Archive for April, 2010

Baked by me… Honest

April 28, 2010

Well as it turns out we  did not have a food  processor, but hey how  hard can it be without  one? Well, put it this  way next time, if there is  a next time, if it says to  use a food processor I  shall go out and buy one  or better still make a    different cake.  Oh, and  those almonds I got were not blanched, and it said to use “soft brown sugar” how was I supposed to know that demerara was not the same!!!! The All Knowing I assured me it would be ok to use this instead. I know I said I was meant to be doing this all by myself with no help but a little advice on ingredients for my first attempt is ok is it not? Oh and I also had to be shown how to turn the oven on, not having actually done that since moving in almost a year ago….

Oh and did I mention that one of my taste test dummies who shall remain nameless (Keith) agreed to come round for some cake, but upon realising that I was actually going to bake it myself suddenly remembered he had alternative lunch plans, thanks for the vote of confidence.

So, firstly I got all my different ingredients weighed out and in little bowls, placed in order of when they are to be added to the mixing bowl, that’s right the mixing bowl remember there is no food processor. The almonds needed to be grounded, so I lay them out on a chopping board, put a tea-towel over them and beat the hell out of them for bout 15 minutes till they were “nicely ground”.  Once this was done I could start putting things into the bowl and mix them, the instructions said to add them to the food processor one by one and “give it a quick whiz” till the mixture was nice and smooth…. Jesus it took me about an hour of mixing it with a wooden spoon till I got it nice and smooth, and by then my arm had gone numb with the best bicep workout it had had in years.

With the mixture all done and the oven nice and warm it was time to pop it in the oven, cross my fingers and hope it all worked out ok. Now it said to bake it at 160c for 20 minutes then stick a fork in the middle to test it.  A little bit of mixture on the fork would be ok, but it should not be too wobbly. 20 minutes latter armed with my fork I open the oven and give it a little test, the fork comes out covered in mixture, and its so wobbly it looks like an earthquake is taking place in the centre of my cake. I surprised myself by staying calm and popping it back in for another 5 minutes (as suggested by Jamie Oliver). 5 minutes later and it is still the same, at this point my taste test dummy has arrived and I start to panic…. What should I do, take it out and hope for the best, or stick it back in and whack up the temperature? I’m too flustered to make a decision so thank god The All Knowing I was there to make it for me. It went in for another ten minutes and after that all seemed fine. 20 minutes my arse Jamie….

I allowed it to cool for 5 minutes then served it with French vanilla ice cream. I thought it was ok, but the almonds could maybe have done with a tad more pounding.

The All Knowing I’s verdict: “Really moist but not gooey. Not too sweet, especially considering the ingredients. You could taste the chocolate was very good quality (I used Green and Black). Would go down very well as a dessert at a dinner party. An impressive first baking effort”

I can live with that.

Decided on the cake…

April 27, 2010

Ok, after some more research, which meant me eating more cake, I decided to finally make a decision about what I was going to make for my first baking attempt.  By the way if you just happen to need to do some similar research might I suggest a trip to Bourke Street Bakery, which is where I did mine. A strawberry brulee tart and amazing flourless chocolate cake, both divine and both too hard for me to try making.  I was given Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food book for Christmas by some good friends so thought it a good idea to pick something from that. Oh and it was Christmas last year, or was it the year before that I got the book? See I told you I did not cook.

I thought it best not to spend too much time reading all the recopies as I knew I would just read and read and not make a decision as I would find something in each of them that I would use as an excuse not to make the cake. So my criteria for selection was “what would I want to eat” and the picture of the “Mega Chocolate Fudge Cake” looked very yummy, and besides the name sounds great as well. Of course the trick is mine needs to live up to the name and be yummy!!! I think I might have to get some taste test dummies over to evaluate my efforts.

I had a day off today, so thought why not get it done today, lets not put it off any longer. I got out a pen and paper and wrote down the ingredients, one of the them was “blanched almonds” no idea what that might mean as I have only ever eaten roasted and covered in salt almonds but am sure I will get them in the almond isle in the store. Having got my list written down I then decided to go for a swim and spend some time with a friend catching up and chatting, about the cake I was going to bake… Ok so that took me up till 1pm, time to get to the supermarket. I was heading straight there, honest, but then I decided to have a coffee and cake with a friend on the way. I had a very disappointing orange and poppy seed cake, nowhere near as good as the one the chap in the café near my house makes. Actually I really like that, maybe that is what I should be making for my first attempt… nope I have my shopping list so off I go.

On the way I passed an organic health food shop and thought I would pop in and see if they had any of the bits I needed. Well as it turns out they had all but one ingredient I needed, fudge. Oh and no “blanched” almonds so I just got plain old almonds. All this only cost me a mere $52, WHAT THE HELL…… Do you know how many cakes I could buy for that?

Anyway, all I needed now was the fudge so off to Woolworths I went, but no fudge there, went to Coles, none there either!!!! I know Jamie’s book is English but surely fudge is something that the Australians eat as well? Went to a few convenience stores that sell confectionary but no joy then had a brainwave and went to the English sweet shop in Kings Cross. They sold it, in single little blocks at $1 each, so had to get ten to make sure I had the required 100g.

Anyway, got home unpacked my shopping, invited some friends to come and be my taste test dummies and thought I would peruse the instructions, and bugger me the first thing it says is… “this cake is best made using a food processor” now what the hell is one of those and do I have one!? I’ll have to wait till the All Knowing I comes home to check on that one.

By: Colin MacArthur

Cake Challenge…

April 16, 2010

I have been eating a lot of cake lately, well more than  normal and am starting to think I might even bake a  cake. Shock horror….

Anyone who knows me will know that kitchens and I  do not mix well together. I have these moments where  I think “I can do that” but really I ought to know better  by now.

However, here is my challenge to myself, I am going  to bake a cake that I will be happy to serve to friends  by the end of May (2010). Baking this cake is going to  be my Everest, I consider making beans on toast  cooking, and even that is a struggle for me.

The last two times I have attempted this feat I have  failed. I seem completely unable to get the timing right of the toast popping up in the toaster and the beans nicely bubbling in the saucepan together. My toast pops too early so down it goes again and then by the time the beans are done the toast has turned into something resembling coal. So that gets thrown out and more bread goes down in the toaster but then by the time that pops my beans have turned to mush and stuck to the pan….

That should give you an idea of the challenge I face ahead, those of you that follow my blog will know that I have successfully baked some scones in the past (with the assistance of The All Knowing I), as written about here:

This time I promise I shall take on the task all by myself, you have no idea how nervous that make me. I am putting this down in my blog to force myself into taking on this challenge, and you can help out by suggesting cakes for me to consider baking, you never know I may even invite you to come and eat it with me….

By: Colin MacArthur

Love Me Tender

April 7, 2010

Some nights at the theatre are designed to be easy, crowd-pleasing entertainment that spits you out into the night with a big grin on your face – Love Me Tender is not one of those experiences.

Writer Tom Holloway’s play is guaranteed to provoke meaty after-show discussion as it confronts the audience with subject matter that will leave some uneasy, but moved, by the emotion on display. Others may be baffled by the lack of traditional narrative and will resist the effort required of the audience to engage with this complex piece of work. The backdrop of the Black Saturday bushfires will doubtless also resonate and certainly helps locate the experience in a very contemporary Australian setting.

Directed by Matthew Lutton, the staging is simple. Five actors step on and off a glass-encased section of turf and gradually reveal the troubling story of a father and daughter.

The play is a little hard to engage with in the early moments – where exactly are we? What is this supposed to represent?

This is a production that takes no prisoners. It runs for 90 minutes with no interval and traditional theatrical conventions are absent. There are no distinct acts or scenes to ease us into the proceedings; instead a freewheeling and impressionistic series of exchanges and monologues that slowly reveal the confusion and tragedy that engulfs the central characters. We are forced to adopt a number of roles – sometimes merely observers, sometimes almost participants in the onstage dialogue.

Love Me Tender is disorienting and abstract and requires us to pay attention. The actors are totally committed in their performances, but it’s unusual to see a piece which demands a similar level of commitment from its audience.

If I’m honest, I felt lost initially and was unsure of its intentions. Then suddenly, it started to broach the subject of pre-teen sexuality and BOOM, the whole play is completely galvanized by an out-there and astonishing dance-number to Britney’s Gimme More.

It’s dirty and shocking and horrifying and completely appropriate, as it forces us to embrace the excessive sexualisation of kids. I could feel the unease in the audience around me, but, boy, it is a mesmerising moment and a singular accomplishment for the actor playing the daughter (who I have subsequently learned came up with the whole thing herself after an initial, much less confronting dance number wasn’t quite working in rehearsals).

After this startling moment, the whole thing starts to take shape and an urgency develops that is necessary to draw us through to the tragic conclusion.

It wouldn’t be right to give too much away, but there is strong material here that some will find tough. Paedophilia and porn are discussed graphically but in a way that feels grown-up and appropriate, not merely for shock value.

There are a couple of novel moments that warrant special mention. At one point a live lamb is brought onto the stage and then passed between actors during a discussion of its potential slaughter. It’s destabilising and odd and works very well.

I’m told that Lutton enjoys using liquid in his work (including blood and milk previously) and this time we have a hose and sprinkler drenching the performance area with water. Once you get used to the fact that it’s for real, it feels fresh and different and succeeds in making us focus on the space in a new way.

Some elements didn’t work for me. I felt that the two older characters who discuss and narrate the events onstage interrupted the flow of the piece. What are they meant to represent? I think they might have been the conflicting internal voices of the characters – the devil on your shoulder maybe; a sort of more sober version of the Bad Idea Bears from Avenue Q?

I also found the various moments of a Capella singing distracting, an obvious device that reminded me of the artifice of theatre at moments when I should have just been focused on the complex events unfolding onstage.

Overall, an experience which I suspect will be a favourably received feature of the Belvoir 2010 season. If you like serious modern theatre with its intellectual heart proudly and prominently on display and can handle a tough, grown-up night out, this one’s probably for you.

Love Me Tender plays at Belvoir Street Theatre until April 11.