let the water sit till it got to the warm stage. In it went and I stirred it all together.
The bit more work bit
You will know when it is mixed enough. It is like a big rough messy dough ball and isn’t all stuck to the sides. Next step – the kneading. YouTube it if you need to know how. I am sure there is probably an accomplished technique but honestly why worry about that. It’s not like anyone needs to be an expert when giving these things a bash. Just tip your dough thingy onto a surface dusted with flower (I had some of this owing to recent pancake making). Then keep kneading for 10 minutes. This is the hard bit but very satisfying.
Once that is done put your dough thing into a clean and oiled bowl (I just used some extra virgin olive oil to coat the inside) and cover with clingfilm. Then stick somewhere warm for 1 1/2 hours for it to rise / ‘proof’.
Knocking it bit
I did google this bit. The instructions said to knock out the dough for 2-3 minutes then second proof for about 25 minutes. YouTube helped. Actually it was a small child YouTuber who clearly knew what he was doing (what has happened to the world!). But then there are the google arguments about double proofing. So I left it again for a bit to cover this off. To be fair the instructions said 30 minutes after the knocking. It leads to less air holes and a bit more of a fine grain…apparently.
Do you actually need a bread tin? (the question bit)
Maybe. But for this attempt I went rustic and just shoved my nicely shaped round bit of bread dough onto the oven tray. Pre-heated at 230 degrees (fan assisted) and 30 minutes is all it needed. I did the tap thing for the hollow sound on the base. Done. Bread!
I know this is probably quite basic for most folk but for me it is a definite kitchen achievement. And it tastes good! It doesn’t look like my header image and I should probably try and hone my instagram type photo techniques (small steps) but it looks OK for a beginner. I might actually try and bake all my own bread. If anything this will definitely help my ‘not eating much bread’ aim; but it will make for tasty, satisfyingly home made bread when I do have it!
My sister didn’t want to do the lunch booking (she usually does). So since I have had a week off work, and this was planned in with my sis and mum, I took on the job of picking the place. I very nearly chose Noks Kitchen which is a firm favourite and a short walk along the road to Stockbridge. But….living in Edinburgh (and growing up here) is a gift. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world (my next favourite is Rome), so I decided on a recommendation in the heart of the city and right next to the castle.
I had never been before but took an article at its word for this being a great place for food. They were right. The setting is magnificent. Right next door to the esplanade of the Castle this building started off as a Duke’s who was ‘Keeper of the Castle’. From then to now it was an old Edinburgh tenement, to burnt out shell to School House to building used for a variety of things before the Contini’s took it on and made a great restaurant and Bar.
The nicely priced lunch set menu was probably underpriced. I started off with haggis balls and then a steak sandwich. Missing out on the desert was a mistake. My sister’s chocolate mousse looked like something from Masterchef. From her ooh’s and ahhhh’s it clearly was delicious. All in all this was a win. When you live in Edinburgh you rarely get that close to the castle as we tend to favour certain areas and restaurants. Edinburgh is a collection of villages which were joined together by the New Town and once in a while we should all go back to the heart of the city (avoiding the many tourists) to bask in its beauty. The Cannonball gives you this. It is right next to the castle and the restaurant has lovely views over the castle. It is that sort of place where you touch the walls in the knowledge that there is history and we should connect to it. It was also really good food and Ill definitely be back.
So…over a glass of good Malbec the suggestion was made to visit the Castle. Why would we not. I had heels on (boots thankfully so comfy enough) and we were a bottle down but…It was right there! Too tempting.
Its not the cheapest but it is bloody beautiful. Walk through, pay, and the first thing you come to are the cannons lining the walls. The One o Clock gun is a bit new age (they old things obviously only throw out real cannonballs rather than just the noice) but there are plenty of the old yins. Never stop at these though. Mons Meg is up the way and this cannon is something to behold with a history even England would be jealous of.
Edinburgh castle is stunning and I am always in awe of it. The view from Princess Street is good enough but a walk around it reminds me of the romantic nature of us Scottish folk. The surprising thing is how little it can feel even in its statuesque position on the hill overlooking the gardens (when built it was a loch and the New Town didn’t exist). The great hall is magnificent, the Stone of Destiny touches most hearts and the tiny chapel is simple yet ornate.
My tips. Try the whisky. Don’t wear heels. Head down to Deacon Brodie’s for a pint afterwards. But also just bask in it. Kings, Queens, intrigue, deception and many a story have come from that castle. We are lucky to have it. We will always have it. In some ways I feel I should visit more but it is always there, overlooking Edinburgh. I go enough for an ‘Edinburgher’. I’ll definitely be eating next to it more.