Sunday, 8 February 2015

Jive Night: Lew Lewis and The Caezars

This was the first jive event of the new year for me - it's great to be back! The Legendary Phil was not there, but that didn't stop everyone else coming out. I was wearing a blue dress and the girl behind the bar said 'Did you make it yourself? Is that a Vogue 1957 pattern? My mum made me the same one with the same buttons as yours!'. We got some dancing in before the Lew Lewis Trio came on. They were fantastic but pretty fast paced rockabilly, so while I had a couple of dances which were fun, fun, fun but I mostly hung out and watched.

After that there was more of a set by a DJ, and then The Caezars came on. They were more mainstream rock than jive, but they did have a double bass. I think the flyers described them as "Vintage styled Rock'n'Roll that Tarantino would be proud of" - Timeout Magazine. The Caezars were pretty energetic, there was a lot of jumping about, and it was pretty fast too, but we got a stroll in for one of the slower songs, and I think the lead singer was impressed. They loosened up gradually when they realised we were a much more relaxed crowd than London. They played a couple of encore songs and I got a couple of dances in, though it was pretty damn fast. They reminded me a lot of the music I listened to when I was younger, I really enjoyed it. For the very last song they told us that when they cut the music everyone had to shout 'Hail Caezar!' so we had a little practise and someone at the side shouted 'Fuck you!' which really tickled them, so during the song they singer kept passing the mic to the side and you'd get a little 'Fuck you!' after we'd all shouted. The last time he didn't do it and the lead singer stopped the song until he'd said it.

Afterwards I had a couple of dances but I was pretty knackered so I decided to get my boots on. I ran into the lead singer and we ended up having a chat. He's from Bristol, he's about 23 and he's been singing since he was 15. He was sporting a beard so I was pretty surprised that he was that young and he said it wasn't a statement, his shaver is broken! It's getting pretty itchy and he can't wait to shave. He seemed like a pretty nice guy, he said that he had enjoyed playing there and that in the early days of the band they played a lot of Rockabilly gigs and these days they are a bit more mainstream so it was nice to get back to that. 

It was a lovely night out, it was nice to be dancing, great to see everyone again, and really great to be introduced to a new band. Fun!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sunday Dinner WWII Rationing Style

It's my turn to cook Sunday dinner today, and since I got the fruit cake recipe from WWII I decided to go with a rationing themed dinner. I came across this recipe so I thought I'd give it a go:

I'm not too hot on pastry so I went for a mashed potato top, and I dished it up with minted peas and roasted veg and onion gravy with the fruit cake and custard for afters.

The pie took about 35 mins in the oven at about 180 C. It was a definite hit with the housemates! I think next time I might try a potato pastry:

Wholemeal War Style Potato Pastry

2 oz / 50g white vegetable fat
8 oz / 225g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
8 oz / 225g cold cooked mashed potato
1 tbsp milk

Rub the fat into the flour, stir in the salt and work this mixture into the mashed potato, adding the milk in a little at a time.

Knead on a floured board until the dough is smooth and fairly soft. Roll out the dough according to the recipe. This pastry is normally baked at 200 C.

Grandma's fruit cake was also a success, though I did leave it in a bit too long! Originally this would have had only 2 oz / 50g of fruit in there! I think next time I will soak the fruit in tea to give it more of a tea loaf feel.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Mr. MiddleB makes the most amazing bread, and I have been pestering him about teaching me how to make a good loaf for ages. For Christmas this year his present to me was some strong Canadian bread flour, some Dove's Farm instant yeast and some of his time. So today I am claiming my bread lesson.

Plain White Bread

500g strong white bread flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
a level tablespoon caster sugar
a good drizzle of olive oil

We started off by putting all the dry into a bowl - no need to sieve which makes me happy - and then putting a nice slug of olive oil over it. We started to mix it together and then added 250 ml of warm water. Our tap gets pretty warm so I did it straight from the tap. I started to mix it together until the consistency was pretty even, I added another 50 ml warm water in bits until I got there. You never want to add more than 350 ml of water.... and wholemeal flour is more absorbent, it can take more of a beating.

We then put it a tea towel over the bowl and left it to rise in the airing cupboard for an hour. I had homework: to look up the slap method of kneading.

He says 20 mins in this video, I am assured that you can get away with about 20 slaps. It's mostly about getting to know the texture of the dough. The reason you knead dough is to stretch out the gluten strands over and over again with every knead, so when you break into the bread you get a really nice texture - think of a French baguette, when you break off a chunk you get that slight twirl.

We put down oil on the surface and slapped the dough around. Then we cleaned the bowls, painted them with olive oil so that the bread would come out easily, and then put them into the airing cupboard to prove for another hour.

Then we put the oven on at 180 or 190 C. The dough had about doubled in size. We put the pan in the oven to heat up, that make it easier with not sticking.

We put oil on the surface, gave it a bit of a knead again and then shaped it. I opted for a simple loaf - fold both ends over, fold the sides over and then turn it over to rest on the crease, so all neat and tidy, hospital corners and all that. We put more olive oil on the side and left the loaves to prove again for another half an hour under some tea towels.

If I was doing wholemeal I could do an extra prove for half an hour before shaping it. If I was adding olives or sundried tomatoes or any wet things then I would probably add them now before the shaping. If I was going to add herbs or spices or dry things then I would add them at the beginning. If you over prove it then it starts to flop because it has exhausted all the sugar and goodness that the yeast is liking. In that case, just chuck it in the oven and hope for the best, you will probably get a loaf that doesn't rise as much.

We lifted up the bread - make sure you don't handle it too much because the air will go out - and put it in the centre of the pan. I did some hatching on it and sprayed it with water all the way round so that it gets a decent crust on it and then put it in the oven.

We checked on it midway, left it for about 30 mins in the oven. You know it's done when it comes off the tray easily, if you turn it upside down and tap it then it should sound hollow. We left the loaves on a rack to cool for a while, my one is the one on the right.

Finally we got to cut into it and sample some!

I'm really happy with how it turned out - it cuts well, it has a nice texture when you tear it, and the housemates gave it the thumbs up. I think next time I'll try half white and half wholemeal flour and maybe a bit less salt. Exciting!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Curry, Russian Revel-ette and Bird Watching

I just came home from a weekend with Mrs Im. All of us were pretty tired so it was pretty chilled. As usual I showed up bearing something ridiculous:

Yes! I finally managed to finish the symbiotic sock sea slug I was working on! Now Agatha has some company :)

We fairly much just hung out and chatted and made curry. This time we decided not to go for lemon noodles, so the lads had beef chilli hotter than the surface of the sun (you know it's hot when Mr. Im starts sweating....) and we had rice, quorn sausages covered in tabasco and a dry roasted cauliflower curry:

Mrs. Im's Roasted Cauliflower Curry

2 pts ground coriander
1 pt cumin
1 pt ground ginger
1/2 pt ground fenugreek
1/2 pt ground turmeric
some chilli
some onion seeds

Chop a cauliflower and place in a roasting pan. Mix all of the above with some groundnut oil and paint onto the vegetable. We used a cauliflower and some potato beware that the potato takes longer to cook than the cauli. Bake in a medium oven until the cauli looks soft and a bit crisp on the outside.

After dinner we watched The Last Leg which was hilarious, and played Russian Revel-ette with a bag of Revels - I mostly got malteser but Mrs Im kept getting the coffee ones which she passed on to me or the Mr. I passed on my orange one to her so it evened out somewhat!

The next day we had coffee and marmite and quorn sausage sandwiches for breakfast and then we took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - - and sat for an hour with binoculars recording all the birds we could see in the garden (once we'd locked the cats inside of course). We saw starlings, blue tits, wood pigeons, collared doves, a robin, a magpie and plenty of swallows.

Then we chatted about life and parents and other things and Mrs Im remembered to give me the 2kg bag of red lentils she had brought me, and the spicy peri-peri nuts and I was away to catch my train. What a lovely weekend!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Birthday Bash!

Miss R has a birthday bash every year and it's usually somewhere I've never been before. This year she hired out Tea and Times after hours and we transformed it with candles, a sound system and an awful lot of booze.

After a couple of us had transformed the joint, we were pretty hungry so we cracked open a bottle of cava and.... went out for fish and chips. The gentlemen behind the counter were so lovely they gave me a free curry sauce!

We had a ridiculously large bottle of Ouzo that no-one opened, two amazing birthday cakes, and a very beautiful non-alcoholic punch. I started off drinking it with gin, but later on I drank it on its own and it was just as glorious.

Megan's Amazing Punch

Make some really strong chai tea and leave to steep. Juice a couple of lemons (or use lemon juice) and several limes, leave a couple of limes sliced so you can garnish the punch. Add some 3 or 4 star anise and some soda water to taste.

As usual Deb and I chatted some crafty-ness and then spent the rest of the night dancing about in the silliest possible manner. He fella even tried to teach up to twerk but I think I might be needing more tone in my bum muscles for that one. The playlist was much more classy than I would have had it, but I'm not particularly hip. I did at least recognise All About The Base, and later on they started playing 90s stuff like Fat Boy Slim so we got a chance to have a dance around.

Deb also passed on her grandma's sugar free cake recipe that she used to use from the Ration Cookbook from the war. Originally this would have had only 2oz of fruit in it! I can't wait to try it.

Grandma's Sugar Free Fruit Cake

- 8oz marg
- 8oz flour
- 8oz mixed fruit
- 2 eggs
- a little milk

Rub the flour and marg into breadcrumbs. Mix in the fruit and then beat the eggs in with a little milk until the mix gets to dropping consistency. Bake at 140 C for 1hr - 1.15.

We all had a great night, I got to meet exciting people, and I was one of the few who stayed behind and cleaned everything up. We got that place ship shape in half an hour, we're so good! I got home about 2.30am and fell into bed.