Monthly Archives: February 2016

Cheat’s Shortbread (Australian Women’s Weekly)

It’s half-term here in England, some weird thing where kids get ANOTHER week off during term time and still get holidays at the end of term. I’ve never understood it. It’s mostly packed with activities (and activity places packed) as a result of the desperate planning of hordes of parents who are forced to waste their holiday allowance on the bloody thing, and who fear the consequence of 5 days of non-school based boredom. Because we are wankers and send NewHuman to a private nursery school which observes this mad tradition, despite the children there not actually being at school and being under the age of 5, we suffer the same.

This morning I’ve walked NewHuman about 1km to the bus stop, holding my hand the whole way. Sounds easy. Isn’t. Then I got him to wait for the right bus without getting on the previous 3 that went by first, then I hauled him off after only pressing the bell 3 times and THEN I marched him to the dentist where all my endless prep (‘The dentist is fun! His name is Dave! He has a big chair! He’ll count your teeth!) totally paid off. Then we walked to the taxi rank where I wrangled him into a cab despite him having a monumental shitfit in a nice solid pile of bird crap because the taxi we were getting into wasn’t yellow.

Then I kept him locked down in a seatbelt despite further shitfits because he’d tossed his matchbox car in temper and now no longer had it. Then I finagled my way into his father’s office (also his grandfather and grandmother’s office) in Soho and he took a tour of the wider staff population whilst I enjoyed 5 quiet minutes to myself having a very long wee in the staff loo. He exited the office munching on a chocolate biscuit. Good post-dental practice.

Then, this time with his father’s help, we managed to get him through the mean streets of Soho into an establishment serving food where he sat in a seat, not a highchair, and pretty much ate enough to qualify for lunch, ruining only his father’s jeans in the process. My ambitious plans for riding the bus home from Regent Street took a backseat, much like we did as we bundled him into his second cab of the day – lucky sod – and we finally got home again about an hour after naptime was due to start.

I have, not at all unrelatedly, decided today is the day to test run the magic medicine that should help him sleep on the plane home to Oz in March. He’s just had a dose and I’ll go up and check when this blog is done. Right now I can hear him singing endless verses of ‘Wheels on the Bus’ so hopes are not high.

So, I get points for taking him to the dentist and actually being able to be examined, and for accessing multiple forms of transport (not counting the various tubes we caught yesterday) and for a trip into town. Lost points for cabbing there and back and for being too tired to get him home on the bus. And for what is, essentially and hopefully, drugging him to blissful sleep.

Evens out in the end.

Anyway, he’s been increasingly involved in the kitchen whenever I’m cooking as far as I let him. This shortbread is a good thing to let kids help with as it is hard to ruin, although we did manage to ruin it this time, and is easy, fast, and pretty delicious without the usual faff that shortbread requires.

It’s Australian Women’s Weekly, of course. They call it ‘melt and mix’ shortbread. I call it cheat’s.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C (170C fan) – a moderate oven – and gather:

  • 250g butter
  • 13 cup icing sugar
  • 13 cup cornflour
  • 14 cup sugar (I used caster)
  • 12 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 13 cups plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and let cool. It says to let cool. I just let the heat die off a little.
The above is a great book. Full of shit recipes for stuff you’d never make but I truly do love it. Right. Having mixed together your sugars (icing and caster) and cornflower, then vanilla, drizzle in the melted butter. This is where we ruined the shortbread. I lost at least 50g of butter through dint of NewHuman ‘helping’. You really do need the whole amount. Please don’t spill it.
You mix and mix till it goes kind of thick. See? It’s kind of roux-y but then settles back to smooth if you don’t agitate it. Get it to that stage and you’re good to go.
Then mix in the flour.After a good spin by the electric mixer it’ll look something like the above.
Using a metal spoon, bring it all together till it looks a little like the above, albeit ideally very slightly less dry. In a well-buttered tin of around 20cm x 30cm or so – no need to be too specific – press it down well. Usually it isn’t lumpy, it presses down lovely and smooth.

Not this time. Not my fault.
Score it lightly but properly into squares, and then use a fork as seen above.

Into the oven for about 30 minutes till it’s a light golden colour all over.

Take it out and, whilst it is still warm, cut properly along the score lines.

Let it cool in the tin.

If you want you could sprinkle some caster sugar over the top whilst it’s still warm. I didn’t bother this time. Above is NH enjoying his piece. The rest went to the boyfriend’s office, bit embarrassingly as it wasn’t as good as it should be.

Still tasty. V good thing to make if people call and say, ‘just nearby, fancy a visit?’ and you don’t but can’t say no and don’t have anything but slightly rotten rocket leaves and one sad leftover Xmas chocolate left in the house. For example.

Bloody kid is still awake up there, having moved onto Old McDonald’s Stupid Farm. Can’t be much fun, farming stupid.

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Ricotta Fritters a la Jamie Oliver

Morning.

NewHuman is a scabby mess but, importantly, is no longer contagious so has been unceremoniously packed off to nursery with an arguably indecent level of haste on my part. My work in the West of England has finished and I’m now at home, Doing Chores, until we take off for Australia in March. The washing machine is beeping rudely at me, indicating it wants emptying, and the dog is currently looking at me with eyes so liquid with desire for a park run that she may well flood the sitting room with tears.

My contract ended at exactly the same time as the neighbours began a loft extension so my days at home are now soundtracked by thumping, crash-bangs and builder’s farts. It’s not that different to a day spent at home with NewHuman, to be fair.

On hell diet (which is, btw, only vaguely successful despite me eating not a great deal other than flavoured air most days, bastarding malfunctioning metabolism) I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to eat not-much. These fritters are yum, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s over-ambitious ’15 Minute Meals’ regime, and he serves them with a grated courgette salad and a spicy tomato sauce. You can google both those if you want, but I’m only blogging the fritters cause (i) they’re pretty damn good, (ii) I’m a lazy cow, and (iii) I think they go with lots of other things, not just what Jamie decrees.

Gather:

  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 400 g ricotta cheese
  • a quarter of a whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 lemon
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • olive oil

You’ll also want a frypan and maybe a warmed plate with a piece of kitchen towel on it, at your disposal.

Oh, and seasoning. Lots.

Into a bowl dump the ricotta and the egg and mix well. It’ll go surprisingly, pleasingly yellow considering the ratio of cheese to egg. That’s assuming of course you’ve used an egg from a happy, free-range chicken and you aren’t some bastard who still (HOW DARE YOU) uses caged chicken eggs.
Then grate in the nutmeg and the lemon zest. I dialled down a little on the zest front as I was keeping NewHuman in mind but really I didn’t have to. He was all over these fritters like a rash. A RASH. HA. *pox-themed cries* Then tip in the cheese. No harm getting generous in respect of the grams advised by the recipe. I did. Was good.
Then add the flour. Beat it well. Beat it like the pointless crush you had on that dickhead back in 2000. Should look like the above.

In a pan over a medium heat drop in some olive oil and dollop the mixture. It should make about 8, according to JO. I made 9. Hell Diet has me making everything smaller except my ass and my thighs.
Fry till golden and then VERY CAREFULLY flip. They’re not the most robust of fritters. They’re all soft and fluffy and have less backbone than an American Republican.

I found the below lemons in the fridge. All at once. We have a problem with half-cut lemons.

I wish I were half cut. OK OK – the courgette salad is literally as many baby courgettes as you can be bothered to grate, a chopped red chilli, some chopped mint, salt (a good amount), pepper (cracked, black, same goes), lemon juice and olive oil. Basically season, lemon juice and oil all to taste.
Below are the fritters, half-done. I didn’t take a photo of the done deal. Was too busy hoovering them up.

If eggs are your thing, I can testify (oh Jesus, oh Amen, oh Holy Spirit, etc etc those religious types go on a bit) that a fried egg on a reheated fritter the next day is a thing of beauty.

Enjoy.