Sunday, 25 October 2009

Panna Whatta?

I made panna cotta tonight and it was brilliant.
We had Scotch Broth for starters (1940's rationing, eat your heart out), then roast beef, roast pots, roast parsnips, green beans and gravy. Followed by panna cotta with poached plums.

I have never really eaten or cooked with plums before, but the more I try them, the more I like them.

I did actually make plum jam using plums off the plum tree in Gala. Not the eponymous Soor Plooms tree I should say, just the one in the low garden trained against the wall. I don't remember these as being terribly juicy flavourful specimens. I suspect the lack of cross pollenation, or some such hoticultural thing, might explain their tasteless demenour, but undetered, the young Emily, intreped preserver managed to pick enough plums off the grass and not be too scared by the bugs eating the fruit to make jam. It was universally dismissed by all and I recall it sat in the cupboard for quite some time. I didn't really like it either, truth be told.

Anyhow, I have got over myself and the plum jam fiasco and made this tonight;

250ml each of milk and double cream
1 vanilla pod, halved, seeds scraped out
1oz sugar
Put all of the above in a pan on the heat and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile put 3 sheets of leaf gelatine in some water to soften. After your milk/cream has come to simmer point, take out the vanilla, drip-dry the gelatine briefly then add to the milk and allow it to melt in.
Pour the mixture in 4 ramekins, or pudding moulds. Put in fridge.

200ml water
100g sugar - a mix of mostly castor with some soft light brown for variety
cinnamon stick
knob of root ginger chopped up
Bring all this to the boil. Stone 6 plums, cutting each into 6. Lower them into the boiling syrup. Cook for a few mins, don't overdo it.
Lift the fruit out, boil up the syrup to reduce.

To serve, dip the pudding basins in hot water and run a knife round the edge to ease them out onto plates. Plums on the side with a little drizzle of gingery cinnamon syrup over the fruit.
Hooray for autmn. A pudding well worth enduring long nights for.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

It's officially autumn, and possibly nearly winter.

Here is a picture of Autmn In A Vase.

I suspect if you ate all the berries it would be Suicide In A Vase though.

Hooray, hooray!!!! The clocks go back! One more hour in bed!!!
Lots of new digital clocks to reset, boo.
It is a windy, wet autumnal day here. Ideal for lighting the fire and watching Jean de Florette porbably followed immediately by Manon de Sources. I think some Provencal sun will be just the ticket. Also, if I sit in front of the TV there is every chance I might finish a knitted item today. More of that later.

Friday, 23 October 2009

I should be so lucky

In an attempt to save money I have entered gazillions of competitions. Maybe enough to make me a Comper. Hmmm, geeky.

Unfortunately, no wins have come through yet, however, I remains ridiculously confident that I will win things. I think this may be a legacy of Grandma repeatedly telling me I was lucky.

Mum (off stage, yelled): "there's no such thing as luck!"

However, my confidence in my luckiness is unfailing, despite my entries not yet yielding anything.

It seems though that this is a good personality trait to display. "The Luck Factor" by Richard Wiseman describes how people who believe they are lucky tend to get on better, and people who class themselves as unlucky tend to have a hard time of it.

He writes about a newspaper experiment in which people are asked to flick through a paper to count how many photos there are. On page 2 there was a big heading "there are 46 photos in the paper". The people who classed themselves as lucky noticed this, the unlucky ones didn't. And the unlucky ones also missed a 2nd message telling them to say to the investigator they'd read the 2nd notice and they'd get £200.

Wiseman (talk about a prophetic name, eh?) thought that the folk who felt lucky were more relaxed and open and more likely to see these good, incidental, oportunities and that this approach to life meant they came across more random meetings with people that ended up having a positive influence on their lives.

Does meeting someone through an internet dating site, your subscription having been set up by your slightly inebriated older sister sound random? And look at the lady (pictured left) she was lucky enough to get a free golf ball in her packet of fags!

Anyway, in the current financial climate you can bet your bottom dollar I'd have spotted the 2nd newspaper notice. I look forward to reporting my "comp" wins soon...!

'allo, 'allo, zee sees night 'awk!


So I wrote a letter back to the French dude, but was a bit worried about it not reaching (on account of the postal strike. Grrrr!) so realised I would need to bring me and him (or me and him, or probably he and I? Mum?) into internet commnication territory. No biggie really, but his email wasn't on his letter, it wasn't on-line, it wasn't written in the stars (or if it was, I missed it).

So, I called his secretary.


You have no idea (1) how stressed I was about this beforehand and (2) how elated I was afterwards when it went well.

I was, rightly I think, concerned that I would come over poorly on the telephone. Perhaps the French equivalent of the policeman from Allo Allo, or indeed any of the characters. It is interesting to think that there will be a way of speaking French which is as funny to the French as their version of English.

So the conversation went really well and his secretary gave me his email address, I sent off my letter encouarging him to offer me a years post, full of exciting, education experiences, unique to Paris, to convice the folks here to hand over some dough to let me go. Exciting times, non??

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Oui from Paris

The French man I wrote to in Paris to ask if I could come and work in his unit got back to me. Very exciting indeed!!!

It was something of a long shot to write to him in the first place, but he replied and said he could see no obstacle (sp?) to welcoming me to their unit.


So I have written back and asked him to explain what it is I will be doing in their unit so that I can impress the funding people here and try and wangle some euro out of them to let me hot foot it across la manche.

So I was speaking to my hallowed supervisor today who questions how likely it is I will have finished my research by next August, which is when I want to go away, and wondered how likely it was that I would have my thesis written.

Well, it's probably not super-likely, but here is a photo of me signing the marriage schedule, and let's face it, a while ago it wasn't super-likely that I would be doing that bit of writing either.
(how weird does my left eye look?)

I remain hopeful and have resigned myself to the fact that I will need to do some thesis writing every day in life for the next 10 months.

There we go.

I've said it, it's in virtual print, so I'll just need to do it.

Word count updates to follow. :)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Don't duck the question!

I cooked duck for the first time last night.
I will definitely cook it again, it was absolutely lovely. I saw Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers from Oct 7th on the iPlayer (of which I am a big fan [Nigel Slater and the iPlayer, I should say]).
So, here's how it went.

2 duck legs (currently half price in sainsburys)
seasoned with plently salt and pepper, with a good rub of Chinese 5 spice powder.
2 bay leaves (I forgot) are tucked in beside them and then roasted uncovered for about an hour.

Make a salad by segmenting a grapefruit and an orange. Add to this some watercress. I used spinach and added a good grind of pepper as a watercress substitute.

Pile the salad onto the plates.
Remove duck from the oven and the meat will pretty easily fall off the bone. Chop up the meat a bit, divide between the plates. There will be some citrus juice in the bottom of the bowl in which you mixed up the salad. Pour the fat off the roasting pan, then pour in the citrus juice and disolve the pan stickings. Pour this over the duck.


I should have taken a photo of this, because it looked very close to Nigel's version on the telly.
I'd give it 5*, I await your comments after you try it too.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

raising the Isobar

John Kettley was a weatherman and so is Michael Fish (see above).

I did not reaslise this, but in autumn one expects the isobars to narrow on the meterological reports which is suggestive of bad weather, storms, high winds and the like.

People are often rude about the weather forecasters - Mr Fish got a very hard time for reassuring all that there would not be a hurricane in 1987.

On that occasion, as we know, he was not right.

However, full credit must go to the meteorologists of the weekend Oct 3rd. They said there would be high winds. There were high winds. They suggested that there might be gusts of up to 70mph, there were gusts.

I know this because I witnessed the glory of the weather whilst climbing Goatfell, the large hill on the Isle of Arran. My chum and I got approx 2/3 of the way up, and then as we were crouching down to prevent getting blown over we decided we should go for the descent. It would be hard to explain to mountain rescue that our preparation for the ascent included 4 peices of fruit, a bottle of water and that our map was the Rough Guide to the West of Scotland.

It was a good climb though, my calves are still aching. My chum had completed a half-marathon in Donegal, the first 5 miles of which was up a hill, so I shouldn't have expected a leisurely stroll. It blew the cobwebs away though, and that's no bad thing.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Passport? I nearly passed out!

I have itchy feet. I shouldn't have, I should feel well rested from my weekend away in Paris. I should be glad to be back using pounds sterling and to be no longer peering at coins to figure out their denomination. I should've been speaking French all weekend and reached new highs of fluency (or perhaps just hit new lows of embarrassment).

HOWEVER, none of this happened because I didn't get to go to Paris.

All because of a pesky passport.

I had a sneaking suspicious that I wasn't entirely sure where it was, and the night before started to root around for it. After 2 hours of picking things up, going through all the bookshelves, the drawers in the filing cabinets, under the sofa, the bed, behind furniture, through all the kitchen drawers. I exhausted all possible locations and myself in nearly equal measure.

The French Consulate in Edinburgh were very nice to me when I phoned to ask if they would let me in their country bearing a copy of my marriage cert, a passport from 1999 and the photographic counterpart from my driving licence. Despite all my "I love speaking French" nonsense that I frequently roll out, after a cheery "Bonjour" from Edinbourg, I managed a reasonably confident "Bonjour" in response before anouncing -"I am a UK citizen!!". Everything they say about the Brits and their language skills was confirmed in that very moment.

Anyhow, to no avail. The French do not allow someone to enter their country bearing only their YHA membership card and a signed school photograph. And no, the damn thing never turned up and I had to call my chum and explain that Paris was fermé.

So.... we went to Arran instead.

Not quite the same, that's for sure but at least it was a holiday.

We rescheduled the flights and we are going to Paris in December- DV, passport agency allowing.