Christmas, cooking, and September cerebration

I am almost shocked that it is only 113 days until the big ‘C’.

Okay, I promise not to mention it again until at least November – I’m just so excited. Not to mention that we have a plethora of birthdays between then and now, sprinkled with work trips abroad and mini-holidays, but I feel that if this final third of 2019 goes as quickly as the previous, I might not write another blog post until at least March (I’m not even going to apologise for lack of comms my end, I think it’s good to have a healthy level of enjoyment with all things that take work – jobs, blogs, projects, and the main cause of my burnout in all aspects of my life is my incessant need to prove myself better than how I feel – you know, my Mother always tells me ‘’life will always catch up to you”).  Not to mention, the end of the year always ends with my birthday. With that being said, do any other December Capricorns feel like they view all birthdays with the same lacklustre as theirs are greeted with? I’ve come to accept that my birthday will always be overshadowed by ‘is upstairs, thus my fervour for all things Christmas. But I love the run-up too.

There’s been such a nip in the air the past few days hasn’t there? Or am I just forcing myself to feel chilly so I can dust off my roll-neck jumpers? Or my ‘Velma sweaters’ as my man lovingly refers to them as. I’ve even began the annual search for some new Winter boots. I’ve seen some INCREDIBLE ones from Gucci, but I also remember that our bank account is regularly drained with all things dog and kitten (more on that later), and that our frivolous, child-less lifestyle means that £800 for some new kicks just cannot be justified *boo, hiss*. I do love the chunky, leather look this year – but someone says they look too much like his issued Alt-Bergs. I did, however, relent and buy a *few* autumnal scented candles from TK Maxx yesterday – even though a homemade pumpkin pie smells SO much better, I’m a sucker for the manufactured scent too. I’ve even dug out his winter fleeces to wear over some of my thinner tops, but await a telling-off for tucking in his prized Fjällräven fleece and, I pre-quote “ruining its tactical integrity”.

Anyway, more importantly, we finally added to our fur-brood. A few blog posts ago, I told you all about our visit to one of the RSPCA branches and our subsequent love-affair with a 7-year-old Torti. Well, that fell through quite significantly. We never got a call back, and can only assume it was because we told them we would be moving into SFA in the next couple of years, but were always planning to take her with us and her canine big sisters. But alas, fate was not on our side. I hope she did find a loving new home. She deserved it. Has anyone else had trouble with rehoming through the RSPCA? We have always run into some kind of trouble. Yet, all our animals are from rescues. Elsa the Pointer even made a journey from Madrid to our home – she’s yet to look back, I think all she remembers is her Dad picking her up and rocking her like a baby for the first time. Ah.

Long story short, we now have a dastardly magpie adolescent kitten called Freddie. He’s the perfect addition to our family, not only because he almost even-outs the gender divide (which the man LOVES by the way), but he helps you appreciate the small things in life. Literally. He’s only 17 weeks old, and only stands about 3 inches tall (oh, and already rules the roost). As I’m writing, he is trying incessantly to get my attention to let him outside for a charge around the garden after the dogs – he’s amazed by everything. So amazed, in fact, that he still hasn’t worked out how to scale the garden fence to get out, but I’m sure that will come soon. Right now, he’s still amazed by the ground and the world of insects which inhabit it.

Even more exciting news to tell you though, we’re going on our second holiday of the year next week. Well, I say holiday in the loosest sense of the term. I have a conference in Berlin next Friday, and we mutually decided how great it would be if J tagged along and we stayed a few extra days to take in the sights. Perhaps not many of you know that Ich spreche Deutsch, so Germany is always an easy option for travelling. Plus, Berlin is an entire world in and of itself and you’ve got to be a little boring yourself to ever get bored of visiting. Our hotel is perfectly situated and within walking distance of pretty much everything that we’re interested in seeing – and the Kurfürstendamm is a short tram journey away for holiday shopping. Or, if we’re feeling very bold, we could take the whole walk through Tiergarten and reward ourselves with Spaghettieis. Possibilities.

Then, next month I go away to Africa with work for the second time this year, which again, is super exciting. I love Africa. Those of you who didn’t go to primary school with me, won’t know that I actually used to live in what was a tiny suburb north of Durban called Umhlanga. So, every opportunity to re-visit the vast but beautiful continent is always received gratefully by me.

I try not to write in too much depth about J’s work and its “trips” but, suffice to say, he has been incredibly busy this year – which I hope will slow down sometime soon (doubt it!). I’m always in such awe of him professionally, he never moans about his work or having to go away, and I’m so happy that he enjoys his profession. I do, however, have to wonder why some of the forces operate the way that they do, i.e. backward in every and any sense of the word. I have started to give up pretending to understand the military, but I will never be silenced if I think that something is just flat-out ridiculous. Soz, J.

To date, my baking adventures have landed me straight into the metaphorical hands of our Queen, Nigella Lawson. I’ve always aspired to bake like her. I think she’s one of the greats. Last night, I stepped out of my comfort zone completely and made a honey pie (honey pie for my honey pie, get it?), and I even made the pastry from scratch. See recipe and piccies below!

 

For the pastry:

8oz plain flour

½ teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Sainsburys own)

125ml light and mild olive oil (I use Filippo Berio)

60ml full fat milk (I use Cravendale)

 

For the filling:

100g unsalted butter (melt this in a medium saucepan beforehand)

150g caster sugar (you can use granulated, but the crust will taste grittier)

1tbsp of cornmeal (quite hard to find – but I did find it on the international ingredients aisle)

1 teaspoon vanilla paste (I use Nielsen-Massey. You can substitute vanilla extract using the same measurements)

2 teaspoons salt

175ml runny honey (recipe calls for ‘good’ honey. I just use Sainsburys own Organic)

3 large eggs

150ml double cream

1 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (again, can be tricky to find – but a good ingredient to have to hand when baking)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/350°F and pop in a baking sheet at the same time.
  2. Mix the flour, salt, oil and milk to form a rough, slightly damp, dough. You can do this by hand or at low speed in a mixer. I opted for a mixer.
  3. Press over the base of a 1 x 23cm deep-sided) loose-bottomed flan tin and a little up the sides of the tin. Put into the freezer for at least 40 minutes, until the crust has hardened.
  4. In a clean mixing bowl, add the melted butter. Mix in the sugar, cornmeal, salt and vanilla paste.
  5. Stir in the runny honey – oiling the bowl or jug you’re measuring it in first – and beat in the eggs, followed by the cream and vinegar.
  6. Take the pastry-lined flan tin out of the freezer and pour the runny honey mixture into the case, then place on the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes, turning it around after 30. When it’s ready, it will be a burnished bronze on top, and puffy at the edges. Leave to cool.
  7. Once cool, remove to a wire rack and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt (I use Himalayan rock salt, but the fine sea salt will also work)
  8. Slice modestly – this is rich and sweet, and you will want leftovers for yourself – and serve with clotted cream or creme fraiche.

 

 

The pie is terribly sweet – but the salt cuts through the honey to give a rich yet tart mouthfeel. A perfect between-season sweet. It shan’t be long before J and I are pumpkin-picking at our favourite patch for our autumn gourd table staples. What fun!

Signing off,

H. xx

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