Death and Taxes
Never have these two concepts been so prominent in my life. I think I should mention right now that I do not understand money, in the slightest, neither do I understand taxes. And in all fairness, I have no desire to learn any more than how to prevent myself getting ripped off by the tax man, and effectively budgeting for my week’s worth of food and general life expenditures. Apart from acknowledging this week’s general money happenings over the pond (and the past few days’ happenings in London), this post is not about the whole Occupy Wall Street scenario, though I do very much stand with the 99%…obviously. I am quite surprised, however, that it has taken this long for people to get this passionate about the income divide in the US, but I am glad that it has happened, maybe it’ll spark some world wide coverage of the horrific divides in many other countries around the world too.
I won’t go too much into it right now because frankly, I don’t really want to burden my blog with so much seriousness, it is a place of sanctuary and love. So I send love to all the people who are supporting social and economic equality and the eradication of large corporations’ excessive greed; but that’s all for here…and back on to food!
Even though I have been incredibly lazy with my planning of late, I happened to have been unintentionally good with my money. After realising that my food extravagance needed to be reigned in while i’m saving up, I decided to think about how far my ingredients were going, more so than usual anyway. Whilst my cravings for baking have had to begin hibernating for the Winter like a small, crazy bear, I thought to myself how this time of year is the perfect time to start budgeting. The obvious reason is that Christmas is beginning to drop into people’s minds and the inevitable budgeting problems that arise from it are making people take a significant step back. Those sensible people amongst us can sit and smugly think of how organised they’ve been and all the money they’ve saved throughout the year. And those who aren’t so sensible, me definitely included, can sit in the corner and worry how they will afford Christmas presents, food and trying to achieve something charitable and spread the love around the holidays.
So today I pitch the idea to you of making a home-made Christmas, or at least consider a partial one. I know this has been done to death but it’ll save you a tonne of money on expensive gift boxes for people you barely know, and everybody appreciates something home made. This time of year is a good time to start thinking about and making your stuff, chutney is awesome because you can use all the excess of apples that are still hanging around thanks to the decent weather we’ve had. Fruit cake is never to early making, stew it in orange juice, brandy, Cointreau, Disaronno, ginger ale, tea, whatever you fancy really. It’s just a thought, if you fancy it, and don’t mind the little bit of extra effort go for it! I’m lucky enough to have an extremely talented artist for a sister (her eBay and Folksy shop) who is pairing up with me to help make some gift baskets for presents this year. Me making Christmassy food and Corrina making the beautiful garlands and baubles.
I hope she doesn’t mind me using this picture, I sneaked a picture on my way to work because they looked so pretty!
But anyway. The thought is there for now for you to mull over. And here is my proposition for doing something charitable for the holidays. I will send cake to any who want some for Christmas, as a charitable gesture. This kind of only applies to those in the UK because of customs in other countries. If you leave a name and email address in a comment at the bottom of this post, I shall send you a piece of spiced ginger Christmas cake, just to say thank you for reading and a Merry Christmas.For those who are groaning at the thought of Christmas in October, I apologise. I know there’s much to come before then. For instance this week, beginning today, is baking week. Hurrah! I feel like I post a lot of sweet recipes on here, and although I would quite like to live on nought but cake, it’s probably not a reasonable way to live, and would probably be quite boring after a while. So, in light of this fact, i’m going to post a savoury bake-related recipe.
Irish Wheaten Bread
1 reasonable sized round loaf, or 10-20 rolls, depending on the size you fancy.
350g wholemeal flour
100g strong white flour
350ml buttermilk (OR 350ml whole milk and the juice of 1 lemon)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50g – 100g oats, plus more for sprinkling– Preheat the oven to 220C and grease a baking sheet.
– Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt. Then add the oats. If you love oaty bread, add 100g, if you just want a little bit add 50g, but remember that you might need to add a little more or a little less buttermilk.
– If you can get buttermilk, add it in now, if you have milk and lemon juice, put about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir it into the milk, and leave for a few seconds for it to sour a little.
– Add it in stages until the mixture is bound together, you might not need to use all of it, dependent on how many oats you included.
– Form into a round ball or cut and form into rolls, cut a cross on top and sprinkle with oats.
– If you’re baking a big loaf, 30-40 minutes is a good guideline, depending on how crusty you like it (I like mine super crusty!), if you’re making rolls, 15-20 minutes should be more than enough.
– Serve with a good bit of Irish stew or some Autumn soup. And it makes your house smell awesome!
Easy peasy, it takes very little effort, they taste lovely and very filling. It’s quite a dense bread, because there’s no kneading, thus no gluten strands are stretched creating the bounciness of normal bread. But this sort of bread is wonderfully comforting on an Autumn eve with a warm bowl of soup and a good spread of butter.
I wouldn’t want to disappoint those who do enjoy a sweet something at the end of the day, so here’s a lovely recipe courtesy of the National Baking Week website which pairs nicely with the earthy bread, and a cup o’ tea of course. There is a reason there are certain types of sugar, you really can’t skip on the muscavado sugar, it’s what makes your cookies chewy!
Chewy Macadamia Nut Cookies
About 16 cookies, depending on size.
170g soft butter
340g dark muscavado sugar
1tsp good quality vanilla extract (not essence!)
2 medium free range eggs
375g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
100g chopped macadamia nuts.
– Preheat to 180C/Gas mark 4 and lightly oil a baking sheet.
– Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together. And when they’re light and fluffy, add the eggs one by one until a batter is formed.
– Add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together and mix until smooth. Stir in the macademia nuts.
– Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to firm up.
– Shape the dough into 1″ balls and place well spaced apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
– Take off the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy with a brew.
For this week, I will post five more recipes to celebrate the seven days of Baking Week. So keep an eye out for more loveliness.