It’s fair to say it’s not been the most successful of weekends. Looking forward to a quiet weekend in preparation for the busy week that lies ahead of me, I was hoping to spend my time quietly baking, watching films and finally having hours of spare time to finish the book Wicked Girls. While I got the baking side of things dealt with, everything else took a back seat when the migraine struck. Oh how I hate those bastards. Anyone who’s been unfortunate to have them knows they are more than mere headache, and in my case they make me feel like my foreheads been clubbed with a baseball bat and then make me feel nauseous without the relief of actually being sick. There goes the reading and film watching! All I could do was lie under the duvet in the dark, sobbing and desperately wanting The Boyfriend back. I’m not ashamed to say that I have a ridiculously low threshold for pain (The Boyfriend still hasn’t forgotten the time I exclaimed that a napkin had hurt my nose – in my defence, it really had) and when faced with proper pain I’m reduced to crying. Such was the extent of the crying that I couldn’t even venture out to the shops to get painkillers thanks to the puffy red eyes and an alcoholic looking nose. Irresistible! I most certainly wouldn’t hold up under torture. Or being threatened with a napkin with scarily pointy corners. Rather heroically though, throughout the pain I still managed to get my baking done even when standing up meant feeling slightly woozy. This migraine wasn’t going to completely ruin my weekend, damn it.
First up was my very first attempt at a savoury tart. I’m not entirely sure what drove me to so desperately want to cook one but I spent plenty of time leafing through my Delicious magazines to find one, and inspired by Great British Bake Off I really wanted to make some pastry. So I made a cheddar, onion and courgette tart with homemade shortcrust pastry. I used to be intimidated by the idea of making my own pastry, but shortcrust is actually very easy, all you need is plenty of flour and then crumble through half the amount of butter to flour and add a few splashes of water. Easy. I’m not really a big fan of courgettes, having only ever eaten them in big, slimy chunks, but this tart contains grated courgette which I’m much more comfortable eating as the texture is so different. While this tart does take a bit of time to make, the oven does most of the work so you just need to be militant about checking it’s progress in the cooker. My verdict on the tart was that while the filling was cheesy and contained plenty of goodness from the veg, I just wasn’t won over by the pastry. Filo, puff, sweet, all pastries I can happily get on board with and eat plenty of, but shortcrust just seems so bland and dry that it feels completely pointless as something to eat. I know the taste comes from the filling and the pastry is there to hold everything together but even so, it’s nothing to get excited about. However, the topping of melted cheese on this tart does go someway to make up for the shortcrust, so don’t let this put you off. I’m hoping this will be tasty cold as part of my lunch throughout the week. If you want to hunt this recipe down you can find it in the August 2010 edition of Delicious.
Again inspired by Bake Off, I decided to make an upside down cake which was one of the tasks in the competition a few weeks ago. Going with my gorgeous Primrose Bakery book, I made ginger and pear cake which smelt wonderful in the oven. In the book, they say they bring this cake to the bakery counter in the autumn when the nights start drawing in and there’s a chill in the air as its ingredients are just made for chilly nights. You’ve got ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and of course, pears, which I love. This week has definitely seen a shift in the weather, and even though it was actually quite nice yesterday, I wanted to welcome in the autumn by baking this cake. We’ve had such a mediocre summer that I’m actually looking forward to the cold and crispness of autumn and winter. Bring on the jumpers and Ugg boots I say and let’s all hunker down in the kitchen with casseroles and warming roasts. The upside down cake is perfect for cold weather, with the mouth tingling from the ginger and spices, stodgy comfort from the damp cake and then a sweet coating of caramelised pears and stickiness from the melted sugar and better. Bliss. Plus, it means the pears are soft no matter what, which is a blessing as while pears taste gorgeous when just ripe, they have about a day in which they are perfect. If you don’t eat them on that exact day, they will either be too hard or too mushy. Fact, pears are tricky, but I still love them. The most impressive part of me baking this cake is that it doesn’t look all that different to the professional version, which makes me a very happy lady. Especially as while making it I felt like someone was drilling into my head with a Black and Decker. So maybe I wouldn’t hold up under torture, but knocking out a cake and a tart under the circumstances surely makes up for my low pain threshold, right? Luckily right this minute I have Nurofen Express coursing through my veins, a roast chicken in the oven and the Observer Food Monthly to inspire me, so the weekend is finally starting to look right, albeit on the last dregs of it. Happy Sunday everyone!